Joy VS Happiness

Joy -VS- Happiness

It might not even be 'happiness' per se that you were initially seeking.

By Sandra Brown MA for Psychology Today

Happiness is external. It's based on situations, events, people, places, things, and thoughts. Happiness is connected to your hope for a relationship or your hope for a future with someone. Happiness is linked to that 'some day when I meet the right guy' or 'when he starts changing and acting right' or 'when he goes to counseling.'

Happiness is future oriented and it puts all its eggs in someone else’s basket. It is dependent on outside situations, people, or events to align with your expectations so that the end result is your happiness.

Unhappiness is the result.

Chronic unhappiness leads to despair and depression. Happiness is not joy because joy is not external, it can't be bought and it is not conditional on someone else's behavior. In fact, joy is not contingent on anything in order to exist. You don't have to have 'him' for the holidays to have joy. Likewise, you don't have to get revenge, snoop out his short comings, tell the new girlfriend the truth or anything else in order to have joy. You can lose in court with him, already have lost your life savings to him, watch him out with a new woman, or live out of the back of your car and still have joy.

You're probably thinking, 'Sure you can have joy in those circumstances if you are Mother Teresa!' Joy is almost a mystery, isn't it? It's a spiritual quality that is internal. My mother had a lot of joy and I learned from watching her joy. Her pathological man ran off with her life savings forcing her to work well past retirement. It forced her to live simply so moved to a one room beach shack and drove a motorcycle. For cheap entertainment, she walked the beach and painted nudes. She drank cheap grocery store wine that came in a box, bought her clothes from thrift shops, and made beach totes from crocheting plastic grocery bags together. She recycled long before it was hip to do it. But what she recycled most and best was pain…into joy.

Instead of looking externally for yet another relationship to remove the sting of the last one, or to conquer the boredom she might feel at being alone…she cultivated internal and deep abiding joy. It was both an enigma and a privilege to watch this magnificent life emerge from the ashes of great betrayal.

I use her a lot as an example of someone who went ahead and got a great life and turned this rotten deal into an exquistie piece of art called her life. Anyone who spoke of my mother spoke MOST of her radiant joy. She had the 'IT' factor long before it was even called 'IT.' Women flocked to her to ask 'How did you do it? How did you shed the despair and bitterness of what he did and grow into this? THIS bright shining joyful person? What is your secret?'

Somewhere along that rocky path of broken relationships with pathological men, she learned that happiness is fleeting if it's tied to a man's shirt tails. She watched too many of the shirt tails walk out the door with her happiness tied to his butt. In order to find the peacefulness that resides inside, she had to learn what was happiness and what was joy.

The transitory things of life are happiness-based. She had a big house and lost a big house when she divorced my father. She had a big career and lost a big career when she got 'too old' according to our culture to have the kind of job she had. She had diamonds and lost diamonds.

So she entered into voluntary simplicity where the fire of purging away 'stuff' left a clearer picture and path to the internal life. When stuff, people, and the problems they bring fall away there is a stillness. Only in that stillness can we ever find the joy that resides inside of us, dependent on nothing external in order to exist. During this holiday season, this is a great concept to contemplate.

Her joy came from deeply held spiritual beliefs but it also came from a place even beyond that. Joy comes when you make peace with who you are, where you are, why you are, and who you are not with. When you need nothing more than your truth and the love of a good God to bring peace, then you have settled into the abiding joy that is not rocked by relationships. It's not rocked by anything.

It wasn't rocked as she laid dying four years ago in the most peaceful arms of grace--a blissful state of quiet surrender and anticipation. Those who were witness to her death still tell me that her death brought new understanding to them about the issue of real joy. Joy in all things…death of a dream, death of relationship, death of a body. Joy from within, stripped down, naked and beautiful.

Untie your happiness from the ends of his shirt tales…

Merry Christmas and Peace To You In This Season of Peaceful Opportunities!

Out of the Cold

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Getting out of the cold a matter of life, death

By John DeMont for the Halifax Herald

The sky was slate grey, the air threatened rain, the sidewalk glistened with damp as Larry Whitby — parka hood covering his head, Tim Hortons coffee cup gripped between his teeth — stood outside of the Lawtons Drugs store on Spring Garden Road in Halifax on Friday.

With the temperature north of freezing, he wore only a couple of layers beneath his coat. But when it gets colder, the bearded man, who was born in the Liverpool area, adds shirts and sweaters and replaces his worn sneakers with winter boots.

Whitby, who is 51 and grew up around Dartmouth, has no fixed address. So when the bad weather comes, as it will, he finds shelter where he can, even if that is inside an ATM vestibule.

“I always find some way to get in out of the cold,” he told me, voice hard with determination.

This is what it means to experience homelessness on the winter streets of Halifax: a life already reduced to the necessities is pared down even further.

Until all that matters is finding a place that is warm and safe, where the cold wind doesn’t howl and the snow doesn’t blow.

According to figures from the Affordable Housing Association of Nova Scotia, more than 1,600 people used shelters in the Halifax area during the year running from April 1, 2017 to March 31, 2018.

The number is higher during the warmer months, when more people, searching for work and the assistance available for people in bigger places, head for Halifax.

But in the winter, finding a bed in a shelter isn’t just about comfort. It can be about life and death, says EJ Davis, the team lead for the MOSH Housing First Program, which tries to find permanent housing for people using Halifax shelters.

“They can die of exposure,” he explained earlier this week. “They can crawl into a place to stay warm — a cardboard box or one of those big metal bins — at night that is dumped the next morning.”

Some people on the streets of Halifax don’t want to overnight in a shelter like Metro Turning Point or the Salvation Army’s Halifax Centre of Hope, or in the special emergency centres that open around town when the temperature drops below minus 15 Celsius, or when a storm brings more than 25 centimetres of snow.

They’re the folks with the sleeping bags and tarps who manage to find secret places to spend the night far from prying eyes, the folks who want to be left alone unless something goes dramatically wrong for them.

Or they’re in the abandoned buildings, people with mental health issues or using drugs, who, Davis says, are “just in survival mode.”

Or they’re just in public spaces alongside the rest of us: the reading room at the Halifax Central Library; riding the metro buses late into the night; in the fast food restaurants where all you need is a couple of bucks and a cup of coffee for staff to allow you to stay long into the night.

We may think they’re different than you and I, these people who ask for our spare change, who seem to exist outside of “polite” society.

But Davis gives voice to something that I’ve always felt: that we all have our own level of resilience, and when a couple of those resiliencies are compromised — through the loss of a job, a breakup, an illness, a major financial setback — “things can really spiral.”

Certainty, in this life, is an illusion. We’re all, as insulated as we think we are from the troubles of the world, just a few bad breaks away from experiencing homelessness ourselves.

Which is something to keep in mind this time of year, walking past the man with his shirt stuffed with newspapers, the woman with the five pairs of socks on, the kid with the flap sewn on the bottom of his coat so it can serve as a throw pillow when he sits down on the cold concrete.

The woman I passed Friday at the corner of Birmingham Street and Spring Garden Road, just a few blocks from Whitby’s post, was sitting on a flattened cardboard box.

Jessica Richard, 28, isn’t homeless. But her rain-damaged apartment is full of mold. She suffers from PTSD, sciatica, and manic depression.

The $866 in disability benefits she gets a month isn’t enough to cover rent and power, let alone food.

So Friday she was at her usual corner, wearing four pairs of pants, a T-shirt, two long-sleeved shirts and a pair of sweaters beneath a ski jacket that wouldn’t close.

“I couldn’t find one at a shelter that would fit me,” said Richard who has been panhandling, her word, for some five years.

Some people she meets there are “dicks,” she says. But some people let their humanity shine through.

I think I talked to a few of them the other day preparing this story about how to stay warm when the winter winds blow.

Davis for one. But also Eric Jonsson who runs Navigator Street Outreach, which means he patrols the Halifax downtown, looking to help people in homeless situations find work and housing.

And also Luke MacDonald, a partner in Aerobics First, the Halifax running shoe store, who, each year, distributes 1,500 pairs of properly sized new and gently used footwear to those who need it.

Just the other day the folks at Shelter Nova Scotia got in touch with him. Someone in there didn’t even have shoes. The man’s badly swollen feet were only covered in plastic bags.

MacDonald fitted him out with a pair of size 13 shoes, but also with a pair of 10-and-a-halfs to protect him from the cold when the swelling went down.

When Peace is Enough

Luke 3:2-6

During the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the region of Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the prophet Isaiah, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’”

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When I am in a large city and find myself downtown there is one voice I expect to hear. There is always a man holding some large sign and shouting at the top of his lungs, “repent you sinners, turn back to God or else!” I assume these loud men are imitating John the Baptist, they feel they are doing the Lord’s work. A large part of the message offered is one of fear, if you do not repent the consequences are dire. The offer is made to save those like us while there is still time. These men truly believe they are saving souls, rescuing the lost, offering the answer we have all been waiting for.

One afternoon when I was living in Ottawa I asked one of these men who was using a megaphone if I could ask him some questions. I think he was relieved, it’s cold in Ottawa in December and I offered to buy him coffee. Over our hot beverage I asked him what it was we were being saved from and being saved for. He didn’t seem to follow, so I tried again, “assuming we don’t repent what happens and if we do repent what happens then?” He pondered, offered a few verses of scripture, all from the Book of Daniel and Revelations, and then explained that those who did not accept the offer of salvation from God would go to eternal damnation and those who did would be ushered into heaven where they would await Jesus’ return to earth and a holy reunion thereafter.

“Why would God do this?” I asked. I wanted to know the intent of the Creator, why the God of Genesis would bring us and Creation to life, what was the purpose of this offering of life? My loud friend thought the question absurd, the answer obvious, God offered us life but with conditions, live by God’s covenant and inherit eternal life, choose not to live in that way and be sent to Hell for eternity.

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I recall another voice, a quieter voice, I heard when I lived in Ottawa, that of Jean Vanier, founder of L’Arche. A lifelong Roman Catholic, professor of philosophy and decorated veteran, Vanier also had thoughts about repentance. At a public lecture Vanier was asked about the human condition, sin and eternal life. Vanier spoke about the Book of Genesis and its references to God creating life in different forms. Vanier believed God made everything in an effort to build holy relationship and that the first humans were placed in a garden with all the life they would need for happiness. Only when humans chose to depart from the abundance offered, to grasp for more than what God has supplied, did the troubles begin.

Vanier thought the public figure of John the Baptist was a voice calling for a repentance of change, a shift of perspective, a move to accept what God had offered and be happy. Vanier identified Luke’s vision of peace as having its roots in the Hebrew word shalom which also means harmony, wholeness, completeness, prosperity, welfare and tranquility. In other words, our completeness, our sense of finding our true identity comes in our relationship to the God who first gave us life. Peace comes knowing I am loved by my God, being loved by my neighbor, being loved in and through Creation. That is enough. That is plenty. That is sufficient.

But a system or worldview that either finds expression in your own sense of superiority to others or in your sense inferiority to others does not bring lasting peace. How can it? If you believe you must have what others lack you will strive to take, manipulate and consolidate. If you believe you can’t have what others possess you resign yourself to a life of servitude, surrender and hiding your light under a bushel.

Listen to the themes expressed in Luke’s early chapters. God is suspicious of power and has a preference for the marginalized, a major theme of Mary's song. The angel came to Zechariah, not Herod the Great (1:5). God was with Joseph and Mary, not Caesar and Quirinius (2:1-7). Women are quite prominent (Elizabeth, Mary, Anna) in Luke’s stories. And perhaps the central point of our Gospel story this week is the exhortation of Isaiah, through John the Baptist, to "prepare the way of the Lord." (3:4)

Later, Luke in Acts will tell us--and often--that the early Christians were known as "followers of the way." (Some examples: Acts 19:9, 23; 22:4; 24:14; 24:22.) This way--the way of God--stands in sharp and antithetical contrast to the ways of worldly power exemplified by Tiberius, Herod, Pilate and all the rest. During the time of Pilate, much of the civil administration of the region was run through the Temple, though Pilate was the one who chose the high priest. The early Christians, of course, would have identified Pilate with the execution of Jesus, as would Christians today. Luke's mention of Pontius Pilate at this early juncture raises the level of tension in the story.

Luke-Acts is not a running political commentary, a call to overthrow one system with another. Rather these texts are a redefinition of peace, to correct and change the stories we tell ourselves, that we find our identity less in the power we yield or the power we serve and more in the enjoyment we find in God’s abundant creation. To find our way back to the original covenant, to reclaim the story of Creation and God’s love for all, this is Luke’s vision embodied in the public figure of John the Baptist.

After Luke runs through this litany of big shots, he says a startling thing: "A word of God came to be upon John”. A "word of God" did not come to any of these powerful, corrupt, pompous, bizarre, rich characters living in high style in elaborate palaces. It came rather to a mere "son of Zechariah" somewhere out in the "wilderness." The "wilderness" held rich associations for Israel. The wilderness had been the place where God had led the slaves of Egypt and supernaturally attended to them. There are no maps or guides to a wilderness. You go in the wilderness and you may never be heard from again. Or you go to the wilderness to find what it is you haven’t been able to locate in your familiar surroundings. If the “norm” of your life only lifts up power and powerlessness perhaps it’s time to go to the wilderness and see who can be heard there.

For Luke, the people needed a "turning" from the way of power and powerlessness. Indeed, John's purpose was precisely to call people to God's new path: "He will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God (1:16)." For Luke, repentance and "turning" are God's work (Acts 5:31). The word we generally translate as "forgiveness" means "release," "deliverance," "remission," "setting free." This change brings release from these, and any other, forms of bondage. It means "fresh start." Imagine spending all of your life feeling powerless and worthless and suddenly those crooked paths get straightened and God’s love lifts you up and you feel connected to that covenant love God offered in Genesis.

Or imagine spending your whole life feeling powerful and successful and feeling the only reason people love you has to do with your status. Imagine how hard you will try to keep that appearance up, to maintain that privilege. It is exhausting and often at the end, when the power begins to diminish, people of privilege experience deep malaise and sadness. Then suddenly those rough ways are made smooth, and there emerges a tenderness to relationship, a compassion to one’s life and no longer are you striving for something that can’t last.

And then we hear those magical words, "All flesh shall see the salvation of God". Luke places John in the context of the prophetic tradition of Israel--specifically, the great prophet Isaiah. The Isaiah text (40:3-5) is about the return of the Lord to Zion. When a ruler visited a city, the people were to repair the road of approach and decorate it to herald that ruler. In the case of Isaiah, the ruler is God, and the landscape is to be radically and utterly transformed--low places filled, high places made low, the crooked made straight, the rough made smooth. In our case the birth of a Saviour occasions a promise to reorient our lives to a new vision, a covenant based on relationship, community and the power of exercising our God-given gifts.

The mission of God came through the Hebrew people, but its scope is all of humanity.  Striking a strongly universal note, Luke says that everyone "will see the salvation of God." May all of us, all of us, know how gifted and loved we are. May all of us, all of us, know how abundant God’s love is for us. And may all of us, all of us, know that same love, that same abundance, is for the powerful, the powerless, anyone and everyone. Peace be with you! Amen.

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