refusing to be happy

2 09 2022

Have you ever seen a child who decided he would not be happy unless he had one specific thing? He might want to play a video game at that moment, and none of his toys will make him happy. Or maybe he got chocolate milk but wanted strawberry milk. I could list a lot of examples, because I’ve seen this happen. Somehow he can get laser-focused on one thing, and nothing else will make him happy at that moment. And as you have probably experienced, it’s more than just being unhappy — he might throw a temper tantrum about it, and then there is no reasoning with him for a while. (FYI, I’m not talking about a specific person or incident; just setting up a point.)

As an adult, we can see the immaturity in acting like that. It’s childish and irrational and disruptive (to his own happiness and those around him). All that fussing and complaining and yelling and crying doesn’t make the situation better (or hopefully it doesn’t — it’s not good for parents to give in to that kind of manipulation, because it reinforces it by showing that it works). That is behavior that he needs to grow out of.

I was thinking about this the other day, not a specific incident but the mindset behind it. It seems like adults sometimes do the same thing, except it looks different and it’s more complicated. We may not be throwing a fit about something so trivial, but we may create requirements along those lines on bigger issues. What I mean is, we might think of something we want and decide that we are not going to be happy until we get what we want. (This discussion may get uncomfortable, so bear with me and keep an open mind. Let’s broaden our minds…)

For example, we may decide that we will be happy when our spouse changes their behavior, or our children mature more, or our job situation improves, or we make more money, or we get past some difficult circumstances, etc. Whatever it may be, we are creating a boundary that must be exceeded for us to enjoy life. If we frame that concept another way, we are declaring that we won’t be happy until we get what we want. That makes it sound immature, and it can be difficult to even consider that we may be that way. But I suspect that we all deal with this in some way at times.

When we have that mindset, it doesn’t mean we are bad or that we have bad intentions. We may actually have good intentions that lead to that. It’s great to try to aim higher in life, to improve our circumstances and help people around us grow — we should definitely try for these things. But if we are waiting for things to change before we can enjoy life, then that may lead to not enjoying life. And it’s actually much deeper than that. Not only would we not enjoy life, but it can lead to bitterness, frustration, depression, anger, etc. And those emotions not only affect us, but they affect all our relationships and influence how we see the world around us. And an irony here is that if we are seeking those changes to be happy but aren’t getting it, then we may become even more determined to force our circumstances to change, which can result in even more frustration. It can become a situation where trying to solve the “problem” (as we see it) actually makes the problem worse!

Sometimes it can seem like that future happiness is so close, if we can just get to a certain point then we will experience it. But the danger of that mindset is that we’re not enjoying life right now, plus there’s no guarantee that we’ll ever get the circumstances we want. We hope to, we may be planning to and working diligently to get there, but there’s no guarantee. Life is unpredictable and sometimes messy. If your dream depends on other people changing, that’s difficult to achieve. And things can and do go wrong. We never know when life will throw us the proverbial curveball. It’s easy to think tragedy will never happen to us, but it will. (I’m not trying to speak negativity, but bad things happen, even to “good people”, even to Christians full of faith. Friends and family will eventually die, people can get injured, financial emergencies happen… It’s all part of living in a fallen world.) Don’t worry about bad things happening in the future, that doesn’t help. But consider if you’re already unhappy during the normal or good times, how will you deal with the really difficult times?

Here’s the main point I’m trying to make. We should learn to enjoy our actual life, messes and problems and all. Life is never perfect — it will always have problems. If we’re waiting on future circumstances to make us happy, we may never get there (or we may realize that those circumstances aren’t the source of happiness anyway). Decide what really matters in life, what is important to you. Narrow it down to just what really matters, like people and purpose. Realize that you get to decide what will make you happy. That’s how it ties in with the child throwing a fit over not getting what he wants. He is so focused on a certain thing that he is missing out on everything else around him. He can’t enjoy his room full of toys or his family because he has to play that video game. We can be the same way, where we can’t enjoy our material blessings and our family because we don’t have some certain thing or certain lifestyle.

It’s what we think that determines how we feel. If we’re always focusing on what’s wrong or what we’re missing, then that’s what we see. Someone can miss all the beauty and goodness in life if they are complaining about stuff. Someone might not enjoy being with their spouse and children because they are complaining about various things. Someone can have millions of dollars and not enjoy it because they want more money. (Not that riches are important, but I’ve seen this happen. If you love money, what you have is never enough. Money doesn’t bring fulfillment.) Someone can be on vacation and not enjoy it… I’ve seen someone going to their favorite restaurant with their favorite people and not being able to enjoy it because they were complaining about trivial things the whole time, and I felt pity for them. A bad mindset can ruin our entire life. A bad attitude can ruin your relationships, too. People don’t want to be around someone who is always complaining and unhappy.

I know this hasn’t been a fun post to read, but if you find yourself not enjoying life, this can help you. You are able to choose what makes you happy. Of course, it’s not easy to change yourself, and your past has influenced who you are and what you value. But it’s still your choice, and you can change yourself (see that link for more on that). Even though it’s hard to change and takes time, it will lead to enjoying life more, which is ultimately easier than living with despair and frustration and all those negative emotions that weigh you down. And this new mindset will help with the rest of your life, because you can learn to enjoy life regardless of what happens — your happiness doesn’t have to depend on your circumstances or getting what you want. You will also be more focused on what really matters, like people and purpose and God. Life is fleeting, so enjoy today — don’t wait for a future that may never arrive. If you don’t choose to enjoy your life, no one else can make it happen for you. It’s your choice…


Trump’s excuses for FBI searching Mar-a-Lago

19 08 2022

A big event in the news right now is that the FBI raided former president Donald Trump’s home in Mar-a-Lago. Whether this is justified or not has been a spot of contention. The FBI had a search warrant, so the legality is covered. Donald Trump has presented a barrage of statements containing contradicting ideas. The media coverage hasn’t been very fair, either. So let’s look at some of these statements in detail.

1) In February 2022 there was a subpoena to get the presidential records from Mar-a-Lago, and they recovered 15 boxes, and it was confirmed that some of those contained classified information. Then in June 2022, the Justice Department served another subpoena for more presidential documents from Mar-a-Lago, when FBI agents were shown a basement storage room and left with “a small number of documents” that were Top Secret. After that, a Trump lawyer signed a document certifying that all classified material had been removed from Mar-a-Lago, according to two sources. By law, all presidential documentation has to be filed with the National Archives.

2) While the FBI was searching Mar-a-Lago with a search warrant, Donald Trump wrote: “These are dark times for our Nation, as my beautiful home, Mar-A-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, is currently under siege, raided, and occupied by a large group of FBI agents. Nothing like this has ever happened to a President of the United States before. They even broke into my safe! What is the difference between this and Watergate, where operatives broke into the Democrat National Committee? Here, in reverse, Democrats broke into the home of the 45th President of the United States.”

The difference is that the FBI had a search warrant that made it legal. Notice Trump’s use of militant language: “under siege, raided, and occupied”. He’s clearly militarizing the event, like he’s under attack and is the victim. He also made it sound illegal, but it wasn’t. His words certainly provoked his MAGA followers, though, as conservative news stations ran with it, claiming civil liberties were under attack (and that rhetoric continued even after we learned more), and “civil war” started trending on Twitter. Also, note the definitions of siege: “a military blockade of a city or fortified place to compel it to surrender”; “to attack militarily”. His use of the military terms is definitely inappropriate here. And before someone says it’s just a matter of semantics, he is the former commander-in-chief, so he should know and be able to use military terms properly. This is not the time or place.

3) Trump suggested the FBI might have planted evidence there. “The FBI and others from the Federal Government would not let anyone, including my lawyers, be anywhere near the areas that were rummaged … they wanted to be left alone, without any witnesses to see what they were doing, taking or, hopefully not, ‘planting’.” He first said this before anything was even found. Of course no evidence was found of his claim, and later Trump admitted he had classified documents there (see #5). Also, Trump and his family were able to watch the search through the CCTV security cameras, according to his lawyer Christina Bobb. So they were able to see what was happening, and surely video from security cameras of top secret documents are being saved.

4) Trump said, “The bigger problem is, what are they going to do with the 33 million pages of documents, many of which are classified, that President Obama took to Chicago?” First, there’s no evidence of this, and second, if that happened, Trump was recently president while Republicans had control of the House and Senate, so why didn’t they pursue it if they thought it was true? It’s a matter of national security, and we know how much Trump did not trust Obama. Besides, one of his campaign promises was to crackdown on the mishandling of classified documents (see end of post for video).

5) “It was all declassified.” Okay, so now we get to the good stuff. Trump just admitted that he had documents that were classified. He claims they were declassified, but it appears he thinks he can just declassify documents by saying so. There are forms to fill out that must be approved, plus there are levels of “Top Secret” that the president does not have authority to declassify in any circumstances (and he had some of those).

6) “They could have had it anytime they wanted — and that includes LONG ago. ALL THEY HAD TO DO WAS ASK.” See #1 above. There had been two subpoenas earlier this year to get classified documents from Mar-a-Lago, and a Trump lawyer certified that all classified material had been removed. Yet here we are, where Trump admitted again that he had classified info.

The FBI removed 27 boxes, and:

According to an inventory that was unsealed by a federal judge Friday, four sets of documents were marked “Top Secret,” the highest level of classification the government can give information; three were marked “Secret,” the second-highest level, while the remaining three were marked “Confidential,” the lowest classification level. Another set was marked “Various classified/TS/SCI documents,” which is the abbreviation for “top secret/sensitive compartmented information,” a special category meant to protect the nation’s most important secrets.

So if you’re keeping count, that’s 27 boxes this time plus 15 boxes in February plus some papers in June. I saw a picture of these boxes, and they aren’t small. You can store a lot of paper in a single box. And Trump had claimed he had taken them home to do homework. That’s a lot of homework (if you believe that excuse at all), and it’s still illegal.

So let’s sum up the responses of Trump and his team above:

1) LIE
2) LIE
3) LIE
4) LIE
5) LIE
6) LIE

I’m seeing a trend here. But you wouldn’t know it from watching certain “conservative news” sources. (BTW, news and facts on their own are not conservative or liberal; those labels just mean it’s biased. Think about it.)

If I may take a lighthearted look at all this, here’s a child-like summary, in an over-simplied form:

1) I didn’t do it!
2) Why are they picking on me?
3) They made me do it!
4) Everyone else is doing it!
5) I did it, but it’s not my fault!
6) It’s their fault!

That seems silly, but consider those in context of what Trump and his lawyer said. It’s not that much of a stretch. Anyway, back to the story. (Yeah, there’s more.)

There’s some irony here, too. One of Trump’s main talking points through his campaign (and since) has been Hillary Clinton’s personal email server, which he loves to reference at rallies and speeches, getting the crowds to yell “lock her up!” He has ranted about that thousands of times (which is not exaggerating). He does have a point — she broke the law, lied about it, didn’t cooperate with the FBI properly (giving only partial emails back until they asked several times), and was not punished for it. (So far Trump has done the same thing, although we’ll see if he gets away with it.) Along those lines of not getting punished, remember how Republicans had control of the presidency, House, and Senate, for two years, so why was she not prosecuted? Have you ever thought about that? But Trump did do something — he signed a law that upgraded the seriousness of wrongly moving classified material, changing it from a misdemeanor into a felony, and it increased the maximum prison sentence from one year to five years. It’s quite ironic that a law he signed to go after Hillary could be used against him. It also gives him no excuse on not knowing the law well, since he signed it.

Another thing that hasn’t been mentioned much in all this is that if Donald Trump actually did declassify some of these documents, then they are declassified for everyone. I don’t know if he has realized that, in his haste to find an excuse that might stick.

After this search became a big deal, Donald Trump sent a personal message to the Attorney General, “The country is on fire. What can I do to reduce the heat?” What he could do is tell the truth! Of course he won’t, because he would have to admit he did something wrong, which he never admits (not even for a typo!), and because it would incriminate him. But saying that to the Attorney General sounds like a mobster boss talking to a politician, trying to find an “alternate” way to settle the problem instead of following the law. Read into it what you will, but that’s what it sounds like to me.

The division that’s happening in the media and among Republicans over this issue (and in general) is depressing and concerning. There’s a lot of misinformation being spread, along with people being quick to rush to judgment of the FBI and the Biden administration. There’s been a lot of automatic defending of Trump, suggesting they believe (or at least pretend) that there’s no way he could have done something wrong. Even after Trump admitted to having classified documents there, the cover-up continues among many Republicans. Of course, depending on where you get your news, you may not hear all this. Some news outlets conveniently ignore any negative news about Trump and Republicans. (Hint: if your preferred news source makes it sound like one party has all the right answers while the other party is always at fault and is the enemy, then you are hearing propaganda. I realize that’s a serious charge, but it’s true, and it’s very dangerous. It doesn’t mean everything they say is wrong, but some is, and some facts are omitted to fit with the narrative. It may not always be intentional, either, so their perceived sincerity does not mean they are telling the complete truth. Many people are deceived and don’t know it — that’s how deception works. If someone thinks they cannot be deceived, then it’s more likely they will be.)

On a somewhat lighter note (and also rich with irony), Donald Trump actually spoke about this very issue on the campaign trail in August 2016. What he promised there, I completely agree with. Now, whether he achieved that standard, well, that’s an epic fail. But it sounded good… Watch the (short) video here: Donald Trump discussing laws about classified info.

(UPDATE: This story continues to develop with surprising details, so read along in the comments to learn more.)

changing yourself is hard

10 03 2022

It’s now a couple of months past when many of us made new year’s resolutions to improve our life. How are you doing? If your resolutions didn’t have a long-lasting impact, you’re not alone. Most of the time these resolutions fail. Changing ourselves is hard! But what if part of the process of improving ourselves is accepting our flaws and shortcomings? Check out this good article on the topic, from a perspective you don’t hear very often:

New year, same old you! The secret to self-improvement is embracing your messy, imperfect life.

There are some good points there. I agree with the premise, although I usually word it differently: we need to own our problems. In other words, you need to accept that who you are now is who you actually are. Don’t count your good intentions (which are good to have, of course, but not always acted upon so they don’t count). Accept who you are, the good and the bad. Acknowledge to yourself that you have some character flaws and bad habits, and be able to admit them. It doesn’t feel good at first, but it’s part of being “real” and authentic. Of course, also realize you have value and something good to contribute to the world, and God loves you the way you are.

This may sound like common sense, but we often end up devaluing our self-worth because we don’t measure up to some imaginary standard. This can be due to our own imaginations, or TV shows or magazines (where people’s homes usually look perfect and everything works out), social media (like Facebook and Instagram, which don’t reflect the full reality), friends and family who are critical, or even our parents (who might’ve meant well but expected more than was reasonable or didn’t show enough acceptance). Whatever the reason, this happens to a lot of people, and we end up feeling shame and regret and have low self-worth. Sometimes we overcompensate by setting impossibly high standards and goals — that we’ll be happy when _ gets done but in reality it never will. So choose to accept that your current life is your actual life, and learn to love yourself and your actual life. Sure, it’s not perfect — whose is? — but it’s what you have, and only you can choose to make the best of where you’re at on life’s journey right now.

This isn’t to put down resolutions — they can still be helpful. But expecting to become a different person or vastly changing your circumstances is often unrealistic and sets us up for disappointment. Instead, choose a measurable goal to improve on (the measurable part helps it be more realistic), and figure out how you can take small steps each day to get there. Remember, changing yourself is really hard, but if you can take even small steps to get there, you will make progress. Just remember to enjoy the journey. Life is too short to despise yourself or your life or your circumstances. Don’t wait for a future (which may or may not happen) to be happy — enjoy where you’re at now.

ministry with nachos

28 10 2013

If you’re a Christian, you’re called to do ministry.  Maybe not full-time ministry as in it being your occupation, but to help people around you.  But for many of us, even if we want to, ministry can seem scary or difficult.  Maybe it seems overwhelming and you don’t know where to begin.  Perhaps you wish you had training (which is available in many forms).

mixed fajita nachos with bacon on International Bacon DayI was discussing this recently with a friend, telling him how I recently went to lunch with a guy because he was feeling down on life and needed encouraging.  So I met that guy for lunch.  We discussed life, shared a few laughs, and I happened to get nachos for my meal.  My friend replied with, “I bet ministry with an order of nachos is the best kind of ministry.”  🙂  I’ll admit it was a good time.  I wasn’t preaching at him or telling him what he needs to do.  I prayed about it beforehand, and my goal was to encourage him and potentially offer advice if the right opportunity developed.  His countenance seemed improved afterward, so I think the discussion helped him.

Ministry doesn’t have to be hard or scary — start with caring about people and trying to help them, whether with encouragement, advice, testimony, etc.  You could also buy someone’s lunch, which could be a blessing to them from a financial standpoint, but also showing them that someone cares.

Should you boycott Chick-fil-A?

31 07 2012

You’ve probably heard about the controversy surrounding Chick-fil-A’s CEO Dan Cathy and his views on gay marriage.  It’s sparked a lot of discussion, which is a good thing (if people will actually listen and consider what other people are saying).  I came across an article about it that is well-written and makes some good points.  However, you must keep in mind that this is satire.  Don’t bother reading the comments, because apparently many people don’t know what satire is, and thus miss the whole point of the article.  (Are the commenters really college students?  What are schools teaching kids these days?)

Chick-fil-A deserves to be punished.

I could say a lot about this topic, but the article does it so well (if you properly parse the satire, that is).  The point about full-time shopping with food stamps was one of my favorite parts.

On a related note, why do you suppose so many people struggle to identify satire or humor when discussing important issues?  Could it be because they are so defensive about their beliefs that they (subconsciously) jump at any opportunity to become offended and/or angry?  And if so, why would they be so defensive?  Or is aggressive attacking simply part of their defensive strategy?  Something to think about…