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Cultivating contentment

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Wherever you are, there are two ways to be there: discontent or grateful. For instance, when I work from home, there are two ways to be here.

1. I notice what's wrong. ("These carpets look horrible." "We need to gut the bathroom." "When am I going to fix the kitchen floor so we can have a fridge inside our house?")

--- OR ---

2. I notice what's right. ("There's a mockingbird that sits in the top of our tree and sings all day." "It's calming just to look at the pool." "I'm really digging our new couch.")

It takes no effort to notice what's wrong. It takes intentionality to notice what's right.

There is discontentment and misery in noticing what's wrong. There is gratitude and joy in noticing what's right.
Wherever you are and will be today, simply do this: "Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is exc…

How to enjoy spending time with God

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Spending time alone with God should be the most natural, enjoyable thing we ever do. But for a lot of Christians it's awkward and frustrating. There's a better way, and it's simple. Today I want to give you the all-important starting point to enjoying time with God.

If you've been around Christian circles, you know we value spending time alone with God. It's one of those things all Christians should do. ("Should" -- I've come to look sideways at that word. It is the source of much evil.) The problem is, if you're like a lot of people, you don't enjoy spending time alone with God. You likely feel that you don't know what to do. You try it, but all the while, you fret that you probably aren't doing it right. But dutiful you, you plow through devotions -- at least a handful of times. But it's confusing, feels like work, and makes you anxious. Soon and very soon there comes that day when you decide to walk past your Bible and pick up t…

How to pray the words, "My body longs for God" (Psalm 63:1)

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Psalm 63:1 says, "My body longs for you." What does it feel like to physically long for God? How might longing for God contributes to your happiness? And how can you engage in this kind of prayer? Here are two realizations I came to over after meditating on "my body longs for God" for just fifteen minutes.



Realization #1: "My body longs for God" can feel like a Great Calm. 
I have prayed "my body longs for you" many times, and most often I have thought of it as a longing for God that is like frantically searching for a lost wallet. Indeed, sometimes bodily longing for God has a sense of guttural desperation. But not today.

This morning "my body longs for you" didn't like desperation. Instead I unexpectedly drifted into a Great Calm. And I realized that being embraced by the Great Calm was not the opposite of longing for God. It was longing for God. And that's why I wanted to tell you about it. This is great news for those of us …

How more money might not make you happier

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In last week's post, I talked about how J. D. Roth's book, Money: The Missing Manual starts out with a discussion of happiness. Here is the graphic that has stuck with me: The Fulfillment Curve.


Here's how it works.

When you spend money on survival needs (food, clothing, shelter, safety), that money delivers you a great deal of fulfillment. When you buy basic comforts (a chair, a pillow, a second pair of pants), these items bring you fulfillment but not as much as your survival needs. Eventually, especially if you are an American, you likely get to spend money on luxuries (a house, a more comfortable bed, a wardrobe of clothing that is stylish and functional enough to make you feel pretty good). This puts you at the top of The Fulfillment Curve. 
The mistake many people make is that they keep hungering to spend more. Here's how Roth describes the plunge over the top of The Fulfillment Curve:
Buying a sofa made you happy, so you buy recliners to match. Your DVD collectio…

Connections between money, possessions and happiness

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I am gearing up to lead a discussion this Sunday at Sanctuary about possessions and happiness. Jesus warns people not to make too much of money. For the typical American -- even the typical American Christian -- this message falls on deaf ears.


I will argue that Jesus wasn't out to require his followers to live in poverty. Rather, he wanted them to be acutely aware how a desire for money and all it can buy us can worm its way into our hearts and become the key by which we make decisions. Be free, and you can live free -- and this can happen for both the poor and the rich.

Personal finance write J. D. Roth holds a fascinating discussion of the relationship between possessions and happiness in the first chapter of his book, Your Money: The Missing Manual. He makes the argument that whereas money can help bring you limited happiness, money's impact on happiness is actually much smaller than we usually think. After you have gained the basic necessities of food, safety, clothing an…

Loving others and loving self

A couple days ago I posted a collection of quotes from Don Richard Riso on "real love." One of those quotes -- a proverb, really -- led me to think more deeply. 
"Real love seeks nothing for itself but is not self-forgetting."
There is so much wisdom in this proverb that it is worth its own post. I have spent my adult life seeking to grow in real love. Much of what I have done has focused on the first half of the proverb: "seeks nothing for itself." This has meant finding ways to lay down my life for the good of others. As a spiritual leader, I am always looking to influence people to love in this way. 
Lately I have been learning that the second half -- "not self-forgetting" -- is just as important as the first half. Believe it or not, this has come as a bit of a revelation to me. I come from a family that leans toward seeking the good of others, even sometimes at the expense of self (and family). For some folks, it can be difficult to give ou…

A call to real love