I’m not one to choose a word for the year, I tend to choose a text instead. The word ‘Joy’ has been in my mind since last fall for some reason, and it goes so well with my text, that I’m going to have a word and a text this year.
I’ve had the same text since my surgery three years ago. I read it before I do my regular bible reading, I have it posted on my pin board beside my computer and I finally decided to memorize it as well.
Phillipians 4: 4-9 4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. It can be hard these days though, can’t it? Not to be anxious about anything? To trust that God will always work everything out for good? I know I can really struggle with this some days. Everyday we are assaulted with doom and gloom. Terrorism, the economy, the environment . . . the news and Facebook is filled with terrible things going on day after day. Our right to live our lives according to God’s will seem to be under attack from every direction. Standing up and speaking about what’s right, with love, has become nearly impossible. Seldom are we allowed to get past the first sentence in a conversation on controversial topics. You either believe wholeheartedly in the ‘enlightened’ ideology of the day or you are an intolerant, religious bigot filled with hatred for your fellow man. The world no longer seems to accept the idea that we can agree to disagree respectfully, and still love and care about each other. That can make you hesitant to connect with people you meet. How do we go about finding joy in all this? How do we ‘Rejoice always.’?
I find my direction in verses 8 and 9. I work hard at filling up with things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy. I don’t always succeed mind you. I’ll click that link in Facebook on some topic of the day and foolishly read the comments only to be horrified at the hatred coming from people on both sides of the issue. I’ll watch the news for a half an hour and come away feeling as though there is no good left in the world. But it’s not true . . .
There are so many beautiful things in the world around us. So many loving, caring people. The trick is to look at that and not at what the media continually sends our way. After the attack in Paris someone posted a meme on Facebook with the words of Mr. Roger’s mother . . .
That’s what I look for these days. And those people are everywhere. But what about finding joy in your day to day life? What do you do on the days you couldn’t help watching the news or clicking that link on Facebook? How do you rejoice when someone you love is sick, when you’re not sure where the money’s coming from for your baby’s formula, or the dog threw up on your brand new carpet for the third time that week? The bible and prayer are our first lines of defense of course. Maybe you have favorite passages marked for just these times. Mine is the passage from Philippians. But it doesn’t stop there. The next thing is to do something. Something to remind yourself of the beauty God put in our world. Some people like to write down all the things they have to be thankful for. A reminder that there are many, many things that we often overlook. They can be as tiny as frosty drops of water on a fuzzy leaf, to as large as an unexpected raise in pay when you had been helplessly watching your bank balance fall farther and farther in the red for months on end.
Holly bought me a wonderful edition of Ann Voskamp’s book ‘One Thousand Gifts’ right after my surgery. Ann talks about how writing down all the gifts she came across in her day today life changed her perspective over time. I tried that as well, but, as much as I love words, I couldn’t seem to keep it up. For me, photography is how I see and share what brings me joy. I love macro photography because it brings the astounding detail and care God put into the natural word into sharp focus. Still life allows me to craft a beautiful moment, using what’s at hand. It makes me look hard for the beauty in things. I will look at the items from every angle, moving things from here to there, searching out the best light, losing myself in that peaceful moment. Photography for me has become one for the biggest ways I search everyday for those things we are called to fill our lives with in Philippians 4:8.
What’s wonderful about it, is that I’m able to share it, to add to the ‘lovely’ in the world rather than the ‘doom and gloom’. One of my favourite thoughts about this is from Lucy Maud Montgomery’s book ‘Anne of Avonlea’:
“I’d like to add some beauty to life,” said Anne dreamily. “I don’t exactly want to make people know more. . .though I know that is the noblest ambition. . .but I’d love to make them have a pleasanter time because of me. . .to have some little joy or happy thought that would never have existed if I hadn’t been born.”
So here’s a little extra ‘lovely’ to finish off your week, and I’d love to know what you do to find joy in your everyday. Do you stop your housework and cross stitch for an hour? Make cookies? Write stories? Read to your grand-kids? Rub your husband’s back? Set a pretty table? I’d love to hear what you do to ofset the doom and gloom that surrounds us these days.