Serious Joy

January 27, 2011

This morning I awoke from a dream that affected my emotions, but at first I had only hazy, flimsy scenes in my retrievable memory.  I lay there quietly, consciously reigning in my thoughts until I remembered being in a large city in a vaguely familiar sector.  Perhaps I was there to visit a small church, or a small group gathering in a home.

When it was time to leave, I suddenly realized that I did not know how to return to the place where I was staying.  A girlfriend from the past joined me.  First she tried to give me directions, but she saw that I could not retain them in my mind, so she either went with me, or found someone else who was going that way.

The rest of the dream is lost, except that with the friend who accompanied me we had other city adventures.  I cannot identify her except that she seemed to be a composite of several of my close friends of the past.

As I was leaving the dream and coming into a more active mental state, my emotions were still telling me that there was something I wanted to grasp to give me resolution or a sense of completion before I left the alpha dream mode.

I didn’t expect a dream like Pharaoh’s predicting the seven good years and seven years of famine, nor of Joseph, the husband of Mary, who was warned in a dream to take the infant Jesus to Egypt.  But I wanted to do something with the dream before I got out of bed, because I knew that then the gossamer vestiges of the dream would disappear completely.

A few thoughts came trickling back, so I sat up to get the notebook and pen from the bedside desk.  I glanced at the clock and noticed that the numbers on the clock said exactly 6:33—“Seek ye first the kingdom of God…”

And I remembered my over-riding desire for this present noisy world.  Often I want to put my fingers in my ears and SCREAM , “ Oh, please retire to quiet places and be one of the disciples of Jesus.”

I have never been to Israel, but an experience I would love to have joined would have been to walk from Galilee to Jerusalem with Jesus and his disciples and the women who accompanied him, the ones that Luke mentions in his biography of Jesus.

To be just plain people, friends of Jesus, walking along between the villages, sleeping—where?  Did they have tents, or sleep in the open on pallets, or enjoy the hospitality of homes along the way?  Surely Jesus was teaching as they walked, and listening to him would have been a memorable experience, but I like to imagine the common every day scenes—the conversations, the camaraderie, the sweet fellowship of being with loving friends and family in the open air.

The camping enthusiasm of my maternal grandmother was lost in my generation in my family.  The circumstances were different, of course, but, mostly, camping did not seem to have been a part of my father’s background.

The experience came to me on my honeymoon.  My husband had brought his grandfather’s old tent, a newer borrowed camp stove, and a double sleeping bag for our trip from Iowa to his home in California.  I fell into camping like a fish back in the water.

What a contrast to the flat visual and audio world and bangy music of the present generation!  I want time and places to smell the roses, breathe the fresh air, look at the clouds.

And as I thought about the contrast, a seemingly contradictory phrase came to mind—serious joy—

Serious Joy…

Back again in my memories, this time not to my childhood or my honeymoon, but to the year 1957 when our small church in the Northeast was hosting a college professor and a team of students who reached out into the community to meet our neighbors and invite them to some special evening meetings.

Each morning I joined the group for their devotional time of singing and prayer.  One day they sang a hymn unknown to me—Hail Morning Known Among the Blest.

The words, written by Ralph Wardlow in 1803, describe the weekly meetings of the people of God.  The 5th verse says:

“God’s goodness let us bear in mind,

Who to His saints this day is given

For rest and serious joy designed,

To fit us for the bliss of heaven”

I don’t remember singing that hymn in church…ever, but as the professor stopped to call the attention of the students to that one phrase, it was embedded in my heart to remain for all my life.

Serious joy—

How expressive of the life and work of Jesus.  In Isaiah’s prophecy he was called a “man of sorrows”—and he was.  But the author of the book of Hebrews wrote that he was the one, “who for the joy set before him endured the cross.”  Several times in Jesus’ last words to his disciples he spoke of “his joy” and in his prayer for them he said, “I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them.”

A “man of sorrows” with “his joy”—what better description could there be for “serious joy.”

In Bible times God used dreams to reach his people with things they needed to know and do.  How much and in what ways he does that today is not understood in the same way by all believers—but I was deeply touched today, and I want to say to this noisy world—“Oh, please retire to quiet places to listen to Jesus, to know him, and through him know our Father in heaven.”

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