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 Pastor's Blog 
Monday, June 29 2020

“Success is not the key to happiness.  Happiness is the key to success.”

Albert Schweitzer

 

Good morning friends!  I hope your weekend was safe and joyful.  I hope your celebration of freedom was full-throated.  And I hope you’re ready for another week of smart thinking.  If this helps, let’s get to it.

 

Having just come through the celebration of July 4, thoughts of freedom are ripe in our minds.  I know there are many understandings of “freedom”, and circumstance often dictates.  To the imprisoned person, a walk outside walls is freedom.  To the infirmed person, an unhindered walk is freedom.  But to the average American, we who have nearly all our needs met such that we can fantasize about our wants, what is freedom?

 

For many of us our attention turns to two key words: success and happiness.  For many years, reporters on NPR (National Public Radio) have collaboratively read the Declaration of Independence on July 4.  It is fascinating to hear every time.  And again this year I heard the powerful words: with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  A chief desire of every sane mind is the achievement of happiness.  But how to get there, that’s the question.

 

In our capitalism worshipping culture, it is axiomatic that success is the way to happiness.  Racking up mountains of debt to get college degrees, stumbling up rungs of ladders leaning against rickety walls hoping for achievement, living in homes so filled with stuff that only basements, attics and storage buildings can contain it all, surely happiness is at the end of that road, right?  Well, if the national mood is indicative, not so much.

 

The author suggests, rightly I think, that we have the equation backwards.  The road to success is happiness, not the other way around.  And the phrase seems so wild and incredible to us that it surely could not be accurate, but is it?  In cultures all over the world people live in peace, harmony and happiness without any senses of competitiveness or envy.  Here at home lottery winners, professional athletes and CEOs live lives of misery.  Something is desperately wrong.

 

I’m not suggesting even a whit that we should all seek poverty to find happiness.  What the author is suggesting, and I concur, is that success won’t bring it to us, so why not try something different?   Why, indeed.  Even the suggestion makes me sound… crazy.  But I’m in good company!  Have a wonderful week!

 

Luke 16:19-31

Posted by: Pastor Thomas AT 09:47 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, June 22 2020

“Success is not the key to happiness.  Happiness is the key to success.”

Albert Schweitzer

 

Good morning friends!  I hope your weekend was safe and joyful.  I hope your celebration of freedom was full-throated.  And I hope you’re ready for another week of smart thinking.  If this helps, let’s get to it.

 

Having just come through the celebration of July 4, thoughts of freedom are ripe in our minds.  I know there are many understandings of “freedom”, and circumstance often dictates.  To the imprisoned person, a walk outside walls is freedom.  To the infirmed person, an unhindered walk is freedom.  But to the average American, we who have nearly all our needs met such that we can fantasize about our wants, what is freedom?

 

For many of us our attention turns to two key words: success and happiness.  For many years, reporters on NPR (National Public Radio) have collaboratively read the Declaration of Independence on July 4.  It is fascinating to hear every time.  And again this year I heard the powerful words: with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  A chief desire of every sane mind is the achievement of happiness.  But how to get there, that’s the question.

 

In our capitalism worshipping culture, it is axiomatic that success is the way to happiness.  Racking up mountains of debt to get college degrees, stumbling up rungs of ladders leaning against rickety walls hoping for achievement, living in homes so filled with stuff that only basements, attics and storage buildings can contain it all, surely happiness is at the end of that road, right?  Well, if the national mood is indicative, not so much.

 

The author suggests, rightly I think, that we have the equation backwards.  The road to success is happiness, not the other way around.  And the phrase seems so wild and incredible to us that it surely could not be accurate, but is it?  In cultures all over the world people live in peace, harmony and happiness without any senses of competitiveness or envy.  Here at home lottery winners, professional athletes and CEOs live lives of misery.  Something is desperately wrong.

 

I’m not suggesting even a whit that we should all seek poverty to find happiness.  What the author is suggesting, and I concur, is that success won’t bring it to us, so why not try something different?   Why, indeed.  Even the suggestion makes me sound… crazy.  But I’m in good company!  Have a wonderful week!

 

Luke 16:19-31

Posted by: Pastor Thomas AT 09:49 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, June 15 2020

"If you want to look good in front of thousands, you have to outwork thousands in front of nobody."

Damian Lillard

 

Good morning, friends!  Did you enjoy the beautiful weekend?  I sure hope so.  They don’t get much better, that’s for sure.  Alas, let’s get to it.

 

If any of you know the name “Damian Lillard” I’ll be pleasantly surprised.  He’s a star basketball player for the Portland Trailblazers, and boy is he pretty special.  He runs the offense like a maestro and rains threes from all over the half court.  He isn’t, in my estimation, equal to Steph Curry, but who is?  Lillard is special in his own way, very special.  But to succeed, and even stand out, at the pro level takes an awful lot of effort.  I don’t have the numbers, but I can estimate.  Many millions of kids play basketball, only a select number make it to college, and a whopping 450 are in the NBA in any year.  The best of the best, and then to stand out among that small crowd?  That’s pretty special.  And it isn’t easy.

 

Interviews with any of the modern greats (Lebron James, Steph Curry, and Kevin Durant, to name a few) make one point very clear: at any level of life, to stand out and above you have to do things and work harder than the crowd.  I wager that, if possible, you could track the workout times of all NBA players and it would correlate remarkably to success; those players who put in the most time to excel do in fact excel.

 

But again, it’s not about elite athletes.  It’s about everyday people like you and me.  In whatever realm you find yourself success and excellence are relative.  And to rise above “average” success and excellence we have to do more, try harder, be smarter, be more efficient, and just plain sweat in practice a whole lot more.

 

One example: back in the days of workstations that preceded personal computers, a professor of mine told a class that excellence in a word processing program would require 100 hours of practice.  Most of us (me included) scoffed, but a couple of students buckled down.  Guess what?  They excelled.  That’s a very basic (no pun intended) example; whatever you do, or want to do, follows the same process.  The persons who put in exceptional time, effort and sweat will tend to rise to the top.  Will that be you?

 

Blessings to you, and have a wonderful week!

 

Matthew 18:21-22

Posted by: Pastor THomas AT 09:51 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, June 08 2020

“Once I got into space, I was feeling very comfortable in the universe. I felt like I had a right to be anywhere in this universe, that I belonged here as much as any speck of stardust, any comet, any planet.”

Mae Jemison

 

Good morning, friends.  I hope your weekend was special in some way.  Finding “special” is hard these days, but special can be all around us if we look for it.  I hope you found it.  Now, let’s get to it.

 

Preface: I have tried extremely hard to not moralize in these Encouraging Words.  I have tried for years now to keep them on relatively focused topics and leave the outside world to other persons.  Typically, these Encouraging Words come from whatever is challenging me in the week, the overflow of my own life.  Today there is but one overflow and it is purely moral, so I understand if you choose to skip on by.  Hopefully, we’ll connect again next week.

 

Have you ever felt like you didn’t belong somewhere?  I’ve had a few occasions like that in my life, but just a few.  I remember one time as a young man I was invited to a Cotillion Dance.  If you’re not familiar, it’s part of the debutante system, where upper-class young ladies are “presented” to society.  It’s purely class matter, and not my class.  In North Carolina debutantes (young ladies of the highest society) are “selected” early in the year from around the state, then during the summer have regional dances (parties) to socialize.  I had a friend who was a debutante and remarkably one of her friends invited me as a date to her cotillion dance.  It was a disaster.

 

From the very beginning I knew none of the other group.  Worse, it was plainly obvious that I didn’t fit in.  I wasn’t Garth Brooks, showing up in my boots to her black tie affair, but it was equally obvious.  And for a night I had a miserable time, focused on my misfit ways.  But it lasted six hours and was over.  I learned to never do that again, and I knew I’d never get another chance.  Have you ever had a non-belonging experience? 

 

To become an astronaut requires the greatest commitment and a string of ultra-high achievements just to have the opportunity.  I know because my family is friends with an astronaut.  I know second hand what Mae Jemison had to endure.  It was impressive.  And I can imagine that through the super-majority of it she was a token.  She’s black, if you didn’t guess.  But it wasn’t just in high achievement that she was “non-belonging”; her whole life was a non-belonging experience.  That’s the way it is to be black in America.  Or at least, it is that way when you get out of your segregated space.

 

Dr. Jemison’s quote, from her book “Then & Now: Dr. Mae Jemison”, shows how powerful belonging is in our lives.  Most astronauts talk about the powerful experience of experiencing space; all of them talk about vastness and conquering.  But Dr. Jemison’s is the only one I’ve read that speaks of belonging.  She had to escape the surely bonds not just of gravity but of judgement and oppression to feel the relief of belonging.  It makes me sad and celebrate at the same time.  Good for her, and sad for us.

 

While I’ve had a few personal non-belonging experiences in my life, I have had many experiences deciding if someone else belonged.  I wish I had been more welcoming and inviting.  I am hopefully getting better at it.  These days “belonging” is becoming a powerful force.  There is no doubt new realities will emerge and new ways will become common.  And if they end the days of judgment for anything not character or behavior related, then all the better.

 

Have a wonderful week.

 

 

Galatians 3:26-29

Posted by: pastor Thomas AT 09:53 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, June 01 2020

“If you have good habits, time becomes your ally. All you need is patience.”

James Clear

 

Good morning, friends.  It’s hard to put some thoughts into words today, but the words that come to mind are peace, love, and justice.  On another front, let’s get to it…

 

For most of us change is a scary word.  It doesn’t matter how we stumble upon a need for change, it’s typically scary.  Did your doctor point out a need for change?  Happens all the time; how do you take it?  Did you get a life report card and find out that something you thought was going well was actually a “C”?  How did you take it?  Or maybe it was the best of experiences.  Maybe you corralled your mind, settled on a goal, only to realize that the difference between you and success is some level of personal change.  Always scary.

 

That’s what I love about this quote I read this week.  It reminds me that change isn’t an overnight miracle.  It reminds me that change is an outcome of a hundred, a thousand, or a million small steps in the right direction.  And in very particular, it reminds me that while we may be wary of change, we are all fully ensconced in change all the time, at every moment.

 

Why is that?  Because our habits, good or bad, are carrying us headfirst into the next thing.  Do you think you became what you are without a lifetime of habits getting you there?  Are you successful?  Your habits got you there.  Are you struggling?  Look only to your habits.  Are you healthy?  Habits.  Unhealthy?  Same thing. 

 

But what I truly love about this quote, what has struck me to my core, what I may never forget (although I may ignore it at my own peril) is that a good action today, compounded by more good actions in coming days, becoming a habit soon enough, can carry me to any good place I want: health, wealth and happiness, just to name a few.  You, too.  And often it doesn’t matter if we can specifically define the outcome we seek, although it helps.  What matters is that we create the habit of good habits.  Then time and patience are all we need.

 

What’s a good habit you can start today to lead you to a better future?  Whatever it is, I have faith in you!  Have a wonderful week.

 

Matthew 7:1-5

Posted by: Pastor Thomas AT 09:58 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email

PFAFFTOWN BAPTIST CHURCH
4336 Transou Road| Pfafftown,NC  27040 | Phone: 924-0126 | Email: pbcoffice@windstream.net | ©2020