Monday, February 11, 2013

Time for Joy - Part 6

I don't know about you but since I have started this study I have been trying to start my day with the choice to have joy.  As I get out of bed, I remind myself "choose joy."

The other day as I got out of bed, my mind set on a day filled with joyous thinking....I made it only fifteen minutes before someone stole it from me.   Someone that will remain nameless (I'm married to him), started in on a conversation that I really wasn't prepared to have so early in the morning.  I am not a morning person....give me at least an hour before you bounce around and shoot questions at me please. 

As this person spoke, I recognized my mood changing and my joy slipping away.  My brow began to furrow and my eyes became small slits with laser focus.  All the time my brain was saying "wwwwhhhhaaatttt?"  

Point is, in just a few moments my mind had changed from uplifted pleasant thoughts to frustration and irritation.  My joy that I had started with was stolen within one short conversation.  We can start out with such great intention and enthusiasm but be derailed in an instant. 

Life is full of these type of joy stealing moments.  If we could just get rid of the people and circumstances that steal joy our life would be so great, right!?!  I can imagine it now..... Sitting alone in my office, no people, no work, nothing to do that would steal my joy.  Doing nothing, going nowhere, speaking to no one.  Alone.  All the time.   

Maybe it would seem good for a little while but after about an hour of NOTHING I would go completely crazy.  Although people can rub you the wrong way, what would life be like without contact, conversations and love?   And wouldn't it get really boring without different circumstances in life?

There are so many people and circumstances that attempt to steal our joy that we have to determine ahead of time to have joy.  We have to determine not to let those things steal the joy we have chosen.  We have to decide.... NO ONE IS GOING TO STEAL MY JOY TODAY!  Then when that moment comes where you feel your joy slipping away you can say to yourself...."no, no, no, you aren't going to steal my joy! Not today.  Today, I will have joy!"

This my friend is doing what the scripture says in 2 Corinthians 10:5 and taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.  When we stop our thinking process mid thought and say "No, I'm going there!", we are taking our thoughts captive and determining how we will proceed within that moment.  Our feelings and thoughts are not to control us....we should control them!

So today.... no....every day....choose joy and determine not to let it be stolen by the people or circumstances around you.  

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Time for Joy - Part 5

Joy is a choice.... So are you choosing joy in your circumstances?  Are you shifting the way you think?
I hope so but I have to admit that there are some circumstances that can make it extremely difficult to choose joy.

Like a parent of a small child that has a chronic illness.  That's makes it hard to choose joy.  Or when you yourself have suffered most of your life at the hands of another.  What about when you are going along nicely and are stricken with a chronic illness.  Maybe your spouse or child gets in a car accident and now needs constant care from you.  What about watching your aging parent lose their ability to care for themselves.  Maybe it's your marriage that is difficult and leaves you with deep depression. 

Is it possible to still find joy in the midst of the difficult?  Can we find a place of joy even when suffering is consuming our life?   It's a tall order to seek joy when you are suffering.  Most of us would rather curl up in a ball somewhere and stay miserable.    But then there are some that learn to overcome and live in a place of contentment and joy in spite of the suffering.  If you will allow me.... today I would like to share with you some of the secrets they have found.

First I would like to tell you about a fellow blogger named Lori Laws.  Lori has Muscular Dystrophy and has written a book titled "A Blessing in the Storm....Muscular Dystrophy messed up my life and made me whole."   In her memoir she shares her story of how her life was great.  Life was going along fine when along came Muscular Dystrophy and messed up her whole world.  But in her suffering circumstances she found what really lacked in her life.  She found Jesus Christ and he made her whole on the inside.  She still struggles with her illness everyday but she uses her circumstance to encourage others.  She carries in her a great contentment and joy that comes only from Christ.  In the storm of her suffering she has found great blessing.  She finds her blessing by keeping her eyes on the one who can give joy even when life gets hard.

This scripture fits her circumstance.

Colossians 1: 10-11 - That you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and long suffering with joy.

The writer of Colossians is trying to tell us....To have patience, suffer long and still have joy, you need to do these things......   

1.  Walk worthy of the Lord.... Be pleasing to Him - How do we walk worthy of the Lord?  We obey Him.  If we love Him, we will obey His commands. 

2.  Be fruitful in every good work. -  Do good with what you have been given.  Even in your suffering you can find good to do. 

3.  Increase in the knowledge of God. - The Word of God is living and healing for the soul.  God tells us to increase in knowledge of God because that is what will continue our relationship with Him to grow.  His joy is often found in the Word.  In Jeremiah 15:16 he said Your words were found, and I ate them, and Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart; for I am called by Your name, O Lord, God of hosts.

4. Be strengthened by His might and glorious power.  - Lean in!  Supernatural power comes only from a supernatural source.  God is the only supernatural source that can supply joy in the midst of suffering.  Nehemiah  8:10b says "Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength."  Let Him be your joy and your strength.

One last story for you before I go...  

In the book "The Life You've Always Wanted" by John Ortberg, he shares a story about a woman named Mabel.  A pastor friend of his visited a state-run convalescent hospital and met Mabel.  When he met her she was strapped in a wheel chair sitting at the end of a long hallway.  The sight of her was absolute horror.  Such so that new nurses were sent to feed her as their first duty to test them.  If they could stand the sight of her, they could stand most anything. 

Mabel sat in her wheelchair with an empty stare because she was blind.  In her ear was a large hearing aid because she was nearly deaf.  One side of her face was eaten by cancer and there were discolored and running sores covering part of one check.  The cancer had pushed her nose to one side, dropped one eye and distorted her jaw so that what should have been the corner of her mouth was the bottom of her mouth She drooled constantly.  And now at the age of eighty-nine years old, she had been here, bedridden, blind, nearly deaf, and alone for twenty-five years. 

The pastor goes on to tell about his encounter that day with Mabel.  He ends up continuing to visit her each week.  First the visits were for her...but eventually the visits became for Himself.  You see, Mabel had something that most of us don't have, she had joy and contentment even in her suffering. 

The young pastor began asking himself, " What does Mabel have to think about - hour after hour, day after day, week after week, not even able to know if it's day or night?"   The next visit he asks her "Mabel what do you think about when you lie here?" 

This was her reply..... "I think about Jesus.  I think about how good He's been to me.  He's been awfully good to me in my life, you know....I'm one of those kind who's mostly satisfied... Lot's of folks wouldn't care much for what I think.  Lot's of folks would think I'm kinda of old-fashioned.  But I don't care.  I'd rather have Jesus.  He's all the world to me." 

You see.... Mabel had the joy of the Lord.... She had all she needed.  And you can too.


Friday, February 1, 2013

Time for Joy - Part 4

Here's a little diddy for you....

                  I've got joy, joy, joy, joy,
                  down in my heart,
                  down in my heart,
                  down in my heart,
                  I've got joy, joy, joy, joy,
                  down in my heart,
                  down in my heart to stay.

If you have spent any time in church you will probably recognize this catchy tune from children's church.  Right about now you probably have the tune running through your mind.  It's one of those kind of songs that get stuck in your head and play all day long.  So as your day progresses today, its likely that you will have this tune on continual replay.  In response, you have a one of two choices....

1. You can get aggravated with me because I stuck a tune in your head and now you can't get it out. 
2.  You can make the choice to use it to remind yourself to live in joy.

So here's my point,  we have choice.  What we feel does not have to dictate where we allow ourselves to go emotionally.  In any given situation we get to choose how we respond.

I spent allot of time early on in life looking for when I would be happy.  I remember thinking, "When I get a better job....then I'll be happy,  When I get my son potty trained.... then I'll be happy, When I find a good relationship....then I'll be happy."  I could go on and on with examples.  I did that continually.  When this happens...then I'll be happy.  I was wishing my life away.  Living in what might be in the future instead of having joy in my present.   I was stuck in the belief that my circumstances would change my happiness.  I got so tired of never finding the happiness when circumstances changed. 

One day I spied a book titled "I Choose Joy!"  It really resonated with me and I decided that I wanted to do that.  So I prayed and asked God to help me choose joy everyday and in all circumstances.  I had no idea what a dramatic change it would make in my life. 

Psalm 30:5 - Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy; and on the harp I will praise You, O God, my God.

Here is the thing.... just as this scripture says... God is my exceeding joy.  No matter what irritation I have in front of me or suffering I must endure, I can turn my face to the one that enjoys pouring out himself.  I can look to the one who is called joy and ask Him to pour a little out on me.  I can decide to let things go when I'm angered and choose joy.  It's a choice I make with every situation that presents itself.

You have a choice today.... I hope you choose joy!