Posts Tagged ‘Joy’



February 17, 2020

“As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good.” 2 Thess. 3:13

person pointing at black and gray film camera near macbook pro

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An adventure, by definition, is the unusual and exciting, typically hazardous, experience or activity. My wife and I embarked on an activity at the beginning of the year that is not unusual nor hazardous. Yet, adventure seems it’s most earnest title. The title might need to be categorized in order to do it justice. The adventure is more accurately described as an adventure of the mind. While still not unusual, it seems a little mentally hazardous to our self-esteem.

We have become rebels in the Code Red cult of weight loss. This particular cult is exemplified by specific rules; drink your water, get your sleep, eat real food, no snacking, and be done eating by 6:30 PM. Oh, and no sugar!

Our lives have been transformed due to this weight loss adventure. The adventure excitement emanates from when it is working, and swings to discouragement when it does not. One becomes a bit captive to the scale as rebels weigh every day. There is the adventurous excitement of fitting clothing long banished to the museum of “What I Once Was”. Then, there is the hazards of the plateaus of complete rule obedience yet the scale does not display equitable obedience.

These unusually hazardous circumstances baffles the mental resolve of any weight loss adventurer.

assorted map pieces

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This morning my scale sent me into the treacherous waters of uncertainty and questionable resolve. I had done everything right, earning the anticipation of celebrating seeing digits that I have not observed for 2 years. I don’t know why I create weight memorials in categories of 10, but I do. I excitedly anticipated the proclamation that I have once again entered into the 180’s weight class. For me, that can be 189.9 pounds. It simply means that I no longer will see a 1 and a 9 preceding the stubborn pounds that I am incrementally assaulting.

I have been on the frustrating plateau of the 190’s for a month and a half. Yesterday, the plateau of the 190’s was assaulted with monumental resolve and certainty. My morning  started with a chest and back workout of push-ups and pull-ups and ab-ups. Throughout the day, the rules of Code Red were followed like a good rebel religious zealot. The pincer maneuver, to ensure the success of this full assault, was a long bike ride augmented by the vigor of it being a windy day.

The assault had all the elements needed for a celebratory victory over the obstinate 190’s. Except, it didn’t. This morning arose with all the hope of a goal achieved only to be dashed by the reality of a 1.6-pound gain. Rather than basking in the celebratory light of realization, I find myself in the hazardous gloom of reality. Sometimes, when you do everything right, it simply doesn’t work out as planned and we rarely know the reason.

Expectation can be a hazardous adventure. Short-term expectations are the most hazardous. Perseverance characterizes the route through the hazardous barriers of unrealized expectations. One must trust the process, otherwise, hands flung-up in resignation will become the anthem of all our adventures.

Perseverance is essential for all adventurous endeavors; athletic, academic, career, relational, and spiritual. Perseverance is critical in the spiritual life of a Christian. Particularly, when we are residents in a nebulous plateau of spiritual doldrums. One might be doing everything right. One might make great assaults upon a goal with certain expectations only to experience regression and disappointment.

These are the times to trust the process. These are the times to trust the Perfecter.

“And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” Hebrews 12:1b-2a

Too often, we get fixated on the wrong things, just like my fixation with a number on a scale. My goal is not a number on a scale. My goal is to reduce the fat on my body. I want to be fit for all the benefits of fitness. Therefore, the short-term expectations of a scale display should not swing my resolve to such an extent.

empty highway overlooking mountain under dark skies

Equally, my spiritual resolve should not be dependent upon expectations that are surrogates of faithfulness. Our spiritual goal as Christians should be fruitfulness, blossoming from minds set upon the Spirit, eyes fixated upon Jesus, daily; even when we feel unfruitful. The perfection of our faith doesn’t follow a standard operating procedure, nor a regimented timeline.

Jesus is the perfecter of our faith. This means that He is perfecting our faith exactly in the manner that He intends. We just need to trust the Perfecter and keep our eyes fixed on Him while running our race even when the course before us doesn’t seem clearly marked out.

PRAYER: Lord, help me to praise you from the plateaus.  Help me to keep my eyes fixed on you.  Teach me to set my mind on the things of the Spirit.  Thank you for the faith that you have pioneered within me and the perfecting of the faith, which you have already accomplished.  Lord, don’t stop.  Please continue to perfect me in the power of your Spirit for you glory and fruitfulness.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen



February 10, 2020

“And he said to him, ‘Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.’ And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, ‘You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.’” Mark 10:21

grayscale photo of laughing old man

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Odd is the feeling when one’s career ahead is shorter than what lay behind.
There is a transition from hopefulness to practicality.
I don’t know where or when but I suspect the why.

Reality is rarely as alluring as hopefulness.
The basic element of every dream is hopefulness.
Hopefulness colors our perspective with the brightest spectrum of the rainbow.
Reality washes our imagination in the muted hues of monochrome.

Yet, day upon day delivers the lessons of reality.
Reality brings a clarity.
Reality brings a realization of the possible.
Reality brings the responsibility for the practical.

Reality teaches that decisions can be dubious,
plans can be fiction, and
the unforeseen can be pivotal.

A transition seems to correlate, for most, in those middling years.
For those whose hopes were in the lights, age comes with the dimming.
For those whose hopes were based on the worst, they were barely ever young.
But those whose hope endures, eternal youth perseveres.

Youth is not in age; youth is hope.

Many have sought the fountain of youth. It is not found in an elixir. Youth cannot be sustained through the preservation of body, coverings of current fashion, nips, tucks nor amusements.

Youth is internal, eternal.
Youth is not temporal.
An old man can be young.
While, a child can be prematurely old.

Rarely is the source of youthful exuberance acknowledged.
Youthful exuberance flows from the deepest of wells, hope.

Hope hydrates youth.
Hopelessness shrivels the thirsty,
youthful soul when faced with the reality of present and past.

Who was the youngest of all old men?
Was not the man,
who hoped beyond reason,
who hoped beyond biology,
who hoped beyond practically,
the youngest of all old men?
Abraham’s hope was in the promises of God and that hope resulted in agelessness.
Yet, his hope was not in the child. His truest hope was revealed when the child was demanded.

His truest hope was in the Giver of the promise, not the reality of the promise.
Take the reality away and the hope remained.
Abraham was the youngest of old men.

man person people italy

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Who was the oldest of young men?
Was not the man,
who hoped upon his means,
who hoped upon his piety,
who hoped upon his achievement,
the oldest of young men?

The rich young ruler’s hope was in all that he could grasp. When his truest hope was revealed, his youthfulness shriveled into an aged sadness.

His truest hope was in the blessings that he had but not in the Blesser.
Take the reality away and the hope vanished.
The rich young ruler was the oldest of young men.

man in blue and brown plaid dress shirt touching his hair

Photo by Nathan Cowley on

Aging is a blessing. Aging reveals our truest of hope. The oddness one feels as we transition through life is a signal to an opportunity for revelation. The revelation of our truest of hopes. These revelatory opportunities will continue until all is taken away and there is merely the stepping into the promise. Hopefully, that step is taken with the exuberance of ageless youthfulness.

The Christian should be the most youthful of elder, because our hope should be ever increasing as we near our release to Jesus.
Stay young my brothers and sisters.


PRAYER: Lord, I want to live fully in the hope of your salvation.  I don’t want to put my hope on anything this world has to offer.  Help me to love you fully.  Help me to love you and not your blessings.  Help me to be joyful as I age.  I know that I have the tendency to be skeptical and grumpy.  May that not be me.  May I am joyful and happy as I take every step toward you.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen


WORSHIP WEDNESDAY (Rend Collective) – Jan. 13

January 13, 2016

Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.  Nehemiah 8:10

A joyless spirit saps our strength.  Our joy in the Lord extends beyond superficial feelings of happiness.  Joy produces strength, and strength produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to same.

We must never lose our joy.

If you are not feeling the joy of the Lord, then you may need to go back to the Word.

And all the people went their way to eat and drink and to send portions and to make great rejoicing because they had understood the words that were declared to them.  Nehemiah 8:12


Reverse Engineering Happiness (Part 4) – Dec. 13

December 13, 2015

“I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”  John 10:10

This is my fourth post in a series exploring how we can develop an ability to experience happiness as a regular and consistent aspect of our existence and not mere blimps of bliss.  I fully believe that we can reverse engineer happiness.  If you want to read the first three posts on this topic you can find them at: Reverse Engineering Happiness (Part 1), Reverse Engineering Happiness (Part 2), Reverse Engineering Happiness (Part 3).

In Reverse Engineering Happiness (Part 2), I proposed that our happiness is similar to a car’s designed speed for a specific course.  Our happiness is dependent upon the interrelation of our minds (the engine) and physical bodies (the rest of the car).  However, just like speed is not the purpose of a car, happiness is not the purpose of our lives.  Happiness is a relative quality achieved when we are living out the purpose of our lives to our created abilities.

In Reverse Engineering Happiness (Part 3), I proposed that every human being’s purpose is found in the glorification and enjoyment of God.  How that is accomplished is dependent upon what you were designed to transverse.  Happiness is the result of all the components of our lives, mind and body, coming together to fulfill our purpose – what we were designed to do.

However, the mind is the engine of our existence.  A focused mind is an essential component of regular and consistent happiness.  If your mind is not right, we have little hope of fulfilling our purpose.

How do we keep our minds focused on our purpose?

I might be accused of oversimplification but I will share what has worked for me.  I have a very simple filter that I run the decisions of my life through.  I have found that it helps me control a mind that is prone to wander into a myriad of rabbit holes in this confusing world.

I simply filter my thoughts through two questions.

  1. Am I loving God with all my heart, soul, and mind? (Matt. 22:37)

We do what we love.  It is how we are made.  If we get the passion of our life correct, then everything will fall into place no matter what happens to us.  We need to pursue the passion of our life but we must be careful not to follow a false passion.  The majority of times when I have found myself on the negative train, unhappy, or simply numb it is because my mind has wandered from the loveliness of God.

I preach the gospel to myself on a daily basis to refocus my heart, soul, and mind on the loveliness of God.

But God being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.  (Ephesians 2:8-9)

How could I not love a God who has done that for me?  I don’t have to earn anything from God.  I was dead in my trespasses and sin but I have been saved by grace through faith.  That is what I focus my mind upon – it changes everything.

Life falls into focus when I am focused on the treasure who is my savior – Jesus Christ.

If you are not happy, then you should check your focus.  Where has your mind wandered?  If your life is a series of obligations, you are not going to enjoy it and as a result you will not be happy.

When was the last time you simply beheld the loveliness of a merciful God who would send His own son in the likeness of sinful flesh to save you because of the great love with which he loved you?

It is simply glorious – see we are doing our purpose; makes me happy!

O happiness of these times! O unhappiness of these times! Is it not happiness, when there is such plenitude of grace, and of all good things? Is it not unhappiness, when there is so much ingratitude of those that are redeemed?  Guerric, Abbot of Igny

  1. Am I loving my neighbor as myself? (Matt. 22:39)

People can be one of the greatest happiness drains.  Yet, they can also be an incredible resource of happiness.  I have found that the difference often lies within me.  Most people will respond to me in the manner that I represent myself to them but I think there is a deeper truth than a mere quid pro quo.  I try to modify my actions through the filter “how I would like to be treated” based on the deeper truth.

  • Caring & Kind: I want to be loved.  I want people to be kind to me. If want people to care about me, then I should care about them.  We need to practice taking time to value the people in our lives.  We need to be quick with an encouraging word and praise.  It takes a focused mind to really care about people.
  • Gentle & Patient: I have screwed up more times than I can count.  I have never liked it when someone has rudely pointed out my failure and made me feel stupid.  I have always appreciated the person who gently pointed out my failings; gently comforted by hurts; gently helped me through disappointment.  Yet, gentleness takes a focused mind patiently controlling the response to the hurt.
  • Positive & Good: I have never found anything good to come from focusing on the negative.  It is so easy to get sucked into gossip and thinking the worst of other people.  It takes a focused mind to look for the positive and to try do something good.
  • Trustworthy & Restrained: I want to know that someone will not betray me.  I want to know that someone has self-control and will not lash out at me.  It surely takes a focused mind to be faithful and self-controlled towards another person.

This is how I would like to be treated.  It is the golden rule – treat people the way you want to be treated.  There is a secret to the golden rule.  If you look at the characteristics of how I want to be treated, you may notice a theme.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.  (Galatians 5:22)

I want to be treated by someone overflowing with the fruit of the Spirit.  If I am to treat people the way I want to be treated, then I must be overflowing in the fruit of the Spirit.  My response to other people is a work of the Spirit of God in my life and a reflection of Him.

As a result, I am glorifying God by loving my neighbor as myself – we are once again back at our purpose; makes me happy!


I use these filters to reprogram my thinking.  I find it marvelous that even God’s commandments are for our happiness.  We often make things way more complicated than they need to be.  Individuals who become the happiest are those who stay on purpose – glorifying and enjoying God – by focusing their mind using the tools of obedience to God’s commandments.  Pretty simple in concept – often hard in practice.

In the next post, I will give you my suggestions of how to integrate the component of our bodies so that it is in harmony with our minds in achieving our purpose.

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for creating us to experience happiness.   Thank you for giving us a purpose – a meaning to life.  Thank you for giving us minds and bodies specifically blessed and formed to fulfill our purpose in a unique way.   Lord, help us to find our true selves and be all that you have called us to be.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen


Reverse Engineering Happiness (Part 3) – Dec. 7

December 7, 2015

“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 11:31

The problem with happiness is that it’s a difficult thing to detect. It’s discreet and serene by definition. Just when you think you’ve found it, it’s likely just a spark of euphoria, as quick and fleeting as fireworks. Human beings are therefore doomed to feeling happy without knowing it or experiencing brief and unstable glimmers of euphoria. There aren’t many people who have the tantric ability to fully experience happiness, detached from the bliss of euphoria.
Andre Averbug,

I could not disagree more with this quote by Andre Averbug. 

This is my third post in a series exploring how we can develop an ability to fully experience happiness and not mere unstable glimmers of euphoria.  I fully believe that we can reverse engineer happiness to make it a regular and consistent aspect of our existence.  If you want to read the first two posts on this topic you can find them at: Reverse Engineering Happiness (Part 1)Reverse Engineering Happiness (Part 2)

What comes to your mind
upon hearing the term philosopher?


A “selfie” may not be the first likeness conjured from the depths of our mind.  Most people do not think of themselves as philosophical.  However, a philosopher is a person who offers views or theories on profound questions in ethics, metaphysics, logic, and other related fields.  Based on this definition, I contend that every person has played the philosopher because an essentially philosophical question forces the masses into the role.

“The soul needs meaning as much as the body needs food.”
Richard Rohr

“That one must either explain life to oneself
so that it does not seem
to be an evil mockery
by some sort of devil,
or one must shoot oneself.”
Leo Tolstoy

Every thinking person has been plagued by the same question.  We inevitably have to wrestle, in our own way, with one of the most profound questions of human existence – “why am I here”.   The resolution of this question launches every person on a philosophically based trajectory, whether they realize it or not.

The issue is whether you are
a good or poor philosopher. 


Most will tinker with this cosmic question; postulate in a vacuum; mull mystically while never mediating to a revelation for their existence.  Philosophical tinkering has produced an amazing range of answers to the same question.  Goodreads has 450 quotes demonstrating this amazing philosophical range to life’s meaning.

These quotes reveal each author’s personal response to the common question.  I find it fascinating how every quote exposes a profound personal philosophy with the power to navigate the author’s life; their happiness will depend in large part on how their lives unwind around their philosophical tinkering.


The human experience swirls around this simple question. We are indwelled with an inherent desire to matter.  Every person yearns for their existence to extend beyond the realm of mere physical and chemical reactions.

Therefore, the mind searches for the right equation
to satisfy its desire for purpose. 

What is the meaning of human life, or of organic life altogether? To answer this question at all implies a religion. Is there any sense then, you ask, in putting it? I answer, the man who regards his own life and that of his fellow creatures as meaningless is not merely unfortunate but almost disqualified for life.
Albert Einstein

Every Christian has this same desire to matter.  Christians are merely philosophers who have concluded that the God of the Bible is the answer to the profound questions of their lives.  Some may argue that Christians are poor philosophers based on our simplistic notion that God is the answer.  However, the simplicity of an answer does not determine its correctness.

“Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.”
~ Dr. Seuss

“God is the inevitability of humanity’s search for true meaning.”
Jared Brock

Christian theologians have formulated a Biblical response to this primary of human questions that must get communicated to each generation.  The difference of a truly Christian approach is the application of an authority which is missing from the majority of the answers found on Goodreads – the Bible.

“Philosophers can debate the meaning of life,
but you need a Lord who can declare the meaning of life.”
Max Lucado

In my opinion, Christian theology’s best answer to this question comes in the Westminster Catechism.  I appreciate that the very first question of the catechism is this profound philosophical question plaguing mankind.  It also demonstrates the importance of a correct understanding of life’s purpose before we dive into other profound questions.

Question No. 1 – What is the chief and highest end of man?

Answer – Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God and fully to enjoy him forever.

I believe that this is the purpose of every human being.  Life’s meaning is found in the glorification and enjoyment of God.  I used the illustration in my last post that the purpose of a car is motion.  Just like a car, our purpose as human beings is to glorify God and fully to enjoy him forever.  How that is accomplished is dependent upon what we were designed to transverse.

The Problem:  The reason many find happiness a difficult thing to detect or “just a spark of euphoria, as quick and fleeting as fireworks” is because they are glorifying wrongly.  Human beings are doomed to experiencing happiness as brief and unstable glimmers of euphoria when they substitute anything into the place of God.  This is why the philosophical tinkering gets so many people into trouble.  They conclude wrongly the meaning of life and substitute that purpose into the position that was created for God to fill.  This does not mean that they will be devoid of happiness.  We get glimmers of real happiness when we unknowingly brush up against our true purpose, but it is like the misfiring of a poorly functioning car.  It is gone as quickly as our focus bounces back to ourselves and misplaced purpose.  Therefore, many confuse how their happiness is derived and simply try harder in their desperate search to be happy.

The Solution:  Reverse engineering is the process of analyzing a system by identifying the system’s components and their interrelationships.  If I am correct and humans are created with the same purpose and that happiness results in its fulfillment, then the next step in the reverse  engineering process it to identify the components that cause us to fulfill our purpose.

We all have been created with different courses.  The Christian life is about motion along the pathway of Faith; Motion in the form of glorifying and enjoying God, which will be accomplished in as varied manners as there are paths in life.  It is in that motion, living in accordance to our purpose, where the experience of regular and consistent happiness resides.   I’ll give you some principles to discover the interrelationships in your unique life that will help you live in accordance to your purpose.

“God’s design is to glorify himself and to show to the whole universe what an infinitely glorious Being he is. This is his mighty end in all he does and says to manifest himself, and show forth his glory. For this sin was allowed to enter the world; for this the Word was made flesh; for this the Son of God shed his blood and died; for this he is taking out of the world a people to himself; to this all things are tending.”
~ Horatius Bonar

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for creating us to experience happiness.   Thank you for giving us a purpose – a meaning to life.  Thank you for giving us minds and bodies specifically blessed and formed to fulfill our purpose in a unique way.   Lord, help us to find our true selves and be all that you have called us to be.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen


Reverse Engineering Happiness (Part 2) – Nov. 27

November 27, 2015

“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.”  Romans 15:13

In my last post, Reverse Engineering Happiness (Part 1), I asserted a disbelief in a universal formula for happiness, applicable to every person in every circumstance.  Rather, I proposed a belief that a purposeful life produces happiness and as a result the formula for happiness is best derived uniquely.

I recommended that we, as individuals, reverse engineer our happiness.

Almost everything can be reverse engineered.  Reverse engineering can be viewed as the process of analyzing a system by identifying the system’s components and their interrelationships.  If we are to reverse engineer happiness, then we need to identify and analyze the components of happiness and their interrelationships.  This is where the mere concept of happiness gets convoluted.  Happiness can have a variety meanings for different people and during different seasons of life.

I find an analogy helpful in understanding the concept of happiness and how it relates to the essential components that produce it.  Consider an automobile.

An automobile is manufactured from thousands of components for the purpose of motion – it can be slow or fast; powerful or quick; agile or comfortable.  However, the car’s purpose is to move from Point A to Point B, whatever those Points might be.  Often, a car will be specifically designed for a unique route of motion.

A drag race car is designed to go really fast in a straight line;
just don’t expect it to win a stock car race.

A stock car is designed to go really fast in circles;
just don’t expect it to win an off-road race.

A rock crawler is designed to go really fast (relatively)
up a steep pile of rocks;

just don’t expect it to win a pulling competition.

A truck puller is designed to go really fast
in a straight line with a lot of weight;

just don’t expect it to win a drag race.

And then there is the mini-van.
It is designed to get around town with the an entire family
as fast (relatively) as possible;

just don’t expect it to win any race
(unless you have the mini-van in this video).

Each vehicle will complete its prescribed course at a designed speed through the interrelation of the power source (engine) and drivetrain/body (the rest of the car).  All of these vehicles will fail to move if either of these components are missing.  However, the degree of movement is dependent upon how well these components come together.  It is possible for each vehicle to achieve 100% of its design speed if all the components work efficiently together.  Yet, its speed is dependent upon how it was designed to get from Point A to Point B.  If the original design for any of those components is compromised, then the design speed will suffer.

I like to think of happiness as similar to a car’s designed speed for a specific course.  Our happiness is depended upon the interrelation of our minds (the engine) and physical bodies (the rest of the car).  However, just like speed is not the purpose of a car, happiness is not the purpose of our lives.  Happiness is a relative quality achieved when we are living out the purpose of our lives to our created abilities.  It is the sensation of relative speed – the percentage of achieving our design speed; it is the result of all the components of our lives, mind and body, coming together to fulfill our purpose – what we were designed to do.

In reverse engineering happiness, I believe that the components most helpful to analyze are the following:




We will fail to experience happiness
if any of these components are missing or malfunctioning.

This is why I don’t believe that happiness can be formulaic.  These essential components for happiness and their interrelationships will be wonderfully unique for each individual.  My designed happiness will be different from yours.

The course of my life is different than yours.
The abilities of my body are different than yours.
The capabilities of my mind are different than yours.

I believe that when we get these components working in accordance to their unique design then the happiness that we all desire will simply result – will experience our created speed.  We can achieve happiness without it ever being the goal.

While I don’t think that happiness is formulaic, I will make some suggestions in the following posts regarding how to analyze the components and interrelationships of purpose, body, and mind.

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for creating us to experience happiness.   Thank you for giving us a purpose – a meaning to life.  Thank you for giving us minds and bodies specifically blessed and formed to fulfill our purpose in a unique way.   Lord, help us to find our true selves and be all that you have called us to be.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen


Reverse Engineering Happiness (Part 1) – Nov. 24

November 24, 2015

“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.”  Romans 15:13


My daughter’s birthday present was the DVD, “Inside Out”.  The animated movie is about the life and mind of a young girl named Riley.  The premise is that Riley’s emotions (Joy, Sadness, Disgust, Fear, and Anger) live in the headquarters of her mind where they influence her actions and responses.  Every memory comes into Riley’s mind as an orb tinted by the emotion associated with the event.

At the beginning of the movie, Riley’s life has been predominately golden (happy).

Joy Orbs

Not to spoil the movie but the frequency of golden memory orbs decreases significantly when Riley and her family move to a new city.  The most poignant moment for me was Joy’s despair for Riley as she cried “I just wanted Riley to be happy” while Riley’s world seemingly crumbles.

I hate it when cartoons make me cry but this one hit a chord.

What parent has not made that same plea for their children?

I just want my son…my daughter, to have a happy life.

What person hasn’t felt that same desperation when faced with crumbling dreams and hopes, “I just want to be happy.”

I recently typed “How to Find Happiness” into Google, satisfying my curiosity as to what is currently being written on the topic.  Google returned a myriad of articles, which enumerated the necessary steps to achieve happiness.  I was struck by the definitiveness of the titles.  “Top 7 Tips for How to be Happy”; “10 Simple Ways to Find Happiness”; “3 Ways to Find Happiness Within You”.

The general impression given from my exploration was an implied assumption that happiness is formulaic.  How else can you put it into 3 easy steps?  I imagined visitors driven to these sites by their own emotion of Joy, searching for the elusive ingredients to answer the question “How can I be happy?”; desperate to achieve a golden tint in their lives.

I think it is a mistake to think that the formula
for my happiness will be the same as yours. 

We are unique humans.  We all have different strengths and weaknesses.  We have been born with different advantages and disadvantages.  We have known different successes and failures.   We are at different levels of maturity.  Few of the “how to be happy” lists seemed to account for these differences.  They provided very generic slogans like “recognize the love within you” or “motivate yourself to quit looking back”, which I doubt are very helpful to someone despondent in sadness.

Happiness is a God-given emotion.
There was a reason that he gave us happiness.
I believe that happiness in the form of joy (gladness) is available to every person.

I have seen too many people quietly losing their self, who they were…who they are…who they might be, as the years mechanically progress, producing orbs tinted by every color of the spectrum but gold.

“The greatest hazard of all, losing one’s self, can occur very quietly in the world, as if it were nothing at all. No other loss can occur so quietly; any other loss – an arm, a leg, five dollars, a wife, etc. – is sure to be noticed.”
― Søren Kierkegaard

I don’t have three guaranteed steps to achieve happiness.  I have yet to see a universal formula for happiness that will fit every person in every circumstance.  Rather, I believe that happiness is the product of a purposeful life.  Therefore, the formula for happiness is going to be derived uniquely.

For the currently happy, you may not care that much about how you came to be happy.

I am writing for the currently despairing; those who may have searched Google for more than curiosity.  To those, I want to give some tools that I have found helpful to reverse engineer my happiness.

You need to individually take the final product (happiness) that you intend to achieve and deconstruct it in order to discover the elements required to produce the desired end result.  This process of reverse engineering allows you to account for your current circumstances, health, strengths, and weaknesses in your unique joy producing formula.

In the next couple posts, I will give you what I think are the essentials to reverse engineering happiness. 

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for creating us to experience happiness.   Thank you for giving us gifts through which we can experience happiness.  Lord, help us to find our true selves and be all that you have called us to be.  Don’t let us quietly be lost in an ever progressing world.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen



July 13, 2014

“Thus you will recognize them by their fruit.” Matthew 7:20

English: Recreational floaters on the Boise Ri...

My family and I recently floated the Boise River. While we waited in the rental line, I noticed a man in line before us. This man was probably in his fifth decade but he had a striking characteristic. He had fabulous legs. He did not have the legs of a middle-aged man. His legs were so distinct that I nudged my wife and whispered, “Check out the legs on that dude.”

the-razors-edgeThese were legs to be admired. They were chiseled masterpieces of bronzed muscle. The definition of his calf muscles hinted to a power unusual for a man of his age. The large veins that traveled along the inside of the ankle were visible up across his shins noting an uncommon endurance. It was obvious that these fabulous legs had been crafted over years of rigorous training and hours of intense activity. These sorts of legs don’t just happen.

These were the legs of an athlete.

It did not take much insight to determine what activity had crafted these legs. The tan-lines had distinct edges starting just above the ankle and ending just beyond the knee. However, the conclusive clue was what was missing. There was a feature normal to a man that was absent from these legs.

His upper body demonstrated a genetic ability to grow a furry coat. However, the legs contradicted his natural state. These legs had been groomed clean. There is only one type of athlete, who has legs that are muscled to the point of veins, tanned in this particular pattern, and shaven.tan-lines1

These were the legs of a cyclist – a long-time cyclist.

As I admired these fabulous legs, I narcissistically wondered what the person behind me thought about my legs. I wondered if my athleticism was as evident in my conditioning. As I glanced back at my own calves, giving them a little flex, I questioned how well my continence revealed the passions of my life to an examining eye.

Beyond my vanity, the important passion of life looms large. I really care very little about getting recognized for a great pair of legs. However, there are characteristics that I hope are recognizable in a casual observation.

Does the person next in line see self-control in my behavior?
Has my wife come to expect gentleness in my response?
Are my kids accustomed to patience and kindness in my reactions?
Do my co-workers consider me a peaceful person?
Would my biography describe me as a joyful and good man?
Am I recognized by love and faithfulness?

Our passions are obvious to those around us and the fruit of our lives are revealed in a myriad of manners. I hope that we all can be identified by characteristics that are more important than a fabulous pair of legs.

PRAYER: Father, I want to be known by the fruit of your Spirit.  I want to be recognized as a child of God.  Lord, continue your work within my heart.  Transform me into your likeness.  May the world see you in my life for your glory.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen



April 20, 2014

“And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.” 1 Corinthians 15:17-18

 Easter changes everything.

 If Christ had not been raised then…

… Church wastes a Sunday.
… prayer is merely meditation.
… the Bible is a best-selling self-help book.
cross… charity is a utopian ideal.
… faith is a crutch.
… self-denial is a waste of effort.
… happiness is fleeting.
… everlasting joy is a myth.
… peace is impossible.
… God is unknown.
… sin remains.
… God does not love us.
… suffering is without meaning.
… this is as good as it gets.
…our future is a grave.
… we are fools.

Easter changes everything.

Because Christ has risen, we know …

… He is the messiah.
… the prophesies have been fulfilled.
… the penalty of sin has been paid.
… the curse of sin is removed.
… death has been defeated.
… the kingdom of God will be established.
… all things are possible.
… eternal life awaits beyond the grave.
… glory will be revealed to us.
… suffering has purpose.
… we are loved by God.
… our faith is not in vain.
… we are not fools.
… we are children of God.
… we are heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ.

empty-tombEaster changes everything.

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord,
knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

(1 Corinthians 15:58)

PRAYER: Father, thank you for Easter.  Thank you for raising your Son from the grave.  Thank you for keeping all of your promises.  Thank you for redeeming me.  Thank you for giving hope and eternal life.  I praise your name on this glorious day for what you have done.    I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

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March 19, 2014

“Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven – for she loved much.  But he who is forgiven little loves little.”  Luke 7:47

We have all seen reactions of the unexpected.

RMHK-Michael / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

The joy of the one who expected to stay seated when the awarder calls their name;

The exhilaration when an unachievable goal is achieved;

The shocked speechlessness at the generosity of a gift;

The tearful gratitude when the defenseless is defended.

The daily grind of my days may have ephemeral hints of these diffused emotions, but not as frequent as I think that it should.

More often, my days begin and end in the structure of muted routine.

The morning of another day commences with the structure of a Bible reading plan – a little Old Testament, a little New, bashed with some Psalms and garnished with contemplation.

The day is lived managing the cares and troubles allotted.

Evening ushers the day to closure with some reading and prayer – mostly focused upon the day previous and the one to come.

FredBaby13 / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

The faithful practice of the Christian faith can lead us into an attitude of the entitlement and wonderless-ness.  We can become accustomed to our salvation.  We expect our name to be called.  We can be so familiar with the bridge that spans the unachievable gap that we bounce and play on it.  Our words run on with academic “isms” in abstruse explanations of the marvelous gift freely given.  We walk confidently in the obligated defense of covenant.

I wonder whose attitude my daily existence most often reflects?

Simon the Pharisee – who did not wash Christ’s feet, never gave Him a kiss, and neglected to anoint his head.

The sinful woman of the city – who washed Christ’s feet with tears of gratitude, soiled her hair to dry His feet, and willingly gave expensive oil to anoint His head.

The reality of this comparison is displeasing .

I have a need that is greater than a desire for fresh revelation.
I require nutrition of something greater than a fresh telling of old truths.
I have a want that comes from a well deeper than spiritual discipline.
I have an essential necessity for remembrance.

Followers of Christ need to remember.  We should frequently remind ourselves of who we were.  We must regularly preach the gospel to our own soul.  We must daily acknowledge the unsanctified reality of our hearts.  We must practice marveling at the perfection of Christ in contrast to our imperfection.  We are not good.  We are not worthy.  All that we have to offer are filthy rags.

We need to live in the joy of our salvation so that we will live in the gratitude of the sinful woman of the city.

Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice.  Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.  Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.  Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me.  Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.  Psalm 51:8-12

May we be a people who remember what has been done for us and take ecstatic joy in His salvation of our souls.

PRAYER: Father, restore to me the joy of your salvation.  Uphold me with a willing spirit.  Open my eyes to the wonder of what you have given me.  Forgive me for living ungratefully and entitled.  Renew a right spirit within me.  Help me to remember the beauty of the gospel.  Revive my dry attitude that has come with familiarity.  You have been so good to me.  You have blessed me with so much.  I was lost in my sin, worthy of your condemnation, and yet you saved me while I was still in rebellion against you.  Your love to me is abounding.  Your mercy is without boundaries.  Your grace is beyond comprehension.  Thank you – with all my heart and soul.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

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