Thursday, April 5, 2012

Having A Good Time?

Is it possible to have a good time even when you are having a bad time?

No, you say, it is not possible to be happy when you're sad or sad when you're happy. If you believe that I encourage you to keep reading... Happiness goes much deeper than we tend to think.

If you sit back and look at your surroundings what do you notice? Besides the fact that you are obviously reading this blog, you are probably at home in your room in front of your computer screen. Or maybe you are at school, reading this because you figure it must be more interesting than your teachers babble. But what about this situation makes you happy?

Maybe it's your purple keyboard, or the music playing from the speakers...

There is something. There is always a way to find happiness even when the situation feels helpless. Some of the happiest people I've seen have the least in this life. Yet they smile like they have the world and are happy to just be alive.

Whether it's turning on your favorite song, watching people at your school (and laughing at the ridiculousness of it all!), there is usually a way to find something good to be happy about.

You can be happy with the time you were given with someone, the lessons that you have learned, the moments that last forever, the memories you've made with the right people. You can be happy that your situation isn't 'that bad' because in all reality it could be worse. I think many times we get so focused on the bad and the feelings of despair that we completely shut out the good. We often forget to be thankful when the going gets tough or we feel we have become stagnate.

I'm not guaranteeing this will work for you but it's worth a shot! Be thankful for the people and things that make you happy and brighten your life. Focus on the good and always put God first. His joy is perfect and He will always be willing to remind you of what makes you happy if you ask. Remember never to doubt in the darkness what God has shown you in the light.

Nehemiah 8:10 "...For the joy of the Lord is your strength."

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Roadblocks and Interventions

Last night we talked about how we must actively seek after God if we expect to have Him in our lives. This world makes it difficult for us to encounter God because we are constantly being bombarded by distractions. We have to fight through the world and sometimes even ourselves to tear down the walls of the maze that keeps us from reaching Him. I asked three questions:

1.) What are some of the things you are around at your school that society says is ok, but you personally do not think God has in His plan for your life?
2.) How do you get to know and understand God and what He has for you?
3.) About what percent of Christians do you believe are at church for the wrong reasons? What are those reasons?

We do not make a mental and emotional decision to seek God because he is lost. That’s why we would seek our wallet, phone, or a sock. But God is not lost so we do not feel this sense of urgency to seek after Him. "But still, there is always something through which or around which we must go to meet him consciously. This going through or around is what seeking is. He is often hidden. We must go through the maze and around obstacles." I believe that sometimes as Christians we expect God to just fall out of the sky and into our laps, but because we live in this world, it's not that simple.

This world and what it wants for us and how it wants us to behave is nothing more then a series of road blocks that make it difficult to seek after God, to reach His shoulders. God's shoulders is where we should all strive to be. If we can see this world from his point of view, it will make our lives easier and help us make sense of His plan for us.

How can we truly get to know Him if we bring these road blocks into church or youth group? If we come to church with a the wrong intentions and do not want to put forth the effort to seek Him, we will never 'find' Him. The same goes for school. If we walk the halls with the intention of blending in and not taking a stand for God, we are putting up road blocks in our lives and we might be putting some up in the lives of others without realizing it.

The God Test: What are some roadblocks in your life that are building up walls between you and God?

Colossians 3:1-2
“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”

Deuteronomy 4:29 But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

A Wake Up Call

The worst thing we can do is push God out of a relationship. Any relationship apply's not just with the person you love. God is supposed to be the center of it all. He's supposed to be the center of our entire life and yet often times we push him out more than we pull him in. Why?

Doing things the 'normal' way just feels easier. We start to go about life thinking only of ourselves and we mimic what we see everyone else doing. We treat ourselves and our relationships like the interactions we see on our favorite t.v. shows and we take the path of least resistance. The problem is that it works. . . for awhile.

Recently I have just lost touch with God. I've put my dreams and passions aside and settled for a life of the mundane. I decided to focus on other things and told God to 'wait' until I was done doing earthly things like college, part time job, relationships etc. It just seemed easier to do what everyone else does around me and it seemed o.k.. Than I almost lost the most important thing in my life.

You see, God gave me something that some people spend years dreaming about. It was a perfectly orchestrated blessing that he entrusted me with and told me to carry out in a way that would please Him. He basically said, "If I give you this now will you water it with prayer, put in under the light of my Son and respect it with a higher standard than what the world would?" I said yes and so my blessing began to grow. And than it seemed better to water it with my own words, place it in the coolness of night and lower its standards because I was afraid of failure and rejection. Instead for taking care of this precious gift, I almost destroyed it.

I had a wake up call. A slap in the face was exactly what I needed. A harsh reality kicked in. God was telling me that if He had entrusted me to carry out something this big, that I couldn't not continue to do so without him or it would crumble apart. What was I thinking? We weren't meant to handle things this big on our own. God wants to be the center of it all, which is why He places us in situations we can't possibly handle without His help.

I got back that part of me I almost lost and I have never felt more assured in my life. God moved his blessing back over me and I feel restored to His will. And I thank Him for giving me something stronger than me to show me that I needed to change.

Don't ever take God out of the equation. You may have the blessing but if you don't take care of it you can lose it. It's a choice. And the best part is that if God is in the center you will never have to worry about whether it's right, wrong, if you are missing out or living it out. You'll just continue on His path and all questions will be answered.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Perfect Daydream

Suppose I told you that you can have one situation go exactly according to plan, you just have to think about it, perfect it, and it'll happen. Most people, including myself, would spend countless hours fantasizing about the perfect scenario playing out before them and changing their lives forever. They would imagine meeting their true love in an elevator, landing the perfect job interview, meeting their favorite celebrity or moving into the perfect home. What most people won't think about will be refusing my offer. Everyone wants to live out their dreams but do we really know what our dreams are?

I've been mulling over this in my brain for a couple of weeks now and I've come down to a conclusion. I don't know what my dreams are. I have ideas about things I would love to do and I've fantasized about walking down the isle, working in orphanages, and sitting on the beach in Greece. I daydream at work, in school or just sitting in my room about life and it's adventures but I don't know me like He knows me.

I think about all of the things I had hoped for and thought out up to this point. I had a picture perfect idea of what my life would be like by the time I was 22. It sounds silly but I planned on being graduated early with my Art Education degree, engaged to a guy who looks nice in a pea coat, and planning to move into a little house. Those of you who know me know that this is not my life and those of you who really know me know that this is not what I want. God took me along a different path and I'm so thankful that He didn't agree to my petty previous dreams. He had something better for me, I just didn't know it until He handed it over.

Turns out I'll be graduating late with a Special Education degree but I'm so thankful for the time I've been given and my new passion. I'm not engaged to a man in a pea coat (but I still like pea coats) and I can't imagine being engaged right now. I still live with my parents, praise God. I love being there and I'm not in a hurry to move out anytime soon. God knew, I didn't.

I'll sometimes think about certain situations and how I will handle them when they arrive. What I will say and what I will do? Will I be clever and rise to the occasion or will I simply stand there like a deer in the headlights? I know that it's easy to get carried away whenever we think we know how we want our lives to go but it's even easier whenever we realize that we don't know and we no longer want to know.

God's ways are not our ways and his thoughts are not our thoughts. His ways are above our ways and His thoughts are above our thoughts. He has the perfect blueprint for our lives. Sometimes we question His plan and we start to think it's a little crazy, but that's when we realize that He knew what would make us happy before we even had a clue.

All the sudden my minuscule ideas and fairytale notes look puny and unfulfilling next to God's grandiose script. I never want to plan again, but I will because it's a good place to deviate from. I just want to live my life following after Him, learning, creating and being a disciple of Christ. He's blessed me so much and I wouldn't change a thing in my life. It's been developing beyond any of my dreams or plans. I've experienced things with people that I never dreamed I would. And I can't imagine my life having been any different. I still daydream but I do it for fun and I know that I have dreams that will come true just never the way I expect them to.

Thank you Lord for knowing me better than I know myself. Thank you Lord for whatever the future holds for me. Whatever's meant to be will work out perfectly because of you.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Heart Lyrics- Challenge your songs

Today I was scrolling through my recent playlist and found that most of the lyrics have something in them that stands out to me. Something that can sum up a thousand thoughts and feelings into a few sentences and stanzas. It made me think...what is it about these songs that 'gets me every time'? Then I started piecing it all together. Each word that imprints itself in my mind is part of my personal heart cry. Something in my heart that cries out but it couldn't manifest itself because I didn't know it was there.

Ok so if I haven't totally lost you let me give you a few examples. I won't list what songs they are because that's not important. Just the lyrics that make me play them over and over again:

You are the only thing in life that I got right
My body tells me no, but I won't quit cause I want more
The more I see, the less I know. But I know one thing, that I love you
We'll stay young, go dancing
Every heart in the room will melt. This is a feeling I've never felt
Just like the ocean needs the waves

Anyway, you get the point. So where am I going with this? We learn a lot about ourselves through the types of music we listen to. Sure there are songs out there that just have a good beat so we like them anyway, but there are other songs (like the ones above) that really get to us.

Have you ever read psalms? Like the lyrics of a song, David wrote out his heart cries to God. He formulated his feelings into words and then left them for us to read. Like an open book, his heart was exposed. As we read the psalms, some of those lyrics stick out to us just as much as lyrics to any one of the songs we have shuffling on itunes.

So here's the challenge: read through a few of the psalms, see what sticks out to you, and then ask yourself why that is?

Our hearts cry out for God, but sometimes we tune out our spiritual heart songs.

Psalm 71
22 I will praise you with the harp
for your faithfulness, my God;
I will sing praise to you with the lyre,
Holy One of Israel.
23 My lips will shout for joy
when I sing praise to you—
I whom you have delivered.

Friday, October 7, 2011

We Should Get Mood Rings

It always baffles me how moods can change so quickly. One minute you're on top of the world, riding the sun on a chariot of fire and glowing in the radiant light. The next minute you're covered in mud. Dirt cracks and peals from your skin and you find yourself in the most disgusting room in the darkest city on Earth.

Pretty drastic I know, but we all fall victims to this sudden shift in atmosphere everyday. It effects our lives, our relationships and our decisions. The chemicals in our brains love to toy with us making us doubt or giving us false feelings. So what do we do?

When this happens to me, I imagine arms stretched out between my dark room and the sun. I start to pull myself out of the muck and across the arms into the safety of what I know to be true. I crawl to the promises I've held onto for years. There are things in my life I will never doubt. They are the home that I long to return to whenever my atmosphere changes. Although my mind makes them feel like a distant memory, I know in my heart they have never left me.

I have a God who has promised me the world. When I feel the shadows taking over, I pray that God will stretch out His arms and bring me back.

I do not want the mood changes to stop me from moving forward and reaching what God has for me. It's a hard thing to deal with. We are our own worst enemy. So maybe we should get mood rings? Or we should start to notice when our mood is starting to change and try and stop it in it's tracks.

It's a crazy idea, but I think we are capable of doing just that. For you it might not be imagining a set of arms reaching out to you. It could be anything. But what is it in your life that you will never have to doubt? Sometimes it is the things in our lives that we know we should never doubt that we doubt the most. It's our minds and our enemies way of trying to destroy our promises. But we have a God who has overcome the enemy.

So really think about it. Make a list, fold it up and keep it with you.

When your mood shifts and you feel the world crashing down and pulling you from the light you know is truth I beg you to HANG ON! Grab the hand of the arm that stretches across your mind and pull yourself back into His promises.

Monday, September 26, 2011

My Favorite Jacket

I have this jacket that I wear all the time and take with me everywhere I go. It's been on the swivel chairs of lecture halls, the padded seating of amphitheaters. . . It's been in more cars then I can count and in more stores then a local mall. It's navy blue, one of my favorite shades, and the inside is gray. But the best thing about this jacket is that it isn't mine.

Nope, this jacket isn't mine, nor was it given to me. I more or less took it from someone when it was left at my house and never gave it back. It smelled like them for the first week. It was a wonderful mixture of redwood musk and sea salt breeze that made me feel warm and protected. And now this jacket smells like me. It's been away from it's owner long enough that it's lost their scent.

Now if you were to smell this jacket you'd say this obviously belongs to JoAnna. I've had it for so long people no longer ask me if that is my jacket or someone else's. But why am I telling you this?

As Christians, we are to treat salvation like this jacket. When we first become Christians, we put on a new coat of salvation that covers our sin and makes us something new. At first it takes some getting used to. The 'salvation jacket' might seem odd for awhile, and people around us will notice that there is something different about us. Old friends may give you a hard time for not continuing to 'hang out' with them. And you might have a hard time getting used to your new scent. But here's the best part...

When we ask God to come into our hearts and forgive us of our sin the Bible says:
2 Cor. 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

That means that once you put on the jacket of salvation, you are a new person! You are a saved person who will live in eternity when you die with Christ. The world will notice.

The difference between my jacket and salvation is:
-It was given to you as a free gift
-It's permanent, you can't take it on and off
-You become a new person now that you have it on
-Your scent becomes the smell of the jacket and your old scent goes away

As you wear this jacket, instead of it starting to smell like you, you start to smell like Christ (which believe smells really really good). Then people start to notice and you get the opportunity to share Christ's love and transform other peoples lives! Don't be afraid to wear this jacket with pride! You get to spend forever in heaven with a God who loves and cares about you. Echo Christ's love, so that the whole world may hear!