Archive for ‘Joy’

March 23, 2011

Come Awake!

Every time Matt Maher’s “Christ Is Risen” comes on the radio, my heart stirs a bit. There is so much joy in knowing what is to come!

1 Corinthians 15: 43 “Our bodies are buried in brokenness, but they will be raised in glory. They will be buried in weakness, but they will be raised in strength.”

vs 54 -58 “…‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.

So my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.”  (Emphasis mine.)

There is nothing to fear if we know and claim Christ. He has risen from the grave and conquered death. May our souls stir and leap for joy when we remember that He has conquered death.

Come awake!

Come awake!

We are one with Him again!

Praise God this Lenten season when we are reminded of what He did to conquer the sting of sin and give us victory over death!

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February 6, 2011

Psalm 84

How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of Heaven’s Armies.

I long, yes, I faint with longing to enter the courts of the Lord.

With my whole being, body and soul, I will shout joyfully to the living God.

Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow builds her nest and raises her young at a place near your altar, O Lord of Heaven’s Armies, my King and my God!


What joy for those who can live in your house, always singing your praises.

What joy for those whose strength comes from the LORD, who have set their minds on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

When they walk through the Valley of Weeping, it will become a place of refreshing springs. The autumn rains will clothe it with blessings.

They will continue to grow stronger, and each of them will appear before God in Jerusalem.

O LORD God of Heaven’s Armies, hear my prayer. Listen, O God of Jacob.

O God, look with favor upon the king, our shield! Show favor to the one you have anointed.

A single day in your courts is better than a thousand anywhere else! I would rather be a gatekeeper in the house of my God than live the good life in the homes of the wicked.

For the LORD God is our sun and our shield. He gives us grace and glory. The LORD will withhold no good thing from those who do what is right.

O LORD of Heaven’s Armies, what joy for those who trust in you.

 

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January 19, 2011

29 Before 29

My commitment to intentional living and my One Word 2011 word of the year, “faith” (read more here), encapsulates all areas of my life. I want to live a well-balanced life because it allows me to live as God desires – working hard but also seeking to enjoy what he has given (read Choosing Joy and In Pursuit of Joy).

As a part of this new journey, I decided to create a “29 Before 29” list to guide me. I was initially inspired by my friend HopefulLeigh to complete a list of goals before my next birthday. She recently completed 31 Things Before Turning 31 and is now working on her next list. It’s been fun to see how she’s lived her life with intention, freedom, and challenge through her goals. I want the same for my life.

My next birthday is in just a few months so I’m giving myself until May 2012 to complete this list (though I may finish sooner).  I’m excited to see how my “29 Before 29” will challenge me and I’m looking forward to a fun-filled year plus. I expect to find that I will grow, live in faith, freedom and grace. Periodically, I will post on my progress. Hope you’re up for accompanying me on this journey!

Without further ado, here’s my “29 Before 29:”

1)      Take more risks (i.e. engage strangers in conversation, do things by myself, do something out-of-the-norm).

2)      Take an exercise class.

3)      Read 75 books.

4)      Get involved in a Bible study.

5)      Run a 5k.

6)      Develop blog (help me by commenting and spreading the word).

7)      Go on a vacation.

8)      Find an art project.

9)      Look for a new ministry opportunity.

10)   Go coffee tasting.

11)   Attend 3 concerts.

12)   Cook more (try 10 new recipes).

13)   Find a treasure at a thrift store.

14)   Attend a conference.

15)   Test out my GPS.

16)   Move.

17)   De-clutter my life (deep clean, minimize unnecessary time and money-zapping activities)

18)   Hike through a forest preserve.

19)   Host a dinner party (a REAL one, for grow-ups).

20)   Get health insurance and go see a doctor for a routine checkup.

21)   Be still and know that He is God.

22)   Be a mentor.

23)   Be mentored.

24)   Fast regularly.

25)   Bake a blueberry pie from scratch.

26)   Live as a missionary would – with intention, sacrifice, purpose, and seeking opportunities to share the gospel and be where God has called me now -not later.

27)   Spend more time with children.

28)   Dance.

29)   Be open to new adventures and lean into what God has in store for me!

Do you have a birthday bucket list? Let me know and I’d be happy to link to it.

January 17, 2011

A Brand New Day

My new bible study is just starting up. We’re studying Beth Moore’s “When Godly People Do Ungodly Things.” I’m excited. But excitement aside – the opening session provided me with some fresh perspective on how God redeems our past and uses these points of complete brokenness and utter despair to turn us to him (you know if you’ve been there). The awe-inspiring thing is God uses this to bring us to a new day – complete surrender and to allow us the joy of walking in His will. He loves us too much to remain uninvolved in our lives. The all-powerful Creator could have made the world and washed his hands of it – but He didn’t. He chose to love us. Wow. Because He loves us, He can redeem our past, brokenness, and hurts. This continues to amaze me and leave me utterly grateful.

I’m sure over the next few weeks I will periodically be writing about what God is revealing to me. But until then, I felt the need to share that a new day is coming. Someone out there needed to hear that today. Someone needs to know God is capable and WILLING to sweep your situation upside down in order to bring you to a place of healing and joy. And someone out there needs Psalm 30:5.

Psalm 30:5 For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime! Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.

I do not profess to have abundant wisdom or incredible insight into the future but I can pretty much guarantee one thing. Change. God wants our attention and often will obtain it by putting change in our lives – good and bad. Some change will be due to choices we make. Some will be because of choices others make and some change will be due to circumstances beyond our control. But know that God will provide a new day as you find strength and solace in Him and Him alone. Your situation may not change. You may not even be able to erase the things you did or done to you – but your heart can be healed. You can forgive and be forgiven. Peace is available to you. It’s a new day.

And because I love music, I’m leaving you with this song by Joshua Radin. (Copyright 2010 Warner Music Group / mom + pop music)

 

January 11, 2011

Sweet Dreams?

Harnessing our thought life can be difficult, but if we take a step back and examine our thought life we may realize how it impacts our outward demeanor and our feelings of contentment. Discipline in our thought life should not escape our notice.

Author, Alicia Britt Chloe wrote the following:

“Watching children exercise their imaginations to picture themselves as mommies, doctors, or astronauts is delightful; we call it playful pretending. As adults, though there is a difference between using our imaginations to build a better tomorrow (being visionary) and mentally self-medicating through self-aggrandizing daydreams.

Disciplining our imaginations can be an enormous challenge especially when we perceive ourselves as deprived of affirmation, attention, or acceptance. But in those seasons – perhaps even more so than in applauded seasons of influence – it is absolutely critical that we not live out in our thoughts what we know we should not live out in our lives. The principle we examined in layer one (when tempted by immediate gratification of our appetites) is still true in layer two (when tempted in our thoughts by the attention and awe of mankind): we will reap what we sow, even in our minds (see Galatians 6:7-8).

For example, consider a new parent drowning in diapers who daydreams about freedom and time he would have if he were still single or childless…who wakes up with less patience and more resentment toward his spouse and children. Or a woman lost in daydreams of being swept away by an attractive Prince Charming…who wakes up, rolls over, and wonders why her husband is looking more and more like a frog. Or a young professional smiling, lost in a daydream about high-profile companies fighting over him with ever-increasing pay scales and benefits…who wakes up somehow less satisfied and motivated in his current job.” Anonymous: Jesus’ Hidden Years And Yours, p.121-122

Do you find yourself struggling with contentment? Wishing for the next best thing? A new job? A better financial situation? Do you crave the applause or attention of those around you? Cast it aside. Focus on what is true (Philippians 4:8) and what God has laid out for you today. Trust God to provide for all your tomorrows and hold your hopes and dreams. But do not lose focus on what He has given you today because it is a unique gift.  Even in your times of struggle, God is giving you the opportunity to lay the foundation of your character and trust in him. Ultimately, do you trust him? Yes? Then focus on today. He has already been to your future and He has given you your present situation – so be faithful to pay attention to it and do as he leads. Just as the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30), God desires us to be faithful and utilize what he has given us. If we are always dreaming, wishing, and hoping for the next thing – we miss the opportunity he has given us today. We lose contentment and fail to see the goodness of God. And we wonder how we got stuck? Hmm…

 

December 25, 2010

Happy Birthday Jesus

This Christmas season has been a bit different from years past – not necessarily because anything has really changed but because my perspective is changing. December began and shortly after I learned about The Advent Conspiracy (see earlier post) – a deliberate challenge to decrease consumerism and focus on relationships and Christ. The message of The Advent Conspiracy “struck a chord” with me and I found myself thinking about it all month. This past year I transitioned from near-destitute-graduate-life to near-destitute-non-profit-life (yes, I exaggerate but I do not live a lucrative life at the present). This reality was difficult for me to face in light of the Christmas season. I love buying gifts for the ones I love. However, the reality of my wallet made me realize the way I usually show love, appreciation and gratitude for those in my life just wasn’t possible. I’ve also been seeing how these exuberant gestures weren’t necessary and I too was fueling the consumerism of Christmas and minimizing the true focus. Because I had a smaller budget for gifts this year, I tried to seek other ways to show friends and family how treasured they are to me.

But the best part of being “poor” this Christmas is that I had to stop and think about what Christmas was all about! (You’re thinking, “duh, so simple!” And you’re right but we all need to be reminded don’t we?) Christmas music seemed sweeter this year. The snow looked whiter. I didn’t spend hours at the mall but enjoyed baking cookies with my family and spending time with friends. I mulled over Jesus’ birth and life – not just the scene at the manger but the implications of the cross. Because he was born, I have a healer, a counselor, sweet freedom and magnificent grace. Jesus came and gave me unmerited mercy! Sweet mercy that I do not deserve. He came to die. That’s not something I’ve often thought about when I set out my nativity or even sing Christmas songs. He came to die. Whoa.

Tonight as I sent off the last child from my church’s nursery after our Christmas Eve services, a little boy proclaimed proudly that tomorrow is Jesus’ birthday. Jesus, who once was a little boy just like this little one, came with much to accomplish, to love, to heal, and to redeem. Celebrating him on one day with presents to each other barely seems enough. As Christmas day quickly approaches, I hope that we all can pause and think not only of Jesus’ birth but of his death. He came to die – so that we might live. He gave us the ultimate present of forgiveness and eternal life when he was born so many years ago.

So, happy birthday Jesus! I am forever grateful that you were born and that through your life and death I can live. Merry Christmas!

November 29, 2010

On Faithfulness, Glory, and God’s Character

God blesses faithfulness. How do we know this? Faithfulness brings God glory. It is in the very character of God to bring himself glory. It would go against his very nature if faithfulness were not honored. Don’t misinterpret me, dear reader. This does not meet we can expect God to honor our faithfulness by what our limited minds deem just and appropriate for our labor and toils. But we can expect God to show up in our lives. In fact, we can plan to be surprised by joy. God will give us joy in himself. He is enough.

It has been written that the chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever. John Piper writes in Desiring God, “what could God give us to enjoy that would prove Him most loving? There is only one possible answer: Himself” (p. 47-48)! The joy of loving God fully brings glory to God. Our faithfulness and obedience to him are the fruit of a deep love and enjoyment in our Creator – lest they not be borne from legalism or perpetuated by a sense of duty to earn favor (contrary to Eph. 2:8-9).

We may not see the hand of God clearly or find ourselves waiting on him to enjoy his favor. Be encouraged to continue walking in faith, serving and loving God.  God is most glorified when we are satisfied in him. Remember that God works for those who wait for him. Faithfulness requires us to wait on God because in seeking and waiting for God’s help we give him the occasion to glorify Himself.

We have often stopped short of understanding the full extent of Jeremiah 29:11. To accurately appreciate this passage we must read a bit further. Jeremiah 29:12-13 reads, “Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart (emphasis mine).”  The Lord will give us plans to prosper us and not harm us, plans to give us a hope and a future but we must seek him will all our hearts. This should be read as a call to faithfulness to seek God and cry out to him. In doing so, He will be glorified and guide us to plans for our future (possible future blessing).

So take heart my friends, God will bless your faithfulness because it brings glory to Himself.

 

November 16, 2010

The Blessing of Friendship

I’ve noticed a trend in my thankfulness journal (It’s been a great challenge to consciously pursue joy in my life – try it with me!). Most days I end with “I’m so thankful that I got to talk to ____ today” or “Lord, thank you that I was able to spend time with ____.”  Relationships are such a key part of our lives. We are meant to live in community –  holding each other up in prayer, enjoying each other’s company (read drinking coffee if you’re MY friend!),  laughing uncontrollably, sharing in each other’s sorrows, etc. I believe friendships are often God’s way to physically be near to us.

We also have this amazing chance to be refined. (How often have my dearest friends told me I’m screwing up or to step it up?! And I love them tremendously for telling me so!) Proverbs 27:17 is a notoriously quoted verse – “as iron sharpens iron, so does one person sharpen another.” But my favorite verse on honesty in relationships – Proverbs 28:23 “In the end people appreciate honest criticism far more than flattery.” If you’re my friend, speak the truth in love. I will do the same for you. I cannot grow and change if I do not see what I should see. The opportunity for growth and accountability is great. My friends are often the people who I let into my life- all of it. Most of the time, I’ve hand-picked you to be a part of my life.

Each friendship I’ve had over the course of my (not-so-long) life has left an imprint on my heart. Whether or not there have been hurts and pains accompanied with some of those friendships, I am so grateful for the lessons I’ve been able to glean from them. All my friendships have allowed me the chance to grow into the person I am today. I carry the lessons learned in my heart and I still apply them to my life.

My college roommate (Hi! If you’re reading this!) has had an ever-lasting impact on how I view friendships. She was one of the first people to model intentional friendships. This sweet, sweet friend would make it a point to ask me every few days how she could be praying for me. It sounds so simple but I remember being so startled by that question. Over time I began to get used to her asking this. I noticed our friendship deepened. I allowed her to be close to my heart, to challenge me, to hold me accountable. I’ve now adopted this question. I ask because I care. I ask because I want God’s best for you. I ask because I want to see you grow.

I am so thankful that God created us to be in relationship with one another. It is incredible that God uses our friends to be His hands and feet when we need a tangible taste of His love.  I am grateful for the way that I am edified through my friendships. I find joy and delight in the blessing God has given me.

This post is dedicated to all my phenomenal friends – new and old who have so graciously shared your lives with me. You truly are a blessing.

Ecclesiastes 4:12 A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.

November 10, 2010

Choosing Joy

I am convinced God wants us to experience joy. (See In Pursuit of Joy for further reflections.) Joy is one of fruits of the Spirit after all. But joy doesn’t always come easy. It may take an intentional effort to focus on what we’ve been given in our lives. Recently I’ve been making an effort in my life to appreciate the small things. I’m trying to find the beauty in life throughout the day. One of the ways I’ve been able to experience a piece of joy in the middle of my day is through my Etsy newsletter subscription. I love my little mental breaks from work when an email arrives in my inbox. It’s like present just waiting to be opened – crying out, “read me!” I find joy when I look at the amazing items so many talented people have made and enjoy thinking creatively for a few moments before returning to my regularly scheduled work routine.

Yet another way I allow myself the opportunity to reflect on joy is through a thankfulness journal. Each morning I start my day by listing at least three things I was grateful for the day before however large or small the item is. Some days it’s as simple as having flavored creamer in my coffee. Other days it’s feeling God’s presence throughout the day.

I know many of you are thinking this sounds nice and all but it’s is a bunch of fluff. Well, just like anything we have to work at it to develop new skills. Practice makes perfect. Most of us don’t get up in the morning and think, “Today would be a good day to run a marathon – without any training.” We start small. Take a run around the block, then work up to a mile and so on. But just like exercise, we have to train ourselves in the fruits of the Spirit in order to continue to develop them.

As a mental health professional, I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Ready for it?  This is a highly effective therapy method. (Disclaimer: this method is actually much more complex. For discussion sake, I have simplified it. This does not replace professional counseling. Please seek professional help if you are experiencing deeper issues.) Essentially, we are to change our automatic thoughts (read gut-reactions) and replace them by focusing on what is true and positive. As a Christian, I can stand behind this method because God tells us to renew or minds and focus on the things above (Rom. 12:2). We are also to focus on what is true, admirable, right, lovely, excellent and praiseworthy (Phil. 4:8). By choosing a right perspective and focusing on joy, we can give God glory by seeing the blessing in our lives. Thus by taking the small steps to identify and appreciate joy throughout our day – in emails, sunsets, a smile from a stranger etc. –  we are able to experience the fruit of the Spirit on a deeper level, stand in awe God’s glory, and understand blessing in a profound way.

What about you? What are some ways you experience joy in your life – in big and small ways?

September 19, 2010

In Pursuit of Joy

Ecclesiastes 11:9 “Young people, it’s wonderful to be young! Enjoy every minute of it. Do everything you want to do; take it all in. But remember that you must give an account to God for everything you do.”

Months ago I had an interesting conversation with a friend of mine on the topic of joy and blessing. In the midst of trial and adversity this friend demonstrated wisdom and discernment when she spoke of the Lord’s desire to bless his children. This may seem obvious for many of you. But for some, this comes as a much-needed reminder and it is for those readers that I write this post. Often we are taught to busy ourselves with work – whether this is a career or our ministry lives. We can be enthralled with the pursuit of improving ourselves (reading more, working out, volunteering etc.). However, when we do these things without keeping our motives and hearts in the right place even our best pursuits can leave us feeling burned out or burdened.

As I was mulling these things over in my mind and thinking about my own fruitless pursuits of self-improvement, attempting to further my career and ministry life I found myself in the book of Ecclesiastes. The “Teacher” (or author) of this book time and time again reminds up of the meaninglessness of life and futility of our work. Yet, I began to see another challenge as I read – a challenge to enjoy the life given to me. Ecclesiastes 9:7 encourages us to enjoy life with a “happy heart” and that God approves of this. This does not mean we are to give up a pursuit of a godly life or the journey of sanctification.

God is pleased when we serve him and work for him but he doesn’t want us to forget to enjoy the life he has so graciously given us. We are his children who he is madly in love with. He wants to give us abundant blessings. So my challenge (or reminder) is to stop and enjoy life. What blessings has God put before you and me today? Did you get a chance to sit with the sun on your face? Read a book? Laugh with a friend? Take that class you’ve always wanted to try? Brothers and sisters, this life is short. Enjoy the blessings God has given to you. Just as it was Christmas morning, allow Him to shower you with his love and recognize these blessings as illustrations of his intense love for you.

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