Joy Really is That Simple

New to Giving Bliss? Read This First!



A couple of weeks ago as I was leaving for work, my wife asked me to take Jared his homework that had fallen out of his backpack as he ran out of the house to catch the bus. I visited the school and took the sheet of homework to his classroom. It is always fun to see my kids in their classrooms. I love going to schools, or anywhere where there are groups of children. Children are happy, buoyant and cheerful. I can feel of their goodness.

While I was basking in the atmosphere, I was walking down a hall on my way out, when I saw a small line of children coming the opposite way. This feeling of love and happiness was stronger than what I had been feeling before. This just radiated from them. I couldn’t help but smile.

As I approached I saw that is was the special needs class coming down the hall. The goodness that emanated from them was palpable and I was overwhelmed by it. My smile widened, my day had been altered in the best of ways. I wanted to turn around and walk with them, to be with them. There was greatness in them – innocence, beauty and love.

I sometimes wonder if all of us “regular” people are the special needs group. Our ability to love gets hampered by daily distractions, selfishness, and stress. I will never forget the gift they gave me that morning. A gift that they didn’t even realize that they were giving, but were giving with pure goodness.



You never know when you will be asked to give, or when an opportunity calls for you to come at a moments notice. The other day I was planning on going for a morning run, but when I woke up, I decided I didn’t want to run that morning. It turned out to be a good thing I skipped the run. I was doing a few morning things when I received a phone call. It was 7:30 am. A woman in my neighborhood area had fallen and her husband couldn’t get her back up on his own. I received a call from their neighbor. They couldn’t seem to get a hold of anyone. I put on my flip flops, and in my pajamas – raced in my car to the house.

She wasn’t seriously hurt, but in quite a bit of pain. They had an appointment at the doctor to make. I was able to help her husband get her off of the bathroom floor and into a wheel chair. After her husband helped her change from her PJs into her clothes, I then helped him get his wife into their car. They are not accustomed to need help. They are the kind of people that are always there to give and serve those around them. Now they were on the other side. I could tell it was hard for this gentleman to have to call for help. He told me “Never get old.” I could tell his gratitude for my help, even though I didn’t really do anything that special.

He commented to me that I was faster than 911.

I was glad I was there when someone was in need. Are we ready to be faster than 911 when someone is in need? Are we ready to give at a moments notice? Are we someone that people can feel they can call when they are in need?

Someday we will be on the receiving end, and we’ll need to call on someone for help, to give of their time, talents or means. We all get to give to each other. The exchange is a marvelous thing.


I have had a rough few days. Just as I feel I have made strides in the condition of my heart, I am shown how very far I need to go. Sometimes I feel so frustrated about how easily the balance is upset. I do or say things that hurt others. Even as I desire to truly be a Christian in word and indeed, I fall short.

Yesterday, after an evening at dinner with the family, which was expensive – and I had an 18 months old screeching very loudly the whole time, we were driving home when the car in the right lane slowed to turned into a gas station. I was in the left lane. Suddenly, a white car cuts across the right lane into my lane. I had to serve into the turning lane and barley missed slamming into the car. I laid on the horn heavily – and too long. I didn’t use it as a “watch out!” – I used it as a “What the heck do you think you are doing!” Oh I was mad!

This teenage girl didn’t do this on purpose, she made a mistake but luckily no one was injured. I’ve made traffic mistakes too. It is very embarrassing, and once it is over, there is not much to do about it. How easy it is to see one point of view – and totally disregard the other. I failed yesterday.

I failed again today. I was involved with a fall in my garage that involved my brand new computer, my car, and a bike. Children were involved in it. Again I was mad. I chastised. The bike was parked too close, or someone wasn’t paying attention.  Again, a raised voice.

I didn’t get a chance to apologize to the girl in the white car. But I did go and apologize to my son and daughter. The fall really was an accident – and probably a learning experience for my benefit. No one was to blame, even though I thought so at the time.

The important thing to remember is that even when you’ve said things in anger – you can give someone the benefit of an apology. It takes overcoming personal pride. It is easy to blame others, to somehow think that those mishaps are geared just to make you upset. This is folly.

So even though I’ve not done so well so far this week – I have a chance to make it better tomorrow. This is one of the many reasons why it is wonderful to have a Savior. He allows me to learn from my mistakes, to have the ability to correct them and to move forward. For this I am grateful.


Children always amaze me by their honesty. Sometimes abrupt, yes, but refreshing.

My wife and children were at the store yesterday when a classmate of Jared’s from last school year came running up to him and said, “I haven’t seen you in SO long that I forgot your name! My name is Aiden, what is yours?”

Was Jared offended? No. He was glad to see his friend and get reacquainted.

Aiden gave an honest assessment, and Jared recognized it. Jared didn’t go home offended that his name had been forgotten. They gave each other a gift of easy friendship without worrying about embarrassment or offense.

We would be wise to do likewise.




On my way to work this morning, I heard an interesting quote:

negative ideas dominate

This statement was said in the context of health and medicine, where some people might speculate something negative about a procedure, and start to talk about it without any real scientific evidence – and then this negative idea spreads like wildfire. Soon, this negative idea becomes well known, and many people have to defend a procedure from this ballooning of the negative idea. And all of it just from speculation!

One of my main weaknesses has been judgement. I am a quick and harsh judge at times. And when I do it, the negative ideas which I hold begin to dominate my thoughts and feelings about that person.

I have been thinking all morning how this relates to Giving and serving others. The phrase “giving the benefit of the doubt” seems to keep popping up. To better understand what this really meant I searched the origin of the phrase:

When you give someone the benefit of a doubt, it means that any doubt about the truth or the correct interpretation of the facts lessens the fault that can be imputed to the party in question, thereby benefitting him by improving his case while weakening that of his accusers or opponents.

GIVING the benefit of the doubt. It is something we give to the “party in question” and ourselves. It does us no good to believe an ill report of another, and actually damages us and them when we believe and/or repeat the report. While pondering on this I remember another quote that I ran across yesterday:

If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each man’s life, sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility. ~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

When we cease to judge others we extend to them mercy. While it is true, we can judge certain behaviors in and of themselves as right or wrong, we need to separate that from the person and the soul to whom it is attached.

One more quote that goes along with this (wow there are a lot of them in this entry!) that I heard years ago – I do not remember the origin – goes something like this:

Your name is safe in our house

This is my assignment for myself, to really live that last quote. To Give people safety with the words I speak about them.




I was late. I wanted to be on the road already. I was loading the computer into my car and heading to one of my client’s office 70 miles away. I really wanted to get going so I could get work started.

“Dad, can you fix my tire?”, Jared called from the driveway.

The bike was laying on it’s side and the pump was out. It is a good pump, but very particular. It took me quite a while to become proficient with it. Jared wouldn’t be able to get it on correctly.

Nate’s bike was fine–he was waiting for Jared so they could ride together.

My initial reaction was to say “Sorry, I have to get going,” but then I thought about my project. This project. Thinking beyond myself. In that instant I felt Jared’s need. At first, to me it was just a flat tire – and bike in the driveway blocking my car. And then I saw it through his eyes. He couldn’t fix the tire by himself.  He just wanted to ride with Nate. He looked to me for help – and I was the only one who could give it to him at that moment. A brief annoyance was replaced by mercy and love. I stopped what I was doing. And pumped up the tire.

He rode away. I don’t remember if he said “thank you,” but the smile on his face and the happy cries as he raced his brother down the street were thanks enough.


While I may not have been actively writing as much on the Giving Bliss blog or writing articles, the theme of giving has been on my mind these last few years as I have looked at myself and those around me. History and literature have many stories of dramatic change–some very rapidly. Saul in the New Testament, becomes Paul quite quickly. We’ve all heard stories of the dramatic fall of a hero turned villain, or villain finding some humanity, at some apex of the narrative.

But more common, is the slow and subtle change. I have witnessed this for myself, not as an outsider–because I’ve seen this change in me.

When I began this project, I had a completely different title. It was Finding Bliss, which turned out to be a not so good movie made with the same title. The point of my book was to assist people in finding joy in their lives.

When I discovered that I could not use that title, that is when inspiration struck. It wasn’t more than 2 minutes when I had the new title and new direction. While the result is the same, the approach is different. Instead of helping people to find happiness by looking for happiness, Giving Bliss is a project about giving happiness, which results in a purer joy than in strictly self-interest. The Master spoke well when He taught about losing one’s life – and finding it

I cannot explain adequately the change that has come over me. The change is not over –  I hope it isn’t over because it is marvelous! My capacity to love and to forgive has dramatically increased. It wasn’t overnight. But I can tell a pronounced difference. And this isn’t just love for my immediate family and neighbors I know – but in complete strangers! I don’t upset as easily when someone cuts me off. It is easier for me to give the benefit of the doubt. When someone has said something unkind or a little put off at me – I don’t offend as easily.

Please don’t take this as a boast. For I have many imperfections that need ironing out. Some very heavy wrinkles. I am just thrilled with the change.

Giving used to be something I thought about. It isn’t anymore. Now it is a yearning and a hunger. My leisure time isn’t the same. Doing things just for me and my entertainment doesn’t have the draw it used to. I am more satisfied in writing a letter to someone, or doing things for my wife or children.

I am beginning to see, at least in a very small way, how the Savior could live His whole life for others. It is because of His love. He yearned to help and serve. It was His driving force. The love in His heart was so great that He had to help, because not doing so would be agony.

Anyone can make this change–to give and to love. But it is like planting a garden. The little things you do over time make possible the harvest. Tending the young plants, watering, weeding, fertilizing, pruning–consistent watchful care and effort. That is exactly the experience I am having. I am seeing the garden come to life. I hope everyone will discover this, because to see someone not experience this joy would be agony to me.



Today’s post is a guest post by my 8 year old (soon to be 9) friend Lauren. These are her own words about an experience she had in giving.

Here is how my story began. It all began when I was looking out my window. Suddenly, I saw an old lady working in her flower bed. She looked like she needed some help. So, I asked mom if I could go across the street and help her. She said, “ Yes.” Then I got ready. Then I called Andrew down to come with me, and we went across the street.   I said, “Hi. My name is Lauren.” And Andrew said, “Can we help you?”  She said yes. She also said to pick up the leaves. As we started working, she went in her house and came back with two dollars. One for me and one for Andrew. A few minutes later, it was time to go. As I was leaving, I felt like I wanted to do more service. It did make a big difference to her because we cleaned her flower bed and because it helped her.

Sometimes the best examples of giving are children, and the best experiences are when they of their own choosing and initiative go and give to someone else.


How do you give someone bliss who is leaving this life very soon? That is a heavy question, and one that frankly is difficult to write about. My friend Mark, one of my mature friends, is dying. Perhaps tonight, or in the next few days. He is so sedated to keep him comfortable that I don’t know how much he knows about what is going on around him. I told him that I love him. He told me he loved me. I promised him that I would take care of his wife that he is leaving behind. I told him that he need not worry and that he can rest. There are others who will take care of her too. But what can I possibly give a man who’s  next grand adventure has arrived?

I can try to give him peace of mind for the little time he has left. But most of all, I can live true to my promise. I will take care of his Beloved. I will change air filters, take out the trash, call often to check on her, fix leaky faucets, invite her to dinner, learn pinnacle so she has someone to play with. Goodbye Mark. I will see you when I go on to the next adventure too, but in the meantime, rest dear friend. We’ve got it covered. You don’t need to suffer anymore.


Have you ever brought a movie home that was just crude, crass or just worthless? Remember the feeling when it was over? How the residue from it seemed to stick to the atmosphere of your home? It is like trying to clean up after a giant apple juice spill.

On the other hand, have you ever brought home a movie that inspired, taught and left everyone feeling good – and desiring to be kinder and a better person?

Recently as a family we watched two spectacular movies, based off of children’s books. The first, The Secret Garden – and tonight, A Little Princess.

Parents have an opportunity to give their children many things – even the entertainment or stories that are in the home. Are we providing stories that uplift? Are they teaching them to be kind, selfless and proactive? Do they want to be better after experiencing them?

Tonight after A Little Princess, all 5 of my children gathered in my daughter’s room for a Friday night “sleep over”. When one of the kids was upset about his bed placement, one of the others stepped up and provided his spot. The flashlights were out, the lights dimmed, story books out. Kind and soft voices were heard – their bonds of siblinghood strengthened. Perhaps a memory was made that they will remember the rest of their lives.

We don’t realize how much of what children see, hear and read affect how they behave towards themselves and others. We can give people brightness in light by sharing the uplifting stories we find in our lives. Some true, some make-believe – but all praiseworthy.