Advent Daily Devotional: WEEK of JOY: Day 21-Sat, Dec 18

Clap your hands, all you peoples; shout to God with loud songs of joy. — Psalm 47:1

… when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me. — Micah 7:8

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On this final day of lighting three candles, culminating in joy, each light flickers at its own height, since each candle has burned at longer or shorter intervals. Together, they weave a net of radiance that spans the distances and gaps between them.

            Kindness and compassion, offered as you are able to share them with others, serve as external expressions of gratitude and mindfulness. Kindness recognizes opportunities to say or do something that acknowledges and thanks another person for their presence and their service in the world. It honors people’s humanity.

            When you give out positive energy in ways that create an impact or affect change, you cultivate joy. Your acts of kindness may occur within day-to-day encounters at work, play, service, or study. At other times, you may plan a specific opportunity, by volunteering, for instance, to extend kindness to others.

            Kindness can also be focused inward: toward oneself. Sometimes you need as much generosity and gentleness as others to whom you offer it. Sometimes, when your inner critic is dominating, you cannot be gentle with yourself. At such times, you might try to invert the situation. If someone else was going through whatever experience you’re having, what advice would you offer? What comforting words would you share, to ease the stress? Now can you offer those same words, out loud, to yourself?

            As a spiritual practice, kindness 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 renew your internal sense of fulfillment and joy.

            Joy rises as the light flares. Let it touch you and change you, as you change others with the light you offer. — Rev Gail

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The most beautiful moments in life are moments when you are expressing your joy, not when you are seeking it. Jaggi Vasudev

Scatter joy! Ralph Waldo Emerson

Light is to darkness what love is to fear;
in the presence of one the other disappears.
— Marianne Williamson

Daily Advent Devotional: WEEK of JOY: Day 20-Fri, Dec 17

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

 What is the way to the place where the light is distributed, or where the east wind is scattered upon the earth?—Job 38:24

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Joy is fueled by the same source as hope and peace: it is fed by gratitude. As you light the three Advent candles, give thanks for the time and opportunity to reflect.  

            Re-framing each day through a lens of gratitude and appreciation is an excellent place for light to take hold. You perceive your world, your context, your life, and ideally yourself, with greater compassion and more perspective. You grow closer to connecting with those parts of your life that embody your values.

            Before you blow out the candles, give thanks for the presence of light in the world. Give thanks for the ways you find to share your own light.  — Rev Gail

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You show your humanity by how you see yourself not as apart from others but from your connection to others.—Desmond Tutu

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.—Dalai Lama

Travel light, live light, spread the light, be the light.—Yogi Bhajan

Advent Daily Devotional: WEEK of JOY: Day 19-Thurs, Dec 16

You have turned my mourning into dancing;
you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy.
— Psalm 30:11

He has redeemed my soul from going down to the Pit,
    and my life shall see the light. — Job 33:28

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Whatever the time of day you have chosen for this activity, light your three Advent candles. The light of joy returns because you choose to bring it into your space and your life. You create the opening to welcome it.

            Although our Advent reflections have touched on the concept of shifting perspective as a strategy to cultivate hope and joy, perhaps a few specific approaches can help give you more ideas about how to open yourself to joy in all sorts of circumstances. After all, you may not control your situation, yet you can shape your response. The Dalai Lama observes, “The question is not: How do I escape? It is: How can I use this as something positive?”

            As one approach to gaining a holistic perspective, spiritual teachers such as the ancient Sufi poet Rumi and the contemporary Buddhist chaplain and mentor Joan Halifax advise you to approach each experience as a teacher. Then allow yourself to become its student. This creates a different perspective about the experience you’re having.

            In one dramatic example, people who live with cancer or other life-limiting diagnoses discover a heightened appreciation for simple, tangible, fleeting moments of life. Brushes with death re-prioritize how they cherish small details of daily living.

            Now ask yourself, in your own current circumstances, what lesson might be learned? What action might be taken? What ought to change? What are you able to change? How do you make meaning out of your current reality? How do you respond to what is happening? How does this situation empower you?

            Another way to gain perspective and make meaning out of an experience, cultivating the deep capacity for joy regardless of the circumstances, is to find release through the way you express yourself. Creative outlets permit you to liberate a wellspring of joy. Singing and music, for instance, light up many parts of the brain. They allow a person to access deeply-embedded emotional states, memories, and experiences. Other expressive arts also create paths toward joy and resilience. Almost every mention of joy within scripture is connected to the act of singing, dancing, or otherwise expressing joy dynamically. From such artistic, expressive processes, meaning-making (purpose) arises.

            What might these three Advent lights, their wicks darkened and curled, their tapers slumping more each day, each candle shorter than its companions, teach you? What within your life also needs care and renewal, so that the light of joy may continue to burn passionately within you?— Rev Gail

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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

Joy is the holy fire that keeps our purpose warm and our intelligence aglow. —Helen Keller

Advent Daily Devotional: WEEK of JOY: Day 18- Wed, Dec 15

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

The light of the eyes rejoices the heart,
and good news refreshes the body. — Proverbs 15:30

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Light the three Advent candles. Last in the set of flames: joy flares.

            In addition to developing a positive outlook, cultivating gratitude, and practicing kindness, joy often comes through spiritual, emotional, psychological and social connections. Though it begins internally, like hope and peace, it is fed through relationships.

            In The Book of Joy, Desmond Tutu says, “We are fragile creatures, and it is from this weakness, not despite it, that we discover the possibility of true joy.” How does vulnerability become a threshold for joy?

            Your capacity to need others and to be needed by others — this reciprocity within the human experience — creates connection. Joy grows out of relationships, even in the toughest of times, as well as the most stable and rewarding of times.

            How do you feed the light in others? In what ways do you permit your own inner light to be grown, nurtured, and protected?

            Whatever the situation you are considering, who else has shared this experience? What can you learn from others about the circumstances upon which you are reflecting? Desmond Tutu shares, “What the Dalai Lama and I are offering … is a way of handling your worries: thinking about others. You can think about others who are in a similar situation … who have survived, even thrived. It does help quite a lot to see yourself as part of a greater whole.”

            Joy shines in combination with the other candles. Let it ignite in your life. Know you are not alone. — Rev Gail

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

We all walk in the dark and each of us must learn
to turn on his or her own light. – Earl Nightingale

Advent Daily Devotional: WEEK of JOY: Day 17 -Tue, Dec 14

I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you,
and that your joy may be complete. — John 15:11

Light is sweet, and it is pleasant for the eyes to see the sun.
— Ecclesiastes 11:7

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            For now, begin with the simple act of being present to whatever is going on within you and around you. Pay attention to your body and its experience.

            For instance, engage your senses. What do you see? Hear? Smell? Feel? Taste? Ground yourself by taking this inventory of your senses.

            Now focus on a few simple strategies to cultivate joy through bodily self-care.

            Inhale. Hold your breath a moment.  Exhale slowly. Breathe.

            Mindful breathing offers healthful benefits. It lowers your heart rate and blood pressure, and helps regulate your body’s capacity to manage stress and fatigue. It reduces depression, burnout, and negative thinking. It boosts your capacity to manage chronic pain and positively affects the side effects of other illnesses or conditions such as diabetes.

            Repeat your breathing cycle. Then repeat it again.

            Now smile. Science urges that the act of smiling triggers healthy neurological responses. Floods your brain with positive, empowering chemistry. Improves your wellbeing psychologically and physically.

            Joy is connected to your body-mind-spirit connections. While it grows out of spiritual, emotional, and psychological practices, it remains an embodied experience, too.

            Let your senses ground you in your surrounds and in your own skin. Now inhale deeply. Hold your breath. Smile wider. As you exhale, blow out the Advent candles.  — Rev Gail

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

An age is called “dark,” not because the light fails to shine
but because people refuse to see it. – James Michener

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