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I've got the joy, joy, joy down in my heart

My favorite high school teacher was a man of many words.  He taught English, and loved the language, from Shakespeare to Salinger.  I learned to love writing - both as an activity for myself, and enjoying the good writing of others. 

Despite the fact that I went to a public high school, this teacher and I often talked about religion.  One of his lessons for me was,  "Beware of long-faced Christians."  These were the people who'd heard the Good News, embraced it, and got not one ounce of joy from it.  You probably know some people like this:  folks for whom the Gospel message meant a life of dour belief, sour expressions, and the power to threaten others with eternal damnation.

For years, I've had a little sign hanging in my bedroom, a simple cross-stitched message:  "Sursum corda".  In Latin:  "Lift up your hearts."  If you're Catholic, you'll recognize this from the Mass - the priest says it, and the congregation responds:  "We lift them up to the Lord."  To me, those two words summarize the whole of faith, hope and love:  the virtues we need to navigate through this life to the next. 

I am not talking about "happiness".  I have nothing against "happiness" - I like it as much as the next girl.  But happiness is rather fleeting, and typically depends on one's circumstances:  I'm happy because I'm comfortable, warm and fed.  I'm happy that I got a new pair of shoes.  I'm happy because my day went well.

Joy is different.  It doesn't depend on circumstances, because it is based on something that never changes:   God.  Regardless of what happens to me and around me, God (and His love for me) remains.  Now, I might have some trouble mustering joy when my circumstances are hard, but that doesn't change these facts:  God is.  God loves.  And God yearns for my eternal joy.   And so, I lift up my heart, in joy...today and tomorrow.  Even when I don't "feel" joy, I choose to lift up my heart to the Lord.  I can smile about that.

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