Archive | June, 2013

Happy, Thank You!

19 Jun

I have a friend who is waiting to be happy. He waits a lot. Happiness for him is that moment when someone pays him a compliment, or does something nice for him, or boosts his ego in some way. His happiness depends on the other person and how that “other” treats him. So, more often that not, he waits for happiness to show up.

So, the other day when I was reading Paul Tillich, the 20th century’s most profound theologian, and came across his definition of happiness, I had to underline it. My classmates from years ago would be proud of me for reading Tillich because I never understood a word of it the first time around. “Profound” is my way of saying he’s about three levels above my intellectual limit. But I found a book of his sermons, and, thankfully, he preached to real people while he wrote to scholarly intellectuals. In one of those sermons, he declared: “Happiness is a state of mind which lasts for a longer or shorter time and is dependent on many conditions, external and internal”. Dependent on many conditions: that’s my friend who relies on external forces and events to generate his happiness. And when happiness strikes him, he’s upbeat, grateful and on top of the world. When it strikes…

My friend’s mantra, during his happy moments, is: “I’m happy; therefore, I am grateful.” But I think he has it just backwards. For him, external events produce happiness which, in turn, produces a sense of gratefulness. His dilemma, like so many other people I know, is that he can’t control the events. So, why not turn the process around?

Try this: “I’m grateful; therefore, I am happy.” Gratefulness is my choice. Gratefulness is an attitude or perspective on the world that I control. It doesn’t depend on anybody else or anything else. And out of that compelling sense of gratitude, happiness is born. So I think I’m going to try as hard as I can to be grateful in this world of wonder, mystery, and beauty. And the next time you see me and ask, “How are you today?”, don’t be surprised to hear: “Happy, thank you!”

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Appreciating The Obvious

11 Jun

One thing you learn to appreciate very quickly in the Sonoran Desert is air conditioning. 106 degrees outside today. AC is nice…very nice.

Now that summer has set in I begin to hear “heat” stories. Everybody’s got one, like this. A friend told me recently that she set out the evening meal for her adult German Shepherd dog, a bowl filled with his favorites. But since the bowl was in the kitchen, a room that catches the full blast of the evening summer sun and is therefore quite warm, the dog paused for a few moments, picked up the full dish in his mouth and carried it into the living room. Much cooler in the shaded room…much better for a good supper!

Appreciation is running through my mind these days, especially since I heard Lynne Twist, author of the very good book The Soul of Money, comment about the things we too often take for granted. She said: “What you appreciate, appreciates.” When I slow down enough to notice and value the things I have and the things around me, I begin to see the beauty, value, and benefit of those things. When I stop the endless quest for “more”, I discover that what I have is of great value and its value is enhanced by my appreciation. Common things. Everyday stuff.

How about you? What would be on your list of things in your life that you deeply appreciate? Intently value?

Let me start the list for you…
Friendships, sunrise, conversations, songs, cool wind, fresh rain, second chances, lovely flowers you pass each day. Now you finish the list. Make it your own. Sit down, look around, and appreciate. What you appreciate, appreciates.

I’m Lost!…I Love It!

2 Jun

I’ve known it for a long time, and now I am ready to admit it. I am directionally challenged.

When someone gives me directions, saying: “Go south for a mile and then turn east”, they may as well be speaking a foreign language. I know the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, but that’s the best I can do. Thank God for GPS systems. I’ve been lost in all kinds of places: pastoral countrysides, bustling cities, off-the-map side roads. I’ve seen them all and I usually respond in the same way: “What a waste of my time. I’m supposed to be on Interstate 35, not here in this podunk town.” And so I curse myself, the wadded up map on the passenger seat, and the travel gods who must be laughing at my confusion and frustration.

But I’m rethinking my response to being lost. I’ve decided that since it happens with some regularity, I’ll make the most of it…open my eyes, shut my mouth, and actually try to enjoy the new scenery. All of a sudden I’m discovering very interesting things, quite attractive scenery, friendly people who are willing to give directions and then chat a while, old buildings with fascinating stories, good food in diners that I would never have experienced if I’d cruised along the boring interstate. Now I’m thinking that maybe I try to control my life too much, at least the getting-from-here-to-there part. I think I now love getting lost. There is something valuable in the experience when I decide to appreciate the moment instead of trying to live 10 miles down the road. It’s almost like a refreshment for the soul.

So when I’m 30 minutes late for the meeting and someone says: “Where have you been?” I just tell them that I got lost on the way. And I smile.