Monday, January 28, 2013

The pursuit of happiness

I remember being surprised to find out as a psychology major at UT that it wasn't normal for people to be happy all the time; that there is an emotional state of being that is not happy and not sad that most people hover at most of their lives.

This seemed really weird to me because it felt like I had been raised in a culture that said I was supposed to be happy all the time and if I wasn't, something was wrong.

Many of us spend our lives chasing happiness. A fragile emotion that can be lost very quickly. We do whatever we need to in order to feel it. We spend too much buying beauty treatments, clothes, cars, large houses. We let ourselves become addicted to food, drugs, and alcohol (or spend our time focusing on NOT doing these things and become slaves to them anyway). We leave relationships that are too hard, avoid spending time with our kids and families by over-scheduling or over-working, and see our commitments as disposable when they become inconvenient.

All in the name of our right to pursue happiness.

Because somehow we have gotten so totally messed up that we have convinced ourselves that if it is too hard or not making us happy, then it must not be what God has planned for us.

None of us want to hear it, but there is nothing in the Bible about God wanting us to live our lives in such as way as to only be happy. There is definitely nothing wrong with being happy but living our lives in such as way as to only chase something that is based on our circumstances and can so easily be stolen from us in the blink of an eye, isn't very wise.

If we want to live wisely (and the Bible does have a lot to say about that) then it is better to focus on being faithful: Doing the right thing, sticking to your commitments even when they are inconvenient or problematic. Following the path that God has laid out for you might not make you happy but it will bring you joy. Joy won't necessarily make you high-five your neighbor or cause you to break out in a victory dance, but it will sustain you through all the highs and lows of life.

Stop being that rat on the wheel that is chasing after something that is always just out reach. Re-commit yourself to being faithful to those things you have committed yourself to - your spouse, your kids, your Church, and our God.

God is more faithful to us than we can ever be to Him or to anything/one in our lives. We will fail and mess up and yet God will always be there, waiting to pick us back up and help us keep going forward. God is so faithful to us that no matter what we do, we can trust that eternal salvation is waiting for us at the end of our earthly life and that is more than enough reason to live out this life with JOY.

Chesney Szaniszlo

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.  I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. - John 15:9-11


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Wherever you go, there you are...

Have you ever thought, "I'd be a much nicer person if I didn't have to...." Fill in the blank. The things that lead us to the edge of sanity are different for each of us. Many of us might have the same issue and many of us have different ones. For me lately, it's been all about parenting. I feel like I am short-tempered, snappish, and sometimes just not nice to the one person in the world God has entrusted to my care. I even found myself yelling the other day that, "...the Bible says that children are to respect and obey their parents!" (I didn't quote the part about parents not exasperating their children (Ephesians 6:4). That wouldn't have helped my case at the time.)

That part I quickly mentioned about God entrusting specific people and things to my care, however, is really what life's all about. It doesn't matter how I'm feeling about my child at a particular moment, what matters is that I am his mom. It doesn't matter if my kid and I can spark a forest fire off each other, God has given me this particular person to nurture and raise - and that is all there is to say about it.

Wherever I go, I am his mom. Just like wherever I go, I am my husband's wife. Just like wherever I go, I am God's child and Jesus' disciple. It is those things that dictate who I am and how I choose to live my life, not the fit of those things with my emotional state in any given moment.

The goal of my day should be to follow through on these calls God has placed on me. A successful day should be one in which I didn't shirk my responsibilities or betray those callings.

Yes - there will be days (have been days) that are terrible, no good, very bad days. Days at the end of which all I can do is ask forgiveness from God and my family and pray that tomorrow, with God's help, will be better. And usually, they are better. But they are better because after a bad day or a series of bad days, I am more mindful of my attitude. I keep in mind that this is not solely my life. I live a life that I have given over to God. It is a life that is outwardly, rather than inwardly focused. When I have that attitude, I am able to give a lot more than I get and stop keeping score. When I remember that I belong to God and His path is my path, I am able to live a much more sacrificial life, because no matter where we go, we are still His, and God doesn't forget this even if we do.

Chesney Szaniszlo

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” - Matthew 11:28-30


Monday, January 14, 2013

Knock knock...

Who's there?
God who?

Isn't that how it goes all too often in our lives? God asks us to do something and we ignore Him or pretend we don't hear Him?

Maybe He's asking us to do something that is so uncomfortable, we think that we must not really be understanding His 'call' on our lives.

As much as we don't like it, and I've said this before, God will call us to do things for Him which are outside of our experience and our comfort zone.

Sometimes He even calls us to NOT follow the dream that we've aspired to our whole life.

The only real way to know if the calling you feel tugging at your spirit is from God or someone/something else is through the community of Christians around you and through the Bible.

Lets start with the Bible. God is not going to ask you to do something that is contrary to His word. The best way to discern this is to be familiar with Scripture. You cannot know God if you don't know His story as revealed to us in history through the Bible.

The other way to discern if the 'call' upon your life is from God is through having deep conversations about the subject with other Christians who know God and who know you.

When I was in seminary, I really wasn't sure if it was where I was supposed to be. I used to joke that I must have answered my 'neighbors' phone when I got the 'call' to go to seminary. I fought being ordained as a pastor. I tried every possible route to avoid it but God wouldn't let me. He continued to put people in my path who told me I was supposed to be a minister
until I couldn't avoid it anymore. I even had one person in my church tell me I was being 'Jonah' and I needed to turn around and head the direction God had told me to go.

I write all that to say that you can't always determine God's call on your life based on how you feel about it. God calls us to certain things because of who He has created us to be, not because of who we think we want to be.

Take some time this week to listen for God's call. You might be surprised at the door in your life that He is knocking upon.

Chesney Szaniszlo


Monday, January 7, 2013

All that is gold, does not glitter....

Do you ever find yourself caught in that trap of thinking that your life should be something more than it is? You know what I mean. You look around think you should be doing more, seeing more, being more than who or what you are....

Not all the time, and thankfully less than in the past, but still more than I would like I get sidetracked by the thought that my life (as a mom, wife, friend, sister, pastor) is just plain boring and insignificant. I have that thought because I compare my life to others and find it lacking.

This entire thought process is:
1) depressing,
2) silly,
3) egocentric,
4) and a complete waste of time.

By letting ourselves get caught up in the "grass is always greener" scenario, we take our eyes off of the future that God has set us toward and allow ourselves to become mired in our pasts; a place in which we cannot change or affect anything.

Our current sermon series at Live Oak is called "Get Lost". At the turn of the year when many of us are full of zeal to become better people by over-focusing on ourselves, it's a timely look at how as Christians', we can truly only find ourselves, when we fully surrender ourselves.

Come join us over the next five weeks as we explore what it means to give up the attempt to find your perfect life and self and get lost in God's plan for you!

Chesney Szaniszlo

'For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for you to gain the whole world, yet forfeit your soul?'
- Mark 8: 35-36