Posts Tagged ‘happiness’

. . the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

As I look back on my year of breast cancer treatment I have many happy memories that have pushed the memory of the grief to the background.

Had you told me at the start of my journey that would happen, I would probably have thought you were just offering me empty words of hope.

Another quote from C.S. Lewis rings true:

Bridge players tell me there must be some money on the game ‘or else people won’t take it seriously’. Apparently it’s like that. Your bid – for God or no God, for a good God or the Cosmic Sadist, for eternal life or nonentity – will not be serious if nothing much is staked on it.  And you will never discover how serious it was until the stakes are raised horribly high; until you find that you are playing not for counters or for sixpences but for every penny you have in the world. Nothing less will shake a man . . .  out of his merely verbal thinking and his merely notional beliefs. He has to be knocked silly before he comes to his senses. Only torture will bring out the truth. Only under torture does he discover it himself.

A Grief Observed p 33

And so when the stakes have been horribly high for me I have discovered some deep truths that I could learn no other way.

I have been able to explore myself, my faith and my life. Being forced to move my thinking to the potential end of my life makes it much easier to see the difference between what is important and what is urgent.

And a big discovery is that little things matter a lot.

Yesterday on the radio I heard a discussion about what makes us happy. Most of the debate was about how much money we need to have, and then one man phoned in with a gem of a comment. He gave a 5-step framework for generating happiness. Some simple advice on how to engage with life.

  • Connect – Don’t isolate yourself. Reach out to other people and engage with them in what they are doing.
  • Be Active – Move your body as much as you can. Find some form of exercise that you enjoy and enjoy it.
  • Be aware – Move your focus of attention from yourself to what is happening in the lives of those around you and elsewhere. Take a bigger picture view of community.
  • Give – Your time, your attention, your money . . . to make a difference for others.
  • Keep Learning – Be curious, look at things differently, explore new things.

His list gives a good starting point for anyone facing a journey through grief.

We can learn a lot from the little sparrows and how much God values them.


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I need a really good ending to this year – a right of passage that lets everyone know my period of intense breast cancer treatment is over. I am well.

I want to celebrate life and health and love and friendship.

BC and I are deeply grateful for the love and support you have given us.

And so we are having a PARTY.

Come and be our guest – dance CEROC with us on Saturday 16th October.

This will be a party with a difference – we will be taught some dance steps and by the end of the evening we will all be dancing together to our heart’s content.

Put the date in your diary and look out for more details.

Have a look here to see Ceroc in action. If others can do it, we can.  We want YOU to come.

Let’s celebrate together.

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I met a happy man . .

I met a happy man in the rain today.

We arrived from opposite directions to shelter under the wide overhang of a roof, overlooking the canal.

Me on my way to hospital for treatment, he on his way back from hospital where he had visited a friend.

We both carried a small backpack – and he had a bicycle.

Our eyes met as we scanned the grey clouds.

“How long do you think it will last?” I asked

“Aw, just a shower, we will be alright here.”

I admired the waterproof cover he had on his backpack – and a bond grew between us.

He is 66 years old and had cycled – from Truro in Cornwall – to visit his friend. A six day journey following the river and canal paths.

He had his tent, sleeping bag and stove in his small backpack; a laptop in his pannier, and a mobile phone in his pocket.  He had spent the morning in the library catching up on emails for his friend.

He was travelling light!

When he retired he bought a small apartment in Truro, and a ‘wee boat’. His father always told him there was so much of Britain that was beautiful but never seen. And so his aim is to explore the hidden parts.

Tonight he will sleep by the river.

“May I ask you a question?” I said with a teasing smile.

His eyes danced as he moved closer. “Sure, go ahead.”

“If I were to ask you to measure how happy you are on a scale of one to ten, what would you say”

“Easy – NINE . . . Especially since I had both knees replaced 15 weeks ago. My doctor told me to act normally – and this is as normal as I can get.”

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Can we be at peace, let alone find inexpressible joy, in the midst of trouble?

Can what Peter says be true in our experience?

We look at others who have walked through times of trouble to see if they have found peace. And if they did, can they help us find it too?

A close friend, who continues to endure considerable anxiety and uncertainty about her family, shared her experience. She speaks of placing herself in an imaginary Circle of Peace where she has control over what is in the circle with her and what remains outside.

We remember that depression comes when we dwell negatively on the past, and anxiety when we construct negative what if scenarios for the future.

Let’s look at what my friend is doing by managing her thinking.

  • She meditates on God’s presence with her and his promises to her. Doing that keeps her in a resourceful state.
  • She monitors her thoughts and feelings, building on what is helpful and getting rid of what brings her down.
  • She is choosing not to reflect back with regret nor look forward with fear. Instead she is keeping only the present moment on her horizon. Dealing with now is enough. That way she protects herself from anxiety and depression
  • She is not denying the reality of what is happening. Instead she is choosing how much of her life it occupies. She prevents her troubles from dominating her life.
  • She is not turning her back on her family’s suffering – instead she is managing herself so that she is better able to enter trials with them.

Being in her presence is a peaceful experience.

I sense her focus in the moment – her openness to me. I hear her love and pain for her family.  I hear her love and concern for the suffering of others.

She speaks of her faith and I see that what she says is aligned with what she does.

This is not a trite positive mental attitude.

This is someone who engages deeply with life; who is able to enter suffering and not be overwhelmed by it.

But can there be inexpressible joy in such a managed circle of peace?

To answer this I need to change perspective and consider what joy might be.

And the picture that comes to mind is of being a child wrapped in the strong and loving embrace of a father’s arms. A father who loves unconditionally, who understands and who protects.

The circle is the loving arms of our heavenly Father. There we find safety, comfort . . and joy in knowing that we are loved and that our Father is in control.

The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.

So, can we be at peace in the midst of trouble?

What needs to happen for it to be true for us . . . ?

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. . . inexpressible and glorious joy

These words ring in my head since I posted yesterday about Happiness – can it last?

There must be more to happiness than simply being aware of and enjoying the present moment. A happiness like that is real but fragile.

I want to have a robust perspective on life – one that does not insulate me in a protective bubble.

I want to come to terms with myself, my relationships, my fellow human beings and what we do to each other.

And there are bigger issues – what about the terrible suffering that people, communities and nations endure?

Suffering is real.

Who and where is God in all this? Does it matter?

Am I stretching this too far? These things matter a lot to me, and I think they do to most of us.

The apostle Peter talks about an inexpressible and glorious joy. He spent critical years learning with Jesus. He suffered personally and he witnessed the opposition, abuse, rejection and crucifixion of Jesus. And yet he speaks about hope and joy . .

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. . . .  In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Mark Driscoll, preaching pastor at Mars Hill Church, gave an excellent teaching series from the book of Philippians on JOY in Suffering, Anxiety, Loneliness, Temptation, Conflict, Exhaustion, Poverty. Log in and listen to the one that is most relevant to your experience – I found the one on suffering really helpful.

This is about our spirituality – the salvation of our souls.

I am reading about soul-training, the stuff of getting to know God. Next week I will begin to share some of the things I am learning.

Those of you who study theology and philosophy will know far more than me about all of this – please join in and share your knowledge with us all. 🙂

Enjoy the Bank Holiday weekend. I pray you will experience many moments of joyous happiness and that God will begin to show you the inexpressible and glorious joy that you can be yours to sustain you through the challenges of life.

Can anyone suggest some music to go with the picture and text above?

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You are right – it is all very well feeling happy on a sunny day when you can spend hours with friends, eat chocolate and cycle through the warm wind.

But what about when it is cold and wet and you have a heap of things to do as long as your arm?

What about when you are worried about your job, your family, your health?

If I can only be happy when things are going well, then I will spend most of my life feeling miserable.

BC and I were having one of our deep and meaningful conversations last week about what has happened to us since I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I asked him how he thought I was. He looked at me and said, “I think you are happy”.

“Tell me more” I asked

“I think you are happier now than you were this time last year”

Now that makes me very curious. How can I be happier with cancer than I was without it?

. . . Because my cancer has not become ME.  I am so much more.

And the part that is ME has been given something it needs – time to reflect on what is important to me and to make changes.

So here is a challenging question . . . Is what you are doing getting you what you want?

And to help you know what you want, ask yourself some more questions

  • If you had just 6 months to live, what would you do in these last 6 months?
  • What have you always secretly wanted to do, but never thought you could?
  • What single thing would you do in your life if you knew you could not fail?

Answering these questions gives you an idea of what your core values are. These are your principles, the framework of what you hold as most important in your life.

Living out your core values is the key foundation to happiness that endures. When values are crossed, then we experience conflict.  Think of the guilt of knowing we have told a lie when truthfulness is important to us; or think of the hostility that exists between those who believe abortion is murder and those who believe it is a woman’s right.

My cancer has given me time to think and examine my heart. J.I. Packer mentioned this as the first step towards knowing God. As I look into my heart I recognise that knowing God with integrity is a high value for me.

So what about happiness that endures? Is there such a thing?

As I draw near to God there is something deep in the core of my being that  feels good. I am me. I am closer to who I want to be and who I am meant to be than I was this time last year.

Don’t you know anything? Haven’t you been listening? God doesn’t come and go. God lasts. He’s Creator of all you can see or imagine. He doesn’t get tired out, doesn’t pause to catch his breath. And he knows everything, inside and out. He energizes those who get tired, gives fresh strength to dropouts. For even young people tire and drop out,
young folk in their prime stumble and fall.

But those who wait upon God get fresh strength. They spread their wings and soar like eagles, They run and don’t get tired, they walk and don’t lag behind.

I love Lucy’s metaphor of a spiritual jet stream. We can explore how to get there and how to stay there as we learn more about knowing God.

What do you think about happiness – is it realistic to expect to find it when life is tough? Let me know . . .

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. . . a morning like this morning.

I am riding home on my bike, the warm wind blowing in my face and the sun shining overhead. I am breathing deeply and I realise this feels good.

Hey, if anyone asked me I would tell them: “You know what – I am happy“.

So I get curious and ask myself

How do I know I am happy? –  What am I doing and thinking and feeling that lets me know I am happy?

Well, first thing I recognise is that I feel . . the caress of the wind ,  the warmth of the sun, my heart pounding in my chest.

I am breathing very deeply.

I taste . . the chocolate brazil nuts I ate – an indulgence for me as I bought a gift for another.

I hear . . my breathing, people talking, birds singing, cars passing.

I listen inside my head – and it is peaceful. There is no chatter.  So I do a double-check, yes there is something. I see . . a picture – a movie picture and I am inside it looking around.

I am reliving the time I have just spent with my lovely friend. There is softness, and love, and warmth, and acceptance, and sharing. All that we have shared in the past is around us as an unspoken cocoon.

There are no words – just a deep silent bond. The picture is glowing in my head and I feel contentment deep in my belly.

We chatted for two hours. The words will replay over the next hours and days.  For this moment, I am savouring the experience.

This is a ‘good to be alive moment’.

A young woman wrote about how she had changed after a year of treatment for breast cancer. She said:

I want to live in the world, not in my head

Experiencing and enjoying the richness of each moment had become precious to her.

I go to the book of Psalms –  the language of relationship between God and humans, for words to express what I feel.

Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed are those who take refuge in him.

So what does this mean to me?

I know that true friendship blesses me.

I know that the more I tune into my senses the less attention I will give to chatter in my head. If I feel low, the best thing to do is to tune into a sensory experience – music, walking, swimming, being with a friend.

I know that the more I tune into my senses the more I will be alert to the blessing of taking refuge in God.

And for me there is something significant about breathing very deeply and feeling very alive.

I would love to hear what verses from the Psalms express a ‘good to be alive’ feeling for you.

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