Choosing Joy

Shorty Baker and Doc Cheatam (1961)

 It’s the first thing I read each day.

I stagger half-asleep through the darkened kitchen, still doing my 15-minute breathing exercises that began in bed.  My phone is loaded with unread texts and social media love that came in while I was asleep.  But I leave it behind on my bedside table.  The thought of toasty waffles and a blueberry smoothie call to my taste buds.  But my appetite for peace is more ravenous.

Bypassing the toaster, I stop by the front door and take a décor sign off the wall.  I go outside with it and recline on the porch chair as the flow of early morning traffic faintly drones by.

And that’s when I read it.  Again and again and again.  A tiny, but powerful sentence of two words:

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My eyes feast on each letter, engraved in cursive.  With every breath that slowly lifts my head, my eyes zero in on “Choose.”  With each elongated exhale that brings my head back down, I whisper “Joy.”

“Choooooooooooooooooooooooooooose…

……………………………………………Joyyyy.”

“Choooooooooooooooooooooooooooose…

……………………………………………Joyyyy.”

It’s a gym of my panicked and traumatized mind.  There is no magic pill for the transformed mind.  It’s found only by sweetly resting in the Spirit of comfort day by troublesome day and learning to possess His attributes that do not come natural to us.

The wooden sign was a gift, created by homeless people.

My friends Ken and Wendy Kebrdle abandoned the lavish life of materialistic gluttony every American dreams of having and devoted themselves to helping the destitute discover the spiritual riches of Christ.

In order to earn bus passes and other items, they welcome them in off the street and give them jobs.  Some plant vegetables in a garden.  Others create chairs and signs to hang in homes…

Throughout the month, they have an outdoor church comprised entirely of homeless people that meet for worship.  I have had the privilege of speaking there on a couple of occasions.

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It’s funny how as a minister, you have all these daydreams of grandeur of you impacting the lives of other people and helping them get to heaven.  Only to have your own life impacted by the very ones you ministered to, while they help you get to heaven.

It’s a beautiful thought – the suffering helping the suffering.

On a daily basis, they minister to me with the reminder that joy is a choice.

Joy is different than happiness. Happiness is an emotion constantly subject to change.  Joy is an attitude, a mindset, a potent way of life that can be there during triumph or tragedy.

When someone who has never suffered with anxiety disorders or clinical depression gets in the face of someone who does and says “Just be happy!” it makes that suffering person want to take a pool cue and break it over their head.

Happiness, at least real happiness, can’t be turned off and on that easily.  Putting on a fake smile and pretending you’re happy when you aren’t only worsens the pain.

But joy.  Joy can be there even as you’re crying your heart out in prayer.  Joy passionately resided in the Lamb of God when He was massacred for the sins of the world.

But it is a choice.

Once I renew that choice each morning, it leads perfectly to the only other object I take outside with me.

A note card, this one nine words long.  The words of Paul of Tarsus.  Words so essential to my mental health, I have handwritten copies by my bed, in my office and in my car.

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“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.”

There’s so many words of emphasis here.

LET the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.

I have a choice.  I can be filled with the peace of Christ.  Or I can let my heart be troubled. He can silence the storms of my mind as He brought the sea storm to a perfect calm. But in part, because I had the desire for it to as the Apostles cried out to Him in the boat to save them as they began to sink.

let the PEACE OF CHRIST rule in your hearts.

Come to Him for your peace.  Him who offers peace, who is peace’s very Prince.  The peace of God that stands guard in front of our mind and heart when we’ve decided we don’t want to be anxious anymore, but rather crying out to Him with thanksgiving and for comfort.

let the peace of Christ RULE in your hearts.

Don’t seek just a little bit of peace to help get you through the day.  Let His peace reign and rule within you!  This is total reliance and trust in His peace as you brave the distractions and triggers that will come later in the day.

Before I even go inside and hang the sign back on the wall, I can feel all of the anxiety that awoke me just fifteen minutes earlier completely gone.

Stressful and debilitating and terrifying and heartbreaking situations are coming whether we want them to or not.  Difficult people who thrive on what triggers our panic points are coming whether we want them to or not.

But when they do, there’s choices we can make that changes everything in those moments.

I know it sounds too easy to be true.  But I’m living proof that God is greater than anything that threatens to destroy us.

Choose joy.

And once joy has been your pursuit, LET the PEACE OF CHRIST RULE in your heart.

“These things I have spoken to you, so that in ME you may have PEACE.  In the world, you WILL have tribulation.

“But take courage.  I have overcome the world.  Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you.  Not as the world gives do I give to you.  Do not LET your heart be troubled, nor LET it be fearful.” – Jesus Christ

Learn more about the Wear Gloves ministry here.

2 thoughts on “Choosing Joy

  1. How does one choose joy when the joy doesnt exist? Am i happy mostly but i struggle to find the joy within my happiness…..

    Like

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