A Joyful Life

A Joyful Life

A Joyful Life

I’ve never seen a u-haul behind a hearse. The only thing you take with you when you’re gone is what you leave behind. We are slapped when we come into this world and they shovel dirt on us in the end. This is our life. Everyone’s life. These are the bookends of life. But what really matters is what goes on in the middle. That we are passionate people. That we are caring people. That we LIVE!

The people I’ve been privileged to watch succeed have intensity about them. They demand everything from themselves. They show up every day, in fact, every moment, and they are accountable to themselves. Everything they do has a hard statement, and they know when to stop. Very impressive.

Real beauty is found in oneself. That’s the tranquil beach. The beautiful sunset. It’s not a location, the location is you. To travel is to travel inward. That’s the ultimate vacation.

Turn your weaknesses into your strengths. Success is failure turned inside out. We need to find a deeper meaning in life. Our duty, as artists, is to tap into those notes that resonate in us all. Not to sleepwalk through life, like an outpatient program; but to strike a chord.

We can’t catch kindness in a net or a gun. When kindness is given to you, it’s by choice. One must adopt an attitude of gratitude.

We can become prisoners of self. One must dig tunnels; escape one’s own mind. We get just this one life. We have to stop doing time. But live lives like we planned in our youth. No matter where we are, how old, we can always reach our dreams.

All your life you’re going to be judged, what matters is keeping your soul intact and making work that matters. We have to stop telling people what we are going to do, what we have not yet accomplished, and tell them instead what we have accomplished. Only in this way can we be accountable for our actions. I am not accountable for achievements I have not yet reached, but I am what I have accomplished.

It’s when we stop forcing it… trying to impress, that we really shine through; we start having strong people like us, just fall into our laps – and those that are weak are empowered by the tone of our voice. Get off your knees and do. Words without action is death. One has to stop sitting in the back, waiting. Come to the front. The front row of life. A joyful life.

My mother told me at a very young age, “Miles, we are placed on this planet to help others. Go out and help others.” So, it is by her words that I try to shape and reshape my life. Yes, each day we will be challenged by indifferent people and for the most part, it isn’t their fault. We are just so conditioned by life (media, society) to live like caveman or barbarians (non-contemplating spoon-fed society). To live like the subjects in mindless beer commercials. Their ideals perhaps “you deserve better, more than another, you are the most important.”

After a while, we believe it. Brainwashed. Let’s have “fun.” Fun? Fun is a limiting word. Why would one limit their existence to only this? Is that all we appreciate for the life we’ve been given?

Life is a 24/7 celebration of the word itself (existence). So maybe one needs to replace the word “fun” (a word created by media to keep you down, to bait you, to sell you things, tell you what you need) to the word “joyful.”

Maybe we could be way happier if we lived a life that from each waking day till sleep time is joyful. You get but one life. We are each only given one shot at getting it right in the long run. Find a job you love and you’ll start to bring joy to yourself and all others in your life.

Words are either negative or positive. Could it be that all this time “fun” is really a negative word and “joy” a positive one? Perhaps a little rethinking is in order.

by Miles Patrick Yohnke

Meditation: “See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil, in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments, His statutes, and His judgments, that you may live and multiply;” – Deuteronomy 30:15-16

You will succeed because Jesus loves You!

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Arise and Rebuild

Arise and Rebuild

Arise and Rebuild

Nehemiah 4:2 “Will they revive the stones from the heaps of rubbish-stones that are burned?” I was only a boy, maybe ten years old, when I was awakened on an unusually warm autumn night by the siren of the local volunteer fire department. Mom in her nightgown, Dad in his boxers, and I in my racecar pajamas stood in our back yard watching flames lick the starlit sky. It was an eerie sight. The largest, most prestigious house in our very middle-class community was on fire.

The next morning Dad and I walked down the road to check out the damage. Our neighbors, who beat us to the scene, were already gawking at the white, two-story icon, now a smoldering pile of ruins. The chimney still stood like a “Washington Monument “to its former glory. It was hard for me to believe. Such a stately house, the nicest on our little street, was a heap of coals. I watched trails of smoke still rising from blackened wood and stone. The ornate furniture, up-to-date appliances, and beautiful woodworking were completely charred.

You know, houses aren’t the only thing susceptible to catch fire and burn. People get burnt too. I’m sure some of you have been burned, haven’t you? The stories are similar. With a promising future, you walked into life with confidence. Then, like the big white house in my neighborhood, an unexpected catastrophe occurred and you were seared by life’s flames. Burnt. Unrecognizable.

You watched as smoke rose from what was left of yesterday’s optimism and prosperity. This wasn’t supposed to happen. It wasn’t part of the plan. You’re not the first one to experience such heartache. Nehemiah experienced the adversity of being burned. The hometown he and his people revered had been completely destroyed by fire. Jerusalem’s wall, the spiritual emblem of national strength and dignity was torched. By his own admission, he was overcome with grief as he recalled its former glory.

What makes the devastation worse is in knowing what once was. Remembering how great things made the present misfortune feel all the more hopeless. It’s a lot like staring at the biggest house in your community lying in a pile of ashes. We all have mental photos, flashbacks of our life before we were burned. There’s the daddy pushing you in a swing, a mother cooking, a happily married occasion, a healthy child, and a younger you. Likewise, you see the college degree you never finished, the friend who hurt you, the prayer that wasn’t answered, a worthless 401(k) with no retirement benefits, and the pink-slip from the company you invested your life in.

Smoldering histories, they’re reminders of the great fire, that catastrophic event when you were burnt. The question arises, “What now?” When Nehemiah heard about his beloved Jerusalem he was overcome with sorrow. His mind pulled up the photos of better days, the way God intended things to be, and he just couldn’t handle his emotions. Can you hear his anguish? “I sat down and wept, mourned, fasted and prayed” (Neh 1:4).

Nehemiah’s emotional response is predictable, but what he did next was not. While Nehemiah prayed, he stumbled onto praying the answer. “Give your servant success TODAY” (Neh 1:11, emphasis mine). When you spend time calling out to God sometimes you pray the answer, if even by mistake. He knew he couldn’t go back to the innocent years when the wall was first built, but he could use what he was left with “TODAY.”

From that prayer, Nehemiah determined to rebuild the wall with the rubbish of its former glory. I imagine Nehemiah rummaging through the debris of the old, burned down wall, picking out burnt, but usable stones to rebuild with. It took some work, but he and a handful of faithful, tenacious men rebuilt the city wall using burnt stones from yesterday’s tragedy. Scripture records, “The wall was built” (Neh 7:1). Using “leftovers”, Nehemiah built a new wall that restored hope to his people and gave glory to God.

You thought you could never again be used as you once were. Ever since your “fire”, you declared you would not trust again, teach again, work again, speak again, write again, or love again. You’ve said that that chapter in your life had closed. Well, maybe it’s time to think again. Burnt stones are not only usable, they’re desirable.

Years after the neighborhood mansion had been leveled by fire I was invited into the new house the family had rebuilt. I was about sixteen years old when I walked through the front door into a large living room that was designed around the most beautiful fireplace I had ever seen. It was made from unusual looking, dark colored stones that rose to the ceiling, mounted with a stunning mantel made from some sort of darkened wood. It was built to overwhelm you when you walked into the room, and that it did!

“Whoa!” The words jumped out of my mouth before I realized it. The owner smiled and said, “Everybody likes the fireplace. The stones came from what was left over from the fire six years ago. And the mantelpiece is made from several floor beams that didn’t completely burn up.”

Amazing how something so beautiful can be built from scorched wood and burnt stones. You need to know that God uses burnt stones. The Lord searches through the fragments of our hardships, picking up the scraps He can use again. He helps people who have been burned to get up and rebuild their dreams and fulfill their destiny. And today, of all the people on the planet, He’s chosen you, burnt, but still beautiful. Don’t you think the time has come for you to arise and rebuild?

By William Baldwin

Meditation: And they shall rebuild the old ruins, They shall raise up the former desolations, And they shall repair the ruined cities, The desolations of many generations.Isaiah 61:4

You will succeed because Jesus loves You!

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You Are Amazing! (And I Can Prove It)

You Are Amazing! (And I Can Prove It)

Has anyone told you lately that you are truly amazing? Probably not unless you are one of the very blessed few who have at least one powerful encourager in your life that truly does care about you.

I was 6 feet tall when I was in the 7th grade. I weighed all of 140 lbs. Skinny doesn’t begin to describe it. Toothpick would come a little closer. With the unruly and wiry hair that I tried to grow long and fight to keep straight, most of my friends called me ‘Q-tip.’ You can imagine how that did wonders for my self-esteem. Yeah, not much.

I was reminded by my father that I wasn’t planned when I was born. I guess not. Three kids in LESS THAN three years. My brother was two years old, about to turn three. My sister was one year old, nine days before she turned two.

My father suffered most of his life with what we now know as bipolar disorder. Major moods swings and a plethora of attitudes that did not serve in my best interest (or anyone else’s for that matter.) He constantly reminded me that I was an “accident” and with the constant psychological abuse that he put on me, I felt more like an intruder on this planet than a little boy.

As I got older and begin to discover personal development and what it could do for me to heal my past and create my future, I begin to develop new beliefs about myself. What I discovered changed my life. I discovered that the facts proved that I was not an “accident”, but indeed, my life was/is a miracle.

I discovered through reading personal development books that the chances that I was ever conceived, to begin with, were tens of millions to one. In fact, I learned that I had beaten out somewhere between 10 and 90 million other ‘seeds’ that were all vying to fertilize one egg. Tens of millions of potential suitors and only one was going to get a date. In fact, the others were going to die. It wasn’t just a race and competition for affection. It was a battle for life.

Stop and think about this. If any other seed had fertilized that one egg, neither you nor I would be here right now. Ever wonder why you’ve always felt ”special”? Maybe you felt ”lucky”? Well, you gained access into the inner sanctum to fertilize the egg and millions of others died off who didn’t make it.

I don’t know about you, but that fact alone makes me feel pretty amazing! Now I’m not asking to you believe in some kind of esoteric, metaphysical or spiritual concept. I’m sharing this as an established fact. Go check out these stats with a medical doctor. Now, if those odds haven’t made you feel as amazing as they make me feel, then think about this.

Go back five generations in your family. That would be to a great-great-great grandparent. Having extensive genealogy records for my family, I know who my great-great-great-grandfather was and where he was born.

He was born in 1795 in Kentucky. Just 18 years after our country declared its independence. He met his wife by some set of circumstances, which I’m not aware of. Nonetheless, just imagine your own experience, or perhaps that of your parents (or grandparents) and know that the odds weren’t good that he and this particular woman got together.

Now add to the equation that the odds that they ever conceived and had the particular child that they had, were also in the one in several million odds. Now, THAT child grew up and met someone else and the process goes on and on.

My point? Imagine the odds that you ever arrived here on this planet. Trillions to one. Your life is amazing. You may not feel like it. You may feel the lowest emotions that a human can feel. Nonetheless, the FACT remains that YOU ARE A MIRACLE!!!

Perhaps in another article, I’ll get into the amazing biological, skeletal/muscular make-up of your body (which is itself a miracle.) For right now, just allow yourself to consider and deeply think about, how YOU got HERE.

You, my dear friend, are no accident. You are amazing! You were a miracle the day you began your existence on this planet. And, you still are. Most people are never taught to love themselves.

Most people are never taught to really understand how awesome they really are. Through a lot of emotional and psychological damage that we get from very ill-informed sources in this world, we never face the REALITY of who and what we really are.

I’m here, telling you, YOU ARE AMAZING! I know it. You have the talents, skills, intelligence and heart to do miracles in your own life. You have potential that you haven’t even begun to tap into its power.

You’ve likely either forgotten or, you never knew how the facts that support you as being a phenomenal being. Take some time today and think about what I’ve shared with you here. Think about the dreams, hopes, desires and incredible vision inside of your mind. I’m not asking you to ”believe” anything.

I’m just giving you the FACTS. You are amazing! You can do, be and have more than you’ve ever dreamed possible. Let yourself awakened to the TRUTH about you. Get your dreams off of the shelf and dust them off. Let them live again in your heart, soul and mind.

Keep believing that you can and will accomplish them. Then, expect them and watch your awesome life unfold.

By Michael Murphy

Meditation: I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well. – Psalm 139:14

You will succeed because Jesus loves You!

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We Can Do Hard Things

We Can Do Hard Things

We Can Do Hard Things

My family and I recently returned from a trip to Utah. During the trip, we spent much of our time at a beautiful lake near the Bear River Mountains. One day our group planned various hikes through the majestic mountains with rugged terrain and peaks that soared to nearly 10,000 feet.

With a pregnant wife and three young children, my family decided we’d stick to the flat, even surfaced three-quarter-mile hike. However, at the last minute, we decided to try the somewhat steep and rocky 8-mile hike-just to see how far we could make it before turning back. To my surprise, and with my 2-year-old son in arms nearly the entire trip, our family completed the eight-mile hike together.

In life, we are often faced with challenges and opportunities that are difficult and often seem impossible. However, our potential and capacity is amazing. Many times we underestimate or do not realize what we can do. Many times we put self-imposed limits on ourselves and fail to venture to the unknown or dare to do the impossible.

Whether it’s fear, a lack of confidence, complacency, or other reasons, we often hold back and do not push ourselves. For some reason, somewhere along our life journey, we begin to believe we cannot do hard things. I have learned through this hiking experience and other life adventures and challenges though, that we can do hard things. We can do things that are beyond our own wildest imaginations if we allow ourselves to believe and try.

At the beginning of the day, I never believed my family could or would complete the trip. I thought it would be too difficult for us, but we did it. It wasn’t always easy and at times I doubted we’d make it all the way but we did. And, because we did, we were able to view some of the most spectacular images and enjoy the peace and serenity of the mountains. We saw wildflowers blooming in colorful, luscious fields, majestic peaks soaring high above us in the air, a buck scampering across the snow in search of food, and a calm crystal-clear hidden lake.

The reward for our efforts was beauty and tranquillity all around us as well as a great sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. And for my 5 and 6-year-olds who walked the entire trip on their own, they can look back on this experience often and feel good about who they are and what they can achieve.

So what rewards are we missing because we are unwilling to do hard things? And why do we deny ourselves the incredible sense of satisfaction and accomplishment that comes from achieving difficult tasks? Our potential is great and each of us has the capacity to do great things. Let’s stop holding back and start believing that we can do hard things!

By Tim Burningham

Meditation: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. – Philippians 4:13

You will succeed because Jesus loves You!

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Do You Know Miracles?

Do You Know Miracles?

Do You Know Miracles?

People say to me when I’m telling my life struggles and amazements, “Oh yes, I know.” And what I want to say is “Really? Do you really know?” Do you know expectations, like those that come home from the hospital with that beautiful baby of what his future holds? Do you know what it is to have those expectations crossed off one by one or all at once, only to have them replaced by new ones?

Oh yes, you know expectations, but do you know hope? Do you know achievements, with all their hard work and determination, big or small or somewhere in between? Do you know what it is to spend hours on each and every baby step?

Oh yes, you know achievement, but do you know triumph? Do you know teachers and aides who give their all every day for the time they are with your child as well as hours after in planning and preparation? Do you know what it is to put 6 hours of effort into 40 minutes of success?

Oh yes, you know teachers, but do you know heroes? Do you know patience, and the endurance of cleaning up spilled milk every day for years and not crying over it or wondering if he’s doing it on purpose? Do you know what it is after years of getting milk all over your hands to go nine whole days without a single drop of milk getting spilled?

Oh yes, you know patience, but do you know joy? Do you know judgment, good or bad, in the looks of others as you help your child navigate his day? Do you know what it is to rise above the scorn and scowls and do what needs to be done when your child is having a “moment”?

Oh yes, you know judgment, but do you know strength? Do you know Christmas, and all its miracles and everything it stands for, or perhaps another holiday held sacred to you? Do you know what it is to almost lose everything, even Christmas, in the blink of an eye, but to have it returned to you?

Oh yes, you know Christmas, but do you know gratitude? Do you know love and the warm fuzzy feeling that comes with snuggling with your child when he’s getting ready for bed? Do you know what it is to read all the reports, and watch your child “blow it” at another chance at a relationship and significantly impact your relationships as well, and to love him anyway?

Oh yes, you know love, but do you know unconditional love? Do you know serenity and security in watching your child sleep, knowing they are home in your safe and loving care? Do you know what it is just hours before to have the entire Police Department and all of your friends driving around looking for your child while you pray he’s not broken in the middle of the road?

Oh yes, you know serenity, but do you know peace? Do you know words and the power of communication and emotion they create, especially those four amazing ones that tug at your heart? “I love you, Mommy.” Do you know what it is to wait for years to hear any words and even longer to hear those magic words?

Oh yes, you know words, but do you know miracles?

By Lily Belland

Meditation: And if anyone thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know.1 Corinthians 8:2

You will succeed because Jesus loves You!

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An Unusual Morning

An Unusual Morning

I got up early this morning at 4:40 am to put the finishing touches on my son’s reading fair project and to give myself time to set up the project and still get to work by 7:30. I woke the boys up earlier than usual so that they too could be ready. My youngest, who was excited, got up and immediately got dressed. My oldest on the other hand took his time.

When I finished ironing and went to take my bath, I saw him walking out of the house with no shirt on. He proceeds to ask me if I knew what time it was. I asked him to focus on getting himself ready because I was getting ready too. I also asked him to get the table out of the storage room for the display since he was walking out the door; he responded by lifting the trash that he was putting out as if to say, “I can’t my hands are full”.

Once I got dressed, while preparing to leave the house I realized that he was not ready, nor had he gotten the table out of the storage. At that very moment, though angry and disappointed, I made an active decision not to engage him. I made one comment, “All I ask for Lord is a little help”. Then I proceeded to load the car. Got the table out of the storage and instructed the youngest to make sure he had all of his things.

It took me 5 trips to the car to get everything loaded. I then jumped in the car, look both ways, and nothing was coming and pulled out of the drive. When I looked to my left, I noticed the butt of my neighbor’s car in the passenger side window. She’d backed out of her drive at the same time as I and we’d collided. We both got out of the car to assess the damage. There was no physical damage that I could see. I thanked God, and then we bid each other a good day and pulled off.

When I got to my son’s school, we unloaded the project. Again, multiple trips were made running back and forth to unload and set up. By now my time had dwindled and I still wanted to make it to work on time. As I was running to the car I noticed where she’d hit me. I had looked at the back bumper for damage and didn’t see any, but in actuality, she’d hit me on the front passenger door. I didn’t have time to check it out. I jumped in my car and asked God to please get me to work on time without getting a ticket. You see by now I only had 8 minutes to get from my son’s school to my job. Yes, I was speeding but I made it to work at exactly 7:30. Again, I thanked Jesus.

I almost dropped my head but then I saw a co-worker while walking in the building who’d given me some words of encouragement earlier in the week. His words, scripture read from Romans 12, and a quote by Helen Keller posted on My Daily Insights immediately came to mind. At that moment I decided I would be my usual self; extending my smile and bidding others a good morning.

After all, no one else needed to be affected by my misfortunes; and sympathy from others wouldn’t change a thing in this situation. My positive actions were reciprocated in the students and staff as they passed my post. Their smiles automatically made me feel better.

After morning duty, I’d calmed down and relaxed. I gathered myself and proceeded to walk out to assess the damage to my car. Another co-worker walking in the hall asked how I was, I didn’t want to lie, so I told him what had happened. He walked out to my car with me for moral support.

At first glance where the red paint from her car cover mine, it looked as if the door was bent. The same towel that I’d used to wipe off the table used for the reading fair was used to wipe off the paint from her car. Underneath the paint was no dent! I began repeatedly thanking Jesus. I even shouted. I look at my co-worker and assured him that I wasn’t crazy…just very thankful…and not ashamed to show it.

Looking back, I realized that God had answered my original prayer and extended his hand from Heaven and provided me “a little help”.

by Beverly Catchings

Meditation: Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.Psalm 50:15

You will succeed because Jesus loves You!

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