More Time to Be Happy

abraham-abe-lincoln-295315_1280 pixabay 12 14 17Time Magazine’s[1] list of “Healthy Habits for Happiness” are right in line with many of the things I believe God would have us do. That list includes:

  • Sleep—an average of 8 hours. Consider this verse from Psalm 127, “In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat—for he grants sleep to those he loves.
  • Exercise—increasingly considered a standard part of treatment for depression. Remember, life in Bible times was, by its very nature, filled with exercise. Think no cars, plenty of farming and shepherding and chopping wood.
  • Sunshine—which boosts synthesis of mood regulating serotonin, and was certainly a natural part of life long ago.
  • Diet. (A few more ideas about that here.)
  • Standing up straight and smiling—yep, even on down days, smiling seems to help. Perhaps that’s a physical part of the choice to rejoice, as in “Let us rejoice today and be glad!”[2]

Abraham Lincoln said, “Most folks are usually about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” We can’t orchestrate our lives to be free of unhappy circumstances. The Apostle Paul said, though, “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”[3] He also said, in that same letter, “Rejoice in the LORD always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”[4]

According to Dennis Charney, dean of the ICAHN School of Medicine, we can train our brains to think a particular way. (So we can teach ourselves to think like Paul!) If we worry all the time, for example, we create a sort of worry rut. The PhD term is a neuronal pathway. Worry, or fear, or plain old grumpiness can become our default. If we choose more positive modes of thinking, of responding to difficulty, we can create new and better brain ruts, so to speak. But we have to work at making those changes. Something called “mindfulness” is a good place to start, and that’s exactly where we’ll start next week.




[1] The Science of Happiness: New Discoveries for a More Joyful Life, A Time Special Edition, September 9, 2017.

[2] Psalm 118: 24b

[3] Philippians 4:12

[4] Philippians 4:4

A Happy Heart


happy heart

(Guest Blogger: My Mom, Beth Smith)

My husband Bert and I were on a bus tour once and, as folks do on such trips, we spent some time with other passengers getting acquainted. A common question was, “What do you do?” or “What did you do before you retired?”

One very personable man answered, “Well, I’m still employed. When I’m working, I wear a dress and sell the ultimate fire insurance.” And what do you suppose was his line of work? He was an Episcopal priest!

Proverbs 17:22 says, “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”

Jesus also tells us in John, chapters 15 and 16, that the things he asks us to do are for this purpose – That our joy may be full. But how exactly do we go from having an anxious heart to having a glad heart? How do we get that fullness of joy?

For starters, we can remember that the most important reason for rejoicing, for having a happy heart, is our citizenship in heaven – bought for us by Jesus Christ.

Consider this newspaper ad: Lost Dog. Three legs. Blind in left eye. Missing right ear. Tail broken. Answers to the name “Lucky.”

Even when we seem to be in as bad a shape as that dog, we don’t live by luck. We live by faith–faith in the God of the Universe, faith in the God who can do all things. That faith produces a glad heart regardless of circumstances.

What are the characteristics of a glad or merry heart? Let me suggest four.

  • Such a heart is full of forgiveness, forgiveness received from God for sin and given quickly to everyone else. No heart full of resentment and unforgiveness can be happy.
  • A happy heart regularly and sincerely counts blessings and thanks God for them.
  • A glad and merry heart is full of trust. It knows God is in control and allows him to lead.
  • And such a heart is also quick to obey. I’m praying that this will be a week when we can go from managing a smile, to laughter and on to a really hearty healthy belly laugh coming from a glad heart. No, laughter won’t get us a job, heal a marriage, or solve any of the problems we face. Nevertheless, we can have a happy heart with God’s blessing. No matter what our circumstances, he wants us to be full of joy.

No heart is perfect, but aiming toward forgiveness, thankfulness, trust and obedience will put us on the right path to the glad and merry hearts God offers us.

I’m praying that this will be a week when we can go from managing a smile, to laughter and on to a really hearty healthy belly laugh coming from a glad heart. No, laughter won’t get us a job, heal a marriage, or solve any of the problems we face. Nevertheless, we can have a happy heart with God’s blessing. No matter what our circumstances, he wants us to be full of joy.



No, You Take That!


Matthew is thirteen, man enough to learn about the tougher points of life, child enough to interpret them in an open and innocent way. Last week he overheard his younger sister ask, “What will happen to Grandpa’s house and all of his things when he dies?”

Lisa, Matthew’s mom, described how a Last Will and Testament works, explaining that, sometimes, just when they ought to be comforting one another, family members argue about how to divide precious possessions after someone dies. She went on to tell about a friend whose parents passed away without a will, and of the tension that ensued as family members vied for the belongings of their lost loved one.

Why do we ever let our useless cravings for things get in the way of our love for each other?

Lisa is one of three sisters. They lost their mother years ago, but their father still lives nearby and is a vital member of family gatherings. Matthew, well acquainted with the dynamics of his relatives, thought for a moment and said, “In that case, grandpa definitely needs a will.” I suspect Lisa was pretty disappointed by Matthew’s response, but only for a moment.

Matthew went on to say, “I can just hear the three of you now…

‘No, you take that.’

‘No, you should have it.’

‘I want you to be the one…’”

Romans 12:20 reads, “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.”

Philippians 2:3 says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.

Someday I will memorize those verses. For today, though, I hope you will join me in remembering (and trying to apply) these words: 

No, you take that.

If I Were a Hammer


I used to teach fourth grade, and often kept my students’ attention by using visual aids. Since you and I don’t have a classroom, our imaginations will have to do. Picture me (as young, thin and beautiful, of course) holding a hammer. It’s a perfectly good hammer, but what could it possibly accomplish by itself?  Can it pound so much as a single nail on its own?  Of course not.

On the other hand, if a master craftsman chose to build a fine house, and wanted to use this hammer in the process, would the hammer be up to the task? Saying it was or wasn’t up to the task would be stretching things a bit, don’t you think? The task would be entirely in the hands of the master, not the tool. If this hammer was the one he wanted to use, and if (suspend your disbelief for a moment, please) it had a will and a voice of its own, we would all laugh to hear it say, “Oh, master builder, I just don’t know if I can pound that nail!  Perhaps you should have chosen another tool!  I fear that I will fail you!” Silly hammer!

By the same token, when God chooses to use us by calling us to some service, we are foolish to worry about whether or not we’re “up to the task.” Of course we’re not up to it, not on our own, anyway! It’s the Master’s right to use any person he pleases, and he will make those he chooses fit for the job. Feeling inadequate today? May we all remember that we are in the Master’s hands and he can equip us for any task.

“Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen” (Hebrews 13:20-21).

A Different Kind of Happy New Year


Yesterday I came across this saying on, of all things, a tea bag. “Real happiness lies in that which never comes nor goes, but simply is.”[1] Our God never comes nor goes. He always is. Psalm 68:3 reads, “May the righteous be glad and rejoice before God; may they be happy and joyful.” So Yogi Tea and the book of Psalms agree: We have great reason to be happy!

I’ve heard too many preachers say that happiness is circumstantial, worldly and unreliable. I beg to differ. I am happy, and while my happiness is circumstantial, it is neither worldly nor unreliable. Old songs about happiness taught the lesson well, “I’m So Happy in Jesus,” “Happiness Is the Lord,” and “I’m So Happy and Here’s the Reason Why,” to name a few. My circumstances are awesome and so are yours! We have the God of all creation on our side. We have hope and a future. We are loved with an everlasting love. The list goes on and on, but here is the point: If the faucet leaks or my back hurts, I can still be happy. If the house floods or I have an incurable disease, even then some part of me can still be happy, because there are other, greater, bigger circumstances for which I can give thanks, and about which I can still smile. Don’t tell me I can’t be happy! I can.We all can.

John Sammis penned these words, “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.” Trust and obedience don’t guarantee perfect health or prosperity or anything else the world says we need in order to be happy. But, oh happy day,we have these guarantees:

  • God loves us.
  • Our sins are forgiven through Jesus Christ.
  • God gives us eternal life through his Son.
  • The Bible is God’s word, every bit of it true and reliable.

Plenty of reason to be happy, don’t you think?

[1] Yogi tea tag quote, used by permission.

Don’t Worry. Be Happy!


The worship leader played a couple of bars of “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” before the service began. I heard a friend say, “I wonder if he’s actually going to play that during church. It sure isn’t very spiritual.” Actually, I think those two lines are very spiritual. What about that verse, ‘Be anxious for nothing’? What if we all lived these words: “Don’t worry. Be happy! Trust the Lord!” I think people would start coming up to us and saying, “What have you got? I want that!”

Imagine a couple of heavily loaded hitchhikers finally offered a ride. (I’m not condoning hitchhiking here). Suppose, once in the vehicle, they refused to take off their heavy packs, saying, “You were so nice to give us a lift. It would be too much to ask you to carry all our gear as well.” Dumb, huh? We do that every time we wallow in anxiety about some part of our lives when we’ve already told the Lord we want him to be in charge. Why miss out on the peace we’ve been promised? Do we think what we’re dealing with is too much for him to handle?

Jesus asked us to become as little children. I would be hurt beyond measure if my children stopped trusting me to care for them. I wonder if our heavenly Father is saddened when he sees us worried about our lives.

Maybe we should start each day with a prayer like this. “Okay, God, it’s all yours. You can have my life and do whatever you want with it. You can have my health, my reputation, my possessions, my family, and everything else that concerns me. I’ll keep working, but I’m done worrying.”

Philippians 4 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7). In other words, don’t worry, and you can be filled with the peace of God. What could be a happier state than that?