Life Skills #15 – Cultvating Joy

The Welcome
“Welcome to our group! We’re meeting together in order to learn practices that will inform and form our lives. (“Life Skills”) Our group intention is to cultivate an atmosphere of safety, compassion, and respect for each individual’s unique experience and contribution.”

The Prayer
“We know you are already present to us, O God, so we ask you to enable us to be equally present to you, to each other–and to ourselves. We consent to your work in us. As we learn new practices, may we be delivered from the ‘pace, power, and priorities’ (Villodas) of our world.” (60 seconds of silence)

Managing Expectations
This is not a Bible study or a counseling session. Our time together is as much about “unlearning” as about learning, more about members sharing their experience than a leader giving insights or principles. In being heard we are helped. We change, and others are usually helped too. (This model is tested and proven in 12 step groups. The approach may be unfamiliar at first, so give it some time. It works!)

Expectations regarding other Group Members
Members of the group will come from different regions, ethnicities, ages, and religious backgrounds. Additionally, everyone is on their own timetable and journey. Don’t assume everyone shares your faith or perspective or that you can speak for them.

Suggested Guidelines
*Come to the group with an expectation of learning something new and helpful.
*Keep your sharing at the “I” level–make it personal (what you think or feel), not preachy (what you think others should think or feel). 
*Please keep the focus on your own experience.
*Resolve to practice patience and exquisite tenderness toward others.
*If you feel judgmental or defensive when someone else shares, “turn to wonder.” For instance, “I wonder what she is feeling.”, “I wonder what my reaction teaches me about myself.”
*Stick to the topic. Avoid controversial comments.
*Refrain from commenting on, correcting, advising, or offering solutions to the person who is sharing. No ‘fixing.”, no “cross talk.” (Not even compliments.)
*Trust Silence. Treat silence as a member of the group. Times of silence slow down the group and give people time to reflect.
*Be sensitive to how many times you share, and for how long. We may have a large group at times. Let others have their turn.
*Hold what you hear in confidence. Help us keep this a safe space for everyone.
Specific to on-line meetings:
–Mute your microphone when you’re not sharing, even if you’re home alone!
–Please don’t make video or audio recordings of our meetings.
–Keep your background as non-distracting as possible.

Life Skills #15 – Cultivating Joy

WFTM, May 12, 17, July 1

“Joyful is the person who finds wisdom,
the one who gains understanding.”
Proverbs 3:13

(1) Priming the Pump on Cultivating Joy
*Pick something from below that touches you, and talk about why that is.

“Joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God.” Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

“The beating heart of the universe is holy joy.” Martin Buber

“The fullness of joy is to behold God in everything.” Julian of Norwich

“Joy is the perception of beauty, unlike happiness, which is because of something. Joy is singing of the heart, a feeling of praise.” Dick Only

“I think the main reason we have so little joy is that we take ourselves too seriously.” Thomas Merton

“I’m old enough to know that the world can delight me, so my expectation is not of the world but of myself: Delight in the gift of life and be grateful.” Parker Palmer

“I slept and dreamt that life was joy.
I awoke and saw that life was service.
I acted and behold, service was joy.”
Rabindranath Tagore

“From the deep well of silence, joy is constantly bubbling up and flowing out.Practice reveals that we are immersed in that joy.Practice also reveals what is blocking the flow.”
Gunilla Norris

(2) Digging Into Implications Around Cultivating Joy

*As a group, take these statements one at time. What is the point of each? What are the implications for the way you live?

“Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, ‘The Lord has done great things for them.’” Psalm 126:2


“Joy is what makes life worth living, but for many joy seems hard to find. They complain that their lives are sorrowful and depressing. What then brings the joy we so much desire? Are some people just lucky, while others have run out of luck? Strange as it may sound, we can choose joy. Two people can be part of the same event, but one may choose to live it quite differently than the other. One may choose to trust that what happened, painful as it may be, holds a promise. The other may choose despair and be destroyed by it. What makes us human is precisely this freedom of choice.” Henri Nouwen

“The world is increasingly designed to depress us. Happiness isn’t very good for the economy. If we were happy with what we had, why would we need more? How do you sell an anti-aging moisturizer? You make someone worry about aging. How do you get people to vote for a political party? You make them worry about immigration. How do you get them to buy insurance? By making them worry about everything. How do you get them to have plastic surgery? By highlighting their physical flaws. How do you get them to watch a TV show? By making them worry about missing out. How do you get them to buy a new smartphone? By making them feel like they are being left behind. To be calm becomes a kind of revolutionary act. To be happy with your own non-upgraded existence. To be comfortable with our messy, human selves, would not be good for business.” Matt Haig

“Enlightenment is not an escape from reality. There are joys and sorrows. When we cling to them, we suffer. We want the joys to always be there, and to avoid the sorrows altogether. But there will be both. Feel them, accept them, and let them go. Don’t get too attached to what has shown up in the present moment, remembering that there’s a new moment awaiting. Be happy. Be sad. It’s the nature of life and our feelings to cycle through many joys and sorrows. Press through them deeper still, and know that all is well in a way that never changes and is never diminished. At last, peace.” Jim Palmer

“One of the ways I’ve learned and am learning to press back comparison and enter into the joy God has for me and my house, is to lean into the gift he has given instead of the gift he hasn’t. He has given us time, space, and resources. That is the gift we have in the lack of the gift of children. It is not a better gift or a worse gift or a more sanctifying gift or a more difficult gift. It’s just another and different gift. And I want to receive it with joy. I don’t always. But I want to. These practices help me. Maybe they’ll help you, too.” Lore Ferguson Wilbert

“The only solution that God has to offer to all our problems is himself, is the fact that he is, that he is the kind of God that he is, a God who has a Word to utter, which he utters in an ecstasy of joy, an ecstasy of giving, which we call the Holy Spirit…. God has only the one thing to say, which is himself, he has only the one thing to give, which is himself. And he invites us to hear that Word, to treasure it in our hearts and find in it the source of all our bliss.” Simon Tugwell

Closing Prayers

“Grant us, we pray you, a heart wide open to all this joy and beauty, and save our souls from being so steeped in care or so darkened by passion that we pass heedless and unseeing when even the thornbush by the wayside is aflame with the glory of God.” Walter Rauschenbusch


“Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the
presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior,

through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority,

before all time and now and forever. Amen.” Jude :24-25

For Further Consideration (before our after our discussion)

“FEEL YOUR FEELINGS”

  1. Recognize. It takes a bit of effort to figure out what I’m feeling because the thoughts swirling around my brain are so vivid and powerful. When I feel my negative thoughts careening out of control, I’m learning to stop and try to discern the feelings that lie behind the thoughts. Most often those feelings are fear or sadness, but I also sometimes feel anger, hopelessness and frustration.
  2. Acknowledge. After recognizing the emotion, I sit with it for several breaths. I focus on my breathing and let myself feel whatever it is.
  3. Investigate. I try to identify where the emotion is located in my body, because this helps identify emotions the next time they happen. I also try to figure out what the emotion wants. Sometimes it wants to dominate my life. Sometimes it just wants to be acknowledged.
  4. Non-identify. When the feeling wants to dominate, it wants to be pervasive. It wants me to identify myself with that feeling. When I non-identify with the feeling, I might think about feelings as weather. They come and go. . . . Or I might focus on other feelings I’ve had that day – such as contentment, joy, happiness, or gratitude, no matter how fleeting – to demonstrate to my brain that this strong negative feeling is only a part of me, a part that needs to be acknowledged, but a part that does not define me.

If our ordinary, self-centered viewpoint is dominant, rocks and tree roots are undesirable. But if we change our point of view, then the very fact that there are rocks and tree roots makes the valley stream more beautiful and the sight of waves breaking upon them beyond description. When we perceive joy, anger, happiness and sorrow as enriching our lives, just as rocks and tree roots and water spray embellish nature, then we are able to accept whatever happens and live like flowing water, without clinging to anything.” Shundo Aoyama

Daily Riches: Only Love Can Do That (Parker Palmer, Martin Luther King, and Thomas Merton)*

“Where love rules, there is no will to power; and where power predominates, there love is lacking.” Carl Jung

“Violence is any way we have of violating the integrity of the other. Racism and sexism are violence. Derogatory labeling of any sort constitutes violence. Rendering other people invisible or irrelevant is an act of violence. So is manipulating people towards our ends as if they were objects that existed only to serve our purposes. …Violence is not just about bombing or shooting or hitting people. To create peace in our lives–and our world–we need to be able to sit with frustration and hold the tension of opposite views.” Parker Palmer

“The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. So it goes. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

“The child is totally available in the present because he has relatively little to remember, his experience of evil is as yet brief, and his anticipation of the future does not extend very far. The Christian, in his humility and faith, must be as totally available to his brother, to his world, in the present, as the child is. But he cannot see the world with childlike innocence and simplicity unless his memory is cleared of past evils by forgiveness, and his anticipation of the future is hopefully free of craft and calculation. For this reason, the humility of Christian nonviolence is at once patient and uncalculating. The chief difference between nonviolence and violence is that the latter depends entirely on its own calculations. The former depends entirely on God and on his word.” Thomas Merton

“How I wish today that you of all people
would understand the way to peace.”
Jesus in Luke 19:42

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Do you have the humility required to “hold the tension of opposite views?”
  • Is your past flooded with forgiveness so that, like a child, you have “little to remember?”
  • As you anticipate the future, are you depending on “your own calculations” or depending “on God and on his word?”
  • How can you begin practicing a new “way?”

Abba, help me understand the way of peace.

For More: “The Violence of Our Knowledge” by Parker Parker

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Thanks for reading and sharing my blog! – Bill

Daily Riches: Good Friday and Embracing Endings (Pete Scazzero and Parker Palmer)

“On Good Friday we remember that at the cross Jesus wipes away our sins, becoming a global magnet that draws the whole world to Himself. Good Friday also reminds me that embracing endings (deaths) and new beginnings (resurrections) is the pattern of life for every Christian. Nothing new takes place without an ending. A real ending – a final death – often feels like disintegration, falling apart, a coming undone. It feels that way because that is what death is. It is an ending that requires walking through a completely dark tunnel, not knowing when or if any light will come again. If we embrace these losses for the severe mercies they are, God does a profound work in us and through us in ways that are similar to what the apostle Paul describes as “death is at work in us, but life is at work in you” (2 Cor. 4:12). As a person who tends to resist accepting the necessity of endings, I consistently do four things to keep me on track:

  • I face the brutal facts of situations where things are going badly and ask hard questions, even when everything inside me prefers to distract myself or flee.
  • I remind myself not to follow my feelings during these times of embracing endings as a death.
  • I talk with seasoned mentors who are older and more experienced, asking for their perspective and wisdom.

I ask myself two questions: What is it time to let go of in my personal life and in my leadership? What new thing might be standing backstage waiting to make its entrance in my personal life and in my leadership? This second question especially encourages me to move beyond my fears, reminding me that God has something good for me in the future – even though I may not see any hints of what that might be. Parker Palmer sums it up well: ‘On the spiritual journey…each time a door closes, the rest of the world opens up. All we need to do is to stop pounding on the door just closed, turn around – which puts the door behind us – and welcome the largeness of life that now lies open to our souls.’” Pete Scazzero

“death is at work in us”
2 Corinthians 4:12

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Can you “embrace losses for the severe mercies they are?”
  • Can you trust that God still has something good for you when that “door” closes?
  • Can you wait well in the in between time, instead of acting out in some destructive way?

Abba, help me trust in your love when I experience the darkness of endings.

For More: Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Pete Scazzero

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I appreciate your interest in Daily Riches! Please share! –  Bill (Psalm 90:14)

Daily Riches: The Primary Work of the Christian Leader (Gordon MacDonald, Henri Nouwen and Parker Palmer) *

“The forming of the soul that it might be a dwelling place for God is the primary work of the Christian leader. This is not an add-on, an option, or a third-level priority. Without this core activity, one almost guarantees that he/she will not last in leadership for a life-time or that what work is accomplished will become less and less reflective of God’s honor and God’s purposes.” Gordon MacDonald

“Before we can conquer the world we must conquer the self.” Oswald Sanders

“Self care is never a selfish act. It is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have – the gift I was put on earth to offer to others.” Parker Palmer

“The goal of education and formation for the ministry is continually to recognize the Lord’s voice, his face, and his touch in every person we meet.” Henri Nouwen

“How lovely is your dwelling place,
  Almighty Yahweh!
My soul yearns, even faints,
 for the courts of Yahweh;
my heart and my flesh cry out
 for the living God.”
Psalm 84:1-2

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Christian leader, do you consider “the forming of your soul that it might be a dwelling place for God” to be your “primary work?” Have you established routines and prioritized practices accordingly?
  • When you think about whether you are successful, how often do you turn to consider how you’re doing at this “core activity?” If not this, what do you think about instead? Are other responsibilities, real or imagined, deterring you from this non-optional, first-level activity?
  • Gordon MacDonald is a wise guide here. Can you accept his warning that if you fail at this point you probably “will not last in leadership for a life-time … [or your work will] become less and less reflective of God’s honor” over time?  Can you take the time to be this kind of leader in spite of the expectations and pressures others place on you – even perhaps with little encouragement from anyone else?

Abba, I pray that the Christian leaders I know would live a life of deep intimacy with you. Call them to yearn for you like the psalmist does, and to seek your empowering presence. And Lord, help those of us under their care to prayerfully support them and diligently protect them when they attempt this greatest of all work.

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For More: Cultivating the Soul by Gordon MacDonald

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement. I hope you’ll follow my blog, and share it. I appreciate your interest!  –  Bill (Psalm 90:14)

Daily Riches: Your Soul as God’s Dwelling Place (Gordon MacDonald, Parker Palmer and Richard Foster) *

“The forming of the soul that it might be a dwelling place for God is the primary work of the Christian leader. This is not an add-on, an option, or a third-level priority. Without this core activity, one almost guarantees that he/she will not last in leadership for a life-time or that what work is accomplished will become less and less reflective of God’s honor and God’s purposes.”  Gordon MacDonald

“Self care is never a selfish act. It is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have – the gift I was put on earth to offer to others.” Parker Palmer

“The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people.” Richard Foster

“I am the vine; you are the branches.
If you remain in me and I in you,
you will bear much fruit;
apart from me you can do nothing.”
Jesus in John 15:5

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • The first quote is meant for pastors, but isn’t it true for all of us? The problem is, many of us (pastors included) don’t think of the forming of our own soul as our “primary work.” Do you think of this as your most important work, or are you more focused on serving God and others?
  • Can you imagine offering your best self to your marriage, your family, your neighborhood, your church, your country – to anything – without such a focus?
  • Gordon MacDonald and many of us insisted on learning this the hard way. Will you also need to learn by suffering and painful loss, or can you heed these words of warning? Can you make an action plan so that you don’t fool yourself now with merely good intentions?

Abba, I know that you have taken up residence in me already, and that I’ll always be your dwelling place. It’s only whether I’ll be a holy or unholy one, whether an expansive, welcoming one, or a restricted inhospitable one. Help me to welcome you as lovingly as you have welcomed me.

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For More: “Cultivating the Soul: Spiritual Formation Can Happen, Without Saying a Word” (article) by Gordon MacDonald

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“There is nothing new except what has been forgotten.” (Marie Antionette) , and thus “Men more often require to be reminded than informed.”  (Samuel Johnson) The purpose of Daily Riches is to return again and again to a list of critical concepts at the core of the spiritual life. “Therefore, I will always remind you about these things—even though you [may] already know them and are standing firm in the truth you have been taught.” (2 Peter 1:12)  I appreciate your interest! When you find this helpful, please share! – Bill

Daily Riches: Trying to Give Water From an Empty Well (Parker Palmer and Pete Scazzero) *

“When I give something I do not possess, I give a false and dangerous gift, a gift that looks like love but is, in reality, loveless – a gift given more from my need to prove myself than from the other’s need to be cared for. One sign that I am violating my own nature in the name of nobility is a condition called burnout. Though usually regarded as a result of trying to give too much, burnout in my experience results from trying to give what I do not possess – the ultimate in giving too little! Burnout is a state of emptiness, to be sure, but it does not result from giving all I have; it merely reveals the nothingness from which I was trying to give in the first place.” Parker Palmer

“Remaining in loving union with Jesus is a matter of life and death for us as well as for everyone who looks to us for nourishment.” Peter Scazzero

“My people have committed two sins:
They have forsaken me,
the spring of living water,
and have dug their own cisterns,
broken cisterns that cannot hold water.”
Jeremiah 2:13

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Have you ever felt burned out? Looking back, to you have insight now into what happened? Were you “giving something you did not possess?”
  • Do you see “nourishing your soul” as a matter of life and death for you? Do you see how failing do to so can make you “dangerous?”
  • Is busyness, drivenness, exhaustion or a dangerous sense of self-sufficiency keeping you from nourishing your soul?
  • You you have a specific plan to cultivate loving union with God, “the spring of living water?” If not, where could you begin?

Abba, when I come to the end of my rope – when my well is empty  – when I’m running on fumes – when my experience of you is tired or second-hand … may I remember then to address the “nothingness” in my inner life before I attempt to do anything else.  And may I remember my need even when it seems like I’m doing fine.

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For More: Let Your Life Speak by Parker Palmer

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“There is nothing new except what has been forgotten.” (Marie Antionette) , and thus “Men more often require to be reminded than informed.”  (Samuel Johnson) The purpose of Daily Riches is to return again and again to a list of critical concepts at the core of the spiritual life. “Therefore, I will always remind you about these things—even though you [may] already know them and are standing firm in the truth you have been taught.” (2 Peter 1:12)  I appreciate your interest! When you find this helpful, please share! – Bill

Daily Riches: The Limits of Patriotism (Thomas Keating, Parker Palmer and Os Guiness)

“This sort of spiritual discipline is a therapy for the tyranny of the false self … for our over-identification with family, nation, religion, or group. Of course we owe a measure of gratitude to our nation, religion, and family. But it is interesting that Jesus said that unless we hate our parents, we can’t be his disciples. By this he didn’t mean that we should not love and respect them and care for them in their old age, as commanded by the Fourth Commandment of the Torah, but that we should not have a naive loyalty to a particular group (even one’s family) that disregards injustices that need to be corrected.” Thomas Keating

“Our problem as Americans—at least, among my race and gender—is that we resist the very ideas of limits, regarding limits of all sorts as temporary and regrettable, impositions on our lives. Our national myth is about the endless defiance of limits…. We refuse to take no for an answer.” Parker Palmer

American Cultural Core Values: information, convenience, options, time maximization, comfort, feel good, independence, happiness, entertainment, instant gratification, skepticism, image, style, and control  –  Os Guiness

“…give back to Caesar
what is Caesar’s,
and to God
what is God’s.”
Jesus in Luke 20:25

Moving From Head to Heart

  • Are you loyal to any group (family, church, denomination, religion, political party, nation) in a naive, uncritical way? in a way that puts that group outside the reach of the prophetic voice of Scripture and its insistence on justice?
  • Does your gratitude for, or loyalty to, any of these groups allow you, or perhaps even cause you, to “disregard injustices that need to be corrected?”
  • Have you embraced our “national myth” as described by Parker Palmer? Can you see any weaknesses in that “mythology?”
  • How many of the “American Cultural Core Values” Os Guiness mentions do you embrace? Are you allowing your religious faith to critique these values? Take some time to consider that.

Abba, forgive my blindness, my careless assumptions and my cowardly silence. Help me to pledge uncritical allegiance and absolute loyalty to you alone – the God over all, and only savior.

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For More: The Human Condition by Thomas Keating 

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In “Daily Riches” my goal is to give you something of uncommon value each day in 400 words or less. I hope you’ll follow my blog, and share it with others. I appreciate it! –  Bill (Psalm 90:14)

 

Daily Riches: Change Yourself First (Parker Palmer)

“When I give something I do not possess, I give a false and dangerous gift, a gift that looks like love but is, in reality, loveless – a gift given more from my need to prove myself than from the other’s need to be cared for. One sign that I am violating my own nature in the name of nobility is a condition called burnout. Though usually regarded as a result of trying to give too much, burnout in my experience results from trying to give what I do not possess – the ultimate in giving too little! Burnout is a state of emptiness, to be sure, but it does not result from giving all I have; it merely reveals the nothingness from which I was trying to give in the first place.” Parker Palmer

“My people have committed two sins:
They have forsaken me,
the spring of living water,
and have dug their own cisterns,
broken cisterns that cannot hold water.”
Jeremiah 2:13

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Have you ever felt burned out? Was it when you were trying to do something “noble?” Why do you think that happened?
  • How could one end up giving a “gift that looks like love, but it really, loveless?”
  • If the problem is “giving something you don’t possess” (giving out of “nothingness”), what is the solution?
  • Based on his words here, what do you think Palmer wants for you?

Abba, when I come to the end of my rope – when my well is empty  – when I’m running on fumes – when my experience of you is tired or second-hand … may I remember then to address the “nothingness” in my inner life before I attempt to do anything else.

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For More: Let Your Life Speak by Parker Palmer

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The “Daily Riches” from RicherByFar are for your encouragement as you seek after God, and as he seeks after you. My goal is to give you something of uncommon value each day in less than 400 words. I hope you’ll follow my blog, and share it with others. I appreciate your interest!  –  Bill (Psalm 90:14)