Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Joy of Joy

The works of his hands are faithfulness and justice; all his commandments are sure. They stand fast forever and ever, because they are done in truth and equity. Psalm 111

The other day Barb and I were able to take a small break and escape winter’s icy clutches in the Pacific Northwest and visit our son in San Diego, where the temperatures were mostly in the mid 70s. I quietly wondered to myself: why, again, did we leave California?

It was a nice trip; quite uneventful – the kind I like. We visited, we went places and saw things, but mostly we simply enjoyed being with one with whom we regularly speak, but whom we seldom see (except through the miracle of online video-chats).

We don’t travel much by plane anymore, but it seemed to me that checking in and going through security have improved a lot over the years as folks involved in air transportation have continued to find new (and possibly better) ways to move the public from curb to gate with the least amount of inconvenience.

There was one constant, however, that had nothing to do with airline check-in or TSA security; it had to do with an uncanny knack I have for finding the slowest moving lane at every stage of our journey. The queue for check-in had one person in front of us, and it was frozen in both space and time. Other lines with dozens of migrating travelers were processed at lightning speed, while we stood patiently waiting for our turn in the sloth lane.

Then we found ourselves in the TSA’s Glue-lane as the other lines moved along at Grease-speed. We finally made our move to another lane and were processed while those who had been in front of us continued their glacial pace in the queue controlled by an agent I can only assume was processing them in ancient Latin, the language of his birth.

Having had my usual luck in picking lines, I let Barb choose the security lane for our obligatory bag and body screening. She found one that moved quickly, smartly, and efficiently – until the scanner broke down (as soon as our bags entered its maw). Fortunately, they were able to reboot it fairly quickly, so our delay was minimal.

Sometimes it feels like there is a conspiracy afoot to seek, find, and bring out the Grumpy that dwells in each and every one of us (or at least I’ve got one in residence), and yet I have learned to take most things in stride.

Joy and Grumpy are twins, and both have a home in my soul, but the only one who comes out of her room is the one I decide to feed at any given moment of any given day. The Grumpy eats only when I take myself or my situation so seriously that I choose to feed it with crunchy nuggets of negativity.
Having gotten to the airport with plenty of time for virtually any eventuality, the speed of the lines had no power to disturb me. I could relax, smile, and enjoy the three-ring circus going on all around me.

The key to growing Joy is as easy as choosing to feed her. It isn’t a matter of looking at life through rose-colored glasses, for there is plenty of junk that needs to be identified, dealt with, and cleared away. But thinking ahead, making plans, and doing what we can when we can provides a lot of space in which to move, work, and enjoy life.

What does Joy need to sustain her? Patience, kindness, and a loving attitude. Put those in your pocket, and you may well find yourself smiling with Joy the next time you’re stuck in line in this, our world. Have a great week!

Monday, January 9, 2012


In the temple of the LORD all are crying, “Glory!”… The LORD shall give his people the blessing of peace. Excerpted, Psalm 29

How are you doing with the new year? Is it still fresh? Is it still new? Are you where you want to be, or at least headed in that direction?

One of the things I like about new things is their freshness. There is nothing like that new car smell. There are no car fresheners or detail shops that can restore that smell, are there?

I like breaking open a box with some new electronic gadget for work or play, and for a moment – a very brief moment to be sure – you get a whiff of that unit’s electronics, protective oils, and possibly even of the Styrofoam packing and cardboard, and all is heavenly.

It is like the scent of a promise made. Wordlessly, the car and the gadget promise speed, power, and performance the likes of which you have not had in a long time. They promise durability and dependability, and I think it is those promises I associate with the smell of brand new things.

Nothing lasts for long, though. New scents grow fainter as different odors take their place in the olfactory panoply of life.

However, I digress. How is your year going? Maybe it hasn’t gone far enough along to evaluate it properly, but does that matter?

Each day deserves to be taken on its own merits. If we take each day as it comes, doing what needs to be done, working out solutions to problems that may baffle us in the beginning, celebrating victories both small and great, we will find ourselves putting together a series of days that we could probably call “successful”.

If we put enough of those kinds of days together, four out of seven, for instance, we could say we have had a positive week.

But even if we have only one day in a week we would call positive, that wouldn’t be a bad thing; that is still better than batting a big fat zero – Goose Egg.

Life is too short to let the little things stink it up. It will never be totally new again for any of us, but each day does start off fresh. If yesterday was bad, we can start off thanking God it is behind us.

Even if we wake up with the same problems we had when we went to bed, we have another set of hours to do something about it. What are the resources you can bring to bear to secure a positive result?

A man went to his therapist and said, “I have no friends.”

His therapist asked him, “What are you doing about it?’

The patient thought a moment and asked, “What can I do about it? I don’t know anybody.”

His therapist made a variety of suggestions: going to church, doing volunteer work, finding a hobby and joining others with similar interests; but the patient rejected each idea. He was more comfortable complaining about his situation than about changing it with action.

It is very easy to let circumstances dictate what we can or cannot do, but ultimately the choice is ours to make. If we want friends, we need to be friendly. If we want jobs, we need to either apply for jobs or prepare to start a business using what skills we have. If we want to make a difference in somebody’s life, we need to be prepared to be there for them.

There are no shortcuts in life; there is only life. We can take it or leave it, but responsibility for the results lies largely in our own hands. How they smell depends largely on what you do with them. I would suggest putting them to use doing pleasant things.

Have a wonderful day and a blessed New Year here in this, our world.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Past, Present, and Future

If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are half way through. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it … Bill Wilson

We have reached the end of 2011. What kind of year has it been for you? More importantly, what kind of year do you want 2012 to be?

New Year is a hinge. It is an artificial line drawn in the sands of time dividing what once was from what is yet to be.

That is actually true of every day. For some reason, we find significance in the fact the earth has made it one more time around the sun; planet killing asteroids have swung by for a visit (and missed); citizens have risen up and made their voices heard (as they do from time to time when life becomes too unbearable to sit idly by on the sidelines); and wars are winding down in some places while they’re churning up in yet others.

One wonders, will it ever change? Will there ever be a day we turn on the news and find it has been cancelled because there’s nothing to report – nothing “new under the sun”?

No, each day dawns fresh with hope and promises. Today does not have to be a repeat of yesterday. Today does not have to be a foretaste of what is yet to come. Today is today; nothing less and nothing more. It simply “is” and is to be valued for itself.

When one has had a bad day, week, month, or year, it is tempting to want to shut the door or close the book and forget about it. Why not?

It seems natural to want to capture the joys of life. We capture them on film; we memorialize them in our journals, diaries, blogs, and tweets; in our hearts we hang onto those memories of people we love, things we’ve done, and places we’ve been – hoping against hope they will stay fresh and available for instant recall.

Conversely, when we’ve faced the hardships of life, of mistakes we’ve made, failures in various endeavors and enterprises, or the pain of loss, it seems just as natural to want to shut the door on those events that have injured us, or those people we have hurt or who have harmed us. It seems natural to want to erase those memories, or to consign them to the dustbin of history.

But we really can’t do either, can we? We cannot capture the good, and we cannot truly release the bad. Life happens, and it is imprinted on our souls with indelible ink. We are tattooed for better or for worse, and the only question we face is what we will do with it: cover it up, display it proudly, or deny it happened at all.

Whether one finds that 2011 was a good or bad year for them is not relevant.

What matters is reviewing our thoughts (and the way we think about things), our statements (and whether the things we have said were helpful or hurtful), and our actions (things done and left undone), and then addressing the matters of character that may have contributed to the kind of year we had.

We need to ask questions: In what did we do well? In what did we do poorly? With whom are we in good stead? With whom do we need to repair relations? In what areas have we grown stronger, wiser, or more trustworthy? In what areas have we let down God, neighbor, or self?

Without reflection, there is no significance to our having made this trip around the sun.

Taking time to reflect, we can each make plans for a better tomorrow, and that is a very good thing. Don’t make resolutions; make plans.

For a plan to succeed it must be Specific; it must be Achievable; it must have Value; and it must have and End (so you know whether or not you accomplished it).

Remember, we build today on the foundation that was laid yesterday, but tomorrow is built on the foundation we lay today, so let’s keep an open door on the past and make sure today counts here in this, our world. Amen.