The Power of Happy

Yesterday I did a happy little experiment on FacebookI posted a simple sentence: “Tell me about something that made you happy today.” I didn’t know whether anyone would respond. 122 comments later it seems as though I struck a chord. Ask people what makes them happy and they are more than……happy to share it with you.

Here’s what I found in my admittedly unscientific analysis of the results of my little experiment…

Happiness is a powerful and infectious thing.

 

Once people started posting answers, others couldn’t help but join in. I had people post on my page who had never ever done so before. Others commented that they simply enjoyed scrolling through and reading all of the responses. It was so much fun to bring a little happiness into people’s lives.

Here are the things that brought joy into people’s lives at this little snapshot in time:

  1. People. Far and away it is people, and interaction with them, that brings happiness and joy into lives. People posts were by far and away the majority of the posts. Simple things like lunch with a friend, time with a grandchild, and talking to someone special on the phone made the list.
  2. Events. It was events that came in second. Baseball games, plays, or going to a museum injected some joy. It reminds me that it is far more important to spend resources on making memories than it is on stuff.
  3. Work. Believe it or not, there were quite a few people who posted things that brought them happiness at work. Work is often a good thing. It brings meaningfulness, purpose, and, yes, happiness into our lives.
  4. Health. Exercise, recovery, and appreciation for illness-free bodies were appreciated by quite a few.
  5. Spiritual Life. We are spiritual creatures. As St. Augustine said: “Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.” When we recognize the joy our God delivers, it also brings happiness (And, no, joy and happiness aren’t the same thing. Ask me about that some time.)
  6. Creation and Nature. Sunrises, beaches, and “beautiful views” made the list for some people. It’s a reminder that beauty brings joy. Thank God that He is creative. His creativity can be seen everyday if you just look for it.
  7. Affirmation. There were some who simply found happiness in being affirmed for something they had done or accomplished. Why don’t you go ahead and affirm someone today?

Do you notice what’s missing from this list?

Money. There was only one post out of more than 100 that only indirectly talked about money. It seems that happiness in life isn’t derived from money. It is derived more from the people who walk with us on this journey, the events we share, the work we get to do, the health with which we are blessed, a God who gives it all, His beautiful creation, and being affirmed for a job well done.

What’s making you happy today?

The Surprising Way Timing Can Be Your Best Friend

Time is a funny thing. I’ve been doing a great deal of thinking about it lately. I suppose it’s because I have become a grandfather. I simply cannot believe how quickly time passes. Just yesterday I was a child, just in high school, just graduating from college myself. I can remember specific, long ago, points in my history very vividly. But now I’m already a grandfather. And my parents are great-grandparents. How does that happen? It’s all about timing.

Today I heard an interview with Bob Beaudine. Bob is a “head hunter” who has placed some of the most high profile coaches and executives in the country. It was a fascinating interview. But in terms of the issue of time and timing, this is what Bob had to say:

Time is everyone’s enemy. Timing is everyone’s best friend.

As I have been noting recently, time slips away far more quickly than most of us would like. It’s our enemy. I have a nephew and a niece who are getting married this summer. They are publicly counting the days until their weddings. I understand that they’re excited. But I just want to tell them what my sainted grandmother-in-law often said: “Don’t wish your life away.” In other words: the day will come; enjoy each moment; life goes by so quickly…don’t wish it away.”

Time is an enemy because it keeps going and never stops. But timing takes people and places and makes them come together at just the right time. For those of us who view life from the standpoint of faith we see that it is God Himself who creates perfect timing. My interaction with African American Christians has taught me the phrase: “God may not be there when you want Him, but He’s always on time.” And the Bible itself says:

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. (2 Peter 3:9)

So here’s the surprise. When you look back through time you can see just how many times the timing was just right. For instance, when I graduated from high school I auditioned for and was selected to become lead singer in the Christian band, Joy, Inc., that traveled the country performing concerts. It just so happened that there was a woman who decided to take a break in the middle of her college career to audition for the group. She was selected to be a singer and also joined the group. Her name was Tammy. Eventually she became my wife.

Timing was everything, and timing was perfect.

When you get discouraged about the speed of time, I’d encourage you to look back and think instead about timing. Take note of the places in your life when the timing was just right. Then think about the One who has put both that time and that timing in place.

When have you seen perfect timing in your life?

How Hustle Just Might Bring You Wild Success

Two of our nieces spent a few days with us this week. They really came to see their cousin, our daughter, and her new baby. A side benefit was that they had to (got to!) stay with us. It’s always good to be with them and catch a little bit of their creative and entrepreneurial spirit. Our niece, Natalie, recommended a new (to me) podcast. It’s an NPR production called How I Built This. The podcast is a fantastic offering exploring how entrepreneurs and innovators built their companies or projects from the ground up. The first one I listened to was an affirmation that hustle often brings success.

It was about the founding of Air BnBTwo recent college graduates lived in San Francisco and were attempting to come up with ideas for a new company. They wanted to be entrepreneurs. A few of their attempts were unsuccessful.

Then they discovered a big designers’ conference was coming to San Francisco. They knew that hotel rooms would be at a premium. So they decided to advertise that they had space for rent. They would blow up air mattresses, provide good hospitality, and show their renters the city. Before they knew it three people took them up on their offer. It was a success.

But it would be a while before this would all become Air BnB. The whole thing went through numerous fits and starts. Finally they decided they needed money just to live, let alone get their business going.

So they came up with the idea of producing rare breakfast cereal boxes. Yes, you read that right. Barack Obama and John McCain were running for president. They made cereal boxes called “Obama O’s” and “Cap’n McCain’s.” They sold them for $40 (!) a piece. It was a wild success. They had a bit more rent money.

Before long an entrepreneurial incubator got wind of their upstart. They applied and were invited to come for an interview. The interview didn’t go as well as they had hoped. But on the way out they remembered they had brought a box of Obama O’s as a gift. They ran back in and gave it to their interviewers. As a result, they were accepted into the program because they showed the panel that they could hustle and wouldn’t give up.

What a great, but simple, lesson. Sometimes success simply means hustle. You have a good idea. You’ve done the work. A foundation is laid.

You can’t just wait. You have to hustle.

My wife, Tammy, is in the middle of doing just that. As she starts her new business, she is designing, creating products, posting on social media, doing sales calls at retail outlets, and learning how to operate the back end of her web site. It all takes a great deal of hustle.

And it’s beginning to pay off. She has sold a fair number of items online. Her products are now in four retail outlets in the Orlando area. She has put together a number of custom orders. The business is not yet turning a profit, but it’s getting very close to doing so.

Projects, work, or business can succeed without hustle. But it doesn’t happen very often. Hustle is often the secret sauce to wild success.

What can you do today to hustle?

The Social Experiment That Is Jury Duty

It’s a necessity of life in America. I had jury duty this week. If you’ve ever been through it you know what a microcosm it is of society. People from all walks of life, young and old, sitting in one room, waiting for the call to the courtroom.

We were to be at the courthouse promptly at 8 a.m. It was like going through airport security: put everything through the x-ray machine, take off your belt and shoes, walk through the scanner. Check in. Then find your way into the Jury Holding Room. Sit in uncomfortable chairs that are far too close together.

Everyone was silent. We all stayed to ourselves except one man in the corner who was speaking much too loudly to the lady next to him (there’s always one of those). The rest of us looked at our phones, read our books, or sat in silence. It was starting to get a little warm.

I can’t say that anyone was too excited to be there. That’s when the Clerk of the Court came in, gave us a few instructions, and then showed us a “rah rah” video. The video was designed to change our attitudes about being there. It explained the Constitution, and the process, and interviewed former jurors who had “fabulous” experiences. I must say it did get me a bit excited about the potentiality of being a juror myself.

But then a judge came in. She asked us all the qualifying questions to make sure we weren’t excluded from serving. Then she told us that the vast majority of us would never make it onto a jury (talk about foreshadowing).

The wait then began. It was another hour-and-a-half until the Clerk came in and read twenty names. I wasn’t one of them. Those people left. A little while later that process was repeated. My name still wasn’t called. So we sat another hour and they dismissed us for an hour-and-a-half lunch (life’s tough in this courtroom scene).

After lunch it was back through security again. It was another stay in the prison of the Jury Holding Room. We waited. And waited some more. And waited some more.

Here’s the interesting part. The longer we waited the more comfortable people got with each other. The later in the day it got, the louder the room. People began to talk and laugh. Small groups began to form.

The Clerk came back in at about 3:30 in the afternoon. She made an announcement that we were to hold tight. There were still two judges selecting panels. One man went forward and angrily shouted at the Clerk, saying that this whole process should be better and that we should all be allowed to go home. I felt sorry for the Clerk.

I have to say that at that point I was getting pretty impatient myself. Finally at almost five o’clock the Clerk came into the room and said we were all dismissed and our jury duty was complete. There was a cheer and a stampede for the door.

Lessons:

  1. Common experience forges relationships.
  2. Impatience brings out the worst in people.
  3. Sometimes civic duty is short and interesting, and sometimes it is long and boring.
  4. Freedom has its responsibilities.
  5. It’s good to be able to walk out of a courthouse and back into the freedom of society.

Have you ever had jury duty? Did you make it onto a jury? What’s your story?

What It Takes to Be a Good Church Member

When I first started my vocation as a pastor I was struck by the “churchmen” (and women). There were certain people who were leaders, supporters, and faithful church-goers. Though they held other vocations, they always had the best interests of their church at heart. They gave of their time. They knew how to tithe. And their leadership was second to none. Somehow, somewhere along the line they learned how to be a good church member.

But over the years it seemed as though outstanding “churchmen” and “churchwomen” were more and more difficult to find. Understandably, modern technology and life began to crowd in on people. Today’s world is much more complex and more difficult to make the kind of time commitment it takes to dedicate to life outside of family and work. But thankfully, some still do.

I began thinking about this because of my friend Mike. Not only is Mike a friend, but he happens to be the president of our congregation, a musician, a volunteer, and a guy who does whatever it takes to enhance and promote the ministry of Ascension Lutheran Church. Today, the day of the Super Bowl, Mike had to fly to Atlanta on business. He headed to the airport right after church. When he got to Atlanta I got this text:

Finally settled in at the hotel. I just wanted to say that you had another amazing message! Thanks for your ministry. It is such a blessing.

I don’t share this with you because of the compliment he gave to me. I share this with you because it’s another example that Mike is simply a good church member — a “churchman” if you will. Here’s why:

  1. Mike is positive about our church. As President of the congregation Mike writes an article for our weekly email. For three years now, nearly every week, he has written something positive about our church and its people.  
  2. Mike attends church regularly. The only time he misses is when he’s sick or out of town. Want to find Mike on a Sunday morning. He’ll be at Ascension Lutheran Church in Casselberry, Florida.
  3. Mike is a leader who develops leaders. Over the years Mike has served in various capacities as a leader in the church. Over the past five years I have watched him tap and develop leaders in very savvy and hospitable ways.
  4. Mike goes above and beyond for the sake of our church. Even though he’s already volunteering and serving on our Church Council, he still takes the time to be part of our contemporary worship team, as a leader of a team that gets people together to play cards, and as a volunteer for community events that we present.
  5. Mike’s life is centered around the church. Just this week he came by during his lunch hour to meet someone who needed his help.

Want to be a good church member? Want to really help your pastor? Say positive things about your church to others. Attend worship every single week. If you are asked to serve as a leader, say yes. Then help develop others to be leaders, as well. Give whatever time you can (within reason) to benefit your congregation. Finally, encourage others to do the same.

What do you think it takes to make a good church member? 

Three Time-Tested Keys to Living a Fulfilling Life

Don’t dismiss the wisdom of age. This week I was visiting one of our elderly members who is confined (I don’t use that word lightly) to a nursing home. He has a great deal of time to think. And think. And think. When I visit him, the words come pouring out of his mouth. We cover a myriad of topics. It is one of the more fulfilling things I am able to do.

This week it was no different. I walked into the room, sat down, and the conversation flowed. We discussed his cell phone, his eyesight (or lack thereof), and his family tree. I guess it was discussing his family tree that led him to dropping a few words of wisdom.

His thoughts turned to a day many years ago when he was the Best Man in his cousin’s wedding. It was his duty, as is tradition, to give a speech. So he came up with what he thinks are the three keys to a fulfilling life: “Something to do; someone to love; and something to look forward to.”

Put those three things together and you will feel fulfilled. What wisdom in those words. They draw our focus to vocation, relationship, and hope:

  1. Something to do: Human beings were created for meaningful work. If you look at the book of Genesis you will discover that Adam did fulfilling work even before the fall into sin. It was part of his communion with God and his service to this world. It was only after sin came into the world that work became difficult and laborious. And yet in spite of sin and difficulty, a good day’s work is a thing of beauty. It gives us the opportunity to bring help and meaning into the lives of others, which in turn brings meaning to us.
  2. Someone to love: God gave this gift to Adam, as well. God created Eve out of the rib of Adam. Adam called her “bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.” They were created to love and serve one another. Adam was no longer lonely and alone. He was given the gift of human love. And so was Eve.
  3. Something to look forward to: Once sin and death came into the world, Adam and Eve desperately needed something to which they could look forward. God gave them that gift in Genesis 3:15. A Savior was to come.

There is theological wisdom in these three statements. God gave us purpose. He gave us human love and relationship. And He gives us a Savior and salvation.

There is also human wisdom in these words. They apply to our daily lives. What would we do without meaningful work? Or relationships? Or hope? Our lives would be desperately empty.

But when we have those three things — vocation, relationship, and hope — there is a real flow to life. It doesn’t mean life will be perfect. There is still trial, and trouble, and sin. But when we have these three things, life is much better than when we are missing even one of them. Lord, have mercy, if we are missing all three.

How do you see these three keys evident in your own life?

How to Redeem an Evening That Gets Derailed

Tonight did not go the way I had planned. As my wife said, I set my goals too high. My plan was to pay the bills, update the family budget, and cook dinner. Then I was going to write a piece for our church’s weekly email, work a bit on my sermon, and do some personal planning and goal setting. Finally, I was going to join our friends from church on a Facebook Live event, write my blog and read some of a fascinating book that I can’t seem to put down. But it all got derailed.

Now that I look at my list, it would have been a major feat to complete even a majority of it. I didn’t even get half way through it. I came home and started updating the check book so that I could write bills. It took longer than I thought. Before I knew it I had to cook dinner. Once dinner was finished I went back to the check book and discovered a discrepancy (don’t you hate that?!). It took me (with the help of my wife) another hour to figure it all out.

Can you say: “Derailed”?

I finally got to paying the bills. That took me another forty-five minutes. By then it was time to join the Facebook Live event. After that I sat down to write this.

All of which is to say I didn’t get to the majority of my goals for the evening. I didn’t update the budget. My evening church work went by the wayside. The goal-setting I had intended to do didn’t get accomplished. And I really wanted to get to that book.

Have you ever had a day or an evening like this? It happens far more often than I’d care to admit.

But I’m learning these derailed days and nights can be redeemed. Here’s how:

  • Count the blessings. I looked back on the night and remembered that I had more than enough money to pay my bills. Not everyone can say that. More than that, I was uplifted by my friends from church as we gathered together online.
  • Learn to be reasonable. The next free evening I have will be planned with a much less aggressive agenda. I will build in more flex time. It’s more difficult to be derailed if one’s goals can’t be characterized as “biting off more than you can chew.”
  • Allow yourself a reward. Be easy on yourself. Even if you don’t accomplish all of your goals, you deserve a bit of leisure at the end of the day. So I think I’ll go read at least a few pages of my book.

Getting derailed is a part of life. It seems almost nothing goes as planned. We do well to expect the unexpected.

What do you do when things get derailed?

When January Goes So Fast You Almost Miss It

Don’t look now, but January is over. Remember how excited you were when the month began? There were all those resolutions, goals, and projects you were going to complete. Now the month is over and very few of them, if any, have been accomplished.

I don’t know if the weather has anything to do with it. But when we lived in Wisconsin, January was the coldest, darkest, longest month of the year. I thought it would never end. But ever since we’ve lived in Florida the month flies by.

It certainly happened to me. There are still things sitting on my desk and lurking in my computer that I wanted to have finished by now (Check this one out! It’s going to be so cool when I finally start using it). The saddest part of it is that there are some organizational things I wanted to accomplish. January is over and I’m still trying to get myself organized.

But here’s what I want to tell you if you’ve fallen behind (and remind myself at the same time):

  • It’s OK. Life isn’t a sprint. It’s a marathon. There’s still time.
  • Calendars are arbitrary. Even though we use January 1st as a time of new beginnings, that’s really a human invention. If you didn’t start what you wanted to on that day, do so on February 1st.
  • Don’t feel guilty. There were most certainly things you accomplished this past month, even if they weren’t all the things on your list. Sometimes life happens and other things take priority.

But now:

  • Consider February a new beginning. There’s no time like the present to start. Do it today.
  • Sometimes the first step is all it takes. Write down that goal. Organize that desk. Complete a small task. Write the first page. Just watch how that makes you consistently move forward.
  • Remember that there are still eleven whole months in this year. Even though calendars are arbitrary, they can be helpful when keeping track of things. You can accomplish a great deal in 11/12’s of a year. So get going.

January is over. But the year is still young. Stop beating yourself up and get started. There are wonderful accomplishments in front of you.

What are you going to accomplish this year?

The Death of Mary Tyler Moore and Simpler Times

I can’t stop thinking about Mary Tyler Moore. As I’m sure you know by now, she died this week at the age of eighty. Though Moore was a brilliant comedienne, her personal life was filled with a great deal of challenge and sorrow. She was raised by alcoholic parents who didn’t care well for her. At the age of 33 she was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes and would suffer complications as a result. She was married three times. Her son died at the age of 24 of an accidental gun shot wound. And she herself struggled with alcoholism.

And yet I can’t stop thinking about all the joy she brought into my life. I was too young to see the Dick Van Dyke Show when it originally aired. But I loved watching the reruns when I got home from school. And yet it was the Mary Tyler Moore Show that really had an impact on my formative years. It was a TV show that our entire family could watch together on those 70’s Saturday nights. I loved her spirit, her humor, her acting. She had a joie de vivre that was really incomparable.

And there was that theme song. It’s been going through my mind ever since I learned of her death. I can still see her tossing her hat into the air at the end of the show’s intro.

I can’t stop thinking about Mary Tyler Moore. She was an icon. But for me her death took me back to simpler times. We didn’t know the politics of the actors and actresses on the screen. There was no social media sometimes being used as a tool to beat down other views or other people. There were only three or four channels on our TV. The information age had not yet exploded. We simply enjoyed the simplicity of a good, old-fashioned, family-friendly comedy.

Not only has Mary Tyler Moore died. Simpler life has died as well. Life today is much more complicated. It seems much more divisive. Anger and fear seem to bubble much closer to the surface of our lives. The world is so much smaller, and yet in so many ways, so much more separated.

But I can’t rid myself of Mary’s happy-go-lucky attitude. I can’t help but tap into her positive attitude and her clever ways of dealing with Mr. Grant. Her great attitude and optimism might just be some of what we need in this much more complicated world. She’d want us to get along, and care for, and love one another, even difficult people like Ted Baxter.

And I can’t help but think that Mary would remind us: “We’re gonna make it after all.”

What do you remember about simpler times? 

When a Fire Takes Away Everything You Own

Two of my high school classmates recently lost their homes to fires. The same thing nearly happened to us this past Saturday. I was away at church. Tammy was home with our son, Ben, and his wife Emily. Tammy broiled something in the oven. She looked away just a bit too long. Next thing she knew she looked into the oven and it was filled with flames.

Tammy yelled to Ben to call 911. Of all times for him to be away from his phone this was it. He is never away from his phone. It’s attached to his hand. But this one time he didn’t have it. So she grabbed our fire extinguisher, pulled the pin, aimed it into the oven, and shot. Just like that the fire was out. And just like that there was extinguisher residue all over the house.

By the time I came home it was all cleaned up. Tammy was still shaken up. It could have been much, much worse. We could be homeless today.

But we’re not. When Tammy told me what happened, the first thing I thought about is what I would miss if our house burned down. I honestly couldn’t think of too many things that simply couldn’t be replaced. But this event reminded me:

  • There are plenty of things I should get rid of. If I wouldn’t miss it if it were lost in a fire, maybe I should give it away, donate it, or recycle it.
  • The most important things in life aren’t things. There’s nothing more important than faith and family. I would never want to lose either of them. Thankfully neither have been taken away.
  • Even though I wouldn’t miss much of my “stuff,” it would be horrible if I lost it. I’m certainly not wishing I would lose my earthly possessions. They do mean something, or I wouldn’t have them. But I had better remember that their lasting value is limited.
  • A home in which to live ought not be taken for granted. It’s so nice to come home at the end of a day and find a place that is comfortable and filled with the people and the things that are significant to us.
  • A fire extinguisher is a mighty important thing to have. You never know when you’ll need it.

How do you take stock of your priorities?