Sunday, April 24, 2016

The Way of Joy

When's the last time you smiled?

For some of us, maybe that's right now. Maybe for others, it's been days. My question is, what makes you smile?

Is it a joke, good company, drinking a cup of hot chocolate? There are many reasons we smile, but usually, it's for one simple premise. We smile because we're happy. 

Yes, I know, this is pretty obvious. But if you want to explain something, you have to define your terms. You've got to get to the root of things, otherwise, nothing makes sense. 

Of course, the first objection to this statement, we smile because we're happy, that comes to my mind is this: We also smile when we're joyful. To some people, joy and happiness are the same. But they're not.

Happiness is a feeling. Joy is a fact. 

Granted, the two things are related but it's important to note: Happiness can come from joy, but it is not necessary for it. It is somewhat similar to this proposition, we don't love God because we want to get to Heaven. We love God because He is merciful enough to give us one. Getting to Heaven is not a certainty, it's a choice. A gift freely given, but only if we accept it. The chance for redemption. The chance to have all our desires fulfilled. The choice to be with Him forever.

That's a happy thought. No, it's a joyful thought. We're happy just thinking about it, but we're joyful because we know it's true.

Are you following me? If yes, then good. Unfortunately, that's not what this post is about. I don't know enough about joy just now. So, I'm going to talk about happiness. However, it's important for you to understand the difference between the two. All clear? Good, let's move on.

I think happiness is important. Like friendships, to paraphrase C.S. Lewis, it's something that has no survival value, rather it's something that gives value to survival. It helps one to live, instead of the mere mundane task of living. 

One thought, in particular that I happen to be pondering on, is the question of, what should one be happy about? I think the answer is very simple. Everything should make us happy. Within reason, of course. Let me put that a little clearer. Everything that is of God should make us happy. By extension, everything that is good should be a reason for happiness.

And to do that, we have to become little kids again. And no, I don't mean abandoning all responsibilities and acting foolishly. I mean we need to regain our sense of wonder. You've probably heard this concept before, but there's no harm in repetition. 

The suggested course of action I propose is trying to find happiness in all that we do. I want to make the world one great playground. Why do I want this? For several reasons. 

One, it pleases God. This may come as a shock to us, but God actually likes seeing us happy. He loves His creation. What good father doesn't want to see their children laugh? And no, God doesn't enjoy watching His children suffer. What He does enjoy, is when we suffer for Him. God appreciates our sufferings because they are a sign of our love for Him. Just like dirty and worn hands are signs of hard work, suffering is the sweetest kiss of love we can offer.

Two, this is how we are meant to live. God created us to have life and to have it abundantly. He wants us to enjoy the pleasures and fruits of this world, as much as we can purely desire. Every life is worth living. Whether we make it so, is up to us. God didn't create the world so we could despise it. Everything good, points with all its might, to God. Eating is good. Work is good. Playing tag is good. (Provided no one gets hurt.)

So why do we shun these blessings and turn away from them? Stacking wood is not a chore, it's a race to finish before the one using the axe. Listening to our parents is not chafing, it's a sign of our love. Doing homework is not boring, it's a way to challenge yourself. Praying to God is not rattling off a bunch of words, it's a letter written in love.

See every day as a birthday present from God. Don't spurn His gift. He is the one who loves you infinitely. To love is to will the good of another. The truth and depth of His love should give us great joy. And through that joy, we can find happiness in all that we do.

God has the greatest adventure planned just for you, go out and seek it with all your might.

And when you do, live it joyfully and with a smile.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Why Words Matter

Well, this is it. My first post. As such, I've decided to write about a very important topic: Words.

Granted, this should be very obvious. Words matter. A lot. I don't need to list the thousands of ways words are incredibly essential to pretty much everything. Therefore, I'm starting with just one aspect about them to begin. You need not worry, it's an important one.

The Word.

You've probably heard this before. It's right smack dab at the beginning of John's Gospel. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."

Or if you're like me and you like pretending that you can read Latin, here's the Vulgate: "In principio erat Verbum, et Verbum erat apud Deum, et Deus erat Verbum."

Verbum, the Word. The Word made flesh. 

Yep, that's about as important as you can get. Which is why I'll tread carefully from now on. Be cautionary, do not presume that I know what I'm talking about, ya'll. Blind leading the blind, that's what I am...

Clearly, the term 'word' carries weight behind it, if God chose it to describe Himself. Don't ask me why he would, because I don't know. He did and that means words have power behind them. God spoke the world into existence with them. "Fiat Lux! Let there be light!" 

Which leads to the question, what are words? (Yes, we are now diving into metaphysics here...) Well, words are always used to communicate. It's what they do. Of course, there are a staggering amount of different things that words communicate. We use them to expound ideas, form questions, give commands. God uses them to create. But what does God create? The earth? The stars? Me? You? Trees? Yes, times five. the very most basic form, what does God create?

He creates good things. Things of beauty. Things of elegance. Of purity. Of wonder and awe. They are all good. Does God create bad things? NO, No, no. We do, because we can. Because God has given us the power to. The power of free will.

And in this discussion of creation, I wonder at the question, what can we create with our words? Certainly not big things. I can't walk up to a mountain and say, "become blue and orange!" Even if that did happen, that wouldn't be me. That would be God using me as a channel of His power. But before you start feeling all small and helpless, remember what amazing power He has already given us: The power of speech, a.k.a words.

With our words comes an immense power. Words communicate what we think. Our intents, our feelings. And we can share them with others. This is where it gets scary. Our words can deeply, immensely affect others. God has given us the ability to directly alter a person's day with one conversation. Maybe even their life. This, again, points back to the ultimate gift of free will. All our actions can affect others, but the main aspect about someone we are to worry about is spiritual. Words are one of the main ways we influence a person spiritually. Which is why they are important.

It's hard. Our words can cut and burn someone. And we might not even know it. Maybe it's from an offhand sarcastic remark. Though, I find it interesting that a misspelling of that word is actually closer to the original meaning. Scarcasim. It can cause scars that might not ever heal. Sarcasm in Greek means to "tear flesh." Our words have power.

It's not that I'm condemning all sarcasm, it's just that we have to be very careful of who we are using it with. Intent can play deeply into whether it hurts or not, but often the one on the receiving end of things might not know you well enough to determine your intents.

The question remains, what do we do with our words? Certainly, we shouldn't be afraid of them, but they should be treated with respect. Our aim should be to the emulation of that first creation. Our words should be beautiful and pure. Our words should bring about a new creation. They should inspire hope, still fears, bring joy, comfort the grieved. In short, they should be words worth being spoken by a Christian. One should speak life. Too often, we find ourselves dealing in words more like death. The pain of verbal abuse can last a lifetime.

If we should find ourselves suffering at the words of others, we must remember that Jesus is the light that shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome Him.

Who do you let define your worth? The Word? Or the ones too weak to speak it? 

Don't be afraid. 

The light is just beyond the horizon. The light of the Son.