Happiness is not Determined by What We Have, But by Who We Are

We Have Control Over Who We Are, so…Who Do You Want to Be?

Happiness is the state of being happy.

So, what does it mean to be happy?

Being happy is the feeling of pleasure and enjoyment.

Each of us is going to find pleasure and enjoyment in different ways and places. Too much of the time we’ve been led to believe that stuff is what’s going to make us happy. Jesus tells us in Luke 6:17-26, that’s not where our happiness comes from.

That doesn’t mean you can’t be happy if you have stuff. Things just aren’t the source of happiness.

Studies have shown that even though the standard of living is better now than it was fifty years ago, people are less happy.

Some of us have our “valuables out of whack”. This happens when we put too much value on valuables.

The question is, is your happiness internal or external?

We all know people who are happy even when going through tough situations. We also know those who, no matter how good things are, they’re still complaining.

I think Anne Frank is a good example of choosing to be happy. While living in a small, cramped space with seven other people, hiding from the Nazis, she found happiness even in her situation.

Here is a summary of her message taken from Andy Andrew’s book the Traveler’s Gift. The Seven Decisions: The Joyful Decision – Today, I Will Choose to be Happy

I am a happy person, for I now truly understand the concept of happiness. Few others before me have been able to grasp the truth of the physical law that enables one to live happily every day. I know now that happiness is not an emotional phantom floating in and out of my life. Happiness is a choice.

Today I will choose to be happy. I will greet each day with laughter. I am enthusiastic about the day. I am alert to its possibilities. I am happy! Laughter is an outward expression of enthusiasm, and I know that enthusiasm is the fuel that moves the world.

Today I will choose to be happy. I will smile at every person I meet. My smile has the strength to forge bonds, break ice, and calm storms. I will use my smile constantly. I will always smile first. My smile is the key to my emotional make up. When I choose to smile, I become the master of my emotions. Discouragement, despair, frustration, and fear will always wither when confronted by my smile.

Today I will choose to be happy. I am the possessor of a grateful spirit. In the past, I have found discouragement in particular situations, until I compared the condition of my life to others less fortunate. Just as a fresh breeze cleans smoke from the air, so does a grateful spirit remove the cloud of despair. It is impossible for the seeds of depression to take root in a thankful heart. My God has bestowed upon me many gifts, and for these I will remember to be grateful. Too many times I have offered up the prayers of a beggar, always asking for more and forgetting my thanks. I do not wish to be seen as a greedy child, unappreciative, and disrespectful. I am grateful for sight and sound and breath. If ever in my life there is a pouring out of blessings beyond that, then I will be grateful for the miracle of abundance.

I will greet each day with laughter. I will smile at every person I meet. I am the possessor of a grateful spirit.

Today, I will choose to be happy.

It’s up to you, you can decide to be happy or not.

It’s Amazing How Much of an Effect Little Things Can Make

Big Things Can Come in Small Packages

When we think God…we think big. He is God after all. The Creator of the universe in all its vastness. In a few days we celebrate His coming into the world. What’s amazing is that He didn’t come big, He came small. He came born a baby to a couple of scared teenagers.

You want to talk about an overwhelming mission…just think about what that was like.

There are three lessons that Mary would share:

  1. God is working in the small things –

God could have come as a conquering warrior, a charismatic king or a commanding emperor. Instead, he came as a helpless baby, dependent on Mary and Joseph to feed and clothe him.

He loves us enough to be born into our lives. It’s like the butterfly effect. The small things we do have a big impact…either for good or bad.

It’s up to us to decide what kind of impact we’ll have.

2. God is working through the difficult circumstances –

Jesus was born in a difficult time. Throughout the Bible, God doesn’t choose the easy path and it’s no different today.

You know there were scandalous rumors about Mary being pregnant and her not being married. When Jesus was born Harrod was a ruthless king willing to kill infant boys to keep his throne.

Why didn’t God choose an easier path?

God’s light shines brightest when it’s the darkest. God’s power is greatest when we’re at our weakest. God’s grace shows up in the times when we least expect it.

It’s up to us to see it.

3. God is working in everyone who opens their heart –

In Luke 1: 39-45, we see Mary’s open heart in her conversation with Elizabeth.

God never forces anyone to accept Him. He came in the most unlikely manner, to the most unlikely people, at the most unlikely time. He did this so that we wouldn’t be overwhelmed…but overjoyed.

The actor Richard Crenna grew up in downtown LA living in a family run hotel. Many of the people who stayed there were unhappy and less desirable types. Young Richard would make fun of them to his friends.

After landing an acting job in New York as a young man, he was going to be leaving shortly after Christmas.

Growing up his family wasn’t big on celebrating Christmas, but this time was different. His parents had a Christmas celebration at the hotel with these “less desirable people”. These people celebrated Richard’s opportunity and gave him gifts and shared a meal.

On the train to New York someone asked him how his Christmas was. He replied, “It was my best Christmas ever. I spent it with children of the Most High, my family.”

This event showed Crenna the importance of an open heart and lead to his becoming part of God’s family.

Everyone is invited to be part of God’s family…we just have to open our hearts.

It’s amazing how much of an effect the little things can make, if we’ll just open our eyes and our hearts.

The Francesca Battistelli song Be Born in Me, sums up this whole amazing big/little Christmas gift thing really well. Listen to the song here.

Open your heart to the Joy of Christmas!

Where Do You Find Your Real Christmas Joy?

It Comes from the Inside, Not the Outside, No Matter How Much “Stuff” You Have

It’s almost Christmas.

Last night my wife came to me and said, “Do you realize Christmas is next week?” I told her that I did know that. She said, “I can’t believe how close it is. I’m not ready.”

This is a common sentiment this time of the year…okay, every year.

It seems that the conversation of time going by faster is a familiar, not just at this time of the year. I don’t disagree that it certainly can feel this way. But time is not moving any differently than it ever did.

The time issue is more about us trying to squeeze in too much. I believe we’ve been given exactly the right amount of time to do whatever we’ve been put here to do. The problem is with how we spend our time rather than how much we have.

And so much of what we’re trying to squeeze in, is the wrong stuff.

This issue only increases with Christmas.

The focus can become the activities, events, competing with the neighbors when decorating and gifts…rather than family, friends, celebrating and the real gift of Christmas.

There is a story about a little boy who only wanted a specific red toy truck for Christmas. This truck was had the boy’s full focus. Nothing else mattered. There under the tree was that red truck on Christmas morning. All the other presents were overlooked. He had his truck.

Later that day the little boy came to his dad crying. His truck was broke. Through his sobs, he said, “My Christmas is broke.” We can sure tell where his focus was. His whole Christmas was wrapped up in that truck.

Our Christmas focus can end up being in the wrong place if we aren’t careful.

We need to have the kind of attitude that Paul exhibits in Philippians 4:4-7. He wrote, “Always be filled with joy from the Lord…Don’t worry about anything, but pray and ask God for everything you need, always giving thanks for what you have. And because you belong to Christ Jesus, God’s peace will stand guard over all your thoughts and feelings. His peace can do this far better than our human minds.”

He wrote this while in prison.

You would think we should be able to be joyful, living the blessed lives that we live.

We need to take Paul’s passion to heart this and every Christmas.

This is where real Christmas joy comes from!

We Are The Ones Who Can and Will Do What Needs Done

In the Christmas season we see the words love, joy and peace a lot. This doesn’t mean that these are the only feelings we experience during the Holidays. I do think we see these types of actions now more than other times of the year. This brings up the question why. Why do people seem to be nicer around Christmas?

I think that the Christmas season brings the Christian ideals to the forefront due to the fact that we’re celebrating Christ’s birthday. This makes us more aware of Christ and what He has asked of us. In Philippians 4:4-7, we are told to “…be filled with joy.” It doesn’t say to just be filled with joy the few weeks of the year when celebrate Christ’s birthday. It says be filled with joy. How can we be filled with joy?

What about peace? Merriam-Webster says that peace is 1. a state of tranquility 2. Freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions 3. Harmony in personal relationships. These all sound like great things. Why is it that we struggle to find peace, especially during the hectic chaos of the holiday season? Maybe it’s because everyone has different ideas, thoughts and goals. This can make peace difficult to accomplish. Pastor Lee told a story of a Nigerian woman whose Nigerian name means “the child who takes anger away”. When asked how she got this name she told about her grandparents on both sides of her family disapproving of her mother and father getting married. After they went ahead and were married the families quit speaking. After she was born the grandparents decided to get past their disagreements. It’s amazing the power of peace that a baby can have. There was a baby who’s birthday we’re now celebrating that this name would be a fitting for.

We have the choice to be filled with love, joy and peace through out the whole year, not just at Christmas, it’s up to us. We have to decide to and then do it. We can choose how we are going to live and act. Are we going to harbor anger and turmoil or are we going to choose joy and peace?

Another story in the Pastor’s sermon was about a military plane crash. It was a awful sight with body parts scatter around. The military personnel were cleaning up the mess when local civilians came and helped. This wasn’t their responsibility or a requirement. Never the less they were helping. Later that night a mortuary lieutenant was struggling with all that he had seen that day. He went and spoke with the Chaplin. While they were talking the young lieutenant said about the civilians, “They Are the Only Persons Who Would, or Perhaps Could, Do What We Had to Do Today”. This made a huge impact on the young man’s life.

These civilians would or could do what they did. The same thing is true of us when we are struggling with feelings opposed to love, joy and peace. We can choose love, joy and peace.

I hope you have a love, joy and peace filled Christmas.