Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Joy

"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things."

Today I was reminded of the power of God and the ability we have to stop up that power in our own lives. I should be careful here because I don't want to come off all "prosperity gospel" or anything because I believe that's a crock of $#!%. But the simple fact of the matter is that in this world, especially with our mass communication via internet, television, radio and print media, there are more and more things that we can think on. We have the ability to go anywhere we like and hear these voices, refraining from silence and not allowing the Spirit of God a minute of solitude to speak to us. It is not difficult at all. I've realized the especially negative slant that each of these often take, whether it's Sports Talk Radio, Rush Limbaugh or the new Progressive Talk Radio - the name of the game is complaining. Straight up negativity. Go to your local or national news and its the same. The internet is flush with stories about the problems in our world - real or imagined...

Now, please don't get me wrong, we absolutely need to keep abreast of what is going on in our world. I will not, cannot advise us to put our heads in the sand. That is simply idiotic. But there's a great difference between keeping informed in order to do something and simply being a passive conduit for gossip - a fly attracted to the ever-glowing orb of sin that is in our society - moth to the flame. It's not necessary to know of EVERY murder in order to know that there are people suffering the loss of a loved one. We do not need to know the details of every celebrity divorce to know that our fratured society contiues to press incredibly on the bonds of marriage. We do not need to watch ever police car chase, in-store robbery video or surveliance camera to know that people are running and hurting each other...

What I was reminded of today, after a great time of sharing and prayer with my good friend Jeff, was that we can be even more effective ministers and servants of the Lord when we actually dwell on those things that are good, pure, lovely, true, noble... When our mind is thinking of God, we can have the eyes of God to see the hurt, the heart of God to be moved to action and the hands and voice of God to act in the way that God knows is best. I thought of this today on my way to Trenton Psychiatric Hospital where I will be interning as a chaplain this year. I was nervous - scared really, with the prospect of being on a "floor" for the first time, coming face to face with patients in "their" environment, with no structure or no other people to hold on to... but as I finally rolled up and parked, I was singing Chris Tomlin song, about our Awesome God... and the fear seemed to be a distant memory. Instead it was God, the ever-present help in trouble, the one who cares so deeply for these people, who wants more than anyone to bring healing and restoration to their tormented lives - that God was on my mind, and somehow the idea of meeting with these people seemed to be so much less terrifying. As it turned out, I only got my ID card, said high to my supervisors, picked up some bulletins and headed out. No visiting floors, no stopping in to see patients, not today.

But I realized in all of this, that I've spent a lot of time lately thinking on things other than God. Not always terrible things, not necessarily dwelling on the dark side of our society, watching horror movies or something - but simply not on God - not on THE Good. And I was reminded of the power of God to fill our minds with joy and hope when we only choose to think on God. When we cease to fill our minds with all the other stuff, when we allow God room to work, room to move in our lives - we can begin to experience the joy that God so desperately wants to give us.

Now, mind you, I'm not talking about being happy. Happiness and joy are miles apart. Joy is deeper and more lasting and it can remain even in those times of unhappiness. Joy is what is found in God - happiness, well that's probably best described as the good feelings you get from other things - which are always fleeting, the brief highs from those things of this world. But the joy of the Lord...

1 comment:

DennisS said...

"Consider it all joy, whenever you fall into various trials" (James 1:2).

It's not "if" we have trials, but "when".

Some of your trials will be on the "floor" as you put it. Some trials will be in everyday life, when you realize you haven't thought on God for a while.

This can easily happen in ministry - not thinking on God for several days. Seriously! That's why the priorities and disciplines must be established.

It's so easy to get distracted by all that is going on, and begin "doing" ministry - not seeing, not hearing God. When that happens, it is empty words which are spoken - not truth. When that happens, the downcast are invisible, remaining in darkness (Eph. 5:3-14).

Congratulations on your internship. I'm praying that you bring light, even in merely listening while on the floor. Even in the midst of pain, may you have the presence of joy, wrapped in peace.