Why Do We Give Chocolate to Children?

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com Please note that this is not a photo of my grandson!

As you’ve gathered from earlier posts, I have grandchildren now. I also have a generous supply of chocolate chips—white, dark, milk, and caramel. While Steve and I certainly get into my stash from time to time, I keep those chip jars full primarily for the sake of the little ones in my life. Today they sprinkled them on top of pans of pumpkin muffins. They’ve insisted on adding them to our quarts of homemade frozen yogurt. Sometimes, though, I just dole out small piles of chips into each of their eager hands.

But why? Why do any of us give chocolate (or sprinkles, or ice cream or…) to children? We all know it’s not particularly healthy. I think we do it because we take pleasure in delighting those we love. I enjoy the broad smiles and pure excitement a few chocolate chips can evoke in my grandchildren. I like giving them what they like. It makes me happy.

I think God takes pleasure in delighting those he loves—that’s us. Of course, every blessing he gives us is 100% good. The questions I want to ask you today, though, are these:

  • How good are you at delight?
  • Do you keep your eyes open for God’s blessings and please him by enjoying what he gives you?
  • Do you take good things for granted or, worse yet, deny yourself the pleasure of His gifts because you know you don’t deserve them?

My grandchildren often say, “I’m so excited…” When I hear that, I’m challenged to rekindle my own excitement, to renew my recognition of the pleasant things in life, all of which are gifts from God. I want to urge you today to up your level of delight in the Lord, not just in who he is, but also in all he provides.

And won’t you please take a moment to tell me about it here?

And one more thing: Last week’s blog was written by my mom, Beth Smith. Some of you received it by email before it was properly credited. ‘Just want to set the record straight!

Refreshed by Beth Smith

The York Candy company once ran a series of commercials, each beginning with the words, “When I bite into a York Peppermint Pattie, I feel…” followed by images of extreme refreshment—like falling into a pristine pool on a hot summer day. While I love Peppermint Patties, the refreshment I get from God is even better.

Refreshment can mean relief, and God gives us relief from sin. “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord” (Acts 3:19).

Sometimes when we say we need refreshment, we mean we’re desperate for renewed strength. The Bible promises us that as well. “But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (Isaiah 40:31).

Maybe the refreshment you’re looking for stems from some other need. Still covered! Philippians 4:19 promises that, “my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.”

The help, the refreshment we need, often comes from God’s Word. Once I was very nervous about flying to Europe. I prayed about it, but I was still really scared. Here’s the Bible verse that freed me from fear. “Even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast” (Psalm 139:10). God helped me with his Word, and I was refreshed! He’ll do the same for you. Tell him what you need, and the expect him to come through.

Part of the refreshment God gives us comes from a renewing of our minds and bodies as we submit to him. Paul wrote, “And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect” (Romans 12:1-2 NLT). Note, please, that our part is to submit to God. His part is to change us, to refresh us, to supply our needs.

Next time you are refreshed, whether by a mint, or a cool drink of water, or even a nice long nap, think about the ways God refreshes you. Praise him. And keep on going to him—reading his Word, spending time in prayer, submitting to his ways, choosing to trust—for refreshment every day.

We Get to Do This!

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

My friends Steve and Susan live in a Tanzanian village. Choosing to live as the villagers do, they work hard, love deeply and forego many of the comforts you and I take for granted every day. Sometimes, when I read their newsletter, I wonder if I could make the same sacrifices they’ve made. But “sacrifice” isn’t a part of their vocabulary. In fact, Steve’s latest email ended with these words:

We are so blessed that we get to do this.

The word “get” got me. It was a punch to the gut regarding all the times I’ve considered my calling for the day to be difficult or uncomfortable or simply too time consuming. I grumble from time to time. Do you?

We get to serve. We get to love. And we get to be blessed by our willingness to follow our Lord, unless we allow a lousy attitude to steal our joy.

So, what do you get to do today? Chances are, none of us get to read novels and eat chocolate all day. But we get to do something. And that something is what our Lord has called us to for the day before us.

Sometimes that calling looks small: sweep the floor, drive to work, write a letter, place a call. Sometimes the day holds tasks that look enormous, impossible, or unpleasant. And, on many days, we aren’t quite sure what the day is going to bring. But, always, Jesus is the Lord of our day and

We are so blessed that we get to do this.

Embrace your blessing today!

Happier Still (continued)

I read “Feel Happier Today,” by Lisa Fields in the May 2020 issue of Reader’s Digest. Last week I began my spin on what the author had to say. My first point was practice God’s presence, and practice the habits that engender happiness. Here are the five other happiness boosting tips I promised you: 

Increase social connections (and social media rarely counts). I once committed to writing a prison inmate twice a month for the duration of his incarceration. I was astonished by the response this evoked, of the importance that small connection held. Phone calls and walks and cups of tea are simple things with high impact (even when they must be held at a distance). I have to fight against my inner hermit. Do you? I’m helped by the verse that tells us not to forsake assembling together. So, connect!

Perform acts of kindness. These feel good and cause us to turn our focus away from our own troubles. Kindness comes in many forms. Some of the best are cheap and simple. Don’t hold back! The Bible is full of directions (commands, perhaps) to be kind and loving to one another. We’re better off when we continue to practice acts of kindness regardless of our circumstances. I’d love for you to tell me how you’ve experienced simple kindness, or how you’ve delivered kindness and felt happy because of it.

Get some exercise. Our bodies belong to the Lord. Exercise keeps us healthier. Studies say it also makes us more cheerful and better able to handle stress. (I’ve certainly seen that in my own life.) Nearly everyone can do some sort of exercise. ‘Enough said on that point. Please put on your sneakers.

Get enough sleep. Steve just finished reading a book by Dr. Matthew Walker that insists we all need 7-8 hours each night, and we suffer more than we realize when we skimp. Getting enough sleep seems so indulgent, doesn’t it? But, in the end, it empowers us to do a better job of living—and living happily. I love to read, to watch movies, and to keep my to-do list tidy, but I’ve had to forego a good bit of all three in order to maximize my sleep. I challenge you to consider doing the same.

Here’s one Reader’s Digest didn’t mention: Let go of fear. Fear is a sleep-robber, a joy-killer, and a powerful excuse to turn our focus solely on ourselves. I’ll end this essay by telling you what my life group leader has to say:

  • “The most repeated command in all of scripture is “Fear not.”
  • “Fear is faith in the enemy.”
  • “Keep your love, your joy, and your peace.” (Yes, I pray that you will do just that!)

photo by @stanislas1 via Unsplash.com

 

 

On Staying Happy…

Casting Crowns performs “Praise You in this Storm” via YouTube here: Copyright rules prevent me from typing up those terrific lyrics. I’m listening to them as I write. They remind me that, often, I don’t get God’s answers on my schedule. I have to wait, or I have to take “no” for an answer. And in those “no” and “wait” situations, I’m supposed to keep trusting, keep praying, and keep remembering that our Loving Lord is right there and worthy of praise, even in the stormy times.

This is a time of storm for so many of us. I could just say, “’Hope you will lift your hands and praise him anyway,” but I want to go in a different direction today. I just read “Feel Happier Today,” an article by Lisa Fields in the May 2020 issue of Reader’s Digest. The author gives instructions, from a purely secular perspective, on how to boost our happiness. Yes, I know, happiness and praising in the storm are not the same thing. On the other hand, when we praise in the storm AND take godly steps to care for ourselves, happiness is far easier to maintain. So, here’s what I gleaned from the Lisa Fields article, seasoned with a spiritual spin. None of it will surprise you, but all of it is too easy for us to ignore in stressful times. I consider this a reminder for you and me both.

“Practice being happier. This takes effort.” So true! ‘Same goes for the need to practice our faith walk. I’m reminded of The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence. When my first thoughts of the day run along the line of “This is the day that the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it,” I’m off to a much better start than, well, than almost any other sort of beginning. But such a beginning requires practice. That practice might involve

  • limiting the news (and, as we do take in news, turning to prayer over all we hear)
  • setting a Bible near the bed (and opening it!)
  • playing praise music
  • memorizing verses
  • posting sticky notes where I can be reminded of the truth
  • or …

Next week, I’ll give you five more happiness tips, but none of them are as powerful as practicing God’s presence.

What do you do to remind yourself first off that our God is an awesome God?

What do you do to boost your happiness?

Share your ideas with me, and I’ll post them here for all to see. Until next week…Brenda

Photo by Ben White Photography via Unsplash.com

Is There a Song in Your Heart? OR Singin’ in the Rain!

I’m listening to a lot of music these days. A surprising number of songs invade my consciousness in silent form, coming directly from the playlists in my brain. Those playlists often encourage me. Sure, there’s worship music stored in there. But there’s also a whole bunch of show tunes! Many of them encouragement me. Thanks to Facebook, I discovered the favorites of a few friends. Here’s a list, shared for your enjoyment:

“Singin’ in the Rain”

Gene Kelly is laughing at the clouds (currently dumping on him) because he’s in love. I wonder, when we feel dumped on, do we manage to remember the love that surrounds us, letting it alter our sinking perspective?

“My Favorite Things”

When Maria’s feeling sad, she remembers the good things in her life. How’s that for great advice? We all have blessings, some of them very, very simple. When we face limits and disappointments, looking at our remaining blessings may help us readjust.

“In My Own Little Corner”

Okay, some of you have missed this one. (But thanks, Kelly!) Cinderella lauds the power of imagination—in a life of near-quarantine, come to think of it. Good books, great music, a bit of quiet thought: These are great ways to escape when the walls close in.

“Put On a Happy Face”

You’ve just got to see the first minute or two of this number. I hope it convinces you that the simple act of smiling does matter! Watch here.

“Ya Got Trouble”

So just how bad can a pool table be? As my friend Jacqueline said, this song “Is a lighthearted take on real troubles.” It begs us to ask what other troubles we magnify beyond reason.

“Everything’s Alright”

The most important line in this song reminds us not to get worried, not to let our problems overwhelm our peace. Worry never solves anything. Really, it never does!

“Wouldn’t It Be Loverly”

Most of us already have nearly everything on Eliza Doolittle’s wish list. ‘Best to remember how “loverly” we have it much of the time.

“High Hopes”
Sinatra belts out a great reminder—Don’t give up! Don’t give in to feeling low! (And you can check out his performance here:)

“From Now On”

If you need a fresh start on your perspective, your choice to rejoice, your commitment to trust and follow the One who loves us, don’t wait. Start now!

Enjoy these great tunes, and if you’ve got a favorite song to share, let’s hear it!!!

Photo by Spencer Imbrock via Unsplash.com