Back to school, and back to the frenzy of spelling words, library books, shin guards and carpools. Days where even the 20 minutes to actually sit down and eat feel like an unlikely luxury. And you better have your math flashcards ready for review with that fork in the air!! There’s a rhythm to it though – the routine brings order compared to the carefree summer when nature is the only topic on the study plan. But somehow in both times, the lull and the sprint, the steady flow of church life persists.
I just read a well-cited article on what the happiest people do every day. The first specific action listed is going to church, which research shows to bring people “a disproportionate amount of happiness.” The author concludes that church life provides a frequent, constant and scheduled time for us to engage in fellowship with people who matter to us. Anecdotally, I also received this week a Snapchat (and I’m not even a millennial!) from my dear friend Gretchen that said simply “Church makes me happy!” I love church too, for the feeling of family that it builds for me and my kids. Some might (ok most would) say I’m an incurable social butterfly, so this may be no surprise. However, and probably more critically for me, it is also the scheduled time for peace; for sitting down, being quiet, listening, and reflecting (especially when I can talk the tots into Sunday school!).
Being at the stage of life that I am, I’ve had more and more of those…ah… “so this is what my mom was thinking” moments. I remember her loving church and insisting that we all go as well; I remember her saying how it centered her. Don’t tell her I said this, but man, she is so often so right. How thankful I am to have the people we have within our church family; people that welcome, encourage, love and worship; people who come together, in the stormy midst of life’s disappointments, failures, and hate, to recenter and refocus and hear the Word – love your enemy, help the needy.
Interestingly the next “how to” item falls squarely in the practice of believers as well. It recommends we all start the day with anticipation, recollection and gratitude…doesn’t that sound like prayer? This one’s harder for me. It’s not scheduled, it doesn’t have a spot reserved in my Google Calendar saying “hey dummy, this time is saved.” Guess what? Prayer doesn’t happen nearly enough. The research shows that regular practice of these three basic mantras breeds optimism and buffers stress. Who doesn’t need more of that? So I ask, is it weird to pray for more discipline to pray? Because that’s what I need!
Lastly, serve. The biggest benefit to our social networks, is the opportunity to help others. Doing so brings happiness, longevity and even success in research studies. Even when it’s something that seems small, it’s the frequency rather than the magnitude that matters. Have you noticed that oftentimes something that’s so small and easy to do (ie lend out a few square feet of the garage for storage) can be so meaningful to those who need it? Maybe a lesson here is to offer to help rather than waiting to be asked. Even better if you can offer something tangible and specific! I’ve heard it called Radical Hospitality. I like this idea of crazy generosity of spirit. Overall it seems to me the prescription for happiness and well-being is right there in our biblical playbook, if we’d just slow down enough to ponder it.
What’s that? A box of cereal is now spread across the floor?? And there goes the bus…sigh!!