Sunday, November 27, 2016

Piece of Cake

I must be getting old.

Why do you think that?

I don't like change.

Ah....

What's that supposed to mean?

Nothing. Just understanding.

You don't like change either?

Nope.

Ah....

I presume that you have a point?

.......... I find my ideas about certain things have shifted. Changed, I guess, you'd say. But that feels too strong a word. And it makes me feel old.

......

You know, I don't think happiness is what we think it is.

Really!

{sigh} No.

So... what is it? 

I'm not sure I know actually but I'm pretty certain that real happiness is something you feel even when you feel like . . . horrible.

Hmmm, that's an interesting concept.

{sigh} Not really. Please don't raise your eyes like that. No telling what could happen.

What do you mean?

I mean anyone who can snap his fingers and create the world... well, what havoc might raising your brows cause?

Ah ...I never thought of it that way. I didn't actually snap my fingers, you know. I did a bit more work than that. But let's get back to your idea.

I'm pretty sure that our perception of happiness is . . . well, a fabrication.

You mean a lie?

Well, no, yes, kind of....

.......

I think somewhere along the way we've been taught or convinced ourselves that happiness is  . . . well, like a present that someone hands us and we unwrap it and inside is exactly what we've been wanting.

Happiness?

No, no, no. I can't explain it. Think of it this way. There is a beautiful box with our name on it. We get so excited and bubble over with what we call joy. Someone hands the box to us and the feeling grows. We open it and it grows even more. Inside is what we've always wanted and we almost explode with happiness at this point. The whole process is what we perceive as happiness. If someone smashes the gift, takes it away from us, or tells us it was a mistake we perceive that as an absence of happiness.

Sadness.

Yes.

And you think this is all a fabrication?

I think it is a construct of our own making. We create this idea of happiness and it is wrong. Real happiness isn't fleeting. Real happiness isn't transitional.  It remains. As long as we allow it.

How?

Well.... I don't know. I don't know what brings it. I don't know how to keep it. And I don't know what makes it leave. Yet.

I see. You're optimistic.

Not usually.

How did you arrive at this ... conclusion?

That's strange.

Some folks think these conversations are strange. Humor me.

Despite being ill for weeks, having people annoyed at me, dealing with situations that frustrate me, and being very tired I feel something I can't explain. I feel . . .

Happy?

This will sound crazy, too, but I don't like that word.

Explain.

Because I think it is a lie. It isn't a real thing at all. It is just a word we give to express a feeling that is temporary and ephemeral. What I feel I'm afraid to call happy.

That is interesting. What would you call it?

I'm not sure there is a word. Let's just say there is something inside me . . . singing.

Singing?

Yes. That's as close as I can come. But I don't feel "good". I'm kind of bummed, in fact. But it is like my brain isn't getting it.

Hmmmm...... 

I told you, crazy.

I think you should keep thinking this way. 

I think I'm going to get a piece of cake.

Friday, November 4, 2016

What is Blessing?

For the last couple of days I've been reminded several times of how blessed I am. The sensation of being blessed has just been overwhelming. This set me wondering why it is often so hard to notice when we're blessed. I know many of us say, "I'm blessed." But as Inigo Montoya* once said, "I do not think that word means what you think it means."

We're all blessed just to be above ground and breathing. That's not what I'm talking about. We are here by decree. God placed us here. He didn't place us here as a blessing. At least, I don't believe so. He placed us here so he could spend time with us. That is a blessing of sorts but may folks don't believe in God, are not religious, or have miserable lives. So, just being alive and present is not necessarily a blessing to many.

What is a blessing? Pentecostals often say, "He got a blessing" when someone shouts under the influence of the Holy Ghost. Others say a financial windfall is a blessing. Some of us considered the "A" on our report card a blessing. I guess those can all be defined as blessings. The report card probably occurred because you worked hard, not because God gave it to you. He gave you the intelligence to achieve it but  believe me, he didn't make it easy. The windfall could be because of hard work made possible by the strength he gave you. Winning the lottery... not so much. It is a game of chance. Many folks think the universe came about the same way, by chance. So, that's isn't a blessing either. Chance negates God's participation. Nothing God is involved in is subject to chance.

The dictionary defines blessing this way:
1 a :  the act or words of one that blesses
   b :  approval, encouragement
2    :  a thing conducive to happiness or welfare
3    :  grace said at a meal

I think the words approval and encouragement are what I recognize as blessings. We designate so many things as a blessing that I think we lose sight of what the bare bones of the concept really is. God's approval and his encouragement are the basis of real blessing. To have his approval and be encouraged by him when life is a mess is an amazing blessing. You may not recognize the blessing at the time, but eventually, you can look back with clarity and see just how much you are blessed.

Face it, it is easy to feel blessed when the bills are paid, there's food on the table, and a roof over your head. It is much harder when the bank account is empty after you paid for all that. Writing that tithe check is a struggle when a bill collector just told you to sell something to pay them. When the baby is sick and you have no one to call it is hard to feel blessed. When your spouse dies and you sit in an empty house alone you don't feel blessed. You don't even feel God at times.

I've experienced every one of those things. I know how I felt. Alone, forsaken, and destitute. Not blessed. When I couldn't take my kid to the doctor because I had no money and no insurance. When my husband and I had nothing but temp jobs for over a year. It is a horrible feeling. But I remember we still managed to survive, pay the bills, and keep our house. I remember getting a job I applied for after I promised to pay extra tithes for one year if God would give me the job. Do you know, when faced with it I hesitated. But I did it... for two years. We were better off financially than we'd ever been before.

Was it a blessing? What was the blessing and who was blessed? Check the first definition. An act by which one blesses. I wasn't the one getting blessed. God was. He took me at my word and I had to follow through.  I blessed him.

And he blessed me. With his approval and encouragement. I wanted to pay the extra that second year. I loved being able to do it. I recognized the graciousness of God allowing me the ability to do so.

I have RA, fibromyalgia, and take tons of medication. I've asked for healing. Over and over and over. God hasn't healed me. Standing in church last Sunday I had to sit down. With no warning, I felt as if I'd been hit by a bus. In moments, pain swept over my whole body. I was in church, worshiping God and was hit with terrible pain. I thought I'd have to leave immediately. Where's the blessing?

My son saw how sick I was and asked the pastor to come pray for me. Did the pain leave? It eased up but it did not leave.  I went home in pain. But I feel so blessed.

In recent months I've begun to think that being blessed is not a state of being. It is a state of mind. It isn't something you can see, taste, or touch. Blessings are not things, places, or people. It is a brain thing. How your mind sees your condition and situation determine whether or not you're blessed. You can look at a broken leg as a disaster. Never mind that the other person in the car crash died.  Perhaps they went home to be with the Lord.  Who got blessed?

Blessing isn't location based. It isn't positional. It isn't health based. It isn't wealth based. Blessing is relationship based. How you view the chaos around you is important because it determines your relationship with others, particularly God. Wallowing in pity may feel good for about a minute. If it didn't we wouldn't do it. Admit it, you feel justified in your misery. Well, I do. But it doesn't matter. Misery doesn't affect blessing. Because it is relational, not emotional. God loves me when I'm miserable, probably more than when I 'm happy. Because he wants to comfort me.

That is blessing.

Stop thinking your situation is hopeless. Maybe it is. Maybe there is no cure, no fix, no money, no friends. But God wants to comfort you right where you are because your relationship is where you find him.

It is ok to feel bad. It is ok to cry. It is ok to be angry, sick, disgusted, annoyed, frustrated, or furious. Those are emotions God gave us. The Bible says "Be angry and sin not." Recognize that God is in the storm and in the calm. He's in the fire and the flood. In the midst of turmoil he seeks to hold your hand and walk you through it. Or he's waiting on the other side for you to walk to him.

That is the blessing.







*The Princess Bride