According to happiness researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky, PhD, of the University of California, Riverside, life circumstances account for only 10% of happiness. Half depends on our genetic “set point,” which is kind of like the weight our body bounces back to after that crash diet. And about 40% of our happiness is influenced by what we do deliberately to make ourselves happy.
Category Archives: Inspirational
Fisk University opened in Nashville in 1866 as the first American university to offer a liberal arts education to “young men and women irrespective of color.” Five years later the school was in dire financial straits.
George L. White, Fisk treasurer and music professor then, created a nine-member choral ensemble of students and took it on tour to earn money for the University. The group left campus on October 6, 1871. Jubilee Day is celebrated annually on October 6 to commemorate this historic day.
Do not forget that the value and interest of life is not so much to do conspicuous things . . . as to do ordinary things with the perception of their enormous value. – Teilhard de Chardin
Richard Foster writes that “prayers arising out of the context of the family are perhaps the most common expression of Praying the Ordinary.”
Almighty, most holy, most high God, thank you for paying attention to small things. Thank you for valuing the insignificant. Thank you for being interested in the lilies of the field and the birds of the air. Thank you for caring about me.
In Jesus- name. — Amen.
Lord, I was ever greedy of life, my attention always straining toward the parts of it that had not yet come . . . toward what was about to be, or might be, or hopefully would be, and especially toward those things that, by Your mercy, might turn out not to be after all.
I panted with longing to suck each segment of life dry of its pleasures. I plotted, with my self but despite myself, about tomorrow . . . about the “later” that was constantly morphing into now. You know how I worked, Lord, recklessly but prayerfully, to set time’s courses and, in Your name, to sculpt them to my intention to my definition of good.
But I am old now, Lord, and my prayers grown old as well. So it is that daily I am drawn, as here, to pray, “Deliver me, My Lord, from this my great sin, and take me, free of doubt and other longings, into Your good plan.”
by Phyllis Tickle
It is easy to enjoy Christmas with its live altar as a crib, clean straw, nice furry animals, and its Christmas card atmosphere of sweetness and charm. In the same way, it was easy for the Jews in Christ’s time to enjoy temple worship with the Holy of Holies, the Ark, and the Veil: all this undying appeal stimulates and enchants us. But redemption was not worked out in temple worship. It was worked out in ordinary life among the ruck of the sinful, sick, maimed, stupid, and self-interested. It was accomplished through sharing the suffering and injustice of life. There was a temple ritual already, but Reality reached and won its creatures by contact through personality, a contact that now and then evades nothing and leaves nothing out. – Evelyn Underhill
John O’Donohue (as you can tell, O’Donohue has joined my array of spiritual writers such as Thomas Merton, Richard Foster, Dallas Willard, Douglas Steere, Henri Nouwen, Andrew Murray, Macrina Wiederkehr, Anne Lamott, C. S. Lewis, Barbara Brown Taylor – the list goes on . . . so many good good writers who share spiritual wisdom and inspire me – who make me want to be a better person).
. . . back to my original thought: John O’Donohue writes about thought in Eternal Echoes. A short excerpt from the book:
Thought is one of the most powerful forces in the universe. The way you see things makes them what they are. We never meet life innocently. We always take in life through the grid of thought we use. Our thoughts filter experience all the time. The beauty of philosophy is the way it shows us the nature of the layers of thought which always stand invisibly between us and everything we see. Even your meetings with yourself happen in and by means of thinking. The study of philosophy helps you to see how you think. Philosophy has no doctrines; it is an activity of disclosure and illumination. One of the great tasks in life is to find a way of thinking which is honest and original and yet right for your style of individuality. The shape of each soul is different. It takes a lifetime of slow work to find a rhythm of thinking which reflects and articulates the uniqueness of your soul.
More often than not, we have picked up the habits of thinking of those around us. These thought-habits are not yours; they can damage the way you see the world and make you doubt your own instinct and sense of life. When you become aware that your thinking has a life of its own, you will never make a prison of your own perception. Your vision is your home. A closed vision always wants to make a small room out of whatever it sees. Thinking that limits you denies you life. In order to deconstruct the inner prison, the first step is learning to see that it is a prison. You can move in the direction of this discovery by reflecting on the places where your life feels limited and tight. To recognize the crippling feeling of being limited is already to have begun moving beyond it. Heidegger said, “To recognize a frontier is already to have gone beyond it.” Life continues to remain faithful to us. If we move even the smallest step out of our limitation, life comes to embrace us and lead us out into the pastures of possibility.
. . . To think is to go beyond. Thinking that deserves the name never attempts to make a cage for mystery. Reverential thought breaks down the thought-cages that domesticate mystery. This thinking is disturbing but liberating. This is the kind of thinking at the heart of prayer, namely, the liberation of the Divine from the small prisons of our fear and control. To liberate the Divine is to liberate oneself. Each person is so vulnerable in the way he or she sees things. You are so close to your own way of thinking that you are probably unaware of its power and control over how you experience everything, including yourself. This is the importance of drama as a literary form; it provides you with the opportunity to know yourself at one remove, so to speak, without threatening you with self-annihilation. Your thinking can be damaged. You may sense this but put it down to how life is. You remain unaware of your freedom to change how you think. When your thinking is locked in false certainty or negativity, it puts so many interesting and vital areas of life out of your reach. You live impoverished and hungry in the midst of your own abundance.
In my prayers, I remember my friends . . . my family . . . my church . . . and often someone I don’t personally know . . . or a concern that has come to my attention. I don’t always know what is going on in the lives of those I know casually and sometimes not even those with whom I am intimate; however, I lift them up in prayer. God knows. And I am assured that He desires our prayers.
When a friend tells me that I am in his/her prayers, I am heartened and uplifted and feel a closeness – to God and to my friend.
John O’Donohue writes that
It is a lovely gift when a person prays for you. One of the greatest shelters in your life is the circle of invisible prayer that is gathered around you by your friends here and in the unseen world. It is a beautiful gift to draw someone into the shelter of your circle of prayer. When you are going through difficult times or marooned on some lonesome edge in your life, it is often the prayer of your friends that brings you through. When your soul turns into a wilderness, it is the prayer of others that brings you back to the hearth of warmth. I know people who have been very ill, forsaken, and damaged; the holy travellers that we call prayers have reached out to them and returned them to healing. The prayer of healing has wisdom, discernment, and power. It is unknown what prayer can actually achieve.
When you meet someone at the level of prayer, you meet them on the ground of eternity. This is the heart of all kinship and affinity. When you journey in there to meet someone, a great intimacy can awaken between you. I imagine that the dead who live in the unseen world never forget us; they are always praying for us. Perhaps this is one of the ways that they remain close to our hearts: they extend the light and warmth of prayer towards us. Prayer is the activity of the invisible world, yet its effect is actual and powerful. It is said that if you pray beside a flower it grows faster. When you bring the presence of prayer to the things you do, you do them more beautifully.
John O’Donohue in Eternal Echoes Exploring Our Yearning to Belong writes:
Nietzsche said, “The relationship between music and life is not only that of one language to another; it is also the relationship of the perfect world of listening to the whole world of seeing.”
Sculpture attempts the same presence. The pure silence of a piece by Barbara Hepworth can catch the quiet symmetry at the heart of things. Giacometti creates such poignant shapes, long slender figures who seem to be thinning out into the nothingness of the air and the gallery. It is almost as if they are inhabited by some mystical humility which urges them to let go. . . . Sculpture is a powerful and wistful form of presence. There is an old anecdote that when Michelangelo was finished carving the sitting Moses, he was so enthralled with the figure’s presence that he tapped him on the knee with his chisel and said, “Moses, get up.”
Seguin Sculptor Marika Bordes’ magnificent sculptures in wood are on exhibit at the Seguin Heritage Museum; if you have not yet visited, do go. Her art is breathtakingly beautiful.
In the introduction to Henri Nouwen’s book, The Inner Voice of Love, he writes that “This book is my secret journal. It was written during the most difficult period of my life, from December 1987 to June 1988. That was a time of extreme anguish, during which I wondered whether I would be able to hold on to my life. Everything came crashing down–my self-esteem, my energy to live and work, my sense of being loved, my hope for healing, my trust in God . . . everything. Here I was, a writer about the spiritual life, known as someone who loves God and gives hope to people, flat on the ground and in total darkness.
“What had happened? I had come face to face with my own nothingness. It was as if all that had given my life meaning was pulled away and I could see nothing in front of me but a bottomless abyss.”
Excerpt from the chapter entitled “Claim Your Unique Presence in Your Community”
Your unique presence in your community is the way God wants you to be present to others. Different people have different ways of being present. You have to know and claim your way. That is why discernment is so important. Once you have an inner knowledge of your true vocation, you have a point of orientation. That will help you decide what to do and what to let go of, what to say and what to remain silent about, when to go out and when to stay home, who to be with and who to avoid.
When you get exhausted, frustrated, overwhelmed, or run down, your body is saying that you are doing things that are none of your business. God does not require of you what is beyond your ability, what leads you away from God, or what makes you depressed or sad. God wants you to live for others and to live that presence well. Doing so might involve suffering, fatigue, and even moments of great physical or emotional pain, but none of this must ever pull you away from your deepest self and God.
Your unique presence in your community is the way God wants you to be present to others. Different people have different ways of being present. You have to know and claim your way.
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; so neither can ye, except ye abide in me.
Karen, who teaches our adult Sunday School class, will be working in Nairobi, Kenya during the month of December. She will be using her special talents “working in an orphanage/school for 180 toddlers through teens, helping widows create saleable crafts, participating in training Kenyan adults for improved schools/child care/pastoral work with Rafiki academic and Bible study curricula, and assisting resident missionaries with the village’s needs.”
Our Sharers Class will miss Karen during the time she is serving in Nairobi; however, we will be praying for her. When we pray for others, we are participating in the work of Christ and interceding for others in prayer also forms our soul. When we pray for someone, we don’t preempt God. Before we even receive a request to pray for someone or some concern, God is there. However, when we pray, we become sharers in His work.
Hear me speedily, O Lord. . . .
Cause me to hear . . .
For I lift up my soul unto Thee.
Psalm 143:7, 8
Each of us brings something alive in the world that no one else can. There is a profound necessity at the heart of individuality. When your life awakens and you begin to sense the destiny that brought you here, you endeavor to live a life that is generous and worthy of the blessing and invitation that is always calling you.
– John O’Donohue