the strong connection between gratitude and joy

I know that my redeemer lives,
    and that in the end he will stand on the earth.
 And after my skin has been destroyed,
    yet in my flesh I will see God;
 I myself will see him
    with my own eyes—I, and not another.
    How my heart yearns within me! – Job 19:25-27

1-IMG_2204-001This is one of those posts that’s an “I don’t think you can get there from here” kind of a column. I know where I’m starting, and I know where I intend to finish up – I’m just not sure you – the reader – will be able to see how it all fits together.

The “featured” photograph is an image of one of my all-time favorite family shots. You can see Rebekah reading to the children – Andrew and Naomi – when they were five and three. The light from the window behind them is reflected from the book, and it’s as if they are being illuminated by reading. Here’s the detail.

It’s a long-standing Maul and Alexander tradition that we love reading. It’s like family DNA. In consequence, we have bookcases and piles of books all over the place in Maul-Hall. One of the hardest things, when we left Brandon, was to pare down the literally thousands of books in our collections – which we did by close to fifty percent.

1-IMG_2198Books are a special repository of stories, knowledge, emotions, thoughts, adventures, and more – where we can be enriched by other people, their lives, and their experiences. I always feel like I am getting to know the authors, and that – via the magic of writing and reading – a connection is forged.

Maybe that’s why I was so over-the-top excited when my first book was published. I honestly feel that I have found my way into the lives of people I won’t ever know, but that if we did meet we would easily become friends.

I feel that way about those of you who read this blog, too. My life is splashed all over these “pages,” and even if you only read me once a week or so you have a fair, honest, not overly sanitized picture of life around Maul-Hall.

I hope you find joy here. Not just the ups and downs of temporary happiness or fleeting frustrations, but the rich joy of a life connected to the deep rivers of God’s resounding affirmation.

1-IMG_2202I wrote recently that beauty is inextricably connected to gratitude. I believe the same equation is at play when it comes to joy. That is why Job – one of the most unfortunate characters in the Old Testament narrative – is able to say, with such conviction, “I know that my Redeemer lives!”

We talked about this in our Saturday men’s group this morning. We’re using John Ortberg’s excellent book, The Life You’ve Always Wanted, and were focused on the idea of celebration as a deliberate spiritual practice.

As followers of Jesus, if our lives are rooted in gratitude for what God has done and is doing for us through Jesus, then celebration must be a spiritual practice that undergirds everything. Joy like that tends to bubble to the surface, it is contagious, and it replicates itself.

So thanks, John Ortberg, for attending our small group this morning, and thanks for contributing your stories to our journey.

In fact, thinking about this, I’m wondering what bookshelves I’m sitting on, out there in homes and churches around the country? Send me some pictures if I’m on yours. And maybe – like John Ortberg this morning – you could think about inviting me to your small group, too?

– I’d love to share some of my joy – Derek

You can link to most of my titles here – Derek Maul’s bibliography

 

 

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