Ah Joy!

Better late than never! Here is a reflection I tended for the 3rd week of Advent–Joy.

Ah Joy.  And Sadness.  Two of my best emotional friends.

Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve and Josh Cooley, knocked it out of the park when they wrote the screen play to Inside Out (2015), a not-so-childish animation that tells the tale of Riley, a young girl who is grieving the move her family has made from the Midwest to San Francisco.  Surprisingly the primary characters of this film are her Emotions–Joy, Anger, Disgust, Fear, and Sadness–who guide her every thought and action.

Joy and Sadness from Pixar’s movie, Inside Out

What I love most about the       back-story of this movie, is that the character Sadness wasn’t originally a main character.  In his interview with Terry Gross on Fresh Air in July of 2015, writer and director Pete Docter shared that Joy, the main character, had originally been paired up with Fear. But after 3 years of working on the film the story line was stuck.  It wasn’t until Sadness came to the forefront, that the story of happiness returning to Riley’s life could unfold.

Sadness, you see, taught Joy that in certain times that Riley remembered being happy, it was a memory that followed  a sad time.  Riley needed to grieve her loss in order to make room for new times of joy.

The holidays can bring much sadness for people. But if they should look deeper, they may find that in many cases they are grieving the loss of joy.

Kahlil Gibran  wrote in his book The Prophet,

When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.

When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.

May any sorrow we may experience this Advent season teach us all the more about joy.

Dear Facebook Friend,

I see you.

I see you through your Facebook posts and have been shocked, angered, insulted, and disheartened by so many of your political posts. I admit that I initially started this letter with the sole purpose of condemning you. All I wanted to do was to call you out, especially on your more antagonistic postings that I’ve encountered.

And here’s what confounds me.

Do we not both profess to be children of the Most High and followers of his son, Jesus Christ? Are we not both guided and inspired by the Holy Spirit?  I take note of your beautiful, faith-inspiring posts that encourage people to pray without ceasing, to forgive, to be selfless, to love one another, and to remember we are all doing the best that we can. 

But how do you reconcile in your heart your more judgmental and hateful sharings? Do you somehow perform a spiritual separation of church and state?  Shouldn’t your faith guide your actions in all facets of your life? 

And do you know what else I see, my friend? 

I see me.

I see my own hypocrisy in sizing up your devotion to Christ based on your Facebook posts. Who am I to believe I am more worthy, more perfect, more holy because of what I do or do not share?  How do I reconcile in my heart my more judgmental and hateful sharings? 

I can’t exactly cast that first stone, now can I? 

I am definitely not without fault.  I have intentionally posted things to stir up people’s emotions rather than build them up. I have made comments or given the thumbs up to many posts you would have found distasteful, insulting, or against your beliefs.  I have been quick to jump on certain band wagons, to be sure!

So, in the spirit of Lent, dear Friend, I ask for your forgiveness.  I have been wrong to judge you.  It was not my place and I am truly sorry. In the same light, I also forgive you. I will not harbor animosity, but will seek to understand what matters to you.

I extend to you this invitation: Let us find common ground in our faith where we can love one another despite our political affiliations, denominational divides, and even our preferred news channels. 

May we commit to fewer negative, sensational posts and choose the better option of sharing stories that reveal Christ’s light, joy, and love to the world. 

Love always,



What is Your Joy Meter?

I recently offered condolences to a friend whose adult son had died suddenly. As we conversed, I was pleasantly surprised to glimpse a very strong resiliency within her.  She expressed the positive things experienced during and after his death and highlighted her gratitude in seeing another side of her son through his friends.  She was thankful as well to have gained an unexpected closeness to so many of them.

Curious, I questioned how these resilient traits of optimism and gratitude were formed.  Many years ago, she explained, she had become severely disabled by her fibromyalgia.  In her search for healing, she discovered that when she got to the root of her emotional state AND resolved that which troubled her emotionally or mentally, her body would respond positively.

She learned most of all that forgiveness, optimism and gratitude impacted her health the most.  Her fibromyalgia had become her “joy meter.”  If her symptoms began rearing up their ugly heads, then joy was down in her life.  Instead of stuffing away the problems of her life, she would evaluate, find that broken area, and mend it right away.

I couldn’t agree more.  In my own life I know that my MS symptoms often get more pronounced when I’m under stress or in emotional turmoil.

And for you?  What is your joy meter?  How do you know when there are areas in your life that need to be addressed?

Today Spiritual Prescription:

Mentally scan your body. (After each question, you may want to close your eyes and breath deeply as you listen to your body…)

Where do you hurt? Where are you carrying tension? Have you been more sick lately?  If you have a chronic illness, is it under control or have symptoms bubbled up lately?

Now take an emotional and mental scan. 

What is worrying you the most in your life right now? With whom are you in conflict or irritated?  What needs are being left unmet?  Are any emotions like anger, greed, resentment, depression, shame, or anxiety ruling your mind and heart these days?


Our bodies and minds are very much connected. One absolutely impacts the other.

Take time to discover your joy meter and
allow Forgiveness, Optimism, and Gratitude to bring you back into balance.


Laugh WITH Yourself

Today’s Spiritual Prescription:

I absolutely relish the ridiculous and often embarrassing things that have happened to me.

A pastor and her flock

Choosing a can of kippered herring as a quick, on-the-go lunch then proceeding to eat it in my car, for instance, wasn’t the brightest of ideas.  I realized this only after the oily, fish juices came pouring out of the half eaten can when I made a sudden stop.  What a horrendous, smelly mess that was!

Or what about the time I was trying to comfort a woman who was actively dying after months of being on our hospice program?

Although she was facing the wall, I tried my best to comfort her through song and prayer. She continued to be restless despite my best efforts and seemed to be trying to speak.

Assuming it might be important last words or a final request, I squeezed my way between her bed and the wall. Finally. I could see her face and hear her words more clearly.

And that I did.  With no hesitation she clearly told me, “Get…OUT!”

Ah yes.  That wasn’t the first or last time I would miss the mark as a chaplain.

Honestly, I treasure these moments.  They remind me to not take life so seriously.*

And now your Spiritual Prescription:

Laugh with yourself. 


Note—I did not say “Laugh at yourself.”  This is not about belittling yourself.

It is about celebrating life and remembering to lighten up.

It’s about remembering that, like it or not, you are not perfect.  In fact, no one is!

Words to consider from Proverbs 15:15…

A miserable heart means a miserable life; a cheerful heart fills the day with song. (The Message)


So laugh with yourself and let your heart be ever cheerful.


* Last night I was horrified to discover I had accidentally posted this Spiritual Prescription weeks ago unfinished.  Heaven forbid! I was certainly NOT laughing at first, but I’m getting there!

A Pessimist in Recovery

Today’s Spiritual Prescription:

I am a recovering pessimist.

unhappy faceWay too often, however, I tumble off the wagon and roll into my old patterns of negative thinking. (Broken and Beautiful is a perfect example!)

Last week I was made painfully aware of how difficult it is to refrain from having a gloomier, darker outlook on life.

As I was leaving a skilled nursing facility I could not help but glance in each resident’s room as I cruised down the hall.

In one room there was a mountain of small stuffed animals carefully stacked on top of an individual’s dresser.  Without missing a beat, I said to the facility employee moving past me “I can’t imagine having ALL those eyes stare at me at night.”

It was a weak attempt at getting her into my car of trash talking someone’s conceivably weird behavior.

To make things worse, would you believe she had the nerve to suggest that all those eyes were “looking out” for their owner, protecting her against the “boogie man”?

Oh suuure…. isn’t that sweet.  Little furry protectors.

Then clearly the person is paranoid, I suggested.

In was no use.  With each negative slant I had on that mound of stuffed animals and the resident who piled them, the caregiver had something positive to say.

And before I realized it, I was an official jerk wondering why I had, once again, been drawn to the dark side. Why had I been so set on ferreting out the slightest negative perspective—and on stuff animals of all things?

What a waste of time and energy for my entire being!

And now for your Spiritual Prescription:                    

Don’t go to the dark side!0910131602

Resist seeing the world in a gloomy, dreary light.  It is a bad habit that impacts your body, mind and spirit!

Proverbs 17:22 puts it this way : A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.

Don’t allow your spirit to be crushed by dark imagining.

Notice and fight off the temptation to negatively respond to life around you.

We miss so much of the beauty around us when we do.

(I saw this happy chalkboard message on my way home that day.  A nice reminder to keep working toward a joyful heart.)