We can be joyful

Josh Medlock, Director of Student Ministries

How do you define a Joyful Life?

I look around and it saddens me to see so many people striving towards materialistic things.

Do we think that having more things and more money will bring us more Joy?

How many times do you catch yourself daydreaming about the things you wish you had?

Do we really need more things? In most cases, probably not.

I recently read an article in one of the blogs I subscribe to that speaks to this.

It suggests that by implementing six new habits into our routines we can open ourselves up to experiencing a more Joyful life.

I am not particularly hip on lists that offer a ‘one pill for everyone’ type of solution.

I did, however, find this list to be one that speaks to where I am.

Here is what they offer:

1) Start living with no regrets

One of the biggest reasons for feeling like you are living with an empty life is your unfulfilled wishes and long-held resentments.

Oftentimes, the saddest summary of life contains three descriptions: could have, might have, and should have.

Start doing things that you always wanted to do, tick them off your bucket-list, and start living a life with no regrets.

If you always wanted to be a chef, enroll yourself in a culinary course.

If you want to write a book, start writing it.

If someone has done bad to you, let them know how they made you feel about it and forgive them.

Life is all about savoring every moment and making the most of it.

2) Start looking out for your passion

There is no joy like working day in and day out on something you’re really passionate about.

Knowing that you are dedicating your life to something purposeful is a hard feeling to be expressed in words.

The thing about passion is that it makes your life both beautiful and worth living.

If you haven’t found your passion yet, it’s absolutely okay. Just keep looking for it and don’t settle.

Interestingly, some people have multiple passions, and if that’s the case with you, go after them and keep doing things that make you happy and your life better.

Share your passion with others and it just might be contagious.

3) Start spending some time in nature

People who feel a connection to nature and believe that nature is important to their lives are generally happier than those who don’t.

If you find it hard to believe this, there’s a scientific explanation.

It says that when we observe the beauty of nature, our bodies produce higher levels of proinflammatory cytokines that make our mood better.

You get a sense of calmness when you spend considerable time in green settings.

The fresh oxygen, beautiful mix of colors, and serenity can change your mood in an instant and boost your happiness levels.

4) Start looking after yourself

People often tend to forget that happiness starts from within.

Nothing in this world can make you happier if you are not happier from inside.

You must learn to look after yourself if you want to live a joyful life.

The first step is to start looking after your body. 

Apart from physical fitness, if you think you need to learn a specific skill to be better at something, go for it.

But don’t forget about your spiritual well-being.

Tend to your spiritual needs with as much vigor and gusto as you do your physical needs.

5) Start giving back to society

There is no more joy than knowing you have added value in someone else’s life – however large or small that contribution may be.

Giving back to society not only helps you to be generous and benevolent, but gives you a sense of purpose as well. 

It also makes you happier knowing that once you did something for others not just for yourself.

Helping others in any capacity makes us dutiful human beings and responsible individuals.

To quote Denzel Washington: 

“At the end of the day it’s not about what you have or what you’ve accomplished … 

“It’s all about who you’ve lifted up, who you’ve made better. It’s about what you’ve given back.”

6) Start investing in your growth, and the growth of those around you

The one thing that is strikingly similar among all joyful folks is that they are serious and dedicated about their growth – mental, physical, intellectual, and financial.

The very fact that you are trying to become better with every passing day helps you enjoy your life even more.

Start reading books and blogs, watch inspirational videos, read interviews, listen to podcasts.

Talk to people you admire and who inspire you about what makes them Joyful.

Even more important than your own growth is the growth of those around you.

You can be that person who inspires or motivates.

Don’t be afraid to invest time and energy into others and walk with them.

I know this is a lot of information and perhaps you are already doing some of these things.

If you are, I would encourage you to keep doing them and give it your all.

If you have read this list and are thinking, “These are things that make sense but I haven’t started them yet,” know that it is never too late.

No one can promise you that doing any of the things on this list will lead you to a more Joyful life.

I can promise you this, though. You will never know if you don’t try.

I choose to try.

I choose to try and make a difference in my life and the lives of those who surround me by striving towards Joy.

Serve, Give, Grow, Live, Lead.

Sounds like a pretty good plan to me.

Special thanks to Sandeep Kashyap for this inspirational list.

Shared pain

Rev. Valarie Englert, Senior Pastor

Where were you 20 years ago this morning? What activity or work were you engaged in? Who were you with?

It is a day for remembering … 

Twenty years ago this morning, I was getting ready to head out to make some hospital visits.

Our daughter, Eva, was already on her way to school, having been dropped off at the bus stop earlier that morning.

The radio news was playing as usual – listening to the news was part of my morning routine along with a cup of coffee as Rick and I both went about getting ready for the day.

(It’s odd – I just now realized I don’t listen to the news in the morning anymore … )

I heard a newscaster say that a plane had hit one of the World Trade Center Towers in lower Manhattan.

“Hey Rick, did you hear that? I wonder how the pilot got so disoriented?”

The Twin Towers were a landmark our family always looked for as we flew into Newark Airport to visit Rick’s family on the Jersey Shore.

“There they are,” Rick would point out to Eva, “and there’s the Statue of Liberty.” We never tired of looking for those landmarks.

As the minutes unfolded, it became achingly, brutally clear that we weren’t dealing with a small plane or a disoriented pilot.

There were several hospitals to visit that day, and in each one, the waiting areas and hallways were filled with the sounds of televisions, the scenes on repeat, commentators’ voices trying to make sense of what was happening in Washington, DC, Pennsylvania, and New York City.

Those news reels, with their sounds and heart-breaking scenes, have been showing up in documentaries and news stories over the last couple of weeks leading up to this 20th anniversary.

I wince every time I see those scenes. I wonder if you do, too.

9/11 is a milestone of pain and trauma we share together.

The pain runs deep, and has altered our path as a nation, our understanding of who we thought we were, and who we are.

Perhaps 9/11 has made us more divided, more fearful. Stories of trauma and loss tend to play out that way.

But we are also more deeply connected.

Each sigh of remembrance, each shudder of horror, runs along invisible – but very real – lines of shared life and experience.

The people of Christ’s Way live within an experience of shared loss and trauma that goes back 2,100 years.

But we also live in the shared experience that loss and pain aren’t all there is.

God has something better in mind than trauma, and will go to unimagined lengths to pull us out of our tombs.

Today, let us remember our collective pain, our lament an offering to God-in-Christ who tenderly receives and transforms our sadness.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Lamenting

Rev. Valarie Englert, Senior Pastor

Our Church Council has been taking up some very important work in the last several months.

We are having small group discussions around how we as a congregation emerge from this pandemic a more vital and faithful congregation.

Our discussion is being guided by five questions or considerations: 

1) Set aside time and space to grieve and lament: 

  • What have we lost? 
  • What can we name that’s slipping away? 

2) What is our “Why?” 

  • How do we restate our central purpose?
  • What difference is God calling us to make? 

3) How do we reintroduce ourselves to our neighbors? 

  • Who can teach us what we need to know?
  • What wisdom is resident and available in the community? 

4) How can we redistribute power? 

  • How can we (re)enact the priesthood of all believers? 
  • How do we live more deeply into and out of our baptismal vows? 

5) How do we expand our imagination? 

  • What are the impediments to starting things that might fail? 
  • How do we identify the differences between “adaptation” and “innovation?” 
  • How do we discern between healthy innovation and innovation for its own sake? 

The first consideration is one of the most difficult.

Our culture isn’t comfortable with grief and loss.

The values of continual growth and prosperity are prominent in our models of working and living.

The Christian story, however, is one that has death at its center – the death of Jesus of Nazareth on the cross.

On one side of that death is “life as usual.”

On the other side is life transformed – resurrection and new life.

To walk the road of transformation is to enter into that dark valley of the “shadow of death” and allow the Spirit of the Resurrected Christ to rework us and make us anew.

No wonder we often resist the central part of our story. It’s hard work. It hurts.

This is where lament comes in – the expression of our sadness and grief.

One writer describes lament this way: 

 “When we hurt physically, we cry out in pain; when we hurt religiously, we cry out in lament. Lamentation can be described as a loud, religious ‘Ouch!’” 

“Lament is not a failure of faith, but an act of faith. We cry out directly to God because deep down we know that our relationship with God counts; it counts to us and it counts to God.”

(from franciscanmedia.org; “Biblical Laments: Prayer Out of Pain”) 

Our Church Council has begun giving voice to lament through the use of a Wailing Cross.

We have deployed the cross we use for the Lenten and Easter seasons.

It is set up in our Garden Room with expressions of grief, sadness and lament written on little colored pieces of paper and then attached to the cross. 

You are invited to cast your sadness and grief on the Wailing Cross.

There are materials at the Welcome Center in the Garden Room for your use in doing so.

The expressions are your own and are confidential. 

After a season, we will remove the Wailing Cross and give praise and thanksgiving to God for God’s provision and care during this time of transition and change.

And we will pray that God’s will and way will guide us into a more vital and faithful future. 

Weeping may linger for the night,
but joy comes with the morning.
Psalm 30.5b NRSV

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