Come, everyone! Clap your hands! Shout to God with joyful praise! Psalm 47:1. A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person's strength. Proverbs 17:22. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Romans 12:12. "This Joy I have, The World Didn't Give It To Me and The World Can't Take It Away." Shirley Caesar.
I am indeed blessed to see 2021; so are you. (You are reading this post)! Like many, my thoughts turned to making a New Year's resolution. After considerable thought, I ruled against it; mainly because I have not been good at keeping resolutions. Yes, I start out resolute and unwavering, but somewhere (about two weeks in) my resolve begins to wane. So for the rest of the year I do this pitiful dance of committing, starting, falling off, restarting and finally pretending that I never made a resolution in the first place. It is said that when we get older, we get wiser. I should be pretty wise by now (not necessarily so), but I am going to try something different this year. There will be no resolution. That does not mean that I do not intend to make changes, but my approach will be more natural and therefore (in my opinion), more achievable.
In looking back over the years, I realized that every time I made a resolution, I was going against the grain (my will), and almost doomed to not succeed. I know, it sounds like I am wimping out or trying to make things happen without effort. Not true. We all know that if there is no effort, nothing gets done. But, why make things more difficult than they need to be. I digress. Some deep introspection took place and I had a lot of conversations, mainly with folks who had long abandoned resolutions. I was not looking for this, but it seems that most of the people I spoke with had given up on making resolutions because as soon as they made them, they just as quickly forgot them.
Then, one day (quite innocently) my personal trainer at the end of a zoom exercise class asked everyone what was their word for the year. Immediately, the word "joy" came to my mind and I blurted it out. Prior to that class I had been thinking about life (which is something that I do often), and joy and happiness entered the landscape of my mind. So I think this was harboring around the surface of my thoughts and I spoke it. After the class ended, I explored this some more. For years I understood happiness to be based on circumstances, and if all things don't align, then more than likely one will not experience happiness. In other words, according to the dictionary, happiness is that feeling that comes over you and you can't help but smile. Happiness is a sense of well being or contentment. When people are successful, or safe, or lucky, they feel happiness...No one ever complained about feeling too much happiness. Let me qualify, this is not my definition. It is one that I googled. Of course, we all want happiness, (or some form of it), but is this always possible? We will discuss spiritual happiness at another time. I get that some people believe that happiness is a state of mind. Hey, if that works for you , I guess that's okay. So far, it has not for me. On the other hand, let's look at joy.
JOY: is an attitude of the heart and spirit, present inside of us as an untapped reservoir of potential. It's possible to feel joy in difficult times. Joy doesn't need a smile in order to exist, although it does feel better with one. Joy can share its space with other emotions -- sadness, shame or anger.
In the movie, "I'm Gonna Git You Sucka," hero John Slade (played by actor Bernie Casey) teaches his sidekick Jack Spade (who notices that John Slade is always followed by a group of musicians playing the song, "Shaft"), a lesson about always having your own theme music. When asked by his sidekick Jack Spade: "Who are these guys?" John Slade replies: "They're my theme music. Every good hero should have some!" I agree. I know this is just a movie, but it is not a bad idea to have a song, event, concept, memory or a scripture that uplifts you (makes you feel joyful) every day.
In view of this and other considerations, I have chosen "JOY" as my theme song. Why joy? Because joy can be found in the simplest of things. It does not need much fanfare to bring about exuberance. I made a list of a few things that bring me joy (for real). Not things that I say I find joy in sometimes, but things that really and consistently lift me. I'll share a few with you.
My granddaughter Journey's sweet voice and independent attitude; I asked her to put icing on a cup cake (that she was making with her mom) and freeze it for grandma (She calls me MAMA), and in her sweet 2 (almost 3) year old voice, she said "Y e a h." I am smiling right now. 2. My grandson Josiah when I facetime with him on the phone and I ask him for a kiss; he leans into the screen for me to kiss him. I melt every time and I can hardly contain my joy. Just one more about my grandchildren. 3. My muscular 10 year old grandson James; when he says "I love you grandma, can I get a hug?" He leans in to give me a great big bear hug which almost knocks me down. I tell me him, "get your big self off of me," after I hug him back. I love it and it leaves me grinning from ear to ear. Of course, I don't let him see me smiling. He might double the amount of hugs. (I am not as strong as I used to be- smile!). 4. Waking up every day, knowing that God has given me another chance. 5. Knowing that God is sovereign. I am going to stop here.
In the Psalm 47 (penned by King David) noted above, there are two schools of thought. "All (both Jews and Gentiles) magnify the Lord: Jews for being delivered from Babylonian captivity; the Gentiles, for being called to enter into glorious liberty of the children of God." Study Light.org commentary. The other: According to Christian scholars, King David indicates that this psalm was written when King David brought the Ark of the Covenant to Mount Zion. The foregoing are both occasions to celebrate. Fast forward to today, we still have many reasons to rejoice. COUNT YOUR MANY BLESSINGS AND START SHOUTING!!!
King David was noted in scripture as "a man after God's own heart." At once you would think that King David was perfect or at least very good. Quite the contrary, he was a liar, an adulterer and a murderer. Before you "clutch the pearls," look in the mirror. Anyway, King David had something that a lot of folks don't. He had a heart for God. The Bible (and other biblical resources consulted) will confirm that "David was hungry for God, he had a passion for spiritual things, and he tried to please God despite his failures. He had ABSOLUTE faith in God and a deep desire to follow God's will and do "everything" God wanted him to do. (Can you say the same for yourself?)
Let's continue. David's faith pleased God, and God rewarded David for his faithfulness. (Before I leave you with the impression that David's actions had no consequences, cancel that thought. He paid a heavy price for his sins, but it did not deter his love and reverence for God). David absolutely loved God's laws. Psalm 119:41-48. After David sinned, he was truly repentant. 2 Samuel 11:2-5. DAVID'S JOY WAS THE LORD. "As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul thirsts for God, for the living God." Psalm 42:1
Living a life without joy would be an existence that no one would wish on an enemy. So why do so many of us drift into a joyless existence? I think it is because the world around us influences us and has so impacted us to accept its version of what joy is and what happiness is for that matter; seemingly making it almost unattainable. Our perception has become warped and has limited our ability to find contentment. We are conditioned to believe that the big things (whatever that means to you) are what we need to feel secure and happy. Have you noticed that even when we have lots of "big things," we are still miserable?
Well, I say open your mind and your heart and your eyes and allow yourself to feel what real joy is. At least think about it. Start small!
Do What Brings You Joy! Why? Because within joy lies hope. Hope fuels motivation and is a major component of faith. "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." Hebrews 11:1. We can all agree that life would be pretty bleak without hope. Joy allows you to see the beauty of life in things big and small and the prospect of hope no matter the circumstances. Waiting around for your condition to be optimal may or may not materialize, but you can certainly embrace joy daily, hourly, etc., if you would just take a moment to appreciate even the little things that make you smile. Try it!
"Joy Comes In The Morning." Psalm 30:5. There is no way to escape the seasons that will come in our lives. (See Ecclesiastes 3). There is a time for everything. However, we can take joy in knowing that God has limited our time in each season and even while going through a particularly rough season, we can still experience joy because the Lord is with us. Think about the things that bring you joy. Make a list. I will just about guarantee you that if you find joy in the beauty of a bouquet of fresh flowers, their beauty will still lift you in spite of where you might be in your life.
Examine Rituals/Goals. When we take time to make resolutions, it is probably our way to ensure that we take actions to fulfill a goal that we have in mind. That is a good thing, and because I have decided not to go the way of a resolution this year, I am not giving up on accomplishments. Neither am I encouraging you to do that. As my grandmother used to say, "there is more than one way to skin a cat." In other words, you can still implement your goals without the boisterous declarations that so often fall flat. A friend of mine (Michelle) said, "Show me your rituals and I will show you your goals." Profound! I pondered this for a few moments and this is what I came up with. I will try to write more often, and I will exercise several days a week (no strict adherence just in case something comes up). Yet, a commitment. A light bulb went off; by writing more often I will finish my novel in a timely fashion, and I will obtain/maintain optimal health and weight management if I continue to exercise on a regular basis. Hmmm! Meeting goals; all this without declaring a resolution. If you want to make a resolution, then have at it! At least you have options.
2020 Is Gone And 2021 Has Replaced It; Make the Leap! There is no going back! You have a clean slate and the opportunity to make the most of the New Year. I was reading about someone who was lamenting that their life felt like a failure. My heart ached because at times many of us have felt that way (myself included). It is okay to feel what you feel, but you can either stay in that state of mind or realize that with each passing day there is a chance to accumulate small successes. Start by helping someone less fortunate; to them and in the eyes of God you will be a major success. I also heard a sermon last Sunday in which the Pastor said, "Sometimes God won't step in until you run out of options. The best part of your life is what God has next. Keep God first!" There, you have it; reasons to believe that you are not a failure because your actions in 2021 will prove that God has given you another chance to heighten your success! Make it count.
Maybe you have another word for the year. Great! My word is, "Joy." We all need a reason to keep moving and to be productive. I have decided to appreciate the things that bring me joy and to try in some way to bring joy to the lives of others. Let me add that, YOU bring me joy by reading my blogs. One of my readers responded by writing: "Your blog was just what I needed. Thank you for allowing God to use you." That was a compliment of the highest order and a vote of confidence. Carla, your comments brought me joy. Thank you.
Here's wishing you joy in the New Year 2021! May God richly bless you!
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