Find Your Happy Place…Find God

May 20, 2020

I saw “Find Your Happy Place” on the cover of the Readers Digest that my wife gets. I didn’t read the article in that edition of the Digest, but I did Google “how to find your happy place”. It turns out that there are quite a few places called Happy Place, more than a few of which are bars or liquor stores. Hopefully you don’t find what passes for your happy place in them.

The definitions and advice that comes back when you search on finding your happy place tend to involve doing things to distract and calm your mind, to stop fretting about whatever has been worrying you and focus instead on thoughts that make you happy or that made you happy once. The advice ranged from thoughts of a place that was visually satisfying or remembering an experience that was pleasant. The take-away is that your happy place is a state of mind more than a place.

The process of finding your happy pace is like de-cluttering you r mind; getting rid of all of the thoughts and imagined bad outcomes of whatever you are facing and focusing instead on thoughts that bring happiness into focus in your mind. I have opined here many times about how our imaginations, as wonderful as they are, can take us down rat holes of implausible, yet scary, outcomes to our problems. If we let our imaginations run away with us, we end up depressed about, or terrified about, things that will never happen.

The more that I thought about the advice that was available on finding your happy place, the more that it became clear that  what you were really doing is finding your way back to God. The techniques that are recommended to clear and clam the mind just allow one to get rid of the things that were keeping them from seeing God in their life and reaffirming their trust in Him. Being in one’s happy place allows one to let go of those problems and give them to God. It is a state of mind that allows one to pray, “Not my will, but thy will be done” and to give up ownership of the problem.

In the midst of the worst situation that any of us could have imagined, it is particularly important that we make the effort to find our happy place and re-engage with God. None of us is going to solve this problem by ourselves and for many it will be the most terrible thing that they have had to endure. Yet, waiting patiently in the background, in your happy place, is our God. Find Him and you will be at peace, in your happy place, unafraid of the future.

Find your happy place today…Find God.

Stuck in phase three…

May 17, 2020

I opined here a couple of times about the four phases that I predicted the people of this country would go through in this pandemic – see post What’s Your Plan? And my second post Time for Plan B. Those posts were made in March and April, which now seems like a long time ago. The first phase I liken to the shock and awe. The second phase is fear and anxiety. The third phase is frustration and anger. The fourth phase is when one accepts the current situation (it is what it is) and begins formulating and acting upon plans to make the best of it – finding ways to get on with life.

We have been through phases 1 and 2 and many have made it through phase 3 and moved on to phase 4, which is getting creative about how to live under the changes brought about by “new normal”. However, many seem to be stuck in Phase 3, primarily those who reacted in anger, due to their frustrations. Within a large population there will also ways be a significant portion who out of ignorance, obstinacy,  anger or all three will defy whatever they are advised or ordered to do. These are many of the same people who don’t stop at stop signs, because it is inconvenient for them to have to obey our stinking laws. They run around in T-shirts with “Live Free or Die” on them, which in the case of this pandemic should be changed to Live Free AND Die.

It would be easy to dismiss them as a radical fringe that should be ignored; however, their actions put other innocent people at risk. Unfortunately, when they return from their protest rallies they mix back into society (although some are easy to spot and avoid, since they refuse to wear masks in public) and go about potentially infecting others. When they get sick, they also demand treatment just like others who took precautions. No wonder the health care workers get so disgusted by their protest actions.

As Christians, this is one of those cases where we have to swallow hard and implement the advice that we have been given to “Forgive those who trespass against us”. I’m not sure that prayer is all that effective against anger and stupidity, but it is what we have to work with; so pray for those who can’t seem to get passed phase 3. Pray that patience, understanding and concern for others will overcome their frustration and anger. Pray for them to turn the energy that they are wasting in angry protest towards figuring out how to adapt to a situation that is not likely to change or go away.  Pray for them to go on to phase 4.

If you are one of those people who find themselves stuck in phase 3, you can pray, too. Perhaps praying, “Not my will, but Thy will be done” will help you pivot away from the self-destructive frustration and anger that you feel now and allow you to refocus on what you can be doing in a positive way to move on and adapt to the situation. Perhaps prayer will also help you see that the sacrifices that you have been asked to make are not a usurpation of your freedoms, but were put in place to try to help everyone be safer and able to move forward.

Get unstuck and move on to phase 4. We need your help getting on with life, not your protests. It’s not all about you, it’s all about us and a nation.

Imagine that…

May 8, 2020

From today’s post to the blog Jack’s Winning Words, comes this quote – “The best use of imagination is creativity.  The worst use of imagination is anxiety.”  (DeepakChopra)

It is hard not to be anxious these days. Every unmasked stranger that we pass by, we imagine is a COVID-19 carrier who is exposing us to the virus. Every surface that we touch might have last been touched by an infected person, so we wash our hands or use sanitizer. Every night the reports on the news shows reinforce our worst anxieties. What are we to do?

For one, we can turn our imaginations to being creative about staying safe. We have already seen people being creative about making their own facemasks and many have had to become creative about other things like gloves or making their own hand sanitizer. While we are staying home, we must use our creative side to avoid becoming bored, especially if we have younger children who must be kept busy ot occupied.

We can turn our imaginations towards finding ways to communicate with those whom we cannot visit right now. One doesn’t have to use technology to sit down and write a letter or pick up the phone and make a call to someone that we can’t visit with. Some have used their imaginations to create innovative posts to social media.

So, let’s all use our imaginations in positive ways to get through this crisis. Let’s be creative about how we protect ourselves and others. Let’s create our own “new normal”, rather than just being anxious about it. As Jack pointed out in his blog, we have a God who has advised us – “Be not anxious, for you have a God who cares for you and will never leave you.” 

Imagine that!

Waiting for later is the hard part…

May 7, 2020

In today’s post to his Jack’s Winning Words blog, Pastor Freed used this quote – “If you work hard and run straight, God’s gonna bless you sooner or later.”  (Brian Carroll) He went on to relate about Brian,  who works as a car concierge – a person who will do all of the work to buy a new car for you.

It seems like this current crisis has shown us how hard it is to wait for that blessing. We have become  a nation that is used to instant gratification, sometimes without working at all. We no longer have the patience to write novels; so, we write Tweets. Out “knowledge “is served to us in sound bites, rather than in great lectures. We are not willing to self-quarantine to protect others because what we have to do we feel is more important. For us, waiting is the hard part. We don’t have time for later. Come on God, we have things to; let’s get to the blessings part now.

We have also become a nation obsessed with getting on to the next big thing, owning the next new gadget or having the next new experience. That tends to downplay what we already have, what God has already given us, including the fact that we awoke this morning to another day. Rather than be thankful for what we have already been given, we are constantly striving for the next thing. Rather than enjoying the gifts that we have in hand, we are dissatisfied with what we have yet to achieve or possess. We don’t have time for later. Come on God, we have things to; let’s get to the blessings part now.

This crisis and the Stay at Home time that was government mandated in many areas should have provided the time to pause and thank God for being alive, for not being sick and for all of the other things that you have. Instead, it has driven many to acts of stupidity or worse. Violence in domestic abuse cases is up, suicides are up, shootings are happening over the lack of a mask in public and armed demonstrators have taken to the streets demanding the right to congregate and get sick. We don’t have time for later. Come on God, we have things to; let’s get to the blessings part now.

That’s not how it works. Start with the work hard and run straight part of today’s quote. Basically, that boils down to doing the right things. The right things never involve the anger and stupidity that some are displaying or the violence towards others. Loving thy neighbor as you love yourself does not involve yelling and screaming, or pushing and shoving. We were asked to do the right things by staying at home and practicing social distancing when in public. For many that was easy to comply with, but for a few who don’t have the patience to wait and help stop the spread of the disease, it was impossible. We don’t have time for later. Come on God, we have things to; let’s get to the blessings part now.

We now enter a very dangerous phase of this crisis, when economic and political pressures are forcing government leaders to take actions that they know will cause an increase in the number of deaths – projections from models range as high as 400,000+. Government leaders have decided that the potential death toll is an acceptable trade-off to get the economy running again. We will all soon be at greater risk in our stores and restaurants, at our workplaces and in any gathering of people in public. Our scientists medical professionals have warned us and shown us data that says we are not ready to re-open the country. Our reply… We don’t have time for later. Come on God, we have things to; let’s get to the blessings part now.

Let’s hope that God takes pity on us. He has forgiven a foolish people before; maybe he will forgive us again. Maybe we should all pray for patience, rather than telling God…We don’t have time for later. Come on God, we have things to; let’s get to the blessings part now.

Lest we not be hypocrites, let’s also remember to pray for those who trespass against us (without their masks) as ask for forgiveness for our own trespasses.

Who are you becoming?

May 1, 2020

In his Jack’s Winning Words blog post today, Pastor Jack Freed used this quote –

 “With God it isn’t who you were that matters, it’s who you are becoming.”  (Liz Curtis Higgs)

Every day we have the opportunity to start the journey to becoming someone that we would like to be, rather than continue down the path that we’ve been on.  Most don’t stop to think about that each morning, nor do many actually pause to make a plan to start in that new direction. For most, It is just easier to let momentum continue to carry us in the direction that we’ve been going. We accept the status quo as, “I am”; instead of reaching for, “I could be”.  

The society that we live in doesn’t make that any easier for those whose past includes huge mistakes or even criminal behavior. Society tends to pin labels on those people and make it hard for them to become anything else. In some cases we use stereotypes, in most cases derogatory, to prejudge people or to “keep them in their place”.

But, what if you want to become something else and move to a different place.  What if you want to become known as the person that you are becoming and not as the person that you were? We see the occasional story on the news of the ex-con who turned his/her life around in prison and became a new person and headed in a new direction. In many cases they become advocates for change in other people’s lives.

The stories seldom go deep enough to detail the struggles that they went through to make that change, but it wasn’t easy. Our prison system is not designed to reform and help the inmates make life changes into positive directions as much as it is just designed to serve as a deterrent by the example it sets of the punishment for wrongdoing. The few that emerge from the prison experience having made dramatic life turnarounds did it on their own against huge odds.

The key for many, if not most, of those stories was the inmate’s acceptance of God in their lives. The reason that is so critical is that the first step in making the change was to realize that God forgives them for their past. They can then move on to forgiving themselves and from there to committing to becoming a new person – the person that they want to be.

One does not have to be an incarcerated criminal to undergo this process and make the changes in their life that allow them to become a better person – a person who is happier with who they are.  It is important, however, to seek God’s help as a first step. Accepting God into your life and accepting His forgiveness frees you to forgive yourself and move in a new direction – towards the person that you wish to become.

As you pause in prayer each morning, ask yourself what you will do today to become that person that you want to be and then ask for God’s help in accomplishing those things. It’s not an instant thing, but if you make it a consistent thing in your life you make some small amount of progress towards your goal each day.

Who are you becoming? What is your goal for today? Remember that God’s got your back.

Look for it…it’s still there…Hope

April 13, 2020

Pastor Jack Freed used this quote from the movie Shawshank Redemption in his blog today –

“Hope is a great thing, maybe the best of things.  No good thing ever dies”

Hope never dies, but sometimes it eludes us. Perhaps it is because we are so consumed with fear or anxiety that we fail to look for it. Hope is like an onion with many layers. You may start with I hope things get better soon or perhaps I hope things get back to normal soon. There may be a layer that says, I hope they find a cure for this soon. Right below that hope maybe the layer that says, I hope I don’t get this virus. If you dig down deep enough, at the core for almost everyone is the hope  – I hope I don’t die from this virus.

When one gets down to that level of the onion it is not unusual that one find that hope is joined by faith. Faith and hope together form the foundation for belief – belief in the message and promise of Easter that there is life after death.

As we wait out this pandemic, one can find  guidance and reassurance in the Bible. The book of Romans has quite a few good references to hope –

Romans 5 – “we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope”

As we persevere through the current stay at home lockdown, imagine the character that we are building. Think of it as a long workout at the gym, but we are not building muscle; but, rather, we are building  character. For most of us, this lockdown may be the longest amount of time that we’ve had by ourselves, maybe ever. For some it is building character that they did not know that they had in them and bringing out hope that may have been long forgotten.

Romans 8:24-25 “For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”

Perhaps hope is the best thing. Hope based upon faith and belief is the strongest hope of all. We all need that kind of hope during this prolonged crisis.

Romans 15:13 – “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”

Keep hoping and have patience.

Keep the faith. God be with you.

Time to relight the star…

April 8, 2020
Taken right at dawn coming back from walking the dogs

Years ago I bought a large Star of Bethlehem to use at Christmas time. It is a commercial display piece that is about 4 feet tall and 2 ½ feet across and lights up, so it can be seen from quite a distance. I usually use it as part of the Christmas decorations on my home. Since it is large and positioned on the second floor of the house, I just leave it up year around, but usually only illuminate it during the Christmas season. Until now. I have set it to light up from dusk until dawn until this crisis is over.

The current COVID-19 crisis has put the entire nation on edge and the stay at home order in this state has exacerbated those feelings of fear, uncertainty and doubt. I just felt like it was time to turn the star on again, to give people who see it something to cling to and have faith in.

It is ironic that it is lit during the Holy Week of Easter, yet somehow very appropriate. Christmas and Easter represent the birth and resurrection of hope as well as of our Lord. Now is a time that we all need hope and it is my intention that those seeing the star lit will find some measure of comfort and renewed hope for better days ahead.

If you drive by my house at night and see the star, please don’t honk, just smile and perhaps look over at the loved ones who may be with you in the car and have hope and faith that things will get better.

Be safe out there.