Friday, September 7, 2012

Keep It Simple, Sweethearts

King Solomon, the supposed author of Ecclesiastes, is having a bad day, or maybe it’s a bad year.  He’s greatly perplexed and completely dissatisfied and has come to a place where life just seems pointless. “Vanity of vanities!” he says.  “All is vanity.”  Or as another translation puts it, “Meaningless!  All is meaningless.”  The wise king is saying, it’s not worth all the effort.  Work, work, work and for what?  Just to get by?  “Everything is wearisome,” he says. 

Have you ever felt like that?  I know I have.  Some days, not all days, but some days, and these are definitely not the best days, life does seem pointless.  It seems like a lot of effort for little reward.

King Solomon goes on to say, it all just seems futile.  The sun rises, then it sets.  The wind blows this way, then it blows that way.  The streams run to the sea but the sea is never full. The world just keeps turning round and round and nothing comes of it.  And on top of that, human beings are never satisfied.  No matter how much we hear, we haven’t heard enough.  No matter how much we see, we haven’t seen enough.  No matter how much we receive, we are never full, just like the sea.

I was talking to a friend who has three kids and is a stay at home mom.  Her husband is a good man who works hard every day to support his family, and they live in a nice home.  It’s everything she ever wanted.  Or is it?  Some days, my friend feels more trapped than she feels like she is living her dream.  She feels exhausted and frustrated.  She’s worried about her son going back to school because he had problems last year, the boiler needs replacing, it’s time to renew her car registration, she has to cook dinner AGAIN.  The big things and the little things add up to a feeling of being overwhelmed, and when she collapses on the couch after putting the kids to bed, my friend wonders, is this the meaning of life?  Is this all there is?  To work all day long only to get up and do it again tomorrow?

That’s not the meaning of life.  Experiencing joy, spreading love, communing with others-now those are reasons to live. 

But sometimes, we cannot see the forest for the trees.  We forget the reasons why life is such a blessing.   When everything gets too complicated in your mind, like a tangled ball of string that we will never be able to unwind, this is the time when it is best to focus on the simple things in life.  This is the time to focus all your attention in the now and just put one foot in front of the other.   This is the time to count your blessings and stay positive, instead of directing all your attention to what is “wrong” in your life.  This is the time to keep it simple, sweethearts.

Simplicity is God’s gift to the mind and peace to the soul.  With simplicity comes clarity.  We can break big questions and big problems down into small, manageable pieces.  We can have breakthroughs in our thinking.  One time when I was lost in my own world of darkness, I heard these words: “It’s okay.”  I think it was God breaking through my terrible thinking and trying to assure me that I didn’t need to be so upset.  “It’s okay,” I heard.  A simple message but so profound in the moment that it took me out of my dark place and back into the light.  I felt so much better.

Now after King Solomon goes off on the vanity of life and how it is meaningless, he comes to the conclusion that we should simply enjoy life, that we should simply enjoy what we have. 

King Solomon eventually sees through the darkness in his own mind and realizes what is important.  After all his philosophizing, he comes to the conclusion that we should simply enjoy life, enjoy each other and enjoy the bounty of this great world. It’s as though the complicated question, “What do people gain from all the toil at which they toil under the sun?” becomes very simple and clear.  It’s not about what we gain.  It’s about appreciating what we have been given.

Solomon says, “Go, eat your bread with enjoyment, and drink your wine with a merry heart; for God has long ago approved what you do.  Let your garments always be white, do not let oil be lacking on your head.”  Then he says, “Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that are given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun.”  He’s saying, enjoy what you have, whether it’s your wife or your husband or your children or your church family.  Enjoy living with these people in this time and in this place.  Enjoy sharing your life with them because this is the lot you have been given.

I read this book called Working with the Law, and in that book, the law is another name for God or the One who makes and guides the universe.  So the title could be, Working with God.  One of the laws in the book is the Law of Compensation, and the basic idea is that whatever a person sows, that he or she shall reap.  Wherever you put your energy into, that is where you will produce your reward.  If you put your best effort in, then your life will expand.  If you do the best that you can, then your life will grow in that direction.

For example, if you want a bigger or nicer apartment, take the best possible care you can of your current apartment – decorate it well, keep it clean- and as you fill the space,  you will grow into a new space.  Either the apartment that you have will become what you want it to be or a new opportunity will become available to you. 

Another example is that if you want to have better relationships, then you should take care of the people in your life, be close to them, love them the best you can.  When you put that energy out there, your relationships will improve.  They will grow stronger and new opportunities for those relationships or even new relationships will come into your life.

Perhaps you want to find a partner, a person to share your life with.  Well, then, live as though you would if you had that person.  Cook for yourself, just like you would cook for the two of you.  Give up your bad habits just like you would if you had someone you loved telling you to do so. 

Or perhaps you want to have children or grandchildren.  Then treat all children you meet with love and respect.  Be good to children and you will see the relationships you have get better and even more children will come into your life.  The same is true of your work life.  Do your best, and you will receive the best opportunities.  Live as a success and you will be a success.

The Law of Compensation makes sense to me.  Simply act like you would if you had what you wanted and what you want will come to you.  I’ve been working this law lately and my friendships have grown much stronger, and I feel more love from people than I ever have before.

If we combine King Solomon’s wisdom to simply enjoy life with the Law of Compensation, we will find that we are meant to put our energy into living a joy-filled existence.  In doing so, we create the life we want, and we spread joy in this world.   

It was funny because my friend with the three kids called me the other day, and she was in such a good mood, which is rare for her lately.  She was happy and bubbly, and I said, “Lisa, what’s going on?  What happened to you?  Two days ago you were bemoaning your life and wondering what you could do to change it.”  You know what she said?  “I went dancing.”  Yes, dancing.  She said she couldn’t remember the last time she had so much fun.  It was so simple. My friend put a little energy into doing something she enjoyed, and it changed her whole demeanor.

Ask yourself, do you take enough time to enjoy life?  Do you put your energy where your happiness is?

Let us eat, drink and be merry, my friends.   Let us dance and sing.  Let us play with children and animals.  Let us smell flowers and see the beauty of the sky.  Let us cook good food and share it with others.  Let us give love to our friends and relatives.  Let us bask in the sunshine and notice that the days are getting shorter and it’s starting to feel like fall

Especially on those days when it all feels like too much and there’s no point in any of it, just remember to keep it simple, sweethearts.  Enjoy what you have been given and put your energy into those things that bring you joy.  I promise you, you will reap what you sow.

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