in print
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Celebration
Stories about wonder and holding onto joy in the midst of struggle
Stories about wonder and holding onto joy in the midst of struggle
Avoiding Joy

THE LAST VISIT to my parents brought up some feedback they had for inheritance: “Why are all the stories so sad? Can’t you tell a story with a happy ending once in a while?”

In Search of Stronger Spells

IS THERE STILL SPACE for joy in a disenchanted world? This is one of the questions that sent me back to seminary.

At a 2 but Rolling Like an 8

AS AN ASIAN AMERICAN, I often feel selfconscious or distrustful of my feelings of happiness. I never wanted to come across as happier than others because that could make me seem insensitive or noncommunal.

Church as a Transcendent Collective

“COMMUNITAS AND COLLECTIVE effervescence describe aspects or moments of communal excitement; there is no word for the love — or force or need — that leads individuals to seek ecstatic merger with the group.” - Barbara Ehrenreich

Joy I Cannot Share

MY PARENTS are a power couple in the Chinese Christian community in the United States and abroad. I liken them to the Clintons; they have an equal and equitable partnership and are both seen as leaders.

Finding and Feasting in Mongolia

MY HUSBAND AND I never intended on living overseas, much less being overseas missionaries. But in 2014, we took a two-week trip to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, and something inside us was awakened.

Joy to the Lord

AS A CHILD I was taught that God was a caring God. He cared about what I felt and what I was going through. However, when my husband, Ben, was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer in 2013, that belief of God was challenged and questioned.

Guilt, Pain, and Shame

WHEN I WAS 4 years old, my very first memory of my father was how he used guilt to discipline me. “Don’t do that, Andrew, you don’t know how long I have to live.”

THE LAST VISIT to my parents brought up some feedback they had for inheritance: “Why are all the stories so sad? Can’t you tell a story with a happy ending once in a while?”

At the time, I brushed off this critique. After all, we’re not looking to tell stories that give false hope that everything’s just going to be OK. We want to tell stories of struggle, of how life is full of ambiguities and uncertainties, and we want to separate western Christianity from its privileged sense of triumphalism.

If Disney wants to tell stories that true happiness is only when the Prince finds the Princess, we want to tell stories that say that even if the Princess never meets the Prince, they both can still have a life of fulfillment and confidence.

But the more I think about it, the more I notice tendencies in myself to deliberately avoid joy. Maybe my parents were onto something.

I don’t like getting my hopes up. It’s hard for me to enjoy “good” things because I know that they will be fleeting. A part of me tends to associate being joyful with a certain sense of naïveté. 

Particularly in a time when we’re surrounded by highlighted issues of police brutality, disregard for indigenous sacred land, and continued economic struggle, it’s easy to look at the difficulties in this world and say that joy is no longer possible. 

It’s easy to look at the difficulties in this world and say that joy is no longer possible. 

And yet, I’m reminded that to choose joy is to deliberately resist the patterns of this world — a world that operates out of fear of the other, that hoards for its own security, that prefers lies rather than the truth. 

Joy is the Spirit of liberation that surprises us with a sense of peace during our moments of suffering.

Joy is those moments of finding beauty and value in the absurd and nonsensical.

Joy is the fullness of the presence of the Most High and when we share in the community of believers.

Abraham Joshua Heschel puts it this way: “People of our time are losing the power of celebration. Instead of celebrating, we seek to be amused or entertained. Celebration is an active state, an act of expressing reverence or appreciation ... Celebration is a confrontation, giving attention to the transcendent meaning of one’s actions.”

Don’t get me wrong — it’s difficult for me to be joyful, let alone to practice joy. But celebrate we must, for, in joy, we resist. 

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