3 Steps to Being Happy with What You Have

What is happiness? Is happiness attainable? Is it something I can give to someone else? In other words, can I make someone else happy? Or, do I need something—whatever it is—to make me happy?

These questions I will try to answer with this short article about being happy with what you have.

1. Throw Away Envy and Ambition

Remember how you felt when you received that shiny new phone for Christmas? You had resolved that nothing in the world could ever take away your happiness.

That is, until you saw someone else using the upgraded version. Now, you want one, too.

Envy and jealousy are like poison to happiness. No matter what, someone will always have it better.

3 Steps to Being Happy with What You HaveThe best way to fight the urge to compare oneself with another is to take life one day at a time. Satisfaction comes from realizing today’s problems and successes are for today. As the cliché goes, tomorrow is another day—another day to fail, another day to succeed.

As I believe Jesus is the son of God, I also look to the bible for wisdom. James 3:16 says, “For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice” NIV.

There is nothing wrong with planning. Wise stewards plan. But if planning leads to wanting to be better than others, then there will be no happiness.

Throw away envy and ambition and allow happiness to flood your heart and your mind.

2. Stop Humanizing God

There was a time in my life that I used to think God did not know what he was doing. I saw all the misery around the world, the pain people suffered and I did not believe God could ever fix this mess.

It was too great, even for him.

Thinking that way led me to invalidate God and ask that if he could not fix the world, how could he fix me? In a sense, I humanized God.

Making God equal with me made the thought of his inaction bearable.

I was wrong. Once I began to know God and to learn why he did the things he did, by reading his word, praying, going to church, I learned about real happiness.

I learned God does things in his own time. He allows things to happen because it suits his plan. I may not understand it all, but I know his decisions will make sense to me eventually.

Having the faith that God will work things for the best is my reassurance he loves me and is greater than me or anyone else. I may be a sinner, I may stumble and fall, but he will never leave me. He has never left me, nor will he ever.

That reassurance is another layer to my happiness.

3. Be Grateful

Have you ever exercised and found yourself exhausted to the point that you would give anything for a glass of water? Think about how it felt when you finally took that first gulp.

Satisfying. Thirst-quenching. Happiness.

For a single moment in time, nothing else really mattered. The neighbors could have been bickering, your car payment could have been late and your dog could have suddenly developed a case of worms.

But, for that moment—you were grateful.

Imagine carrying that grateful feeling throughout the day—all the time.

You would not complain about the noisy passenger on the train next to you. You would give food to the homeless sitting at the street corner. You would forgive those who had done you wrong.

Your life, as you know it, would change all because you were grateful with what you had.

You would not worry about money. You would not worry about peace. You would not worry about anything, really

When you are grateful, everything else falls into place.

When you are grateful—there is no reason to be unhappy.

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How to Love Unconditionally

What does unconditional love mean? How does it apply to those people who have harmed us? We could easily dismiss them and move forward. That is a realistic choice.

But how different would that make us from everyone else?

Would it not be more constructive to love our enemies in spite of their hatred toward us.

The high road is a far better road on which to travel.

Of course, we could never reach this decision without some help.

Love God

I recently read in the bible a reminder of what it means to love unconditionally.

Matthew 22:37-39 says, “Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” (NIV).

To love God—to really love God—means to do his will. His will is for us to worship him with joy and gladness in our heart.

And why not?

How to Love UnconditionallyHe sustains all things, great and small. His power infuses life in the largest of galaxies to the tiniest of particles. He set laws in motion for us to experience the wildest of sunsets to the most incredible of sunrises. His hand glides over the oceans imbuing his strength to the deep, so as we may marvel at his glorious handiwork.

When I kneel before him, I give him praise for his wonderful majesty over my life.

I would not be breathing, if it were not for him.

I learned unconditional love by his love for me. I did not ask God to love me. He does it because that is who he is.

God is love.

Once I learned that, loving others came easy.

Love Others

Oh, what a world it would be if there were no more wars. Oh, what a life it would be if we could only resolve hatred in our hearts instead of on the battlefield.

When we reach that point in our lives that it makes more sense to allow God to work in us than to take matters into our own hands, that is when we finally allow love to work his will in our relationships.

God is love.

If God lives in us, it is easy to let a slight pass. It is easy to say to those emboldened to offend us, “I forgive you.” It is easy to see the other person’s point of view. It is easy to understand their actions. It is easy to fall asleep at night and not hold on to things for the next day. It is easy to make amends with those who do not want to make amends.

It is easy because unconditional love does not hurt, destroy, ridicule, hate, put down, torment, or devastate.

Unconditional love is just that.

Love.

There Is Hope

I would like to take a few minutes to talk about something that has been a weight on my heart for quite some time. Many of you may want to skim through this post to get to the point, but I know that if you read every word and listen to what I have to say, God will truly bless you.

"The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit." (Psalms 34:18 ESV)
“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” (Psalms 34:18 ESV)

This year has been good to me. I found God again, I returned to church, and I have a whole new set of people of whom I now count as my friends. I have learned all about forgiveness, love and joy beyond that which is superficial. I am also able to worship God with arms spread wide toward the heavens, much as I have read David had done countless occasions when he praised God.

Consequently, I have also made changes in my life that I could not have made had I not received the Holy Spirit earlier this fall to help me with my daily walk with the most high God.

Now, it may seem obvious that I would want to talk about how God has changed my life, given how I used to write about horror and all its variations, however, at this time, I do not feel God is leading me to do that. I am sure there will be a period in my life when I will have the opportunity to talk all about my change from being self-centered to thinking about others. I just feel now is not that time.

Therefore, if I am not going to talk about what is on everyone’s mind, why even write this post at all?

A Calling from God

With the Holy Spirit leading me, I believe God has a plan for each person reading this post today. He has never been shy to reveal to me what his intentions are concerning my life. Somehow, I believe, some of you need to hear these words. Perhaps he is also revealing to you through me your calling to reach out to him for comfort.

I know life is hard. Life is tough—especially now. For some of you, Christmas is a dark time of year. The lights mask the loneliness you feel when everyone is telling you that you ought to be joyful. Yet, how can you feel joy if nothing exists in your heart but emptiness? Yes, the gifts are aplenty, the food is delicious, and the company you entertain during the holidays may make it seem as if you lead a fulfilling life. Still, the emptiness remains.

Conversely, some of you may not even have enough money to purchase the simple necessities, let alone a gift for someone. Your families may also be broken, which makes getting together a chore, rather than a delight.

I am here to tell you there is hope (Eph. 1:11-12).

God Comforts the Brokenhearted

God is love (1 John 4:16). He is here for those who are looking for comfort (2 Cor. 1:3-4). He is here to heal the brokenhearted (Ps. 34:18). He is here never to let you go. He really, really does love you, in spite of it all. You may feel that you have done the worst thing in the world, but if you come before God and sincerely confess your wrongs, he will forgive you (Acts 2:38). He always does. All he wants is to have a relationship with you.

Forget about not feeling worthy. Forget about the guilt. Allow God to give you wings so that you can fly (Isa. 40:31). Allow his light to flood the darkness and provide you the freedom to escape your troubles (John 8:12).

There is no other God than he (Deut. 4:35). He created the heavens and the earth (Isaiah 42:5). He set the earth on its foundations (Job 38:4-6) and separated the day from the night (Gen. 1:5). He made everything under the sun (Isaiah 44:24) and breathed life into our lungs (Gen. 2:7). He is the awesome God. And his life lives in every one of us who believes (John 3:16). His mercy is just and his righteousness endures forever (Ps. 111:2-3).

In the good and the bad, all glory goes to God.

Somehow, and you know who you are, you needed to hear this.

Miracles

Do you believe in miracles? I never did. In fact, there was a time I thought those who experienced a healing actually fell under some kind of self-hypnosis. I dismissed it as nothing more than an ol’ fashioned parlor trick found in a fantasy like The Wizard of Oz.

It goes that way until it happens to you. You never think it will happen to you. And sometimes, the little miracles in life convicts one into believing in the very thing he or she discredited in the first place.

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” (Mark 10:27 ESV)
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” (Mark 10:27 ESV)

Little Miracle #1

Some time ago, in celebration of my birthday, Luana and the kids treated me to lunch at one of the hotspots here in town. The food was great, the company I kept was satisfying, and the service was beyond exceptional. Shortly after the main course, the server came by our table and asked me if I had decided what dessert I wanted, given Luana had mentioned why we were there in the first place. I said I had not decided and we agreed the server would surprise me. Several minutes later, I was regretting my decision, but it had nothing to do with receiving the dessert. The server had not brought it yet. I was thinking, since the treat would be free, I imagined I would be receiving a simple scoop of ice cream, or one of those sweet cookies instead. Then I thought, I should have ordered my favorite—cheesecake. I imagined it dished with no topping except for strawberries and syrup on the side. I really had it in mind of what it would look like and mentioned it to my family.

What happened next left me in awe. The server had brought me a plate of cheesecake, strawberries and syrup on the side, and a big sparkler in the center.

Obviously, I was praising God all the way home.

Little Miracle #2

Recently, I took a vacation. The first two days were nothing short of awful. I fell ill with aches, chills, a fever, and a nasty headache. Two days later, I felt much better, except for the headache. It just would not go away. That same evening, I had fallen on my knees asking God for relief. I asked him to remove whatever was causing the pain so as I may not only feel better, but serve him in the way he wanted me to serve him.

It did not help. That is when I decided to bring in the big guns.

I immediately went to Luana. She knew what to do. She laid her hands on my neck and the back of my head, where I told her the headache rested, and prayed aloud. She proclaimed God’s promise of healing asking for the removal of not only the pain but the condition that was causing the pain. I believed with my whole heart that through her intercession my faith would heal me.

At the end of the prayer, after she had called on Jesus’ name, I soon headed back to bed. I did not even make it into the bedroom. The headache was gone. No pain. No weird sensations. Gone.

Other things have happened to me that I would classify as miracles. Rather than list those events, however, I am going to do something altogether different.

Jesus’ Miracles

Below are Jesus’ miracles listed in the gospel of Mark:

Missing is Jesus’ transfiguration (Mark 9:2-13), his prediction Peter would deny him three times (Mark 14:26-31), and many others. Mind you, I have listed these miracles from the gospel of Mark only. It goes without saying there are other miracles Jesus performed that I have not mentioned, detailed in the gospels of Matthew, Luke and John, such as Jesus turning water into wine (John 2:1-11).

Reading about all the miracles Jesus performed while he was here on earth inspires me to appreciate how God intervenes in people’s lives, even if it is surprising me with a slice of cheesecake with a side of strawberry sauce for my birthday, or healing me suddenly of a headache. God knows the needs of his children. He goes out of his way to make his children happy. And if God chooses to bless his children with a small or large miracle, it is entirely up to him.

A miracle is a miracle. It still shows how much God loves his children.

A Change in Heart

How does one go from writing about zombies to writing about God? Specifically, how did it happen to me? Believe me when I say, I did not go out of my way looking for it. I was curious, but not to the point where my life would make a drastic about face. Only a miracle could have done that. And earlier this year, I was not into miracles.

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16 ESV).
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 ESV).

Yet, when you see your life slowly spiraling out of control, when once things made sense but now it is nothing more than a jumble of disconnected events, when your legs break from under you to reveal a foundation constructed out of rot, that is when miracles happen.

For me it happened when I began reading the bible from cover to cover, a lofty goal I had wanted to achieve since my early teens. Never had the notion entered my mind that I would not accomplish such a feat until later in life, but I held firm to the hope that I would find the opportunity. Eventually, with the success of my book series underway, my relationships with other people went in another direction. I could have been a better person, but I was not. For a while there, not only was I in a bad place with those around me, but I was also in a bad place with God.

What can I say other than I was thinking only about myself. I recognize that now. Back then, I did not.

Nevertheless, things began to happen to me late last year when I was in the middle of reading the gospels. Matthew 5-7 hit me hard. The simplicity of verses like, “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you” (Matt. 7:1-2) prompted me to consider a time when I will not be alive, but will be standing before the throne of God to account for everything I had done while living on this puny planet called Earth (Matt. 12:36-37).

My life took a sudden and abrupt shift when I went from focusing on me to focusing on other people and God. It was not until April that I finally fell to my knees with the realization that I was a sinner in desperate need of God’s forgiveness. I knew then that no matter what I did, I could never earn salvation, but through his grace, God is willing to give it freely to everyone who repents (Eph. 1:7-10).

King David echoes my experience in Psalms:

“For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Ps. 51:16-17).

Will I ever go back to writing about zombies? Maybe, since I always thought of them as sin incarnate seeking humans to corrupt. But that may not be for a while. For now, I am happy to write about God and his awesome plan for those who are searching for real peace.

I Praise Him

When I worship God, I stretch my hands in the air and thank him. I thank him for my life. I thank him for my family. But most of all, I thank him for my relationship with him. That, had it not been for him believing in me, I would not be where I am today—praising him with every breath I draw into my lungs.

"The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him" (Revelation 22:2-3 ESV throughout).
“The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him” (Revelation 22:2-3 ESV throughout).

David did the same, except I have yet to dance as he did when he defeated the Philistines to return the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem (2 Sam. 6:14, 16, 20-23).

That day was special. That day, the Lord God fought on David’s behalf and won (2 Sam. 5:17-25).

Now, when I praise God, I praise him for fighting for me. I have the reassurance that he will not leave me or forsake me, and just as he had done with David, he will send his armies before me to make the way clear so that it seems as if I have accomplished it all on my own.

It sounds crazy. I agree. But after seven months of God’s constant intervention in my life, healing me of my neck problem, ridding my heart of bitterness, exiling those who despised me into utter darkness, he has yet to fail me:

“It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed” (Deut. 31:8).

And I will continue to praise him, lifting my arms in true thanksgiving for extending his mercy over my life and the lives of those in my family, just as it says in (Ps. 148:1-4):

“Praise the Lord from the heavens;
Praise him in the heights!
Praise him, all his angels;
Praise him, all his hosts!
Praise him, sun and moon,
Praise him, all you shining stars!
Praise him, you highest heavens,
And you waters above the heavens!”

Therefore, I pray also that he, too, may bless and fight for all of you as he has done for me because his mercy is great and his reach is infinite.

The Bible: Cover to Cover

When I set out to read the bible from cover to cover last year, I did not know I would be in for a few surprises.

"Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life" (Gen. 9:14-15 NIV).
“Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life” (Gen. 9:14-15 NIV).

For instance, I had no idea that Job lived before Abraham, in spite of the fact that the Book of Job is located several hundred pages after Genesis. In addition, it was a revelation to me that after the flood, God declared that all animals would fear humans (Gen. 9:2 ESV throughout). And the thought that an honorable man such as Jabez, whose name meant “man of sorrow” or “borne out of pain”, had two verses written about him to demonstrate God’s blessings over his life (1 Chr. 4:9-10), left me wondering what else in the bible have I yet to discover?

The reading plan I used to accomplish this feat is part of the Olive Tree Bible Study app, which resides on my phone and on my tablet. I simply chose a chronological reading plan that consisted of the English Standard Version (ESV). When I travelled, I read it on my phone, sync’d it with my Olive Tree account, then, when I returned home, I picked it up from where I left off on my tablet. Even today, it makes for a seamless experience.

Choosing to read the bible chronologically has its advantages, too. I gained an incredible amount of insight into historical events when reading about the same story through two different accounts. I did not have to understand why certain things happened the way they did because the context remained the same throughout. The chronological reading plan is especially helpful when working through the Books of Kings and the Books of Chronicles, as the reign of kings can be quite confusing when studying it in a non-linear fashion.

All history aside, though, my favorite part of the bible is the gospels. In the gospels Jesus talks about how to get along with others (Mat. 5:43-48), how to have a relationship with God (Mat. 6:5-15), and what the ultimate goal for believers should be (Mat. 6:19-21).

And, of course, one of my favorite verses I cling to comes from the gospels:

“Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you” (Luke 6:38).

In its basic form, it means that whatever I give is what comes back to me. I can attest that this principle works every single time I use it—and it does not apply to money only.

Anyway, I learned all these things in my first year reading the bible from cover to cover. I am hoping after having read the New International Version (NIV) this year, I will have something more to say about the experience.

In the meantime, I will quote this verse as my last thought for this post: “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor” (Rom. 12:10).