Rejoice With Those Who Rejoice

I’ve been around church(es) for a long time now, so I’ve heard my fair share of references and reflections on Romans 12:15.

“Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.”

The vast majority, if not all, of the references/reflections/sermons I’ve heard on this verse have to do with the second part, the mourning part.

Usually when something bad happens we like to say this as a reminder of our duty.

Mourning with people is extremely important.

Mourning with people exemplifies empathy, sympathy, and emotional intelligence, not to mention spiritual maturity and the sacrificial love of Jesus.

But, why haven’t I heard as many (if any) references/reflections/sermons on “rejoice with those who rejoice?”

And what does it even mean to rejoice with someone? Does that mean giving them a high-five, or a pat on the back when they are pumped about something good in their life? Or is it something deeper than that?

I think it is easier for us to mourn with those mourn.

Positively, pain binds us all together, so I think it can be easier to access those emotions and connect with someone experiencing pain.

Negatively, I think we get a sort of “hit” from coming alongside someone and walking with them through their pain. This is not necessarily bad, but I think mourning with someone puts us in a helping role, and we tend to feel good about ourselves when we help someone.

Sharing someone’s joy doesn’t give us quite the same sort of ego hit that mourning does.

I’ve found rejoicing with others to be really hard to do personally, and I’ve felt its absence, in my own experiences, in some pretty profound ways.

In a competitive world it can be hard when someone else achieves something, or reaches a new stage of life, or is just simply celebrating a level of success that we haven’t reached yet. Seeing someone else succeed might make us insecure about our state of life, or disappointed in what we haven’t accomplished.

In other words, rejoicing with others seems like a bigger test of character than mourning.

Rejoicing with others requires a true sense of humility. To truly share in someone else’s joy means that we are totally focused on the other. So focused that their joy becomes our joy.

And that’s hard to do.

But, this is one of my new life goals. To revel in their success and fun and excitement as much as I would my own.

I want to be great at rejoicing with those who rejoice.

It Does Happen

One of M’s new lines is “it does happen.”

As in, Daddy is walking through the kitchen and drops his cookie on the ground and begins to grumble under his breath. At which point, M swoops in, pats me on the back, and says:

It does happen.”

This weekend as we’ve reflected on Good Friday I was reminded in many ways that “it does happen.”
Sin, death, heartbreak, tragedy, dysfunction, deterioration, on and on it goes.
It does happen.

Yesterday morning, Easter Sunday, I was reminded that even while “it does happen,” something else is happening too.


Sometimes blindingly, amazingly, obviously.
Most of the time, though, in a million tiny, mundane ways.
In the sacrificial hands of a good servant,
in the kind words of a wise friend,
in bread and wine,
in rain on Easter morning.

You can see it if you have the eyes: new life bursting forth right here and right now.

That’s the next step for M as she grows in wisdom.

Step one: recognize that it does happen.
Step two: develop the eyes to see another reality.
To hold Good Friday and Easter Sunday in a healthy tension.
And to know and believe in resurrection.

Thank You

I’m hoping to get back in a rhythm here at the ID, posting on a weekly basis. Let’s begin 2015 reflecting on gratitude and the wisdom gleaned from toddlers.

M is in a stage where she says thank you for things she’s received from others. For example:

When putting on shoes from a cousin: “Thank you, Nina.”
When playing with a toy from a friend: “Thank you, Bella.”
When putting on clothes from a grandmother: “Thank you, G,” or “Thank you, Grammy.”

(This is helpful because it reminds us to write thank you notes to people.)

She reminds me often to be grateful. And to be specifically grateful.

Gratitude is never truly practiced in generalities.
Gratitude must be specific.

There are too many people to thank, at least in this space, for all the help we’ve received over the past two months as we’ve transitioned from one coast to another.

Boston friends and family.
Salinas friends and family.
Oakland friends and family.

A million thank yous. Specific thank yous. Thank yous for food and visits. For carrying heavy boxes and packing and unpacking trucks. Thank yous for hospitality. And for spending time with our kids. For filling our pantry and refrigerator. And for big checks. And for so much more.

Thank you.

Faith and Doubt

There is a sort of faith

That is too small to comprehend

How high and wide and deep and long are the mysteries

Of a love that surpasses our ability to know.

And there is a sort of doubt

That is too confident

To admit that there is more to the world

Than what we can see and touch and prove and measure.

Beyond faith

And doubt

There is wisdom.

(inspired by our community group’s convo on james 1)

Older (RePost)

I’m 30 and I still quote from dumb and dumber quite often. But I work with a population that was not even in grade school when this movie was in theaters!

They say you are most effective, in ministry, with those ten-years older and younger than you. I think about that from time to time, especially when kids are talking about some youtube video, or a new gadget that I have never heard of and for sure will not know how to use.

I also grow weary with some of the drama that comes with the territory. Whether you take bio 102a or 103b, or whether or not so and so dropped you as a facebook friend, is not always the most interesting conversation for me. However, at one point, I was that student, consumed by what I was supposed to be doing with my life and all emo-ed out with girl problems and the weight of the world.

I find myself wanting to tell students all the time: “It’s ok, this is the easy part, enjoy it, everything is going to be fine.” That’s me at 30: Mr. Cliche.

But I don’t want to be mr. cliché. I find myself circling back to the wise words of Henri Nouwen. In his excellent book, In the Name of Jesus, Nouwen tackles some of the common temptations of leaders. One of them is the temptation to be relevant.

“The leaders of the future will be those who dare to claim their irrelevance in the contemporary world as a divine vocation that allows them to enter into a deep solidarity with the anguish underlying all the glitter of success, and to bring the light of Jesus there.”

I love the line “the anguish underlying all the glitter of success,” because that describes the condition of the modern college student so well. Nouwen prescribes contemplative prayer as the antidote to the temptation of relevance. It is in listening to “the voice of love” again and again and that we find the answers to the issues of the day, to the underlying anguish, to the pain.

The best thing about getting old, at least so far, is that you realize that what you have offer the next generation is not coolness (you will never out cool them), is not stuff, is not even life lessons, but hopefully love. Nothing that I do or create or think up will be as cool as what they can find on tv but who will love them well?

As I get older that’s the question that keeps me up at night.

Thank You Eugene (Living at Our Best)

No writer has shaped my thinking and helped me on this journey with Jesus more than Eugene Peterson. This cannot come as any surprise to readers of the “ill dil”. Yesterday, Peterson presented, for what many presume to be the last time, at Q Practices. In honor of that, hear some good words from Eugene:

“Exile (being where we don’t want to be with people we don’t want to be with) forces a decision: Will I focus my attention on what is wrong with the world and feel sorry for myself? Or will I focus my energies on how I can live at my best in this place I find myself? It is always easier to complain about problems than to engage in careers of virtue.'”

and this:

“Daily we face decisions on how we will respond to these exile conditions. We can say: ‘I don’t like it; I want to be where I was ten years ago. How can you expect me to throw myself into something I don’t like–that would be sheer hypocrisy. What sense is there in taking risks and tiring myself out among people I don’t even like in a place where I have no future.'”

and finally, this:

“Or we can say: ‘I will do my best with what is here. Far more important than the climate of this place, the neighbors in this place, is the God of this place, God is here with me. What I am experiencing right now is on ground that was created by him and with people whom he loves. It is just as possible to live out the will of God here as any place else.”