Pain is a result of imperfection, inevitable and obvious in its design. Suffering is what we make from pain, the product of our thoughts and our resignation.

Joey Cope

2015 – No Tips to a Better You

I wonder how many late December – early January days of my life have been lost chasing that elusive bit of advice that would change my new year to the “best year ever.” During those lost moments I’ve read some wonderful articles, blog posts, and even books that have inspired me and, in many ways, paved the path to a better future. And, at some level, I’d like to be able to offer the shining clump of wisdom that would change your 2015 to an incredible adventure where all the valleys — those dry gulches and parched prairies — are but a hazy bit of memory as you gaze out from the mountaintops you will conquer.

But I can’t.

So much of life is simply life. It’s composed of good things and bad things, deep breaths and shallow breaths, laughter and tears, health and sickness, great decisions and poor decisions, wonderful consequences and horrid consequences, and, ultimately, life and death.

Before you chalk that last sentence up to gloominess and despair, take another look. Life is filled with much good.

As part of my work, I often travel alone. When I’m eating or waiting on a plane, I many times simply listen to the conversations around me. I haven’t taken a scientific approach to it, but my best guess is that the object of my eavesdropping would end up 3 out of 4 times in the negative, “Oh woe is me!” category. Think about it. Much of our talk with friends and even strangers begins with “You won’t believe what happened to me . . .”

We glorify the bad. Doing that has some positive effect. It lets people know how we are hurting and how they can shape their prayers on our behalf. It explains why we may not be at our best. Yet, it also trains our minds to look for and exalt our perceived misery.

So, let me just list ten places where you will find good in 2015. Or better said, ten places where good will find you.

  • In 2015, good will find you in the company of little children who haven’t forgotten how to sing or to dance.
  • In 2015, good will find you in the words of a good book that takes you away to a place you’ve never been where you will enjoy people and traditions you’ve never known before.
  • In 2015, good will find you when you step outside your comfort zone to be a friend to someone who is socially, racially, and even spiritually different from you.
  • In 2015, good will find you when you pause before saying an angry word.
  • In 2015, good will find you when you consciously move to protect our world — this small planet God has given us.
  • In 2015, good will find you when you ask for favor on behalf of someone else.
  • In 2015, good will find you in tears you shed over the plight of others.
  • In 2015, good will find you when you sit shoulder-to-shoulder with a friend.
  • In 2015, good will find you when you begin to see that you are a valued and necessary part of God’s plan.
  • In 2015, good will find you when you slow down and are still and try your best to understand how much you are loved — by God and by us, your friends and your family.

In 2015, good will find you. Nothing else is really left for you to do except to share that good with others. Okay, so maybe there is one tip to a better you.

For unto us

I’ve been tearing up a lot in recent years. It doesn’t take much. Videos about dogs on the internet. A song at church. A photograph from long ago. A bit of good news. It’s that last one that both baffles me and thrills me. When I hear of good things happening, particularly from someone I love or care about, I begin scanning the room for tissues. The news that always triggers my tears begins “For unto us a child is born . . .”

The introduction of something new is an exciting time. Whether it is the birth of a child or the start of a new job or the opportunity to face a new year, hope springs from the promise of something new and different.

For some of us, the promise of “new” feels remote. Yet, eternal hope and deliverance is close by. We only have to reach out and touch the child. “New” is available to us all.

“For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.  And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”  — Isaiah 9:6-7

Pass the tissues, please.


‘Tis the Season to Forget

Most of us can remember a Christmas or a Thanksgiving or a Hanukkah or even a 4th of July long ago that is forever anchored in our mind as the best holiday ever. The right people were there. The conditions were perfect. The right gifts and foods and words were shared.

Those are the memories that bring us to a warm and happy place as we anticipate the holidays ahead.

Unfortunately, for many people, those happy thoughts are violently derailed by intervening events that fracture our anticipation and instill dread in place of joy. The death of a loved one. The serious illness of a friend. Divorce. Financial reversals. Relocation to a new city. Conflict between and among family and friends.

Tragically, for those who face these challenges, the blessed memories stand no chance against the fear we have that we will never be able to recapture the same warmth and happiness. As a result, we try to forget. And worse, we become resolved not to attempt to make new, happy memories. After all, those sacred moments might suffer the fate of the earlier ones. There is simply too much heartbreak at stake to try again.

What we must do this season is forget.

Not the good times, of course. Nor even the bad times, necessarily. Instead we must forget — even if it’s just for a moment — ourselves. For when we really analyze those old, wonderful memories, they are bound tightly to those people who surrounded us and who made them so good.

More importantly, we must remember that it is our presence — our smiles, our laughter, and sometimes even our tears — that make warm memories for others. And in doing that, we celebrate these holidays, these holy days, as honored guests of our King and our Creator.

May you enjoy wonderful holiday memories — both old and new!