Tag Archives: happiness

How did we get so much junk?

dumpster move out

Not my move-out dumpster.

It took a couple of weeks to complete our move from Santa Monica to Van Nuys. I let the ladies handle most of the decisions of what to throw out because if left to me, everything goes. I become a vicious minimalist.

But when our deadline came and went, it was time for me to take over and throw out a dumpster full of stuff that — in theory — we might use possibly once in our lifetime given the right conditions. When it comes to junk, I’m not very sentimental. (Why are we saving the wedding dress?)

The Great Purge of the Ashcraft household raised a question: How did we get so much junk?

When we got of the plane fleeing a life as missionaries in Guatemala, we had nothing. Just clothes. The church let us stay in the parsonage. People donated furniture and stuff so we could begin to eke out a life here in the lap of luxury. It’s been six years. Apparently the accumulation and consumerism has progressed unchecked all this time. I am a guilty party: I read, for example, that a water filter made for better coffee. I could never taste the difference.

All this stuff really doesn’t improve our quality of life. It doesn’t contribute to our essential happiness. Why did I buy into the lie that another thang is going to make me happy? How did incessant consumerism possess my heart? We can’t take it with us when we die.

Far from my wife on her bday

IMG_9800There wasn’t a good time to come to Guatemala. First we determined Hosea would come with me, so we had to renew his passport. Then we looked for cheap tickets. The result? We are missing Dianna’s birthday?

We celebrated it early. Di likes Chinese, Rebekah Japanese, I Mexican, Rob red meat and Hosea Idk. So we opted for middle ground: Italian. That’s how we celebrate at the Ashcraft house.

IMG_9596

Italian food was the compromise.

I am currently in Guatemala, preaching the gospel. There are sacrifices for serving God. But these sacrifices are better than the sacrifices in the world: parents who sacrifice their kids for money, for example.

Still, I’m missing her.

Kids love candy, but…

sees-shrimp-005I was one of the boys who said I could live on candy. The chocolate, caramel, gnache created a sensation in my tongue like ecstasy.

But when I went to a birthday party and got a piece of cake that was more frosting than cake, I hit something unfamiliar. It was a dragon cake, and I looked greedily at the slice handed to me. I was lucky because everyone knows that cake is just an excuse to get frosting, right?

To my astonishment, I couldn’t finish it. To my incomprehension, it stopped being delightful. Maybe I was 8 at that party, and I didn’t know about being sugared-out, about overload. I didn’t know you could get too much of a good thing.

dragon cakeCandy is really good when you eat a little. Too much sweet is unbearable.

This generation wants all frosting. Only when we are glutted, unhappy, undelighted, burnt out do we think to put things in their proper proportions.

This is a generation that wants to throw off restrictions (like the Bible) and declare a brave new world with self-formulated morality-lessness.

David Bowie came back to the God he spent most of his life defying. While it sold records, he bragged that he met his first wife while have sex with the same guy. It’s not surprising to me he lost that marriage. As he got older, he changed. He treated his second wife much better, and she stayed with him to the end. All his life he toyed with being an atheist but could never bring himself to fully commit. His intellectual honesty wouldn’t allow him to become a full-blown atheist. Somewhere in the passing of years and onset of cancer he observed grimly: “There are no atheists on the battlefield.”

You can eat all the frosting you want. But it won’t make you happy. Whether you mock dieticians or Christians, your fight is against reality.

Through the years, I’m enjoying more and more healthy eating, salads and the like. Hopefully you can get there.

Choose the straight and narrow path

straight and narrow

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. — Matt. 7:13-14 NIV.

By “wide” we might understand “permissive of everything.” God exhorts us to a narrow path, not that I or any Christian is perfect. Far from it, we recognize our sin and ask Jesus for forgiveness. But we don’t stop calling sin sin.

Why should we choose the straight and narrow path? Because it and only it leads to Heaven.

Photo source: Original from Pinterest.

Happiness comes from fidelity to a worthy purpose

happiness | service | self gratification

Many persons have a wrong idea of what constitutes true happiness. It is not attained through self-gratification but through fidelity to a worthy purpose. — Hellen Keller

Consumerism, not the path to happiness

materialism consumerism

New stuff allures, promising happiness.

No I don’t want the new iPhone. I don’t care if it’s faster, cooler, has better features. I don’t care if people will “ooooooh” and “aaaaah” because I’m the hippest hipster. Material possessions don’t make the man.

To buy, to acquire — the hope for happiness falls flat just a few days later. Are you bored already with your Christmas gift? That’s the way it works.

Only Jesus satisfies the soul.

Love keeps no record of wrong

love keeps no record of wrongs

I don’t know which kills marriage more — being easily angered or compiling lists of offenses. The Bible prohibits both in 1 Cor. 13:5: Love is not easily angered; love keeps no record of wrong.

We mistakenly think we are winning by keeping score. Nothing could be further from the truth. By “winning” we are actually losing — our marriage.

Somebody should pre-package marriage with a warning about its toxicity, and the Centers for Poison Control should be ready to prescribe ample amounts of forgiveness and forgetfulness (in equal measure) as the antidote.

With the toxicity comes a whole of of beauty and fun, but only if you keep the antidote plenteous.

Here’s every element of the series:

Love is kind

love is kindMarried couples fall into the trap of expecting their spouse to be kind and reserving any show of kindness until then. This is path to divorce.

Remember when you were in love? No mountain was too high, no sea too stormy. You spent time thinking up new and fantastic ways to be kind to your beloved.

People tend to “let their hair down” around family, which means they’re mean. Oddly, with strangers they’re nice. Reverse this and be nice to family. Be tender to your spouse.

If you will simply be kind (even if your spouse “doesn’t deserve it”), you could set your marriage onto a path towards renewed happiness.

1 Cor. 13:4 says: Love is kind.

Here’s every element of the series:

The most beautiful woman on earth

most beautiful womanis your wife. Don’t look elsewhere. Swoon your wife like you once won her when she was your girlfriend.

Image

Measure of Success

Measure of success

Prove ’em wrong

Silence the naysayers. Pic from Pinterest

Silence the naysayers. Pic from Pinterest

I wanted to do a creative writing magazine in high school. One classmate told me I wouldn’t be able to do it. She didn’t believe in me. That piece of discouragement inspired me to carry out the project.

Every time I hit roadblocks and her got frustrated with lack of progress, her memory kicked in and gave me the energy to keep working. I had to prove wrong. Thanks for the demotivation!

Criticism hurts. But it can be turned into a help. The fact of the matter is doing good is taxing. It requires stick-to-it-iveness, boring hard work, and self-denial. What keeps you in the uphill battle? It could be someone encouraging you. And — strange as it may sound — it could be someone discouraging you.

Don't let them put out your fire! Pic from Pinterest

Don’t let them put out your fire! Pic from Pinterest

The human psyche is marvelously complex. Downers can pump you up. You can pull-off a fantastic reversal. You can’t stop people from mouthing off. But you can turn their poison into your passion.

I was very happy to see my couple of poems featured in that magazine. So were other kids. I didn’t hear anymore from the girl who didn’t think I would finish it.

Friendship and coffee

images-2I posted a challenge to the existentialists. No one every responded. Maybe they don’t think I exist.

When I posted a challenge to the atheists, they responded with fury. They are a jolly group of friends, nice guys, all of them.

I have discovered that WordPress is a great place to make friends. I am impressed by the sincerity of people. Y’all are so heartfelt.

holiday-coffee-topimages-3One of the things I enjoy with friends is sharing coffee. The Native Americans smoked the peace pipe. Some people share a beer. I savor coffee. It’s my way of bonding, a ritual for communicating how much I value the person.

christmas-coffee-03Throughout 2012, I have had some wonderful conversations with you blogger friends. We have shared in struggles and triumphs, joys and depressions. But I’m afraid inviting you to coffee in Santa Monica would be seen as creepy, so have a coffee in wherever you are to friendship!

What do we need libraries for???

These are this year’s students.

Not this year, but last, I had a class in which no one had ever been to the library. Everything is on Internet, right?

They assured me I was wasting their time. Nonetheless, to the library I took them, and the poor librarian had the devil’s day trying to persuade them that more information is actually in books. (You’d think she were describing cave paintings from the reaction of those kids.)

Add some color to your drab life!

So here’s the college-preparatory secret: to do real research, you’ll have go to the library. Good ol’ wiki doesn’t cut it. There actually is stuff worth learning that requires you to get off your bu** — um, bottom — and pay a buck for the bus. You’d be surprised what you’ll find when you break out of your comfort zone.

You’ll be surprised what you find in the depths!

You might discover there’s worthwhile stuff in the Bible. Yeah, like how to reach maximum happiness (have a successful marriage, for example!) in what they used to call the “Good Book.” Nowadays, they call it the “Hate Book,” I think.

Don’t hate the Bible! It’s still good and got great stuff useful for your life here on Earth! And, yes, it also talks about life after Earth, in case you’re interested! Break out of your comfort zone and crack the Bible today! Read a bit. Ask God to give you the revelation as to what it means. Start with Mark; it’s the story of the Main Dude in the whole Bible.

Happy reading!

 

It’s pouring out!

Thanks Deviant Art for the stunning photo!

Your life is being poured out.

On what? Paul poured his life out for others… for something of eternal value. But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you — Phil. 2:17 NIV.

Today many are pouring their lives out on the pursuit of material goods. Others on the pursuit of health. For partying. For sport. For pleasure. For enjoyment. Lives are constantly being poured out.

Each man chooses to pour out his life on what he esteems most valuable. The number of days are finite. Through improved health, we may extend our lives. Even so, it will eventually end. When you are done, what will your life have been poured out on?

Will it be something worthwhile? Nobody wants to think about the last drop. But wisdom is to think about it before we get there.

The ‘screwed generation’

Millennials

That’s what Newsweek called millennials in July. It’s makes me sick.

The premise is all wrong.  Millennials — the latest generation — are NOT going to achieve the home or lifestyle of their parents. For the first time since WW2, a shrinking middle classmeans kids won’t exceed

Hey! Wipe that smile off your face! Newsweek says you can’t be happy!

previous generations in material wealth.

So they’re screwed, Newsweek says. As if money were the key to happiness.

Why does no one question the premise??? Money is NOT the key to happiness. We can be happier than

That’s much better! Cry for less money!

our parents with less money. It’s okay. It’s not the end of the world.

The artist is happy, though nearly starving, because she does what she loves. The humble blogger is happy, though not a famous author, because he does what he loves. Happiness derives from family, from marriage, from a

Ok, seriously, go ahead and enjoy life.

satisfying usefulness in life, from a passion pursued. But the media hammers incessantly that bucks bring joy. There have been millions of miserable millionaires.

Do what you love and don’t buy the line that you should be unhappy just because you have less. It’s baloney!

The Master said: Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions — Luke 12:15 NIV.

American beauty at its best!

Plastic surgery still can’t compete with plastic?

You might want to live for something truly worthwhile.

Just pull the plug — don’t

Success depends on putting up with interminable outrages.

Dash the the notion that success is 99% perspiration, etc. — hackneyed axiom.

People fail at marriage because they can’t take it anymore — only to remarry and have similar or new intolerable problems. People quit church because of ill-treatment  — only to find new roughness at another, or worse, stop going altogether.

But success at personal relationships — which accounts for probably 90% of our true happiness — depends on the ability to overlook and/or forgive offenses. This life ability is not taught in our schools or lauded in our culture, which values only genius and has the patience of a subatomic particle.

The Bible, widely discredited in today’s world, has incredible wisdom for us nevertheless that, if we could open our minds enough to ignore the nay-sayers for just a little, would help us in the area we most need. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, PATIENCE… — Gal. 5:22 NIV. After these greats (love, joy, peace) comes the much-maligned, oft-overlooked quality of patience. If we could have more patience, we would stop blowing up our lives.

Calling it quits is no solution. It’s running away. It doesn’t solve any thing. We need to recover the stick-to-itiveness of previous generations. America became great in part because of perseverance, not the current-day cry-baby syndrome.

So what do you call a person who doesn’t put up with trash from anyone? Answer: lonely.