We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Gratitude … goes beyond the “mine” and “thine” and claims the truth that all of life is a pure gift. In the past I always thought of gratitude as a spontaneous response to the awareness of gifts received, but now I realize that gratitude can also be lived as a discipline. The discipline of gratitude is the explicit effort to acknowledge that all I am and have is given to me as a gift of love, a gift to be celebrated with joy.
Henri Nouwen is great, but we are not always able to receive God's gifts with joy. Remember W.B. Yeats' line about how "Too much sacrifice can make a stone of the heart". Remember feisty old Job, clinging to his integrity, and to his faith that His Redeemer Liveth. Couldn't call him exactly joyful....Truth be told, our brave men and women at war probably don't always wake up joyful in the Lord each morning, but probably most of them are grateful to Him that they have woken up at all. You cannot discipline yourself to feel joy. You can be obedient, you can be faithful, you can be polite, you can do the right thing out of gratitude to and love for God. But the joy is a gift from God, given to the deserving and the undeserving alike, unpredictably.
I watched a home video young NH soldier dutifully guarding a desert berm around an oil depot in Iraq month after month. He carried his dirt bike on the plane from the US, in his bag, disassembled, then rebuilt it and practiced hot shot maneuvers on the berm. Somersaults, whirling around, bucking bronco type moves. Amazing. Practice, fall, practice, fall, discipline, discipline, discipline until practice, soar, whirl thru the air, Joy.
Remember that famous book by CSLewis "Surprised byJoy"
My experience is that joy is like love, or the hound of heaven, you can't pursue it, it captures you when you least expect it. Our God, the one who makes weal and makes woe, does not deliver a serving of joy as a reward for a disciplined effort to serve and give back to Him. He grants us those flashes of joy, the glimpse of the December rose, the bluejays, the child hugging us, that sense of "I have fought the good fight" in the midst of a daunting yet necessary task. The point of the discipline is to harrow our souls, make them ready for the seeds of joy that only God can plant.