Sow & Gather

joy

Joy in Trouble

joyMarci AnthonyComment

Then I will go to the altar of God, To God my exceeding joy.  Psalm 43:3  (NASB) 

Recently my Sunday school class did a series on the names of God.  El Semchah Giyl translated, the God of my exceeding joy, is one of my favorites.  I found it most interesting because of where it is located.  It is smack in the middle of Psalm 43.  When I read the Psalm, I find that the author is not experiencing glad news.  In fact, he finds himself in the middle of turmoil with a group of people that he deems evil.  He is wondering why God, who had promised to be his deliverer, has not moved to bring swift justice in his cause. 

It reminded me of times in my life when I felt that perhaps God was not listening to me.  He did not swiftly move to do exactly what I wanted, and suddenly I found myself feeling confused.  He was not acting like I thought He would!  At that very moment, I began to have a great struggle within myself.  I was trying to determine if God is really who He says He is.  The problem with that is that I am looking with my human eyes and can't really see what God sees.  He is far wiser than I and still, I want Him to work like I expect Him to, not in a different way.  The Psalmist is also at that precipice.    

When I look just a couple of verses down, I see that the writer is reminding himself of who God is, even though he is struggling.  I love that he asks God to lead him in this situation even though he does not comprehend why God would let these events take place.  This movement on his part can only be a prompt from the Holy Spirit.  This tells me that even when I am confused, I must yield to God's Spirit.  I must seek Him by asking Him to lead me. 

The very next thing I see in Psalm 43 is that when I begin to yield to God, He is my exceeding joy.  Wow!  I am really overwhelmed by that because even in grueling situations, I can still have joy if I simply yield and remember that I have a God who is for me.  It may not turn out like I thought, but He will never be out of control of what is going on. 

Dig Deeper |

Hebrews 12:1-2 

Action Item |

Are you experiencing a time that seems like God has left you?  Read Psalm 43 and follow the steps laid out by the Psalmist.  Pray for God's leading, yield to His Spirit, and remind yourself of the truth of who God is. 

Prayer |

God, lead us even when we don't understand Your ways.  Restore our joy in You even in hard situations where we lack the vision that You have.  Help us to remember who You are to us.  In Jesus name, Amen. 

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Joy--Look to Creation

joyMarci AnthonyComment
The trees of the forest sing for #joy #sowandgather

Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it; let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them. Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy; they will sing before the LORD, for he comesPsalm 96:11-13 NIV

Where do you like to travel when you are vacationing? Do you like to return to the same destination or does it vary from trip to trip? What about souvenirs? Do you purchase souvenirs for all your family and friends or do you obtain only one special item from each place? 

When my family vacations, we attempt to go to a different place every time. I especially enjoy the variety and am always anxious to see new places. When we travel, we always purchase one singular souvenir. We buy a poster or picture from one of the places we visited to hang on our walls at home. A majority of the pictures are of God’s spectacular creation. We have pictures of beaches, waterfalls, mountains, canyons, trees and even flowers. 

I love it!!!  

And, as I move from room to room, I am able to gaze upon each picture and remember. I recall the rest, enjoyment, peace and especially the joy that comes from God’s creation. His creation is awe-inspiring and He has given it to us to bring delight and joy.  

Your home may not be covered with pictures of creation like mine, but you can begin now to really look at His wonderful gifts. God has given each one of us a blue sky, shining sun, trees just beginning to change color, cooler mornings and fall flowers. I’ve even just experienced a tasty bit of chocolate and some piping hot coffee. His creation truly provides us joy! 

Dig Deeper |

James 1:17, Psalm 104 

Action Item |

Delight oneself in God’s creation! 

Prayer |

Dear God, You are the creator of all things. Thank You for Your gift of creation. Help me to always experience Your joy and delight in this gift. Amen. 

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How Do Joy and Suffering Go Together?

joyMarci Anthony2 Comments
#joy and suffering can work together #prayer #Jesus

For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.  2 Corinthians 4:17 (NKJV) 

Joy:  “The emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying,” from Dictionary.com.  That’s probably how most people would describe joy.  Joy is so much more than just an “emotion” that must be stimulated by something “exceptionally good or satisfying”.  When you see the word joy in the Bible, it is often used along with suffering, which might seem strange.  What do suffering and joy have in common? 

The definition of joy in the Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary says, “State of delight and well-being that results from knowing and serving God”.  It has nothing to do with what is happening in my life.  The joy that the Bible talks about has so much more depth and meaning.  It doesn’t matter what I’m going through, I can still have joy because I have Jesus.   

My joy is not dependent upon my circumstances, which can change so quickly.  I can have joy despite my circumstances.  James 1:2-4 says, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trails, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.  But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”  James is telling us that we don’t have joy because of what we are going through, but, that what we are going through won’t be wasted.  God will use it for our good, drawing us closer to Him and developing spiritual maturity in us. 

According to the Bible, the source of my joy isn’t an emotion caused by external things, but God Himself, who fills me internally.  “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit,” Romans 15:13.  The joy that God gives us cannot compare to anything that the world can offer. 

Dig Deeper |

Romans 5:3-5, Romans 12:12, Hebrews 12:2, James 1:2-4

Action Item |

Are you ready to experience true joy?  Seek God in His word and you will find Him. 

Prayer |

Father, thank you that my joy isn’t temporary or fleeting.  It is not dependent on what I am doing, but rather Who I am trusting.

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When Life Throws Us a Curve Ball . . . Rejoice in the Lord

joyMarci AnthonyComment
coping-with-a-curve-ball-in-life-theres-joy #sowandgather #joy #jesus

“Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.”  Habakkuk 3:18 

What do you do when life throws you a curve ball and you feel as if the rug under your feet has been completely pulled out and you are left lying flat on your back? So many times we get in the groove of life as if we are on cruise control without any cares in the world. Things are happening around us and we feel compassion for those suffering but we say a quick prayer and move on.   

What happens when we are the ones who are faced with a giant road block that stops us in our tracks and we are unable to move forward? Maybe it’s a lost job, health issue, kids, marriage, and the list goes on…. There are so many things in life that can cause us to lose our joy and stop us from rejoicing in God our Creator.  

Verses 17 and 18 of Habakkuk 3 talk about losing everything you have. Though your fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails, and the field produces no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. This verse talks about a catastrophic loss in biblical times.

This is how the verse might read if it were to happen in 2016. Though the stock market may crash and you have lost your job, though your electricity and utilities have been cut off and you have no food, though you are without clothes and your car has been totaled, through all of these tragedies, Habakkuk says that we should rejoice and be joyful in God.   

How can we find joy when life seems to stop and we are faced with an uncertain future? Look no further for the answer than in verse 19. “The sovereign Lord is my strength; He makes my feet like the feet of a deer, He enables me to tread on the heights.” Only by the grace of God are we able to stand up against adversity. God is our strength, He is our refuge in times of trouble, rejoice and be joyful knowing that this is a promise from God!  

Dig Deeper |

Job 22:26; Psalm 33:21 

Action Item |

Are you struggling with finding joy? Start a journal and write down times where God has answered your prayers. Pray for God to help you find the strength to bring you through whatever struggle you are currently facing and lean on Him for peace. 

Prayer |

Dear Heavenly Father, search me and help me to find the joy in life as I go through struggles. Allow me to focus not on myself but on You and help me to rejoice in my situation knowing that You can bring me through to the other side. 

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When You Just Can't Measure Up

joyMarci AnthonyComment
when-you-just-cant-measure-up-theres-joy #sowandgather #Jesus

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.  John 10:10 ESV

We live in a world where the opposite of good is not bad; it's "not good enough." 

Many of us devoted hours of the month of August to watching the Olympic Games. I saw the heartbreak of second place over and over again. I simply ask myself why. Why does coming in second, third, or last have to steal the competitors' joy? I can't begin to imagine the hard work, hours, grit, determination, money, and sacrifice it takes to compete at that level. There's a singular goal in mind, and when that goal is not achieved, does joy go away? 

I know I'm not competing on a world stage. Even in my everyday tasks, I suffer from the falsehood of "not good enough." Maybe I don't allow the world to dictate I'm a "bad" mom, but I do allow the world to dictate that I'm "not good enough" as a mom (wife, sister, friend, co-worker, boss, employee). 

I fail. I often fail miserably.

Here's the deal, I get up and start over every morning. I don't want to get up and start over. There are days I want nothing more than to snuggle into the pillow and forget my responsibilities, my failures, and even my successes.  

There have been times in my life where there was joy-void a mile wide. I allowed circumstances to control my joy. A time where I constantly lived in the shadow of "not good enough" and let the world rob me of joy. 

Are you there today? Have you been beaten down by the world saying "you're just not good enough"? 

In the middle of a period of constant frustration with life, I clung to John 10:10. I come so that you might have life more abundantly. The verse was so simple, it seemed to commit to my memory by osmosis. At the time, I didn't know what to do with that verse. It was there in my mind and over many years worked itself into my heart. 

The verse is a picture of God's desire for us to have Joy in Him. Not in the things of this world. But, in His abundance. We cannot find joy on our own. We can't earn it; we can't be good enough. And, we can't be bad enough to be robbed of joy. 

In the midst of the struggles and stresses of life, we have to have something to cling to. Find your joy in Christ. Know with all your heart that God's desire is for you to hold onto joy in the hard days and the easy days. Joy is always available. Joy only hides when we allow it.  

If you have questions about how you can find joy in Christ, please visit I Am Second.

Dig Deeper |

John 15

Action Item |

Write down three things you are grateful for today and post it on your mirror. 

Prayer |

Dear Heavenly Father, I know that I just don't measure up to the world's standards of winner, best, or number one. Lord, help me to accept that I am not measured by the world's standards, but by the grace of God that covers my imperfections. Lord, bring joy to my life and my household today. Amen. 

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Shout For Joy Today

joyMarci AnthonyComment
shout for joy #sowandgather

Shout joyfully to the LORD, all the earth; break forth and sing for joy and sing praises.  Psalm 98:4. NASB

The bustling shores of the Carolina beaches typically lure our family each summer, but this year, instead of beach chairs and paddle boards, we opted for hiking boots and bear spray.  Our adventure took us out west to behold one of the oldest National Parks – Yellowstone.  I’ve always pictured our family taking this trip in a fully loaded RV (or as my friend calls them, “Marriott on wheels”) with bicycles, and a Jeep Wrangler in tow.  Reality set in, and the RV dream was downsized to a SUV packed out with no bicycles in tow!   

Our trip took us through the majestic Colorado Rockies, the natural sandstone arches of Utah, the grassy plateaus and deep valleys of Idaho, rolling hills of Montana, and into the northwest part of Wyoming.   

The topography changes from state to state were breathtaking, but not as jaw-dropping as entering Yellowstone National Park.  Almost immediately the air was crisper, the sky a brilliant blue, and the sun glistened on the rivers.  We quickly rolled down our windows and we could hear the wind whistling through the trees, and the sound was like pages of a Bible being turned.  Psalm 98 says “Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them.  Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy.” 

It felt as though the earth was lifting up praise to the almighty Creator God.  There are no words to express the exquisite beauty and splendor of what God has created.  One evening, as the sun was setting, we drove through a valley surrounded by herds of bison and elk enjoying the cooler air and provisions of the valley. My mind wandered to Psalm 104 where God’s Word says He sends forth springs to the valley and they give drink to every beast of the field, beside them the birds of the heaven’s dwell and they lift up their voices among the branches. They all wait for God to give them food in due season, and are satisfied with His provision.   

I joined in the celebration of shouting joyfully to the LORD for all He has done and what He continues to do for me.  What a privilege it was to behold such beauty and know that everything God has created bows down to His holiness.   

It was an amazing trip for our family, squeezed in that SUV, and the good news --- we didn’t have to use the bear spray! 

Dig Deeper |

Psalm 104; Psalm 96; Psalm 98 

Action Item |

When was the last time you were in awe of who God is and what He has created?  Take time to bow down and praise Him for His majesty! 

Prayer |

Dear Father, what a gift it was to stand in the midst of such beauty and give You thanks for all You have done.  I’m humbled knowing that it is You that creates and sustains the earth, and all that is in it.  May I continue to shout for joy all the days of my life.  Amen. 

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This post is part of the linkup with Susan B. Mead.

Jesus Is The "Easy" Button

Advent 2015, joyMarci AnthonyComment
advent2015-rejoice-in-the-lord-always-sowandgather

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Philippians 4:4-5

"The holidays made easy." "Press the easy button." All phrases I keep seeing from the grocery store to the office supply store.

Each of us would like less stress. I think the world is selling us a concept of less stress by making us think an "easy" life equals a stress-free life. In this fast-paced, often challenging world we live in, we've decided easy equals less-stress and hard equals more-stress.

I don't believe it. I've had times in my life where I'm cruising along with my job and home life and not under deadlines. Times when I should have it all together - when life was easy - and I was miserable. Compare that to days, weeks, months I'm under constant deadlines, traveling like a crazy woman, and my house is a wreck -- I'm content and sleeping easy.

I think of Mary and Martha - two sisters that were friends with and followers of Jesus Christ. These two sisters come alive for me in the pages of the Bible when we see how they cope with the death of their brother Lazarus. Lazarus had been dead for four days and his body was prepared for burial. At last, Jesus arrives and Martha runs to him.

Martha says to Jesus, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask.”

Martha's statement is not one of accusation, but simply of the facts. She knew Jesus could have prevented the death. She also knew Jesus could bring Lazarus back. Even more important, she accepted that what happened next had to be a part of God's will.

In the grief, stress, and hardship of death, Martha found her "easy" button. Jesus never promised Martha (or us) an easy life. Jesus has promised us a joy-filled life if we trust him. Martha accepted that Christ was with her in the situation. That acceptance is what brings us a joy.

When I present my prayers to the Lord humbly, with thanksgiving for all that God has provided, I receive a peace and joy that surpasses any "easy" button I might try to use.

Life is hard. Jesus makes a hard life easy bestowing his followers with never ending joy. We just need to accept the joy each day.

Dig Deeper |

John 11:1-45; Philippians 4:4-7

Additional Liturgical Advent Readings |

Zephaniah 3:14-20; Isaiah 12:2-6; Luke 3:7-18

Action Item |

Write down one thing that is hard for you today. Then write out a prayer of thanksgiving and joy presenting your request for resolution to the Lord.

Prayer |

Dear Heavenly Father, life is hard. There are so many distractions pulling us away from you and from gratitude. Lord, you promise your followers joy if they follow your commands. May I follow your commands today. May I count my many blessings. May I live in today but, also, yearn for your return. Amen.

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There Is Joy In Obedience

Advent 2015, joyMarci AnthonyComment

Jonah and joy are not two words that typically go together when we recall the story of Jonah being swallowed by a whale. Yet God keeps pressing on my heart that joy is the foundation of this four-chapter book found in the Old Testament of the Bible.

I went back and dug deeper and asked God, "Show me the joy?"

In case you are not familiar with Jonah, his job was to proclaim God's truth at God's direction. Jonah didn't like the message God asked him to deliver. Jonah decided to hop a ship and sail to a city more than 2000 miles in the opposite direction of where God told him to go.

I love Jonah's honesty. He actually tells the sailors he's running away from God. Jonah then promptly falls asleep like a baby in the hull of the ship. While Jonah is snoozing, an amazing storm threatens to sink the ship and crew. The sailors wake Jonah and demand an accounting of just how bad Jonah ticked-off God. Jonah realizes God brought the storm and that it would only subside if he was tossed into the raging sea.

The sailors didn't want to kill Jonah. They fought hard to get to shore. Only after pleading with God not to punish them did they agree to toss Jonah overboard.

As Jonah sinks deeper and deeper into the depths of the sea, the sailors also begin to sink -- to their knees. The sea becomes calm when Jonah and the sailors are obedient to God's direction. The sailors, who did not worship God when the ship launched, greatly feared the Lord, offered sacrifices to the Lord, and made vows to the Lord when the sea calmed. As God reveals himself to the sailors, the joy God promises starts to be revealed to me as well.

There was joy in the moment of rescue from physical death. But the true joy was the moment the sailors accepted Jonah's God - - the God that created the land and the sea.

There was joy in obedience to God.

Jonah and the sailors intentionally disobeyed God because they thought they had a better plan. The sailors thought fighting against the howling winds and waves would save them. Jonah thought running away was the answer.

How often do I run from God or fight a battle God has not called me to fight? When I try to do either, I am miserable and exhausted in my disobedience. Only when I give God control and obey Him does joy begin to bubble up from deep within me. Only when I begin to sink down to my knees in praise and submission does the joy spill out.

I no longer have to fear or fight disaster by running or rowing the opposite direction. "The king of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst; you shall fear disaster no more." Zephaniah 3:15.

As we continue this December preparing our hearts for the celebration of Jesus' birth, consider that abundant joy in Christ can be yours if He is your personal Lord and Savior. You can learn more about Jesus as your Savior at IamSecond.

Dig Deeper |

Jonah 1:1-17; Zephaniah 3:14-20

Additional Liturgical Readings For TheThird Week of Advent |

Isaiah 12:2-6; Philippians 4:4-7; Luke 3:7-18

Action Item |

Draw a boat in your journal, on your calendar, or on the napkin that came with your morning coffee. It can be simplistic or ornate. Ask God to forgive you of any disobedience and to help you set sail on His path to joy.

Prayer |

Dear Heavenly Father, forgive me for my disobedience. It seems that almost everyday I set about my work on my path without regard for Your will for my life. Lord, I have tasted the sweetness of the joy of obedience. Please bring me back to You each day. Amen.

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How Do We Embrace Moments of Joy During Advent?

Advent 2015, joyMarci Anthony1 Comment

LORD, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance. Psalm 16:5-6 (NIV)

Right now. Right now I am having a moment of unexplained joy. These moments seem so few and far between in my hurried life. I actually couldn’t express how I was feeling at first. The emotion was so different from how I feel most of the time.

What triggers these moments of joy? A great workout, a hug from my teenager, or knowing family celebrations are just around the corner? Could it simply be for a few moments today I was content with my lot? I was content with the provisions and boundary lines God provides for me and my family.

King David praised God for giving him pleasant boundary lines. In today's world, setting boundaries or being boxed-in seems like a limitation. But, I think King David had it right. God gives us so much. Many times we never even explore the full potential of the boundary that God gives. "Think outside the box," that's what we tell our kids and our co-workers when it comes to problem solving. What if we fully explored all the corners of the box first? How many of us never even go to the edge of what God has provided for us so we can truly say, "The boundary lines have fallen in pleasant places."

The boundary lines bring us freedom -- which bring us joy.

Freedom means to fully embrace what is within the unique domain God has provided for each one of us. As I set my heart on Advent and the anticipation of Christ's birth, I think of the freedom and joy that came down in a baby over 2000 years ago. I ponder the heart of Mary, the mother of Jesus. I consider the fear, excitement, contentment, and joy she must have experienced all at the same time for nine months. Could Mary have ever imagined the borders of her boundary line much less the borders of Jesus' boundary line?

I'm writing this and you are reading this, so it's pretty clear neither one of us was selected to give birth to the Savior of the world or to be the Savior of the world. Just because we weren't called for those missions, doesn't mean our purpose is of any less value. God gives each of us beautiful, joyful, pleasant boundary lines. He hems us in right where we are meant to be today.

Seek the joy in your boundary. It's waiting for you.

Dig Deeper |

Psalm 16; Luke 1:46-55

Additional Liturgical Readings For the Third Week of Advent|

Zephaniah 3:14-20; Isaiah 12:2-6; Philippians 4:4-7; Luke 3:7-18

Action Item |

Write down three things for which you are grateful. Praise God for showing you that gratitude is the foundation of joy.

Prayer |

Dear Heavenly Father, why do my eyes wander to the grass on the other side of my appointed lot? Show me today how to embrace and explore the fullness of your provision. Amen.

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Gather with us by sharing your "Action Item" or "Prayer" by clicking on the Comment link at the top of the post.

This post is part of A Proverbs 31 Wife linkup.