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Posts Tagged ‘joy’

Fountain 15 by Woonkey

Fountain by Geoffrey Platt

Joy is a big word in the enormity of its meaning. Appearing 58 times in the New Testament alone, as chara in the Greek; it is a particular kind of gladness, happiness, and delight that comes to us as a result of something or someone. It is our response, but not just a momentary moment of laughter or grins, it comes with an understanding. Joy carries knowledge with it.

But the angel said to them [the shepherds], “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. [Luke 2:10-11, NIV]

The angel is promising the shepherds them the experience of joy because of the import of the message and the opportunity to see the promised Messiah in the flesh. Very few were given this experience. Joy came from revelation!

I remember the first time I went to a wedding (it seems to be more common now, almost as a matter of course) when the bride and groom were introduced, that everyone exploded in cheers and applause because we all knew the difficulties the two had faced to get to this day. It was pure elation shared. It came upon me in a flood and I didn’t have to search for it or do anything to achieve it, merely allow myself to feel it.

Joy cannot be chased down like a fox in a foxhunt. It cannot be bought or traded.

In essence, joy comes from within, based on the big picture, not on circumstances. True joy is not the product of some success or or the avoidance of failure in the skirmishes of our lives. Joy is part of the rock upon which our faith is built.

I wish I could say that I walk in joy. I am even more frustrated to have this head knowledge but not the full grasp of what the plumb line of the Holy Spirit could mean in my life. I am distracted. My ego continues to be unyielding. I am still sorting and labeling and controlling my day to day experiences.

If I look at my time in quiet meditation or worship or praise or contemplation, I can see the fragmentation. Is there any wonder I cannot sustain joy? But I have had those moments, perhaps, as above, in the blessed good fortune of others or while singing a particularly meaningful set of stanzas in church or the burst of love toward a friend or child or other loved one. I have experienced the joy of nature in its beauty and majesty and in the power of the sea.

But deep inside, I know that there is a well of joy from which I have barely drunk. Oh human, we, will this fountain flow free?

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Ceramic tile by Katherina Short

Imagine being in that early flush of honeymoon love and waking in the morning. The first thing I do is turn to look at my beloved. A wonder. If he has risen beforehand, I might call out the name or simply rise to seek him out. I know he is there. So it can be with God.

I Chronicles 16:10-11
Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice. Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always.

To seek God does not need to be a quest, it’s just turning my head to look, to really look. It’s like being at a party and for a moment, losing sight of my date. I look for that familiar head of hair or the clothes I know he wore. There he is. All is well. I don’t need to rush over and clutch at his sleeve. We are in the same room. We are together.

Sometimes seeking God is simply a reawakened awareness of God’s proximity to me.

As children grow into toddlers, the first thing they want to do is stretch the boundaries of their independence. One of two things happen, the child ventures away but keeps checking back to make sure Mom or Dad can be seen, can be reached in need. Often, the toddler will make a number of trip back and forth, out into the bigger space and back to Mom. Yep, he knows the way and he fees secure. The next foray may be further and maybe out the door. But, if the toddler goes too far, the parent senses his absence and will follow.

I want to capture this truth today. Not just now as I’m writing, I want to pull myself away from what I’m doing and intentionally look for God–in the eyes of a friend, the walk of a stranger, the wet nose of my dog, in a handshake, in a flight of birds, in the wind or warmth of the sun.

Look! Look!

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Sculpture by Karl Jensen

I can’t say I usually walk around feeling joyful. But today, amazingly enough, the combination of post-vacation, a good work-out, a leisurely start to the day/week, and a favorite verse, and I am in it, I mean really in joy and contentment right now.

I Peter 1:8-9
Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

I had the sense today that “salvation” is thoroughly wrapped up in the believing in Him (that would be the Christ) without seeing a physical entity but then, not only believing in His existence, presence, power & identity, but also loving this commander of my soul. It is another way of saying worship. It is another way of walking this world.

Some years ago, I was deeply involved in a para-church movement called the Walk to Emmaus (similar to Cursillo, Tres Dias retreat organizations around the world). Through this engagement, I met some wonderful people throughout the state of Maryland, for at that time, it was a statewide group, drawing participants from all counties. Among those friends was a dynamic man, Steve, whose love for people and God was apparent. When he died of lung cancer, it was a blow to everyone in that faith community and hundreds attended his funeral service, the most loving and authentically glorious service I have ever attended. Through our sorrow and loss, there was also joy, an unexplainable kind of joy that was God in our midst while Steve was there too.

A musically talented couple, Paul & Mary Lou Day, had just completed a song based on I Peter 1:8-9 called Inexpressible Joy and they dedicated that song to Steve during the service. For several years after that, the song was an important part of the worship experience whenever we gathered as a community. It captured our love and hope in the Christ and the love we carried for one of our own.

I cannot find a recorded version of this song online, it’s been a long time, I still remember the words:

Even though, you don’t see Him,
You still love Him,
You still love Him.
And even though you don’t see Him,
You believe Him
You believe in Him.

And He will fill you up with His glorious joy
His exalted inexpressible joy. (repeat)

And you shall receive for your faith this goal
And you shall receive for your faith this goal,
The salvation of your soul.
–Paul & Mary Lou Day

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Never say never but don’t hesitate to say “always” and “continually?” Doesn’t seem quite fair but there it is. In this section of Thessalonians, Paul gives a long list of instructions, straightforward and direct but how do I follow them? Can’t. So what is my appropriate response?

I Thessalonians 5: 16-18
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

I guess it’s important to know the ideal and the perfect, but it also makes the difference between me and that goal so expansive, so blatantly unreachable that I’m a deer in the headlights.

This is where the Christ stands in the gap.

And yet, just because there is One willing to pray when I stop or rejoice when I give up does not mean I don’t have a responsibility to pursue the “always.” In fact, it’s the opposite. I have to want it. I have to want the manifestation of perfect through the ongoing presence of the Holy Spirit. How else do I become mindful, or conscious, or intentional about transforming?

Is anything perfect? Is nature perfect? Is the sunset or the waning moon or the waves that crash on a beach day in and day out perfect?

“For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.” [Romans 8:20b-21]

We’re in this together. You, me, earth and all the rest.

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Salt is a seasoning that makes things taste better through its chemical interactions with the food. And yet, in this age of health anxiety, we have started to withhold salt from our diet even though exercise could be just as effective. Have we removed salt from conversations too?

Colossians 4:6
Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

When was the last time I sat around with some people and just talked? I mean talked about ideas and possibilities, spirituality or sorrow, hope or despair. When has the conversation started heading one way and my comments moved it another, giving it a new flavor, a new point of view . . . with grace.

Now, I don’t mean those times when proselytizing starts or the 4 Spiritual Laws pamphlets come out of the handbag or a litany of “Praise the Lords” drop in after every remark like a Greek chorus or HipHop melody.

I’m interested in knowing if the truth of me, Spirit-filled and intertwined with the Christ within, has acted as a true flavoring, bringing out the best in others while giving grace and acceptance to any hardened hearts around me.

So much is out there that teaches us how to control a conversation, close the deal, get to “yes,” influence, convince or convert people, win friends, or filibuster until people can’t stand it anymore.

When my daughter, new to this country at 15, went to high school with little or no English, she bemoaned how hard it was to make friends. We chalked it up to ESL (English as a Second Language) and assumed things would get better as her language skills improved. And to some degree that was true and yet, it never became easy for her. Truthfully, I am amazed teenagers have any friends at all considering that most of their conversations tend to be about themselves and rarely about the other, unless they are drilling down into the behavior, looks, attitude or boyfriend of a mutual “other” (i.e. gossiping).

I shared with her a handy book I found called How to Start a Conversation and Make Friends by Don Gabor. I encouraged her to try the author’s technique but she found it unmanageable. And why? Because the essence of his technique was to ask lots of questions about the other person and listen to the answers. It’s letting go of feeling it necessary to reciprocate data for data, fact for fact, personal story for personal story. This is the grace part of conversation.

Perhaps it’s time for me to reread this book myself. Or maybe, like here, scripture has been saying it all along: Grace and salt, kindness and joy, love and humor, forgiveness and knowledge, patience and wisdom.

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What is joy? Do I know by experiencing it or is it merely a concept, a word that we Christians use carelessly and even assume it’s a given: we should be feeling joy or manifesting joy or understanding joy. Right?

Philippians 1:22a, 24-25
If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. . . . but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith . . .

After all, this is the season when we all say and sing, “joy to the world.” What does it mean? It’s a wish and a blessing, I understand that. But what does this kind of joy look like? Am I capable of recognizing joy? In myself? In others? In the world?

When will I know joy is here?

Some people define joy as “lasting happiness” or a “state of happiness.” Joy in this definition is pleasure then, and gaiety, delight or even satisfaction.

But Paul is talking about joy as something that can grow incrementally. Nehemiah [8:10] says “. . . the joy of the Lord is your strength” while Psalm 16:11 says “You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence,. . . .”

Joy and faith work together, as well as joy and strength. These are birthed through Christ as we accept that Spirit within. It’s part of becoming a follower of Christ and a believer. To believe in that Holy Spirit life within is to count on the outcomes. According to Paul, the process of growing joy, faith, and strength are part of the journey and we can count on it.

Our culture is constantly presenting alternatives to this kind of joy. Usually, it’s about the stuff. All the commercials show us: this car will make you happy, this flat screen television will give you hours of delight, these clothes will enhance your feelings of beauty and contentment. Even though we all know these feelings are fleeting, we get sucked into the message. This way is the “wide gate” {Matthew 7:13].

I want joy, true joy. I want it to grow inside me like a time lapse flower unfolding within me.

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Whatever God gives, it’s given on purpose: salvation, forgiveness, healing, anointing, power, revelation, and more. All of these gifts are given according to his understanding of what is needed, when and why. Our leap of faith is accepting the timing.

Ephesians 1:7-8
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.

It’s a trust issue. Do I trust God to give me what I really need or am I always looking for God to give me what I want in the moment?

And why is it so hard for me to remember that what I already have was given in the same spirit? I was redeemed 32 years ago. I had an epiphany, a revelation of the Christ and the necessity for the veil to be taken down. I was offered a relationship with God that was unlike any other relationship I had or would ever have in this 3-D world. I was invited to partake of the universal “Body.”

I needed that moment back then. And now, along the way, oh God, help me to see the other moments. Help me to recognize the gifts you gave and to return thanks. Help me to appreciate this path instead of complaining about the conditions of the way. There are so many other ways things could have gone.

If I were totally surrendered to your wisdom and understanding, I would know true joy. I still can, right? The invitation has never been snatched away. Today is just another example of the story we are making of my life.

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