I am thrilled to hear from Kimberlee Conway Ireton today. Kimberlee is the author of The Circle of Seasons, the book we are reading through this year as we orient ourselves around the church calendar. Thank you for the gift of your presence and wisdom, Kimberlee.

Brings you joy

It is Eastertide, the Great Fifty Days in which we celebrate Resurrection, Christ’s triumph over sin and death and evil. During Easter, we remember our own baptism, too, in which we died with Christ and were raised with Him in newness of life. This whole season is life and joy. Those of us in the northern hemisphere see that newness of life and joy reflected in the greening of the trees and the myriad colors of the flowers, as if creation itself were dancing for joy that winter is over and gone, the time for singing has come!

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Ring the bells, sound the trumpets, bang the gongs, shout for joy! Death is defeated! Joy is here, is now!

And it is.

And it’s also not.

That’s why our task in Easter is to live in joy—and it is a task. It’s something we do. And in this vale of tears, it’s sometimes hard to do.

You wouldn’t think joy would be so difficult. After all, it’s what we all crave, right? We want joy. And yet…joy is hard. Think about it. Does it bring you joy when you yell at your kids or snap at your spouse? Does it bring you joy to fritter away an hour on Facebook and get sucked down a dozen different online rabbit trails that leave you wishing you had that hour of your life back? Does it bring you joy to hurl yourself onto your bed and curl up in a ball of teeth-gnashing self-pity? Does it bring you joy to listen to the voices of self-loathing or self-doubt or self-exaltation that seem to be constantly knocking about in your head?

No? Huh. Those things don’t bring me joy, either. And yet—I still do them. Now why is that?

One word: habit.

Those things get to be habits with us. And it’s easier to ride the rails of joyless (and often death-dealing) habit than to strike out into fresh paths of joy and new life.

Here’s where the good news of Easter comes in: Jesus broke all those death traps—they can no longer hold us. He has broken their power over us, and we are free to live in joy. We have His power—His amazing resurrection power—to say no to the stuff (and the sin) that steals our joy.

Now, there’s no magic bullet. We can’t just wish ourselves out of joyless, life-denying habits and into joyful, life-giving ones. “Divine grace works along the lines of human action.” That’s Charlotte Mason, one of the wisest women I know. St. Paul said it, too: “Continue to work out your salvation”  (Phil. 2:12). There is work to be done, and sometimes it’s hard. Trust me on this—it’s taken me a dozen years to get in front of my hot temper and the habit of lashing out in anger when I am frustrated. And I’m not 100% successful even now. But I see such tremendous growth—God has taken my loaves and fishes, my paltry (and at the same time oh-so-difficult) efforts to shut my mouth and bite my tongue when I’d rather rant and rave, and He has blessed them, multiplied them. He is helping me to become a patient, kind person. And if you knew just how impatient and unkind I have been, well, you would believe in miracles!

But wait. You do believe in miracles. You believe that Jesus was raised from the dead. You believe in Resurrection. You believe in new life. You believe in the promise of Easter: of death defeated and life without end, joy without end.

And if that’s the case, if we as Christians really do believe in miracles, then of course we must believe that God can transform us, can reach right into the sinews of our bodies and the corners of our minds where lodge the habits that steal our joy and keep us from living free—and bring them out into the light of resurrection. He can take all those joyless habits of feeling, thought, and action, and work in us to replace them with habits of life and joy.

God wants to give us the mind of Christ, the life of Christ, but we have to put it on, take it up. And to put it on and take it up, there are things we will have to take off and put down (my temper, my scathing tongue). And depending on how hard we’re clinging to those things or how deeply they’re embedded in us, that may be a battle, it may take some time (or a lifetime), it may be two steps forward and a step and a half back. No matter.

The saints and angels are cheering us on. God is cheering us on. God, who is patient and kind and abounding in steadfast love, is eagerly watching and waiting for us to take off our joyless habits and put on the mind of Christ, to lay down our life-denying habits and take up the life of Christ, for He is eager to help us, to aid and abet and uphold us in the joy-life, the life of the risen Son.

Friends, we have died with Christ, and we are raised with Him. Ring the bells, blow the trumpets, bang the gongs! And for the love of Him who loved us and gave Himself for us, live in joy! Here. Now. Go for a walk. Take a nap. Watch the sun rise, study a tulip. Listen to a symphony, or bird song, or silence. Read a good book. Read the Good Book. Bite your tongue. Smile. Sing. Pray. Raise your arms. Shout huzzah. Dance a jig. Sniff a lilac. Stare at the stars. I mean it. Quit reading this post and go do something that brings you joy. Then do it again and again and again till it becomes a habit, the habit of joy.

By Kimberlee Conway Ireton

Leave A Comment

  1. Bev Howard April 26, 2016 at 9:47 am - Reply

    I so loved the Messy Middle today. Thank you for sharing it with me (and everyone)! I am ashamed to say I have been short tempered and sharp tongued lately. I will be better. Thank you again for the encouragement I needed.
    God Bless

    • Kimberlee Conway Ireton April 26, 2016 at 2:39 pm - Reply

      Thank you, Bev. I’m so glad these words resonated with you. As a recovering short-tempered, sharp-tongued person myself, I feel your shame. I also say with my whole heart that God’s mercies are new every moment. Let us forget what lies behind and press on toward the joy that awaits us, that is already ours, if only we will reach out our hands to receive it. God bless you!

  2. Lori April 26, 2016 at 9:55 am - Reply

    Thank you!- I am 51 years old and am finally seeing how habits truly mark our days and how good ones become such a blessing. I wish I would of read this 40 years ago.
    Thank you for summing it up in one word too! :)

    • Kimberlee Conway Ireton April 26, 2016 at 2:48 pm - Reply

      Lori, yes! “Habits truly mark our days.” I am coming to believe that almost the whole of the spiritual life is to lay at the foot of the cross those habits that do not bless and take up in Christ’s power those habits that do. I too wish I had known this decades ago….though I do wonder how much of it I would have heeded? It’s one thing to know a thing and quite another to live it. May we both continue to cultivate habits of joy and blessing that we may shine the Light of Jesus wherever we go.

  3. Jody Collins April 26, 2016 at 10:12 am - Reply

    Oh how I needed these words today! So wise and true. Thank you Amy, thank you Kimberlee.

  4. Tammy Dameron April 26, 2016 at 11:10 am - Reply

    AMEN! I love it!

  5. Linda April 26, 2016 at 3:11 pm - Reply

    I really appreciate the aspect that choosing joy takes work, especially in the beginning when we need to let go of our unhealthy & joyless habits. And boy do I have plenty of those! What you wrote makes me joyful because realistic optimism in Christ is cause for joy indeed, regardless of what our lives look like now.

    • Kimberlee Conway Ireton April 26, 2016 at 5:17 pm - Reply

      Ooh, Linda, I really like that: “realistic optimism in Christ”–what a great phrase. And if nothing is impossible for God, well, we have every reason for hope and joy, don’t we? Thank you for that thought!

  6. Elizabeth Trotter April 26, 2016 at 11:06 pm - Reply

    Kimberlee, I am loving your book. (I was one of the 8 to receive a free copy.) It has met me in each of my seasons this year. And I especially loved the recent Easter story that ended with “It’s Easter, Kimberlee, there are no consequences.” Love that!

    • Kimberlee Conway Ireton April 27, 2016 at 4:42 pm - Reply

      Elizabeth, I just read an article on the Psalms that your husband wrote, sent to me yesterday by a friend in Saudi Arabia who knows how much I love the Psalms. Sometimes the world feels wonderfully small–all these connections! I’m so glad you’re enjoying Circle and that God is speaking to you through it. It blesses me to know that. And I love the “no consequences” story, too; I think it’s my favorite story in the whole book.

      • Elizabeth Trotter April 27, 2016 at 7:17 pm - Reply

        Aw, thanks for sharing that, I will tell him! And just so you know, I love the “no consequences” story so much it’s going in my “favorite things” blog post today :)

  7. Avatar photo
    Amy April 27, 2016 at 9:21 pm - Reply

    Kimberlee, I wanted to wait a day and let you and others chat. The comment section makes me feel like I am in an inviting intellectual salon . . . where thoughtful conversations are had, not for the sake of trying to impress each other, but to spur each other on. Your generosity and love have fed my soul this week. Thank you :)! Amy

  8. Temitope April 29, 2016 at 6:54 am - Reply

    I’m always blessed whenever I read your posts. Thanks for being such a blessing to me.

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