Being happy. Are you happy? I found that happiness has more to do with being than pursuing.
Perhaps the most profound example of happiness I’ve encountered was on a mission trip to Guatemala. I went with a group from my church to help build homes for mothers and their children. Three women had been abandoned by their husbands and were raising children on their own.
These homes were in the middle of the jungle and were made out of cinder blocks. The floors were not parquet or carpeted with plush frieze. The floors were made of dirt. There were bars installed on the windows to keep out bandits. Even a loaf of bread was worth stealing.
Every day we showed up to the work site and so did the women with their children. We were greeted with enthusiasm and big smiles. While we had an interpreter, we couldn’t communicate through language. We communicated through God’s pure love.
They were proud of their new homes and kept the dirt floors immaculately clean. (I still don’t understand how dirt can be clean, but it can!)
We usually think of July 4th as Independence Day. But as Christians, every day is Independence Day because, as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 3:17 “Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”
When we learn to trust God and the Spirit dwells within us, we are free. Free from fear, anxiety, addictions, doubt and limitations. We are released from anything that will restrain us. Because of this freedom, we can attract what we want into our lives and be the best that God intended us to be. In the words of Jesus, Mark 10:27, “And Jesus looking upon them said, with men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible.”
Being our best and trusting in God means ultimately letting go and letting God lead us and guide us. Self help books, courses, seminars and reading inspiring material (I do my best to inspire and encourage!) are all good in feeding our soul, but our freedom comes when we cast our burdens on the One who came to save us. Jesus said, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
As Americans, we are blessed to live in a country where we can enjoy our freedom. We are free to work, worship, learn and live. Let us be mindful of our spiritual independence and freedom. May we live in the spirit to make each moment count and bask in our unbridled freedom to be all that God intended us to be.
I haven’t posted on my blog in a while because I decided to unplug myself from the computer. Initially, it was a tough decision to make. But in my quest to slow down and live in the present moment, I chose not to take my laptop with me on a choir tour to Scotland and England. I did, however, take my camera and a journal.
This was the final day of our trip, singing in St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, England.
Bill Stein, our wonderful Director of Music at First Presbyterian Church in Kirkwood, Missouri, orchestrated this trip for our choir to sing at some of the most magnificent cathedrals in the world.
Here’s a small sample of our tour. It was wonderful to worship with others across the world and to experience the splendor of these exquisite structures that were built to the glory of God.
This is the Outside of St. Paul’s.
This is Winchester Cathedral (yes, the song was about this cathedral) – Winchester has the longest Nave (principal area of the church) in the United Kingdom.
Coventry Cathedral was the only cathedral that was damaged during World War II. The cathedral was almost completely destroyed during the Blitz. A modern cathedral was built connected to the remains of the old cathedral. After seeing the devastation, the minister of the church said a prayer, “Father Forgive.” These words are in the ruins as well as the new cathedral. Two cross beams had burned and fallen in the shape of a cross. The beams are on display in the new Coventry Cathedral with a replica outside where the beams were originally found.
York Minster Cathedral
Singing at York Minister. Seeing the choir in this huge space will give you an idea of the size. The sound in these cathedrals was amazing. When we finished a powerful song the sound reverberated throughout the space for several seconds.
York Minster has the most glass of any cathedral. During World War II all of the glass was removed and hidden in the countryside to protect it.
This is just a piece of Durham Cathedral. It was impossible to get a view of the entire structure. There were no pictures allowed inside. The columns were 22 feet round. It was the first of the large cathedrals on our tour.
This is a view from the top of the tower.
St. Giles is in Edinburgh, Scotland and is the birthplace of the Presbyterian Church. This was our first stop and was very special.
Our director, Bill Stein, had the opportunity to play the pipe organ shown here. He is an incredible musician and the music filled the entire space.
Every cathedral had a place to reflect in prayer and to light a candle. I took an opportunity to light a candle and say a prayer in each space.
This trip was not only a gift in having a wonderful experience but it gave me the gift of how important it is to live in the present moment. It was the first trip that I have ever taken where I forgot what day or time it was. I wasn’t worried or thinking about anything else but being present in each moment.
It’s taken me a while to adjust to getting back into the routine of life. The reason, perhaps, is not wanting life to be routine. To be continued…..
Don’t you just love fairy tales and the promise of happily ever after?
Robert and I just saw the Disney movie, Tangled. It’s the story about Rapunzel, the princess who was taken from her parents as a baby and held captive in a tower until her eighteenth birthday. Along comes Flynn Rider, a dashing, handsome bandit on the run who finds the tower escaping from the guards that were chasing him. Rapunzel schemes to use Flynn to carry out her dream of leaving the tower for a day to visit the source of the lights that she sees every year on her birthday.
As with every Disney movie, good triumphs over evil, dreams are fulfilled and there is always a happy ending with the guarantee of life happily ever after.
Real life isn’t depicted after the closing credits. There is no sequel – Tangled 2 – tangled in bills, making ends meet, and finding energy to remain close long after the relationship begins. Of course, princesses may not have to worry about such concerns. The majority of us have many stressors in “real” live.
Like Rapunzel, we do our own escaping by being entertained for a few hours lost in dreams of fantasy free from worry.
But I got to thinking about happy endings and happily ever after and thought that as Christians, we know the end of our story. We have a happily ever after.
It’s been an interesting year as our household has gone from two incomes to zero. On one hand, I wouldn’t be telling the truth if I didn’t say that there have been mornings of feeling panic and anxiousness. But on the other hand, those feelings didn’t last long especially when we count our blessings each day and how rich we are – the word rich doesn’t always translate to cash.
We have looked at this tough economic time in our lives as a blessing. Frankly, we were a little unconscious when it came to money. Never being big spenders or living beyond our means, we never focused on a strict budget either. Now our circumstances require that we watch every penny we spend. We have scaled back our spending dramatically. With every purchase we make we now are forced to make a choice. Continue reading
There are some days, weeks, even months when living a life guided by God seems so easy. There is a flow that happens. Joy fills one’s heart. You wake up in the morning and feel a sense of gratitude for everything.
But then doubt and fear can set in. This has certainly been the case with trying to grow a business from the ground up. You’re putting your heart, soul and energy into it, but at the end of the day or week or month, there is no consistent revenue for the effort. It can seem overwhelming. It’s easy to want to give up and go find a “job” and work for someone else.
When we face challenges like this, it is particularly important to lean on your family. In this case, I mean our family of faith. Brothers and sisters in Christ.
That also means having a solid place of worship to attend to be lifted up in the presence of God with like-minded believers. If ever there was a time I needed church, it was last Sunday. I had hit a valley again.
The sermon was called, “The Power of the Spoken Word.” Continue reading
How to Free Your Spirit – Clear Clutter from Your Life –Part I Clearing Physical Clutter – Eight Tips
Our world is made up of energy. Clutter stops the flow of energy in its tracks. You can see the difference in these two pictures. One was taken of my basement with clutter…. Really. And the other picture is taken after I cleared the clutter.
When Robert and I got married almost six years ago, we merged two households. There wasn’t room in Robert’s cottage that I moved into to accommodate all of our stuff, so the majority of my things went into the basement.
As with any move, it was a frenzy of activity with the movers constantly asking, “Where does this go?” Most of the – unmarked – boxes went into the basement. There was hardly a place to move. But it wasn’t a problem because it was only in the basement.
The years went by and I quit my job in Corporate America to be a consultant working out of my home. All of a sudden the basement was weighing on me like a heavy weight around my neck. I was beginning to feel stuck. I knew that I couldn’t get unstuck until I cleared out the basement.
The task was so overwhelming that I hired professional help. My consultant explained that the basement was filled with all events from my past life, meaning old jobs, business ventures that failed, clothes that no longer fit me. All of this energy was weighing me down and I needed to clear it away. Continue reading
One of our outings included taking a canoe trip down one of the many rivers located around the area where we stayed. Since we could both count the number of times that we had been canoeing, we told the park ranger that we wanted to go canoeing, but we needed to have a river that was not challenging with lots of rapids since we were pretty much novices.
He enthusiastically recommended a river where the cub scouts and boy scouts went floating. He assured us that the trip would be uneventful. Hah!
When you Hear the Word Repent – What Image Comes to Mind? Confession? The Image of a Crazy Person? – Here’s the True Meaning of Repent
You’ve seen the image in movies and on street corners – A disheveled person with wild, hair, holding a cardboard sign with the scribbled words in bold, black print – Repent! The End is Near! – Or Repent! The Kingdom of God is Near! Sometimes they’re shouting and sometimes they have a look of quiet madness.
When we see someone like this on the street, our reactions are varied; we snicker, ignore them, feel uncomfortable or just dismiss them as crazy and go about our business.
The most famous person for declaring this word, repent, was John the Baptist. In the third chapter of Matthew, Jesus is beginning his ministry. This is when we meet John the Baptist, a wild, crazy, preacher who eats locusts with wild honey as his meal of choice. He went around the Desert of Judea preaching, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”
The English translation of repent means to feel sorry for a past action and to feel such remorse for that action as to change your ways. Interpreting this raving lunatic preacher shouting, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near,” we hear the message as – “You better confess and change your ways before it’s too late!” But that’s not what he was saying at all. Continue reading
Robert and I were at dinner a few weeks back. We had the entire section of the restaurant to ourselves until an older gentleman came in and sat down at the table next to us. The waiter greeted his customer on a first-name basis and proceeded to take a beverage order from him. When he returned with the man’s drink, the waiter asked his customer if he had a computer and if he spent time on the Internet. The customer said, “Yes.” The waiter proceeded to tell him that over the weekend he had gone on the Internet to catch up on some things including looking at his FaceBook account. Before he knew it, two hours had flown by. The waiter said, “Isn’t it crazy how time seems to fly by in double time when you get on the computer?” He continued, “We’ve had so much rain that my garden was getting overgrown with weeds. I only had so much daylight to work with over the weekend and I really needed to get out and tend to the weeds or they would have taken over my garden! I had to stop wasting time on the computer!”
Robert and I both heard this exchange and we looked at each other. Without saying a word, we smiled because we had grasped the true meaning of the dialogue. The waiter brought our food and we ate our dinner without sharing our thoughts. The next day I told Robert that I needed to write about the conversation that we overheard at the restaurant. Robert immediately asked, “The one with the waiter and the weeds?”
This story was a great illustration of how we choose to spend our time and what is truly most important. If the waiter had spent all afternoon on his computer, the weeds would have continued to take over his garden. He knew that he only had so much time to tend to his weeds and he made the right choice to put an end to his time on the computer. Continue reading