“Reigniting! A Sense of Joy”

August 2, 2020


Robin McGonigle
University Congregational Church
Aug. 2, 2020

Reigniting! A Sense of Joy
Psalm 16: 9-11

Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices;
my body also rests secure.
For you do not give me up to Sheol,
or let your faithful one see the Pit.
You show me the path of life.
In your presence there is fullness of joy;
in your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Psalm 16: 9-11

What brings you joy? I’m talking about pure joy. Absolute delight. I spent a bit of time last week with my granddaughter, who is now 8 months old and I was reminded again of the sheer delight of a child. You who are parents and grandparents know this joy yourselves. Children can find it so freely and adults struggle to let go. We so seldom can just sit and laugh for no reason at all.

Play video of Maddie.

Today we are continuing to talk about Reigniting! our lives and how to create a sense of joy. Our traditional word reminds us that in God’s presence there is fullness of joy and pleasures forever. However, 2020 has been a year that joy has been difficult.
• My daughter, who is a physician, was telling me that she has had a number of patients ask her for time away from work for anxiety because of COVID, even though they have not been ill or have not had a family member who is ill. They are feeling anxious because of the disease in their community. She reminds them that the best antidote for anxiety is to keep a regular schedule – including going to work! It’s not a popular answer, but it is true.
• Karen Combs posted a meme on Facebook this week saying that if 2020 was an ice cream truck, it would be serving liver and onions! Not popular, but sadly true!

How can we – even in 2020 – Reignite! our lives with joy? How can we laugh with the child? How can we find the fullness of joy and the pleasure God offers? Julia Cameron in her book “It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again” offers several ideas:
1. Children
2. The Power of Whimsy
3. The Balm of Humor
4. Pets
5. Luxury
6. True Joy
I want to talk a bit about each of these in more depth.

Children – whether our own, nieces, nephews, grandchildren, or borrowed children – can be an important source of joy! They like to play, and they liberate our inner playfulness. Children can bring out the child in us as we find frivolous and delightful things to do with them and for them. Whether we have children in our own families, or we sign up to be mentors in the lives of children outside our families, everyone needs children to remind us of the whole circle of life.

For most of us, children bring joy to us. We can delight in their expressions, their youthful exuberance, their growth, their development, and their freedom. There is satisfaction in watching life continue beyond our own and to know that these new faces will grow into adulthood with hopes and dreams as grand and that they will take on a world we cannot even imagine.

The Power of Whimsy – I really enjoy taking people of all ages to Karg Art studio to make their own ornaments and paperweights. They get to choose the colors and designs of the glass and then they get to blow into the tube to expand the glass into an ornament. The whimsy of the process puts a smile on everyone’s face – no matter their age or their background. It’s one of my favorite activities to do with the foreign guests we host, and it is also a great annual activity with my nieces and nephews!
Triggering people’s imagination with activities like glassblowing, dancing, or some other art form is a fabulous experience. We all need to enjoy whimsical moments – times to set aside out intellectualism in favor of what might simply make us happy. When we trigger our imagination, we are free to make improbable connections that our serious, logical brains may not see. We make paths in our brains that are otherwise not used! And we become creative, happy, enjoyable, laughing creatures. People like Fred Rogers and Charlie Chaplin knew this deep within and they were able to touch the whimsy inside children and adult alike. “The quality of our lives is in proportion, always, to our capacity for delight,” writes Julia Cameron. Whimsy is the 2nd key to finding joy in our lives. Take time to delight yourself in something whimsical periodically – whether it is:
• Pinwheels
• Snow globes
• Confetti
• knickknacks/collectibles
• fun nail polish
• a teddy bear or another stuffed animal
• unicorn
• rainbows

The Balm of Humor – A little humor is always welcome. Most all of us need some laughter, especially during a pandemic! Victor Hugo wrote, “Laughter is the sun which drives winter from the human face.” Many of us take life too seriously. What makes you laugh? Comedy on TV? A cartoon book? Time with a funny friend? Indulge yourself with something you find funny! Take time to delight yourself by allowing your funny bone to be tickled. It is important for your mental health.

Building humor into our lives is an important pursuit. Whether we use cartoons or TV or comic movies or humorous reading, we all need some levity in our day! Plato said that “even the gods love jokes!”

Pets – Another way to Reignite! our lives is to enjoy a pet. Pets bring unconditional love into our lives. They love us wholeheartedly and bring us a profound sense of joy. Eric often quips that we love our pets more than our human family members because they don’t talk back, they are there at the end of each day with unconditional acceptance, and their attitude is loving. Our lives are enhanced by animal companions whether they are dogs, cats, or something more exotic like horses, reptiles, fish, rabbit, or something else. Take time to connect with a pet that enchants you. Or volunteer at a rescue shelter. Take your pet on a walk or give it a special treat. Help a neighbor with their pet. The youthful joy of pets brings us joy. Enjoying the fur on some pets gives us delight!

I was with my son and daughter-in-law last week and their Rhodesian Ridge Back hound slept with me. I could stop here and make a few jokes about the comparison between sleeping with my 60-year-old husband and an 80 lb. dog – the snoring, the hair, the tossing and turning, the heat – but I’ll just leave it at that. However, I will say that Harper Lee (the dog’s name), was so snuggly and so grateful to have some love… it was an absolute delight! She is a terrific dog and a complete joy to be around. She brightened every evening as I read in bed by snuggling up and she was faithfully there every morning as I awakened with the baby’s happy waking sounds.

Luxury – For today’s purpose, I’m defining luxury as something that gives you pleasure purely for its own sake, not because it performs any kind of useful function. This kind of luxury is highly individualistic. It is something that matters to you because you like it and it makes you feel good. You are willing to spend your money on it because it brings you joy…
* It might be as simple as a special scented candle or
* a special fresh fruit. I especially like fresh star fruit when it is in season. * It might be getting a massage or
* taking time each day to meditate.
* It could be making homemade bread or
* a luxurious bubble bath.
* It can also be a luxurious and expensive something – an antique car or an expensive piece of jewelry, an exotic trip, or a piece of art.
Many of these things – expensive or not – are shown, as the psalmist writes – by God in our paths of life and are placed here for our complete enjoyment. We are meant to enjoy our lives in this creation. Picking berries and licking our fingers is a delight I can imagine the first humans enjoying in that original garden – the definition of paradise! Why not? That is a luxury! We are meant to enjoy ourselves in this creation. Taking time to enjoy our bodies and the good things of life draws us closer to the Holy, to the Divine, to all that is good and special. During coronavirus, this is especially vital.

Our final step to Reigniting! our lives with joy is finding True Joy. Take a moment to travel back in your memory and explore the paths you didn’t take in life; dreams of your childhood and adolescence that you had that you eliminated for whatever reason and now you would like to explore again. If you wanted to paint, but knew you couldn’t make a living at it… why not take a painting class? If you dabbled at woodworking and might like to try it again… do! If you thought about running for political office… try it! My daughter has always said that when she is finished with being a doctor, she wants to get a seminary degree (not because she ever wants to do ministry, but because theology fascinates her)! Why not?

What makes you happy? What stirs your soul? What fancies do you entertain in your imagination? Take time this week to explore them… and go out with your mask and try a few things to just delight yourself! Laugh with God and find some pleasure. As the psalmist reminds us “in God’s right hand, there are pleasures forevermore”!

Resources Used:
Cameron, Julia. “It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again”. New York: Penguin
Random House. 2016.