Tuesday, August 8, 2006

Joyful Sparrows

by Donna L. Watkins

© 2008 Donna L. Watkins - Rufous-collared Sparrow - Costa Rica City Bird

We went to Charlottesville to pick up a piece of necessary equipment for my new MacBook. Although it was maxed out on speed because of all the photo work I do, it was loading websites and anything online at a snail's pace. After my technical husband, Randal, finished trouble shooting, he discovered that the new computer didn't want to take signals from the old router.

While he went into Office Depot for the required "upgrades" I stayed outside in the car and listened to "Phantom of the Opera" on CD. Surprisingly, after a number of scorching days, there was still a cool breeze blowing through the car windows at 10 AM in the morning. The music from Phantom was just what I needed to take me away from bad thoughts. After all they are not going to change anything but me. Thinking and rehearsing negative things in my mind only provided me with a bad mood and that affects my health ..... so I chose to be happy.

You see, I had gone to town for two speedy stops, wanting to return home for the breakfast that I did not eat before leaving. Randal had thought of two more places he needed to go to, so now my goal of returning home speedily was not going to be met. Randal often doesn't think about what he needs to do until shortly before he's ready to do it. I have plenty of opportunities to convert goals to desires living with this slower-paced husband ..... and I can assure you he gets a lot of blocked goals living with me too. We have choices every day. We work together, live together, garden together and keep house together. We are seemingly total opposites, but if we choose to, we can make those opposites a blessing in our lives.

The first stop we made was not on my mental agenda, so I sat in the shade and timed how long it would take for this additional errand. Surprisingly it was less than 15 minutes, but in those 15 minutes I was able to get pretty darn grumpy and hungry. So, at the next stop, Office Depot, I began again to entertain myself by watching the clock tick by as I let my mind wonder back into the zone of non-encouraging thinking.

Choosing happiness is not exactly easy when you're a good way into a private rant. It's much easier to go down the tubes to misery and despair at the circumstances of life around us ..... but I've told myself that life around me may never change, but what I do with my own life can. Matter of fact, it's one of the few things I can change each day. So many things are out of my control and learning to define a goal vs. a desire has been a big help.

You can set a goal of walking two miles a day, not eating after 6 PM, not thinking bad thoughts and negative self-talk, or increasing your sales volume for the next quarter at work. Those are all things you have control over. You can do it. It is truly up to you to choose to.

However, a desire is something that you would like to see, but have no control over. You would like to have a family operating like The Waltons. You want a husband that is romantic. You expect your employer to give you a raise because you know you've done a good job. You believe your children should respect their parents because it's the way things were done when you were a child. You have no real control over these desires. You cannot make them goals for your life or you will be absolutely miserable because you cannot control whether or not these things are going to happen.

I thought of Solomon's words in Proverbs: "A merry heart does good like a medicine: but a broken spirit dries the bones." Having rheumatoid arthritis, I thought about how much time I'd spent in my life whining about the way things were. Being an only child I was used to having things go my way, but of course even if this is true of our life as a child, it will never be true for us as an adult. Yet another reason to discipline our children and teach them the realities of life early.

I chose happy and began to speak good thoughts to myself. There were two English Sparrows flying about looking for crumbs to eat here and there on the parking lot. God promises to feed the birds and when I see them in shopping centers, I wonder that it's possible for them to survive. Yet, why would they remain? Why do they build nests there and raise young there? English Sparrows prefer cities and parking lots. We've lived in the country for 17 years and I've never seen an English Sparrow in our yard where there is plenty of bird food, water, shelter and nesting places, yet any time I see them in parking lots, my mind wants to go wallowing in the muck of misery.

I had a choice. I could be happy or I could be miserable. Something else that Solomon said in Proverbs 12:25 was: "Heaviness in the heart of man makes it stoop: but a good word makes it glad."

The birds choose to believe God will take care of them and they go about their day singing and searching for God's provision. Should I do any less?

We have a choice to choose joy or choose despair and depression. Actually our choice is in what we want to think, because you can't think about all the wrong things going on in your life and not be depressed. There is good in every day and choosing to see that good, to be grateful for that good, will make the day good by the end of it. Happiness may be based on happenings, but joy comes from within and we have access to it through our thoughts. We choose what kind of day we will have by what we choose to focus on and think about.

Still don't believe your thoughts and words make a difference in how you feel?

Take the time for this exercise. There are two statements below. Read the first one through slowly three times, visualizing what I was seeing.

#1 --- Those poor birds having to scrounge for food all over a dirty parking lot. How sad. Life is so hard for all of us.

Did you feed these words into your mind three times? Now assess how you feel. Did you feel your heart drop a bit? Even your facial expressions will change. You can almost feel your mouth hanging down and the outer corners of your eyes drooping. Now do the same with the second choice of thoughts and words.

#2 --- Look at those birds chirping, hopping and skipping around to discover God's provision for them. Even in this barren parking lot they find food. They are a picture of faith for God's provision to us all no matter what our circumstances may be. I will choose to have faith also and see that life is good where ever I am.

Do you notice the difference?

You can set a goal to do this. You are in control of your thoughts. Only you! Be diligent and get better at it the more you do it. If it's been a long time since you controlled your thoughts, it will be quite a challenge, but after all ...... aren't you begging for happiness in your heart? Then, take control of your thoughts and get it! Any time you have a negative thought, replace it with a good one. Make it a habit to think Pollyanna style.

Choose joy! Look around! There's always a "little birdie" in your life to show you the way.

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