Tag Archives: joy

Life is like a camera

I love taking photos with my phone.  The settings on my phone camera has an adjustable focus option.  I can make the lens focus on a particular object, the foreground or on the background.  This causes all the rest of the photo to became out of focus or blurry.  The purpose of adjustable focus is to draw the eye to a specific area of the photo that the photographer wants to highlight.  Our minds will naturally try to make sense of what we are seeing and be drawn to what it sees is in focus.

This such a great metaphor for our lives to.  What we focus on and what we choose to highlight in our worlds is what our mind will be drawn to and what it will ‘see’.  We know this is true, as we have all had that experience like if you decided to buy a red Honda and you would start to see red Hondas everywhere, when before you saw none.  It is not that there is suddenly more red Hondas on the road coincidentally at the same time you purchased one. It is now you are aware of red Hondas and you are focused on them, your mind now sees them.  They were always there, but now they are your focus.

It is the same with our feelings as well.  Have you ever had one of those days when everything went wrong?  Really, did everything go wrong or were you choosing to focus on the negative parts of the day, so it just seemed like everything went wrong.  In fact, there would have been good things that happened but because you where only focusing on the negative, the good became blurry and out of focus. 

Alternatively, we all know people who are focused on the positive all the time and they could have a car accident and be happy about it because they made a new friend.  They have trained the lens in their brain to only focus on the positive in every situation.

This is not just positive thinking or manufacturing positive experiences, instead this is choosing to focus on what is already good in your life and what is important.  Let the negative and unimportant became out of focus and blurry and it will have less impact on you.  The Bible encourages us to focus on what is righteous, good, and true and the dwell on these things and not let our minds wander into unhelpful and hopeless areas. 

To be happy, to be productive and free, we need to choose to focus on what is true and helpful.  Set your lens to focus on the good and let the rest blur out and your experience of life will be quite different.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Philippians 4:8

The Promise of Freedom

Over time, we settle for what is easy and familiar. When you have lived with stress, depression, or pain, you get familiar with it and it becomes your companion; a measure by which you judge your life. There was a time in my Christian walk I was hiding behind a ‘good Christian’ façade, but I believed I was too broken, too sinful, or too damaged to expect anything more from life. The freedom I heard other people talk about was for them, not me. This was my lot and I was going to try and be content with it.

In the middle of mental illness, emotional pain, addictions, or even physical illness, it can be nearly impossible to imagine what it would be like to be completely free and joyful. Freedom is so much more than just being out of captivity or having a slight improvement in your circumstances. It is embracing a future that God plan especially for you and growing as a person and following your dreams.

My captivity at the time had been a combination of my past; my depression, my comfort zone, my religious beliefs, my addictions, and my low self-worth. I was a slave to these things. I could not move forward, but instead was held back in every area of my life. I was worn down by the struggle and the fight against my own inner demons and this kept me from seeing my potential.

I spent so much of my energy and time fighting to ‘break free’ from my addictions, my past, and my sin. I was fighting to fix myself and to do it through my own power. I was trying to earn my redemption when it was a gift God had already given me freely. I was wasting so much of my life pursuing the past rather than striving forward.

If we are not free, then we are captive. The world keeps us captive by telling us that we’re not good enough as we are; that we need to have more or do more. Jesus wants to turn everything on its head. Instead of making demands, he offers rest and recovery and to live freely and lightly.

My past had clouded the message of the Gospel. I just had to be more of everything and then I would feel ok and enough. I didn’t understand that what I did had no impact on God’s response to me. Grace is unearned and undeserved and God’s love and grace are abundant. That was the point of Jesus’s sacrifice for me, because of the cross I was accepted and loved. I could not do anything to make God forgive or love me more.

True freedom comes from an understanding of the total undeserved acceptance we have through Jesus. I never felt accepted or loved growing up and I never felt good enough. Even as a new Christian, I felt that the love and grace of God was based on my performance, on the things I did for God and the church. If I was just more attractive, smarter or more knowledgeable I would be worthy of love and acceptance. It was not enough for me to be just good, I had to be the best or perfect.

The freedom Jesus offers doesn’t come with special conditions. You can come to Jesus just as you are now. We do not need to ‘get our ducks in a row’ or try to make ourselves better before coming to Jesus. He wants us just as we are, warts and all. God loves me, not because of anything I did but because He created me. He knows all my very worst secrets and hidden weaknesses and loves me anyway.

As Christians, we are not promised to be slightly free or less burdened but totally free.

That change can happen quickly. It doesn’t need to be a long-drawn-out experience, freedom is instant. Your moment can occur right now. You don’t need to wait until you are at the end of your own strength to accept the strength of God in your life. In the New Testament, as Jesus travelled, he healed many people in an instant. In an instant you can choose to take that leap of belief and in an instant Jesus can change your life and free you forever. The Bible puts it plainly and simply: “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36) Jesus sets you free and you are indeed completely free without conditions. He knows you, He loves you, and He has a plan for your life, to give you hope and a future.

Hope, joy, peace, and freedom are all things that do not depend on our circumstances, unless we allow them to. We can decide every day to live in freedom and joy, because we hold on to the hope for the future as we trust God’s plans for us.

Except from book by Staci McLean ‘Soaring out of the darkness’

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

Galatians 5:1 

Happiness is not a goal; it is a side effect.

‘Don’t worry, be happy’ was a popular song in the late 80s when I was a teenager.  It became my manta and my main goal in life was to be happy.  But I was not a happy teenager, I had a difficult home situation and was emotionally unstable.  Due to this the ‘don’t worry, be happy’ movement for me became about seeking pleasure and avoiding pain at all costs.  Seeking short term pleasure led me to make loads of terrible decisions with long last consequences and did not make me happy, it made me more miserable.  Happiness itself should not be our goal and especially looking for it in a quick fix, but joy and long-lasting happiness is a side effect or by-product of a life lived well and with purpose.

The dictionary defines happiness as a feeling of joy, pleasure, or good fortune. Being pleased, content, glad and of good wellbeing.  It is a nice definition but I think the key to happiness is not what ‘happy’ is but what causes us to be happy.

If your happiness is dependent on external sources, it will be unpredictable and changeable.  If you rely on your family, your kids, your job, your successes, your house, your possessions, your holidays to give you feelings of happiness and joy, you will ultimately experience disappointment and unhappiness as those things can never satisfy us long term or they will let us down at some point. 

But if you focus instead of living a good life, a life with God at the centre, in service to other people, caring about yourself and looking after your physical, emotional and spiritual needs you will be happy and have a type of happiness that is not dependent on the circumstances of your life but a happiness that has an eternal perspective. 

Life is filled with a mixture of emotions and our happiness levels do fluctuate with our experiences. There will be special days when we feel delighted and elated with life. There are good days when we feel content and merry and bad days when we are stressed and sad. Sometimes these things happen all at the same time. There will be times when we suddenly feel sad at a happy event or have a moment of laughter in the middle of grief.  Our humanity allows us to experience a range of emotions, but a solid baseline of happiness unrelated to any situation you find yourself in, will keep bringing you back to a joyful and grateful wellbeing.

That baseline of happiness is the joy and freedom of a relationship with Jesus. The joy of knowing Jesus is what allowed the disciples to sing in prison and rejoice in hardship and under persecution. Their happiness was because of their knowledge of and their faith in Jesus. Happiness was never their goal but it was a side effect of their faith.

“I have neither tongue nor pen to express to you the happiness of such as are in Christ.”

Samuel Rutherford

Until next week…

Remember in the ‘old’ days when you watched your favourite TV program and then had to wait a whole week for the next episode, it was torture.  But the anticipation and the discussions and dissection of the episode with friends was the highlight of the week and when the following week rolled around, it was as exciting as Christmas morning as the familiar theme song played once again.

The introduction of ‘on demand’ entertainment has changed all this.  I am not opposed to streaming at all, in fact I am a big fan and love the access to such a huge and wide range of options but when I explain to my kids about the ‘old’ days of TV and watching one episode per week they look back at me blankly and  I wonder if they are missing out on a valuable experience.

With such a over indulgent culture when entertainment is endless, we have food delivered to the door and at a click of the mouse we can order just about anything and it will arrive in the few days are we becoming immune to the blessing of waiting.

When we think about waiting and patience it is often in terms of struggle or pain or disappointment.  We do not want to wait for the things we want or need, we want action, we want results. However, we forget about the other side of waiting, the excitement building, anticipation, suspense, expectancy, hope, butterflies in your stomach. Even waiting can be a wonderful experience when looked at with different eyes.

The Bible is filled with people waiting. Abraham waited for a child, Jacob waited for Rachel, Moses waited in the wilderness, David waited to be King, the Disciples waited for the Holy Spirit and even Jesus waited for the right time to start his mission. So why do we get so impatient and think we should not have to wait too?

Waiting is a fact of life; we all experience it.  In your future you will have to wait, you will wait for things to happen, for other people, for traffic and appointments, for God to answer prayers and for time to pass.  But we all get a choice on how we spend that waiting time. Use your waiting time to be joyful, to be excited about what comes next, to be a blessing to others who might be waiting with you, to connect with God for strength and wisdom when it gets tough, appreciate the present moment and be grateful. 

“Patience is not the ability to wait but the ability to keep a good attitude while waiting.” Joyce Meyer

Beauty

Beauty, there are so many ideas about what makes something beautiful, such as beauty is the eye of the beholder, beauty is self-confidence, beauty comes from the heart, beauty is a face covered in makeup, beauty is a natural face, beauty is our imperfections, beauty is a certain body shape, beauty is a glow.

No wonder some many of us struggle to feel beautiful. Beauty by human definition is ever changing and is heavily reliant on trends so completely unreliable. It is a socially constructed ideal that does not exist. Something that is considered beautiful today might not be next year, so do not peg your feelings about your own beauty on that.

Instead real beauty, is in all of creation because it is the reflection of the creator. Beauty is pleasing and delights. We are all beautiful, because God created us and He delights in us and loves us. God created nature, so spectacular, stunning and beautiful, much more than necessary because it delights and gives joy and that same creator made you and me, beautiful in his sight and beloved.

Rethink your idea of beauty and instead see yourself as the beauty God sees you to be.

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
Genesis 1:27

Peace

Peace is not just the absence of conflict or strife on the world stage or in our individual lives.
The biblical concept of peace goes another step further, peace is a state of security, calmness, completeness or wellbeing that is not reliant on our current circumstances but comes from knowing and trusting God.

The peace promised to us, is not a life just getting by, but a life that is overflowing with hope and joy even in times of struggles, a peace ‘which transcends all understanding’ Philippians 4:7.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13