Door Openers

I would like to love other people enough to go to extraordinary measures to open the door and invite them in, rather than passively allow the door to close, go on my way and keep them out. Jesus said, “I am the gate. . . . All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them” (John 10:7).

Jesus encouraged his followers to become door openers rather than gatekeepers. He hoped that once people experienced the goodness of God, the love of God, and the grace of God, they would reside in it and be free to share it with others. This is why people who were sinners, outcasts, and poor loved Jesus and felt such joy in his presence. They were unaccustomed to being loved by someone who was talking about the ways of God. They knew that Jesus valued them, that he saw their worth, not one that they had earned or instilled within themselves. He saw their intrinsic value, the image of God that was imprinted upon their lives.

How does one become a door opener who leads others to the joy of Christ rather than a gatekeeper who judges others? Observing Jesus enables us to see how to value a vulnerable person.

— Tom Berlin, Reckless Love, p. 99-100

Photo: Festung Hohenwerfen, August 1998

The Source of Joy

Joy is rooted not in what, when, why, or how, but in who. Meanings and explanations can get in the way of experiencing the greatest joy of all, which is simply to be with the Divine Lover without any other meaning except being together. If we understood all mysteries, our joy could not be as great, for joy feeds upon a God of splendor and majesty who is far beyond our comprehension.

— Mike Mason, Champagne for the Soul, p. 171-172

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, May 30, 2020

Permanent Joy

Joy is a permanent facet of the character of God who lives in me by His Holy Spirit. The more I believe this, the more it changes me, and the more this change is no flash in the pan but a permanent change of character.

Jesus gives His word that my joy will never be taken away. It inhabits a place in me that nothing and no one else can touch or influence, so long as I’m careful to honor that place. I may surrender my joy, but no person, nor any circumstance, can take it from me. It’s here to stay so long as I trust it. When I keep a wary eye on joy, fearful that she’ll slip away, I cannot fully relax to enjoy her. To the extent that I disbelieve in joy’s permanence, I’ll find her to be a fickle friend — exactly as fickle as my faith.

— Mike Mason, Champagne for the Soul, p. 168

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, May 18, 2020

Joy in Thankfulness

To be happy is to count oneself among the haves, not the have-nots. Joy comes from having all we need and more. When we have an abundance, we’re thankful, and thankfulness feeds joy so that we have more and more. Though we sit down to an empty table, we give thanks and somehow the food of joy arrives, just as happened when Jesus fed a multitude with one boy’s lunch. Being thankful for what we have, however little it may seem, means we never want for happiness.

When we see ourselves as have-nots, on the other hand, the thieves of discontent and anxiety quickly set to work, stealing even what we have. This is what happened to Adam and Eve, as the serpent provoked in them a sense of have-not, and they lost Paradise. People were created to be happy, and there’s no reason not to be. Unhappiness is understandable but not defensible. When we’re fooled into being unhappy, unhappiness itself becomes our downfall. All sin stems from discontent, whereas the person who is joyful in the Lord will not go astray.

— Mike Mason, Champagne for the Soul, p. 165

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, May 3, 2020

The Holy City

God’s beloved city in Revelation 21-22 is not primarily a vision for after we die, or for after Jesus returns. It is rather a vision that can transform the way we live out God’s reign in the world today. It is a vision of the healing leaves that God wants to lay on every broken heart, on every war-torn landscape. It is a vision of Lamb power in the world. And we are part of that vision. Once we have seen the new creation, the joy of that experience must inform everything we do.

— Barbara R. Rossing, The Rapture Exposed, p. 164

Photo: Potzbach, Germany, April 1997

Better Things To Do

Remembering and retaining joy takes work, which is why the New Testament continually exhorts us to “hold on to the good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). People must hold on to something. If I don’t hold the good, then I’ll hold the bad and stay stuck in problems. My experiment taught me to feel differently about problems. Where before I’d experienced them as maddeningly engrossing, now they became like old flames with whom I long ago fell out of love. They didn’t have the power to entice me as before. In the light of my happy marriage to joy, it was easier to throw them off. Chronic problems have a way of going round and round on a hamster wheel, and a joyful person loses interest in this. Joy has better things to do.

— Mike Mason, Champagne for the Soul, p. 160

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, April 22, 2020

Don’t Get Stuck on the Grievance Channel

Our hurt feelings are important, but we help ourselves to remember they will pass. I work with many people who struggle to trust their good feelings. They are more comfortable when their painful feelings come to visit, like annoying relatives who do not know when to leave. These people’s remote controls are stuck, and they do not know how to bring them in to the shop to be fixed. Being stuck in a cycle of pain makes it easy to forget that negative feelings are no more real than positive ones.

Love, feelings of appreciation and gratitude, and the ability to notice beauty are all real. They are important. They are deep expressions of the human experience. Unfortunately, many disappointed and hurt people develop the bad habit of focusing more on their hurts than their blessings. This keeps them stuck in a cycle of pain and the sense that lasting peace and love are out of their grasp. Even good feelings will change and pass on. Some days we see the cup as half full and some days as half empty. To have a deep and full life, we need to be able to experience all of our emotions appropriately. The problem is we cannot find the full range of human experience when our remote is stuck on the grievance channel.

— Fred Luskin, Forgive for Good, p. 170

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, March 22, 2020

Seeking Joy

Hebrews 12:2 states plainly the reason Jesus went to the cross: joy. He didn’t sacrifice His own happiness for the sake of some larger goal. Rather, looking through the darkness to the light beyond, He was animated by the prize of joy, knowing that pursuing this would release joy to others.

An unhappy person cannot make anyone else happy. The only way to bless others is to be joyful oneself. Seekers of joy need have no worries about becoming narrow-minded; rest assured that life’s roughness and pain will seek you out, whether you’re open to it or not. As for joy, however, if you don’t search for it with all your heart, and commit yourself to doing whatever’s necessary to attain it, you’ll miss out. No one escapes suffering, but many lives are devoid of joy.

— Mike Mason, Champagne for the Soul, p. 157-158

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, April 4, 2015

A Happy Life

No one has a greater impact on our joy than we do. While all the factors affecting joy are not within our reach, it’s helpful to act as if they are. Until we start reaching for joy in all circumstances, we’ll have no idea how happy we can be. Much more of our happiness rests with us than we tend to believe. Taking full responsibility for our emotional state is itself a powerful step toward joy.

With all of life’s various moods and seasons, a happy day may not always be attainable. But a happy life is. By acting as if happiness is always within our grasp, we put ourselves in the best position to live happily.

— Mike Mason, Champagne for the Soul, p. 156