Do We Deserve to Be Happy? Nope.

*Quick note: The purpose of this blog is not only to focus on writing, but to transform lives through writing and sharing. I know this will certainly step on toes and if it does, get some better shoes, but keep your ears open.*

I’m not really sure what other cultures believe about happiness, but American culture certainly believes that it is a right. Because of three little words – pursuit of happiness – we cling to the idea that we have a right to be happy all the time. Unhappy with your job? Quit. Unhappy with your spouse? Divorce. Unhappy with your government? Elect people who promise an easier life. Did someone say something that made you unhappy? Run to social media, and heck, even the news to cry about how hateful and unfair it is that someone should dare have a differing opinion!

Here’s the thing though. We don’t deserve happiness. It is not a right. Being happy in life isn’t a given. We are never told we have the “right to be happy”. In the United States we do have the “right to pursue happiness”, but it never says it’s going to happen. More than that, how can I say that I deserve happiness, even at the cost of what God has called me to? Because I’m a good person? Hardly. Sure, I’m nice. I like helping people. But I’m not good. Jesus said, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.” (Luke 18:19) [Small digression here: This isn’t Jesus saying that He isn’t good, or isn’t God. This is Him stating something all the hearers knew: only God is good. This is Jesus saying that they are recognizing that He is God with their words.] Does that mean we should only be stern and morose, moping around saying “Woe is me!”? Absolutely not! There is joy in this life! There will be thousands of happy moments. These moments are part of life, however,  undeserved. Sadness, happiness, and rain come to wicked and righteous alike.

As Christians we are called to something much more important than pursuing our own happiness: love. We are called to love others. Not with the superficial “I’ll say hi on Sunday mornings” kind, but with the sacrificial love that Christ showed us. Paul David Tripp highlights in his book, Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands, that “relationships are not primarily for our fulfillment. On the contrary, relationships between sinners are messy, difficult, labor-intensive, and demanding, but in that, they are designed to result in God’s glory and our good as he is worshiped and our hearts are changed.” Loving people is not on a case by case basis, it is a conscious choice to make loving people a lifestyle.

This lifestyle does not lead to the road of “prosperity.” It is the road of obedience and blessing. This road is rocky and narrow, full of hardship and tears. But Psalm 126:5 tells us that those who sow tears will reap songs of joy. A life worth living is hard work. To have a full life, we must fill it with meaningful relationships, not staying focused on ourselves. Pursuing our own happiness means sacrificing others – the exact opposite of what we are called to do! On the last day of your life, what will it matter what job/house/car/clothes you had? It’s all staying here. And once you are gone, will people remember you as a bulldozer, someone willing to do anything to stay happy no matter the cost to others? Or will people remember someone who loved well?

 

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Keep Going Up

Keep Going Up

by Paul Fair

Eternity seemed to stare at me from every side. Downward, rocks ready to send my soul to where my body cannot go. Upward, the distance infinite to my finite muscles. To either side, limitless possibilities.

I was mostly naked by then. I had seen the top, and I wanted it, so I had started to climb. And as I began to climb, I quickly learned an invaluable lesson — lovely young ladies in tights at my local rock climbing gym aren’t simply being considerate to adolescent boys; they are garnering flexible clothing so they don’t end up being overly kind to those adolescent boys by having to take off their inflexible attire…like I did.

After failing to stretch spread eagle between two semi-connected towers, I climbed down, and took my jeans off. My shoes were already forgotten; they were no help gripping the sharp but loose edges. As I began again, I moved past the wedged face who had previously laughed at my tight jeans — I reached out, far out, and landed a foot on the rock wall next to me then I climbed a few feet past. “Is this enough to Snapchat me and make it look dangerous?”

Now if you had attempted to have a male anatomy lesson-free leisurely hike that afternoon, taking care to move along the trail you are supposed to take, which cleverly goes around this small cliff, you may have observed a few things: First, a pile of clothes. Second, a charming six-packed 20-something male with lean muscles rippling from his toned body. Thirdly, and although not seemingly as exciting but possibly more importantly, you may have noticed the precarious position in which that six-packed male found himself, who had already passed the Rubicon in which one can let go and fall a reasonable distance to safety.

Don’t worry — I’m not writing this from a hospital bed. And I’m glad, and not just because I don’t enjoy testing how good my Disney is. But more importantly, I’m happy I made it because those rocks taught me something.

While I felt pinned spread out between rocks– stuck too high to let go, too far from the top, with bleak, distracting options to either side, with muscles about to give–I began to panic. My muscles were loosening and tightening at the same time — my breath was alternating between rushing in and escaping out. But then a thought occurred.

Keep going up.

I stopped considering falling. I forgot about all the other devastatingly distracting holds and routes to my right and left. I had one goal now. So I kept going up. I got past that part which had screamed “impossible.”

I’m glad I made it, because I learned something — Those cruel rocks gave me something in exchange for a little blood and sweat — We don’t overcome by stopping. We don’t win by quitting. We aren’t successful by failing. And we only reach the top by doing exactly one thing: Keep going up.

And we can’t afford distraction, and, further, the world can’t afford us to be distracted. Think about it, if I had tried to go sideways, searching for a falsely labeled “escape,” I truly may not have finished. (And then think of all those future empty Calvin and Klein ads?) I could have fallen. We only have so much strength to overcome impossible odds, a limited amount of time with eternity awaiting us, and a finite being with infinite purpose. We can make it to the top, we can start an orphanage, and we can be Olympians. But we can’t climb sideways, and arrive at the top. We can’t waste our life, and build an orphanage. We can’t eat fast food cross the finish line. The mountain requires sacrifice.

The world is waiting for us. The world doesn’t need anyone else telling them to take the easy path. The world needs encouragement — they need someone with passion, who’s willing to make it to the top, who will break against the common lie that by somehow letting go of the rocks, we are falling to safety. The world needs the truth — that letting go of our dreams, of the pain, of the hard stuff, is actually FAR more dangerous than carrying on.

Back on that rock, if I had an audience, they may have had two prayers instantly occur: One –“Lord, please let me know if Paul wears boxers or briefs.” And two — “Don’t let him fall.” You would have had all your prayers answered, because, well, JC’s cool like that, apparently. But also, because we lose things along the way, if we really want to make it. You must be willing to risk embarrassment. People may see the real you, and no matter how great you looked in those yoga pants on the treadmill, when you are spread eagle between two rocks with no shoes, and blood and breath screaming from your body, not everyone will think you’re an Abercrombie and Fitch model. Not everyone at the bottom is gonna appreciate the route you take. But you know what? Those voices at the bottom aren’t the voices I would listen to. You will never reach your goal if you do. And your goal may be the answer to someone else’s prayer. I’d listen to the voice inside, who created the mountain, telling you to keep going up. Because you won’t remember what part of your body is bleeding. But you will remember the view. That’s yours to keep.

Those who hiked around the easy way probably didn’t understand the pile of clothes that sat suspiciously on the ground. And sure, those people, who took the easy way, the nice, inviting, pre-groomed, packaged, sure-fire trail may have seen the same view as I did — they may have gazed from Pulpit Rock as the cliff opened to a valley which races across Olympic City at the foot of the Rockies, stretching out as far North and South as humanity can witness.

Sure, they saw that. But they didn’t behold it. It probably hasn’t stuck in their memory like it did in mine. Taking the easy way always meets the end lacking the “aha!” moment, steals the spice, the flavor, the kick, the climax; you can’t take the easy way and taste the moment that steals your next breath, the moment that confirms to you that you’ve accomplished something beautiful, and it was good. Don’t skip that. Keep going up.

Welcome our new writer: Paul Fair!

I am so excited to introduce you to Paul Fair. He is a brilliant writer and adventurer. There is so much that he has to share, starting tomorrow!

Paul lovPaulFairHeadshot (2)es people. You can find him slopping some coffee at one of his pops’ shops, probably stressing over why nothing’s ever done right, but at the same time trying to help someone at the bar figure out why this guy is such a jerk.

If he’s not at Jives, it’s probably because he’s in Uganda, India, France, learning something about someone he’s never met…He gets around. In a good way.

After attending UCCS, where he was Editor-in- Chief for the student newspaper, he took off to DisneyWorld, where he hugged kids for a living and tried to dance. They paid him for that. Everyone is still wondering about how that worked out exactly.

Now, he’s back in Colorado Springs for the moment. Come by Jives to see him.

The Thing About Humans

Humans are silly, fickle creatures. They are never quite content with what they have. Unlike their jollier cousins, the Hobbits, they are obsessed with being busy. Heaven forbid they actually enjoy free time. And I do mean free time. Time that is unpaid and unscheduled.

Some two hundred years ago, humans worked from sunrise to sunset. They worked hard, and enjoyed the fruit of those labors. But they were tired. And so some humans called “scientists” or “inventors” began thinking of ways to make life easier. Over the years they made machines to help with plowing, printing, cooking, cleaning, traveling, and even communicating. One could look back on these marvelous inventions and assume that humans now had oodles of free time. Well, you know what they say about assuming things…

Sadly, just the opposite was true. They were busier than ever! Now that machines could do much of the work humans used to do, people were now “free” to work more, clean more, organize more…you get the idea.

Even food–a simple, essential pleasure for the Hobbits–became a chore and a curse. Eat too much and be condemned for the weighty aftermath; eat too little and be accused of superiority or mental disease. Then there was even a time when people were culture-pressured to purchase, or grow, only special produce, cook it in a way that still rendered health benefits, and looked like a baby rabbit. Others gave up completely and let other prepare “food” for them because they were too busy to do it themselves.

Surely, you say, they must have been content with finances since they worked so hard for it. Au contraire, my good friend! As each one’s wages grew, the needs also swelled, usually far beyond the wage earned. And so many–too many–became dependent upon their leaders to support their lifestyles. Of course, many of the leaders lined their own pockets as leaders are wont to do.

What became of these sad, sad creatures? The majority continued in this way of self-destruction, while others returned to the ways of their ancestors. They abandoned the cities and once again worked the land. They studied the habits of the Hobbits in an effort to really enjoy life, rather than blazing through it. They are content…at least for now.

It’s a Messy, Beautiful Life

attack the dayFor a few years I have been struggling with (short list) fatigue, depression, and pain. These, among other issues, had interfered with my life, but I kept thinking that if only I knew what this was then somehow it would get better. Having now been officially diagnosed with fibromyalgia, I find that the knowledge brings no relief. Quite the contrary, in fact. I feel helpless knowing that resting for a day or two won’t help it go away. Some many days lately I keep going because there are things that need to get done and people to take care of.

But I was reminded yesterday by a dear friend that life isn’t meant to be merely accomplished. It’s meant to be enjoyed. God wants so much more for our lives than binge watching Netflix. We were created to do wonderful things! I believe that we all have a purpose and we cannot fulfill it by giving in to the fatigue and pain. There will be days that we need to rest, but we mustn’t let ourselves become prisoners in our own bodies.

Enjoy the life God has given you to the fullest. He doesn’t make bad plans, nor does He plan in vain. It is not His plan that we be consumed by our infirmities. So take heart, dear one. Take a deep breath, count your blessings. You are a warrior. You were created by the same One who made the stars whose beauty you admire. Draw strength from Him and enjoy this beautiful, messy life.

Don’t Let the Pursuit of Your Passion Be the Thing That Kills It

Don’t Let the Pursuit of Your Passion Be the Thing That Kills It

As you can see from the shameful lack of posts since last June, life has been busy and this blog fell off the priority list.

What was I so busy with that I stopped writing, you may ask. Well, we moved into a house–yay!–my Princess started Kindergarten, Little Dragon got glasses and is still attending speech therapy, and my Knight started a new career. Mostly I was lost in the pursuit of my editing and writing passions. I have been studying full time to earn a BA in Communications, helping to acquire new manuscripts for a local publisher, and doing freelance editing. It’s ironic that the very things responsible for helping me to follow my passions did away with any time and energy needed to fulfill them. And so, here we are, with a few new grey hairs and stress management techniques to show for it.

All excuses aside, I want to apologize to my readers for my silence these last nine months. I promise, dear readers, that I (and soon to be other writers!) will post consistently. This blog is here for you, to help you along your writing journey, and to encourage the building of community. Let us know what topics you would like to see more of, and which ones not so much. Tell us, too, if there are books you want reviews of or author interviews. We will strive your needs.

Thanks for sticking around!

What type of kindness do you have?

As I was reading through Psalm 48 today I was struck by the word ‘lovingkindness’. (Spell check does not understand this word, and neither did I until this morning.) Why did the sons of Korah write lovingkindness? Why not just say kindness?

Think of the different ways we show kindness to others. When we give the homeless person some change or even a coffee we have shown them kindness. But did we get out of the car and talk to them, share the good news with them? We can be polite to someone and put on a kind facade, and yet inside be cringing at their joke or smelly perfume.

So you see, we can “be kind” out of pity or because that’s what we’re supposed to do. But God shows us lovingkindness. Everything He does for us is with that agape love. He will never be kind to us out of obligation or feeling sorry for us. He does it because He loves us immensely.