Joy to the World!

Each week of Advent and through the Twelve Days of Christmas, which end on Epiphany, I’ll again share my ponderings on the beautiful alchemy of lyric and melody in some Christmas carols. I promise at least one posting a week, and I hope to hear your carol thoughts as well.

This time of year, the word, joy, meets us everywhere: mailed to us in cards, strung along the street in lights, and, of course, sung to us in carols. There’s “Hark, the Herald Angel Sings” (joyful all ye nations rise), “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” (oh, tidings of comfort and joy), “O Come O Come Emmanuel” (rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel). And, of course, “Joy to the World” (not the Three Dog Night version, though that one’s joy packed as well)

C. S. Lewis described Joy as “an unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction.” Though joy is both a delight an ache, “anyone who has experienced it will want it again.” Lewis concludes, “I doubt that anyone who has tasted it would ever…exchange it for all the pleasures in the world.”

If you’ve ever peered through a keyhole or a crack in a fence, you know something of joy. You can see just enough to long for a fuller vision, maybe even to walk into the space you see. At the same time, you’ve a limited perception of what’s out there. But it looks mighty promising; if you could just get there…

During the holidays, we have available—alongside the frustrating grocery lines, the crazy traffic, the scary bank balances, and the lights that won’t light on one side—ample opportunities for JOY. It might be that holiday song that wrenches our hearts, lights that transform us into children, a cherished family tradition (ours is driving around to view lights while belting out holiday tunes), or surprise snow IN AUSTIN, TEXAS! Even mundane tasks can, unexpectedly, overwhelm us with joy. In the midst of folding laundry, we glimpse the now and the not yet.

Joy, in the present, promises much more in our future. Joy is a delight that aches. It’s a wonder and a mystery. And I wish for you this holiday a season of joy.  In the words of the carol: Joy to the world—that includes you and me!

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It’s Lent and I’m Here, God. Where are You?

Dark Night Book Cover

When God Walks Away Cover

 

I wrote When God Walks Away to be a compassionate companion in a reader’s Dark Night. Employing Holy Week as a metaphor for the Dark Night, the book moves the reader through suffering and relinquishment into acceptance, loss, and then into surprising new life.

The work cannot be called a self-help book, for the lesson of the Night is that our help comes from God alone—even when what we have experienced as God has seemingly vanished. I hope readers will consider this text a silent friend in holy mystery. When God Walks Away contains no solutions for the Dark Night. We cannot ward off the Night as we would an insect attack. There is no repellant we can apply. Neither, if we are wise, would we so choose.

Rather, I hope this book serves as something readers can tuck under their arms as they foray into the Night’s adventure: a reminder that no one is alone in the Night’s private agony.  The Dark Night of the Soul is a mystery as profound as God, its initiator. No amount of study could produce a writer equal to describing it. I feel rather like a blindfolded woman valiantly trying to describe an elephant by feeling only one of its legs. I can report in great detail what I know only in part! Therefore, in an effort at balance, the book includes the thoughts and imagery of souls across the centuries who participated in its mystery—souls like C. S. Lewis, Mother Teresa, the Psalmists, and Jesus. We will welcome their guidance as we navigate the Night’s blind terrain. Whatever wisdom resides between the book’s covers reflects first the searching work of God, and then the testimonies of a great cloud of witnesses.

Sprinkled throughout the text are practices that helped me, or other Dark-Night journeyers, survive the Night by keeping an open line to God. At one point I suggest an art gallery trip, at another some musical expression, at still another journal writing as a way to bear the pain. Readers can consider each practice as an item on a cafeteria line of nutritious selections. Some will suit their taste and some will not. Sample at will.

We have one task in the Dark Night: to endure. God will do the rest.

To learn more about the book this Lenten season, visit Barnes & Noble or Amazon.

Advent 1: Timely Prophets

Timely Prophet

Advent Piece 1

Each day of Advent, in honor of Word becoming flesh, I’ll seek, with art-making tools, to flesh out a word of the season. No conclusions here, though. These interactive “art samples” are more about raising questions than providing answers. This piece is an homage to Martin Luther King, Jr., Vincent van Gogh, C. S. Lewis, Charles Shultz, the Eagles, Banksy, and Sojourner Truth. View it larger by double clicking the image.