“My Kind of Happiness”

Good morning Holy Spirit. It’s nearly October and its cool this morning and it promises to be a really great day! 

Something Simple

I’m feeling the need for brevity and simplicity. So, here goes.

Simply Grateful

This morning I’m aware of my blessings and want to say thank you. So thank you Lord. Thank you for so much:

  1. For my Colorado friend having a successful surgery.
  2. For friends who support me in every way.
  3. A wonderful church that blesses me every day.
  4. A loving wife by my side for nearly 40 years.
  5. For two fabulous kids.
  6. That I am healthy and strong.
  7. For being free, prosperous, and alive to enjoy it.
  8. For salvation in Jesus the Messiah.

(As I’m writing, a friend just walked in with donuts, I am so blessed!)

There’s more to be thankful for. But those eight reflect a life of blessing, purpose, and fellowship; with God, his people, and with family and friends. Such is the life of a blessed man and today I’m aware of how blessed I am.

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Not Every Day

It isn’t every day that I feel this good. Some days are a struggle, there are trials and hardships, and there are burdens that weigh me down; but not today.

To Close

Like the man said in the movie, “To tell you the truth, I have failed in life as much as I’ve succeeded, but I love my wife, I love my life, and I wish for you my kind of happiness.”

Take that as you will.

Be thankful if you can. Gratitude and attitude have a lot to do with each other.

Shalom

And Who Is My Neighbor?

Yesterday’s blog was about being neighborly. This morning I’m thinking about the Jewish expert who asked Rabbi Jesus a question. Actually, he asked two questions and the second one was about neighbors.

The First Question

“Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

Jesus asked a question in return, which was the Rabbinical style. When someone asked the teacher a question, he answered with a question. The student discovered the answer to his question through the process of answering the Rabbi’s question. It was brilliant. Jesus asked him, “How do you understand the Law of Moses?”

The man answered by saying to God completely and to love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus affirmed his answer and was ready to move on. But the man wanted to justify himself, for Jesus had responded with such wise simplicity that the man was a little embarrassed. So he asked a second question.

The Second Question

“And who is my neighbor?”

Jesus told him a parable about neighbors. A traveler was robbed, beaten, and left for dead. Two men walked by but didn’t help, one a priest and the other a Levite. All priests were Levite’s but not all Levites were priests. Both would have wrestled with purity laws, about remaining undefiled by doing nothing to make them unclean; like touching a dead body or having contact with blood. It wasn’t a lack of compassion, but how they kept the law of Moses, staying undefiled was higher than helping someone who was dying.

Next in the story, a Samaritan stopped and did everything to help. He didn’t make defilement more important than being a good neighbor.

Jesus asked the expert, “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” Yet another question from a wiser Rabbi. The man had no recourse, so he answered, “The one who had mercy on him?”

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The Lesson

We typically miss this. We think the parable is about helping the helpless. It isn’t. Not that Jesus wouldn’t want us to stop and assist, of course he would. The Samaritan chose to make the injured man his neighbor, and so he loved and cared for him, by being a neighbor. 

The parable was Jesus’ answer to the question, “Who is my neighbor?” Look closer at what Jesus asked him, “And which of the three men was the neighbor?” Not which of the three men helped their neighbor, but who was the neighbor? The answer was obviously, the Samaritan, he was the neighbor to the injured man.

The Lesson

Jesus wanted the expert to understand that the Samaritan was the neighbor, and the question of, “And who is my neighbor,” was answered, the Samaritan is your neighbor. 

The turn of words placed the burden of neighborly love right on the expert’s shoulders. A tough lesson, for his was a culture steeped in racism; the Jews hated the Samaritans.

Jesus used his Rabbinical skills to teach a strong truth. We aren’t to busy ourselves deciding who we will love and who we won’t. We shouldn’t debate which people to be neighborly with. We are everyone’s neighbor, especially those we want to hate, despise, and reject. We are to love the Samaritans, not pass them by to keep ourselves clean and undefiled.

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To Close

Eternal life goes to those who love God and love their neighbors. The Samaritan is your neighbor, love him.

Some pretty tough love wouldn’t you say? Do you have any “Samaritans” in your life?

What did Jesus tell the religious expert, “Go and do likewise.”

Shalom

Book

Find my book at http://www.rickfyffe.com

 

Healing In Hard Times, Pt. 5

I have had moments of deep angst and anger at God.

“I’m So Mad At You God”

“Why would you?” “How could you?” “You could have done something!” “You could have intervened and now I’m so angry with you.”

I think of those as, “Martha Moments.” Remember when she ran out to Jesus to ask why he didn’t come to heal her brother? Was she confused, frustrated, angry?

Some of my Angry-at-God moments were about losses in the family. Some were the deaths of close friends. Some were about the brutality, violence, and emptiness of loss.

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Pain, Anguish, Grief, Confusion, Anger.

Dealing With My Anger

Some cultures are more open with their emotional pain. They express honesty towards God that our culture considers disrespectful or blasphemous. “Who am I to rail against the Lord?” We have a fearful sense of God for he is mighty and capable of wrathful judgment.

“It’s a terrible thing to fall into the hands of an angry God.”

But we should rethink that perspective. We should be respectful, yet honest. We should praise him and give thanks in all circumstances, but be open about our challenges and hard emotions, even when they are about him. He isn’t petty. He isn’t mean-spirited. 

Suggestions About Our Anger With God

  1. Honesty: you have to be honest. When feeling angry with God you need to admit it, to own it, so you can process and deal with it.
  1. Dealing With It: after admitting your anger with God, you need to discover where those emotions are really coming from. An effective method is to honestly answer some key questions:
  • What did God do, or not do, that resulted in my being angry with him?
  • Do I really blame God or has it just become easier to make it his fault?
  • Has God promised to insulate me from pain, suffering, or death?
  • Isn’t anger one of the stages of grief; am I in the anger stage now?
  • Do I believe he loves me or do I believe he’s turned against me?

Depending on your answers, you are ready to either move forward with God or to seek counsel to resolve some specific issues. I suggest consulting with a wise and insightful friend, a minister, or a faith based counselor.

  1. Moving Forward: find a moment to talk to God. Tell him how angry you have been over the death of the person you loved so dearly. If needed, ask his forgiveness. He knows, he understands, and he won’t hold a grudge!

Maybe you need to stand with your face towards God, with your fists in the air, and at the top of your lungs let him hear your pain, tell him how angry you have been. Share the pain until the hurt turns to tears. Then weep till there’s nothing left but calm, and allow the calm to ease your mind and to fill your heart. I’ve done this before, more than once. 

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Don’t be afraid to let God know how you feel.

To Close Out

I know. These are complicated and deeply personal things deserving more than what these meager words can offer.

But please, don’t stay angry. Unresolved anger turns into bitterness. And bitterness will burn your soul. Your relationship with God is too important to allow acidic bitterness to dissolve your faith.

Hang in there. You are tougher than you think. Believe.

God Bless You.

Shalom

Healing In Hard Times, Pt 2

Good morning Holy Spirit. Thank you for the time off yesterday. Now please bless us as we resume whatever it is we’ll be doing today.

Right after the resurrection of Jesus, several of the disciples left Jerusalem and went home to Galilee. Why? Maybe they were grieving the future they believed was torn from them. Perhaps they were feeling unsettled. Maybe they needed something to focus on while they processed their Messiah’s death?

John Recorded This:

John 21:3, “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you…”

Struggling With Loss

When people grieve the loss of a family member, close friend, or loved one, a challenge they face is getting through the days and nights. The pain of loss makes the days feel like weeks and the weeks like months. Time seems to stand still. When it does, the grieving magnifies. With nothing to do and nothing but time to do it with, the daily experience of grief can be brutal, and interminable.

Let’s Go Fishing

My encouragement is to take a page from the disciples. Find something to do, something you enjoy, perhaps even challenging or new.

My encouragement is to find something that helps manage the pain. Peter and the disciples didn’t understand why Jesus died, at least not at that point. They were hurting and they were grieving over Judas, the crucifixion, the denials, and the abandoning of their Rabbi. Jesus had resurrected, but they didn’t understand.

They had two choices: (1) To sit around feeling sad and sorry for themselves, slowly sinking into depression. Or (2) To get up and do something productive, expend some energy; get through the days by having something else to think about. The 2nd choice wouldn’t eliminate their grief, just help them cope with it.

A Few Suggestions

If you are grieving and have too much empty time then consider:

  1. Volunteering at a local shelter, food bank, or lunch program; helping someone who may be in worse circumstances than you.
  2. Get involved with a ministry at your church. Help with something. Become a greeter. Greeters have to be warm and friendly, it will do you good.
  3. Start a project. Plant a garden. Paint a room. Do something needing to be done.
  4. Be creative. Paint a picture, redecorate a room, write a poem, or start attending concerts, plays, and musicals.
  5. Get fit. Start walking. Swim a lap or two. Drop some weight if you can. Follow your Doctors orders regarding your medical care, but as you are able, get in better shape.

Here’s The Thing

The thing is, all these require two essential elements:

  1. The will to get up and go fishing, or something!
  2. The energy to make it happen.

It can be hard to get up, to get out of bed, and be productive. But if you will then you can engage your mind, heart, and body in something worthwhile, and it will help you. It’s not a magical pill to dissolve your grief, but it will help.

To Close

“Let’s go fishing,” Peter said. They weren’t fly fishing in the Colorado Mountains. They were casting their nets; they were working and being productive. It’s what they could do.

Fly fishing sounds pretty good too.

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God Bless You

Shalom

Life In Parentheses

A key to better living is learning how to manage the parentheses, the brackets, the time-outs known as transitions.

Regular Life

When life bumps along at regular speed, with predictable days and smooth, easy living, well, life seems pretty sweet and easily managed.

But when it doesn’t?

Irregular Life

When life is lived at a jagged pace, with unpredictable events and curve balls interrupting the flow of happy days, well, I don’t like that as much. It’s unwelcome, but unavoidable. 

Interruptions come. Some are annoying; others are painful, and some are filled with grief, while others offer exciting changes and opportunities. 

Interruptions burrow into our lives, creating seasons of difference and moments of change. We experience them with faith, sometimes gritting our teeth, and when appropriate, with gratitude.

For Rick And Danielle

For the past eight years, we have commuted to church, 22 miles each way. The fastest route takes us on two freeways with two toll booths. Average drive time is 32 minutes going and 40 minutes returning. During the 8 years, both freeways have been under construction. Stop and go traffic is normal and at least twice a week are accidents resulting in further delays. Welcome to Houston. 

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So We Moved

We made a change, to have a parenthesis, to live in the brackets. We sold our house, packed up, and moved into our dream home. We are so happy!

Oops. Sorry, that’s not what happened. Nope, the dream home slipped through our fingers. So we put everything in storage and moved into an extended stay hotel. Man, has that been fun!  I wish we could stay forever, not.

That was five weeks ago. But we found a house and we close tomorrow morning. Brackets, parentheses, and moments of change.

We Are So Exited

We are enthused to be on this side of town. Our drive to church requires no freeways, hi-ways, or toll roads. It’s awesome.

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The Real Trick

But the challenge to living a happy life isn’t managing the exciting things, it’s managing the other stuff.

So stay with me over the next few weeks. I will be blogging about some steps and guidelines for managing the mind fields and for coping when life isn’t easily lived.

For today: I offer you the peace and joy of the Holy Spirit. Live well. Be joyful. Find beauty and comfort in someone or something around you. Honor God with your life.

Shalom

Logo slide reverse

Fixing What’s Broken

Brokenness: Some see it as an avenue for making forward progress. For others it’s a debilitating experience immersed in defeat and depression.

What makes it good for one and not for the other?

It’s All About Attitude

I believe it’s all about attitude. If a person views it as a way of making their life better, then that’s what will happen. But if they choose to see it as bitter and painful, as something debilitating, then that’s what it will be.

One person is lifted up and another is swallowed up.

Some Examples:

  1. King David had a one-night affair with Bathsheba, who got pregnant; David had her husband killed and then married her. Their baby died a week after his birth. He mourned and grieved, but got up and continued as best he could.
  1. Mary was broken by her sinful life. When the opportunity came to see Jesus, she humbled herself by washing his feet with her tears and drying them with her hair. Her brokenness pushed her to Christ.
  1. King Saul was upstaged by a young shepherd boy named David. When David was able to advance himself, he did so by dispatching the Philistines and their champion, Goliath. David was catapulted into the national spotlight. Saul became jealous, angry, and broken. He vowed to kill David. His brokenness defined him and he failed in every way possible.
  1. Peter was fully devoted to Jesus, but at times his devotion derived more from emotion than conviction. After denying Jesus, he went out and wept bitterly. But rather than be defeated by his own glaring weakness, he moved on with his life and became the primary proclaimer in Jerusalem.
  1. On the other hand, Judas allowed his brokenness to take him down a dark path to self-destruction. Overwrought with grief and shame, he chose to end his life rather than to seek mercy, forgiveness, and a new beginning.

The Presentation

Brokenness comes packaged in different wrappings. It looks a little different each time it comes and can often be a different experience for each of us.

Causing Brokenness

  • Heart wrenching grief
  • Professional termination
  • Shame and guilt of sin
  • Public humiliation
  • The devastation of divorce
  • Others? 

A Look At Jesus

Jesus endured the cross, scorning its shame. Did you catch that? He scorned its shame. Scorn means: “to feel contempt for.” The Roman cross was the most painful, the most humiliating, and the most shameful of all their public executions. But Jesus chose contempt for the cross; he scorned it, rather than being defined by it.

Man-at-cross

To Close

We are broken by our sins and mistakes and we are broken by the sins and mistakes of others. Sometimes life breaks us, it just forces itself upon us.

What we choose to do with our brokenness is up to each of us. We use it to become better, stronger. Or we allow it do hurt and diminish us.

Which will you choose?

Shalom

When Life Doesn’t Work

Managing disappointment can be tough, even for strong believers. Even for Jesus.

Here’s What I Mean

I have two natures, the flesh and the spirit. The flesh isn’t spiritual; it’s worldly, self-serving and self-reliant. My spiritual side has none of those. It seeks the will of God, follows the Spirit’s lead, and relies on God.

When life dishes out disappointments and discouragements, which of my two natures will dominate? If my carnal nature leads, then I will struggle with anger, resentment, and negative thinking. If my spiritual side leads then I will find acceptance, purpose, and hope. I’ll set aside my natural tendencies and seek the peace of God which calms my soul and eases my mind.

However…

I’ll confess it isn’t easy. In fact, some days it’s a really a struggle. And not just for me, but also for others who were pretty Godly people.

Paul said,

  • “I can do all things through him who gives me strength.”
  • “All things work together for good…”
  • “Give thanks in all circumstances for this is Gods will for you”
  • “In all these things we are more than conquerors”

Paul also said,

  • “Who is led into sin and I do not inwardly burn”
  • “I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches”
  • “We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure”
  • “In our hearts we felt the sentence of death”

You get the idea. Paul wrote some of the most positive and optimistic things in the New Testament. Yet, he struggled too, for at the end of the day, he was just a man.

And what of Jesus?

  • “Do not worry about your life”
  • “Do not let your hearts be troubled”
  • “Trust God, trust also in me”
  • “Seek first his Kingdom and all these will be given to you”

And yet,

  • “Get behind me Satan, you are a stumbling block to me”
  • “And being in anguish, his sweat was like drops of blood”
  • “An angel from heaven appeared, and strengthened him”
  • “He offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears”

Paul was human, so was Jesus. I’m not suggesting Jesus wasn’t also divine, only that his divinity wasn’t allowed to intervene with his struggles. He is our perfect sacrifice because he suffered for resisting sin.

My Sinful Nature

The cross didn’t eliminate my sinful nature; it nullified it. God knows I still struggle. His son struggled too, but he struggled to remain morally perfect, where I have not, I’m a fallen sinner. But I’m no longer judged by my own imperfection, but by his perfection. Im saved by his righteousness. Shall I continue in sin that grace my increase? “No,” said Paul, “God forbid.”

Indulgence

We aren’t to indulge our sinfulness, just struggle to not let it run rampant. There is help; we aren’t alone. The Holy Spirit is always with us. God strengthens those who seek him.

To Close

I have some hard and heavy days. Days marked by sadness, discouragement, and even overwhelming anxiety. And what about my disappointments?

He understands those too, he understands all of it. He does.

It’s not a sin to be human.

So don’t give up, hang in there, find faith, and keep rolling with the punches.

Shalom

Lift Your Head Up

I’M THINKING

I’m thinking about disappointments both large and small.

How should I respond? What should I do? Are feelings of disappointment a reflection of unbelief, a lack of trust? Are some disappointments harder than others?

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Sometimes Despair Is All You Have 

SOME DISAPPOINTMENTS

  • The shoelace broke on my brand new shoes and I couldn’t wear them.
  • A rainstorm interrupted the satellite feed during my favorite show.
  • The expensive steak I ordered came out overcooked.
  • A traffic snarl on I-45 caused a three-minute delay.
  • I called a company to complain but could only leave a message.

Those are disappointing all right.

SOME MORE DISAPPOINTMENTS

  • Criticism and negativity from people you thought were mature.
  • Friends and family who canceled at the last minute.
  • Discovering how low the bar of excellence is set for some people.
  • Not getting the bid, the offer, or the job your heart desired.
  • Back stabbing betrayal from someone you trusted.
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Disappointment Is Common and Global

DISAPPOINTMENT?

Was Noah disappointed when no one responded? Was Jeremiah devastated when no one repented? Were Adam and Eve disappointed in their sinful behavior? How did Moses handle the grumbling, complaining, and negativity from people whose lives he had saved, repeatedly? Was he disappointed in them?

Was Jesus disappointed when his disciples lacked faith? When they wanted to burn a Samaritan village to the ground? When they couldn’t stay awake to support him in prayer? When they viewed him as a means for advancement in the coming kingdom?

Did the Father weep at the brutality given to Jesus? Did knowing ahead of time what was going to happen ease the pain of the hatred and violence dished out to his son?

Was God disappointed in humanity?

THIS MORNING

Whatever setbacks and losses I experience in life, there are always others who have suffered more, and worse. Acknowledging the suffering of others won’t dissolve the bitter sting of my own disappointments.

But it does help to acknowledge that I’m not a martyr. I’m not alone; I’m not the only one. Life’s disappointments are common and global.

AND FINALLY

Hang tough. Don’t give in and don’t ever give up. There will be another day. There will be a better one.

So lift your head up.

Trust in God. Believe. Smile, for the world still turns and something joyful may be just around he corner.

Shalom

It’s The Coolest Thing!

THE IN AND OUT

Popularity is fickle. What’s thought to be cool lasts only a moment, a few weeks or months, and then poof, it’s out with the old and in with the new.

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Was this really cool?

Somebody somewhere decides these things. Someone has the enviable job of determining fashion, hair styles, architecture and building design, the new hip colors and fabrics, car features, the latest in music, art, and theater, and on and on, and on.

gold fish shoes
How do you feed them?

I’m guessing that this very moment, somebody somewhere is showing someone a new idea that will be featured in the right magazine, shown on the right shows, and be in the coolest movies. Then BAM: millions will flock to buy the next must have thing.

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It seems like these jeans should cost less: they don’t.

REMEMBER THESE?

  • Bell bottom pants
  • Beads that men wore
  • Popcorn ceiling texture
  • Shag carpeting
  • Six inch wide lapels
  • A penny in a penny loafer
  • Fur coats made of real fur
  • Long hair on men
  • AMC Gremlins (it was a car)
  • And more…..

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Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating a return to the past. I like change. Change is good. Change keeps things fresh and pushes us forward in life.

HERE’S MY THING

My thing is that I can’t keep up with what’s new and cool. Which isn’t really true, because I’ve never tried to keep up. I never know what’s hip.

The whole thing mystifies me. Things have to be repainted to reflect the new hot colors. People seem to know the new way to wear a scarf, or the height of heels, or flat-heeled boots, or skinny jeans and ripped jeans.

It’s all above my pay grade.

BUT BE HAPPY

But go out there and be happy. Be in. Be cool, hip, and current. Get up to speed on the latest and greatest and the best. And good luck to you.

ON BEHALF OF FUDDY-DUDDYS

I don’t know that fuddy-duddy is what I am. Maybe. I’m not grouchy. I’m not against anything. Mostly, I’m just out of energy, and lacking regard for the many things that determine being cool or not.

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Is this me?

AND FINALLY

Perhaps this is caveman thinking, but I think someone should be cool based on their attitude, rather than their attire. That someone might be popular not because of the car they drive but for how they care about others. Personality ought to matter more than a pleasing hairstyle.

Anyway, I’m off to do some shopping. I hear they have some really cool cases for the new iPhone 6 plus. Later dudes.

I Love The Middle Ones

LIFE’S LITTE FOIBLES

I’m not saying I don’t have any, I do. Here is one of them. I don’t care for the cinnamon rolls on the outside of the pan. I like the middle ones.

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There, I‘ve said it. Some say owning up to it is the first step to recovery.

I HAVE OTHERS

Here are some of my other eccentric flaws:

  1. I don’t care for the bits and pieces of chips at the bottom of the bag.
  2. Like the cinnamon rolls, watermelon is best enjoyed at the center.
  3. I put the left sock on first, then the right, and the right side irritates me.
  4. Commercials should be muted, not watched, heard, or acknowledged.
  5. I take the full trash bag out of the container, but I don’t put a new one in.

Those are the most annoying things about me. Or maybe not.

WHAT ARE YOURS?

Everyone has irritating, annoying habits and flaws. We all do. Yes, I have more than most, but you have them too, you know you do.

Some are of an inconsiderate nature. Or they can just be selfish. Others are odd, weird, or even eccentric. But we all have some.

MY FAITH

The teachings of my faith, Christianity, place a high premium on patience, forbearance, gentleness, kindness, and humility. Oddly though, there isn’t much on fairness.

Jesus doesn’t really teach on being fair. I think he knew that most people were not going to be fair, but unfair, self-seeking and self-absorbed. Did his apostles teach about patience and kindness because they knew that without those qualities we wouldn’t survive? That if humility and self-denial weren’t practiced that the world would tear itself apart over a cinnamon roll?

WHICH ARE YOU?

Are you the unfair, unkind, selfish person? Or are you the patient, kind, and humble person? If you are the latter, do you ever give tired of being the mature grown up? And if you are the former, are you ever aware that your immaturity and selfishness cause heartache and grief? Or are you so self-absorbed that it never occurs to you?  

AND FINALLY

Give patience a chance. Just once, just for today, take the corner cinnamon rolls and leave the center ones for someone else.

Give forbearance a chance. Just once, just for today, try to be tolerant of other people’s intolerance, ignorance, and selfishness.

Give yourself a chance, be more of who the Holy Spirit wants you to be.

Shalom