In Manassas, Colorado our denomination owns a piece of property in which we are trying to plant a church. But the way the underground aquifers are in that part of the San Luis Valley, the water table is relatively close to the surface so the building is elevated on concrete stem-walls because during wet years the underground water will seek to join the surface water. But for most of the year, the water is below the surface of the ground and the building appears to be sitting on stilts waiting for a flood.
However, during the driest of years there is still a hint of green all around the building because even though water may be scarce above ground, there is plenty of water just below the surface. So, when the year is wet, like this year, the vegetation is even lusher around that church building.
African American pastor Howard Thurman wrote a poem about the inner you. He says, There is in every person an inward sea.
I like the way Dallas Willard defines joy:
Joy is not the mere sensation of pleasure — it is a pervasive, constant, and unending sense of well-being that flows from vision, peace, righteousness, and hope. True joy is robust. We can experience the joy of being in God’s kingdom even in the midst of suffering and loss.
Like the subterranean source of water at that church in Manassas, there is growth even during times of drought.
The prophet Jeremiah helps us,
Blessed are those who trust in the Lord,
whose trust is the Lord.
They shall be like a tree planted by water,
sending out its roots by the stream.
It shall not fear when heat comes,
and its leaves shall stay green;
in the year of drought it is not anxious,
and it does not cease to bear fruit. Jeremiah 17:7-8
If you want to know the joy of the Lord you have to go after knowledge of God in the Bible. You have to pursue it. It won’t’ just drop into your heart from above.
But there is an additional way to learn more about God…
I have been practicing this method for years and if you practice it consistently it might change your life. If you will commit to this practice for thirty days, you will be shocked at how much joy you will discover bubbling up through the fissures of your life. My friend Steve Smith talked about this on a recent Potter’s Inn Soul Care Conversation. I’ve adapted portions here:
At a set point in your day, review the last twenty-four hours of your life. Try to really notice things. And in a journal or in conversation with your spouse or friend discuss the following:
Express Gratitude. Gratitude helps us find God in all things, places, and people. Try to express your thankfulness for what you have experienced in the last twenty-four hours.
Notice and discuss the Brutal of your day. This is the felt absence of God. This is when you do not see God working in your heart. These are the events which caused anxiety, self-preoccupation, distress, fear, upset feelings.
Notice and discuss the Beauty in your day. This is the felt presence of God. These are the places where you experienced joy, happiness, peace, satisfaction, blessing, well-being in your day.
Blaise Pascal worried that the biggest threat to the spiritual life for folks in his day was their relentless ability to distract themselves from thinking about God.
Your joy comes from what you know to be true about God and what you take time to see—really see.
Read this poem slowly, out loud.
Feather at Midday
By Sister Dang Nghiem
If I had not stopped to watch a feather flying by,
I would not have seen its landing–
a tiny pure white feather.
Gently, I blew a soft breath
to send it back to the spring.
If I had not looked up to watch
the feather gliding over the roof,
I would not have seen
the crescent moon
hanging at midday.
Now, read it aloud again, this time even slower.
You can experience the presence of Jesus if you will take steps to see and not just hope you feel something from time to time. Knowing God requires investigation not only of His Word—but of your life. It requires intentional noticing. Joy comes to the surface through the upsurge of love from the hidden aquifers of Living Water inside me.
That happens when you pray backwards.