Thursday, October 30, 2008

Joy to the World

When I was in Anchorage over the summer, my sister Rachel asked me which fruit of the spirit I was working on. Without even having to think about it, I responded, "Joy." For a few years, I was actively working on peacetrying to figure out what I think peace means, and what it would look like to have real peace instead of just avoiding conflicts. I don't know that I really answered either of those questions, but now I am asking them about joy.

A couple months ago, I listened to a Joyce Meyer podcast about the fruit of the spirit that really caught my attention. She said that whatever you pray for, that's what will be tested. She was specifically talking about patience, but I knew as soon as I heard her that this would apply to any of them. Since I had already been praying for joy for a few months by then, I was a little worried about what testing my joy might look like.

Turns out, it looks like pneumonia, financial crises (both in the country and personal), political scandal in my home state, a frustrating job search, and a lot of feeling overwhelmed. Now, I'm not saying that my prayers are somehow responsible for all of those things, but it has been a little difficult to work on joy in the midst of them.

And yet, there is joy. I have been grateful for so many things this week. The retreat at University Friends Meeting on Saturday went so much better than I could ever have hoped, and I can feel the excitement in the air there about the Year of Discernment.

Last night, I met with my clearness committee again and I am having trouble finding words to describe how wonderful that was. At one point during the clearness committee, a Friend suggested that an experience I had was an example of way opening. As soon as she said it, I had the indescribable feeling that I get when way opens, and I feel led to the next clear step. It was so helpful to be reminded of that feeling because I feel like so much of what I have been doing lately has been because I feel like I have to, not because I feel led.

I am also grateful that I got a chance to talk to Alivia last night. I have been sorely missing music in my life lately, and I was excited to tell her that I am planning on joining a Christmas choir. When I told her, she said that it was good for me to get some music back into the mix, but asked what was I planning on giving up. I knew immediately what needed to go, a committee that has felt wrong for me from the beginning. This morning, I sent an email explaining that I did not feel called to that particular ministry at this time. It felt very good.

I know that the fruit of the spirit is not something that I can force. But I believe that if I am faithful and follow where God leads me, the fruit of the spirit will come. I am also working on letting go of things, including my ideas of what I should be doing. For now, Cat Stevens speaks to my condition:

I listen to the wind
To the wind of my soul
Where I'll end up well I think,
Only God really knows
I've sat upon the setting sun
But never, never never never
I never wanted water once
No, never, never, never

I listen to my words but
They fall far below
I let my music take me where
My heart wants to go
I swam upon the devil's lake
But never, never never never
I'll never make the same mistake
No, never, never, never


  1. What a great song. And what a great Ashley, of whom I am most proud.

  2. Pneumonia?!? I'm so sorry to hear that. And all the rest of the turmoil -- I hope it has calmed down. Hope to talk to you soon,
    - Catherine

  3. Hi Catherine,

    Yeah, I guess the pneumonia started after you went on vacation. I had a pretty impressive cough! Thanks for the note and I hope to talk to you soon too.


  4. Hi Ashley. I've lurked on your blog but never posted. Sorry to hear you had pneumonia! Simon blew huge snot bubbles all night last night. 'Tis the Season. Your post made me think of "Surprised by Joy" by C.S. Lewis. The book is a recollection of his coming to faith. He talks about how joy was something he searched for and experienced in brief "stabs". He tried often tried to induce joy but reliving the things that had at one point or another given him joy. My favorite quote from the book is, "All joy reminds. It is never a possession, always a desire for something longer ago or further away or still 'about to be.'" In the end he realizes that those "stabs of joy" were like sign posts leading him in the right direction. He is more at peace, not so preoccupied with trying to find and experience joy. He concludes by saying, "When we are lost in the woods the sight of a signpost is a great matter. He who first sees it cries, 'Look!' The whole party gathers round and stares. But when we have found the road and are passing signposts every few miles, we shall not stop and stare. They will encourage us and we shall be grateful to the authority that set them up. But we shall not stop and stare, or not much; not on this road, though their pillars are of silver and their lettering of gold. 'We would be at Jerusalem.'" Anyway, I'm definately not to that point yet but I think he has some beautiful thoughts. -Myles

  5. Hi Myles,

    It's good to hear from you. I'm sorry to hear that Simon is snotty―hopefully that will end soon! Thanks for the C.S. Lewis quote; I really like the idea of joy as sign posts along the way.



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