Where?

Part 5 of a 12 part devotion

“For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.”

Psalm 30:5

Many of our regular activities have changed in this pandemic driven society.  One thing that I miss greatly is our Sunday routine.  Every Sunday, from September to May, our family does three things together.  First, we attend church at the 9:15 service at Hales Corners Lutheran Church in Hales Corners, Wisconsin.  My oldest son Joey and I hand out bulletins and take the offering, along with Robin and Jon.

After the service, we head down to the first level of the school/church to set up for our “Special Needs Ministry Hour”.  Don’t let the fancy title fool you though, it’s really just a Sunday School class designed around adults with disabilities.  We have eleven students ranging from High School to one young man who is in his early thirties.

The first thing we do to start off the hour is singing.  We sing a “hello” song to all of our friends and teachers (anybody who showed up to lend a hand that morning).  We then go around and let the students pick a song they would like to sing.  Most of them have their favorites and choose the same song every week.  One girl always requests “Jesus Loves Me” and will often give a rousing “One More Time!” after we have sung it once.  Jon likes “I just want to be a sheep” and another young man demands “If Your Happy and You Know It”.

One of my favorites is often requested by another young lady.  The song? “I’ve got joy joy joy down in my heart!”  It’s a simple song that repeats a lot but we have added a twist that the students love.  When the students sing “down in my heart”, I yell back at them “WHERE?”.  This goes on throughout the whole song, causing many of them to giggle and smile.

What is Joy?

Joy is defined as a state of mind feeling of great pleasure. Joy differs from happiness because being happy is a momentary emotion where joy is a core value that you have.  I think my wife sums it up best when she tells me that even though she loves me, sometimes she doesn’t like me.  That is not a contradiction because her love for me is an overall state of mind that (hopefully) will exist for the rest of our lives together.  Although she will always love me, she can still dislike my behavior or choices at any given moment.  

Rick Warren adds his own definition: “Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright, and the determined choice to praise God in every situation.” (Rick Warren) – Aug 3, 2017. In other words, joy is a choice purposefully made. Unfortunately, that definition is up for debate. For every person who says joy is an underlying truth that good or bad circumstances can’t dictate, and happiness is rooted in circumstance, there will be others who think the opposite. Some people believe that joy is a constant in their lives regardless of circumstances while others support the idea that joy is an eventual outcome of favored circumstances in your life.

Happiness is a sprint

Joy is a marathon

I think a lot of people get “happy” and “joy” confused and that confusion causes them to distance themselves from certain situations such as other people or even God.  While Joy and happiness can occur together, you can experience one without the other.

I love “Star Trek” and I have since I started watching it on syndication in the late 1970s.  I have seen all the different series from the original to the newest versions of “Discovery” and “Picard”.  Back in the early 90s, when my kids were still in grade school, Star Trek had just wrapped up a series of six movies with the original 1960s crew of Kirk, Spock, and McCoy.  Since the movies came out before the new DVD format was widely available, Paramount released a Star Trek Movie every couple of months in a “special edition” DVD package. Each movie came with tons of Bonus features that included cast and crew interviews, blooper outtakes, deleted scenes, and a variety of other content designed to make any true “Trekkie” deliriously giddy with delight.  Over the course of two years, I anxiously awaited the next DVD offering, purchasing it the moment it hit the shelf!  Every movie increased my love of all things “TREK” but I could not wait for that magical moment when I would own ALL SEVEN movies in the collection.  It seemed like a dream!

Finally, the moment came when the last movie was purchased, watched, and placed on the shelf with the rest of the collection. When I realized I had achieved my dream, I felt — nothing!  There was no inner revelation of completeness that I was expecting to happen.  It was about then I started to realize that although possessions could bring happiness (although fleeting) they couldn’t sustain joy.

My DVD collection did not change how I did my job or interacted with my wife and family.   

Life is like Pizza – When it’s good, it’s very good and when it’s bad, it’s still pretty good

Palzewism # 12

Many people, I think, look at their lives how I looked at my DVD collection.  They have convinced (deluded) themself into thinking that their life would finally be better if “This” would happen.  We all have the THIS, something we are waiting for, don’t we?  We can’t wait for a better car or a yearly raise.  Things will be better once an event happens.  Unfortunately, those events never create joy, let alone satisfy us.  When we focus on events to cause us joy, we realize that while we are racing to that finish line, the finish line keeps moving.  We, as sinful human beings, are never happy, let alone satisfied for long.  There is always something else that catches our eye and becomes an object of desire.

So if we are all waiting for something on the horizon, where does joy come from?  My students knew where joy resides – down in their hearts. The next inevitable question is how did it get there?  Joy is one of the seven fruits of the Holy Spirit. The Fruit of the Holy Spirit is a biblical term that sums up nine attributes of a person or community living in accord with the Holy Spirit, according to chapter 5 of the Epistle to the Galatians: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” Now, these are attributes of living in accordance with Jesus Christ and centered in God’s will but not necessarily a given of how you will react in any given moment of your life.  We are still sinful human beings and desire, temptation, greed and all of our other selfish and petty desires run conflict to the above list on a constant basis.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”

Galatians 5:22-23

The fruit of the Holy Spirit should be thought of in the same way as natural ability. For example, a person might be naturally inclined to be good at sports but it still requires tons of practice to compete on a professional level.  For several years, I attended a Men’s Bible study at my church.  My first group was on Thursday Nights and was cleverly called “The Men’s Thursday Night Bible Study.”  I attended that for five years and on a weekly basis we discussed in great detail how we should “love your neighbor as ourselves” Matthew 22:39, Lev. 19:18. I then attended a Bible Study called TOP GUN with a group of men for four years, again talking about “love” and “Neighbors”.  Another fours year with a group of men after that on Saturday mornings called “Fishermen”.  After thirteen years of the Holy Spirit drilling “love your neighbor” into me, I finally took the step God has planned for me since I was baptized. Three years ago, I began to volunteer at a food pantry.  At first, it was just helping out wherever I could.  I am now down there four days a week, helping others to get the food and other household goods that are needed due to financial hardship, illness, mental health, or any other numerous scenarios that cause someone to stumble upon life’s path.  Although the work is hard and challenging, the feeling of helping others in their time of need is extremely gratifying.  It gives me joy because God is using me to minister to his children! And every day, as the work continues to expand, my joy continues to grow as well! 

Now, will it be that way for the rest of my life?  That is out of my hand.  The work gives me Joy because it is in accordance with God’s will, both for me and the person receiving from the pantry.  Someday, maybe God will call me to do something else or pivot what I am doing to help people in a more direct way.  I don’t consider those years I spent in Bible study wasted.  God was simply using that time to prepare me for the next part of my journey.  If I believe that, isn’t it also possible he is using this time to prepare me for the next thing?

JOY COMES IN THE MORNING!

If joy comes from God (by way of the fruit of the Spirit), when does it arrive?  Psalm 30:5 tells us that “Joy comes in the morning”.  I’ve always considered morning a reset button of sorts, God’s way of telling you that the past (yesterday) doesn’t have to be an indicator of the future. I believe Joy arrives when you finally understand the word as an acronym.  

I have heard my pastor state numerous times that JOY really means Jesus, Others, You, specifically in that order. When we concentrate on those items, in that order, joy stops being connected to a specific event or location and is something that permeates your whole being on a daily basis.  When we focus on what Jesus shows us and start being concerned for the people and things in his kingdom that he assigns us, we start to forget about our own selfish thoughts and desires.  We replace the “what’s in it for me” mentality and start to see how our thoughts, words, and actions help to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  And that message spreads because if you live your life in J.O.Y., someone will notice and ask you why you’re doing what you are doing.  You then just point to the cross and humbly state that you are just following your Master’s example.

Bottom Line, Joy is a state of mind, a conscious choice that must be done daily in order to take hold of your life.  It needs to be practiced, refined, polished, and changed up.  Joy is a response from you to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit for everything He has given you (and all that he has kept away from you).  Finally, Joy is not a sprint, it is a marathon.  Joy is a lifetime commitment to reflect the grace and Mercy that you have been given by God to all that you come into contact with.  The goal? To have someone ask you why your life looks so different?  What’s your secret?

Then, and only then, are you in a position to bring them to the cross!


Questions

  1. What things in your life make you happy?  Are those things a God-pleasing part of your life?
  2. Would you consider yourself a Joyful person?
  3. When have you ever mistaken happiness for joy?
  4. If happiness is a sprint and joy is a marathon, which one are you pursuing?
  5. What might you need to change up in order to have more joy in your life?

Prayer: Dear God (Father, Son, and Spirit).  I accept your gift of joy in my life and I commit to continue to grow it and refine it so that joy will shape and permeate everything in my life.  Help me be conscious of your will so I can always feel the joy you have for me and reflect it forward to others in my life.  Amen.

I thank you for reading my blog and look forward to any comments or criticism of what I have discussed.

If these words have impacted you, please feel free to share them by email or any social media platform.

You Turned My Mourning Into Dancing!”, my book, is available for purchase here.

3 thoughts on “Where?

  1. As a Star Trek studyor (as in doctor of study, after having done so for more than five 10,000 hours of practicing it.)I loved the interesting tie-in with happiness under ‘happiness is a sprint’. Got your point when you experienced the ‘nothing happening as soon as you placed the last series on the shelf. I see and understand the dynamics of desires, hopes and ‘things’ which interplay with our joys and affect our over all happiness. How they make us, in part, who we are, both for those who have the Heavenly Hope and those who are yet to accept His Hope. Thank you for the post.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for ministring to us.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks Ken. You and your family bring me joy. I have been a joyful person for most of my life. That continues in my golden years. Thanks for reminding me of this.

    Liked by 1 person

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