True happiness can’t be bought

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The best things in life don’t come with a receipt.

But all of our lives we’ve been told—no, sold—that if we buy this or that thing we will be sexy, better, satisfied, happy. But it’s not true. We’ve been duped.

I remember going into stores and buying this or that article of clothing for my wardrobe, adding another sweater, button-down shirt, jeans, knowing full well that I would only be adding to piles of clothes that I already had and barely touched. But that didn’t matter.

What did matter was that I felt good after I bought it, for a bit. There was a buzz, a shot of happiness. But after a day or two, the buzzing ceased. I was just me again, with another shirt in my closet.

Then I stopped buying because I realized this.

Consumerism is a lie.

The truth is nothing you buy can fulfill you, make you whole, or delight you like the greater things in life.

Instead of purchasing things you don’t need, spend time practicing healthy habits, connecting with loved ones, doing meaningful work, learning, living relationally and spiritually rich lives.

Hug a loved one. Kiss your child. Laugh with a friend. Do missionary work. Read. Pray. Worship. Love.

No one lying on their deathbed regrets spending time with their family or living a life serving a mission greater than themselves or playing tag with their kid or seeking spiritual fulfillment.

Those moments can’t be purchased, but they are invaluable.

And anyone can have them.

It’s your choice.

Dealing with the fear of Coronavirus

You’re thinking about it; I’m thinking about it. Let’s talk about it. What is it?

Coronavirus. 

A couple of nights ago, I was sitting in this ramen shop waiting for my friend, when I heard it: Coughing. Two women seated next to me coughed with this dry wheezing kind of cough. Maybe you would have been fine with it. I wasn’t. I cringed. And I tried to scoot away, hoping they wouldn’t point their mouths in my direction and didn’t notice my slow methodical scooches. It was silly but real. 

The friend I was waiting for showed up. We caught up and the conversation floated to the topic du jour. As we slurped on noodles and broth, he reminded me that he was going to Hawaii this week for vacation (I know, hard life). His plan was to meet his in-laws, who live in Australia, to enjoy a couple of weeks in paradise together, basking under the warm pacific sun with leis around their necks, sipping on umbrella drinks while his kids played on the silky beach, surrounded by guys twirling torches, dancing. Ok, so some of that was exaggerated, but not by much. But now, COVID19 is causing his in-laws to second-guess going. 

I asked him if he was worried about traveling, adding that I would be worried. “Oh, we’ll just wash our hands,” he said straight-faced. He noted that there hadn’t been any confirmed cases there, and he goes by the data, not fear. 

As much as I admire my friend’s stance, I don’t agree with it. To be clear, I agree with data and find his courage stirring. But I would be more cautious.

But I will admit that my caution looks more like fear. It’s probably because it is.

And I hate the fear I’m feeling, the I-think-anyone-who-has-a-dry-cough-has-a-deadly-virus kind of fear. It’s an overarching dread I feel like there’s a zombie apocalypse coming and I can’t do anything to stop it. It’s awful. 

Maybe you’re feeling it, too. 

When I feel that way, I pray; I also, like my friend, wash my hands twenty times a day and make my wife and kids do the same. But when I’m not lathering up, I ask God to help me fear less. I pray for the people in China, Italy, South Korea, Iran, the world, my friend who’s traveling and all the other people I love. And I ask for protection, wisdom, and help. It helps. 

Watching a video of a World Health Organization doctor also helped. He reported on his findings from a trip to China he was just on, sharing that the Chinese government was able to curb the spread of the virus with success. Knowing this isn’t the zombie apocalypse also eases my fears. 

No one knows where this global story is going. Trying is futile. And I’m not saying I have all of the answers. I don’t. I’m just a guy writing this blog post in his underwear with huge headphones on.

But I do urge you to be cautious and take this seriously, without giving into your baser fears. I think the distinction is whether or not we are being reactionary and deeply emotional.

Fear makes the world the enemy and bases decisions on worst case scenarios. I’m not saying you shouldn’t draw out worst case scenarios. I am saying that you should not make decisions off of them, since very rarely do they happen. That’s a fear-based mindset.

Whereas caution is more mindful. It takes into account the potential dangers, even the worst, but it doesn’t overreact. It makes measured choices and plans. It protects without making everyone the enemy. It’s vigilant without being violent.

Believe me; I’m not pointing any fingers or judging anyone who’s living in fear because this guy (me) has been doing a lot of worst-case-scenario-ing these days.

This is serious. And I know that I’ve sprinkled humor in this post. But I did that to give you a little delight on a sour subject. Humor is also a coping mechanism for me. 

Laughter is medicine. 

I’d love to know how all of you are thinking about this and hear from you. Please reach out. 

In the meantime, I pray that this finds you well, safe, and healthy. 

For your enjoyment

Don’t rush. Take your time. Meander. Roam. Wander.

If you see others scurrying to and fro, don’t follow them. Don’t imitate. Go at you own pace.

Actually, slow down.

Notice what’s around you, the beauty, the aromas, the sky.

Breathe in deeply and soak the world into your body; absorb it.

Smile.

Venture inward and take note of your thoughts, worries, dreams, hopes. Look at the wounds, the victories, the feelings, the fear, the faith.

Too often we live without living and see without seeing.

So open your hearts and eyes, feel and be delighted.

Enjoy.

You can choose

You have the power to choose.

Choose to love. Serve others. Adore yourself. Love the unlovable.

Choose to play. Like a child, enjoy your this moment, all of the moments, see the world with wonder, glee, delight. Playfully move through the world.

Choose to dance. Allow the music on the radio, in your mind, to move you, your body, your soul, feeling the rhythm flow through you.

Choose to live. A life without regret and unburdened by fear is what we all want. In each instance of your life, decide on living honorably, greatly, beautifully.

Today, I hope you choose well.

Love your life

Life’s simplest joys are best: a hug from a loved one, a kind word, a smile, the aroma of coffee right as you take the first sip, friends sharing stories and laughter, children growing, life awakening, a new day.

That’s not seen simply. It takes work.

See, we’re taught at a very young age that more is better, and better is best.

But, the truth is bigger piles of money, nicer homes, grander titles can’t give you what you really want.

Because more is never enough.

In quiet moments we can hear the whisperings that a secret to living well isn’t about getting what we desire but desiring what we’ve got.

When you believe that, you begin to experience the evidences of fullness, bounty, and blessing in your everyday moments, everywhere; and you will realize they are some of the things that make your life truly good and abundant, filling you with abounding mirth and joy.

And you won’t want more.

Because what you have is more than enough.

One of the greatest blessings we often overlook

Time is a gift.

Each second is a boon for your life, it’s a harvest of blessings before you—a feast.

Drink deeply from it, savor each morsel, enjoy, laugh, love—live.

This very second has been given to you. It’s an opportunity and invitation to grow, learn, try.

That dream you’ve wanted to realize, the book you wanted to write, that relationship you wanted to form are all before you, and today affords you the chance to bring them about.

If you have time, you are blessed.

This moment is a blessing.

Enjoy!

Waiting well will transform your life

Waiting feels terrible. But when we wait well, magic happens.

Growing, improving, changing doesn’t happen quickly. We know that.

But for some reason, we still get impatient and disappointed when it doesn’t happen when we want it to, which often means yesterday.

And we know that we must wait. But what we often fail to understand is that we mustn’t just wait.

For how we wait is what really matters.

Waiting well is key.

“Waiting” usually means we get antsy, we fidget, we get impatient. Then we start to wonder if this is worth it, and we begin to stray. And wondering becomes wandering. Before you know it, we’re completely off the path.

Instead, waiting well gives us poise as we do our daily routines, form new habits, learn new lessons. It knows that transformation doesn’t occur in a moment, but rather moment by moment by moment. It’s gradual, incremental.

Waiting well means resisting looking at the results but revels in the process. You’re not looking to make quick gains but gain a life long practice.

And thinking like that will transform your life.

Waiting well plays the long game.

And if you do that, you will win.

You are more than worthy

You are worth infinitely more than you know. The stars, jewels, and gold cannot compare. You have the face of God.

You see, the world has duped you into believing that you are your salary or your “earning potential” or your net worth.

But that is not your real value.

You’re worthy of dignity, respect, decency, courtesy. You’re not lesser or smaller or beneath others.

It’s true: You may not have as much or be as big or do as well.

But we are all human, born from mothers, broken yet beautiful, children of God.

You are more than worthy.

You are invaluable.

The best thing about losing

Losing doesn’t just mean you’ve lost. For, when you lose, you gain.

Whenever a friend leaves, you move away, get fired, close a business, it’s awful.

We hate it. We should, because losing sucks. No one wants to have something taken from them.

But what I’ve noticed is no matter what (or who) was taken from me, I’ve always gained in place of the thing I lost.

When one girlfriend and I broke up, then another, then another, then another, time after time after time, I gained insight into who I was and who I wasn’t. I realized I was too picky, too arrogant, too something. And I saw what was really important to me and what was superfluous.

And when I moved across the country, literally, from NYC to San Diego, for a relationship that eventually broke, it made me feel like the greatest loser.

But that was right before I would meet the woman who would ultimately become my life partner, my love, my wife.

When you lose, you gain.

During one of the hardest times in my career when I got fired from the only job I was qualified for, pastoring a church, I lost big. I mean I went to graduate school for four years just to have the credentials to start this career path, this calling. So when I was terminated, I went into a depression and didn’t know if I would ever come out.

But through that, I also gained an understanding of myself and saw that God was with me and loved me even when I felt worthless. He made me worthy. And when it seemed like I was useless, He gave me a new job that eventually led me to start my own business; and I realized this was one the best things that could have ever happened to me.

When you lose, you gain.

After my father died when I was in elementary school, I raged. Life was black. Darkness swallowed me. I was lost. But now, as a middle-aged man reflecting back on those events and my learnings, what I see is this.

I don’t know who I would have become if my dad was still alive. Would I be as much of a fighter? Would I see life the way I see it—incredibly precious? Would I have been humbled so that I found faith? I doubt it.

I do know that I would have been different. And I’m grateful for the lessons I’ve learned and the person I’ve grown to become because of the pain I’ve experienced.

Of course I’m not saying that I’m glad that my dad died. Death sucks. It always will.

But my meaning is that all pain, even losing the bedrock of your family, can strengthen you, grow you, and give you something you would have never gained without that horrible event.

When you lose, you gain.

The danger of losing is that you can get lost. It’s easy to lose ourselves to bitterness, anger, sorrow. And a dark season can become a life without light, where it’s always night, without a dawn.

But it needn’t be that way.

You can learn, grow, rise—gain.

There is work, though. Gaining doesn’t just come automatically. You need to be open to it. You need to look for it. As a miner who seeks for gold must dig, you too must sift through your mind and the world to find nuggets of knowledge, wisdom, insight after you lose.

For, in the rubble of losing, there are lessons to be learned about yourself, humanity, God, life. If you look for them, you will uncover them.

It needs to be sifted away from the debris of living and pain and bitterness. And there you will see it shining before you eyes, glorious and pure—golden and true.

The way you do that is by reflecting.

Reflection is the act of looking back on particular events, thoughts, feelings, and ideas that have occurred and searching for right understanding and learnings from them.

Sometimes this takes months even years to find the goodness. The death of my father and losing my career path took a long time to play out, and I couldn’t grasp any clear gains. But, eventually, I did.

Journaling, talking to friends, counseling, mediation, and sitting there and letting your mind wander helps.

That space and time help your mind open up to make new discoveries. And what you will discover is a new day, shining brilliantly before you, and more than that.

There will be a new you.

Create better work by doing this

Sometimes doing nothing is the best way to create something great: The creative process isn’t just about work; it’s about rest.

Your mind needs time to recuperate, recover, be restored. It does that through sleep and daydreaming—doing nothing.

That means staring off into space, looking out the window, letting your mind wander, dozing off to sleep, not thinking.

That’s when your mind is connecting the dots, forming new ideas, dreaming dreams. It’s when your thoughts go beyond thinking, and you’re unconsciously creating magic, in your subconscious, seeing concepts you could never see while fully conscious.

That’s the mystery of creating.

We are better able to see when our eyes aren’t focused. When our minds are cloudy clarity strikes. For, when we rest, our brains rework our work.

Winston Churchill understood that. He was one of the most prolific creators ever, and he took an hour every afternoon to sit somewhere and doze off with a cigar pinched in his lips.

Yes, take your vacations and play, explore, and see. And, of course, sleep well, getting at least eight hours a night. But that’s not the rest I’m talking about here.

You need to take short breaks.

Like Churchill (but maybe without the cigar), allow yourself a little regular break to unplug during the day to let your eyes glaze over and your mind roam. Don’t think about what you’re working on, deadlines, anything. Think about nothing.

And you will find your energy returning, creativity bursting, and ideas flowing.

Magic will happen.