“Joy is an Act of Resistance.”


“Joy is an act of resistance.” This stirring phrase is a revelation to me on how to live in troubled times, and anytime!  It is a call for an inner revolution that transforms our response to our outer realities. As a realist and one who is susceptible to seeing the negative side of everything, it is a summons to choose joy no matter what I perceive to be happening on the ground! Joy insists on resisting the negativism and self-doubt and lean into the positive possibilities come what may!

Last Friday I went to an event that brought refugees and the rest of us together. I saw the event on Facebook and was intrigued by the idea of playing sports and eating food with refugees. I clicked I would go. Since it was Ramadan and many refugees come from Muslim countries, the food would wait till after sundown. Okay, I can do that!

So that evening I trekked the 30 minutes  underground on Metro line 8 to Ecole Militaire station and then walked the rest of the way. When I came to the sprawling ‘Champs de Mars’ next to Gustave’s marvel, the Eiffel,  I searched for what might look like a group of refugees  ready to play games. But I just couldn’t find the group among the myriad of picnickers. I walked and walked some more. No luck. When I asked some guys selling beer to tourists if there was a playing field somewhere they gave some dubious directions and walked some more in the wrong direction! Of course the joke was on me!

So I pretty well gave up and sent a few ‘woe is me’ texts to my wife and making the last full circle of the ‘champs’ I had decided to leave. “Oh well, at least I got to see the Eiffel Tower” I sighed. Then in the corner of my eye I saw a makeshift volleyball net being erected. That’s them, I was sure of it. So I made my way to join. Time to forget my tired legs, my feelings of frustration, and my empty belly. Time to hang out, and play sports! Right?

raineiffelWrong! The skies decided otherwise, and opened up and dropped rain drops. The lightning eventually partnered with the increasingly heavier rain drops and I found myself huddled under a tree with complete strangers. Some hard-core sports types tried to play volleyball but soon gave up too. The event was over in a flash. Then I noticed an unused mini umbrella at the foot of the tree still wrapped tightly in its bindings. Seeing no one else go for it, I did. And holding it up I was joined by two others, refugees wanting to stay dry like me. The conversation began to flow and what seemed like a waste of time for the realist, became a moment of joy to live into. We said our goodbyes and ran at once under the wet heavens and earth to our metro and bus stops. The rain really did wipe out our night!

The next morning listening to a podcast with my wife I heard the phrase, “Joy is an act of resistance.” I had to write it down. Afterwards the podcast was done Patricia asked me how have I seen this act of resistance, this joy at play in my life? She knows my natural tendency to negativism. So I had to think hard. And then I realized how precious my rain filled adventure actually was. She said, “You were present. You made an effort. ” I saw it, just as she said, I realised that even though I was cold, I was present in the moment and surrounded by people from countries none of us would choose to live in. No, this wasn’t a waste of time. I knew then and there I needed to resist more. Joy was calling my name!

So I will pray and invite you to pray these words with me even if you aren’t a prayer kind of person: “Help me, God of creation, to resist all negativity in my life. Don’t let my thoughts go there. Make me know your joy. Let it be in me today. Let me feel it all day long. No matter the responses around me or circumstances I find myself in. I resist all negativism and complaining. Amen”

 Hebrews 12: 2, 3  Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!

 

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“You Can Quote That!”


A handful of people get agitated if I quote people who are not of their religious or moral persuasion. Yet sometimes they do say things that are worth hearing and are also true! I was taught that all truth is still God’s even if it is not written in the Bible. If the Pope or quotation-marksJohn Piper or Pink says that mercy is at the very top of the Christian hierarchy of great truths, it is still true no matter who says it! By the way it was Pope Francis who made that truth statement.

Truth can stand on its own, but truth standing by itself can appear to be a little high and mighty. Are you surprised that John describes Christ in the opening chapter of his book as being full of ‘grace and truth’? What an attractive combination. A good chef knows the key to being a top chef is in the presentation! presentation is everything! The way we present the Good News should be seasoned with a generous amount of grace. If I come across as superior and judgmental, most likely the truth I am trying to share will be left on the plate and scraped into the trash bin.

In practical terms, if you overheard me in conversation with someone who says something ridiculous, and my response was to jump all over that and to bring that person down to size, think of what effect that would produce.  Not only will that method NOT bring him over to my side of the river, he will proceed and build a dam to block my side of the water from seeping into his!

After many readings of the gospels I honestly conclude that the truth message Jesus brought was both authoritative and welcomed because it first came from the gentle grace He exuded. He developed real relationships rather than destroying arguments. Please quote me on that! It is no accident that John mentions grace before truth. Another way of putting it is that He gracefully incarnated truth before He proclaimed it. Yes, there were a few occasions when He pointed out truth that wasn’t received. That is Bridge-over-troubled-wate-006normal. And we can point out times when He was indignant towards those who were supposed to represent the heart of God, but instead made heaven’s heart look like that of an unbending dictator.

Everything being equal, the pattern of Jesus’ life and conversations suggests to me that wonderfully designed mercy bridges were framed for the outcasts, the marginal, the poor, the unclean and the sinner to enter over to God’s Graceland. Quote me on that too and keep it in mind for the next time you have a conversation about truth.