Sunday Reflection on Joy

What is it that brings us Joy?  Unadulterated, impossible to destroy…Joy?  I sought to find this out in the most reliable way ever…using Facebook.  Because, as we know, everything on Facebook is true and what everyone says on FB is true.  As I contradict myself from the Wednesday Reflection when I reminded us all that everything on social media is…not true.  Or a variation of truth.  Or truth as we would like it to be.  Social media highlights that there are at least three versions of a story (or for more depth, three versions of who we are): our version, the other person’s version, and the actual story.  

Hmm…I’ll get back to Facebook. Don’t worry.  I’ll also get back to the scripture reading.  

Joy.  What really brings Joy?  What is Joy?  If you weren’t a part of my social experiment on Facebook (sorry to those who didn’t realize they were part of a social, spiritual experiment), take a moment to reflect on what brings you Joy.  Perhaps, if you have a pen you can write on a piece of paper or your Order Of Servive.  What brings you Joy?  

We can see in the scripture piece that friendship brings Joy.  That being lifted by one another’s blessings brings Joy.  Joy is found in promises of hope and faith fulfilled.  Joy for new life, new beginnings, and deep hope.  Even the unborn child is filled with Joy.  Joy.  

A few things bring real Joy.  It’s usually the deep important gifts of being alive.  It’s easy to get distracted from Joy.  Joy is not happiness…it’s, in fact, very different from happiness. Happiness is contingent upon things, physical things. Happiness is contingent on things/events happening on our agenda. Happiness is fleeting.  Happiness is easily destabilized.  

Joy is; regardless of circumstance.  As I questioned Joy on Facebook, the answers were things that are sustained through trials and even, perhaps, MORE Joyful because of, or in, trials.  Joy is brighter in the dark, perhaps that’s why Joy has its own candle.  Its own light.  

It’s easy to get mired down in “what’s wrong”.  It’s easy to be unhappy.  It’s easy to focus on what’s hard and what’s not going right and what could be better and be unhappy about it.  But Joy…Joy is there despite how life unfolds.  We only need embrace it.  Joy is always there, but sometimes we have to remember that.  Often when there is depression and anxiety there is a little voice inside that says: this isn’t true, this isn’t right, this isn’t me.  That’s Joy speaking…or a version of Joy.  

One can see that there are four basic things that bring real Joy.  They all seems to reflect back to God, Grace, Spirit.  

These four pillars are: good work, study, contemplation, and devotion. 

Good work.  Joy is found in doing good work.  In helping others.  Who doesn’t feel good when they help others?  More often than not, we get more out of helping than those we have helped.  And pause for a moment to reflect on…your job.  Some of our jobs are there to enable us to do Good Work and therefor are part of our Good Work.  Many of our jobs are our Good Work.  When we lose sight of that in the midst of the challenges, perhaps we can remember that our work is God’s Work or enabling us to do God’s work in other, outside of our job, ways.  

Study.  We grow and light up and find Joy in works that help us to grow and evolve.  Particularly studying scripture (I would argue of all traditions–each tradition has its own gifts that lights up one’s own).  Even studies, reading, and reflection that are not from the “sacred” helps us to think differently or grow in other ways brings us Joy.  We’ve encourage this aspect of Joy during these months with Wednesday Reflections.  Things to read and study and practice…or contemplate, which brings us to the next.    

Contemplation.  Time of introspection.  Prayer.  Meditation.  The magic of Quiet Stillness.  Sitting in Grace, with God.  The Pause.  Walking in nature is walking with God.  We’ve encouraged this settling into contemplation of things bigger than ourselves through our daily Advent Contemplative Prayers.  

Devotion.  Lifting up a life and work and study to God.  Living a life with Grace and Goodness.  Cultivating a life of devotion.  Perhaps friendships, family, our greatest loves fall into this category.  We find God in our passions.  What is it that Victor Hugo says?  “To Love another person is to see the face of God.”  Devotion is love.  What do you love?  

All of these are ways of finding Joy and ways of finding devotion to something bigger than ourselves.  Perhaps it is working with others.  Perhaps in others, Grace.  Perhaps it is God.  One can see where all these paths lead back to God.  Paths of Joy lead to God.  

We can see where these might overlap.  Study to give back.  Contemplation to better devote.  Study to devote.  Good work to help others learn.  We might think we are doing one things, then realize it is another or entangled with another.  But all these paths of Joy are paths to God.  

Truly, they all overlap and eventually fall into Grace.  Eventually, in our studies, we realize that the more we know, the less we know, and eventually we know nothing, and realize it is God.  

Eventually we realize that our actions are not our own, but our acts are acts of Grace in the world.  Our work is God’s work.  We are God’s work.  

Eventually whatever we contemplate, or pray upon, or mediate on falls away into nothing.  And that nothing is everything.  That is God.  

Therefore, our entire lives are acts of devotion.  

That’s big stuff, but also as we list our Joys, and see what other people list as Joys, we can see that Joy is a simple thing.  The other interesting thing is that we have a big impact in bringing Joy to the world (and what else but that is God’s work?).  The biggest Joy?  Good Friends and family.  We impact each other.  We are charged with doing the Work.  

When we are Joyful, we spread Joy.  It was Joyful to hear what made others Joyful and to see people taking just a moment to reflect on what really brings Joy.  We, by bringing Joy to ourselves, bring Joy to the world (and what else but that is God’s work?).  

So maybe simply feeding the birds is and act of Grace and Joy.  Maybe writing a letter is an act of Grace and Joy.  Maybe reading a good book, or The Good Book, is an act of Grace and Joy.  Maybe walking in the woods is a way of bringing Joy into the world and doing’s God’s Work.  Maybe simply being kind is Joy.  

To uplift you as we head into another week, here are some of the things that bring us Joy (from my Facebook “study”).  Perhaps you can see how they all find a place in one or more of these four pillars.  Perhaps you can see how they bring Joy and how this Joy brings us closer to God.

Friends, especially True friendships.  Puppies.  Puppy hugs.  Loved ones.  Helping.  Witnessing children learning.  Wellness and health.  Body and mind.  Safety.  Tea, Coffee, and Food. Feeding the birds.Reading.  Performing.  Practicing.  Gardening.  Yoga.  Traveling.  Art.  Creating.  Botanical gardens.  sunrise, stars, nature. Breath.  God’s Breath.  

Devotion is love.  What do you love?  

Closing Words: Tomorrow there’s a planet alignment, which gives off a light similar to the Bethlehem Star (although not as bright). Don’t miss it. Keep your gaze looking up.

“The darkness can be exquisites beautiful and restful.  In the darkness we can view the starts.  Seeds need darkness for gestation and growth.  The baby grows in the darkness of the womb.  Too much light can be blinding.  There is softness in darkness”. –Wierderkehr

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