Last night Mike and I went to Chastain Park to see a concert. I didn’t really want to go after Mike phoned me from work earlier in the day. His voice was strained. His stress and discouragement over a big problem seeped from him to me and settled heavy in my chest. ” I wish we weren’t going tonight” I said. “It’s too much trouble to try to do something like this with so much junk going on. We should just wait until things get better at work.” I couldn’t imagine myself enjoying the evening when I had things to worry about!
“We’re going” he sighed. “I’ll be fine once I leave here.”
We got there early and just like hundreds of others we covered the table with a pretty cloth and candles. It’s what you do at Chastain…set your table and bring in fun , sometimes fancy, food and drinks. I looked around at the tables. Most had candles. Several tables took on the air of a picnic dinner. One that was particularly pretty was draped in a cheerful red and white checked cloth. They had a mason jar full of daisies in the center and there were little straw baskets full of some kind of finger foods. Lots of tables were adorned with crisp white linens giving a more formal feel. A couple of rows down was a group of all women. Their table had an ocean colored cloth with a huge hurricane lantern in the center. (The big white pillar candle burning inside the hurricane had a strong enough flame to roast a marshmallow!) Their flowers were a showey bunch of purplish-blue hydrangeas. Six dainty wine glasses sat ready. They were all different shades. The colors reminded me of sea glass. What a lot of effort and trouble those women put into this night, I thought. What a lot of trouble everyone went to tonight.
Beginning to relax a little, I noticed though, that trouble seemed the last thing anyone was thinking about. Everyone I saw had a smile. The sounds of laughter and conversation filled the air. Evening settled in and a cool breeze was blowing. The hint of an almost full moon hung out right above the stage. A uncharacteristic feeling welled up in me. I couldn’t put my finger on it…Was it gratitude? Love? Joy? Tears suddenly filled my eyes and I knew this was a God thing. My next thought was; everyone is having a good time. They are laughing. Eating. Drinking. Taking a break from the problems in their lives to enjoy this moment. I imagined there were loads of problems represented here…heartache, grief, financial trouble, illness…no telling what else. And yet for now…joy was winning.
The evening eased into a beautiful night. The moon was bright and rose high in the sky. The breeze kept blowing. The soft glow of candles flickered everywhere. The group, Earth, Wind, & Fire, sang and played their hearts out. During the fast songs like ‘September’, almost everyone, me included, jumped up and danced. Some people were moving with even less rhythm than I was, but it didn’t matter. We were having fun! During the slow songs, like ‘After the Love is Gone’, some couples stood and slow danced. One young couple shared their dance with their chubby little boy balanced in their arms. I lay my head on Mike’s shoulder and we swayed to the music. We ended up having a wonderful time.
This morning I woke to the call of Ecclesiastes. That’s where I am in my Bible reading. While I read several chapters one verse kept calling me back. Chapter 5:20…”God gives, both the bounty and the capacity to enjoy it, accepting what’s given and delighting in the work… It’s God’s gift! God deals out joy in the present, the now.” I thought of how much I enjoyed last night. With my tendency to put off joy until “this” changes or “that” gets better, how many times have I missed a “joy gift” from God? If God “deals out Joy in the now”, maybe we can’t put it aside for later. Maybe it’s like manna. Eat it now or it will spoil. Today, I purpose to trust God with my troubles and accept His gifts in the present. Today, I will delight in the now~