Art & Faith in Italy... & Joy Devotional - Day 1

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I recently returned from one of the most amazing weeks in Italy thus far. It was such a beautiful time with women who love the Lord and desired to draw closer to Him in this incredible location. I truly saw the Lord working is ways that I didn’t even imagine and each story is such an amazing testimony of what Jesus can do!

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Fall on Lake Como is simply stunning. I mean just look at these photos! There are hundreds more where these came from. But to top that, the Lord really showed up in BIG ways for each woman that came. This is what AMAZES me each time, but it shouldn’t. He is a BIG GOD and can do anything! My prayer for each retreat that I do is for the Lord to bring the women who need to be there and for them to be able to step away from life for a bit and be RENEWED and REFRESHED. How the Lord does that each time is different. But it’s NOT different in the sense that I am seeing Him work in each persons life… every. single. time…. and I am still blown away by that.

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The theme of the week was “Joy in the Middle.” But sometimes the middle can feel like this:

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Isn’t this GREAT! I love this statue at Villa Carlotta in Tremezzo. What a perfect representation of a woman going through the “middle” of things. I see this woman tired and needing rest and asking “Really?? Come on…do I have to….” Maybe she’s in the middle of life, that season of change in so many areas. Or she’s just in the middle of a trial that is exhausting her. But doesn’t this statue just speak to you?

Like my beautiful friend Sheila Atchley said in her devotional time, “Lots of emphasis is put on beginnings and ends, but almost nothing is said about the middle.” Isn’t that so true? We love beginnings… a new romance that brings all the butterflies, brand new babies that smell SO good. The dreaming and planning of a trip or new business venture. So many great things in the beginning. And then there is the end. The end of a life, the memorial to a person’s life lived and how they will be remembered. The end of a great book or movie. The climax and ending are so important to how much we fell in love with the story. As a believer, we obviously put much emphasis on the ending. “Finishing well” as the bible says in 2 Timothy 4:7 “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” So as we think about the beginnings and endings, we wonder why much is not talked about in the middle?

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So these two women you see are definitely in the “middle” of life. Sheila Atchely and I are admittedly in our 50’s. Technically that may not be the middle of our lives, but definitely the middle stage of life. Our hearts were deeply woven together during this week teaching together. Our talks and prayers before the retreat even started were a great indication that I would love this woman whole heartily. Well, spending a week with her was even better! Her heart is so deep… so deep I really have to dig deep myself to understand what the Holy Spirit is speaking though her… and I LOVE that about her. She is feeding us the MEAT… not the milk. Her desire for each woman there was to find JOY, to CELEBRATE the middle and build upon it! To find a deeper creative spirit within us and truly see the connection art has with our faith. Hello… God is SO good, because what she was speaking is my goal ladies! My heart behind these retreats is for you to make that connection with our Ultimate CREATOR, and our desire/need to be CREATIVE! It’s already in us because we bear the image of God. It looks different for each person, but it’s the same everywhere. When we find this connection and stay “plugged in” to it, this is where we will find true joy. Our JOY comes from the Lord… and He does DESIRE us to have joy!

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Romans 15:13 says: “May the God of all HOPE fill you (up) with all JOY & PEACE in believing, SO THAT… by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope!”

That’s the verse I put on the little abstract art name holders in the event room. Here’s TRUTH you can take all the way to the bank… no to eternity… Joy is essential. Look through scripture and you will see that we are not only commanded to rejoice, we should also be characterized by joy. “Joy is not a garnish on the dutiful entrée of the Christian life.  Joy is not the icing on our cake, but an essential ingredient in a complex batter.”  I love this quote by David Mathis from his devotional “Joy is not Optional.” Find his devotional on joy and read it here.

True JOY, (not just being happy) is from the Lord and it is ALREADY ours! We have it deep down in our hearts by faith in Jesus Christ and His gift of the Holy Spirit. This joy doesn’t change with our circumstances. It is always there even through our hardest days. So how do we tap into this fullness of joy?

I did a 7 day devotional on JOY for our retreat. I will try to post it all on the blog here so you can read it as well. I pray that it spoke to some of the women who came and that the Lord blesses you in some way as well through it.

Here is Day 1:

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Day 1

Joy is essential to the Christian life.  Did you hear that?  Essential.  I don’t know about you, but I want JOY in my life.   Well, the Scriptures are pretty clear about it: God’s people are both commanded to rejoice and characterized by rejoicing. Sounds to me like our Father is not indifferent about this. “Joy is not a garnish on the dutiful entrée of the Christian life.  Joy is not the icing on our cake, but an essential ingredient in a complex batter.”  I love this quote by David Mathis from his devotional “Joy is not Optional.”

It’s not like we have joy every moment, or that there is only joy, but that even in our most painful times or anxiety ridden days, we can discover how deep the depths of Christ’s joy runs!  “Only here, in difficulty and darkness, do we taste the essence of such joy — that it is not thin and frivolous and empty, but thick and substantive and full.”

So… if  joy is essential, then it must mean that joy is possible.  Can I get a Hallelujah?!  And guess what…As a believer in Jesus Christ, by faith, this JOY is already ours! We can “Rest in the goodness of God” my friends.  We don’t have to work to attain Peace, or Joy, or Love.  Jesus teaches us that it’s by FAITH, not works, that we have this rest in Him.  It all comes from Him and is BECAUSE of the goodness of our Savior that we get to enjoy it all! In this crazy world we live in, isn’t it such GOOD news to hear that God desires for us to have joy?! 

Now let’s take a look at ourselves a minute.  If we are really honest, we can see how little we are truly joyful… (rejoicing regardless of our situation.) Being happy is always tied to our circumstances, whereas joy is permanent.  Joy is not fleeting and doesn’t leave when the going gets rough.  It stays, even through the hard times.  And even with all our shortcomings, our failed attempts at “attaining joy”…  isn’t it such wonderful news to know that God himself is utterly committed to our everlasting joy in Him! That this is not something we must work to do, but rather something we must ENJOY and believe by faith! “In fact, there is a sense in which God is as committed to our joy in Him as he is to His ultimate purpose in the universe: that He be honored and glorified.”  Our joy is tied to His glory. 

In the words of John Piper God is most glorified in you when you are most satisfied in him.”

So take the next step, by faith, and believe God’s Word, let it settle in your heart and rest in your soul.  That is where true JOY will be found!

1. Thank the Lord today that joy is ALREADY yours if you believe in Jesus Christ as your Lord & Savior.

2. In the midst of our trials and hard times, why is it so important to focus on Christ instead of our problems?

3. Write in your journal a prayer or poem of praise for this JOY we have in Him.


I will try to blog each day right here so you can read through each of the 7 days, so check back here if you want to follow along. I also will be doing a GIVEAWAY on the last day of the devotional!

And if you’d like to join us on the next retreat, there will be a Summer 2019 Art & Faith Creative Retreat in Venice AND Bellagio, Italy! The dates for that are June 12-22, 2019 and I will be announcing the teacher soon!

Have a GREAT weekend and I will see you back here on Monday.

Hugs,

Laura