musings of a saint and sinner

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Finding pure joy with no apologies

I'm going through a time in my life when I am trying to open my heart to joy. I think that in the past, due to a lot of change and pain in my life, I have closed my heart to joy all too often. Sometimes I felt guilty for feeling it, like it was my responsibility to be serious all the time. Sometimes I felt afraid of feeling it, because it could be taken away. But now I am starting to think about C.S. Lewis' phrase, "Surprised by Joy" and his belief that in the joy that we get at the deep down root of things, we experiencing something of the transcendent, something of God...something of our longing for heaven.

Some of the places I've found joy may seem to have absolutely nothing to do with God...but at the same time, I find myself thinking that joy wherever we find it is God's joy, just as truth wherever we find it is God's truth. So...I have been relishing the pure beauty of the deepening gold of the wheat fields...the drying and withering of the sunflowers fields...the gentle roll of the North Dakota hills...the answer in adult education from someone who "got the point"...the pleasure of service to others...and the pleasure of reading...and the deep down pleasure of a good "chick flick" when the music swells and the hero and heroine finally find each other (think "Bridget Jones" or "My Big Fat Greek Wedding"--or "The Wedding Date" when the secondary hero finds forgiveness for the heroine). Ahhh...satisfying...I think of just buying the "Dancing with the Stars" exercise video and finding pure, unadulterated joy in learning the steps for the paso doble (which is always my favorite dance on the's so strong and powerful and in character). I think of the anticipation of my favorite shows starting on TV again...And the joy of watching the Food Network...The joy of a clean house. And all of it makes me say, "Thank you, God. I am so glad to be alive."

Pure apologies...

Even if pain is more familiar, in my experience...I am opening myself to this...


Never make fun of North Dakota!

Well, I have been living in North Dakota for almost three months now...and I continue to stand in respect of it. People here are hard workers and they know how to care for each other. One thing that has irritated me greatly since deciding to move here is the comments that people would make about it. "North Dakota? Isn't that the middle of nowhere?" or "North Dakota...aren't you going to fall off the face of the earth" or "North Dakota: nothing happens there!" and the like. There is an undercutting disdain for places like this where there are is more land than buildings...and you can see for miles...and the population is scant. People frequently say that nothing happens in North Dakota (despite the fact that I've felt more integrated in the social community than I did in the city).

It is true that there are not a lot of gourmet restaurants around here...there isn't fun nightlife for the most part...there are times when I get lonely missing my friends...and times when the vast amount of land between cities seems unending. But...there is one crucial reason why NONE of us have the right to make fun of North Dakota--or places like it: North Dakota dares to be bare and empty and vast and populated scantly so that the rest of our country can be supplied with food and resources. Where do city people think they get their groceries in their trendy markets from? There would be food for fancy restaurants in the cities if it were not for the efforts of farmers in the rural areas. There would be no resources for cities without North Dakota and other places like it. Farmers and people who live here lay down their lives for the sake of others. They're very brave people, putting the livelihood of their families at risk so that others can live. They never know when a weather disaster will destroy their crop. And yet they go on. They persevere. We ought to tip our hat to them, not make fun of them.

That's my sermon for today. Amen.

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