Posts Tagged joy

The Urgency of Joy by Aurelia Davila

In the wake of Uvalde, I am filled with a grief so deep it touches on other aching parts of my heart. Like the part that dreads sending my own kid to school each day, come this fall. But also the part that has yet to fully process what it means to live in a world with Covid or to comprehend what we’ve all been through these last two years because of it. 

The grief of all that has been lost to the families of Uvalde and Buffalo and Laguna Woods and Tulsa (and, and, and!) is too much. The grief that nothing seems to be happening to change future circumstances is more than a person can bear. It brings up a hopelessness that threatens to overtake us. Yet, we are familiar with this hopelessness because we have known it many times in recent years.

I want to suggest (with great urgency!) that one of our responses to all of this might be the cultivation of joy.

We’ve heard it said, “You’ve got to put on your own oxygen mask first before you can put on the person’s next to you.” This metaphor can help us prioritize a care for self that is necessary if we are to make sustainable contributions to the collective.

Cultivating our own joy is not meant to be selfish work. We are not ignoring the needs of the world around us. Instead, we are beginning to understand that we can actively care without carrying every single load, every single time. We put on our own oxygen mask first so that our much needed participation in the work of heaven on earth is not in vain.

This is also not meant to be easy work. In fact, this both/and posture is the road less traveled. It is the harder way. Peeling back the layers of shame and guilt we experience when we choose to prioritize our own care is no easy feat. After all, many of us have been indoctrinated to deny ourselves to the point of physical, spiritual, and emotional neglect.

But if we deny ourselves, how will we care for anything or anyone outside ourselves? This is not the well we were meant to draw from! As bearers of God’s own image, as Divine temples, we must learn to include the work of nurturing our own bodies, spirits, and healing.

So we put on our own oxygen mask first—not as an act of disregard for all that is playing out in these times, but as an act of radical love and care for all of creation. When we do it, we witness a metaphorical breath of fresh air that flows up and out of us, expanding our capacity for hope, peacemaking, and compassion. Energizing us. Fueling our ability to face the realities of the world. To care without carrying to our own detriment.

We put on our own oxygen mask first, and what’s more, what if joy is the oxygen mask? What if our joy is a key ingredient to our collective liberation? Our desire to love, our urge to serve, our inclination to give and propensity to make significant change is not sustainable without first tending to our own inner landscape.

May this reminder compel us to make the necessary adjustments right here, right now via our spiritual practices, of which joy should be a part.

Like any other spiritual practice, with joy, we are signing up for a lifetime of never quite arriving. We are committing to the necessary work of holding joy in tension with grief, lament, rage, etc. We are consistently giving ourselves grace and compassion.

We are cultivating the love and care we perceive is needed out there, within ourselves. We are reflecting our hopes for the world within our own bodies. We are practicing joy again and again, and in doing so, we are increasing our capacity to recognize and experience it daily. Again, none of this is in place of our outer work, but rather, in addition to it.

So—attention to anyone who will listen!

If you spot an opportunity for joy in these times, take it. Consider joy, in all its shapes and sizes, a Spirit-nudge. A challenge to be accepted. Unapologetically and fervently grab hold of it. Because I am convinced that joy is our ticket. Joy is the life preserver we desperately need. Joy can be our salvation, pulling us out of our throes of fear, panic, and hopelessness.

As we continue in our liberation work, in which we use our bodies and voices to actively usher in heaven on earth, may we remember: joy is not just a bonus. It’s not just a whim. Joy is our oxygen mask, it is urgent to our thriving, and we cannot do without it in these times.

Aurelia Dávila Pratt is the lead pastor of Peace of Christ Church in Round Rock, Texas, and cohost of the Nuance Tea Podcast where she is redefining what it means to be a clergywoman of color. Her book, A Brown Girl’s Epiphany, is available for pre-order now! Learn more at

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The Ten Commandments of Joy – Rev. Susan Sparks*

1-Thou Shalt Not Worry

News flash: Life is not a holy contract in which God promises a calm passage; the only promise is a safe landing. Therefore, instead of asking God why this is happening TO you, thank God for being WITH you. Worry or believe—you can’t do both.

2-Thou Shalt Not Let Anger Steal Your Joy

The biggest thief of joy is anger. The classic example: Someone did you wrong, and you just won’t let it go. Fine. But be clear, to accommodate all that anger, your heart has to make room, which means things like joy get squeezed out. As the old saying goes, the one who has the most influence in your life is the one you refuse to forgive.

3-Thou Shalt Believe You Deserve Joy

Joy and laughter are the most important healing tools we have. Sadly, thanks to low self-esteem, high self-doubt, and negative people in our environment, some of us don’t believe we deserve to be happy. Do you? If not, why not? Is the reason true? If not, why do you carry it around? Who could you be without that excuse?

4-Thou Shalt Laugh with God

We were created in God’s image, and we laugh and feel joy. Therefore, laughter and joy must also be aspects of the holy. Bottom line? We are children of a God with a sense of humor. To be whole, we must be willing to share all of ourselves with God—the anger, the pain, the tears, and the laughter. It’s all holy.

5-Thou Shalt Pray It and Say It: I’m Grateful!

Start your day with a prayer of gratitude. Acknowledge your blessings. Then, act on that gratitude. Say “thank you” to at least three people during your day—preferably someone you don’t know. Share a kind word, a written note of thanks, a smile. Pray it and say it! Gratitude is the autobahn to joy.

6-Thou Shalt Laugh with Your Neighbor—Even if Your Neighbor is a Telemarketer

When we laugh with someone, whether family, friend, or telemarketer, our worlds overlap for a split second. We share something. It’s then that the differences fade, and the commonalities gleam through. Remember: You can’t hate someone with whom you’ve laughed.

7-Thou Shalt Laugh and Eat Chocolate and Chili Peppers

All three make us feel good. The increased oxygen from laughing, the serotonin in chocolate, and the capsaicin from chilis produce a boost of endorphins, nature’s own “happy pill.” You can also do an hour on the treadmill to get that same endorphin high, but I’d suggest laughing while nibbling on a chili dark chocolate bar.

8-Thou Shalt Be Like the Little Children

Children are said to laugh approximately 300 times a day and adults less than 20. Somewhere between cartoons and carpools, our laughter gets lost. Spend a few minutes watching a little child squealing with laughter, eyes full of awe at everyday miracles. When was the last time you laughed out loud or were awed by something wonderful? Start today.

9-Thou Shalt Lean on Laughter in Times of Trouble

Laughing in a place of pain is the most courageous and rebellious thing you can do. That pain does not own you. It is only what you are experiencing. By tapping into your ability to laugh, you are reminding yourself, and everyone around you, that “weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning” (Psalm 30:5).

10 -Thou Shalt Not Waste ANY Opportunities for Joy

To paraphrase Erma Bombeck, think of all the women on the Titanic, who, on that fateful night, said “no” to dessert. It’s easy to postpone joy in times of crisis or pain, but time keeps ticking. No matter where we find ourselves in life, it’s still life—it’s still a gift. And we must honor that gift in all we do.

*Susan Sparks is pastor of Madison Avenue Baptist Church in New York City.

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Gratitude Two: Family

Both of my children, Suzanne and Michael, were here this past weekend. As the banter bounced back and forth it took me back to years ago when their mother worried that if something happened to the two of us, those two would never speak to each other again. If only she knew how wrong she was and she was never wrong.

Christmas 2015 - Raven, Christopher, Carol, Suzanne, Joel, Mitch, Michael, Colin, Nancy, Christina

Christmas 2015 – Raven, Christopher, Carol, Suzanne, Joel, Mitch, Michael, Colin, Nancy, Christina

I know that when the two of them are together my life hangs in the balance. How many mothers can one guy have? On the other hand, how blessed can one father be? Their mother raised them well. They could not have had a better example. She was the light of our world. Still, the teenager in them manages to show itself.

Suzanne cooked and froze dinners for me. Michael changed light bulbs, moved furniture, etc. His own two children, now adults, engaged in the same behaviors as my two did as teenagers. Not to be outdone was Maggie, Nancy and Michael’s dog, who made herself right at home.

Suzanne’s son, Christopher, and wife Raven were here to make the circle complete almost. He was on his way back to Seattle where he is a submariner.

This house was filled with joy and laughter. For a little while we were able to forget the COVID pandemic and how it has devastated our world. We are family.

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When Your Life Loses Its Luster, Become a Child Again –

What a message he spread for all to see. “I am happy and well cared for. The world is a beautiful and exciting place. I know everything is OK. I’m loved. See, here’s my rainbow.”

Robert is too young to have been taught the religious symbolism of the rainbow. He hasn’t studied the archetypes of Carl Jung, and yet his joyful creation is that of a rainbow.

This 2-year-old has it over the rest of us. His world is pure joy.

He cries when he falls. He laughs at whatever is funny and then he lets it go. He lets it go and then he is off on his next adventure. He is excited about everything. His walk around our block is awe-inspiring.

Robert’s world is pure joy. He has not studied at the foot of Richard Rohr to learn to be in the moment. He is in the moment – the here and now.

I would like to take a class with Robert, but I am too uptight to let loose and experience pure awe.

What if someone sees me drawing a rainbow in her or his driveway? She or he would call the nearest assisted living facility.

What if I stopped to marvel at a pebble or jumped for pure joy into a mud puddle? What if I giggled and ran after every neighborhood squirrel? What if I believed everything you said because you are all grown-up?

Robert doesn’t know me. He doesn’t know what color I am or what country I came from. He doesn’t know if I am a Christian, a Muslim or a Jew. I may be an atheist. He doesn’t know whether I am gay or straight.

Robert doesn’t know and he doesn’t care, but he gave me a present. He drew a rainbow for all my neighbors and me.

This is what Jesus said in my translation. “Look at Robert. Unless you have the faith that Robert has, you can never share my world of splendor and awe. You can never know peace. You will never be able to live in a state of pure joy.”

I can remember when the world was an exciting place. I can remember being overcome with awe. I remember getting up early to watch the sun peek over the horizon of the ocean.

I remember joy, but that was before I became jaded, suspicious, cautious, skeptical and wise. That was before I grew up and lost sight of what is important. That was before I let the world take it away.

I want to be Robert again. I want to feel so overwhelmingly joyful I give you a present without knowing or caring who you are.

I want to be Robert and accept you the way you are. I want to live in the moment and let it go when it has gone.

Thank you, Robert.

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