Journey to Joy

Joy is one of the fruits of the Spirit that rarely gets “top billing,” so I’m glad that this issue of Whosoever is devoted to gratitude so I could share my experiences in discovering one of the keys to live joyfully.

Those of you who read the articles regularly are probably aware that I haven’t written before. This time, I felt compelled to write because I felt I would be failing the Lord if I didn’t share my personal experience with gratitude!

I’m not sure how, or where, it all began; but this I know, it has certainly led me to a richer relationship with God.

One of the seeds was planted by Dr. Schuller of the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, California with his phrase urging us to maintain an “attitude of gratitude.” Sound familiar? Any of you who are familiar with 12-step programs, know that it’s a key to recovery, as well!

When I founded Holy Spirit Fellowship of Long Beach in California nearly ten years ago, we established a period in each worship service, usually during the Great Thanksgiving, where we stop for a few minutes to have anyone who wishes share testimonies of gratitude.

It always lifts those present into gratitude with them when we are reminded of God’s faithfulness in our lives.

In addition, these testimonies are usually answers to prayer, as well. So it reminds us over and over that God always answers our prayers. Sometimes with a “yes,” often with a “no,” and just as frequently “maybe, if you’ll just wait for the best answer!”

We recently held our annual church retreat at Prince of Peace Abbey in Oceanside, California. The theme for the retreat was “Journey to Joy,” based on the Wizard of Oz and the scripture, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, mind, and soul.” Get the connection?

What fun as we explored how each of the characters represented something about our own spiritual journey with Lord.

The most significant outcome of the experience for me, personally, was the awareness that the journey is the important thing, not the destination and that the conclusion of the whole experience for Dorothy, and for us, is the arriving home with a deep sense of gratitude to be there.

When Jesus said that the Kingdom of God was “within and at hand,” He gave us a powerful way to find JOY, and for me, the journey to find it has been gratitude: daily, hourly, minute by minute.