Tag Archives: happiness

Not Just the Kids

Story of the Day for Thursday February 9, 2012

Not Just the Kids

                     Even if my life is poured out like a sacrificial drink offering . . . I am happy and share my joy with all of you. 

                                                       Philippians 2:17

If you want to be happy, how do you intend to get there?  Or, let’s rephrase the question. What is the most reliable path to happiness: pleasure or sacrifice?

 

The question sounds silly until we think about it a while. But let’s imagine a football team has just won the Super Bowl. One offensive tackle has played the entire game. At the final whistle he’s dirty, bruised, and exhausted.

His replacement at right tackle never played a single down. No pain. Not even a grass stain on his uniform.

One offensive tackle finished the game in complete comfort; the other played his heart out and “left it all on the field.” Which right tackle do you think would be more exuberant at the end of the game? Which tackle would’ve wished to be in the other’s shoes?

 

Comfort brings pleasure and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that. Yet, there’s a world of difference between pleasure and joy.

The Bible says that Jesus, “for the joy set before him” endured the shame and agony of the cross. No one can call torture a pleasure. But when the Lord offers to sacrifice his own life to save ours, he can speak of joy.

 

Sacrifice sounds painful, but when it’s done for love it brings joy. The apostle Paul is writing from prison, yet he’s wildly happy, and thinks everyone else should be happy with him. Paul describes himself as being a sacrificial offering that he is giving for the sake of others. And the very thought of it makes him explode into joy.

 

I don’t know who came up with the idea, but it’s sheer brilliance. For over fifty years the Green Bay Packers have maintained a tradition during their summer training camps. When the players emerge from the locker room they have a short drive from the stadium to their practice facility.

But the players forego the drive. Instead, kids (ages 7-15) line up outside Lambeau Field with their bicycles. Each Packer picks a kid’s bike to ride to the practice field. If you’ve never seen a burly NFL football player riding a little kid’s bike, let me assure you it’s a comical sight.

No one on the team is forced to ride a bike to practice. If a player wants pleasure , he can certainly afford a comfortable car to drive.

But, if a professional football player isn’t convinced that sacrifice trumps pleasure he has made an inadvisable career choice. Maybe that helps explain why virtually all the players choose to ride a little kid’s bike down the streets of Green Bay.

And why it’s not just the kids who are beaming.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Looking in the Right Place

Happy Thanksgiving!

Story of the Day for Thursday November 24, 2011

Looking in the Right Place

           I have learned to be content – no matter what happens.  I know what it’s like to live in humble circumstances, and what it’s like to have abundance. In any and every situation: whether well fed or hungry, whether living in prosperity or poverty, I have learned the secret of contentment.  I have strength for anything through Him who empowers me.

Philippians 4:11-13   

             Whenever we are highly motivated to do something, like building a garage or ridding our lawn of dandelions, we can usually achieve our goal.  Yet, when it comes to far higher goals, like happiness and contentment, we are often pretty much clueless.    What do you need to be content?  The knee-jerk response is “more money.”  We would be embarrassed to admit it to anyone, but there is a part of us that believes this.  (Even though research on this subject consistently reports that the wealthiest Americans, as a class, are the most unhappy, we still believe it.)

            My family used to live in an old mansion (built in the late 1800s by a lumber baron).  It had five fireplaces, stained-glass windows along one of the upstairs steps.  The third floor was built to house the butlers and maids.  The dining room was built in a half-circle with a cathedral ceiling.  My daughter counted the rooms one day.  Twenty-eight. 

            Did this enormous house bring us pleasure and enjoyment?  Absolutely! 

            But then, when we moved to Montana, we lived way up a mountain in a one-room cabin with a barrel stove for heat and pack rats annoyed by our intrusion.  And you know what?  We enjoyed that old cabin just as much as our mansion. 

 

            Just as we believe that wealth is the secret to contentment, so we often hear people say, “As long as you have your health, that’s all that matters.” 

            Great.  So what happens if you lose your health?  As counterintuitive as it may sound, people who lose their health often report surprisingly high levels of well-being.  Did you know that, among quadriplegics (those paralyzed from the neck down), only 16% of them consider their happiness to be below average?  The overwhelming majority consider their well-being to be higher than average! 

 

            The apostle Paul is talking about finding the secret to contentment.  He has known wealth and poverty.   As he writes these words, he is in prison.   What has he found that gives him such a remarkable sense of joy in such a dire situation? 

            Paul is not controlled by circumstances.  No matter what his situation in life, he’s on an adventure.   He can sincerely enjoy the pleasures in life but he is not dependent on any circumstance in order to be content.  He knows that he is in the hands of his wise and caring Lord.  He knows that in every situation he can find power from Jesus to love others and know that his life has purpose and challenge. 

            If you are still seeking contentment, make sure you’re looking for it in the right place.

                                             (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

A Simple Smile

Story of the Day for Monday November 21, 2011

A Simple Smile

                         A cheerful heart is good medicine.

                                                                            Proverbs 17:22

 Ron Gutman, a recent graduate of Stanford University, has engaged in intensive study of the smile. It sounds like a frivolous subject for legitimate academic work, but Gutman is very serious about the effect of a smile.

 

Gutman cites a study in which researchers took baseball cards from 1950 and sorted them into three groups: those players who were not smiling, those with a slight smile, and those with beaming smiles. They discovered that the average lifespan of those not smiling was 72.9 years, those who slight smiles, 75, and those with broad smiles lived to an average of 79.9 years.

The researchers didn’t put it in these words, but what they discovered was that the Bible has it right: a cheerful heart is good medicine.

 

Those saddled with a persistent case of the gloomies will be quick to point out that the Bible also says there’s a time to laugh and a time to weep. Well, of course there is. Both mourning and dancing are appropriate in their time.

Cheerfulness, however, isn’t the opposite of mourning; it’s the opposite of scowling – the dour attitude that makes us miserable and deflates the spirits of others.

 

Others are suspicious of cheerfulness because they’ve seen the phony, plastered grins of those trying to manipulate us for selfish ends.

Curiously enough, however, “scowlers” have a tougher time distinguishing false from genuine smilers. A French study had participants hold a pencil in their mouth with their lips – which forces a frown. The other group didn’t get pencils. When both groups were asked to identify photos of faked and genuine smiles, those without the pencil were great judges. Those who were forced to frown suffered impaired judgment.

 

Gutman cites another study in which the frontal lobes of patient’s brains were examined by FMRI scans. A smile sent the frontal lobe into activity greater than receiving $30,000 in cash . . . or even eating chocolate.

A cheerful heart is good medicine. It reduces stress-enhancing hormones and increases mood-enhancing hormones.

 

Cheerfulness is good for us, but the real point I’m working toward is that it’s a gift we can give to others. A simple smile is able to brighten the mood of others.

And, while I know I’m supposed to be saving the planet, averting nuclear war, and ending world hunger, sometimes I need to start with the little things and work my way up. I like how Mother Theresa put it, “I will never understand all the good that a simple smile can accomplish.”

                                                              (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)