Monday, November 7, 2016

The Art of Joyful Living, Pt. 2

Chang Kai Shek Music Hall
How do we water and feed the fruit of the Spirit?  How do we make joy an art in our lives?

Fix my eyes on God -
soon I'll be praising again.
He puts a smile on my face.
He's my God.
Psalm 42:5  Message

Most importantly, we must saturate ourselves with God day in and day out.

I assume that this is elementary information to most of you out there so I'll just touch the surface of each area to refresh your mind.

Read our Bibles - This is one of the ABC's of being a Christian.  We all know we need to regularly be pouring God's words into our lives if we are going to grow.  Make it a habit.  Join a Bible study to keep you accountable.  Keep a journal of things you discover or how God speaks to you.  Teach a kid's Sunday school class.  It doesn't matter what you do, just find a way that works for you.  Here's a small example from my life.

As I mentioned, I was going into this women's conference jet lagged and on top of that our dog had just died.  My heart was not exactly full of joy as I was preparing.  A few days before the conference I was reading my Bible out of habit, because it's what I do every day.

The earth is the LORD's 
and everything in it.
Psalm 24:1

I stopped and read that verse again and again, and throughout the day I continued to think about it over and over.  At any other time and to anyone else, that verse would have just been a nice, warm fuzzy verse.  But God brought me comfort by reminding me that our dog was really God's.  God felt the pain I felt at our dog's sad death.  God knew and God cared.  I needed that to help restore my joy.  I would't have had that comfort from God if I was not in the habit of reading my Bible day in and day out.

Pray - Another ABC that is essential in our lives.  Honestly, prayer is a more difficult spiritual discipline for me.  I work hard at it, but it doesn't come naturally.  Another woman spoke specifically on finding joy in prayer.  Again, do what you need to to pray consistently.  Join a prayer group, have a prayer partner, keep a prayer journal, pray scripture.

Listen to Praise Music - I love music.  It's often on in our house.  Lately, my favorite thing is listening to records.  I have been collecting old records - classical music, Doris Day, Frank Sinatra and a few of my new favorites like Adele.  Stuff that can be on in the background while we are reading and studying.  But I also love praise and worship music.  I listen to it at work and in the car and while I'm cooking.  Music is an unconscious way to set a mood and focus our hearts.

Fellowship - Who do you hang around with?  How are they affecting your joy?  This is a tough one.  There are two groups of people we hang around.  The first is Christians and the other is non-Christians.

Because of the common ground we find in God, Christians easily become my closest friends.  They are the "friend that sticks closer than a brother."  We share a bond of friendship that is strengthened by common belief.  Sometimes Christian friends go through difficult times.  Sometimes they have sin in their lives that they have not been able to conquer.  We need to examine our relationships and make sure that they are in balance.  When they are out of balance and we are carrying their burden for them, we need to stop.  We need to put up boundaries and we need to encourage that friend to seek professional hep.  Even  our Christian friends can rob us of our joy, and we need to be sure that we protect this gift that God gave us.

Working in a secular workplace, day in and day out, I am surrounded by people who do not believe God.  We are friends and I love the time I get to spend building friendships.  It makes my day happy to have it filled with people from various departments throughout the day.  Nothing beats a light conversation in the hall to break up a mundane day.  But they often have a different moral code that they live by.  They make choices that are destructive to their soul without understanding the long term consequences.  The results of these choices make them unhappy.  Sometimes when they are happy, it comes out in crude ways.  Sin is funny to them.  Most of these people do not have joy in their lives, yet to show them God's joy, I need to have some grace and really get to know them, even when it is a bit uncomfortable.  Because when I get past that discomfort, I discover their beauty beneath the pain. I need to share lunch or go sit in their offices and listen.  When their world falls apart, I can't turn a harsh shoulder to them, but I need to show them compassion and let them know that there is a greater hope than the one that isn't working for them.  But even though I spend a lot of my time with non-Christians, they can't be my only or even (for me) my main source of friendships.

Clothes and Living Space - What are your clothes and the space you live in doing to bring joy into your life?

In her book In This Together, Ann Romney remembers this:

"Several years ago while straightening our house, I found a photograph of me that was taken the first Christmas after I was diagnosed with MS.  I'm sitting in a chair.  The chair is gray, I'm wearing a gray sweater, my face is gray.  My shoulders are hunched, and I seemed to be thoroughly defeated.  When I looked at that picture, it brought me right back to how I felt at that time:  gray.   I was sad and deeply depressed.  My future was bleak.  I remembered those horrible feelings.  Around me, everyone was getting ready for Christmas, and all I was capable of doing was sitting in that chair.  After a few seconds I ripped up that picture.  I ripped it into as many pieces as I could, telling myself, I don't ever want to go back there again.  I don't want to be in that dark place again, ever.  I wish now that I hadn't ripped up that photograph.  I wish I could show it to anyone struggling with their burden - as I stand tall and tell them they have a future."

Our surroundings and how we dress affect how we are doing inside just as how we are doing inside affects our surroundings and dress.

Is everything still in boxes from the last move because you just didn't have the strength to unpack once again?  Ask a friend to come over and help you  put it all away.
Is your house cluttered with more than it can hold?  Give the extra, unnecessary items away.
Are your clothes all old?  Go to the night market or hit a sale and pick out something fun and new.

There are many more ways for us to water and feed the Spirit.  Think on it.  What would you add to this list?

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