Tag Archives: Joy

What’s Wrong with a Wish?

One of my favorite musicals is Into the Woods. I saw it for the first time as a sophomore in high school when our music/theatre departments collaborated to bring a very difficult show to our stage.

Mesmerized by the witch in the show from the first rehearsal I snuck into and for multiple performances there as well as over the years following, I have spent most of my adult life believing that the most compelling message of the show had to do with needing to disregard finding fault in our situations and instead pulling together to find solutions.

I recently flew from Minneapolis to Dallas on a Southwest flight on a Saturday. I rarely fly on Saturdays as I find that most of the best deals happen on Tuesdays. This particular fare sale aligned with my desire to be in Texas for specific dates. As I approached the gate area for my mid-morning flight, the gate attendant’s voice announced that the flight was overbooked and that there would be a decent amount of money granted to those willing to change their plans by two hours.

I accepted the offer and jumped on a flight connecting in Chicago rather than Kansas City. This is a risk – the Chicago area can claim many hours of a traveler’s time should the travel occur while Chicago has precipitation. Phrases like “I hope” and “I wish” rattled through my brain – all for nothing because it was sun-sparkling awesome in Chicago that day.

As “I wish” traveled through my mind, it turned into the song from Into the Woods.

In the fifteen minute character-introducing first song of the musical, various characters enter the stage as they sing the same two words: “I wish.” From Cinderella to Little Red Riding Hood to Jack, characters share their desire for life to be different.

Cinderella wishes to go to the festival and dance before the prince.  The baker and his wife wish for a child. Jack and his mother wish to get out of poverty. Little Red Riding Hood just wishes for some bread.

Their wishes are all metaphors. Each lacks satisfaction in his or her current condition and things that a change – the wish – will bring satisfaction.  Without ruining the musical too much (impossible because these words don’t do the musical justice), the point of the show is to realize that satisfaction is found in being happy with what we have and in our relationships – good or bad, family or not – rather than in what we could have.

Side note: if you can see the show on stage, you should spend the money to see it. Even the junior version used by middle schools will be delightful. One of my nephews was recently cast as Cinderella’s prince in a junior version, and I can’t wait to see him in it.  If you do not have this opportunity, Disney does a decent job with the musical in movie form.  And – Meryl Streep plays the witch.  Say it with me, “Cool!”  Seriously.

I write down ideas when they come to me so that I can use them in future blog posts.  My notes from that thought time on the plane included concepts about going after what we want, setting goals, and making our wishes come true.  As I sifted through and deleted various notes from that trip, I realized that even I – the one thinking about the dissatisfaction that the characters in Into the Woods experience once their wishes come true and they return to living life – continue to miss the point.

Yes – goal setting is a great idea. I do not know anyone who can jump on a plane to Europe tomorrow just because they feel like it.  The people I know have to save, sacrifice, and let ideas simmer before they take that trip.  There is nothing wrong with setting goals and having a bucket list.

Where we go wrong is when we think that attaining the goals and achieving the bucket list will bring our soul the complete satisfaction it seeks in finding a joy-filled life in the here and now…the today…the present moment.  I can certainly have an Amazon Wish List as long as I balance that with the truth that I have enough already.  Even if half of my belongings were carried out of my home tomorrow, I would have enough.

It is not about the amount of things left after a bunch of things have left my possession.  My attitude and my willingness to find joy in what I have today determines if I am satisfied regardless of what I have.  My attitude and my willingness to find joy in what is right now determines what I am and who I become.

The final song of Into the Woods catches me off-guard every time I see it.  With a touch of melancholy and a heaping cup of warning, the characters caution the audience about their wishes:

Careful the wish you make
Wishes are children
Careful the path they take
Wishes come true, not free

I think that the serious nature of the song is what surprises me, but I also think I do not want to listen to its warning.  I want to dream, to hope, and to wish.  More than that, I want my wishes to come true.  Sometimes, this can be all consuming: a new job, a new house, a new outfit, and so on.  I can be so wrapped up in wishing that I also do a lot of missing.

If I am off track about human nature and how we wish, I hope that readers will correct my path a bit.

Happy Wednesday, my friends!

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Advent, Apologies, and Joy

I have never experienced Advent in the way that I am experiencing it this year.

Each ticking off of the Sundays of Advent brings me another step closer to seeing my children return from their first semester at Baylor University – TOMORROW (God, weather, and roads willing).  To be a little cheesy, this mama bear is ready to have her cubs around for longer that 48 hours.  I am so proud of them, and I feel that we have all adjusted as well as we could have given the apple cart upsetting that we experienced in August.  I look forward to some relaxing times with them in our old stomping grounds of Minneapolis as well as our new home in Bismarck.  The time between Thanksgiving and today has dragged along, but I am sure that the next four weeks will fly by.  *sigh*

Each ticking off of the Sundays of Advent brings me another step closer to the end of our first semester at the University of Mary.  Seriously – wow! We have really changed our ministry focus and have loved every minute with the students here. This unique experience as Protestants in a committed Catholic environment has stretched and grown us in ways that we did not know could happen.  The dialogues that we have had with students and faculty have been amazing.  As I see it, we are here for two purposes: to be in dialogue with brothers and sisters from other denominations and to provide ministry in the Protestant traditions for those students and staff of those traditions.  This is transformational – can you imagine a Protestant university hiring a Catholic priest to minister on that Protestant campus? I am still in shock and so grateful.  I am really digging our new gig.

Advent is a time of reflection as we await the arrival of the Christ child.  In my reflecting, I have realized that sometimes I hit “publish” on my blog posts without thinking it all through.  A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post about this new call on our lives, and I need to share an apology – or maybe just a clarification.  In the post, I wrote about sitting in Mass one Sunday evening and thinking that I am not “here” for the Catholic students sitting around me in the service.  After I hit publish and shared the post on Facebook, one of the Catholic students whom I would count as a dear friend made a comment.  It was not her comment that made me reflect but just the fact that she and I are in fellowship that forced me to re-think my words.  Who am I to limit God’s call on my life?  I am  here to minister to whomever and with whomever God brings into my life. We are here to be the hands and feet of Christ, to love any who comes into our lives, and to share the love of Jesus with whomever will listen.  So – I’m sorry. Deeply sorry.

Two days ago was the Advent Sunday of Joy.  My college English writing students who paid attention enough to know that we do not capitalize words without reason to do so would be upset that I wrote Joy instead of joy; however, it just seems like joy should be capitalized this week.  Maybe I should shout it – JOY (by the way, to those who follow me on Facebook, that lady is still sending me emails in all caps.  Seriously.).

JOY! Yes, this Advent week reminds us of the joy that our souls find because of Christ’s arrival on Earth.  As the song says, “No more let sin and sorrows grow.”  With Christ’s arrival on Earth, all of what was known about God’s kingdom was turned upside down and changed forever. Jesus – Messiah – arrived to save us, free us, bless us, and reign in us.  He came that we could live abundantly.

When we look around us, life abundant seems hard to find some days.  Death, divorce, disease, and discord seem to be winning the fight.  We should probably get off of our computers, log out of Facebook accounts, leave our houses, and go find life.  It is out there waiting for us to live in the same way that we wait in Advent.  And the joy that we seek will rarely be found where we think it will be – fame, career, or wealth.  Instead – in the same unexpected way that Jesus – the King – was found in a humble stable, JOY will likely be found in humble ways of serving others and looking beyond our own wants.

Advent reminds us that we remain in waiting for the second coming of Jesus.  All of the discord that we combat by seeking joy will end when Christ returns and reigns forever as King of King and Lord of Lords.  We will wait…and wait…and wait.  While we wait, we will seek joy through service to God through serving others.

Each year at Advent – this year at Advent – let us remember that Christ came so that we could have life.  As we wait to celebrate Christ’s birth, let us remember that Christ came for a purpose.  As we wait, let us remember that Christ is coming again.  Amen.

 

 

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