Across the Pastor’s Desk: Seek joy in experiences God sends
Published 8:00 pm Friday, October 13, 2023
Across the Pastor’s Desk by Loren Olson
I was recently at a community event where there was live music. Up near the stage was a middle-aged woman dancing and singing along with the band. She didn’t have much rhythm, and her singing didn’t add much to the experience. But I noticed the joy on her face as the band played songs from the 1970s. As the saying goes, “She was dancing like nobody was watching.”
I have developed a habit through the years of crawling out of bed in the morning saying to myself, “This is the day the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it.” Some mornings I’m more enthusiastic than others, but I think it is a great way to begin the day, thinking about rejoicing and being glad.
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Jesus’ promises of joy are remembered in John’s gospel. “These things I have spoken to you that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” “I have come that they may have life and have it abundantly.” “In the world you have tribulation but be of good cheer. I have overcome the world.” This is the kind of joy God would like us to find as we journey through each new day.
Our world offers joy through the consumption of material things, believing the path to joy is paved with various gadgets, the right cologne or perfume, the kind of automobile one drives or the latest status label. Our world offers joy in drugs and alcohol and other forms of consciousness-altering substances. Our world offers joy through tantalization and eroticism. And look at the consequences of all these shallow promises of joy. Epidemic depression and suicide rates, broken families, polarization of neighbors and general disintegration of human relationships. We should have learned by now that joy is not in stuff and momentary pleasures.
Joy is in singing and dancing along to a favorite song. It’s cradling a baby in our arms. It’s being surprised by a spectacular rainbow. It’s sitting along the bank of a river watching the brightly colored fall leaves float by. It’s gathering in worship with friends new and old. It’s doing an act of kindness for a neighbor or a stranger.
In the early days of Apple Corporation, Steve Jobs was trying to recruit a marketing executive away from a soft drink company. He was not making progress until he challenged, “Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water, or do you want to change the world?” Do you want to be the kind of person who changes things and makes things joyful? Start each day with rejoicing and gladness and seek joy in the people and experiences God sends your way.
Loren Olson is chaplain of Mayo Clinic Hospice.