Jesse has this Veggie Tales book about having a thankful heart. It even has a song to go along with it (yes, a song). A few months ago all he wanted to do was press that song button on the book over and over and over. He would ask for the “happy” book, signing “happy” and point to the bookshelf. As much as I dislike the squeaky, cartoon voices in the song, I can’t help but pay close attention to the words: “Because a thankful heart is a happy heart. I’m glad for what I have that’s an easy way to start…”. The Lord knows I need this reminder just as much as Jesse, probably more. In fact I’m sure of it. It dawned on me after hearing the “Happy” song for many, many nights in a row that this is where joy is born. Gratitude for our daily blessings creates a joyful space in our spirit. This joy expands the more we fix our eyes on His gifts to us.
I picked a OneWord365 for this year to explore more and delve into the meaning making it my banner for 2016. My word is Joy. Not only do I want this for myself but for others to grasp too. It’s not as elusive as you think.
In Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts devotional she talks about finding that joy. She recalls the night before Jesus was crucified He had Passover with His disciples. The Bible says He “took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them” (Luke 22:19 NIV). The fact that Jesus knew He was hours away from facing a horrific death and still He gave thanks to the Lord and shared this sacred meal with His followers who would soon desert Him astounds me. There are no words in human language to adequately comprehend the depth of Jesus’ love.
The phrase “he gave thanks” translates to “eucharisteo”. The root word of eucharisteo is “charis” which means, “grace”. If we go deeper than that we find that the Greek word “chara” means, “joy”! Ann says, “Deep chara joy is found only at the table of the euCHARisteo—the table of thanksgiving” (p.27). She just blew my mind. For months I have been sensing this connection but couldn’t find the words. I don’t have knowledge of Greek either, so that helped.
Joy. It’s uncovered through the art of gratitude. At the back of Voskamp’s devotional she leaves room for you to write out 1,000 gifts. Literally name and count the ways the Lord loves you. This is part of my joy journey – counting His blessings, big and small. I do a few each day. It helps me notice things more, to slow down and be on the lookout for God’s grace all around.
I plan to write a few posts on what joy is and what it looks like for us. I hope you come with me. As the world outside seems to crumble under the heavy weight of godlessness and sorrow lets find a space in our souls to be refreshed. I think the older I get the harder it is to see joy, let alone maintain it. Even in seasons of unrelenting hardship it is possible. Those who choose joy in those moments will be the strongest.
God has prepared us for this. We were made for joy with Him forevermore. We can start practicing to live in joy today. Maybe it’s hard for you also. I’m preaching to myself just as much as I want this for you too. This is about finding joy in the ordinary, everyday mundane and recovering lost beauty and a worshipful heart.
Gifts that you wouldn’t necessarily think as gifts can be. For me, Jesse’s disabilities are a kind of gift. He still carries a sense of wonder over the ordinary, because his learning of the outside world is just now emerging. I get to see the world through him with fresh eyes. His infectious laughter gets Jason and me every time. We just look at each other and grin thankful we get to be Jesse’s parents. The obstacles of not yet having more children have also been a gift of leaning close to the Lord, trusting Him even when I don’t understand.
Our sense of beauty, innocence and joy was stolen in the Garden of Eden from the very first sin. We need to remember what it looks like and claim His goodness again. I don’t want to live the one life I have with cynicism and joylessness. That is a wasted life.
If “the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10 NIV) then we need to know what that means. While you scour the food crusted pots at the sink, while you dig in the dirt planting the tulip bulb to blossom come spring, while you rock your little one to sleep quietly humming a lullaby- joy is there. It’s in the cracks of life, springing up from the ground. It is not a naïve “Pollyanna” attitude, although that term (and movie) does get a bad wrap. It’s a knowing. It is recognizing the source of Life, the Giver of the gifts. Understanding how much we are loved immeasurably through the Greatest Sacrifice in the history of mankind? Let your Joy start there.
Grace upon grace,