Nine Attitudes that Lead to Happiness Now

What makes us happy?What makes a person happy?  That's a question, men and women through the ages have tried to answer. We, like those who came before us, try to live a life that will marked by happiness and contentment.  But how can we find some assurance that the way we are living will actually bring us happiness?Following Jesus is about the transformation of our attitudes about life--those inner dispositions that rise up within us from time to time as we live our life; do our job and raise our family.  Jesus was concerned with the inside--knowing that we'd be concerned with our outside world and the outer markers of success in life. He will not allow his followers to camp out in the suburbs of the Kingdom he is ushering in.  He wants the Kingdom to be birthed within each heart. [tweetthis]The Beatitudes are nine needed attitudes to find happiness in this life--right now. [/tweetthis]His Beatitudes --nine statements about the inner life of his followers focus on nine specific attitudes that followers of Jesus need to cultivate to truly be happy and to really live in the blessing of God.One of the best ways to understand what the Beatitudes of Jesus are about is to realize that the beatitudes are about our attitudes. The transformation of our attitudes in life—those inner dispositions about life, our self and God. Each of the nine attitude statements offered us by Jesus reveal a shifting of the tectonic plates of our soul. These nine attitudes challenge our long held and often fortified beliefs about what really makes a person happy.  We have long held and closely maintained systems that have shaped our own understanding of how a person finds happiness. Many of our beliefs are cemented in our ideas about security, position, money and success.  Yet, Jesus turns our programmed systems of belief on it's head. Each attitude shows us a whole-other-way to live.happinessThere is a specific call to action in each of the attitudes. We are told to BE the attitude—not just hold to a certain belief. When we become the actual attitude that Jesus describes—then the blessing comes—then our happiness is anchored in something more real that circumstances, temporary events or nice geographical settings such as mountain vistas and sandy beaches. Happiness is not circumstantial not is it related to positions we find ourselves in at any particular moment. True happiness and blessing is inside—and reveals to us a Kingdom within each heart right now.When we cultivate the attitudes of Jesus, we sense a shifting inside:

  • We discover a true sense of happiness and well-being.
  • We discover our programmed way for happiness that is shaped by culture both in the church and around us in the world.
  • We find a whole, new way to live that begins on the inside and centrifuges to those around us.
  • We learn to live with a new foundation, authored by Jesus and lived out by the early church—modeled by the early church fathers and mothers yet, ignored in our current state of affairs.
  • We live less obsessed with our daily crisis and challenges and live in a Kingdom perspective of the wider, greater dimension than just self.
  • We see in a whole other way of looking at life, self, and the world. In holding to the larger story, we tolerate the smaller story of trials and tribulations right now.

The first four beatitudes focus on our exaggerated and embellished view of life as we see it on our own. The first four attitudes are dispositions within each person. These are the lenses through which we look at life, other people and ourselves.

  1. Blessed are the poor—reveals our obsession with security and what security really is.
  2. Blessed are those that mourn—shows the necessity of giving up that which we clinch and crave and learn to relax in the letting go of what we hold most dear and vital in life. Inner freedom comes as we let go.
  3. Blessed are the meek—lays the foundation that by giving up control in life we learn to receive all that God desires to give us.
  4. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst—uncovers the deep desires for what will gratify us—but never satisfy us.

The need for security; our propensity to hold tightly what we think we know and value most; our issues of control and the deep desires for what we think will satisfy us and our “rights” to pursue the fulfillment of self are confronted with a clarion call to live in a whole, other way is foundational to living well in the heart of Jesus. The Beatitudes show us the way.The next three Beatitudes flow from the first four attitudes being transformed. As we cultivate the right inner attitudes, then we are ready to extend our lives for the sake of others.

  1. Blessed are the merciful—shows our need to accept others no matter their circumstances and to realize their Belovedness—not just our own.
  2. Blessed are the pure in heart—reveals the holiness of everyone and everything and to observe the mystery of God in our dailiness, events and world around us not just the epiphanies.
  3. Blessed are the peacemakers—shows us that peace flows first from within us and is our inside job to cultivate and then give to others.

The last two attitudes are about embracing suffering not ignoring it. Suffering is inevitable in following Jesus. He suffered—so will his followers. It cannot be avoided and our attitude towards suffering is important.

  1. Blessed are those who are persecuted—lays down a core truth that the followers of Jesus must move beyond self-interest and the daily obsessions with our own lives to the plight of others who are less fortunate.
  2. Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you—helps us understand the role of criticism and rejection and helps redefine our true identity as the Beloved sons and daughters of another world.

 (If you're new the blog, you'll want to look back and scroll through earlier entries where I'm trying to give my voice to each attitude and Beatitude).

Toxins in the Heart

When Jesus told us “Blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God” (Matthew 5:8), he was clarifying a method for experiencing God as well as a clarion call to find God in a new way.Religion can become so polluted. They pathways to God can become very congested. Jesus brings clarity to the way we find God. The method that Jesus uses for us to experience God is more simple than complex and more uncomplicated than we might expect.  In the United States alone, there are now more than 175 different denominations--all claiming to believe the right thing and to do religion in the right way. But who is really right? Who has the pure and unadulterated form of religion?Jesus helps us and rather than turning to religion, we can turn to a teaching that helps us really experience God in a way we all long to do in our lives. We experience God when our hearts are pure. A heart that is sincere is the heart that has the breakthroughs and epiphanies where light shines in the dark spaces. The alternative to a pure heart helps us truly capture what a pure heart is not.Polluted. Complicated. Murky. Divided. These are all descriptor words they help us understand purity in a more profound way. A polluted heart is a heart that has been exposed to toxins, contaminants and poisons. These vary from person to person and culture to culture. These toxins may be emotional garbage from our pasts, cutthroat competition, loveless and cheap sex, magic show religion and paranoid loneliness.   These, and other forms of murky living and shallow values, erode the pure nature of a heart’s capacity to experience God. How do you see toxins in the church today?  How can we practice more of an anti-toxic way of loving God and keeping life a bit more simple?In other stories and teachings of Jesus, he elevates the posture of a child likeness as being the real way adults should lean into their faith. In the child’s heart—we find a zeal of passion that is resilient; an abandonment of care that is refreshing and a singleness of mind to do one thing and not multi-task. We have much to learn from children should we take the time to allow them to be our teachers perhaps more than PhD s and experts.We tend to make everything more complicated that it perhaps should be and I find a propensity to bring our own human systems and man-made matrices into how we do faith. [tweetthis]To become more simple in our approach to God--is my friends to become more pure. [/tweetthis]Pure religion is really boiled down to two things from one of the authors of a book in the Bible: taking care of widows and orphans and that's it! But look at all of our programs!  Look at our lists of things we all need to do in order to be right--or live right? What has happened to us? People can make a lot of spiritual garbage. Our garbage piles up and hurts us. Spiritual Pollution--that is what has happened to us.Like the Quakers sang years ago, these words are a clarion call to us today: "'Tis a gift to be simple and a gift to be free." I often work with pastors across the world. The private lament of so many is, "Things in church are way to complicated."  "Isn't there a more simple way to do all of this, Steve?"  Why, yes, yes there is. It begins with one's own heart--not trying to fix systems or repair a religion. When one person chooses to be more pure--then a more pure form of worship, joy and life will soon result.Would you swim in that or drink that?Purity of heart is a daily filtering task. There is a lot we need to take out of our hearts in order to experience the purity Jesus is calling us to. What we watch for entertainment; what we give our minds to read about; what we take in---affects the purity of our heart. It’s also important to be aware that often it is what’s inside that broods and festers that snares us: seething anger; rotting envy; lurking malice—these and other internal vices divide the heart and form internal bastions we fortify rather than dismantle in our life and work.To be pure is to attend the daily task of seeking to live well from the inside out.

Re-Thinking Mercy

“Blessed are the merciful for they will be shown mercy.”—Matthew 5:7

Do you think she ever showed herself mercy and self-compassion?When we think of a merciful person, images of Mother Theresa squatting by a dying man under a bridge in Calcutta may come to mind. It’s rare to see a merciful person in politics, business or even church life. We live with a dogged tenacity “to get ‘ur done” and to press on in the tyranny of the urgent and competing demands of our lives to show mercy. We’re often too busy to show mercy—or what we even think might be mercy. We’re too pre-occupied with our own agendas to slow down and consider the plight of someone else. We may want to be merciful. But to WANT to be merciful and to actually be mercifully may be two different things.Here again, Jesus offers us a radically different paradigm about how to live life well. How to live well and how to be well—that’s our goal, right?At the root of the word “mercy” is the term “merc” which is an exchange. We get the English word, “mercantile” from this word. A mercantile is a place of trade where goods are exchanged. There is a giving and there is a taking and this is precisely the renewed understanding of mercy we need in our lives today. A merciful person is someone involved in both the giving and the receiving. Both are at the core of being a merciful person.How can you show mercy to yourself after a stressful day?Perhaps the greatest arena of need for us to explore how to be a merciful person is with ourselves. If we don’t learn how to show mercy to ourselves, we soon find ourselves living on empty and the “check engine” light is coming on in our souls. We simply cannot give, give, and give all the time. There must be a receiving. There must be a merciful exchange which says this: Those who give—must be given to. Because I have given a lot today-this week—now… I am going to exchange some time and care for myself. To live in this merciful rhythm is life and it is life giving.The single greatest violation I see in leader’s lives is right here! Most leaders, regardless of where they serve—violate the principle of this great, Sacred exchange. They give. But they will not learn how to receive—how to receive mercy for themselves. We’re confused here. We have few good models and we need help.[tweetthis]Being merciful is never a selfish act. It is a true exchange of understanding that those who give—must be given to.[/tweetthis]Showing mercy to oneself is the art of living in the rhythm of giving and receiving.

  • How will you give mercy to your body who has literally carried you through all the grueling tasks of today—of every day?
  • What would it look like for you to give mercy to your body---to care for your physical well being? I have to admit here that this is a insight that I am so glad to be waking up to. If I am what I eat—then I need to eat in a merciful way to show mercy to my body—to honor my body as the address of my soul.
  • How could you be merciful to yourself in your time and how you spend your time? Are you always in a hurry? How might you slow yourself down and give yourself more margin—more room for an interruption that will not send you into a implosion because some interruption occurred that you did not plan for this week?
  • What would mercy look like to your mind because you have called your mind to engage in spreadsheets, emails and texts matters all day long? How can you let your mind come down--and rest?
  • What would mercy look like to your emotions that have engaged all day long: anger, excitment, fear, angst, stress and so much more. How can you let your emotions relax and come down off the steriods of people, stress, stock markets and disappointments?

Mercy, when correctly understood, begins with ourselves. It’s just as Jesus said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” The bottom line is that you matter! True love is living in the exchange of giving and receiving.As we first live with a recognition that we, ourselves need to give mercy to ourselves, then we find we are able, ready, eager and willing to extend mercy to others. It is an ebb and flow—a give and take. Both are needed and necessary.Most folks in leadership positions, however, are violating this exchange. They either don’t know about the needed, life giving exchange or they ignore it—thinking that they are the exception to the way life works.Mercy has no exceptions. We all need mercy and at the core of every living soul is the need to receive acts of mercy—a touch, a drink of cold water, a short respite under a shady tree where we are sheltered—if only for a short time.When we live this radical paradigm that Jesus offers us, the ripple effects begin to make waves around us. We are living well—and others will live better around us. We are showing kindness to ourselves—and that kindness radiates to those in our sphere of influence and even beyond.To be shown mercy is to be shown a better way to live than we are perhaps currently living right now. To be shown mercy is to be shown that life is an exchange. Healthy folks are not narcissistic. They give and take. As we live as merciful people, we live in a natural, God-ordered way of living that promotes life at the very core of our existence and the existence of every living thing.