Step #11. Spread Joy

season

I want you to think of something that you really wanted for Christmas when you were a kid.  Make sure you choose something that you actually ended up receiving!  It should be the kind of gift that made it difficult for you to sleep on Christmas Eve.  You couldn’t wait for it.  When you discovered that very gift waiting for you in the morning you began hyperventilating and being terribly overdramatic.  (Wait, was that just me?)  Ok, have you picked something yet?  Did you choose your most-desired Christmas gift?  Good.

New question: Did you wake up thinking about that Christmas item this morning?

Isn’t it amazing that something that held so much JOY all those years ago is now lost and forgotten.  Maybe the memory of it put a smile on your face.  But the truth is that stuff (no matter how great in the moment) just doesn’t bring lasting joy.

christmas morning

But what about the huge trampoline that was waiting in the backyard in 4th grade?  I don’t think I even asked for it.  It was an AMAZING surprise that brought joy to my siblings and I (and let’s face it, the whole neighborhood) for years.  But like everything else, the trampoline wore out, fell apart, and eventually made it’s way to the trash.

Even if you enjoyed your favorite item for a few years, it doesn’t hold the same daily joy for you now.

So if we want joy like Christmas morning throughout the season, do we simply continue to replace the old stuff with the new stuff?

Rather than changing out our stuff, I think we need a change of heart and mindset.  God is always in the business of changing us from the inside out.  He desires for us to find real and lasting joy- something that’s done by spending time in His presence.  It’s totally contrary to the solution the world would give us.

“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.  Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”  Romans 12:2. 

I tend to lose joy when I put all the focus on me.  Joyless living is often wrapped up in self-focus and selfishness. So how do I break the cycle this season and stay tuned to sing God’s grace?

stepStep #11. Spread Joy

Buddy the Elf was headed in the general direction when he quips, “The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.”

I think our joy is multiplied when we look upward and outward. Too much time on MY list, MY expectations, MY gifts and suddenly worry, resentment, and stress can take over. Joy flows most often when we take a step back from ourselves and notice those around us. Joy comes from blessing and encouraging others, rather than focusing on our own needs. When life is all about me, it leaves little room for the joy that emerges through loving people.

“The secret of joy is always a matter of focus: a resolute focusing on the Father, not on the fears. All fear is but the notion that God’s love ends.” (Ann Voskamp, The Greatest Gift)

I long for my heart to remain tuned to the key of grace. I want my interactions at the post office, grocery store, and with my family to bring joy, so my prayer is that I will choose joy in spite of any challenging circumstances or unmet expectations. The Lord has come, what a reason to spread the joy!

“Come, thou Fount of every blessing,
tune my heart to sing thy grace;
streams of mercy, never ceasing,
call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it,
mount of thy redeeming love.”

Following,
Ginger

To catch up on the rest of the series:

Tune My Heart

Step #1. Demonstrate Gratitude

Step #2. Today’s Manna

Step #3. Limit Distractions

Step #4. Rest

Step #5. Listen for the Echoes

Step #6. Practice Prayer

Step. #7. Give Grace

Step. #8. Prepare Him Room

Step. #9. Set Your Hope.

Step #10. Give Love.

Friday Finds: Joy for your Weekend

ireland joy
What a week of ups and downs. I wanted to share a video that I saw months ago, but was reminded of just yesterday by my mother-in-law. What joy the music brings. After watching again I couldn’t help but look up the English translation to Beethoven’s masterpiece. Watch. Listen. Read. Have a wonderful weekend full of joy!

 

O friends, no more these sounds!
Let us sing more cheerful songs,
more full of joy!

Joy, bright spark of divinity,
Daughter of Elysium,
Fire-inspired we tread
Thy sanctuary.

Thy magic power re-unites
All that custom has divided,
All men become brothers
Under the sway of thy gentle wings.

Whoever has created
An abiding friendship,
Or has won
A true and loving wife,
All who can call at least one soul theirs,
Join in our song of praise;
But any who cannot must creep tearfully
Away from our circle.

All creatures drink of joy
At nature’s breast.
Just and unjust
Alike taste of her gift;

She gave us kisses and the fruit of the vine,
A tried friend to the end.
Even the worm can feel contentment,
And the cherub stands before God!

Gladly, like the heavenly bodies
Which He set on their courses
Through the splendor of the firmament;
Thus, brothers, you should run your race,
As a hero going to conquest.

You millions, I embrace you.
This kiss is for all the world!

Brothers, above the starry canopy
There must dwell a loving Father.

Do you fall in worship, you millions?
World, do you know your creator?

Seek him in the heavens;
Above the stars must He dwell.

“Ode to Joy”, by Ludwig Van Beethoven (Translated)

Following,
Ginger

Preparing Room

Last week there wasn’t a stitch of Christmas in my home. And although we still have a long way to go, the tree is up with lights (sans ornaments) and the Bach Christmas Station is playing through Pandora this morning. Even though it might look or seem like a half-hearted or minimalist attempt, my heart is more engaged with the Story than it has been in a long time.

I’m continuing to read through Revelation, but I also picked up a great little e-book called “Touching Wonder: Recapturing the Awe of Christmas” by John Blase. I can’t tell you how much my heart enjoys reading the Story with new eyes.

“Let every heart prepare Him room!”

That’s one of my favorite stanzas from Joy to the World. I love the visual imagery and the perfect reminder to prepare what’s most important.

Our small group discussed that very idea around a fire and S’mores (WIN) last week. How are you preparing your heart for Advent? I can’t stop thinking about that question, especially when I wake up in the middle of the night.

Do we begin our own traditions now or wait until we have kids one day? My parents used to light the candles of an Advent wreath in the evenings during the month of December. The three siblings would fight to light and extinguish the candles, we would sing a song or two, and someone would read a small passage. I’m sure it was stressful at times, but there was something about the hush of the lights, the circle, and our small family celebrating together.

I’m currently on the hunt for my own Advent wreath. It might take some convincing to get my husband to sing, but the hope is that our home, as a family unit, will prepare for Christmas in a very intentional way.

What about you? How are you preparing the room of your heart this Advent?

This week I’m going to share some of my favorite Advent resources and I hope you’ll do the same. Preparing the way for Emmanuel… who was, is, and will be.

Preparing,
Ginger

 

Friday Finds: Simple Joys

I love words.  I just started the millionth journal of my life this week.  My journals are filled with quotes, clippings, letters, verses, lists, plans, prayers, hopes, needs, dreams… you name it.

As I’ve prepared for our joy series this week I’ve jotted a few quotes down about joy and being satisfied in the Lord in my journal.  I hope they bring you encouragement today!

“Joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God.” -Madeleine L’Engle

“There’s nothing more contradictory than an unenthusiastic Christian. The Bible tells us that God loves us so much, in fact, that God gave his only son so that all who believe in him will have everlasting life. Nothing not even death can separate us from God’s love! If we really believe that, we can’t help but overflow with joy!”  -Ronald Newhouse

“If you don’t feel strong desires for the manifestation of the glory of God, it is not because you have drunk deeply and are satisfied. It is because you have nibbled so long at the table of the world. Your soul is stuffed with small things, and there is no room for the great.” -John Piper

With much joy,
Ginger

Thursday Tips: I’ve got the Joy

I’ve spent a lot of time this week talking about how the true source of joy is not something that can be purchased or won.  Joy comes from our Father in Heaven.

But do we really believe that?  Do we really live like that?

I think a lot of people (myself included) don’t invest the time in our relationship with God because we just don’t want to put forth the effort.  We start to read the Bible but find it to be confusing.  We try and pray but end up feeling discouraged when we can’t remain focused.  We spend our time with God going through motions rather than ENJOYING His presence.

Intimacy with God requires work .  It’s like marriage.  If all of my effort went into the wedding and then I just stopped communicating with my husband, my relationship would be a disaster.  The wedding is a tiny part of a life-long journey together.

Look, we’re all at one of two places.  We have either entered into a relationship with God or we are still debating whether or not to say “yes” to His proposal.  Regardless of your relationship status at this point, I can’t encourage you enough to take the time to get to know the other half.  My hope and prayer is that the more time you spend getting to know your Heavenly Father the more confident and joyful you will be in that relationship.

God INVITES us to trade in the busyness and emptiness for what will really satisfy.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”  Matthew 11:28-30 (MSG)

I know.  You’re right.  We are busy.  Even when we don’t have activities we fill our time with magazines, tv shows, shopping, video games – but very rarely do we schedule in more time with the Lord.

When it comes to hearing from God, His word is a primary source AND it’s a filter for the messages that bombard our hearts and minds each day.  God’s Word is like a megaphone to his people.  We recognize his voice best when we spend time listening to what He has to say through the Bible on a daily basis.

Not sure where to start?  Check out this retro Thursday Tip that’s all about loving God’s Word.

Dig in and eat up!

Following and listening,
Ginger

Joy like Christmas Morning

Yep, that’s your’s truly relishing in the first few moments of Christmas morning.  My eyes are a cross between total joy and total sleep deprivation.  Oh, Christmas morning…

I want you to think of something that you really wanted for Christmas when you were a kid.  Make sure you choose something that you actually ended up receiving!  It should be the kind of gift that made it difficult for you to sleep on Christmas Eve.  You couldn’t wait for it.  When you discovered that very gift waiting for you in the morning you began hyperventilating and being terribly overdramatic.  (Wait, was that just me?)  Ok, have you picked something yet?  Did you choose your most-desired Christmas gift?  Good.

New question: Did you wake up thinking about that Christmas item this morning?

LOST STUFF
Isn’t it amazing that something that held so much JOY all those years ago is now lost and forgotten.  Maybe the memory of it put a smile on your face.  But the truth is that stuff (no matter how cool in the moment) just doesn’t bring lasting joy.

But what about the huge trampoline that was waiting in the backyard in 4th grade?  I don’t think I even asked for it.  It was an AMAZING surprise that brought joy to my siblings and I (and let’s face it, the whole neighborhood) for years.  But like everything else, the trampoline wore out, fell apart, and eventually made it’s way to the trash.

Even if you enjoyed your favorite item for a few years, it doesn’t hold the same daily joy for you now.

So if we want joy like Christmas morning, do we simply continue to replace the old stuff with the new stuff?

CHANGE OF HEART
I would challenge that rather than changing out our stuff, we need a change of heart and mindset.  God is always in the business of changing us from the inside out.  He desires for us to find real and lasting joy- something that’s done by spending time in His presence.  It’s totally contrary to the solution the world would give us.

“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.  Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”  Romans 12:2. 

I tend to lose joy when I put all the focus on me.  Joyless living is all wrapped up in self-focus and selfishness.

“Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others.  Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.  Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.”  Philippians 2:3-4 

THE GOOD STUFF
We fill up on joy when we fill up on the good stuff.  Satisfaction and joy in Jesus can be a reality.  The more we’ve been satisfied by God’s love, His Word, and His presence, the more we will yearn for it.  On the other hand, we can spend so much time away from the Lord and His spiritual food and drink that we may no longer feel hungry or thirsty.

“’Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy?  Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.’”  Isaiah 55:2.

Have you ever filled up on chips or bread at a restaurant to the point of not being able to eat the main course?  When we choose to fill up on appetizers, we don’t have room for the meal that will truly satisfy us.

“Taste and see that the Lord is good.”  Psalm 34:8

When we fill up on His Word we carry a weapon for the offensive – the sword.  David said, “I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.”  Psalm 119:11.

The more we know God’s Word, the quicker we recognize Satan’s attempts to cover up that truth… the truth that says HE is the source of joy.  Spend time with the Lord this week.  Rather than asking him to be with you, why don’t you draw near to him?  He’s always waiting.

“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”  James 4:8

Finding joy,
Ginger

Drink Up

“What has happened to all your joy?” Galatians 4:15, NIV

I just finished my first run in over a week.  It wasn’t pretty.  I finished out of breath and a little sore.  On top of that I was parched.  I headed straight for the fridge and pulled out a Coke.

FALSE!  Not even a little bit true. 

When I finish a long run I head for a glass of water, not Coke.  Coke dehydrates.  As good as it might taste with pizza, it does absolutely nothing to restore my body or quench my thirst after a run.  I know that.

I also know that when I have a bad day and I’m feeling bummed, the temptation is to turn to eating, shopping, T.V., phone calls, and even exercise to relieve my mood and restore my joy.  Something in my brain says, “If you can just head to Sonic and get a Route 44 Diet Coke, you will FEEL better.  I’ll be happier, more content… I’ll find my joy.”  But like grabbing a Coke after my run, it just doesn’t seem to work.

But here’s what the Bible has to say… here is God’s RX for joy.

God’s Love
As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” John 15:9-11, NIV

God’s Presence
“You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.”  Acts 2:28, NIV

God’s Word
“When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, 
for I bear your name, LORD God Almighty.” Jeremiah 15:16, NIV

So go fill your prescription.  Spend some time with the Lord today and let Him give you joy that is so much deeper, richer and fuller than anything money can buy!

Need somewhere to start reading?  Check out this passage.

Following and listening,
Ginger

Out of the Trials

2 Corinthians 8:2-4, “Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.  For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability.  Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints.”

The math doesn’t add up.  Coming from the severe trial, overflowing joy PLUS extreme poverty EQUALED rich generosity.  Are you following me?  Since when does a severe trial bring overflowing joy?  How often is extreme poverty associated with rich generosity?  Surely Paul was confused when speaking about the Macedonian churches.

Or was he?

The truth of the matter is that joy flows most often when we take a step back from ourselves and notice those around us.  Joy comes from blessing and encouraging others around us, rather than focusing on our own needs.  The Macedonian church had realized this truth in spades.  When life is “all about me” it leaves little room for the joy that emerges through community and service.

I had a horrible week last week.  I was an emotional mess and couldn’t seem to pull it together.  I heard the question that Paul asked the Church of Galatia now asked of me, “What has happened to all of your joy?”  (Galatians 4:15)  My joy had left me in every arena of my life.  In the midst of trials all I could do was look around and feel despair.  Can I tell you what changed my outlook, what has seemingly restored my joy?  It returned the moment I took my eyes off of myself and made my concern those around me.  Rather than wondering what my friends could do for me, I began to seek out what I could do to bless them.  That change of perspective has made all the difference.  The challenges of last week are just as present this week, but I have decided to change the outcome of equation, just like the Macedonians.  It shouldn’t make sense, but it does.  Overflowing joy comes when we seek to share, to serve, and to love others.  Joy comes as we take on the attitude of Christ and love beyond measure.

 “…Love of old vs. unselfishness of today:  Unselfishness carries the suggestion not primarily of securing good things for others, but of going without them ourselves, as if our abstinence and not their happiness was the important point.”  C.S. Lewis – The Weight of Glory

Following,
Ginger

It is Good

I’m gushing this morning. I just can’t contain how high, how deep, how rich, how personal the Father’s love is for me… for you… for us. I feel like I took a deep breath and then swam the length of the pool twice and am now internally gasping. I can’t fit in any more air, but I know I need more.

Francis Chan in Crazy Love writes, If my mind is the size of a soda can and God is the size of all the oceans, it would be stupid for me to say He is only the small amount of water I can scoop into my little can.

Foolish indeed.

For my can is full and I am brimming not just from feeding on the Word, but brimming from the fragments of His light that seem to pour into my life through the presence of His people. It’s been everything this week. It’s in opportunities bigger and greater than I could imagine. It’s found in the kindness of strangers, and the love of friends.

As I learn to check fear at the door I find that there is nothing, nothing that can keep us from realizing and seizing those works that He prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10) That power, that freedom, that belief is energizing to every aspect of life. As I drink my coffee and read a book, or speak to my grandmother on the phone, or sit in quietness as someone waits to hear about their mother in the hospital – there is seasoning to be found in it all.

“Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage.

Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:13-16, The Message)

I can’t even put in words all that is stirring within me, but I know that He has gifted you. He has called and is calling to you. Shine on church. Let them taste and see. Open up.

I have tasted and it is good.

Following,
Ginger

Restore the Joy.

Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. (Psalm 51:12)

Have you ever been around someone who is reading through the Bible for the first time? I remember when a wonderful gal, Chrissy, became a Christian two years ago.  It was amazing to watch her journey firsthand. I was with her in a Bible study in the months following as we started reading through the book of 1st Timothy.

The night before we were to begin the new Bible Study she sent an e-mail to the entire group that was laden with exclamation points. In order to prepare for 1st Timothy she had been reading through the life of Paul in Acts for the first time. She was reading each chapter and hanging on every word, not knowing what was going to happen next.

Her e-mail read: “Guys! Paul is a sinner just like me!! 1 Timothy 1:16 says, ‘But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display His unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on Him and receive eternal life.’ Don’t you realize what this means? He didn’t deserve it either!”

The e-mail was an indication of the joy Chrissy was experiencing in her own salvation.

As we sat discussing 1st Timothy the next night she smiled through tears exclaiming, “I didn’t deserve this! None of us deserve this, Paul didn’t deserve this, but He died for us!”  Tears ran down my own face as I watched her joy radiate throughout the room. We were all moved beyond words. In that moment, Chrissy showed me that my response to my own salvation had dulled over time. The wonder of it all had faded and I was simply giving thanks out of habit.

My prayer since has become the words of David in Psalm 51:2, that God would restore to me the joy of salvation! No matter how long you’ve called yourself a Christian, the joy should fill us each day! We who were once dead are now alive! Can I get an “Amen”?!

Following and living,
Ginger