Advent Daily Devotional: Day 22 – Week of Love

Sunday, Dec 20 – DAY 22

Love glows bright as the focus of this week’s reflections. As we light our candles, we prepare to welcome holy love into our homes and lives.
            Can you imagine a love more determined than the one that chooses to show up in our messy and imperfect world? To be born human?
            It takes a stubborn love to move toward us, because we cannot ever quite reach that love itself. That is what our holy stories translate to us. Love chooses to be with us and among us in this season. And every day.
            The holy love narrated in our scriptures points toward agape. Agape is a love greater than ourselves. It is different than erotic or passionate love, larger and deeper than love for friends or family.
            Agape gives of itself. And part of that giving begins with movement. Holy love has turned to us and returned to us, chosen us over and over, meeting us where we are, coming to this world and time in which we live.
 — Rev Gail

But as for me, my prayer is to you, O Lord. At an acceptable time, O God, in the abundance of your steadfast love, answer me. — Psalm 69:13

Agape doesn’t love somebody because they’re worthy. Agape makes them worthy by the strength and power of its love. Agape doesn’t love somebody because they’re beautiful. Agape loves in such a way that it makes them beautiful. — Rob Bell

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?

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