Archive for the ‘happiness’ Category

What Makes Happiness

March 24, 2011

What makes happiness?

1.  Be a friend of God.  Talk to God.  Trust God.

2.  Be grateful.

3.  Love and give.  The fragrance remains on the hand that gives the rose.

4.  Work toward goals that come from the heart.

5.  Learn new things and develop new skills.

6.  Make time to do things that bring enjoyment.

7.  Make time for people who bring joy.  Cultivate nourishing relationships.

8. Laugh.  Make a place for humor and share it.

9.  Capitalize on strengths and talents.

10.  Put beauty in life.

11.  Establish boundaries.

12.  Recognize choices.

Why do they do it?

March 18, 2011

I received a letter from a friend recently.  This man, who retired wealthy, has decided to give up a “Western” comfortable lifestyle and live in West Africa.  He lives in a communal building, sharing a room with two other men.  Their bath consists of a clogged sink, a toilet that flushes maybe one time in 10 because of “city sewer issues”.   The shower has no drain, only a hole leading to the outside, but it works–cold water only.  Rats live under the bed, and food often causes dysentery.  He has lost so much weight nothing fits.  Yet, he is so happy.  He is also well past retirement age.

Why does he do it?  He has sold out to Jesus Christ.  He identifies with the poor as Jesus did, and wants to live among them, sharing the life they live.  He knows for him it was a choice.  They have no choice.  He wants to share the message of God’s love with the poorest of the poor.  And he is able to actually help the poor.  He has a wide variety of skills and a lot of knowledge, and he has helped by starting many projects needing his “know how.”  He doesn’t know how long he will be able to do this, but he takes it a day at a time and lives each day on the “gift of grace.”

I actually know dozens of people who live like this man:  North Americans who live in conditions of hardship to try to make life better for the poor, and to give them hope.  You don’t see these people on the news.  They work quietly, and maybe its for the best, as it would be horrible if they were singled out for acts of terrorism.  As Christians, they work humbly and equally with Christians, Muslims and those who practice ancient religions or no religion.  They would be a goldmine of knowledge on how to get diverse groups to work together.

Why do they do what they do?  In many ways and many words, they all say the same thing.  The love of Jesus changed their hearts and changed their lives.  One man said to me: “When you know about Jesus, admiration for him makes you want to change your life.  When you know Jesus heart to heart, He changes your life and you can never be the same.”  Someone else said, “Jesus puts in so much love it has to come out.”

The 45 Minute Solution

March 2, 2010

When confronting “the blues”, dullness, boredom and the like, I was once given a transforming recipe by a mature and wise pastor.  I call it the 45 Minute Solution.

First, spend 15 minutes a day reading the bible.  Ask the Lord to speak to you through the bible, and you can even ask Him what book of the bible to read.  Personally, I like the gospels, epistles and psalms, but I have never read a book of the bible where I didn’t find a little nugget of gold that met my exact needs at that moment.  Just be aware that God will speak to you if you ask Him and your soul is open and willing to hear Him.

Second, spend 15 minutes a day pouring out your heart to God.  Ask Him for everything you need, lay all your burdens before Him, and don’t forget to thank Him for all the ways you have seen Him help you.

Third, spend 15 minutes a day encouraging someone else’s faith, sharing the hope the Lord has given you.  You can do this through spoken or written words.  You can’t encourage someone else without the encouragement strengthening you, too.  As an old proverb says, the fragrance remains on the hand that gives a rose.

Try this for a couple of weeks.  I promise it will be life changing.

Spiritual Blahs

March 1, 2010

In this season of Lent, we take time for introspection.  Just as we take stock of our relationships and our financial condition, we should also take stock of our relationship with the Lord.  If we find, as many of us do, that we have been taking this relationship for granted, then it needs work in the same way a marriage needs work.  Our primary, close relationships fail for lack of intimacy.  We have quit talking to each other, and soon realize we no longer know what is going on with the other person.  Unlike our human relationships, God always knows what is going on with us.  God always loves us unconditionally, and we can hardly expect that of another human being.  However, there is a price to pay for lack of intimacy with God.  I call it the spiritual blahs. 

Have you ever felt that God was far away, and there was no one really listening when you prayed?  Have you felt uninspired, mildly depressed and just, well, dull?  God never changes, but people change.  We change.  Staying too busy for God leaves our souls in the same condition as a plant that has been left in the darkness too long.

What to do?  Well, the cure for human distance is to start talking , and also start listening.  We can, thankfully, go to God anytime  and apologize for putting too many things on our agenda ahead of our time with Him.  We need to take some time to thank Him for all the good things He has been doing in our lives and the lives of those around us.  Then we need to tell Him, openly, honestly, and thoroughly, what is going on in our world and in our head.  He already knows, of course, but He loves to hear us open our hearts to Him.  Then we need to listen.  Sometimes we will  hear some answers in our minds and hearts.  We just “know” its Him.  We just “know”, because its in line with what we have always known about Him, and it is also in line with our best, most Christlike self.  It doesn’t stroke or appeal to our small self– the selfish, cowardly, prideful self.

The other way to listen is to  read scripture till we begin to see a picture of what He is trying to say to us.  Reading the actual words of Jesus is particularly helpful to me, but so is reading psalms and epistles.  Often I will stop and ask, “Jesus, what are you saying to me, and how do you want me to apply this to my life?”  Then being quiet, the thoughts come again.  When I pray like this, I often find things happening in my circumstances, almost as if He created a special opportunity for me to do the thing He is drawing me to do.

When I take time to pray and listen like this, the blahs disappear, and there’s an excitement in day to day living that should be normal for us, and so often is not.

A Prayer on my 50th Birthday

February 19, 2010

I wrote this prayer on my 50th birthday.  That was quite a few years ago now, but I found it again and want to share it.

Dear Lord, my eternal friend,

Here it is, my 50th birthday.  While I’m not having a full-blown mid-life crisis, I have a lot of mixed feelings about this birthday.  It’s reminding me how short life is, and how little I have accomplished.  When I look at all the youthful dreams I had of what I wanted to do for You, I wonder if I ever will do anything really significant in the time I have left on this earth.  Why does all this matter?  Well, I guess I just want, somehow, to pay you back in some small way for all you’ve done for me.  Love needs a response, and I’m so aware of how much You have loved me.  I want to love You back, and I don’t know how to do that except to love Your people and do good things in this world.  Yet, my love for You is so small, my expressions so inadequate, and I always fall so short of what I intend to do for You.  This love is so much about Your giving and my taking.  What else can I say but thank You.

Thank You for making me.  Thank You that I was created to live here and to know the experience of human life.  Thank You for letting me know You from an early age so that I wouldn’t spend most of my life running away from You in fear, as so many people do.  I can only imagine what that must be like.  Thank You for being there during the saddest and loneliest times of my life, and for letting me know in small, yet personal ways, that You were there for me and heard my prayers.  Thank You for being a God who always listens.

Thank You for giving me sight, hearing, a mind to think clearly, the ability to move freely, and days that are mostly so free of pain that I take my body for granted.  Thank You for the freedom from disease that allows me to serve You with more opportunity than a lot of people have known.

Thank You for the people You’ve given me to live with.  Thank You for good parents.  They were people who loved and respected You, and who gave me a wonderful heritage of their wisdom and strength.  Thank You for a husband who’s the perfect partner for me.  He has taught me more than any human, been there through thick and thin, and filled every empty place.  He has led, supported and loved me for years.   Thank You for the gift of children.  Loving them throughout their lives has been so completely satisfying.  You’ve taught me more about Yourself through the experience of parenthood, for You are the Great Parent.  Thank You for being a partner in our parenting–the largest share of the partnership.  Thank You that despite all my failures as a mother, these children have turned out well.  Thank You for being all they needed and all I wasn’t.  Thank You for the wonderful relatives and friends who have graced my life through the years, whose presence seen and unseen, has been a source of joy and comfort.

And so Lord, what about the future?  I don’t know how many years or days You plan to leave me here.  I know I still have dreams of doing a lot of good things–things I hope will please you.  If the past is any indication though, I’ll fall far short of what I hope to do.  What can I say, Lord, but take me and use me.  Since You always do the lion’s share of whatever we accomplish together, then You please pick what we will do.  I realize there’s going to be three of us in whatever You plan, for You are always thinking about my dear husband, and making plans for us as a couple.  I want to say yes to all of it, Lord.  Use us Lord, and let me serve my sweetheart, as well as You, for all the days You grant us together.

I know some things will change in the future.  If I live long enough here, my body will wear out.  I dread that Lord, and I dread losing, one by one, my abilities to serve You in this world.  Help me to face my limitations with courage.  Help me depend on You.  You have things to teach me, even in my physical weaknesses.  Help me to focus on what I can do for you, not on what I can’t do.  Help me to realize that my weaknesses are blessings, if they force me to depend on you more.  They will make us closer.  And after all, what’s more important than becoming closer to you, if I am soon to see you face to face and live with you forever?

Lord, I’m thinking less now about how many things I can do that spread far and wide.  I’m thinking about what things I can do that will live after I’m gone.  I want my grandchildren and great-grandchildren to know what a wonderful friend You are, how totally trustworthy You are, and how You help them in every way.  Please show me ways to do that Lord.

Last of all Lord, we will make a final journey together.  I know it will come sooner than I think, even if I’m quite old when it comes.  Just as You’ve never left me in life Lord, I trust You’ll hold my hand and walk me through the final passageway.  It will be light then, Lord, and I’ll finally see Your face, which has been in the shadows all these years.  I hope I will also see the faces of all those I’ve known and loved.  If You grant me a last request Lord, it would be that everyone I’ve known would unfold their arms from across their chests and take Your hand.  Give them whatever they need to be able to do that, Lord.

What can I say now Lord, except You are truly the beginning and end of everything.  You are the Love behind all that is good.  Help me complete all I lack in loving You.

The Tunnel

February 17, 2010

A very old and dear lady once described the secret to living a long and happy life, which was to remember that life is a tunnel:

As we walk through the tunnel, gates close behind us, and we cannot turn back, so don’t look back either.  The things behind become darker and more blurred as we travel, and we never see them clearly again.  Don’t look back.

As we walk, we are limited in what we can carry, therefore carry only the best.  Carry the very best memories, carry those lessons learned that have made us better people, but never carry negative memories or negative lessons.  These are too heavy, and keep us from carrying what can really help us on our journey and make it beautiful.  Carry only the treasures, but be sure to carry enough treasures to sustain you and be sure to look at them often.

In the tunnel are many doors.  Some are closed.  Don’t stop to look at them or wonder about them.  It only makes it harder to keep walking.  Some doors are open, but close as we approach them.  Don’t stop to look or wonder at them either, for every time you see a door close, another will open just a little further on.  When you see the door open with the light on, go inside, for good things are waiting there.  Stay as long as the light is on, and when it dims or darkens, move on, again taking what is precious from that room as a gift.

Keep on walking, even when you’re tired, even when you hurt, and when you stumble, get up and keep going.  Notice that there is always a glow ahead.  Looking at it, we feel encouraged.  Behind that glow lives the One who loves us most, and one day as we continue to travel forward, the light will suddenly become very bright, surround us completely, and we will find ourselves in the arms of Jesus.  Therefore keep your eyes on that glow, on the Unseen Presence, and trust in the Love who lives there.

The Story of Santa Claus as I told it to my Children

February 17, 2010

Long ago there was a holy man named Nicholas, who wanted more than anything to give Jesus a gift on his birthday.   But what can you give to someone who owns the whole universe?  Then Nicholas remembered when Jesus walked the earth, He said whatever you do for the least important people,  you do for Him.  So Nicholas decided a very pleasing gift for Jesus would be to visit the children of his city, carrying gifts for them–clothing, food and special things that delight children.  Nicholas did this for years, using a carriage if Christmas were warm, and a sleigh when it snowed.  Eventually God called Nicholas home, and that Christmas all the people wondered who would visit the children on Christmas Eve.  Gradually they realized they could visit the children themselves.  And that year, parents, grandparents, and aunts and uncles, big brothers and big sisters and older cousins and friends, all secretly left gifts for the children on Christmas Eve.  On Christmas morning the children were so surprised.   “Who left these gifts for us?”  they asked.  And the parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, big brothers, big sisters and cousins and friends all smiled and winked and said “Could it be Nicholas, come down from heaven for this one night?”  Well, the tradition continued for years and years, down to this very day .  Nicholas eventually was called Saint Nicholas, and in the language of little children, who can’t always speak plainly, he became Santa Claus.

The Top of the Mountain

December 30, 2009

Once upon a time a young man was told by the wise man of his village that he was to receive a great gift.  Just outside his village was a beautiful, very tall mountain.  Every young man in the village climbed this mountain as a rite of passage into manhood.

The young man strained his eyes to see the mountain peak.  Some days it was covered with cloud, and other days the peak was very clear.  The day after he was told about the gift he would receive, he saw a glint upon the mountain top.  He got a pair of binoculars and looked.  There was a beautiful package on top of the mountain, wrapped in gold and silver and tied with gold and silver twine.  There was no gift tag he could see, but he was sure it was the gift that had been foretold for him.  As he started out to climb the mountain, he saw beside the road, a very large brown sack with his name on it.  He was sure someone was joking about his wonderful gift by leaving such a plain old bag, and he passed it by.

He climbed all day, and in the night he was hungry and thirsty and cold.  He wished he had thought to bring a blanket, water and food, but he remembered that the next day he would receive the great gift on top of the mountain and his discomfort wouldn’t matter then.

He didn’t sleep well for he was very cold.  In the morning he was very hungry and not a little thirsty, but he shrugged it off and began to climb again.  By noon he was very, very weak from hunger and thirst, but he anticipated reaching the package by late afternoon, and by then every need would be satisfied by his present.  By late afternoon, as he approached the gift,  he could see writing on the silver and gold wrapping paper.  The writing said: “wealth, fame, success, admiration”.  His heart beat a little faster as he was sure this package would contain everything his heart desired.  He became weaker and weaker, but at last he reached the package–a box bigger than he was.  He was nearly blinded by the glitter of it all.  He saw the written words, “wealth, fame, success and admiration”, were repeated many times all over the box.  With his last bit of strength, he opened the box, and to his great dismay, it was empty.  He nearly fainted from weariness, weakness, thirst and disappointment.  As he lay near the open box and all the glittering paper, a little creature came by.  Whether the creature was a fairy, an angel or a  human, he couldn’t tell.  The little creature said, “what good are wealth, fame, success and admiration now when you are now dying for what you really need? Nevertheless, I will give you food, water, and the warmth you will need to get back home.  You have climbed the mountain after all, and you are now a man in the eyes of your village”.  “But where is the present I was promised”, demanded the young man.  The creature struggled as it pulled out a large brown bag with the young man’s name on it.  It had a cask of water, food and a big, very warm blanket.  Without this present, he knew, he would never get back home.

The Letdown after Christmas

December 30, 2009

I imagine that this week many people are suffering a post Christmas letdown.  We let ourselves build up a sort of excitement, an anticipation that somehow this Christmas will be satisfying, and at the end of the day, something is still missing.  Not even Christmas satisfied us fully.

We humans are curious beings.  At some level, we know what we need, but we persist in chasing after something else for all the wrong reasons.  We are like desert dwellers who know we need water, yet persist in trying to get the biggest patch of sand.  The one with the most sand wins, and we are all still thirsty.

The only people who are truly satisfied at the end of Christmas are the ones who spent Christmas looking for the One whose birthday it is.  If we can celebrate His coming, thank Him for coming, and ask the one thing He delights in giving us, we will always be satisfied.  The one thing He delights in giving us is more of Himself.  If we go to bed on Christmas Eve asking Him to invade our minds and hearts as we sleep and truly change us to love Him more, we will be surprised at how different our Christmas will be.  Jesus himself is the water we need.  He said so.

Our Lavish God

October 28, 2009

Lord, being in the mountains yesterday was a time of worship.  It was so incredibly beautiful.  Yet these mountains were not always as they are now.  Volcanoes, earthquakes and glaciers shaped what we see.  Nor will they always be as they are now.  Boulders fall,  dam up rivers and create lakes.  Earth moves and rivers are re-routed.  Climate changes.  Wildlife migrates.  Then there are seasons.  The rushing streams of spring make way for the green of summer, the vibrant tones of autumn and finally life slumbers under a blanket of snow.  You didn’t just create a masterpiece and walk away.  You are directing a neverending epic of beauty.  You didn’t have to be so extravagant Lord.  But you are.