April 4

Joys come from simple
and natural things:
mists over meadows,
sunlight on leaves, the path
of the moon over water.

Sigurd F. Olson


Today's Meditation:

Some of the most intensely pleasant feelings that I have come when I slow down and really look at the world around me, noticing many of the things that I often don't notice when I'm in a hurry or when I'm focused on the things that keep me preoccupied.  "Joy," I think, is really the only accurate word for describing these feelings, and I know that Sigurd is right:  joy does come from things that are simple and natural.  I've felt elation over accomplishments and achievements, and I've felt things like love and hope and despair, but the feeling of joy often comes when I recognize the miraculous in the simple, natural things, and when I feel my connection to those things.

I've had many problems with joy in my life, usually because I didn't allow it full rein when it showed up.  I've always been afraid that it wouldn't last and that the let-down that came after joy would be terrible, so I've cut joy off in a vain and silly attempt to control my life by controlling my emotions.  It never worked, and I deprived myself of many joyful moments this way.

Nowadays, though, I allow myself to be taken in by those moments.  I allow myself the full range of feelings that want to come out when I see a nice sunset or sunrise, when I see those morning mists and the sunlight on the leaves that are dancing in the breeze.  And when I allow myself to take the time and to focus my attention on those things, then I do feel something that I can only describe as joy.

I have to say, though, that there are still numerous occasions when I don't do this, when I start to take the world for granted and let my job and other concerns overwhelm me.  And during those times, I lost much of the joy because I don't keep myself open to it--not because it's gone anywhere or disappeared.  But I do know that no matter what, it is there to be recaptured--when I decide to open myself to it.

Questions to consider:

How does it get to be so easy not to pay attention to those things that can bring us joy?

What kinds of natural things are a part of your life that do or can bring joy to you, on whatever level?

How might we recapture joy in those times when we've let it fade?

For further thought:

Ironically, often the thing that keeps me from experiencing joy is my preoccupation with self.  The very selfishness that keeps me from pouring myself out for the joy of others also keeps me from noticing and delighting in the myriad small gifts God offers each day.  This is why Walker Percy describes boredom as "the self stuffed with the self."

John Ortberg


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