Thursday, June 09, 2011

Talking Happiness

Painting by Alan R. Banks
American, 1948-present
click on painting for a more detailed view

Alan R. Banks was one of the artists whose work was included in the Russian art exhibit in Moscow.

Description of Painting: The subject is a woman wearing a long skirt patterned with gold and yellow flowers, a white blouse and  a white hat with a dark green band of ribbon around the crown. She is seated on a black, wrought iron bench in a garden, reading a book. Her expression is one of contentment and peace.  Behind the seat are delicate white climbing roses, and the sunlight makes a pattern on the path beyond to a lattice fence. The thick green grass looks like a soft carpet for her feet. Beyond her is a lattice fence and more roses.  What a wonderful place to find quietness, sweet scents, and happiness.

Every decade has its bad news. No matter where you live or when you were born, there is something tragic going on in the news. The great painters, though  living in perilous times themselves, still brought loveliness into the world through their work. 

If you are a homemaker, you have to consider yourself an ambassador of your own kind. A gloomy attitude towards life will discourage others from joining the wonderful world of homemaking.

Speaking in a positive way can make a day brighter for yourself and others. This poem expresses it well:

Note: When reading poetry, it is not necessary to pause at the end of a stanza or line. Read fluently, pausing only at the punctuation marks. You will find that it make better sense.  This is a great read-aloud poem.


Talk happiness. The world is sad enough

Without your woe. No path is wholly rough.

Look for the places that are smooth and clear,

And speak of them to rest the weary ear

Of earth; so hurt by one continuous strain

Of mortal discontent and grief and pain.

Talk faith. The world is better off without

Your uttered ignorance and morbid doubt.

If you have faith in God, or man, or self,

Say so; if not, push back upon the shelf

Of silence all your thoughts ‘till faith shall come.

No one will grieve because your lips are dumb.

Talk health. The dreary, never-ending tale

Of mortal maladies is worn and stale;

You cannot charm or interest or please

By harping on that minor chord disease.

Say you are well, or all is well with you,

And God shall hear your words and make them true.

by Ella Wheeler Wilcox, 1850-1919

The author in the Victorian era expressed the same problems in speech that we have today.  Complaining about life, reporting on every physical problem, and  lack of faith are things that each generation needs to overcome.

There is no denying that life on earth can get very upsetting,  but we are stuck here while we live, so we have to make the best of it.  Within your grasp there is probably a Bible, and in it contain the keys to happiness, whether the circumstances be dreary or bright.

Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding.  Proverbs 3:13

Behold, we count them happy which endure...  James 4:11

But if ye suffer for righteousness' sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled.  Ist Peter 3:14

There are of course, some people who will never be happy. They love misery and they want others to be miserable too. However, Christian women are not supposed to be speaking of  gloom and doom.  Since talk comes from whatever is in the mind, the solution is to think about things that are lovely:

According to Philippians 4:8, we are to "think on things" that are: true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtue and praiseworthy. 

To train the mind to think on those things, try substituting a cheerful thought for a depressing one, or a good story for a scary story.  Think of careful living instead of careless living. Spend some time creating a cache of lovely ideas, places, things, happenings and dreams, to substitute when you find your mind drifting into depressing thoughts. If you have gotten into the habit of thinking on the dark side of life, it will take some time to break it, but by substituting the collection of happy thoughts, beliefs and ideas, it can be done.

Some people have learned the art of taking "mind-vacations" where they think of places they would like to go and things they would like to do when they need some relief from the stress of the world around them. Others use pleasant little rituals, like taking tea using their best setting, at least once a day, to remove themselves from the cares of life that could otherwise cause dark thoughts. 

 There are those who just know how to keep a song in their hearts, so that when stress is levelled at them, they concentrate on the words of the songs they have stored up in their minds.  

 In times of tedious tasks, people who sing will find the job almost done before they know it, and they did not have to suffer from unhappiness while doing it. When we were children, we had to pick berries in the wilds, and it just seemed to take ever so long to fill our buckets. We found that singing all the verses of all the songs we knew, helped to lighten the work.  This is one way to substitute something lovely for something that seems difficult and tedious. Forward this video to 3.52 on the dial, and hear the wife of Itzhak Perlman say "If everyone sang every day, the psychiatrists would be out of business."

One lady I know has a unique approach to life. With this method, she has accomplished many things and overcome many challenges.   With her permission, I will quote:

"When I have endured any suffering or reproach, I go home and draw plans for a new house. After I have sketched the house, I build it in my mind and draw it on paper. Then, I go through books and catalogs and find all the furniture I like and fill up my new house. I pretend that there is plenty of money for whatever I want. I build a beautiful house and fill it with all the kinds of things I've ever liked.  After that, I fill the closets with clothes for everyone in my family, and get myself a new wardrobe too. Then I write out invitations to people I like,, to come and have a banquet with me. At each place is a gift for each person, and they all enjoy a very special meal."

 She is thinking on things that are lovely, pure, noble and good. She has not changed the bleak ways of the world, but she has controlled how it will effect her.  The author of "Auntie Mame" wrote, "Life is a banquet, but most people are starving to death." This is a figure of speech that means there is a way to be happy but many people just do not see it.

The Bible is a source for refreshment and relief when the rest of the world is full of confusion. It is now more easily accessible than at any time in history. Most people have it right at their fingertips in the form of E-Sword on their computers.  If you want to know the secret to happiness, just type in the word "happy," and see what the source really is. It has nothing to do with riches, honor, or worldly success. It has a lot to do with training the mind. There is no reason to be starving for happiness when it is available in abundance. The only thing you have to do is put these things into practice.

In talking happiness,  it is essential to think on things that are good and happy. That is what Philippians 4:8 is all about. Many people are exceptionally familiar with this verse, but very few people remember the promise that comes in the very next sentence. It promises that if you do these things, the God of peace shall be with you. Think of things that are noble, lovely and good, and peace will follow.

Besides thinking happiness, we must speak happiness. Our speech is a gift to others. We can lift them up or depress them. The poem mentions the problem of complaining about ill health. This is something I heard one woman call "organ recitals"--referring to the state of the heart, the liver, the kidneys, etc. during a meal.   It is always inappropriate to discuss bodily functions, details of your recent surgery (how much blood was spilled, etc.) while people are taking tea or eating.  It is more encouraging  to give a good report. (Philippians 4:8)

If you are involved in a regular Ladies Bible Study, you need to be especially careful to give visiting ladies a good impression. I have heard outsiders say of these classes that they would have enjoyed it better if there had not been so much bad news discussed among the ladies after the lesson was finished. 

Sometimes when people are in a group, they forget themselves and get carried away with topics that are not appropriate or uplifting. Everyone seemed eager to report personal details of their lives that are not encouraging, or gruesome details of things that ought not to be spoken of in public.  This kind of talk can be corrected by taking Philippians 4:8 into the mind and applying it every time you are tempted to say something that would give a visitor a bad impression of the Lord's church. Before you speak about unsavory things, look around the room and see if there might be anyone there who is weaker or who may not be edified by what you say. Be sure that your conversation is uplifting and beneficial without being macabre.

 An outsider will think that Christianity must be a miserable life, when all they hear is women in the church talking about horrible things. God's people are not supposed to be morose, fearful, complaining  or gloomy. They need to talk happiness and overcome the world.

I am reading an old book online titled, "The Joy of Living," by Orison Marden, written in 1913. In it, the author chides her own generation for worrying about the future, and speaks of ways to enjoy the present to the fullest.  At the beginning of chapter XXV , which is titled "Turning the Water of Life into Wine,  is written, "If it is a dark day, never mind. You will add to the brightness."


Anonymous said...

This is all excellent advice. In particular, I liked your suggestions for training the mind to dwell on lovely things instead of depressing ones. You even remind us that it will take some time & practice.

This is good advice, ladies! Let's practice being what we want our surroundings to be, & not lament so much, with a sad shaking of our heads, that things have gotten so out of hand. And I believe this is as applicable in the home as it is to the society at large.

Good post!

Anonymous said...

Speaking in an uplifting way is part of being courteous to others. It means that even when the world changes, we don't ever change our standards. I've always cringed when women allow conversations to deteriorate into unedifying talk about gruesome things that make you cringe. It is not a fault only in younger women, but in older ones, too. We all need to be reminded to be careful what we talk about, and be mindful of our surroundings, of the activities, etc., especially when eating! Some kinds of talk can really spoil one's appetite. If a woman is under 40 she might just be ignorant, but if she is over 40, there is no excuse, as she has had plenty of time to learn about what to say in front of other people.

Anonymous said...

In learning to steer clear of cattiness and gossip, this article is very helpful. It helps no one to think ugly and speak ugly.

In addition, Paul taught us to find contentment in whatever state we're in. In finding contentment, one finds happiness, and you've written a wonderful post in training the mind to be content.

So, thank you very much!

Anonymous said...

Well said, Lady Lydia. I think for me I often find myself dwelling on the tragic instead of the hopeful and it is quick to show up in my endeavors at home...I will tend to put my emphasis entirely on the "have to" chores and forget the importance of "puttering" and finding ways to add beauty and peace to the home environment. I know that sounds strange, but it seems to be connected. The quote about your friend is indeed enlightening. I also find that if I picture in my mind's eye how I would like the home to look and feel, a cloud has lifted and I am able to go about my day with a lighter step. Thank you for the reminder to refocus our thoughts on things more noble and true.

Anonymous said...

This is so timely. My daughter just spoke last night of a young homemaker friend of hers who can talk of nothing but her problems, most of them small and inconsequential, and yet discounts the troubles of others and sometimes even mocks them. I am going to advise her to try to encourage her friend to visit your blog site.

Anonymous said...

Dear Lydia,

Thank you so much. Over the years that I've read your blog, you have changed my outlook on so many things. I agree wholeheartedly about being positive. Even mental illness challenges can be 'cured' if we look on the bright side of life.

Funny, I draw house plans, too. Whenever I'm out, I take pictures of architectural treatments that I like. Right now I'm working on one that is a Mediterranean open courtyard style like those found in Santa Barbara with a private Japanese garden off the master Japanese bath. Sounds strange but in my mind's eye it is a lovely mingling of these two cultures. I'll have to try furnishing it like your friend.

I'll add your book to my study list. Thank you once again for making me think. From one dress wearing, long haired, smiling and joyful, garden loving, Jesus loving, happy homemaker to another, thanks for your caring ministry.

Anonymous said...

This was a very good post. When my mind starts to strain from all the news of the world and such I think of Phil. 4:8 and do think of theses things. I also start to pray and praise in a positive manner and my mind is full of good things and not bad. Our world inside our houses with our families are our top concern. To extend courtesy and hospitality to those near and dear is a blessing when we can do so. Contentment is surely a big part of it. As you have mentioned before, keeping the tv off or out of the home is a help too. When we have a positive attitude it is contagious. Set the example and others will follow. This is an attractive way of living and we are to be attracting others for Christ! :) Sarah

Blessed Homemaking said...

This is such a lovely post and so needed. Growing up with people that often spoke negatively about everything, I think I somewhat picked up the habit. I have faith however that as I put Philippians 4:8 into practice though those old habits will be broken.

Thank you for all the wonderful advice and encouragement for thinking on good and joyful things so that we may have the right attitude.

~Mrs. Q

Karen said...

This advice looks like a prescription for good mental health. There are millions of American women taking expensive medications with serious potential side effects to try to combat depression and anxiety. It seems to me that many, if not most, of them could find safe and effective relief from their symptoms if they were to apply the advice you give here.

One of the things I like about this post is that you acknowledge that life can be difficult but show how a positive attitude is possible anyway. It shows empathy.

Lydia said...

There are many people, including famous ones, who have suffered innumerable tragedies and are trying to make the best of life. The former Queen of Iran, Farrah, lost her husband through cancer and one of her daughters died as a teenager. Though she still feels it painfully she says she wants people to know that she is still smiling and trying to do her best. She has developed several worthy causes which she participates in. In a documentary made about her the interviewer asked her why she didnt just relax, since she was no longer queen of a country, and go around town in jeans and tee shirt. She said she could not go around looking sloppy. She wanted to present a good image to the world and not a depressing one.

Miss Linda said...

Thank you for sharing these important thoughts. This is an issue that I pray about a great deal and your post was a wonderful source of inspiration.

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much dear Lydia for writing these wonderful articles. You are always such an inspiration and encouragement. Having health problems can make one gloomy with the incessiveness of it, but putting your recommendations into practice always helps. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

In a previous post ~"Beginning the Day at Home"~ you shared the idea of putting together a collection of favorite articles, etc., to read at various times. This is one article I plan on putting in my personal notebook. You wrote ~ "If you have gotten into the habit of thinking on the dark side of life, it will take some time to break it, but by substituting the collection of happy thoughts, beliefs and ideas, it can be done" ~ this gives hope!
Thank you for the encouraging words, ideas, and suggestions.

Anonymous said...

You are such a bright light.
I appreciate you and your gentle wisdom.

Perhin Madoc Gamgins said...

I know this comment is rather late, but I just wanted to say "thank-you" for creating this blog. I suffer from very bad depression and other mental issues, but after reading this post, I feel happy. I am going to bookmark this post for other times I feel down. :)