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.

382197-ezra-taft-benson-quote-when-we-put-god-first-all-other-things-fall5221153848030197898.jpg

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:

21 Day Walk with Christ Final Steps

Thank you so much for joining me on this walk with Christ as we prepared for this beautiful Easter day. I am so grateful for the many stories of Christ that we have in the Holy scriptures thanks to those who were faithful to record these experiences. I am so grateful for the power these stories add to my life as I take time to read and ponder on them. I am so grateful for the tools that we have been given to draw closer to our Savior, to build a personal relationship with Him. I am so blessed by an increased understanding of who Jesus is and of His nature, which grows each time I read the stories in the Gospels. I am most humbled by the knowledge that Jesus Christ loves me personally and yearns for a relationship with me. He has that same desire for each of us. He will gather us in His arms if we will allow it!

Song:

Come Unto Christ

Talk:

According To the Desire of our Hearts

http://www.lds.org/general-conference/1996/10/according-to-the-desire-of-our-hearts?lang=eng

Soul Searching Question:

What will you do to continue your personal walk with Christ?

Note: A Special thank you to the many talented and inspired artists whose incredible works of art, music, or words added so much depth and beauty to this walk. No infringement of copyright was intended and I hope they will know how much the sharing of their gifts and talents contributed to our last 21 days.

Day 10: He Ate with Publicans and Sinners

Matthew 9:

9 ¶ And as Jesus passed forth from thence, he saw a man, named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he saith unto him, Follow me. And he arose, and followed him.
10 ¶ And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with him and his disciples.
11 And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners?
12 But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.
13 But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

Matthew, also known as Levi, was a publican. Publicans were detested by the Jews at that time because they were the tax collectors and had a reputation of adding their own greedy motives to the amount they collected. They also worked with the Romans, who the Jews looked at as their oppressors.

What I love about Matthew is that, just like the fishermen, as soon as Jesus called for him to follow, he left everything and went with the Master. I love that the Lord looks on our hearts and does not judge us by what the rest of the world thinks of us. Christ loved and extended a merciful hand to EVERYONE! Some accepted His offer and followed Him and others didn’t, but He offered it freely to all. He never shied away from someone because the rest of the world saw them as unworthy.

Song:

Jesus, Friend of Sinners

Article:

The largest demographic in the area where I live is the one mentioned in this article. But I believe her words apply to every one of us no matter where we live or what groups we may belong to.

http://www.ldsliving.com/A-Letter-to-Mormons-Mom-of-Another-Faith-Shares-Powerful-Message-to-Members/s/86092?utm_source=Facebook&utm_medium=Social&utm_campaign=social_button

I’m grateful for this woman’s courage and hope her message touches many hearts!!
I want to follow the doctrine of the Church I belong to, which tells me to be inclusive and loving to ALL God’s children! It is tradition and fear that separates us, not God or His teachings. I think we could all put more effort into awareness of those around us and the abundance they have to offer or lives!

Talk/Video:

Judging Others? Stop It!

https://www.lds.org/youth/video/stop-judging-others?lang=eng

How can you do better at not allowing other people’s opinions or your own fears to influence the way you treat people in your life? How can you follow Christ’s example and offer love instead of judgment?

Day 9: He Cleanses and Reclaims Holy Places

John 2:

13 ¶ And the Jews’ passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem,
14 And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting:
15 And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables;
16 And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise.
17 And his disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up.

Matthew 21:

13 And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.

I never really understood or fully appreciated this story until I understood how the temple in Jerusalem was set up.  The inner part of the temple was only entered by the priests.  Then there was a court outside of that where the Israelite men could go.  The next court was for Israelite men and women.  And the outer court, or the court of the gentiles, was a place where anyone could go to worship.  It was the only place in the temple where those who were not Israelites could go to pray and commune with God. No wonder Christ was so upset that the marketplace and corrupt practices had taken over the space.  His temple was supposed to be a place for ALL God’s children to go to connect with Him.

As I contemplated these places of worship and how important they were to Christ, so much that He would act boldly to retake them, I thought about how the scriptures tell us that we are each a temple of God.  I thought about how there is always a fight between good and evil for our souls.  Satan would love for us as a temple of God to become corrupt and unwilling to be sanctified by the Lord. I know that I sometimes allow the dirt of the world to creep into parts of me that make me feel unholy and unclean.  These things can cause me to be distracted from my relationship with God.  They can keep me from being able to connect with Him and commune with Him, just as the moneychangers and animal sales did for the people in the court of the gentiles.  But just like Christ came in and cleansed the temple removing these distractions, He can and wants to do the same thing for us in our lives.  As we intentionally and conscientiously put on the Armor of God we are inviting Him into our own personal temple and asking for His help in keeping it clean and holy and reclaiming those parts we may have momentarily lost.

Song:

Grace Wins Every Time

Article:

Jesus Cleanses the Temple

https://www.ligonier.org/learn/devotionals/jesus-cleanses-temple/

Talk:

Be Strong in the Lord

https://www.lds.org/study/ensign/2004/07/be-strong-in-the-lord

Day 2: Broken Up

Matthew 13:

1 The same day went Jesus out of the house, and sat by the sea side.

2 And great multitudes were gathered together unto him, so that he went into a ship, and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore.

3 And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow;

4 And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up:

5 Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth:

6 And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away.

7 And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them:

8 But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold.

I love the vivid imagery our Savior painted with as He used parables to teach the gospel!  The parable of the sower is one of my favorites! As I look back in my life I can see how my heart has taken on each of the conditions Jesus mentioned in this parable.  There have been times when I was angry and bitter and even though the Spirit tried to teach me the word was gobbled up before it had a chance to sink in.  There are times with I was too overwhelmed with the busyness of life and my pursuits of a worldly nature when the thorns crowded in and consumed my heart leaving no opportunity for spiritual thriving.  There have been those times when my heart has been more stony and I have heard truths and felt excited about them in the meeting where they were being taught only to go home and give no more thought to nurture them.  And then there have been times, my favorite times, even though sometimes they were my hardest times, when I have sat down regularly to spend time with the Master Gardener on a very regular basis.  And as we had these cultivating session He broke up the soil of my heart.  He taught me about thorny weeds I needed to remove and rocks I needed to toss out.  He showed me how to fertilize my soil.  And in that time together I have felt the most beautiful garden spring up in my soul.  I have felt peace and joy in a way that was not reasonable or explainable with the other difficulties that were happening in my life.  I felt loved.  I felt nurtured.  I felt strengthened.  But getting to that point was not easy.  It required a willingness to be broken up.  It required a willingness to make a painful exploration of who I was and who I wanted to be.  Sometimes self-examination is not easy.  Honestly, most of the time if we are doing it correctly it is not.  But it is ALWAYS worth it because our Lord can show us the areas in our lives where we are hurting the most and why.  And most importantly He can help us to change it so that it can become pleasing rather than painful!

Song:

Today’s talk goes into detail about the different types of soil and is very helpful in helping to determine where our own heart is and where it could use a little nourishment.

https://www.lds.org/study/ensign/2015/05/saturday-morning-session/the-parable-of-the-sower?lang=eng&fbclid=IwAR0_gDkWZWtgsd9D3b2sHN4-KElxsHePPEK4GcLO0h34GIERrig68ifcjBs

Soul Searching Question: What condition is the soil of your heart? What are you doing to break it up and nurture it to improve it? What specific things are you doing to keep your heart soft and receptive?