I Hope You Dance

The day was full of ordinary joys – a cup of coffee with an old friend, reading a note from a recent grad who thanked me for a hundred Bible chapels in her elementary years, a few hours handing out bags of groceries and kind words with a faithful team of Christians who love others in this way, some texts from friends and family that made me smile – nothing grand but all worth celebrating.  I chose to remember, to lean into the good, and to turn my mind to the Giver of Good Gifts in worshipful praise. In short, I celebrated! Do you remember to celebrate?  

Maybe I am just too much of a realist, or maybe as a pastor I live too close to the sorrow of others, but without a conscious choice to look up, the ‘stuff’ of life beats me up.  I am a dutiful kind of guy, fairly resilient, so I keep going, but sometimes I forget to hope, looking too closely at the immediate, forgetting the promise.

At this time in America, many of us, for various reasons, are finding life more than a little difficult. Planning? Who can even attempt it with the edicts of government and the imperatives of a pandemic changing weekly? Too many of us are forgetting who we really are in Christ, becoming snapping snarling creatures like a dog in pain. When we choose merely to survive, rather than to thrive, all that is whole and holy is lost.

The antidote to the poison of merely surviving is real celebration born of experiencing transcendent wonder – in a baby’s smile, in a lover’s embrace, at the splash of colors in a sunset, or in a moment of worship that connects with the Spirit’s Presence.  Friend, we must choose joy. It is a gift of God that keeps us whole and holy.  We can choose to take a break, pausing to reflect, imposing silence on our soul, so that we can remember God.

Jesus used the illustration of the vine and branches, life only possible when that connection was maintained. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful apart from me. “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:4-5, NLT) The principle is clear:  No connection, no life!  He went on to point out one of the benefits of this relationship:  “Remain intimately connected with Me,” He said, “and you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!” (John 15:11, NLT)  There is a caricature of Jesus that hides His true nature. Because we think so often only of His cross (a treasure for us to be sure) we forget His time with children, that He attracted crowds of people who found hope in Him, that He told jokes about the absurd fixations of the Pharisees – i.e., ‘you strain out gnats, but swallow camels.’   Now, that’s funny!

So, how do we live in His joy?

Worship! 
“You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” (Psalm 16:11, NIV) 

If we live life with our face to the ground, focusing only on the needs, the duties, the pressing responsibilities – life’s urgent needs will press us to the point of despair. Worship, offering up the sacrifice of praise, lifts our face to Heaven and allows us to regain a view of God’s glorious works.  No wonder the Scripture urges us to “Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.” (Psalm 95:1-2, NIV)

Serve!  
Stop, Jerry, didn’t you just say we need to step away from duty?  There is joy in moments of selfless service, offering a word of encouragement, listening, picking up somebody’s groceries for them, patiently helping.  Jesus told a story about men who were entrusted with responsibility.   Two of the three were diligent and obedient in their service.  Note their commendation:  “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful . . .  Enter into the joy of your Lord.” (Matthew 25:23, NKJV)

Accept!  
If we insist on life on our own terms, we write ourselves a script of misery. We belong to God and each other. Being part of a larger, sometimes mysterious universe, means we will run up against things not to our liking. However, we can accepting God’s grace for the road we will walk today.  Nothing that happens to you today surprises Him.   Those who are His beloved children can turn to Him and find help, strength, and resources. Sometimes He leads us through dark valleys, along ways we would not choose for ourselves. Even there, He will provide grace for the journey. In that grace, there is joy even in the trials of life.

Joy is a constant work of God’s Spirit in us, not something we drum up, create, or paste into place. Pray for God’s grace to change your heart first before you seek a change of circumstances. Let the Vine pour the Life of the Spirit into your mind and heart. Let JOY grow where sorrow was sown. We bring our Lord great honor Him in simple contentment and an authentic smile.

The word from the Word says “Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean, revel in him!” (Philippians 4:4, The Message) “Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life. Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.” (Philippians 4:6-9, The Message)

May the Lord lead you to joy today is my prayer.

___________

I Hope You Dance

I hope you never lose your sense of wonder
You get your fill to eat but always keep that hunger
May you never take one single breath for granted
God forbid love ever leave you empty handed

I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean
Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens
Promise me that you’ll give faith a fighting chance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance
I hope you dance I hope you dance

I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance
Never settle for the path of least resistance
Livin’ might mean takin’ chances, but they’re worth takin’
Lovin’ might be a mistake, but it’s worth makin’

Don’t let some Hellbent heart leave you bitter
When you come close to sellin’ out, reconsider
Give the heavens above more than just a passing glance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance

I hope you dance
(Time is a wheel in constant motion always rolling us along)
I hope you dance I hope you dance
(Tell me who wants to look back on their years and wonder)
I hope you dance
(Where those years have gone?)

I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean
Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens
Promise me that you’ll give faith a fighting chance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance

Dance
I hope you dance
I hope you dance
(Time is a wheel in constant motion always rolling us along)
I hope you dance
(Tell me who wants to look back on their years and wonder?)

Source: LyricFind Songwriters: Tia Sillers / Mark Sanders

I Hope You Dance lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Universal Music Publishing Group, Songtrust Ave

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