Posted in Devotion

Stuff

As I sit in my comfy chair and look around my house, I am amazed at just how much stuff I have accumulated in the short 26 years of my life. Then I think about all of the stuff I’ve had over the years and discarded. I think about the trash I’ve created, and the material possessions I’ve wasted. I’m hit with two thoughts:

  1. I am extremely blessed.
  2. What is the purpose of having all of this stuff?

That second question is what has plagued me this summer as I’ve spent the time doing the “spring cleaning” that I didn’t have time to do in the spring. I have more clothes than I can wear in a month, more books than I could read in a year, and more plates than I use regularly. Some of the stuff surrounding me is needed for physical necessity, some for emotional necessity, and some for creature comforts. But is there a point when stuff starts diminishing my life rather than improving it?

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. Matthew 6:19-20

This advice from Jesus follows directly after teaching the disciples to pray and directly before telling them not to be anxious. The line between just enough stuff and too much stuff seems to lie in the heart. When the stuff in our lives starts to distract us from God or cause us to be anxious then it becomes a problem. We must decide if we are surrounding ourselves with stuff because it helps us to live a more productive life or if we are masking our anxieties about the future. Are we holding on to things because they bring us joy or because we’re afraid of forgetting who we are without them?

One of the hardest things for me to let go of is books. (No big surprise there right?) I’ll read a book, enjoy it, and want to keep it not because I’ll ever read it again but because looking at it helps me remember the euphoria I felt while reading it. There’s a fear of forgetting the pleasant times spent reading. There’s also a bit of pride in owning certain books that make me feel cool or intelligent. Both of those reasons reveal a small heart problem.

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There’s nothing wrong with owning stuff, and in my humble opinion, I could be collecting worse things than books. The problem with collecting stuff is that the stuff starts to take precedence in my heart instead of looking forward to God’s plans. It’s easy to become obsessed with getting the next big thing to impress your friends (or for me, owning the book that everyone is impressed with). As a believer, I must remember that the stuff I accumulate on earth does not define me nor will it make me happy (the loads of unbought books and other junk in thrift stores attest to that fact).

My identity and joy rest in God. The stuff may bring me little bouts of happiness, but that happiness is short-lived compared to the eternal joy I will experience in God.

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Posted in Devotion

Crushed Joy

“A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” Proverbs 17:22

I read this verse yesterday and decided I would strive to be more cheerful and kind today. I imagined myself as a little joy-giver to everyone I met. 

Then BAM, all of the little annoyances started. It was cold outside. The kids were talkative and unfocused. Many of them didn’t have their homework completed, and some even tried to finish while I was teaching the lesson. There are too many low grades, which makes me feel bad. The lesson felt rushed and ineffective. I forgot to do things. Then I agreed to sub during my planning period, which was fine, but I had procrastinated on my last period planning so I felt worried all day there wouldn’t be an opportunity to do it (that worked out). My last period students were whiny and wanted a free day. After school I realized I left my car keys in the room where I subbed, but it was locked so I had to walk home to get my spares. So many things kept trying (and sometimes succeeded) to steal my joy. I must admit that at times I displayed more of a crushed spirit because, you know, misery loves company. Ultimately I let my emotions dictate my actions. 

In a perfect God-planned way, my class discussed today that God is faithful and ready to forgive our sins when we ask. That promise restores my joy. Tomorrow is a new day to try again, with God’s renewed strength, to be joyful and to be the encouragement God has called me to be.

Cheers and good night!

Posted in Movies

Where is the joy in Joy?

Joy (2015) is anything but a joyous story nor does it tell the audience where to find real joy. In fact, if I were going to chart the plot progression it would look something like this:

Joy Plot

I don’t want to spoil the plot since the movie came out only a week ago, but you should just know that this movie is not about a woman who finds joy. She is simply called Joy. She starts in the dumps with a dumpy job, a needy (and kooky) family, and an ex-husband living in her basement. Then she gets and idea but things just keep going down-hill in her endeavors to get the idea anywhere. Then she gets a break for a very brief moment, only to get shot down again. She falls farther and farther until she finally picks herself up, demands respect, uncovers fraud, and skyrockets into success. It leaves the movie with a happy feeling, but you’re unsure whether it will remain happy or she’ll plummet again. It’s definitely happiness that it ends on not joy because joy is enduring despite the circumstances.

Surprisingly, though, I appreciated the thoughtfulness of the story, even though I couldn’t predict what was going to happen next. The entire movie I tried to figure out what the meaning behind it was because it just seemed that she kept trying and kept meeting huge metal walls which had brick and every other substance that is tremendously difficult to break through when you don’t have enough money to buy a hammer much less a wrecking crane. The movie seems to be saying that with hard work, determination, and the faith of at least one other person, a person can accomplish her dreams. And never give up. I left the theater with a skip in my step feeling like a could conquer the world. (It’s a good thing I have cruise control on my car or who knows how fast I would have sped home.) That emotional high was only an emotional high though. Just like happiness, it won’t last unless it’s backed by something outside of myself.

The major aspect missing from this movie was Jesus. As my good friend said, “I just kept waiting for Jesus to show up.” If Joy had shown a little faith in anyone but herself, it would have made for a very powerful story. I know that God can work the kind of miracles portrayed on that screen. All of the opportunities Joy received were orchestrated by God; she just didn’t realize it. Even though her family downed on her most of the time, God was always on her side. The “God figure” in the movie was her Mimi who kept telling her that she was made to create great things. The writers messed up when they killed off the Mimi character though and left Joy to believe that she and she herself had created her empire.

I appreciated the empowerment the movie was trying to create, but character-wise, it was a bit flat. Joy was determined and forceful. The daughter always believed in her. The half-sister whom I thought was her comrade in the childhood scenes grew up to be her nemesis of sorts. Her father was a people-pleaser. Her mother was lazy and a bit unrealistic. Her ex-husband oddly stuck with her. A character I wish had been explored more deeply was her best friend. If it wasn’t going to be about a faith in God, it could have been a great best friend movie, but the best friend shows up once in the middle of the night, they reminisce, and then she speaks up a few other times. Her real shining moment is when she makes the phone call on the show, but other than that the producers don’t play into that potentially powerful plot point. I guess they just wanted to maintain the idea that Joy does it all herself.

It’s a movie that left me with an emotional high, but it’s not one that I will probably rave about and want to watch again and again in order to feel inspired. The reason I would watch it again was to view it more critically as a piece of art rather than a story.

The good thing is though that it reminded me where my real joy lies–in God. I came home and as I was getting ready to write this I saw a verse on my wall that I’ve been memorizing. It says, “faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.” (Hebrews 11:1 NLT). This faith is not a faith in one’s own abilities but a faith in God’s power and ability. I know this because the chapter goes on to reference several people throughout history who had faith in God and were successful. That’s my suggestion if you want to watch this movie. Remember that joy comes from having faith in God who gives strength to those who believe.

Posted in Life, Music

Joy

Lately I have been struggling quite a bit with something that is very personal, something I’m not going to disclose because it’s not necessary here.  The point of this tidbit of this information is to point toward the fact that at times this part of my life makes me very sad and tries to steal my joy.  It makes me feel horrible and I wonder why I keep trying, but then God sends songs my way.  (Just as much as God can speak through scripture, he can also speak through good songs.).  Last night he did just that.

1. Never Gonna Steal My Joy by Mandisa

Life may push my heart to the limit
But I won’t let go
Of the joy in my soul
‘Cause everything can change in a minute
And the world may try
But they’re never gonna steal my joy

 

When I start thinking about these sad parts of my life, I get overwhelmed and I truly feel like my heart is pushed to the limit.  This song helps remind me that even though my happiness is fleeting, joy is constant.

 

2. Captured by Natalie Grant

Everywhere I go you find me
Even when I run
I’m captured
I’m captured in you
Everywhere your love surrounds me
I cannot escape
I’m captured

 

I am captured by Jesus.  No matter how alone I feel or how sad my thoughts are, Jesus has me surrounded by his love.  That gives me hope.

 

3. Never Gonna Be Alone by FFH

But I say we’re all the same
We all want the same things out of life

We all wanna be loved, we all wanna belong
We all wanna know it’s gonna be alright

Those lyrics are so true.  We all do want love and to fit in and to know that things are gonna work out.  The problem is that the world can’t give those to us, no matter how hard I sometimes want that to happen.  It’s the next lines in the song that answer how to get those desires.

That’s why Jesus came
And gave His life away
And rose again on the that day

Jesus can answer all of those desires for us and for me.  Jesus can give me more love than I could ever get from someone on this Earth; he has a place specifically prepared for me; he knows how my life will work out for His good.

 

Nope.  I can’t let things of this life steal my joy, because God proves himself over and over.  Sometimes that’s just hard to remember at times, but God sends little reminders along the way.  I don’t know if this post is more for my mind or for yours, but God does know.