Sunday, August 3, 2014

Cultivating Joy

On my way into work, I noticed a church had updated their sign.  It cheerfully read, “Enjoy the blessings of summer!”  That thought stayed with me as I continued on my way into work, and I started to count up blessings of summer and the seasons beyond.  I thought about the seasons themselves and the blessings that they hold; the four seasons recognized in our year and the many throughout our lives.
“Enjoy the blessings,” I cannot stop my thoughts from jumping from blessings to joy.  This is joy that goes over and above my own understanding of blessings.  The joy of the Lord, a blessing of fruit that nourishes and sustains when there are difficult times, that is something to be recognized and cultivated!  I thought that Psalm 30 caught this so well, a joy that permeates the seasons.    The words capture the seasons of life, feeling secure, feeling the need of mercy and throughout there is joy. 

This is not a vapid joy, washed out with the fatigues and difficulties of life.  It is a vibrant joy, warming and bright like the sun.  I seek to cultivate this as a strengthening force in my life, bringing God’s joy into my life. Cultivate joy as someone cultivates their garden - with hard work, persistent effort and hope. 

A few of the things that I see joy in...

the voice of a child singing worship songs  - the sound of a friend’s laughter - butterflies on brightly colored zinnias - a hug when it’s needed most - the sustenance of prayer - rainbows from rainstorms -starry skies so clear that you see the spill of the milk in the Milk Way - wild horses with bright eyes and swift feet  - the constancy of God - sweet fuzzy puppies that cuddle close at night - words of truth and kindness - the strength of gentleness - God’s words that give life - the smell of pine needles around the base of the tree after a rain - splashing in puddles - cold and sticky summer popsicles - the warble of the house wren - loving moments of a family, through good and bad times - the feel of a baby’s hand wrapping around my finger - being able to work hard and feeling the reward of a job well done - the pleasure of serving someone else - the excitement in grasping something new about God - reliance upon Jesus - grace
Cultivating joy is done through the ups and downs, happy and sad times, helping me grow in my faith and share the Lord’s joy with others.  It is a habit that sees me through unexpected difficulties, and makes good times even better.  It is a habit that I ask God to continue to strengthen in me. It is a habit worth cultivating.

“You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent.  Lord my God, I will praise you forever.

Psalm 30:11-12