A few weeks ago a lovely tree that had been growing on the edge of the beach was uprooted in a storm and it was desolate and depressing sight. We missed our little tree. And then someone decorated it with Christmas baubles and it didn’t seem quite so forlorn…. then January came and the baubles went and more storms came and it was again a poor dead thing…. but look! Today I just stood and laughed and laughed. It’s delightful, silly, contrary, humorous, simply great! In its branches now there are fishes and snakes and ladybirds, toads and starfish, an octopus with 4 goggly eyes, another with tangled arms, unlikely jelly fish and technicolour turtles.
As I stood there, on a very windy and cold morning, a lad of about 10 came charging through the dunes, followed by his Granddad. When he came to the tree he stopped dead, and shouted with surprise and delight. We had such a good discussion about which ones looked happy, which ones looked sad, and even one which, he assured me, was ‘angry’ (I couldn’t see the frown he earnestly assured me was there). A fellow dog walker thoughtfully rearranged some creatures that were in danger of being blown away and I smiled to see a grown man seriously considering where best to reposition a woolly green snake, wondering if it should be near a purple octopus or not. He stood back to view his handiwork and seemed to approve. As I walked back to the car I met an elderly woman purposefully trudging through the soft sand on her way to see ‘the tree.’ It has become a totem of warmth and kindliness. How wonderful that some anonymous person has given so much pleasure, so simply.
Then I came home, and Anne came by with a painting she’s done for me.
Isn’t it glorious? Aren’t people just amazingly blinkin’ kind? They are.
This week I’ve been reading Psalm 119. It’s more accurate to say that I’ve been stuck for several days on the first three verses of Psalm 119. Once again, I’ve been considering what it is to be joyful. The first verses says ‘Joyful are people of integrity who follow the instructions of the Lord’ and that’s made me think of what we Christians sometimes seem like to others. How much joy do we show to the world? If we don’t show a whole great tumbling lot of it, something’s wrong. Maybe we aren’t actually following those instructions after all?
The knitter of those small mad creatures -whoever they are – has shown joy and created joy. My friend Anne has shown joy and created joy in her painting (and in her kindness hanging it for me). I’ve just read an email from a pal on the other side of the world and that has given me a quick splash of joy…. a friend in London has Skyped and her bloke came on to tell a funny joke….. these little fleeting daily joys are wonderful. They spring out of our care for others and an overspill of love. They come to us when we least expect them, and we can’t manufacture them. Each one is a gift, a vaccination against loneliness.
How delightful on a February day in wild and windy Wales.
And the greatest joy, of course, the one lasting joy, the Joy we will take to the grave and beyond , is our love for, and love from, God. His grace.
So, returning to that verse ‘Joyful are people of integrity who follow the instructions of the Lord’, I looked up another version, the NIV, and there it says ‘Blessed are those whose ways are blameless,
who walk according to the law of the Lord.’ and in the Living Bible it’s translated as ‘ Happy are all who perfectly follow the laws of God.’
So there we have it. If we follow God, and obey him, we are joyful, blessed, happy. His law is a natural law, protecting and guiding and sheltering. His way creates joy. He is Joy. There isn’t a single law of God that doesn’t create joy.
And skipping on, through this long and mind blowing Psalm to verse 111 (did David really sing this all in one go or was it a sort of serial prayer?)
Your laws are my treasure;
they are my heart’s delight.
I am determined to keep your decrees
to the very end.
His laws, are our treasures and our heart’s delight, starting and ending with ‘‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Matthew 22:37-40
His law is our lasting Joy. Ever lasting.
But there’s a tiny heart warming glimpse of God’s love in the knitted fishes, the painted tree, the Skype, the email and all the nonsense of friends.
All good things come from God. Even a pink starfish with eyes in the back of his head.