Joy: Buried Treasure

It was the night of bright lights and bling. New Years Eve – everywhere we looked there was glitter and sparkle and shine. Every particle of air held excitement and ice melted from sheer energy. There were smiles and hugs and the air was electric with celebration! No matter if 2016 was a good year to hang onto with tenacious enthusiasm or one that we couldn’t wait to vanish into history, the beginning of a new year sparks hope. Parties and celebrations ignite happiness and flame the atmosphere with joy.  

I wonder though, what happens now when the lights have gone out, the fireworks are over, the confetti has fallen to the ground in dusty clumps and the glitter is washed down the drain. Is that the end of happiness? Is that it for joy? It is, if joy is dependent on our circumstances.

I’ve been thinking.  Special events bring excitement into our lives; they’re blessings and we treasure those moments when our hearts feel happy. But the moments don’t last and as they fade, so does the feeling we confuse with joy. Joy is heaven-made. It’s part of our spiritual DNA. “The humble will be filled with fresh JOY from the Lord. Isaiah 29:19 [NLT] Doesn’t that sound like our joy comes from God and not from ourselves or any other source?

Happiness is homemade. It’s part of our human experience. Many years ago I read one of those sayings on the side of a coffee mug that said, “If everything is coming your way, you’re in the wrong lane.” That’s a pretty good description of life, isn’t it? We’re on our journey for a while taking the scenic tour, a few curves a few hills – we’re comfortable, we’re happy. But then life gets really tough and the pleasant journey becomes a dangerous expedition. Thrown off our path we’re driven into the deep end of the ocean or feel like we’re hanging by our fingernails on the side of a cliff. Not our happiest moments, are they? There is no bling, there is no glitter, the light is gone. The last thing we feel capable of is being happy.

How often do we say it? “But Lord, I’m not happy. I’m tired of trying so hard to get through this. And Lord, in case you haven’t noticed, this ‘thing’ is getting me down. Somedays I feel so sad I don’t want to move.” Do you remember Psalm 23:1? The Lord is my shepherd … This isn’t a verse tucked into the Bible so we could envision a calm, serene flowing brook surrounded by wild flowers. Shepherds worked hard, trudged through brambles and mud to keep track of their sheep. And they protected every single sheep from any harm that threatened them. “The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need.” Do you trust your shepherd? you-make-known-to-me-the-path-of-life

Jesus reminds us that nothing can take our joy away from us because he is the source of our joy. Nehemiah 8:10 says “Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!” Our circumstances may make us sad, they may exhaust us, we might feel like we’ve been plunged into darkness but it’s in our darkest days that the tiniest light appears brightest. The light of the world is Jesus (John 8:12); it’s he who is the source of our joy. Psalm 16:11 says, “You make known to me the path of life; as I walk with You the pleasures are never-ending and I know true JOY and contentment.”

We have to look for joy, like excavating for buried treasure because that’s what it is. Joy is a gift we choose to open over and over.  Joy is our light even when the bling of the world is gone. Look for the joy because it won’t come find us.

To choose joy means we choose God, we choose to fill our minds and fill our hearts with his words. Matthew 12:34 describes it so clearly. “The mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” Joy might not be a natural response to a broken spirit when days seem dark, but if you are God’s child, you already have unlimited, renewable joy. Nahum 1:7-8 tell us that God comforts his troubled children who put their trust in him. “The Lord is good. He protects those who trust him in times of trouble. But like a roaring flood the Lord chases his enemies into dark places and destroys them.” That’s God. He protects, and destroys the enemy that tries to steal your joy.

Lord, your word says you’ve given me an unlimited supply of renewable joy, but I’m having a hard time finding it. Please be a light on my pathway to peace and joy. Flood my heart with so much joy here is no room for darkness. God, I ask you to change my circumstances, Lord. But if you choose to grow my character through them, then please change me. Change my attitude, change my heart, change my life. Make me a faithful steward of your gift of joy. Amen

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Take back your time day!

Did you know there’s an official day for reclaiming your time? Me either, but if you want to get your time back, apparently today is the day.  October 24th is Take Back Your Time Day. Seriously. Here’s the official statement from http://www.timeday.org In July 2011, the United Nations urged all member nations to make “the pursuit of happiness” the goal of their governments and (here it is) find ways to measure their success.  It further claims that “Take Back Your Time is a major United States/Canadian initiative to challenge the epidemic of overwork, over-scheduling and time famine that now threatens our health, our families and our relationships, our communities and our environment.” My comment?  True that! There is no doubt that we are over committed in many areas of our daily life. Over scheduled frenetic lifestyles have become so normal, we wouldn’t know what to do if we had 3 days of unplanned, white space on our calendars. I can’t fault the idea of pursuing happiness and agree that we need to reclaim some calming, restful times to unwind the tension and loosen up. But I have news for the organizers of this ‘major initiative’. The government will never be able to generate happiness! The celebration might be a packed agenda with great speakers and helium filled balloons and confetti shot from gold plated cannons – and I would be the first one to applaud their attempts.  I would also be the first one to ask the organizers how much of their time did they give to the cause. Are they the models of success at ‘taking back their time’?  We can all agree it’s a great concept, fabulous idea, nice try – but boys and girls, taking back our time is not a government regulated commodity, nor is it metric that can be measured.

Do we know where happiness comes from? Do we know where joy comes from?  Did you know that these terms Joy and Happiness are not interchangeable? Remember this is my blog, so these are my opinions shared here and you can agree or disagree – but what you read here is what germinates in my mind, smolders in my heart, and winds through many twisting turning thought paths before ending up here.  Happiness comes from external circumstances, things that happen in our lives that are good, consoling, make us feel good and we are happy. When I wish you a good day, I want only the best of circumstances for you so your day will make you feel happy and be happy. As parents we want our children to be happy, or grandchildren to be happy. Sadly, life is full of unhappiness.  Circumstances are huge barriers to happiness. Life is never perfect – in fact, life is tough, anything but perfect.

So where is this happiness? We can’t buy it on the street corner or get it from reading all the books on topic. Joy is internal. We all have it because it was given to us at birth. Some are better at deepening the roots of joy so its characteristics become stronger, some are better at snuffing out worry before it begins to smother their joy, some are better at producing a livelier  crop of joy – but we all have it. Joy, even from its most miniscule existence can be cultivated to proliferate despite our circumstances.  We’ve got the formula – it’s proven to work 100% of the time. This is not marketing my dear friends. This is truth.  Joy is manifested from the inside and if we get the inside right, the outside will take care of itself.  Philippians 4: 8-9 whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.  Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Someone at work said to me one day, “You’re always so happy.” They were dead wrong. No, I am not happy. I am joyful – despite my circumstances.  Today I am thankful that God gives us the tools we need to be joyful. Come what may, our God gives us everything we need to survive and thrive  in this present world.

The government will never be able to legislate happiness, nor will they be able to measure it. Our only hope for happiness is to generate it from the inside out. From joy that is at our core because our priorities are in the right order:  Jesus Others You (J.O.Y.)