Psalm 143:8

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.
Psalm 143:8

Thursday, October 31, 2013

31 Days - Joy in Perspective, Part 2

Here we are at the end of this series of 31 Days to Choose Joy.  When we put joy in a proper perspective, we see that it is possible to be joyful always...no matter the situation.  It doesn't mean being happy and smiling constantly...it doesn't mean being a Pollyanna wearing rose-colored glasses and trying to convince everyone that everything is just fabulous all the time.

Rather, it means focusing on Jesus.  It means remembering God's faithfulness no matter what is going on in our lives.  It means being grateful and expressing our thanks to God in all things.  It means living a life according to the values He places on our hearts.  It means living consistent with His will for us.  It means staying close to Him through worship, prayer, and studying His Word.  It means loving Him, and loving others according to His commands.  It means choosing joy daily, by choosing to follow Christ. 

Joy comes when we live as one fearfully and wonderfully made. When we accept the truth of who we are in Christ...the truth of what we have in this life as a Christ follower...the truth of what we have in eternity as a saved and beloved Child of God. 

So choose joy.  Choose Him.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

31 Days - Joy in Perspective, Part 1

Over the last month, with my focus on joy, one thing I have learned is that we must look at things with the proper perspective.  We can choose to let the things in life overwhelm and stress us, or we can choose to trust God and choose joy.  

There are things in this life that are going to be difficult.  It's just a fact.  We can pray that those things be taken from us...and sometimes, that prayer will be answered.  But, there are times that it is God's will for us to proceed through those times - for our own good, or for the good of someone else.  It may not seem good at the time...but like Jesus, and even Paul, there is joy before us.

Hebrews 12:1-3

12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.


Jesus endured the cross and death because He knew the purpose of it...the salvation of those who believe.  We may not always know the purpose of things that are difficult in our lives...but God does.  If we trust God, we can trust that there is a purpose for our sufferings.

Paul understood this, too....

Philippians 1:21-26
21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.

Paul, in prison, is torn between wanting to die and be with Christ and knowing that his purpose in living is not over.

Where is our focus in hard times?  Are we choosing to focus on our own discomfort?  Or on God's purpose and will for us...and the future joy He promises?  It's all in the perspective.  What will you choose?

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

31 Days - Psalm 30:5 - Joy in the Morning

So, how was your day? Pretty good...or not?  Did you have a rotten day today?  Did you fail today?  Did you holler at the kids, lose your patience in the long line in the store, snap at your husband, or think nasty thoughts about that other driver?  Did everything you do turn out "wrong" and you felt like nothing got accomplished?  Did your sins today feel so heavy and bad that surely even God is shaking His head at you?  Did you hear the lies in your head that say..."You are not enough"  or "You are a rotten mother/friend/wife, worker" or "You should just crawl in that hole and never come out again because obviously you can't do anything right"?

Take a look at this verse...ponder it for a moment....
 
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.

God IS gracious.  God IS forgiving.  God IS loving.  He is a God of second chances and starting over.  

Lamentations 3:21-23 
Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

These are words worth memorizing.  Great love, compassion...they are there for us every day.  Even when it feels like we have failed too many times.  Even when it feels like the sin is too great.  Even when it feels like the voice of lies is the loudest thing we hear. 

God is there...He is waiting, strong and patient, with love...to hear your confessions, to wrap you up in forgiveness, to change your heart and make it new.  He is a God of justice, yes, but also a God of compassion. 

He is faithful.  He is merciful.  He is joy. 

Isaiah 41:10
Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.


 

Monday, October 28, 2013

31 Days - Bonus Grace

A friend just shared this song with me...listen...and let it heal if you need it?  Blessings, friends....


31 Days - Grace gifts

Gratitude changes your attitude...opening eyes to see the gifts opens eyes to see God...opens hearts to God's joy...

123.  time to spend with loved ones
124.  laughter with friends
125.  heart to heart talks
126.  learning to live in a culture of change
127.  candles around the living room...one of my favorite things about fall
128.  a little less clutter in the living room = a little more space = a little more peace!
129.  trusting in God's provision
130.  glimpses of God's glory in His creation
131.  hope in Christ
132.  freedom in forgiveness
133.  being a parent  :)


Colossians 3:15
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

31 Days - Joy in Compassion

In the last few years, I have been sponsoring children through Compassion.  (If you look down the right side of my page here, you will find a link to the Compassion website.)  It is something I wanted to do for a long time because of my love for children and my wish to give.  I can't tell you the number of times God has provided people in my life who have financially assisted me and my family.  I have this great desire in me to give to those in need as well - not only because of God's command to love others, but because of the gratitude I have for the help and love that has been given to me over the years.

I started with one child - her name is Grelty and she shares her birthday with my mother.  This sweet young girl has asked if she can call me "Mama Kelly."  I can't even tell you the joy that brings to my heart.  I receive the sweetest letters from her, penned in her own hand and translated.  That I get to participate in this small way in her life is such a blessing to me!  And I feel that I am answering God's call to reach out with compassion to those in need.

Colossians 3:12
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

I couldn't really afford it when I chose my darling little Godless in Tanzania to also sponsor.  I looked at his picture day after day.  My heart longing to help take care of him...my wallet telling me that there was no way.  One morning, I checked to see if he was still there in the list of children waiting to be sponsored...I had told myself that if he was still there on Valentine's day, I would click that button to claim him.  This was January...and that morning, it seemed...he was gone.  Claimed.  My heart broke...and rejoiced for him at the same time.  But I checked one more time and found him....those sad eyes in that dark black face, no smile, thin little limbs wearing clothes that hung on his frame.  I immediately clicked that button and prayed that God would give me the means to pay for one more child.  

And He has.  The letters from Godless often come with drawings he has done for me.  Each one makes me smile as my finger traces the lines he has drawn - often an airplane or a house.  This sweet boy is learning that Jesus loves him...and I get to tell him that.


Isaiah 58:6-8
6 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.

Several months ago, I felt God telling me it was time to step out in greater faith for one more child.  I was at a Beth Moore conference and Compassion was a partner that weekend...they brought packets to find sponsors for more children in need.  As I was walking out I happened to look at the face and the name on the packet a Compassion volunteer held up...and I couldn't get it in my hands fast enough.  So now, I get to share the love, compassion and joy of the Lord with little Carlos.  

The money I give provides food, clothing, medical attention, and help with school for these children.  They get to attend activities at their local Compassion project where they learn about God and receive help they need.  The money I give stretches my own budget - but also stretches my faith as I trust that God will provide it each month.  

I have received...so do I give.  Might you also take a look at some of the children at Compassion?  Might there be some children in your own community that you could provide for?  There is joy in giving; there is joy in compassion.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

31 Days - Joy in Obedience

Psalm 128:1
Blessed are all who fear the Lord, who walk in obedience to him.


Psalm 19:8
The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes.


2 John 1:6
And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.


Maybe this isn't something you've thought about before....joy in obedience.   The verses above tell us that those who walk in obedience are blessed, have joy in their hearts, and walk in love and light.  When we follow God's precepts and commands, life goes well for us.  Take a look through the Bible for references of obedience.  When people obey God, they sing and dance and celebrate with joy because they are successful, or blessed, or rescued.  However, it is also clear throughout scripture that things do not go well for those who disobey.

Think about a time you knew you were doing something you should not do.  Or perhaps you knew good you should do and didn't do it.  James 4:17 tells us "If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them."  So, what happened?  Did you feel convicted?  Did you hear that voice in your heart telling you that you were being disobedient?  If you are building a relationship with the Lord, trust me...He will convict your heart when you are being disobedient.  You can choose to listen to that conviction or to ignore it and continue to disobey.  Chances are good that it will begin to affect your attitude...and not in a positive way.

However, when we follow God's commands and live in His light...when we love others, give, use words that encourage and build up others...when we step out of our comfort zone to do the things that He calls us to do...when we, like Jonah, turn around from going to our Tarshish and head to Ninevah...we will find joy.  There is peace and joy in the results of obedience.  Think of Mary, the mother of Jesus, who obeyed God and then sang praises to Him in the midst of an unwed pregnancy:

Luke 1:46-49
46 And Mary said:
“My soul glorifies the Lord
47     and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has been mindful
    of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
49     for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
    holy is his name.


Take a look at your life today.  Is there disobedience in your heart, in your actions?  Confess those sins to the Lord, ask forgiveness and then strive to walk in the light and joy of obedience.  
 

Monday, October 21, 2013

31 Days - Treasure Hunt for Joy Gifts



Psalm 100:4
Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.

Counting the abundant gifts of His grace in my days....

107.  The scent of fresh apples lingering in my car.
108.  A Homecoming dress for Kira
109.  Spending the day with my brother, aunt and uncle
110.  the sound of Keiko meowing at her "mouse"
111.  praying for friends
112.  hearing the marching band from my front porch
113.  trees turning yellow downtown - brilliant
114.  dirty dishes in the kitchen
115.  flowers for my desk at work
116.  chaperoning the marching band
117.  the dancing, laughing, silly joy of teenagers
118.  watching Kira with her friends
119.  lovely fall weather
120.  bright, full moon
121.  the sound of geese flying overhead
122.  the fresh scent of several loads of clean laundry


1 Timothy 4:4
For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving,

Sunday, October 20, 2013

31 Days - Joy in trials

Did you read my blog post title?  I know, I hear ya...joy in trials?  I've got to be joking, right?  Did you read that right?  Joy in trials?  You're thinking maybe I have lost my silly little pollyana mind.  I'm not.  You did.  I haven't.

There's a LOT of bad things that can happen to a person.  A lot of stress, a lot of heartache, a lot of pain. Things that make you feel like God can't possibly be watching or He would have done something to stop it.  Things that make you feel like you are just done...or undone.  Things that seem like you can't ever get out from under it all...like you just got your feet under you and WHAM, they get knocked out again.

We all have our stories.  We all have our hurts.  We all have our pains.  They are big, and small, and very real.  Sometimes we get through them and sometimes it feels like we never will.  Look around...everyone you see is facing or has faced trials of many kinds.  Even that gal down the street who always looks so pulled together, calm and confident...you may not see them, but she has scars and bruises in her life, too.

Here's a Word from the book of James.  I have almost memorized it so that I can hold it close to my heart for those times when I just want to say, "What, God?  Really?  Why me?"

James 1:2-4
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

The first time I read this verse, I was incredulous.  I was amazed by the very idea that someone could ever find joy in trials.  Yet, as I've contemplated this idea, and observed people around me and how they "deal" with things in their lives...I've come to realize it's possible.  That what James is saying here is true.  When we are under fire, being tested, facing those trials that should be knocking us to our knees and keeping us there...we can find the strength of faith to persevere.  We who follow Christ need only look to Christ and His example.

What did Jesus do when things were difficult or overwhelming?  He went to a quiet place and prayed.  He asked His Father for strength.  He prayed for God's will.  He sought out God's wisdom.  He spent time with His Father.

You see, Jesus knew, and you can know, that trials and troubles are a time to connect with God.  A time to remember His faithfulness.  A time to stop trying to do everything yourself...and let God be in control.  A time to grow and mature in faith.

And how do you find joy?  I'm no expert...I'm still working on this, too.  But I believe that just knowing that I am never alone makes a huge difference.  No matter what it FEELS like, in Christ, we are NEVER alone.  He is always there....He promises this...and Jesus does not lie, nor does He break promises.  He is beside us, in front of us, behind us.  He is ALWAYS there.

I also believe that it is necessary to spend time in prayer...to keep our own connection to Him in place.  We tend to let go...God doesn't.  I am convinced that the worst thing to do in trouble is to let go of  Him.  To try to go it alone.  Instead...keep that communication line open 24/7.

It's important to remember...really sit and take some time to remember...how God has taken care of you in the past.  Remember the blessings.  Remember the rescues.  Remember the miracles.  I can't tell you how many times I have looked back over times in my life that seemed just too horrible at the time...and then I realized just how much I learned from those times.  Just how much strength I gained from those times.  Just how much I grew in maturity in my faith because I persevered WITH God.

Maybe you won't see the joy right away.  Maybe it will take some effort to choose the joy.  Maybe you will feel like giving up.  But beloved friend, I promise you...God will hold on to you and not let you go no matter how long the trouble lasts.  He hears your prayers even when it FEELS like He is not answering.  He knows your needs.  Trust that He is there.  That He will give you strength to go on.  That He will see you through the trial.  If your faith feels like it's not strong enough, ask Him for more.  He will give it.  If you feel the need for wisdom, ask Him for it.  He will give it.

James 1:5
 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.


You are not alone.  And there can be joy in trials.


Psalm 73:23
Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand.

Matthew 28:20b
And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

31 Days - The Search for Joy

Have you ever noticed that we search for joy in all kinds of places?  Other people, a new house, a new car, a fabulous vacation get-away, the next latest and greatest whatever....

But we don't find it in those things, do we?  Perhaps a momentary happiness.  But not long lasting, overflowing, peace-giving joy.

And where can we find that joy?


Psalm 21:5-7
5 Through the victories you gave, his glory is great;
you have bestowed on him splendor and majesty.
6 Surely you have granted him unending blessings
and made him glad with the joy of your presence.
7 For the king trusts in the Lord;
through the unfailing love of the Most High
he will not be shaken.


 
Psalm 5:11
11 But let all who take refuge in you be glad;
let them ever sing for joy.

Spread your protection over them,
that those who love your name may rejoice in you.


Psalm 16:11
You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

 Let the search be over...take refuge in Him...spend time with the Father...there is joy in His presence.
Amen.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

31 Days - Joy in Creating

I think God gave us the ability to be creative, the gift of creativity, because He knew how much enjoyment we would get from it.  Don't you?  I like to stamp and create my own greeting cards.  I like to make jewelry with beads.  I like to crochet with different colors of yarns and different types of stitches and watch an afgan grow out of nothing but a long string of yarn.  I like to put colors together in combinations that are pleasing to the eye.  I feel joy when I create something that turns out particularly well.  It's exciting!

Sometimes I like to imagine what God must have been thinking or feeling when He created everything...out of nothing!  What a thrill it must have been to see the first tree grow and bud and blossom with new leaves and flowers...then to paint the leaves with different colors and watch them flutter to the ground...preparing the tree to rest before doing it all over again.  I marvel at the colors He blends together in a spectacular sunset or sunrise.  And what about the scents of all the different flowers?  Or the plumage on the birds that fly and strut and dance?  The brilliance of  the stars against the black sky...

And what about as He created man?  As He wove all of our parts together and all of our bodily systems.  What must He have thought when Eve first opened her eyes?  Or when Adam first ran through the garden with the abandon of a child at play?  Did you know that YOU are a masterpiece?  That I am, too?  God created us to be individuals - intricately different and yet wonderfully similar.  He created us to have different gifts and abilities.  He created us to be all different sizes, shapes, colors, and temperaments. 

Doesn't that just make you want to laugh out loud with joy?  Doesn't it make you sit back and just wonder in awe at how great is our God?!


Ephesians 2:10
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Psalm 139:14
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. 

Praise Him with joy and thanksgiving - for He has created you and given you gifts that you, in your own way, may also be creative!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

31 Days - No Worries

I used to say that "I came from a long line of worriers."  My grandma worried, my mom worried, my step-mom had what she used to call her "disaster tapes."  I worried.  I worried about money.  I worried about having enough food.  I worried about how to pay bills.  I worried about getting new clothes for my kids.  I worried about my kids.  I worried about them getting sick or being hurt or people being mean to them.  I worried about things that were "going to happen" next week or month or year.  What if...  How can I possibly...  What will we do...

I would worry so much I had constant headaches, stomachaches that would send me to the couch to lay down until they subsided.  I got cranky and spoke harsh words to those I was supposed to be protecting and teaching and loving.  And I realized that all that worry...really got me nowhere except sick and tired.  Worry didn't change the situation.  Worry didn't make things better.  Worry didn't solve problems.

Then I started to focus on trusting God...really truly trusting Him.  I started to look at the times in my life that He really came through for me, for my family, for people I love.  I started to remember how, even when I was unfaithful, He was always faithful.  He always had our back.  He always came through.

So then, I began to hold on tight to these words:

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
28 And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.    Matthew 6:24-34

And also these:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.    Philippians 4:6

And these:

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.   1 Peter 5:7

You see, when you can look back and see how the Lord has provided, how can you question that He will take care of you?  When you can look back and see that the Lord has made a way, when there seemed no possible way, how can you question that He will not leave your side? 

Little by little, as I put all my cares in His strong and capable hands...I began to feel a peace.  A peace I couldn't explain when stress came my way.  I began to be able to push the anxiety away, stop the worry, and tell myself that God would, indeed, make things - yes even stressful things - work out for good.  I began to see that certain events, though stressful or frightening at the time, often led to new open doors or opportunities for me to serve others who were going through similar circumstances. 

The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.   Psalm 28:7

And yes...even joy.   

Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.         Acts 14:17

Trust Him.  Let the worry go.  Let Him be in control.  And pretty soon, you will find that your heart is filled with joy...a joy that's unspeakable...a joy that's overflowing...a joy found in His presence.  

Friday, October 11, 2013

31 Days - Joy in hope

My daughter and I went to Panda Express for dinner tonight - I just love their string bean chicken and black pepper chicken.  After eating, I cracked open my fortune cookie.  I always get a chuckle out of the fortunes inside.  But tonight, when I opened my cookie....it was empty.  No little slip of paper.  How disappointing.  I even posted a status about it on Facebook.  Later in the evening after having to drive four hours to rescue one of my sons, I read all the comments left on that status.  Humorous little bits like "Good luck.  It was nice knowing you." and "You get to decide your own future." and "Aawww."  And then this one...."AAACK! That's okay. The Big Guy already knows your fortune."

Ah, yes.  The Big Guy does.  

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.   Jeremiah 29:11


Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?   Matthew 6:25-27

And then, this one:

The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him.   Lamentation 3:25

Now, I wasn't REALLY worried about the fortune in my cookie.  But, I do know where my true hope and fortune lies...right smack in the middle of God's hands...not some fortune cookie.  God knows me.  God knows my entire future.  He knows the moment I will die and pass from this human life. 

I may not know what's in my future.  I didn't know this morning that I was going to have to drive to a town two hours away to help my son get home.  I don't know how God will use me next week or what will happen next month.  But I know the One who does.  He gives me all the hope I need.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.    Romans 15:13


Thursday, October 10, 2013

31 Days - Counting gifts, adding up the joy

"When I only give thanks for some things, aren't I likely to miss giving God glory in most things?"
~Ann Voskamp

Little moments...little spots of joy.  EnJOY them now...this moment...and give thanks always.

Starting at #90 in my current list of 1000 gifts...(because I seem to misplace my journals and start a new one...)

90.  kitty snuggles
91.  Dinner at a friend's house - yummy, warm stew
92.  playing with colors/creating with beads
93.  sweater weather
94.  a drive in the country
95.  a coffee break at work - 91 year old Lucille, hot coffee, a fresh spudnut and a nice visit!
96. the quiet little chattering of my parakeets
97.  a crisp, juicy apple
98.  fresh squeezed apple cider
99.  Kira making funny faces
100.  the sound of a rumbly muffler that means Kyle is home
101.  finding the house phone that's been lost for days!
102.  the smell of coffee in the morning
103.  tiny little blossoms on my bonzai tree
104.  dogs curled up at my feet
105.  a warm blanket and fuzzy socks
106.  Hello Mornings with a wonderful group of women

What brought joy to your day? 


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

31 Days - Joy in worship

If there was one thing I noticed about the 7,000+ women at the Women of Faith conference last weekend, it was the emotion of worship.  There was laughter, there were tears, there was delight, there was excitement, there were closed eyes and bowed heads, there were smiles on faces and arms lifted in praise, and over it all - genuine joy. 

The dictionary defines joy as: 

noun: joy
1. a feeling of great pleasure and happiness.
"tears of joy"
synonyms: delight, great pleasure, joyfulness, jubilation, triumph, exultation, rejoicing, happiness, gladness, glee, exhilaration, exuberance, elation, euphoria, bliss, ecstasy, rapture;


Let's think about this.  When we worship God for who He is; when we thank Him out of true gratitude for what He has provided; when we raise our voices in song to sing His praises...what kinds of things do we feel?  Have you ever experienced a sunrise so beautiful that you were filled with elation at the glory of the artwork of God?  Have you ever felt His presence so keenly that you couldn't help but laugh with delight?  Have you ever sang a worship song in a room filled with hundreds of other people and felt a thrill of excitement race through your whole body? 

Here's another definition of joy:

noun \ˈjȯi\
: a source or cause of great happiness : something or someone that gives joy to someone



 
As a Christian, our source of true joy is God. Yesterday, we found in the 15th chapter of John that Jesus tells us to remain in Him...to love Him, and to love others.  We discovered that if we follow His command, He will fill us with His joy - and it will be a complete joy. 

Psalm 100:2 says:  Worship the Lord with glandness, come before Him with joyful songs.

When we come before God, worshiping, praying with grateful hearts or singing songs of joy...the gift of joy comes full circle.  God fills us with joy when we serve Him, when we follow His commands, when we spend time with Him - remain in Him...and then we give joy back to Him...when we come with hearts focused on worship.  When we lift our voices in joyful song, when we raise our hands in joyful abandon, when we let go of the world and hold fast to our Savior - we give back joy in worship.

Isaiah 49:13  Shout for joy, you heavens; rejoice, you earth; burst into song, you mountains!  For the LORD comforts His people and will have compassion on His afflicted ones.

 



 

 







Tuesday, October 8, 2013

31 Days - Love and joy

Jesus spoke these words in John 15:
“As the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you. Remain in My love. 10 If you keep My commands you will remain in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commands and remain in His love.
11 “I have spoken these things to you so that My joy may be in you and your joy may be complete. 12 This is My command: Love one another as I have loved you. 

Jesus loves us, as the Father loved Him.  The Father who spoke from heaven and told His Son that He was beloved.  The Father who spoke from heaven and told His Son that He was pleased with Him.  The Father who sent this Son...out of love for each and every one of us.  The Lamb for the sacrifice for our sins.

Jesus asks us to remain in His love.  And how do we do that?  By keeping His commands.  Just as He, Jesus, kept His Father's commands.  Jesus knew how to treat other people because He knew that love.  And He showed us over and over how to love one another.  He is our teacher, our model, our guide.  He commands us to love one another...as He loved.  To treat each other with compassion, as He had compassion.  To correct each other, with words spoken in truth and love.  To support each other, by sharing what we have with those who have not.  To share the Gospel with the world who doesn't know Him.

He very clearly told us what we need to do.  And why.  To remain in love.  To remain in His love.  To remain in Him.  To be filled with His joy.  A complete joy...not a fleeting "joy",  and not just a little bit of joy.  Complete joy.  It's what He wants for each of us.  Love...and joy.

 

Monday, October 7, 2013

31 Days - Joy Quotes

So today, I thought it might be fun to search out some quotes about joy...here's a few I found:



“Joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God.”
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
 
 
 “Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day.”
Henri J.M. Nouwen
 
 
“when we are powerless to do a thing, it is a great joy that we can come and step inside the ability of Jesus”
Corrie ten Boom 
 
 
“A joyful heart is the normal result of a heart burning with love. She gives most who gives with joy.”
Mother Teresa, In the Heart of the World: Thoughts, Stories and Prayers
 
 
 Joy is not the absence of suffering. It is the presence of God. 
- Robert Schuller
 
 
 "Joy, it's always a function of gratitude - and gratitude is always a function of perspective."
- Ann Voskamp
 
 
  "I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you."
--Jesus Christ (John 15:11-12)
 
 
Joy, it’s always a function of gratitude — and gratitude is always a function of perspective. - See more at: http://www.aholyexperience.com/crazy-joy/#sthash.qLhW13cA.dpuf

Joy, it’s always a function of gratitude — and gratitude is always a function of perspective. - See more at: http://www.aholyexperience.com/crazy-joy/#sthash.qLhW13cA.dpuf

Sunday, October 6, 2013

31 Days - Joy found

A few grace gifts that brought me joy this weekend:
1. glimpses of mountaintops in the distance
2. lights reflecting off water
3. delicious food that was a pleasure to eat slowly
4. friends who filled the time with conversation and laughter
5. musically talented people who shared their gift and made times of worship fun and reverent at the same time
6. hearing Gods words from many different people
7. long hours of sleep, even in a noisy hotel
8. meeting new people
9. benches to rest on when legs begin to ache
10. colors and textures and designs that are pleasing to the eye
11. time to get away
12. walking in fresh air and warm sun


Saturday, October 5, 2013

31 Days - Lean into Him

I think one of the biggest things I will take away from this weekend at Women of Faith is "lean into Him."  We heard talks about how much God loves us, how we are more than we know and that we need to "shake our tree" once in a while and take a risk...and see what God, who is more than we can imagine, will do with it.  We heard stories of strength, and stories of pain, and stories of victory in Jesus.  We heard that just because we feel offended or insecure or inadequate, doesn't mean that we ARE any of those things. 

But one thing that I heard over and over was this one phrase...lean into Him.  Just take a moment when you are done reading this to close your eyes and imagine Jesus sitting next to you, gesturing to you to lean into Him.  Imagine doing just that as He wraps His strong and mighty arms around you...gently folding you into a hug as He tells you to just let go.  Let go of the fear.  Let go of the frustration.  Let go of the anxiety.  Let go of the dreams that seem lost.  Let go of the anger.  Let Him take it all.  And then hear His voice saying to you, "You are My beloved daughter.  You are loved.  You are beautiful.  You are mine." 

Do you feel that?  The freedom?  The joy of knowing that your Savior knows you and all your mistakes and all your troubles and all your worries....the joy of knowing that He has overcome the world and will help you to also be victorious?  Just let it sink in for a moment and then let your heart soar on the wings of joy...

Lean in to Him.  When you're tired.  When you're done with all THIS.  When you can't take another step forward because you've tried and tried and tried.  Lean in to Him.  Let His joy be your strength.  Let His strength be your joy. 

Friday, October 4, 2013

31 Days - Joy chose me!

 Tonight I attended a Women of Faith conference in Portland, OR.  In an arena filled with mostly women, and a few brave men...we worshiped our God with Kari Jobe, laughed til we cried with Anita Renfroe, and heard a message from Dr. Charles Stanley - God loves us, God wants us to be whole.  

 

As I think back over the evening, I remember the thrill of the bass pounding through the room...echoing inside my chest as we sang "We are the light of the world.  We are a city on a hill.  We gotta, we gotta, we gotta let the light shine."  The hundreds of voices raised in praise to our glorious, all-powerful, loving God....the echoes of joy that filled that room HAD to reverberate all the way to the heavens.  

 

Women of all ages.  Women of all backgrounds.  Women with so many different stories.  Women with hearts that ached.  Women with hearts that have been healed.  Women (and those few men) who have come together for a single purpose...to spend time in fellowship and worship of our Creator, the one who knit us together individually...and now corporately.

 

At times, you could feel the pain...dark, dreary.  But then came a reminder of how much God loves...how much He longs to make each of us whole...  And then, you'd see heads nod, tentative smiles begin to grow, hands unclasp in laps, eyes grow bright...  And joy was in that place.  

 

One of the women shared the following verses at the very beginning of the evening: 

 
Psalm 126:2-3

2 Our mouths were filled with laughter,
our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations,
“The Lord has done great things for them.”
3 The Lord has done great things for us,
and we are filled with joy.



And that's how it was in that arena tonight. We were filled with laughter. We sang songs of joy. We thought of all the things the Lord has done for us...all the things the Lord can do...all the things He wants to do for us...and we were filled with joy. As we joined together in prayer, hundreds of heads bowed, hundreds of hands holding the hand of someone in the next seat, hundreds of mouths whispering, hearts crying out...I could feel waves of emotions running through that room, through me. And overwhelmingly, over the top of it all....joy.


And I thank God for the opportunity to be in this place this weekend. To look forward to hearing Ann Voskamp and the other speakers tomorrow share what God has put on their hearts this weekend, and to worship with MercyMe. I thank God for the friends I came with and the friends I will make.


Tonight I didn't have to choose joy....it chose me.  The Lord has done great things for us...for me.  And I am so grateful!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

31 Days - Joy in the 23rd Psalm

So, one of my little tasks at work is to collect the mail from the staff mailboxes in the fellowship area and take them to the mailboxes in the main office.  Today, I happened upon this quote on an article left for one of the pastors.  It just jumped off the page at me and I haven't been able to stop thinking about it all evening.

To believe the Twenty-third Psalm 
is to live a life of victory, a life of joy and peace,
a life triumphant in prayer, in Bible study, in service.

-Dr. Robert C. McQuilken

Wow...read that again.  Slowly.  Let it soak in to your mind, your heart.  Think about it...  And then, read the 23rd Psalm...here, I'll put it right here:


Psalm 23
The Lord Is My Shepherd
A Psalm of David.
 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
3 He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name's sake.

4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
forever.


Need to read that again?  It's ok, go ahead....

Now think about this...if you lived your life BELIEVING the 23rd Psalm, what would that look like?  
The Lord is my Shepherd - He leads me, guides me, protects me, provides for me.  I have no need to worry, or fear, or want.  Peace.  Joy.  Love.

He restores my soul - He gives me places to rest, moments to quiet my mind and my life and my soul.  Peace.  Contentment.  Joy.

He leads me in paths of righteousness - He teaches, reproves, corrects, gives wisdom.  He speaks to me in His Word.  He puts people in my life who speak truth in love, who keep me accountable.   Righteousness.  Holiness. Love.

I will fear no evil for you are with me - No fear of death - our own or someone else's.  No fear of evil.  He protects His own. He is always with us.  He hears our prayers. Comfort.  Love.

You prepare a table....anoint my head with oil...my cup overflows...goodness...mercy - He gives from His grace, in abundance, with love so that we can live triumphantly...so that we can give and share with others.  Grace.  Big grace!

Grace, peace, love, joy.  

Live believing the 23rd Psalm.  Pray.  Study the Word.  Serve.  Choose joy each and every day.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

31 Days - All Joy and Peace


Romans 15:13 (HCSB) 
Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe in Him so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

I love this verse.  There's so much held in those 32 words.  It's a blessing passed on by Paul in his letter to the Romans, and to today's reader.  I can imagine how one of those early Christians may have felt...to read those words from Paul and know that he was praying those things for me....hope, joy, peace...the power and presence of the Holy Spirit.  It would give me a certain confidence...the kind that comes from hope, joy, and peace...the kind that comes from knowing the love of God...the kind that comes out of believing...or as another version puts it - trusting in Him.

Do you see it?  God offers those things to us through His glorious grace...and all we have to do is believe in Him.  It's a choice isn't it?  A choice to believe...then, to receive. 

You can have hope...even in a seemingly hopeless situation.  You can have joy...even when things seem desolate and dark.  You can have peace...even when it feels like you are in the midst of a tornado of turmoil.  By choosing to believe...by giving your heart, your life, your entire being over to the Creator of all things.  By believing in Jesus Christ, the savior of sinful mankind.  By allowing the power of the Holy Spirit to fill you and flow through you.  By trusting in a God who never leaves your side, no matter the situation.

When you believe that God loves you, that Christ died for you, that the Holy Spirit will guide, encourage, and empower you...you choose a life of hope; you choose joy; you choose peace. 

What will you choose?  A life of looking for your own way?  A life of disappointment and grief?  A life of discontent?  Or will you choose a life abundantly blessed?  A life eternal...with all hope and joy and peace?

I choose to believe.  I choose the joy that can only come from walking close to the God of hope.


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Counting grace gifts illuminates joy - Joy Dare for October 2:  3 gifts falling
1. maple leaves on my lawn
2.dropping temps means fall has come
3. the number on the scale  :)

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

31 Days to Choose Joy


I've decided to join in the Nester's 31 days challenge.  31 days to write on the topic of your choice.  My choice?  Well....joy...my One Word 2013.

Remember this?                               

Well...here it is...October...10 months into my year of joy...and I haven't talked about it much lately...but I have been choosing it often.

So, for the next 31 days, I want to look at lots of different places in the Word of God that speak to joy.  I want to share with you my moments of joy...the joy I find, the joy given to me, the joy I choose, the joy that is in the Lord.

Can't wait to see what this month brings...as I focus on joy and share it with you!


Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!
Nehemiah 8:10b



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Are you counting 1000 gifts?  Today's Joy Dare was to find 3 gifts orange...
1. pumpkins all in a pile at the grocery store
2. pretty little african violet growing in an orange pot on my desk
3. bright orange shoes on daughter's feet