Posts Tagged ‘Happiness’

Happiness and religion

I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go into the house of the LORD.” Psalm 122:1 (NKJV)


A new sturdy has confirmed much previous research which has shown that joining a religious group could do more to provide “sustained happiness” than other types of social activities such as taking a class, volunteering for charity, or even playing sports.  Some people believe that the benefit is derived from being involved in some group, club or organization.  However, as Eun Kyung Kim[i] writes, “going to church, mosque, or synagogue regularly often provides a more reliable boost in mental welfare than belonging to an active group like a book club, political organization or a sports team.”

Mauricio Avendano, an epidemiologist and part of the research team of the London School of Economics and Erasmus University Medical Center in the Netherlands, explains that “The church appears to play a very important social role in keeping depression at bay and also as a coping mechanism during periods of illness in later life.”

American psychologist Jennifer Harstein added that “Our religious affiliation is something that’s longer term. You can go, you can leave, it’s always there.  It’s sustained, like the happiness, whereas a sports group ends. It might be seasonal. Or a volunteer opportunity might end.”  Simply being part of a group or a team helps us to have some sort of meaning and purpose.  But she also clarifies that a religious faith tends to reach a deeper level for those who participate in it.  The spiritual experiences, such as prayer and the study of God’s word and worshipping together as a church family “all those kinds of things help change our brain chemistry, help us be less depressed, less anxious, and more centered and that is all good for all of us.”

In addition, the study found that religion also helps ease symptoms of depression and help the sick cope better with their illness because, as one of the researchers said, houses of worship often help lessen people’s burdens by sharing them with the church family.  We help each other carry them.  As one of my professors used to say, “Pain shared is pain divided.”

Father God, thank you for creating the church to sustain us in our time of need.  Help us to also be of help to those who need us.

[i] http://www.today.com/health/study-religion-faith-can-help-provide-sustained-happiness-t39036

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Smell Happiness

And he came near and kissed him; and he smelled the smell of his clothing, and blessed him and said: “Surely, the smell of my son Is like the smell of a field Which the LORD has blessed. Genesis 27:27 (NKJV)

European researchers have learned that happiness may generate chemicals that get secreted in sweat, and that sweat signal gets sniffed by those around us.  Evidently we not only breathe in the upbeat emotions of others, but by doing so we actually become happier ourselves.

As Alan Mozes[i] reports, research has already demonstrated that negative emotions, such as fear or disgust, can be communicated via odors in sweat.  In the study, however, sweat didn’t always produce a contagious response in the smeller.

So, what is it exactly that makes “happy sweat” infectious?  The authors of the study acknowledge that they have not demonstrated what the nature of the “happy” chemical compound is in sweat.  But what the study suggests is that a positive emotion can be communicated, not just with body language or words by through a person’s smell.  When you think about it, hearing happy people and seeing happy people makes us happier, so we can intuitively conclude that smelling a happy person would make us happier.

The prophet Ezekiel speaks of God’s feelings for His remnant, “I will accept you as a sweet aroma when I bring you out from the peoples and gather you out of the countries where you have been scattered; and I will be hallowed in you before the Gentiles. 42Then you shall know that I am the Lord, when I bring you into the land of Israel, into the country for which I raised My hand in an oath to give to your fathers.” (Ezekiel 20:41-42)  The happiness of His people bring Him happiness.

In family life, it brings us happiness to see our loved ones are happy, and it worries and saddens us when we see sorrow in them.  This study shows that even the smell of our happy loved ones can make feel happier.

Father God, may the happiness of our loved us be not just a wonderful sight but a sweet smell to us.

[i] http://www.webmd.com/balance/news/20150526/do-people-transmit-happiness-by-smell?ecd=wnl_sxr_053015&ctr=wnl-sxr-053015_nsl-ld-stry_1&mb=K2VcbkxhrhREAZ5zC2UpheHnVev1imbCHYS8QQY8uqo%3d

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Scripture: The beginning of strife is like releasing water; Therefore stop contention before a quarrel starts. (Proverbs 17:14)

Observation: Another one of the many wise saying from Solomon contained in this book.

Application: How many times we wished we had not said something?  How many times we wished we had not had an argument with our spouse, particularly when we know we started it, when we know we know we were wrong to begin with and now we don’t know how to fix it?
Solomon’s advice is so good and practical and one we should keep in mind.  One strife, or an argument, or a fight begins, it is so hard to stop it before it cause harm to one, both, or to the relationship.  Words fly, feelings are hurt, resentment sets in, forgiveness is hard to come, peace and harmony take a while to return.  It is so much easier to stem the flow before it is too late.  Instead, PRACTICE THE PREVENTION RULE.  Benjamin Franklin was on target when he stated, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”  We must learn to resolve conflict before it starts. God’s instruction on this point is clear: “The beginning of strife is like the letting of water. Stop the flow before it starts. Quit before the quarrel breaks out.”  – Proverb 17:14
Here are some suggestions:
1. LOOK FOR AREAS WHERE YOU ARE TO BLAME.  When you look for your responsibility in the conflict, it causes the other party to soften and often come to your defense.
• Is it a Worthy Battle? Proverb 19:11 – PICK YOUR BATTLES. Those with good sense are slow to anger, and it is their glory to overlook an offense.    (Proverbs 19:11 NRSV)  Is this really a big deal? Do you want to have conflict over this? Is it really worth the anxiety and agony? Anyone who has ever played basketball knows that during a game there is going to be what is called “incidental contact.”
• Am I Wrong?  Be quick to say “I was wrong.” If you say that simple phrase to your family members, it will open a highway of opportunity for real discussion. If you are wrong, admit it. It isn’t a big deal. Sometimes we’re wrong. By admitting it, we will stop the flow of conflict. . . . immediately.
• Should I React or Respond? To React – Instinct, Impulse, or To Respond – Takes Thought.  When we react, we don’t think, we just act! There is a huge difference between reacting and responding. To react requires no intelligence, only instinct. But to respond, you have to get that three-pound chunk of gray matter in your head involved. Responding requires time; it takes the facts. Only when you respond will you have a chance to resolve conflict.  In conflict, too many of us react when we should respond. Be certain you respond; don’t just react with a knee-jerk, thoughtless reply.
• What Difference Is this Going to Make in My Life in Three Days? What Impact Will it Have in Five Years?   Many times, if you will ask these two questions, you’ll find that what might have been a ridiculous conflict is simply not worth the battle in the scheme of the big picture.  In his classic book,  Brave New World, Aldous Huxley made a very intriguing observation: “When two parties argue for an extended period of time, both are wrong.”  Philippians 2:14 admonishes us to do all things without   complaining   and disputing.  When you say the right thing in the wrong way, it becomes the wrong thing to say even though it might be right!

Here are a few suggestions as to how to say things more effectively to one another.

• Use the Still, Small Voice.  If we got down close to the ear of our child and whispered, the power of those words was amazing. The spirit in your heart affect’s the tone of your voice. If you’re filled with unresolved bitterness and resentment, it will come out in your voice.  Lower your voice. Take a deep breath and speak in measured tones. If you’re in a rage, step away and calm down. No one listens when you’re shouting, but everyone does when you whisper.  Watch your body language and eye contact. A certain demeaning toss of the head or look in the eye can make the hearer angry and defensive.
• Maintain Your Sense of Humor.  We can resolve many conflicts by simply allowing ourselves to laugh at the circumstance and at ourselves.
• Don’t Get Personal.  Don’t say irresponsible things about each other with the intent to hurt and
demean. That’s attacking the person, not the issue at hand.  Address the issue, not the individual.
• Don’t Bring up the Past.  Don’t bring up issues from the past and attempt to use them in the current conflict to win the verbal battle and bolster your position.
• Don’t Get off the Subject.  Don’t get off the subject by widening your argument to issues unrelated to the current conflict and discussion.  * Remember, he who angers you controls you.  Anyone can take away your freedom, but remember, the most important human freedom is your freedom to choose your attitude in any circumstance.
• Avoid Statements That Are Impossible to Defend.  One person may say, “I asked you to pick me up at school.” The other may reply, “No, you didn’t!” The first person responds, “Yes, I did!” This interaction is endless and fruitless. Make sure your statements are the truth.
• Avoid Six Fatal Phrases:
1. “You always. . . .”  No one always does anything.
2. “You never. . . .”  Again, you cannot accurately use the word “never” about another person’s behavior or choices.
3. “You should/could have. . . .”  Stay out of the past. How can you rationally discuss something someone “should” have  done? You can’t go back. Operate in the present.
4. “Why didn’t you. . . .”  – You can’t rewind the clock. . . .  This statement is certainly not part of a good, healthy conversation.  If you ask a person, “Why didn’t-you. . . .?” there is no way they can “rewind” the experience and fix what they have already done. It is a waste of breath.
5. “I would have. . . .”  Now you’re getting arrogant. “I” would have done it this way or that way. “I” wouldn’t have made that mistake. This remark only separates you and your listener even more and breaks down any chance for productive interaction.
6. “You make me. . . .” – No one makes you!  This one’s a real dandy. Talk about taking away all responsibility for personal behavior.  This statement is the king of them all! No one makes anyone else do anything. We choose. We are in control of our own actions and choices. Instead of saying, “You make me…,” say to the other person, “I feel…,” and explain your emotions from your perspective.

Replace Those Six Phrases with These.
1. “In the future…”  This is a proactive statement. It gives both of you a positive position for a beneficial conversation and takes the defensiveness and sting of accusation out of your interaction. For example say: “In the future, would you please leave my keys on my desk and not in the car?”
2. “Next time…”  You cannot change what has already happened. There are no magic wands in families which will unspill the milk or magically erase a word or deed. For a more positive approach to how you say things, try this. For example, say: “The next time you find out you will be late picking me up after work, I would really appreciate it if you would call and let me know.”
3. “What would have to happen…” – Open-Ended Gives the other person a chance to respond.
A person who is given the opportunity to think about their ideas, thoughts, position, or interest in a matter will be much more open to what you have to say. This phrase is one of our most important suggestions related to how you talk to someone. For example say:  “What would have to happen for you to be more helpful around the house with the children?”

Prayer: Father, help us to stop fights and arguments before they begin and thus maintain the peace in our homes we all long for so that they will be a haven of rest for all who dwell within.

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Scripture: (Gen 29:17 NKJV)  Leah’s eyes were delicate, but Rachel was beautiful of form and appearance.

Observation: The words that describe Leah have been debated for many years by many commentators.  Some believe that Leah had soft blue eyes, which were considered a blemish.  In The New Manners and Customs of the Bible it says that, “The tender eyes of Leah, as so translated in the KJV, were actually eyes that were visually weak or lacked luster—dull and unimpressive eyes. This was considered to be a great defect among those who admired sparkling eyes that were lively and flashing. That Leah’s eyes were compared to Rachel’s beauty obviously meant there was no beauty in them and that Leah herself was probably plain in face and form compared to her sister.”  The SDA Bible Commentary explains that, “The Hebrew word rak, here translated “tender” by the KJV, has usually been understood to mean “weak” or “dull.” Ever since the LXX employed this translation most commentators and translators have followed it. The word rak also means “delicate,” “gentle,” “soft,” and “flattering,” and may perhaps mean that her eyes looked the precise opposite of what most commentators have thought. However, the fact that Jacob was not attracted to Leah would indicate more of a contrast between the two sisters than this latter suggestion implies. Perhaps Leah’s eyes, and her personality as well, lacked the brilliance and lustrous warmth the Oriental admires. The RSV renders the word as “weak.”
The verse gives us a contrast between the two sisters which may explain why Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah.  He had met and fallen in love with Rachel first, he had been tricked by Laban to take Leah – which might have caused Jacob to despised her even more.  We know there were constant disputes over their marital rights between Leah and Rachel, and later, with the addition of their two maidservants, and the birth of all thirteen children, tensions rose even higher.
In The Story of Redemption, Ellen White makes some interesting comments about this situation: “Jacob was not happy in his marriage relation, although his wives were sisters. He formed the marriage contract with Laban for his daughter Rachel, whom he loved. After he had served seven years for Rachel, Laban deceived him and gave him Leah. When Jacob realized the deception that had been practiced upon him, and that Leah had acted her part in deceiving him, he could not love Leah. Laban wished to retain the faithful services of Jacob a greater length of time, therefore deceived him by giving him Leah, instead of Rachel. Jacob reproved Laban for thus trifling with his affections, in giving him Leah, whom he had not loved. Laban entreated Jacob not to put away Leah, for this was considered a great disgrace, not only to the wife, but to the whole family.  Jacob was placed in a most trying position, but he decided to still retain Leah, and also marry her sister. Leah was loved in a much less degree than Rachel. {SR 89-90}

Application: Leah desired the love of her husband.  This is obvious as she names her sons:(Gen 29:32-35 NKJV)
Reuben: “The LORD has surely looked on my affliction. Now therefore, my husband will love me.”
Simeon: “Because the LORD has heard that I am unloved, He has therefore given me this son also.”
Levi: “Now this time my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.”
Judah: “Now I will praise the LORD.”

While we read that Jacob loved Rachel, we never read that She loved him.  That is not to say that she didn’t, but her bitterness spilled over into her marriage as she demands of Jacob, (Gen 30:1-25 NKJV)  “Give me children, or else I die!” Finally she decides to give Jacob her maid, and again, the names of Bilhah’s children reflect Rachel’s bitterness, particularly toward her sister:

Dan: “God has judged my case; and He has also heard my voice and given me a son.”
Naphtali: “With great wrestlings I have wrestled with my sister, and indeed I have prevailed.”

Zilpah, Leah’s maid, now enters in this marital battle, and bears Jacob two more sons, but then Leah also bears Jacob a couple more sons:

Issachar: “God has given me my wages, because I have given my maid to my husband.”
Zebulun: “God has endowed me with a good endowment; now my husband will dwell with me, because I have borne him six sons.”

It must be a very heavy burden to be unloved by their spouse.  And yet Leah did not leave or divorce Jacob.  Their children enjoyed the stable home, living with their father and mother.  It was a large, blended family, but they were able to live with their biological parents.  Children of divorce suffer in many different aspects of their lives – financially, emotionally, educationally, etc.  Once we have brought children into this world, we must do everything we can to provide them with a loving home, with their biological parents to protect them, to provide for them, to help them and encourage them.  Pray that you may be loved by your spouse, but most importantly, display love for your spouse; we are responsible for our feelings and actions, not for those of the other person.

Prayer: Father of love, help us to show our spouse how much we love them, and when negative thoughts and feeling creep up upon us, help us to defeat them and grow in us Your love for our spouse.  Bless us, our marriage and our home, that we may provide our children a good, warm, stable home, one where them may feel safe knowing their parents won’t abandon them.  Help us to show them through our example that in spite of conflict, we can remain together and keep our commitment to one another and to You to live together until death do us part.  And may this example break the cycle of divorce that permeates so many families today.

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Scripture: (1 Sam 17:45-47 NKJV)  Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. {46} “This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you and take your head from you. And this day I will give the carcasses of the camp of the Philistines to the birds of the air and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. {47} “Then all this assembly shall know that the LORD does not save with sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s, and He will give you into our hands.”

Observation: Goliath, the Philistine giant, taunted the Israelites and their God.  David, who had come to bring some food for his brothers accepted Goliath’s challenge.  Both sides of the battle field were drawn and watched as the two contenders came face to face: on the one side Goliath, a large man with great experience in battle; on the other, young shepherd David.  Goliath, presumptuous and arrogant, threatened David, and being self-confident, he took his helmet off.  David, whose faith was child-like, relied not on the king’s armor by on God’s power to defeat this giant.  David used what he was skilled at and what was at hand – a sling and five smooth stones, but all he needed was one which found it’s target on the head of the giant who fell down and was decapitated by David.

Application: We not have to battle a Goliath, but during these times of economic uncertainties, high unemployment, etc., just surviving seems like we’re fighting an invincible giant.  I have some suggestions that could help you, if you apply them to your personal and family finances:
1. Transfer Ownership of Everything to God.
All things that we have  belong to God; we are the stewards!  Nothing really belonged to us. Our house, cars, clothing, children, and jobs were all gifts from a loving father and we were simply stewards of those gifts.  A steward knows that his responsibility is to care for the possessions of the owner. He never sees them as his own. God gives to us not so we can possess, keep, and hoard them, but so that we can be vessels and pipelines of His blessing to others. When we are trustworthy, it makes it possible for Him to bless us even more. His ownership has a single goal: to use all of His resources to be a blessing to His children.
2. Tithe and Give Offerings Joyously.
You don’t have to understand all about how tithing works; you just need to know that it does. Read 2 Corinthians 9:6-8. God “prefers” our giving and tithing to be accompanied by which characteristic?
3. Work Hard.
God intended us to learn this important value of character. According to God’s plan for the family, we are to earn our bread by the toil and sweat of our brow. Work is satisfying, molds character, and develops gratitude, appreciation, and value.
4. Make a Realistic Budget and Keep Accurate Records.
The culprit in family finance problems is not the big-ticket items. It is the steady drip, drip, drip of spending on little purchases that no one tracks. You hit the ATM machine all weekend and end up broke on Monday with no idea where the money went. The absence of an accurate record of spending keeps couples from making good financial decisions.
5. Get out from under the Bondage of Debt.
Your attitude toward money will make a huge difference in the success or failure of your family. A familiar phrase from wedding ceremonies, ‘”Til death us do part,” has tragically become, “Til debt us do part!”  If you have credit card bills which have built up to thousands of dollars, and you no longer even have the disposable items that created the debt, that is the bondage debt about which we speak. If the item for which you went into debt does not provide collateral that is worth more than the indebtedness held against it, you have a problem in the making. To get out of debt, follow these principles:
• Pay Your Bills.
• Get Help.
• Change Your Lifestyle.

May you be victorious as you battle the economic giant that threaten to consume us and our family.

Prayer: Father, everything there is belongs to You and yet You give us so much of it for our benefit.  May we never forget to return joyfully the small portion You require of us, and help us to give generously so that others may come to know You.

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Scripture: “Now it shall come to pass, if you diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God, to observe carefully all His commandments which I command you today, that the Lord your God will set you high above all nations of the earth. 2And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, because you obey the voice of the Lord your God: 3“Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the country.  4“Blessed shall be the fruit of your body, the produce of your ground and the increase of your herds, the increase of your cattle and the offspring of your flocks.  (Deuteronomy 28:1-4 NKJV)

Observation: Chapter 27 contains a series of curses on those who transgress God’s laws.  Chapter 28 contains the corresponding blessings on those who obey God’s commands.  On our passage today, I particularly like the first words of vs. 9 – “The Lord will establish you as a holy people to Himself.”  His promise is that when we accept Him as our God, He becomes our foundation and we will be established firmly on Him.

Application: I like the picture of God as our strong, firm, and everlasting foundation with us being built or our home being built on that firm foundation.
As I write these things, I am coming back from my nephew’s wedding.  He was brought up with an alcoholic, physically abuse father.  His mother, my sister, became an Adventist in his pre-adolescent years but later left the church.  It’s a wonder that my nephew turned out as well as he has!  In his late teens and early twenties, he experimented with different lifestyles and religious views. . . I have to confess I really don’t know what he believes – it’s a n eclectic mixture of eastern religions, Christianity, naturalistic views, personal observations, and who knows what else.
My nephew met and married a lovely young lady from a nice Buddhist family; yesterday they had a Buddhist wedding ceremony at mid-day, and later in the day they had a generic wedding (the description of the man who officiated) by an attorney friend who also happens to be a notary public and ca, therefore, officiate at wedding ceremonies.
I couldn’t help but think of all that took place yesterday, on Sabbath, as a young Buddhist girl officially married my former Adventist nephew, with whom she had been living, in a generic wedding ceremony. . . a short, generic service which reflected the beginning of their life together, at least officially, with the God of creation, the God who established marriage and the Sabbath, not invited to their wedding, or their lives, on this His holy day.
I wish them well.  I wish them a long life of happiness and joy, health and prosperity.  And yet, I can’t help but feel sadness at the beginning of a building of a new home without the firm foundation of God at the center.
Now, as I write these words, I hear again Moses telling the Israelites, “The Lord will establish you as a holy people to Himself.”  Who is your foundation?  Whose people are you?  On Whom is you marriage, your family, being built?

Prayer: Father, our Lord and our Foundation, may we be built on You so we may be firmly established forever.

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