Month: April 2017

The Buddha and Jesus Teach Radically Different Ways to the Good Life

Four disclaimers.

First, I am unapologetically a follower of Jesus Christ. He is God, the Son of God, the Lord and Savior, and he is uniquely those things. I believe and follow Jesus. I do not believe and follow The Buddha (a man), Confucius (a man), Mohammed (a man), etc.

Second, while I do not mean to disparage The Buddha in what follows, you will see by his own story and teaching the VAST difference between his way and the Way of Christ. When it comes to flourishing and happiness, The Buddha and Jesus are as different as night and day.

Third, while most of these posts are pretty practical, every now and then I like to do some theology. This one involves a little world religions for those who are interested. And this post is a little longer.

Fourth, in the circles in which I run, I have very few conversations about Buddhism. People are simply not interested. Many years ago, when I was working in southeast Asia, I did a great deal of study on Hinduism and Islam, and less on Buddhism and a few other religions. I did read many primary texts of Buddhism and several major …

Read More

Three Ways to Energize Your Day

Energetic people are happier people and happier people choose to engage in more energetic activities.

This is another simple way to flourish and be happy. Get active. Get going. Get moving.

ONE: Exercise. Work out. Go on brisk walks. Join an exercise class. Do aerobics. Take 5 minute walk breaks during your work day. (These walks reenergize you and boost both happiness and productivity). Play a sport. Play a sport that is age appropriate. Do group exercise for even more fun and energy.

Two: Nutrition. Watch what you’re eating! This is crucial. Get your body the right food it needs to provide the fuel it needs. Bad food is an energy drain. Bad food makes you sluggish, slow, stagnant. Good food wakes you up. Your body is fearfully and wonderfully made, so watch what you put into it. (By the way, I am preaching to myself on this one.)

Three: Get sufficient sleep and rest. Your body and your mind need time to recover. Energy is depleted throughout the day and it must be restored.

Exercise, nutrition, and rest are the three pathways to energize your life. When you have energy, everything is easier. When you have energy, your stamina …

Read More

Remember, Relive, Rejoice

So, you have a wonderful experience that causes you great joy and happiness. Do you know you can go back and enjoy it once again? And you may actually have almost the same amount of happiness as you did with the original experience!

No, I am not talking about actually doing it again, I am talking about remembering the experience that gave you happiness. When you remember the particular experience, you relive that experience. You experience it again just by remembering it. Your brain activity lights up just as if you are actually experiencing the happiness-causing event.

That is why we so enjoy looking at photos of happy times. When you remember, in a beautiful sort of way, you go back to the moment and relive it, and therefore, re-enjoy it (ReJoiceInIt). Isn’t that a gift we have? It’s such a simple (and inexpensive) way to joy.

Here is what makes it even sweeter. When you remember, you are grateful. Gratitude is different from joy, and it actually produces joy and happiness.

So, go back to those wonderful memories. Dive in. Recall, relive, and be grateful. Better yet, do it with another person who was there.

Pastor Brian

P.S. This …

Read More

Live in the Present Moment

We suffer from hurry sickness  and distraction disease in our culture. We are busy and we are bombarded. We rush through the day and miss most of the beauty of those moments.

ONE:  Every day is a gift – seize hold of it. Don’t believe you are entitled to it. Therefore, do what the ancients said, “Carpe Diem” or seize the day. Be attentive, awake, and aware to all that happens. Notice, listen, discern, and respond to everything that is in your day. Be fully alive.

TWO:  Remember that small things matter. In fact, small things make up most of the day, which is why we miss them. They are small things. We take them for granted. Our day consists of routines. We move through them on cruise control, going about things automatically and not intentionally. We take them for granted, until they are gone.

Like our health… until we are sick.
Like a friend… until she moves away.
Like a car… until it is in for service.

THREE: Be grateful – Christ is in every moment. Jesus tells us his Father is always at work, and that he too is working (John 5:17).  In him we live and move …

Read More

A Very Simple Way to Increase Your Happiness

Some things are so simple that I just want to hit my head and say, “Duh, Brian!”

Like bottled water. What could be more simple and more brilliant than putting water into a plastic bottle and then having a price-gouging markup on the cost of the water? How about designer water in a designer bottle? Then we can charge an obscene amount of money for a product because it is Designer Water. Hey, every time I drink water, it is designer water. God designed it!

Back to flourishing. Some things are just so simple we overlook them.

Here are the two most simple things you can do to immediately and dramatically increase your happiness.

Identify the things that make you sad and avoid them as much as you can. Now, this does not mean you avoiding things that are good for you because you don’t like them. Like eating vegetables. Or flossing. Or getting a flu shot (when they stick you with that little pointed, sharp, painful thing.) What you CAN avoid are things that cause irritation, frustration, anger, cynicism, sarcasm, and so on. These negative emotions are close cousins to sadness. They drain you, and when you are …

Read More

Life is Hard, Don’t Make it Harder

I don’t know when or where I first read this quote. Today’s blog title is the nicer version: “Life is hard, don’t make it harder.” The real version is a bit more sarcastic: “Life is hard. Being dumb makes it harder. Don’t be dumb.”

In yesterday’s post, I talked about how thoughts and actions can shape your feelings. Acting and thinking in ways that are good, positive, healthy, joyful, and happy will actually foster the emotional experience of happiness.

Hard TimesThe reverse is also true. Acting poorly, wrongly, inappropriately, foolishly (dumbly), or sinfully will make you sad, frustrated, and discouraged. There is one MAJOR reason for this. When we do dumb/sinful stuff we experience the consequences.

Here is another saying I heard somewhere and tweaked a bit: “You can ignore reality, but you cannot ignore the consequences that come from ignoring reality.”

Doing dumb stuff, making bad choices, and doing what is wrong always has consequences. This week, I had three conversations with three different people who had each managed to do some real (and I do mean REAL) dumb stuff. And they reaped the consequences. They weren’t nice consequences. They hurt themselves. They hurt others who were impacted by their …

Read More

Think, Do, and Feel Your Way Toward a Much Better Life

A few years ago I had a conversation with a man who was struggling with a bad attitude toward a co-worker. Even the sight of that co-worker was enough to upset him. I gave him a simple assignment. Every day he was to do something nice for that co-worker: help out, provide encouragement, be pleasant, listen, ask about his day, perform random acts of kindness, etc. Be creative. Be persistent. Above all be nice. After 2 weeks the man called me back to give me an update. He was surprised at how the relationship had changed. His highly intentional commitment to be nice and act in good ways toward that co-worker made a huge difference in how he felt. Once his feelings changed, it was much easier to keep the good behavior going.

I wasn’t surprised at all, as I have used this same approach with people I have struggled to have a good attitude with. (Obviously, none of you are included in that list.) Treating those people nicely, kindly, and lovingly changed how I felt about them. Here is why.

You think. You feel. You act.
You have a mind, heart, and body.
You have constant thoughts, emotions, and …

Read More

Flanguish (or How to Make a New Word)

Let’s have a little fun with today’s post.

There are always new words being added to the English language. The words below officially made it into various leading dictionaries (Oxford, Miriam-Webster) in 2016.

Bitcoin: Digital currency. (I’m not sure what this is, but I don’t think I have any.)

Breakfunch: A small meal consumed between breakfast and lunch. (Usually by Hobbits and pastors!)

Confungry: Confused and hungry. (Similar to hangry – hungry and angry. The Hulk says, “You won’t like me when I am hangry or confungry”).

Fabulize: To make something fabulous. (What you wish God would do to the pastor’s sermons.)

Lifehack: A clever technique for doing something familiar even more easily.

Niblings: Your nieces and nephews. (Rhymes with siblings.)

Nomophobia: The fear of being without your cell phone. No More Phone Bia. (I have Nomobobia – No More Books Bia).

wordsA few months ago, I came up with a new word. As I was thinking about flourishing, I asked: What is the opposite of flourishing? A few words came to mind very quickly.

When you flourish you move through life easily, naturally, gracefully.

When you do not flourish, you Flounder

Read More

Meaningful or Meaningless

When was the last time you read the book of Ecclesiastes? If you have 60-70 minutes of time, sit down and read through it in one sitting. You will be glad you did.

The second verse of the book introduces the theme that is repeated throughout:

“Meaningless! Meaningless! Utterly Meaningless. Everything is Meaningless, says the Teacher.”

Some translations use futility instead of meaningless.
Others use foolishness.
Still others use the word vanity.
Well, that sounds pretty depressing. I guess I would not blame you if you decided you wanted to watch reruns on TV instead of reading Ecclesiastes.

We don’t know who the author of this book is. It could be (but probably isn’t) King Solomon.* More likely, it is a person of influence and wisdom who was part of Solomon’s inner circle. I would not be at all surprised if there were conversations between the Teacher and Solomon on these matters. I would not be at all surprised if the Teacher recorded some of Solomon’s experiences and lessons learned from them.

In a nutshell, here is what Ecclesiastes is all about:

First: Where can I find meaning and purpose in life? What is it that makes meaning …

Read More

6 Reasons Why Christians Are (or Should Be) the Happiest People Around

In preparation for The Flourishing Project, I have done quite a bit of reading and studying over the last 6 months. I read a dozen or so of the most important books on happiness. It was really interesting to find these authors agreeing that spiritual (or religious) people are happier people. They did not necessarily limit that to Christianity, but in the things I say next, I am focused on how the Christian faith is the context and foundation for great happiness (joy, satisfaction, contentment, and blessedness).

Christianity is simply the great spiritual reality of how God has created and wired his universe to function. See yesterday’s post, if you missed it. God is. God exists. Transcendence is not a figment of your imagination. There is an almighty, transcendent, sovereign, creator of the universe. The human heart longs for transcendence. You long to be connected to something (or Someone) that is amazingly awesome. That is exactly what Christianity offers.

Christianity involves the grace of God, the unconditional love of God, the always new every morning mercies of God, the absolute forgiveness of God, and freedom from sin, Satan, and death. Without sounding trite, those rich-in-substance …

Read More