The Journey of Love

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. ~The Apostle Paul, 1 Corinthians 13:13

I just posted a blog post titled, Love Does,” on my regular blog (I still think of this blog as being my “new” blog), and realized it would fit on this blog, too, and all I did differently was to rename it to “The Journey of Love” so it would fit with the “journey” theme of this blog. So here it is!

The Most Reverend Doctor Foley Beach, Archbishop of the Anglican Church in North America, and Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of the South, headquartered in a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia, opened his article titled, Loving One Another Like Jesus,” with the following words: “One of the distinguishing marks of a follower of Jesus is supposed to be our love for one another. Jesus said this love for one another would be how people would know that we are his people” (John 13:35). He went on to state:

On the night before he was crucified, he exhorted his disciples: “A new commandment I give to you: Love one another as I have loved you.” (John 13:34). The commandment to love was not new as Leviticus 19:18 taught God’s people to love their neighbors as they love themselves. What is new is that Jesus adds that God’s people are to love one another as “he” loved. This begs the question: How did Jesus love?

Jesus loved by sharing his life and entering into our world. He left the glory, power, and majesty of heaven and entered our world (John 1:14). He was born as a baby and shared life with us. To love as Jesus loved means to leave the comfort and security of our own world and enter into another’s world by sharing one’s life. This could mean going to another culture and loving people, or this could simply mean entering into the world of those people you live with every day.

Jesus loved by serving humanity. He taught, healed people of their diseases, performed miracles, walked many miles, and washed feet. He said: “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve.” (Mark 10:45). To love as Jesus loved means that it is not about me. It is about how I can help the other person. It is about how I can make their life better by serving them.

Jesus loved by sacrificing his life. His death on the cross made atonement for sin which humanity couldn’t make. Its power brings about forgiveness of sins and allows humans to have a personal relationship with God: “But God demonstrates His own love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8). To love as Jesus loved means sacrificing selfish desires and ambitions for the sake of another. It means taking up one’s cross daily and dying to my selfish ways so that others may be blessed.

Many of us have bought into the “love is a feeling” concept, which is popular in our culture. If I feel love, I love you. If I don’t feel love, I don’t love you. Jesus has modeled for us that real love is about what I do and say, not just about what I feel. It is about sharing oneself. It is about service to the other. It is about sacrifice for the sake of the other person.

What would happen if followers of Jesus began to take seriously his new commandment: “Love one another as I have loved you”? (Quote source here.)

The world “love” is tossed around so casually today that it doesn’t have much meaning beyond a feeling, which is not always actually love (for example, as in lust). We say things like “I love my car,” or “I love my friends,” or “I love my job” (that one might not be as popular), but it’s not really, at it’s core, what genuine love is all about. Love is an action word. It requires that we do something beyond just saying, “I love you.”

The Apostle Paul tells us in Romans 12:9-21:

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Paul goes on to state in 1 Corinthians 13:

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient,
love is kind.
It does not envy,
it does not boast,
it is not proud.
It does not dishonor others,
it is not self-seeking,
it is not easily angered,
it keeps no record of wrongs.

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

That pretty much says what needs to be said about love. It’s up to us to put it into action. I’ll end this post with the words from the chorus to the song, The Message is Love (YouTube video below). which states: Love is the message and the message is love, From the streets to the mountains to the heavens above. Tell everybody what you’re dreaming of . . .

That love is the message . . .

And the message . . .

Is LOVE . . . .

YouTube Video: “The Message is Love” (1990) by Arthur Baker & The Backbeat Disciples (ft. Rev. Al Green):

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

Traveling Around the World

“There’s no substitute for just going there.”~Yvon Chouinard, an American rock climber, environmentalist, and outdoor industry billionaire businessman

A little over a month ago I wrote a blog post titled, If I Could Travel Around the World,” and I’d like to continue with that particular theme on this blog post. I just ran across an interesting article titled, 365 Days: 20 Things I Learned from Traveling Around the World,” by Clayton B. Cornell, who describes himself as a travel blogger, global citizen, Cleantechie. He also blogs on his blog at SpartanTraveler.com, which he has been doing since 2011.

In a brief description on his blog, SpartanTraveler.com, he states the following: “My name is Clayton. I’ve been traveling full-time since mid-2011 while building a business on my laptop. SpartanTraveler is my personal blog of uncommon travel adventures, logbook of travel hacks, and forum for thoughts on lifestyle design and working in the 21st century. Current Location: Canary Islands. (Quote source here.)

Canary Islands . . . well, I just had to read on!!! If I have to live in a hotel room why not do it globally, right? 🙂 And he has been able to do it on the cheap,” too. Now he really has my attention!

Cornell’s article titled, If I Could Travel Around the World,” was first published on August 5, 2012, after his first trip ended. His article opens with the following statement:

Over one year ago I quit my job and decided to travel around the world. This was both a dream 10 years in the making and one of  the best decisions I’ve ever made.

In the last 12 months I learned a lot about long-term travel, what I need to be happy, and how to survive outside of the US. Many of these things can’t be learned at home or in a book, and while reading about them on the internet can only get you so far, a lot of people have asked me to explain how I’ve done it.

Well, here’s part of the answer:

“There’s no substitute for just going there.” –Yvon Chouinard

My trip hasn’t been about sightseeing (although I’ve done that) as much as just being somewhere. The simple challenges of daily routine can be overwhelming: trying to eat, drink, and sleep in a place where nothing makes sense, you don’t speak the language, and where none of the basic comforts of home are available. It’s not easy, but if you want a fast-track to personal development, get on a plane.

When I was younger my dad often said ‘the hardest part is just getting out the door.’ And that may be the most important lesson of all:  it’s too easy to get complacent at home and if you aren’t at least a little uncomfortable, you probably aren’t learning anything.

If you’ve already traveled extensively, you may get a kick out of this. If you haven’t, here are some reflections, tips, and advice about long-term travel on my one-year anniversary of life on the road…. (Quote source here.)

At this point in Cornell’s article he lists 20 things that are important to know and goes into detail on each one. I’ll just list them here with a brief description of each one (the entire article is available at this link):

#1) Most of the world’s people are friendly and decent.

Most of the people I’ve met around the world are extremely polite, friendly, and helpful. They are generally interested why I chose to visit their home. They are eager to assist if it’s obvious I’m lost or in trouble. They’ll go out of their way to try to make sure I have a good stay in their country. And, contrary to what most Americans tend to think (see #3 below), they often don’t know much about the United States (or necessarily care)….

#2) Most places are as safe (or safer) than home.

The only place I’ve been violently mugged was in my home city of San Francisco. Many of the people I know there have been robbed at gunpoint, and on more than one occasion there were shootings in my neighborhood.

In one incident just a block away from my apartment (Dolores Park), a man was shot 5 times and somehow escaped, only to collapse about 10m from our front door. You can still see the blood stains on the sidewalk.

Turns out we actually live in a pretty dangerous country.

In over 365 days on the road, staying mostly in dormitory-style hostels and traveling through several countries considered ‘high-risk,’ the only incident I had was an iPhone stolen out of my pocket on the metro in Medellin, Colombia….

#3) Most people don’t know (or care) what America is doing.

I’ve met people that didn’t even know that San Francisco (or California even) had a coastline (now there’s a sobering conversation for you. So much for thinking that’s the center of the world eh?)….

#4) You can travel long-term for the price of rent and a round of drinks back home.

Before I left home, my original budget projection was $50/day, which I would consider lavish in many parts of the world. In some places, I spent as little as $20/day (including lodging, all meals, and booze) while living in relative luxury right on the beach. Generally, I shot for $30/day which gave me a buffer of $20 for travel and miscellaneous or one-time expenses.

Countries visited on this budget: Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, Chile, Easter Island (Chile), Argentina, Uruguay, Santa Cruz (California), North Shore of Oahu, Belgium, France, Spain, Germany, Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Austria, Serbia, Bulgaria, and Turkey….

You might be blown away by how cheap some ‘expensive’ places can be. The second cheapest hostel I stayed in (after Guatemala–@$4/night for a room) was in Berlin, Germany, at €6/night (~$7.43 USD). Beer in Prague was as cheap or cheaper than any other country I’ve been to (it was $1.43 for 0.5L in ultra-touristy downtown Prague). You can rent a decent downtown apartment in Budapest for $200/month.

#5) Saving for a big trip is not as hard as you think.

Most people think I’m rich because I’ve been traveling for a year. What they don’t realize is that, although I didn’t leave at the time (this was 5 years ago), I was able to save enough money for this trip within a year and a half of graduating college…. I plan to write more about how to save money in the future….

#6) In most places, moving around is incredibly easy.

In most places you can get from anywhere to just about anywhere else, and most of the time it doesn’t take more than a few minutes to figure out. Generally (outside the middle of peak tourist season in popular places) I haven’t bothered with reservations or pre-planning transportation routes. I just show up at the bus or train station and go.

I’ve ridden buses for hours into the middle of the Costa Rican jungle as well as through BFE in the Northern Chilean Andes. There’s almost always a group of locals who needs to get to where you’re going too. And if there’s no bus you can always hitchhike (this only happened once or twice on my entire trip).

It’s an eye-opener to see how some of the poorest countries on earth can still provide better public transportation than San Francisco….

#7) Every pound over 20 makes life worse.

There is virtually no reason to carry more than 20lbs (~9kg) of gear unless you’re going on a major trek or you have some serious sporting event in mind (like multi-day backpacking or cold weather sports). If you’re traveling in the summer you can get by on even less….

#8) Long-term travel is not a vacation (it’s a full-time job).

Planning and logistics also take an incredible amount of time and effort. Most downtime spent in a place when not sight-seeing is typically sucked up in researching the next destination, making reservations, planning logistics, and going through the dreaded ‘time budgeting’ process where you decide what you can reasonably see in the time available (and what you have to cut out)….

#9) ‘Travelers’ and ‘Tourists’ are different.

Tourists exchange money for pre-packaged experiences. They consume experiences and move on without engaging with the local culture….

Travelers are there to see things, not buy them. Travelers tend to be more involved. They may stay with locals, hang out with locals, try to learn the language, or just plain move slowly enough to really live and be where they are….

#10) Don’t worry about traveling alone (it’s better).

Afraid to go it alone? Don’t be. Go the the first big city in your destination country and hang out in the hostel lobby for a few days. I promise you’ll make new friends. This is why you should also stay in hostels. Don’t be afraid of sharing a room. It’s a small trade-off for the amazing people you’ll meet….

#11) Movement can be addictive (and this is not necessarily a good thing).

Have a minimum stay: 3 nights in every destination. This is enough time to see the place, relax, and get sorted before the next stop. It also means you’ll have to cut out some places if you’re tight on time. While I’ve had great one-night stops before… it isn’t sustainable or desirable to do too much of this….

#12) Don’t bank on paradise.

Keep your expectations in check… (he goes into detail about this). 

#13) Traveling doesn’t get ‘traveling’ out of your system.

If you’ve got this bug it’s not going away (sorry), but the obvious question is: why are we trying to get traveling out of our system, anyway?…

#14) Eventually, you will need something real to do.

Despite popular belief, most people can’t just sit around doing nothing for an extended period of time. Especially Type-A American folks who I’ve been told are ‘goal-oriented’ and always trying to ‘get things done.’ It might be a cultural thing, but it’s more likely just human nature to want to be involved in something larger than yourself….

#15) Long-term happiness is a pretty complicated emergent property that has little to do with money.

A lot of people defer things they might otherwise pursue for the big payout dream. The ‘if I only win the lottery’ or ‘when I sell my company for $10 million’ routine. The problem with the fantasy, besides the obvious deferral of really having to come to terms with what you want to do in life, is that while a big payout would certainly increase the options available to you, but that is not necessarily a good thing….

Think $10 million in the bank is going to make you happy? Well, good luck with that….

#16) When you challenge a person’s assumptions it can really piss them off.

Read what Cornell has to say on this item. It’s hard to find a short quote from it to include here.

#17) Travel slowly: Save money, avoid burnout, do more.

The most expensive part of traveling for me has typically been moving from point A to point B. Traveling like a maniac can be a lot of fun, but you’ll save money and get to really know places if you take your time.

#18) You can’t work and travel at the same time.

Okay, you sort of can, you just won’t ever get nearly as much done as you want to…. (read more at his article).

#19) When everything gets irritating, it might be time to head home.

That pretty much sums it up….

#20) Long-term traveling can teach you more than almost anything else.

About yourself, about life, about what you need to be happy. It also really highlights just how different home is from everywhere else, especially when you start to get a large sample size to compare it to.

For some, this can mean going home with a heightened perspective. For others, it may mean never going home. For everyone though, long-term travel will change your life. (Quote source here.)

Now that I’ve read through his list, I feel better prepared regarding what to expect, and I was happy to read that rent in other countries is often much cheaper then right here in America. I think I’ll be taking a closer look at his website, SpartanTraveler.com. And if wanderlust has struck you, too, you might want to check it out.

I’ll end this post with a reminder from Proverbs 16:9 (NLT) when it comes to making our plans…

We can make our plans . . .

But the Lord . . .

Determines our steps . . . .

YouTube Video: “On the Road Again” by Willie Nelson:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

Traveling Mercies

“…because when people have seen you at their worst, you don’t have to put on the mask as much.” ~Anne Lamott, in Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith

Yesterday I wrote a blog post on my other blog titled, Unshakable Hope.” The title comes from a brand new book with the same title by Max Lucado, best-selling Christian author and senior pastor at Oak Hills Church in San Antonio, Texas. A couple of excerpts from Chapters 11 and 12 in the book are included in that post, which you can read at this link.

In the first chapter of the book, he states:

Could you use some unshakable hope?

If so, you’re not alone. We live in a day of despair. The suicide rate in America has increased 24 percent since 1999. Twenty-four percent! If a disease saw such a spike, we would deem it an epidemic. How do we explain the increase? We’ve never been more educated. We have tools of technology our parents could not have dreamed of. We are saturated with entertainment and recreation. Yet more people than ever are orchestrating their own deaths. How could this be?

Among the answers must be this: people are dying for lack of hope. Secularism sucks the hope out of society. It reduces the world to a few decades between birth and hearse. Many people believe this world is as good as it gets, and let’s face it. It’s not that good. (Quote source: Unshakable Hope, page 10.)

“Wait, you’re not going to leave us there, right?” No, I’m not, but you’ll have to get the book to find out what Max has written about the promises of God that do come against this age of despair.

Since I lost my job almost a decade ago (well, in another seven months it will be a decade), I’ve run into a side of life in America I didn’t think about all that much except for when it was reported in news stories. And the advances in technology over the past decade have exponentially spread it around the globe, too. What we might have thought was a minority of people (I’m not referring to racial minorities) has exponentially grown over these past ten years, especially with the raise of the “Nones (the religiously unaffiliated). It has become apparent, as Max stated above, that many of us living today have reduced the world to a few decades between birth and death, and if this life is all we get, empathy for others tends to go down the tube as we are seeking to get everything we can get out of life. While there has always been a philosophy of you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours approach to life, now the scratching has become more knife-like.

I have no idea what it’s like to live as if this life is all there is and there is nothing beyond the grave. Being a Christian since I was a very young girl, my faith in God has been my anchor throughout my life, and He has seen me through some pretty unbelievable stuff especially over this past decade that I could never have navigated through on my own. I could list a few of the miracles He’s given me, but I’d rather just be incredibly thankful for them. In some corners of Christianity in America today we’ve been lead to believe that Christianity is some kind of “magic carpet ride” of success and/or prosperity in life. Persecuted Christians around the world today would tend to greatly differ with our brand of Christianity, and a reading of Hebrews 11 should clear up that fallacy pretty quickly, too. Most people look at “outward appearances” and judge accordingly (as in, well, gee, he or she doesn’t look, act, or dress like a Christian as “Christian” is defined by our culture). Fortunately, God doesn’t judge by outward appearances; He looks at the heart (see I Samuel 16:7). Outward appearances are often deceiving.

As our society becomes more secular, it makes for some rather interesting interactions with those who want something we might have to increase their own standing and/or wealth, or to get their own way, etc. It gives rise to a belief that there are no consequences for our actions in life or even after death. In a world like this there should be no surprise that the suicide rate has increase 24 percent since 1999 given that fact that God is too often viewed as a sort of “killjoy” to life, or He is blamed for the bad stuff that happens to us, or that we have reduced Him to a religious symbol of sorts or allotted Him one hour of our lives on Sunday morning, or, worse yet, made Him into a nonentity altogether. In a world where God doesn’t matter or exist to a growing majority of people, who cares how we treat each other in this life if this life is all that we get and there are no consequences for our actions.

God have mercy on us all, even those who don’t believe in Him.

The title of this particular blog post, “Traveling Mercies,” is not just about a Christian definition of that phrase that started in the 19th Century. According to the Dictionary of Christianese,” it is defined as follows:

The term arose in the late 19th century and was used at first almost exclusively of church workers who were on a long journey for the purpose of ministry work (see sense 1), but by the mid-20th century the term was being used in a general way of any Christians who were on a journey for any reason (see sense 2). Sense 1: God’s blessings and protection on missionaries, preachers, and other church workers who are traveling to or from a place of ministry, usually at some distance; and Sense 2: God’s blessings and protection on any people who are traveling. (Quote source here.)

The traveling mercies I am referring to are the mercies we receive from God throughout our lives as we journey through life (and yes, those mercies are extended to those who don’t believe in God), and they are not specific to any subset of people (as in only to Christians). God, in His great mercy, is no respecter of persons (e.g., God shows no partiality–see Acts 10:34-43). God pours out His mercy even on those who don’t believe in Him. As 2 Peter 3:9 makes very clear, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

In answer to the question, What does it mean that God is merciful?” GotQuestions.org gives us the following answer:

God being merciful basically means that, when we deserve punishment, He doesn’t punish us, and in fact blesses us instead. Mercy is the withholding of a just condemnation. Throughout the Bible, God gives many illustrations of His mercy. God fully demonstrates His mercy in Jesus Christ.

God was merciful to the wayward Solomon in 1 Kings 11:13. God was merciful to Israel in captivity (Psalm 106:45Nehemiah 9:31). David illustrated God’s mercy when he showed kindness to Mephibosheth (2 Samuel 9:7). God’s mercy was illustrated every year on the Day of Atonement, when the high priest entered the Holiest Place and sprinkled the blood of the sacrifice before the mercy seat (Leviticus 16:14).

Another illustration of God’s mercy is found in Matthew 18:23–27. In this parable, Jesus describes a rich ruler who was owed a large sum of money. The ruler ordered that money be collected, but then the debtor came and begged for mercy. The ruler, in turn, graciously forgives the debt. Here’s the point: we owed God a debt we could never repay, and He has freely forgiven us that debt in Christ! Interestingly, after the ruler in the parable forgives the debt, the person who owed the money refuses to forgive someone else. The ruler then judges that ungrateful person. God requires us to be merciful and forgiving to others here on earth (see Matthew 6:15). We who have been forgiven so much have no right to withhold forgiveness from others.

Mercy is coupled with other attributes of God in Psalm 86:15, “You, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (ESV). God’s mercy is rooted in His love for us. He is merciful, in large part, because He is love (1 John 4:8). As sinners, we deserve punishment (Romans 3:23). God’s righteousness requires punishment for sin—He wouldn’t be holy otherwise. Since God does love us and is merciful, He sent His Son (John 3:16). The fullness of His mercy is seen in Matthew 27. Jesus is brutally beaten and murdered on our behalf; Jesus received our just condemnation, and we received God’s mercy.

Because of His love for us, God wants us to be with Him. His mercy is required for that to take place; there is an inseparable connection between God’s love and mercy. Jesus laid down His life and became the sacrificial lamb (Isaiah 53:7John 1:29) so that God’s mercy could be extended to us. Instead of punishing us for our sin, God allowed His Son to take the condemnation in our place. That is the ultimate act of God’s mercy (see Ephesians 2:4–5). To our eternal benefit, “mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:13b). (Quote source here.)

Even as our society becomes more and more secular, we ought to be incredibly grateful that God’s mercies endure forever (see Psalm 136). As noted by GotQuestions.org regarding the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah:

The prophet Jeremiah wrote Lamentations [in the Old Testament] in a time of grief and national mourning, after the once great city of Jerusalem fell to Babylon, circa 586 BC. The book describes great anguish—and great hope—in poetic form. The main theme of the book is God’s judgment on Judah’s sin as well as His compassion for His people. Lamentations contains “laments” or “loud cries” for Jerusalem and many expressions of anguish and pain, but in chapter 3, right in the middle of the book, there is a beautiful passage of confidence and hope.

Jeremiah’s tone changes from despair to hope in Lamentations 3:21: “Yet this I call to mind / and therefore I have hope.” From this and ensuing verses, we know that, even in the darkest times, God is faithful and will not cast off His people forever. Every day, every morning, God shows His mercy and compassion.

Taking a closer look at Lamentations 3:22–23, we notice a couple important themes. First, the Lord’s “great love” (“steadfast love” in some translations) abides even in times of trouble and divine judgment. God never stopped loving Israel, despite His discipline of them. The Hebrew word translated “great love” is used about 250 times in the Old Testament; it refers to love, of course, but it also encompasses elements of grace, mercy, goodness, forgiveness, compassion, and faithfulness. It is because of God’s “great love” for His people that spared them from being utterly wiped out by Babylon. As we know from history, God later restored His people to their land and blessed them again.

A second theme is God’s unfailing compassion or mercyMercy in the Bible is God’s withholding of a just punishment. The particular Hebrew word used in Lamentations 3:22 has to do with tender love, great and tender mercy, or pity. The same word is used in Isaiah 63:7 and translated “compassion”: “I will tell of the kindnesses of the LORD, the deeds for which he is to be praised, according to all the LORD has done for us—yes, the many good things he has done for Israel, according to his compassion and many kindnesses.” The Lord has pity on His suffering children; in fact, His mercies are new every morning.

Jeremiah’s statement that God’s mercies are “new every morning” is related to the statement that follows: “Great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:23). God is unchanging, and His mercies toward Israel were unfaltering. His covenant with Abraham’s descendants would be kept (see Jeremiah 31:35–37). This was the bright ray of hope that shone through the smoke of Jerusalem’s ruins.

The dawning of every new day could be seen as a symbol of God’s light breaking through the darkness and His mercy overcoming our troubles. Every morning demonstrates God’s grace, a new beginning in which gloom must flee. We need look no further than the breath in our lungs, the sun that shines upon us, or the rain that falls to nourish the soil. The mercies of God continue to come to us via a multitude of manifestations.

There is no expiration date on God’s mercy toward us. His mercies are new every morning in that they are perpetual and always available to those in need. We have our ups and downs, and “even youths grow tired and weary” (Isaiah 40:30), but God is faithful through it all. With the dawn of each day comes a new batch of compassion made freshly available to us. God’s compassion is poured out from an infinite store; His mercies will never run out. Some mornings we get up on the wrong side of the bed, but even there we find God’s mercies awaiting us. (Quote source here.)

As Lamentations 3:22-23 states, Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.” I’ll end this post with the words from Psalm 107:1 (they are found in many other verses, too):–Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good!

For His mercy . . .

Endures . . .

Forever . . . .

YouTube Video: “His Mercy Endureth Forever” by Bishop T.D. Jakes and the Potter’s House Mass Choir:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

The Journey to Joy

“What is joy? A sunbeam between two clouds.” ~Dorothée de Luzy (1747–1830)

This past Sunday I heard a sermon on TV by Joel Osteen, senior pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, titled Keep Your Joy (click here for YouTube Video of the sermon). It was a very good reminder of just how important it is for us to keep our joy in the midst of trying circumstances, whether it’s the daily hassle of dealing with rush hour traffic or something more long term such as losing a job and whole lot more that can come along with it, or coming to terms with the death of a significant other– a parent, sibling, friend, etc.

I tend to believe that joy is difference from happiness. Joy doesn’t depend on the immediate external circumstances but comes from within and has deep roots if we’ve learned how to cultivate joy in our lives. Happiness, on the other hand, is a more immediate feeling that comes from something good (usually external) that has happened in our lives, such as listening to a favorite song on the radio that we haven’t heard in years; or a sunny day after days of dreary weather, or a job promotion… it’s any number of things that bring a smile to our face.

Joy has more depth. Happiness is flighty–here today and gone tomorrow. Joy sticks around when happiness is long gone. Joy is in it for the long haul. Joy is still there when the job is lost, or the divorce is final, or the parent dies.

An article titled, What is the Difference between Joy and Happiness?” found on CompellingTruth.org states the difference between the two:

Happiness is based on an experience or other external stimulus. For instance, getting engaged to be married may result in happiness. Happiness also tends to disappear when the situation changes. If, shortly after becoming engaged, a person wrecks his/her car, the happiness generated by the pleasurable experience of becoming engaged will most likely disappear because of the terrible experience of wrecking the car. The Greek word translated “happy” in the New Testament appears approximately fifty times in the New Testament. Five times it is translated “happy” and forty-five times it is translated “blessed” (numbers vary in different translations).

On the other hand, joy is based on internal well-being or the anticipation of well-being. To follow the above example, an engaged couple is often not happy. Circumstances in their lives—disagreements, for example—are not pleasurable and generate unhappiness rather than happiness. But, at the same time, most engaged couples would say they have joy almost all the time because of their anticipated marriage. The joy they have is independent of the current circumstances. The New Testament has several words that are translated “joy” or “rejoice” in the New Testament, and they appear several hundred times. 

One of the most striking places is in James 1:2, where the Scripture says, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.” Having “trials of various kinds” will definitely not lead to happiness, but Christians are told that it is reason for joy. The reason for joy is found in the following two verses, “for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4). Joy here is based on the anticipated results of the trials, not the trials themselves. 

Another place in Scripture that emphasizes joy is the entire book of Philippians. Paul wrote this book from prison in Rome, which was not a happy place. He begins with a profession of joy in chapter 1, verses 3 through 6, when he says “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” He didn’t say that he was happy—indeed, circumstances fought against that—but he prayed with joy because of the confidence he had in the anticipated results of God’s work. He admits that some were preaching the gospel thinking it would cause trouble for Paul, but he goes on to say, “… what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice” (Philippians 1:18 NIV). Paul goes on to exhort the Philippians to seek a relationship with God that will bring them joy.

It is evident in the Scriptures that joy because of our relationship with God is to be desired more than happiness in our circumstances. Happiness may be good, but joy is much better. Happiness is often fleeting because circumstances change, but joy in Christ is eternal. (Quote source here.)

In an article titled, Is there a Relationship Between Happiness and Joy?” by Dr. Cheryl A. MacDonald, clinical psychologist, RN, writer, and business owner, she states:

Happiness is subjective. What matters is someone’s perception of happiness. Scientists say this emotion can be studied and measured because people can reliably and honestly self-report their increases and decreases in happiness levels. Joy is a state of mind, a combination of emotions, and in the spiritual context is localized in our heart. Joy contains elements of contentment, confidence and hope….

Happiness is a blurred emotion. It can mean different things to many people, and part of a psychologist’s quest is to identify all of the distinctive applications of the word. Most of us will agree that happiness is an emotional state of well-being defined by positive feelings ranging from contentment to intense joy. Those who believe in positive psychology strive to apply research methods to answer questions about what happiness is and how it can be attained. It is well known that happy people are physically and emotionally healthier than unhappy ones. There is evidence suggesting that individuals can increase their level happiness with actions like exercising to release endorphins. It is also well known that various practices have been associated with happiness, such as eating well…. 

Being joyful requires feeling connected to other people in life, with nature, by appreciating the arts, and it requires an acceptance of life, as it is, in the present. Sometimes life does not treat us well, financial devastation, becoming ill, a divorce, developing a chronic illness, becoming disabled, death of a loved one, or adapting to growing older. These transitions or challenges are all aspects of life, and we all will experience them in varying degrees until the day we die. Some believe that joy is a conscious commitment to be happy, to have a sense of contentment for the moment, despite life’s challenges. Joy is an internal lasting emotional condition…. 

Joy is an attitude or a belief, which soothes even in the most sorrowful of situations. Joy comes from within; it is an internal view.  Joy in the Biblical context, is not an emotion. It is not based on something positive happening in life, but is an attitude of the heart or spirit….

Is there a relationship between happiness and joy? Yes and No. Joy is something that lasts. Happiness is something that is temporary. Joy is an inner, conscious belief. Happiness is external. Something people may feel for a short time, for example, when they buy something that they desire. Joy brings with it a feeling of contentment when someone is in the middle of a life storm. Happiness is not present in a life storm….

[So] strive to feel the consistency of joy, and, of course have a little happiness in your life today! (Quote source here.)

Need more joy in your life (regardless of your circumstances)? Ask for it. Jesus stated in John 16:24Until now you have asked nothing in My name…

Ask, and you will receive . . .

That your joy . . .

May be full . . . .

YouTube Video: “Joy” by for KING & COUNTRY:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here