Choosing Joy {Laura}

As a Christian, true, deep joy seems likes it should fill every part of my day. I desire to jump out of bed with an excitement for what is to come and walk with an extra bounce in my steps till my head hits the pillow at night. But that isn’t always reality, is it? 

There are many reasons why we may not be joyful in a day. For example, whenever I have to do anything with my car, besides drive it, my joy seems to be zapped in an instant. Then there are more serious things that bring me down like hearing a close friend is diagnosed with cancer or knowing someone is going home for the summer to an abusive and alcoholic parent. This world is full of situations and people who can seem to steal our joy. However, we are commanded in scripture to be joyful.

“A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed sprit dries up the bones.” Proverbs 17:22 
“Rejoice always..” 1 Thessalonians 5:16
“Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!” Psalm 100:1
But how? How does this become a reality in our lives? Let’s look at joy in Scripture. This is a sampling of things connected to experiencing joy:
Our faith developing—James 1:2-3
Righteousness and hope—Proverbs 10:28, Psalm 97:11
Salvation—1 Peter 1:8-9
Trusting in God—Romans 15:13
Repenting—Luke 15:7
Knowledge of God’s greatness—Isaiah 12:6, Psalm 138:5
God Presence—Psalm 16:11, Acts 2:28, 1 Chronicles 16:27
God’s Word—Jeremiah 15:16
The Holy Spirit—Galatians 5:22
Being in God’s presence, redemption, salvation—Isaiah 35
It seems all of these things point to joy being rooted in the Lord. It is not in our work, relationships, success, health, wealth, productivity, other’s approval, or how comfortable we are in our environment. It is found when we are in the Lord’s presence. It is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, meaning it is experienced when we humbly surrender to allowing the Holy Spirit to act in us. It is found when our mind is full of the truth of God’s greatness and our eyes look to Him for strength.
There are many times in my life when I find myself actively fighting to choose joy in the Lord rather than let the world steal it from me. Most recently, I find myself in jeopardy of losing my joy to my husband leaving in August for 8 months. Just thinking about it makes me jealous for his time and sad when things like his job take the time from us. The anticipation of it in our conversations can lead both Dan and I into a somber mood. I dread the lonely nights when I’m just waiting for bedtime so I can interact with people the next day. I feel sorrowful when I think about doing anything fun when he won’t be able to join me. I do not want the morning to come when I know it will be the last one for awhile till I see him at the table reading and eating cereal again.
But what is the reality? Can I miss my husband? Yes. Can I desire for it to be different? I believe so. But can I let my joy sail away with his ship? No way. My joy is not in Dan’s presence. It is in the Lord’s. My joy is not in what Dan can do for me or with me. My joy is found in what the Lord has already done for me and will continue to do. My joy is rooted in Christ. 

Part of me even feels guilty to remain joyful when he is leaving. I feel pressure from the world to be sad when he leaves, as if the genuineness of my love is connected to how sorrowful I am when he is gone. In reality, I am sure there will be days and periods of time when it is a real battle to remain joyful—I am still in the process of God refining me to be completely satisfied in Him. However, while my joy may ebb and flow, this truth will always remain: true joy comes only from knowing and experiencing God.
Now most of you will not be able to relate to my exact circumstance but I believe it is the same for all of us when we are struggling to choose joy. We must recognize the world’s lie and pressure telling us we cannot be joyful and replace it with the truth of God’s greatness. If joy is found in God’s presence, then I need to take the time to rest in Him. 

In times when it is a struggle to keep our joy, I pray we would be led to feast even more on His Word and yearn for the time to rejoice in His presence. He has told us the secret to joy—to delight ourselves in Him and trust in Him—and now we are responsible to seek Him for the fulfillment of that promise.  Let’s seek to receive true joy from the Lord.

Free from “bad news” {Lindsay}

There’s a particular verse from the Bible that Brandon, my husband, and I tell each other often in our home. God has used this one sentence to truly and radically carry us through some rocky trials. The opportunities for it’s immediate application have been abundant, whether a financial loss, a long awaited call from our case worker, an update on a family member’s health and that of our own also, and so on. 

There’s a tie that binds us all as people – hardships and struggles. Life is full of throat-punches, isn’t it? Just when you think it’s all too good to be true… man, you’re right. Your car dies. Or you get that test score back. Or your roommate announces she is transferring. Or, maybe currently your life really is just great and you’re happy, yet you almost expect something to hit the fan at any moment. We were made for perfection, but we are not perfect and neither is this world we live in, yet as disciples of Jesus, we long for the day when it will all be made right again. Until then, we struggle and we play, we rejoice and we mourn. Life is not one without the other; Life is a “both – and,” not an “either – or” for any of us.  

So, what’s that verse I mentioned that is repeated in my home often?

He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the LORD.
Psalm 112:7

That’s it. That little sentence is packed with solid ground to stand on in this both wonderful AND painful life we spend on earth. Let me break it down a bit to squeeze just a bit of the goods out of it. Here are a few brief observations and remarks on Psalm 112:7: 
  • Who is the “He?”– In context, this psalm is describing a righteous man. The “he” here is a righteous man, which instantly disqualifies you and me. So how can we apply this verse? We are qualified as a righteous one if we have trusted in God’s saving work through Jesus. According to Romans3:21, we have been given the righteousness of God because of Jesus’ death and resurrection! So, the “he” can be ‘she’ or ‘I’ for the sake of application. If you know Jesus, you are a counted as a righteous woman. 
  • “He will have no fear of bad news” – This does not read “he will have no bad news,” rather that he/you/I can be without fear, and even experience peace in the face of bad news or in the waiting for potential hard news. 
But how can this be?! How can I possibly not fear bad news? How could I not be afraid that the doctor’s report, my final exam grade, my parents’ divorce discussion, or my boyfriends’ true feelings about me could actually be bad??
  • “his heart is steadfast” – The ESV says, “his heart is firm,” and the NLT says, “confidently trusting.” These all speak to a steady, unwavering, stillness to the righteous man. I imagine this person as being anchored and stable through life’s storms, rather than mysteriously avoiding the waves and winds.  This is a real person, with real stability and steadfastness amidst real difficult circumstances, harsh criticism, and painful relationships. 
If you are like me, at this point, you are thinking, “well, if righteous wasn’t disqualifying enough, then the attribute of steadfastness described here is!” But, hang with me just a bit longer. This next part is the meat and potatoes, or just the relief to the high standards of internal fortitude aforementioned. 🙂
  • “his heart is steadfast, trusting”– His/her heart is so stable in the face of bad news, only because he/she is trusting in the Lord. The righteous man is certainly not hoping in the outcome of the news, or his circumstances, or even his own personal strength or resilience. This not a form of self-help psychology! This steadfastness isn’t so much about the person, as it is about the object of the person’s trust. Your and my heart can actually, really, be steady and at peace if we place our hope in something other than our circumstances or ourselves, and more specifically in our hope in Someone. 
  • “trusting in the Lord”– Yes, that Someone is He who is Himself the essence of steadfastness, He who never changes (James 1:17), He who made the world by the power of His word (Hebrews 11:3), He who knows every one of our days before one has come into being (Psalm 139:16), He who demonstrated His incredible love when He gave Himself up for us (Romans 8:32). We can anchor our souls to the Lord Jesus (Hebrews 6:19).
Our natural inclination as we await news or as we receive bad news is to fret, to be afraid. I encourage you to memorize this verse and repeat it to yourself in those moments, or better, declare it (even while still afraid) to a friend. Repeat. Get it down in your gut. Remind yourself why you can experience peace and on whom you are laying your cares. God is trustworthy – He is worthy of our trust. You can take that to the bank. Now go, and learn to be free from fearing the next “bad news” in your life.

Tuesday Challenge-Be present today (Brooke)

I think a lot about the verse in Colossians that says, “Conduct yourselves wisely toward outsiders, making the BEST use of the time.”(Verse 5, ESV)

Or as the New Living Translation says, “Live wisely among those who are not believers, & make the most of every opportunity.”

I want to live a life that makes the m o s t of every single opportunity.

My prayer is the I would grow today and this summer in making the best use of my time. to be present. to serve and to watch. to listen. to put down my phone & love. to enjoy those that are right in front of me. to notice the needs that God has brought across my path. I’m convinced that God wants us to meet needs every single day.

I want to be awake//aware//present so that I don’t miss those.  I think the deep joys of life are found when we move past ourselves and focus on loving others. This is a struggle for me, but I’m learning.

On Thursday night I was standing under an overhang outside of P.F. Changs(with our dachshund dottie). Brian was inside getting our takeout order and it was pouring down rain.  the all of a sudden crazy rain. A older lady poked her head out the door and saw how horrible the rain was… I asked her, “I have an umbrella here–can I walk you to your car?”  She looked kind of surprised and quickly said Yes.  She grabbed my arm and we went for it together with the dog in my other arm.  We did some small talk and laughed about rain, and hair and her dog back home. And I got her to her car dry! It was a sweet moment.  The kind of moment that makes you smile for the rest of the day.  She was so thankful and I was so happy.

I want to be aware of those little moments & the big moments that are surely always around me.  I get so caught up in the days agenda that I miss SO many little moments…I don’t want to look at instagram too much that I miss living real life moments with those around me. {I love instagram by the way- it’s a favorite…I just have to be careful how much time I spend with it;)}

Join me in praying today and this summer, “God help me be present.  To be aware of the needs around me. Help me not MISS one thing you want me to do today. Help me be sensitive to your Spirit. And help me be present with you God.”

I think as we focus on Him and pray to be AWAKE to the moments we will surely see sweet things happen.