Saturday, December 13, 2014

Lazy Saturday

Well, not quite ... just lazy in between getting off work and the birthday party this evening.  :)

I wanted to show you guys the finished basket:

It is currently containing rolags awaiting the wheel.
Took this girl out on the calf hunt last weekend and she did fabulously!  She only bucked once.  :)  Other than that she tried very hard to be good despite the fact she hasn't been ridden in  ... probably a year or more.  She's pulled a wagon in that year, but only a few times.  Pretty proud of her and really appreciative of her cooperative spirit.

And then there's the party preparations!

I still have another chapter of Constant Craving to share with you guys, but that will have to wait for an even lazier day.  Wishing you all a beautiful day!

Song for the day:  Parson Red Heads - Times
.... cuz a little Parson Red Heads never hurt anybody!  :)

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Constant Craving - Happiness

Again, we're looking at another chapter of Marilyn Meber's book "Constant Craving: How to Make Sense of Always Wanting More".  She's 72 years old and that says a lot.  

Chapter 6 - Hungry for Happiness
(Skipping the anecdote at the beginning)
Can a Happy Person Be Content?
"Contentment is a stew of being that is characterized by not wanting more than we have.  A contented person is basically satisfied with life's circumstances.  On a spiritual level, we, like the apostle Paul, can be content with life knowing we have a transformed soul and God has sovereignly ordained our circumstances.  Because we trust God, we can be content to leave it all to him.

"But on a human level, being content with our circumstances and having no desire to change them can at times be incomprehensible - simply beyond our understanding.  For example, I wonder how a pig can be content to snort around in garbage and wallow in the mud?  That is incomprehensible to me.  Why?  Because I'm not a pig.  Pigs, however, were meant to find contentment in that environment.

"Then how can a human being be content to live in a filthy environment with rodents scurrying around everywhere?  That's equally incomprehensible to me.  Why?  Because it's not my idea of contentedness.

"Yet, as incomprehensible as that is to me, the apostle Paul ives in a jail cell with rodents scurrying around everywhere and said he was content.  He is statement reminds us again that contentedness is and inside job; it comes as the pig lives out the destiny for which it was created, and it comes to you and me as we share Paul's trust in God's timing and sovereignty.

"Now let's talk about the word happy.  We know it is an adjective that describes a feeling.  And we know that feelings are never constant; they can change dramatically or unexpectedly.  So is it possible to be content and also be happy?  Of four it is, but happy moments come along as additions to the state of contentedness.  While he was imprisoned,  Paul experienced moments of happiness when he received a supportive and loving letter from the outside.  being happy was a bonus to the contentedness he already felt.

"So, can a happy person be content?  Actually, no - at least no without some groundwork.

"Let me explain: a person experiencing the feeling of being happy without the grounding of contentment is only going to continue living a craving-for-more- existence.  That's why i'd never for the the guy who is only happy (referring to the anecdote at the beginning of the chapter).  If he has no foundation of contentment, he will blow around the universe in search of more happy feelings.  he's got the order wrong.  He must first find contentment; then he can enjoy the happy moments that come and go throughout a lifetime.

Difffering Definitions of Happy
"It would seem that answering the question 'What is happiness?' should be simple.  After all, everyone wants it, experiences it, and recognizes it.  But the fact is, there are thousands of books on happiness, and most start their discussion with the question 'What is it?'  Almost all find happiness difficult to define.  Why?  Because everyone experiences happiness differently.

"We know happiness is a feeling based on an experience; that experience may make one person happy but not another.  We also know the feeling of being happy is relatively brief elevation of mood that for one may be slurping ice cream while for another it's organizing a closet.

"Recently I read about another example of differing happy feelings in the story of a Pennsylvania man whiz refusing to take down a twenty-four-foot-tall illuminated cross he built in his front yard.  The cross builder says its seize demonstrates his religious conviction, but officials say the cross violates local ordinances and shines into neighbors' windows.  The cross builder says the size of the cross represents the size of his faith; just looking at it makes him happy.  The neighbors, however, don't share his happy feeling.

Happy Connectedness
"As I was watching a TV account of conjoined female twins, I had to reeducate myself to remember that conjoined twins are babies whose embryos did not separate completely during fetal development.  The result is the birth of two babies who remain physically connected to each other when they leave the womb.

"The twins in the TV report are fused at the shoulders; they have two heads with separate, fully functioning brains but only one trunk, two arms, and two legs.  Because they have separate brains, they have differing thought processes as well as differing personalities.  Both twins are effervescent and charming; one is a little more outspoken than the other, but their mother says they usually live in harmony with their differences.

"At the time of the televised report, they were just turning sixteen, going to a public high school, talking and giggling on the phone.  They like boys, play on a softball team and are taking driver's education wight eh anticipation of getting a driver's license.

" In spite of all those normal teenage activities, the twins are obviously physically challenged, and there is not clear-cut medical precedent to follow as they develop into adulthood.  As  result, their future well-being is medically uncertain.  Nevertheless, both twins are certain about one thing: they do not ever want to be surgically separated.  When asked why, each said she loves knowing the other is there.

"To know they will always sleep together, laugh together, eat together and cry together is a source of enormous comfort to them.  I was jolted as they both looked into the camera and one said, 'Doesn't everyone long to be connected to someone she loves?  Well, we are naturally connected, and we make each other happy.'

" What was startling to me as a viewer of the show was that I could not imagine their connection produced happiness.  My thought was, 'You only think you'r happy because you've never known anything else.  We almost always choose the familiar to the unknown.'  And yet, what right do I have to decide what constitutes their happiness?

The Drive to Feel Happy
"My reaction to the conjoined twin's statement reveals one of the problems with searching for a definition of happiness: we don't always agree on its source.  That lack of agreement leaves us with a definition that usually begins, 'Well, it's that certain feeling when ...'

"Though we may not experience happiness as a result of the same experience, the human race is still highly driven to feel happy.  All philosophies since Plato discus the primary purpose and intention of life as the search for happiness.

"Seventeenth-century philosopher Blaise Pascal said all person seek happiness.  It is the motive of every action of every person.  Nineteenth-century researcher Sigmund Freud also stated that the purpose and intuition of life is to be happy - and ideally to become increasingly more and more happy.

"Thomas Jefferson not only felt that staving for happiness was important; he believed the 'pursuit of happiness' was our nation birthright.  As such, it was written into the American Declaration of Independence in 1776.  He believed the main business of the state was to provide for the happiness of those governed.

"The craving for more happiness ranks right up there with the drive for more romance.  Both cravings cane relentless drivers; we will go to almost any length to satisfy those urges.  If we agree with Jefferson, the drive to achieve more happiness is more than human craving; it's a civil right.  (Perhaps that makes it more commendable than the craving for more romance.)

What Makes Us Happy
"So far, in an effort to answer the question 'What is happiness?' we can only say, 'It's not clear.'  We know it's a feeling that produces pleasurable elevation in mood, we know it does not last indefinitely, and we know that what makes one person happy does not make another happy.  We also know that for centuries great minds of written about who the pursuit of happiness is on of humanity's greatest 'more' cravings.  That's a lot of hot air and black ink devoted to a subject no one seems able to nail down!

"To adde ven more ink to the illusive and ill-defined subject of happiness, I'm going to make a few suggestions of my own, based on seventy-two years of living, searching for, and experiencing happiness-producing moments.

"To begin with, I love to laugh.  laughing makes me happy.  A good joke makes me happy and can elevate my mood again and again because I can keep telling it to myself.  When I was a child, there were three jokes I told myself at night after my mother read to me, prayed with me, a tucked me into bead, and then turned out the light.  These three jokes never failed me.  I told them to myself in the same order, always leaving the same last joke for my heartiest laugh.

"We lived in a small house, so my parents would hear me telling myself the jokes, chuckling at first and then finishing with a great guffaw at the end.  Dad would say, 'She just told the fish joke.'  Quiet would then descend upon my bedroom, and soon I was asleep.

"Not only do jokes make me laugh, I make me laugh.  I do and say some really dumb things.  of course I have a choice in how to respond to those dumb things: I can be disgusted and chastise myself, or I can laugh and say, 'Bless your heart, honey.'

"Recently I locked myself out of the house.  I encouraged myself with the fact that I had hidden a house key in a sandwich baggy and slipped it into a crevice of the brick wall on my patio.  smiling at my brilliant preparation for just such a lockout, I scanned the wall for the crevice and the tip of my baggy peaking out.

"Nothing.  After scanning several more times, I gave up and called Luci on my cell phone.  (Fortunately it was in my pocket.)  'Do you have any idea why I can't find my bagged house key in the crevice of the patio wall?' I washed her.

"Without skipping a beat she said, 'You decided not to leave it there because the baggy poked out.'

"'Really?  Do you know what I did with it?'

"'Yeah, its in your garage on the third shelf where you hide things.'

"'Wow, I don't remember having a shelf devoted to hidden things.'

"'Well, you do.'

"I found the key behind the Weed B Gone.

"'Wonder why I would hide the weed killer ...' I mused to myself before adding, 'Bless your heart, honey.'

Enlarging Our Potential for Happiness
"In two previous books I've authored, I'd Rather Be Laughing and Choosing the Amusing, I suggest the establishing of a laugh-lifestyle.  Laughter and the ability for choosing the amusing rather than self-defeat is a deliberately chosen attitude of the mind.  In fact, there is a direct correlation from our attitudes to our ability to experience happiness.  One of the most crucial attitudes we can develop is on of gratitude.  A grateful attitude in itself produces an elevation of mood.  When I see my circumstances throughout the lens of a grateful mindset instead of the 'I'm not getting what I want' mind-set, I feel better; I even have the potential to be happy in spite of circumstances.

"As I write this, we North Texans are just crawling out of an especially severe winter.  There were four days when most of us dared not leave our homes because of ice and snow.  On the fifth day following our confinement, I inched toward the grocery store for relief from peanut butter sandwiches and shared a moment of happiness with a woman who looked at me over a pile of fresh tomatoes and with a teary voice said, 'These tomatoes make me so happy!'

"I experienced many other moments of gratitude during that snow-and-ice storm; my pipes didn't freeze, my electricity didn't go out, my furnace continued to function, my phone work, and even the beat (the computer) in my home office remained vigilantly alive and well.  I was grateful.

"My encouragement that you develop an attitude of gratitude may be so family that you simply respond, 'Yeah, yeah. I've heard that before.'  But I suggest we all (myself included) hear it again.  Keeping a 'gratitude list' may sound corny, but it redirects our mind and lifts our mood.  Write up a list of everything for which you are grateful: the big stuff and the little stuff.

"Here are a few sources of gratitude on my list today: the side door no longer sticks, I located more of my favorite hard-to-find vanilla loose-leaf tea, birds are singing again, the new water filter makes the water taste better, my lamp throws light perfectly on my book.  And at the top of this list is the greets source of my gratitude: Jesus loves me.

"Hopefully your lists go on and on.  If they do, we enlarge our happiness potential.

Expect Less, Get More
"Another attitude I suggest we look at is our level of expectation from the events in our lives.  I've often heard it said, 'Expect more and you get more,' but I think if we expect less, we get more.  I know this sounds counterproductive to positive thinking, but let me explain why I think this way.

"Let's assume you had  high expect ion for your family vacation.  But on the second day, two of your children come down with stomach flue, which quickly spreads to everyone else in the family.  In addition to that, you have a flat tire, ruin the tire driving on it, and your spare is flat.

"No one is happy.

"How could lowered expectations for this trip have helped you happiness potential?  You know sickness is always a possibility, so while hoping against it you prepare for it anyways, packing medicine for the trip.  When the flue erupts, you and your family are grateful for your provision.  Your car's tires are showing signs of ware, so you make sure your spare is aired up and ready to go before you leave, and you also carry a can of flat-fixer.  Plus you bring along the Old Maid cards to play while you're waiting for the flat to be fixed, increasing the happiness of your children because you inevitably picked the Old Maid card.

"Expecting less does not mean we prepare less, we try less, or we are less determined to live out our potential.  It means less can become more, and when that happens, it produces happiness!

"Since our craving for more happiness is a well-documented universal preoccupation, it may comfort us to know there are ways happiness can become a more frequent and less elusive experience.  It is often a choice based on a wise and knowledgeable reasoning.

"In his excellent book The Law of Happiness, Dr. Henry Cloud says only 10 percent of our happiness is due to personal circumstances; 50 percent comes from our internal makeup, and the rest is determined by us.

"That being the case, I recognize my deepest happiness can only be found in the God who created us to know him, love him, and trust him in all things.  As Pascal wrote, 'Happiness is neither outside or inside us.  It is in God, both outside and inside us."

I apologize for the length of these.  I know I have trouble staying with articles past a certain length.  For some reason my attention span is much better with books.  Another reason, I'd encourage you to buy/borrow this one and give it a good think.  The excerpts I've chosen have been particularly impactful for me.  I pray that these thoughts of Marilyn's will be helpful and inspiring to you!  Grace to you all.

Song for the day:
The Wexford Carol

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Constantly Craving - Contentment

So I've been reading this book by Marilyn Meberg.  I didn't think much of it when I first picked it up, but I've been devouring it over the last few days.  This lady is 72 years old at the writing of this book.  That's a lifetime.  A lifetime of experience, of learning, of growing, of failing, of triumphing.  That gives her a lot of street cred.  Mom has - um, shall we say, emphasized? - the kind of perspectives that are typical of different ages of people.  The older she gets the less wise a 30 and 40 year old are.  Anyways, I guess I assumed that most of these types of books were written by disillusioned late-30, early-40's type people.  I consider it quite a treasure to find one written by a woman who has been through twice that life!

In three of her early chapters, she discusses why we crave more in romance, why we might be attracted to certain people, and what we expect from our spouses, and how our previous relationships with family might affect that.  Very interesting.  However that isn't what I wanted to share with you all today.  I wanted you to hear some specific excerpts from chapters 5, 6, and 9.  For today, let's stick with chapter 5.

Chapter 5 - Longing for Contentment
Marilyn talks about how the grass seems greener on the other side of the fence - the "if only I had" syndrome and the opportunity she had to switch families with a playmate when she was 5 which allowed her to discover that phenomenon.  She talks about souls or psyches and how they need to be switched out if we expect to change our natural contentment level.  The story of Paul's soul swap is recorded in Acts 9.

"Paul, after three days of blinds and fasting, completely rethought his opposition to Jesus.  In fact, he spent the next several years reformulating his mind and emotions about who Jesus was, is and continues to be in the life of the believer" (p57).

The Steps to Contentment
"Paul was not only a witness for Christ, but he was also - and continues to be - a witness and example of containment.  His sense of contentment is nearly unbelievable in view of where he spent much of his life.  Because of his zeal in communicating the good news of Jesus, Paul spent years in prison.  Those who had an earlier loyalty and allegiance to Paul and his zeal to persecute Christians turned on him, arrested him and ultimately executed him in Rome.  And yet, while sitting in jail prior to his execution, Paul wrote these words: I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: i know how to be abased, and I know how to abound.  Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.  I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:11-13).

"Paul's words provide a simple but profound definition of contentment.  Shockingly, it has nothing to do with out circumstances.  Most of us assume if she could just change our circumstances we would be content.  If I were Paul, I might have said, "Just get me out of jail, and I'll be content."

"But he said contentment didn't depend on whether or not he was in jail, whether or not he was hungry or had just eaten a platter of pasta.  he knew contentment is an inside job.  His trust and faith in Christ got him through it all." (p 58, 59)

She talks more about the specific process Paul went through and then continues on page 60-61:

Forgiven, Cleansed, and Made New
"These were the steps Paul took to gain a new understanding of Jesus and receive a new and transformed soul.  His old soul was forgiven, cleansed, and made new.  Paul described this newness: 'Anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person.  The old life is gone; a new life has begun!' (2 Corinthains 5:17).

"When Paul experience chis transformed, cleansed, and forgiven soul, he came into an understanding and experiencing of contentment.  because of the forgiveness with cleansing from sin, Paul could walk without the shame and guilt o this murderous past.

"Since the mind is part of the soul, Paul had access to the mind of Christ, who said, 'Let this mind be in you , which was also in Christ Jesus' (Phillipians 2:5).  Christ's mind in Paul's mind reminds him that Christ promises to never leave him.  Christ's mind assures Paul's mind his love will always hold him up, providing courage for each experience that hurts him, threatens him, or discourages him.

"That's how Paul's transformed new soul enabled him to sit in jail, even knowing he would ultimately experience execution, and still say, 'I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.'

"I am encouraged by the words 'I have learned.'  They tell me we are not born content, and achieving contentment does not happen quickly.  It's something we learn.  As our relationship with Christ develops over time and through experiences, we learn to trust God more and ourselves less.  Through the indwelling Christ I learn that contentment is an inside job."

The next chapter talks about happiness and how it relates to contentment ... stay tuned!  I'd really encourage you to take the time to read this book through.  It's a very easy read and if you get it used, you won't need to spend a lot more than $5.

And please leave comments, thoughts, and critiques!  I like to know who has stopped by particularly since I'm not advertising it.

Song for the day:
Definitely like this version better!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Wake Me When December is Here!

So much to look forward to in December!  Beautiful music, celebrating our salvation that came through sacrifice from beginning to end, remembering the gift of our faith, sharing tokens of love and care with friends and family, participating in the glorious festivities of old and new traditions, gathering with those we may not see often.  Oh the colors, the smells, the touch!  And caroling!  If we're fortunate, we may be kissed or drowned in snow.  And yes I said FORTUNATE!!!!  :)  Each blessing is particularly keen, stopping, remembering, and caressing it with a thankful thought.

It is also the time of stress, overload, chasing the holy grail of balance until we are crazy, plummeting checking account numbers, obligations, unfulfilled expectations, crisis triage, cynicism, grinches, no good answers or solutions, the sting of lost fellow celebrators whether by death or circumstance or decision.  Our raw, weak, human hearts scream in anguish for deliverance.  Deliverance!  In truth, this is the season of celebrating our greatest deliverance!

Thankfully, I think for most of us December doesn't fall into one category or the other, but rather a combination of the two.

My memories of Christmas include blessing and frustration.  My family didn't have a whole lot in the way of Christmas traditions when we were young because this was something my parents disagreed on.  Christmas was different every year depending on what could be gotten together.  Mom has always been a really good gift giver.  We usually spent the day just as a family.  The food is my department though everyone is assigned a dish that they get to make.  The candle table is one of my favorite memories that I've been considering reviving.  I've taken to doing decorations almost soley from the out of doors.  This has perks (no storage, no expense, spent $3 so far this year, though we will need a few more stings of lights) and cons (dry needles EVERYwhere), but I enjoy the process so we just get out the broom.

Mom gets embarrassed when we have Christmas decorations up past the end of December, but I don't just gather outdoor decorations for Christmas!  I do that for most of the seasons.  So that means that winter decorations look a lot like Christmas, minus some ribbons and glitter.

This year is slightly different as I am living at camp at the moment.  Not sure how and what that will/should change.  I've been re-evalution my general Christmas approach ...  It has long been my desire to do exclusively handmade gifts, or at least majoring in handmade.  This year, I'm feeling broke, so that has been even more attractive.  I spent a chunk of money while I was in St. Louis on supplies for potential gifts.  We'll see how all that goes.  I've also been considering Advent.

I've always loved the thought of a Jesse Tree, especially if the young'uns are involved.  And wouldn't you know it, as this has been rattling around in my head over the last few days, today my Facebook feed is filled with Advent articles, explanations, ideas, etc.
Link to Advent readings
Mark Robert's Advent Discovery Journey - especially the section entitled "My Greatest Advent Discovery"
Desiring God - Advent is Slow on Purpose
Advent // Hope - Lang Films

This is thought provoking stuff and has followed on the heels of some new revelations on the history of Halloween.
Debunking Halloween Myths
Halloween - James Jordan Essay

Oh, and if you haven't read this on Facebook, please do.  If you read nothing else, read this.
Why Thanksgiving is Subversive - A Holy Experience
Plus I absolutely love how they celebrated thanksgiving this year.

Sorry for being all analytical and theoretical today, guys.  I'm not feeling so well and my brain is the only thing still motivated to be semi-industrious.  :)  Don't worry!  There will be photos of Christmasy things to come!

Song for the day:
Andrew Peterson - My Love Has Gone Across the Sea