Joy

Let’s Be Positive

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Have you ever had to spend time with someone who is incurably negative? I’m sure you have – we all have. I confess that I am often that person who drags others down alongside herself. When we’re in a mood to be negative, we only see the bad side of things. We think the world is out to get us and we’ve done nothing wrong. The project definitely won’t work. It is way too cold outside. That person is being absolutely awful.

Sound familiar?

Negativity is an easy thing to fall into, no matter where we are in life. It’s positivity that takes work. Our sinful natures want us to groan when the alarm clock goes off and criticize our coworkers and it is easy to listen to that nature. What’s not easy is to get out of bed cheerfully even when we’re still tired or find something to compliment in that one person.

The sin of negativity lurks everywhere, simply waiting for us to stumble into it. Or, as we often do, to waltz lovingly into its arms. But what if we were to fight the cruel master of negativity? And it is a master, taking over every facet of our minds and day while we allow it to.

When we dig ourselves into a hole of hating the world that is out to get us for no reason whatsoever, we are being ungrateful for the good things that God gives us. We are twisting His creation. That one slow waitress might have been an opportunity to show Christian love, but we turned it into an opportunity to save some money on a tip and grumble on the drive home. In this fallen world, turning good things into bad is easy. It’s second nature.

But we are not called to live in a passive, second nature sort of way. We are called to a new nature, one that has been transformed by Christ. And I believe that means a nature of positivity.

Remember when Paul and Silas were thrown in prison? That’s a pretty bad situation. But instead of sitting on the hard dirt and commiserating about how bad their circumstances were, they prayed to God and sang hymns to Him. Because of their positivity in the worst of times, the jailer over them and his entire family heard the gospel and were baptized.

So what does positivity look like in our lives right now? There are two major components to living a more positive life: thinking and speaking.

Thinking

The thoughts we nurture and allow to grow in our minds have a major impact on who we are as a person and how we see life. We can easily convince ourselves that lies are truth just by thinking that they are. Something that a lot of sports players hear is “envision yourself making the play and you will.” Our thoughts can make or break our pursuit of positivity.

So start catching negative thoughts today. Next time you sigh heavily, stop yourself and ask if that thought was necessary. Replace it with something else. Just as thinking negative things can lead us to be negative people, thinking positive things can also lead us to be positive people. Instead of thinking “this line is taking forever” think “I’m glad I’m getting this shopping done now” or “I bet Mark will really love this book I got him.”

How we think can truly shape who we are and how we interact with the world.

Speaking

Flowing out of thinking is speaking. A lot of the time, our negativity becomes verbal. We complain to someone about how awful something was and go through making every detail just a little more dramatic. What we’re doing is looking for sympathy over the horrid mess that we’ve made our lives out to be. And while there’s nothing wrong with talking about things that make us angry or upset, when it turns into complaining, that’s a problem.

In addition to fighting the negative thoughts that we love to let grow, we must combat the words that are a product of those thoughts. The thing about words is that they affect other people. When we start telling anyone and everyone about our latest grievance with life, we drag them down with us. We become that person who is obnoxious to listen to and who is no fun to be around. And while it is possible to be obnoxiously positive, it is far harder than to be obnoxiously negative.

Even when our thoughts are negative, we can fight back by using different words. We may be whining about something in our heads, but we don’t have to let the words come out of our mouths. Choosing to speak more positively can help change our mindsets as well. Our mothers provided us with an excellent principle for trying to be more positive: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”


I truly hope that you will now try to incorporate more positivity into daily life. It’s no fun to live when everything seems bad. And it’s no fun to be around people who live like that. So let’s be the ones to set an example and to move past our childish view of life. There is so much more to it than we can see when we’ve worked ourselves up, so let’s experience the good things God has for us. Let’s really live.

Kira

Please Read the Gospels

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Have you ever heard a story that you loved so much you could listen to it over and over again? Is there a book that you’ve worn through from so many re-readings? A movie with scratches on the disc because you have to watch it again?

Stories are incredible and many of them are so good that we could experience them again and again without growing bored. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched The Princess Bride or Annie. Whinnie the Pooh never gets old and Narnia will always have a special place in my heart.

But even those stories can wear down some eventually. I have to take a break between Doctor Who marathons and Lord of the Rings can only be seen so often.

But there is one story that is just as awe-inspiring and moving no matter how many times you read it. The gospel feels just as fresh the first time as the thirtieth, as we see our sin and then see what Christ went through to save us from it.

I’ve been reading through Luke for my morning devotions and I love to read all the stories of Jesus’s ministry again. The two that stand out, though, are His birth, and His crucifixion and resurrection.

My soul magnifies the Lord along with Mary and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior (Luke 1:46-47).  How could Christ have humbled Himself so much and been willing to suffer so much just so that I could be with Him? How could anyone love me that much?

And yet, God does love me that much. He loves all of His children that much. And the four Gospel accounts are refreshingly full of that love.

It seems simple to read through the Gospels over and over again. Shouldn’t more mature Christians be studying other parts of the Bible? We already understand salvation.

But the Gospel is the basis of Christianity. It is Christianity. They are encouraging and lovely and convicting and beautiful all at once.

Don’t forget to read the Gospels. Don’t forget the most important story ever told.

Kira

What’s your favorite part of the Gospels?

It’s Okay to Enjoy Life

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Did you know that God created this world for His children? If you believe in Him, it was all made specially for you.

I made this discovery whilst putting together a Bible study on the first few verses of 1 Timothy 4. Paul is telling Timothy about false teachers who require “abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.” (1 Timothy 4:3b, ESV)

By those who believe and know the truth…

Isn’t it incredible to think that all the good things in this world were made especially for us? That God had us in mind when He formed trees and stars and whales?

But, awesome as that is, it’s not my main point for today.

It’s amazing to think that God made all of this for us – but it doesn’t matter if we don’t enjoy it. God created good things with the intention that we would look at them and experience them and think of Him. The next couple verses of 1 Timothy emphasize that.

“For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.” (1 Timothy 4:4-5)

Why would we even think of rejecting the good that God has given us? And yet, we do it without thinking all too often.

How many times are we too busy to take a walk? Or too concerned with fitness to enjoy our run? How often do we pull out our phones to take pictures rather than enjoying the beauty in the moment?

I choose the busyness and pressure of this world far too often. But every time I choose to stop and enjoy the good things God has given me, I am thankful and happy.

A lot of times, it feels like cheating to take a break. How could we waste time looking at the stars when that paper is due next week? And yes, we must do our work. God has given us that as well. But He didn’t intend for us to drown in it. There is no reason to feel guilty for enjoying what we have been given to enjoy. It is healthy and it is good.

God loves us and He has blessed us with so much. Let us receive it with thanksgiving.

Kira

What has God given you to enjoy? What are some things you like to do to enjoy them?

God’s Outrageous Generosity

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I wrote my last post in a state of dullness; life wasn’t working and nothing I did seemed to help. All I could do was to keep pushing through, keep doing the things that need to get done in a day: eat, shower, school, work, chores. Go to bed, wake up, repeat.

That feeling isn’t completely gone. It’s beginning to fade, but still here. I’m continuing in my routines, getting things done, and just trying to live through.

But God is gracious. He knows how I’ve been feeling and, while feelings aren’t everything, He did give them to us and He has felt them Himself. On Sunday, He offered some soothing of the struggle – some joy in the midst of the drudgery.

The sermon was on the Prodigal Son in Luke 15 (you can listen to it here). If you’ve grown up in the church, you’ve probably heard it a thousand times, like I have. Surely there’s nothing new.

Of course, every time we think that, God is quick to prove us wrong on an epic scale.

The whole sermon was amazing, hitting me with different points and introducing new ways of thinking about the parable that I had never considered before. But it was one verse and one point in particular that has stuck with me and won’t leave my head, through the roughness of life.

And he said to him, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.” -Luke 15:31

The father in the story is talking to a disgruntled older brother about why he celebrates the return of his wayward son. The father represents our Father in Heaven and his words are those of our Lord.

One of the true-est truths (if there can be such a thing) is that of God’s generosity. It is apparent throughout Scripture from the beginning of time all the way through every moment of history up until this very one. He has given us His universe to live in, His food to eat, His Son to be saved by.

Everything God has, He has given to us.

You are always with me, and all that is mine is yours…

However, as our pastor pointed out, this is also one of the first truths that we want to deny to ourselves. “How is this generosity? It’s probably just God trying to toughen me up or ‘sanctify me’ or something. But not generosity.”

Eve believed God was keeping something from her when He said not to eat the fruit. It’s a lie that has crept from generation to generation and one that we must be aware of in order to combat.

The past couple weeks, it is the lie that I have believed. “God’s giving me a rough time right now. He’s withholding the ease and happiness that I want. Maybe I’ll get it one day, but there’s a reason it’s being kept from me for now.” No. God is overwhelmingly generous with me, always sharing all that He has with me.

And when you think about how much He has, that’s a big deal. So, don’t be discouraged. Remember that your Father loves you and has given you all that is His. Because He wants to.

Kira

What are some ways that you can see God’s generosity in your life right now? How do you remember those when you’re suffering?

All is Vanity

Academics are important to me. Good grades, knowledge, degrees. They always have been and I’m sure they will continue to be as I move on to college and (maybe) grad school. I want my education to lead to a good job and success after graduation. I love knowing things, whether they be random facts or how to solve complex problems or the stories of heroes in history. Just having that knowledge always at my fingertips makes me feel good.

What makes you feel good? What seems to give you satisfaction in your life? Maybe it’s friends, work, money, parenting, relationships, or something else entirely. We all enjoy good things.

But Ecclesiastes calls all these things vanity. That paper for history I spent a solid month on? Vanity. All the time you spend with your friends? Useless. Saving enough for retirement? Without meaning.

Solomon, of all people, knew the good things of the world. He had great wisdom and knowledge. He had hundreds of wives/concubines. He was king of a magnificent country with other rulers coming to visit his beautiful land. Solomon knew the world. He eventually wandered into it, forsaking God and giving himself over to the empire of wealth, beauty, and pleasure he had around him.

Ecclesiastes is after all that. Solomon is supposed to have returned to God in his old age and written Ecclesiastes as a book of what he learned, especially in his folly. And what did he learn?

Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity. – Ecclesiastes 1:2

The things of this world aren’t worth it. They may provide comfort and pleasure, but it is only a temporal happiness. Compared to the glorious riches we are to inherit with Christ in eternity, they do not satisfy. They never will.

Praise God, then, that He satisfies us, comforts us, brings us joy. Praise God that He knows what’s best for us and we can trust and follow him. Even if it means giving up all the vanities.

Kira

What gives you joy in this life? Would you be willing and obedient to give it up should the King of kings ask it of you?

From the Archives: Devotions and To-Do Lists

This is a post that I cannot leave behind. It’s still something I have to work through over and over again.

For a different angle on the same subject, you can read this post. A friend of mine wrote it around the same time I wrote mine (the same day, I believe) with no collusion whatsoever. And even though we appear to be of opposite opinion, I entirely agree with what he says.

Originally published: 6/16/17


“Devotions aren’t something to mark off a to-do list.”

I can’t remember when I first heard that, but it’s stuck with me for a long time. The intended meaning is that you shouldn’t rush through devotions to get through the next thing, but should rather spend time on it and put in effort.

What made it into my head though was the literal meaning. I’ve had the subconscious thought for a long time that if I write down the word “devotions” on a to-do list, it doesn’t count. If I actually do them and mark it off, it’s even worse.

For the past few days, I haven’t wanted to read my Bible and so I just didn’t. I of course felt guilty about it and, one day, wrote devotions on my to-do list. I tried to ignore the nagging feeling that it was wrong and told myself that it was the only way that I was actually going to do devotions that day.

That’s when I realized that the guilt I felt is ridiculous.

The idea behind saying devotions aren’t for a to-do list is a good one. We, as believers, need to invest in our relationships with God just like we would other people. We need to spend time in His Word and in prayer on a daily basis in a deeper way than we would spend time on the dishes. The Psalmist tells us that the righteous man spends a lot of time in the Bible.

But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. Psalm 1:2

But sometimes we just don’t want to. We’re busy or in a bad mood or don’t feel like it or any number of other things. It’s so easy to just shrug our shoulders and miss it for one more day.

It’s only this last school year that I’ve been able to make a consistent habit of doing devotions. The key word there is “habit.” Habits take effort to form. If you wanted to form the habit of running, you’d have to make yourself run regularly, even when you didn’t want to. Day after day, you’d lace up your shoes to log some miles.

Devotions require the exact same thing. It’s not different because it relates to God. It should be a normal part of our lives and we have to work to make it that way. Sometimes running makes it onto the to-do list and sometimes it is enjoyed.

The long term benefits come from investing when it’s hard and when it’s not. If you want to run a marathon, you have to do those long runs that make you want to die. But they make race day easier. If you want to be grounded in God’s Word, you have to spend time in it when there are a million things you’d rather be doing.

So go ahead. Write devotions on your to-do list if that’s what it takes to get it done. Enjoying it is a benefit that comes with time. Even now, when I generally like doing my devotions in the morning, there are still days that I dread the time and have to make myself do it.

The rewards will come, but the foundation must be laid.

Kira

Do you have the joy that comes from just spending time with God? What are you doing to encourage that joy?