Of one thing I am sure. Complaining is self-perpetuating and counterproductive. Whenever I express my complaints in the hope of evoking pity and receiving the satisfaction I so much desire, the result is always the opposite of what I tried to get. A complainer is hard to live with, and very few people know how to respond to the complaints made by a self-rejecting person. The tragedy is that, often, the complaint, once expressed, leads to that which is most feared: further rejection. . . . Joy and resentment cannot coexist.
— Henri J. M. Nouwen, You Are Beloved, p. 170 (from The Return of the Prodigal Son)
Forget what you’ve learned about scarcity; it doesn’t apply to intangibles. When someone triumphs or finds joy, they aren’t taking what would have been yours — they are making more of what we all draw from. There is more than enough.
— Maggie Smith, Keep Moving, p. 77
Do not let loss drain the color from everything. Open your eyes to the brilliance around you: it’s still here.
— Maggie Smith, Keep Moving, p. 56
Photo: Keukenhof, Holland, April 17, 2004
You are not betraying your grief by feeling joy. You are not being graded, and you do not receive extra credit for being miserable 100% of the time. Find pockets of relief, even happiness, when and where you can.
— Maggie Smith, Keep Moving, p. 38
Photo: South Riding, Virginia, December 2, 2020
For much of my life, this guilt, pressure, and fear of exposure had left me fairly exhausted. But I am slowly but surely walking into a new story, gradually but most definitely jettisoning those things that don’t ring true anymore and traveling much lighter. My reverence for God has never been greater, my wonder never more full, my desire to know my Maker never stronger. The difference is, I now see God through the lens of one who is beloved, not one who is beloved with conditions. Life now is not a test to try and reach God, but an opportunity to notice God. I am seeking Jesus more deeply than ever — not to escape punishment, but to discover life as it is best lived. My faith is not about fleeing something horrible, but running toward something beautiful. I am daily responding in gratitude for the beauty of the gift of this world, not in the hope I can eventually escape it. I come to the Scriptures now not as divine dictation, but as the journal entries of those who came before me and who have walked this road of asking, seeking, and knocking.
— John Pavlovitz, A Bigger Table, p. 164
Photo: Rocky Mountains, January 7, 2020
We don’t find happiness. We become it. We embody it. We decide to see our life through a different lens. We cease telling ourselves that we should be somewhere else — that “other” place we will never actually get to. There is no greener grass; it’s the lawn we are standing on that we must water and care for. Happiness begins the second we stop believing it is somewhere other than here. And then, no matter where we want to go, it comes along with us.
— Caroline Myss, Intimate Conversations with the Divine, p. 79
Photo: Leithöfe, Germany, April 1997
Before you lay your head on your pillow and go to sleep,
recall just three things you were thankful for today.
If you continue to do this for two months,
you will see an increase in your level of happiness,
because instead of focusing on what is wrong with your life,
you will develop a habit of looking for what is good.
A happy mind-set needs practice.
— Haemin Sunim, Love for Imperfect Things, p. 66
Photo: South Riding, Virginia, July 2, 2020
Through my experiment in joy, a whole dimension of Christianity has opened up to me, like a beautiful flower blossoming from a bud long dormant. This new spirituality is of such sweetness, light, and grace that it entirely entrances me. I’ve always suspected the existence of this and have had many glimpses of it. What’s different now is the confidence that I know the way into this new country and how to live there, because I’ve discovered for myself that it’s real. I believe! Finally I believe enough in the Bible’s offer of everlasting joy to see this great promise fulfilled in my own life. I shall never be the same. The veil of the world’s lies has been torn away, and now I know for certain that the Christian life is meant to be entirely steeped in joy. With the author of Hebrews I can say that I’ve already come to “the city of the living God . . . to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly” (12:22).
My experiment has been wildly successful. Joy has indeed become an ingrained habit of my soul — so much a part of me that it hardly seems possible that I lived without it for nearly half a century. Not only am I much happier now than ever before, but I know it’s possible to keep moving in the direction of joy and to have more and more of it. In the search for joy a certain point arrives where the balance tips in our favor. We find we’re no longer striving for happiness, we’re simply happy. It’s like getting out of debt: Without a fat mortgage payment to dole out every month, life takes on an entirely different feel. Difficulties still come, perhaps grave ones, but joy keeps flowing into the hurts like a self-renewing stream.
Is it really possible to be happy all the time? Three years after my experiment, I still cannot quite join Brother Lawrence in saying, “I am always very happy.” What I can say is that every day is full of moments of happiness, as full as the sky is of stars. Yes, an immense expanse of cold black space yawns out there, but that’s not what draws my eye anymore. My gaze, and with it my understanding, have shifted. To believe in God is to believe in good and to see its preponderance everywhere. All I see now are the bright, jewel-like moments of joy that keep coming to me and that, taken together, do not seem a jumble of random sparks but comprise a great and dazzling picture — a vision so beautiful as to utterly overwhelm the darkness.
— Mike Mason, Champagne for the Soul, p. 187-188
Photo: South Riding, Virginia, May 22, 2020
I would like to love other people enough to go to extraordinary measures to open the door and invite them in, rather than passively allow the door to close, go on my way and keep them out. Jesus said, “I am the gate. . . . All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them” (John 10:7).
Jesus encouraged his followers to become door openers rather than gatekeepers. He hoped that once people experienced the goodness of God, the love of God, and the grace of God, they would reside in it and be free to share it with others. This is why people who were sinners, outcasts, and poor loved Jesus and felt such joy in his presence. They were unaccustomed to being loved by someone who was talking about the ways of God. They knew that Jesus valued them, that he saw their worth, not one that they had earned or instilled within themselves. He saw their intrinsic value, the image of God that was imprinted upon their lives.
How does one become a door opener who leads others to the joy of Christ rather than a gatekeeper who judges others? Observing Jesus enables us to see how to value a vulnerable person.
— Tom Berlin, Reckless Love, p. 99-100Photo: Festung Hohenwerfen, August 1998