Growing Joy!

How do you do that?


Joy grows when two people (or more) share it–it sort of bounces back and forth between you and each time you send it back to the other it grows! But someone has to start it…why not you? Pastor, leader, teacher, Joe PewWarmer. We can all grow joy!

Go back through the memory files and find an example of a time you knew God was with you or pleased, delighted in you. Or if you are like one fellow I know of, he did not have one memory of God or anyone pleased to be with him. The only pleasant memory he had was of a time when he and his dog were playing a game of jumping over a stick. My husband helped him realize how hard God had worked to give him that experience of belonging. He and his dog were a unit–inseparable. God wanted him to have that experience to know how it feels to belong. So that one day he could feel God’s love as surely as he could feel his dog’s love. God got that experience to him so he could believe that He could belong to God.

Our brains need to be trained to relate to other people and we use these same skills when we relate to God. God built us to pretty much have these skills down by the time we are done with the toddler years. So think about it–what was life like when you were that age?  Think you may have missed a skill or two? Not to worry…these are “learned skills” and can be added later on. The brain is amazing in that way!

CaptureHere’s another resource to help you grow joy! One of the easiest ways to grow joy is to share what we call a 4+ story. This is a story about a time when you were very aware of God being with you. Chris and Jenn came up with this little sheet to help you think through your story so that when you tell it you will see joy reflected back to you. Others will amplify and reflect back your joy and so it bounces back and forth between you, growing as it goes. Okay, here is the little worksheet:

Click to enlarge and print.

Four Plus

Sharing joy between two people is the first of the 19 brain skills, #2 is being able to quiet and soothe oneself after both joyful and upsetting emotions. Skill three is establishing bonds between two and sharing a mutual state of mind that brings us closer and lets us move independently as well. Think snuggle time with baby. Skill four is creating appreciation–healthy minds are full of appreciation. It creates belonging and changes stress to contentment. Sill five is forming family bonds. Family bonds let us share the joy built by the people we love Skill six is being able to identify heart values from suffering. Caring deeply can mean hurting deeply. Our deepest hurts hide our deepest treasures. And skill 7 is telling synchronized stories, or a 4+ story.

Here is a link to a download showing all 19 skills.

Our churches need these 19 skills more than ever. Relational skills, character skills and maturity are all best gained, practiced and nurtured within families and communities. When these skills are present, we naturally do what our parents taught us to do and the results are satisfying

Action Step: Try telling your 4+ story and let us know how it went. Better yet, share your story here! Or your questions!

Blessings, Carol Brown B.A., MACI                                                                            Author of The Mystery of Spiritual Sensitivity and Highly Sensitive                                                                               



So, Pastor…Having a hard time resting?

Did you know that the biggest barrier to growing joy is the lack of rest, have you checked your joy levels? Do you need to schedule some rest so that you can raise those joy levels?

Are you are one of those individuals who means to rest, but finds that actually doing it is difficult? I’ll bet when you sit on your deck and look out over what you have to look over, your mind goes to all the things you could do and should do and would do if you weren’t sitting there with your heels up. The guilt kicks in and intrudes on your meditation. Argh! Might as well get up and at it! If your scenario of difficulty runs something like that I have a suggestion for you. Write an action plan for resting.

That’s right, an action plan for resting!

Background: I have this type A daughter. She is in sales if that tells you anything. This girl is perky, a party waiting to happen.


She does not sit still long or rest well at all. Recently she came down with bronchitis. My suspicion is that not resting well is what got her there, betcha. The doctor ordered rest. She dressed for the occasion…

     fuzzy pink slippers

a very important way to tell your brain that you are in resting mode! But still found herself struggling. She gave me permission to share what she wrote:

Woman with tissue and hot drink           Image courtesy of Corbis

Stupid Bronchitis

Stupid Bronchitis. I’d throw a temper tantrum over being sick this week but it would just make me cough. So I sit in my fluffy pink slippers and quietly say nothing because talking makes the coughing worse. If history has taught me anything it’s that I don’t “do rest” really well. Thoughts of all the things I should be/could be/would be doing if I were my normal perky self cloud my mind and make me restless. So I made myself a list – an action plan for rest. I know what you’re thinking a “to-do” list for rest? Yup.

  1.   Take medicine
  2.   Eat breakfast and take    vitamins
  3.   Read
  4.   Take a nap
  5.   Drink water
  6.   Take a shower
  7.   Take a nap
  8.   Take more medicine
  9.   Drink more water

10.   Watch a show



11. Take a nap

12. Feed the cats

13. Make lunch

14. Watch a show

15. Take more medicine

16. Take a nap

17. Surf the net

18. Send a text

19. Drink some tea with  lemon,  ginger and honey

And there you have it. I’m a list geek and I don’t mind telling you I felt so accomplished crossing things off. (end of daughter’s post)

So what do you think Pastor? Can we come up for an action plan for resting for pastors?

For #1 and 8 – What “medicine” do you need? It could be a quick hug or a joy moment shared with a family member!

For #3, read – Here you can read a chapter (or two) of one of those books on your guilt pile. My husband has a stack beside his recliner.

For #10, watch a show – What about some video that has come across your desk and you never have the time for it or a replay of a good message? Or maybe something crazy to make you laugh until the tears roll.

Maybe one of your items needs to be “take a walk” instead of the shower since you probably did that already?

Throw stones in the water or “take Jesus to lunch!” I like this one. And then journal the thoughts that come to you during your lunch. Go someplace with ambiance—whatever is “ambiance” to you. It could be a really nice restaurant or it could be grabbing a gourmet sandwich and sitting by the lake.

And feed the cats? That just means do something that needs to be done but does not take any brain cells to do and very little energy!

Do you rest easy when you’re sick or exhausted or do you soldier on and push through your ailments and times of low joy? I challenge you to make an action plan to rest, test it and share your results with us!

By Carol A. Brown, B.A., M.A.C.I.

Author of The Mystery of Spiritual Sensitivity and Highly Sensitive

WIP (work in progress)— Joy Starters

Benefits of Joy


Image courtesy of Microsoft

Really? You want me to do what??? And I’m supposed to think that will help?  In a word? YES!

Does the thought of building joy cause a cynical smile or do you doubt that it will help much? Little things, like TNT can pack a powerful punch. Here is what joy can do for you.

It may feel weird or foolish

When Chris first started learning about joy, he was pastoring. It felt a little foreign to him because he was so task oriented. He felt, “Who has time for joy? I have work to do!” But as he started practicing joy he found that the more joy he grew, the more he could share with the people around him. It changed the environment where he was working and pastoring. You can expect that it will feel strange.

Practicing joy is like writing with your left hand when you are right handed. It is very awkward—not impossible, just awkward. It doesn’t “feel right.” However, if you keep at it, it becomes comfortable and even legible! It always feels awkward when you first begin a new thing. I used to tell my English students that something worth doing was worth doing wrong until you got it right. We know joy is a “right” state of being, our brains need it, so it is worth putting up with the awkwardness until it comes naturally!

Benefits of Joy

  • Joy provides endurance and strength. You can face pain. The more joy you have, the more you can handle what you feel without “loosing it!”

Jesus said the joy that was set before him enabled Him to endure the cross. Relational joy doesn’t make problems go away, but it keeps the relationship bigger than the problems.

  • Joy helps you recover from upset; which is a good thing. You want to recover when things go wrong, otherwise at night instead of sleeping your mind races because you worry or you are upset about something. Those in leadership face daily challenges and problems from which they need to recover.
  • You can persevere through trials. Joy gives you the strength to be a good leader. Hardship becomes one of the best opportunities to show your character and to be an example for other people. When joy levels drop you are more prone to do and say things that you may regret.
  • Joy gives you strength to live according to your faith and your values. Sometimes when you are overwhelmed, hurt or frustrated, feeling accused, wronged or misunderstood it is easy to forget what is important. Joy is your anchor during the storm. It helps you to remember what is important and to respond in a way that shows a Christ-like character.

Signs of Low Joy

  • Much more susceptible to burnout. You begin to go through the motions of life and ministry. You forget what is important and start to get your needs met in other ways, whether working to hard or too much. The thing about burnout is that there are always warning signs that burnout is around the corner.
  • No longer resting. If you are not resting, you are not quieting and that is a warning sign. When Chris was pastoring he was pretty much burning out. His health started to give away; his marriage was strained; every part of his life was feeling strain—all for the good of the ministry. One of the issues he had overlooked was the need for relational joy.
  • Susceptible to moral failures—Leaders are very good at giving and getting things done, but in the process can break their relational backs. High joy levels give strength and help prevent moral failures.. One of the ongoing observations at Shepherd’s House is #1 there are always warning signs that the plane is going down, and #2, low joy precedes disaster. Just because I have low joy doesn’t mean I’m going to have a disaster. Low joy is the common ingredient in all the train wrecks that Shepherd’s House is called in to consult and repair.
  • The absence of tender responses to weakness. Tender responses to weakness or the lack thereof is another factor in whether the joy levels in a group are high or low. It is common for pastors to feel they don’t have the right to have a problem, or talking about their problem is going to use up too much precious energy. They feel they must keep their lives together, to sound good and make it look good because they are the example. Internally, however, they run on fear and fumes and are not satisfied, not content. So part of joy as a result of a tender response to weakness is learning to share our weaknesses.

Sharing weaknesses helps our joy levels to grow when people respond in tender ways.

Check Your Joy Stick as well as your dip stick!

  • Does your face light up when you see your spouse of your children, your staff or your congregants? That is always a sign of your joy—how are you expressing it? It is very easy with your spouse to assume that he/she knows that you love her/him without actually conveying or showing it or saying, “Honey, I really love you and I want you to know that!” The expression of your care is very important. .
  • “What is on your face?” Whose face lights up to see you? Do you have people in your life who are genuinely glad to see you? I hope so.
  • What do you notice on God’s face toward you? Chris’s memory of growing up in the church was feeling like God was angry with him. Whenever he would think about God his mental image was that God was mad at him and he didn’t particularly want to share his weaknesses with an angry God.

Aaron’s Blessing versus BEEPS

One of the beautiful things about the Emmanuel lifestyle is being able to interact with God and learn what is really on God’s face toward you. If you receive the instruction of Aaron’s blessing, then God’s face would be shining on you. That is a wonderful thought that God’s face is shining on us. When those joy levels begin to drop, we start to replace the need for joy with what Ed Khori has come up with that he calls BEEPS. You may turn to:

  • BEHAVIORS to help you feel better, important or worthy
  • EXPERIENCES that replace joy levels or fulfill a need


  • EVENTS (concerts, races, rock climbing competitions-adrenalin)
  • PEOPLE (forbidden fruit)
  • SUBSTANCES to make you feel better (food, alcohol, drugs, etc.) These are all expressions of what happens when your joy levels start to drop.


Image courtesy of Microsoft

For those in ministry, a very common BEEP is to overwork. When Chris was burned out, (and my husband David also) their identities were based in what they were doing. As long as they were pastoring, speaking, serving and doing all the things that they felt were important to do, they felt of value. But the moment they started to pull back to rest there was a bit of a crisis.

What they needed was to start growing some relational joy. The realization that his joy levels were low is the reason Chris is in ministry today. On the outside he appeared together and successful, but on the inside he was running on fumes. It was time to stop, drop and roll. There was an imbalance. When you are on a teeter-totter by yourself it is not a lot of fun. Something is out of whack.

When your joy levels begin to drop you are vulnerable for artificial expressions of joy and you will notice these especially when you are tired.

  • When you are feeling ragged, run down and tired you are going to notice that you are drawn to an artificial way of growing joy or an artificial way of quieting which would fall into under the BEEPS category.
  • When you are feeling alone or lonely you are going to notice a desire for something to make you feel better. What you really need are people who are glad to be with you and who can share some of what you are going through.
  • When you are overwhelmed, upset and distressed what you need are people who can share, people who are glad to be with you in the middle of your “yuk” however when we try to fix these things and deal with these things on our own, we often can get ourselves in some trouble.

God wired people for joy. There is really no way around this point. When God created you in His image joy was a major part of that image. That means that you were created for relationships where people are glad to be together.

So what is an action step you can take today?

  1. Think of a time of joy when you were glad to be with Jesus, or a friend or family member.
  2. Savor the feelings that memory brings.
  3. Share that joy with a friend, co-worker and with a family member.

See what happens. See how the mood lifts and share with us here! Sharing joy can become addictive…and that’s a good thing!

Blessings, Carol, B.A., M.A.C.I.

Author of The Mystery of Spiritual Sensitivity and Highly Sensitive



Looking for joy? Look here!

In the last post I introduced you to Chris Coursey. He and I are co-authoring a book that at this point we think will be called Joy Starters. Pastors are in a unique position to influence their families, their churches and their communities. We want to pass on practical things that you can implement that will grow joy and bring hope. Chris will be talking a lot about joy and how that little three letter work can revolutionize you ministry, rejuvenate your life and rekindle your marriage.

As a way of exploring the issues that pastors—both men and women—face, Chris has started a Pastor’s Weekly web/teleconference thing. If you would be interested in an interactive event where you can weigh in, ask questions, or share stories, at The Pastor’s Weekly meets every Thursday during the lunch hour, which rotates between the time zones. This blog will parallel the webcasts and augment them. So this post will be about the resources that inform what you hear on the webcasts.

One of Chris’s motivations in all of this is that he spent a large portion of his life feeling like he was not being who God created him to be—not a good feeling. When he came across The Life Model, it answered a lot of his questions and provided a road map to help him grow and build joy, be a better father and husband and lead a successful ministry. Many of us (men and women) in the ministry battle with this same issue of feeling that we are not measuring up—it saps your strength and damages your feelings of worth and belonging when that is running in the background!

This week I want to introduce you to the resources that are behind JoyStreams.

      The Life Model       

LM Cover 4 color.indd

  • The Life Model is a model for human community across all ages and cultures.
  • It helps equip us with skills, tools and character growth to express the best of ourselves
  • It is a practical guide teaching how to recover when things go wrong
  • The Life Model gives clarity on what you need to be successful on good or bad days
  • It helps to strengthen what is weak
  • The Life Model highlights why you need the maturity that happens in a multigenerational community where some people have more maturity than you and some people have less maturity than you.

Most important is that you stay refreshed as you go along. The moment you become crispy yourself it is going to impact your marriage and/or ministry.

Share Immanuel

ShareImmanuel Ibooklet

By following the “Immanuel Process” outlined in this small booklet you can learn to sense and be aware of God being with you which is a vital ingredient, not only in trauma recovery, but in your daily walk with Jesus. We will talk in the Pastor’s Weekly, and on this blog, of “The Immanuel Lifestyle,” which means to live in the awareness that God is with you on all days.

Thrive Training

Then you need some practical skills on how to express the best of yourself under all conditions. We call them “relational brain skills;” we also call them “gentle protector skills.”

  • These skills help you live according to and express your values
  • These skills are strategic and joy based

We train in the 19 relational brain skills. There are 19 different brain skills that your brain needs to be trained in to develop and maintain healthy relationships. Human beings must be trained—a more mature brain to a less mature brain these skills are not instinctual!

The very first skill involves sharing joy. As you can see from this picture, joy is something that people are sharing.


You share joy because you see someone you are glad to be with and someone sees you and hopefully, they are glad to be with you — people want to express joy.

 You may notice that in ministry some days you might be tired and overwhelmed. But if there is someone who is authentically glad to be with you that becomes the bright spot in your day. When the joy levels drop life is not pretty; it is not fun.

What is joy?

1. Joy is primarily very relational. It means quite simply that people are genuinely and authentically glad to be together. It is not a theoretical concept. You feel like you are the sparkle in someone else’s eyes. There is something about that feeling that is life giving; this is good.

Ideally as a pastor and leaders you want your joy levels very high. You want the joy levels of your staff and congregation very high. Getting it there is going to involve people authentically happy to be together. When you are not glad to be together that is okay too, it just means you practice returning to joy from those moments. I am not talking about an artificial smile that you have to wear because people are looking. That will just  use up precious energy. What I am talking about is people who are authentically glad to be together. You convey that genuine gladness with your face and your voice tone.

2. Joy is the result of a tender response to weakness…which means — you are allowed to have weakness! Joy levels grow in the kind of environment where you are allowed to have weakness. You don’t have to hide it or try to be strong. You are interacting together; there is an exchange—our faces light up and joy grows.

For those who are married you also know when joy levels drop–your face no longer lights up and your spouse’s face no longer lights up. When joy levels sink you feel miserable. The good news is that you can change this. There are simple proactive things you can do to grow your joy levels.

An Action Step—Build Some Joy!

1. Take a moment and think of a time when someone was authentically glad to see you. What comes to your mind when you think “Who was glad to see me this morning?” Or, “Who was glad to see me yesterday?” What comes to your mind? Remember that moment. How does it feel, versus when you walk in a room and someone is not glad to see you? You can usually feel those moments in your stomach; your stomach will tell you about that one!

2. Think about the physical reactions—what do you see in their faces? What do you hear in their voices?  What does their body language do? This is a relational joy. Savor the feeling.

3. Share your moment with a friend, co-worker or family member.

The Apostle John in 2 John had many things to write but he did not wish to do so when his readers were hurting. He wanted to come and speak to them face to face so their joy might be full. Jesus expressed a similar sentiment during the last supper when He talked about joy not only growing, but becoming full. If there is the opportunity for your joy becoming full, then there is also the opportunity for your joy levels to drop or sink. You don’t want that.

You want to work proactively to keep your joy levels full. When your joy levels are full it is going to be good for you. It is going to be good for your marriage and ministry because you are more likely to be at your best when joy levels are full. When they are depleted it is just not fun.

Do some joy and be blessed,

Carol Brown, B.A. M.A.C.I                                                                                             Author of The Mystery of Spiritual Sensitivity, Highly Sensitive