Spirit Alive: Joy to the World!


Spirit Alive is a twice a month blog that looks at different aspects of mission and ministry throughout the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference and beyond.

December 13, 2016

Food for the Soul:

Living a Joyful Life

"Joy to the world, the Lord is come! Let earth receive her King; let every heart prepare him room, and heaven and nature sing, and heaven and nature sing, and heaven, and heaven, and nature sing."

Issac Watts

In a short time, we will all be singing these words as we gather with others to celebrate the wonder of the Christmas Season.

But even as these words of joy fill our hearts, it is worth stepping back for a moment to ask ourselves: What is joy really all about? Yes, it is clearly about the coming birth of Jesus. That is, after all, the essence of this season. But what happens with joy when Christmas fades from center stage in the coming weeks...and a new year dawns? How do we maintain a sense of joy in our lives in the days that follow this special season?

For our anniversary in November, Susan bought me a wonderful book entitled The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World.

It is a book, co-authored by Douglas Abrams, that captures a remarkable week of conversations between His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. In April 2015, Archbishop Tutu traveled to Dharamsala, India to celebrate the Dalai Lama's eightieth birthday. Much of their time together was spent discussing what it means to live a life of joy. The book also reveals the fact that they spent a great deal of time together laughing and enjoying each others company.

As one reads this book, it is clear that these two Nobel Peace Prize Laureates have much to teach the rest of us about the nature of joy, especially since between them they have experienced years of exile and the soul-crushing violence of oppression. Yet, as Abrams notes: "Despite their hardships-- or, as they would say, because of them-- they are two of the most joyful people on the planet." Their real life experiences raise the question: How do they (and how do we) find joy in the face of life's inevitable suffering?.

Here are a few samples of the wisdom that these two remarkable teachers have to share with us about the nature of joy:

Dalai Lama: "If you develop a strong sense of concern for the well-being of all sentient beings and in particular all human beings, this will make you happy in the morning.... This is the value of compassion, of having compassionate feelings for others. Even, you see, ten minutes or thirty minutes of meditating on compassion, on kindness for others, and you will see its effects all day. That's the way to maintain a calm and joyous mind."

Tutu: "We grow in kindness when our kindness is tested."

Dalai Lama: "...The ultimate source of happiness is simply a healthy body and a warm heart....Everybody wants a happy life-- and our individual happy life depends on a happy humanity. So we have to think about humanity, discover a sense of oneness of all seven billion human beings."

Tutu: "We depend on the other in order for us to be fully who we are.... Ubuntu says: A person is a person through other persons. Ubuntu says when I have a small piece of bread, it is for my benefit that I share it with you. Because, after all, none of us came into the world on our own.... We are bound up and can be human only together."

Abrams: "...In a surprising way, what the Archbishop and the Dalai Lama were saying is that the way we heal our own pain is actually by turning to the pain of others. The more we turn toward others, the more joy we experience, and the more joy we experience, the more we can bring joy to others....Joy is in fact quite contagious. As is love, compassion, and generosity."

Tibet saying: "Wherever you have friends that's your country, and wherever you receive love, that's your home."

Let us walk in the light of God's love,


Spirit Alive is a twice a month blog and email by Rev. Lowell Greathouse, Mission and Ministry Coordinator for the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference. It seeks out where the spirit is alive in our congregations and communities.


Lowell Greathouse
Lowell Greathouse is the Mission and Ministry Coordinator for the Oregon-Idaho Conference of the United Methodist Church. He looks for places to find where the spirit is alive and help them grow in vitality and fruitfulness. Share with him at lowell@umoi.org