Making time for joy

There are times in my life when I marvel at the joy I feel – I’m guessing you have those moments as well.  Sometimes they come in predictable situations, getting to spend time with family or friends or participate in a project or activity that consumes imagination and attention and somehow the whole heart.  Other times the moments come unpredictably which is part of the joy I think.  Out of the blue I’ll just simply realize, I’m happy, right now in this very moment regardless of the difficulties and challenges and uphill climb we have ahead of us as a world and as a people, there’s simply an unbidden awareness of joy.  For me it has to be God’s grace.  I can’t make myself experience it, I can’t talk myself into it, I can’t read the right books or recite the right mantras.  All those things may help, may be generative of the possibility, and I yet think it comes from the heart of God working in and through us.

When those moments happen, I want so badly to capture them in words, to find just the right turn of phrase, the appropriate poetic nuance, the exact description that will convey a feeling that if I’m honest, is beyond words.  How do you tell someone that walking across the parking lot you were filled with an inexorable optimism – except optimism isn’t really it.  That for no apparent reason from the outside in and the inside out the sky was a bluer blue, the grass a greener green, and the steeple and cross had a clarity that seemed luminescent.  None of that sounds right to the experience.  We have a God that will not be captured or labeled, that defies description every. single. time.

Charlene put a brochure in my mailbox this week that had my first and last name in the address, so personal to me it would seem.  It was a brochure inviting me to come into “alignment”.  My guess is that given the FB algorithm, having used that word, I’ll probably be getting a lot more invitations to that on social media now, but I’m going to take the risk.  I looked at the heading, looked at Charlene, and we both burst out laughing.  She’s been here a little over six months, but even she knows that bringing me into some sort of alignment is prolly not gon happen.  When I think of alignment, I think of tires.  And when I think of tires, I think of how many times I’ve hit the curb turning a corner, or the whole street gutter tire incident, or the potholes. And how now that I have the big mama tires on my pickup I figure I don’t have to worry so much about alignment, because well, big mama tires!

While it’s not good for wheels and tires to be out of alignment, is our life being out of alignment every now and again not what makes life kinda fun?  Coloring outside the lines?  Laughing with a friend til tears come out your eyes and a little snot comes out your nose even in the middle of a formal conference when you’re supposed to be in rapt attention? And the more you try to stop, the harder it is?  Speaking for a friend of course. The whole being out of alignment thing?  The serendipitous, the unexpected, the spontaneous, the fun is often the surprise of it all more than whatever happened by itself.  The “dear nanette roberts you need to come into alignment” brochure announces the need for us to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.  I’m big on that as well, though I’m not sure my perspective is the same (am guessing Chuck Taylors aren’t a part of alignment). It seems getting everyone “aligned” is about the “right” way to keep Sabbath which the two day conference with a high registration fee will provide.

There are those of us who remember the blue laws . . . they were generally about trying to keep the Sabbath (Sunday) from being like every other day of the week.  Businesses were supposed to be closed, labor was supposed to cease, and it came to mean, in the latter period they existed, the prohibition of the sale of liquor on Sundays.  Clearly it assumed Christianity as the only concern.  Our Jewish friends practice the Sabbath from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday.  So those laws were fraught with difficulty and bias and complexity all over the place. I would never want to go back to the religious and privileged bias they represent.  AND, at least in our western way of life, we have communally lost, across most religious systems, a sense of the sacred rhythm of life in every way.  It doesn’t have to be Sunday, or Saturday, or any day that a “power” names, but what about our own agency, our own choice?  In the midst of the world where everything is always available without pause, do we choose to “power down” . . . ever?  And what do we lose by not?  By not changing up our daily schedule and structure and the balance of yes’s and no’s we might be invited to authentically consider? You know this preacher is preachin’ to herself.  I don’t think it’s a blue law comeback question.  I also don’t think it’s a “right alignment” question.  I think it’s more personal than that.  It’s about trusting that God knew from the beginning what would bless us most, and keeping a Sabbath was at the heart of what God wanted for God and for us – for our relationship with God and one another to grow into a lifestyle of grace and generosity for God, neighbor, and self.

This pandemic is chaos and has brought pain and heartache and exhaustion to so many.  And perhaps . . . an opportunity to decide again, that Sabbath means holy time.  A time to create joy-full and God-centered community.  To pause and recognize that joy, in the midst of all the things happening around us that seem all too overwhelming, that deep joy is possible in the power and presence of God.  Not happiness at all things, but a joy that runs so deeply underneath that it keeps us moving and resting and working and playing in a way that is healing and generous.

I don’t think I will ask for a foundation grant to attend the conference to get aligned, it’s expensive enough for me to get my wheels and tires aligned on a too regular basis.  And yet I will be thankful that a random brochure made Charlene and me laugh at the oh-so-not-like-nanette-ness of it, and offered a reminder that God seeks, perhaps most especially as we enter this summer-time, for us to allow God to “re-create” us in worship, in play, in reunion, in travel, in choosing to “power down” periodically to let God have the “platform.” Worship is on-going at Grace and Common Grace on Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings, and worship is on-going when we pause, breathe deeply and humbly in God’s grace, give thanks, and open our awareness to God’s desire for us to have joy!

I love the Yoyo Ma and friends album focused on peace and joy, so I’ve included the youtube and explanation that he and James Taylor created.  After a long covid winter and two weeks of rain, their song is joy!  AND . . . it suddenly occurred to me that the juxtaposition of laughter in an inappropriate setting is illustrated in the Mary Tyler Moore episode at the funeral of Chuckles the Clown so I could NOT resist adding it as well.  I still laugh out loud when I watch it, I hope you do too!  JOY!!!