Monday, April 21 2014
Feeling sorry for yourself, and your present condition, is not only a waste of energy but the worst habit you could possibly have.
Good morning, friends! I hope you had a wonderful Easter experience yesterday and see a bright, beautiful week ahead of you. Even on Monday!
There is no doubt, and no sense denying, that all of us are emotionally affected by our circumstance. Emotions experience pain much like the physical body does. When we are hurt physically we say, "Ouch!", or something else that suggests greater pain. One of the lessons I've had to teach my kids, and I think it is a lesson common to parents, is that our reaction to pain should reflect the pain itself, and in particular the severity of the pain. Falling does not merit wailing. What merits an "ouch" should not last an hour. Get on with it. I'm glad to say my kids have progressed nicely in this area. But what about you and me? I'm not talking about the physical stuff, but the emotional stuff. Do we overreact to emotional hurts the way we taught our kids not to for physical hurts? Sure we do! We take the slights of the moment, or of the day, and martyr ourselves for longer periods of time. We carry our grudges like badges of honor. We invest in our angers. And we begin to see ourselves through the lenses of our negative creations. All evidence demonstrates that better things happen to happy, productive people. Luck truly favors prepared persons. And even opportunities lost in happy pursuit are blessings for the experience. How can you begin to cultivate an positive attitude and self-image that deals honestly and quickly with negativity? What can you do to turn the arc of your life upward? What will it take to make you put down the negative lens through which you may currently see yourself and adopt a positive view of self? Whatever it is, whatever you need to do, whatever it takes, it will be the best decision you can make today. Commit to making a positive change to see yourself, and project yourself, in a positive light. Everyone looks forward to seeing the new you! And so do you! Have a great week!
Monday, April 14 2014
I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become.
— CARL GUSTAV JUNG
Good morning, friends! I hope your Monday has begun well, as best a Monday can. The sun isn't shining right now, but it will again.
I rarely preach in these Encouraging Word e-mails, but today I may come close. Yesterday my daughter told me a joke she learned from Siri, the iPhone voice: "The past, the present and the future walked into a bar. It was tense." Ba dum bum! It may sound like a joke, but the reality is we all walk around carrying some versions of the past, present and future with us. We are told: let go of the past, live in the present, head towards the future you desire. Sage advice, certainly, but easier said than done. I've learned that past, present and future are not distinct entities in us, with clearly defined lines of demarcation. We don't enter into one from the last as if going through a door. Nor do we have one singular journey in life, as it relates to the tenses of our lives. We live in the present, moving towards the currently sought future, carrying those experiences of the past we have yet to reconcile or release. Yet, the only moment we have any control of is the present.
Take the lady Jesus encountered in John 8, the one caught with a partner in the act of adultery. We don't know exactly what "adultery" means in context; the best we can surmise is that she was partner to unmarried relations. Read the story if you like, but the upshot is that Jesus did not condemn her, and challenged her as he released her to "leave her life of sin" as one translation puts it. If there ever has been, here was a woman publicly living in the tenses. A troubled past brought her a present unsavory lifestyle, and now Jesus is challenging her to choose a different future. We are left with our assumptions.
Thank God yours and my lives are not lived publicly, for the display and assumptions of readers. Every day we have the opportunity to do a little house cleaning in our lives. Every day we have the opportunity to craft a new direction, with few people any the wiser. If we learn anything from the assumptions of the John 8 story it's that the past isn't easy to reconcile and release. We drag it along clumsily through the present for some time into the future, until we make peace with it, or at least make the past of it. Where are the clean doors when we need them? Let's affirm what Jung says, that the past does not define us. It does, however, influence us and we can choose the future we desire, given the work we are willing to do. I don't know your past; you do. And you know the level to which you allow your past to dictate your future. Are you seeking to live the life you desire, or the one you feel resigned to? What house cleaning in you needs to happen? Is your past really holding you back, or are your choices holding you back? I don't know what "better" is for you, but if you do (and I believe you do) then take this moment to be honest with yourself and make two good decisions to move you in your "better" direction. You will hardly believe the blessing of positive movement until you try it. I have faith you will be blessed by it, for your own sake. Get to it, and know that I believe in you.
Next week I promise I'll be back to the shorter, abbreviated version of encouragement. Promise.
Monday, April 07 2014
Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy.
Good morning, friends! I hope this rainy Monday is not getting you down, as the song once said. The sun will shine again, I promise!
I wonder how Anne Frank felt about Mondays during her house imprisonment from June 12, 1942 to August 1, 1944. Surely you remember Anne, the young girl of the Holocaust, hiding with her family in some hidden rooms in a building in Amsterdam during the Nazi occupation? What difference is Monday when you are trapped in a home, fearing death? What difference is a rainy day? What difference is any day? We ought to marvel at her optimism in this quote, that she could find happiness in the middle of her most unhappy life. Last night, while my wife and I renewed our walking regimen for the year we headed up through the nicer neighborhood connected to ours. The homes are bigger; the cars are nicer; the yards are neater. Being one to talk to anyone, I spied a middle aged man in his yard and greeted him. Somehow in the moments it took to pass his home the rainy weather for today was noted and the gentleman blurted out a crude statement on the course of the weather for the past year here in Winston Salem. The look on his face equaled the show of misery. Apparently all life is not happy in the neighborhood. Happiness is no trivial thing. No doctor can prescribe a pill for it, nor can a learned person offer universal platitudes about it. It is, as I understand it, a desire and reflection of the heart. It is, without question, a choice. Circumstances may challenge us, and outlooks may seem defeating, but happiness is real for all persons who seek it. Just ask Anne. How are you seeking happiness today? What brings you joy? What will it take to lift your eyes above the moment to see the beauty all around you? I'll bet there's beauty all within you, too, if you make the effort to find it. Get busy seeking happiness. I know you'll find it, Anne did! Have a great week.