Our church choir sang this arrangement of Psalm 126 last Sunday. We sang it last fall, too, but I was out sick that day, so I was superglad to have another chance. It’s become an instant favorite with the choir, and our director has promised to reprise it regularly in future.
A couple of weeks ago, with a little help from BibleGateway, I printed out every Bible reference to joy and rejoicing. The list came to about 20 pages, and I’m slowly working my way through, looking for themes and contexts and causes and results — who is being joyful, what they are doing with that joy, and what that joy is doing with them — and anything else that might fatten up my understanding and experience of joy. The batch of verses I looked at today included Psalms 43:4 and 48:2. These two verses show not only who is joyful but who is joy. In the first, “God my exceeding joy.” In the second, “The joy of the whole earth, Is Mount Zion,” i.e., the city of God, the people of God. God is joy. God indwelling His saints makes us joy. We are the salt of the earth, seasoning the whole planet with the joy of His presence.
My most luxurious cake recipe reminds me of my favorite candy bar, but not wanting the Hershey’s people to scold me, I named it in my best French. Of course my best French is quite abhominable (don’t forget to spell it with an H, Doctor), so any incorrectness in the rendering is, I hope, just icing on the gâteau.
Thank You, Lord, for masking tape that shreds when I try to peel it off the roll.
Thank You, Lord, for drips of chocolate in exactly the one spot I was trying not to avoid dripping the chocolate.
Thank You, Lord, for bags of thawing raspberries that leak allllllll over the fridge.
Big battles are often fought in little things. I have significant skills at completely derailing over petty stuff. So far today I’m three for three on giving thanks and laughing over miniscule trials. Hoorah!
I tried to scan this only to discover that neon gel ink won’t scan. So I offer this lousy photo as an alternative. Since I haven’t posted anything else on my joy theme this week (start working on something like that and — whoa, Nellie — the resistance you run into!) I thought this pitiful offering would be better than nothing. And if any good photographers out there would like to take a better shot of it, I would oblige you and be much obliged. (Neon gel ink on index card)
About twenty years ago I was working for an arts-in-education nonprofit as a program coordinator. It was my job to schedule music, dance, and theater performances in K-12 schools across the state. I kept track of the artists’ availability, spent a good chunk of my time on the phone setting dates with schools, made sure everybody had their contracts and directions all sorted out, and did it all over again when the occasional blizzard shut down the whole state for a week. Usually rescheduling was needed in occasional smaller doses, such as when an artist got ill. (I remember the male half of a husband-wife team once calling to tell me that his poor flu-stricken wife had been reduced to “a puddle on the bed.”)
Only once did I have to deal with a flat-out no-show. One of our most popular performers, a dancer, just didn’t appear at the school where he was scheduled that day. He couldn’t be reached. I could only apologize to the teacher who called to inform me, and I finally was able to speak with the artist the next day. His explanation? “I did not have peace in my heart, and I cannot dance when I do not have peace in my heart.”
“Well, Paul, there were 300 students and their teachers, all in their seats in their school auditorium, who did not have peace in their hearts when you didn’t bother to show up today.” From there I suppose I reminded him of Alexander Graham Bell’s great contribution to technology and impressed upon him the necessity of availing himself of it in future should he be unable to fulfill a scheduled commitment.
All this is to get to something I was mulling over in regard to the quote I posted on New Year’s Day. Living out of joy rather than out of duty doesn’t mean waiting for a joyful mood to strike. “Feeling like it” is just as much a crutch as a raw sense of duty, and a less reliable one, at that. Learning to live out of joy doesn’t mean throwing away the to-do list; it means coming at it with a different attitude — not one that magically appears if the stars of the weather and the circumstances and your hormones are perfectly aligned, but one you choose to put on because it’s your favorite one in your wardrobe. (Sorry for the clashing-like-argyle-and-hounds-tooth metaphors, but I always consider myself to be doing well if I come up with any at all.)
Nothing’s more useless than an exhortation to “just do it” (a slogan, I might note, that was inspired by a murderer’s last words). It is the law, and it is powerless to motivate us to obey. But joy is perfectly suited to the task of motivation. Joy reminds us of God’s goodness, tells us stories of His love, and points us to the obedience at hand as a means of delighting in Him the way He has delighted in us. Joy lights a flame beneath raw duty, pours on the oil of gladness, seasons with the salt of grace, and transforms even the most distasteful obligations into a gourmet feast for the soul.
So don’t just do it, joyfully do it.
A watched pot never boils. An unwatched pot always boils over.
(Sometimes I think it’s a wonder I don’t starve.)
“What are the distinguishing marks of joy? Is it an emotional high or something we can produce on demand? No. Joy is something that the Spirit gives, and therefore the flesh cannot manipulate or imitate it. Joy is an intense, deep, and abiding satisfaction in the sovereignty and goodness of God. Joy is praise.”
Nancy Wilson, “Joy Overflowing”
(I have had the bolded sentence taped to my monitor since Nancy first posted this…going on six years. Think maybe in another six or so it’ll start to sink in?)
“Oh, satisfy us early with Your mercy, That we may rejoice and be glad all our days!” Psalm 90:14
“This is the day the LORD has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24
“But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create; For behold, I create Jerusalem as a rejoicing, And her people a joy.” Isaiah 65:18
“Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!” Philippians 4:4
“Rejoice always….” 1 Thessalonians 5:16