I could feel it coming, but I had no idea how bad it would be. I suspected that the flu would interrupt my plans to attend the area New Year’s bash where I could mingle with old friends and meet new ones. But that was before last night.
In the wee hours of the night, my budding flu added a stomach component. I began to experience the worst that the stomach flu could throw at me. I’ve had stomach flu before, but never anything like this.
I usually feel better after vomiting because it expels from my body whatever foreign entity was inside. Not this time. I vomited repeatedly, feeling no better after each episode, only to go back to bed for maybe an hour before starting all over again.
And let’s not forget the nausea, diarrhea, and general exhaustion because I can’t keep even the softest of foods within me. With no energy and lack of sleep, I’m pretty worn.
On the bright side, maybe I’ll lose a little weight from all this. And that got me thinking.
It all comes down to one question
See, I’m feeling pretty bad, worse than I have felt in a long, long time. And yet I can see beyond my problem. As bad as I feel, I’m trying to find something positive to engage my focus.
While that’s good to note the silver lining, it’s hardly satisfactory. I want to go beyond the cloud altogether. I want to make a dent in the universe.
Regardless of our background or current situation, we’ve all had good and bad in 2014. So what? Did you emerge from it all a better person? Who in your sphere of influence is better because of what you did in 2014?
I look at myself a year ago when I shared my philosophy on life and this LDS singles blog. And I compare that man with who I am now at the start of 2015. The man I am now is more than the man I was then. Note the path from here to there wasn’t a straight, upward line. It had lots of downs as well as ups. But the general trend is upward.
Take for instance the number of posts. In 2013, my dedication to post each Wednesday wasn’t constant. But in 2014, I wrote a blog post for each of the 52 weeks of the year. And one of them was published each and every Wednesday of 2014.
If that seems insignificant to you, consider the literal thousands of page views this blog garnered in 2014. That’s a pretty extensive influence for keeping one seeming small decision consistently and diligently. And 2015 promises to be even better.
Leave proof that you actually lived
In my upcoming book I extol direction over position. That just makes for better assessments. Sure, you’ve had some bad things happen to you in 2014. So what? What will it mean when you look back 5, 10, or even 50 years from now?
Within the last 24 hours, I’ve felt the inside of my body torn to shreds. But 5, 10, or 50 years from now, the pain I feel now won’t mean anything. As hard as the experience is to endure in the moment, once the moment passes, so does any semblance of meaning. What then was it all worth?
In life, it matters less where you have been and more where you are going. What’s your direction? Are you determined to encounter great things in 2015 and beyond? Are you dedicated to making a dent in the universe?
If you were to die today, what proof would remain that you actually lived?
If your focus is buried amidst the pain of lost dreams and failed life experiences, stop looking in your rear view mirror. You can’t drive your life forward unless you’re looking forward. As pressing as they may seem to you right now, no one will care about your bad experiences in any number of years from now because we all have bad experiences.
What makes you unique is not the bad you receive but the good you give. And when you aim to put a dent in the universe, you’ll leave lots of proof that you actually lived.
This year, I’m making a different set of resolutions for 2015. I’m not saying don’t make the usual laundry list of lose weight, get a better job, etc. I’ve got some of those in my mix. But all my goals, both for 2015 and beyond, tie together to support a greater vision of the person I ultimately want to become — someone who will make a dent in the universe.
And that life is definitely one worth living.
Christmas is a magical time of year in part because it evokes so many memories. I remember childhood Christmas Eves leaving cookies and milk for Santa. Later, I grew wiser (at least in my own eyes). “We all know Santa isn’t real,” I reasoned. “So why waste perfectly good cookies on a myth?”
“It’s not a waste,” my dad would retort. “Santa likes cookies, especially the homemade chocolate chip ones.”
“Don’t you mean to say that you like them?”
“Hey, if you don’t believe in Santa, he might not bring you anything.”
“Yeah, whatever. Santa doesn’t exist. My tummy, however, does exist and will put those cookies to much better use than someone who isn’t real.”
“I don’t know,” my dad responded. “If you don’t believe, you won’t receive.”
It's natural law
Little did I know the incredible lesson my dad was teaching me. In fact, that’s really the whole crux of life right there.
For so much of what we want in life, we must first believe. Without belief, you simply don’t receive. That’s because you receive according to your belief. It’s natural law. It’s called the Law of the Harvest.
Anything in life has a price associated with it. You must pay that price in full and in advance before you can receive. And can you guess what the first part of that price is? You must first believe.
Many singles tend to focus on whatever bad things happened to them. Maybe you never got married through depressing and discouraging years of trying and not succeeding. Or you had a marriage that didn’t work out despite your best intentions. Or you lost a companion to death and find difficulty with the new landscape. Looking back on whatever bad happened to you makes it hard to move forward.
But what else should anyone expect? Your focus becomes your reality, so when you focus on what you don’t have, your reality becomes consumed with scarcity. To flip your reality around, flip your focus around. Focusing on what you do have and what you can give will create a reality of abundance.
And the first step in that direction is to believe.
Belief and action feed each other
You must believe first in order to receive because all action is predicated on belief. Even if that belief is that something might be true, that belief can be sufficient to generate action.
But here’s the kicker. In order to keep belief alive, you must act. Action is what feeds continued belief. When you fail to act, it’s hard to keep believing. That’s because when you stop acting on a belief, you starve that belief. And without appropriate action, you simply won’t receive.
Many times we stop acting on what we once believed because our immediate results do not match our desires. It doesn’t help that disbelief is very easy, and maybe that’s why many of us singles embrace it so readily. Many of us hold so tightly to disbelief that we return to it out of habit. We keep making the case for disbelief, using our bad past experiences as supporting evidence.
But that road will never lead you to the life you really want. It’ll just keep you running in circles, because that’s the only way it can go.
If you want to go somewhere meaningful with your life, you must first believe. No matter how impossible it may seem, you must believe that a rich and full life can be yours. That belief can support you to action as you search for a solution, a way forward. The act of searching reinforces the belief that a solution you can implement exists. Keep looking forward and moving forward, and eventually you will receive what you seek.
And you aren’t in this alone. You have the Creator of the universe on your side. Partner with Him — bring Him your problems and your emotions and counsel with Him to find what you must do to get where you should be. Be sensitive to the promptings of His Spirit. Nothing feeds belief more than doing what God would have you to do. And when you do that consistently, your life will be more rich and full than you can possibly imagine.
The hope of receiving that joy is what the Christmas season is all about. What better time to begin to believe than Christmas?
What disbelief do you have? What can you do today to begin to believe in the bright and glorious future you want to receive? To receive, you must first believe.
Me? I’m beginning to rethink my teenager assertion that Santa is a myth. This Christmas Eve, I’m leaving a plate of cookies out for him. After all, I won’t receive if I don’t first believe.
Christmas is a joyous time of year. Yet some of us just aren’t feeling the joy. Especially when some celebrations focus on families, those who don’t have their own can feel left out.
If that’s you, it’s because you aren’t on the right train. You need to hop on board. You need to get your happy on.
The essence of the Christmas message is joy, peace, love, and unity. The despair, hopelessness, emptiness, and loneliness that many singles feel all year long can be keenly felt during the holidays.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. If you aren’t feeling the joy of the holiday season, it’s time to get your happy on.
Set your focus right
I’ve discussed before how your focus determines your reality. Often those who don’t feel the joy of the Christmas season need to adjust their focus away from what they lack and towards what they can contribute. The Christmas season is a season of giving. So if you aren’t focused on giving, then your reality will be very different from what the season is all about.
We humans are hardwired to operate from habit. These habits include where we direct our focus. You can’t get your happy on when you focus on anything negative. And focusing on a lack of anything will only lead to a reality that lacks.
If you want to set your reality right, start by setting your focus right. I’m not saying that you ignore what you lack but need. I’m saying that you focus on what you have that can help you to get what you lack but need. When you set your focus right, you can start to get your happy on.
Set your actions right
Once you intend your focus in the right direction, you need to reinforce that intention with action. Otherwise, you’ll just go back to your old habits. That’s how you’re hardwired to operate.
So replace the old habit with a new one. Consciously choose to contribute goodness without any expectation of reward and absent any agenda.
The Christmas season is the perfect time of year for that. It’s when everyone expects that to happen. Just try doing something for someone without any thought of anything for yourself. See how good it feels. Then you’ll start to get your happy on.
Set your intentions right
Of course, you can’t just do the right things. That’s a popular myth. While on the surface it appears completely backwards, it’s nonetheless true.
Many wards offer the perfect proof that doing the right things doesn’t automatically lead to happiness. I’ve attended many different wards in many parts of the country. One thing they all had in common was people who do the right things but just aren’t happy.
Going to church is the right thing to do. So why then are some people who do the right thing by coming to church not happy? It’s because happiness doesn’t just come from doing the right things. Happiness comes from giving your all to the right things.
If these unhappy people at church were to focus on what they can contribute while at church, they’d be getting their happy on. That’s what church is supposed to be, a place where we seek to lift each other up. “And the church did meet together oft, to fast and to pray, and to speak one with another concerning the welfare of their souls” (Moroni 6:5, emphasis added). If you aren’t participating in that lifting, then you aren’t on the train. Hop on board! Then you can start getting your happy on.
Get your happy on in every area of life
So it goes for anything else in life. It’s the law of the harvest. You reap what you sow, or put another way, you get out what you put in.
When you focus on what you’re not getting out, you focus away from putting in. And when you constantly fail to put it, you don’t get anything out. The longer you don’t get anything out, the easier it will be to focus on your lack. And so the downward spiral keeps you feeling trapped inside a reality of lack.
But you can get your happy on. Set your focus right. Set your actions right. And set your intentions right.
Focus on what you can give, which is really super easy to do during a season that celebrates giving. In addition to the gift of His Son, God has given you gifts so that you can help others along their eternal journey. Make that contribution. That’s when you can really get your happy on.
So go get your happy on. There’s no better way to share the joy of the Christmas season than to live it!
It’s that time of year again. I’ve always enjoyed the First Presidency’s Christmas Devotional, and this year was no exception, especially the music. MoTab is always great, but for some reason the orchestra really touched me this year.
I reflected on how President Hinckley had introduced the orchestra in selected MoTab performances and thought to myself, “Thank God for President Hinckley!”
The speakers were also wonderful, in part because they were surprising. I expected each member of the First Presidency to speak, but that didn’t happen. Then I expected that at the end the Prophet would want to address everyone, but that didn’t happen either. I’m not disappointed, just surprised (and pleasantly so) with the departure from my expectations.
One expectation that was met, however, was the quality of the messages provided. If you missed the program or want a refresher, you can watch the 2014 First Presidency’s Christmas Devotional here. A theme I noticed among the various speakers was reference to stories of people who through their example shared the joy of the Christmas holiday with others.
That got me thinking.
We need to be “writing” our own Christmas stories that get passed down through the generations. Our example should inspire others to retell that story of our example time and time again.
Clearly this is a high standard. And the best way to meet that is to partner with the Lord and follow the Spirit.
Partner with the Lord
The most influential examples are often the ones that escape our awareness. So you can’t really plan to meet the standard of being so influential that people tell stories about what you did for them.
But you can partner with the Lord and allow Him to guide you by the Spirit to those persons who you can influence for good. And the stories they tell of your goodness will inspire countless others for generations to come.
Though you may never hear those stories, you will receive blessings from the Lord for your generous contribution.
Partnering with the Lord really is the only way you can meet the high standard of inspiring others to pass stories of your good example through the generations. Sometimes we just don’t know people as well as we think. But the Lord knows each of us individually. He knows what will be most meaningful to each person.
When you partner with Him, He will guide you to act in the very ways that will be most meaningful to someone that you can touch more effectively than anyone else.
And when someone is really touched by your good example, they’ll want to tell that story with others. When you really touch one, you really touch many.
Follow the Spirit
I remember from my full-time-missionary days that follow the Spirit seemed to be the answer for everything.
That’s because there’s some truth to that. The Spirit will teach us what we need to do, when we need to do it, who we need to do it for, and who we need to invite to join with us. The Christmas season is a season of giving. And in the true spirit of giving, we shouldn’t hoard all the giving to ourselves.
Part of following the Spirit is letting go of our inhibitions. It’s human nature to dismiss what seems insignificant or incomprehensible. But we need to rise above the natural man and just do whatever the Spirit prompts us to do. Leave the details of how everything works out to God.
Life is more fully lived and our discipleship more fruitful when we let go of our “need” to see how everything is connected. We don’t need to understand the whole plan before we take the first step. That’s what it means to walk by faith.
When we walk by faith, we simply take the steps without understanding how it all fits together but also trusting that He Who created all things does see how it all fits together and is guiding us according to that plan.
We best celebrate the Christmas season when we live it. God gave us the gift of His Son, and because of Him we all can have newness of life. By sharing that hope with others, we increase the hope within ourselves. And God blesses us with newness of life.
No matter how silly or small it may seem, when you get a prompting or even an idea in your mind to do something good for someone else, do it. Develop the habit of doing whatever good enters your thoughts. Trust in God that it will all work out. You can then rejoice that the stories you write with your good example will bless the lives of many others, even if you yourself never get to hear them.
With all the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, it’s more essential than ever to keep things simple.
If you don’t establish boundaries, life will just crowd in. And you quickly find yourself consumed by whatever is in your face. In that environment, what has lesser importance can assume greater importance than it should.
That’s why I’ve been searching for practices that help me to keep perspective. I just want to keep it simple.
Searching for something
The spiritual life of the dedicated Latter-day Saint doesn’t really include regular devotions scheduled during the calendar year. A one-day fast for each month and General Conference every six months is as close as we get.
As great as fasting and Conference are, I’ve felt the need for something more.
Daily scripture study and prayer help. I often have more perspective with these practices than without. However, I still feel the need for something more.
I think that’s part of what marriage provides. But since that involves the agency of another person, I and other singles need something that can help fill the gap.
But I’ve also lived where attending one session is an all-day affair. Regular temple attendance, no matter where you live, requires you to schedule the time for it. But this becomes more necessary the further you have to travel.
I thought since I have to carve out the space anyway, I could find a sense of newness of perspective by attending a different temple. Certainly that’s been the case. But I also found some of the same impracticality with the pilgrimage to Salt Lake.
Attending multiple endowment sessions or combining an endowment session with other work in the temple brought similar results.
I need a part of the calendar year reserved as an expected time for seeking that new perspective to help me keep things simple. That way I don’t need to schedule it or think about it. And I need it to happen when the push towards complication is at its peak.
My journey has led me to what I call Renewal. For each of 40 days, I study a part of the Sermon on the Mount for my regular scripture study. I ponder what that part means. And then I set a goal to apply what I learned, usually during the same day. The next day I report my results in a journal and then repeat the process.
This is my third year doing this, and I think this will stay. Renewal is certainly evolving, but it fits so well in so many ways.
Is there any time of year busier than the holiday season at the end of the year? This is when grounding in simplicity is most needed. So this is when I practice Renewal.
Renewal essentially covers the holiday season. Using the last 40 days of the year makes November 22 the first day. So Renewal begins around Thanksgiving. Renewal includes Christmas before ending on December 31. Thus, what is really the manual for Christian discipleship strongly influences my goals for the new year.
The 40-day length has scriptural significance. The best example comes from Christ’s 40-day fast in the wilderness at the start of His mortal ministry. By engaging a regular process that also lasts 40 days, I link my effort for simplicity to Christ and His ministry.
I can practice Renewal anywhere and at any stage of my life. Because it serves as my scripture study for each of those 40 days, the time for it is already reserved. And with the schedule in hand of what to study each day, all I need is to do.
Find your own practice
Space won’t permit me to share the schedule here. I’ll probably write a book about it. But in the meanwhile, feel free to ask if you’re interested.
‘Tis the season to be simple. Whatever helps you keep things simple is well worth your time and effort to incorporate into the rhythm of your life. Find whatever works for you and go for it.
And feel free to share what does work for you in a comment. Maybe you’ll help someone who needs to hear what you offer.
Howdy! I'm Lance, host of Joy in the Journey Radio. I've been blogging about LDS singles life since 2012, and now I produce a weekly radio show to help LDS singles have more joy in their journey and bring all Latter-day Saints together. Let's engage a conversation that will increase the faith of LDS singles and bring singles and marrieds together in a true unity of the faith.
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