Nehemiah (the governor), Ezra (the priest) and the Levites impart

Their wisdom on the people: Feast, share, rejoice. Wise words, for any congregation, any person. When God’s love has been poured into our hearts, joy abounds, and generosity. “The joy of the Lord is your strength,” Nehemiah and Ezra say.

“You find somebody who is judgmental, they’re self-righteous, always putting other people down, they’re critical, they’re always negative, they’re always harping at perfectionist things. It’s a sign that they don’t feel love themselves… When you’ve been broken, and then forgiven, you just start cutting a lot of other people some slack.”

Rick Warren penned these words. The grammar hurts, but the truth of it stings even more. When I am acting like this, it usually means my prayer life is out of whack. When I bump into perpetually peptic spiritual leaders, I wonder if the same is true for them.

“Blind guides,” Jesus says of spiritual leaders with no spiritual life. Their religion has nothing left but the skeletal remains of a once ebullient and robust life in the Spirit. It’s all too easy for any spiritual leader to do the same. Life gets filled with tasks and mediating the voices of the perpetually unhappy, and before we know it we’re no longer laughing with abandon, yelling at ball games, crying at weddings.

This time of year is super for rekindling your spiritual life. The weather is intoxicating. Go for a long walk with God today. Cancel an appointment. Drop some task. Take an hour and find joy. (Leave your phone behind.) Be silent. Smell the trees. Let God be God.

The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He takes me to lush pastures, he leads me to refreshing water.
He restores my soul. He leads me down the right paths for the sake of his reputation.
Psalm 23:1-3

Restore your soul. Let God’s generous and expansive Spirit bubble up inside.

Say today, “The joy of the Lord is my strength!”