Journey into Joy

Behind the Camera Lens

The preparation of today’s blog became an exercise in joy itself. For days from my devotional porch swing, I watched the rising sun kiss the sunflowers in a daily greeting, accompanied with a chorus of hummingbirds and bees. I felt joy surround me and the impression from God saying, “My joy is this big!”

I felt Joy surround me and the impression from God saying, “My joy is this big!”

One sunflower can hold 2000 sunflower seeds, with some plants reaching 25 and even 30 feet high. Of the 4000 bee species native to North America (the European Settlers brought the Honey Bee), we see two tiny bees enjoying the sunflower’s bounty.

I set the large sunflower on my desk in front of me, started the video camera and told how the flower became a “joy island” for bees, hummingbirds, yellow finches and then all across the desk … Ants. Ants dropped from the severed head of the sunflower like a rain of crazed paratroopers. Crawling over my notes and my hands, do I smack them while speaking of the joy of the Lord? Should I make a disclaimer that, “No ants were harmed during this filming?”

Out the door with the flower and the ants, or at least the majority, gathered up, the shooting continued. Blessedly, the lens was out of focus and you were spared witnessing the ant assault on Pastor Jim. Though I am certain I would have been a better preacher over the years if I were covered with ants during the sermon.

Crawling with Joy

What humor {wait I feel something crawling in my leg} God must have to watch me swinging at ants like a distracted orchestra conductor while speaking about joy. Now I begin to understand the note CS Lewis scribbled about joy tucked inside a used book –“Real joy … jumps under ones ribs and tickles down one’s back and makes one forget meals and keeps one (delightedly) sleepless o’ nights”.  It shocks one awake when the other puts one to sleep. My private table is one second of joy is worth 12 hours of Pleasure. I think you really quite agree with me.”

“Real joy … jumps under ones ribs and tickles down one’s back and makes one forget meals and keeps one (delightedly) sleepless o’ nights”.  It shocks one awake when the other puts one to sleep. My private table is one second of joy is worth 12 hours of Pleasure. I think you really quite agree with me.”

CS Lewis – handwritten found in the flyleaf of a book
Van Gough did a series of 12 paintings on sunflowers. Perhaps we shared the same experience with ants. Certainly with joy he painted not a single painting but two series of paintings entitled “Sunflowers.”

Happy Me,

Pastor Jim

This audio blog talks about a journey to joy islands to find the secret to overcoming isolation, depression and anxiety. When Jesus walked with his disciples between the Upper Room and the Garden of Gethsemane, he spoke with them about joy that comes from God. This joy can be yours today! Some resources mentioned: How to use prayer beads: A Bead and a Prayer.

Blue Jasper and Robles at Unspoken Elements Tell Heather that Pastor Jim sent you.
A Bead and a Prayer from ChristianBooks.com

Anger: The Wind that Blows out the Lamp of the Mind

Despite number of miles driven dropping 8.6 percent due to COVID-19, car crash fatalities jumped 14 percent. Road Rage … Righteous Indignation … and Refusal to Let it Go … are the fuels of anger and bitterness. Bitterness is simply anger that has petrified, hardened and entrenched in its position over time.

Mandrel Baboon

Yesterday I experienced the strangest road rage at the hands of a fellow driver. A little irritated from forgetting my wallet, I left my cart in Home Depot and pulled out of the parking lot for what I thought was an uneventful three minute trip home. Then the unexpected happened.

My grown sons, and grandson, chide me for my slow driving. “Have to drive the speed limit or less, you know the dashcam records speed.” At tortoise speed I traveled a mile per hour below the speed limit. Then behind me a gray import car drafted on my rear bumper.

Then the ominous signs – headlights flashing in my rear mirror and horn honking like an enraged goose. Not just once or twice … Multiple times. Beyond the first stop sign, that car still glued on my bumper in the no passing zone. So I did the only Christian thing to do … I slowed down two more miles per hour. This is a good time to teach that little gray haired lady a lesson on safe driving.

Upon my reduced speed, I saw the driver’s hand extend out the window, gesturing at me. “This is too much!” I told myself. I will skip my turn coming up and teach this “little old lady from Pasadena” a godly lesson on obeying the speed limit.”

“What if I brake checked her … and dealt her a real lesson? She would deserve it. No one would know. Wait, my dash cam would capture it. Can’t do that. Lord, help me. I am weak!”

Wait, the blue-haired speed demon is turning right; so I made a sudden lane change at the same right turn to stay ahead of her. Now, I see instead of her hand … she’s holding her cell phone out the window. “Just great! She’s possessed and capturing my slow driving on her phone! Another mile or two at turtle speed limit should reinforce my righteous lesson. Someone must hold forth the banner of safe driving.”

At the stop sign, I saw the driver’s door crack open. “Oh, no. She’s not going Rambo on me, is she? I guess you can find all types in a good neighborhood.” She followed me as I made my next left. “Oh, no. I hope she doesn’t live on the same block.” Now almost attached to my back bumper … I look her right in her glaring eyes through my rear mirror.

There she was looking right back at me! Then as though someone gave a lunatic the oxygen mask of sanity, the expression on her face, I realized was not anger after all but … puzzled … The puzzled expression… on the face of my wife, Carolyn!

After I left for Home Depot, my wife saw I left my cell phone with my credit cards. So, she followed me to Home Depot and intercepted my car as I made my turn out of the parking lot.

What I thought was a mobile lunatic was someone who loved me trying reach out to me with a gesture of love.

The hand extended … not as an obscene gesture but one offering help.

The phone not invading my privacy but an offer to return my own phone and help me complete my purchase. My wife ran to the side of my stopped car and gave her embarrassed husband his phone and credit cards. I thanked her for her love and consideration (while wondering what the outcome might have been had I brake checked her, causing her to damage her 2019 Honda CRV, possibly even deploying the air bag. “Didn’t you not recognize me?,” she pleaded.

The Apostle Paul addressed the central issue in Ephesians –

Ephesians 4:31 (NKJV)
31  Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice.

Anger is a wind which blows out the lamp of the mind. -Anonymous

Are you angry? Bitter? Pretending that anger is not there does not erase the problem but delays the healing. Paul does not say, “Put those who irritate you away from you with all malice.” That makes us angry people who are alienated with those closest to us.

Do you feel that you have a “good reason” to be angry? Justified even? Righteous? Before you “brake check” your closest relationships, ask God to release you from anger. Take a time out before your anger dims your mind and you hurt those who care most for you.

Keep Both Hands on the Wheel!,

Pastor Jim