Posts Tagged ‘joy’

The Inevitable Result of Great Expectations

December 26, 2016

Clark Griswald had built up a great expectation of a “fun, old-fashioned, family Christmas”. It all went wrong, of course. Or the movie “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” wouldn’t be funny.

One of the subtleties within the movie revealed that the “old-fashioned” Christmas gatherings were not fun. They were stressful. 

And talk about stress–from the failure to bring a power saw to cut down the “perfect, Griswald family tree” at the tree farm, to the dried out tree that flames out, to the new tree from the front yard that contained a squirrel, then the dog and squirrel destroying the house, to the SWAT team–there was plenty to go around.

Some expectations stress us out. And everyone around us. Stress breeds like rabbits.

Jewish people 2,000 years ago (plus or minus a couple of hundred years) had built up great expectations for a new king (called Messiah, or in Greek, Christ–the anointed one of God).

Jesus came. But he fulfilled a bunch of other expectations than what many had. It was a confusion time for many.

Still confusing today.

The disagreements stress out many. Cause many splits among people.

Do you continually build great expectations only to be crushed by reality?

Do you allow others’ differing expectations of the same event to derail your own hopes?

Advent is another way of saying expectation. 

Perhaps that one expectation has been fulfilled. But perhaps we continue to build other expectations. 

Be careful what you hope for.

What is your expectation in the light of Jesus coming?

Ten Lessons for Long Life – Something We Need Now

November 30, 2016

I have published this slide before, but I thought that some of the points needed an emphasis these days.

Let us consider “More Laughter; Less Anger.”

Some people may say, “But times are bad, we need to express anger at ( fill in your favorite hate here   ).” You can’t talk facts to emotion, but we are actually in general much better off than previous generations. Even “poor” people can go to Wal-Mart and buy cheap stuff–but still stuff that the middle class or wealthy have. We live in much larger houses. Most of us have plenty of cars. Many of us have storage sheds either in our back yards or that we rent to hold our stuff.

We can choose to find humor and laugh more.

Let us also consider “More Giving; Less Wanting.”

We want so much stuff. We want higher paying jobs–without putting forth the effort to learn new skills or deepen our knowledge. People who mindfully set aside money to give to specific charities find they can live on the rest adequately. They find that they actually have plenty.

Or as a Buddhist proverb says, “Enough is a feast.”

“More chewing; Less swallowing.” Let’s slow down. Enjoy what we have. We’ll eat less–something most of us need to practice.

We choose these lifestyles. We choose the path of unhealthy negativity. We can also choose the path of health, enjoyment, generosity.

These are all disciplines. We choose to be a better person that people want to be around.

Especially these days, let’s try the More Laughing; Less Anger route. You can choose to let the President-Elect get your emotions riled up one way or the other. Or, you can choose to walk with God secure in the knowledge that we know who wins in the end. And it’s not politics.

God’s Grace Is Better Than Rules

January 5, 2016

One thing about rules–everyone can have their own set. And feel good about it. A set of rules that we say we’re following places us apart from other people. And at a higher plane. We feel closer to God.

When I scan the news of the day, I see self-described “Christians” or people the news media enjoys calling “Christians” doing all manner of bad or evil things all justified by saying that they are following their set of god-given rules.

Maybe that is a reason Andy Stanley likes to say that calling yourself a Christian is pretty meaningless since it’s so hard to define. Jesus-follower, though, that is very well defined and hard to do.

I’ve been deep in study of Paul’s letter to the Galatians. He shows his anger and disappointment in those early believers because they slipped back into being rule followers instead of grace accepters.

Very early in the journal of the Acts of the Apostles, Mr. Jewish Christian himself, Peter, is shown by God that the Gospel and God’s Grace are available to all. Forget the rules that set Jews apart from everyone else. The Gospel breaks that all apart.

Grace is sufficient.

My heart breaks when I see people who think that they are following Jesus overcome with anger and hate and drawing up rules that set them apart from others.

That is the very attitude that has driven so many people I know away from the church and made them suspicious of the Gospel.

It’s easy to see why. Would you rather join a group that is suspicious of outsiders, bound up with rules, and shuns or even hates people who are different–or join a group that is welcoming, laughs and smiles a lot, sings, helps people in need whoever and wherever they are?

Every once in a while step back and look at the groups you are a part of–church, small group, service organization. See it with the eyes of an outsider. Is it welcoming? Is it helpful? Does it reveal God’s grace to others?

If not, it’s time to either work to change it or to say good-bye and find another group.

We teach new soccer referees that the profession is the only one where you are expected to be perfect from the first minute you set foot on the pitch and then improve!

Sometimes we treat people coming into church the same way. You need to be perfect according to our rules before you come–and then get better!

Grace says, join us first. Discover grace. We’ll get better together.

Don’t Live in Denial

August 5, 2015

“Every day ain’t a happy day.”

Have you ever met someone who is perpetually happy? They are always smiling. Do you wonder if they ever crash?

I was listening to Harvey Carey speak at Willow Creek on podcast from the Aug. 1 gathering while taking my annual run along Lady Bird Lake (Colorado River) in downtown Austin, Texas. I’m attending a technology conference and had a long day on Monday. So no post yesterday.

He told a story about a “testamonial” service at a little Baptist church in the south. 

A woman stood up and said she would like to give her testamonial. “Ever since I accepted Jesus 35 years ago, I’ve never had a bad day. The enemy has never entered my life.”

The pastor said to the congregation, “Let’s pray for this woman.” She said, “Why?” He replied, “When you are walking with the Lord, you will face headwinds from the enemy. If you are not walking against him, then you are walking with him.”

Carey said, “Every day ain’t a happy day.”

When I meet someone who is a little “over the top”, my internal sensors go on alert. 

We will all have bad days. Stuff happens. The key isn’t that we are happy 24/7. The key really is living through the bad days in the hope of the joy that will come.

That is reality. Living otherwise is living in denial.

Now What?

April 6, 2015

Easter is over. Many of us had beautiful worship experiences. Worship leaders went all out to provide music and speaking designed to lift our spirits and emotions.

How was your worship? Meaningful? Do you feel charged up, reinvigorated with the remembrance of the foundation of the Christian faith–the resurrection of Jesus?

Now, you’re up. It’s Monday. You’re returning to work. To normal life. With its difficult people, challenging tasks, things left undone.

Now what?

How do we take the experience of the risen Lord and live today? Live in this moment?

Will your life be different today from Friday?

Paul reminded us that we have to go back to work. We can’t live our lives totally in worship and meditation. At some point we have to go out and work. Provide for bodily needs–food, shelter. Serve others. Witness our changed lives.

We return to work refreshed, renewed. We take with us a deeper understanding of peace, joy, perseverance. And the presence of God.

Try Easy to Find Happiness

January 28, 2015

The very first time I was introduced to the “personal development guru” genre was in the late 1970s. The guy (I forget his name, now) “gave” us all Day-Timers for organizing our tasks, goals and time, taught us Transcendental Meditation (“ram” the sound of the third chokra, or energy center in the body, the seat of power), and left us with a thought, “try easy.”

By that he meant try to achieve, but take it easy. If it doesn’t happen, so be it. Work hard, but allow space for the unexpected.

Someone recently wrote about chronically unhappy people. One contributor was attempting (or thinking you can) control your life.

Ever notice people who are “control freaks?” They try to control all the outcomes of their life. They will be successful, the boss, rich, happy. They write goals and then try to micromanage the effort to control the outcome.

Many not only try to control every outcome of their life, they also try to control your life. They like to tell everyone else how to live second-by-second. They are a joy to have around—not.

Do you know controlling people—either aggressively so or passive-aggressively so—who say they aren’t? They say things like, “I know God is in control,” yet their lives betray their lack of confidence in that statement.

Life goals are good. Although writing a goal such as “I’ll lose 15 pounds this year” is laudable. But if you try controlling the achievement of that goal through will power, you’ll wind up unhappy.

If you see yourself as becoming fit, trim and 15 pounds lighter, and then look at your lifestyle and change some habits, then you’ll find yourself changing and maybe achieving that “try easy” frame of mind. You have established a habit of not snacking on high calorie junk. A habit of going to the gym. A habit of the group exercise class. If you miss one? So what, I’m in the habit of going and I return next day.

Same with deepening your spiritual life. There are so many people who talk about “loving the Lord” or “being a Christian”, yet they seem so unhappy.

Maybe just deciding to drop the burden of trying to control themselves and others that they may not even realize they are carrying will be the first step of freedom from their own self-imposed control. Maybe a new habit develops of thinking about others first. Not to control what they do, but to understand what they need and be there to help.

A change in attitude toward control will change the permanent orientation of your life from unhappy to joyful.

Try easy.

Do The Same Thing, Expect Different Results

December 11, 2014

Doing the same thing over and over, and expecting different results.
Definition of insanity

A couple of people, maybe more, have entered my life over the past couple of years. They are not encountering the kind of success that they wish for. Yet, they don’t want to change what they are doing.

I sit in my chair reading Scripture and meditating in the morning. The Christmas tree is lit. It’s the same tree as the last many years. It’s a beautifully decorated tree (thanks to my wife, not me). And I’m meditating on why don’t I feel the “Christmas spirit” around me?

Some people are putting up lights. But as I go to the store and hang out at Starbucks, I hear little of “Merry Christmas.”

The economy is good, overall. Yet, people don’t seem as joyful as I remember in the past. Church seems to be going through the motions of the same stuff. Routine.

Doing the same thing over and over expecting different results.

We need the assurances of traditions (watching “Christmas Vacation” which we have not even done yet this year!), yet we need to bring in new traditions. New ways of building the anticipation.

We know the end of the story. But every story has a beginning. This one is how God revealed himself to the world. A bigger story than Moses. That story led to the Law–which didn’t work. This story leads to the resurrection. That changed everything. We have no Advent without resurrection.

For some reason, I’m in two small groups studying Romans. I’m afraid I might start speaking Latin again. Why Romans? “By faith you are saved through grace.”

Part of this faith is reliving the amazing way that God revealed himself to the world. Totally unexpected. Well, many people were praying and watching for the glory of the Lord to appear. They just didn’t expect the type of Messiah that Jesus was. But it was all so amazing.

Maybe spreading that joy begins with each of us! Merry Christmas.