This time of year is bittersweet for a lot of people. So many things change as the seasons go from summer to fall. It is easy to begin to miss the lazy summer days even before they are gone and to anticipate the challenges of the fall with undue anxiety. For me, one of the ways that I have begun to really enjoy every moment that I am given here on this earth is to stop and take stock of the things that I am grateful for right now. The by product of that has been a fresh joy in my life. Fresh joy is a vital component of a happy and healthy life as I am discovering each day. I cannot rely on yesterdays triumphs for today’s joys nor can I count on future success that may not occur. So here are some things that are bringing joy into my life right now:
1. Discovering that people actually sell produce on the honor system in a nearby neighborhood. Ripe, juicy tomatoes sitting out on a table for the taking with a simple sign to identify how much to pay for each bunch. Who knew this type of trusting person still exists in America and that such good fruit was being grown in suburban back yards?
2. Finding out that mums was not just a British way of saying “moms” and are in fact are beautiful flowers that can be planted at this time of year. They certainly brought joy to my wife’s face as we picked out several different colors of mums and used them as table decorations for our guests before they were planted. Fresh flowers in the house are a great way to bring out a smile even on a rainy day.
3. Spending time with my aunt and uncle who never seem to change. My aunt and uncle live in Madrid, Spain and only get back to the USA on an occasional basis. The last time that we saw them was six years ago. How much fun it was to enjoy a meal with them this weekend and share stories about the house that we now live in (my aunt used to live in this house when she was growing up). My aunt is so much like my mother that it is a little scary – they both love life and live it to the fullest. Her husband Tom is one of those people who has fixed opinions about things and is usually right. I will try not to hold it against him that he likes bull fights and the Real Madrid soccer team, since he does actually live in Spain.
4. Getting to meet a living evangelical legend in person. This week I got to meet Tony Campolo and his team. Regardless of what one may think of Tony’s political leanings, he is as genuine a person as you will ever meet with a heart for the poor and oppressed. I had just had the privilege of hearing him preach the weekend before and was amazed to see that his fervor for the truth of the gospel had not diminished any since I first saw him preach “It’s Friday, But Sunday’s Coming.” As he left the office for some upcoming speaking engagements, he made sure to keep a long standing ritual going with his team as he hugged each of them and said goodbye.
5. Realizing that making big lifestyle changes like exercising on a Sunday afternoon rather than taking a nap can have both short and long term benefits. In the short term, I actually have more energy (go figure) and in the long term I may actually lose some weight and possibly even live longer. Somehow that knowledge does not entirely compensate for all the aches and pains, but the energy burst is certainly a good trade off.
Fresh joy is so essential in a world of constant bad news and negative emotions. The wonderful thing about it is that it does not have to made up, but simply embraced. As a Christian, my greatest joy is in realizing my status before God as his son and heir. The mystery of the exchanged life – Jesus taking all my sin, shame and guilt and I being given his robes of righteousness is almost more than I can fully take in and yet it is true. What a wonderful savior and joy giver he is – every single day no matter what my circumstances may say.