Ring In Love
Symbols of World Religions

Embracing Joy

July 9, 2006

I thought a lot about what I wanted my sermon topic to be for my debut as Rev. Bonnie. I knew there would be friends and colleagues here tonight who had never seen me before with my spiritual cap (or yarmulke) on. For some of you it may be a stretch to sit here—perhaps some of you have not been into a spiritual or religious building in decades. To those of you that might apply to—thank you. Friendship does indeed take us to places we might never otherwise have gone.

As Rev. Tia and I planned tonight's service, I kept saying, "Are we doing too much God-stuff?" "Will this make the Jews uncomfortable?" "Are we leaving anyone out?" "Do we have to do a disclaimer if the music we play refers to G-d as He?" Breathe I said to myself and remember it is not your duty to be all things to all people. Just be authentic—nothing else matters.

Now, some ministers like to wax eloquent and show a flair for the dramatic. Reminds me of one minister I know who, during his sermon, arms extended towards heaven, a rapturous look on his upturned face said, "God, without you we are nothing but dust..." He would have continued, but at that moment a child in the front row learned over to her mother and asked, quite audibly, "Mom, what is butt dust?"

I promise you I won't talk about butt dust this evening.
Ok then, back to the topic of tonight's sermon. If pressed to say in one word what the difference is in me now from a few years ago, the word I would use is joyful. And there you have tonight's topic—joy.

Now I don't want to give the false impression that I was not joyful in the past. I had my moments. But what I realize now, is that those moments were driven by external events. If the legislation I was working on passed—I was joyful. If a particular politician voted the way I wanted them to, I was joyful. If I got a date with that cute gal—I was ecstatic. If I got my 4% annual raise at work, I was thrilled. And, what if none of those things went my way? I was mopey, distraught, self-loathing, insecure, and not a lot of fun to be around. External events dictated my joy barometer. My joy was dependent on the actions of others. Talk about giving away control! I was inviting strangers to pull my happy strings—and if they didn't pull them in the way I wanted or expected—well then I took on the role of victim. My plaintive cries of "Nothing ever works out for me," "I'm not appreciated," "No one cares about me," and, one of my favorites, "I just don't get it" were loud and pitiful.

Today, I get it. Today I get that I have a choice on how I wish to respond or react to any situation. Today I get that there is a Divine Plan—and that plan is based on Love. Today I get that all of my prayers—and all of your prayers—are always answered. And knowing all of those things is what has brought me to know joy. To feel joy. To live joy. And perhaps, today, you are wondering what the heck I mean when I say those things. Let me take one at a time.

One—I have a choice on how I wish to respond or react to any situation. The Course on Miracles talks about how there are only two ways to respond—out of love, or out of fear. Take any situation—any—and know that there is a choice you are making—consciously or unconsciously—on how you are dealing with it. Someone takes the parking place you have been eyeing? You can choose to swear at them and say nasty things about their Mother. Or—you can breathe and bless them and decide they needed it more than you and that the extra walking from the further parking spot really wouldn't hurt you. Or, how about being passed over for that promotion? You can bemoan how much more qualified you are than the person who got it and rant and rave about how unappreciated you are. Or—maybe it is a sign for you to take stock in how the job is no longer serving you and that perhaps you are ready to move on. The choice is ours—and I have come to believe that there is a lesson and a blessing in everything that unfolds in my life. I have learned that it doesn't serve me to make choices that leave me feeling less than whole, or irritated, or feeling lack Rev. Deborah Johnson in her book The Sacred Yes writes that, "Your lack of joy is not due to the circumstances and the conditions in your lives; your lack of joy is due to your interpretation of those circumstances and conditions—which leads you to believe that your good is not at hand, that things will not work out or will be delayed to your disadvantage, that things will not ultimately be all right.. Joy is a state of being that has far more to do with one's perceptions of the world than with actual activities and/or circumstances." It is a powerful choice to choose joy.

Number Two—there is a Divine Plan—and that plan is based on Love. Again, it is our choice to chose fear or love. To continue to quote from The Sacred Yes, Johnson, as she receives messages from Spirit, writes, "In knowing that I am (here she means Spirit) Good all of the time, you will naturally develop fewer and fewer expectations—other than the fact that I am Good all of the time. That is the only expectation that you should have about life and its outcomes. For whatever it is that happens—how it happens, where it happens, when it happens—it is according to a Divine Plan that has you and everybody else in mind. You must go through life looking for the 'win/win'. You must not allow yourself to become discouraged by things you see that you consider to be out of alignment, out of integrity, or apparently out of one's mind. You will look beyond all of this, and you will see me."

Seeing G-d's love in all that happens is big. Really big. It can be a huge stretch. And, like a new pair of leather shoes—they can be tight at first, but after wearing them around for awhile, they do stretch and fit your foot perfectly. And the good thing about knowing Divine Love is that it never wears out or runs out, gets misplaced, or chewed on by the dog. It is a gift from the Universe that is ours just because.

Number Three—all of my prayers—and all of your prayers—are always answered. Yes, I believe this. It's a matter of releasing any attachment of what we hope or expect the outcome of the prayer to look like. It's a matter of having faith in the Divine Plan, of surrendering control, and of knowing that all is well—regardless of what it looks like. This knowing eliminates struggle and suffering, makes my life less complicated and dictated by experiences beyond my control, and most importantly, brings me joy.



And there you have it—I'm joy-filled and joyful. I get that I have a choice on how I wish to respond or react to any situation. I get that there is a Divine Plan—and that plan is based on Love. I get that all of my prayers—and all of your prayers—are always answered. I have woven a spiritual safety net for myself—and it has caught me from falling numerous times.

To quote from a famous verse from the Hebrew Testament-- Psalms 30:5: Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning. For me—and it can be for you too—joy cometh in the morning, noon and night.

There's the story of three monks waiting at the gates of Heaven. St. Peter approached them shaking his head and told them, "I have bad news and good news. The bad news is that at the present time we have no room for you, but we should in perhaps three months. The good news is that you may go back to earth as anything you want—anything that will provide you with joy."

Well, the three thought it over and the first one said, "I have always wanted to be an eagle soaring over the rockies."

So POOF he was an eagle soaring over the rockies.

The second one said, "I have always wondered what it would be like to be a dolphin swimming in the open seas."

So POOF—he became a dolphin.

The third shuffled his feet and looked up and said in a sheepish voice, "I have spent my life denying myself and my desires, but I have always wondered what it would be like to be a stud. I would like to be a stud.

So POOF, he was a stud.

Now, three months later St. Peter called one of the angels and told him he must go and find the three monks. The angel asked him where he could find them. Peter told him, "The first two will be easy. One is an eagle flying over the rockies, the second is a dolphin swimming in the sea, but the third is going to be a little tougher. He's on a snow tire somewhere in Michigan."

So choose joy. Weave yourself a spiritual safety net. And remember that in your next breath, you can make another choice.

Blessings to you all.

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Ring In Love -- Bonnie J. Berger