Collecting Joy

Joy Journal

A gift from my youngest daughter

March 4, 1998 – My youngest daughter surprised my husband and me by bringing home gifts for us both.  It was not our birthday, anniversary, not any holiday.  It was one of those “just because” gifts that are so special.

One of the gifts that day was “The Joy Journal” by Barbara Johnson.  Known by many as the “Christian Erma Bombeck”, she wrote many hilarious books such as:

Stick a ger

and

Humor Me

Barbara wrote in the introduction to this journal

This Journal is a new way for you to add joy to your life.  When good things happen to lighten your load and brighten your day, write them down.  When someone pays you a compliment, write it down.  When you remember nice things from the past, write them down.  Let the journal become a personal treasure chest – your collected thoughts of hope, gladness, and love.  When you start to collect joy, you will find it’s a magnet.  Joy is everywhere.  All you have to do is look for it and use it instead of saving it for Sunday-Best.

Less you think Barbara Johnson lived in denial and was just a “Pollyanna” telling people to “be happy” without really knowing what problems and sorrow were, she had plenty of sadness in her own life.

Barbara lost two sons, one in Vietnam and one at the hands of a drunk driver. Another was estranged for several years. A few years after her husband’s death she was diagnosed with Central Nervous System Lymphoma (CNS), a brain tumor and also diabetes.  Refusing to give in to despair, Barbara chose humor and looking for joy as a way to beat the odds of adversity.  In 2005 the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association awarded her the prestigious Life Time Achievement Award.  Her book “Stick a Geranium in Your Hat and Be Happy” has sold over one million copies. While facing death, she was working on a proposed final book, Joyfully, Barb!

So – I took her at her advice and began looking for joy – and recording it.  Now 20 years later, I look back at all the entries in my journal and Barbara was right.  She had said this journal would be “a treasury of gladness to inspire you for years to come.”  And it has.

Most of my grandchildren are all grown up now – but I pull this journal out and relive those moments of joy I shared with them.  Here are just a few that make me smile and I  hope they will also bring a smile to your face.

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Matthew and Robert – my ‘little grandsons now all grown up

March 7, 1998 – Rob and Rebekah took Matthew to kindergarten roundup this week, a chance to show him the classroom, meet the teachers, etc.  After coming home he informed us that he was going to love kindergarten because there were lots of girls and they were going to love him!

January 16, 1999 – Robert spent the night with us and I took him to the Putnam Museum.  On the way there he just kept talking and talking.  I always want to give my grandchildren my attention when they are with me, but I had a headache and did not really feel like listening to his chatter.  So I told him, “Robert, Grandma has a headache and I don’t really feel like paying attention to what you are saying right now.”  His response was so funny, I had to try hard not to laugh.  He said, “It’s okay Grandma.  You don’t have to listen.  I just want to talk.”

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My beautiful granddaughter who is also my namesake, Barbara

April 4, 1998 – Took Barbara shopping at the mall.  Brought her a necklace and a headband.  We had tacos and sundaes.  She has been trying hard to “be good” so her parents would let her have this date with me.  As we were enjoying our sundaes she told me, “Momma is wondering if I am going to still be good tomorrow.  I’m not going to tell her but I’m going to surprise her and be good.  I’m going to try hard to be good but if I mess up, I’m going to say ‘I’m sorry.'”

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Granddaughter, Abby, has a lot of musical talent

I don’t have a date written down for the laughter this granddaughter gave us but when she was quite young she came with her siblings to spent a week with us.  Helping her Aunt make some cookies, she sat on the counter and began chattering away.  Seeing a frown on her grandpa’s face she asked, “Am I annoying you Grandpa?”  When he said yes she quickly responded “Good!”  Which brought laughter to us all – including Grandpa.

There are many, many more memories I could share but I’m sure at some point you would stop reading.  But I want to encourage you to look for joy that is all around you and record those special times.  Not only will you enjoy the moment, but like me, years later you can remember and experience the joy all over again.

As Barbara Johnson said in her journal, “Laughter is like a shock absorber that eases the blows of life.”

Get busy looking for joy!  I wish you good hunting!

 

 

Greetings – Chairein – Joy to You

Jesus laughing

I love this picture of Jesus laughing!  I think too often we vision Him as somber, even stern.  But He talked about giving us joy.  At His birth, the angels proclaimed “Joy to the world.”

Studying the book of James this week I again realized how much we miss when the Bible is translated from the languages of Hebrew and Greek into English.  James begins his letter by saying what is translated in most of our English version as “Greetings.”

To me I have just thought James was basically saying hello.  Just the kind of start to a letter we often would use (in the days when we really wrote letters instead of texting or posting on Facebook).

Hi!  How are you?  I am fine.

As I began to take a more serious look at this word, I find it has much more meaning than just “hi”.

The word James used is “chariein” and it means basically “to rejoice exceedingly” or “to be well.”  Used as a greeting James was essentially saying “joy to you.”

“Joy to you” seems a great way to start a letter to friends.  Hey, I’m wishing you joy, happiness, that you do well.  We do this for birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas.

joy

 

joy baby

 

 

 

On continuing to read this letter it is clear that James is not just being friendly in wishing his readers joy.  After saying “joy to you” he immediately speaks of times of difficulty, trials, tests.

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.

Hold on there a minute James!

You just wished joy and well-being to your readers and then you talk about troubles.  What gives?

James was writing to the Jewish people who had accepted Jesus as the Messiah but who were now experiencing difficulties because of their belief.  He indicated difficult times can be opportunities not just for joy – but great joy.

Hold on there a minute James!

Difficult times bring joy?  Trials, tests bring joy?  What are you – some kind of Pollyanna?

James is not suggesting to his readers that they thank God when a loved one dies, when they get cancer or lose a job.  (These are the things we think of as trials.  The people James was writing to were probably experiencing more severe trials such as real persecution because of their stand for the Messiah, not just experiencing the normal cares of life that we characterize as trials.)  Rather he was telling them they should recognize that these difficult times, while not in themselves something to take joy in, would bring about a real change in them – and that would be something to rejoice about.

When all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your lives my brothers, don’t resent them as intruders, but welcome them as friends! Realize that they come to test your faith and to produce in you the quality of endurance. But let the process go on until that endurance is fully developed, and you will find you have become men of mature character with the right sort of independence.

Hey James, I think you are right.  As I look back at times of real trials (like becoming a widow with two young girls at 33 or getting aggressive and advanced cancer at 53) I realize that those times brought me much closer to God and gave me a strength I would never have had without those difficult times.  While I will never thank God for the death of my precious husband, for seeing my body deformed after surgical removal of a breast or for the effects I still suffer in my body because of chemo and radiation, I am thankful for the growth I gained because of those trials.  I am thankful that I have truly discovered what Jesus was talking about when He spoke of the joy and peace He was giving us.  

Finally, James not only tells his friends to find joy in difficult times, he lets them know how they can do that.

And if, in the process, any of you does not know how to meet any particular problem he has only to ask God—who gives generously to all men without making them feel foolish or guilty—and he may be quite sure that the necessary wisdom will be given him

You make it sound simple James!  But life is not simple!

Oh I get it!  That’s the beauty of the gospel.  It is simple.  Trust and obey.  I sometimes make it so hard.  My mind doesn’t want to just trust.  I want detailed answers to my questions.  I want to know the end before I take that step of faith God is asking me to take.

Peter sums it up pretty good in his letter to the church.

And though you have never seen him, yet I know that you love him. At present you trust him without being able to see him, and even now he brings you a joy that words cannot express and which has in it a hint of the glories of Heaven; and all the time you are receiving the result of your faith in him—the salvation of your own souls.

Yes that it is.  It is a joy that words cannot express.  Joy unspeakable and full of glory!  To all my friends who follow me on my blog, chairein!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is the “Joy of the Lord?”

Jesus laughing

We hear a lot from Christians about “the joy of the Lord.”  Often a verse from Nehemiah is quoted when speaking of joy.

The joy of the Lord is my strength.

But I wonder what does that mean?  What is the joy of the Lord and how does it give me strength?  I have found many times in my life when I was going through a difficult time and struggling with pain or sorrow that well-meaning people would quote that verse to me suggesting if I would just be “happy” I would find strength from the Lord to get me through this difficult circumstance.

If I would just adjust my attitude.

If I would just think positive thoughts.

If I would just “put on a happy face.”

Then, God would give me joy.

So – strength from God depended on me.  If in this time of despair I could just either “pretend” to be happy (“fake it ’til you make it”) or if I could somehow find some inner strength to think positive thoughts, God would give me joy and strength.  Our culture (and many TV preachers/teachers) tell us having the right attitude, having self-esteem, is the road to the joy of the Lord.

Yet we know that many great men of God did not always have a positive attitude.  Look at the Psalms.  They are full of times when David and others even questioned if God cared.

for you are my God, my only safe haven.  Why have you tossed me aside?

My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?
    Why are you so far away when I groan for help?
Every day I call to you, my God, but you do not answer.
    Every night I lift my voice, but I find no relief.

As I look at the verse in Nehemiah what stands out to me is that the joy Nehemiah is talking about is not some feeling I produce by my own ability to “put on a happy face” and adjust my attitude.  Rather, this joy is the joy OF THE LORD.  It is something that comes from God.  True joy, I submit, does not come from within me – it comes from without.

The joy of the Lord is not dependent on me adjusting my attitude or thinking positive thoughts.  I am not disputing that our thinking, out attitude does many times needs some work.  Paul wrote in Philippians:

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

And the writer of Proverbs told us:

For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.

But if having God’s joy is simply me thinking on things worthy of praise, then the joy of the Lord is not really from the Lord.  It is simply having a good philosophy or a good outlook on life.  That benefits those of us who have a tendency by nature to be positive, who bounce out of bed each morning ready for the day and get excited about the new coffee favor we just bought at Target.  However, it puts those who have a more melancholy personality and basically say “don’t talk to me until I have had my coffee” at a great disadvantage.

So – what is the joy of the Lord?  And how do we get it?

Take a look at the times Jesus spoke about joy.

In the Beatitudes he told us:

 What blessings await you when people hate you and exclude you and mock you and curse you as evil because you follow the Son of Man. When that happens, be happy! Yes, leap for joy!  For a great reward awaits you in heaven. 

One reason for joy, then, is the hope we have of what awaits us.  This life is not all there is for us.  Regardless of what is happening to me right now, I have a great future awaiting me and when I realize that I have something to look forward to it can give me a sense of peace and comfort.  This present circumstance may be terrible but it is not the end.

But how do I find joy in difficult times for the “here and now.”  Does this mean my only joy is in anticipating what will come in the future?  Can I find joy in this life now?

The Psalmist gave us the secret when he wrote:

in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.

When we learn to stop running about and trying to solve everything ourself, when we take time to be still and quiet with the Lord, when we allow our minds to dwell on Him and His Word, we will find that joy that Peter wrote about that is:

At present you trust him without being able to see him, and even now he brings you a joy that words cannot express

The joy of the Lord gives us strength to face those difficult circumstances because it is the joy that comes from a real relationship with Him, not from something we can create.  I submit if you are lacking joy, ask yourself these questions:

  1. When was the last time I spend some time just sitting quietly reading God’s Word or listening to a good worship song and just remained quiet and allowed God to speak to my heart?
  2. When was the last time I took some moments to sincerely make a list of all the blessings God had given me and then took some time to truly thank Him?
  3. When was the last time I looked at the difficult situations in my life and asked God to show me where/how I could use these times to grow more like Him?

As we take time to focus on God, to allow Him to speak to us, as we come into His presence, there we will find the joy of the Lord.

Help us all Lord in the midst of our busy and crazy lives to take that time and allow You to minister to us of your love and fill us with your joy.