You Always Had It

You Always Have It

Detours in Life

Pentecost 99-105

Mega Post #5

 

Oh, will you help me? Can you help me?”

“You don’t need to be helped any longer. You’ve always had the power…”

 

If you are a fan of Judy Garland or one of her iconic movies, “The Wizard of Oz”, you probably recognized the lines above.  They are the most notable of all screen lines and yet, they don’t occur in the film until just before the end.  Since it was published in 1900, many have interpreted this story has something more than just a children’s tale.  “The story of ‘The Wonderful Wizard of Oz’ was written solely to pleasure children of today” claimed the author L.  Frank Baum.  Still, many believe it is much more. 

 

A high school teacher decided this story was a commentary on the collapse of the Populist movement in the United States.  The green of Emerald City represented the green of currency; the characters represented either ordinary citizens, politicians, or various facets of the workforce.  Even the name “Oz”, the abbreviation for measurements of gold, illustrated by the Yellow Brick Road, became symbolic.  Bankers were portrayed by the Wicked Witch of the East and drought, an enemy of all farmers, was seen in the form of the Wicked Witch of the West who is, conveniently enough, eliminated by water.  This interpretation of Baum’s story by teacher Henry Littlefield is no longer held to be credible but it is an interesting read.

 

Others read this story and see a Glinda the Good Witch conspiracy.    It is her speech that tells Dorothy she can return home and always could have if she had but faith.  Then there are the Jungian believers who see this in light of the philosophies of Carl Jung and still more who see this as a commentary of feminism.

 

Ultimately, for many, this simple children’s tale is either a religious allegory or proof of atheism.  The perspectives for both are interesting and illuminate how two people can see the same thing but believe they saw completely a different thing.

 

Someone asked me recently what the best advice I would give for traversing a detour was.  My answer was one word – prayer.  I think perhaps prayer is like that.  For me it is a very simple thing and something in which I engage daily if not hourly.  For others, however, prayer is much more complex, almost legalistic in its formation and process.  The same could be said about this time of year, a noted holiday period worldwide.  Prayer can be very diverse in format, form, and even function.  That doesn’t make them less powerful or important.  All we really need to do is realize and believe.  When I was a child, it was a custom for the guest to be asked to say grace before we ate.  Many times, the guest would defer, saying they couldn’t possibly do justice.  I always wondered if God graded our prayers.

 

Many times it is the simplest of prayer that we utter:  Oh, will you help me? Can you help me?”  Somewhere, a Great Spirit smiles and replies: “You don’t need to be helped any longer. You’ve always had the power…”  There is no special power required to pray.  I suppose one could mentally clap their hands together three times to echo Dorothy clicking her heels.  And by the way, the actual quote is “Then close your eyes and tap your heels together three times. And think to yourself, ‘There’s no place like home’.”  All we have to do is pray and think to ourselves “My prayer will be heard”.  For the faithful, they’ve always had the power needed to pray and for the new believer…so have you.

 

Detours tend to give us alarm – whether it is an actual rerouting of our path or just an interruption of our schedule.  A friend traveled recently and found themselves stuck in traffic.  Road construction was causing delays and then an accident put even more strain on everyone’s time.  Could prayer have helped that?  Probably it would, even if only to divert one’s attention for a minute.  Prayer is one of those things that remind us life is not all about us nor are we the only ones living it. 

 

When life throws you a curve ball, all we have to do is take a second, breathe, and then move forward intelligently.  Detours are not instruments of fear.  And while they are inconvenient, it is good to remember the words given to Dorothy:  You’ve always had the power.

 

 

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The Best Start

The Best Start

Detours in Life

Pentecost 15

 

As I write this, I am hoping I schedule it correctly because if I do, it will post on the same day that many students in my area return to school after their summer break.  The joys of running around, spending time splashing in a pool, or having great adventures at camp will be put aside as students detour into a new phase, a new class, new teachers, new learning. 

 

For adults it is easy to look back at those fist days of school and smile.  For many kids today, though, it will be a scary start, a change, a detour from the old to the new.  We often forget that each day is a new start and, often, will be a detour from the familiar into the new.  So how do we go about making that detour count?  What is the best way to start?

 

Do one good deed every day.  Sounds like one of those New Year resolutions, doesn’t it?  It is actually the first step to improving your health.  Who knew?   Performing charitable acts, even very small ones is one of the surest steps a person can make towards having a healthy and happy life.  This series is going to focus on the spirit of our living and practicing philanthropic acts is one of the simplest yet most rewarding things we can do.  Giving works both for the giver and the recipient.

 

In 2013 over forty international studies were examined and the evidence compiled indicated that volunteering and doing good deeds can lead to over a twenty percent reduction in mortality rates.  In other words, living – even just a little bit – for someone else means you yourself can live longer. 

 

Many people think only millionaires can be philanthropic but the truth is we all have something to give.  For example, we each have twenty=four hours each day.  Seven to eight of those hours need to be allocated for work while another eight are usually set aside for work.  A healthy travel time to and from work is no greater than one hour each way and eating meals should take between forty-five and sixty minutes.  That still leaves three hours:  8 + 8 + 2 + 3 = 21.  Of course personal hygiene and getting dressed should factor into the day as well as some light entertainment.  Still you could probably find time to volunteer one or two hours a week. 

 

One study yielded the results that senior citizens who donated at least one hundred hours a year were twenty-eight percent less likely to die than their peers.  That is one hour every three days, give or take.  It translates into two hours a week or 104 hours.  “But that’s not a magic number—it could be 75 hours or 125,” says study coauthor Elizabeth Lightfoot, PhD, an associate professor at the University of Minnesota School of Social Work. “The important thing is that you’re doing it regularly.”  Doing good is not just good for older people, either.  Another study revealed children saw a drop in their cholesterol when volunteering.


Not everything needs to be done for someone else.  Starting the day off with doing something good will help us be fit.  Take for instance the seven minute exercises that are so popular right now.  You can google them or search for an app on your smart phone but here are seven that take seven minutes to do.  I know what you are thinking – I have not any extra time; my schedule is packed.  Well, there are one thousand, four hundred and forty minutes in each day – yep, 1440.  If you do not think your body is worth 1/205.714286, then you have some serious mixed-up priorities.  Seriously, mixed up priorities.

 

First let’s start with every school-aged child’s favorite exercise – the jumping jacks.  One jumps into a position with arms stretched upward and out towards the sky and feet also outward.  The body resembles an “X” when this is done properly.  Some of us, however, have passed the age of jumping.  You can still put your body in this position.  Do this rapidly for one minute (or longer.  There are no penalties if you managed to spend fifteen minutes a day doing these instead of just seven!).  Starting with your feet together and your arms at your side and then jumping or hurriedly moving into position with your arms above your head and your legs wide apart is great for your cardiovascular system.  This is a great exercise to improve one’s stamina and endurance and life does require that.  It will also, over time, increase your flexibility and circulation.  The human is not a vase.  It was not created to sit still.

 

Exercise number two is a wall sit.  Stand with your back flat against a wall and slowly lower yourself to a sitting position or halfway down the wall.  In other words, pretend there is an imaginary chair and you are slowly sitting in it.  If you are really stiff or have knee problems, take this exercise very slowly.  None of these should be done without considering your own personal condition and health status.  Feel free to print this off and take it to consult with your doctor before trying.  Remember each of these exercises is done for one minute so don’t try to win a world record doing wall sits on the first day.  Doing it has benefits, even if you only manage two or three at first.  Going slow is fine.

 

Next comes the squat and this is simply doing the same thing as the wall sit without the wall.  Hold your arms out front and slowly lower your body to a squatting position, going as low as you can.  If you need to, start holding onto a chair.  Again, we are aiming for flexibility and mobility, not a gold medal.

 

The next two exercises also involve the entire body and can be done holding onto a chair if you need.  The lunge is everybody’s favorite silly walk.  Move down a hallway, taking a bit longer steps than normal and lower your body as you go.  Ideally, the knee-bend results with your leg at a ninety-degree angle but any angle is fine for the beginner.  Most of us do not sleep in our kitchen/bathroom/closet.  Even someone in an efficiency apartment has to move around their living space.  Doing lunges while you go to the closet or the bathroom to shower combines the act of getting ready for work or school with exercising.

 

Another great exercise to do while getting ready to leave for your busy day is high knee running.  The high knee exercise involves lifting your knees to your waist and yes, holding onto a chair to do this is fine.  Please lift as fast as you safely can – emphasis on safety, especially when you first begin this.  Like the lunge, this exercise helps improve your core or central body’s strength.  Our torso supports us so we should support it, after all.  Both the lunge and high knee running also improve flexibility and balance as well as tone your abs, thighs, and derriere muscles.

 

The next exercise is one you can do in the shower or immediately after toweling dry.  If you are into exercising daily, then you probably are already giving your body seven minutes and push-ups are a regular part of your daily regimen.  If they are not, then please add them.  However, for the rest of us, doing a push-up, even the thought of one, stops us.  You can do a standing push-up, though, against a wall; hence, the shower.  Standing facing a wall, place your hand at should height.  Position yourself about eight inches from the wall and with your palms flat against the wall, lean in.  Then push yourself back into standing up straight.  The hardest part about this exercise is to keep from laughing when you cat thinks you are a new post to rub against.  Moving on to regular push-ups is permitted but this form of push-ups will also provide you benefits.

 

My last suggested exercise is really the first one you should do because you can do it in bed.  Of course, doing it on the floor is also permitted and again, don’t be surprised is your small pet think you are a new couch.  This exercise is called the plank and wins the prize for all-round benefits.  In fact, because it seems so simple you might just skip it but please don’t.  In exercise, as in life, sometimes the simplest things yield the best results.

 

To do a plank, one simply holds one’s body off the bed or ground in a straight line.  This is done by bending elbows and resting the arms on the bed or floor and then pushing up with toes remaining on the bed or floor.  Your body will have the appearance of an incline or plank.  This may sound really simple but trust me, it is not.  Getting into position is easy; holding it is difficult and requires great overall strength.  Most of us do this in bed at some point when turning over.  Start out small and hold for ten seconds and work your way up to one minute.  The plank is wonderful for core conditioning and also for good posture, balance, and other muscles we need to go about our busy lives.

 

Give yourself seven minutes a day.  You will burn more calories, build muscles, improve your blood circulation and have more energy.  You cannot be good for anyone else if you are not good to yourself.  Maya Angelou once said “I think a hero is any person really intent on making this a better place for all people.”  Accept the detours life gives you today.  You may not be starting school today but you are starting a new day full of learning opportunities.   

And Then What?

And Then What?

Detours of Life

Pentecost 10

 

If we are lucky, there is always that next step to take in life.  Even when life throws us a curveball and we have to detour around something, there is still that next step to take.  Often it can be a very difficult move and yet, it usually is a lesson we never saw coming.

 

Take for instance, my schedule for this series.  Life really messed it up royally!  I mean, I had it all laid out and things planned and then – wham!  I got detoured around my living.  The last two months have been somewhat chaotic but, if I am to be honest, also very educational.

 

For one thing, I discovered how strong I am.  I also discovered what really matters to me and how joy can be found in the most unexpected of places.  I underwent a journey, both figuratively and literally and when I least expected it, there was joy jumping up to kiss me.  Where I expected sadness, I found renewal.

 

Leonard Cohen wrote a song simply entitled “Anthem” and it reminds me of the ancient Chinese custom of breaking a pottery item and then refilling the cracks with gold.  I once was in a discussion group where a picture of such an antique bowl was shown.  Several simple saw a broken piece of pottery and thought it should have been tossed.  They wanted perfection.

 

Life is not perfect.  Our living will have its cracks and dents.  Leonard Cohen wrote:  “Forget your perfect offering.  There is a crack in everything; there is a crack in everything – That’s how the light gets in.”  We can, however, follow the detour and learn from it, filling those cracks and dents with lessons that are golden in how they prepared us for the next step.

 

 

 

The Beginning in the End

The Beginning in the End

Lent 31-32

 

Things end.  It is an inevitable fact of life.  Yet, in many cultures, death is but a dormant season.  Winter may seem like a period in which things die but in nature, winter is a time of hibernation, a time of rest before the rebirth of a new season, the beginning of a new cycle which has spring from the ending of an old cycle.

 

The cause and effect of the Beatitudes illustrate how in our pain and turmoil, we might consider that we are simply in a period of dormancy, having paused on a landing before continuing on our journey.  The marathon runner knows to pace him or herself because the race is not won at the start but rather at the finish line.  Perhaps we should consider that those periods of season of nonsuccess or non-joy are merely stepping stones towards our ultimate victory.

 

Yesterday was the end of the month of March and today begins the month of April and yet, for many of us, the days were very similar.  One ending swiftly faded into a beginning with little fanfare or change.  Often the transitions in our lives go unnoticed and we neglect to recognize the value of each step along our path.

 

Dr. Susan Krauss Whitbourne discussed how we determine happiness in our journey in an article for Psychology Today published several years ago.  “In many ways, living in the moment has its benefits. While you’re in the midst of an enjoyable experience, you’re most likely to be tuned into the pleasures signaled by your body’s senses.  By contrast, an experience marked by pain, mishaps, and inconvenience is one you’d just as soon get out of as soon as possible. Even so, after it’s over, many of us forget how badly we felt while it was going on. When pain outweighs pleasure, living in the moment isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. 

 

“As it turns out, many of us are pretty likely to form biased memories of our experiences. The biases can go in both positive and negative directions. According to Nobel-prize winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman, the “peak-end rule” is just one of many errors of judgment that affects the accuracy of our cognitive apparatus. An event makes its mark in our memories more by what happens at its end than at any prior point. In his book, “Thinking Fast and Slow”, Kahneman points out many of the illogical features of our thought processes, including the contrast between our experiences in the moment and the way we remember them.

 

“Studies of happiness in the moment use a method called “experience sampling” in which people provide an instantaneous reading of how they are feeling. New technologies allow researchers to “ping” participants, asking them questions about what they’re doing right now, instead of having them provide recollections at some later point.  For example, German researcher Bettina Sonnenberg and her colleagues (2012) asked participants on their mobile phones to report the activities they were engaging in while pursuing their daily routines. The participants also completed standard survey questionnaires about their use of time. People’s reports through experience sampling were very consistent with surveys that they later completed regarding questions about the amount of time they spent at paid work. However, when participants were asked to estimate how much time they spent in less regular, predictable activities (such as errands or leisure), the survey reports diverged substantially from the moment-to-moment data they recorded through experience sampling.

 

“It’s no surprise that people rate their happiness while having a previous experience higher than they did while going through the experience itself. While you’re in the moment, you are aware of more of the “objective” features of the situation. You may be having your favorite meal, trying to unwind after a stressful day, and although you love the music itself, your mind strays to some of the unpleasant things that happened to you earlier. If we “ping” you to rate your happiness, your rating may reflect not the food you’re trying to enjoy, but the recall of what caused you to feel stressed.

 

“Many studies support the peak-end rule. People will prefer and even choose exposing themselves to more pain (objectively determined) if the situation ends with them feeling less pain.  Think about it this way. If you are having a tooth drilled, you’d find it was less painful if the dentist ends the procedure with some lightening of the drill’s intensity, even if the procedure is longer than it would otherwise be. Counterintuitive? Yes. Common? Definitely.

 

“We approach not only our experiences of pleasure and pain in this way, but also our acquisition of objects that we’re given as gifts. As reported in a review article by Dartmouth psychologist Amy Do and collaborators (2008), participants given free DVD’s were more pleased with the gifts if they received the more popular ones after the less popular ones, then if they received the exact same DVD’s in the opposite order. When it comes to pleasure, it’s all about the ending.”

 

In the Beatitudes, the blessing or happiness is promised in the ending.  We tend to fear endings but, as this research supports, what really matters is not the actual experience but how it ends.  After all, when running up the steps to a monument, the victory comes with the completion of the task, the ending.  This is what gives us a feeling of triumph.  We win because we lived and, having lived, we eagerly await the next new beginning. 

Treasured Lessons

Treasured Lessons

Lent 23, 24, 25

 

I really value the early morning.  Throughout my lifetime I have been surrounded by late sleepers so the early morning was my own personal time and space.  It was as the sun began its ascent with its wisps of color heralding a new day that I would imagine the angels and fates beginning to cross the sky, seeking out souls to bless or offer aid and, perhaps, comfort.  Regardless of what transpired the day or days before, each new morning was a new gift with unexplored treasures to find.

 

Recently I began a new exercise regime and, true to my nature, it starts very early.  I like that the gym is sparsely crowded because then there are few people to rant and rave.  I still value those early morning promises and really dislike it when people want to rehash yesterday’s problems before the sun has settled comfortably in the sky.  This truly is, for me, a day which the Lord (or Spirit) has made and I strongly dislike anyone messing with my morning peace.  Thank heavens for headphones and mP3/iPod players!

 

We talked earlier this week about life being a treasure map that we explore during our lifetime.  The important thing about such explorations is not just the treasure we may be fortunate to unearth but the lessons learned along the path we travel.  I learned early on at the gym that people do not usually want answers or lessons.  They just want to exercise their tongues.  Our lives really deserve more than just hot air.

 

One of the movie’s more famous explorers has been, in the past two decades, the character of Indiana Jones, archaeology professor turned detective, seeking the world’s ancient treasures.  Popular on the big screen, his television counterpart would be Josh Gates but we’ll discuss Josh another time.

 

The perils faced by the fictional Indiana Jones are not uncommon to those faced by actual archaeologists.  (By the way, there is a grave at an Episcopal church in Berlin, MD which bears the name of Indian Jones – a real beloved wife with no connection to either Hollywood or the screenwriters.)  They also give us some brilliant insights in to some real treasures for living, lessons we all could use.

 

Respect might be the most important lesson the Indiana Jones movies teach us.  Respect for each other should be a given and yet, all too often we think in a “me” frame of mind instead of a “we” frame of mind.  Respect for different cultures is also important.  Something might seem weird to us but our ways are also just as weird to someone else.

 

One of Indiana Jones’ shortcomings is to never seem to be adequately prepared for his skirmishes.  If there is a gun fight, he always seems to have only a sword and vice versa.  Life does not come with guarantees and, in spite of a seemingly endless variety, there really are no crystal balls that foretell the future.  What saves Professor Jones is his thinking a problem out and discovering that, as in life, often the answer is a rather simple solution.  We need to expect the unexpected (Indiana Jones is always being chased by something – boulders, screaming tribesmen, even snakes.) and then calmly think of a way to deal with what life has given us.

 

Long ago the wheel was invented, as was fire.  It is perfectly okay for us to draw upon the past and walk the steps of those who have gone before us.  We need to remember to be humble and accept our own shortcomings.  We also need to have the strength to ask for help and admit when we cannot do it all alone.  Sometimes we need to have the strength and courage to think outside of the box. 

 

We need to know where we are and with whom we are traveling.  There is an old saying “don’t play poker with a pickpocket.”  It is good advice, not just for playing cards but for selecting our friends.  Too often we allow people into our inner circle that tear us down instead of building us up.  Friendship is supposed to be a positive thing.  Be very wary of people to whom you are a better friend than they are to you.  We need to often have faith in others but most importantly, have faith in ourselves.

 

Every treasure map seems to lead one to a fork in the road.  “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood…” begins a poem by Robert Louis Stevenson.  The poem speaks to having the courage to take the right path, even though it is not the popular one.  Not everything that glitters is really gold and sometimes life’s most golden lessons come to us in the most ugly of forms, tattered and torn but very valuable.

 

The treasures we hold dear in life say more about us than they do about themselves.  It is not what we accumulate that will define us as people.  How we have lived and the risks we were willing to take build character.  The well-worm sandals of a traveler are not the glittery, sparkling heels of a model but they do show character and a willingness to live.  They speak of one who has searched for truth and shared smiles along the journey. 

 

My early morning exercises are not just for my physical body; they are for my soul.  The quiet meditative moments of a sunrise will mean very little if I do not share my life.  We need to let go of the grief from yesterday but we also need to hold onto each other.  We need to live not in fear or focusing on troubles but by walking our paths together, listening and sharing respect, peace, and joy.  There is always something new to learn (I Corinthians 13), success to gleam from failures (Philippians 3), and new things to see (Ephesians 1).  On my own personal journey, I need to perhaps unplug in order to really grpw and find my own desired success.  As Philippians 4:14, advises – Share the ride!

Boys and Broccolini

Boys and Broccolini

Lent 13

 

The Beatitudes may seems old and out of date but they are an excellent example of cause and effect, the efficacy or causality that believes one thing had a direct result on the outcome.  While the words of the Beatitudes may seem ancient, their basic construct is used all over the world by parents, politicians, cult leaders, and terrorist factions.

 

Before you get all upset because I put parents in the same grouping as politicians and leaders of terrorist cells, please read on.  When it comes to persuasive speech, they all have a great deal in common.  Many of us from several generations ago were admonished not to make faces or else, we were told, our face would freeze that way.  Another less understood adage was that we were to eat all our vegetables because there were starving children in the world.

 

Writing for the website explorable.com, Martyn Shuttleworth explains why such a persuasive argument is often incorrect and misleading.  “The basic principle of causality is determining whether the results and trends seen in an experiment are actually caused by the manipulation or whether some other factor may underlie the process.  Unfortunately, the media and politicians often jump upon scientific results and proclaim that it conveniently fits their beliefs and policies. Some scientists, fixated upon ‘proving’ that their view of the world is correct, leak their results to the press before allowing the peer review process to check and validate their work.”

 

Growing up in the city Maria was completely out of her element when her family moved to a small town of less than one thousand.  She attended a weekend dance shortly after moving to the area which was held at a community center.  Five days later a classmate sat down beside her at lunch and introduced herself.  “Hi, I’m Priscilla.  My older brother is best friends with Jackley who plays ball with Billy.  His younger brother is in our class because he flunked kindergarten.  His brother is named Logan but he sits on the other side of the room so you might not have noticed him.  He’s best friends with Josh who lives next door to me.  Anyway, Logan told Josh he likes you.  He saw you at the dance, you see.  So, do you like him?”  Lost amid all the names and siblings, Maria smiled hesitantly and replied:  “If he likes me, then he and I should talk about it.”  Priscilla tossed her head backed and turned to the other girls standing around.  “She’s a snob.”  They all left and Maria ate lunch by herself for two weeks.

 

While there was really nothing wrong with Maria’s response, it was that of some a few years older and from a completely different environment than those who had grown up knowing each other.  The cause and effect might indicate that perhaps Maria really was acting like a snob or that the other girls just wanted to gossip.  It might also, depending on how the information was evaluated, indicate that the girls were reaching out to Maria the best way they knew.  We really do not know without more information regarding posture, tone and inflection, etc.  What is clear is that the cause – the professed interest of one boy to the new girl in the class – had a less than desirable effect for all involved.

 

We often make assumptions that may or may not hold true.  Take, for instance, the vegetable broccoli.  It is a member of the cabbage family and can be eaten raw or cooked.  Broccoli rabe and broccolini might be considered parts of the broccoli plant but they are actually different plants entirely.  A lobbyist for a vegetable company might try to persuade politicians to consider substituting one for the other in a school lunch program.  A less than informed populous might think that was okay.  There are differences, though.

 

Broccolini is a natural hybrid of broccoli with Chinese chard.  It gets its length from the chard and smaller florets on top from the broccoli.  Broccoli rabe, however, is more closely akin to the turnip than to broccoli.  Nutritionally, there are great differences.  A serving of broccoli rabe has 144 calories while a serving of broccoli has 31.  Both broccoli and broccolini had over 100% of the recommended daily allowance for vitamin C but broccoli rabe has 270% for vitamin C.  The eating of one of these three is not the same as the others so the effect on the body nutritionally would vary greatly.

 

It may seem like the Beatitudes are an ancient cause and effect rambling but really, they are as relevant today as they were almost two thousand years ago.  They offer us causality but also a positive effect.  It really depends on our perspective and how willing we are to see the positive.  Maria did eventually become friend with Logan but that was all.  Once the girls realized Maria had already had the chapters they were currently studying and she could help them pass their world geography class, they befriended her.  It took some time and patience and yes, a few tears were shed, but happiness was the final result. 

 

Eating that serving of broccolini may not instantly taste delicious but your body will really appreciate its positive effects.  It is up to us to determine how we approach the causes and subsequent effects in our own lives.  We ultimately have control of our responses and our willingness to wait out the goodness that life can offer.  By defining accurately the causes in our lives and then evaluating the effects and everything influencing them as well as our own responses, we have a much better chance of improving our living.  Today’s chaos might just turn out to be tomorrow’s blessing.

Goodness

Goodness

Lent 1

 

During Lent our series will focus on the Beatitudes, those eight to ten, and in one location, four saying about goodness, happiness and spirituality.  While the basis for this series will be taken from the New Testament, this will not be a purely religious series.  It is a series about goodness and our search for it in an overall sense – goodness of living, of health, of being.  We will delve into such distinction as the difference between a happy person and an optimistic person and there will be, hopefully, a vignette to explain and explore our discussion each day.

 

Most Creation stories open with “In the beginning” and the world seems to have been complete, whole, and happy.  Then something happens and chaos ensues.  While it may seem hard to relate to something like that, most of us experience it every day when we go to check social media.  The science of happiness would tell us that while the caveman did not have a Facebook account and the only twitters he heard or saw were from birds in the trees, he did fall victim to the same social pressures that we do when reading about a friend’s seemingly perfect life.

 

We are all connected and the people in our lives play an important role in the basic goodness we experience and the happiness we feel.  Both of these are contributing factors to our sense of well-being and our actual physical health.  Skeptics argue that optimistic people may not necessarily live longer and we certainly have discussed that topic before.  However, recent scientific research and the resulting evidence indicate that there is a strong link between happiness and health and it goes both ways.

 

Our approach to living is key in our trying to improve our lives and the world.  Being happy will never be as simply as taking a pill and seeing the goodness in life will not be accomplished with an increased prescription for a new pair of glasses.  We can, though, take the wisdom of the ages and look at our own approach to living. 

 

Lent is traditionally a time of introspection and, let’s face it, dreary feelings of guilt and shame.  Our source material is a wonderful way to change that and improve ourselves without beating ourselves up – figuratively or psychologically.  Let’s replace those pounds of guilt with feelings of goodness and happiness!  Life will always be a work in progress.  I hope you join me for this series in making lemonade out of lemons.  Who knows?  We might even find a way to make a lemon tart or pie without fewer calories!