The Alphabet of Us: J is for Joy …… February 9, 2015

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builfing block J big

Joy is the juice we freshly squeeze off the fruit we bear.

Indeed.

For you see, joy is the intelligent blending of self-love, faith in God and patience with others.

Self-love: whatever the circumstances, I am worthy of a second chance.

Faith in God: rather than debating the existence of a Creator, I will learn what I can from creation.

Patience with others: unless someone is threatening to take my life, I will let people choose their own paths.

I will answer questions yet I will encourage myself to stop questioning so much.

In applying self-love, we confirm our benefit by remembering a blessing which shouts loud and proud our ability to be productive. Honestly, I get myself in trouble when I think the present difficulty is more ferocious than past difficulties which I’ve already survived.

And certainly, the best way to spur on faith in God is to take on a human project other than yourself. In other words, help someone who is obviously less fortunate and less able to fend for their own needs. In doing so, you will squeeze out more of that joy juice which will initiate new ideas for your own predicament.

And finally, make sure you understand that the reason we express patience for others is because human beings are the only creatures on earth who have been guaranteed the breath of God. So if we find ourselves breathless with anticipation or calamity, the only place to receive breath is from others.

There is no divine heavenly air hose to bring us back to life. We get our breath from our brothers and sisters.

I have discovered that those friends of mine who have the correct balance of self-love, faith in God and patience with others always manage, in a season of trial, to muster grace and sprout joy instead of languishing in frustration or desperation.

Joy is a powerful part of our being. It is the only way for us to drink the spiritual vitamin C–that being “contentment.”

 

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Published in: on February 9, 2015 at 2:35 pm  Comments (2)  
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Trinity Means Three … July 9, 2012

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Situated almost directly between Chattanooga and Soddy-Daisy, Tennessee, is a wonderfully blessed space in the road named Hixson, where I spent my Sunday with the inspiring folks of Trinity Lutheran Church.

There are those in this country of a more liberal bend who would refer to this particular region as “back-woods,” while who are more conservative in their preferences might call the area “the real America.” Since I do not prescribe to either camp, I will tell you that determining the quality of the people I meet is not based upon where I go, but instead, a choice of two approaches. It doesn’t matter if you’re in Dixie or New York City, you’re probably going to fall into one of these categories: (1) I love people and I will change myself until I do; (2) I just believe that some people are unlovable.

Now, if you happen to be in that second group, you’re likely to be suspicious, grumpy, pessimistic and may even sprout an occasional sprig of prejudice. If you’re in the first group of people,  you’re not better than anyone else–you’re just aware that you’re not, and are prepared to make the adjustment towards mercy, knowing that’s the only way to obtain it for yourself.

All that being said, let me tell you that I found the people of Hixson to be in Group 1. Actually, most of the world around me, in my opinion, is in that first group. There are those who find that overly optimistic. But after all, once someone is in Group 2, there’s not a whole lot I can do for them. They’ve probably already found me to be unlovable.

So may I say thank you to Pastor Gary, Pam, Marty and all the sweet souls at Trinity? And I know when you named your church Trinity, you were thinking of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, which certainly is a righteous tripling. But as a parting piece of grace and insight from this traveling troubadour, may I offer you another trinity? Yes–can I present to you three ideas which just might help to continue to enrich the fertile soil in which you plant your gospel seed?

1. Find yourself without fear. Don’t get fooled. You will never find God until you find yourself, discover your own weaknesses and approach them without fear or condemnation. Righteous people aren’t perfect. Honestly, they’re often not even what you would call “good.” They’re just unafraid to admit their lack–and therefore, they grow in their strengths. Be the first one in your neighborhood to notice what you don’t do very well and have the confidence in your talents in to share your shortcomings without fear.

2. Find others without being afraid. Once you’ve taken a journey through your own soul and survived the odyssey, extend the same mercy and tenderness to other folks that you just gave to yourself. It’s often the case that people are not mean–they’re just dissatisfied and they’re trying to create the rest of the world in their image. If you’re not afraid of who you are, you become valuable to both friends and strangers because you don’t have to be afraid of who they are. Sometimes our discoveries are alarming–but if we’ve allowed ourselves the salvation of being free of fear, we can escape all that apprehension and start to love people where they are and give them a chance to find their way. Here’s a truth–you will never find others until you first find yourself–without fear.

3. Find God in your lack of fear. I know there are those who will quote, with great reverence, that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” But sooner or later, we have to stop “beginning” wisdom and actually embrace it. I will tell you of a certainty that the wisdom of the Lord is the end of fear. As the Bible says quite beautifully, “perfect love casts out fear.” Once you find yourself without fear, it gives you the courage to find others without being afraid. Surviving that project, you are now ready to find God in your lack of fear.

Sooner or later, following Jesus of Nazareth has to be more than acquiring a bus ticket to heaven. Jesus did not envision being a caretaker for a bunch of sick souls whom he transports to eternity for rehab. He envisioned making strong people who were the “light of the world” and the “salt of the earth”–people who live without fear and therefore do not have to warm up their hearts to accept others, but already have a pre-heated oven of compassion, ready and waiting.

So I walked out of yesterday a blessed man and climbed into my van, having been in Hixson, Tennessee. Long ago I rejected the over-simplistic attitudes of the conservatives and liberals and have been on a quest to discover the soul of America, one person at a time. I leave behind a little piece of my heart for Trinity–and many of my thoughts, and I encourage them to take on a new trinity:

  • Find yourself without fear.
  • Find others without being afraid.
  • And therefore, find God in your lack of fear.

It truly is the essence of all that we really know about the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit.

   

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