Yesterday I was challenged by soul friend Judi Neal to name the joy that is at the center of who I am and what I do.  In this season where death is encountered daily across the globe and chaos ensues, joy must be named with care, so as not to discount the challenging times in which we find ourselves.  At the same time, when we fail to acknowledge joy, we dishonor the paradoxical reality that joy is often best understood in tumultuous times. 

Out of Grief

The joy of which I speak is not a surface emotion, but a deep, abiding reality that shapes and forms us—in season and out.  Desert Father Abba Poeman speaks of the paradoxical nature of joy when he reminds us: The greater the hollow carved out in grief, the more room for joy to dwell therein.  There is much to distract us from joy in this season.  We cannot ignore the deep pain of our present reality.  Yet without joy, our attempts toward transformation risk becoming a brittle facsimile of life.   

Laughter, Exaltation, and Joy

One of my favorite blessings comes from an 11th monastic:

May the Son of God who is already formed in you, grow in you—

so that for you, he will become immeasurable, 

and that in you, he will become laughter, exaltation, and the fullness of joy, 

which no one can take away.

Isaac of Stella

What a wonderful image.  Laughter, exaltation and the fullness of joy!  Whatever our tradition or practice, we do well to connect soul with Source that we might know laughter, exaltation and joy, even (especially!) in the midst of grief.  It is then that we come to accept that life is never a state of either/or, but always both/and.  Shadow and light.  Brokenness and wholeness.  Grief and joy.

Joy, a Practical Necessity

Joy enters our lives in the most unexpected of ways and places.  It is not something to be reserved for the good times, but a way of being woven into the fabric of our lives.   We live in challenging times.  Times that make joy not only a spiritual, but practical necessity.  

How will you practice JOY in this season?

Without joy, our attempts toward transformation risk becoming a brittle facsimile of life.   

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