Tag Archives: Joy

Hope and Goals

Hope

I received a text from my wife earlier this week that simply said, “There is hope,” to which I responded, “Always.” There is always hope if nothing else, but hope is a funny, tricky thing.

St. Thomas Aquinas describes hope in this way: “a movement or stretching forth of the appetite towards an arduous good.” And I’ve read a lot about how hope is first and foremost predicated by our eternal desires, but I know people who don’t believe in any concept of eternity, who seem to have more hope than those who do have a sense of some eternal life.

My questions to myself this week, after that text, has been what do I believe that hope is? What do I feel when I feel hope? How does hope fit in with my four guiding principles: peace, grace, love, and joy?

What is hope? I’ve meditated on this for a bit of each day, as I rest, as I read, as I drive, as I work. For me, I think hope is a bit like St. Thomas describes it, but it’s more than just “stretching the appetite forward towards an arduous good.” Hope is visualizing that good and picturing yourself as a part of that good, as if it’s already happened.

For me, hope is a bit like competing in an endurance event. I visualize myself completing the course, putting myself through the imaginary rigors, and then finishing the test in an admirable way. I revel in the fictitious completion of the event, so I can then begin the event with hope that I will finish. I’ve already owned the success of it.

Hope is much the same. I have hope in a future event or a present moment, because I’ve already visualized the success of that event, not giving room for any other outcome. I hope good things into being by imagining them as such. My hope is not always related to my spiritual life, but also it is an integral part of my corporeal reality. My body and my mind need to feel hope to make it through each day. Many of my dark days have been comprised of a lack of hope, my inability to imagine an arduous good, to taste it, to see it, to imagine it into fruition.

What do I feel when I feel hope? Well, for me hope feels like standing in a field of yellow and purple wildflowers, near some pine trees, listening to the breeze come up over the hill, hearing birds sing and the bees buzz, and knowing that everything will work out for good.

The sun is warm on my skin, and hope burns my heart.

Hope feels like owning beauty and growth and goodness, even before they are completely mine. Hope is knowing and resting in the fact that whatever happens will be worked into some good, somewhere in the world.

How does hope fit in with peace, grace, love, and joy, as my four main guiding forces in my life? Hope is what ties them all together. Hope is what help me see peace where there isn’t any. Hope is what helps me gives grace and receive grace in difficult situations. Hope inspires love, and love is, ultimately, the arduous good that is hope’s appetite. Finally, hope breeds joy. How can I not be joyful or experience joy when hope is the visualization of an arduous good?

The tricky thing about hope is exactly what St. Thomas points toward in describing the desire of hope as an “arduous good.” There is nothing worth hoping for that is easy to attain, since hope, in and of itself, implies that the object of that hope is something difficult to attain. Are peace, grace, love, and joy easy ideals to attain? If they were, each day would not be struggle to live out those values. There wouldn’t be whole volumes of spiritual and religious texts written about how to have hope, how to think positively of the future, how to live a “happy” life, how to prosper, who to not lose faith, and how to live with an eye toward the future. Even religions that focus on the present, like Buddhism, have sacred texts that refer to hope as a positive tool for life.

Today in my life I feel hope. For a better future. For loving others. For changing this tragic world. For giving grace. For my vocation. For living life forward.

Goals

Veganism This is not going so well, and, at the risk of sounding like I am making excuses, it’s because I love to have dinner with my wife. It’s incredibly difficult to cook food that suits us both, and since she cooks most of the time now, I find it rude to ask her to cook special food for me. We’re strictly vegetarian in the meals that we share, though she does eat bacon for breakfast.

Volunteerism I got an email from 360 Communities about being a sexual assault advocate , and I really want to do it, but this time around conflicts with work. I’m waiting until the next round of training in October. I am volunteering in March to help pack lunches for small children, so that will have to suffice for now.

Prayer and Meditation I am enjoying an increased level of quiet time to contemplate spiritual things. I am trying to make the St. Francis prayer a morning ritual, thereby working to commit the prayer to memory. In its entirety, the prayer goes like this:

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is error, the truth;
Where there is doubt, the faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled, as to console;
To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.

Exercise I ran the Winter Trail Quarter Marathon again this year, and my time was awful, but I finished. I then proceeded to get sick again, and I have only run once since then. Apple’s Wellness Challenge begins tomorrow, and I don’t want to let my team down, so I’ll be exercising daily for the month of February, starting with an hour-long swim tomorrow morning.

Alcohol and Caffeine This one really isn’t difficult. I’ve had a couple of beer and a couple of coffees, but, to be honest, I’m not really even tempted by either one right now.

Do good. Do no harm. Stay in love with God.

 

 

A Reason to Drive to Minnesota to Throat Punch Me: Fitness

If you needed a reason to come to MN to throat punch me, here it is, and I even give you permission, rather the encouragement, to do it. Please, please, please, if I ever say I am going to quit swimming, biking, or running, or if I say I am just going to take a short break from it, get in your car, drive to Newport, Minnesota, and kick my ass. I’ll even give you gas money. If come to throat punch me for some other reason, you’re on your own with the gas money.

That being said, I’ve started running again, very slowly and methodically, but running none the less. I’ve just finished the second week, the second day, of the Couch Potato to 5K program, and it was glorious. I’m hoping to only have to use the guided program for a couple more weeks before my body is just back in the groove of this thing I love. I’m doing most of my running on this trail, The River Bottoms Trail, parts of which are contained in Fort Snelling State Park. The section I am using right now is the part that starts in Mendota, and it’s flat as a pancake, beautiful along the river, and packed dirt so it’s very forgiving, not like concrete or asphalt. As I get better and faster again at running, I’ll explore some of the other parts of the trail, too, but they seem more technical and I don’t want to risk injuring my knee again, so I want to be good and strong before being too adventurous. The waiting is torture. My favorite part of running is careening down hills and skittering back up the other side. It’s a beautiful childlike feeling, but for now I’ll be a 40-year-old who’s afraid to get reinjured.

To begin preparing to train for the Muncie 70.3 next July, I have decided to run three times a week, bike twice a week, and swim twice a week. I’ve already covered my running plan, so I’ll talk about biking. I’m hoping to rope Bec into my biking program next spring, but we’ll see how that goes. We love going for long rides together, so hopefully it’ll mean spending some quality time together once a week for a long ride. Mostly for now, I’m going to ride a couple of short rides each week, then settle into winter. I hate riding in cold weather, so I’ll be spending some time in the garage on the trainer, which I hate almost as much. Maybe I need to get a cheap TV to put out there to make the time pass more quickly. Such is life in Minnesota as a biker in the winter, but there is always spring.

Finally, I just sent for my community lap swim card. Talk about a super-cool, super-weird deal: the schools in our district open their pools for lap swim for anyone in the community. It costs $65 A YEAR to join the community lap swim program. $65 A YEAR! The pools are open four nights a week, and the one closest to my house is open on Monday and Wednesday from 8PM to 9PM, which is perfect. I can get in a nice swim two nights a week, just before bed. I had registered for Big Shoulders this year, but since I haven’t been swimming, I’m going to forgo my participation and watch my friend Teresa do Ironman Wisconsin. I’ll try for Big Shoulders again next year when I’ve been in the pool more.

Here is what I hope my weeks to come will look like:

Day

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Activity Swim Run Swim Run Bike LongRun Bike
Time 8-9PM Whenever 8-9PM Whenever Whenever Whenever

Afternoon

Getting back into this type of training is much more difficult than just sticking with it could ever be, so please, please, please, heed my offer. If I ever, ever, ever, mention quitting or taking a break, make the drive and throat punch me. I won’t be surprised about it, and I’ll pay for your gas.

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On a totally unrelated note, people who have very long acrylic fingernails should not be allowed to type in public. Isn’t that so the late 1990s early 2000s anyway? The clicking reminds me of Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “The Bells.” The clicking is maddening. In fact, I think my work is finished here. I’m going to go home and shower, then find a place to get my newest tattoo. Happy Birthday to me.

A New Sabbath Day

I want and need a Sabbath, one day each week that I can count on to be strictly my time to spend with God, family, writing, and art, so the one day I said I wouldn’t work at Caribou is Sunday. Fortunately, Caribou eases you in to a full schedule, so I had yesterday and tomorrow off as well. Today we tried out our new Sunday thing, plan, routine, whatever you want to call it. Since Bec and I have radically different ideas about what we like in church, we’ve decided to have the best of both worlds and just attend two services. First, we get up early and head to St. John the Evangelist Episcopal Church in St. Paul, and then we head to Awaken Community in Lilydale. It’s a nice balance and nice way to start the Sabbath. And we get to see the children and grandchildren at Awaken, so that’s a pretty nice bonus. After church today, we came home, had lunch, and then napped. We’re exciting, I know.

We (Bec, Ann, and I) spent yesterday going to the Uptown and Powderhorn Art Fairs. We walked forever and looked at lots of amazing arts and crafts. I bought a card for my mom, a birthday gift for my brother, and an anniversary gift for the Combers. And if any of them read this, I just spoiled the surprise for them all. As we walked, I kept thinking about how God has honored my heart’s desire to have time off of work and to have a job I don’t bring home with me. I couldn’t get the image of myself, sitting in one of those booths and selling my own artwork, out of my mind. Even if it’s only a dream for now, since I have just begun sketching, it’s the freest I’ve felt in a long, long time.

For my first little venture back into the art world, I plan to create a set of prints based on this poem by Wallace Stevens. There have been several interpretations of this poem created by several artists in a few diverse cultures. Artist Joan Colbert hand pulled my favorite set of linoleum block prints that is currently in existence. You can see them here. However, I think there is still room for me to add my voice into the mix, because my style of block printing has a bit more texture in the white spaces, and I plan to print both black and white on brown paper, adding some pastel work into the final prints.

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I got to Minnesota about three weeks ago. Today is August 3, and I arrived on July 11. Just after I got here, or more specifically on my 40th birthday, I made some simple goals, things I’d like to improve upon in my life. Here they are (again): quit smoking and drink only on weekends or not at all; eat primal with one “cheat” day a week; no ice cream; get a job; capitalize on quiet time (read, write, art); and run/walk, bike, swim. Since setting these goals, I’ve accomplished several and am still working on others. I struggle with the ice cream thing. It gives me joy. I’m going to keep eating ice cream for a while. I’ve started adding a brief bit of meditation into my morning routine, and I hope to add it into my evening routine as well. Meditation helps me to quiet my busy mind in a way that nothing else does; I can release my anger and sadness and cultivate compassion and joy through the simple act of breathing.

I’ve created one new goal in all of this, which I mentioned before, but I am going to mention again, and probably keep mentioning. I want to finish the Muncie 70.3 for my second time next July. I want to do it again to prove to myself that I can and to get a better time than last and to just be healthy again. I’ve been running and biking, and I will start swimming later this month, so I know I can do it. I just need to stay focused and remember that I am doing all of this to take care of myself and be well.

Minnesota Minute: A Day on the Town

Today I decided to go for a little adventure through Minneapolis. I don’t have much commentary, except what I will provide for each picture. I can say that today was really fun, and I look forward to exploring the Cities on my days off.

My first stop of the day was at Blick’s Art Supplies where I bought some stuff to start printmaking. I bought linoleum, ink, a roller, some paper, and some other more generalized art supplies. I used my birthday money for this, instead of for interview clothes.

Dick Blick

My second stop, which was a pleasant surprise, was at the Basilica of Saint Mary, the first basilica built in the United States. It is the co-cathedral for the Cities with St. Paul Cathedral, the more famous one. Here are several pictures I took while I was there. Forgive me for the bad quality of the photos; I took them with my phone.

After spending a good bit of time in contemplation in the basilica, I went to my next stop. Birchbark Books is famously supported by Louise Erdrich and houses a huge variety of texts by American Indian writers. The people who work there are very helpful and kind, and the store itself is exactly as quaint and amazing as one might imagine. My favorite part was the confessional that had a sign saying, “Do not enter. We are not responsible for damnation.” Unfortunately, I didn’t get a picture of the confessional, nor did I get a very good picture of the outside. No worries. I will be going back soon.

photo 13

From Birchbark Books, I decided to head for lunch. If you know me at all, you know what I went for. Wings. With a simple google search, I found a place called Runyon’s, which is in the Warehouse District. Since I am new here, I had no idea what that meant. Well, as near as I can tell, the Warehouse District is a mix of businesses, restaurants, and strip clubs. This is what I saw as I neared my destination. You can’t really see the signs as well as I wish you could, but one says Augie’s Topless Bar and the other one is a giant rainbow circle that says Gay 90s. These are clear signs that good wings are nearby.

photo 14

I had to drive around a bit to find somewhere to park, and, once I did, I walked to Runyon’s along 2nd Avenue. I passed this:

photo 20

And then arrived here:

photo 15

The wings and (I cheated) the Deschutes Obsidian Stout were delicious. I kept thinking that it was really too bad that this bar is so far away from my house, because it felt a bit like Savage’s and the wings were just as good. The bartender, Nick, was pretty awesome and is himself a transplant from New York, so I felt pretty at home in his care. Their blue cheese dip was really good, too, so that’s a total plus. No shoddy, half-cracked blue cheese here. And my wings were crispy, just like I ordered them. Total win for lunch.

photo 17

After lunch,I decided to stop into this ecclectic little place I passed on my way to Runyon’s. One on One is the type of place that I’d love to hang out and just people watch. While I was in there I had some strange encounters just off the bat.

An older man said, about my t-shirt, to the woman who was chopping onions for what looked like salsa, “You know why she’s wearing tie-dye, right?”

The onion chopper said, “Why?”

Old guy, who had an opinion on everything that was going on, said, “She wanted to remind me of the good old times, the 60s, when acid was still legal in California.”

I turned to him and said, “You are absolutely right, man. I wore it just for you. I’m glad I could make your day.” And we both laughed.

Anyway, here are some photos from that place with the yummy dirty chai. First the front of the building:

photo 19

Next the inside, where the bicycles reside.

photo 18

My last task was to go to IKEA. I think I may be the only person I know who doesn’t enjoy this place one little bit. There is too much to look at, and the floor plan is structured like a maze. There is no getting in and getting out at IKEA. However, I did love the variety of cool options of everything they have in their little showrooms. I now know where I will go to buy all of my furniture should I ever live in a tiny house, a shipping container, or a tree house. The magic of IKEA is that it’s like a grown-up’s fairy castle where everything is a just a little surreal. I loved that aspect of it.

photo21

I hope you enjoyed that little tour. Haha.

 

Cultivate Joy: Part Two (St. Bernard)

I am slowly coming to realize that joy is not necessarily an outwardly expressed, chipper, I-am-so-happy-because-everything-is-fine type of feeling or attitude. Joy is an inwardly felt, deep, intense, I-am-so-connected-with-Jesus-I-can’t-help-but-feel-any-other-way-(at this moment)-and-I-can’t-help-but-share-this type of feeling or attitude. And, it seems as if everything I read about joy indicates that it’s cyclic. Of course, the goal is to be in a permanent state of joy, but because we have other human emotions, the permanence is varied depending upon the presence of those other emotions.

For example, according to an article by Sylvie Supper titled “Spiritual Joy in the Works of St. Bernard,” St. Bernard believed that joy is one of four inner movements. The other three are sadness, love, and fear (361). Supper quotes Bernard’s own writing: “If sadness follows fear, it brings despair. If joy comes after love, it brings laxness. Let joy then some after fear, for fear dreads what is to come, whereas joy finds happiness in what is present and possesses the object of a prudent security. Joy must therefore put fear to the test. And a tested fear is nothing but prudence. Sadness must follow joy, for whoever remembers sad things will embrace joyous things with moderation. Thus sadness must balance joy, and a balanced joy is nothing but moderation” (361-2). The part of this statement that resounds with me is this: “Joy must put fear to the test. [. . .] Sadness must follow joy, for whoever remembers sad things will embrace joyous things with moderation.” I find myself telling my students that bad things happens in order to help us recognize the beauty and grace that surrounds us every day, but St. Bernard says that remembering sadness will help us “embrace joyous things with moderation.” What that says to me is that if we remember sadness, we’ll realize that joy is temporary and subject to change. We won’t let ourselves be swept away by joy, but we will realize the beauty of that joy, because we remember the sadness we’ve experienced as well. On this earth we must recognize there will be highs and lows. We should expect them, and remember each to temper the other. Now I feel like I am talking in a circle: joy, sadness, joy again, sadness again.

In order to illustrate the various types or levels of joy, St. Bernard sets up an excellent metaphor involving drinking: a taste is the joy of God we can experience during life, drink is the joy that is experienced by the souls of the saints, and inebriation is the experience of joy at the resurrection of the body (364). In this life, we can only taste; we can’t become inebriated. He quotes Psalm 35: 9, but I think both 9 and 10 help to better explain this idea of the inebriation of joy: “Then my soul shall rejoice in the Lord, exulting in his deliverance. All my bones shall say, ‘O Lord, who is like you? You deliver the weak from those too strong for them, the weak and the needy from those who despoil them.'” It’s as if the speaker’s entire body is steeped in deliverance, and why would that not bring an intoxicating, inebriating joy? “All my bones shall say” I am filled with the joy of the Lord. How many times has my whole body said, “I am inebriated with you, Lord”? Not yet. Not here. St. Bernard, much like John Wesley from the last post, says that inebriating joy will come later, that it’s not this-worldly.

Jubilus cordis is “the very music of the heart,” which is only found when our hearts experience “the deepest and most intimate joy of the soul united with God” (366). This intimacy is given to us through the books of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs, and it is felt as if from an intimate couple, such as two individuals who marry or who are deeply, intimately bound. Supper says that this intimacy “is a certain experience of God that communicates to the soul [God’s] sweetness and the joy of [God’s] presence” (366). This reminds me of the song “You Are So Good to Me” by Third Day. The chorus says, “You are beautiful my sweet, sweet song,” which seems like a version of this intimacy with Jesus that’s prevalent in Song of Songs.

Finally, Supper explains that though St. Bernard focuses on the inner workings of joy, joy cannot help but radiate our from us. We should have a desire to share our inner joy with others. So, for Bernard, as for Wesley, this inner attitude becomes an outward attitude. Something we just can’t help but share. I suppose first you have feel joyful inwardly, which is my difficulty. I’m not sure if I should expect this joy that can’t help but radiate to be a knock-me-down kind of joy, or just this occasional sweet, peaceful, sort of pukey feeling I get in my soul when everything seems to be right with God. I think it’s the second one, because it seems to be tempered with fear like in the first part of this post, but I also think St. Bernard thought it was the first one, too. Joy is subtle and joy is blatantly obvious. Basically, joy boils down to, again, a relationship with God. Joy is part of the fruit of that relationship. It’s a part of the fruit I wish I could taste more frequently. I want to be inebriated with joy. Here. Now. I don’t want to have to wait for it. I’m the Veruca Salt of the spiritual fruit: I want it now.

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Supper provides a nice little glossary of terms St. Bernard uses for joy:

  • gaudium: signifies all kinds of joy
  • laetitia and exsultatio: signify the exultation of those who have found God, opposite of bitterness; confiteor: the praise of whoever gives thanks to God
  • hilaris: one who gives joy, the radiation of the face
  • jucundus: someone who leads another to joy
  • congratulatio and congaudere: shared joy
  • alacritas: fervent and driving joy
  • delectare: delight found in resting in God
  • jubilus: the inner song of the soul united with God