January 12, 2018
“100% Happiness Guaranteed!” Wow! That’s the best offer I’ve had all week – even all year. Worth investigating further. Is it part of the package presented by motivational speakers, in which your life is transformed by doing something or reading something or simply declaring that you believe in something? Possibly; more likely, perhaps, that what is required of you is some money. But even handing over a shed-load of money couldn’t actually guarantee One Hundred Per Cent, could it? Well, as usual, it all depends. Each of us has a different concept of happiness, what it is, how to find it, and how hard we have to work to get it.
Many of us have the idea that human beings have a right to be happy. I don’t know where that comes from, because the evidence for it is slight. More convincing is President Abraham Lincoln’s assertion that humankind has a right to “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. We can’t demand 100% happiness just because we think we haven’t had our share, but nobody else has the right to stop us looking for it. So how do we begin to look for it? Can we work for it? Nothing I’ve read spells out how hard labour brings happiness. Nor does following a specified pattern of life, or giving away all we possess, or following a particular guru. Happiness can’t be bought off the shelf, or donned like a character in a play. Why? Because it’s a gift from God, and while such gifts are available to all it is up to us to accept them humbly and gratefully – not to claim that we have earned them by sticking to the Ten Commandments or saving a child from drowning. It is wonderful when we suddenly become aware that God has just overwhelmed us with this gift, undeserved and unexpected.
Happiness is not the same as Joy, or Pleasure, and with God’s help we shall meet all those joys in time, but let’s not be seduced by a skilful advertising copywriter who claims that his product (and only his product) can bring “100% happiness guaranteed!” Total Happiness belongs to God, and he wants to share it with us. The closer we are, the easier it becomes to share. So let’s get as close as we can to God – and watch out for 100%!
© Chris Thomas 2018 - SN90
Spotted but not spotty
January 12, 2018
If you’re from the right generation, the name Spotty Muldoon will awake memories, mostly of the late, inimitable Peter Cook and his special Muldoon voice, not to mention being doubled up with laughter every time you heard him. In company with many teenagers I had a period of Much Spottiness, during which time I tended to avoid all responsibility or anything that involved being on public view. As adolescence passed by, I became more adept at avoidance, so you may imagine my horror when a neighbour, aiming to hone his skills, asked me to sit for him as a photographic model. Actually, the results were not half bad, and I began to glimpse the joys of a spot-free world. The climax came when, in my first job, an anonymous figure told me that the virtual blockage of my career progress was now defunct, so they could consider me for a posting to some exotic tropical place overseas. “They” had thought that spots might lay me open to terrible disease. As it happens, they were wrong.
“They” were wrong, but for the best of reasons; they cared for their staff. They were committed to efficiency and success, but recognised that a happy workforce was the best way to achieve those ends. Of course there are similar stories in the Bible; take the story of Mephibosheth in the second book of Samuel, chapter 9. As it was with my plethora of spots, Mephibosheth’s handicap was impossible to ignore: both feet were damaged and useless. Society of that time held the disabled in low esteem; they were a burden economically and socially embarrassing. Yet David, embodiment of physical beauty, sensitive to music, and a model of leadership, went out of his way to find a remnant of his enemy Saul’s family to whom he might make amends. Many of us fall victim to some kind of physical, mental or social disadvantage, but we need never feel friendless. We all have family ties because we are children of God, we all can benefit from God’s career planning, and we can be sure we are on the winning side. And Mephibosheth? “And Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, because he always ate at the king’s table; he was lame in both feet”. (2 Sam 9:13) God’s blessing is always there, ready to receive and to delight – Praise Him!
© Chris Thomas 2018 - SN89
Cusps I have known
January 12, 2018
As soon as you’ve heard a word for the first time, it seems to crop up everywhere. For instance, this household has hitherto found no use for the word “Cusp”. It isn’t the sort of word that crops up in general conversation, and if it does, there’s bound to be somebody who is bold enough to say “Er – what does ‘Cusp’ actually mean?” Thus are many otherwise bright and erudite people reduced to incoherent babble when trying to understand a chunk of (for instance) Bible text. It is difficult enough wrestling with language that is two or three thousand years old, without having to take in differences of interpretation. It’s reassuring that Peter, everybody’s favourite Apostle, who delivered a couple of brilliantly clear sermons about Jesus, himself found some of Paul’s letters difficult to understand. Two of Peter’s letters are included in the New Testament, and in one he wrote of Paul that “His letters contain some things that are hard to understand” (2 Peter 3:16).
In general, we Ordinary People expect precision from those whom we’ve selected to be Intellectuals, Specialist Advisers, and the like. It’s their job to know and understand the detail of the world around us, and any mention of uncertainty is frowned upon. So when, after a series of tests, the Consultant says that you’re “on the cusp” of developing a particular condition or disease, you feel vaguely disappointed. We can’t be satisfied by anything other than total understanding or total commitment. Unfortunately God didn’t make human beings perfect, and often stands back to give us a chance to tackle a problem rather than just handing it over to him. Of course, he’s still there in the background and ready to step in to what will have been for us a learning experience.
Not much room for being On The Cusp in all this. But it’s there; we can often feel that we’re neither here nor there in facing a life challenge or coming to faith, but we’re not on the cusp for long, because we have a God of order, not untidiness. Maybe we don’t need to remember what the cusp is, because God wants to get rid of it as much as we do. Cusp = a place of uncertainty, between one condition and another. Certainty = God, Praise Him!