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murphys law

murphys law (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

When you are having “one of those days”, a Murphy’s Law day, what do you do?  When you find yourself in a messy situation, or an unforseen problem arises,  what options do you have, other than to be frustrated, irate, or irritable?  Here are a few things I think about to help me to find happiness in the mess.

1.  Things could be worse.

2.  Things will get better.

3.  Find something to be thankful for.

4.  Find a happy verse.

5.  Sing a happy song.

6.  Smile.

7.  Find opportunities in the midst  of  difficulties.

8.  Nothing good is gained by grumbling.

One of the things that can rob us of our happiness, that makes us feel frustrated, angry or upset, is that things aren’t going the way we planned.  We have expectations of the way things should be.  When those expectations turn sour, we are tempted to turn sour in our attitudes and outlook.  When our day begins to take a turn for the worse, we need to take a deep breath and realize that negative, “stinkin’ thinkin'” will not help us.  When we feel like our good day is beginning to sink in the troubled waters of unmet expectations, it’s a good idea grasp the life preserver of happy thoughts.  When I cling to the eight ideas above, a smile comes to my lips, happy feelings return, and I can return to the helm of life with a cheery disposition.  I hope that these ideas help you turn your mess into happiness.

I didn’t plan on getting the flu last week.  I didn’t expect my wife and daughters would be sick.  But that is  the  situation we found ourselves in.  Through the coughing, fever and fatigue, I was able to find happiness in the mess.

Things could have been worse.

We could have had cancer, or some other painful, life threatening disease.  It was just the flu after all.  And it was comforting to know that God was by our sides, helping us through the illness.  The ultimate “things could be worse” would be going through sickness, pain, disappointment, without our gracious, compassionate and merciful God at our side.

Things will get better.

We are all better now.  While we didn’t like suffering from the flu, we knew that after a week or so we would feel better.  And after a month we would forget all about laying in bed with shakes, shivers, sweat and snotty noses.  That helped make me happy in the midst of my discomfort.  The ultimate “things will get better” is knowing that even if one of us did have a terminal illness, and ended up dying, we would be in the happy arms of our loving heavenly Father, experiencing relief and incredible joys forevermore.

Find something to be thankful for.

I was thankful for the marvelous miracle of modern medicine.  Thank you God for drugs!  Thank you God for doctors that know what to prescribe to make us feel better.  Thank you God for nurses, like Marge, who is helping out here at the home for needy children for a month.  She administered the unpleasant shots that the kids needed, along with a healthy dose of encouraging and comforting words (and some natural herbal remedies thrown in for good measure).

Find a happy verse.

Scripture verses from the Bible give me a joy that would otherwise be unknown when I find myself in a mess, be it physical, job related or just everyday inconveniences.  They help me change my focus from me and my unpleasant mess, to God and His goodness and power.  Some verses that I regularly grab  hold of  in time of need are:

                       Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on  your own  understanding.  In all your ways, acknowledge Him, and He will direct your path.  Proverbs 3:5,6

                        All  things work  together for good to those  who love God, to  those who have been called according  to His purpose.  Romans 8:28

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

                                 Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall  be added to you .  Matthew 6:33

Sing a happy song.

Most of my happy songs that encourage me  in the mess, are oldies but goodies from my youth.  A few favorites are:

Praise God from whom all blessing flow.  Praise Him all creatures here below.  Praise Him above ye heavenly host.  Praise Father, Son and  Holy Ghost.  Amen.

Behold what manner of love the Father has given unto us, that we should be called the children of  God.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.

Smile.

It is amazing what a smile can do for the general well being of a person who finds himself in the midst of a mess.  Over the years I have read articles from psychologists who tell us of chemical and biological changes that happen in the brain when we smile, that make us feel better even if we don’t feel happy at the time.You can check out a somewhat recent article in Psychology Today about the power of a smile to make you feel happy.  Another thing about smiling when we don’t feel like it, to encourage happiness, at least for me, is  that when I smile, it reminds me of happy days and times in the past, when I really did feel like smiling.  Those memories create in me a good feeling and in  turning my thoughts from my present negative mess, to positive happy times I have experienced, creates in me a genuine feeling of joy and contentment.

Find opportunities in the midst of difficulties.

Sometimes, when things aren’t going the way I had planned, if I take a moment and tell myself to try and find something good in the bad situation, I generally discover a opportunity for happiness to displace the mess.  I am generally impatient and hate waiting.  When I am held up by other peoples tardiness, or road blocks ( a rather common occurrence here in Oaxaca, Mexico) I can choose to sit and stew, or find an opportunity to better my condition.  Sometimes, while waiting for someone, I will take the extra time to make sure I have everything I need for the task at hand.  I’m surprised at how often I discover that I have forgotten something important, and have a chance to retrieve it, and breath a prayer of thanks for the delay.  When I am stuck in traffic, or sick in my bed, I have opportunity to work on my blog or prepare a devotion for the mission church service.  If we take time to think, we can find opportunity in the difficulty.

Nothing good is gained by grumbling.

My first reaction  upon finding myself in a mess is to grumble.  To complain.  To get angry and find blame.  I get frustrated and upset.  After some time of going through these mental gyrations, I finally realize that I have wasted time, energy and thought over something that I have no control over.  I  have gained nothing by my negative thoughts.  Realizing that nothing good is gained by grumbling is the first step for me toward finding happiness in the mess.

So there you have it.  Eight thoughts to help you find happiness in whatever mess you might find yourself in.  A few quick things to hang onto and put into action when Murphy and the mess slam head on into your otherwise perfect day.

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No matter how much we have grown, we still need to grow more.  No matter how mature we are, we never stop maturing.  And no matter how unspiritual we are, as long as we want to grow more, Jesus will show  up  in the life of even the messiest of disciples.  Michael Yaconelli, Messy Spirituality

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Next blog – Chickens, Tamales, Smoke and  Radio Zapoteca

A long time ago,  in  a  land far  away, lived a king, a big king, a big king named King Og.  King Og reigned in Bashan, a land fair and bright; a land full of prospects, but not really all right.  King Og was sure prideful and full of himself; calling  his kingdom, the Kingdom of Og.  He was a giant, so some people say. In a bed 13 feet long, 13 feet long did he lay.  He thought he was great, was sure he was strong; of greater and greater conquests he longed.

One day a messenger came into his kingdom; carried he a message; some people wanted to come.  ‘Twas a message from Moses that was read by the King.  The message requested permission to pass, to pass  through the Kingdom of Og really fast.  “We don’t want to fight,  we don’t want to meddle, we’re on our way, the Promised  Land to settle.”

King Og read the note with a snort and a smirk, “What’s Moses think?  I’m some kind of jerk?”  He rallied his forces, he rallied his men, he gathered his army and it was to war that he went.

Now God was with Moses, He led him along.  For forty long years did God lead him along.   Led him through desert,  led him through plain, with great strength, to the Promised Land they came.  Meeting the vast army of prideful King Og, God comforted Moses, saying we’ll chase him home like a dog.

The Hebrews rose up and went out to King Og.  With God by their side they did  battle and slay.  They fought and they routed old king Og that  day.  They smote all  his soldiers and took all their loot.  They took all their land and houses to boot. Fleeing in terror, the Ogites did run.  Close on their heals, with hearts full of joy, the Israelite soldiers chased them into the sun. God loved his dear people and helped them to win.  He fought right beside them again  and  again.  They won  a great victory, and happy were they.   They won  a big battle and rejoiced big that day.

So what is the point of this short moral tale?  When your walking with God, you’re going to sail.   And what can you learn while you’re reading this blog?  When you see God is coming, don’t be like  King  Og.

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I was reading Deuteronomy, chapter three the other day, in the old King James version.  I read the story of the demise of King Og.  The story stuck in my mind all day and I was working with it to make a kind of Dr. Seuss type story.  It’s not that great, but was kinda fun to write.  I must admit, I took some “artistic license” liberties, but in general it is fairly accurate to the real account.  The Bible says he was a “giant” about 13 feet tall.  The bigger they are, the harder they fall.  King Og is also mentioned in Numbers and Psalms, among other places.  God is always telling his people “to remember” or “do not forget”.  Remember what?  Don’t forget what?  That God loves his chosen people and wants them to be happy, triumphant, and obedient.  That He will be beside us, over us, behind us, in front of us, and, if need be, carry us, when we face the enemy.  Our enemies are the World, the Flesh, and the Devil, according to Martin Luther, and we do battle with them every day.   Depending on God for our strength assures us of the victory.  Whether that victory is sooner or later, only God knows (and He ain’t tellin’), but the important thing is that He is with us in the battle.

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As you go on your way, may God go with you.
May God go before you to show you the way.
May God go behind you to encourage you,
beside you to befriend you,
above you to watch over you,
and within you to give you peace,

In the name of the Father, Son, and Spirit.

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Next blog – Finding Happiness in the Mess

English: Lord's Prayer A tablet behind the alt...

English: Lord’s Prayer A tablet behind the altar in St Mary the Virgin showing the Lord’s Prayer. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Lord’s prayer is a happy prayer.  When I pray it and meditate on it I am filled with joy because it is filled with good things. God wants us to ask him for good things. Most of the Lord’s prayer is about asking God for stuff.  There was a time in my life where I stopped asking God for stuff.  I stopped praying for people.  I figured that God is sovereign and all powerful and all knowing  and full of love a and that he would handle all situations and circumstances perfectly.  I thought it ridiculous to think that God was up there on his celestial throne waiting for me to send up a prayer before he would act.  “You know, I was planning on healing George of his cancer, but Santiago never prayed for him, so poor old George died.”  I didn’t think God needed my prayer before he did the right thing.

And I was right.  He doesn’t need my prayer.  I need my prayer.  I finally realized that by taking a good look at the Lord’s prayer. Most of the Lord’s prayer is petition.  Not adoration or thanksgiving, but petitions, requests.  I need to ask God for stuff, for things, for help, to remind myself daily that I am totally dependent on God for everything!  For all my physical needs and spiritual needs.  In the Lord’s prayer I am reminded over and over that God is good and loving and wants me to be happy.

The Lord’s prayer starts off with “Our Father” and a bit later “thy kingdom come”.  The first piece of happiness we find is that our Father is the king.  As a youth I went to Bible camp every year in the mountains of Colorado.  One year the guest speaker was from Tennessee.  He had never seen the Rocky mountains.  One day, on a hike he stopped and exclaimed, “My daddy made those mountains!”  Sometimes I want to stop and exclaim with joy, “My daddy is the king!”  The Lord’s prayer is part of the sermon on the mount where Jesus has been mentioning the kingdom.  He began His ministry proclaiming the kingdom of the heavens or the kingdom of God.  In the Lord’s prayer we happily discover that our daddy is the king.

In context of  “thy kingdom come”  Jesus gives us the first thing that we should ask for.  The most important happy thing that we should ask for.  “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”  When you think of heaven, do you think of sadness, misery, and pain?  Of course not.  We all think of a joyous existence where we delight in the presence of God and his will being done perfectly.  God’s plan from the garden of Eden in Genesis to New Jerusalem in Revelation, is for people to experience unbelievable happiness because they are are doing his will.  In this petition God not only invites us to enter into his joy, but as individuals and as the body of Christ, to bring this joy to a hurting world and thus grow the kingdom of the heavens.

As Jesus further instructs about things to ask for, he seemingly moves from the most important thing to the most mundane.  “Give us today our daily bread.”  I would 4126611734_993d897939venture to guess that most of us rarely if ever ask God to supply our bread for the day.  One reason we don’t ask for that is because in our innermost being we think we are self sufficient.  We think we can handle that one on our own.  The reality is that we can’t.  I was reading Moses’ speech to the Israelites this morning in Deuteronomy chapter eight.  Moses told the people that it is God who gives you the ability to produce wealth.  Who gave you the ability to earn that paycheck that enabled you to buy your bread  (which is symbolic of our daily needs)?  Where did you get the physical and mental ability to work, make money and buy food?  God gave it you and me and all of us.  So when we pray for daily bread, we are praying for God to maintain and grow our physical and mental abilities.

Here at the home for needy children in Mexico, that petition takes on a different flavor.  We depend on the generous gifts of faithful supporters and friends for our daily bread, or daily tortillas, as the case may be.  While we always give thanks before each meal, we rarely ask God corporately  to supply our food.  It is a different story in the accounting office.  Those who look at our daily financial records,  daily ask God to supply our needs.  God answered those prayers in a special way a couple of weeks ago.  We went to a store where we regularly buy food, and they donated a lot of  juice and crackers to us.  After that we went to the fruit and vegetable market and a complete stranger saw our van saying that we were from Christ For The World, Home For Needy Children.  He came over and gave us four boxes of fruit.  The next day a big truck from a governmental social service agency showed up unexpectedly and unloaded the largest food donation we have ever received.  Huge bags of rice, beans and lentils. Cases and cases of milk and tuna. Our pantry, which had looked like old, Mother Hubbard’s cupboard, was now stocked with enough food to last us six months.  Everyone rejoiced and was glad for God’s incredible provision.  Indeed, everyone who has food to eat and water to drink should happily rejoice in God’s faithful and miraculous provisions.

Now Jesus moves from our most basic physical needs, to our most basic spiritual need.  Forgiveness of sin.  “Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those that sin against us.”  The angel told Joseph to name Mary’s baby “Jesus” because he would save his people from their sins.  Peter told Cornelius in Acts 10 that everyone who believes in Jesus receives forgiveness of sins through his name.   Paul told the Romans in chapter four that Jesus was delivered over to death for our sins and raised to  life for our justification.  In Galatians one, Paul told his readers that Jesus gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age.  The author of Hebrews says that Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people.  John proclaims to his  audience that Jesus appeared so that he might take away our sins (1 John 3:5).  The one teaching on the mountain about forgiveness, was the one who died on a cross so that such forgiveness of sin could be possible.

So what’s the big  deal with  sin?  Nothing much, except that it causes a lot of pain, suffering, separation from a right relationship with God, turmoil in relationships with others, anxiety, guilt, depression and dysfunction, just to name a few things.  We are saved from all that when we do two things.  One ask God to forgive us of our sins, and two, we need to forgive others who  sin  against us – people who have hurt us, physically, mentally or emotionally.  1 John 1:9, and Jesus’ parable of  the Unmerciful Servant in Matthew 18:21, shed a lot of light on the concept and reality of forgiveness.  With our sins forgiven, our relationship with the Giver of Joy is made whole, and our souls are filled with a whole lot of happiness.

The final two things Jesus tells us to  ask for, is that God, our Father, lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.  When I think of God  leading  us into temptation, I  am reminded of the movie DodgeBall, where Dwight Goodman, the muscle bound owner of GloboGym, was waving a chocolate donut in front of his face, saying to himself, “Go ahead.  Eat it.  You know you want it.”  He goes to take a bite of the donut, and about the time the  chocolate delight touches his lips, he presses a button that sends an electric jolt into his body.  God is not in heaven, dangling an enticing temptation before us, waiting for us to succumb, and then gleefully sending a lightning bolt our way as punishment.  It is more accurate for us to pray that God would save us from the time of trial, because in times of trial we are tempted to sin by getting angry, or frustrated or worried or worse.  Dallas Willard writes in The Divine Conspiracy that “this request is not just for evasion of pain and of things we don’t like, though it frankly is that.  It expresses the understanding that we can’t stand up under very much pressure, and that it is not a  good thing for us to suffer.  It is a vote of ‘no confidence’ in our own abilities.  As the (Lord’s Prayer) begins with with the glorification of God, it ends with acknowledgement of the feebleness of human beings.”  I will be the first to admit I am feeble and I will be the first to thank God and rejoice and be happy that He regularly saves me from the time of trial.

“Deliver us from the Evil One.”  The Evil One is Satan.  The Bible says Satan is like adevil roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.  Scriptures say that the Devil comes around with one purpose in mind – to kill, steal and destroy.  Basically, he doesn’t like  Christians very much.  To him, the only good Christian is a dead, dying or suffering Christian.  Happy Christians really tick him off.  Jesus knows this, so he tells us to pray for protection from the Evil One;  to recognize the reality of Satan and his hate for us; to recognize our weakness, that we are like dust compared to the Devil; and to recognize that the Devil is dust, compared to God.  When we pray to God to deliver us from the Evil One, we are acknowledging that “greater is He that is in us, then  he that is  in the world (1 John 4:4).  That, for me, is a happy thought!  Amen!

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” ‘Just the way we want it’ is not a bad paraphrase for ‘amen.’  What is needed at the end of this great prayer (Lord’s Prayer) is a ringing affirmation of the goodness of God and God’s world.  If your nerves can take it, you might (occasionally?) try “Whoopee!”  I imagine God himself will not mind.”  Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy.  This book has helped me more with having a happy, healthy prayer life than any other I have ever read.

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Next blog – Joy and Terror in the Kingdom of Og