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Childlike joy

This week we celebrate the Advent Candle of Joy (the Shepherd’s or Gaudete Candle).
Count me in. I’m all in favor of joy. But sometimes, I don’t feel it. Is that okay to admit? Or say, out loud? There’s a part of me that still hears (listens to) the voices that tell me to never let on about darkness. And if I don’t feel joy, something must be wrong with me.

At times, every one of us is afraid. Who knows all the reasons? The world can be heavy, or it just doesn’t make sense. And when life is heavy, our senses (our heart and spirit) become dulled. And when that happens, we revert to a zero-sum view of the world. We believe that resources—including compassion, mercy, kindness, forgiveness and generosity—are finite. We believe that life is short, so you get what you can.
In Sabbath Moment we talk a lot about the gift of embracing what is already alive and well. Inside. Yes, maybe buried or hidden by expectations. But asleep nonetheless.
So. We need the invitation and permission to wake up.
And here’s the truth: a gentle antidote for weariness or lethargy is childlike joy. Enlarging childlike joy is purposely and graciously, soul enriching.
Confucian philosopher Mencius’ reminder, “Great is the human who has not lost his childlike heart.”
Why is it that we rarely allow ourselves to experience the fullness of the moments (sacrament of the present moments) we live each day?

A seminary student body participated in a day of recollection and reflection. As the Seminary President introduced the guest retreat leader—on a beautiful Saturday morning in spring—he apologized to the seminarians, “I’m very sorry for the distraction and the noise.”
This Saturday—on the seminary grounds sports field—happened to be youth soccer day.  It seems that the President had forgotten to arrange for the local youth soccer program to play their games elsewhere on the day of the retreat.  Which meant hundreds of children on the seminary grounds, and the sounds of play and laughter could easily be heard, echoing and reverberating inside the lecture hall.
But when the retreat leader stood up to begin his first talk of the day, he said to the seminarians, “I think it’s wonderful that the children are here with us this morning. I will not have done my job, if you aren’t able to have a good retreat while you see and hear the sights and sounds of children playing on our soccer fields today.”
Yes indeed. The enrichment of childlike joy. The story makes me smile real big. And is good for my heart.
It helps if we see this story as a life-giving invitation (gift) to a paradigm shift: We get to choose the lens through which we invite life in. Yes, the permission to wake up, remembering that our well-being is not at the mercy of life’s heaviness or happenings.

Our childlike joy lens, as in being filled with wonder, innocence, curiosity, and delight in living. Invited to pay attention to ways that our lives are recalibrated, grounded in values that allow us to be present.
A magical fuel that keeps us from becoming crusty, deadened, hard, or uncaring.  Childlike joy is vital because when we focus on it, and nourish that quality in ourselves, sure enough, joy begins spilling to the world around us.

No, it is not always easy to see. Especially when life feels always just beyond where we are Now.
Alfred E Neuman nailed it when he said, “Most of us don’t know what we want in life, but we’re sure we haven’t got it.”
In the grocery store the other day I overheard another couple, discussing their list for a dinner party. “We need wine,” he says.
“We have that nice bottle of Cabernet at home,” she tells him.
“I’m not wasting a good bottle of wine on your mother,” he huffs.
(This will be a dinner of good will and revelment, I think, and I’m sorry I’m going to miss it.)

Waking up begins with childlike wonder and joy… gladness, gooseflesh, delight. And yes, the gift of laughter.
What if I don’t feel like playing? What if my spirit is too heavy? Fair enough. I know exactly what that feels like… So. Let’s think of it this way: Play is an openness to a part of me that has been discounted or closed.
Which means that play is not so much an activity, as a suspending of control and allowing life’s gifts in.
What moments of childlike joy might you discover today?
As a member of this Society of Childlike Grownups, we are entitled to many things, including the permission to… sing in the shower, have a merry heart, read children’s book, act silly, take bubble baths, hold hands and hug, dance (balter), fly kites, laugh out loud, cry out loud, wander around, give up worry and guilt and shame, say yes and no and the magic words ‘thank you,’ talk with animals—geese, deer and sheep, name the shapes in the clouds, ask lots of questions, and waste an entire afternoon savoring.

Let this be one of our Christmas prayers:
May we recapture that child in each of us; that child still smitten with wonder and joy.
Where is the play in your life?
Where is the rest?
Where is the wonder?
Where is the gladness?
Where is the gooseflesh?
A peaceful and blessed Christmas (and Holiday season) to all.

I hope this week we find places for rest, renewal, wonder, play, healing. And joy.

Quote for your week…
It’s about resetting the scales that we use to weigh and measure what is important. What is of value. What is life-giving.  It pays to remember that not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts. (Quote attributed to William Cameron.) 


Today’s Photo Credit: “My Golden Retriever puppy Emma M. loves having her Sabbath Moment early in the morning. Photo taken a few days ago at dawn. Many thanks for your daily reminder of how beautiful and precious life is,” Greg Wilhelm… Thank you Greg… And thank you to all, I love your photos… please keep sending them… send to 

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Letters that do my heart good…
–Thank you, Terry, You continue to “bring it”… You dig deep to speak for the sovereign to the weary… even when and though you are weary momentarily… How Divine. Bless You Mr. Hershey. Have A Great Day! Mindy
–Your reflections and wise, kind words fill up my heart and remind me of kind deeds for others. Thank you. many blessings. Karen
–I read your SM weekly with deep gratitude. Regularly, I excerpt lines for my journal and my heart, and I share these with others. Regularly, I feel you have written these for me. God bless you and your work, Amy
–Hi dear, We let your birthday slip by unacknowledged, so let us say how glad we are that you were born and live among us! Keep up the good work of reminding us of what it’s all about here in this topsy turvy world these days. Age is a frame of mind so keep up the dancing despite joint complaints! We love ya! Karen and Vicki
–Good morning, Terry – I read your Sabbath Moment “faithfully” and you are a very real presence in my life. Thank you. I don’t know whether you follow Religion News Service but here is a link to a thought-commentary on Norman Lear that might work its way into a Sabbath Moment. A big year for Barbara and me – She retired January 1; I turned 95, so a new chapter. More time for family, travel and volunteering. Thanks for sharing so much with all of us. N
–Terry,  This is Beth, one of your readers and supporters for many years.  Your blog means so much to me on my spiritual path. Having suffered like you did from the rigidity and fear of growing up in an extreme religious evangelical “cult” in Scotland your messages are candles in my “born again” life! Hopefully an age where we have attained some wisdom and can BE the light and give back to this hurting world. Happy Belated Birthday. Beth


Peacemaking doesn’t mean passivity.
It is the act of interrupting injustice
without mirroring injustice,
The act of disarming evil
without destroying the evildoer,
The act of finding a third way
that is neither fight nor flight
But the careful, arduous pursuit
of reconciliation and justice.
It is about a revolution of love
that is big enough to set both
the oppressed and the oppressors free.
Common Prayer: A liturgy for ordinary radicals

When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.
I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.
Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.
And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,
“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.
Mary Oliver

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