Joy

One day I was in a group talking about our favorite part of Christmas. “I love having my grandsons come to my house and make presents for their parents,” Dot said. “They really get into it and get excited. Their love for their parents is so apparent.” While she shared her story, her whole face was a smile, her eyes danced and radiated delight. The joy she felt communicated itself to the rest of us and we too knew joy.

On another time with the group Jim told us about the sudden death of a dear friend of his. We felt his grief and invited him and others to tell us about the man. Their faces glowed as they told of the man’s care for the land and for the people of our area, and of all the quiet differences he had made in our community. Even though the circumstances were sad, joy dwelt in our hearts, because as a group we were united in grief, appreciation for the friend and the land, and love for one other.

Whereas happiness is light and carefree and depends on a positive environment, joy is something different. It is deep and strengthening and can happen in any kind of circumstances because it comes from within. Joy is the condition when the deepest part of me connects with another, united by something ineffably other.

Queries:

What is your experience of joy? Of “something ineffably other”?

How attuned are you to noticing experiences of unity, allowing them to teach and change you?

Prayer:

Make a collage of joy. Play music that touches your soul and brings deep joy. Dance with joy. Open your senses to joy in any way that works for you.

For further reflection:

“Praise God with trumpet sound; praise God with lute and harp!” (See Psalm 150. I like NRSV best here.)

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control . . .” (See Galatians 5:22-26).

Spiritual Lessons from a Cell Phone

There is no question that cell phones can be addictive and very distracting to the spiritual life. How can it be that they can offer spiritual lessons? I don’t know if all smart phones do the same things, but here is what mine has taught me.

When I am attending a concert or a lecture or Sunday morning worship, one way I can turn off my phone so it doesn’t disrupt me or others is to put it on “do not disturb.” It is very effective. No messages get through until I turn that off. The trouble is that I forget to turn the do-not-disturb off. There may be messages or calls that I needed to receive that I miss. I wonder how often I have my internal do-not-disturb button on, and I miss God’s call. I am so busy with other things that I will not be listening if there is a word to be heard.

I check my phone over and over again during the day. I look to see if I have received a text or an email or perhaps a phone call that I might have missed. I want to be in communication with my friends and the outside world. I look to my phone for companionship or community and to tell me if I matter. My focus is outward instead of looking within, but people fail me and my cell phone in the midst of my addictive attachment to it fails to work.  It is in listening inwardly, attending to God the Inward Teacher where Love and Truth lie. The apostle Paul encourages us to pray unceasingly. Sometimes I’ve wondered what that means. If I tried praying as often and as intently as I check my phone, that might come close.  My life would have a quiet center, not a collection of ring tones.

Queries:

What helps you listen for the Spirit, and what distracts you from paying attention? When you are attuned to the Holy does that make a difference in your life?

What lets you know that you are loved and valued? What do you love and value?

Prayer:

“You are my strength, I watch for you; you, God, are my fortress, my God on whom I can rely” (Psalm 59:9-10).

For further reflection:

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. . . . You shall love your neighbor as yourself. . . .” (See Mark 12: 29-31).

See the parable of the wise and foolish bridesmaids, Matthew 25: 1-13.