Tag Archives: “Build a life of joy! Me?”

The Key to Joy

I think I’ve said everything about parenting that I wanted to, except thanks. Thanks for reading, following, learning in this almost-six-month series.

I’m now learning again that thanks-giving is the way to living an “abundant” life. It’s the way to joy–the precursor to miracles. But so easy to forget!

So I thought to share from the book that has brought it home again to me as a discipline. I’ve wanted to lead the elders at my church through one thousand gifts, but God took us to another book first, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, and it has been really helpful to us as we try to form a safe community out of our leaders, which, I think, is where to start.

But now we have come to one thousand gifts and thankfulness again. And reading chapter two the second time, I realized the power in it. Ann Voskamp is an author and home-schooling mother of six, with an incredible gift for description. But she had been so scarred early in life, she had effectively shut down joy in her life without really knowing it–even though falling in love and having six babies!

She shares that for years she had awakened every morning wanting to die. And then one night she had a nightmare that changed everything and begin her search for what I call “whole life.” She dreamed she was dying of cancer, and the people she told were unresponsive. She woke in the middle of the night, terrified, and changed. The following is chapter two greatly condensed.

“I wake wildly wanting to live. Physically feeling it in the veins trembling, the hard pant of the lungs, the seeing it in the steady stars how much I really want to really live.” And so begin the search: “… someone, please give me–who is born again but still so much in need of being born anew–give me the details of how to live in the waiting cocoon before the forever begins?…

“Isn’t it here? The wonder? All my eyes can seem to fixate on are the splatters of disappointment across here and me…The face of Jesus flashes…With an expiration of less than twelve hours, what does Jesus count as all most important? ‘And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them…’

“I thumb, run my finger across the pages of the heavy and thick books bound. I read it slowly. In the original language, ‘he gave thanks’ reads ‘eucharisteo.’

“…The root word of eucharisteo is charis, meaning ‘grace.’…But it also holds its derivative, the Greek word chara, meaning ‘joy.’ Joy. Ah…That might be what the quest for more is all about–that which Augustine claimed, ‘Without exception…all try their hardest to reach the same goal, that is joy.’

“I breathe deep, like a sojourner finally coming home…That’s what I was struggling out of nightmares to reach, to seize. Joy. But where can I seize this holy grail of joy?…Deep chara joy is found only at the table of the euCHARisteo–the table of thanksgiving. I sit there long… wondering… is it that simple? As long as thanks is possible, then joy is always possible…The joy wonder could be here! Here, in the messy, piercing ache of now, joy might be–unbelievably–possible!

“Charis. Grace.

“Eucharisteo. Thanksgiving.

“Chara. Joy.

“A Threefold cord that might hold a life? Offer a way up into the fullest life? Grace, Thanksgiving, joy. Eucharisteo…

“It’s weeks later now, and the mind stores things for such a time when God aligns the stars. I read, ‘The greatest thing is to give thanks for everything. He who has learned this knows what it means to live…He has penetrated the whole mystery of life: giving thanks for everything.’ Breath leaves the lung…I might have found the holy grail…and lost it, moved on. And yet really–hadn’t God set it in the center of Christianity? Eucharisteo…I won’t let it go this time. I’ll enter into the mystery.

“I shape loaves and think how Jesus took the bread and gave thanks…and then the miracle of the multiplying of the loaves and fishes.

“How Jesus took the bread and gave thanks…and then the miracle of Jesus enduring the cross for the joy set before Him.

“How Jesus stood outside of Lazarus’s tomb, the tears streaming…and prayed, ‘Father, I thank you that you have heard me…’ and then the miracle of a dead man rising!

“How there is thanks…and then the mind-blowing miracle!…

Eucharisteo–thanksgiving–always precedes the miracle.

“That was the fall! Non-eucharisteo, ingratitude, was the fall–humanity’s discontent with all that God freely gives. That is what has scraped me raw: ungratefulness. Then to find my Eden, the abundance of Paradise, I’d need to forsake my non-eucharisteo, my bruised and bloodied ungrateful life, and grab hold to eucharisteo, a lifestyle of thanksgiving…

“So what does Jesus mean, ‘Your faith has made you well’? (Luke 17–healing ten lepers) Had I underinterpreted this passage, missed some hidden mystery? I slow down and dig…I dig deeper. It’s sozo in the Greek. Many translations render sozo as being made “well’ or ‘whole,’ but its literal meaning, I read it–‘to save.’ Sozo means salvation. It means true wellness, complete wholeness. To live sozo is to live full life. Jesus came that we might live life to the full; He came to give us sozo. And when did the leper receive sozo–the saving to the full, whole life? When he returned and gave thanks. I lay down my pen…

“We only enter into the full life if our faith gives thanks…Thanksgiving is the evidence of our acceptance of whatever He gives. Thanksgiving is the manifestation of our Yes! to His grace…thanksgiving is necessary to live the well, whole, fullest life. ‘He who sacrifices thank offerings honors me, and he prepares the way so that I may show him the salvation of God (Psalm 50:23 NIV)

“…thank offerings…prepare the way for  God to show us His fullest salvation from bitter, angry, resentful lives and from all sin that estranges us from Him.

Eucharisteo, the Greek word with the hard meaning and the harder meaning to live–this is the only way from empty to full.”

I can’t say it any better than that.

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I’m stuck on my pastor’s remark yesterday, “You are called to build a life of joy!”

Really? I could? Me?

I loved it. And I knew it was coming straight from Phillipians 2–knew it was Biblical. But is it really possible?

He gave the template. He’s great about things like that.

But joy is elusive for me. I have been working for years just to stop seeing what is wrong before I see what is right about life. I have a melancholy-dominant personality type–we’re the thinkers, the contemplatives, but we trend towards negativity easily. It’s been one of the challenges of my life. I have moments of joy, hours of joy. Even sometimes days, but a life of joy? That is something I dream about.

I’m so glad discipline is not too hard for a melancholy, and so grateful that I’ve built in the discipline of an early-morning time with God. This morning He took me to John 17, right to the word “joy”.

I knew the chapter was Jesus prayer for us just before his passion, and I thought it had something about joy in it, and there it was: “I’m saying this in the world so my joy may be fulfilled in them…”

Jesus prayed a lot, and most of what he prayed was not recorded. Five times are all that come to mind, but this he spoke out loud so someone would record it. His prayer for his followers–what he wanted us to know, to have. A life of joy.

I’ve heard about this. Charles deFoucald’s friend described the Trappist monk, “It was as if someone was always singing inside the frail priest, and if you were quiet enough you could hear it too.”

I covet a relationship with God like that.

Does this grab you too?

Would you like to know how to build a life of joy?

Here is the template:

  • Recognize the true source of life–my self-worth comes from God
  • Forgive others and yourself quickly and without exception (this frees you from hurt and anger)
  • Focus on your God-given strengths (what you focus on grows)
  • Eliminate negative self-talk (say “stop” to your negative thoughts)
  • Introduce joy talk (shouldn’t be hard if you are thinking about it)
  • Practice extreme self-care (when I take meticulous care of my mind, body and spirit, I am more likely to make decisions that empower me and keep me full of joy.)
  • Dwell on the person God wants for you to be (that gorgeous person in that radiant smile and amazing robe–an earlier blog)
  • Think of the wonderful plans God has for you (Jer 29:11–ask him to show you)
  • Arise from prayer smiling (or crying–that is sometimes even richer)
  • Treat your spouse and children as they could be/should be treated   (and they will become it!)
  • Take the initiative to act in joy in your relationships  (may have to get help on this one)                  (From The 4:8 Principle–parentheses mine)

Come on, do it with me. It’s the life we’re called to!

Need daily help? See my blog on Jesus’ life: http://Godhelps.net/God-in-a-Box    It posts every weeknight at 8:00, and will come to your email inbox free if you sign up. (It will take you through Jesus life in a year–the clearest picture of God we have.)

 

 

 

 

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July 20, 2014 · 3:24 pm