The Pursuit of Happiness

Happy Boy Flier

Matthew 5: 12: Be filled with joy and be happy…
Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, or worn. It is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace and gratitude. -Denis Waitley
I don’t know if you heard about an editorial in The New York Times by Arthur Brooks, president of The American Enterprise Institute, who wrote explains happiness stems from three sources: genetics, events and values.

While half of one’s happiness is genetic, Brooks wrote that 40 percent of happiness can be attributed to events in one’s life and 12 percent boils down to circumstances well within one’s control.

“Everybody’s got these cheerful co-workers who are very annoying, and you think they must have some sort of secret potion. ‘What are they drinking, man?’ But the truth is, half of your happiness is genetic. And understanding that only about 12 percent of your happiness is under your control … you really can control it.”

What are these circumstances one can control to achieve 12 percent of total happiness? Brooks noted that there are four: faith, family, friends and work.

“Don’t waste your time on money, don’t waste your time on these things, spend your time on faith, family, friends and work, making sure that your work serves others and creates value. And if you do those four things, you’re going to get the maximum amount of happiness.”

While a promotion at work, a new house and even a chocolate sundae bring joy, Brooks wrote that the resulting state of euphoria is fleeting — a temporary feeling.

“People will work for years, just to make a boatload of dough and buy that dream house, and six months later, they’re back to their old bummed-out ways,” Brooks wrote.

So while 40 percent of happiness is attributed to events in one’s life — such as that new house, or a professional accomplishment — the happiness experienced from these milestones is short-lived.

Because of this, Brooks advised not to “bet your well-being on big one-time events.” Instead, investing energy in faith, family and friends is a better investment for long-term happiness.

“Knowledge is absolute power in this case. It’s so important. Every time I write about (happiness), it reminds me of the things that I am doing wrong, and it makes me a better dad.”

Mr. Brooks’ reminder is an important one, but it is only a reminder. An itinerant rabbi told the world the same thing over 2000 years ago when he sat thousands of people down on a hillside in Palestine and reminded us of the source of joyful living. Praise God for the gifts of joyful living and for his one and only Son.



Rocks, Lambs, Bruised Reeds, Smoldering Wicks and Other Matters

Rocks, Lambs, Bruised Reeds, Smoldering Wicks and Other Matters


Matthew 4:19: “Come, follow me,” Jesus said,

I don’t know if you pay a lot of attention to directions or other information. I know I don’t. Whenever anyone asks me when something is happening at church or where we were meeting, I never know. I can always ask the director (my wife Becky) and that seems to work out well except when someone asks me for information. I kinda figure out what’s happening when about the time Becky leaves to go to church. That’s my reminder that something is about to happen.

This even affected these devotionals. I was singing “Blessings” to myself early last week and thought, hey, I’ll write about that since we’re singing it Sunday. I even put it in my Friday Biscuit City blog that we were. But we weren’t. We sang “He Is the Rock,” which, if you will remember, is a very different song from “Blessings.” Sometimes I’m observant like that.

Anyhow, I was a week early with thoughts on “Blessings” and I could have written about “He Is the Rock” for this piece, but I like to look forward and I’ve already written about “Blessings.” So, I was thinking about “He Is the Rock” after we sang it Sunday. I think that’s why I goofed up in Sunday School last Sunday. Let me tell you all about it.

Because I just can’t do one thing at a time, I am one of the teachers for two (by actual count) Sunday School classes. I alternate between them, working with twenty-somethings one week and with first and second graders the other week. I am comfortable working with teenagers and adults, but have much less experience working with children. I wanted to learn how to better in case there was a children’s class teaching emergency or something. My nearly nine months in working with children (actually four and a half months’ actual experience) has paid off. Amy told me they were desperate for subs at the elementary school where she teaches and said I should sign up. See? A recommendation from a veteran elementary teacher! I suppose that with a little more experience I could be Elementary Teacher of the Year. However, I’m not ready yet. Under the influence of “He Is the Rock,” I didn’t handle a situation in the class very well. No one was hurt or traumatized, but I wish I had it to do over again.

I was teaching the children this past Sunday with the able assistance of Michael Hill, and after snack and a reiteration of the story of Gideon and a fun word search related to it, we made paper airplanes (representing the angel who visited Gideon since angels can fly and so can paper airplanes). We then took our airplanes to the playground to fly them during recess time. They didn’t really fly that well, so the children left them on the ground and went about enjoying themselves on the playground in their usual manner, trying to injure themselves on various pieces of playground equipment. Fortunately, everybody survived recess, so we went back to the room so they could finish their word searches (I think I used a word search that was too difficult, but they like a challenge). I pulled out my Martin D-18 I had brought so we could sing some songs while they worked. Actually, I’ve found that the children don’t sing along with songs like “Deep and Wide.” They like to listen, even to me, but they really like to dance to the songs, and play games like “Freeze Dance” where they dance until the music stops and then they are supposed to “freeze.” If they don’t, they’re out. I think they would play “Freeze Dance” all day although that doesn’t happen because their parents come get them before the sun sets or my hand cramps up, which would come first.

So, I was playing my guitar when a boy who had been singularly inattentive and uncooperative all class suddenly became very interested in my guitar. I think he had never seen one, and he showed his excitement by coming over and smacking hard with his fist on the body. I stopped playing and said, “What are you doing?”

“I’m seeing what it’s made of,” he said.

“It’s made of wood, and if you keep that up, it will be made of little pieces of wood. Please back up!”

He backed away a bit but then, as the rest of the children danced their hearts out, he came back and started twisting the tuning machines. This has a derogatory effect on the tuning of the instrument. I stopped playing, and the children stopped dancing. No one moved, but when I didn’t continue playing, they called out “Play some more!” Glad they like music. Bet they like it better in tune.

I said to my young friend, “Go away!” He responded by backing up a step.

I was telling Becky this story and she, out of her experience working with children, suggested I could have handled the situation better. And I should have. Instead of being a rock, I should have been a lamb. She said I could have said something like, “I don’t need a helper right now.”

It occurred to me that this is the sort of thing Fred Rogers would have done if some child had come up and done his best to disassemble his instrument. I took this as a sign that I needed to respond differently, even when a child has irritated the fool out of me for over an hour. I’m supposed to be in the business of being Christ to these children, of encouraging them, of not breaking off the bruised reeds or quenching the smoldering wicks.

I promise I’ll do better. The guitar is insured. A child’s future isn’t except in God’s hands and with the right words and loving actions from God’s helpers.

All Nature Sings


(Devotional #643)

1 Chronicles 16:13: Sing to the LORD, all the earth; proclaim his salvation day after day.

I don’t know if you listen to broadcasts originating from the glass-enclosed-nerve center of WTOP, 103.5-FM. I do when I driving around, and sometimes I think it’s so I can be glad I’m not driving on the Beltway as I listen to the traffic reports on the eights.
Another feature I enjoy is the Osgood Report, by radio journalist Charles Osgood. Last week he had a story on music from space. Well, sort of.

There are some people who use the sounds from a radio telescope…as a basis for tunes made by humans…

Astrophysics graduate student Wanda Diaz-Merced has lost much of her eyesight to diabetes, but she’s still able to take in the universe.

She relies on her hearing to listen to the hisses and pops of signals collected by radio telescopes. She began hearing patterns – rhythms that could be put to music.

Data from space, converted to synthesized musical sounds by a process called “sonification” – makes it easier for us humans to distinguish sounds and pitch.

Take that one step further by adding instrumentation…and you have music you could say was actually made in heaven.

Diaz-Merced has teamed up with another researcher who’s a musician – Gerhard Sonnert – and they’re now making beautiful space music together. Here’s a link to  a page with both “sonified” data and music created from those sounds:

There’s no sound in the vacuum of space, of course – but there is a lot of information out there – and now some of it’s being made into music we Earthlings can enjoy.

The universe, spoken into existence by God, does ring with the music of the spheres. Praise God for his wonderful and musical creation!