February 27, 2013

Is Your Glass Half Full or Half Empty?

In a recent Parable, I referred to an engaging and humorous book written by Eric Weiner titled The Geography of Bliss, One Grump’s Search for the Happiest Place on Earth. His quest to find a place to cheer him up took him to nine foreign countries including a few I had to Google to learn where they were located.

To establish a baseline, Weiner visited Moldova, a country where everyone is miserable. Dr. Rutt Veenhoven, a Dutch Professor of Happiness Studies and the man who inspired Weiner’s quest, called Moldova “the least happy nation on the planet,” so it was an obvious choice by which to judge happier places.

The name of the country alone is significant. You can’t say the word,  “Moldoooova” without sounding depressed. On the other hand you can’t say "Jamaica" without smiling.

The Republic of Moldova, a country in East Europe where the per capita income is $3500, was created in 1991 when it declared independence from the Soviet Union. During his depressing visit to this dismal nation, Weiner observed: 
"The old saw about the glass being half full or half empty is dead wrong. What really matters is whether water is flowing into or out of the glass. In Moldova, the water is gushing out."
That quote by Weiner made a significant impact on me, because I was prompted to ask myself which way the water flows in my life. Fortunately, I came to the conclusion that “happiness water” continues to flow into my cup, and I still have much to look forward to in my life.

Which way does the water flow in your life?

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February 20, 2013

Christianity Growing in China

In one recent month, Google Analytics which records activity for Contemporary Parable reported that over 600 hits originated in China. That statistic surprised me until Nancy and I attended a sold out performance of Chinese music and dance created by Shen Yun Performing Arts.

Animated backdrops, brightly colored costumes and classical Chinese dance help Shen Yun performances to sell out over the world___ except in China. That’s because Shen Yun, which attempts to renew the divinely inspired cultural heritage of China, is associated with the popular spiritual group Falun Gong, banned by the Chinese Communist Party in 1999.

On the other hand, Christianity in China, which is controlled but not suppressed as it was prior to the late 1970ies, is growing rapidly.  A recent article in The Daily Telegraph published in London reports:
“ . . . despite government controls, the number of Christians in China has rocketed since the 1980s with many worshipping in illegal "house churches" which are subject to sporadic crackdowns. Some estimates suggest there are now as many as 130 million practicing Christians in China.”
The trend in this country is just the opposite. Christianity in the United States is in decline, and the number of Americans who have rejected religion entirely has soared.

How ironic that in China where Christianity is controlled and congregations are required to register with the government, thousands of people are turning to Christ, but in the United States where we have always been free to worship as we choose, people are abandoning the Savior.

February 13, 2013


Michelangelo, one of the greatest artists of all time, considered himself primarily a sculptor.

It is reported he believed every stone had an image within it, and sculpting was simply a matter of chipping away everything that was not part of the statue. 

In his lifetime, Michelangelo left many unfinished works from which he had sculpted an elbow, or a leg, or a head. The rest of the subject was still locked up inside the stone.

Many of us are incomplete works of art with unlimited possibilities locked up within us because we have never released our God-given power that comes with energy and enthusiasm.

But be assured . . . it is there . . . ready and waiting to be carved out and  used to enrich our life and the life of others.

Recognize that you and you alone are responsible for your moods, and if you release your God-given capacity to act with passion in everything you do, I assure you your life will never be dull. 

February 7, 2013

Where Is God?

The nation watched in horror on December 14, 2012 as it was reported that 20 year-old Adam Lanza fatally wounded 20 children and six adults at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. The worst attack on an elementary, middle or high school in our nation’s history prompted some people to ask, “Why doesn’t God prevent human suffering?”

In her newest book, Does This Church Make Me Look Fat?, author Rhoda Janzen writes: 
“None of the world religions promises fewer problems for people of faith. In fact every major world religion observes that suffering is inevitable and constitutive. We suffer as part of the human condition. Think about it: If we didn't suffer, would we still be human?"  
God created us as free moral agents who are able to move toward him or away from him as we choose. Within each of us are the seeds of kindness or the seeds of violence.  For some few, the result is evil beyond our comprehension and belief.

In response to unimaginable tragedy, people also ask, "Where is God?”  The answer is apparent to people of faith. God is in the same place he's always been, ready and waiting to comfort and support us. In times of trouble, God is right where we need him, readily available to lift us up and ease our pain.  

We gather strength from our faith in the Lord. Let us be bold in our witness and our belief that God can heal all wounds.

          The Lord upholds all who are falling,
          And raises up all who are bowed down.
                                                                     Psalm 145:14

February 1, 2013

Are You Happy?

The Director of the camp where I worked in the summer of 1945, was a tall handsome Swede who had the unusual habit of greeting people with the question, "Are you happy?" Because of his Swedish accent, his question always came out in a sing song cadence, "Are you hop PEE?"

The question, "Are you happy?" is now a subject for serious study even for scholars seeking a Phd. Hundreds of research papers on happiness are written each year, and if you Google the question, you will get 837 million responses! 

In 2008, Eric Weiner wrote a book titled The Geography of Bliss, One Man's Search for the Happiest Place in the World.  His journey began in Holland where he met Dr. Rutt Veenhoven, Professor of Happiness Studies. Turns out Veenhoven wasn’t happy.  

In his search for the happiest place on earth Weiner explored Switzerland, Qatar, Iceland, Moldova, Thailand, Great Britain, India and America.He also visited Bhutan which, incidentally, calls itself The Happiest Place in the World.  

In the final chapter of his book, Weiner wrote: “Our happiness is completely and utterly intertwined with other people: family and friends and neighbors...  Happiness is not a noun. It’s a conjunction.”

Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage and a leading expert on positive psychology, suggests that 10% of our happiness depends on environment and 90% depends on our optimism, our social support and our ability to see stress as a challenge instead of a threat. http://goodthinkinc.com/speakers/shawn-achor/

Both Weiner and Achor suggest our degree of happiness depends on our interaction and support by and for others. Sounds like something Jesus said 2,000 years ago when he instructed us to “love our neighbor as ourselves.”