Happiness Is…

“Happiness isn’t about what happens to us. Happiness is the knack of finding a positive for every negative and viewing a setback as a challenge. It’s not wishing for what we don’t have but enjoying what we do possess.”

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An Attitude of Gratitude

Strength

by Edgar Guest

Be grateful in the morning for the day that lies before;
be grateful in the evening that you still have strength in store.
What if you come a failure home – there’s rest when you get in
and those who keep their faith in you believe you’re going to win.

The coward wears his failures long and lets them weigh him down,
and so with sullen eyes he goes forever through the town,
he thinks the gods have picked him out as one to trample low,
and he’s a beaten man before his rival strikes a blow.

Be grateful for the dawning day and all that it may bring;
don’t carry yesterdays about like buttons on a string;
press forward to the field once more – one victory’s all you need.
You’ll laugh at failures you have had the minute you succeed.

The fighting heart may some day win, the quitter never can;
there’s many a battle turns upon the spirit of a man;
and who begins the day with faith, despite his failures past,
may see the tide of victory turn and roll his way at last.

“Appreciation is the highest form of prayer, for it acknowledges the presence of good wherever you shine your thankful thoughts.”  — Alan Cohen

Where Is God When It Hurts This Bad?

Will’s father was always religious.  A legalistic type.  He meant well, but he had definite ideas about how God looked at things and spent a lifetime looking for a church that held the same views.  (Like most of us, it took him years to learn that his views weren’t always in sync with God.)

Will’s Dad had been in his late 30′s when he married; his wife was 16 or 17.  The babies came like stair steps–seven of them; Will (name changed for privacy reasons) was one of the younger children.  Because his mother was overwhelmed with caring for her growing family, he and his sister spent some months in one of the homes in the church community.

At one point he thought he’d found the perfect church, so he moved his family into the community, hoping to join this group.  Sad to say, there came a time when something in the church’s doctrines or practices didn’t agree with Will’s father and he uprooted his family to go off in search of a church more in line with his ideas.  He never found a church that accepted how right he was.  He did develop an “unhealthy interest” in his daughters.  When his wife found out about this hanky-panky she had him committed to a mental institute and divorced him.

The mother, by this time, had lost all enthusiasm for churches.  Without a father in their lives–lacking that vital part of parental guidance–the children grew up to make some bad choices that really messed up their lives.  In his teen years Will got into partying, drinking and drugs.

In spite of his substance abuses, he settled down enough to hold a job.  Then he fell in love with a local girl; they married and soon had a baby boy.  For the first time in his life Will was truly happy.  His little family meant the world to him.

His wife had been from a relatively good home, but she followed him into the life of parties and liked it too well.  One day she took her little boy and left him for another man.  Will was dismayed but he knew where she’d gone and was determined to bring her back home.  When he got to the other man’s home, the fellow met him with a broken beer bottle in one hand.  She WASN’T coming back.

Devastated, he returned to his apartment – so empty now.  Like his life.  Everything he valued in this life was gone.  He wandered into the kitchen, opened the cutlery drawer and took out a big knife.  He had nothing left to live for.  Why not just end it all?

Right then a question pierced the cloud of despair that hung over him:  “What about Me, son?”

He recognized and opened his mind to the Voice of God.  The Spirit reminded him of the Christian teachings he’d received as a boy, encouraging him that God could still have a way.  Will realized that it was his own choices that brought him to this brink of disaster.  He was impressed that God still loved him in spite of it.  He saw the Lord as his only hope, the only Light in this darkness.

Then and there he turned his life over to God.  He asked forgiveness for the sins of his past and prayed for guidance through the mess he’d made.  He felt peace wash over him, sensed a calmness that he’d never known before.  He felt free of his past and able to face the future.  He was beginning a new life, this time walking with God.

I wish I could say that everything went well for Will after this, that his wife returned and they had a happy home.  Not so; she moved away and he had no contact with the boy again.  This has given him many heartaches, trials and stumblings, but God has been faithful to pull him out of the depths of despair many times.

By the time Will met the Lord, his father had made a full circle and gone back to the church group he’d left so long ago.  Will’s sister who had lived with him in one of the church homes had also found her way back and was attending there, too.  And this is where Will went looking for a Christian family.  I’m retelling his experience as he told it one Sunday morning years ago prior to his baptism.

So where is God when it hurts?  He’s right there…standing beside us…trying to talk to us in our fog of disappointment, anger, desolation.  He’s not into shouting, overpowering or drowning out all our other thoughts; He’s not into magic tricks to prove Himself to the skeptics.  He’s the quiet, gentle Voice of hope that so many brush aside before they jump over the cliff.  But He’s always there, trying to rescue the lost.  He alone understands just where a jump over that cliff will land us.

He can–and He will–lead us through to better days if we abandon our own plan, take His hand and just follow.

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.  Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you.  And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29: 11-13

The Mind

By Edgar Guest

The mind is that mysterious thing
which makes the toiler and the king.
It is the realm of thought where dwells
the nursery rhymes the father tells.
It is the source of all that gives
high color to the life he lives.
It starts the smile or shapes the frown,
it lifts man up or holds him down.
It marks the happy singing lad,
it marks the neighbor kind and glad,
and world wide over this we find —
a man is fashioned by his mind.

How strange it is that what we see
and seem to cherish tenderly
is not the outward garb of clay,
for all are formed the self-same way.
Not in the hands and legs and cheeks,
not in the common voice which speaks,
lies man’s identity on earth—
all these come with the gift of birth.
But love and friendship and delight
lie in a world that’s hid from sight.
The mind of all is master still
to fashion them for good or ill.

So men and women here are wrought
by this strange hidden power of thought
and each becomes in life the thing
the mind has long been fashioning.
Man’s body moves and eats and drinks
and but reflects the thoughts he thinks.
His every action leaves behind
merely the prompting of his mind.
Bad men have arms and legs and eyes.
That which we cherish or despise
and shapes each individual soul
is wholly in the mind’s control.

From the Collected Verse of Edgar A. Guest
© 1934 by the Reilly & Lee Company

The Evolution of Music in My Life

Today in Writing 101 we are to tell about three favorite songs and what they mean to us, but so many more than three pop into my mind when I start to recall — I hardly know where to start!

It seems like for each time of my life the love of a certain song, or a number of songs, predominated. When I was about ten I remember a haunting popular tune, “Listen to the rhythm of the falling rain.” It still comes to mind sometimes when I’m walking in the rain.

My family loved old-time country music, my parents’ favorites being Hank Snow, Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, etc..

As I got older I started to use music like a drug; I had many 45 & 33 rpm records and would play them one after the other, letting the music carry me. I often started my trips with
“Hey Mr. Tambourine man, play a song for me…”

Neil Diamond was one of my favorite singers from that time with his “Solitary Man” and “Cracklin’ Rosie” but there were many others: the Everly Brothers, Johnny Rivers. I tended toward “blue” songs because I was so blue myself.

James Taylor singing Carol King’s “You’ve got a Friend” made me long for such a friend, but I didn’t have the experience to know you have to BE that kind of a friend, too.

After I was married, when I was happy, I often started singing the then-popular
“I’ve got sunshine wine and dandelion gold…”

As a teen I could identify with the longing in Stevie Wonder’s song:
“There’s a place in the sun, and before my life is done,
gotta find me a place in the sun.”

I hadn’t found mine, either.

A year or so after we were married my husband and I started attending church and hanging around religious people. A youth group from our church got serious about faith in Jesus so they started a coffee house where they’d sing popular folksy-religious songs like “Pass it On” and various choruses.
“We are happy people, praise the Lord…”

I started listening to country-gospel tapes.
“Some bright morning when this life is o’er, I’ll fly away…”
“Daddy sang bass, Mama sang tenor…”

Then one day my world got really dark. I realized God didn’t want me to drift through life acting religious and singing country gospel. He was calling me to be His child, to give my life into His hands. At first I resisted, but finally made a full surrender. I became His servant.

We got serious about church and my taste in music changed. I started to love the old hymns that speak to the soul.

Then came a bout with breast cancer. When the future, like a cosy rug you’re standing on, is suddenly pulled out from under you, you find consolation in songs that identify that feeling:
“We never know, when shadows fall, if another day will dawn
or if the plans that we have made will turn out right or wrong…”
(“Live One Day at a Time” ©1973 by Melissa Balusek )

At times when my world feels topsy-turvy, when I’m in pain or feeling heart-broken, I still want to put confidence in a Master plan. I turn to songs like:
“Great is thy faithfulness, Oh God, my Father;
There is no shadow of turning with thee…”
(Thomas O. Chisholm ©1923)

I’m still very fond of Hank Williams’ version of “I Saw the Light.” You can guess why.

I still identify with the longing expressed in “A Place in the Sun,” but now it’s from the perspective of one who has wandered, seeking that place, and finally found it. I can empathize with someone still searching, but I’m also thankful that my heart is at rest.

“When my life’s work is ended and I cross the swelling tide
when that bright and glorious morning I shall see,
I shall know my Redeemer when I reach the other side
and His smile will be the first to welcome me.”
(“My Savior First of All” by Fanny Crosby)

The Death of Fear

monkey.shyIt dawned on me one day, during a discussion on the subject, that fear is basically self-centeredness. We look within ourselves for the answers, or the courage, to solve a problem. And we don’t find any, so we fear.

Fear keeps us rooted in one spot, afraid to take a step in any direction. But if I have enough faith to believe that there is an answer to be had — even if I can’t see it right now– fear loses its grip on my mind.

I’ve learned that God knows my answers and can show them to me if I ask, plus He will give me the courage to follow through in the process of solving the problem. And sometimes someone else will have the answer for me, if I can be open and share my problem with a mature friend or advisor.

So come out from behind that tree and see what you can do to locate — and be part of — the answer.

Quotes of the Day:

Do the thing you fear and the death of fear is certain.

Between the great things we fear to tackle and the little things we disdain to do, the chances are we will accomplish nothing.

The brave man is not he who never feels fear, but he who advances in spite of it.