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A Fruitful Life – Part 2: Joy 

Devotional for the week of July 17, 2017


Monday

Our first taste of the Fruit of the Spirit is Love.  Without love, you will remember, we are nothing (1 Cor. 13:2).  Yet, the Spirit doesn’t stop at love but includes even more fruits!  Bob the mentor always watched people and said that our lives are the very revelation of our fruit.  You can see those who are adorned with these Fruit of the Spirit and those who have yet to taste and share these fruit.  


Therefore, today we turn to the second fruit mentioned—Joy.  C.S. Lewis once commented that “Joy is the serious business of Heaven.” Think about that… is this the image of heaven in your mind?  Too often we have taken God to be serious and/or stoic.  I’m not sure why this is the case but perhaps we haven’t seen Jesus in the light of one who laughed often and emitted joy to others.  I think Jesus’ joy emanated off of him.  He didn’t need to tell others that he was joyous, they could see it.


Proverbs 15:13 says “A joyful heart brightens one’s face, but a troubled heart breaks the spirit.” Today, as you go about the normalcy of daily life, pay closer attention to other people’s faces.  What do they say about them?  What are they saying without ever uttering a word?  By the way, this isn’t a judgmental exercise, but an opportunity to see what is already there!


Tuesday

There is this rhythm to creation.  If you slow enough to watch and listen, it is captivating!  Many within our tradition would say that creation is God’s first bible—that God reveals God’s self through the creation.  It points to, and magnifies, the wonder of the one who made it all!  Just think of the breathtaking beauty of mountains; the meadows adorned in wildflowers; the majestic sea and its creatures; the stark exquisiteness of a desert.   I have never found a place in creation that it grotesque; instead, each part has its own beauty.


Morning is a unique time.  It is ripe with possibilities of what might be.  Morning, if it had a character, would be optimistic.  The complexity and worries of a day have yet to overwhelm.  Instead, the freshness of new light dawns, not only in creation, but also within the soul.  Today, read Psalm 30 and allow the joy to soak in.


God is at work within us, and at times of our lives. We live through the darkness of grief and fear but know that the dawning light of God’s presence is coming.  Just as the horizon swiftly illumes, a joy builds within as we turn our greatest challenges and opportunities over to God.  It is through a prayerful stance, on a new day, that we discover we are dressed up in joy that is a gift of the Spirit!  May the Spirit adorn you with the sparkling wonder of a joyous day today!


 

Wednesday

A while ago, a prayer was shared with one of the most delightful images.  In the prayer, the writer had shared this phrase—“Let humor bubble up and tickle our souls.”  Yes, without humor life is just too heavy!  Humor, it would seem, is rooted in the fountain of joy.  Joy is released from within and it has the power to impact everything external to us.  That is why it is a fruit…it is a gift for others to consume!


Heaven knows our news cycles love to accentuate the negative and ignore the positive.  Perhaps we are a culture that loves to hear bad news, but we are a people of God who have the joy of living and sharing Good News!  And what might that Good News be?  It is that, we are designed for abundantly full lives, realized in the way we bless our neighbor!  We are given life in order to share life with each other.  We are called the beloved of God, for we are the apple of God’s eye!


In the context of Jesus’ own teaching, it is helpful to see what he says about the power of this Good News!  Read John 15:9-17.  Notice that joy and love are intertwined?  It is in living out this unconditional love of another that we discover the joy of God’s very being!  And this joy isn’t based on the externals of circumstances but is found in the depth of the soul.  Even better, joy can never be hoarded but only shared!  It literally flows out of us when we have it and infects, and affects, every person who we see!  Today, try the smile test.  Smile at every person you see and notice how often they smile back.  I think you might find it is contagious!


Thursday

We often link happiness with joy.  Joy is a state of the soul, a gift of the Spirit and way of being.  Happiness is an experience of a moment and an expression of joy.  Most of us wind our way to joy through the experience of happiness.  Once joy is lived, then happiness is an outgrowth of the joy.  


A great preacher of the previous century was a man named Norman Vincent Peale.  He believed that the way we perceive our world ultimately illumines how we experience the world.  He is often called the father of “Positive Thinking” in which we focus on the cognitive focus and allow the body to follow.  I think there is much truth to his belief, for our perceptions shape our reality!


In his book, The Power of Positive Thinking, he invites us into this way of being.  He says, “The way to happiness: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry. Live simply, expect little, give much. Scatter sunshine, forget self, think of others. Try this for a week and you will be surprised.” You may want to read this again, and slowly, to allow these thoughts to sink deeply into you.  Notice the ‘other’ focus to his belief?  It seems that he must have studied the way of Jesus a lot!


How might this way shape your experience of daily life?  There are two primary times that we grow—when we are in pain and when we desire more.  In both of these ways of growth, it is only realized by abandoning what has worked (or not worked) and trying on something new.  It is to experience reality with new lenses that help you to see clearer.  To be fair, none of us can accomplish this in a day but, each day, we can reset whenever we catch ourselves faltering.  That is okay!  Think of it as learning how to experience reality in a new way!


Friday

One of the joys of watching the preschoolers is their uncanny ability to live in the moment.  It is all they have!  They have this ability to find joy in the smallest of things and in creating the silliest of games.  I think that is why Jesus allowed the children to become our teachers!  We need to be reminded of who we are deep within!


Sure, we often speak about the ‘real world’ that we adults have to live within.  We have deadlines, and stress, and to do lists.  We worry about the well-being of our children and our jobs.  We worry about our security and comfort.  We are a people prone to wander and to leave the God we love, as the old hymn proclaims!


Leo Buscaglia insightfully shared, “Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.”  Yes, worry is the kryptonite of joy.  Joy is an act of trust, of faith!  Perhaps that is why Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount continues to radiate to this present day.  To follow the way of Christ, to be filled with the Spirit, is to be fruitful in such a way that it impacts those around us!  Today, read Matthew 6:25-34 (yes, we read this often because it is sooooooo good!).  Imagine if you could be the super hero who releases those bound by worry and invigorates them with the fruit of joy!  Yep, that’s you! 


Saturday

Joy is the inner spaciousness of a soul in union with God.  Joy is birthed through the journey of learning that life is not all roses but that all the experiences of life are our great teachers and God’s Spirit has been at work within.  When we view the good and bad in light of opportunity, then every stop along the journey becomes a place of acceptance and gratitude.  Scars remain, but the pain is removed.


Perhaps that is why James saw the challenges of life as a gift.  In James 1:2-4 he says, “My brothers and sisters, think of the various tests you encounter as occasions for joy.  After all, you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance.  Let this endurance complete its work so that you may be fully mature, complete, and lacking in nothing.”


Joy, if it is of the Spirit, must be borne by the Spirit, coupled with our willingness to grow.  The great theologian Karl Barth once commented, “Joy is the simplest form of gratitude.”  Joy is the ability to look at the present moment and situation and say it is enough.  It is to hold onto the day and simply say “Thanks!”  Today, how might your joy be realized through acts of gratitude?  May you bless others, so they may have a taste of the joy of the Lord!


- Central Union Church -


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