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Down in My Heart


Life in a broken world is challenging. So, what else is new? Since the Garden of Eden our species has learned and often devised human metrics to navigate our world at the time, regardless of the unique traits that marked that time. The complexity and velocity of exponential times, which is a recurring theme in this space, seem to add layers of testy reality to our navigational abilities. The people over in the research department conclude that most of us are fatigued, sleep deprived, perhaps over-medicated, and lacking in the nutrition department. They also report that as many as 44 million of our neighbors struggle with mental health issues (you can read a short report from Mental Health America by clocking here). Forgive the negative stuff, but look around during the usual worship times in our three major religions to get a sense of our spiritual landscape. The wonder and beauty of God's creation is somehow blurred by the dust clouds of our innate attempts to make things work.

Last summer I had a lesson in living in this broken world. It was a regular July day here in the Lowcountry of South Carolina, over 100 degrees just after 2:00 p.m. A tractor trailer truck had overturned at one of the exit ramps from I-26. Most commuters will know what I mean when I say that it was a parking lot. Praying my old 2005 Sorento wouldn't overheat at a stand-still, I deactivated the A/C unit and rolled down the windows. Yes, it was hot, I was late for an appointment, and was scowling at the situation. People in the other cars wore the same looks---anger, frustration, impatience, and worse. That my nice white golf shirt was soaked just amplified the misery.

That's when the lesson happened. It's another of my often repeated themes, a lesson learned after the death of our son, July 18, 2011. When things are going wrong we typically ask, "how do I get out of this?" We should ask, "what do I get out of this?" Anyway, about that time an SUV inched beside me in the left lane. It was a mom and four children. Every window was open, they were sweating buckets too, and were singing with the volume turned up---"I've Got Joy, Joy, Joy, Joy, Down in my heart". This wise mom was leading the children in making the most of a bad situation.

It's another of those theologically strong songs many of us learned as a children. Their singing triggered moments of refreshment in the cars that surrounded them and in me. It reminded me that the attributes of joy, peace, and love are spiritual fruit that should grow in my life, even when challenged by troubling circumstances. It's what the Apostle Paul wrote to the persecuted believers in Galatia---

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,

gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

Galatians 5: 22-23, ESV

How often we allow our circumstances to override the blessings of these character traits of Christ. Just imagine what the world around us would be when influenced by the simple truth of this old song. For the rest of that day I luxuriated in our condominium complex pool and thanked God for that anonymous woman and her children.

I've Got the Joy, Joy, Joy, Joy is a simple child's song. You can still hear it on occasion in children's church or even around a beach campfire. It was copyrighted by George William Cooke in 1925 but the copyright was never renewed. Several additional verses have been appended to the song but the ones listed are the most popular. Look over the words. Sing them to the tune. Doesn't it lift your spirits?

I have the joy, joy, joy, joy

Down in my heart

Down in my heart

Down in my heart

I have the joy, joy, joy, joy

Down in my heart

Down in my heart to stay

I have the peace that passeth understanding

Down in my heart

Down in my heart

Down in my heart

I have the peace that passeth understanding

Down in my heart

Down in my heart to stay

I have the love of Jesus, love of Jesus

Down in my heart

Down in my heart

Down in my heart

I have the love of Jesus, love of Jesus

Down in my heart

Down in my heart to stay

For there is there-fore now no condemnation

Down in my heart

Down in my heart

Down in my heart

For there is there-fore now no condemnation

Down in my heart

Down in my heart to stay

Joy, peace, and love seem to the main emphases of Cooke's lyrics. But, six other words have challenged me most---down in my heart to stay. Why? Simply because I so often allow my circumstances to dictate my attitude about life. And, these traits should be in my heart to stay.

Songology: Sustaining Truth in Children's Songs. Sustaining means they abide in me to stay.

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