Tag Archives: How do I find joy?

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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Joy Filters

Your feelings of joy–or lack of them–do not reveal the quality of your life. They reveal the quality of your thinking.

I know this to be true. Yesterday I experienced it again.

I woke up crabby, and it continued until mid-morning when suddenly I said to God, “Why am I so crabby? I have no reason to be.” Instantly the above thought came to mind, and I realized that I had been thinking very negative thoughts.

Why?  I don’t know.

I may have awakened with a headache again. It’s been happening with more regularity than not lately. Have been wondering if I’m clenching my teeth in my sleep from stress (although I’m not aware of any), or if I have a sinus infection with no symptoms but a headache.

Maybe it got to me and I started looking through a negative filter.

Normally, I’ve been going about my life with so much gratitude. I have a fabulous life. I love everything about it. With God’s help I built it.

Of course it could be better, I could be nearer my kids and grand kids, I could be retired, my books could be selling more, I could have more money…and before you know it I’m off on a negative bent.

It’s so crazy what a little thing like a filter can do to a day or a life.

“Be careful how you see…”

No wonder Jesus said that in many ways over and over. How you perceive things determines how you think. How you think determines how you feel. How you feel determines how your life looks to you, and soon what you believe.

It’s like the body’s inflammation cascade–one thing starts another, that starts another, that sets off another until you are sick or anxiety riddled. And it may have been just a thought.

If I perceive something as negative when it wasn’t, like thinking an old rope in the path is a snake, I’ll have a bad reaction. If I won’t look to see that the snake is merely a rope, then the truth can’t do me any good. I’ll walk on in fear.

However, if I stop and look and see that what I thought was a snake was really a rope, then no matter how many times I look at it again I won’t be afraid of it. I might even let the relief bring me humor and joy.

Of course, I could choose to focus on worrying if there will be a real snake down the road. That’s called borrowing trouble. And a lot of us do it. It’s easy to fall into.

Why should I ruin today with tomorrow’s fear?

If God is good, and personally interested in everything we do…

“But evil lives here too! bad things happen!” you interject.

And you’d be right. But if you have given yourself to God, only what He allows can happen to you. And if He allows it then good can come from it unless you rebel.

So don’t get angry or fearful. Take it as God believing in you–there’s a whole universe watching. It’s  a complement–an honor. Who knows what He can do.

It is your choice. Check your filters often and change them if they need it.

And by the way, the rest of my day went much better after I changed my thinking.

 

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My Mother Taught Me to Fly…

is written on a tiny piece of wood on my dresser. I gave it to Mom a few years before she died.

It seems appropriate to continue my joy-writing on my mother’s birthday. She was a person of joy even though she had a difficult life and didn’t get what she really wanted. In some ways I think she got more.

She so wanted an education. They couldn’t afford it. She needed to work to help the family. It was still the Depression.

She wanted to become an artist and a writer–she had dreams and ambition–she was a strong woman. But not strong enough to withstand my father’s advances. She got married at 19.

She has duplicated herself six times over. She put her strength into her children. And her strength was a desire to know God’s love, experience it, and share it.  I believe everyone of her children achieved that before death, or are still achieving it as the highest priority of their lives (my two brothers preceded her in death).

That is quite an accomplishment. In my mind, it is the highest. Is their anything that matters more than giving your kids the most important foundation in life? Anything more important than knowing and being loved by God?

Health is important because without it your mind and body will find it harder to make those chemical-electrical connections in your brain that lead to good choices. But it only makes all the important things in life easier, it’s not the thing.

Knowing how to receive love and give it is important. But again, that is only harder without getting it first from parents and then from God.

Being able to choose your perspective is very important because that forms healthy (constructive) or unhealthy (destructive) beliefs and choices. (Poor Robin Williams–who felt he had no more good choices! And we are amazed that one with so much could feel and think that.)

Scripture says that joy is in the presence of God. If you don’t know that–never learned it–you are definitely handicapped, life is harder.

Do you know how to go into God’s presence? Do you know how to experience His love?

My devotional this morning says, “I crafted you with enormous capacity to know Me and enjoy My Presence… The more you focus on My Presence with  you, the more fully you can enjoy your life.” This is Jesus speaking (Jesus Calling, 2008)

But what if you have never done that? Don’t even know God or Jesus?

An easy place to start is a choice. Set aside ten minutes to be with Him. Tell Him you want to meet with Him every day and have His joy, then  go to “God in your Face” (facebook) OR http://Godhelps.net/Godinabox and read  the day’s short reading on Jesus’ life. He was our clearest picture of God. While reading, breathe in seven seconds and out seven and keep breathing rhythmically while trying to imagine being there. (This is meditation and 12 minutes a day for 30 days has been shown to change physical numbers.)

Make that a habit and you will have a great start on knowing God and experiencing Joy. And my mother’s legacy will reach you, and who knows, maybe even your children! It is the best legacy you can give.

My mother didn’t miss out. She will have eternity to create art. She already created six masterpieces. I know that because they will last through eternity. What great artist can say 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

Life with a Twist

Don’t you love this time of year?

New leaves are coming out. Everything is blooming, splashing color everywhere. Wherever I look in my back yard there are flowers. The fragrance of Jasmine has given way to the heavenly smell of Orange blossoms, and the Honeysuckle this week in my office (my gazebo) has been amazing. Everything is waking up to new life–exploding with it.

It seems strange to encounter death in this season of life, but so it happens. Just yesterday it interrupted life again for one of my friends whose father died. Another friend had the second anniversary of her husband’s sudden death, her young children’s father. I left messages for them and was blessed to get responses of praise. I know these people and they were not pretending. They “…have learned to walk in the Presence of Life and are happy” even in their pain.*

That is quite a feat, quite an accomplishment. And it doesn’t come without pain. It’s the learning to choose joy that makes you rise above it to a bigger perspective. And there is a bigger perspective to be had. Part of the life we experience this time of year comes from the anniversary of the Lifegiver giving us freedom to choose life and joy. And lets face it, with the spector of death dogging us, joy is not always easy to choose.

Can we really choose joy? Yes!

If you aren’t familiar with scripture, it is full of places that say we can.

It comes in the presence of the Lifegiver. He is the source of life and joy. One of my favorite quotes is from David the psalmist who says, “In Your presence is fullness of joy. At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore. “*

How do we get into His presence?

Simply ask and then become aware. Gratitude is one of the doorways to His presence. Just noticing the beauty and fragrance all around you can remind you of the Source of beauty and joy and love.

Another doorway is your need. Again you have choice. All you have to do is ask. Hope is readily available. Part of the beauty of spring is the hope of newness coming.

Need more than just encouragement to choose?

Absorb that God delights in you. That He sings over you, rejoices in you.* That He wants you in His presence–wants to be in your presence.

This morning He said to me, “If you love being in My presence, you can love every moment, because I am always with you.”*

It’s my choice to see Him everywhere, or not. I can notice the flowers, the fragrance, or not. I can spend the 10-30 seconds it takes to anchor joy in my brain or I can move on in one or two, and not notice His love of beauty and me. It’s all my choice, but He’s here.

 

*my paraphrase of Psalm 89:15,  Psalm 16:11,  Zephaniah 3:17,  Matthew 28:20

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