Anticipation

Anticipation… the word from the Carly Simon song keeps playing in my head while I’m writing this.

Anticipation can be incredibly delicious and painful at the same time; because anticipation comes from the desires of our hearts.  Desire for someone or something can be overwhelming to our emotions. It can affect our whole perspective on life and can consume our every thought until the desire itself seems to take on its own life and personality; at which point, we begin to focus on the desire and not on the person or object of our desire. That’s the point an alarm should go off in our respective heads- because then the desire controls us and can influence us do things we later wish we hadn’t.

 

Truthfully, there is only one object, one person we can set our sights on and delight in with no limitations. And that is Christ. If the focus of our every thought is aimed at being in the center of His will. Like the eye of the hurricane, Christ in us, through us, over us, under us, in front of us, behind us, and all around us; we will be in the most perfect spot we can be in on this earth. When we are focused on Christ, our whole lives are directed by the unseen hand. The hand that was pierced out of love for us – centuries before we were even a thought in our parent’s minds.

 

I realize that even though I said “we will be in the most perfect spot we can be in on this earth”, there are still bad things that happen to people who are in that place with Christ.  We live in an imperfect, fallen world. And it would be foolish to think that we could be in this world and not be affected by the things and people around us in a negative or detrimental way.

 

 Evil prowls upon this place; even in the midst of truth and beauty. Sometimes, it disguises itself with truth and beauty and we see something quite appealing. Sometimes, it affects us indirectly through friends, family, and situations that occur; and at others it attacks head-on aiming directly at our hearts. Only a heart and mind focused on Christ can weather the snares and pitfalls laid by evil.  (Please note that I did not say ‘avoid’; for it is not possible to avoid the affects of evil in this world.)

 

I realize that to some a faith in an unseen God, who loves us and cares for us and has invested His very self in us, seems an incomprehensible, far-away fairytale wrapped in legend and myth. But for those of us who have placed our hands, our hearts, and our very lives in His hand, there is no other way to live.

 

We were designed by Him with a specific purpose- to love Him with all our heart. Because He loves us, He made us to love Him. Yet, He does not make that choice for us. He waits for us to decide that He must be the object of our desire in our heart of hearts; that a life lived with Him, in Him and for Him is what we anticipate above all.

 

Something to think about:

 

Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4

 

Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. Yet you desired faithfulness, even in the womb; you taught me wisdom in that secret place. Psalm 51: 6

 

I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace. Acts20: 24

 

For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10

What is Happiness?

A friend recently asked this question on her FB page. There were several short answers, due to space availability, I’m sure. But, me being me, I can’t just put a short and sweet answer to this question. 

 

The dictionary defines happiness as the state of being happy, good fortune, pleasure, contentment, joy. Then it expands on this short and sweet definition as well: feeling, showing, expressing joy; pleased; willing; causing joy or gladness; fortunate; lucky; aptly expressed as in ‘a happy turn of phrase’; and this one made me chuckle-slightly intoxicated. The word was not in existence before the1520’s, wonder what they called it then or was happiness even a consideration? 

 

If I were to give a short and snappy response as I usually do- it would be this: A good feeling.  Yeah, that’s it, or is it? Sounds good, simple, straight, to the point. Not satisfied with this response; I look at what happiness is not- again, the dictionary shows the antonym as: Misery.

I read on. In the synonym section happiness is equated with contentment, bliss, and felicity. The one little tell in this section was this comment: these words imply an active or passive state of pleasure or pleasurable satisfaction. Aha. This is more like it! Up to this point the words were rather nebulous, vague and not really describing what it is.

 

Happiness, active or passive, is not necessary to existence; nor is it’s polar opposite, misery.  At this point it becomes clear that happiness is highly individualized and its meaning can vary greatly from person to person.

 

In his misery, Job states my eyes will never see happiness again. For Esther, Mordecai and the Jews in Persia, their rescue from the hands of Haman resulted in a time of happiness and joy, gladness and honor. In Jesus’ parable of the talents, the two men who invested and increased the money their master had entrusted to them received the invitation to share their master’s happiness.

 

These people were happy, but there were differences. Being happy was not the result of the  same experience, nor was the object of their happiness, the length of time the happiness would last, or how many others would be affected by their happiness. But they all knew whom to thank for their happiness.

 

So, to get beyond the short answer to the question, happiness to me is first a feeling, second a state of being, and third an attitude. It’s the feeling I get when my babies run into my arms and say, “I love you, Nana.”  It’s the place that I’m in when I stop and think about how blessed I am, from being in a marriage that is still fun, caring and honest, to being the mother of three incredible adult children. As for attitude, that is a choice. Some call it contentment. I’m not sure that would be my definition. It’s a choice that I’ve sometimes had to consciously make in the middle of my misery; a choice that I saw and was unable to make at times, but when I was able there was a peace and contentment that came not of myself.

 

My friend, there’s my answer and somehow it seems just as nebulous as the dictionary description. Happiness is whatever gives you the “warm puppy” feeling, the state of being blessed and the choice of your attitude at any moment in time. To borrow a phrase from Will Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet- “there art thou happy!”  which comes from Friar Laurence. He further gives sage advice on happiness: ““ A pack of blessings lights upon thy back; Happiness courts thee in her best array;  But, like a misbehaved and sullen wench,  Thou pout’st upon thy fortune and thy love:  Take heed, take heed, for such die miserable.

 

Something to ponder:

 

A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit. Proverbs 15:13

I know there is nothing better for people than to be happy and do good while they live. Ecclesiastes 3:12

When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider this: God has made the one as well as the other. Ecclesiastes 7:14a

 

Grumpy Gus

 

 I have a little magnet on my fridge that says:  Be nice to meI’m having one of those days. You know. Those days when you are off-kilter; when everything seems wrong, when even your favorite cup of coffee/tea tastes off, when the sun is shining but there’s thunder in your heart, when you don’t understand why everyone seems to be shouting at you? Yeah, “those” days.

 

Little Connor seemed to be having a day like that yesterday; dad went off to play with the big boys- literally- out of town for a music gig, sis was at school all day, and momma was at work. So he was stuck with nana for the day.  I could tell that he wasn’t exactly pleased with the set-up when he decided to sleep in twitchy 15 minute segments, was very vocal in his displeasure and ate like a horse.  Not the usual day for us together! Toward the end of the day he seemed to be righting himself and even gave me a chuckle. I hope he slept well last night! 

 

I am up in the middle of the night and thinking back on yesterday, it strikes me how early in our lives “those” days occur, that even babies have “those” days. 

 

When it’s happening and we’re in the middle of a day that feels wrong, has gone sideways, or is horribly pear-shaped (as I’ve heard in the UK) we have a tendency to lose sight of what’s important. And, if you’re like me, you begin to feel sorry for self by the end of a day that lasted a year. The idea of four walls, silence and collapsing in a chair is looming, out of reach, just ahead. But the day just does not end!

 

One of those days… 

 

The Bible is full of folks who found themselves having “those” days, sometimes innocently thrown into that day, sometimes by their own devices; and sometimes “those” days turned into weeks, months, or years. The Old Testament Prophet, Habakkuk, wrote words I often turn to when I need help to endure. His words are such an encouragement to me, in the middle of the muddle.  

 

He gives this insight when there was nothing in his life going right, yet his response was joy-filled:

“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.” Habakkuk 3:17-18 

I may not be in real crisis as he was, but his words are so profound and strike a chord in my heart.  

 

He rejoiced!

 

I think, in my life, sometimes “those” days are ones in which the deceiver is pounding on the door asking to be let in, to be allowed to invade. When I say “no”; he’s just there, sitting on the doorstep of my mind, trying to peek in, continually knocking, trying to throw my focus off with anything he can find to get my attention away from God’s purpose for me. 

So what can we do? When there’s a hurricane in your heart and you don’t know what to do about it, when everything is not right? 

The next part Habakkuk shares with us, I think, holds the key to handling “those” days: “The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.” Habakkuk 3:19

 

Rise above the storm, dear one… this, too, will pass.

 

PS: Habakkuk’s situation was a dire one I would not belittle by diminishing the meaning of his words down to an off day in our lives. He was facing starvation, invasion, destruction of all life as he had known it, and it seemed no end was in sight. The three small chapters he wrote carry so much significance for true crises; but when those off days come and seem endless to us and are so big in our eyes it helps to remember that Habakkuk could still rejoice in the Lord. And so can we.