Tuesday, December 9, 2014


His wife died, his kids were sad, lonely, depressed and angry. He was scrambled and confused, with the deepest pit of depression he could have ever imagined. Then it happened......He Bought A Zoo

In this 2011 true story drama, Benjamin Mee, played by Matt Damon, finds himself in the worst possible situation. The love of his life is gone, his job is boring, his family is hurting and he has no idea what to do next. He decides to quit his job and move his family for a new start. Until his daughter Rosie delivers the moment of revelation, he has no idea where to turn.

The Zoo purchase was not the moment of truth, though it seemed to be at face value. In all of his searching, waiting, and dreaming, he seemed to instinctively know something was coming, but he couldn't have known what. Then it happened. While looking at a broken down house and property way out of town, a place with impossible challenges, he noticed Rosie playing with some animals. As the sun began to set behind him, he stood silent while the joy radiating from his daughters smile captured his heart. What he saw was JOY, pure JOY. She had found a place of relaxation, fun and joy. He felt it immediately, this was a defining moment, one he could not pass up, no matter how crazy.

This moment between father and daughter became one of many defining moments in this real life adventure. What had been dealt to this family was hurt and pain, disappointment at very deep levels. What Rosie was beginning to find again, was JOY. This moment of JOY defined the future for this family who faced unmistakable odds in their new challenge, but who found a way to endure. Benjamin Mee, through the smile of a little girl, found what we all need, A JOY THAT DEFINES YOU.

Would you like to have moments like this everyday. We let so many dark, disgusting, dysfunctional and depressing moments DEFINE us, it is about time we let a moment of JOY DEFINE US. Watch the news, depressing, go the mall, depressing, make more money, still depressing. We manage our moods with drugs and we run when times get hard. Marriages fail, homes are broken, kids check out, families part ways, careers fail, death surprises us, things break. These are a few of hundreds of reasons our week on planet earth can steal our JOY. Then, there are other times...those small glimmers of light, moments of fun, beauty and JOY. If we let it, the JOY, which the Bible says is "unspeakable and full of glory", changes our direction, our focus and even our heart. This the JOY DEFINES YOU.

I remember when Elizabeth was born. I still have the 20 year old gilder-rocker I held her in, sometimes for hours, just looking into that lovely little face. That JOY DEFINED ME as a father. I remember watching Hosanna dance in her first big production. I fought to see her and took pictures and videos at the same time. Her beauty and grace brought an unusual JOY to my heart, and yes, it certainly DEFINED ME. God allowed me to sit in my basement for hours as the kids put on dances, plays and random other basement performances. I have hours and hours of video documenting these unscripted moments of childhood fun. My kids ask me why we just sat there for hours watching them. It's because I am forever marked by Benjamin hurking and jerking around, stepping in front of his sisters, doing what he believed to be a dance. The expression on his face, the JOY and determination in his voice. It was pure fun and childlike JOY. Even recently Victoria played the piano before a school play, and when she was unaware, I took her picture. The JOY she had playing in the corner was visible. The glimmer in her eyes and twinkle in her finger tips transferred an energy to the tired parents showing up that night. It was JOY they felt. Lastly, there is Eli, my smallest miracle. He is a nearly blind orphan from China, yet, if you listened to him laugh when I tickled him this weekend. If you felt the passionate and powerful love of each hug he gives, and if you watched the deep JOY he has when playing with friends and riding his electric scooter, you would just sit in amazement. What you would envy from him is JOY, pure, childlike JOY.

I am challenged this week to turn away from the most dark and frustrating parts of the world around me, no matter how close to home. It is to anticipate and search for the JOY OF THE LORD in a moment, moments that will DEFINE my week, my month and year. I will not let the potential impact of disappointment or discouragement DEFINE ME, rather, the JOY OF THE LORD.

This will be my strength, this will redefine my life and legacy. What are your moments this week, moments of great JOY. Not just fun or silly or crazy excitement, but moments of JOY, like Rosie found at the moment where her dad took her to a place they had not been before, a place where risk and adventure where sisters to joy and happiness.

Find JOY in at least three moments this week and let the power of that JOY DEFINE YOU and the direction God has for your life.