Posted tagged ‘happiness’

Recovering From Vacation

March 31, 2019

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                 March 31, 2019

                        

Vacations are tragically funny! We long for the excitement and happiness that the advertisements seem to convey and come back home exhausted in our search for them.

Let me say this up front! The best parts about vacations are either the deepening of relationships or the experience of being embraced by peace. 

When I reflect on journeys that are the most memorable I think of being with either family or friends. The destination was secondary in importance. Memories of conversations and humorous happenings rise to the top. For example, three years ago my wife, Carol, and I took a road trip from Colorado to southern Ohio. We went to a couple of Presidential Libraries (Eisenhower and Truman) on the trip east, which were interesting, but what we’ll remember is surprising our nephew, Eric, on Sunday morning when we showed up in worship at the church he pastors In Bethalto, Illinois, and then surprising my brother at the Woodford Reserve Bourbon Distillery outside of Frankfort, Kentucky where he is a tour guide, and then being in Proctorville, Ohio for my dad’s 88th birthday celebration. Those are the moments that stand out. 

And peace! Like the sound of ocean waves as a person stands on the shore is the embracing of peace that some vacations offer. It’s the feel of a gentle breeze touching your soul, an absence of noise and clutter that allows the person to hear the whisperings of God and the beauty of silence. In our culture quiet moments are under appreciated and yet vitally important!

We returned from our most recent vacation late last night. We went to The Magic Kingdom where peace and rest are like alien creatures. Once again, the best part involved the deepening of relationships- going with our oldest daughter, son-in-law, and grandkids. The magical moments were connected to them: seeing the grandkids playing in the pool with a couple of children from Brazil and listening to how they connected across Portuguese and English language barriers, watching the personalities of the grandkids emerge in their distinctive differences, and taking long walks around the Orange County Convention Center with Carol.

The frustration of air travel, the crowds of people, the price gouging of $25 just to park at Disney, and the spike in Disney food prices were all dampers on the experience. I mean…really, do I need to pay $6.00 for an ice cream bar shaped like Mickey Mouse’s head image, or $9.00 for a plain hot dog?

So why is the Magic Kingdom so popular, so overcrowded? Perhaps it’s because many of us think there is something offered there that our lives are lacking. Or perhaps it’s the other way around…our lives are lacking and we are hoping that a visit to a place that features a castle with stardust above it will fill that void.

The other interesting thing I noticed at Disney revolved around the number of people who had their faces buried in their cell phones as they waited in line or as they walked through the park. It’s as if we want to go on a magical journey, but can’t quite let go of the world we live in.

And so we arrived home last night- actually 12:30 in the morning- to recover from the crowds and the chaos and return to the “ho-humness” of our routines. We return from vacation to our vocations remembering…not the rides and attractions, but rather the conversations and chuckles.

The chuckles, however, will end when I received my next credit card statement! It will tell me we can’t afford another vacation for a long, long while, and there’s something, like I said in the first sentence, tragically funny about that!

Is It Okay To Feel Okay About Life?

July 16, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                      July 16, 2018

                               

People have gripes! I won’t list them here because of space, time, and the fact that I don’t want to be a “Debbie Downer!” Our days are peppered with people who look at the glass as being half-empty…with a good chance of leakage!

It’s gotten to the point that I ask myself if it’s okay to feel okay about life? Is it not okay to feel okay about where one’s life is right now? Should I feel guilty about not having issues that would have me sitting in one of those high chairs on Dr. Phil’s stage?

This does not mean that I have it all together and live a life void of any problems. I have physical therapy for my knee and hip pain later on this morning. I frequent the bathroom more than a bored eighth grader escaping math class. I read two paragraphs in a book and fall asleep. I have about five prescriptions! I often talk to speeding cars that rush by me on the highway, even to the point of showing them my middle finger…in my mind! Lord, forgive me!

But there is a wholeness in my life, a happiness…dare I say, a joy! The sadness in my soul is connected to the loss of loved ones…Dad back in February and Mom almost five years ago now, all my aunts, uncles, and Carol’s parents, dear friends and mentors who have gone on like Rex Davis…Greg Davis…Don Fackler…Ray Lutz. 

I’m okay with the goals in my life that I did not reach, or have not yet reached…officiating a high school state tournament basketball game, running a marathon in my sixties, owning an ice cream truck, hiking the Grand Canyon, slam-dunking a basketball. 

It’s the rhythm in my life that gives me a sense of peace and satisfaction. My life is spiced and seasoned with opportunities to impact young people. I’m blessed to be able to coach four teams in three different sports. I get all giddy at the opportunity to substitute teach middle school students. I have a good amount of time to write and (fingers crossed!) hopefully publish a novel in the next few months. I’m allowed to speak at a wonderful small town church that has about 20 saints each Sunday morning. I’m married to a wonderful woman. We’ll celebrate our 39th anniversary in a few days. We’ve got three great kids, but (Sorry, kids!) enjoy our three grandkids now even more!

The “feeling okay about life” is also connected to that deep sense within a person that he/she is in the midst of what God desires for him/her to be about. There is not any sense of unrest or frustration. The peace-within-myself understands that it’s not all about me. As I serve others and serve God, joy makes a home within my life.

Many people detour around contentment in their life because they think there should be more. There is grumbling about missed opportunities, usually blamed on something or someone else. Our culture seems to have been injected with a dose of disgruntlement, supplemented with pills to heighten a sense of entitlement. 

I guess for me the glass is half-empty because I’ve enjoyed the beginning and will continue to be blessed by the ending. I’ve been used by God and still have some left in the tank to be used!

And I’m okay with that!

The Pursuit of Happiness

March 21, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                         March 21, 2018

                           

National Geographic did a feature article in their 2017 November issue about happiness. What are the happiest places around the world, and what raises their level of happiness? Are there common threads between them?

Although evaluating happiness is similar to deciding what success means and how it looks, the article brought out three strands of happiness that when weaved together brought the prospects of leading a happy life to a much higher level.

The strands are pleasure, purpose, and pride. 

Pleasure is a term that gets boxed in with our personal assumptions as soon as we say the word. The hints of my Baptist upbringing immediately insert the word “guilty” in front of it. Pleasure, however, is defined as “the feeling of happy satisfaction and enjoyment.” We use it in a remark after serving another person in some way. When the person responds with a word of thanks the reply is often “It’s my pleasure!”

Pleasure, then, has as many categories as amazon.com. However, pleasure as a part of the pursuit of happiness is connected in some way to the community around us, the people we share life with, and a sense of harmony. Pleasure that is simply self-serving leads not to happiness but to a sense of detachment from the very vehicle that drives us towards happiness.

Purpose as a part of the happiness pursuit, in my opinion, is re-emerging. For a long, long time in the American culture we bought into the idea that more was better, that happiness was at the end of the rainbow that included a massive bank account, summer home on the lake, and Oil of Olay bubble baths (I’m not sure why that one popped up into my mind!).

Purpose means that I’m a part of something bigger than myself, that what I am about today matters not only for this moment, but for the days to come. It’s the teacher who understands and believes that what he/she imparts to the students today is important for who they will be in the tomorrows to come.

As a follower of Jesus I link purpose with the two greatest commandments that Jesus teaches in Matthew 22…”to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind…and to love your neighbor as yourself.” Purpose in my life is seen in how I love God and love others. My life needs to be geared in those two ways and, as a result, it will fuel my pursuit of happiness.

Pride is the feeling of satisfaction in a person, group, community, and culture over achievements and shared values. Once again, it is far less about me and far more about the others on the journey with me. Parents say they are proud of their children not for what the parent has done, but rather what the child has achieved or attempted.

National pride rises as Olympic athletes go all out for the glory of the country. Community pride increases as it pulls together to address a major crisis or catastrophe.

The pursuit of happiness is like our local Thanksgiving Day 5K Turkey Trot. It’s 3,000 plus people of different sizes, ages, and abilities running (or walking) together from the start to the finish. Although some people finish quickly and many others finish slowly, the goal of everyone is to finish…and to enjoy the experience! Some people dress up like turkeys or even pilgrims and take on an amusing look in the pursuit. Others are more serious about the pace. Whatever one’s approach the post-race gathering in the parking lot around long tables of fruit, granola bars, juice, and bottles of water is a community celebration of the pursuit. Massage therapists give rubdowns, ice packs soothe aching calves, and friends jabber about the journey. There’s a sense of accomplishment…a feeling of happy satisfaction, purpose, and pride.

I don’t want to give the impression that a the pursuit of happiness can be summed up by a 5K road race, but it is, in my opinion, the perfect pictorial metaphor for how that pursuit can be understood. So, grab some hands around you and pursue it…together!

Lego Language

April 3, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                         April 3, 2017

                                        

Our family of ten (Mom, Dad, 3 kids, two son-in-laws, and 3 grandkids!) just returned from Carlsbad, California yesterday after five days of vacationing. The resort we stayed at is directly across the street from Legoland, an unbelievable place of creativity and imagination.

I grew up with Lincoln Logs, wooden planks that could be put together to build…a log cabin! Yes, that was pretty much it! Now there is a plethora of different Lego “pieces!” When our kids were growing up, and were playing with their first Legos, they were able to choose between a block that was rectangular or another one half the size that was square. That was pretty much it! A little more flexible than my 1950’s Lincoln Logs…but not much!

At Legoland I discovered a whole new Lego language has been invented. I felt like an alien trying to order from a dinner menu without pictures!

I trailed the two older grandkids (6 and almost 9) into a “creating room”, filled with tables that contained various pockets of Lego pieces. Jesse and Reagan comfortably plopped onto two seats at one of the tables and started jabbering. I sat between them and looked confused. “I need a body,” Jesse exclaimed like a surgeon hovered over his latest transplant patient. “Here’s one, Jesse!” Reagan passed a Lego piece that was no more than two inches long to him. I sat there like a Basic Math student who had been mistakenly placed in a Calculus class.

“What’s this?” I asked, holding something that looked kind of like an ‘L’, “a leg maybe?”

“No!” Reagan snickered like I’d just told the world’s funniest joke. She didn’t go further, however, and tell me what it WAS, just what it wasn’t!

The two of them were creating Lego hero figures. After a few minutes I figured out what a body was and actually attached another piece to it. Understand that I did not know what the other piece was that I attached to it, but I did make it click into place. For all I knew I just attached a Lego throw rug to my body’s back!

The two builders were enthralled by the whole experience. I was enthralled by their understanding of this new language. I was not a good foreign language student in high school, college, or seminary. Spanish, Latin, and Hebrew were three attempts at being bi-lingual. Each one of them affected my GPA…in negative ways.

And now here was a new, innovative modern language that had no verbs. A generational gap  language that required more than a Lego bridge to cross! And it is amazing! Sometimes when a person is confused the coolest thing is to just step back and watch. In the distant hazy memory behind the two builders I could still see my Lincoln Logs, remembered the hours of happy play I had with them. That was now my connecting point with the “grand creators”, happiness! Happiness is a common language that crosses generations and circumstances.

Outside our creating room I could see a life size Lego person smiling at me! He understood!

What Do You Say To High School Students Who May Have Heard It All?

June 24, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                             June 24, 2015

       

In about ten days I’ll head to camp…church camp, that is! Church camp for about six and a half days with high school students. High school students, many of whom have heard it all…or believe they have!

So what do I say to them that won’t cause a rolling of eyes or the closing of eyelids? What do I say to them that is truth without the hint of parental guilt? What do I say to them that will encourage them to the futures and purposes that God has for their lives?

I’ve been pondering and praying these questions for a while, but even more since a young lady I had coached passed away about three weeks ago. Just two years out of high school she lost some of her sense of purpose. Her death has caused me to ponder a tremendous amount each day.

So I’ve tried to come up with things that need to be said to a young man or woman who has sixty to seventy years of life ahead of them. Here’s what I’ve got so far…and I would love to get your ideas and suggestions!

    1) Know that the world is broken…and so are you! We live in the midst of fallenness. Remember that when people, systems, and mindsets try to convince you of their perfection. Part of maturing is coming to grips with the fact that you will never have it all together. Don’t use that as an excuse, but rather as a clarifier of your environment and your life. Wholeness can come only after there is an admission that a person has some cracks in their life.

2) Accept forgiveness and be forgiving! Know that everyone makes mistakes…and you will too! Be willing to let it go- your mistakes and the errors of others that affect you- and move on!

3) Embrace your purpose! Discover it and pursue it with passion because it is this purpose that God will use to bring glory to him and some form of healing to the world. Your purpose doesn’t have to be something that is headline-grabbing, although it may be noticed when you least expect it!

4) Identify who it is who will “go to the wall” for you! “Go to the wall” means they would be willing to lay down their life for you. Know that your list will be very short, but also take note of who you wouldn’t put on that list. Who are the people who would jump on a plane and fly across the country at a moment’s notice because you need them? Would you be on their list?

5) Seek joy more than the pursuit of happiness! Joy doesn’t leave; happiness is a temporary feeling. Put another way…happiness is a seasonal visitor, but joy is a resident. Incorporate practices in your life that keep you in the stream of joy.

6) Know without a shadow of a doubt that God loves you unconditionally! Most of what happens in our lives is conditional, but nothing you do or don’t do will negate the love that God has for you. The doubts you experience in regards to that are simply deceiver-driven or self-imposed.

7) Embrace a Community of Faith! A church or gathering of Christ-followers needs to be intimately connected to your life. They need you and you need them! Don’t try to go on a spiritual journey by yourself. You’ll fall and there will be no one to pick you back up! Going to church camp one week a year is not a fulfillment of your spiritual nutrition and need!

8) Identify a mentor and walk with him/her! Joshua had Moses, Timothy had Paul. Who is it in your life that already has the wisdom and experience with the potholes of the journey? Who can steer you in the right direction, but will also be there to encourage you after you’ve screwed up?

9) Just because everybody is doing it doesn’t make it right! As my grandfather used to say, “If everybody else jumps off a cliff, are you going to jump off, also?” Sometimes my answer was yes…and I fell hard! Don’t buy into everything that our culture says is the way or the truth, or where life is! If you do you’ll end up either disillusioned or dysfunctional!

I’ll stop at 9! Perhaps I’ll add to the list later…maybe you’ll help me! But make it fast! Camp starts in ten days!

Oh…I’ll add this one for the parents! 10) Clean your room!

Telling Laughter

October 25, 2013

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                       October 25, 2013

 

                                          

 

I admit it! My prejudice shows as I listen to someone’s laughter. Laughter to me is the telling sign of who a person is. It conveys warmth and character, but to me it also reveals arrogance and a darkened spirit.

There is good laughter and there is evil laughter, sinister snicker if you will. There is laughter that brightens the darkest room and laughter that darkens the brightest room.

I was watching an interview the other night on CNN. Piers Morgan was interviewing Warren Buffett, his son Howard, and grandson Howard W. Buffett. I don’t often sit down and watch an hour-long interview on television, but I found myself enthralled by the whole conversation. A big reason for my interest was the laughter of Warren and his son. Howie has that kind of laugh that reverberates through his whole body to where he looks like a wind-up toy that has been set loose. His laughter involves every body part. His dad, one of the richest men in the world, has a deep laugh that very few would associate with wealth. It’s a light-hearted chuckle that is delightful.

The main reason they were being interviewed was because of Howard’s new book that had just been released, Forty Chances: Finding Hope In A Hungry World. Howard has traveled the world seeking to help remedy the problem that very few people, let alone wealthy people, want to face…world hunger.

I went on-line that night and downloaded a copy of the book for my iPad and have started reading it. It’s very good, but what drew me into making the purchase was the laughter of the author. It was grounded and solid in tone. You can tell he is very serious about the issue, and yet he doesn’t take himself that seriously.

His laughter convinced me. His dad’s laugh seconded it. I one-clicked the purchase.

Some might think I’m really off base here, but laughter tells me more in a moment than an hour long conversation with someone. A laugh makes me like someone or want to leave like I’m being force-fed a spoonful of Castor Oil.

Jesus had a great laugh. Okay, I can’t prove that from scripture, and he certainly wasn’t laughing around the Pharisees and religious types, but gather a flock of kids and I can’t imagine Jesus not laughing. As the late Art Linkletter used to say, “Kids say the darnedest things!”

Laughter tells me that a kid is happy. Laughter at the wrong time tells me of some deeper issues going on. Laughter at another person’s pain is grieving.

I love to laugh. Whenever I see Brandon Bayes (which has been a number of years) one of the first things I will do is mimic the laugh of a man who was a part of the same Holy Land Tour group that we were in. We will laugh at the laugh. The laughter will reconnect us to a week spent together some twenty years ago.

My dad has a great laugh. It resembles Howie Buffett’s. His whole body gets into the act. My brother-in-law, Mike, often slaps his knee as he laughs. He feels comfortable with knee-slapping light-heartedness.

My late Aunt Irene had a great laugh. It kind of came at you like a wind that was building up to a roar and then got released. My late Uncle Bernie was the “he-he” kind of chuckler. Uncle Bernie worked at his church’s food pantry into his nineties and brought a bit of levity into the lives of a number of people who were on the edge of despair. One of my former college professors, the late Ron Richards, had a laugh that warmed up the room. We needed laughter in the midst of Economics class. Economics was one of those classes that could have easily depressed me.

I realize that I’ve used the term “the late” several times in the past couple of paragraphs, but it brightens my day to know that I can remember how so many people who have proceeded on to glory sounded in the humor of life. It makes me chuckle in a pure way.

The Disappearance of Happiness

November 1, 2012

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                         October 31, 2012

Someone once asked me “If being a Christians is such a good thing why do so many Christians look unhappy?”

Great question! Open mouth with no answer coming out.

In fact, I won’t simplify it by saying there is an answer. It is more like having a lot of fragments that gradually accumulate to give some kind of foggy image of an answer. Fragments include the economy, acne, obesity, gas prices, too much homework, realty TV, professional football, professional football ticket prices, texting, aging parents, marijuana dispensaries, air travel, baggage fees, rush hour traffic, and club volleyball…to name a few!

In essence, there are a lot of unhappy people because they seem to have more reasons to be unhappy than reasons to be happy.

A few days ago I was talking to a man who does some service work for me at our house. In the midst of our conversation he made the comment “I don’t know anyone who is happy. Everyone I know is anything but happy!”

I suggested he find some new people to hang around with.

His comment, however, stayed with me. That’s when I started thinking about happiness. Why are so few people happy? Is it connected to our personalities? Is it because life is lived at such a frantic, rushed pace? Do we think happy people are weird?

It is true that happiness is not one of the fruit of the Spirit. Joy is, but happiness…no. Joy seems to be a Spirit-developed element. Happiness, however, seems to come as a result of things happening around someone that affects their life.

Happiness is blowing out the candles on a birthday cake. Joy is knowing that the depth and specialness of the relationships the person has with those who brought the cake and are standing around in a circle singing.

Still…joy-filled people aren’t always happy; and happy people aren’t always joyous. In fact, someone can be happy about someone else having to face adversity.

There’s a song we sing in church and church camp entitled “Happiness is the Lord”. It begins with these words: “Happiness is to know the Savior; living a life within his favor, having a change in my behavior, happiness is the Lord.”

The “change in behavior” is the line I struggle with. It goes back to the question I referenced at the beginning that was asked of me. Why aren’t more followers of Jesus happy? And my last answer is “I don’t know!”