2021 Theme

I’ve had a theme for the year for a while. It’s something that I chose to focus on throughout the year, usually encompassed in one word.

This year my theme is Hope.

It may not seem like a strong word, but hope is the fuel for a courageous life.

If you have ever been in a position where you are without, or have lost, hope, you will know just how vital it is. I have had some days like that, and it’s frightening – to look ahead and feel as if things will never improve. I have learned through experience though, when I am having one of those days, that tomorrow will always be better, and it gives me the courage to take the next step.

That is the power of hope. It provides a way forward, out of despair because of what it represents. We have hope in something, from something and for something.

We hope in something, which is faith. We have faith in a god, or humanity, or our family or ourselves – something that we believe is good and can create meaning and purpose. Out of that faith comes hope.

We hope from something. The reason we hope is because we are not content with our current situation. We are looking for something more, something better or a sense of purpose or understanding. When stuck in a place where we don’t want to be, we hope because we don’t want to stay there.

We hope for something. You only hope for something when you don’t have it yet. It is innately optimistic because, even though it comes from a place of not being content with the current situation, it acknowledges that there are better things to come. Whether it is to change where we are or become a better version of ourselves in a challenging place, hope assures us that better is possible.

There is biblical wisdom that urges people to be ‘joyful in hope’.

Being joyful in hope sounds counterintuitive because hope is only necessary when there doesn’t appear to be any joy. Joy only comes because of hope. Hope first, and then you will find joy.

‘Tis The Season

It is the season for giving.

Why is it just one season? Why is it only restricted to one part of the year?

Christmas is a joyful time (in most cases) and it’s made even better because we think about others and what to give them and how to bring them joy. Which brings us joy. So why do we restrict it to just one time of the year? (Maybe two if birthdays are a thing for you).

We know that the best way to find joy is to give to others. When we do that, when we look outside of ourselves, we receive in return. It results in us feeling better about ourselves and our world. It creates a positive experience for all involved.

If you want to be joyful all year-round, and not just in December, then think about presents that people would like to receive when it is not ‘in season’. Think about things that would put a smile on someone’s face.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m all for Christmas and celebrating this season, but I’m encouraging you to bring joy all throughout the year. Be that person.

Gratitude Breeds Generosity

‘From the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.’

Have you ever wondered how some people just seem to be so happy all the time? It can be quite disconcerting as you go about your day, struggling through your afternoon slump, stressing about your upcoming deadline, cursing how quickly your last coffee was consumed, and then Mr. or Mrs. Happy pop up and share their joy of life with you, offer you a helpful suggestion with your deadline and source another coffee for you. I mean, who do they think they are? Even if you can’t think of someone you know who is like this, believe me, they are out there.

The most amazing thing is that when you find out more about these people and hear their story, you usually discover that they have had to endure, and possibly still are enduring, some incredibly difficult life circumstances, tragedy and loss. It is most often unfair and sad, yet there they stand with a smile on their face. Not a fake one either (I thought that was their trick for a while, but it is real happiness).

It turns out that, whilst not everyone who goes through hardship surfaces with a happy demeanour, those that do manage to find something in life that they are grateful for. It is a conscious effort, every day to find the good things they have and over time, that sense of gratitude overflows into generosity towards others. Gratitude breeds generosity, in all areas of life. You cannot stop it.

All action that we take is motivated by something internal.

Jealous

I have a secret for you.

I have jealousy issues.

You may have felt like this too. I can only describe it as a pang. This feeling deep within when you hear of someone doing well, creating success in what they are doing, getting credit for great things they are doing, being recognised for how great they are at stuff.

On the outside you may hear yourself say, ‘Good for them. I always knew they had it in them. I am very excited for them’, but on the inside there is this little voice that whispers, ‘I wish that was me’.

It’s confronting to notice that side of yourself.

Jealousy is completely self-centred. It ruins creativity, positivity, relationships, it sucks joy out of any moment and it kills generosity.

Jealousy is the opposite of generosity.

I think the best way to overcome a negative attribute is to aim to become the positive attribute. Instead of trying to stop myself acting out of jealousy, I will focus on what generosity looks like and become that.

Generosity is other-centred, provides space for creativity, acceptance, builds a positive environment and is the foundation of all quality relationships. It provides joy and snuffs out jealousy.

Generosity is a true attribute of the heart of God. He generously pours out His love for us, His mercies are new every day.

Loss Breeds Gratitude

I missed a concert recently. It was going to be amazing, the first date night with my wife for a while, a musician that we both loved, the first concert of their Australian tour. By all accounts a perfect night ahead…until

There are very few words that I can use to explain what happened and not gross you out, but just before we were about to leave our 18 month old was unwell, which required a clean up and a decision that we couldn’t leave him with babysitters like that, even if they were family. So we gave our tickets away and I was shattered. We both were. So much of a build up led to a giant let down and disappointment.

Most people around me at the time shared my disappointment, but a few encouraged me to be thankful for what I did have and for the fact that other people enjoyed the concert on my behalf. I hear that, but I wasn’t in the place, yet.

I think it’s important when we experience loss in life that we acknowledge it and experience it. Sure, this was just a concert but the principal is the same with any loss. For us it was a loss of an experience, a loss of what could have been, and in some way I needed to grieve that loss.

After a little while we got tickets to another concert. A different artist and venue, but this one we actually made it to, just, and we loved it. We probably loved it more because we missed out previously.

Loss breeds gratitude. If we let it, if we sit with the painful, difficult parts of life and grieve, that paves the way, over time, for joy to be experienced.

3 Keys to Happiness

No matter who you are or where you live, every person has the same needs in life. Regardless of if you are living in the slums of Delhi in India, in rural Indonesia or a capital city in Australia, there are three keys, which are essentials of happiness.

Firstly, we require something to do. A job for us to put our hands to and to keep busy with – in the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes Solomon says that it is good for us to find satisfaction in what we do, the vocation that we dedicate our lives to.

Secondly, we need something to love – a family, a group of friends, a community to be part of. This is what we call social capital – which is a measurement of cultural and social networks we have access to, that are built on trust, cooperation and connection. Being well connected to a community has been proven to reduce the probability of being poor – both financially and emotionally.

Thirdly, we desire something to hope for – be it a better future for us and our family, or a hope in a loving God.

This third one is incredibly significant. There is something about our journey in hope which is intrinsically connected to our happiness. If we have something to hope for, then we have access to joy.