the J in JOY
Remember our equation from the last post? I know, I’m bad at math too but this one is easy!
Jesus is the first component in experiencing true, lasting joy.
Kyle and I love going to concerts whenever we can, and lucky for us we live in Music City. Living in Nashville gives us the opportunity to hear exceptional music whenever we want at nearly any time we want. Broadway is always on and full of life! One of our favorite concert venues in Nashville is the historic Ryman Auditorium. This venue is rich in history and beams with charm and character. When I attend a concert at the Ryman, a small part of me feels like I’m going to church. I love pictures, so here is a picture of the Ryman if you haven’t been!
Photo courtesy of Gaylord Entertainment
I’ll never forget one particular concert Kyle and I attended at the Ryman with another couple, Walker and Jenn. We went to see Sturgill Simpson, a bluegrass/country singer who is awesome (he won a Grammy), but slightly difficult to understand at times if you don’t know the words. Kyle and Walker were giddy at the show and knew every word to every song.
I remember looking over at Jenn to see if she knew any of the words to the songs because I certainly didn’t! We both shrugged our shoulders because we had no idea what was going on. I lip synced the few words I did know (just in case I messed them up) and also defaulted to mouthing “watermelon” over and over again to look like I knew what I was doing, but I really had no clue. I was there, but I wasn’t. I was present, but I wasn’t connected.
Faith can be a lot like this at times. Being the best version of ourselves and living our best life involves being connected!
Growing up, my parents dragged me and my brother, Doug (or Dougie as I like to call him), to church every single Sunday. It was painful. We couldn’t have been more bored. I remember playing tic-tac-toe with him during the sermons. Dougie and I spent every Christmas Eve candlelight service trying to burn each other with the candle flames during Silent Night. Truth be told, we still try to burn each other during the Christmas Eve service. He has the winning record in case you’re wondering. I’m not bitter at all.
Dougie and I also hated “church songs” and lip synced like champions. We never audibly sang along because we didn’t want to show our parents we were actually interested in church. Sometimes if we felt really brave we wouldn’t sing at all. Take that, Mom and Dad! We were rebels without a cause.
However, as fun as lip syncing was, I grew older and more mature and started to listen to the worship songs intently. I started to open my heart to who the words were about. It wasn’t until college that I realized faith involves a trusting relationship with Jesus, not just a checklist of rules to follow. I valued worship music more than ever because I connected deeply with who I was singing about. Instead of singing about some dude who rose from the dead, I was singing about a Savior. I was singing about a father, healer, counselor and friend. This is what connection looks like over merely being present; we have to understand who we are truly connecting with.
How can we connect with Jesus so we aren’t just lip syncing through our faith? How do we get to know Him so we can connect intimately?
In my own experience, the three ways I have connected with Jesus the most are:
· Regular quiet time - reading the Bible, devotionals, etc.
· Surrounding myself with friends who are also seeking JOY (relationships)
I will discuss each of these in separate blog posts because they each deserve their own space! For now, here is a shorter break down of each one.
The Bible can be overwhelming and confusing, and I am by no means an expert on it! I’m still trying to wrap my head around many of the stories. However, I’ve read enough to know it’s worth your time when you’re seeking joy.
You can tell a lot about a person by what other people say about them, right? The Bible is no different to me. It tells story after story about Jesus, disciples and other figures who still have an impact today because of what was said and written about them. Jesus has revealed himself to me the most during the quiet time I’ve spent reading the Bible or devotionals. I’ve been able to see how relatable He really is through the stillness of silence.
One of my favorite ways to view Jesus is as a friend! How do you connect with a friend on earth? You spend time with them, you check in on them, you ask questions, listen and try to give your undivided attention to them. Friendships, much like all relationships, take work. (Any married couples in the house? Amen, right?) The results are usually closeness and deeper bonds. Friendship and connection breed joy! They give us our best life.
I’ve found the same is true with Jesus. We have the opportunity to talk, listen and invest our time in Him just like a friend. Have courage to be yourself with Him! He is always present and approachable. I like to imagine Jesus with His arms out, ready to embrace us as we are. There’s room for you in His arms. Friendship with Jesus means I have companionship even when I feel like an outsider looking in. How awesome is that? The creator of joy is your comfort and friend!
Prayer is another essential way to connect with Jesus! There is no right or wrong way to pray. You don’t have to pray “perfect” prayers. Jesus wants to hear from you and He doesn’t judge the way you pray! Trust me – I’ve prayed for Alabama football to lose for years and I haven’t felt judged once! Don’t be afraid to share with Him your honest, transparent words and requests.
The last piece of the puzzle I have found to be beneficial in my spiritual growth has been asking God to surround me with other Godly people. I have a “Board of Directors” in my life. These are 5 people I trust, who know Jesus and want what HE wants for my life. What I want and what He wants might be two different things. Connecting with other people who know Jesus will help you better connect with Him. It matters who you spend your time with.
I’ll close with this – Kyle and I went to see Sturgill Simpson at the Ryman for a second concert about a year after the first show we attended with Walker and Jenn. This time around, I knew more of the words. I listened to Sturgill’s songs closely during the few months leading up to the show. I also researched Sturgill as a person and started to understand his background better. I started to hear his words and connect with some of them. I was able to enjoy and participate in the concert the second time around because I was not only present, but also connected. I sang out loud! Palms of Joy! Concerts are great on their own, but connecting, singing and dancing makes them even better.
Our relationship with Jesus looks like this too. Life is richer when we know and connect with Him. When we listen intently, open our hearts and receive Jesus’ words, we are able to enjoy the show He puts on in our lives, and participate in a life of joy!
Thanks so much for reading along! You guys rock.
Next week we are going to discuss what it looks like to put others first in our pursuit of JOY!
Have a great week!
· Do you feel like you’re present, but not connected? What steps can you take toward connection with Jesus and others?
· Do you feel like you are honest and transparent in your prayers?
· Who is on your Board of Directors and why?