Friday, June 11, 2010

The Sunny Side

Our two-year-old granddaughter Molly loves to be outdoors, and she wanted to go outside one day last week when we kept her. However the heat index was 104 degrees. Grandmothers melt at that level. Did you know?

She didn’t kick or scream when I told her, “No, it’s too hot, Molly.” But, disappointed, she did lie facedown on the cool pine floor remaining silent and sad for a few minutes. Then, up she came -- off to play again -- in her usual happy mood.

This winter, Jolie, our five-year-old granddaughter, went to school several days when gray skies ruled and outdoor temps ranged in the teens in South Texas. On the weekend, a sunny day finally came along, but the outdoor temps remained in the low 20s. Jolie’s mom looked up just in time to see Jolie walking out of their home. Clad in a two-piece bathing suit, sun glasses, and with a rolled beach towel under her arm, she was ready for fun in the sun. Young children don’t comprehend the seasons -- they just trust their eyes to tell them if it’s sunny outside.

As little ones grow up, they finally learn that you can’t always trust that the sunny skies will tell you the outside temperature. Sheltered by the indoors and looking out windows, our eyes don’t comprehend the freezing or blazing temperatures. Understanding the changing seasons does that. But Christians have received a permanent joy that has nothing to do with playing outdoors in pretty weather.

In one section of the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Galatians, he contrasts the works that come from our flesh, and the works that flow from the Holy Spirit, who abides within Christians and gifts us with power over the sins of the flesh

Paul calls gifts from the Holy Spirit the “fruit” of the Spirit. Notice that’s a singular fruit. Because the Holy Spirit abides in us, he brings along his nature which has plenty of nutritious goodness including: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (5:22). I love how Paul says there is no law against these, no throttle, no governor. Put them into gear as much as you want!

The one I want to focus on is joy. When we receive the Spirit of God, we receive the joy of God. God can gift joy because it is an innate quality of his. His abiding joy gifted to us does not depend upon sunny weather or circumstances. We can be in the throes of grief and still retain the joy of God. It may not bubble to the surface at those times, but it remains within us.

Because we have joy as a permanent gift, we are enabled to “enjoy” and “rejoice.” The prefix “en” means “in” or “into,” an act of taking in pleasure, from internal and external things. We can enjoy numerous things – from meditation on deeper things of life to the sight of a majestic mountain. The Spirit of God gifts us with the capacity to enjoy.

Also, the gift of joy gives us the ability to rejoice. The prefix “re” can mean once or repeatedly. We get to experience joy through one time events -- at a baptism or a wedding. Or, we rejoice again and again each time we see our loved ones or spouses or a sunrise. Bible reading can produce rejoicing, as the layers of God’s goodness become real to us. How many times have you rejoiced to see a child’s face light up with a smile? Take the hand of a young child and walk into any nursing home to see how aged, wrinkled faces react to someone so freshly molded from the hand of God.

A prophet wrote about how God, again and again, coos over us with satisfaction, “He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing” (Zephaniah 3:17). The word “rejoice” means that this happens repeatedly.

Kathy Hardee writes a blog where she shares one encouraging scripture each day. Her blog header reads, “Imagine God draping His arm around your shoulders every morning, and then telling you one thing.”

I’d like to borrow her phrase to emphasize that joy should rise with the sun each day. Imagine God draping his arm across your shoulder every morning and telling you, ‘Today I gift you joy, supported by my other attributes of love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

The old song lyrics from 1927 advises, “Keep on the sunny side of life.” Jesus followers, that’s genuine counsel. You’re not fooled by the hot or cold of life, because you are in a permanent season of joy.

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