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

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Joy Journey Day 2: Let Go

Philippians 4:

6 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.

7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

“Be careful” in this context means afflicted. We are being told that we should not waste our time and energy worrying about things we cannot control. We are to pray about our concerns and give them to God. When we do this we will have peace and He will keep our hearts and minds safe, through Christ!

I love the story in Mark 4 where Christ calms the storm. It has been one of my favorites since childhood! Jesus had spent the day in a boat with his disciples teaching the multitude who stood on the shore. He was constantly bombarded by people needing Him, wanting Him to heal them and teach them and just be around them. I can only imagine how exhausted He must have been. So after He was done teaching He asked the disciples to row Him out into the lake. He was sleeping in the boat when a sudden and mighty storm came. The wind was blowing ferociously! The waves were crashing. And the boat was rocking like crazy! His friends were terrified… and Jesus slept. I can picture them trying desperately to row back to shore and maybe some of them were using a pail to try to keep the water out of the boat. Finally, in a panic, they woke Jesus and asked Him how He could be sleeping. Didn’t He care that they were going to die? Jesus calmly rebuked the wind and the waves telling them to be still. Then He asked them a question that so often can be applied to my life, “Why are ye so fearful? How is it ye have no faith?” This was the man, the God, who had separated the water from the water, then the water from the land when the earth was created. The same One who had parted the waters of the Red Sea so that the Israelites could walk through on dry land. Of course He could handle a few elements of water on a lake. And of course He can handle a few elements of turmoil in our lives! We must have faith and allow Him to do so. Like Themistocles once wisely declared without understanding the full truth of his words, “He who commands the sea has command of everything.” Our Lord truly is the commander of the sea!

So why is it so hard for us to have faith and trust Him with the circumstances of our lives? I so often find myself desperate for control. I want to stay in my little comfort zone and orchestrate everything perfectly. I want things to be smooth and I don’t want any storms! But what I sometimes forget is that maybe God sees I need a storm in my life, to strengthen me, to refine me. If it were up to me, there would be no storm, or at very most a light storm. But God sees the bigger picture. He sees what the storm is doing for me. And even though He can stop it, and sometimes does, He often allows it to rage and do all the cleansing and rearranging it is meant to do. I have learned over the years that when I trust Him enough to give Him control of my storms, if they are meant to rage for a while longer, He will at least allow me to move to the eye of the storm for comfort.

We want to control the things in our life so we hang onto them. But if we will trust Him enough to let them go, we will find that He is much more capable of handling the messes we are in, even if we have created them ourselves. I sometimes don’t let go of things because I can’t see how they will ever be fixed, to me it looks impossible. And so I tie God’s hands. I don’t give Him room to work because I can’t solve them, so how could He? But He is the God of miracles! And truly I have seen Him work miracles in my life time and time again, especially in the impossible, but only once I step back and let go.

When we let go of the things that are worrying us we are showing God that we trust Him. We are choosing faith over fear. When we have patience with His timing we are showing Him that we know He sees a bigger picture than we do. When we calm our mind we allow our spirit to remind us that we are not in control and that we really don’t want to be.

Here are a few things that have worked for me when I am ready to let go and let God.

*Journaling: It is so therapeutic to write out the things I am concerned about and why. When I do this it makes it easier for me to take them out of my heart and leave them on the paper, it reminds me of times past when God has sorted things out for me and it allows me to trust Him once again.

*Mindfulness: When things feel uncomfortable we tend to push them away from us rather than spending enough time with them to really diagnose whey they are a concern. When we take the time to think through a feeling to understand where it comes from and why, we can often understand the underlying issue and work through it, but we have to lean into the discomfort to start with. When we can get to the root of the problem it makes it easier to solve it, or let it go.

*Affirmations: Sometimes speaking things out loud is the only way for me to disrupt the turmoil within. We can speak positive things about ourselves or truth filled phrases. One of mine is “Faith not Fear.” It is a way I tell myself to turn off the fear and let God work.

*Letting Go Ceremony: This is something I have heard about from several different people. It can be visual. You imagine the problem and make it tiny and squash it. You picture it as an object and throw it into a fire. You put it in a helium balloon and watch it float away. Or it can be literal. Write it on a piece of paper and bury it or throw it off a cliff. One of my favorite suggestions is a prayer box. If you notice you are thinking a lot about a problem you cannot see a way to fix, you write it on a small piece of paper and put it in a box. It is a signal to you mind and you spirit that you are giving it to God to work on.

These are just a few methods of letting go. If we can do something verbal, visual, or tactile it often helps us to connect the letting go action to our minds.

Jesus said, “In the world ye shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”

He wants us to have joy. When we let go of the worry over things we can do nothing about it allows Him to take them. It allows us to return to joy.

Soul searching question: What is one worry you are holding onto that you can let go of today?

Song: I’m Gonna Let It Go by Jason Gray

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Joy Journey Day 1: Choose Joy

Galatians 5

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace…

What is the difference between joy and happiness? Gaio is the Greek root word for joy and it means great pleasure, rejoicing or happiness. Happ is the Old Norse root word for happiness and it means chance, fortune or good luck. This indicates to me that joy is more internal and happiness has more tied to external factors. If I am having a good day, doing a fun activity or things are going my way I am happy. Whereas, the circumstances of my life at the moment may be very tumultuous and yet I can still feel joy.

There is a quote by Tim Hansel that says, “Pain is inevitable, but misery is optional. We cannot avoid pain, but we can avoid joy.” This seems to indicate that we have no control over our circumstances but we do have a choice in whether we will seek and allow joy in our lives even during these circumstances.

I have loved studying the life and teachings of Paul this year! Now there is a guy who did not have a lot of fortune or good luck! And yet Paul seems like such an optimistic soul. He was constantly encouraging the saints through his letters and talking about running the good race and finishing well. What allowed him to be so joyful even when his circumstances were less than ideal? I believe this was possible because Paul was firmly anchored in Christ. He understood that joy was a fruit of the Spirit. The closer we are to the Spirit the better we are partnered with Him or yoked with Him the more naturally we are a joyful people. We have all met people who have had horrible things happen to them and yet they seem so happy and we wonder… How can this be? I am willing to bet that the majority of them have figured out how to meaningfully connect with the Spirit on a regular basis. They have learned to trust God with their lives. They have learned that life can still be joyful when they keep an eternal perspective and make Christ their treasured friend.

I love this quote by Pope Francis:

“Who gives us joy is the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit Himself who guides us; He is the author of joy, the creator of joy. And this joy in the Spirit gives us true Christian freedom. Without joy we cannot become free. We become slaves of our sadness.”

So how do we choose joy in our lives on a daily basis? I will share some of the things I have found that help me to feel joy. You may find relate with some of them as actions that bring you joy or maybe you have some completely different things that help you choose joy. I encourage you to spend some time thinking about what brings you joy and commit to do at least one thing today.

*Connect with the Divine: When I take time to connect with my God I feel joy. Some of my holy habits include prayer, immersing myself in the scriptures, and taking time to ponder on His love for me. One of the most pivotal things I have found I need to do for connection is to create a space of silence. When I turn off the background noise of my life I allow the Spirit to communicate with me. I can hear His comfort, direction, warnings, and confirmations so much more clearly. When I feel this connection I feel joy. Another way I can feel my spirit connect with heaven is through uplifting media. I love how music can help me feel tethered to God. There are so many beautiful songs out there that can do exactly this. I also love listening to inspirational talks or reading books that ignite a fire in me to do better and be better. These are all great ways to boost joy.

*Remember and Itemize: There is something to be said for counting our blessings. It may seem a silly thing to do, but actually using a paper and pencil to write out all the wonderful things in our lives can do wonders to remind us of how very blessed our lives are. It is also a very rewarding exercise to think back on times in our lives that were hard, the fact that we survived them and all the things we learned from these times. It is good to see the hand of God as we were immersed from those situations and much easier to see in retrospect. I feel joy when I remember that my record for making it through hard things intact with God’s help is in fact 100%

*Serving in Love: Sometimes I take for granted my opportunity to serve my family. Sometimes I may even grow resentful. But I find that when I can add gratitude to my service by remembering how blessed I am to have these people who need me it is much easier to do my required tasks with an increase in love. When I feel this love it brings me joy to serve.

*Association with Friends: I am very much an extrovert! When I take time to connect with a friend either in person, on the phone or even through texting I find my joy renewed. I love conversations that refresh, renew and validate. I love doing the same for the friends I visit with. When I feel my battery drained and my energy level coming close to rock bottom I know a visit with a friend will increase my joy and bring these levels back to a healthy place.

*Interrupt Negativity: It is so important to be conscious of what thoughts we are giving center stage in our mind. If we notice that we are headed down a negative path we can intentionally interrupt these thoughts and replace them with positive affirmations, a better idea, a song, a quote, or a scripture. When we control the thoughts we have and only allow positive internal energy we can increase our level of joy. Remember we were made to be joyful!

*Creating: There is nothing that beats the joy of using the gifts and talents that have been given to me when I artistically create something! We have all been given different abilities by our loving Father to bless our lives and the lives of others. I love to create flannel board stories that help others teach their families a love for the scriptures and how to better anchor in Christ. I love to write. I love to bake. I love to create earrings out of clay. There are so many different ways we can create. If you have not found yours yet I challenge you to embark on a journey of exploration until you find it. You will be amazed by the amount of joy creation can bring!

Soul Searching Question: What is one thing you can do today to increase your joy?

Song:

Joy by for KING & COUNTRY

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