Refreshing J.O.Y.


Today after English classes we hopped a bus to go visit the Global Outreach team a little over an hour away. They have been serving Slovak youth at a summer camp in what appears to be an older rustic ski resort. After a delicious dinner of sausages roasted over an open fire and Koffola (sorta like cola) there was a time of sharing by the campers. It was obvious that Erika has been doing a fabulous job leading the team. Everyone was really enjoying themselves, the staff, the campers, and the guests. It was refreshing!

I grew up in “serious” churches, full of stuffy people who were rarely fun or expressed joy. Think Footloose, for those who have seen the movie. I was so performance oriented I was afraid of my own shadow. I thought being a Christ follower was about all the things you didn’t do- in other words, to be approved you did not dance, listen to rock music, have non-christian friends, laugh too hard, watch anything other than G rated movies, and so on. Never mind being hard on myself for failing miserably at all of the things I was supposed to be doing.

Which left me wondering, where’s the joy?

Nancy shared this morning about how a student from Slovakia she met 7 years ago found out she was returning this summer and sought her out. He’s been struggling with issues like we all do, but he asked her a curious question – “Why are you so happy all the time?” Nancy got to explain she is not happy all the time, but all the time is full of the joy that comes from knowing Jesus. The young man asked her to share more about this God who had filled her with joy! I’m sooooo thankful for pastor Matt who asks us not to take ourselves too seriously so that we can take Him seriously. And for Nancy who is full of joy an unafraid in expressing it!

When I went to camp many years ago I remember hearing an acrostic for joy, Jesus Others You. I remember being told if I would follow Jesus first, and put others ahead of myself, then I would experience real and lasting joy. The trouble was I was so busy not doing things I was really focused on me first which messed the joy thing all up. Never mind being able love or serve others.

So, as crazy as this might sound, a bunch of ‘strangers’ from 3 different U.S. churches along with a few dozen staff and Slovak campers were encouraged to join in some line dancing (the Cupid something, the Electric Shuffle, and the Macarena!). No one was taking themselves too seriously, everyone was laughing and smiling, and doing their best to simply enjoy themselves and each other.

I’ve come to believe the Lord delights in His children when they are enjoying each other, and sharing His love and joy with others. I’ve learned that God is much less concerned about Do’s and Don’ts and far more concerned about hearts and lives. King David danced and he was a man after God’s own heart.

Laughing, smiling, and spending time with others tonight was refreshing and brought a lot of joy. And who knows, maybe one day someone will ask, “Why are you so happy?” And we’ll get to share the unconditional love of Jesus with them.

Thank you for supporting us in prayer!