I had the real joy of being with 12 of our high schoolers for the Montreat Youth Conference. Now I know some may say being away for a week with 15 under one roof and going to the grocery store multiple times and coordinating schedules may not sound very joyful, but it was.

This year’s theme was all about being In Joy. Here is the description of the week: What does it mean to experience deep, authentic joy? It can often feel inaccessible or artificial, yet opening ourselves up to it provides new possibilities and stretches our boundaries. Join us as we explore the sources and meaning of authentic joy grounded in the light of God’s love and healing power through worship, music, learning, and of course, play!

Each day we explored a new way to think about and experience being In Joy. Claiming joy: Where does joy come from? Complicated joy: How can joy survive? Cultivating joy: How do I find joy? Communal joy: Where do we find joy? Contributing to joy: Why does my/our joy matter?

From the keynote speaker to the preaching and the music we were filled with joy. The kind of joy we talked about is something that comes from within and takes work to experience. But it is deep-seated in the knowledge that I am a child of God. That you are a child of God. The leaders did an amazing job distinguishing between happiness, which can be of the world and can be temporary; and joy, which is a gift from God to be cultivated and nurtured and the lens through which we are to see ourselves and one another.

Each day we sang the theme song, called “Fill My Cup.” The chorus goes like this.

Fill my cup Lord

Run it over

Give me love

Give me joy

Give me peace

Fill my cup Lord

Run it over

I am Your child in need.

Lord I need You to fill my cup.

Indeed the Lord does fill our cup. My cup runs over with joy, joy for knowing that I am a child of God, just as you are a child of God. Joy for the youth and leaders at Montreat. Joy for this place of First Presbyterian and the mission and ministry for all. May we all work to cultivate and sustain the joy that is within each of us, and to share it with our neighbors and all in need.

— Newton Cowan, Associate Pastor for Pastoral Care