Happiness is…

February 28, 2018

What is happiness for you? In a recent post to his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, Jack used this quote from Rousseau – “Happiness is a good bank account, a good cook and a good digestion.” Jack went on to explain that Rousseau was not happy with many things of his day and died at age 66 of what might have been a stress induced stroke. Too many of us are on the same path as Rousseau.

There has been tons of stuff written about happiness – what it is and how to achieve it. There are T-shirts with happiness designs on them, many featuring Snoopy from the smiling-sunCharlie Brown comics. Snoopy is often used as the epitome of carefree happiness and a large emoji industry has grown up built upon creating variations of the well-known happy face emoji.

Happiness is a very personal thing. It is different for each of us and largely self-defined. It might be defined as being the absence of fears or concerns or other distractions in our minds. One has only to watch a young child playing contentedly by themselves to “see” happiness. Contentment is a synonym for happiness and a part of the definition of the root word happy.

Many of us seem to know more about being unhappy than we do about being happy. We don’t allow ourselves to feel happy because we focus too much on the things that we don’t have, which we imagine would make us happy. The entire advertising industry was built to play upon those feelings and to encourage us to continue to strive for that happiness by buying the products that they are selling. We tell ourselves, “I’d really be bored2happy if only I had this new car or that bigger house or whatever shiny thing we see on TV”.  Maybe we think that happiness awaits us at that next promotion level at work. Whatever it is; it nags at us and keeps us unhappy. For some there is unhappiness in their personal relationships because they have a nagging feeling that they would be happier with someone else.

So, how do we achieve contentment and happiness? First, we must strip away the concerns of the world for a moment and re-establish the foundation upon which we stand. We may find that we have wandered away from the solid foundation of our faith in Jesus and God out onto the shifting sands of human desires and concerns. Once we stop believing that God is always with us, knows what we need and will provide for our needs; we begin to let human thoughts about what we need and how to get those things drive our lives. We become unhappy with our lot in life and that unhappiness drives woman-prayingus further and further away from God. We must stop and re-center ourselves back on our faith in God.

If you re-center yourself on your faith, you will immediately find that you also have time to enjoy the relationships that you have with your family and friends. You will not be driven away from them by the unhappy pursuit of more stuff, but rather will re-discover the pleasures that you find in the love of others. You will find contentment with your life, rather than being driven to constantly strive for the next thing that seems to always just out of reach. Your faith will allow you to let go of the unhappy thoughts about what you don’t have and find joy and happiness in what you already have.

So, perhaps happiness is a good relationship with God; rather than a good bank account, a good cook and good digestion. At least that definition of happiness makes more sense and it is so easy to achieve, if you will just let God back into your life. You will find peace, rediscover that child-like feeling of contentment, and be happy again. What’s not to like about that?

So, take that pause. Stick your head up for a minute and think about what is driving you. Re-asses your current relationship with God. Is He off somewhere in the distance, somewhere in a church that you visit every so often; or, is he right here with you each and every day. Do you start each day with that little prayer that I like to use, “Not my will mebut thy will be done” or do you set your jaw and head out determined to face the world and its problems on your own? No matter what level of unhappiness you have sunken to, God is that beacon of light that you can still see off in the distance. Head towards His light. Happiness lives there.

Have a great and happy rest of the week.

Walk like Kung Fu…

February 21, 2018

A recent post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog had this interesting lead-in – “I’m going to walk the earth like Kung Fu.”  (Samuel Jackson)  These words are from the movie, Pulp Fiction, and indicate that there comes a time in life to do other things.  The “Jackson words” were recently spoken by a man who’s closing his comic book store.  “It’s time to move on to a new adventure.”

Jack did some research and discovered that the term Kung Fu has many meanings, one of which is a life-long search for self –improvement, specifically in a particular skill. The key attribute of practicing Kung Fu is continuing to move forward. It is through that constant effort to learn more, master more and move forward that the skill is developed and your Kung Fu becomes strong. “It’s time to move on to a new adventure.”

So, maybe moving on in life, learning new things, meeting new people and developingtime for change new skills helps us strengthen our life Kung Fu. Certainly, becoming sedentary and stopping our learning makes us duller people and is just not healthy. Becoming stuck in the past is really not good, because it is also frustrating. You can’t change the past, no matter how long you think about the coulda, woulda, shoulda’s that come to mind. “It’s time to move on to a new adventure.”

If that job has ended, look for work elsewhere and maybe even try something completely different. If that relationship is over, let it go. If a loved one has passed, remember them fondly, but move on. If one door in your life has shut, look for the next door to open.Walk the earth like Kung Fu. “It’s time to move on to a new adventure.”

This is not to say that you should not learn from the past. Learning from our mistakes or from our experiences is a part of moving forward. A big part of the learning experience insightis categorizing the things from the event that were good and bad and letting go of the bad, or at least filing them away as things not to do again. Most human interaction experiences have both components and we learn to master certain aspects of life by learning from those experiences. We learn from failures, disappointments and heartbreaks that those things didn’t kill us. They didn’t make us happy either; so we resolve to do things differently and better the next time. We strengthen our life Kung Fu because of those hardships. “It’s time to move on to a new adventure.”

So, think about where you are right now. Are you stuck somehow at an inflection point in your life? Are you unable to let go of the past and move on? Maybe you need to look at your future more as an adventure than as a great unknown to be feared. One way to dome that is to replace fear with hope. That hope should be based upon the promise that God has made to us –  “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” —Jeremiah 29:11

Walk the earth like Kung Fu, for the Lord has prepared a wonderful future for you. Have a great day…that future starts now. “It’s time to move on to a new adventure.”

Follow your nose…

February 20, 2018

In yesterday’s post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog, Jack talked about becoming involved with other people’s lives with this quote – “Hey, I found your nose.  It was innose my business again.”  (Unknown)

Jack went on to mention that he has been involved in a few “interventions” that involved substance abuse. So, when is it OK to “stick your nose in?” Certainly, I would think, not in casual situations. If you overhear a conversation between strangers during which something is said that you feel strongly about, take Archie Bunker’s advice (usually to Edith, his wife on the TV show) and “stifle yourself”. Nobody likes to hear the advice or opinions of that type of busybody; so keep them to yourself.

But, what if it is a situation where a good friend of yours is involved? Maybe it is a domestic violence situation or some other marital problem. Maybe it’s not something that dramatic, but just a situation in which you feel that your advice may help. What being kind 1then? I think it best to ask before you advise. Ask if you can help. Ask if they think that there is some value in you sharing your opinion or experiences in similar situations. Basically, you should ask permission to stick your nose into their business. Based upon the response that you get to asking, your nose should be able to tell you whether to go ahead or back off.

So, what about those so-called “interventions”? In most cases interventions are not something that the targeted person has asked for. Most will initially take the position that they don’t want or need your help. Some may make very persuasive arguments that they have everything under control and don’t need or want you to stick your nose into their business. That can put you in a tough spot, especially if you consider them to be a friend.depression4 You don’t want to lose a friend, but you can’t just stand by and do nothing as they spin out of control. In those cases, your nose will tell you that you are doing the right thing, even if your friend doesn’t appreciate it at the time.

In the worst-case scenario, you may have to turn your friend into the authorities to prevent them from harming themselves or others. We have unfortunately become too much of a “don’t snitch” society and too little of a “friends don’t let friends commit crimes” society. Think of it this way – your friend has been possessed by a demon and needs help to escape its grasp. That demon may be drug addiction or depression or any number of other things that can pervert the thinking of the victim. I wrote about demons not too long ago – see https://normsmilfordblog.com/2018/02/03/which-demons-live-within/

In some cases you become “nose dead” to the things going on around you. It’s not that you have gone over to the bad side, it’s actually worse – you’ve become apathetic. The enemy of good is not bad; it is apathy. If you find yourself just not caring about the things reading-biblethat are wrong that you see going on around you, perhaps it is time for a self-intervention. Perhaps you are seeking permission for yourself, before you stick your nose in. Open your bible and find it there. There are tons of references in the bible about doing things for others, but the most direct is this one –  “do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” – Philippians 2:4

What are the interests of other? Your nose knows; trust it to lead you in the right direction. Don’t be a busybody, be a good friend.  “The godly give good advice to their friends; the wicked lead them astray.” – Proverbs 12:26

When in doubt, in the words of  Froot Loops Toucan Sam –  “Follow your nose.”

Get headed in the right direction…

February 18, 2018

On a recent visit to Lei Ting – our local Chinese restaurant – my fortune cookie was full of philosophy, rather than predicting my future. Inside my little cookie was a slip that read – “happiness is a direction, not a destination.”

On the surface that seems to be just a cute little throw-way line, sort of like the line form the movie that said “love is never having to say you‘re sorry.” Both lines actually have a depth to them that bears thoughtful exploring.

When one says that they are not happy, they are heading in the wrong direction, a depression3direction that can lead to anxiety, loneliness and depression. That, too, is a direction and not a destination.  You really don’t want to get to the way stations in that direction. There may also be stops at frustration, anger, remorse and other nasty places in that direction.

So, how does one get turned around and headed in the happiness direction? I have a friend who is a self-proclaimed “Happiness Coach”. He claims that he gets people headed in the happiness direction by sharing his life experiences and learning. I have another friend who is dedicated to “making positive changes in otherbeing kind 1 people’s lives.” She doesn’t call herself a “coach”, but that is what she is doing through her writings and personal sessions with people.

I looked up the word coach and the most fitting definition is “a private teacher who trains someone on a particular topic or skill.” I have always tended to think of sports when I use the term coach, but lately there are any number of things in which people become “coaches”. There are business coaches and life coaches, skills coaches and career coaches, and many others. Most coaches are self-proclaimed, since, unlike therapists or degreed and certified medical specialists, there is no formal training or certification for most of the people who call themselves coaches.

I suppose that it really doesn’t matter that much, so long as the “coach” isn’t dispensing helping-2medicines or trying to play the role of a psychologist or psychiatrist. Using a coach is like having a good talk with your mom or dad when you were a kid; only now you’re grown up and maybe you don’t really want to share your problems with mom or dad. Your coach takes on the role of parent or good buddy, but without the embarrassment factor. That allows them to talk straight to you about things that you may need to change, things that you are doing wrong that are screwing up your life and have you headed in the wrong direction.

Can a coach “make you happy”? No. But, maybe he/she can get your thinking turned around and headed in a new direction, in the direction of happiness. The stops along the way in that direction are much better – peace, clam, and contentment. You’ll be headed prayingtowards a much better place.

If the stops along the happiness trail sound like something that you’ve heard before, maybe it was in church. The direction dictated by a religious faith also promises to take one to peace, calm and contentment. You could seek out and consult your pastor or priest for more on that.  I’m sure that they would like to be your coach for that journey.

So, stop and take a look at where you are currently headed.  If you feel that you are headed in the wrong direction – the direction of unhappiness – send me an email and I’ll smiling-sunforward it to one of my coach friends or maybe you can find a happiness coach in your area. Don’t continue down the path of unhappiness. You really don’t want to go there.

Keeping yourself grounded…

February 16, 2018

In today’s installment of the Jack’s Winning Ways blog, Jack quoted Oprah Winfrey – “Wealth hasn’t changed who I am.  My feet are still on the ground.  I’m just wearing better shoes.”  (Oprah)

Jack went on to write about his experience as a child of The Great Depression, during which his father would put cardboard in his shoes to cover over the holes that had worn through in them. As I thought about that and the quote it instantly flashed in my mind that there are millions of people in the world today who don’t have shoes of any kind, some not that far way in places like Hatti. My second thought was about the thousands who would love to have to worry about their shoes – those who have lost their feet or legs to things like buried land mines. The further down the chain one goes the more humbling the thoughts become.

One doesn’t have to be wealthy to lose contact with the ground (with the reality of the bootsworld around us). It is easy to become complacent, one might use the advertising phrase “nose dead”, to the needs that are right in our own back yards. There is not a city, town, or village in America that does not have people living out on the edge. Some are homeless, many are hungry, some are trapped in the world of substance abuse, some have mental problems, but all need help just to survive. Most of the time we do not “see” these people because we choose not to look. We are too busy with our own lives to worry about them. We think, someone else will take care of them. Sometimes that is ground that we choose not to walk upon, because we might get our nice new shoes all dirty.alexander-andrews-11911

As Christians, we have an obligation not only to see the need all around us, but also to do something about it. It is not enough to put on our new shoes and go sit in church. It is not enough to put a small portion of our money in the collection plate. If you search your heart for the answer to the question, “What would Jesus do?” you would take off your new shoes and go find a homeless person and give them the shoes. For most that is going too far, but at least head in that direction. So, don’t just commiserate with the problem, take some actions. That is the best way to keep yourself grounded in the faith that Jesus was talking about.

Maybe one action that we could all take is to look in our closets and find those 2-3 pairs of shoes that we seldom wear anymore and take them to a donation center of some sort and give them to someone who has no shoes at all. It’s a small step, but a step in the right direction and maybe it gets our feet back on the ground that we should be walking, if we bootswant to walk with Jesus.

Look down today and see beyond your new shoes to see if your feet are still on the ground.

Gaining an appreciation of propitiation…

February 14, 2018

In today’s post to his Jack’s Winning Words blog, jack introduced a word that was new to me – propitiation. In a somewhat teasing move, Jack did not define it in his post; but, rather, he just opined that the modern church needs to do a better job of defining and using the concept behind the word.

Naturally, I rushed immediately look the word up.




the action of propitiating or appeasing a god, spirit, or person.

“he lifted his hands in propitiation”

atonement, especially that of Jesus Christ.

Jack’s post used this quote as its main theme – “Don’t judge someone because they sin differently than you.”  (Unknown)

So, Jack’s point was that Jesus died for all of us and to forgive all of our sins. His death on the cross was the act of propitiation to save us all. Unfortunately, too many so-called Christians have forgotten that or just don’t understand it. They persist in differentiating their sins from those of others who might be different from themselves and who have arrogantwhat they perceive as different, un-Godly sins. Apparently, they have decided that some sins are so egregious to their way of thinking that even Jesus’ death on the cross can’t atone for them. Can you imagine these so-called Christians being judges at the winter Olympics. If a gay ice skater performed a flawless program they would be holding up scores of 2 or 3 because they can’t get past their homophobia. Somehow, the concept of propitiation is eluding them.

In order to be true Christians we must accept that Christ died for the forgiveness all jesus-as-lightsinners and all sins, no matter how egregious they may seem to us. Are the sins of bigotry, racism, hate and prejudice any less than the sin that is perceived by some “Christians” in people who embrace a different sexual orientation? Remembering that Jesus reached out beyond the boundaries of the Jewish faith and lifestyle and welcomed all of the people, who are we to draw new boundaries that exclude some of those whom Jesus would have welcomed?

It saddens me when I encounter religious bigots, especially those who are thumping deviltheir Bibles as they proclaim the sins of others to be outside the power of Jesus to forgive. They have wandered away from the truth and the light and now dwell in the darkness with a new master. They spew forth hate and contempt for those that they see as different and preach the false message of an unforgiving God; a God who somehow has forgotten the act of propitiation that His Son Jesus performed as atonement for all of our sins.

Perhaps the real message that Jack’s post is trying to get across is that we should focus on asking forgiveness for our own sins and not spend time worrying about the sins of others. Who are we to judge anyone else or to judge their sins? We all sin and we are ALL forgiven by Jesus act of propitiation on the cross. Appreciate that.

Have a wonderful and forgiving rest of your week, now that you have an appreciation for Jesus’ propitiation.

Who’s watching you?

February 12, 2018

From a recent post on Jack’s Winning Words comes this little thought provoker –  “Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they’re always watching you.” (Robert Fulghum)

I believe that it’s true that our children learn from watching us and how we react to things that happen.bored They also learn about us from watching how we behave, as do others around us. You don’t have to become paranoid about it; but, it is something to keep in mind, that all of those who are around us on a daily basis either learn something about us from watching or they form some opinion about us based on those observations.

jerkHow many times have you seen someone that you didn’t know do something stupid and immediately you had had the reaction, “What a jerk.” You don’t really know if they are normally a jerk or not, but that was your first impression of them. If you were that person you certainly would hope that this isn’t their lasting impression of you, based upon that one incident.

Every lesson that I’ve ever seen or heard about how to deal with things (usually something requiring a reaction or resolution, such as an objection during a sales pitch) starts with the same piece of advice – pause. It is during that pause that you have the time to collect your thoughts before reacting or responding. It is that moment of reflection that may protect you from being perceived as a jerk, because it gives you the opportunity to respond better than you would have, had you made a knee-jerk reaction (maybe that’s why it’s called a knee-jerk reaction).

You might be surprised, if you pause, how fast your mind can work. You may have seen those sci-fi movies, like the Terminator series where the various options to a threat or problem flash by the cyborg eyes of the Terminator. Our minds can work like that, with WWJDseveral options being quickly presented to deal with the situation at hand. For Christians one option that should come to mind every time is the old standby, “What would Jesus do?” That is a great option because it makes us pause further to think about an answer to that question. Jesus never took the path of the jerk.

Another helpful mindset is to explore the options that an optimist might choose from, rather than visiting the dark list of the pessimist. I used to get angry (my own little version of road rage) when I missed making a stop light or turn signal while driving; but my wife kept calling me out on that smiling-sunand suggesting that I look at the positive side of things by celebrating that I would get to be first on the next green light. Now that has become a little joke for us when I miss a light. She gave me a different place to look for a response.

As you go through this week, keep in mind that all of those around you (including your children) are watching how you handle yourself and react to things that require a response. If you pause and keep the WWJD response in mind or start from an optimistic mindset, you are much less likely to be perceived as a jerk. If you are going to involuntarily be a role model anyway; at least focus upon being a good one.

Who’s watching you?

Get the right base to begin with…

February 9, 2018

The Jack’s Winning Words blog this morning had this little quote – “Just when I think I’ve learned the way to live, life changes.”  (Hugh Prather)

Jack went on to write about lifelong learning to keep up with changing times, which is certainly important. Life goes on and changes occur all around us all of the time. Just when we think we’ve got some technology or social media platform figured out, something new comes along that supplants what we just learned and we’re off on the learning process again.

Much of our “learning” about new things that challenge us is focused upon understanding what it is that is new or different and what new demands those differences are causing. We are always trying to figure out the answer to the question, right-and-wrong“What do you want from me? What decisions do I need to make and what should I base those decisions upon?” Sometimes those decisions have no moral content; but, sometimes they do and that is where having the right moral base is important. It is that base, or moral compass, that allows you to make decisions about right or wrong in life. You know what is wrong. Don’t go there.

If you have a base rooted in faith in God and the teachings of Jesus, you will find that no matter how life changes you are ready to make the right decisions. You will know how to reading-biblelive. You can find that base and helpful tips on how to live in the Bible. Certainly, the Bible makes no mention of Facebook and how you should react to a hurtful post there; but, it does clearly give instructions on how to deal with hate, scorn, or other things that might be aimed at you, no matter what the media. That hurtful Facebook post or that casual critical comment is trying to draw you into a bad place. Don’t go there.

Most of our decisions about things that happen during the day are really trying to answer the questions, “How should I react to that? What should I say or do?” Many people that we may see behaving badly around us don’t have a good moral compassman mad at himself to consult before acting or reacting. They may lash out or lash back at some perceived insult, rather than finding it in their hearts to forgive. Their lives are full of open sores at which they constantly pick and make worse. Don’t go there.

Rather than reacting quickly and perhaps badly to situations and changes in life; stop and reflect on the situation at hand in light of the moral base for your life. Perhaps that perceived slight or off-hand remark about you was really a cry for help from someone being kind 1who desperately needs a friend right now. Maybe it was a wake-up call to you to try harder to understand what is troubling them and find a way to help. It in no way really hurts you, unless you let it. Don’t go there.

Rather, look to the Bible for guidance and find this – . “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” – Ephesians 4:31-32

Get the right base and you will find that no matter how life changes or what it throws at woman-prayingyou, you are prepared to learn how to cope with anything because you are standing on the solid base of your faith. “Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” – John 5:5

Go there, instead.

Break the grip of ego…Be at peace

February 7, 2018

The Jack’s Winning Words blog today featured this saying – “We can have peace if we let go of wanting to change the past and wanting to control the future.”  (Lester Levinson)

Out Pastor always says, “Go in peace, serve the Lord”, at the end of our church service. One of my favorite people, Pastor Doug McMunn of the Milford United Methodist Church often interjects, “Be at peace” into conversations. We also have been given a promise of be at peacea “peace that passes all understanding” when we join Jesus in Heaven.

So, what is this peace that is so important and how might we achieve it? I think today’s saying in Jack’s blog is the key – we must let go. The thing that we must let go of is our ego, the thing within us that drives us to try to understand and change the past and to control the future. Our inability to surrender to God’s will torments us and keeps us from achieving peace.

That constant need to understand and to control is our own ego inserting itself between us and God. I don’t think that there is anything particularly wrong with trying to understand and learn from something that happened in the past, but it is also necessary bored2to let it go, to put it in the past and get on with life. Instead, we beat up ourselves for what we perceive were our mistakes or we blame others for their influence on the outcome of things. There is no peace to be found in playing the “coulda, woulda, shoudla” game over and over in our minds.

Even less peaceful is worrying about the future; fretting about what might happen and how we might be able to control things. Our minds are wonderful things, but left untethered they are as likely to come up with a nightmare, as they are to conjure up a pleasant dream. There is nothing wrong with having some contingency plans in place; however, dwelling on how to control every possible thing that could go wrong is both wasteful and fruitless and certainly not peaceful.

How can one break the grip of our ego’s and be more at peace? Instead of surrendering control of your life to your ego, you can surrender it to God and trust the direction thatman praying He is taking you. I’ve shared the little prayer that I use many time, but I truly believe that it is the key to achieving peace. I just stop myself, usually in the midst of what my ego is telling me is a crisis that I must somehow try to control, and quietly say to God, “Not my will but thy will be done.” I usually experience an immediate sense of peace and the crisis fades into the background noise of life. Try it. Maybe it will help you achieve peace, too.

So, as you go through the rest of the week, put your trust in God and, as Pastor McMunn would say…Be at peace.

Save your eyes…

February 5, 2018

The Jack’s Winning Words blog today used a quote from Mahatma Gandhi – “An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.”  (Mahatma Gandhi)

I thought about that and another popular saying crept into my thinking – “Revenge is a dish best served cold”.

It occurred to me that what Gandhi was saying is that revenge is not a dish to be servedeyes of revenge at all, either within the heat of the moment or in a more calculating way. Seeking revenge for some wrong that one perceives has been committed against them goes directly against the principals of Christianity. In Matthew Chapter 5, verses 38-40, Jesus said, 38 You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’[a]39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.”

It is hard in the heat of the moment to turn the other cheek, as Jesus recommended, when you have been slighted or scorned, or in some other way offended. Our reflexive reaction is often to strike back immediately. I hope that your faith gives have enough self-control to stifle that reflex.  It should be less difficult to do so once the moment has passed and you have time to think about it. It is in that time of reflection that you should regain the perspective that your faith gives you and chose to turn the other cheek, instead.

Taking revenge is often followed by regret for having allowed yourself do so. You realizemen hugging that you have lowered yourself to the level of the person who you believe has wronged you and that never feels good. A second evil action does not make right the initial evil action. Rather, reaching out with forgiveness and love to that person not only makes you feel better, but it may help them, too. They may secretly be regretful of the hurt that they have caused and your forgiveness will bring closure to that regret and may bring you a new friend as well. Nothing works better to smother the flames of hate than a blanket of love thrown over the flames.

So, rather than seeking revenge for the wrongs that you believe someone has perpetrated against you, seek out that person and tell them that you forgive them. Bring reading-bibleclosure in your own mind to the incident and perhaps in their mind, too. In a world to often full of people blinded by the “eye for an eye” manta of revenge, remember another old saying, “In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.”

Turn the other cheek, forgive and keep your eyes open. The world can be a beautiful place if you have the eyes to see it as such. Have a wonderful and forgiving week ahead.