Enjoy. Embrace. Live.

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I recently read a book that is wrecking my life.

In the best possible way.

It’s Pure Pleasure: Why Do Christians Feel So Bad about Feeling Good? by Gary Thomas.

I finished it on a plane and had our aircraft gone down I think I would have clung to it as tightly as the oxygen mask dropping from the ceiling. Because that’s what it felt like to me. I grew up in a denomination that leaned toward legalism. If you asked me about it I would have said, “I dealt with all that years ago.” And I did. On the outside. But on the inside guilt and shame still had their way with me far too often, especially in moments of happiness and fun.

Maybe you too?

Then let’s lean in and listen to Gary together…

Spiritual triumph begins and ends with finding our satisfaction in God above all things. We serve a generous God, however, who eagerly wants to bless us with many other pleasures, gifts from His hand, that delight us–and in delighting us bring pleasure back to Him. Rather than seeing these gifts as competitors that steal our hearts from God, perhaps we can gratefully receive them and allow God to use them to ruin us to the ways of the world.

Prayer and fellowship are among life’s richest pleasures but let’s not stop there. Let us learn to fill our souls with beauty, art, noble achievement, fine meals, rich relationships, and soul cleansing laughter. When we acknowledge these pleasures, we acknowledge God as a genius creator of brilliant inventions. Let us be wary of a faith that denies these blessings as “worldly” and unfit, as though Satan rather than God had designed them. Let us refuse to fall into the enemy’s trap of denying ourselves God’s good pleasures so that we end up deeply vulnerable to illicit pleasure.

You and I are made for joy. We are also made for happiness, fun, laughter and enjoyment. We don’t serve a taskmaster. We serve a good and faithful Father who finds delight in His children receiving His gifts. So let’s open our hands, our hearts, our lives a little wider to what He wants to freely give us today. What do you truly enjoy that may not seem “spiritual” at all?

XOXO

Holley

Comments

  1. says

    Wow, Holley, did this ever hit a raw, aching nerve this morning. I wish you and I could sit down and talk and compare our scars inflicted from sanctimonious legalists!! Only God and those who suffer at the hand of this abuse could understand the pain and long-lasting repercussions of their “rebukes” and “admonitions”. Especially, when these wounds are inflicted when we are children…innocent, trusting, believing in the ones who inflict them. There are so many God-given gifts of pleasure that I was terrified to enjoy. It has taken me many years to be able to laugh from my gut, let go, and enjoy the sweet, precious treasures God so faithfully drops into my world. One of my “not-so-spiritual” wonderful gifts from my Creator? The beautiful inspiration, comfort, and FUN, (yes, I said fun!) I receive from His hand every fall when my family and I go to Dollywood in Tennesee and we laugh….especially, when my husband and little boy shoot the water guns on the River Battle ride. It is among my fondest, most cherished memories & one of the things I most look forward to. Praise wells within me every time we’re there!

  2. says

    Holley, I read this book last year. As with all Gary Thomas books, I devoured it on the first reading then came back to it for a slow and deeply challenging second reading. In college (you know, during the early 90s, ha!), I took a class called “Foundations of Leisure.” Everyone mocked me for the easy A … but I am finding the practical concepts I learned in that class have shaped much of my view of time management and my definition of a life well lived. Thomas’ book reminded me of those principles and forced me to re-examine some of the patterns I had allowed to slip in during this chaotic season of living with a teenager. :)

    In answer to your question, I’m finding great joy these days in crocheting. There is a calmness in the rhythm that provides me with a bit of respite from the hectic cheerleading/dance/show choir/drama/teenage girl busy-ness which coupled with the crazy busy life of a minister’s family and my own speaking/coaching/writing/encouraging/dream-chasing can often leave me wondering where the day went. Those few moments in the evening with yarn and hook feed my soul in a way I desperately need.

    • Holley says

      I love that you are finding joy in crocheting, what a beautiful reminder of the gift of being able to create.

    • Deb says

      What do you enjoy on tv and why? I lke the old time tv shows and wheel of Fortune and Are You Smarter than a Sixth Grader. Much of the rest I find disturbing or violent. I also like some religious tv too, and public tv.

  3. Deb says

    Oh Holley, your good thoughts free us all the time. Bring them on sister. I woke up today to a brightly shining sun and a red breasted robin at my window. An omen, I thought. I so wanted to hop in the car and drive with husband or best friend to Vermont, a place I so love in every season for its beauty and peaceful splendor. It always brings me joy and a spiritual cleansing. My husband is a man devoted to his tasks first and foremost and could not be available nor could a friend. I could go alone but it’s not as much fun. It is so worth it to be spontaneous and soak up the glorious nature God puts before us. It’s free and a natural tranquilizer. Do other partners or husbands always put work first as mine does when opportunity strikes? (He is semi retired).

    • Waudene Gonzalez says

      Deb:
      I can relate to your words. I love Holley’s Inspirational messages. She is such a wonderful Godly person who shares her love for God and people through her works and writings. I am a 74 yr old lady and love my God with all my heart and soul and yes it is so good to be able to soak up the glorious nature God puts before us. My husband is a person that loves to be busy all the time even though he is retired, so yes I can relate to that too. We all have our own little ways in living life here on earth, but as long as God is in our hearts and we love our brothers and sisters and live for him, everything will work out. Love you lady.

  4. robin jurovich says

    I am sure totally sure we are spiritual sisters. You speak my heart! Thanks so much, I just ordered this book from amazon.

  5. says

    God has given us so much to enjoy, thank you for reminding us to embrace it today!

    Two things that have put huge smiles on my face today – two rabbits playing in the back yard and a song by Rascal Flatts “Banjo”

  6. says

    Thanks so much for this post today. It is so right on. God blesses us daily and gives up every good thing. I find much joy in painting and thank God for enabling me to continue and hope it in turn brightens someone else’s day.

  7. Deborah J. Coombs says

    This was so relevant & such an eye-opening blessing for today! The past wk has been one of the hardest in my life. It started out w/finding out results of a blood test that indicated the cancer I was told s yr ago

  8. Deborah J. Coombs says

    (Cont.) was cured, may be recurring. Then, the gallbladder I have been trying to control through diet, be ame a lot worse & I ended up in ER on Thurs. I have been very sick from gallbladder & losing a lot of weight becuz of inability to eat hardly anything. Obviously, @ this point, I need to get it taken out.
    Holly, your post reminded me that God doesn’t want me suffering. He wants me to find pleasure in my body, in the things he’s created, in His presence, & in the little gifts of joy that e

  9. Deborah J. Coombs says

    (Sorry. Having terrible time controlling type from my phone. I’ll use computer next time.) I was mentioning the little joys that he gives us each day. I am remindedthat God has immense resources of pleasure & healing that he longs to share w/me in the midst of what I am going through, & in spite of what things look like.

    “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.”
    Psalm 23

  10. says

    Holley,
    I, too, grew up in a very legalistic denomination. Joy and pleasure often fell on the more sinful side of the fence rather than being seen as blessings. When good things come along, I am often waiting for the “spoiler” to come and end it all. Thanks for the reminder that God wants to give us, and have us delight in the good gifts He’s given us!!
    Blessings,
    Bev

  11. susie says

    me too!! is all I wanted to say when reading your post! i really struggle with having fun and being happy without feeling guilty or bad. I love children’s art and want to get better at it, but have felt bad persuing it because it doesn’t seem spiritual. I think I should start a Bible study or something instead, but what I really want to do is draw and paint and create pretty things.

    • Terry says

      Hi Susie,
      I was one who felt guilty about using my free time to paint and draw. Then God used a Godly woman at work to tell me that I should use Sundays after church to create, draw and paint while giving glory to God. What a revelation! I use this time to pray and talk to Him. I also put on Christian music or favorite tunes to listen too while painting. I now know that God is using these activities to nourish my soul. Of course you can do these activities any time you get the chance.

      • susie says

        Thanks so much Terri- That is a good idea :)! I do struggle to make time for it, because for some reason everything else seems more important- Struggle to feel I am important enough to make time for–thanks so much for your thoughts! It means a lot to me!

  12. Lynn Morrissey says

    Holley, I loved meeting you again at JT this weekend (I’m the one who knows Judy M. and had met you in St. Louis at ICRS), and I have begun reading your wonderful book on dreams. So often we think if we are pursuing or living our dream and we are experiencing pleasure (as in “wow! I really get to do what I like?!), that something surely must be wrong, and that God is not in it. But oh! He’s not a tyrannical taskmaster, but a delighting Dream-Maker, who takes pleasure in us and in *our* pleasure. It’s not that we leave seriousness behind. Life is difficult and if we don’t think soberly about the times in which we find ourselves, then we won’t dream with urgency. Plus, we want to have hearts of empathy for the real pain people experience. That said, when we close our lives and hearts to beauty and pleasure and joy, we close ourselves to God. I think He gives us these things, both to draw us to Himself (who created them for our enjoyment), and to allow us to get through the trials. (Life would be unbearable otherwise). This is a great post and a reminder to me that I shouldn’t have put Gary’s book back on the shelf! I think I need to read it. Thank you for your generous heart this weekend. You were so kind, and I”m sure we all feel so blessed to be part of your God-sized dream!
    Fondly,
    Lynn

  13. Rachel says

    Thank you God and thank you Holley, I really needed that today. God has really blessed my finances lately and I was able to go buy some new clothes. I usually budget everything out to the last dollar, but this time I made some spur of the moment purchases. I was feeling guilty about it, but felt God tugging at me, telling me not to. I will continue to plan and budget as I think we are called to be wise stewards of God’s blessings, but I am thankful for the gifts He has given me to enjoy. Thank you for your freeing words Holley!

  14. Terry says

    Dear Holley,
    Thank you again for speaking to our (your followers) hearts. We often forget to enjoy our life. I’m going to start really enjoying my leisure time. It’s something that God wants us to do so that we can hear Him. There’s nothing like feeling refreshed and participating in a hobby that nourishes our mind, body and soul.
    Hugs

  15. Kathy says

    I identified with you immediately when you mentioned a legalistic background! How wonderful it’s been to learn that I can enjoy things without waiting to be “zapped” because of something I failed to do. God has blessed me in so many ways, and I want to fully live each day not afraid to be happy. I consider myself in “recovery mode” and I’m continually learning how to let go of anxiety. Thank you for your “Enjoy. Embrace. Live”–that’s exactly what I want to do!

  16. says

    This is my first time reading your blog–how lovely! I heard somewhere that when we find ourselves enjoying things that “aren’t spiritual” we are making a disconnect that doesn’t exist. When you love a sunset, ride your enjoyment of it right up to the creator. Give thanks. Something about the “riding up the sunset” was an impacting visual for me. It’s helped me to see that God’s the underbelly/heart and soul/deepest part of all good things. Love this post, Holly.

  17. Darlene says

    I really enjoyed reading Holleys’ message today. I enjoy making crafty type items. I also like to crochet. I also love Vermont and getting away once in a while. It is so peaceful in Vermont like Deb said and so beautiful. I would love to move there! I feel everyone should take part and try different things to find what they excel in. Sometimes creating is the best thing. Seeing what you were able to make and showing your creations to others can really boost ones spirit also.

  18. Laurie Burns says

    Holley: It never fails that when I am struggling, something comes my way to lift my spirits. The daily devotion that came through this morning about living your God sized dream, hit me. That is what I have been praying for meditating on for months. You see I started my own staging business in 2007 but have not been able to work much, too many surgeries (body parts seem to be wearing out), then 9 months ago today I lost my husband to cancer after a 13 month battle. He was 49. I spent the last year prior to his death taking care of him 24×7. We were completely blessed by his boss, a spine surgeon, who was our guardian angel during this time. You see he called my husband for two years to come work for him, he did 7 years ago, and we were able to move back to Missouri . My husband’s cancer ended up in his spine (he was a Spine Physician Assistant) and his boss looked after him medically, financially, etc. I did not have to worry about money or our needs because of this gift from God. He was absolutely meant to be in our lives. In January I had to have a spinal fusion which set me back yet again in working, building my business, however; my husband’s former boss, did my surgery and there has never been a charge to me. He is most definitely a Godly human being. Anyway, now I am in a position that I have no income, no life insurance to speak of, and need to go back to work after being out of corporate for almost 13 years. I gave up many things when I married and followed him 13 years ago. My dream of owning my own business is still in my heart, and I truly believe that it was put there by God. So you see I pray daily and putting my faith in God to lead me financially. I still spend many hours a day looking for work, not marketing my business, and wondering if that is what I should be doing instead. We humans sure wish we could hear that clear audible voice of God telling us what to do, instead of being afraid of missing the still quiet voice whispering to our heart and soul. The situation I’m in and the struggles I and my husband endured I would not wish on anyone, but I would not change them either because I know God has a plan for me and I will be able to keep my home and find work or restart my dream. Thanks! In Christ’s Love. Laurie

  19. says

    I love homemaking and mothering. No matter that I’m single and just lovin’ on everyone else’s kids… ! I’d much rather someone gives me a house to make a home, and kids to have fun with than anything else.
    It feels like a crime these days – to be young, 19, full of energy and life and gifts and such – and to want to stay at home and just do life with kids and people. But I know family is a priority for God and that’s where I’m staying – building into and encouraging the families around me anyway I can.

  20. says

    So fabulous Holley! As you know, this kind of beauty & pleasure for the purpose of enjoying life as God intended is what I want to share with the world!!! Yay! Thank you :) I feel spurred on to continue with my message :)
    Blessings sweet friend,
    Sherri

  21. says

    I love this post! Yes God wants us to be joyful! I love watching birds and have bird feeders in my yard. My husband and I love to go ballroom dancing. We have been known to sing Karaoke too. We go to the beach a lot. Who says Christians can’t have fun?

  22. says

    Celtic music! It makes me stomp my feet and feel alive. I know God is in it, and I enjoy the passion of the Spirit it evokes in me.

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