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

 

 

He Lived Well and Loved Hard

We were back in Houston for the funeral of a long-time friend named Mike. The service was honoring, both to the Lord and to the one He had called home. One sentence, spoken by Mike’s grandson, remains with me:

He lived well and loved hard.

I had to ask myself, am I doing that? What does it look like? How would our Lord have us live well and love hard? An hour before the funeral, driving around our old neighborhood, we’d stopped for a taco at a simple Mexican restaurant where one wall was full of those popular wooden signs that say so much in so few words. One said this:

  • Love spoken here.
  • Joy chosen here.
  • Grace given here.

That, my friends, is in great part how we live well and love hard.

We speak love—to our Lord, to those around us, and to ourselves, sometimes with words, but more often with actions. The Bible is full of reasons to love, ways to love, and commands to love. It requires humility, selflessness, and a willingness to do whatever we feel God is calling us to do. When we ask him to help us love, he will provide creative answers and the wherewithal to follow through on his directions.

We choose joy—no matter what. Joy doesn’t always happen to us, or envelop us, or even well up within us. Most of the time we have to choose it, to wake up in the morning and say, “God made this day, and I will rejoice in it. I will make a conscious effort to see his presence in every moment.” This habit heightens the niceties of life and gives perspective to the uglier side of living on a fallen planet.

We give grace—both deserved and undeserved. Spilled milk? An angry look? A hurtful comment? A selfish choice? God said, “Love one another as I have loved you.” He didn’t say, “Love people when they behave.” And so, we give grace, even when the only reason we can think of to do so is in remembrance of the grace that God has given us.

As you go about your day today—and every day hereafter—I hope you will speak love, choose joy, and give grace. And then, maybe one day, someone will say that you lived well and loved hard!

photo: @peterbucks via Unsplash.com

All That Trouble

merry christmas trouble toa heftiba @ heftiba unsplashSometimes, to be perfectly honest, holidays (especially Christmas) have seemed like entirely too much trouble to me. So much hustle and bustle. So many people talking about too much stress. And so much budget-breaking expense. I’ve wondered if we should just skip it all in order to move further forward with life as we know it instead of putting so much on pause throughout December. Save the money. Spend the time catching up with regular life and helping others instead of wrapping gifts and baking cookies. (Anybody else want to confess to the same struggle?)

But, recently, as I contemplated how God might feel about all those parties, I came to an unexpected conclusion. I’ve been reading an old book about an even older missionary story:

A Chance to Die by Elisabeth Elliott tells the story of Amy Carmichael. I’ll write more later about Amy’s life and all she did in India, but here’s what Amy taught me about parties.

“Amy Carmichael loved celebration. If the Children of Israel needed feasts and celebrations and piles of stones to teach them the significance of life and death and sacrifice and the leading of God, why should not the children of Dohnavur (her mission) need the same? Her deep sense of the importance of observance of special occasions pervaded the life of the compound.”[1]

And then there’s this from Nehemiah 8: 9-18:

Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord…They found written in the Law, which the Lord had commanded through Moses, that the Israelites were to live in temporary shelters during the festival of the seventh month…So the people went out and brought back branches and built themselves temporary shelters on their own roofs, in their courtyards, in the courts of the house of God and in the square by the Water Gate and the one by the Gate of Ephraim…And their joy was very great. Day after day, from the first day to the last, Ezra read from the Book of the Law of God. They celebrated the festival for seven days, and on the eighth day, in accordance with the regulation, there was an assembly.

Don’t get me wrong. I know there’s balance. Some people DO go beyond reasonable limits in order to “make Christmas happen.” Apparently, though, the Israelites knew how to celebrate, and they were following specific instructions from the Lord as they did just that. So, as the holidays begin again, if you have a little bit of Scrooge in you, questioning the rationality of it all, strike a balance. Don’t get sick or broke from overdoing, but embrace the party. The Lord has come, and we have good reason to celebrate!

And just in case you haven’t seen this video yet, please take a couple of minutes to watch “Christmas Presents” here.

Photo by Toa Heftiba @ heftiba via Unsplash.com

 

 

[1] Elliot, Elisabeth. Amy Carmichael, Her Life and Legacy. MARC, 1988, p. 207.

The Wow Factor

 

wow unsplash Ben White

I was loading clothes into the car when I heard, “Nana! Hi, Nana!” With his mom’s permission, Nick ran for me, unable to hug me because his hands were too full of little cars. I hoisted him up to eye level, and then he saw it—a newly assembled fort awaiting him in his backyard, complete with a rock wall (of sorts) and a wavy slide.

“Oh, my house! My house!” he cried, hardly able to contain himself as we made our way through the fence and over to the gift his mom had found and his dad and “Pop” had worked on most of the day.

You’ve all seen moments like that, times when a child responds to life with unbridled glee. When do we begin to lose that enthusiastic voice of youth coupled with an untarnished gratitude for the good gifts of life? Nick didn’t pause to decide whether or not the green and yellow canvas tenting on his fort were the colors he would have chosen. He was unfazed by the fact that the swings were not yet attached. He was excited about the gift as it was.

Are we? Do we approach our days ready to be excited about what God provides—when, where and how he provides it? Do we say “Oh, wow!” enough? Or has our richly blessed western culture caused us to be jaded, no longer noticing life’s daily blessings?

Let me challenge you to begin anew today to be wowed by God, to open your eyes in a fresh way and proclaim your joy, whether silently or aloud, over the many good gifts, large and small, that will come your way. And won’t you let me know what you discover?

Thanks be to our Father from whom all good gifts come!

*Photo (not my grandson, by the way) by Ben White on Unsplash.com

 

 

 

 

 

Get Real

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The April 1 devotional from Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling[1] includes this eye opening statement:

“But I challenge you to relinquish the fantasy of an uncluttered world.”

That tough for me. Is it for you?

  • I want my desk to be uncluttered. (And it often is, for about 30 minutes on Monday afternoon, after I’ve cleared the stacks from the weekend but not yet acknowledged the new ones awaiting for the coming week.)
  • I want my calendar to be uncluttered—balanced perfectly between work, rest and play, time alone and time with other people. Planning ahead helps, but…
  • I want my home to be uncluttered, except now I have grandchildren, who have put a whole new positive spin on having stuff strewn all over the place.

So, I’ll have to agree with Sarah that an uncluttered world is a fleeting fantasy. We can’t have it. Or if we have it, we can’t keep it. And if we try, we’ll probably lose a great deal of flexibility and joy.

What’s a body to do? If you’ve read this blog before, you already know my answer. Trust the Lord! Our “keep life tidy” leanings stem from a penchant to control. Once we let God be the one in control (the pilot, not the co-pilot, as my husband is quick to remind me) then a messy life can be an adventure.

Speaking of which, my grandson is on the way over to make my house messier, so I’m keeping this one short. Let me know, if you would be so kind, where in your life you have learned to relinquish the fantasy of the uncluttered and enjoy the adventure!

“In all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:6).

[1] Young, Sarah. Jesus Calling. [S.I.]: Thomas Nelson, 2004.

 

Merry Christmas!

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Merry Christmas, and may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him!

Thanks for reading!

Brenda