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Invitation to Joy

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“Most of all, we can decide to walk gently through this last great stage of life when everything begins to come together for us, to make sense, to have new meaning. We can simply sit and watch a sunset, since we are not rushing home through traffic as the sun goes down.” – Joan Chittister, The Gift of Years

I don’t think it’s possible to define the word “joy” in any sort of really useful way. Joy is free. It is not something that you can catch in a butterfly net, so to speak, and add to your collection. You can’t order up a serving of joy like you can order up a fancy meal in a restaurant.

But we can experience joy. That’s the good news here. And when we do experience joy and express joy then our lives have meaning and they bless the world of which we are part.

I stepped outside our front door a few moments ago and stood on the porch of our little town house to listen to a bird that was singing close by. The singing was amazing. It went on and on. Talk about joy in expression. I realized the bird was perched at the very top of the large blue spruce tree that sits a little distance away from our front door.

I realized, too, that the bird was not alone. After it had sung for a little while it would stop for a moment, and I would hear another bird begin to sing, as if in response. They kept this up for quite a while, singing to each other – and of course, to me.

Surely joy has something to do with giving the gift that is ours to give, and honoring the unique quality of character that is ours to express. We know joy, as Joan Chittister suggests, when we appreciate the beauty and wholeness of which we are part.

I sometimes think that when we come to the end of our lives, what may be most important to us is not our great accomplishments so much as the simple moments — like the moment which follows — when we touch the magic of creation and our oneness with all creation.

 A moment of magic

I have always loved the sea, and soon after emigrating to British Columbia from England in 1955, I bought a 22-foot sailboat. It had a small cabin and a 4hp inboard engine. Life was a continual challenge for the little motor, perhaps because it was getting on in years, or perhaps because it had not been installed properly, and sat at a rather odd angle in the bottom of the boat. I was never quite sure if it would be able to rise to the occasion and do its job or not.

I named my boat “Vision,” because it was the promise of a new land filled with giant forests and mountains that had drawn me to British Columbia. Despite the objections of my parents, I longed for freedom and open spaces. I read Robert Service and Walt Whitman every day, and rebelled at life in the busy streets of London.

While working as a junior reporter in Fleet Street I had sailed a 16-foot sailboat on a river in Essex, but I had never done any coastal sailing. So it was an excited, but inexperienced young sailor who set out one spring day from Victoria on a cruise through the Gulf Islands.

The weather was sunny and warm, and for awhile everything was great. The water was blue, the sky was blue, and I sang happily to myself as I sailed along. And then suddenly – because of poor planning on my part, no doubt – I found myself in a difficult and intense situation as I tried to navigate through a narrow passage against a strong rip-tide that treated my little boat with utmost derision.

A strong wind began to blow

Sometimes I thought I was making headway, but then I would look at the nearby shore and think I was fooling myself and my boat wasn’t moving at all.  As my motor sputtered away and the water swirled viciously around me, I saw small whirlpools here and there, and adding to my worry, a strong, gusty wind started to blow. I kept looking nervously at the engine, wondering if it would be able to bring me through the rough, chaotic currents. But it did. It was magnificent. It hesitated a tad now and again, but it kept on going.

After what seemed like hours I finally exited the pass and emerged into open water. A little later, with evening falling, I came to the entrance of a beautiful cove. Talk about a change of pace. Now I was surrounded by soft evening air and a stillness that was palpable. There was not another boat in sight as, with just a whisper of a breeze, I ghosted across the velvet surface of the cove.

It was a wide, spacious cove and as I floated across it in a pool of silence, the shore a friendly, protective presence all around me, I felt at one with everything. I was one with the water, the land, the sky, and the stars that peeped out to say hello. Some words of Robert Browning came to mind: “God’s in his heaven – All’s right with the world.”

As I think of that memorable day I realize that joy is not limited by time, for the joy that I experienced as I sailed in perfect peace into the safety of an unknown cove in British Columbia many years ago has gone nowhere. It is with me now as I peck away on my keyboard, doing my best to give the gift I am here to give.

My love and best wishes are with you. As always, I’d love to share any thoughts you may have on the above.

Picture credit: Matt Li

 

 

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Linda April 9, 2013 at 4:38 am

Touching words, Christopher. Thank you.
I love where you write that joy cannot be captured in a butterfly net.
Joy comes unannounced, doesn’t it? There it is, perched in that spruce tree, I can so relate to that.
For me, the greatest joy that makes me cry, is the silhouette of a blackbird on the roof ridge, as is sings, in total freedom? Tears come, every time, and I’m not sure why. Is it because the song is the only sound, and it’s as if it sings only for me?
Linda recently posted..Don’t Miss Grandma’s Epic Solution To Finding Your Way When You’re Lost In Life

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Christopher Foster April 9, 2013 at 4:00 pm

Such a pleasure to hear from you Linda. Thank you for your comment. Your words about the blackbird are beautiful. Personally, I think the bird does sing just for you. It obviously enjoys giving its gift and does a good job of it too doesn’t it? Blessings.

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Denny April 9, 2013 at 5:33 am

Thanks for sharing that lovely story of your boat trip and reminding us where to find JOY……..just to let you know I loooove all your posts and am consistantly inspired by them ……… just keep them coming !!

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Christopher Foster April 9, 2013 at 4:02 pm

Thank you so much Denny. Your comment is a blessing and lifts my spirits. Be well and take care.

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johanna April 9, 2013 at 8:10 am

Your words just always enter my working space with a soft fresh breeze. You really have an awesome inspiring gift with words. Thanks for sharing your inner thoughts with us, specially today’s ‘Invitation to Joy’. You make it so special to know that joy is not only an abundance of happiness, but it is that inner stillness, that oneness with a ‘friendly, protective presence’. Thanks and God bless,
Johanna

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Christopher Foster April 9, 2013 at 4:05 pm

Thank you and God bless you too Johanna. So happy to share this journey of life with you. When there is a connection in spirit distance melts away doesn’t it. Be well.

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Evan Griffith April 9, 2013 at 6:19 pm

Ahhhh Christopher —

I am there with you in the cove, serenely transcendent also, a gift from being enveloped by your true vision, your words.

I’m going to carry this cove with me too now — bless you for that —

Evan
Evan Griffith recently posted..What creators do (they launch, this is an example)

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Christopher Foster April 10, 2013 at 1:14 pm

John, thank you so much. There really is such a thing as a kindred spirit, isn’t there. You are a kindred spirit in my life and I am so grateful.

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Llynde April 14, 2013 at 5:33 am

As always, Christopher, an amazing blog post. I, too, will carry your vision of absolute peace with me.

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Christopher Foster April 17, 2013 at 4:08 pm

Good to hear from you Llynde. I send love and blessings from a very cold, very snowy Denver. Did someone say spring was here? Oh yes, that was me three or four days ago. But as my wife says, Colorado is a trickster…But it’s a great place to live regardless. Where do you live by the way?

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Llynde April 19, 2013 at 10:09 am

I live in Morden, Manitoba – 1/2 hour north of the North Dakota border and just over an hour West of Winnipeg. WE have cold. !! LOL

Saanvi April 17, 2013 at 4:53 am

Thanks! This is probably the most useful post I’ve read on any blog. I guess I know who I’m going to start following.
Saanvi recently posted..Different aspects of passing the NCLEX-RN

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Christopher Foster April 17, 2013 at 4:09 pm

A pleasure to hear from you Saanvi. Thank you so much for your kind words.

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Phil D. Malmstrom April 18, 2013 at 2:31 pm

Christopher,

A visit to your site never fails to put peace in my heart, and a smile on my face…

Joy truly is something that’s hard to quantify, or capture in a phrase. I believe that joy, true joy, is a product of the Holy Spirit’s presence within me. Like you, I find that nature helps in “unlocking” that connection, and some of my most joy-absorbed hours are spent surrounded by God’s creation.

Thank you for this beautiful post my friend, and have a Blessed Day!
Phil D. Malmstrom recently posted..The Scrutiny of the Holy Spirit

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Christopher Foster April 20, 2013 at 2:15 pm

Such a pleasure to hear from you Phil. I do agree. Joy isn’t something we can “manufacture,” and I suppose it’s really wonderful news that we don’t have to “manufacture” it. Joy already exists, flowing forth freely from within, just as you say. You have a wonderful day too Phil. Blessings.

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Llynde April 19, 2013 at 10:08 am

As always, Christopher, you give peace to my soul and to many many other souls as well.
We all stand in unison and thank you for your words and thoughts you share with us.
And, by the way, Denver cold???? Try Manitoba! I have family in Denver and we trade the reasons for the cold – a Colorado Low or a Canadian front!
Namaste, Christopher.

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Christopher Foster April 20, 2013 at 2:24 pm

Llynde, thank you for your kind and generous words. It’s a privilege to commune with you in this way. But you’re right. I almost feel a bit guilty trying to make out how much I’m suffering in cold, snowy Denver when I know very well the sun will be out warming things up in a couple of days. I used to live in a small village about 300 miles north of Vancouver in the interior of BC where it often reached 20 or even 40 below sometimes in winter. My love to Morden and my love to you. Don’t forget to bundle up now.

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