Saturday, February 20, 2016

Quest For Joy- Part 3 "Eucharisteo"

Our quest for joy ends with thankullness...or rather begins there.

Think on your life.  What are you thankful for?
Has He protected you? Your family? Has He used your past failures for your good? For His glory? What about day to day life? What are you thankful for?
I believe we all have something to be thankful for.
So, write it down!

Paul tells us to practice these disciplines over and over until it becomes second nature. The thing about practice is that it takes work, conscious effort and we will not get it right the first time.
Phillipians 4:8-9

"You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you." Isaiah 26:3

"The disciple of thanks only comes with practice. The practice of giving thanks...eucharisteo...this is the way we practice the presence of God, stay present to His presence, and it is always a practice of the eyes.  We don't have to change what we see.  Only the way we see it." -Ann Voskamp

"And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them..." Luke 22:19

Eucharisteo in the original language reads "he gave thanks".  The root word, charis, means grace. Eucharisteo, thanksgiving, envelopes the greek word for grace, charis, but it also holds a derivative, the greek word chara, meaning JOY!!!

"Deep chara joy is found only at the table of the Eucharisteo, the table of thanksgiving.  So, then as long as thanks is possible, then joy is always possible.
Grace, thanksgiving, joy...Eucharisteo." -Ann Voskamp

I just love this! It is so very true.  It is near impossible to remain in fear or in a place of worry and doubt, when you practice giving thanks.

"All we have to do is to decide what to do with the time that is given to us." J.R. Toelkin

Do we really want to waste our days in worry and fear?  Do we really believe that worry will change our outcome?

"We are merely moving shadows and all our busy rushing ends in nothing." Psalm 39:6
God gives us time. Do we have time for God?

Do we really wish to choose control and bitterness over joy?  Because it IS a choice.
"When I choose to crush joy with bitterness, and it is a choice, am I not purposefully choosing to take the way of the Prince of Darkness?  Choosing to take the angry way of Lucifer because I think it to be more effective than giving thanks?" -Ann Voskamp

Ouch.  I doubt we think of it this way. But it IS a choice.  And our choice reflects what we believe to be true about the God that we serve.

He gives us all that we need. He cares for us. He loves us. He is FOR us.
John 6:35
Isaiah 40:28
Psalm 50:1
Psalm 48:14

Verses on thanksgiving:
Hebrews 13:15
Psalm 34:1
Psalm 52:9
1 Thessalonians 5:18
Colossians 4:2
Colossians 3:17
Ephesians 5:20
Psalm 111:1
Psalm 100:4
Psalm 69:30
Psalm 7:17

Trust the Lord and in the power of His might and His word.
Colossians 1:15-17
Ephesians 2:4-10

"All is grace. God is always good and I am always loved.  Everything is Eucharisteo.  Because Eucharisteo is how Jesus, at the last supper, showed us to transfigure all things-take the pain that is given, give thanks for it, and transform it into a joy that fulfills all emptiness.
This, the hard eucharisteo.  The hard discipline to lean into the ugly and whisper thanks to transfigure it into beauty.  The hard discipline to give thanks for all things at all times because He is ALL good.  The hard discipline to number the griefs as grace.  All is grace only because ALL can transfigure.
The life of true holiness is rooted in the soil of awed adoration. It does not grow elsewhere."
-J.I. Packer

Are we in awe of our Savior? Do we believe His word to be living and active?

"be attentive to my words; incline your ears to my sayings. let them not escape from your sight; keep them within your heart. For they are life to those find them and healing to their flesh."
-Proverbs 4:20;22

Are we in awe of the blessings in our life that He has given?

*living in His presence is fullness of joy and we can only enter His gates with thanksgiving.

Choose to think on the things you have to be thankful for. Choose to take a moment to write them down.

"out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks." Luke 6:45

"If you really want to be alert to seeing Jesus' divine beauty, his glory...then make sure you tune your senses to see his grace." John Piper

Practice. Practice. Until it becomes second nature.

You might be tempted that you don't have time for this. You're too busy.
Then, guess what? You. Are. TOO. Busy.
God is worthy of our praise! We were created to worship Him!

Its a pretty simple equation.
Thankfulness= JOY= life abundant in Him= your life speaking the love of Jesus to a lost world!

Simple equation but of course our sinful hearts combined with the darkness of this world, and it becomes complicated. However, I believe it is only complicated if we make the choice for it to be.

Practice takes time and diligence.

"for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Matthew 6:21

In His presence is fullness of JOY! He is in this moment.

"Fear keeps life small."  Ann Voskamp
Oh man, doesn't it?!
Stress and fear steal our joy. It cripples us and our lives. And how we respond to it can be sinful.

"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God. Trust also in me." John 14:1

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him." Romans 15:13
AS YOU TRUST IN HIM....notice our part. This is our response.

If we believe, why do we stress and fear rather than give thanks and trust?
The word belief in greek means "to put ones faith in; to trust."
Belief is a verb; something that you do.

So then, saving belief must be the very real, everyday action of trusting.

"If authentic belief is the act of trusting, then to choose stress is an act of disbelief. Anything less than gratitude and trust is practical atheism." Ann Voskamp

Thanks is what builds trust.
Count blessings ans discover who can be counted on.

Psalm 136:3-7

"It is thanksgiving that shapes a theology of trust. Isn't this what Christ ultimately asks of us in the last supper? Do this in remembrance of me. Remember and give thanks. Remembering with thanks is what causes us to trust-to really believe. It's only when you live the prayer of thanksgiving that you live the power of trusting God." -Ann Voskamp

Romans 8:32
"He who did not spare his only Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?"

He gave us Jesus! Isn't remembering this enough?!
It should be, right? But, man, we mess this up! We are sinful and we need Him daily, minute by minute. We need to practice thankfulness in order to keep it on our minds and hearts.

All gratitude is ultimately gratitude for Christ.
For in Him all things were created, are sustained and have their being thus Christ is all there is to give thanks for.  We give thanks in everything because there is a good God leading and working in all of it.

So, as we give thanks for the dirty dishes that are evidence of a meal provided for us to eat; for the pile of laundry that reveal clothes that we have been given to wear; for the toys that scatter the house that are evidence of the blessing of a child/children...all of these day to day things that we take for granted..when we give thanks, we are being reminded of God's infinite love and grace toward us; we are giving praise and thanks to a Holy God, a loving Father and a Merciful Savior...then our unbelief turns to belief and our heart fills with thanksgiving and our lives fill with JOY!

When we give thanks, we find ourselves in the presence of God; communing with our Father; our heart and our thoughts focused upward and outward. We find ourselves doing what He has commanded us to do; love Him and love others, as though it were second nature.

In His presence is fullness of JOY!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Quest For Joy-Part 2

Matthew Henry said, "Our hearts follow our treasure like the sunflower follows the sun."

Sunflowers actually do follow the sun.  The flower itself will turn and follow the sun.  I did some reading and read all kinds of cool scientific facts on cell expansion in the flowers stem but at the end of the article, the conclusion was this: "What is interesting is that no one really knows why the flowers themselves follow the sun, the best guess is that they need more light to grow more seeds."

Oh. My. Goodness.  Did you read that?!  Isn't our God just ridiculously amazing?!
They follow the sun because they need more light to grow!

If our hearts are captured with temporary treasures, then there WILL be darkness in our souls. Just like when we physically walk in the dark, we know that we must find our way, but we simply cannot see.  When there is darkness in our souls, we know that we must find truth, but we cannot discern our way.
Nothing in this life is guaranteed and without the light of the Word of God, we will not be able to find our way in the darkness.

When we are filled with fear and anxiety, our hearts are divided and that simply cannot be.  When you feel that anxiety coming on, God is graciously showing you that your heart is following the wrong sun.

We are not to love and focus on:
-self promotion
-self protection
-self gratification
-self indulgence

We would all probably read the above and respond with something like, "oh yeah, definitely. We know this." 
But do we?

Let's break it down:
Self Promotion- how can I make my life better? What can I do to improve myself?
Self Protection- more concerned with your own safety than loving those around you.
Self Gratification- the act of satisfying oneself. What can I do to bring myself pleasure?
Self Indulgence- It's all about me.

"Not to us, O Lord, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and faithfulness." Psalm 115:1

Am I saying that we should never think about these things? That we should not do everything with a spirit of excellence?
No, of course not.
But what consumes our hearts? Are our hearts and thoughts consumed with these things, worried about these things?  They shouldn't be.

Jesus says DO NOT WORRY.

Worry is sin. Worry is evidence that we do NOT truly trust the Lord with our lives. Worry simply put is unbelief.
What do the scriptures say about unbelief?
"Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God." Hebrews 3:12

"Unbelief is the root of evil and the essence of evil. All our sinning grows out of unbelief in the iving God and what He has said to us in Scripture. Anxiety is the one of the evil conditions of the heart that comes from unbelief. Much anxiety, Jesus says, comes from little faith." -John Piper

Now for those who are in Christ, this knowledge is good news because we know the One to cast all of our anxiety and worry upon and we can rest in His promises.
"He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it." 1 Thessalonians 5:24

"We know than our old self was crucified with Him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin." Romans 6:6

Live NOW.
Be faithful to what He has placed in front of you NOW.
Love Him NOW.
Love others NOW.
Do not fear tomorrow.  He is here NOW. He is there tomorrow.
As believers in the Lord Jesus, as His children, we are FREE from the sin of worry! Believe Him. Believe His word.

How can practically apply this to our lives?  We know these things, now what can we do?
1. Pray! Cast your anxieties upon Him. Leave them at His feet. Ask Him to give you peace. His word says that He will give a peace that surpasses all understanding when we cast our burdens upon Him, trusting Him.
2.Paul tells us to pray with thanksgiving. Phillipians 4:6-7

One of my favorite quotes is by Ann Voskamp. "When you want peace, give God praise."
I truly believe that a thankful heart is KEY to a joyful abundant life! 
I love talking about thankfulness! I am loving sharing with you and learning with you! Part 3 is all about a thankful heart. :)

Friday, February 12, 2016

Quest For Joy-Part 1

 photo credit: Krys Keylor
It's something we all desire.  We yearn for it. We strive to attain it. We work harder for it.  We set our minds to achieving it.
We even condemn ourselves for lacking it.
Joy. It seems so hard to possess and even harder to maintain in this life.

And it get's worse. We not only lack joy, but we possess anxiety and worry in abundance!

We worry about our finances. We worry about sickness. We worry about our children.  We worry about our loved ones. We worry about the day to day; getting the laundry done, the house being clean, the millions of items on our to-do list. We worry what others will think of us.  We worry we will fail. These and so many more, we would probably categorize as selfish worry.

Then, we have worry over all of the people starving in the world. Worry over the millions who are trapped in slavery of various kinds. Worry over the millions who at this very moment are lost and on their way to hell.  We would probably categorize these as selfless worry.

But guess what?  It's all selfish. Wait. What?
Yep. It's all SELF-ish.
We take the weight of the world on our shoulders as if it were ours to bear; as if the weight has not already crushed our Savior.

Listen, a heart that is bound up in worry and fear cannot overflow with joy. It is bound.
Our overflow of worry and fear and lack of joy is sinful. It doesn't point to Christ. If that's why we exist, which it is, then we should not take this lightly.
Let's look at some scripture about worry, fear and anxiety.

"Therefore, humble yourselves under the Mighty hand of God that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you." -1Peter 5:6-7
(humble yourself, trust Him and His timing)

"I sought the Lord and He answered me and delivered me from all my fears." -Psalms 34:4
(seek Him)

"It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil;for He gives to His beloved sleep." -Psalms 127:2  (rest in Him)

"Cast your burden upon the Lord, and He will sustain you; He will never permit the righteous to be moved." -Psalm 55:22 (He will sustain you)

"No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man.  God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide a way of escape, that you may be able to endure it."  -1 Corinthians 10:13
(we should not fear what this life brings, God is over it all)

"Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble." -Matthew 6:34
(God has given us enough grace for today. When tomorrow comes, He will give us what we need.)

On our quest for joy, it is absolutely necessary to look at why we do not already possess it.

The root of worry and fear is often the love of earthly treasure.
 Do you have great desire for others to love you or think much of you?
love of self?
Love of earthly possessions?
Has family become an idol to you?

So broken down, the above looks like this:
-pride, selfishness, vanity
-idolatry-loving the blessings from the Creator more than the Creator Himself

Fear and worry are often just indications that treasure is buried nearby. 

This is hard stuff.  However, if we are serious about the love we proclaim for the Lord, the love we proclaim for others, and the desire to truly live out joyful lives, then you have to seek, search deep, and ask the hard questions.

Let me leave you with two questions.
1. What do you worry about losing the most?
2.What makes you most happy when you think of gaining it?

Sunday, February 7, 2016

It's Supposed To Be Messy's supposed to be messy.  Wait. What? You mean it's not supposed to look like it does in the magazines, movies, and even what we assume it looks like for everyone else?

Yep, that's what I mean.

We are messy. Our hearts are messy.  Our lives are messy.  Then you go throw people together and it's a perfect mess storm!  I'm not sure where the lie that life is supposed to be easy came from.  Oh wait, that was satan.  

First off, expectations will kill you.  They will literally rob you of the beauty that lies right in front of you.  Every. Single. Time.
So, let's straighten this out now.  Expect me to be human. Expect me to mess up. Expect me to eventually hurt your feelings over something.  Then when I don't, you'll be happily surprised with me! Ha! I am only half way kidding though. I'm human. I reside in sinful flesh and I hate it but it's true.  I know the ugliness of my own heart and it's not a pretty place to visit sometimes.

But you know what?  If all I did was put a mask on and pretend that life was always grand, would that help you? Would that help anyone?  Would that bring God the most glory?
I think you know that answer to that.
If I have in any way misled you, let's set it straight. ;)

Life is m-e-s-s-y! I am M-E-S-S-Y! My heart is even messier! I am in great need of my Savior.  It hurts my heart to hear women say things like this:  "I could never do what you're doing." I understand the heart behind it is not against the other person.  I am guilty here too.
I don't take that personally but listen, I don't take it as a compliment either.  Here's why.  The cry of my heart is to be real with people.  It's to be honest about life and love them right in the middle of it because I want my God to get ALL of the glory.  I want to point people to Him, not to me.  It breaks me heart to hear such things because I think one of two things: I have obviously failed at being real and two, "yes, you can do it because I only do anything by God's grace!"

I know so many beautiful amazing women in my life right now and so many from past years too. I mean, truly incredible women who have touched my life and continue to touch others lives too.  Do you know what makes them beautiful? Do you know what I think of when I am thinking of their beauty?  
It. has.NOTHING. to do with their appearances or their accomplishments. NOTHING.  I think of their big, loving, giving, caring hearts.  I think of the intricate ways in which God created each one of them so beautifully yet so different.  I think of the way He has purposefully planned out each day, each minute of their lives and bound it together into this sweet story that He is using and will use to glorify himself and speak immense love and grace to so many.  

Ladies, friends, can we take off the masks?  Can we stop looking and comparing and self condemning?  Can we be real about our lives, our hearts, our struggles?  Can we spend less time thinking of ourselves and how we look and how we'll look to others and more time soaking up our Father's love for us?  Can we see past these things and see to the hurting hearts?  Can we see the value and worth that we each hold simply because we were made in His beautiful image?  
That changes everything.

Today, our pastor encouraged us to come to service with messy hair. To embrace the mess as we go through this sermon series learning together. It was meant to be fun and also hold meaning.  
I loved the idea personally because I long for women to find their beauty in Him and the story He has written for them.  It took me YEARS to see this for myself.  I don't have it nailed down.  I still have moments or days where I struggle and my thoughts fall more in the "vain" and "shallow" category.  But, He has spoken freedom to me in this. Freedom from the bondage of trying to look and be something and feeling as though that is where all of my value existed.
He allowed me to see His beauty and that because of His beauty, I am beautiful.

It's supposed to be a mess.  But guess what?  He works and moves and does GREAT things in the middle of our mess!

I hope and pray that this speaks encouragement and freedom to your hearts.

"Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised."
-Proverbs 31:30

Saturday, February 6, 2016

This Beautiful Mess Called Life

I awake each morning at 6am, grab my running shoes and head out for a good run to start my day. I return to bake muffins and scramble eggs and make coffee for my family. We eat, we clean up, we do laundry and we tackle school work but first we sing Kumbaya hand in hand. It's all just so......NOT TRUE!

There are days and even seasons where life looks similar to this (minus the Kumbaya) and those are the days where I excitedly msg my husband with something like this, " killin it!"
But most days look more like this...
Do you see my favorite orange retro chair?  Yeah, I don't either. I rarely ever see that sweet chair. The days when the chair is revealed in all it's awesomeness, I sit in it and enjoy a moment because let's face it, it'll likely be a while before we see one another again!

The days when it is covered in clothes from our family 6, I can choose to do one of two things: let the mountain overtake me (believe the lie) or see the purpose in my day (choose truth).

"You cannot do it all" rings in my head and guess what?! That is NOT the lie! That's actually true my friends. You cannot do it all. We load our lists down until they are nearly impossible for one person to tackle.  And even worse than that, we load our lists down so much that there is ZERO time in our day for people. The lie is that you "should" be able to do it all and everyone else is doing it ALL and way better.

The truth is this: You cannot do it all.  You were not meant to do it all.  Laundry is never done. Hear me on this because it's freeing if you let it be! Laundry is NEVER done!!! I promise you it happens every. single. time.  I work and work on my tunnel vision mission to get it all caught up! And I mean, out of my way people.  And then I look at that clean floor and those empty hampers and just mere hours pass and it's piled up again!

Am I saying to neglect your laundry and make your family wear dirty, no.  But I am saying two things: put those kids to work learning the life skills of laundry AND.......breathe.
Maybe your pile looks more like dishes or school books or to-do lists..whatever it is...

Stop. Stop trying to do it all.  Stop for one second and look at your life.  All of those things that you wish you had time for: having that friend over for coffee, taking the kids to the park, going to serve with your friends...whatever it may it! Make time for loving people, whether it is the people in your home or people you bring into your home or people you go to.  Make the time. It's there if you look for it.

Enjoy the craziness! There can be so much good in it. It's life. Stop waiting for it to look like Pinterest. Stop waiting for it to "slow down."  Stop waiting for the neon sign to drop in your lap.  Start living your life.  Believe it or not, there is beauty in the mundane. It's whether or not you choose to see it.

"We all get to decide how happy we will be because we all get to decide how grateful we are willing to be." -Ann Voskamp