How to be Happy, Seriously.

IMG_20180509_142441718_HDR-EFFECTS.jpgI sat on the edge of my little brother’s bed as I said goodnight to him. “How much money did you make at work today?” He questioned, somewhat randomly. “Sometime could you give me just $2,000 so that I can buy a nice 4-wheeler?”

I chuckled a little, but was completely opposed to the idea. “No.”

“Why not?”

“I love you and I want you to be safe, buddy.”

“But the $2,000 4-wheeler has a seat belt! Please!”

“No, I need the money for school, kiddo..”100_0795 - Edited

The discussion went on for a while as he tried to acquire the cash and I discouraged him. He kept asking “why?” and I had to think of an answer that was good enough to stop the pleading. Finally I realized the actual reason I was most opposed to him pursuing this 4-wheeler: “Buddy, the reason I don’t want you to get this is because it’s not going to make you happy.”

It’s the truth. Sure a 4-wheeler would be a ton of fun, but he’s got a lot of other (cheaper) toys that he’s bored with; a 4-wheeler would eventually amount to the same. But my 11-year-old brother has a hard time believing me.

In fact, don’t we all have a hard time believing that things won’t make us happy? Culture is ready to “satisfy” our needs with possessions. But if we look to possessions to be happy, we won’t ever be satisfied. This is something I have a feeling we all know with head knowledge, regardless of where our hearts are. So I’m not going to try to beat you over the head with it. While it’s important to remember that possessions cannot provide joy, the idea isn’t really new and it’s harder to believe than we’d like.

However, an idea that is slightly more novel, and thereby useful, would be something that Andy Stanley said in his sermon serious “What Makes You Happy.” He stated that IMG_20180511_160258995you need a “who or two” to be happy. While spending time, energy, or money on things does very little to satisfy long term, spending time, energy, or money on people is a thoroughly rewarding pursuit.

Over and over I have found this in my daily life. Reading my brother a goodnight story, helping my mom make dinner, folding laundry with my sister, cleaning the bathroom for my siblings, buying someone a surprise doughnut, have left me feeling fuller than anything I could ever do by myself. What are you doing to spend your time, energy, or money on people?

Even just being more thoughtfully aware of others does much to help my attitude. For example, the thought of going to work this morning wasn’t the happiest thought I’ve ever had. However, if I break for just a minute to realize that going to work can be a way to serve others, I suddenly can find meaning and purpose in it–because then I’m making work about other people instead of myself.

There are some simple and entirely reasonable methods for applying this perspective.

  1. Okay, first things first: our God is the God of joy. In order to be content and purposeful, the first thing you need to do is to connect with God!
  2. After having done so, though, there are ways to be more intentional about our attitudes. When I think I’m having the worstest day ever, remembering that other people have problems too is like a taser shock reminding me of my blessings. A recent goal for me is that, when I’m having a bad day, I reach out and ask how other people are doing. Turning my thoughts away from my pity party is not only helpful for me, but encouraging to the others.
  3. img_20180506_143341873_hdr.jpgMy psychology professor, Dr. Geoff Kramer, once informed me of research he’d found which stated that money spent on activities with people as opposed to possessions for oneself were far more rewarding. This is so easily applicable; it’s worth considering. If you had the choice between spending $40 on a day trip with friends or on a new pair of jeans, the former will provide a better sense of fulfillment.
  4. I’d like to encourage you to spend time with other people. Maybe make it a daily goal to intentionally serve someone else–even if it’s as simple as intentionally opening a door or putting away dry dishes from the rack or even just hanging out, honestly. These can take less than two minutes, but this focus can be enough to get your head out of your own little world and to start thinking about others. Whenever I do this, I’m that much closer to “be[ing] joyful always” and living with the hope and love that we, as Christians, should aspire to.

If you want to be happy, start looking for ways to make others happy. How beautiful is it that our wise God set up life in such a way that making others happy makes us happy as well 🙂 Trust me, we all know it’s not always peachy. You definitely won’t always feel delighted about serving others or spending time or money on them. But I can entirely guarantee that it will leave you happier than if you left humans out of the happiness pursuit.img_20170708_153402971_hdr.jpg

Advertisements

This I Believe: There is Beauty, Even in This Dark World

Rain, Purple, Flower, Purple FlowerA cool drop of water tumbles downward. Falling…Falling…Then, suddenly, it hits my shoulder with a soft pressure. The droplet bursts, its cool wetness sifting through my shirt, hugging my skin. Around it hundreds more are falling, gently embracing whatever they land on. I duck my head and, like everyone else, begin to run to the next building, fearing the little droplets, wishing them away.

But suddenly, I stop.

The rain keeps pouring.

I turn my head, looking around; what have I against these gentle patterings of water? I close my eyes and feel the little splashes tenderly bursting across my face, softly running down my neck. As everyone else huddles indoors, I listen to the joyful music as the raindrops dance against each surface they hit, as they form delicate streams across the sidewalk. There is such mystery, and even greater beauty in all of it. Yet everyone else simply does their best to ignore it.

I believe in being deliberate. Deliberateness causes us to be genuine, to stop taking things for granted, and to see the abundance of beauty in the world. It allows us to be more content in life. When I take a moment to be deliberate, I take a moment to be genuine. When my sister asks, “What do you think of my hair?” it’s tempting to answer, “I don’t know” or “It’s great.” But when I focus on being deliberate, my answer is so much more real. “It’s interesting, but I liked the pony tail better,” or “Wow, that really makes you look professional” are answers that will mean so much more to both of us. Relationships aren’t built on the “It’s great” answers, but on the deliberate thought that goes into a conversation.

Image result for world war two prison campsWhen I take a moment to be deliberate, I take a moment to appreciate what I have. As grisly as they are, I like to read books about how Jews were treated in concentration camps during World War II. For when I grimace at their pain, I finally notice my lack of. And then, as I chew my food, I wonder at its marvelous taste. As I lie in bed, I sink deeply against the feel of clean sheets. And even as I argue with a sister, my anger diminishes, as I realize how grateful I am to even have her.

When I take a moment to be deliberate, I take a moment to be awed by beauty. Every snowflake that falls is a diamond crystal. Every sunbeam that shines is golden warmth. Every smile that’s given is a priceless treasure. Even as I shiver painfully in the cold fall morning, I don’t have to get upset as I wait for my brother to unlock the car. I can focus on the glistening, silver frost covering the grass.

There is beauty in every ugly circumstance. There is joy, even in this dark world. When I take a moment to be deliberate, I find myself more content. I feel a genuine world, a grateful heart, and a beautiful life. I believe in being deliberate.

Am I Proud of or Ashamed of Who I am?

unnamed.jpg

I wrote a post on surrounding yourself with people who will encourage you, be a good influence on you, and challenge you. For me, as a Christ follower, that means finding close friends who are serious about their faith and are pursuing a relationship with God hard core. But then the question plagues me: how can I tell if someone is sincere in his/her faith?

As I wrestled with this thought, I had to ask myself what I am doing to show my passion for Christ? This can be a painful question. This post is written as much for myself as it is for you

To get a practical application of how I could see Christ in others or how I could demonstrate my faith myself, I considered people around me who I admire to see how they show their passion for Christ. As much as we might prefer a glorious, mythical answer, the truth is, in those who I admire, I see Christ lived out in the little things.

1 Thessalonians 4:11 commands: “make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you.” 1 Timothy 2:2-3 repeats the idea, “…that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior…”

Big glorious things for Christ matter, but it is the simple, daily, living-life things that we are commanded to submit to Christ if we really want to live out our faith.

Free stock photo of man, person, dirty, constructionWork

Especially over the summer, the idea of using everyday work to glorify God spoke to me. 40+ Hours: What do We Communicate at Work?40+ Hours: What do We Communicate at Work? is a heart-felt post I wrote explaining how our time at work is a chance we have to serve others and find purpose. Work is not simply a wretched torture we must suffer through to supply our needs; instead it is an opportunity to engage with the people and tasks around us–to use the gifts and talents God has provided to serve others.

People will see Christ in me when I do my work passionately, go above and beyond expectations, and work as if it really matters. For my job as a tour guide at Cornerstone University, this means not just leading tours and saying what I have to say, but adding sincere energy. It means memorizing the names of the students on my tours. It means asking what they would like to know about, caring about their needs. It means arriving early to work and being willing to stay late sometimes. It means smiling while I work and going out of my way to find answers to questions. Is that the attitude I have when I head to work?

I want to be a Christian who has a great reputation at work because I am going to work looking to serve others, and not just looking out for myself.

Time management

Blue sand falls in an hourglass on a rocky beachThe way we prioritize also speaks volumes to what we are living for. Am I making time for one-on-one time with God daily (severely important!!!)? Am I making time to spend with others? Am I being responsible with the tasks I have to accomplish?

Everyone needs to waste time sometimes, but when I am tempted to binge watch Rhett and Link, I have to question: is that really the best way to use the limited time I have on earth? When I stay up late and am grumpy at work the next day, it’s not just myself who is affected. Am I viewing my time on earth as a temporary loan, or am I just looking to use it for myself and my personal pleasures? Am I wishing time away or am I looking to use the most of each moment I’ve been gifted with life?

I want to be a Christian whose time management points to a purpose above my own.

Respect for Others

A Christ-follower should believe that each individual possesses at least some aspect of who God is. I believe those who call themselves Christians should not gossip, should not tear others down, and should, in fact, do quite the opposite. The Christians who I admire do a great job of seeing the positives in others and serving others. As Christians, we can speak so much of God’s love by serving those around us. Sometimes this means opening doors for others. Sometimes it means befriending that lonely kid in your hall. Sometimes it means helping a classmate with homework. Or writing an encouraging note to someone. It can mean not dissing a professor, not speaking poorly of that one kid in class, not watching that film that the others are into. It can be small, but respect shows.

I want to be a Christian who radiates respect.

Image result for brokeMoney

How a person spends his/her money will show exactly what that person prioritizes. Again, it is absolutely okay to spend some money on yourself from time to time just for fun. But am I tithing? Am I giving some of it to the expansion of Christ’s kingdom? (Compassion International is a great organization to donate to, you can sponsor a child and see how much that one sponsorship can change the world for a child on the other side of the world!)

I know I’m speaking mostly to college students here. I know that we have very minimal amounts of money to spend. So maybe the question isn’t so much about how you could spend your money differently, but how about considering how much energy you waste worrying about your money? I want to learn to trust God so that, when I’m doing as much as I can, I can lay aside the worry and not let money stress me out.

I want to be a Christian who has enough confidence in my great God that when money is tight (i.e. always), I will never stop giving and will trust God to be in control.

Attitude

I hope that if you’ve been following my blog even halfheartedly that you’ve been slapped in the face with my passion for having a joyful attitude. Attitude is such a choice and it has the potential to be such a huge witness! I believe in a God who grants us hope, peace, trust, and JOY! As I Christ-follower, it is my sincere hope to represent some of God’s great attributes through having a joyful attitude.

Going out on the mission field, draining your savings to support a Christian organization, adopting a whole family of kids from the other side of the world: these are things that glorify God. But walking into work with a smile, writing an encouraging note to your roommate, working hard on your homework: these glorify God just as much.

The majority of our time and energy on earth is honestly spent just trying to stay alive; eating, sleeping, and breathing. It’s exhausting. But God put us on earth to live. And these things are what living takes. It is even these things that glorify God.

The way we do the simplest aspects of everyday living is what truly communicates to the world about our passion for Christ.

1 Corinthians 10:31: “Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

Relationships 101: It begins with knowing God

rocks people man happy worship sunset view clouds sky dark silhouette A twitter post by CommonWhiteGrl stated, “Being 18-25 is like playing a video game where u’ve skipped the tutorial & you’re just sort of running about with no idea how anything works.” Tell me about it. At this age we often feel overwhelmed, trying to figure out our lives: our educations, our careers, our relationships.

Of all of these significant aspects, I would argue that relationships are the most important. The relationships you form today are going to affect who you are tomorrow (more so, I would argue, than the career or educational path you chose). Most college kids are hungry for good, close friends. So to solve our problem, I wrote a post revealing the deepest, previous-to-now unknown, rocket-science, doctorate-degree-level, what-you-never-knew-before secrets about how to form and maintain a good relationship.

Okay, okay, maybe it’s not quite that secretive…and maybe it’s not quite that complicated…yeah…it might actually be common sense. BUT, I know this because I do it all the time: the common sense is so often forgotten. So, in this post I took up the menial task of reintroducing it–for my own sake if for no one else’s.

The Backstory

You know that passionate love and connection you feel between yourself and your best friend and/or significant other? No, seriously, think about your excitement to spend time with this person. This love and closeness is something we desire in relationships and it is delightful when we can make such connections. But, even if you think you have the closest of BFFs or the world’s best girlfriend, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet!

If you think you’ve felt love, passion, or belonging from any human before, I want to remind you God created that passionate love and if you think it’s strong between two humans, imagine how much stronger God feels that way toward you. As much as it means to wake up to a simple text saying “good morning” from your lover or best friend, it means so much more to God for you to wake up and say “good morning!” to him. He pursues you, desires you, and wants your love more than any human possibly could.

Therefore, if you really want good, fulfilling relationships, you have to start with getting to know God. 

I know God is so big, so unimaginable, so vast, so…everything. It seems impossible to know God and he sometimes feels so very distant. I know it. And I do not want to downplay God–he is way beyond us. I readily admit he is far too vast to understand. But, at the same time, he’s created each individual to be capable–in fact only fulfilled–when he/she has a close relationship with God. So in the face of this aspiration, I want to offer a variety of ways to stay connected with your creator.

Talk

We think we’re so technologically advanced when we can text someone anywhere in the hands clasp pray person people ring still bokeh portrait black and white world and they can receive it in a matter of seconds. How much cooler, though, is it that we can talk directly, without any time or technological boundaries, to the creator of the universe? And what kind of friends don’t talk? Realistically, how many of us, if asked about our relationship with God would have to answer–if answering honestly–“Well, we aren’t really talking anymore”? Let me tell you, in relationships, that statement is never a good sign…

Talk to God as you would talk to your best friend. Tell him how your day was. Tell him what is bothering you. Tell him what you’re excited about. Tell him why you are angry with him. Like a patient lover, he’s standing right by your side, just waiting for your attention. He wants your heart and wants your real self. Talk to him–even if you are only saying stupid things. He knows already, but he wants to hear it from you. Sometimes you and your best friend talk just to hear from each other what you already know. That’s what God wants.

Listen

But good friends don’t just talk, they listen. Jackie Kendall and Debby Jones, in their book Lady in Waiting, do a great job of describing this: “Even when someone is very special to you, you do not get too excited with a steady monologue. Listening is an important part of developing closeness with someone else. If you want to get to know the Lord, you must seek Him not only with a whole, clean, and pure heart, but also with a listening heart.”

mountain valley hill cliff rocks landscape blue sky clouds people man sitting alone mountaineer hiker hiking climbing sunny day daylight travel outdoors summer adventure Very few people would argue this point. But how does one listen to God?? One obvious answer is through reading his word. You’ve heard it before, but I’ll say it again: God’s word is a love letter to you. I bet it’s been a while since you’ve read God’s word as carefully as you would read a love letter… But you can also listen to God through a sermon, through reading inspirational books and blogs 😉 , or even through admiring creation (which he spoke into being). Sitting outside and staring up at the clouds, thinking about who God is definitely counts as listening to him.

Hang Out

The intense desire you have to spend time with a best friend or significant other is the way God feels about you. He looks forward to shared time and loves for you to be aware and accepting of his presence even in menial tasks. Just as even washing dishes is more fun with a friend, being aware and accepting of his presence in any circumstance can count as “quality time.”

And just as you enjoy spending time with your BFF or significant other in groups, you can hang out with God in groups–that’s what churches, discipleship groups, and worship nights are for. These are marvelous ways to celebrate God with other friends. mountain nature sky sunny sunrise summer sunset sunlight sunshine green grass sea water ocean lake man people reading book bible sitting alone bench But, also as you enjoy spending time with that one friend one-on-one, so you ought to spend time one-on-one to really connect intimately with God. Set aside some alone time* to talk with God, to listen to God, and just to sit silently with God. You’d do it with your boyfriend/girlfriend/bestfriend. Do it with God.

*Are you really alone if you’re chillin’ with God?

Become Obsessed!

You know how lovers are obsessed with each other and simply can’t get that special someone off their minds? Well, God’s obsessed with you and would love for even a small portion of that obsession to be reciprocated. Thinking about someone is a way of bringing that relationship into the present (see my post: Relationships in the 3-D). Randomly thinking about God throughout the day is a way to evoke passion in your relationship. Take your prayers before meals more seriously, place Bible verses in obvious places to randomly get your attention, think about a time when God has come through for you.

Many of us feel so overwhelmed about deepening our relationship with God that we tend to simply push it off. Or we forget how desperately God is pursuing us, waiting for so much as a little awareness from the humans he created in his image to share his love with. Or we get so caught up in life that we get distracted. But life is short and unpredictable. And God is waiting. So please, don’t let God’s greatness be an excuse for starting or growing deeper in the best relationship of your life.