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happiness Archives | Chaplain | JM Faith at Work

Let There Be Light

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Pastor Jim Melvin

I have good news for you, my Vitamin D deprived friends; the days are getting longer. We’ve already gained over half an hour of daylight since the sun started coming home to the northern hemisphere on December 21st. The bad news is that it’s still almost two months until spring. We have the darkest time of the year, both physically and emotionally and perhaps spiritually to endure.

It’s no accident that the first thing God created was light. Light is associated with good and life. That’s why Jesus was called “the Light of the World”. It’s no coincidence that we celebrate Jesus’ birth during the darkest time of the year. At a time when we feel at our lowest, it gives us hope to hear that light will be returning to our lives.

There are some things that we can do to help us through this remaining period of light deprivation. One of the most important things is to realize that we are not alone if we feel down or lack energy during this period. Our bodies are chemically reacting to decreased light exposure including the production of Vitamin D which takes place in our skin with exposure to light. So have hope. This too shall pass. Your feelings are normal. The days are getting longer.

In the meantime, there are some simple steps that we can take to feel happier and more energetic right now. Here are a few:

1. Get as much light as you can, natural and artificial. You can buy special high intensity full spectrum lights at the pharmacy.
2. Get outside and breath in the fresh air even if it is cold.
3. Exercise frequently.
4. Take time to enjoy the sunrise even if you have to adjust the time you get up in the morning.
5. Eat a healthy, balanced diet.
6. See your doctor if you feel unusually depressed or your sleep patterns are seriously disrupted. Your doctor may prescribe anti-depressants on a temporary basis to help elevate your mood.
7. Get social. Find plenty opportunities to socialize with family and friends. Isolation worsens depression.

Those are a few physical things that may help you survive until spring, but don’t forget your spiritual life. Take time each day to pray and reflect on the light of God which dwells within your heart. Close you eyes and visualize a warm glow emanating from your heart. Remember that the promise of new life through Jesus Christ is yours.  And let there be light.

Working Man Blues

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Pastor Jim Melvin

Wish I was down on some blue bayou,
With a bamboo cane stuck in the sand.
But the road I’m on, don’t seem to go there
So I just dream, keep on bein’ the way I am.

Wish I enjoyed what makes my living,
Did what I do with a willin’ hand.
Some would run, ah, but that ain’t like me.
So I just dream and keep on bein’ the way I am.

“The Way I Am” by Merle Haggard

Who of us can’t relate to the feelings that Merle Haggard touches on in “The Way I Am”? Did you ever find yourself daydreaming on the job wishing that you were sitting on a beach drinking a Corona or up north making tracks in fresh snow on your Skidoo? Did you ever feel like the path that you’re taking through life will never get you to either of those places? So, you just dream and keep on bein’ the way you are.

I’ve always loved Merle Haggard’s songs and how he can put his finger on the struggles of everyday people. It probably comes from the fact that he grew up poor in the depression and spent some time in prison, including the infamous San Quentin, when he was young. He probably never did much manual labor himself because he made his living as a country singer after he turned his life around, not that being a musician isn’t hard work. But he could see how difficult life was for the hard-working men and women of America.

Many of Haggard’s songs express a sense of helplessness and a woeful acceptance of the way things are. None does this better than his song “Working Man Blues.” He sings, “I drink my beer in a tavern, sing a little bit of these working man blues. In this song, the working man is saddled by his responsibility to support nine kids and a wife. Despite his blues he vows to “keep his nose to the grindstone” and work as long as his “two hands are fit to use.”

It’s kind of tempting to put his songs on the jukebox in the tavern and wallow in our own working man (or woman) blues. Although a little self-pity feels good once in a while, it profits us more to stop crying in our beer and head down the path of our choosing.

Dreams can be put into two categories, passive or active. When Haggard dreams of sitting on a blue bayou with a cane fishing pole stuck in the sand, he is describing a passive dream. We call that a daydream. He has no intention of acting on this dream. He seems to imply that there is no way to get from where he is to that idyllic destination. He is resigned to the fact that his dream will remain just a figment of his imagination. He settles for the small pleasure that he gets from the act of dreaming. He’ll just drink his beer after work and sing the working man blues. Passive dreams are pessimistic. They feed on self-doubt.

Active dreams lead to action. Active dreams bring a vision of a better future toward which we want to move and toward which we can envision a path. Instead of resignation, these dreams lead to action. Instead of heading to the bar every night, when we commit to realizing our dreams, we spend at least some of our spare time drawing a roadmap for the future. That doesn’t mean there’ll be no time for enjoying life with our friends along the way. Active dreams are optimistic. They require and inspire confidence.

The good thing is, we get to choose the type of dreams we dream. We all are confronted with challenges and obstacle in life, some of us more than others. But we are all fortunate enough to live at a time and in a country that presents us with opportunities if we are willing to take the time to figure out where we can realistically go in life and are willing to put in the hard work to get there. Even if we have to support nine kids and a wife or husband, we don’t need to sing the blues.

Which type of dream will you invest your time and energy in? I would encourage the latter. Here’s how you can get started. The company for which serve as chaplain employs two professional “dream coaches” to help our associates identify and realize their dreams. If you don’t have someone to guide, try working through the following steps on your own.

1)Make yourself a Dream Planner Book. This can be a fancy journal you buy in a bookstore, a spiral bound notebook, or even a yellow legal pad.

2)In your planner, start brainstorming with yourself or with your spouse and/or other members of your family your dreams for the future. Be bold. You don’t have to worry about being realistic at this point. It may help you by thinking about different aspects of your life to focus on such as professional, educational, spiritual, emotional, recreational, material, health/fitness. You may think of others. Try to write down one or two dreams in each area. See if you can come up with twenty dreams. Some examples might be to own your own home, get a specific promotion at work, spend time each day doing something fun with your family, eating a more healthy diet, etc. Your dreams can be as big or as small as you want them.

3) Circle five of the twenty which energize you the most. What is most important for you to achieve? Then narrow your list down to two. These are the dreams that you are going to work on.

4) After you have identified your most important dreams, write out the steps that you will need to take to get you from where you are to where you want to be. Pretend that you are using Google Maps to find the route to your own “blue bayou.”

5) Write out a realistic timeline on when you are going to accomplish each step. Keep returning to your Dream Planner Book and check off the steps as you take them. Make yourself accountable to a trusted person whose job it is to encourage you to keep on schedule.

6) Celebrate your victories along the way and really celebrate when you reach your final goal. Then keep on dreaming. This is a lifelong process.

I encourage you to find someone to accompany you on your journey. You may be able to find a professional dream manager. If not seek out a life coach, counselor, or trusted pastor who is willing to work with you.
So, what’s your dream? At this point in my life, I’m setting sights on that blue bayou; you might have something grander in mind. Either way, let’s leave the blues singing to musicians.

Peace,
Pastor Jim

Working Hard for the Money

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Working Hard for the Money

Pastor Jim Melvin

It’s a sacrifice working day to day
For little money, just tips for pay
But it’s worth it all
Just to hear them say that they care
.

Song by Donna Summer

            You work hard for your money, really hard.  But no matter how hard you work, even if you have a good job, it’s difficult if not impossible to get ahead in today’s economy.  It was disheartening to learn recently that 80% of Americans, many of them reliable employees with good jobs, live from paycheck to paycheck.  Workers in this whopping majority say that they would not be able to cover a $400 emergency car repair without borrowing.

            I was fortunate to begin my working years in an environment where young people, whether they went to college or not, could get a job, and if they worked hard and planned for the future could lead a secure life and put something away for retirement.  That is not the case today. 

            Money shouldn’t be the most important thing in our lives. I was taught as much as a kid in Sunday school.  Jesus advises a rich young man, “Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven.”  By that he meant that our spiritual assets are more important than financial ones.  I still believe that.  I also believe that living a faithful life can also be a happy and secure life.  We can store up treasures in heaven and put a little something aside for retirement.  Here are some biblical principles that may help you put your financial life in order.

Build Spiritual Wealth First

Let’s start with Jesus’ advice to the rich young man.  Whether we are rich or not, if we want true happiness and fulfillment, our ultimate purpose in life cannot be the accumulation of wealth and material stuff.  Making money is not job one.  The highly successful people that I have known are not motivated in their jobs or businesses by the attainment of wealth.  Their wealth came as a result of their passion and sense of purpose in life.  Although wealth comes with its benefits and pleasures, the fulfilling things in life come as the result of our faith, our relationships and sense of purpose and self-worth.   

Give Generously

            It may seem to go against common sense, but building financial security begins with giving your money and your time away.  It is one of the ways that we build up the spiritual wealth I just mentioned.  By putting others first by giving money or our time to help others, we learn that we are not alone in our struggles.  I’m not quite sure how it works, but I know that giving is its own reward and the source of true riches.  There is so much need around us, that it is easy to find ways to give no matter how much or how little you have.

Work Hard/Work Proud

            America, like all great societies, was built with hard work.  The American Work Ethic values reliability, initiative and the sweat of your brow.  Those qualities are as important as ever, although they might not seem be as universally valued.  Hard work is not for suckers as you might be led to believe.  Whether you pound nails, sweep floors, teach kids, drive a truck, or manage people, financial security begins with work.  If you are proud of your work, persist in it, and believe that you will succeed, you will.

Live Within Your Means

The world is like a giant candy store with all kinds of luscious chocolates, colored jelly beans and M&M’s in glass jars lined up in front of us.  All around us people are feasting on these sweet treats.  And we want some.  The Ten Commandments tell us “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house…or anything that is thy neighbor’s.”  Our cravings only lead to suffering and frustration.  Budgeting, buying and doing the things we can afford, can help change our appetite in the present into motivation for the future.

Have a Dream

What’s your dream?  Or more importantly, what are your dreams?  The answer to that question is different for each and every one of us.  You create our own future, but you can only reach that future by stopping to dream it.  Our dreams may change, and the path may not be straight, but they are the stuff that the fulfilling and happy life is made of.  Your dream may be big.  Your dream may be humble and small.  But you have to have a dream. 

            So, keep on working hard for the money.  And be proud.  And great will be your reward, both in heaven and on earth.

It Can Buy Me a Boat

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For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.  2 Timothy 6:10

I was sitting in a Waffle House off Route 24 just outside of Clarksville, Tennessee when the fry cook stepped out from behind the counter and dropped some change into the juke box.  The old Wurlitzer piped a country song through the restaurant that I’d never heard before, and like a lot of country songs it contained some biblical references.  The line that caught my attentions was, “Money can’t buy me happiness…but it can buy me a boat.”*  That’s what I call telling it like it is.

Religious people focus a lot about the evils of money and for good reason.  If our lives are filled up working for riches and material things, we can miss out on what is really important.  Our Bible verse from 2 Timothy says, “in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.”  But I would add that the lack of money has pierced people with many pains.  Money problems cause suffering.  And it is fundamental to the Christian faith that God does not want us to suffer.

It is challenging to live in today’s economy even if we do have a good job.  Housing, healthcare, and all the basics of life are expensive.  Families with children can find it difficult to fulfill their basic needs let alone add in a few of the good and fun extra things that bring joy. Because of the stresses that financial problems can place on individuals and families, it’s important to have a handle on how we think about money.  Here are some basic principles that may be of help.

1) Expect to work hard.  Riches don’t come easily.  There is virtue in hard work.  Be proud of whatever you do and strive to be a success.

2) Have a financial plan and live within your means.  There are times in life when sacrifice is necessary.

3) If you are married and have a family, make sure that everyone is on the same page about finances.  Important financial decisions should be shared.

4) In your political life, especially if you are financially secure, advocate for policies that will increase economic opportunities for all.  A rising tide raises all boats.

5) Pay attention to the passage from 2 Timothy.  Keep your pursuit of wealth and material things in perspective.

Our spiritual life and our economic life are connected.  The best things in life flow out of our relationship with God and other people.  But when the time is right, you just might want to go out and buy that boat.

*Go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jrnf8d0WPfw to hear “The Boat Song.”