Thursday, July 28, 2016

Dinner, Dessert and the Right Outlook of Happiness

I’ve been writing about happiness, and I want to point out one thing. I’m not talking about joy, I’m not talking about a spiritual fruit, but about being happy. Chasing happiness should never be our first priority, but happiness is nice. Happiness is dessert, our relationship with God is dinner. Let me unpack that.

Dinner is necessary. We shop for, plan and put a lot of work into dinner. Dinner is important, we should all sit down and enjoy dinner as a family. Dinner is a main focus of an evening and every culture seems to have a solid concept of having dinner. We put lots of focus on dinner. Resturants, markets, famers and ranchers, all these industries are focused on dinner.

Dessert on the other hand is great, but not necessary. We don’t have dessert every night. It’s not a staple, it’s not an event it’s just a little extra for those special times. Resturants have dessert for a little extra experience and a little extra revenue, but they are not the focus. Dessert is great but not life sustaining. Dinner is life sustaining.

I want to be happy, but it’s not my focus in life. I want to be happy but I need to have a relationship with God. I need to grow in my faith and in my holiness. I would like to have happiness, but I’m not going to have it all the time. My hips has been hurting lately, I’m not happy about it. When my back hurts, when I get a sunburn, when Im out of water and very thirsty, I’m not going to be happy. I can have joy and I can have a good relatonship with God, but I can’t always be happy and that’s ok. It’s ok not to be happy.

We will continue to talk about happiness again next time, but I think it’s important to put happiness in it’s proper context. Let’s make sure we have a good dinner in our relationship with God and have some dessert on a regular basis.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Isn't God Enough?

So when  you struggle with being unhappy, the constant struggle is a mental struggle. The question haunts me "why isn't God enough" ? Shouldn't I be ok on my own in the desert with just my Bible and prayer? I know the Apostles Paul said he was content with having plenty or little. What's wrong with me?  Why can't I be happy with where I am and what I have?

I think the answer is in my in my ability to be happy sometimes. When I'm doing what I love and teaching or leading or sharing I'm happy.  When I'm developing people and helping them use their skills and gifts, I'm happy. When I'm doing what I feel called to do, I'm happy. So the simple question arises, why don't I do those things more? Well my problem is mostly time. I work a lot and I have a family.  Not a lot of time to pursue outside ministry times. I have been limited in opportunity as well. I don't have the resources to really do all I feel I'm capable of.

I think Paul struggled during times or inability to minister. In prison he found his outlet in letter writing. Right now blogging is most of what I have.  You all as my readers and friends bring me happiness. I feel isolated those times I work long hours with long drive times. I am just not motivated by the idea of making lots of money. Being in a sales motivated world and being driven to want to help people is hard. I am not driven to sell, making lots of money isn't my focus. I like the ability to help people and teach people how to deal with life's pests.

So, isn't God enough? He made Adam and said this isn't good, he needs someone. Jesus took some followers and told them to share and make groups of people called to be together. The Greek term we use for church is basically a group of people called to come together. We are told to be together. We are called to help and minister together. I think we will find more happiness when we serve together and serve each other.  I'm going to keep working towards that goal.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Finding Happiness, Make Peace with your Past

I have been talking to my wife about the happiness thing. Before I go much farther, I should point out there is a reality that my unhappiness and my depression may be a medical issue. I am going to an endocrinologist in a few weeks to see if I have something off in my glands or organs or endocrine system or something.  It may be all the searching for answers may simply be a medical deficiency. I'm actually hoping so, because I don't know what else to do.

That being said, there may be an issue or issues in my past that I just haven't dealt with. Growing up, I was picked on a lot, cause . . .well I was a dork. It's just how I roll I guess. My mother was also very critical of me, which was difficult. I went from being a pretty sensitive kid who cried easily and had a soft heart to being stoic and emotionless. It wasn't by chance or accident.

In college, I lost both my parents to cancer. I did manage to graduate and go on to Seminary, and then I had the heartaches of ministry and church work which I don't wish to rehash. Let's just say there is some lingering hurt. I know there are many who the hurts and others pushing them down just motivates them harder. I had a comment (which I greatly appreciate) about wanting to prove the critics wrong and succeed despite them. That's just not how I'm wired. Criticism does not motivate me at all. I have lots in my past that I drag around, I think the technical term is baggage.

So Elaine, who is so much smarter than I am, pointed out that much of my problem is the baggage that I carry around. The hurt and the wounds and the pain that follow me around like an imprinted duckling. The problem is that I have no idea what to do about it. I have talked to others, including counselors, I have prayed and written about it. I have read books and listened to sermons and lectures and even taken classes. Maybe I am just being overly sensitive, or maybe I am so desensitized and I have crammed the stuff so deep it will take a surgeon to remove it. Maybe there is little to no hope for me.

Or maybe my thyroid is out of whack and I need to get it back in balance. Maybe, but I want to be happy and I want you to be happy too. Here is my suggestion. Let's make peace with our past. Let's forgive those who wronged us, and this might be a process. I am still working to rid myself of some anger and it takes time. Let's focus on being joyful (which can be hard) and being strong. Let's deal with emotions and feelings as they come and focus on being emotionally well.  Let's keep looking for happiness.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Not Suffering, Just Unhappy. How Do We Cope?

I have read a lot of books on suffering, some are great and some are just ok.  I'm re-reading one right now and I am reminding of the importance of pain and suffering. That's for another blog. The reality is that I'm not really suffering. I have some health problems, issues with my blood sugar and some weakness and I'm seeing an endocrinologist in a few weeks. Compared to people with cancer and life threatening diseases, I'm not suffering. I have a house, a truck that is falling apart but still runs. I have a job and a decent income. My wife and kids are healthy and we are safe and secure as anyone can be. I have food, clean water, a comfortable bed, no one wants to hurt me. All in all I have things pretty good, but emotionally I am not in a good place. I'm unhappy.

It's stupid and I can't stand it but I don't know how to fix it. My dream died, I began a path towards full time vocational ministry when I was 15. In 2012, that dream was broken and it has been smashed into smaller and smaller pieces. I attend a good church, but I don't really do anything with my gifts, and I don't see that changing anytime soon. I'm on the outside. Sure, I attend Sunday School, Worship, we go to a small group when we can. I attend the men's breakfasts sometimes, I'm in a men's huddle group. My wife attends stuff, my kids are active and involved but I'm still pretty much on the outside, at least compared to what i'm use too. I use to teach, preach, lead and serve and now I just sort of attend. It's fine, but I'm not happy.

I like my job, it's challenging and enjoyable. I trap raccoons and squirrels, I get rid of bats and bedbugs and termites. Most people are happy to see me and I get to help people. There is a lot about my job that appeals to who I am, things like problem solving. I have a good deal of Independence and I'm pretty good at what I do. It's not what I want to do though. I want to teach and lead and develop educational ministry programs. I want to start Christian organizations on public school campuses and in places of business. I want to plant network churches that move away from the purchase property and build a building model that can reproduce more rapidly and have more capital for ministry instead of overhead. I have all these ideas and dreams and goals and I am doing nothing to move towards them.

I love writing and I dream of writing and having books and articles written. I have so many ideas but if you follow my blog you know that writing is something I haven't done much of lately. I work long hours in the summer, and we just moved into a new house. Right now I should be putting the new starter in my truck. I have so much to do and I don't have time to do it all. I haven't been camping this summer and I've only been fishing with the kids twice. I don't have the time to do what i want to do, and I can't afford to do much of it. I work long hours because there is so much to do. I get home and do what I can around here, but physically I run out of energy.

I feel torn down. I have never really been a super successful individual and I have experienced a lot of criticism and discouragement. I'm not trying to do the "oh, poor me" thing, just throwing reality out there. My mom was critical, many peers have been critical, I was told when I left ministry that I wasn't cut out for it. I have been rocked over and over with criticism and rejection. I've had a lot of doors shut in my face and been told I'm not worth a whole lot. You hear that enough, you tend to think it's pretty true. I have never really been the best at anything, I've always been average or below. I have found myself giving up on a lot. I have stopped trying, stopped pushing forward and really stopped caring. I feel like my critics and detractors have steam rolled me and I have just given up. My wife tells me that she knows how defeated I feel. I have lost the will to get up and fight back. It's become a "what's the point" sort of thing. So many who claimed to be my friends, my brothers and my support have betrayed me and lied to me. There have been so many times that people have told me they love me, but don't hesitate to turn on me when it suits them. I have discovered the church is full of politicians and it's hard to know who to trust. It's hard to trust.

Life is going ok, but I am unhappy. I don't know why, I don't know how to fix it. I wish I could have things different, I wish I could change and rearrange a few things. The Apostle Paul says we need to be content in all things and be joyful and patient. I'm not, I am not joyful and I'm not patient and I'm not happy. I want to spend some time over the next handful of posts to explore this phenomenon because I don't think I'm alone in this. I see people doing all sorts of radical things in their lives because they are not happy. We make bad decisions in search for a good feeling. Some people try drugs or drinking or bad relationships, become addicted to something and find ways to escape. I have tried several escapes in an attempt to just feel happy. It's failed.

Together we can walk through this process and try to find a way to be happy without breaking the law, disobeying God, leaving our family, getting divorced, quitting our jobs, losing our money and destroying our lives. Too often, people have gone to these extremes to be happy and I don't think it works. We need to find a way to be happy that truly makes us both happy and obedient in Christ. There has got to be a better way.