Perfect peace…

blogpeace

Peace is an interesting topic because many people want it, few have it, and most don’t know how to get it or keep it.

Peace has been around since the beginning of time, starting in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve never had a single argument, no one was at war, and even the animals all got along. Peace never crossed their minds because they didn’t know a time where they didn’t have it. For one brief time in history, there was peace.

Perfect peace.

But, then sin entered the world when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, and mankind has struggled to keep a grasp on peace ever since, starting when Cain murdered his brother Abel, and quite possibly when Adam and Eve had an argument or two over whose fault it was that God had banished them from the Garden of Eden.

One of the earliest words signifying peace was the Hebrew word ‘shalom’. To this day, it’s spoken by many Jewish people around the world, and even by many non-Jewish people. It’s often used interchangeably with ‘hello’ and ‘good bye’, which reminds me of John 14:27 when Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.”

Shalom.

At the church we regularly attend, after the praise and worship part of each service, it’s customary to shake hands with those around you and speak the blessing, “May the peace of Christ be with you.” To which the reply is, “And also with you.”

I confess it felt weird to do that the first one hundred times or so but I’ve come to appreciate that it’s one of the nicest things we can say to each other. There’s power in speaking peace into someone else’s life, as well as having peace spoken into your own life.

Words aren’t the only way peace is conveyed. For centuries, the dove has been a universal symbol of peace, as has been the olive branch. And, in 1958, a British designer and artist, by the name of Gerald Holtom, designed an actual peace symbol.

peace symbol

Peace must be important to our well being for there to be so many different ways to communicate it. After all, consider that wars rage, terrorists terrorize, people feud, families divide, and it can be easier to hate than to love. Some people are even at war with themselves, as evidenced by self-harming behaviours and self-hatred.

You don’t have to look very far to find people needing peace.

Peace is elusive but the peace from Christ is perfect. Isaiah 26:3 puts it this way:

“You will keep him in perfect peace,
whose mind is stayed on You,
because he trusts in You.”

Sounds straightforward, eh? Well, in practice, we’re imperfect people trying to perfectly trust God, and that affects our peace. Oh, we can have moments of peace… and maybe even stretches of peace… but then something happens to cause inner turmoil or external turmoil in our lives, and our peace goes out the window, just like that.

peace3

It’s like riding a bike. It’s easiest to ride on level plain, with no obstacles in sight. But, add some rough terrain, a few obstacles, and a couple of steep hills, and it’s another story entirely. You find yourself having to stand up to pedal or maybe you have to get off your bike and start pushing. Sometimes you need someone to come alongside you… either to help push or simply to encourage you.

Someone to help you bear your load.

“Two people are better than one,
    because they get more done by working together.
If one falls down,
    the other can help him up.
But it is bad for the person who is alone and falls,
    because no one is there to help.”

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

But, then there are the sweet moments when you find yourself at the top of a hill. The bigger the hill, the better. And you can just soar to the bottom without having to hardly touch the pedals.

It’s in those moments when you can just enjoy the ride, and revel in the joy of the journey.

Ahhhh… perfect peace…

blogpeace2

 

 

Advertisements

Happy now?

blog 2

Everyone wants to be happy. It’s a universal desire. People wish for happiness, think about it, strive for it, read about it, talk about it, and even try to buy it but rarely, if ever, experience it on any sort of regular basis.

How can so many people be on the quest for the same thing but still miss out on it… or experience it only in fleeting moments? Sometimes it’s because of a misguided wish for things that don’t actually bring happiness while other times it’s an unrealistic expectation of what happiness is.

What if I told you that happiness is within your reach? That there are a few things you can do today to start increasing your happiness?

Well, in no particular order, here are some happiness boosters for you to consider:

1. Change your attitude.

It might surprise you to hear that happiness is a choice. If you tend to see the glass as being half empty, make the decision today to start choosing to see it as being half full. Your happiness largely depends on your attitude (even more than it does on your circumstances).

2. Work less.

No one ever gets to the end of their life and wish they had worked more. The better your work-life balance, the happier you’ll be. And, while we’re on the subject of work… as much as it’s within your ability to do so, do something you love or enjoy. So, if your job is making you miserable, it might be worthwhile to either look for another job or to go back to school to train for a different career.

3. Focus on experiences, not things.

Things will never bring you more than fleeting happiness. When people reminisce about happy times, they’re almost always referring to intangible things. Spending time with others, cultivating relationships, giving their time and talents to make a difference in other people’s lives. All things that money can’t buy. It’s also worth remembering that the quest for tangible things tends to make people work more, not less, and often brings the added stress of debt. Two big happiness busters that everyone can do without.

4. Be social (and I’m not talking about social media…).

Loneliness leads to higher rates of depression, health problems and stress. Having just one close friend tends to boost happiness. But, you don’t have to rely on friends and family in order to be social. Smile at people. Say hello. Make small talk with strangers. Take a genuine interest in others. Life is meant to be shared.

5. Volunteer.

Denmark is one of the happiest nations in the world largely due to their high volunteer rates (43% of the population volunteer). Giving of your time, possessions, or money can boost your happiness like few things can. Volunteering makes a difference, improves your community, and helps you keep a healthy and balanced perspective.

6. Laugh!

Science has proven that laughing decreases your stress hormones and increases your endorphins (the same brain chemicals associated with the “runner’s high” you get from exercise). Laughing is also good for your heart. A study found that only 8% of heart patients who laughed daily had a second heart attack within a year, compared with 42% of the people who rarely laughed. What if you don’t feel like laughing? Consider faking it ’til you make it. Just like your attitude, laughing is a choice.

7. Have faith.

Faith in God boosts happiness because it brings purpose to life. Resting in the certainty that God is in control, and that your eternity is sure,  bring happiness like nothing else can.

8. Count your blessings.

Focusing on what’s going wrong, what we think we’re missing, or what we wish were different are all happiness busters. Making a conscious choice every day to count our blessings is a big happiness booster. Even the days that are largely a write-off – just think about the fact that each day only has 24 hours, and that tomorrow is a new day. That thought should bring you happiness. It does to me!

Ok… enough talk about happiness. Time to start doing. Go and live a happy life… NOW!!!

blog 3

The Spirit of Christmas…

blog 12I love the month of December and I love Christmas.  My love for this time of year has a lot to do with my maternal grandparents, my grandfather, in particular.

Gramps

My mother was an only child so her parents came to spend Christmas with us every year while I was growing up.  No matter how much preparation my mother had done, Christmas never officially started until my grandparents arrived on Christmas Eve.  They brought armloads of gifts, endless (and delicious!) Christmas baking, and basically just a whole lot of excitement.

When we would go to bed that night, my father would always dictate that my brothers and I had to stay in bed the next morning until 7:00 a.m., an excruciating and nearly impossible time for three very excited kids.

My grandparents always slept in the basement and, invariably, this would be how Christmas morning unfolded.  My grandfather would wake up sometime before 5:00 a.m. and start getting fidgety.  He was a big man but he was really just a big kid in disguise. My grandmother would wake up and say, “Douglas, it’s too early.  Go back to sleep.”

He never once was able to go back to sleep.

Gramps would finally get up around 5:00 a.m.  We would hear the creaks as he came up the stairs and then the sound of him settling into the big easy chair in the far corner of the living room, where he would sit quietly and just patiently wait.  Around 6:30 a.m., we could wait no longer and we’d burst down the hall to go wish him Merry Christmas.  Dad would always demand that we go back to bed until 7:00 a.m. but our trump card was Gramps.  Dad would usually concede defeat at that point and leave us be.

My grandfather never lost the joy and excitement of Christmas.  He loved watching us upend our stockings and exclaim with delight over every single thing… even the apple and orange that were invariably found in the toe.  He always helped my grandmother with all the Christmas baking, played the piano and led us all in singing Christmas carols, and never grew tired of watching us open our presents and showing him all the ins and outs of the various toys we received.

blog 11

When the question of Santa Claus came up, I remember Gramps emphatically stating “of course, there’s a Santa Claus!  It’s the spirit of Christmas that lives in everyone’s heart.”  I have never forgotten his words, and I have never forgotten what they mean.

blog 7

Christmas is first and foremost the celebration of Jesus’ birth but, beyond that, it’s about generosity towards others.  Generosity can take a lot of forms.  It can mean giving things but it can also mean giving our time, our talents, our listening ear, our sympathy, our understanding, our caring, and our love.  Peace and goodwill to all mankind.  As long as we genuinely give from the heart.

blog 6

I would like to think that the spirit of Christmas should permeate our lives to the point that it extends all year round.  It doesn’t have to start December 1st and end January 1st.  If anything, the Christmas season is perhaps a reminder that we tend to lose that spirit throughout the year and is a prompt to help us get back on track.

blog 5

I’ve done some volunteer work this year, which I definitely plan to continue and hopefully expand on in 2014.  But, helping others, giving to others, doesn’t have to be confined to volunteer work.

Just yesterday, for example, I took a walk at the end of the day and happened upon a guy whose car was badly stuck in heavy snow.  A neighbor had just run over to help push but they needed more than him.  The passenger’s side window was down and I noticed the guy behind the wheel was probably a foot taller than me and solidly built.  So I asked if it would help if I sat behind the wheel so that he could help push with the other guy, and he agreed.  It took a few tries but the car finally came free.

I can’t tell you how good it felt to be part of that.

blog 8

We all having the ability to make a difference every single day of our lives.  Seemingly small things like motioning to another car to merge into traffic in front of you, opening a door for someone who’s elderly or who has children or who’s burdened with parcels, smiling and wishing someone a great day, shoveling the walkways and decks for your landlord (which I did a couple of days earlier this week) or sending someone a quick note to say you’re thinking about them or praying for them.

blog 4

A whole lot of little things can add up to make a big difference.  If we commit to keeping our eyes open to the endless possibilities around us to help, to give, to encourage, to build up, to stand alongside others – and then do something about it as much as we’re able to – our world will be a much better place.

blog 9

The change that I want to see is the change that begins with me.

blog 2

I’m want to be Joy to the world… in my world.  In this Christmas season and beyond to 2014.

blog 3

Now that’s the spirit…

blog 10

Beautiful blogger award…

I’m very excited to have been nominated today for the Beautiful Blogger Award by Especially Made.  Thank you so much!!  In her blog, she talks about the challenges and joys of raising a child with special needs, and I never fail to be moved and humbled by her posts.  If you haven’t stumbled onto her blog yet, I would highly encourage you to do so!

To accept the Beautiful Blogger Award, the rules are as follows:

20130428-221824.jpg

1. Post the award on to your blog.
2. Remember to thank the blogger who nominated you and link back to their site.
3. Post 7 random facts about yourself to help us to get to know you better.
4. Nominate 7 new bloggers you consider noteworthy.
5. Don’t forget to leave a message for those you nominate that you chose them.

In a recent post, I listed 13 random facts about myself – hi-my-name-is-joy – which you’re more than welcome to check out, if you haven’t done so already.  But, for today, in keeping with the theme of beauty, I’m posting 7 random things that I personally find beautiful.

1.  Canada – If you’ve never been to Canada, you’ve missed out!  I’m been from coast to coast and there is so much beauty everywhere.  But, since I’m originally from the East Coast, I’ll single out the province of New Brunswick.  When the leaves change in the fall, it’s one of the most beautiful places on earth.

2.  My son – My son Tim is in his mid-thirties but he is one of the most beautiful people I know.  I am proud of his accomplishments but I am proudest of who he is as a person.  If he wasn’t my son, I would still want to know him.

3.  Burmese people – I had the privilege of going on a 6 week missions trip to Myanmar (formerly Burma) in the summer of ’99, and I was so touched and moved by the people there.  They had literally nothing but they were so quick to give.  It was also rainy season and we witnessed widespread flooding.  Some of their huts (yes, they lived in huts…) had chest high water, forcing them to sleep in hammocks strung high between the trees, and yet they were always quick to say that it was worse in Bangladesh.  They were optimistic, giving, kind, gracious, beautiful people.

4.  My brother Brent and his wife Angie – For the past 11 years, my brother has been Executive Director of Cottage Cove Urban Ministries, a faith based inner-city ministry providing educational opportunities and training in the arts to at-risk children of Nashville, Tennessee.  The ministry, which operates solely on donations, is a daily program offered free to the children and their families, and currently serves upwards of 70 children per day, with many more on a waiting list.  To me, there is nothing more beautiful than investing in the lives of our future generations, and particularly in the lives of at-risk children.

5.  Giving – I know of countless individuals who selflessly give of their time, talents, and resources to help make a difference in people’s lives.  Many have made a difference in my own life.  Giving brings beauty to a world that often seems less than beautiful.

6.  Grace – I heard a story in church yesterday of how the speaker’s elderly mother attended the court proceedings of the boy who had robbed her because she wanted him to know she forgave him.  A beautiful example of grace, and a challenge to be more of a grace giver myself.

7.  Prayer – To me, prayer is beautiful because it’s a direct connection to my Maker and Saviour.  But, prayer is also beautiful because of it’s power to change.  It changes me.

Continuing on the theme of beauty, I nominate the following blogs for the Beautiful Blogger Award.  Each blog has inspired me, and helped me see beauty in the midst of the chaos of this world.  I hope you’ll find them as uplifting as I have.

1.  Giving 50 x 52

2.  Mustard Seed

3. Another Red Letter Day

4.  Raising 5 Kids With Disabilities and Remaining Sane

5. Jon Lilley

6.  The Cognitive Life

7.  Canadian Hiking Photography

blog

My theory of positivity…

I didn’t have the best of days yesterday.  But, even though it was a bad day, it had some pretty good moments.  Some pretty great moments, truth be told.  It would have been optimal if it could have just been a great day overall but unfortunately life doesn’t always work that way.

It would be so easy to throw in the towel every time I have a truly bad day but it seems to me that I’d be giving negative circumstances far too much power in my life.  So hence, my theory of positivity.

First of all, I’m not one of those people who’s chirpy happy all the time or who never admits that anything’s wrong or who acts like my life is perfect.  Rather, I try to be someone who sees gold in the garbage.

A positivist is an optimistic realist.

If you don’t agree with that definition, that’s ok.  I made it up.

When things go wrong, I tell myself things like “this day only has 24 hours and, in 7 more hours, it’ll be a brand new day/new slate”, “I can’t laugh about this right now but I know I’ll be able to laugh about it eventually”, “it’s just a bad day, not a bad life”, “things will work out in the right way at the right time no matter what it feels like today”, “my feelings aren’t facts” and/or “I didn’t choose these circumstances but I can definitely choose my attitude”.

The amazing thing is that it’s a real force of will to tell myself positive things and/or to be positive in the middle of a bad day but, when I persevere, I find that I always feel way better than I would have otherwise, and that I’m actually even able to bring some joy into someone else’s life in the process.

The boomerang of being intentional about doing something nice or thoughtful, or sharing a laugh with someone else, or focusing on the good and not the bad, is that you will not only bring a bright moment to someone else’s day (who may have needed it more than you’ll ever know) but it will also have a brightening effect on your own bad day.

The Bible says “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Phil. 4:8).  It doesn’t say to do it when it’s convenient or when it feels right or when life is going great, it just says to do it.

Just do it.

If it works for Nike, how can you go wrong?

Positivity has a snowball effect… the more we practice it, the more it gains momentum in our lives.  I could happily live the rest of my life and never see another real snowball but I sincerely hope that positivity gains enough momentum in my life that it causes an avalanche of good things.  I want to make a difference by being an optimistic realist.

The truth is that, no matter how bad my day has been or no matter how rough my life has been, I am blessed.  I never want to lose that perspective.  Life may be hard sometimes but it could always be worse.  It has been worse.  But, the best is yet to come.

I’m positive.

My two cents on feeling like a million bucks…

Have you ever felt like you don’t measure up?  That your worth depends on what other people tell you?   That no matter what you do, it will never be enough?  That the mistakes from your past will forever hold back your future?

What if I told you that your worth doesn’t depend on what you do, or on what other people say, but solely on what God says?  And what if I told you that this is what God says about you?  Yes, you!

Do you believe it?  Can you believe it?  Will you believe it?

Most of my life, someone close to me has communicated through their words and actions that I don’t measure up, that I don’t have the same worth as other people (usually them…), that nothing I do will ever be enough, and that the mistakes from my past will forever hold back my future.

Guess what?  They were wrong.  Every single one of them.  My true worth depends on how God sees me, and He loves me for who I am. 

I recently realized that I don’t like myself very much.  I also decided it’s time I changed that.  I’m making a conscious effort to see myself as God sees me.  Every day, I’m trying to celebrate how God made me, and to be intentional about using my gifts and talents in ways that interest me, and that have the potential to make a difference in people’s lives.  My focus is on what I can do and not on what I can’t.

Weaknesses and faults?  I definitely have them.  But, I’m striving to be more realistic both about what they are and what they aren’t, and then surrender them daily to God, who promises that His power is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).

In short, I’m finally starting to realize that I’m…

So are you.

If someone is telling you otherwise, it’s not healthy to let them keep doing it for even one more minute.  And trying to convince them of your real worth might seem worthwhile but the truth is that it never works.  Trust me, I know.  If someone doesn’t recognize your true worth up front, nothing you say is ever going to convince them, no matter how many years you tell them.

I’m working on surrounding myself with people who build me up and encourage me but who care enough about me to speak the truth in love.  I’m also setting healthy boundaries so that the people who bring me down won’t have the power to do so anymore.  The result?  Freedom.  I’m free to be me.  And truthfully, I wouldn’t want to be anyone else.  I feel like a million bucks!  You can too…