The Quest: Part three

Okay buckle up, because it’s time to tackle question No#3 “How can I be happy?”

This is definitely rocky ground right here. When it comes to happiness, people tend to fall into two categories (with a small fringe exception.)

The first category is made up of people who think happiness is the supreme goal in life and they are people who think happiness is the supreme goal in life and they are constantly chasing it.

The second category is of people who wish they were happy but have concluded it is impossible for them to be so.

On the fringe (both ends of it) are either people who act happy all the time because of some denial-of-reality world view; or people who think happiness in unimportant and live for some other cause.

As depressing as that is, there is another choice and blessed are those who make it. If you’ve read the “About me” you know that I started this blog for the purpose of hope, among other things. In my Christian faith there is a person known as the Holy Spirit, when the Holy Spirit is around certain traits appear, among which are love, hope, joy, and peace. I want to talk about joy and peace a bit.

I’m going to refer to a recent movie “Inside Out.” (Comment if you’d like movie or books reviews to be a thing on this blog, or a good site to get them.) Even if you’ve only seen previews you likely gathered that the Joy character is really happiness/positively; and sadness was really depression and negatively. What does it matter? Well, the story was sad but it had a good ending. I’m not going to outline it, but I was intrigued because so often people assume joy is just an elevated form of happiness. Joy is a mysterious thing which no one has ever been able to explain or define, only those who experience it know what it is. Happiness, dear friends, is a feeling and an attitude. Which is fine and I am not bashing it. I want to be happy as much as the next person; but, chasing happiness is not the way to get it. Happiness is a bit like a wild bird. If you chase it, it flies away. It might come close if you don’t try to catch it. Happiness as a feeling can depend on everything from how your day goes, to what you eat, to hormones. Happiness as an attitude is entirely up to you. (That’s where positivity is a big help.) But I propose that Happiness does not satisfy, you always want more.

So then, if you’re wiling, go a little deeper. Deep happiness comes from peace. Peace is one world almost nobody knows the meaning of anymore. Stress. Fear. disaster. Tragedy, Insane. Unstable. Those are the words of our cultures, no matter where you live. These words get in our minds and our souls and affect us more than we realize. Try an experiment. Unplug from everything for even ten minutes and if you succeed, what emotions start rising to the surface?

Love. I talked a little about it in part two and I’ll be talking more about it later, so suffice it to say, there is no joy or peace where there is no love.

Joy does not come from having a perfect life but from having an imperfect one and overcoming. Joy is akin to the thrill of winning a championship, or in any sport you’ve worked hard at to excel in. That is joy; but joy goes even deeper still. Joy is what comes from knowing all is well, or all will be well. Joy is the exhilaration of realizing you will be finishing the race no matter what obstacles are thrown at you. Joy is also present when someone forgives you from their heart or does an act of true love for you. When you feel like your heart is singing, joy is the song. Maybe you’ve never felt it, and that’s okay, I spent many years when joy was a foreign concept to me. I will unashamedly admit I never tasted joy or peace till I became a Christian in 2012. Joy also comes when you feel right inside; and joy does not shut out sadness nor ignore it. I want to be clear, sadness in not depression nor negativity, though it can turn into those things. (If you struggle with depression, and especially if you take medication, I strongly recommend looking up Dr. Caroline Leaf, you can find her on YouTube and she’s also written books.) Joy will shut out both depression and negativity, but as I said, not sadness. Joy is the strength to accept sadness yet still know deep down that it’s all going to be okay. A human being can not make themselves joyful, but they can open themselves up to it. Joy can never be taken by force, nor self-generated, only given. The beautiful thing is when we have joy, sooner or later, we will be happy. Provided we do not let anything steal it. (Hint: Don’t suppress anger or pretend any negative emotions do not exist, not that you should take them out on other people, deal with them in a mature way. I give them to God, and I journal, ad sometimes vent to a trusted person.)

Giving joy is a really good way to keep it in yourself; and soaking up beauty or hanging out with good friends are two great ways to get some; but it originally only comes from one Being, and I think you all know who I mean. That’s today’s truth: “If you want to have joy go to the source.”

The Quest: Part Two

Imagine blogger speaking like a game show host

Well folks, we will now be looking at Question Number Two! Which is: “Why am I here?”  We covered “Who am I?” Very briefly. Each of these questions builds off the others. Before we continue I want to make it clear that these questions may not be ones you’ve actually asked in words but ones you’ve sought the answer to through actions, books, vocations, and so on. “Why am I here?” It is surely obvious that God’s existence must be assumed if we are to even ask this question. The answer actually comes in two parts: a general and a particular part. Today I’ll be covering the general.

Firstly, we (read: you) are here to make the world a better place. As cliché as that sounds, notice that it is true of the majority of creatures. They all benefit the planet in some way, with the exception perhaps of parasites, everything contributes to balancing and beautifying life. We ourselves are given the ability to find use for, and the ability to find beauty in, every creation. As for parasites, I can’t speak for them all, but some I know of are redeemable. Weeds can grow flowers; some other plants, such as holly, can be used for decoration. I personally love the redemption story found in this. Of course food plants also have flowers. Carrots have flowers, which I didn’t know till we left one of ours in the ground too long; also onions (they look like spikey, fluff-ball fireworks). I’m one of those people who has to find meaning in everything; other people have to find beauty. It makes sense then, that our own purpose would be to beautify and better the world and each other. Of course it is diverse. Some flourish in the domestic: gardening, sewing, knitting, cooking, etc. Others in managing, teaching, inspiring. Whatever it is you do, if you want to do it well, try to benefit someone or something other than yourself.

Secondly: (These are not listed in order of importance or this would be first.) We are here because God wanted to make us. There is no other reason to create a creature with the ability to deny your existence than because you want to, and you want to out of love. Love already existed before man, which is why it does not come naturally from us and our own abilities (I refer to perfect love), but it can be a learned trait. Why make anything if you didn’t love it? I hope any artist reading will forgive me for this analogy: Painting is just a mixture of things, made into a mixture of colors, put onto paper. Which has no use. Aw, but it’s more than that you’ll say. yes it is, but only if you love to do it, and you love what you paint. Love wants to share the good it has more and more. Love sees a beautiful things while it’s alone and says “I wish my beloved were here.” (Nowadays that would be the most innocent reason behind taking a picture of it.)

Thirdly: To govern the earth. This is another part of that sharing business. Of course an all-knowing, almighty God, sharing dominion over the earth with human beings, is like letting a two year old pretend to drive a car; but the kid will have fun, and that is the point. God loves to make people happy, when it is not hurtful to them–people don’t always want what’s best for them.

In conclusion: There’s really no easy answer to Question Number Two, and other than what I just gave, the rest is up to the individual to seek out. I’ll be exploring it a little more in part four. Let me now how you’re enjoying The Quest series. I’m aiming for seven parts. Please keep in mind I’m only touching on each question, and what I’m really hoping is that you’ll be inspired to find out more yourself.

life tips

I’m just going to throw these out. They are based on my world view and values, so if you don’t want my advice, don’t read this. They are how to be a better person in the more practical areas of life.

Respect:

When it comes to work, my dad, who owns his own business, says, “Never be late” be the person who respects their employer’s time enough to be there when you agreed to be.

Do not ever badmouth your boss around other employees. Do not listen when/if they’re doing it. Do not disagree with your boss in front of customers, and in front of as few people as possible. Do not say anything of your boss that you would not say to his face (and this goes for, if your boss is one of your parents, and if you’re a volunteer and not paid.) Of course there are some exceptions to these rules, but they are few and I trust you can figure them out yourselves.

Do not ever support anything illegal. I don’t care where you are and who is doing it. Respect the law.

Messy blessings:

Be the one to pick up trash without being asked.

Do extra things at work without being told, don’t tell anyone you did it unless they ask.

At a park, pick up trash before anyone even says to, pick up other people’s trash.

Clean the counter at work before you’re told. (Now, if someone else is already paid to do any of this, don’t take away from their pay by doing it for them, but if it’s for any given employee go ahead. This is about thinking of others before yourself.)

Take out the trash before your mom reminds you. Mop, clean toilets, wash dishes, clean a room in the house, all before your mom has time to get to it or before she has to remind you. Make your siblings beds for them, help them with their chores.

Knowledge to be shared:

New guy at your work? Show him the ropes. Don’t play jokes on him (or her,) offer to help. If they do something wrong, help them make it right. (I do not refer to not telling your boss if they do something against policy or unethical.)

Help you siblings with their schoolwork. Or let them help you, sometimes they’ll learn better that way.

Time.

Don’t procrastinate. Time is your most valuable asset. Give enough time for every task, but give yourself time to rest. For the Christian this is completely biblical. There are allotted rest days, allotted work days, and allotted celebration days. God made time and we can do what he says with it (and He says to rest as well as work.)

Don’t take on too much, too fast. I multitask I’ll admit, I don’t do it very well. I can do one thing with my ears and another with my eyes and hands; but I can’t do two things with my eyes, and hands, and another with my ears, further more I find it stressful to. Your abilities may be more expansive than mine, but know your limits. if something is hard for you, don’t rush it. “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:15. It’s okay to separate things by the day.

Don’t be too busy. If every day of your week and month is full, you have a problem.

I love this next one. I honestly believe God gave me a revelation through this passage in Psalms. It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows; for so He gives His beloved sleep.” Ps 127:2 Did you know that was in the Bible? Or Christianity? I want to commit this verse to memory. This verse just tells me, I do not need to stay up late working on something, nor get up way too early to do something. To my fellow millennials out there just turn off your phone at night. Tell your friends you now have a cell-curfew. I’m sure it might be difficult to sleep at first, but your body will adjust and you’ll feel so much better. I’m serious, all my friends are always tired, mostly because of late nights. I’m tired a lot, because I need this tip too.

Don’t go to bed upset. This one is hard, but I take the “bread of sorrows” to mean that. I don’t sleep well if I’m upset, do something to feel better.

He who is faithful (constant, trustworthy) in little will be faithful in much, he who is dishonest in little will be dishonest in much (Personal paraphrase.)

Independence Day Post

On this, the glorious fourth, as Charles Ingalls called it, most of us think of barbeques and fireworks, and in our society  of “tolerance” the reason of what we’re celebrating is often not mentioned at all. Or only briefly and vaguely. Many people living in America are ashamed of it, and some even hate their own country. I urge every God-fearing American to find out the truth about our founding fathers and our history, but for the purpose of this blog I would like to quote our 16th President, Abraham Lincoln, when declaring a national fasting day: “Whereas it is the duty of nations as well as of men to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions, in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will leas to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord…we have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven. We have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us! It behooves us then to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.”

I understand that this may make some people uncomfortable, but they are his very words and I cannot change it nor would I wish to. I  believe Lincoln to be partially referring to this passage If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear form heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” ( 2 Chronicles 7:14) We are threatened with losing our freedom more and more every day, what can I say to give hope? On this day of all days.

Only this, that if freedom were a thing created by man, we would all surely be lost, but freedom is a thing created by God; it must be, for only the ultimate power can both be free and bestow freedom on anything. Freedom is the gift given to all men, and sadly abused by all men, (hence our present situation;) but take heart, for freedom can never be destroyed by man just as it cannot be created by him. It is true, one man may enslave another in body and force him to do things he does not like, but the soul and mind cannot be enslaved except by a man’s (or woman’s) consent. It is more our attitude of bondage than actual bondage that stops us from acting. Do not let any mere mortal dictate how you view yourself, or you are, in a sense, in bondage to them.

Freedom is divine because it gives choice in a world where most things should not have choice. Why have a choice whether or not to eat? We all need to, but we are not compelled to, nor to do most things to take care of ourselves. Only love gives a choice, because only love is willing to risk not being satisfied if the beloved should not choose the lover. In the natural, man does not want to risk, therefore I would move that freedom has to come from a different source other than man.

On that note, I would urge every God-fearing citizen to pray for our country today, and if you do not believe in God, to at least be thankful, that people who did, gave us the rights we still enjoy. I would also urge you to remember a holiday is not a day to gratify yourself, but to be grateful to and gratify others, as I think our traditions of inviting people to parties and giving gifts and cards, shows. Lastly, please remember that freedom is not freedom unless there is also responsibility. Don’t be afraid because of oppressors, but stand up to them, because they never last forever. It’ll be okay eventually. We want to have balance between awareness and hope. Now I’ll leave you to enjoy your 4th of July. God bless America.

The Quest: part one

I now want to begin a series of articles about something I’m going to call: “The Quest.”

It begins with questions, the first of which is “who am I?”

What I believe about the answer to this question is still coming together, but I can explain a little. The first thing we search for is identity. Identity comes in two parts, the first is “Am I loved?” And the second is “Why or why not?” But we’ll cover that more in the next issue, for now I want to focus on the right source of identity. The truth is, most of us look to our parents or other close family members to tell us the answer, and later to our friends. It makes sense that we should do this; they are the closest to us, and they know us the best, right? Um… not so much. When it comes to identity we have a little problem if we expect to get ours from other people. People are human, the same as us. True, some seem better than others, ( i.e. more together,) but then we find out they feel just as we do. It’s a fact that a ton of people are insecure and feel like oddballs. Some of us make oddball our identity in hopes that no one will hurt us again. Now this is not an article about psychology, but when talking about identity, it’s kind of unavoidable. The trouble is, people are not cases to study. No two of us are alike. We know that scientific conclusions are not always right, and that doctors make mistakes. It just goes to show that no matter how educated they are, human beings still do not have all the answers. I don’t. Whether you believe in a higher power or not, I think you’ll have to agree that identity is extremely different if you only look to this world. The world tells you that you are an asset. Work to earn your keep. If you lose the ability to work the world does not pity you but merely finds someone else to do your job, therefore, you’re replaceable. On a personal, person to person level, why does it seem like no matter who you turn to for what you need, they all want there to be something in it for them? The trade off: “I did something for you so you should do something for me.” That’s fair, but somehow it takes value away from any act of kindness to know you’re expected to repay, but then, it’s the way of all flesh. Don’t you feel irked if you are nice to someone and the person doesn’t even acknowledge what you did? It seems people cannot even help being this way. I don’t know what the modern term for it is, but it used to be called selfishness and to be considered a flaw in the character; and we are all infected with the same flaw, only no one ever wishes to admit it. “People are selfish,” many a cynical person has said, but far fewer are willing to add “including me.” Now some will tell you this is a mental condition, and I agree, it affects your mind as well. But what I mean to show is why no human can tell another just who they are because we are all so flawed. So, if we can’t, who can? Now we move on to my turf. If we want to know who and what we are then we must go to something greater than ourselves to find out. Per example: A man can know what a dog is and is like, but the dog itself will never know except from how the master treats it. I don’t think any political or even religious system can answer, either, being that even there you will be dealing with other people. No, what we need is actually something that is not human but cares and sympathizes with humans. Of course our word for this is God. I’m posing a question: if God is real, then he must know more than we do. If he is not, then do we have any identity at all? No God means man is the highest thing out there, we get to decide what we are, and through history, people such as Hitler and many of the Roman Caesars and Egyptian Pharaohs decided  they were gods. But at what irony. Do you know that you cannot make your own heart beat..? We are all born into this life by no cause of our own, and we cannot evade death forever. We are held on to this earth by a force we cannot control (called gravity), and we live in an universe surrounded by planets and solar systems we cannot move, nor can we even reach the ones on other galaxies. To say all this was an accident is ludicrous. A single cell in a human body is more complex than a space shuttle, yet they all work together. I’ve yet to hear of a fleet of space ships (though I’ve seen one on Star Wars). We are not gods, no, whatever else we are. I won’t argue any further for God’s existence at the moment; I am just going to assume he exists to make my point. God made us, and he made us with the ability to wonder about our world and ourselves in a way no other creature does. I’d move then, that humans must be more than just another creature. We are self aware. God, of course, is self aware, any religion will tell you that, but not all will point out that God gave man that trait; He also gave man a conscience, by which man is supposed to know what God wants him to do; even though consciences can be dulled or twisted; what other creature has such a keen sense of justice as man? Men will argue over who this or that rightly belongs to, animals will just take it. Man is also creative, unlike any other creature. I believe man is this way because he is made in God’s image. You may wonder what that means, and in all honestly I’m not sure I know. But I think in my next article I can begin to explore the idea. For now, that is today’s truth. “Who am I?” “I am made in the image of God.” Seriously, who would want to not believe that?

My Passion

First, let me tell you a story

There once was a king who brought his royal messenger to a valley, and the valley was full of bones.

the king told his messenger to walk around all the bones, and the messenger saw that there were indeed many, and they were extremely dry.

The King then said “Do you think these bones can ever live again?” The Messenger knew the king was very wise and he said, “Oh my lord, you know.” Well the king then said, “Tell these bones that I will command breath to enter them, and muscles and tendons, and skin will cover them, and they will live!” As bizarre as that sounded, the messenger knew better than to argue with the king. He told the bones what the king had said, and then an amazing, impossible thing happened: the bones did grow muscles and tendons and skin covered them, and they began to breathe. They were alive! As regular humans are. Then the king said “This is how it will be with my people.”

What did you think of that story? Sounded like some weird movie, huh? Think of it as a parable. The bones lack substance, flexibility, protection, beauty, and life. Even though they had the bare components, the structure, they had nothing to hold it together. I actually abbreviated a longer story, but the principle is the same. This story seems to me to be a pretty good example of what’s going on in the world today. So many things have dried up, or they lack substance, or they’re unprotected. There’s just so much ugliness. where do you go to find hope? I believe there is only one source, one true source, of hope. Maybe you don’t believe that; maybe you feel you’re like those bones: dry, lifeless, or just a mess. That’s okay, I’ve been there. There is a way to live. As I continue this blog I’m going to present you with what I believe is the key to real living. But opening the door will be your choice. Today’s truth: There is hope.