Archive for the ‘Joy’ Category

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Reverse Engineering Happiness (Part 4) – Dec. 13

December 13, 2015

“I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”  John 10:10

This is my fourth post in a series exploring how we can develop an ability to experience happiness as a regular and consistent aspect of our existence and not mere blimps of bliss.  I fully believe that we can reverse engineer happiness.  If you want to read the first three posts on this topic you can find them at: Reverse Engineering Happiness (Part 1), Reverse Engineering Happiness (Part 2), Reverse Engineering Happiness (Part 3).

In Reverse Engineering Happiness (Part 2), I proposed that our happiness is similar to a car’s designed speed for a specific course.  Our happiness is dependent upon the interrelation of our minds (the engine) and physical bodies (the rest of the car).  However, just like speed is not the purpose of a car, happiness is not the purpose of our lives.  Happiness is a relative quality achieved when we are living out the purpose of our lives to our created abilities.

In Reverse Engineering Happiness (Part 3), I proposed that every human being’s purpose is found in the glorification and enjoyment of God.  How that is accomplished is dependent upon what you were designed to transverse.  Happiness is the result of all the components of our lives, mind and body, coming together to fulfill our purpose – what we were designed to do.

However, the mind is the engine of our existence.  A focused mind is an essential component of regular and consistent happiness.  If your mind is not right, we have little hope of fulfilling our purpose.

How do we keep our minds focused on our purpose?

I might be accused of oversimplification but I will share what has worked for me.  I have a very simple filter that I run the decisions of my life through.  I have found that it helps me control a mind that is prone to wander into a myriad of rabbit holes in this confusing world.

I simply filter my thoughts through two questions.

  1. Am I loving God with all my heart, soul, and mind? (Matt. 22:37)

We do what we love.  It is how we are made.  If we get the passion of our life correct, then everything will fall into place no matter what happens to us.  We need to pursue the passion of our life but we must be careful not to follow a false passion.  The majority of times when I have found myself on the negative train, unhappy, or simply numb it is because my mind has wandered from the loveliness of God.

I preach the gospel to myself on a daily basis to refocus my heart, soul, and mind on the loveliness of God.

But God being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.  (Ephesians 2:8-9)

How could I not love a God who has done that for me?  I don’t have to earn anything from God.  I was dead in my trespasses and sin but I have been saved by grace through faith.  That is what I focus my mind upon – it changes everything.

Life falls into focus when I am focused on the treasure who is my savior – Jesus Christ.

If you are not happy, then you should check your focus.  Where has your mind wandered?  If your life is a series of obligations, you are not going to enjoy it and as a result you will not be happy.

When was the last time you simply beheld the loveliness of a merciful God who would send His own son in the likeness of sinful flesh to save you because of the great love with which he loved you?

It is simply glorious – see we are doing our purpose; makes me happy!

O happiness of these times! O unhappiness of these times! Is it not happiness, when there is such plenitude of grace, and of all good things? Is it not unhappiness, when there is so much ingratitude of those that are redeemed?  Guerric, Abbot of Igny

  1. Am I loving my neighbor as myself? (Matt. 22:39)

People can be one of the greatest happiness drains.  Yet, they can also be an incredible resource of happiness.  I have found that the difference often lies within me.  Most people will respond to me in the manner that I represent myself to them but I think there is a deeper truth than a mere quid pro quo.  I try to modify my actions through the filter “how I would like to be treated” based on the deeper truth.

  • Caring & Kind: I want to be loved.  I want people to be kind to me. If want people to care about me, then I should care about them.  We need to practice taking time to value the people in our lives.  We need to be quick with an encouraging word and praise.  It takes a focused mind to really care about people.
  • Gentle & Patient: I have screwed up more times than I can count.  I have never liked it when someone has rudely pointed out my failure and made me feel stupid.  I have always appreciated the person who gently pointed out my failings; gently comforted by hurts; gently helped me through disappointment.  Yet, gentleness takes a focused mind patiently controlling the response to the hurt.
  • Positive & Good: I have never found anything good to come from focusing on the negative.  It is so easy to get sucked into gossip and thinking the worst of other people.  It takes a focused mind to look for the positive and to try do something good.
  • Trustworthy & Restrained: I want to know that someone will not betray me.  I want to know that someone has self-control and will not lash out at me.  It surely takes a focused mind to be faithful and self-controlled towards another person.

This is how I would like to be treated.  It is the golden rule – treat people the way you want to be treated.  There is a secret to the golden rule.  If you look at the characteristics of how I want to be treated, you may notice a theme.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.  (Galatians 5:22)

I want to be treated by someone overflowing with the fruit of the Spirit.  If I am to treat people the way I want to be treated, then I must be overflowing in the fruit of the Spirit.  My response to other people is a work of the Spirit of God in my life and a reflection of Him.

As a result, I am glorifying God by loving my neighbor as myself – we are once again back at our purpose; makes me happy!

Happiness

I use these filters to reprogram my thinking.  I find it marvelous that even God’s commandments are for our happiness.  We often make things way more complicated than they need to be.  Individuals who become the happiest are those who stay on purpose – glorifying and enjoying God – by focusing their mind using the tools of obedience to God’s commandments.  Pretty simple in concept – often hard in practice.

In the next post, I will give you my suggestions of how to integrate the component of our bodies so that it is in harmony with our minds in achieving our purpose.

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for creating us to experience happiness.   Thank you for giving us a purpose – a meaning to life.  Thank you for giving us minds and bodies specifically blessed and formed to fulfill our purpose in a unique way.   Lord, help us to find our true selves and be all that you have called us to be.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

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Reverse Engineering Happiness (Part 3) – Dec. 7

December 7, 2015

“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 11:31

The problem with happiness is that it’s a difficult thing to detect. It’s discreet and serene by definition. Just when you think you’ve found it, it’s likely just a spark of euphoria, as quick and fleeting as fireworks. Human beings are therefore doomed to feeling happy without knowing it or experiencing brief and unstable glimmers of euphoria. There aren’t many people who have the tantric ability to fully experience happiness, detached from the bliss of euphoria.
Andre Averbug,

I could not disagree more with this quote by Andre Averbug. 

This is my third post in a series exploring how we can develop an ability to fully experience happiness and not mere unstable glimmers of euphoria.  I fully believe that we can reverse engineer happiness to make it a regular and consistent aspect of our existence.  If you want to read the first two posts on this topic you can find them at: Reverse Engineering Happiness (Part 1)Reverse Engineering Happiness (Part 2)

What comes to your mind
upon hearing the term philosopher?

800px-The_Thinker,_Rodin

A “selfie” may not be the first likeness conjured from the depths of our mind.  Most people do not think of themselves as philosophical.  However, a philosopher is a person who offers views or theories on profound questions in ethics, metaphysics, logic, and other related fields.  Based on this definition, I contend that every person has played the philosopher because an essentially philosophical question forces the masses into the role.

“The soul needs meaning as much as the body needs food.”
Richard Rohr

“That one must either explain life to oneself
so that it does not seem
to be an evil mockery
by some sort of devil,
or one must shoot oneself.”
Leo Tolstoy

Every thinking person has been plagued by the same question.  We inevitably have to wrestle, in our own way, with one of the most profound questions of human existence – “why am I here”.   The resolution of this question launches every person on a philosophically based trajectory, whether they realize it or not.

The issue is whether you are
a good or poor philosopher. 

the_philosopher

Most will tinker with this cosmic question; postulate in a vacuum; mull mystically while never mediating to a revelation for their existence.  Philosophical tinkering has produced an amazing range of answers to the same question.  Goodreads has 450 quotes demonstrating this amazing philosophical range to life’s meaning.

These quotes reveal each author’s personal response to the common question.  I find it fascinating how every quote exposes a profound personal philosophy with the power to navigate the author’s life; their happiness will depend in large part on how their lives unwind around their philosophical tinkering.

881px-Johannes_Moreelse_-_Democritus_-_Google_Art_Project

The human experience swirls around this simple question. We are indwelled with an inherent desire to matter.  Every person yearns for their existence to extend beyond the realm of mere physical and chemical reactions.

Therefore, the mind searches for the right equation
to satisfy its desire for purpose. 

What is the meaning of human life, or of organic life altogether? To answer this question at all implies a religion. Is there any sense then, you ask, in putting it? I answer, the man who regards his own life and that of his fellow creatures as meaningless is not merely unfortunate but almost disqualified for life.
Albert Einstein

Every Christian has this same desire to matter.  Christians are merely philosophers who have concluded that the God of the Bible is the answer to the profound questions of their lives.  Some may argue that Christians are poor philosophers based on our simplistic notion that God is the answer.  However, the simplicity of an answer does not determine its correctness.

“Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.”
~ Dr. Seuss

“God is the inevitability of humanity’s search for true meaning.”
Jared Brock

Christian theologians have formulated a Biblical response to this primary of human questions that must get communicated to each generation.  The difference of a truly Christian approach is the application of an authority which is missing from the majority of the answers found on Goodreads – the Bible.

“Philosophers can debate the meaning of life,
but you need a Lord who can declare the meaning of life.”
Max Lucado

In my opinion, Christian theology’s best answer to this question comes in the Westminster Catechism.  I appreciate that the very first question of the catechism is this profound philosophical question plaguing mankind.  It also demonstrates the importance of a correct understanding of life’s purpose before we dive into other profound questions.

Question No. 1 – What is the chief and highest end of man?

Answer – Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God and fully to enjoy him forever.

I believe that this is the purpose of every human being.  Life’s meaning is found in the glorification and enjoyment of God.  I used the illustration in my last post that the purpose of a car is motion.  Just like a car, our purpose as human beings is to glorify God and fully to enjoy him forever.  How that is accomplished is dependent upon what we were designed to transverse.

The Problem:  The reason many find happiness a difficult thing to detect or “just a spark of euphoria, as quick and fleeting as fireworks” is because they are glorifying wrongly.  Human beings are doomed to experiencing happiness as brief and unstable glimmers of euphoria when they substitute anything into the place of God.  This is why the philosophical tinkering gets so many people into trouble.  They conclude wrongly the meaning of life and substitute that purpose into the position that was created for God to fill.  This does not mean that they will be devoid of happiness.  We get glimmers of real happiness when we unknowingly brush up against our true purpose, but it is like the misfiring of a poorly functioning car.  It is gone as quickly as our focus bounces back to ourselves and misplaced purpose.  Therefore, many confuse how their happiness is derived and simply try harder in their desperate search to be happy.

The Solution:  Reverse engineering is the process of analyzing a system by identifying the system’s components and their interrelationships.  If I am correct and humans are created with the same purpose and that happiness results in its fulfillment, then the next step in the reverse  engineering process it to identify the components that cause us to fulfill our purpose.

We all have been created with different courses.  The Christian life is about motion along the pathway of Faith; Motion in the form of glorifying and enjoying God, which will be accomplished in as varied manners as there are paths in life.  It is in that motion, living in accordance to our purpose, where the experience of regular and consistent happiness resides.   I’ll give you some principles to discover the interrelationships in your unique life that will help you live in accordance to your purpose.

“God’s design is to glorify himself and to show to the whole universe what an infinitely glorious Being he is. This is his mighty end in all he does and says to manifest himself, and show forth his glory. For this sin was allowed to enter the world; for this the Word was made flesh; for this the Son of God shed his blood and died; for this he is taking out of the world a people to himself; to this all things are tending.”
~ Horatius Bonar

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for creating us to experience happiness.   Thank you for giving us a purpose – a meaning to life.  Thank you for giving us minds and bodies specifically blessed and formed to fulfill our purpose in a unique way.   Lord, help us to find our true selves and be all that you have called us to be.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

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Reverse Engineering Happiness (Part 2) – Nov. 27

November 27, 2015

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”  Romans 15:13

In my last post, Reverse Engineering Happiness (Part 1), I asserted a disbelief in a universal formula for happiness, applicable to every person in every circumstance.  Rather, I proposed a belief that a purposeful life produces happiness and as a result the formula for happiness is best derived uniquely.

I recommended that we, as individuals, reverse engineer our happiness.

Almost everything can be reverse engineered.  Reverse engineering can be viewed as the process of analyzing a system by identifying the system’s components and their interrelationships.  If we are to reverse engineer happiness, then we need to identify and analyze the components of happiness and their interrelationships.  This is where the mere concept of happiness gets convoluted.  Happiness can have a variety meanings for different people and during different seasons of life.

I find an analogy helpful in understanding the concept of happiness and how it relates to the essential components that produce it.  Consider an automobile.

An automobile is manufactured from thousands of components for the purpose of motion – it can be slow or fast; powerful or quick; agile or comfortable.  However, the car’s purpose is to move from Point A to Point B, whatever those Points might be.  Often, a car will be specifically designed for a unique route of motion.

A drag race car is designed to go really fast in a straight line;
just don’t expect it to win a stock car race.

A stock car is designed to go really fast in circles;
just don’t expect it to win an off-road race.

A rock crawler is designed to go really fast (relatively)
up a steep pile of rocks;

just don’t expect it to win a pulling competition.

A truck puller is designed to go really fast
in a straight line with a lot of weight;

just don’t expect it to win a drag race.

And then there is the mini-van.
It is designed to get around town with the an entire family
as fast (relatively) as possible;

just don’t expect it to win any race
(unless you have the mini-van in this video).

Each vehicle will complete its prescribed course at a designed speed through the interrelation of the power source (engine) and drivetrain/body (the rest of the car).  All of these vehicles will fail to move if either of these components are missing.  However, the degree of movement is dependent upon how well these components come together.  It is possible for each vehicle to achieve 100% of its design speed if all the components work efficiently together.  Yet, its speed is dependent upon how it was designed to get from Point A to Point B.  If the original design for any of those components is compromised, then the design speed will suffer.

I like to think of happiness as similar to a car’s designed speed for a specific course.  Our happiness is depended upon the interrelation of our minds (the engine) and physical bodies (the rest of the car).  However, just like speed is not the purpose of a car, happiness is not the purpose of our lives.  Happiness is a relative quality achieved when we are living out the purpose of our lives to our created abilities.  It is the sensation of relative speed – the percentage of achieving our design speed; it is the result of all the components of our lives, mind and body, coming together to fulfill our purpose – what we were designed to do.

In reverse engineering happiness, I believe that the components most helpful to analyze are the following:

Purpose

Body

Mind

We will fail to experience happiness
if any of these components are missing or malfunctioning.

This is why I don’t believe that happiness can be formulaic.  These essential components for happiness and their interrelationships will be wonderfully unique for each individual.  My designed happiness will be different from yours.

The course of my life is different than yours.
The abilities of my body are different than yours.
The capabilities of my mind are different than yours.

I believe that when we get these components working in accordance to their unique design then the happiness that we all desire will simply result – will experience our created speed.  We can achieve happiness without it ever being the goal.

While I don’t think that happiness is formulaic, I will make some suggestions in the following posts regarding how to analyze the components and interrelationships of purpose, body, and mind.

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for creating us to experience happiness.   Thank you for giving us a purpose – a meaning to life.  Thank you for giving us minds and bodies specifically blessed and formed to fulfill our purpose in a unique way.   Lord, help us to find our true selves and be all that you have called us to be.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

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Reverse Engineering Happiness (Part 1) – Nov. 24

November 24, 2015

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”  Romans 15:13

 

My daughter’s birthday present was the DVD, “Inside Out”.  The animated movie is about the life and mind of a young girl named Riley.  The premise is that Riley’s emotions (Joy, Sadness, Disgust, Fear, and Anger) live in the headquarters of her mind where they influence her actions and responses.  Every memory comes into Riley’s mind as an orb tinted by the emotion associated with the event.

At the beginning of the movie, Riley’s life has been predominately golden (happy).

Joy Orbs

Not to spoil the movie but the frequency of golden memory orbs decreases significantly when Riley and her family move to a new city.  The most poignant moment for me was Joy’s despair for Riley as she cried “I just wanted Riley to be happy” while Riley’s world seemingly crumbles.

I hate it when cartoons make me cry but this one hit a chord.

What parent has not made that same plea for their children?

I just want my son…my daughter, to have a happy life.

What person hasn’t felt that same desperation when faced with crumbling dreams and hopes, “I just want to be happy.”

I recently typed “How to Find Happiness” into Google, satisfying my curiosity as to what is currently being written on the topic.  Google returned a myriad of articles, which enumerated the necessary steps to achieve happiness.  I was struck by the definitiveness of the titles.  “Top 7 Tips for How to be Happy”; “10 Simple Ways to Find Happiness”; “3 Ways to Find Happiness Within You”.

The general impression given from my exploration was an implied assumption that happiness is formulaic.  How else can you put it into 3 easy steps?  I imagined visitors driven to these sites by their own emotion of Joy, searching for the elusive ingredients to answer the question “How can I be happy?”; desperate to achieve a golden tint in their lives.

I think it is a mistake to think that the formula
for my happiness will be the same as yours. 

We are unique humans.  We all have different strengths and weaknesses.  We have been born with different advantages and disadvantages.  We have known different successes and failures.   We are at different levels of maturity.  Few of the “how to be happy” lists seemed to account for these differences.  They provided very generic slogans like “recognize the love within you” or “motivate yourself to quit looking back”, which I doubt are very helpful to someone despondent in sadness.

Happiness is a God-given emotion.
There was a reason that he gave us happiness.
I believe that happiness in the form of joy (gladness) is available to every person.

I have seen too many people quietly losing their self, who they were…who they are…who they might be, as the years mechanically progress, producing orbs tinted by every color of the spectrum but gold.

“The greatest hazard of all, losing one’s self, can occur very quietly in the world, as if it were nothing at all. No other loss can occur so quietly; any other loss – an arm, a leg, five dollars, a wife, etc. – is sure to be noticed.”
― Søren Kierkegaard

I don’t have three guaranteed steps to achieve happiness.  I have yet to see a universal formula for happiness that will fit every person in every circumstance.  Rather, I believe that happiness is the product of a purposeful life.  Therefore, the formula for happiness is going to be derived uniquely.

For the currently happy, you may not care that much about how you came to be happy.

I am writing for the currently despairing; those who may have searched Google for more than curiosity.  To those, I want to give some tools that I have found helpful to reverse engineer my happiness.

You need to individually take the final product (happiness) that you intend to achieve and deconstruct it in order to discover the elements required to produce the desired end result.  This process of reverse engineering allows you to account for your current circumstances, health, strengths, and weaknesses in your unique joy producing formula.

In the next couple posts, I will give you what I think are the essentials to reverse engineering happiness. 

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for creating us to experience happiness.   Thank you for giving us gifts through which we can experience happiness.  Lord, help us to find our true selves and be all that you have called us to be.  Don’t let us quietly be lost in an ever progressing world.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

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