Joy to the World, and you!

Are you happy?
In any given moment, I suspect you would say, “Yeah, sure. I’m happy.” You might be thinking about something special that makes you smile. Perhaps you think of an upcoming not-happy event and caveat your answer silently, “right now.” Did you have to force yourself to sing, “Joy to the World?”
Happiness is discovered in moments and is a fleeting emotion. It is part of the big 4: glad, sad, mad, and afraid. There are many ways to define each of those emotions. If you have kids, it is likely that you have asked them to use words to describe how they feel. Maybe you have a visual chart on the refrigerator. I doubt you ask them to use a variety of words when they are happy. Try it.

Ecstatic, pleased, content, celebrating, enthused—these are a few of the ways we can describe “happiness.”  “Joy,” is not included in my list. For the six weeks of Advent and Christmas we have been asking, “How does a weary world rejoice?” I want to ask you a new question.

Are you full of joy?
Joy is a way of life. In a world where happiness is relegated to momentary flashes of relief that break up the monotony of mediocre maladies or monumental maelstroms, joy is about character and perspective. Joy permeates all our emotions. Joy builds up our resilience in the face of fleeting happiness and the continual barrage of wearying experiences, near and far. Joy is a sustaining stance that dares to dream and craves to create something better.
Our ministry colleagues at A Sanctified Art defined rejoicing as six postures or skills that help us develop the character of a joyful life:
Acknowledging weariness                 Being connected to one another
Allowing for amazement                   Remembering our stories of hope
Making room for…                             Rooting ourselves in rituals    

Plus, this week, the final piece, the seventh posture and skill, is trusting in our belovedness. In death, in life, in good times and difficulties, through successes and struggles, nor anything else in all creation, trust the truth that you are fearfully and wonderfully made, in the image of God, who loves you. This truth, seeping into the very core of your being, insists that you are made to rejoice in the Lord always simply because you are, and you are loved
Joy to the world–and to you!
Images: from A Sanctified Art;
Beloved, by Lauren Wright Pittman, Inspired by Luke 3:21-22, @sanctifiedart (c) used by permission/license


The Joy of Summer

Ah. The joy of summer.

The fireworks were fun, and I remembered how hard it might be for veterans, gun violence victims, and dogs. What does it mean to enjoy things that are hard for others to endure?

It’s vacation time. I confess being one of those who has to check myself when I start to become jealous of my friends travel pictures on social media. What does it mean to envy others’ joy?

Life is so full over the summer break from work and school routines. It seems light, more carefree, especially when you hear the voices of children playing in the yard. What does it mean to smile when others are enduring their first summer without someone they love, enduring a death or divorce or breakup, that has shattered their care-free serenity?

Perhaps we enjoy an overflowing meal cooked on the grill and abounding in laughter with friends, while in the very back of our minds we hear the cries of children who have no lunch or breakfast when school is out.

Everyday is full of contrasts like these.

How are Christians meant to reconcile these truths with our faith in a benevolent God? One whom we claim as a personal Creator who knows even the number of hairs on our heads? One who declares we are worth much more than the birds in the air and flowers in the fields?

The only answer any one of us can give comes from our own experience of divine love and goodness. I do not know how God might bring love and goodness to someone who is suffering. I can only know how God met me in my own. I then have two helpful options (at least). I can be the bringer of hope as God has been for me, or I can empathize and share the moments of hopelessness to dispel the loneliness felt in God’s apparent absence.

A Contrast Embodied

Imagine that you are God’s contrasting evidence to the belief that life is nothing but fleeting moments of captured joy and selfishly-retrieved prosperity. You are the evidence, in this amazing world you inhabit, that there is a God who loves and cares for others. You may never know who tells the story of your kindness and declares, “that was the day I knew God had not left me alone.”

So, whatever today may bring, let this be a day the Lord has made! Rejoice and be glad in it!


Our Joy Continues

January 5, 2023

Today is going to be a great day! And so will tomorrow. And the day after…. Some of this greatness will happen to you. Rejoice!

Nothing of note is going to happen today. Or tomorrow. Or the day after…. Just routine, this is how it goes. Rejoice anyway!

Terrible things are going to happen today. And tomorrow. And the day after…. Some of them will happen to you. Rejoice anyway!
Life Happens!

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Phil 4: 4

In everything, we are called to find joy in our relationship with God. In this way, knowing that we are never separated from God’s love and presence, we can find a peace that sustains us through the highs and lows of life’s journey. Read more…