Friday, May 11, 2012

Points of Joy

My mom recommended that I read One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. My mom is an avid reader and her reading recommendations are always excellent. So, I borrowed her copy and started reading…

Wow.

Ann Voskamp is truly an artist and her framework for finding joy in every moment of our lives stirs my heart. She paints these beautiful word pictures of life on their farm and raising her children. Ann also writes about feeling disappointment, suffering, anger and sadness. These are feelings that are familiar to me and she describes them in a way that fits with my experience of them. But, right when she has me hooked by those shared feelings, she starts writing about emptying ourselves so that God can fill us and how joy is always available to us through Jesus if we have eyes to see it in our circumstances. Ann writes about practicing thanksgiving by looking for points of joy in everyday life and how our hearts naturally shift as we teach our eyes to see differently and our hearts to receive everything that God has to give.

Ann Voskamp also has a blog, www.aholyexperience.com, and it's fantastic. I try to make time to read it at least once a week because it is full of beautiful images from her farm and words that move me into action. I want to be overflowing with thankfulness and it makes sense that this is a skill that I need to practice. I understand that joyfulness is a state of being, rather than a feeling, and that I have to choose to live in that place by actively looking for the joy that God has put all around me. I have to surrender my hurt and uncomfortable feelings to Him and empty my hands of them so that He can fill them up with all of Him.

I am practicing gratefulness and I have already started to feel my heart shifting and softening. I have noticed things like purple wild flowers growing in green grass as I run through the forest preserve. I have praised God for my 97 Saturn station wagon that keeps running in defiance of people's low expectations for its life expectancy. I have enjoyed simple things like cooking a meal and sipping a cup of hot coffee. I rejoice that I had 20 appointments this week and no one canceled. I am proud to stand and celebrate two graduations and one wedding in my family this month. I relish the sun warming my face and experience it like God's affection for me.

Truly, God is good to me all the time. Truly, He always loves me. How do I let difficult circumstances convince me that this is not true? Why am I so easily persuaded that He has forgotten me and the desires of my heart that remain unfulfilled? It is clear that I am not seeing Him in the moments and seasons where I believe these lies about God. Lord, please give me eyes to see you rightly. Help me to really see you and not my circumstances. Help me to fix my eyes on your gaze and not my unanswered prayers. Train my eyes to look for points of joy all around me. Train me to recognize you at work all around me, in every situation. Teach me to believe that connecting with you is the richest blessing that I can ever receive and that You offer it to me every second of every minute of every day of my life.

I have been greatly encouraged by Ann Voskamp, her book and her blog. I share this information with you in the hopes that it may encourage you too. Maybe you will want to start searching for points of joy too.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

A New and Living Way

How do I stay clean?

The blood of Jesus is what cleanses me from sin. I stay clean by partnering with Jesus. I agree with His testimony.

Who is Jesus? He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. (John 1:28)

Who am I? I am the one that Jesus desires to have with Him where He is. I am the one that God gave to Jesus so that I may see His glory which God has given Him.

The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, "Behold, the Lamb
of
God who takes away the sin of the world! John 1:28-30

Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. John 17:23-25

My thoughts

What is Jesus' testimony about me?

Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth. John 17:17-19

Jesus sanctified Himself so that I may also be sanctified in truth. Truth washes away the lies. I stay clean by immersing myself in truth. Practically, this means that I spend regular time studying the Bible and praying it back to God. In this way I read it with my eyes, I think it with my mind, I speak it with my mouth and I hear it with my ears. In the House of Prayer, I also have the opportunity to sing the Word back to God which helps me to get it into my spirit that much more. I wash myself in the water of God's word to keep my thoughts agreeing with Jesus and truth.

And you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free John 8:32

Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me." John 14:6

When I agree with Jesus, I agree with the truth. When I know the truth, I am free. To be free and clean, I must stay in agreement with Jesus and with truth.

My words

What is my testimony?

Death and life are in the power of the tongue. Proverbs 18:21

My testimony is whatever I tell myself about God, me, my circumstances and the world. My words mark my heart. I am marked by the words of my testimony, for death and for life. In order to stay clean, I need to make sure that my testimony agrees with Jesus' testimony about me.

My actions

What can I do when I realize that I am no longer partnering with Jesus and truth?

I am actively partnering with Jesus. I talk with Him and listen to Him talk to me on a daily basis. I ask the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, to guide me into all truth. (John 16:13: But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide
you
into
all the truth
). I ask Him to reveal the truth to me and to expose any lies that I believe instead of Him. When He reveals to me that I am not trusting Him and believing the truth, then I confess my agreement with the lie and I repent to God for wronging Him by believing this lie.

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9

I break my agreement with the lie as part of my confession. I ask God to bring me back into agreement with Him and truth as He cleanses me from all unrighteousness. At this point, I like to imagine that I take my hands out of the hands of the enemy and I place them back into the nail-scarred hands of my Savior.

Daily Practice

I remember that my natural tendency, this side of Heaven, is always to sin. Being clean is an extremely active process. It is not enough for me to feel forgiven after repenting. That feeling will not stay with me for long. I have to choose to live clean through daily pursuit of intimate partnership with Jesus. I have to make it my aim to live in agreement with Him and expend time and energy so that my words, thoughts and actions all agree with what God says is true. And I can feel encouraged knowing that my feelings will eventually shift as I change my thinking.

A New and Living Way

19 Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a [a]sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; 24 and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near. Hebrews 10:19-25

And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death. Revelation 12:10-12