When Joy is a Choice

Photo of Joy

This morning I drove by a park. I pulled to the curb to savor the pure joy of several adults celebrating life. They were a mix of disabled and able bodied adults enjoying a day of warm weather and blue skies.  The parachute accentuated their joyful whoops and laughter.

Their witness was in contrast to the news on my car radio that morning (the expanding war on terrorism, the 13th anniversary of 9/11 etc.) along with the worries I carry with me.

Tim Hansel in his book ‘You Gotta Keep Dancing’, speaks of his journey with chronic pain.  He writes that joy is different than happiness.  Happiness is circumstancial.  It is dependent upon ‘good things’ happening to us. If like sucks (such as chronic pain) we are unhappy, if things are good we are happy.

Joy he offers is different, it is a choice.  It is based on the deep seated belief ‘that whatever happens, God is with us.’ ‘Joy is a gift’ says Hansel, that comes as we choose to be hopeful.

As I watched these adults ‘play’ in the park.  I found that my own perspective began to  change.  I began to feel and embrace their joy in that park.  I was reminded that while life can be difficul,t that I too can choose to be joyful. 

As a person of faith, I can choose to believe ‘that whatever happens, God is with me.’Who knows, if I truly believe this… you may find me tossing a colored parachute into the air!

A Christmas Wish: 26 Acts of Kindness

In the last few weeks we’ve been inundated with images of random violence.  From the shootings at Clackamas Town Center Mall in Portland, to the murder of 20 children and 6 adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut on December 14th.  We are shaken by violence in places normally thought to be safe.

What can we do?  How can we honor the lives of those lost and reaffirm all that is good?  With gratitude to the resiliency of the human spirit, people are responding in the most imaginative of ways.   One movement is 26 Acts of Kindness Campaign, which encourages individuals and communities to offer 26 expressions of kindness.  Imagine what happens when people throughout this nation and around the world respond to the challenge to grace others with kindness.  Each act in honor of those who lost their lives at Sandy Hook.

The website www.RandomActsOfKindness.org offers wonderful ideas for gifting neighbors and strangers with expressions of kindness.   It can be as simple as giving someone a prime parking spot, or deeply listening to someone, or buying a homeless neighbor lunch, or volunteering at school or serving others through your church.  The only limitation is our imagination.

In Judaism there is the hebrew word khesed, which means loving kindness.  The challenge is to offer each day at least one khesed, without drawing attention to oneself. 

Jesus said, “be compassionate as God is compassionate to you.”  The word compassion means to ‘suffer with’.  To be compassionate, is to enter into the pain of the other, to respond with loving kindness, in word and in deed.

In response to the needs and challenges of our time, Jim Wallis, the Christian activist writes:  “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.”  We are the ones who can reclaim our society from violence and indifference.  We are the ones who make this world a more loving, just and hopeful place. 

Jesus was born into a world of violence and uncertainty.  Herod the cruel King was on the throne.  Yet the lesson of Christmas, is that the violence and uncertainty of any moment in history, will never have the last word.   And what is our role in the Christmas story?  To share God’s love, to be God’s khesed.

May you be both blessed and a blessing this Christmas.