Defying Gravity

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Last year, after listening to the music for quite some time, I finally saw Wicked on stage. Since I grew up watching Wizard of Oz once a year on television (our only option back in the dark ages of video technology), I enjoyed the new spin on an old story. One song still sticks in my brain and pops into my thoughts on occasion. Actually, it’s only one line that keeps on repeating itself. In my imagination, I can hear Elphaba declaring that she will try defying gravity. More than once, as I’ve trudged up my stairs feeling low, I’ve heard those three words resound within my thoughts. I want to try defying gravity this year too.

Before you think me crazy for wanting to fly, let me tell you exactly what I mean.

My grandson is so delightfully quick to laugh. I suspect you and I were the same way as toddlers. When does that fade? And why? I know that Nick is unaware of the difficulties adulthood will bring, but he also knows little of the joys that await him. He laughs in the present moment.

We live in a world that fixates on the grave details of life, and not just the ones that are facing us today. We mull over the pain of the past and our fears of the future, often for no good reason at all. Matthew 6:34 says, “Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Actually, I like the King James Version of that verse even better, “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” And as we face the “evil” of each day, how often do we falsely imagine ourselves facing it alone, forgetting the One who goes before us and stands behind us?

Here is how I want to try defying gravity. When heavy concerns come into my brain, I want to take them to my Lord in prayer without pause. When I catch myself frowning with furrowed brow, I want to lighten my countenance in a way that confirms the song God has put in my heart. And when I am tempted to join a discussion centered only on the failures of man or the bleak landscape ahead, I want to either walk away or change the course of the conversation. Who would have thought the Wicked Witch of the West could remind me of such important truths? This year, I hope you will try to defy gravity right along with me.

 

Beth on Being Happy*

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*By Beth Smith

Is it true that the only difference between a yard sale and a trash pick-up is how close to the road the stuff is placed?

Why don’t we ever hear father-in-law jokes?

If you take NyQuil and NoDoz at the same time, will you dream you couldn’t sleep?

Life is full of questions, some funny and some serious. Here’s a common one. How can we be happy? We can start by being ready to laugh at life and at ourselves, quick to look for the humorous side of things. Laughter doesn’t solve our problems, but it can make them easier to bear for a while.

Most of us think we can be happy only when things are going well, but the Bible tells us how to be happy Christians no matter what. The Amplified Bible uses the word “happy” as a synonym for the word “blessed.” So, in looking to be happy, we can look at how to be blessed. The book of Psalms tell us that blessed or happy is the man (or woman) who:

  • is forgiven of sin (32:1).
  • trusts and takes refuge in the Lord (34:8).
  • helps the poor and weak (41:1).
  • continually sings praises to God (84:4).
  • fears the Lord and delights in obeying him (112:1) .

Proverbs says those are blessed who

  • keep God’s ways (8:32).
  • listen to God (8:34).

And Matthew chapter five lists these qualities of a happy person:

  • aware of a need for God.
  • gentle and lowly.
  • desiring righteousness.
  • merciful.
  • pure in heart.
  • peacemaking.
  • persecuted for following God.

Obviously, God has plenty of advice for us on how to be happy. I want to stress just two ways today. First, we need to be happy and thankful for a heavenly Father who loves us enough to discipline and correct us. Sometimes, when things are hard for me, when I am not getting my own way about things, I can almost hear God saying, “I’m allowing this situation only for your own good, because I love you. You need to change something in your life. I want you to be happy, and you will never be happy or have joy on the path you are following right now. Come on, follow me.”

Hebrews 12:11 tells us that, while discipline is painful, it leads to a rich harvest of right living. So, as odd as it may sound, we need to be happy that God will discipline us.

Here’s a second way the Bible tells us we can be happy and blessed. “Blessed are all who fear the Lord, who walk in obedience to him.” (Psalm 128: 1-2).

What does this tell us we should do? Fear and follow. Acknowledge our Lord as the Almighty God. Worship him. Obey him. Emulate Jesus. Will that be hard? Yes, because our flesh is weak and rebellious, and because Satan does not want us to be happy. But Jesus wants us to be happy – to be blessed and full of joy.

How can we become happy Christians? A full answer to that question would surely fill at least one book. These principles do not cover everything, but they are a great place to start:

  • Worship God.
  • Obey his commands.
  • Receive his discipline.
  • Follow his instructions.
  • And do it all with joy.

Steps to Happiness

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I skimmed a book last night, one that described a plan for greater happiness. It listed several steps the author felt were sure to increase inner joy. While I wasn’t too crazy about the godless slant, I found the suggestions interesting, because each one corresponded to instructions our Lord has given us:

The first step was to be still and learn to meditate. If you have any doubt that God wants us to learn to quiet our hearts and turn our thoughts to him, please take a look at last week’s blog. Do you spend any time just being silent each day, letting your body rest while your thoughts turn to the One who loves you most? If not, as the old commercial said, “Try it! You’ll like it!” Set a timer for 10 minutes and see how it goes.

Step two was to adopt an attitude of gratitude. Do a Bible Gateway search on the word “thank” in the NIV version, and you’ll get 133 responses. Here’s just one to consider today. “Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:13b-20). You can read about Steve’s very practical advice on giving thanks here. Of course, it’s not a bad idea to extend that attitude of gratitude to those around you as well.

Another word of advice was to slow down. I couldn’t agree more. We live in a hustle bustle, hurry-up-and-make-it-on-your-own world. But the Bible says our Lord wants to give us rest. (We can start by keeping the Sabbath.) He also asks us to wait on his timing. That lines up with the author’s chapter on patience. Slow down. Lighten up. Those have been hard lessons for me to learn. I’m still learning them, in fact, and have written about them several times including, here and here.

The author suggested that we need to learn to be better at giving and receiving. Surely the greatest key to a life of joy or happiness is the receiving of God’s grace. And how many other gifts does God have for those of us who are willing to receive them? Are we listening? Paying attention as our Lord speaks and leads us and offers to meet our every need? And then, of course, the Bible has plenty to say about giving to others with great cheer.

I’m blessed with a healthy dose of happiness. From birth? From upbringing? From a host of happy circumstances, or is that merely my happy perspective on things? I can’t tell you with any certainty. I do know that I agree with the title of this song by Ira Stanphill, “Happiness is to know the Savior,” and following our Lord’s advice in all the areas mentioned above certainly can’t hurt!

The Helper

The Helper

Lately, I’ve been re-reading The Helper by Catherine Marshall. I’m in a “smooth sailing” place today, but like all of us, I know a storm can brew and hit in no time flat. Who knows what my life will look like by the time you read this post? So, faith and freedom from fear can never be linked to my circumstances. That simply won’t work. Reading words of trust and encouragement written by those who’ve lived before me is powerful ammunition against anxiety. Words of faith help prepare me for the next storm before it comes.

Here’s what Catherine re-taught me about joy.

  • Real joy comes from the Holy Spirit (a.k.a. The Helper).
  • Oddly, we often experience a greater degree of joy during times of trouble. (Perhaps that’s because we turn to our Lord with greater focus then?)
  • One of the fastest ways to receive joy in adversity is to ask the Lord for his perspective on the situation. (Our Lord can handle anything, so we don’t ever have any real reason to be troubled.)
  • Christians don’t get a free pass on trouble. (Rats!) Christ said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
  • When we wallow in “what-if’s” and “self-pity” we are ignoring the Lord, turning all of our attention on ourselves.

My next foray into reading what those before me have said about our Christian walk will be The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Burroughs. My copy opens with this quote from Philippians 4:11, “I have learned in whatsoever state I am therewith to be content.” That’s certainly something we all want, don’t you think?

What have you read? What words from the past are changing your future? Post them here or email me. I’d love to know!

And here’s the final installment of our three months of 1 Corinthians 13:

1 Corinthians 13 New International Version (NIV)

“If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

The Borrowers

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Did you read The Borrowers as a child? Ever blame anything on them? The Borrowers, according to Mary Norton’s book by the same name, told the story of tiny people who hid away in the homes of folks like us and were responsible for any little item that went missing (because they had simply “borrowed” it for their own use).

My mom used to talk about the Borrowers when little things were lost, adding a bit of levity to the frustration of searching for tiny things. But she also taught me about another kind of borrower when I was a child, the kind that “borrows trouble.” I can still hear her loving voice admonishing me after I expressed some childish worry, “Don’t borrow trouble, Brenda.”

  • Don’t take on trouble that isn’t yours, that hasn’t come to pass and maybe never will.
  • Deal with the troubles of this day.
  • Be prudent in your prevention of future difficulty, but
  • Leave the worrisome thoughts to wither from lack of attention.

Matthew six tells recounts Jesus teaching his followers about God’s loving care and about living in peace. He said, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

We all have enough to handle today, with no need to “borrow” what may come tomorrow. That’s what my mom taught me. Now I’ve passed her lesson on to you. (And I’ll pass your comments on to her, so please share your thoughts if you are at all inclined to do so.)

Thanks, Mom!