“Joy During Crisis: The Human Touch” with Rev. Christine Kell
Even living in the midst of war and chaos, thousands of people choose joy every day. How do they do it? Let’s explore together this Sunday.
When available, a revised transcript of this week’s talk is provided below for the deaf and hard of hearing.
Prayers, readings, and songs from this week’s service are also provided below.
Community Circles – Are you left with questions after a talk, or did an idea so resonate with you that you want to explore it further? In our Community Circles, we build relationships with others, share ideas and insights, and support each other as we apply these principles in our daily lives.
Wednesday June 30, 7:00 – 8:30 pm EDT. Community Circle Zoom Meeting/Discussion: For our discussion tonight, let’s explore the subject of joy. We look forward to seeing you this evening! Click here for the discussion questions. You’ll find a link on our website . See you at 7!
My heart is open to all forms; it is a pasture for gazelles and a monastery for Christian monks;
a temple for idols and the Ka’bah of the pilgrim; the tables of the Torah and the book of the Koran.
Mine is the religion of Love. Wherever his caravans turn, the religion of Love shall be my religion
and my faith.
~ Ibn Arabi, 12th century Muslim mystic and poet
A Blessing from the Buddhist tradition
As we have been blessed, so we bless one another to be a blessing. Breathe in, breathe out, this breath we share with all that breathes. Feel the love of the universe flowing in this moment, into you, and out into the universe again. Let the love of all the universe—your love—flow outward, to its height, its depth, its broad extent. You are more than you know, and more beloved than you know. Take up what power is yours to create safe haven, to make of earth a heaven. Give hope to those you encounter, that they may know safety from inner and outer harm, be happy and at peace, healthy and strong, caring and joyful. Be the blessing you already are. That is enough. Blessed Be. Amen.
~ Adapted from the Karaniya Metta Sutta (Sunna Nipata 1.8) of the Pali Canon
Joy During Crisis: The Human Touch
Joy is our theme for the month of June, and today I want to continue with that theme, but in a way that is a little different than the usual 20 plus minutes of talk.
I feel I should start by admitting that I feel extremely unqualified to talk to you about joy. I know in my head what joy is supposed to be. I can give you definitions of what joy is, and what happiness is. But, from my heart, I’m not so sure I can express what true joy feels like; what it means to choose joy over all other feelings as both an outward expression and an inner mood of love, compassion, gratitude. I think this is because I simply do not always make the choice to be joyful, to see and experience the joy of living.
. . . an ungrateful state of being to be in.
And sad to say, isn’t this just the most arrogant, self-centered, and ungrateful state of being to be in? Admitting this makes me feel ashamed – and stupid, really – especially when I know that I have so many privileges, blessings, and abundance of every kind, and access to so much more.
So, how to talk about joy without being a hypocrite? How to affirm that joy exists all around us – simply waits for us, for me, to open up to it? I look around at a quiet, gorgeous morning – birds merrily chirping, flowers blooming in their glory, squirrels chasing each other around the yard. My beautiful, innocent grandchildren’s lovely faces eager to meet a new day. They know nothing but joy. How dare I deny or ignore its existence? How can I reject joy, refuse happiness, and choose instead to wallow in self-pity, sadness, and depression? This must truly be the ultimate definition of stupidity, obstinance, and rejection of the principles and values I claim to hold dear.
Thousands . . . of people choose to find joy every day.
Thousands, maybe even millions of people choose to find joy every day even living in the midst of war and chaos. I wanted to see how they do it, and share what I saw with you. So, I decided that instead of talking about it, I would illustrate what it means to choose joy, even in the face of tragedy, poverty, and loss.
The following images include scenes of people finding moments of happiness in the middle of bullets, bombs, fire – chaos and mayhem of all sorts. There are also depictions of how some people were able to withstand the emotional and mental isolation and misery many of us experienced during the pandemic.
They choose to live in the present . . .
I look at these pictures and see ordinary human beings choosing to embrace extra-ordinary moments of happiness even when it would be so much easier to give up; people electing to preserve as far as possible a full and joyful life, if even for just moments in time, and then holding on to those joys in the sad and sorrowful and scary times that often follow. They choose to live in the present; the past is too devastating, the future too uncertain, and for a little while at least they can ignore or forget their sorrow and fear.
How can I be so much less?
As Rev. Melanie said earlier this month: “we have enough, right now, to be happy,” and that’s what the people in these pictures and stories show us. They remind us of how fortunate we are; they are vivid models of gratitude, compassion, and hope in real life.
Maybe you’ve heard Mark Twain’s expression: “What is joy without sorrow? What is success without failure? What is a win without a loss? What is health without illness? You have to experience each if you are to appreciate the other.”
. . . part of living is to experience loss and grief
But nowhere I looked did I find an expression that told me to wallow in sadness and depression – only that, part of living is to experience loss and grief, accept it, and continue on, because joy is always there for us to choose when we are ready to move forward.
I am counting on that.
. . . it is still possible to feel joy as well as pain.
Rev. Angela Gorrell, author of The Gravity of Joy, suffered the loss of three close family members within a space of four weeks time just before Christmas. Her story is an account of how she and her family struggled through “the year from hell”, as she describes it, and along the way discovered that, even in the deepest and most devastating sorrow, it is still possible to feel joy as well as pain. She learned first-hand that joy, in her words,
“has a mysterious capacity to be felt alongside sorrow and even – sometimes, most especially – in the midst of suffering. This is because joy is what we feel deep in our bones when we realize and feel connected to others – and to what is genuinely good, beautiful and meaningful – which is possible even in pain.”
I am counting on that, too.
Rev. Gorrell also says that, “Gratitude involves bringing to mind the good that is in the world, which makes rejoicing possible.” She talks about “futuristic joy” – joy that comes from rejoicing in the knowledge that we will again glimpse meaning, beauty, or goodness, and, seemingly against all odds, feel that they are connected to our very life.
I am counting on that, as well.
According to this woman who endured a lifetime of sorrow in the space of a year,
“. . . it is not difficult to stumble onto suffering; the good news,” she says, “is that we can also stumble onto joy. There is no imprisoned mind, heartbreaking time, or deafening silence that joy cannot break through.”
. . . see the joy they chose instead
In these images of people who have every right to despair, and too many reasons to feel sorrow, hatred, and fear, I hope you will see the joy they chose instead.
Joy can always find you. I am counting on that most of all.
The following slide presentation, called “Joy During Crisis: The Human Touch,” focuses on two areas: the war in the Middle East and the Covid pandemic. The narrative comes from the words and photos of those recording these stories; the images depict real life people from around the world living with joy and hope despite the chaos of their circumstances. I hope you appreciate this glimpse of joy experienced by ordinary human beings just like us – people who choose joy over misery, sorrow, and sadness.
My hope is to choose to do no less.
Thank you, and please enjoy the presentation.
(The presentation can be viewed on You Tube at 8:57)
About Rev. Chris
Rev. Chris Kell is an Interfaith/Interspiritual Minister, an ordained graduate of One Spirit Interfaith Seminary, a graduate of the Priestess Emergence Process, and a Certified Life Success Consultant. She has a degree in Interdisciplinary Studies, with concentrations in Women’s Studies and Small Group Communication, and post-graduate studies in Feminine Spirituality. Rev. Chris has a deep appreciation for the aspirations of the human spirit. She has been fortunate in discovering how nurturing and supportive a positive environment can be, how it encourages spiritual strength and expands the possibilities for living a good life. Her goal is to be a catalyst for others in envisioning and discovering for themselves a spiritually enriched life. She can be reached at Rev.ChristineKell@gmail.com.
Reader: Linda Stuart Jones
Today’s reading is excerpted from the book The Gravity of Joy by Angela Williams Gorrell. Rev. Gorrell writes about her experience of working through grief to allow joy into her life.
If there is anything that I learned in the years following my family’s weeks of hell, it is that we cannot make joy like we make spaghetti. It is not as if we can do this, then this, then mix that in, and––ta-da!––joy.
We cannot put joy on our to-do lists––it does not work that way––but . . . we can be ready and prepare. We can do things as part of our preparation that make it more likely that when joy is near we will be able to recognize it and embrace it.
And we can give ourselves over to the what if? of joy. We can all live postured toward joy, alive to its possibility, even in the unlikeliest places, even in close proximity to our sorrow, even and most especially in the midst of our suffering.
Although joy is a gift, it has both a dynamic and receptive quality to it. So in addition to preparation, we can also look, listen, and be open to the awareness that any thing, any person, any idea could unexpectedly seize us with joy.
We often find what we are looking for.
Love Carry Me written by Asha Lightbearer
Shower the People written by James Taylor
This service aired on June 27, 2021