Article for April 28, 2013

If you have ever known the experience of a sleepless night, then you know that insomnia cannot be conquered by sheer willpower alone.  The harder you attempt to capture him, the more illusive the Sandman becomes.  Sleep is a gift.  On the other hand, there are things that one can do to welcome the gift of sleep (e.g. turn out the lights, reduce noise, set worries aside, remove caffeine, increase exercise, etc…).


The Father, who raised Jesus from the dead, has every intention of pouring more joy into your life than you can imagine.  Easter joy, like sleep, is not a thing we can simply give to ourselves.  It is a gift.  But like sleep, there are things we can do, and choices we can make to open ourselves to more Easter joy.  Provided below, is a partial list of Easter skills designed to create a container for a further outpouring of Easter joy.


Skill Number One:  Embrace the ambiguity of life.  Joy often comes mixed with other psychological phenomena like pain or sadness. Even though she is missing her husband, a grandmother finds joy in her granddaughter’s college graduation.  Accepting sadness has the paradoxical effect of allowing one to accept joy.


Skill Number Two:  Embrace Imperfection. In the hands of a God who redeems, imperfections are regularly transformed into life’s most important gifts.  One cannot simultaneously be an unredeemed perfectionist and love oneself or others.  To demand perfection, is to hate life.


Skill Number Three:  Develop a Community of Support.  Researchers tell us that lack of a supportive community is a greater risk factor for illness and death than even cigarette smoking.  Who in your life knows you deeply enough to point out where you need to stretch and grow?  Are you open to his or her influence?  How regularly do you share at significant levels with someone(s) who love you?


Skill Number Four:  STOP.  DROP. AND SAVOR.   Thousands of times a day, a child with a room full of toys will announce, “I’m bored.”  Thousands of times a day, men and women around the world will drive past rainbows, sunsets, and stunning landscapes trapped in the maze of their obsessive thoughts.  Easter skill number four has to do with increasing awareness of all the kindness, beauty, and love that constantly surrounds you.  When you have become aware, simply stop and drop whatever you were doing for just a moment, and savor what has come into your awareness.


Skill Number Five:  Take Custody of Your Mind.  Begin by increasing awareness of what’s renting space in your head.  When you become aware that your internal dialogue contains a negative generalization or label aimed at yourself or others, replace those messages with either a short, prayerful slogan (e.g. “Jesus,” “Let Go and Let God,” “I surrender that thought,” “My Light,” etc…), or with a realistic phrase.  For example, an automatic thought like, “I can’t stand my brother-in-law,” can be replaced with, “I find it difficult to get along with my brother in law.”  A small change in your internal dialogue can produce an important change in your mood and behavior.  .


Skill Number Six:  Allow Christ to be the Good Shepherd of Your Decisions.  Before automatically acting, take time to reflect on your decision.  Prayerfully weigh your choice in the deepest part of your heart where the Spirit of Christ dwells in communion with your own spirit.  Ask yourself, “Will this action bring more compassion, more peace, more joy into the world over time, or will it detract?”  Allowing Christ’s indwelling spirit to influence your choices can make even a Homer Simpson like me get up and off of my couch to do the thing that brings more joy over time.


Skill Number Seven:  Have a Family Conversation to Fill In The Blanks:  As you look over the list of six skills just enumerated, you will discover that it is incomplete.  This imperfect list provides an opening for you to have an Easter conversation with your family, community or friends.  Begin with this question, “What do you think are the necessary prerequisites for Easter joy?”  Then proceed to ask this question, “What is one practical thing we could do to add more joy to our lives?”

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