Tuesday, January 26, 2010

hope: more than just obama's favorite word

What can we learn from people with joy?

I sat and stared at my professor. One, probably because it was 8:30ish in the morning and I was still adjusting to the fact that the new semester, had indeed, begun. Second, I started to believe more deeply than ever that my newly found joy in finding joy was not a mere coincidence. This quest is far greater than me just turning my frown upside down and rallying others to do so as well. No, this is truly as bad as I thought. A mass majority of people are living in a mere state of existence, not truly feeling anything. Others are living below the emotional poverty line and only feeling despair, suffering, sadness, and sorrow to some varying degree.

Where did the joy go? Have we been robbed? Or have we become bitter and cynical all on our own?

I believe that when we receive joy, good news, and happiness or feel content with our lives, we find ourselves under attack. But who is doing the attacking? For Christians, most would say they are being attacked by the enemy. As I do believe this is true, I also believe we attack ourselves. After awhile, our minds become so used to the attacks that it manipulates its way into our mode of thinking. We actually begin to allow our minds to repeat these negative messages, conspiracy theories, insecurities, fears and anxieties all our own.

It all comes back to us. At the end of our day … no, scratch that … at EVERY point of our day, we are responsible for our actions and reactions, thoughts and words. Example, I had an ordinary day yesterday. Nothing really super extraordinary but nothing on the opposite end of that spectrum either. Until the evening. I found myself in a less than desirable circumstance with someone I love. Their response to me was irrational and unjustified. I found myself containing the reaction that I wanted to give, which, in the end was rewarding, but as you know, suppressing that which we desire to do is not easy in the moment or even the few hours or days that come after that.

I allowed myself to feel what I needed to, as unpleasant as it was. I went through all the emotions by myself, anger, hurt, frustration, pride, etc. Now, I could have sat there all night and said, see that’s what I get, I try to help someone and they lash out. I should give up. Or, they did this and said that and it was not right. They are wrong! I should have done this and that or said this. Now, I’m human, I’m not going to lie. I started to go through that mental process. I even went as far as saying, see, things are going well in my life and Satan comes up and tries to ruin everything.

That’s where I stopped. I had been saying all these things in my own head. I was the one telling myself these things. I was the one perpetuating these lies. I stopped. I thought. I called my mentor. I realized that no, the person was not right. But, what had I done that was wrong? How had I conducted myself in a way that was not right? What could I have done and what can I do now to rectify the situation?

Part of me says, screw that … they need to apologize, they need to fix it, they were wrong. But I am not responsible for them. So thinking of everything they need to do is not going to help me be free of the sadness that was trying to overpower me. I had to choose to rise above the situation. I had to choose to accept it for what it was, a moment of time that was unpleasant and hurtful. I dealt with my emotions and the choices were laid before me:

1) continue to live in the hurt and anger
2) choose to forgive (even without and apology) and allow myself to once again think on pure, true, love and praiseworthy things

Choosing the first option is easier. I mean, truly. It’s so easy to sink into our feelings, they are ours, and we feel them deeply. But the second is work. It is reaching out, above, beyond, past and through what we are feeling. It is grasping and reaching out for the lovely to pull us from the ugliness.

The good news is that the lovely is there. It is attainable. It will do what it promises to do. It will lift us up out of our despair and put us into the light where what we seek can be found. From experience, I have discovered that sometimes coming into the light doesn’t immediately solve my problems. Sometimes there is residue left over. But the more I stay out of the darkness of sorrow, the more I am able to see the excellent and praiseworthy.

I am still in the midst of this situation. But today has been a day of adventure and laughter. And cramps. Which, that is not lovely, but at least I had a clear day to be able to just lie down and get the rest I needed. I will not give up living my life just because something went in a direction I did not expect. Big or small, I can still find something that gives me hope that the situation will somehow be worked out or resolved.

Ask yourself today; what is the lovely that is attached to the ugliness? Where is the branch of peace that is being extended to me? What can I do to change my thought patterns?

Isaiah 40: 29 – 31
“He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

Monday, January 18, 2010

joy : the verb

There is an epidemic sweeping our nation. It is not a new plague, but rather, one that we have allowed to infect our mass population. It is not H1N1, HIV/AIDS, it is not cancer and it is not a disease that is without a cure. In fact, this deadly disease has a remedy, but we have become lazy in taking the proper procedures that would prevent us from contracting the virus. We have become neglectful in taking the proper medication to rid us of this nasty infection.

Yes, I’m talking about complaining.

Harmless as it seems, complaining is a slow and sure death trap. It slowly begins to contaminate our brain causing us to change our outlook on life and our present circumstances through moldy, green colored glasses. Once the disease has overtaken the brain, it quickly spreads to the heart. The heart and the mind can no longer function as a cohesive pair. There is a communication breakdown in the nervous system that does not allow messages to be sent through a clear channel between the two. Wants and needs become mixed up which causes the response to these thoughts to become irrational or, often times, unmet. Motives become unclear. Life transforms into a vile foe that is out to laugh at us, or worse, destroy us.

I suppose this would be the appropriate time to give a personal admission; I too suffer from this disease. I have hidden it away, allowing it to consume me in devastating ways. Shamefully, I have not come forward and told my story. But as I have looked around, I have seen that many suffer from the affliction. My heart began to weep for what we were missing out on. Life is not our enemy, life is our gift. It is our opportunity to live it to the full. But it is not merely just these things, more so, it is a promise given to us by Jesus.

I have begun treatment for the sickness and have found that the darkness inside is being shined out by a great light; a light of hope and gratefulness. The cure? Simple. It is finding the joy in all things. It is being content, whatever the circumstance. It is finding whatever is lovely, and true, and praiseworthy and admirable and thinking on these things.

For me, my recovery has consisted of a small but greatly effective exercise. Each day I find something to be excited about. Mostly, it has been in the little things. When added together, these small joys bring a great joy that becomes a mighty force against the symptoms of complaining.

This is my road to recovery. This is my story of finding great joy in the little treasures that each day holds. This is my life’s adventure in which I find a place beyond complaining. This is my quest to capture the small and glorious gems that this life hides throughout each day for me to find and store in my treasure chest, that is, my heart.

My inspiration comes from Philippians 4: 8

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things."