Daily Advent Devotional: Day 21 – Sat, Dec 19

Joy may be encouraged and reinforced by your choice of environments. Opt to connect with nature. Or to change perspectives by going somewhere other than your usual setting.
            How you set the stage for where you work and play permits you to access joy. Being in places that minimize interruptions and offer immediate inspiration may support your reach for the joy within. Often joy in our sacred texts is described in connection with hills and rivers, gardens and vineyards and fields. Or in sacred places such as human-made sanctuaries or holy mountaintops. Be intentional about your choice of environment, even in small ways: pay attention to the lighting, orderliness, or perhaps the view. — Rev Gail

Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth; break forth, O mountains, into singing! For the Lord has comforted his people, and will have compassion on his suffering ones. — Isaiah 49:13

For you shall go out in joy, and be led back in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall burst into song, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. — Isaiah 55:12

To lust for joy is to lust for the God of life. To make joy where at first it seems there is none is to become co-creator with the God of life. When we make joy, we make a holier, happier life. — Joan Chittister

For Equilibrium, a Blessing — John O’Donohue

Like the joy of the sea coming home to shore, 
May the relief of laughter rinse through your soul. 

As the wind loves to call things to dance, 
May your gravity by lightened by grace. 

Like the dignity of moonlight restoring the earth, 
May your thoughts incline with reverence and respect. 

As water takes whatever shape it is in, 
So free may you be about who you become. 

As silence smiles on the other side of what’s said, 
May your sense of irony bring perspective. 

As time remains free of all that it frames, 
May your mind stay clear of all it names. 

May your prayer of listening deepen enough 
to hear in the depths the laughter of god.


Daily Advent Devotional: Day 20 – Fri, Dec 18

Gratitude is the birthplace of joy. Or vice versa.
            Appreciation and perspective enable you to embrace whatever comes. To find resilience in hard times. To opt for creative responses to challenging circumstances. To be curious rather than angry. It cultivates compassion and connection. Gratitude permits your starting point to be one of acceptance and adaptation, of positive thinking and an attitude of hope and empowerment. You can find beauty and satisfaction even in the midst of thorny times.
            With gratitude, you cherish what is already within reach. And value whatever gifts and experiences come to fruition. You may respect your history, savor the present moment, and believe in the potential of your future. All while experiencing keen awareness of now.
Rev Gail

For you, O Lord, have made me glad by your work; at the works of your hands I sing for joy. —Psalm 92:4

The root of joy is gratefulness … It is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful. ― Brother David Steindl-Rast

Joy is the simplest form of gratitude. — Karl Barth

Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day. ― Henri J.M. Nouwen

I think joy and sweetness and affection are a spiritual path. We’re here to know God, to love and serve God, and to be blown away by the beauty and miracle of nature. You just have to get rid of so much baggage to be light enough to dance, to sing, to play. You don’t have time to carry grudges; you don’t have time to cling to the need to be right. — Anne Lamott

Daily Advent Devotional: Day 18 – Wed, Dec 16

Joy may also come from practicing kindness and/or serving others. This approach to life feeds a sense of purpose and optimism. Kindness can happen in simple, daily interactions: recognize the dignity of another person and choose compassion and courtesy in your exchanges. Likewise, you can serve others informally by being a good neighbor and caring for others with acts of thoughtfulness, or more formally by volunteering for a cause in which you believe. Such outreach can be as modest as making a meal or checking in with people by phone. It may take a more committed path as a dedicated volunteer who supports others, and should be done with balance and boundaries.
            As a spiritual practice, this is an empowering approach to life. It identifies your competencies and capabilities, and reminds you that you have choices. It affirms your value and purpose as a human being and helps to acknowledge others, also.  
            Being kind and being of service enlarge personal perspectives. They alter the understanding of others’ circumstances, thus allowing you to recognize your own blessings. They cultivate appreciation for your own individual agency and the ability to be helpful to others. With kindness and service, through small acts or major forms of participation, you may renew your internal sense of fulfillment and joy. — Rev Gail

… for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I sing for joy. — Psalm 63:7

But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them … — Psalm 5:11

To get the full value of joy you must have someone to divide it with. ― Mark Twain

The joy that isn’t shared dies young. — Anne Sexton

Find joy in everything you choose to do. Every job, relationship, home… It’s your responsibility to love it, or change it. – Chuck Palahniuk

When you can stop and ask yourself, “How can I help,” or, “How can I be of service,” you create a new internal dialogue that leads to alternative and expanded ways of thinking and responding. … You have something to offer, a gift brought into this world to share with others. It could be your ability to listen, give a great hug, advocate for those in need, build something, or be there for someone In being able to share this gift, you build a greater sense of connection and belonging, something you can relate to as a basic need. Joy is often a side effect of what can happen when you are in the service of something greater than yourself. — Rachelle Williams

Gratitude begins in our hearts and then dovetails into behavior. It almost always makes you willing to be of service, which is where the joy resides. It means that you are willing to stop being such a jerk. When you are aware of all that has been given to you, in your lifetime and the past few days, it is hard not to be humbled, and pleased to give back. — Anne Lamott

Advent Daily Devotion: Day 16 – Mon, Dec 14

Joy relies on the connection between body, mind and spirit (heart). One simple practice is to smile. Develop the habit just as you learn how to breathe more deeply or train for athletic pursuits.
            When we use our facial muscles, our brains cue the body with the chemistry of the emotion we’re expressing. Smile. It helps your body relax and experience joy.
            And while joy may begin inside us, we also share it. It affects other people. From behind our masks, a smile crinkles the eyes. From the other end of a phone or video chat, a smile changes the tone of voice. It alters body language. It eases tension and lightens a stressful environment.
            Your smile shines a light inside you. It also lights up your corner of the world.
            In fact, you don’t need another person around to smile. Smiling is beneficial in all times. Exercising those smile muscles is an excellent form of self-care, as well as a wonderful gift for others. — Rev Gail

You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Psalm 16:11

While this practice helps me appreciate the power of smiling for diffusing stress … smiling when things get tough can be a challenge. Doing so, however, helps me move beyond the labeling of events as good or bad to a spiritual reality that enriches my experience of life. — Ruth Wilson

House of JoyRumi

If you knew yourself for even one moment,
if you could just glimpse
your most beautiful face,
maybe you wouldn’t slumber so deeply
in that house of clay.
Why not move into your house of joy
and shine into every crevice!
For you are the secret
Treasure-bearer, and always have been.
Didn’t you know?

Advent Daily Devotional: Day 14

Sat, Dec 12 – DAY 14

World peace has other connotations. It can mean harmonious, responsible connection with Creation. It may apply to how we engage the natural world in which we live.

            Do we actively tend to the needs of the environment in which we live? Do we find out what is out of balance in the places around us, and help to restore equilibrium where we can? Do we regularly make sustainable, equitable choices as consumers and advocates, as people who relish the outdoors in play and work? Who reside here so that we can be close to this breathtaking world?

            Peace may arise from communing with the natural and sacred places around us. Yet our peaceful connection to the environment also implies reciprocity and stewardship, a holy commitment to care for the world in which we live, as mandated by our own creation stories in Genesis. — Rev Gail

For you shall go out in joy, and be led back in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall burst into song, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. — Isaiah 55:12

When I say it’s you I like, I’m talking about that part of you that knows that life is far more than anything you can ever see or hear or touch. That deep part of you that allows you to stand for those things without which humankind cannot survive. Love that conquers hate, peace that rises triumphant over war, and justice that proves more powerful than greed.  Fred Rogers

The Peace of Wild Things — Wendell Barry
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

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