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Seven-Day Practical Faith Blog: Ripples of Joy

Hundreds of churchgoers surrounding me lifted their hands to follow the motions as the children's choir sang "Joy is a Flag." Standing in the congregation, I was trying not to cry, moved by the knowledge of how this glorious moment originated with a simple act decades before.

When I was the teenaged preacher's kid in a small church in Poteet, Texas, all grades joined to sing in the sanctuary after the worship service and before Sunday School. Somewhere along the line, adult volunteers asked me to lead the singing of "Joy is a Flag." If you haven't heard it, the key line is "Joy is a flag flown from the castle of my heart when the King is in residence here." Waving hand motions accompany the lyrics; the elementary kids especially enjoyed raising their hands over their heads to the line, "So fly it high in the sky, let the whole world know!"

I don't recall why I got drafted to lead (come to think of it, I was the preacher's kid!) or why the children always requested me to lead the song thereafter. Leading the song was fun but also a bit embarrassing for a teen; my friends would look at me as if they felt sorry for me, relieved that I was up front and not them. Yet the young ones always made my temporary embarrassment worthwhile.

Fast forward thirty-plus years. I was married with three kids, attending a large suburban church; the whole family was very engaged with church activities.

My wife Sara became the leader of the kindergarten choir. At one point, Sara was casting about for some new music. That’s when I introduced her to “Joy is a Flag.”

A veteran musician, Sara had never heard it, but she loved it from the start and taught it to the Cherub Choir, who loved it as well. "Joy is a Flag" became the centerpiece of their next worship performance.

The song sparked emotions. The kindergarten choir enthusiastically sang and waved. The congregation smiled. My teen sons, Anthony and Austin, were in the balcony, teaching the song to their fellow youth group members, who joined in the motions.

Then Sara called out, “OK, everybody sing!” The entire congregation began loudly singing and waving.

As I glanced around the joyful sanctuary scene, tears filled my eyes. I thought, “My God, what have you done? You have taken the awkward leadership experience and simple faith of a pimply teenager and his young friends, and you have turned it into a beautiful moment for hundreds of people in this place!”

I drew three lessons from that moment. First, God is the Great Multiplier. When we step out in faith, even in small ways, God multiples our meager efforts and makes things happen. An example is when Jesus accepted a family-sized portion of bread and fish and blessed it before sufficiently feeding his five thousand listeners on a seaside hill. If miracles exist today, perhaps they emerge from the Great Multiplier's design.

Second, I learned the ripple effect of our faithful actions. Not only did the little church song echo into our sprawling suburban church, but an out-of-state visitor asked Sara for the song that day and took it to her church. Who knows how far the ripples have traveled?

Third, well, joy is indeed a flag, an outward sign of the inward reality of the Holy Spirit residing with us. As we strive to live a seven-day practical faith, we are accompanied by and enabled by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit's presence brings joy that overcomes all circumstances. We can spread this joy to others as we deepen our own trust in God. When we are obedient, we can be vessels pouring out ripples of joy.

If you haven't seen it yet, I'm hosting two book parties to celebrate my latest books. There is an in-person book party on Saturday, May 11, from noon until 2 pm Central at Schimelpfenig Library in Plano and an online book party on Monday, May 13, from 7 until 9 pm Central. Please check out the Cecil Taylor Ministries home page or the Facebook page for Cecil Taylor Ministries for more details.

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