Joy Journey Day 7: Seek God

Psalms 16

11 Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.

Know God, Know Peace. No God, No Peace.

The verse from Psalms posted above teaches us that the same thing applies to joy as to peace. If we want to have a fulness of joy we can experience that as we spend time in the presence of God. The more we seek Him, the more we will know Him. The more we know Him, the more we will love Him and trust Him. The more we love Him and trust Him, the more we will have peace and joy in our lives. The more peace and joy we have, the more we will be able to share that peace and love with those around us. So, you can see why it is so important that we take the time to seek Him. How can you get to know someone you have not spent time with?

And just because we have found Him before does not mean that we are always as close to Him. Sometimes we find that distance has grown between us either because of a trial we are going through, because we are too busy, or even because life is going so well that we don’t feel a yearning to turn to Him.

I once heard a joke that I love to relate to this exact concept. There was an elderly couple riding in their truck one day when they came to a stoplight. They looked over and noticed a younger couple in the cab of the truck next to them. The couple was snuggled up on the seat looking very in love. The elderly woman looked at her husband and commented how sweet they looked and then asked, “Why don’t we ever do that anymore? Her husband looked at the couple and then back at his wife and said, “Well, I haven’t moved.” This is exactly the case with our relationship with God. If there is distance between us it is because we have moved, not because He has.

What would happen to us physically if we only ate a meal once a week? We would starve, of course. Our spirits have the same need for nourishment that our bodies do and going to church to be fed once a week is certainly not enough to keep us healthy, nurtured and growing. I am afraid many of us are actually spiritually starving to death.

What are some of the signs that we are spiritually starving?

*Weakness: When we become spiritually weak we start to lack self-control and commitment. We have an inability to separate needs from wants and to prioritize properly.

*Confusion: Over time our thinking becomes murky or distorted. We start to rationalize or justify the things that we are doing wrong, or time not being used wisely.

*Irritability: We begin to find ourselves being easily offended and more annoyed by the people around us, especially our family members.

*Immune Deficiency: We become less able to fight off temptations that lead to sin, sin being the disease. We are more tolerant of things that at one time we would have shunned and we are less resistant to things that we normally wouldn’t even give a second glance.

*Internal Shutdown: We find ourselves behaving out of character, saying things we wouldn’t normally say or responding in ways we normally wouldn’t respond. We find that we are lacking in compassion or patience with those we should be most loving and compassionate towards.

*Comatose: We have complete apathy. We have detached from anything spiritual and don’t feel drawn to do good or to connect with God.

If you are feeling any of these symptoms, your spirit may be dying. It may be crying out for nourishment and connection. It may be time to assess your daily habits and commit to centering your day around seeking God.

God loves us so much, whether or not we are worthy of it. Because of His love for us He has a plan to make sure we always have a way back and a way to connect with Him. His trust is earned by our actions and there are blessings contingent on our level of obedience and commitment to Him, but His love is never earned. He has offered His Son as a sacrifice for us so that we can always repent when we have strayed and return to Him. And He has made Himself constantly accessible to us through prayer. Please use these gifts! Your spiritual health depends on it!

When we regularly seek God and connect with Him, He is there to help with every aspect of our lives. He can strengthen us, comfort us, direct us and inspire us. He can teach us and answer our questions and concerns. He can help us manage our stress and give us refuge in the eye of the storm. He can increase our clarity, energy, ability to both forgive and to let go of things. He can fill our cup and give us an added measure of peace, gratitude, love and joy. He can do all these things when we open up the conduit between ourselves and Him. He stands at the door and knocks, but we must open it and let Him in.

I’m not going to tell you that it is easy to connect with Him regularly. It is simple, but it is not easy. It requires sacrifice and commitment. We must be willing to sacrifice the time and some of the activities we are filling that time with. We must be willing to commit to scheduling that time and following through. We may need to set an alarm to remind us of the most important meeting of our day. But if we will do this, we will find that what we receive from our sacrifice is paid back in full and then some. Overall, our days will go smoother, our problems will be more manageable, our minds more clear, and our abilities magnified. It is not a cure-all, we will still have bad days, but it will be better.

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When we show God that we want to connect with Him, He will even help us come up with solutions and find pockets of time to do so. No matter how busy we are, there are always pockets! You can get up a little earlier and meet with Him in the calm before the storm. You can spend time with Him as you drive in your car or as you wait in a line. You can listen to His word or music as you do your chores. You can create a schedule in your home with a required quiet time. When my kids were little we called this half hour window in our day “rest and reading.” They were required to be in their room resting (often they fell asleep) or reading. But it was my “me” time and it was desperately needed. You can also include your family in your connecting time if that works for you. You can even find a reprieve in the bathroom or shower. I am pretty sure this is considered praying in our closets! 🙂

What are some things you do to feel connected? The more we connect, the more we are aware of what things we are doing that make that connection feel the strongest. I will share some of my favorites to start you thinking, but keep in mind that we are all different and what works best for you may be something completely different.

*Read His Word: Immersing myself in the word of God is one of the best ways I have found to listen to and connect with Him. I treasure my scriptures as love letters from God. I have found so many answers to my questions, comfort for my concerns, verses that lift me up and give me strength, direction for my life, and validation that I am His beloved daughter within those pages. Not only have I found verses tailored just for me, but I have found that when I open my scriptures I am also opening a conduit to heaven. It is a direct link to God and that action of opening them tells Him that I am receptive. Sometimes the answers I seek come from the pages and sometimes by other mean during the day or the week (music, an uplifting sermon, or in conversation with a friend). I fully believe that they come because I have invited them through my act of opening the door of my heart through the scriptures. And I recognize those answers because I am intentionally listening.

*Prayer: What a gift we have been given with this tool. There are no stipulations imposed with it. We don’t have a slot of time each day God is willing to listen to us. We don’t have to abide by a certain dress code. We are never put on hold or ignored until we are behaving better. We don’t have to be in a certain place or certain position. We don’t even have to be worthy, and let’s be honest, we rarely are. But every time we pray with sincerity, He is there and He is listening. I love to connect with God through prayer!

*Music: Over the last 5 years this has become one of my favorite tools to connect with God. I love listening to Christian music and recognizing that the message of the song is meant especially for me. I love how close to the Lord it makes me feel and how very loved. I love sharing these songs with others and how it can effect them in the very same way. This music is such a personal gift.

*Listen to His Word: I love listening to talks, speeches and sermons I can find on YouTube that help me feel uplifted and inspired. So often as I listen to these talks I am touched by exactly the way God wants me to apply the message in my life. Or sometimes I am inspired by ideas that have almost nothing to do with the message, but are nevertheless a prompting meant especially for me.

*Sacred Spaces: I have certain places where I can feel the Spirit more powerfully than others. These places can be a church or other religious buildings, they can be in nature, one of mine is even a chair. I have spent hundreds of hours studying God’s word and communing with Him in my recliner. That has become a sacred space for me.

*Questions: If I want to feel God’s Spirit more profoundly I go to Him with questions. I love how tethered to Him I feel when I receive an answer to one of my questions and know it is given specifically to me from Him.

*Witnessing: I revel in the opportunity to share my love for and witness of Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on our behalf. I feel the bond between God and me particularly strong when I get to do this. Not only am I giving the Spirit an opportunity to witness truth to the soul I am talking to, but it witnesses the truth of my words to me as well. That feeling is so amazing! Pure joy!

*Journaling: Writing is another way I am able to process my feelings about and experiences with God. A prayer journal is one way to organize our thoughts and focus our desires. Another journal that changed my life is my revelation journal. In 2015 I had a strong desire to better understand how God talked to me. I wanted to know how often He talked to me and if I was missing any of those communications. My discovery was profound! As I went through my day and jotted down notes in my phone when I felt promptings, inspirations, or guidance. I made an effort to create a space and time of silence in each day, to turn all the background noise off and listen. Then at night I would sit down and move those notes into my journal. I would pray and ask if there was more information to go with any of the things I had felt. I could not believe how specific the messages were. I could not believe how often God was trying to communicate with me. I had been missing so much because I was filling my life with noise and because I had not taken the time to learn how to listen. The more time we spend practicing a skill the better we get at it. It is no different for learning to hear/feel the whisperings of the still small voice.

*Worry: Now that might sound a little bit weird. But I have spent a lot of time over the last 5 years trying to be consciously aware of my worrying. When I notice that I am worrying over something I cannot control I use it as an alarm and I intentionally turn that worry into a prayer and choose to let it go. I may do that a hundred times a day when a problem is particularly heavy, but the process does help me feel an almost tangible connection between me and my God.

This last week has been an incredible journey for me! I have been amazed and humbled as I have seen how much God is threaded through the different methods of finding joy that we have talked about. When we want to be more joyful and we choose to look to Him for help, He is there. When we choose to let go of things we cannot control and we give them to Him, He happily accepts those burdens. When we want to find a deeper purpose to our lives and we ask for His help in doing so, He loves to partner with us. When we set goals and create priorities in our lives and one of those priorities is time with Him, He rejoices. When we choose to slow down and be more intentional in our day, He enlarges our capabilities to all that is required by us for good. When we serve others and have a desire to be a window to God in their lives, He is the love that we share. And God desires nothing more than to be a part of our lives, to be in the details. The first step for us to receive a fulness of joy is for us to seek Him and spend time in His presence.


Song: The More I Seek You by Kari Jobe

Face to face with the author:

Day 18: It is Lawful to Do Well

Matthew 12:

10 ¶ And, behold, there was a man which had his hand withered. And they asked him, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath days? that they might accuse him.
11 And he said unto them, What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out?
12 How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days.
13 Then saith he to the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it forth; and it was restored whole, like as the other.

Mark 3:

1 And he entered again into the synagogue; and there was a man there which had a withered hand.
2 And they watched him, whether he would heal him on the sabbath day; that they might accuse him.
3 And he saith unto the man which had the withered hand, Stand forth.
4 And he saith unto them, Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill? But they held their peace.
5 And when he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, he saith unto the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other.

Luke 6:

6 And it came to pass also on another sabbath, that he entered into the synagogue and taught: and there was a man whose right hand was withered.
7 And the scribes and Pharisees watched him, whether he would heal on the sabbath day; that they might find an accusation against him.
8 But he knew their thoughts, and said to the man which had the withered hand, Rise up, and stand forth in the midst. And he arose and stood forth.
9 Then said Jesus unto them, I will ask you one thing; Is it lawful on the sabbath days to do good, or to do evil? to save life, or to destroy it?
10 And looking round about upon them all, he said unto the man, Stretch forth thy hand. And he did so: and his hand was restored whole as the other.

John 7:

21 Jesus answered and said unto them, I have done one work, and ye all marvel.
22 Moses therefore gave unto you circumcision; (not because it is of Moses, but of the fathers;) and ye on the sabbath day circumcise a man.
23 If a man on the sabbath day receive circumcision, that the law of Moses should not be broken; are ye angry at me, because I have made a man every whit whole on the sabbath day?
24 Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.

There are stories in each of the Gospels of Jesus healing on the Sabbath.  I do not believe this is an insignificant thing. The traditions of their time were so concrete.  Christ bucked the system and this enraged the leaders of the day.  I have always told my kids that anger is a secondary emotion to a bigger underlying emotion.  I believe these men were scared.  They were scared of change.  They were scared of losing their status and their influence over the people.  They were scared to believe that the new teachings might apply to them. This fear paralyzed them.  It kept them from leaving their comfort zone. It kept them from progressing spiritually. It kept them from reaching out to others who needed them.  And clearly it kept them from feeling the Spirit witness of truth. Through His healing power and acts, our Savior was giving people back their lives!  And these men were so caught up in their rules and letter of the law that they had no compassion for the people hurting right in front of them or these miraculous changes that were happening right before their eyes.

Do we allow some of these fears to affect us?  Do we allow ourselves to get so caught up in the traditions of our culture (even within our church) to the point that we are incapable of leaving our boxes, of seeing needs that are outside those perceived lines?  Do we become so ingrained in the culture of our religion that we cannot feel the Spirit calling to us for change or redirection?  Cannot feel the promptings asking us to act in behalf of someone else?

Song:

Love Them Like Jesus

Talk:

Believe, Love, Do

http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2018/10/believe-love-do?lang=eng

Soul searching Question: How can you demonstrate that people are more important than traditions or routines today?

Day 17: The First Stone

John 8:

1 Jesus went unto the mount of Olives.
2 And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them.
3 And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst,
4 They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act.
5 Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?
6 This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not.
7 So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.
8 And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground.
9 And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.
10 When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?
11 She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.

My heart breaks for this poor woman. How humiliating to be drug into a crowd with all of your sins and shortcomings showing. She must have been so ashamed. She must have been terrified knowing the prescribed punishment for her sin. Then to be shown the tender mercy of Christ. The compassion of our champion is something to be rejoiced! Especially because that mercy is not reserved for this woman alone, but is extended to each of us. How relieved she must have been to hear the dull thud of the rocks as they dropped to the ground one by one.

I too have felt the gentle hand of Christ’s kindness rest upon my head when I was completely unworthy of it. He has pulled me up out of the dirt, dusted me off and sent me lovingly on my way. His mercy and compassion are offered freely with only one thing asked in return… that we likewise extend love and compassion to those around us. None of us is without sin. None of us justified in judging another. The rocks we so carelessly toss around we do at our own peril. Our Savior loves us perfectly and expects us to give freely of our love and kindness in return.

Everyone of us is doing the best we can. Every one of us falls short. Every one of us desires understanding and mercy for our mistakes and weaknesses. Can we really offer any less than we desire?

Song:

Compassion

Talk:

Compassion

http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2001/04/compassion?lang=eng

Soul Searching Question:

How can you show compassion towards someone today?