1. Shocker - I'm going to go with Ainsley Joy:
Jesus said to them, "Children, you have no fish, have you?" They answered him, "No."
He said to them, "Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some." So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, "It is the Lord!" When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea. (John 21:5-7)
Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning. (Psalm 30:5b)
This week I've been watching parents of the young people slain at Virgina Tech trying to make meaning out of the lives of their lost children, and each one seems to begin by focusing on something joyful about that child. It's a gift that most humans have brains wired to respond in that way. For some of us it can be harder to work our way out of dark places, but I believe joy remains the key. It is the spirit of resurrection.
Tell us about five people, places, or things that have brought surprising, healing joy into your life.
(she's wearing our new "baby wipe hat" - all the rage in baby fashion...) I get to see this face almost every morning when she wakes us up 'cause she's hungry. How could you not feel joyful? But even when she's fussy or out-and-out angry, she's our little babydoll and we've fallen head over heels in love. I can't imagine the pain the parents of Va Tech students are experiencing this week - but I know the love they feel in their hearts for their children.
2. Music Music Music! Lately I've been on a serious Celtic & Irish kick, most likely thanks to my friend Aaron's group The Wild Clover Band. I've also subscribed to a cool Irish & Celtic Music Podcast and found myself purchasing the odd Chieftains cd as well. Music has been my first and most reliable refuge for healing and surprising joy, from Rich Mullins to Caedmon's Call to Beethoven to Wynton Marsalis to Storyhill to Marty Haugen and many, many more.
3. The Stand by Stephen King This might seem a little strange, but anyone who's read The Stand cover to cover knows that it's an inspiring and emotional epic. I've always said that King's real gift is character development, not scary stories. That gift might be at its strongest here; I felt like I knew Stu Redman and Frannie and Mother Abigail and many of the others from the moment I began to read about them. I surprised myself by bursting into tears at the climax of the tale: normally I'm not an emotional reader. But this one got to me, and I think that anything that strikes such a deep emotional chord brings joy, even in the midst of sorrow.
4. Carol Joy Holling Camp in Ashland, NE I was a camper for five summers at CJH; it was the first place where I felt like I truly was important just because I was there. In college I worked at CJH for five summers straight and volunteered many other times until I left Nebraska. I remember so many details about those summers: sleeping under starlit skies, playing Hunker Houser and Blob Tag, campfires, learning to play guitar, campers whose names and faces I will never forget. I discerned a call to ministry at CJH, and made friends for a lifetime. It truly is "a place set apart to grow in Christ."
5. Running I was not a runner until I turned 25. In fact, I was seriously overweight for most of my college years, due to eating like I was still playing football and throwing the shot instead of sitting on my rapidly-spreading can and smoking far too many cigarettes. But one day when I was 25 or so, I looked at my size 40 jeans and thought, "What the hell are you doing to yourself?" I stopped drinking real soda and bought my first pair of running shoes. When I started I could only go two minutes before I'd have to walk for two minutes. But I slowly became a better runner. Running kept me sane through some pretty crazy stuff, and helped me lose about seventy pounds and cut my jeans down to a 32 at my thinnest. Today, I'm a bit heavier than I'd like to be again, but considering all the early morning feedings and other bits that go along with caring for #1 on this list, I'm okay with where I'm at. In three weeks (three weeks? Zoinks!) I'll be running the Lincoln Marathon, my second; it will be a great day!
Note: I just realize that I never said anything about my faith or specific scripture passages or anything like that. I guess it seems to me that God is wrapped up in all of the above and more as well. Sometimes I think that Jesus would have been okay with living in the background a little more often, where people enjoy the gifts of life for what they are and see God in all of it.