Don’t Worry, Be Happy (Bobby McFerren 1988)

 

be happy

“Let Him have all your worries and cares.” (I Peter 5:7)

I tend to be a perfectionist.  I find it hard to be at peace when I don’t have all the next steps figured out.  It makes me anxious, restless, worried and grouchy…kind of like a drug addict who needs a fix.  The severity isn’t the same, but the symptoms are.

I found this short essay on worry in the Word for you today:  “Author William Ward wrote:  ‘Worry is faith in the negative, trust in the unpleasant, assurance of disaster and belief in defeat.  It’s a magnet that attracts negative conditions…Worry is wasting today’s time, and cluttering up tomorrow’s opportunities with yesterday’s troubles.’  When an old man was asked what had robbed him of joy in his life, he replied, ‘Things that never happened.’ Do you remember the things you worried about a year ago?  Didn’t you expend a lot of energy on them?  And didn’t most of them turn out to be fine after all?  Almost 99% of the things we worry about don’t happen!  Did you know that a dense fog covering seven city blocks one hundred feet deep, is composed of less than one glass of water?  Just one glass!  But it can blot out practically all vision.  A cupful of worry can do the same thing.”

Faith and trust in God can free you from that “cup”.  We can’t control all of the circumstances in our lives, so stop trying.  Life goes better when you give Him all your worries and cares.

Don’t be afraid.

Don’t be afraid and don’t panic for I am with you in all you do. (Joshua 1:9)

When I was much younger, I decided that I was going to learn how to ski.  This was before the days of snowboards, so I got a pair of long, thin skis.  A group of friends had planned to travel to Killington Ski Resort in Vermont.  To prepare, I visited Mt. Wachusett in Princeton, Massachusetts.  I later found out that Killington has the greatest vertical drop (3050′) of any mountain in New England.  Mt. Wachusett has a prominence of 1001′.  Silly me, I thought a couple of runs down the “Bunny” slope would get me ready.  Fast forward to the weekend.  I should have known I was in trouble when I had a hard time getting on and off the ski lift.  Once I finally got settled at the top of the trail, I noticed a sign that had a black diamond on it.  My friends told me not to worry about it.  Believe it or not, I actually made it down the worst part of the slope without incident. I skied very slowly and cautiously, but I skied.  As the group slowly pulled out of sight, I noticed a covered bridge coming up.  It quite narrow, so I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to keep a straight line all the way through.  I was pretty excited when I realized that I was going to make it….until I exited the bridge and saw all my friends lined up on both sides of the trail waiting to see how I was going to handle the bump and drop that suddenly appeared.  Needless to say, my skill level couldn’t handle it and I dropped to my butt and fell off to the side.  But still managed to finish the run (my last run ever, by the way).

A group of family and friends used to vacation at a place called Camp Skyland in South Hero, Vermont.  Several of us often went out in boats to explore the shoreline of Lake Champlain.  On one of our excursions, we found a series of cliffs that we simply had to climb.  Of course once we got to the top, there was only one way that we were going to go down.  You guessed it.  We jumped.  Including the guy who is afraid of heights.  I made it and never tried it again.

It was my first time leading the congregation in songs at the beginning of our church service.  I had prepared ahead of time so that I had the melodies and the words down.  We all stood as I opened the service in prayer and then went right into the songs.  I did pretty good for about 20 minutes when an elderly saint of the church interrupted to say, “Can we sit down now?”  I never led songs again.

What possible positive thing can come of all these failures?  Simply the fact that I tried and realized that those particular activities were not going to be a continuing part of my life?  The important thing is that I tried.  I would never experience that nagging feeling of, “What if…?”  I was able to overcome my fears to try something new.  And as Joshua wrote, God was with me in everything I did.  And after thinking about it all these years later, I’m awfully glad He was!

Better With Age

young then old

Once I was young, but now I am old and yet I have never seen God abandon a good man or his children. (Psalm 37:25).

Have you ever noticed that when you get up in the morning or when you go to bed at night you don’t see any difference in what you saw the last time you looked.  Age has a way of sneaking up on you.  One day you’re 20 years old with your whole life ahead of you.  Then, suddenly, you’re beyond middle age and in the twilight of your life.  For those of you who haven’t reached those advanced years, remember, they’re coming faster than you can imagine.  Think of the children you have and how quickly they are growing up.  Think of all the things you’ve always wanted to do, but never seem to have the time to do them.  Since you can’t change the past and have no control over the future, remember to actually live in the present.  You’ll never have another chance to do so.

When I was younger and played basketball, I had a vertical leap of nearly 30 inches.  Now I’m lucky if I can clear a piece of paper…on a good day.  I could eat anything I wanted in any quantity at any time.  Now I eat much less, have to avoid certain foods and shouldn’t eat after 7:00 PM.  When I was a kid, my parents would get after me because when I would go to bed, I would take a flashlight and read under the covers for hours.  Now I almost always fall asleep when I read at night–sometimes with my book still in my hand.  I’ve even been known to fall asleep in the middle of a conversation.  In high school, I could type 67 words per minute.  Now my fingers are lucky if I can get through a sentence without having stop and correct several errors.  (I made six different mistakes in this last sentence.)

When you feel that you’re approaching  the twilight of your life, remember that twilight occurs not just as the sun is setting, but also when it rises in the morning.  Looking back at your life is okay, but looking ahead is what will keep you young.  Rise to meet it with a smile and a spring in your step, ready face the world and what it has for you that day.

Just some thoughts on getting older….

“Today is the oldest you’ve ever been and the youngest you’ll ever be again.”  Eleanor Roosevelt.

“In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count.  It’s the life in your years.”  Abraham Lincoln

“Any one who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty.  Anyone who keeps learning stays young.”  Henry Ford

“Wrinkles should merely indicate where the smiles have been.”  Mark Twain

So appreciate where you are in life, make each day count, keep learning and do it all with a smile on your face.  Not only will your life be more fulfilling, but so will the lives of those around you.

Keep on trying.

keep on trying

Don’t be afraid or discouraged because I am with you. (Isaiah 41:13)

As a former teacher, I can’t begin to tell you how much I hated the phrase, “I can’t do it.”  And it seemed the older we got, the easier it became to say it.

When we were born, we immediately began to learn new things.  Whether it was learning to eat on our own, learning to talk, learning to walk, or learning to dress ourselves, everything was brand new to us.  And no matter how silly we looked or how funny we sounded while making those first attempts, we kept on trying until we got it right.  When we learned to talk, we began another learning experience; asking questions.  We asked anything and everything.  We never asked ourselves if what we were asking was silly.  We just kept asking-endlessly.

We were also never afraid to try new things either.  I remember eating bugs to see if they tasted good.  Jumping out of our second-story window into a pile of snow seemed like a good idea at the time.  Bringing home a pocket full of worms was my gift to my mom.  But somehow as we got older we were less willing to try new things.

The girls’ cross-country team at my alma mater began its first season shortly after I became the assistant running coach.  The team consisted of a couple of upper-class girls and several junior-high girls.  Never having coached girls distance runners before, we weren’t sure of exactly how to coach them.  So we simply trained them with the boys’ team and expected them to keep up.  Since they didn’t know any better, they did a great job of keeping up.  They ended up trashing most of their female counterparts  because they believed that was what they were supposed to do.  They had no fears or doubts about themselves.

The very successful coach of the UConn womens’ basketball team, Geno Auriemma, deals with each year’s new recruits with this admonition, “Don’t tell me you can’t do something.  I’ll tell you when you can’t so something.  The team has won 11 national champions since 1995 and are currently trying to win their twelfth.  Along the way, they have compiled winning streaks of 75, 90 and currently at 108 and counting.

I guess the bottom line is don’t be afraid to ask questions or to try something new.  We should always try to keep learning new things and to experiment with new activities.  Who knows what kind of new success and fulfillment you may find.  You’ll never find out unless you try.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Part of Meow Don’t You Understand?

snicker-2013

Another reader in the family.

The godly care for their animal.  (Proverbs 12:10)

Yesterday, our next-door neighbor stopped by our vacation rental just as we were getting ready to leave for our day’s activities.  He and his wife are the caretakers of the property since the owners live in London.  As we opened the door, his cat, a beautiful caramel-colored animal, invited itself in and checked out the first floor and each of us.  Not typical behavior for a cat, but one I’ve seen before with our own cat.  Like most cats, our cat, Snicker, was very independent, so we apparently lived in Snicker’s house for almost 20 years.  All kidding aside, Snicker was a loving and lovable cat until she died at nearly 20 years old.  And there were definitely tears shed when she was gone.

There was a story in “The Word for the You Today” that told of a man who wanted to a certain hotel for a vacation.  He asked them, “Could I bring my dog?  He’s very well-behaved.”  The hotel owner replied, “I’ve been operating this hotel for 30 years and in all that time I’ve never had a dog steal towels, bedclothes, silverware, or pictures off the wall.  I’ve never had to evict a dog in the middle of the night for being drunk and disorderly, and I’ve never had one run out without paying the bill.  Your dog is welcome.  And furthermore, if your dog will vouch for you, you’re welcome, too.”

Animals help raise the spirits of the sick and disabled.  They act as service animals for the blind and others who need it.  And many of them simply become an important part of our families.  And yet, many of them are mistreated, abandoned, and even trained to be killers.  It’s a sad commentary on our times.  Sometimes, it’s simply a lack of understanding and continuing what has gone on before.  Recently, the Wringling Brothers/Barnum and Bailey Circus  announced its last tour, in part because of animal rights activists worried about the treatment of the circus animals.  To be fair, Ringling has set up a foundation to study the African elephant and the optimal conditions that they need.  But we can also make a difference by caring for the animals in our lives and supporting those organizations that strive to find homes for, and make life better for all of them.  It’s hard to be kind and loving to our fellow-man if we can’t find love and kindness for the defenseless animals that we share the planet with.  God put us all here for a purpose.  And it wasn’t to be cruel and unfeeling to the animals.  Remember, they were here first.

Come apart or come apart.

naptime

Come away…and rest a while. (Mark 6:31)

My wife, Betty, and I are in the middle of the longest vacation of our married lives.  And we are enjoying every minute of it immensely while getting away and getting some much-needed rest.  I always thought that when I reached the age of retirement, life would slow down, become more relaxed and, in general, become the most peaceful part of my life.

Was I ever wrong!   Family relationships have become more complicated and time-consuming.  Health issues have come up that require treatment and life-style changes.  Household tasks that I put off for the past 20 years now need doing.  It’s true….retirement isn’t for sissies.  While I may have thought that retirement would free me from work and the pressures of my earlier life, one thing has remained the same.  I still need to take time off to recharge my batteries.  A change of scenery, a break from my everyday routine, and a temporary escape from the business of life can change my whole outlook and perspective.  We all need a break.  A MarketWatch survey in 2015 noted that 55% of American workers no longer take their paid vacations.  The Boston Globe followed that with a survey that showed that of those that took their vacations, 61% still continued to work.  I can’t even imagine the kind of unrelenting pressure to succeed that must create.

As I get older, it becomes harder for me to accomplish what I used to be able to do.  That can be very frustrating.  I’m no longer as quick physically or mentally (though some of you may feel that this is not necessarily a recent development) as I once was.  That’s even more frustrating.  Success now has a different definition and timeframe.  While a time of rest and separation may not cure me of getting old, it does help me to continue facing life with renewed energy and anticipation.

So, like the busy executive, the emergency room doctor, the mother of five, or the soldier serving overseas, we all need to come apart from our normal routines and pressures of life in order to keep from coming apart at the seams.  So rest and rejuvenate yourselves to be ready to face the coming days.  Happy vacation!