If Happiness Is Not a Destination Then Why Am I Still Trying To Get There?


happinessMaybe it’s the time of year. No, I’m sure it has to do with the time of year. I’m at that point where I increasingly find myself trying to understand why I’m not happy.  Why is it that after all I am blessed with that I still feel unhappy and unfulfilled? Why am I still trying to reach a place that I know in my mind doesn’t exist?

The question may be a difficult one but the answer is quite simple. The reason I keep looking is because I forget. I forget that happiness isn’t a destination and I easily find myself back in the search for that which cannot be found. Like most people, I’m just simply looking for the wrong thing in the wrong place.

We hear things like “do what makes you happy” and “choose to be happy” but it’s never quite that simple. You can’t choose what you don’t know. I don’t know what makes me happy. Over time I’ve figured out what doesn’t make me happy.

Stuff does not bring happiness. More stuff means more work, more expenses and more upkeep. Possessions can be enjoyed but even the temporary happiness you experience upon getting something new will quickly fade because material things will never truly make you happy.

Relationships do not make me happy.  Don’t get me wrong – I have experienced great happiness in relationships and moments with friends and family that I will forever cherish but sooner or later you will find reason to be disappointed in every relationship you have because people cannot bring you happiness. You may have relationships with family members, your spouse, your children or friends that are a great source of happiness much of the time but overall happiness cannot be found in them because people can and will let you down at some point. We may have some extremely positive and meaningful relationships but for many, they can also be a source of extreme highs and lows.

thQ4E9WCBRPlaces do not make me happy. I use the term “my happy place” when referring to the beach, naps, or reading a good book but those are all temporary. And I’ve lived in many different physical locations and each one had its positives and negatives. So I’ve also learned over time that places can be nice to visit and some are great to live but no place will ever bring me complete happiness because no one place “has it all”.

I asked my friends on Facebook what makes them happy and the answers were as varied as my friendships – they ranged from the simple to the extravagant, from the tangible to the philosophical, from the selfish to the selfless. We all have “ideas” about what makes us happy but at the end of the day happiness is not something to be obtained, not permanently any way. So why do we keep searching for a destination that doesn’t exist? Why do we spend so much time in search of something we’ll never find?

Because we are made to do so. We were born to seek that which fulfills us. We are designed to search for what brings us joy. We end up making wrong turns and heading down wrong paths toward a destination that doesn’t exist when we confuse happiness with joy. There are many things that will bring us temporary and worldly happiness in this life but only one thing that can bring us joy. A relationship with our Creator and Father in heaven is the only thing that will ever completely and fully meet all our needs and fill all the empty places in our hearts. And He created us to seek Him because it is His greatest desire to be in a relationship with us. But when we seek happiness elsewhere, we simply find momentary fulfillment in temporary things like possessions, relationships and places.

thKTQKPTLTThis season when happiness is highly sought after but hard to find, seek joy. Joy is not based upon your possessions, your circumstances, the people in your life or where you find yourself at this moment in time. Joy is found in Christ. He alone is the destination we all seek but not all will find. Seek God and you will find what you’re looking for. When I catch myself in my unhappy place and searching for happiness in the things of this world, it is in my desperation that I’m reminded that He alone is my happy place.

 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.  (Luke 2:10-11)

 

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The Fixer


scandal 2One of my favorite shows on TV is “Scandal”. The show’s main character, Olivia Pope, is known as a “fixer”. Or more appropriately, she is The Fixer in Washington, DC. When someone finds themselves in the midst of a major problem or scandal that needs fixing, Olivia is the go-to girl. She has an uncanny ability to know exactly how things will play out in each situation and she has a response plan in place before her client hardly knows what has hit them. She is cool under pressure and a brilliant communicator. She is a strong woman who can handle most anything thrown her way and she never reveals her hand before it’s time. Even her own team many times has no idea what she is thinking because she is unbelievably difficult to read. The show’s characters are complicated, Olivia being the most complex by far. Her life revolves around her repairing the damage of one scandal after another. But like everyone, even the seemingly unbreakable Olivia Pope has a weakness. And while she is the Queen of fixing everyone else’s problems, the one thing Olivia cannot fix is herself.

mr fix itLike Olivia, many of us live our lives as fixers. We are constantly attempting to fix things like our marriages, our finances, our family drama, our job situations, our kids, our loneliness, our sadness, our addictions, our hurts and our brokenness. Some of us accept the help of others by receiving their advice, counseling, methods or resources. Others simply say “I got it” and attempt the needed repairs all alone because they have all the tools they think they need at their disposal. Olivia Pope has a team that works with her but she is undoubtedly in charge and what she says goes. And each team member is forever indebted to Olivia because they too have been “rescued” from impending disaster by the one and only Olivia Pope. Although she is surrounded by others she is completely in control and very unwilling to relinquish one bit of that control.

You may be like Olivia Pope and you may be a really good fixer. In fact, you may be the best fixer among those you know. You may have fixed long-standing family feuds, you may have fixed your marriage or your finances, you may have even fixed a personal addiction, a problem with your child or a major job issue. But like Olivia Pope, you too have an area you cannot fix, yourself. No matter how hard we try we will never be able to fix certain things. There will always be areas of hurt, unforgiveness, anger or other wounds to our hearts for which there is only one fix.

God healsGod is the original fixer and He alone can fix the areas that you and no other person or thing can fix. I was a fixer and I always found a way to fix that one thing that I just knew would make my life complete. The problem was that I never really fixed what was really wrong. Each thing that I thought would bring me happiness was only a temporary “fix” and I found myself right back where I started, feeling empty and looking for my next fix.

Finally someone told me I didn’t have a happiness problem, I had a joy problem. I based my happiness on my circumstances. I thought that if everything was fixed in my life then I’d be happy. What I didn’t realize was that there would always be something that needed fixing. But that if I would surrender my life to The Fixer, Jesus, then I could still have joy even when there was some area of my life in need of repair. I didn’t need a better husband, a bigger house or more stuff. I desperately needed a Savior. I needed to admit I couldn’t fix everything and that I needed Him to fix me.

nativity 2I needed to stop living a life of sin where all I thought about was myself. I needed to surrender my life to Jesus and seek His will for my life and not my own. I needed to stop trying to pretend like some things I couldn’t fix would simply fix themselves with time. I needed to trust God to heal those areas I’d never be able to fix or the areas I didn’t want to face. I needed the love of Christ and the peace that surpasses all understanding to fill the voids of my life. I needed the strength I have in Christ alone to overcome the things I’d never be able to in my own strength. I needed the promise of eternal life that I received the moment I said “I believe”. I needed His comfort in times of sorrow and His guidance in the times I felt lost and confused. I needed to believe that things could get better and they did when I placed my hope in Christ alone and no one else, including myself. I needed that precious baby born in a manger so long ago who came from heaven to earth to die the death that you and I deserve so we don’t have to. I needed his forgiveness of my sins so that I would be able to forgive others. I needed His unconditional love and acceptance more than I ever realized. I needed fixed. I needed Jesus.

Christmas is like a magnifying glass


For most of us our Christmas memories as children are good ones. I’m not sure if that’s because Christmas was really better back then or if we were just oblivious to what was really going on around us because we were so excited for Santa to come.

But as we get older it seems like Christmas becomes a time of stress, sadness and disappointment for many of us. The reason holidays can be such a difficult time is because Christmas is like a huge magnifying glass that magnifies everything that is wrong in our lives, especially when it comes to relationships. Christmas seems to cause us to be so much more aware of the enormity of the fact that all the expectations we had of Christmas as a child are now mostly unmet in our adult life.

It’s the time of year when it’s never more obvious to the divorced parent that they had a failed marriage when they have to put their child on a plane and send them off to the other parent for the holidays. It’s more evident to those whose families are estranged when every commercial on TV seems to show happy families all gathering together and everyone is enjoying each other’s company. It’s never more lonely on Christmas day for the soldier who is deployed away from family as they sit alone a million miles from home. Or for the single person who has no one special to share the holiday with, Christmas is the longest day of the year.

For those who have lost loved ones the loss is magnified when the realization hits that they will never again celebrate the holiday with the one they miss so much. For the families whose marriage is in crisis, Christmas magnifies the brokenness in the home and ushers in a new level of hopelessness when everyone else seems to have it all together – or so it seems when you’re the one who’s marriage is falling apart. For the child who is on the Angel Tree because his single mom cannot afford to buy gifts, his situation is magnified as all the other kids in class talk about what they’re getting for Christmas this year. He just hopes he gets picked so he’ll get something and won’t be embarassed when everyone asks what he got when they return to school.

Christmas is not easy for everyone. If you are one of the fortunate ones whose family has strong, healthly relationships and the get togethers are special moments where memories are made, please take time to give thanks that you are richly blessed. If you are like so many others whose situation is magnified this time of year and you are accutely aware of the failures, hurts, losses and disappointments in your life please take time to give thanks. No matter what your situation is and no matter how hopeless the holidays make you feel, you can still find hope in the one who’s birth is magnified in the songs you hear over and over every where you go. In the words of “O Holy Night” – long lay the world in sin and error pining, til he appeared and the soul felt it’s worth. The thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn. Fall on your knees. O hear the angel voices, O night divine, O night when Christ was born.

You see, this is the time of year that we long for in our souls. We have long been in sin and error but Jesus was born and finally our souls felt worthy. We should feel the thrill of hope, we should be rejoicing and falling on our knees because our Savior was born. We no longer have to live feeling hopeless and in despair because, through His birth, everything is new and glorious. We don’t have to live consumed by our circumstances and the enormity of our failures, shortcomings and mistakes. We can seek the One who came to save us and in Him find the peace that we so long for. Don’t spend another Christmas feeling overwhelmed at the magnitude of this life and all it’s shortcomings. The things of this world will never bring us the joy our soul seeks. It’s only in the Savior, the Christ who was born on that holy night so long ago that we will truly find the peace and joy we so deeply long for. Let this Christmas be the one that you fall on your knees and receive His forgiveness and salvation. You can awaken tomorrow to a new and glorious morning where the only thing magnified in your life is His love for you.

Wisdom from a boy and the dog who loves him


As I was going to bed my oldest son texted me from downstairs. We had just said goodnight and he had headed down to his room with his faithful companion, Winston. In the text he said that he was looking at Winston and thought of how much his dog knows him.

Winston loves him and spends a lot of time with him. He knows my son’s voice, he knows the sound of his car when he drives in the driveway. And he knows what my son is saying to him and obeys his commands.

But what Ryan realized is that even though Winston knows him very well, he really has no clue what’s going on in Ryan’s life. Winston’s brain cannot begin to comprehend everything we as humans can and he’ll never know the vastness of Ryan’s life and all that is going on in it.

And his conclusion was that much in the same way, our minds cannot begin to understand the vastness of God and His love for us that He would send His only son to this earth so that He may die for us.

Through tears I read the final words of the text that said “God is like me and I’m like Winston. I know Him, I love Him, but until I join Him in heaven I will never fully understand the extent of who He is and how very much He loves me.”

As we celebrate this season and the joy that it is to give to others and to receive let us not forget that the long awaited Savior was born on that divine night so long ago. Born so that you may know Him, love Him, spend time with Him, recognize His voice and obey His commands. And in return He will love you more than you can ever fully wrap your mind around.

“Oh holy night, the stars are brightly shining. It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth. Long lay the world in sin and error pining, til He appeared and the soul felt it’s worth. A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn. Fall on your knees, oh hear the angel voices. Oh, night divine. Oh, night when Christ was born.”

Defying the Odds


For the past 4 years I have been the primary caretaker for my 99-year old grandmother who lives with my family. As those closest to me know, it has been a challenge.

The challenge has not been the physical needs of my grandmother. At 99 she defys the odds. She is in good health – the only medication she takes is blood pressure medicine. She has never suffered from any diseases. Her mind, other than short term memory loss, is sharp. She reads the entire newspaper every day, watches Days of Our Lives religiously and her favorite primetime show is Dancing with the Stars.

Besides preparing her meals, doing her laundry and shopping, and helping with bathing, hair washing and getting dressed, her physical needs are pretty minimal.

The difficulty lies in the emotional realm. It is not easy to see someone you love be so troubled in their soul. On the outside she displays an attitude and demeanor that everything is ok. But when you care for her day in and day out you know there is great fear and worry that occupy her thoughts. Her consuming fears revolve around the “what ifs” in her life – “what if I fall?”, “what if I end up in the hospital?”, “what if someone breaks into the house when no one is here but me?”, “what if I can no longer do things for myself?”

Over time the subtle doubts and fears that enter into our minds when we are young begin to take root. Their grip becomes tighter and tighter until those doubts and fears begin to consume your every thought. Your focus settles on the negatives and peace eludes your soul.

Because of what I’ve seen in my grandmother I began to take notice of the same strongholds in the lives of others. I noticed that so many people are absorbed by disappointments, failures and hurts of their past or they focus on the fears of not knowing what the future holds. And what they miss is the present moment. They miss the beauty of this season of their life. They miss the opportunity to have peace because they have convinced themselves that the turmoil of their past or the unknown of the future won’t allow them to ever be at peace. They “make it” through the present in order to “survive” to the end. And like my grandmother, they are not the exception to the rule. They are the majority.

But what if……what if you decided to really defy the odds? What if you chose to believe in that baby in the manger who defyed the odds? What if you became the exception to the rule and lived a life full of peace and joy? What if you had a strong, loving marriage that defyed the odds in a time when divorce is so prevalent. What if you found healing for the past hurts you’ve experienced and forgave those who hurt you? What if you didn’t worry about the future because even though you do not know what the future holds, you know the One who holds the future in His hands? What if you stopped trusting in your own abilities to make everything wrong in your life right and began to trust in Jesus, the Prince of Peace. He defyed the odds that the people of the world placed on Him and came to the world as a baby in the manger in order that you may defy the odds too and find rest for your weary soul simply by believing in Him.

High Performance Christians


If you’ve ever been to a church you’ve probably seen them – the High Performance Christians. They’re running around looking very busy in hopes that someone may notice, especially the Pastor. They are quick to tell you what committee they are on and what area of ministry they oversee.

They sign up for every class, event and opportunity to volunteer. They have their bible highlighted with lots of handwritten notes along the side of the scriptures. And they sit right up front and are the first to speak to the Pastor after the service ends.

They even update their Facebook status so everyone knows that the Pastor sat at their table at the restaurant after service.

Even those who serve the church behind the scenes and are not seeking attention are still tempted to “perform” for God. They think that if they read their bible enough, pray enough and do enough bible studies that God will love them more. But the truth is that God loves us no matter how we “perform” for Him.

If we don’t pray a certain number of hours each week or we don’t read  our bible every day, He still loves us. His love for us is not based on how good a Christian we are. He simply loves us. There is nothing we can do to make him love us more and nothing we can do to make Him love us less. He just loves us.

Let that thought sink in……He simply loves you. You do not have to live in fear of losing His love if you do something wrong. And you do not have to live under the pressure to “perform” to make Him love you more.

In the same sense we are to love others no matter how well they “perform” for us. (Mark 12:30-31).

People will let us down – they’ll disappoint us. But we are to love them no matter what just as God loves us no matter what.

As Christmas approaches, think of someone you need to love even though they have not performed to your expectations and ask God to give you the strength to love them just as He loves you.

Behind the Scenes of An Extreme Makeover


For my son’s birthday we decided it was time to redo his bedroom to give it an updated and age appropriate look. So we set out to perform a much needed extreme makeover. We started by removing three layers of wallpaper then painting the room a warm shade of blue. We bought a new bed, new bedding and a new rug. We brought in a floor plant and changed the ceiling fan to a more modern one. And a new lamp and some new wall hangings finished out the job. His room now looks completely different than before. But the thing is, nothing has really changed. If you remove all of the new items from the room, what’s left underneath the surface is still the same. Many people live their lives much the same way. They try to cover up the pain they feel on the inside by changing things on the surface. They change their appearance. They change relationships, jobs, homes, surroundings, and spouses. They do so in hopes that if they make “surface” changes then they will feel a change on the inside that will overcome the wounds and hurts that nobody can see on the surface. But when you strip all of that away, nothing has really changed on the inside. The only option for real transformation on the inside is when we are born again and become a new creation through Jesus Christ. We keep doing the same things over and over and expect different results. But the truth is nothing will change until we surrender our lives to the only One who can bring about real change. Jesus came in human form so that He could die on the cross the death that we deserve. He gave His life so we don’t have to give ours as payment for our sins. So as you give and receive gifts this Christmas, receive the gift of salvation, eternal life and a new life transformation so that you may be healed of the hurts and pains that have held you captive for so long. It’s time for a real change, a below-the-surface life transformation that is found only in Jesus Christ. Ask Him into your heart and to forgive your sins and you’ll have the joy this season of receiving a real Extreme Makeover.

The thing about Christmas


Over the years I’ve come to realize that the excitement and anticipation most of us feel about Christmas is not because we are going to get presents, although they are always fun to receive. It’s not about eating a big meal and then napping while watching football. It’s not about being with family and friends, the lights and decorations or the time off from work or school. I believe the reason there is an excitement in our hearts is because our hearts belong to the One who’s birth we celebrate during this season. The anticipation we feel inside is by design. We look forward to this holiday more so than any other because we all have an internal longing to be with the One who created us. And because we celebrate the birth of Jesus at Christmas the longing is more evident because the holiday is all about Jesus and the fact that He came in human form so that He may die for us because of God’s overwhelming love for us, His children. That longing we feel is purposeful so that we may seek God to fill the empty places in our hearts. But many people search to fill those places with a variety of things like relationships, food, alcohol, material things, power or position. And it is never more evident than at Christmas of how empty we are without Christ. What should be a happy time is a time of great sorrow for so many because the excitement and anticipation build and once Christmas comes and goes those without a Savior are left to realize that once again their expectations are unmet and the emptiness remains. If that is you, let this Christmas be the one where you have great expectancy not for the holiday to bring about the happiness you long for but expect God to fill the empty places in your heart and allow Him to give you the gift of eternal life through His son Jesus Christ who’s birth we celebrate. Simply ask and He will freely give you the peace and true joy you seek.