Finding Rest In Igloo City

Igloo Graphic

When I came back from the Ligonier Conference on Saturday, my 11-year-old daughter told me that she had built five igloos since I left four days before. I looked out of the window and, sure enough, there they were, five small-ish igloos dotted around the backyard. “Igloo City” as she called it.

Having tried to build one last year with her, and therefore knowing how much hard work went into this, I congratulated her for her industry. After she excitedly told me about how she’d developed a better building technique than I had used, I asked her,”But why five? Why didn’t you just build one and maybe make it a bit bigger?”

“Well, when I finished the first one, I sat in it for a few seconds, and then thought, ‘I want to build another.’ The fun is in the building not in the sitting inside.”

A Life Parable
Isn’t that a parable for our lives? We spend our time striving and straining to build something, to grow something, to learn something, to develop something. But when we arrive, when we get there, when we graduate, when we publish, when we finish, we barely pause for more than a few seconds to thank God and enjoy our triumph before looking around for the next challenge, the next peak, the next target.

There’s something good and godly in that. It’s a blessing that God so made us and so ordered our world that we find can joy and satisfaction in hard and challenging work – whether it be physical work or knowledge work.

But there’s something flawed and faulty in this too. The inability to pause, to savor, to enjoy, to be at rest and at peace in what God has enabled us to do. Always questing for more, stretching further, aiming higher, trying harder.

Five Seconds On Top Of Everest
I’ve been reading Into Thin Air, an account of an expedition to Everest that went disastrously wrong. As part of the background to the story, the author explains the years of planning that go into any Everest ascent, then the 2-3 months of climbing, acclimatizing, and climbing some more, before finally enjoying about a minute or so at the top!

Yes, after all that, only a minute or two to savor it – partly because of the ferocious weather, and partly because of the line of people waiting for their few seconds at the top! Yet there’s no shortage of people willing to pay the $65,000 dollars for the trip. And some do it again and again. Years and years, tens of thousands of dollars, many painful agonies, and all for five seconds.

I want to spend more time savoring God’s grace in the mini-summits of life and less time climbing. I want to spend more time inside the igloo and less time shoveling snow.

“Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).


Facts > Feelings = Positive Faith

Formula 1

As part of my passion to communicate the ideas in The Happy Christian, I asked the designer, Eric Chimenti, to produce some graphics that would encapsulate the message of the whole book (see yesterday’s post), and the essence of each chapter. I loved what he produced and also his explanation of the thinking process behind each image.

“The cloud in the middle represents both our brains that need retraining and the clouds of bad thinking that obscures our vision of God and what is truly true. The happy Christian has focused on what is important.”

Eric rightly identified Psalm 77 as the basis for the biblical formula Facts > Feelings = Positive Faith. There we see the psalmist moving from sadness, pessimism, and even depression to confidence, optimism, and hope; and He does so by focusing less on his feelings and more on the facts about God’s character, God’s works, and God’s Word.

Better facts produce better thinking; better thinking produces better believing; and better believing produces better feeling.

Remember, the time-limited launch offer of $100 of free eBooks, study guides, and films (applies to both eBooks and paper books). You may just squeeze in to qualify if you submit your receipt quickly. Visit The Happy Christian website for information on the Happy App and the daily blog.


Free Mental Health Seminars For Schools

Over the years I’ve received many emails from Christian parents, teachers, and pastors who have been deeply concerned about the mental health of their high schoolers. Like me, they are alarmed about the widespread depression, anxiety, and suicidal tendencies among the teens they know and love. I’ve tried to help as much as I could, but I’ve always felt that I could do more to help more. I just don’t have the capacity to offer individual counseling to people outside my immediate circles of responsibility.

In addition, I’ve also wanted to teach preventative care, to get ahead of mental illness, and provide teens with strategies and resources to not only avoid mental illness, but even flourish and thrive in their mental, emotional, and spiritual health. Hence my new book, The Happy Christian.

But are teens going to read it? I hope so; but I fear not.

So what about free mental health seminars for high-schoolers, conducted via Skype video?

That’s what I took part in yesterday. A Christian school teacher in another state arranged for me to Skype into his class and speak for 20 minutes about depression and then answer questions for 10-15 minutes. From what I could see, the students listened very well, took good notes, and asked some great questions. It only took 30-35 minutes of my time and about 20-30 young people received instruction on vital issues that are often totally neglected in school curricula. That to me is a great use of time for them and for me.

So, I’d like to offer other Christian schools the opportunity to do something similar. If you’re interested in this, please contact my assistant sarah.perez@prts.edu and we’ll see what we can fit into the schedule.


Ingredients Of A Happy Home (7): Willing Service

“The day I gave myself up to the Lord Jesus to be his servant was the very best day of my life; then I began to be safe and to be happy.” Charles Spurgeon*

Most kids seem to think that they will be happiest when everyone is serving them. Although it’s counter-intuitive and counter-cultural, we can greatly increase our children’s happiness by helping them find joy in serving others.

The best model and motive for this is what they see in their parents’ marriage. In Ephesians 5, Paul’s basic argument is that the more we give of ourselves in the service of a spouse, the more union, intimacy, satisfaction, and fulfillment we will discover and enjoy in marriage. Let the “What can I give?” question drown out and drive out the “What can I get?” question in every situation.

Read the rest at HappyChristian.net


10 Biblical Formulas To Change Your Life

Happy Graphic

A few years ago, I was reading Gretchen Rubin’s New York Times bestseller, The Happiness Project, where she narrates a year of trying to become a happier person through implementing the research findings of positive psychologists (“happy scientists” as they are sometimes called).

As I read this fascinating and helpful book, I couldn’t help thinking, “Surely Christians can do better than this!” Although these science-based techniques can be helpful, surely Christian have truths that can produce far more joy. Having written Christians Get Depressed Too, I thought, why don’t I write the flip side, “Christians Can Be Happy Too!” (With the bonus that I might be better known as Mr. Happy rather than Mr. Depression!)

The result is The Happy Christian which I based upon 10 biblical formulas, summarized in the above graphic produced by Eric Chimenti. (Here’s full resolution pdf and jpg for printing).

Over the next week or so, we’ll take a closer look at each of these formulas and graphics, but today I thought I’d present a quick summary to give you a general idea of what’s in the book (you can also get the first couple of chapters free at the website here).

Daily Calculations

Just before we look at the formulas, notice that every formula is based upon a Bible verse. You can see that in the texts underneath each image around the calculator and the texts on the green calculator buttons. 

Also, every formula is in “greater than” format. For example, the formula Good News > Bad News, based on Philippians 4:8, is saying make an effort to increase your intake of good news and reduce your intake of bad news in order to produce more of God’s peace in your lives. It’s not saying eliminate all bad news – that would be unrealistic and wrong to even attempt in a fallen world.

But, like all formulas, they require work to work! Just as answers to math questions don’t just drop into our laps, so we have to work at these formulas to get the benefit of the biblical truths in them into our lives.

Last, none of these are one-off sums that we calculate once and then move on. They have to be practiced every day of our lives. But I hope the infographic will make it easier to keep them in front of us and keep calculating them until they become instinctive and healthy habits.

Ten Biblical Formulas 

1. Facts > Feelings: This chapter covers how to gather the right facts, how to best think about these facts, and how to enjoy the beneficial impact of this on our emotions and moods. After identifying a number of damaging thinking patterns that are pummeling our emotions,  a six-step plan to retrain thoughts, knock out destructive emotions, and build a shield of protective positive feelings such as peace, joy, and confidence.

2. Good News > Bad News: Philippians 4:8 is applied to our media and ministry diets to ensure that we are consuming and digesting more good news than bad news, and thus enjoy more of God’s peace in our hearts.

3. Done > Do: While we need the demanding the imperatives of God’s law to reveal where we’ve gone wrong, we need to hear even more of the indicatives of God’s redeeming acts to reveal His grace and provision.

4. Christ > Christians: One of the biggest obstacles to evangelism is the inconsistency and hypocrisy of many Christians. It’s also the reason why so many leave the church or are unhappy in the church. But by focusing more on Christ than on Christians, we stop adding up the innumerable faults of Christians and start calculating the inestimable value of Christ.

5. Future > Past: This chapter helps Christians get the most our of looking to the past without falling into nostalgia or guilt. However, the primary emphasis of this chapter is to encourage Christians to have a much more future-oriented faith than is usually the case.

6. Everywhere grace > Everywhere sin:  Without denying the deep and ugly sinfulness that affects and infects everyone and everything, this formula calls Christians to pay much more attention to God’s beautiful work in the world and in all His creatures, resulting in a more positive worldview, more joy in our hearts, and more praise for our gracious God.

7. Praise > Criticism: Although it often feels good to criticize more than praise, a critical spirit and habit is extremely damaging for both the critic and the criticized. This chapter presents ten persuasive arguments for why praise and encouragement should be predominant.

8. Giving > Getting: Perhaps the most unbelieved beatitude in the Bible is, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). By looking at charitable giving, giving in marriage, giving of thanks, and giving in leadership, this chapter presents biblical and scientific evidence to persuade that the beatitude is indeed true.

9. Work > Play: As work plays such a large part in our lives, it’s hard to be happy Christians unless we are happy at work. This chapter explains the bible’s teaching about vocation and proposes a number of God-centered ways in which we can increase our joy at work.

10. Diversity > Uniformity: While staying in our own cultures and communities is safe and easy, a more biblical engagement of other races, classes, and cultures enriches and enhances our lives. This chapter suggests ten ways in which we can increase diversity in our lives, families, and churches, and lists ten advantages of such choices.

The conclusion faces the reality of sin and suffering head-on, and counsels Christians about how to find joy in repentance and in joyful submission to God’s providence. The book finishes with a look towards heaven, a world of happiness, where we can put our calculators away and enjoy God’s provision of perfect happiness.

Remember, the time-limited launch offer of $100 of free eBooks, study guides, and films (applies to both eBooks and paper books). More of Eric Chimenti’s creative skills are show-cased here.


Ingredients Of A Happy Home (6): Less Doing

“Let us all remember, that the only way to keep our life peaceful and happy is to keep the heart at rest; for come poverty, come wealth, come honor, come shame, come plenty, or come scarcity, if the heart be quiet there will be happiness anywhere.” Charles Spurgeon*

I thought British kids were over-scheduled, but American kids have even more packed into their days and lives. It’s all good things: sports, clubs, youth groups, fellowships, etc., but they hardly ever get time to do nothing.

Read the rest at HappyChristian.net.