As I walk around the neighborhood with our dog, Jack, I notice that Christmas decorations are beginning to appear. Just yesterday afternoon, darkness already falling, I could see in the distance a lovely Christmas tree all aglow with purple and white lights. So lovely, but wait, as I got closer I wasn’t looking at a Christmas tree at all. What had caught my attention was a mere reflection of the tree next door. As I drew closer, the reflection was nearly as lovely as the tree itself. Proverbs 27:19 came to mind, “As a face is reflected in water, so the heart reflects the real person.”
I smiled in contentment as I strolled on by, looking at both the reflection, and the real thing. On first glance I hadn’t noticed any difference. I reminded myself that we, as children of the Most High, are also reflectors. When the Holy Spirit fills us, helping us to mold into the image of Jesus, then when others look at us, they too are seeing a reflection of the real thing — Jesus in us. What a joy and what a responsibility, too.
It can be daunting to think that others who know we are Christians, may be watching us, observing behavior, speech, attitude. We are poor reflectors when our hearts are dull, seeking our own way, trudging through life with no regard to the importance and joy of behaving like Jesus; but when hearts are alive unto God, desiring to be like Jesus, seeking His ways, then reflections of His joy, peace and wisdom, shine forth. Perhaps such a glow will attract others to also consider that Jesus is indeed “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).
It is vastly important that we, as Proverbs 4:23 instructs, “Guard your heart above all else, because it affects everything you do.” This Christmas season, as millions of decorated trees glow in lights, may we also glow in the One who is the only Light of the world.
We all know that our attitude affects our feelings and behavior. A positive attitude brings about inner peace; a negative attitude adds to frustrations and inner turmoil. Is there anything we can do to develop a consistent, positive attitude, no matter the chaos that may be going on around us? Absolutely! I actually grasped this concept after watching the film Pollyanna. I like the old version staring Hayley Mills. Many of you will be familiar with this well-known classic.
In the story, a child named Pollyanna changes the outlook of an entire town by teaching them the power of being glad. In one scene she tells the story of how her family, being missionaries, had received a surprise package. She had so hoped to receive a doll, but instead, by mistake, she received a pair of crutches. “That’s when I learned the Glad Game,” she told her listeners. “What’s there to be glad about a pair of crutches?” one astonished woman asks. Pollyanna replies, “Well, I could be glad that I didn’t have to use them.”
The notion of developing a glad or thankful heart is mentioned all through God’s Word. You no doubt have your own favorite verse about being thankful. Mine is found in I Thessalonians 5:16-18, “Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” Our Heavenly Father, in His vast love for us, desires that we have that “feel good all over” feeling no matter what aggravation or sadness may knock on our doors. Of course we perceive these emotions, but neither frustration nor grief need overcome us. Instead, we may, with the help of the Holy Spirit within every child of God, rise above. How? Simply by practicing the art of being thankful. Playing the Glad Game is profitable to each one of us.
I have a cousin who shared a great thought this week. She suggested — everyday think of something good that has happened. Then write it down and put it in a jar. At the end of the year you can be reminded of all the blessings that took place in your life that year. I thought, one can call it the — “Count Your Blessings” jar. That’s not a bad way to begin playing the Glad Game.
Yesterday was Thanksgiving in the hearts of Americans. May everyday be a thankful one for each of us. A thankful heart makes for a thankful attitude which brings peace to fill the most hurting places within.
There is an interesting story found in Luke 18:35-42. We read that Jesus was going on His way and a crowd was following. Imagine the noise. People talking among themselves, hundreds of feet shuffling forward, sounds of laughter and varying levels of conversation. In the midst of all this noise, a blind man, who had been sitting on the side of the road, begins shouting. He was trying to be heard above the clamor of the crowd. “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Those near him tried to shush him but he continued to shout. Jesus heard and Jesus came.
In the exchange that followed, Jesus asks the man what he wants. The man answers, “Lord, I want to see.” Jesus heals the man, restoring his sight. Once he walked in darkness, but one touch from Jesus and he walks in the light.
It’s no different in our spiritual worlds. While we know Jesus still heals today, the greater healing is of the heart. To be physically whole but spiritually dead is not a full life. When we are spiritually alive, then whatever happens in our physical worlds is received with strength, courage, peace, and joy that comes from God Himself. It is a peace and joy that the world cannot give. Only God can give such gifts to us. He gladly gives to all who seek Him.
We live in a dark world filled with crowds of tumult, anxiety, stress, and fear. Like the blind man, we, too, may shout or even whisper, “Jesus, help me,” and He will gladly come. He will speak soothing words into all your hurting places. He will replace any foreboding with tranquility. Jesus said in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do to give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” Upon first reading one may understandably reason, how can I keep myself from being troubled? It just happens. Yes, but when worry comes, we don’t have to stay that way. Like the blind man who could not see, we who are blinded by the troubles of the world can call out, and He will answer. He will give His own peace that shines His light into our fretful hearts, and guides us through the rocky places until we walk on smooth ground again.
We don’t have to merely survive the darkness of this world. Remember the words found in Romans 8:31 & 37. “What shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?…In all these things we are more than conquerers through Him who loved us.” Are you troubled today? Don’t sit in the darkness of worry. Call out to Jesus. He will come. He will comfort. He will heal the wounds of your heart.
A few days ago we had a beautiful, sunny autumn day, a pause from much rain. Our dog, Jack, and I were strolling along wooded paths and expanses of green fields. Yellow and bronze leaves covered the ground in places. Sitting on a park bench was a young mother with her toddler nearby. He was looking for pretty leaves. When he found one he would take it to his mother who lay them gently on the bench. I took note that while his back was turned, the mother would reach behind the bench, find a leaf, and place it on the ground in front of her. Her little one would turn and find the leaf. A big smile came across his face as he picked up the treasure. When he presented it to his mother she praised him for his discovery and thanked him for his gift.
I smiled, too, and thanked our Heavenly Father for all His gifts to us. Everything we have is because of His provision. When we take what we have and offer it back to Him, for His glory and use, it makes Him smile, too. What a lovely relationship to seek and find and give back. Most of us are familiar with the verse in Luke 6:38, “Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.”
As I watched the leaf scene with the mother and child, the joy of both giving and receiving was clear. We must know how to receive graciously, for the giver is blessed with great joy when we do. We must also know how to give and to do so with gladness of heart, for when we do, the joy we get back is far greater than mere words can express.
In saying the above I am reminded of the greatest gift of all. Jesus gave His life to pay the penalty for our sin. When we receive that gift, oh what joy! When we pass on the Good News of that gift to another and they receive it, too, the joy comes back to us in double measure.
May we each be gracious in the joy of receiving, and be blessed to overflowing in the ecstasy of giving.
This past week I have had several reminders of a trip I took seven years ago. It was a dream come true for me. I spent two months in Africa visiting South Africa, Zimbabwe, Rwanda, and Tanzania. In Zimbabwe it was a delight to have volunteered at Chipangali Wildlife Orphanage. Towards the end of my time there I went with several other volunteers to see the amazing and beautiful Victoria Falls. While there I decided to join a few of them in a venture I had never done in my life — Zip Line.
This zip line experience stretched across the Zambezi Gorge. Was I afraid? YES! I went ahead and got kitted up in a secure harness. Then, with some trepidation, but so wanting to at the same time, I made my way to the launch point. The guide gave instructions. “Put one hand here, the other there, say ‘let’s go,’ and I send you on your way.” I was repeating the instructions to myself, but out loud, to make certain I understood. The guide didn’t know I was just encouraging myself. When I said, “let’s go,” he pushed me on my way! In seconds I was zooming across the Gorge, I managed to look down. No kidding, a crocodile was gliding across the Zambezi River. Away I went. Was I still afraid? NO! Wonderfully and amazingly, too, the fear completely left. I was having an exhilarating experience. I actually zip lined across several times. Indescribable fun!
It was taking a bit of a risk to let myself be harnessed up. It was taking a risk to climb up to the launch point. It was taking more risk to go again and again, but the joy and fun was such that I never regretted the risk.
In our spiritual world it’s a risk to trust Jesus. We have to declare belief that what He said is true. He is the Son of God. He died blameless to pay the price for our sins. He does give us eternal life with Him where no death or sorrow exist. We must believe and accept this in order to become a child of God. The promise is given in Hebrews 11:6, “It is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to Him must believe that God exists and that He rewards those who sincerely seek Him.” This verse is personally special to me, because it was this verse that led me to receive Jesus as my own personal Savior 53 years ago. I’m so thankful I took that risk, that I harnessed myself to His Word, that I climbed up to the launch point of His offer of salvation, that I said the words, “I believe. Please come into my life and forgive my sins. Thank you for dying for me.”
When I proclaimed those words, meaning them with all my heart, He sent me soaring into the unknown — but never alone. I was harnessed to His love, never to be severed. He would send me on perilous missions where crocodiles were nearby, ready to devour, but I was still harnessed to His love. He would “never leave me or forsake me” (Hebrews 13:5). I was harnessed to His love. Therefore, I have always known, to this very day, “The Lord is my helper, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me” (Hebrews 5:6)? Death is not an enemy to the Child of God. Jesus conquered death on the cross when He rose again. To rise again victorious is a promise to us, too. It’s a risk to choose to soar into the unknown with Jesus, but the journey is full of inner peace and indescribable joy, and the final destination is literally out of this world.
If you are not yet a child of God, I hope you will take that risk. You may see crocodiles, but you will always be safe because you’ll be harnessed in the grip of His love.
Don’t we all get discouraged when something unfair happens to us? Focusing on the ill treatment alone brings nothing but deeper despair, feelings of isolation, a stab of rejection. These are not wholesome emotions on which to dwell. When left to run havoc, they will do nothing but smother the life of joy and peace out of us.
I read an interesting analogy this week. I have heard the story before, as many of you may have, too, but the reminder is helpful to us all. The story goes like this: A farmer’s donkey fell down a well. The farmer tried to think of a way to get him out but no solutions came to mind. Finally, he told himself that the donkey was old and of no real use anymore, so he would just fill in the well. (Talk about unfair treatment!) He began to toss in shovelfuls of earth. The donkey brayed loudly as you can imagine, but after a while, no more sounds came from the well. The farmer assumed the donkey had been smothered but when he looked down into the well, he saw the donkey — standing on the pile of earth that he had shoveled in! As the soil was tossed down, the donkey shook it off his back and climbed up. The donkey was looking upwards throughout the ordeal. In other words, he focused on the light at the top of the well. Finally, with the well nearly full of earth, the donkey stepped out onto the land and trotted off to find some grass to munch.
I take great encouragement from this donkey in the well story. Its truth is rather poignant. We all get discouraged from unfair situations. Sometimes we get dirt thrown at us. We can focus on the troubles and do nothing more, or we can look up and step up. We can shake the dirt off our backs, focus on the light, and climb out of our well of gloom to munch on the good grass of God’s promises instead.
“Be truly glad because there is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for awhile. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold — though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.”
I Peter 1:6-7 NLT
I recalled a memory earlier this week about the first — and last — time I ever went skiing. This particular sport has never appealed to me, but one winter when I was living in Central Asia, a group of friends talked me into joining them on a ski trip. The views from among the Tien Shen mountains were gorgeous. The snow a bright pristine white. My desire was still to watch the others, but with much encouragement I gave in and got ready to ski.
The boots were uncomfortable to stand in and the skis wanted to turn anyway but straight. Even so, with assistance I made it to the start line. “This is an easy slope,” my friend and coach told me. ” You can take it slow.” He had already instructed me on how to stand and move. Now, in readiness to go, he was smiling his efforts to spur me on.
I took off. I had my eyes focused as far as I could see, but wait! As far as I could see ended in a cliff edge! Oh, nooooo! Panic took my breath away! I could feel my chest tighten! Had I made a wrong turn? I didn’t know how this looming danger appeared, but I knew I had to stop and do it quick! My skis glided me closer to the cliff’s edge. Terror tightened its grip. I had no way to save myself except to fall over sideways. I threw myself onto the snow which stung my face as I twisted round and forward until I thankfully came to a stop — just at the cliff edge. Whew! That was definitely too close for comfort. In both relief and trepidation I slowly stood, bending slightly forward to peer over the side of the menacing cliff. I was astonished when I saw the sheer — one foot drop! Stretching into the distance was an expanse of snow covered earth which I had mistaken for the sky.
I still laugh, and I’m sure my friends have never forgotten my moment of panic. I thought I knew what I saw. I was certain of the danger. I should have trusted my instructor. After all, he knew the slopes well. He had been skiing since he was a boy. He would not make such a mistake as to send me over a cliff.
It’s the same in our spiritual worlds, isn’t it. Father tells us to go in a certain direction. We’re hesitant but with encouragement we take off. Even so, we can’t see the way clearly. We don’t know how the journey ends. The arch enemy, Satan, shouts, “there’s a cliff edge!” We panic. Instead of reminding ourselves of our Father’s Words; we, like Eve in the garden, focus on the words of the serpent. We give in to fear. That decision will fail us every time.
The enemy shouts, “cliff edge!” Father whispers, “I know the way you’re going: when I have tested you, you will come forth as gold” (Job 23:10 paraphrase mine). The shouts of the enemy causes panic. The whispers of our Father instills calm and peace in any storm. It’s a peace the world cannot give. It passes all human understanding. We can only have one coach. Let’s choose the One who loves us, the One who never makes a mistake, the One who knows the way in which He is leading us.
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