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Entries in Joy (9)

Tuesday
Dec112018

A Christmas Me-Lighting

Kaley Rhea is wise and insightful, a witty millennial who loves to tweak our minds so we think biblically in everyday life. This Christmas UPGRADE will take you back to the "why" of Christmas and tweak your joy!

Kaley says, "You like Christmas lights? I got some straight-up Christmas fireworks here for you."

When I (Dawn) read Kaley's post, I thought, "Yes, the truth is what we need to renew our Christmas joy. Jesus, the Light of the Word, is our great Overcomer!

Kaley continues . . .

First, I want to invite you to take a look at 1 John 3, verses 5 and 8 with me:

“You know that He appeared in order to take away sins, and in Him there is no sin… Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.” (ESV)

Now let’s go back to the beginning. Old Testament.

Back to the Genesis garden where the world was perfect, and humanity existed sinlessly and with the mission to get to know God by turning the rest of creation into the kind of beautiful home He’d made for them in Eden.

What did the devil do?

  • He sowed in them doubt that God actually wanted their best.
  • He planted a seed of his own idolatrous ambition to be as powerful as God.
  • And he pointed out that going against God’s command would satisfy a simple, quick-fix desire for something tasty.

Satan built his traps, and through Adam and Eve, the world fell right in.

Poisoned. Sick. Broken.

Fast forward.

Fulfilling an incredible promise, Jesus—Who has always existed, the creative power of mighty God—came as a Son.

And what happened?

  • He obeyed God, trusting His plan even when it led to the cross.
  • He came as a servant, abandoning His place and His rights as God.
  • And He refused every opportunity to take an easier way out or to compromise the Word of God in order to satisfy His flesh.

Jesus did what Adam and Eve could not do.

Jesus did what you and I could not do.

Because of the love He has for us, He took our sin and the punishment we deserve, and He replaced them with a miracle opportunity to become part of His family.

Joint heirs. Adopted by God.

Us. Can you believe it?

Satan had built a labyrinth of sin and disease; he’d manipulated and whispered and painted all his rot to look pretty.

And then Jesus came in like BOOM! He dismantled. Destroyed. Blew up. Everything the devil had built.

Jesus came as the answer to every point humanity had failed, and He came with a love that redeemed. Big enough to light up and echo through the millennia.

You want joy this Christmas? Real, lasting, soul-deep joy?

  • Think about a devastated devil.
  • Think about Jesus—the only One who could solve our sin problem.
  • Think about a future built on His righteousness rather than our lack thereof.

Then, for literal Heaven’s sake, let’s pick up the gardener’s hats Adam and Eve dropped and get with that new commission, fam!

Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to light us up with the Gospel of Jesus Christ this day and this season and every moment until we see Him face to face.

When was the last time you thought about Christmas in terms of Jesus overcoming Satan's plans? Take a few minutes now and thank your Heavenly Father for those three reasons to rejoice!

Kaley Rhea is a St. Louis-area author and one half of the mother/daughter writing team behind Christy Award finalist novel Turtles in the Road (along with the hilarious Rhonda Rhea). Kaley also makes up one third of the writing team for the new, non-fiction book Messy to Meaningful: Lessons From the Junk Drawer (co-written with Rhonda Rhea and the fabulous Monica Schmelter). She’s unclear on how fractions work, but if Rhonda Rhea is the common denominator, Kaley is pretty sure that makes her like five-sixths of Monica Schmelter. Or something like that.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of chris-1974 at Pixabay.

Thursday
May242018

Habits for the Rest of My Life

A prestigious writer, Dianne Barker has long asked the Lord to guide her steps, so it's no surprise she focuses on what will please Him. In this Choices UPGRADE, she shares some habits that are changing her life. Maybe they will change yours too.

"I didn’t make any New Year’s resolutions in January—gave that up long ago," Dianne says. "Decisions and goals work better for me."

I (Dawn) totally agree with this. "Resolutions" are too easy for most of us to break. But making daily choices that get us closer to healthy, godly goals, and cultivating life-building habits? Now that's a good thing!

Dianne continues . . .

Scrolling through journal notes, I found a ten-year-old list of decisions and goals. I’m updating the list and calling it “Habits for the Rest of My Life.”

1. Exercise daily—body and spirit.

No excuse for missing my daily quiet time.

Why settle for my feeble wisdom to navigate this life when I have divine resources for every minute?

2. See Jesus’ face only—especially when I encounter difficult people.

I’m making this decision carefully, aware that He may provide many opportunities to test me.

3. Get a grip on my self-esteem.

Still craving approval? Get over it!

My esteem depends only on God’s acceptance—not on performance or perfection.

God has poured his life into me and chosen me for a purpose.

4. Bring every thought into captivity.

Negative thoughts are defeating. Devastating. Paralyzing. A dead-end street.

Forget trivial stuff.

How many times the Lord has said to me, “You could be praying about bigger things.”

5. Learn thankfulness.

I lost a tiny screw from my glasses. How would I ever find it in my mammoth purse?

My friend said, “Let’s thank the Lord. Now empty your purse.” Found it!

Thankfulness makes sense—since my only options are to thank the Lord or grumble.

Thankfulness pleases the Lord and makes my life better.

6. Rejoice by faith.

“This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24).

Rejoicing is a decision, not a feeling.

Discouragement has robbed me. I choose to rejoice by faith.

7. Stop wallowing in despair and wailing about my inability, and make the most of every day.

I’m encouraged by Rahab’s comments to the two spies Joshua sent to Jericho:

"I know that the Lord has given you the land, and that the fear of you has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you. For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you devoted to destruction. And as soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no spirit left in any man because of you, for the Lord your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath" (Joshua 2:9-11).

The Lord my God is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath. He is my courage!

I ended the journal entry,

“Lord, I only desire to glorify you. Don’t let me waste my life. I’ve set my heart to praise, trust and obey. Fulfill your purpose in me!”

We’re almost midway through another year—a good time to adjust our goals.

What do you hope God will accomplish in your life in the coming months for His glory?

Dianne Barker is a speaker, radio host and author of 11 books, including the best-selling Twice Pardoned and award-winning I Don’t Chase the Garbage TruckDown the Street in My Bathrobe Anymore! Organizing for the Maximum Life. She’s a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Christian Authors Network, and Christian Women in Media. For more information about Dianne or her ministry, visit her blog.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Geralt at Pixabay.

Thursday
Aug172017

Pursuing Happiness? Upgrade to Joy!

Joanie Shawhan is an encourager. She helps people in desperate circumstances. Her life is full and well-pleasing to the Lord. Yet she still longed for true joy. In this Spiritual Growth UPGRADE, she shares how her understanding of joy has grown over the years.

"In the pursuit of happiness, I have filled my life with many things," Joanie says. "Some I regret, some were wonderful gifts, but none filled the void deep within."

I (Dawn) can identify with that. How easy it is to fill our lives with good things and miss the most important thing—the Lord Himself.

Joanie continues . . .

When I pursued happiness, I discovered that eventually the surge of pleasure dissipated. The negative emotions I attempted to suppress—hurt, grief, sadness, loneliness—once again surfaced, and I felt empty.

I scrambled for the next available object or relationship to fill that void, desperately hoping to restore bliss. I often based my happiness on my circumstances.

Many of us strive for contentment. We may regret some of our choices.

  • Shopping therapy may lift our moods—until we receive the credit card bill.
  • Whether lonely, tired or depressed, we know chocolates boost our spirits—until we glare at the digits on the scale.
  • Addictions drive us with unquenchable thirst that demands a fix, surpassing the previous high.
  • We get involved in wrong relationships. These derail our destinies and hurtle us down destructive paths, leaving a wake of devastation.

We look for fulfillment not only in these temporary pleasures, but our blessings as well.

  • Traveling to exotic places can be exhilarating, but once we arrive home, the sights and sounds are relegated to memory.
  • We throw ourselves into our jobs, chasing the next promotion, a different boss or more money.
  • We purchase larger houses with higher mortgages.
  • We fill them with pets whose soulful eyes beg us to take them home.

Relationships are one of the greatest gifts God has given us to enjoy.

From childhood, a girl dreams of her wedding day, gliding down the aisle clothed in a princess gown to meet her groom. Oops, the knight in shining armor has fallen off his horse. AGAIN!

Next comes the arrival of a darling bundle of joy. Ten tiny toes and fingers plunged into adorable outfits. But soon come sleepless nights, terrible twos and rebellious teens. 

We often expect these blessings to fill the deep void inside of us. But when happiness eludes us because of unfulfilled expectations, barbs of emptiness stab at our hearts.

It is during these seasons of disappointment, hurt and disillusionment that we become offended and bitterness takes root. Unfortunately, we sometimes trash relationships we once treasured.

Maybe we need to upgrade our pursuit of happiness to the pursuit of joy.

Joy is eternal. It transcends our circumstances.

Joy comes easy during our mountaintop adventures. But we can also experience joy in seasons of deep sorrow.

Joy is the fruit of the Spirit that comes from the presence of Jesus in our lives. He is the only one who can fill the empty places, heal our broken hearts and restore joy.

When we pursue Jesus and His presence, we will experience His joy.

“In His presence is the fullness of joy" (Psalm 16:11 NKJV).

How can we upgrade happiness to joy?

1. Thanksgiving 

We thank God for all He has given us, acknowledging that all we have comes from Him. Expressing words of gratitude leads us to contentment and joy.

2. Praise

Praise opens the door to the presence of God. In praise and worship, we take our eyes off ourselves and our concerns and turn our gaze toward God. We focus on who He is—His character, His majesty, His glory—and we are filled with His joy.

3. Scripture

When we reflect on the truth of God’s Word, we discover His character—His compassion, His mercy and His love for us. His promises offer us comfort, peace, hope and joy. 

4. Testimony

Reading or listening to the real-life stories of how God rescued others in the midst of their suffering restores hope and stirs our joy.

5. Helping Others

Reaching out to others takes our eyes off ourselves. We focus on the needs of another person. In our giving, we please God, the giver of life, and He allows us to share in His joy.

6. Forgive

Corrie ten Boom said, “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover the prisoner was you.”

Forgiveness generates joy.

In the presence of God I have been changed. I discovered that He has enabled me to do the seemingly impossible—believe, trust and forgive.

How do YOU upgrade from the pursuit of happiness to the pursuit of joy?

Joanie Shawhan is an ovarian cancer survivor and a registered nurse. She writes encouraging articles for women undergoing chemotherapy. She also speaks to medical practitioners in the Survivors Teaching Students program. For more information, visit Joanie's website.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of dimitrisvetsikas-Pixabay.

Tuesday
Aug152017

7 Ways to Be a Woman of JOY!

Kate Hagen is a gifted and insightful writer with a heart for women's issues. On her blog, she took readers on her journey of grief, insight and joy as her precious mom struggled with cancer. In this Attitude UPGRADE, she shares part of the the incredible character that made up Peggy Leslie.

“On my mom’s gravestone it reads ‘Woman of Joy,’” Kate says.

I (Dawn) already wrote a tribute to Kate's mom last year, but as we near the anniversary of her home-going, I asked Kate to share some of the things her mom did on a regular basis that made her such a joy-filled woman of God—earning that gravestone tribute.

Kate continues...

It’s no small thing to me that I was raised by a joyful mom. 

Of course I didn’t appreciate it as a kid. Yet, as I approach the one-year anniversary of her death, I am in awe of the joy she had throughout life and throughout cancer, and I am inspired to be more like her.

Here are 7 ways my mom was a woman of joy (and how you can be too).

1. Always Be Interested in Others.

The second you walked into Mom’s house, she would stop what she was doing, grab your face, look you in the eyes, and welcome you.

And, although she often complained about forgetting things, she had an uncanny ability to remember details about everyone’s lives.

She wouldn’t just say hello. She would ask about the last conversation you had and let you know she’d been praying for you. Somehow she made everyone feel like the most important person on earth.

Joy builder: "Let each of you look no only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others" (Phil 2:4).

2. Be “Game” for Everything.

The answer to all requests we made of Mom were an enthusiastic, “Yes!” She did almost everything any of her 5 kids or 12 grandkids asked her to do. She only reluctantly said no if she already had plans. Even if she didn’t feel like doing the activity you asked her do, she did it so that she could BE with and ENJOY you.

Joy builder: "As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace" (I Peter 4:10).

3. Pray and Read the Bible without Stopping.

Mom was faithful in her morning routine of Bible reading, prayer and journaling.

Each of her kids had a special prayer day (affectionately called SPD) where she prayed especially for us. A text or phone call would inevitably come that day as she talked to God about us.

This was a vital beginning to her morning - a time when she asked God to help her be more joyful.

Joy builder: "Pray without ceasing" (I Thes 5:17).

4. Do What You Enjoy.

Although Mom was constantly serving others and looking to their needs above her own, she also took a lot of personal breaks.

She loved a glass of coke, Snickers bar and a good book. The two places you’d be most likely to find her were in her big, comfy recliner reading, or at her beautiful office desk writing.

Both of those things gave her joy and she made sure to do them almost every day.

Joy builder: "If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself,' you are doing well" (James 2:8).

5. Don’t Give Up Looking for Joyful Solutions.

Mom was never defeated!

If something wasn’t going as she hoped, or she didn’t have all the resources she needed, she loudly proclaimed, “There’s almost always something you can do!”

She was hilariously resourceful and didn’t let troubles define her; she found solutions for problems.

She looked for joy!

Joy builder: "Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come" (Prov 31:25).

6. Don’t Be "Normal."

Mom was not afraid to be her unique self. She was not like other moms; she was fully HER.

I remember complaining about something strange she did, and she replied, “Would you want a mom who’s normal?” Well, yes. In Jr. High I did.

But, now, I’m so grateful she didn’t give into the pressure to be like those around her. She appreciated whom God had made her to be and she lived it fully and joyfully!  

Joy builder: "I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well" (Psalm 139:14).

7. Don’t Worry; You’re in the Lord’s Hands.

Her famous quote throughout cancer was, “I’m in the Lord’s hands.”  She literally said this hundreds of times.

As I’ve read through her journals, I see she told herself this over and over as well.

She believed, without a shadow of doubt, that God was holding her. That God loved her. That God was sustaining her. She loved Him and trusted Him so deeply. And this brought her joy.

She was not afraid of cancer or death at all. Her attitude was, “Why should I be? I’m in the Lord’s hands!”

Joy builder: "Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble" (Matt 6:34).

Mom is STILL a Woman of Joy!

"You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore" (Psalm 16:11).

I would be honored if my mom’s life and death encouraged you to become a greater woman of joy.

Let me know which of these is most difficult for you and how you hope to grow in that area. I’d love for us to encourage each other together in this pursuit of JOY!

Kate Hagen spends most of her time teaching, knowing and loving her three kids in their beach community of Leucadia, CA. She has a Master’s Degree in Biblical Counseling and has written, spoken and counseled women about mothering, body image and health. She runs a small essential oil business from her home, and usually smells pretty good. At her website you can read her journey of grieving and laughing as her mom passed of cancer, as well as her thoughts on the Bible and body image. 

Wednesday
Dec072016

Created for Christmas Joy

In this Christmas UPGRADE, Dawn Wilson answers the criticism that Christians make too much of Christmas.

Some Christians are almost apologetic about enjoying Christmas, but they shouldn’t be afraid to enjoy this special celebration.

Christians were created for Christmas joy!

Yes, it’s easy to get caught up in the festivities, shopping for gifts, and all the activities that layer stresses and smiles into one jumble of emotions.

There’s no question all the holiday hoopla can be fun, but the Christian’s truest joy is found in Christ, not in Christmas. Joy is based on who Jesus is and what He has done.

Still . . .

I love the wonder of Christmas I see reflected in the faces of young children; but the wonder of Christmas is not just for children.

Adults must never forget the wonder and joy that came on Jesus’ birthday. It’s not something we should ever get used to.

Think of the spectacle of that first Christmas that brought such “great joy” (Luke 2:10, 18).

In God’s timing, the Christ-child—the promised and long-awaited Messiah—broke into history.

John said the Word “became flesh” (John 1:14); Luke said our “Savior” and “Lord” was born (Luke 2:11); and Matthew described Jesus as Immanuel, "God with us” (Matthew 1:23).

At Jesus’ birth, the Father remembered us with love and grace. Peter says Jesus came to rescue us and “bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18). The joy of Christmas includes a message of reconciliation!

Consider how that miraculous night changed everything. God did not forget His people. God kept His promises.

What a wonder!

In a riches-to-rags story of love and sacrifice, Jesus came to be a servant, and to seek and save the lost” (Matthew 20:28; 1:21; Luke 19:10). Don’t water that down. Don’t get so used to the word “Savior” you forget what it means.

Without a Savior, we would have no reason for hope. We would fear judgment and fear the future.

“Do not be afraid,” the angel told the shepherds, “for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy….” (Luke 2:10). God knows fear can neutralize joy. And He never created us for fear.

When Jesus was born, God’s people felt deep fears about their future under the tyrant, King Herod. But God’s message to them through the angel was, “Don’t be afraid. Your Savior, your Messiah, has come!”

And the Father's message to us today is STILL:

"Don't be afraid. Let go of all your fears.

Give them to Me. Let Me give you My joy instead ... real joy ... joy in Christ!"

This babe who was born became our dying Savior, and is our risen Lord. God is our “exceeding joy” (Psalm 43:4). In Christ, we can shout with joy, joining in chorus with the heavenly host: “Glory to God in the highest!” (Luke 2:14).

We were created for this!

We were made—as the Westminster Shorter Catechism says (answer to question #1)—“to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”

The wonder of Christmas is a special opportunity to express that joy.

The Word of God can teach us how to glorify and enjoy Him more and better. But so can our Christmas hymns.

“Shepherds, why this Jubilee? Why your joyous strains prolong?

What the gladsome tidings be Which inspire your heavenly song?

Come to Bethlehem and see Him whose birth the angels sing;

Come adore on bended knee, Christ, the Lord, the newborn King.”

(“Angels, We Have Heard on High”)

The truth is, our Christmas celebrations are commemorations of joy that lead to adoration and worship.

What can you do during this holiday season to consider the word “Savior” and join the angel chorus for God’s good gift?

Dawn Wilson, founder and President of Heart Choices Today, is a speaker and author, and the creator of three blogs: Heart Choices Today, LOL with God (with Pam Farrel), and Upgrade with Dawn. She is a contracted researcher/reviewer for Revive Our Heartsand a writer at Crosswalk.com. She and her husband Bob live in Southern California and have two grown, married sons, three granddaughters and a rascally maltipoo, Roscoe.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Geralt, Pixabay