The Saying Goes…

quote-2093519__480[1]

Steve loves those quirky signs we all see in gift shops and coffee shops. They’re usually made out of a slat of wood or a square of canvas and sport short sayings fit for coffee mugs and fortune cookies (and the little paper squares attached to Yogi tea bags.) Every once in a while he’ll take a snapshot of one and text it around to family members, or maybe post it on Facebook. A few days ago I saw one that said,

“If anything can go well it will.”

  • Murphy’s Law in reverse!
  • Romans 8:28 in slang!
  • And, sadly, something you’ll almost never hear anyone say.

But why not? Isn’t it just as likely that the toast will fall jelly side up? Isn’t it possible that getting lost will lead to a new adventure? Really, now, don’t things go well a lot of the time?

It all depends on how we approach life. Yes, there are plenty of hard times to face, plenty of bugs and bugaboos waiting to spoil our plans. But I have to land, every time, on God is in control. The Bible is full of verses commanding us to approach our days with singing and rejoicing. We rejoice

because God is in control.

because he loves us.

because we await eternity.

One of my favorite verses talks about singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord. Isn’t that how we almost always can—and should—start our days? It all starts when the alarm goes off. I went to school where a favorite phrase was “Expect a miracle.” Expectations are everything when it comes to attitude. And why not expect a miracle? In fact, we begin each day with a miracle—the miracle of Christ in us, with us, going before us. And today, like every day, things can and will go well.

Sing!

Trust!

Begin with the end in mind—a day spent in the company of our Lord.

And let me know how your day goes!

Advertisements

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things!

musical-1191029__480[1]

 

 

This week, I’d like to share a few favorites with you.

 

 

 

 

Recent sermon:

“Guardrails of the Heart” Ky Faciane, Bannockburn Baptist Church 2/18/18. Listen here.  (If you’re short on time, start at minute 15.)

Recent Movie:

Wonder. Read about it here.

Older Movie:

The Kid. (The Bruce Willis one, no offense to Christ Pratt, who stars in a movie with the same title.)

Recent Book:

Skirting Tradition by Kay Moser (Fun fiction available here.)

Older Book:

All things written by Hannah Whitall Smith.  Here are a few of her wonderful words:

  • The presence of God is the fortress of his people.
  • What is within us makes or unmakes our joy.
  • Pay no attention to your feelings as a test of your relationship with God, but simply attend to the state of your will and of your faith
  • Never, under any circumstances, give way for one single moment to doubt or discouragement.

New Habit: At least 20 minutes of sunshine every day possible.

Old Recipe: Don’t Knock It ‘Til You’ve Tried It Breakfast Smoothie (For the first time in my life, I don’t get hungry until lunch.)

Into a blender add:

  • 1 ½ cups almond or soy milk
  • 3-4 cups of loosely packed baby spinach
  • 1 banana (unfrozen)
  • 2 T baking cocoa
  • 1-2 T ground flaxseed or chia
  • 2 pitted dates or 1 T honey
  • 1 T vanilla
  • 1 ½ –2 cups frozen blueberries

Blend thoroughly. Serves 2.

Tip: Blend together everything except the berries in the evening and refrigerate. Add the berries the next morning and blend again.

Okay, your turn! What are some of your favorites?

 

Preoccupation or Prayer?

chapel-2980025_1280 church pixabay 12 15 17

Multitasking can lower productivity. A life of distraction hinders happiness. But meditation may actually impact the structure of the brain. Scientists don’t know why, but meditation can reduce anxiety, depression, and pain. Quiet time, prayer, Scripture memorization—these are all part and parcel of a meditative life and are certainly encouraged throughout the Bible. When the day takes on frantic undertones, or when we find it difficult to stay in the present time and place, there’s a good chance that refreshing our devotional habits will help.

Of course we’re called not only to prayer, but to praise, worship, and thanksgiving. Time[1] Magazine reported that people who are grateful tend to feel more content. Gratitude means noticing the good in our lives and being happy for what we have. If one of your “brain ruts” is that of constant comparison or disgruntlement, you’re dragging yourself down. Happy people are seldom bothered by the successes of others. They count their own blessings. They have a biblical perspective: all good things come from God, and he knows what is best for us. Remember, we can change those neural pathways with practice. We don’t need greater wealth or better circumstances to be happy. We need greater appreciation, mindfulness of our blessings, and a willingness to express our gratitude for them. Church helps. It’s an easy place to express our gratitude. Furthermore, when I of Sunday mornings, I think of

  • Music, a proven mood enhancer.
  • Fellowship, touted by many as essential to sustained happiness.
  • Friends. Time says stable, committed relationships matter.
  • Faith. Multiple studies assert that people of faith tend to struggle less with depression and anxiety.
  • Acts of Service: Time insists that charitable giving brings greater happiness than personal spending, and that doing acts of kindness is better still.

Does money buy happiness? No, but it does give us the opportunity to do a scientifically (and Biblically) supported happiness-building activity: spend some on other people. In one study, children as young as 2 years old were given the choice of giving another child small crackers from either their own pile or from that of someone else. They were happier giving away their own crackers! Another study showed that people who commit to doing three or more acts of kindness a week may elevate their happiness level.

Is wanting to be happy a selfish goal? I think not. The Bible talks about rejoicing and gladness and praise. And isn’t it generally unhappy people who become turned in upon themselves, sometimes spreading their gloom as they go? So, let’s make choices that bring good cheer. Currently, only 30% of Americans say they are very happy. Maybe this is the year we can up that number.

[1] The Science of Happiness: New Discoveries for a More Joyful Life, A Time Special Edition, September 9, 2017.

Mindfulness

brain-2062057_1280 mindfulness pixabay 12 14 17On Christmas day, were you present for the presents—really there, consciously engaged in the moment for the whole event? Psychologists Matthew Killingsworth and Daniel Gilbert of Harvard University studied 5,000 people and concluded that adults only spend about 50% of their time in the present moment. Ugh! That leaves many of us severely distracted half of the time.

 

Furthermore, according to Killingsworth and Gilbert, we’re generally happier when we are fully engaged than when we are mentally checked out, even if the activity at hand isn’t one of our favorites. The good news is that our mental wanderings can be curtailed. The more we practice awareness, the more it will become a habit.

So, how do we practice awareness, being present in the moment?

For starters, consider wearing a watch! How often have you pulled out your smart phone to check the time and then decided to “take a moment” to check the news, your text messages, your social media outlets…Suddenly checking the time has taken a lot of time. The average American teen, according to Time, sends and receives more than 3000 text messages a month. Too many of us are letting too many moments slip away via those electronic rectangles. And when we have our eyes on a screen, we are no longer fully engaged in our present time and place. Perhaps we all need to scheduled screen-free breaks in our busy weeks.

Next, stop buying the lie that multitasking is the path to a productive life. When we mentally lean into the next task, (for example, sweeping the floor while composing a memo or mowing the yard while reviewing the day’s to do list) we lay ourselves open to anxiety  and stress while forgoing the happiness of completing a task. Boy am I guilty of that! Emma Seppala, PH.D., author of “The Happiness Track,”[1] teaches that multitasking, rather than helping us accomplish more things faster, actually keeps us from doing anything well.  Undivided attention, on the other hand, brings greater efficiency and a higher level of enjoyment. Worrisome thoughts may be one of our chief distractors, and Jesus plainly said, “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?…Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.[2] Instead, we are told to pray. And that’s where we’ll pick up next week.

[1] HarperOne, © 2016.

[2] Matthew 6:27, 34

More Time to Be Happy

abraham-abe-lincoln-295315_1280 pixabay 12 14 17Time Magazine’s[1] list of “Healthy Habits for Happiness” are right in line with many of the things I believe God would have us do. That list includes:

  • Sleep—an average of 8 hours. Consider this verse from Psalm 127, “In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat—for he grants sleep to those he loves.
  • Exercise—increasingly considered a standard part of treatment for depression. Remember, life in Bible times was, by its very nature, filled with exercise. Think no cars, plenty of farming and shepherding and chopping wood.
  • Sunshine—which boosts synthesis of mood regulating serotonin, and was certainly a natural part of life long ago.
  • Diet. (A few more ideas about that here.)
  • Standing up straight and smiling—yep, even on down days, smiling seems to help. Perhaps that’s a physical part of the choice to rejoice, as in “Let us rejoice today and be glad!”[2]

Abraham Lincoln said, “Most folks are usually about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” We can’t orchestrate our lives to be free of unhappy circumstances. The Apostle Paul said, though, “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”[3] He also said, in that same letter, “Rejoice in the LORD always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”[4]

According to Dennis Charney, dean of the ICAHN School of Medicine, we can train our brains to think a particular way. (So we can teach ourselves to think like Paul!) If we worry all the time, for example, we create a sort of worry rut. The PhD term is a neuronal pathway. Worry, or fear, or plain old grumpiness can become our default. If we choose more positive modes of thinking, of responding to difficulty, we can create new and better brain ruts, so to speak. But we have to work at making those changes. Something called “mindfulness” is a good place to start, and that’s exactly where we’ll start next week.

 

 

 

[1] The Science of Happiness: New Discoveries for a More Joyful Life, A Time Special Edition, September 9, 2017.

[2] Psalm 118: 24b

[3] Philippians 4:12

[4] Philippians 4:4

Time to Be Happy

chicks-2965846_1280 chick or egg pixabay 12 14 17

When you say “Happy New Year!” do you mean it? I do. I believe in being happy.

  • My favorite book is “The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life.”
  • My favorite verse is “May the righteous be glad and rejoice before God; may they be happy and joyful” (Psalm 68:3).
  • And my favorite slogan? “Don’t worry. Be happy.” (More about that here.)

I’m not talking about “pie in the sky, life’s a bowl of cherries” happiness, of course. I love these lines from a hymn by John Sammis: “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.” If we could truly trust God and obey his instructions all the time, I think we would be happy.

Late last year Time Magazine published a special volume called “The Science of Happiness: New Discoveries for a More Joyful Life.”[1] As I read it, I was struck by how many times their reports on the science of happiness lined up with Biblical instruction. And so, over the next few weeks, pulling from Time and God’s Word, I hope to get us started on a happy year.

January is the time when many of us resolve to take better care of ourselves. We start diets, join gyms, and put Post-its on our mirrors to remind us of newly made promises. This verse has me convinced that self-care is ordained by God: “Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God…  So you must honor God with your body” (1 Corinthians 6: 19-20).

Time suggests there’s a relationship between happiness and health, due most likely to the tendency of happier people to make healthier choices. This raises a “chicken or the egg” question. Does health lead to happiness, or does happiness promote health? Time asserts that, while our propensity for happiness is 50% inherited and 10% circumstantial, the other 40% is based on choices we make. Why not make the happiest choices whenever possible? Their list of “Healthy Habits for Happiness” include… Wait. Before I get into that, I’d like to ask you to tell me what tops your list of Healthy Habits for Happiness. I’ll tell you what the scientists had to say next week.

[1] The Science of Happiness: New Discoveries for a More Joyful Life, A Time Special Edition, September 9, 2017.