Meditations on joy as the third theme during Advent

When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in You, a joy. — Rumi 

We are fragile creatures, and it is from this weakness, not despite it, that we discover the possibility of true joy. ― Desmond Tutu, The Book of Joy

Our perspective toward life is our final and ultimate freedom. — Viktor Frankl

As our dialogue progressed, we converged on eight pillars of joy. Four were qualities of the mind: perspective, humility, humor, and acceptance. Four were qualities of the heart: forgiveness, gratitude, compassion, and generosity. — Douglas Carlton AbramsThe Book of Joy

We create most of our suffering, so it should be logical that we also have the ability to create more joy. It simply depends on the attitudes, the perspectives, and the reactions we bring to situations and to our relationships with other people.— Dalai Lama, The Book of Joy

SONGS about JOY:

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning is a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness
comes as an unexpected visitor…
Welcome and entertain them all.
Treat each guest honorably.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
— Rumi

ARTICLES & VIDEOS about CULTIVATING JOY:

JOY— Maurine Smith
Joy, joy, run over me,
Like water running over a shining stone;
And I beneath your sweet shall be
No longer hungry and alone.
The light at my heart’s gate is lit—
My love, my love, is tending it!


BLIND JOY  John Frederick Nims
Crude seeing’s all our joy: could we discern
The cold dark infinite vast where atoms burn
—Lone suns—in flesh, our treasure and our play,
Who’d dare to breathe this fern-thick bird-rich day? 


JOY  (excerpt)— Alan Shapiro
What never comes when called.
          What hides when held.
Guest
          most at home where least
                      expected.
Vagrant
balm of Gilead.
          What, soon as here,
                      becomes
the body’s native ground and,
         soon as not,its banishment. … 

MUSINGS on JOY

I’d like to repeat the advice that I gave you before, in that I think you really should make a radical change in your lifestyle and begin to boldly do things which you may previously never have thought of doing, or been too hesitant to attempt. So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun. 
       … Don’t settle down and sit in one place. Move around, be nomadic, make each day a new horizon. You are still going to live a long time, … and it would be a shame if you did not take the opportunity to revolutionize your life and move into an entirely new realm of experience.
      You are wrong if you think Joy emanates only or principally from human relationships. God has placed it all around us. It is in everything and anything we might experience. We just have to have the courage to turn against our habitual lifestyle and engage in unconventional living.
      My point is that you do not need me or anyone else around to bring this new kind of light in your life. It is simply waiting out there for you to grasp it, and all you have to do is reach for it. — Jon Krakauer


What is this thing called joy, and how is it possible that it can evoke such a wide range of feelings? How can the experience of joy span from those tears of joy at a birth to an irrepressible belly laugh at a joke to a serenely contented smile during meditation? Joy seems to blanket this entire emotional expanse. Paul Ekman, famed emotions researcher and longtime friend of the Dalai Lama, has written that joy is associated with feelings as varied as: pleasure (of the five senses) amusement (from a chuckle to a belly laugh) contentment (a calmer kind of satisfaction) excitement (in response to novelty or challenge) relief (following upon another emotion, such as fear, anxiety, and even pleasure) wonder (before something astonishing and admirable) ecstasy or bliss (transporting us outside ourselves) exultation (at having accomplished a difficult or daring task) radiant pride (when our children earn a special honor) unhealthy jubilation or schadenfreude (relishing in someone else’s suffering) elevation (from having witnessed an act of kindness, generosity, or compassion) gratitude (the appreciation of a selfless act of which one is the beneficiary). — Douglas Carlton Abrams


When you are grateful, you are not fearful, and when you are not fearful, you are not violent. When you are grateful, you act out of a sense of enough and not out of a sense of scarcity, and you are willing to share. If you are grateful, you are enjoying the differences between people and respectful to all people. The grateful world is a world of joyful people. Grateful people are joyful people. A grateful world is a happy world. — Brother Steindl-Rast cited by Douglas Carlton Abrams, The Book of Joy


Joy is the reward, really, of seeking to give joy to others. When you show compassion, when you show caring, when you show love to others, do things for others, in a wonderful way you have a deep joy that you can get in no other way. You can’t buy it with money. You can be the richest person on Earth, but if you care only about yourself, I can bet my bottom dollar you will not be happy and joyful. But when you are caring, compassionate, more concerned about the welfare of others than about your own, wonderfully, wonderfully, you suddenly feel a warm glow in your heart, because you have, in fact, wiped the tears from the eyes of another. ― Dalai Lama, The Book of Joy

The Language of Joy — Jacqueline Allen Trimble 
Black woman joy is like this:
Mama said one day long before I was born
she was walking down the street,
foxes around her neck, their little heads
smiling up at her and out at the world
and she was wearing this suit she had saved up
a month’s paycheck for after it called to her so seductively
from the window of this boutique. And that suit
was wearing her, keeping all its promises
in all the right places. Indigo. Matching gloves.
Suede shoes dippity-do-dahed in blue.
With tassels! Honey gold. And, Lord, a hat
with plume de peacock, a conductor’s baton that bounced
to hip rhythm. She looked so fine she thought
Louis Armstrong might pop up out of those movies
she saw as a child, wipe his forehead and sing
ba da be bop oh do de doe de doe doe.
And he did. Mama did not sing but she was
skiddly-doing that day,and the foxes grinned, and she grinned
and she was the star of her own Hollywood musical
here with Satchmo who had called Ella over and now they were all
singing and dancing like a free people up Dexter Avenue,
and don’t think they didn’t know they were walking in the footsteps
of slaves and over auction sites and past where old Wallace
had held onto segregation like a life raft, but this
was not that day. This day was for foxes and hip rhythm
and musical perfection and folks on the street joining in the celebration
of breath and holiness. And they did too. In color-coordinated ensembles,
they kicked and turned and grinned and shouted like church
or football game, whatever their religious preference. The air
vibrated with music, arms, legs, and years of unrequited
sunshine. Somebody did a flip up Dexter Avenue.
It must have been a Nicholas Brother in a featured performance,
and Mama was Miss-Lena-Horne-Dorothy-Dandridge
high-stepping up the real estate, ready for her close-up.
That’s when Mama felt this little tickle. She thought
it might be pent-up joy, until a mouse squirmed out
from underneath that fine collar, over that fabulous fur,
jumped off her shoulder and ran down the street.
Left my mama standing there on Dexter Avenue in her blue
suit and dead foxes. And what did Mama do?
Everybody looking at her, robbed by embarrassment?
She said, “It be like that sometimes,” then she and Satchmo,
Ella, and the whole crew jammed their way home.

JOY 
— Stuart Kestenbaum
The asters shake
from stem to flower
waiting for the monarchs to alight. 
Every butterfly knows
that the end is different
from the beginning 
and that it is always a part
of a longer story, in which
we are always transformed.
When it’s time to fly,
you know how,
just the way you knew how to breathe,
just the way the air
knew to find its way into your lungs, 
the way the geese know when to depart,
the way their wings know how
to speak to the wind,
a partnership of feather and glide,
lifting into the blue dream. 

PRAYER for JOY 
— Stuart Kesterbaum
What was it we wanted
to say anyhow, like today
when there were all the letters
in my alphabet soup and suddenly
the ‘j’ rises to the surface.
The ‘j’, a letter that might be
great for Scrabble, but not really
used for much else, unless
we need to jump for joy,
and then all of a sudden
it’s there and ready to
help us soar and to open up
our hearts at the same time,
this simple line with a curved bottom,
an upside down cane that helps
us walk in a new way into this
forest of language, where all the letters
are beginning to speak,
finding each other in just
the right combination
to be understood.

STRUGGLES, SUFFERING & JOY: Sometimes It’s Hard to Access Joy

Discovering more joy does not, I’m sorry to say, save us from the inevitability of hardship and heartbreak. In fact, we may cry more easily, but we will laugh more easily, too. Perhaps we are just more alive. Yet as we discover more joy, we can face suffering in a way that ennobles rather than embitters. We have hardship without becoming hard. We have heartbreak without being broken. — Archbishop Desmond Tutu, The Book of Joy


Part of the problem with the word ‘disabilities’ is that it immediately suggests an inability to see or hear or walk or do other things that many of us take for granted. But what of people who can’t feel? Or talk about their feelings? Or manage their feelings in constructive ways? What of people who aren’t able to form close and strong relationships? And people who cannot find fulfillment in their lives, or those who have lost hope, who live in disappointment and bitterness and find in life no joy, no love? These, it seems to me, are the real disabilities. — Fred Rogers 


‘Without pain, how could we know joy?’ This is an old argument in the field of thinking about suffering and its stupidity and lack of sophistication could be plumbed for centuries but suffice it to say that the existence of broccoli does not, in any way, affect the taste of chocolate. — John Green


Joy: A Defiant Sermon — Chinglican at Table
The Third Sunday of Advent is … the day to light the pink candle. It is not without reason that this Sunday is called Gaudete Sunday, a Sunday when the readings, the music, the church decorations, and even the pink candle are supposed to be gaudy. It’s supposed to be a party, a day of joy …
      If only we could.Are we even allowed to light the pink candle and be gaudy … when we have endured…accounts of violence worldwide… horrors … immediately … politicized…
      No. We are not joyful. We are not even pretending to be. We have had enough … But what do we say—indeed, what can we say? …
      …. The Gospel tells us that the crowds asked John the Baptizer, ‘What shall we do?’  The crowds asked John the Baptizer what they should do…. Does John give the socially and politically conservative answer, that what is simply needed is a conversion of the individual heart … because the central problem of personal repentance has not been solved? Does John give the concerned parental response, that the private sphere is under threat … that public safety will soon be a myth … and that for the sake of our children, we must enact some policy … Does John give the ‘I have no words to say’ sermon, a reflection on mystery in the midst of grief, that God weeps with the wretched of the earth but really has nothing better to do than to cry with you as you are terrorized?
      No. None of the above. In the midst of such colonization, terror, and violence, John’s answer is a call to radical hospitality…  
       In the midst of such colonization, terror, and violence, John’s answer is a call to radical hospitality… John’s call to action is cryptic. It is as if in the midst of the senseless violence in both first-century Palestine and the twenty-first century globalized world, John is calling us to a defiant hospitality. In the midst of violence, the Church defies the common sense … that we need to batten down the hatches … No, John says, we open our doors wider.
      
John the Baptizer is saying what our other readings for Gaudete Sunday are saying.  Rejoice, St. Paul says, again I say it, rejoice, because hope against hope, sending your petitions with thanksgiving to God, the peace of Christ that surpasses all understanding and defies the common sense of anxiety in the midst of this crooked and perverse generation will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Rejoice, the prophets Zephaniah and Isaiah say, for God is our savior from our enemies, he has removed our judgment, he sings over us now as songs are sung at festivals.  Rejoice.  Be hospitable.  Open wide your gates, daughter of Zion.
 These acts of joy run counter to our feelings of horror, despair, anger, and rage … He is coming, John says, but as we look forward to his return, he isn’t back yet.  So yes, we should grieve at this present darkness. … Yes, we should have no words to say to explain the horror.  Yes, do be angry, rage at the senselessness. But as the people of God, in our sorrow and in our anger, in our disbelief at the level of injustice … we also defy … we declare with our actions that this is indeed a time to act, but with the radical acts of hospitality, to let our rejoicing not be empty words, but shocking deeds of expansive welcome to the stranger, solidarity with the hungry and the naked … we rejoice defiantly by flinging open our hearts and our doors to welcome the stranger and love our neighbour.

ADDITIONAL FAITH-BASED COMMENTARIES on JOY

The Fruit of the Spirit: Joy (excerpt) — Kelly Wise Valdes

      …People often confuse joy with happiness, but they are not interchangeable. Joy is from within, regardless of what is going on around you. Happiness can be a blurred emotion, dependent on a situation. Joyful people make a commitment to gratitude regardless of the circumstances.
      In Greek, the word for joy is ‘chara.’ This describes a feeling of inner gladness, delight or rejoicing. This inner gladness leads to a cheerful heart and a cheerful heart leads to cheerful behavior.
      The most important attribute of joy is that you can find joy in adversity.


Top 7 Inspirational Bible Verses About Joy with Commentary (excerpt) — Jack Wellman, Patheos.org       

Is the joy of the Lord your strength?  How can you have joy in your walk with God?  What does the Bible define as joy?
  What is Joy? … While happiness is temporary and is based upon happenings, joy is from the Lord and you can still experience joy during trials, suffering, and testing. Joy is permanent but happiness is fleeting.

Hebrews 12:2 “Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Jesus experienced joy but it was also a focus for Him while He suffered excruciatingly on the cross. In fact, the root word for excruciating is the crucifixion. Joy can help you endure suffering too … God is the true source of lasting joy. Happiness is of human origin and is fleeting.

James 1:2-3 “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” 

…  joy can help us endure trials and suffering. The word for “count” as we are too “Count it all joy” is from the Greek word “hēgeomai” which means to lead or go before or to be a leader so our joy, which is from God, will go before our suffering … joy will come during and after our suffering too.

First Peter 1:8-9 “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”      

… If joy is inexpressible, then how can I describe what is indescribable? …

John 16:22 “So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.”

Just before Jesus went to the cross to die for our sins, the disciples were full of anxiety because they were feeling like orphans.  Jesus acknowledged their sorrow for now, but when they see Him again, a resurrected Jesus, they will leap for joy and this joy will remain with them … you can put your own name in where it says “you” because Jesus was not just talking to the disciples but also to you and to me.

First Thessalonians 2:19-20 “For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? For you are our glory and joy.”

Paul was so joyful and this seems ironic because he suffered like none of the other disciples did.  Why was his joy so abounding? …

Psalm 28:7 “The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.”

The Lord is our source of strength ultimately because human joy lasts only for a time but what comes from the Lord is eternal and this includes Joy.  The psalmist stated that his heart, the seat of the intellect in the Jewish genre, leaped for joy and that made him break out in songs of praise.  Ever felt that way? …

Isaiah 12:6 “Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.”

Reflections on the ‘log & speck’ or ‘beam & mote’ – judging & non-judging. Themes from Matthew 7 out of the Sermon on the Mount. Humor through images.

Contain all human faces in your own without any judgment of them — Rumi

It is much more difficult to judge yourself than it is to judge others. — Antoine de Saint-Exupery

What is love? Love is the absence of judgment. — Dalai Lama

To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly as he or she is. — Fred Rogers

There is no value-judgment more important to a man no factor more decisive in his psychological development and motivation than the estimate he passes on himself. — Nathaniel Branden

There are no truer choices than those made in crisis, choices made without judgment. — Daniel Wilson

The organ of perception acts more readily than judgment. — Leonardo Da Vinci

Well, pray if you like, only you’d do better to use your judgment. — Leo Tolstoy

If you want to help somebody, make sure you’re coming from a place of clarity and complete non-judgment; that way, you can begin to understand their journey, too. — Mary Lambert

Without compassion, we will never know anyone or anything, not even our own story. Too much judgment, too many ideas and attitudes will stand in the way of the fundamental principle that we are similar to, connected with, and part of everything else. — Deena Metzger

SONGS about Judging & Not-Judging:


And light is mingled with the gloom,
And joy with grief;
Divinest compensations come,
Through thorns of judgment mercies bloom In sweet relief.
— John Greenleaf Whittier


PRAYER
God of all races, nations, and religions,
You know that we cannot change others,
Nor can we change the past.
But we can change ourselves.
We can join You in changing our only
And common future where Love “reigns”
The same over all.
Help us not to say, “Lord, Lord” to any nationalist gods,
But to hear the One God of all the earth,
And to do God’s good thing for this One World.
— Fr Richard Rohr

WHAT’S IN YOUR EYE?

As I pondered these verses, so many questions came to my mind.

  • Why is it we can see the faults of others, but we can’t see our own faults?
  • Who is supposed to tell me what my logs are – my kids, my husband, my parents, You God?
  • And how is that done? Is there an appropriate way to show me my faults?
  • Is there an appropriate way to show others their faults?
  • How should I prepare myself to hear bad news about myself?
  • Why do I feel the need to judge others for their faults?
  • Where does humility come into play here?
  • What if I perceive another person is in danger? Is it alright to tell them what their speck is?
  • What if they have a “log” in their eye? Why doesn’t the Bible talk about getting a log out of other people’s lives – only specks?
  • How do I get the log out of my own eye?
  • Am I a hypocrite?
  • Have I ever really prayed for God to show me my log?
  • Do I really want to hear what He might say?
  • Why does Jesus say speck and log versus specks and logs?

As you can see, these 5 verses brought a lot more questions to my mind than there are verses.  And if I thought beyond the few minutes it took to come up with these questions, I could probably double the amount of questions that came quickly to the top of my head. — Patti Greene (full text: https://greenepastures.org/the-speck-and-the-log-matthew-71-5/)

… there’s all this stuff about the final judgment. You know what the final judgment is to me? It’s God dying on the cross and saying: forgive them; they know not what they’re doing. That’s an eternally valid statement to me. That is God’s judgment upon us. And so, to me, if God could bear that kind of suffering and only respond in forgiveness and love, that’s the God who is present in a devastating hurricane, in that room with an abused child. So to me, God has come into the world and is bearing that, not causing it. — Nadia Bolz-Weber

God’s freely given grace is a humiliation to the ego because free gifts say nothing about me. Only the soul can understand grace. The ego does not know how to receive things freely or without logic. It likes to be worthy and needs to understand in order to accept things as true. The ego prefers a worldview of scarcity or quid pro quo, where only the clever can win. That problem, and its overcoming, is at the very center of the Gospel plot line. It has always been overcome from God’s side. The only problem is getting us in on the process! That very inclusion of us is God’s humility, graciousness, and love. Only inside an economy of grace can we see that God wants free and willing partners. An economy of merit cannot process free love or free anything. “Not servants, but friends” (John 15:15) is God’s plan. Yet to this day, most Christians seem to prefer being servants. Divine friendship is just too much to imagine. — Fr. Richard Rohr (full article: https://cac.org/mercy-before-judgment-2016-01-24/)

Through Jesus Christ, God’s own broad, deep, and all-inclusive worldview is made available to us. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that the point of the Christian life is not to distinguish oneself from the other world religions, but to stand in radical solidarity with everyone and everything else. This is the full, final, and intended effect of the Incarnation—symbolized by the cross, which is God’s great act of solidarity instead of judgment. This is how we are to imitate Jesus, the good Jewish man who saw and called forth the divine in Gentiles like the Syro-Phoenician woman and the Roman centurions who followed him; in Jewish tax collectors who collaborated with the Empire; in zealots who opposed it; in sinners of all stripes; in eunuchs, pagan astrologers, and all those “outside the law.” Jesus had no trouble whatsoever with otherness. If we are ready to reclaim the true meaning of “catholic,” which is “universal,” we must concentrate on including—as Jesus clearly did—instead of excluding—which he never did. The only thing Jesus excluded was exclusion itself… — Fr Richard Rohr (full article: https://cac.org/solidarity-instead-of-judgment-2020-09-20/)

JUDGMENT & NON-JUDGMENT

Be curious, not judgmental. — Walt Whitman

“How much wrong we do to God and his grace when we speak of sins being punished by his judgment before we speak of their being forgiven by his mercy. We have to put mercy before judgment, and in any event, God’s judgment will always be in the light of his mercy”—which is infinite! — Pope Francis

Each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done. ― Bryan Stevenson

Placing the blame or judgment on someone else leaves you powerless to change your experience; taking responsibility for your beliefs and judgments gives you the power to change them — Byron Katie

Such as every man is inwardly so he judgeth outwardly. — Thomas A Kempis

In its highest form, not judging is the ultimate act of forgiveness. ― John Kuypers

To celebrate someone else’s life, we need to find a way to look at it straight on, not from above with judgment or from below with envy. ― Sharon Salzberg

No one can occupy your generosity except you. Who can occupy your patience when impatience roars through you? Who except you can choose not to act with judgment when all of your thoughts are judgmental? Your life is yours to live, no matter how you choose to live it. When you do not think about how you intend to live it, it lives you. — Gary Zukav

The more you look into and understand yourself, the less judgmental you become of others. — Tariq Ramadan

But over time people break apart, no matter how enormous the love they feel for one another is, and it is through the breaking and the reconciliation, the love and the doubting of love, the judgment and then the coming together again, that we find our own identity and define our relationships.— Ann Patchett

Just as the sun shines on every soul, let your light of compassion shine on everyone irrespective of who they are and what they believe. ― Michael Bassey Johnson

Imagine learning at such a young age that your very appearance – your very identity – is enough to trigger such confusion and animosity. Imagine knowing that people will hate you for no reason other than you are who you are. —Thomas Beatie

Of course we need to accept ourselves as we are, but we can’t stop there. We also need to value ourselves enough make needed changes. ― Steve Goodier

f your knowledge teaches you not to rise above human weakness and misery and lead your fellow man on the right path, you are indeed a man of little worth and will remain such till Judgment Day. — Khalil Gibran

Mindfulness means moment-to-moment, non-judgmental awareness. It is cultivated by refining our capacity to pay attention, intentionally, in the present moment, and then sustaining that attention over time as best we can. In the process, we become more in touch with our life as it is unfolding. — Jon Kabat-Zinn

Yes, I have my standpoint, but I try to follow the life of Christ and he was very non-judgmental. It’s not my position to judge. It’s God’s position to judge. — Donny Osmond

Recognizing our own mistakes helps us to empathize non-judgmentally with others and helps enable us to understand their issues. — Jay Woodman

I want to get comfortable with my insecurities until I am no longer insecure. I want to be comfortable in my skin so that I do not need to dump any of my discomfort onto someone else in the form of judgment. — Damien Rice

We experience it as kindness, giving, mercy, compassion, peace, joy, acceptance, non-judgment, joining, and intimacy. — Marianne Williamson

Invest in the human soul. Who knows, it might be a diamond in the rough. — Mary McLeod Bethune

When you force a man to act against his own choice and judgment, it’s his thinking that you want him to suspend. You want him to become a robot.— Ayn Rand

I am humanly unable to correct my negative self-image until I encounter a life-changing experience with non-judgmental love bestowed upon me by a Person whom I admire so much that to be unconditionally accepted by Him is to be born again. — Robert Schuller

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.

Thoughts on farewell, being left behind, waiting, and ascending to heaven: themes from Acts 1

Stay  Jan Richardson
A Blessing for Ascension Day

I know how your mind rushes ahead
trying to fathom what could follow this.
What will you do, where will you go, how will you live?

You will want to outrun the grief.
You will want to keep turning toward the horizon,
watching for what was lost to come back,
to return to you and never leave again.

For now hear me when I say
all you need to do is to still yourself
is to turn toward one another is to stay.

Wait and see what comes
to fill the gaping hole in your chest.
Wait with your hands open to receive what could never come
except to what is empty and hollow.

You cannot know it now, cannot even imagine
what lies ahead, but I tell you the day is coming
when breath will fill your lungs
as it never has before and with your own ears
you will hear words coming to you new and startling.
You will dream dreams and you will see the world ablaze with blessing.

Wait for it. Still yourself. Stay.

Songs about Ascension:


Questions to consider about re-entering ‘real’/daily life and waiting for the arrival or support and help … themes from Acts 1: 6-10:

  • Can you name peak moment(s) or mountain-top experience(s) in your life?
  • When you re-enter daily life, after pinnacle moments, how are you changed? What do you carry with you from such times?
  • Can you retain or cultivate some of the blessings or gifts of such exceptional times? What practices help you do so?
  • When you’re told to wait for something to come … told to ‘shelter in place’ until the resources you need arrive … what is that like? Waiting? Preparing? What is difficult about waiting? What opportunities does a period of waiting offer?
Meditations on Farewell & Being Left Behind

If we have grown weary in this season. If we have become overwhelmed. If we are living with fear or anxiety or worry about what lies ahead. If the swirl … has become intense. If time is moving strangely. If grief has been a traveling companion. If the ground beneath us has given way. If resurrection seems less than certain …  This is the day that calls us to breathe. This is the day that invites us to make a space within the weariness, the fear, the ache. This is the day that beckons us to turn toward one another, and to remember we do not breathe alone. — Jan Richardson

It is queer to be in a place when someone has gone. It is not two other places, the place that they were there in, and the place that was there before they came. I can’t get used to this third place or to staying behind. ― Elizabeth Bowen

For Sayonara, literally translated, ‘Since it must be so,’ of all the good-byes I have heard is the most beautiful. Unlike the Auf Wiedershens and Au revoirs, it does not try to cheat itself by any bravado ‘Till we meet again,’ any sedative to postpone the pain of separation. It does not evade the issue like the sturdy blinking FarewellFarewell is a father’s good-bye. It is – ‘Go out in the world and do well, my son.’ It is encouragement and admonition. It is hope and faith. But it passes over the significance of the moment; of parting it says nothing. It hides its emotion. It says too little. While Good-bye (‘God be with you’) and Adios say too much. They try to bridge the distance, almost to deny it. Good-bye is a prayer, a ringing cry. ‘You must not go – I cannot bear to have you go! But you shall not go alone, unwatched. God will be with you. God’s hand will over you’ and even – underneath, hidden, but it is there, incorrigible – ‘I will be with you; I will watch you – always.’ It is a mother’s good-bye. But Sayonarasays neither too much nor too little. It is a simple acceptance of fact. All understanding of life lies in its limits. All emotion, smoldering, is banked up behind it. But it says nothing. It is really the unspoken good-bye, the pressure of a hand, ‘Sayonara. ― Anne Morrow Lindbergh
Thoughts on Waiting



The wait is long. My dream of you does not end. — Nuala o”Faolain

Behind every fear, there is a miracle waiting. — Marianne Williamson

We have to let go of the life we planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us. — Joseph Campbell

Christian Commentary on Ascension

Most of Christianity has been doing just that, straining to find the historical Jesus “up there.” Where did he go? We’ve been obsessed with the question because we think the universe is divided into separate levels—heaven and earth. But it is one universe and all within it is transmuted and transformed by the glory of God. The whole point of the Incarnation and Risen Body is that the Christ is here—and always was! But now we have a story that allows us to imagine it just might be true. Jesus didn’t go anywhere. He became the universal omnipresent Body of Christ. That’s why the final book of the Bible promises us a new heaven and a new earth. (Revelation 21:1), not an escape from earth. We focused on “going” to heaven instead of living on earth as Jesus did—which makes heaven and earth one. It is heaven all the way to heaven. What you choose now is exactly what you choose to be forever. God will not disappoint you. — Richard Rohr

I’ll be honest, Jesus, Ascension Day brings up some abandonment issues for me. I know you promised we wouldn’t be alone, that you would send a Helper and Advocate, full of power and truth and ready to guide, but let’s face it: the fire of the Spirit is the wild kind. One moment I sense that it’s blazing like the burning bush, the next it’s like it’s out with a poof. I still haven’t figured it out. I still haven’t been able to pin it down. —Rachel Held Evans

No, we’ll probably never physically see Jesus. But we can see the people that represent Jesus. The church community is the first thing that comes into my mind. We all represent Jesus in the good things we do. I mean, we’re not the perfect servants of God. Nobody is perfect. But we see people do good things for other people all the time… As a church community, wehelp, we serve God and otherstoo. We pray. We forgive and also ask to be forgivenThat’s just the little part of God inside of us that tells us to do good.  So WE are the Jesus of the Earth. — Katie from Ebenezer Lutheran

Thoughts on Ascension & Heaven

True change is within, leave the outside as it is. — Dalai Lama

Ascensions into heaven are like falling leaves … sad and happy all at the same time … Going away isn’t really sad … especially when your going enables a new kind of presence to be born. — Ernest Hemingway

The hunger to belong is not merely a desire to be attached to something. It is rather sensing that great transformation and discovery become possible when belonging is sheltered and true.— John O’Donohue

Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads. — Henry David Thoreau

At His Ascension our Lord entered Heaven, and He keeps the door open for humanity to enter. — Oswald Chambers

Earth’s crammed with heaven… But only he who sees, takes off his shoes. — Elizabeth Barrett Browning

The connections we make in the course of a life–maybe that’s what heaven is. — Fred Rogers

There’s always another level up. There’s always another ascension. More grace, more light, more generosity, more compassion, more to shed, more to grow. — Elizabeth Gilbert

Ah, paths of the soul, mysterious ways of the heart! One must walk their full lengths before facing the supreme equation of Eternal Life. It is essential for you to live all their conflicts and to know them fully in the long process of spiritual ascension. — Andre Luiz Moreira

Jesus raised our eyes above and beyond the narrow limits of our … lives, showed us other horizons, gives us a world beyond our ourselves. — Joan Chittister

To write the true natural history of the world, we should need to be able to follow it from within. It would thus appear no longer as an interlocking succession of structural types replacing one another, but as an ascension of inner sap spreading out in a forest of consolidated instincts. Right at its base, the living world is constituted by conscious clothes in flesh and bone. — Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

The way to heaven is ascending; we must be content to travel uphill, though it be hard and tiresome, and contrary to the natural bias of our flesh … Resolution One: I will live for God. Resolution Two: If no one else does, I still will. … Grace is but glory begun, and glory is but grace perfected. … The happiness of the creature consists in rejoicing in God, by which also God is magnified and exalted. — Jonathan Edwards

Heaven is not an eternally dull existence but rather the completion of a journey toward a promised encounter with the Lord. — Pope Francis

The Ascension is actually the birth of the Inner You expressed as the spiritual individualism of the inner particle state. — Stuart Wilde

Aging is a staircase – the upward ascension of the human spirit, bringing us into wisdom, wholeness and authenticity. As you may know, the entire world operates on a universal law: entropy, the second law of thermodynamics. Entropy means that everything in the world, everything, is in a state of decline and decay, the arch. There’s only one exception to this universal law, and that is the human spirit, which can continue to evolve upwards. — Jane Fonda

Through the Holy Spirit comes our restoration to paradise, our ascension into the kingdom of heaven, our return to the adoption of sons, our liberty to call God our Father, our being made partakers of the grace of Christ, our being called children of light, our sharing in eternal glory, and, in a word, our being brought into a state of all “fulness of blessing,” both in this world and in the world to come, of all the good gifts that are in store for us, by promise hereof, through faith, beholding the reflection of their grace as though they were already present, we await the full enjoyment. — Saint Basil

Reflections on joy, Advent 3 theme

When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in You, a joy.  — Rumi 

Questions to consider about joy:

  • What is the difference between joy and other states of being, such as happiness?
  • What is essential to experience joy?
  • When has joy surprised you?

And All Be Made Well – Jan Richardson

That each ill be released from you
and each sorrow be shed from you
and each pain be made comfort for you
and each wound be made whole in you

that joy will arise in you
and strength will take hold of you
and hope will take wing for you
and all be made well.

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.

JOY
 
I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy. – Tagore
 
To get the full value of joy you must have someone to divide it with. – Mark Twain
 
The three factors that seem to have the greatest influence on increasing our happiness are our ability to reframe our situation more positively, our ability to experience gratitude, and our choice to be kind and generous. – Dalai Lama 
 
All Joy reminds. It is never a possession, always a desire for something longer ago or further away or still ‘about to be’. – CS Lewis
 
When you are grateful, you are not fearful, and when you are not fearful, you are not violent. When you are grateful, you act out of a sense of enough and not out of a sense of scarcity, and you are willing to share. If you are grateful, you are enjoying the differences between people and respectful to all people. The grateful world is a world of joyful people. Grateful people are joyful people. A grateful world is a happy world. — Brother Steindl-Rast
 
 We create most of our suffering, so it should be logical that we also have the ability to create more joy. It simply depends on the attitudes, the perspectives, and the reactions we bring to situations and to our relationships with other people. When it comes to personal happiness there is a lot that we as individuals can do.  – Dalai Lama 
 
‘Without pain, how could we know joy?’ This is an old argument in the field of thinking about suffering and its stupidity and lack of sophistication could be plumbed for centuries but suffice it to say that the existence of broccoli does not, in any way, affect the taste of chocolate. – John Green
 
Part of the problem with the word ‘disabilities’ is that it immediately suggests an inability to see or hear or walk or do other things that many of us take for granted. But what of people who can’t feel? Or talk about their feelings? Or manage their feelings in constructive ways? What of people who aren’t able to form close and strong relationships? And people who cannot find fulfillment in their lives, or those who have lost hope, who live in disappointment and bitterness and find in life no joy, no love? These, it seems to me, are the real disabilities. – Fred Rogers 

I call it Joy. … But certain other experiences were… The first is itself the memory of a memory. As I stood beside a flowering currant bush on a summer day there suddenly arose in me without warning, and as if from a depth not of years but of centuries, the memory of that earlier morning at the Old House when my brother had brought his toy garden into the nursery. It is difficult or find words strong enough for the sensation which came over me; Milton’s ‘enormous bliss’ of Eden (giving the full, ancient meaning to ‘enormous’) comes somewhere near it. It was a sensation, of course, of desire; but desire for what?…Before I knew what I desired, the desire itself was gone, the whole glimpse… withdrawn, the world turned commonplace again, or only stirred by a longing for the longing that had just ceased… In a sense the central story of my life is about nothing else… The quality common to the three experiences … is that of an unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction. I call it Joy, which is here a technical term and must be sharply distinguished both from Happiness and Pleasure. Joy (in my sense) has indeed one characteristic, and one only, in common with them; the fact that anyone who has experienced it will want it again… I doubt whether anyone who has tasted it would ever, if both were in his power, exchange it for all the pleasures in the world. But then Joy is never in our power and Pleasure often is. — CS Lewis
 
I’d like to repeat the advice that I gave you before, in that I think you really should make a radical change in your lifestyle and begin to boldly do things which you may previously never have thought of doing, or been too hesitant to attempt. So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun. 

… Don’t settle down and sit in one place. Move around, be nomadic, make each day a new horizon. You are still going to live a long time, … and it would be a shame if you did not take the opportunity to revolutionize your life and move into an entirely new realm of experience.

You are wrong if you think Joy emanates only or principally from human relationships. God has placed it all around us. It is in everything and anything we might experience. We just have to have the courage to turn against our habitual lifestyle and engage in unconventional living. My point is that you do not need me or anyone else around to bring this new kind of light in your life. It is simply waiting out there for you to grasp it, and all you have to do is reach for it- Jon Krakauer

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