Cultivating Joy in Life

Happy New Year!

A new year, a new focus!

My new word for 2018 is cultivate. I chose that word because it describes what I need to do in my life.

When a farmer cultivates, he prepares the land to grow crops, breaking up soil to grow his plants. His purpose in cultivating is to get rid of the weeds and to loosen the soil in order to have the optimal retention and penetration of water, nutrients and air.

I want similar things to happen in my life in 2018. I want to get the weeds of busyness and clutter out of my life. And I want to grow joy, develop greater passion for life, have a heart filled with more and more gratitude, and live a life of presence, mindful of what the Lord wants for me.

My first four posts of 2018 will focus on how I will cultivate these in my life. So let’s get right to cultivating joy.

I have been realizing more and more that I allow too many things to steal my joy. And, you know, that is exactly what Satan desires. He wants us to feel discouraged and despairing. And with all that is going on in this world, one can easily have their joy stolen. But even in daily life it can only take a word, a frustration, or a disappointment to steal joy, especially in me, when I allow myself to repeatedly mull over these things in my mind.

I want this year to be different I want to celebrate and find joy in the ordinary. I began to share about this when I read the book Choosing Real by Bekah Jane Pogue. She talks about celebrating how Jesus shows Himself real in life. And also how we can draw near to Him in all things. He is the one Who gives us joy.

One of the things I am choosing to do this year is to find verses in the Bible that speak of joy, gladness, and rejoicing and then highlight them in my Bible. I am doing one verse each day. I want to see what God’s Word says it takes to bring me joy. There are many verses in Psalms that speak of joy, let alone the entire Bible. A few that have given me insight are these:

Psalm 16:11 “You make known to me the path of life, you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”

Psalm 28:7 “The LORD is my strength and my shield, my heart trusts in him, and he helps me, my heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.”

Psalm 90:14 “Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.

Psalm 94:19 “When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.

Psalm 119:111 “Your statutes are my heritage forever, they are the joy of my heart.”

These five verses alone give me much insight into finding joy. They tell me that joy is found:

  • in the Lord’s presence
  • in knowing who the Lord is as my strength, my shield, and my help
  • in the Lord’s unfailing love
  • in the Lord’s consolation
  • in His Word/Statutes that are eternal.

Isn’t it funny (or actually sad), how we so often look for joy in this world; in things, in other people, in having our desires met?

I am not saying that the Lord doesn’t give us reasons for joy in all He has given us in creation, blessings, and relationships with others. I know for a fact that He does allow us to know joy in those things. But I also know that when my focus is in solely seeking joy in these areas I can become disillusioned.

So, in 2018, I want to begin to seek to cultivate joy in my heart:

  • by knowing His presence more, slowing down and being with Him more intentionally
  • by learning to know more of Who He is personally to me in my daily life. The Lord is a very personal God.  He leads us to know Him in amazing ways as we seek Him diligently.  He has shown me this in the past.  I must continue seeking.
  • by really looking for His love in my life and recognizing it, being cognizant of how it touches me in my moment-by-moment life.
  • by taking my pain, anxiety, hurt, fear, grief, worry, and sadness to Him so that He can comfort and console me. And then I, like the Psalmist, can also find joy in His consolation.

I want to celebrate joy and find joy in the ordinary because of my constant unwavering knowledge of the Lord. So, I must continually grow and rest in my knowledge of Him.

This definitely will take focus and time, but I am very much looking forward to knowing joy in my heart more and more as I go through 2018.

I would love to hear from you. Do you have word chosen for 2018? What is it and why did you choose that particular word?

Do you have any favorite Bible verses about joy that you can share with me?

Next week, I will be sharing about how I want to cultivate passion for life in 2018.

May your new year be filled with lessons and blessings from the Lord.

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Joy

Joy, it is something we all long for, search for, and desire. But it seems so fleeting. When we are without joy in our hearts, depleted by life worries and busyness, it is easy to begin to feel as if we are losing hope.

Ann Voskamp says that our joy is related to the depth of the thankfulness in our hearts. I guess that seems like an obvious truth but I have never taken into consideration the reality of that correlation. It is too easy to dwell on the frustrating, the overwhelming, the worrisome, the painful; these seem to drown out our ability to know thanksgiving in our hearts. At other times we may be so focused and busy that we miss the blessings of life. The blessings come and go and we are oblivious to them. The sadder part of this is that we also lose sight of the Giver of those gifts and do not thank Him.

We get involved in the stuff of life and are blind to the goodness of God. I know for me that actually almost did happen about a week ago. We were blessed with some very warm-for-February-in-Wisconsin days and in my being busy inside, I almost didn’t stop long enough to go out. I finally decided that I needed to take advantage of the beautiful weather. The few moments I took, gave me so much joy, just taking that little break, breathing the fresh air, and writing in my journal a little restored my energy. It felt so nice to feel the warm breeze, hear the birds, and sip my frothy coffee. My heart was so thankful for all of that beauty it did overflow with joy.

Then, just the other night, I almost missed another blessing. I decided to clean my bunnies playpen, but I thought that I wouldn’t go in to sit with them. Instead, I ended up changing my mind. I felt such peace pour into my heart as I sat their on the floor petting them and playing with them. I felt myself slow and breathe deeply. The love I felt for little Lulu and Leila was wonderful and they, too, gave love in return. These few moments also gave me reason to be thankful and joyfilled. Furry babies can breathe relaxation into your soul.

Such simple pleasures bring so much thankfulness, leading to such great joy. It is true, when you recognize all that you have to be thankful for, you do feel joy in your heart. And the joy, that has bubbled up from your thank-filled heart, brings glory to our gracious, generous God. Joy somehow empowers you with new vigor. I know it does me. So, I ask you…

Are you a thank-filled person?

Are you a joy-filled person?

The yes or no answers you give to these question I would guess are the same for each. Give it some thought, can you see how having a thankful heart leads to joy in your life?

I want to recognize and be aware of the sweet blessings the Lord puts in my moments and my days. Oftentimes, I think we are apt to miss the little things, looking for something bigger and greater. I want to grow in awareness of His presence with me, seeing what He is doing and giving. I need to see the gift so I can thank the Giver. Our own desires can often blind us to the blessings. We are wishing for something specific that our heart is set on and in that yearning we miss all the other blessings. The simple sweet ordinary gifts might be overlooked.

I am guilty of this with my husband, for example, in my wanting to hear loving words of romance. I miss recognizing the love in his helping hand. I have to give credit to Ann Voskamp for helping me see the error in my thinking here too. My desire for one thing can keep me from seeing the beauty of another way of loving.

The same thing happens in our relationship with the Lord in prayer, we ask for something that we think is best and miss the goodness of the gift given that is in reality even better than we can imagine.

I want to see the Lord’s gifts, I want to allow them to fill my heart with thanksgiving so I may know the joy I have in Him, in His goodness to me. It is that beautiful joy that will give me strength in the hard and hurt-filled times.

I hope that your heart is encouraged as mine is to enjoy the Giver, to be aware of the love He shows us in His many blessings to us, to have hearts filled with thankfulness, and to know the amazing joy that is ours in Him.

May His sweet blessings to you fill your heart with joy and refresh your soul!

 

 

 

The Path to a Thankful Heart: Psalm 92

Psalm 92 begins by telling us that it is good to give thanks to the Lord and to sing praises to Him.

Now that it is November and Thanksgiving is really only a few weeks away it seems appropriate to fill these hearts of ours with praise and thanksgiving.

The psalmist says that giving thanks and praising God benefits us. I have never thought of that, but reading this made me want to explore why. One of the first things that came to mind was how when I praise God or give thanks, it comes out of a heart filled with exuberance for who He is or what He has done. I feel this joy in the love He has shown me by acting on my behalf, or just from the recognition of His presence in my life. The book of Proverbs tells us that “A joyful heart is good medicine. But a broken spirit dries up the bones” (Proverbs 17:22 NASB).

Medically, it is a fact that joy or delight in our hearts produces nitric acid in our bodies which provides a good flow of blood. Research also show that joyful people are less likely to have health problems like heart attacks, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.

Praising God is a way to attract God’s presence. One very real example of this is when the Lord answered King Solomon’s sacrifices and praises as he dedicated the temple in 2 Chronicles 7 by sending down fire.

Another way praise and thanksgiving benefit us is by leading us to recognize God’s great power and sovereignty. Consequently this helps us to grow in humility before our Holy God.

The psalmist suggests two things we can do which can help our hearts be filled with gratitude.

1. Proclaim or declare the Lord’s unfailing love in the morning.

What is the first thing that you think of in the morning when you wake up? Usually with me it is the running list of things I have to do. How different it would be to consider the Lord’s love for me! He has demonstrated His love to me in so many ways. How beautiful it would be to voice those to Him with praise and thanksgiving.

2. Proclaim the Lord’s faithfulness in the evening.

What is your dinner conversation like? How about at dinner or before bed gather the family together to share how they have seen God’s faithfulness that day? If you live alone, call a friend and have that discussion. Psalm 37 in the Amplified version talks about feeding on the Lord’s faithfulness. Graze on how the Lord has shown you His faithfulness, fill up on it, and learn of the magnitude of His love for you by doing so.

One of my favorite lines in Psalm 92 is verse 4 in the NLT. Here the Psalmist says that the Lord “thrills” him because of what He has done. What kind of enthusiasm do you feel for the Lord’s work in your life? Do you sing for joy because of it? Do you readily recognize the Lord’s goodness in your life? It is so easy to be overwhelmed by the mundane that monopolizes us and miss the miracles of God.

The psalmist continues by marveling at the depth of God’s thoughts.  Romans 11:30 says, “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable are His ways.

His wisdom and knowledge are praiseworthyWhere would we be apart from all that He does for us?

There are many people who are blinded to the reality of God’s greatness. The ignorant and foolish still don’t get it. And today, we still see the wicked flourishing, just as the psalmist saw in his day. But the truth remains, their end is eternal destruction. The wicked will perish, but our God is eternal.

The Lord is good to us, He gives His followers strength and refreshes us by His great power. He causes the righteous to flourish, protecting them, and prospering them. He lengthens the days of the righteous and strengthens them in their old age. What a blessing the elderly Christian man or woman is as they share about God’s goodness throughout their lives!

Psalm 92:14 says “Even in old age they will produce fruit and remain vital and green.”  Psalm 1:3 makes this clearer “He is like a tree planted by a streams of water that yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither.” This verse in psalm 1 speaks of a righteous person, even in old age they are stiil “green.” And in their flourishing they declare the Lord is just. His greatness continues to all generations. The Lord is our rock, He is our firm foundation for all of life. He is good, and there is nothing but goodness in Him.

Throughout all of life we can bring glory to His name by our thanksgiving and praise. How will you practice this today? It is good to give thanks to the Lord and sing praises to Him!