The Thirty Minute Blogger

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Thursday, August 29, 2013

Spreading Joy: Look for the Chances

I am a strong believer in joy--in its power, its ability to strengthen oneself and others, and its contagious and beneficial nature. I've always been a strong advocate of joy, even in difficult times. This is no surprise since, as a Christian, my Bible contains over 400 references to joy and speak again and again of the main roads to joy. Those reliable, well traveled roads include: knowledge of God's Word producing joy; worship evoking joy; obedience discovering joy; and work fostering joy! (See Dictionary of Biblical Imagery for more on joy.) I so believe in the power of joy, I wrote an final term paper in a seminary course which became a professionally published paper titled "Joy in Evangelism." (I know what you're thinking ... joy, evangelism, how do THOSE two go together?!) The paper began: "As the story of Jesus is declared in Luke 2:10-11 to be "good news of great joy for all people," Christian evangelists really should provide a joyful witness to the world. Years ago I donned grease paint, a crazy quilt outfit, and hit the boards as "Joyful Noise," a Christian clown. Using a "joyful witness," integral to the very definition of evangelism according to American Baptist Churches USA, I was able to invite people to accept the messages of God's love and Jesus' redemption while we laughed together, sharing the joy I feel in my faith." To sum up, I'm a real believer in the power of joy ... even in the midst of sorrow.

Last weekend, after performing a eulogy for my 98 year old grandmother and helping her walk her final mile in dignity, God presented me and my family with an opportunity to spread a little joy ... and in doing so receive some joy ourselves. My father's porch, where we were all gathered, was built in 1929, back when they really knew how to build porches. We were there enjoying the almost always present breeze that gently moves across that artfully built porch. As we worked to keep our spirits up, a lively, roughly four year old, blonde neighbor's grand daughter bounced onto that porch full of energy and asked us if we wanted to buy some cupcakes. "They're good!" she added with much energy. We suggested we might buy some after dinner and she ran back down the street yelling to parents and grandparents that the folks up the street WOULD buy cupcakes after dinner.

Her enthusiasm and joy for her and her little brother's business was contagious. I was reminded of the scolding Scrooge took from the Ghost of Christmas Past when he poo-pooed the idea of being able to spread joy with the expenditure of a few coins as Fezziwig had done with all those Christmas feasts back in the day. I reached into my pocket and realized I had the means to spread a little joy myself ... and could really use it after saying that last goodbye to a wonderful grandmother (the last goodbye this side of the new heaven and earth that is). I sent my wife and daughter down the hill with thirty cents (cupcakes at 10 cents each ... what a deal, huh?!). That little girl exploded with excitement when they showed up. So did her parents and grandparents. We were really creating a joyful moment ... and so simply.

As for me, always looking for that moment of joy, I pried myself loose from my chair (recovering from an upper respiratory tract infection made that an interesting challenge in itself ... but a non-contagious one ... I suffer alone when I get sick ... and consider that a blessing actually) with the remaining quarter in my pocket and went down the hill myself to buy a couple more cupcakes we really didn't need (one for my dad) and handed over that quarter to even more joy from the family ... and more joy for me in their reaction. When that little girl asked me if I had another "money" for her little brother, I told her the money I gave her was worth "two monies and a little bit more." She was pleased but went to grandmom anyway for another money for her brother so they'd have the same.

After that, with joy spreading around, that little business woman ran up the street hollering, we have one last cupcake! One cupcake! She sold it to a neighbor lady out for a jog with a friend. Exercise and a cupcake, what could be better.

The cupcakes were good, really good, but the joy spread both ways was far sweeter. I didn't expect to be able to give and get joy on that difficult weekend. But the wonderful thing about joy is that, unlike happiness, it can even be present in grief. Now, that's a gift from God. Being a big believer in joy, I'll keep looking for those little moments to spread joy wherever I go.

The theologian Henri Nouwen has a wonderful observation about joy in his devotional book Bread for the Journey. He states, "Strange as it may sound, we choose joy. Two people can be part of the same event, but one may choose to live it quite differently from the other. One may choose to trust that what happened, painful as it may be, holds a promise. The other may choose despair and be destroyed by it. What makes us human is precisely this freedom of choice."

I'll choose joy every time. How about you?

For a post on a similar theme, see:

For more posts on joy, see:,, and

There's more if you like these. This subject is very near and dear to my heart. Wishing you a joyful life.

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