Happiness Barometer

We all respond with happiness when certain things happen.  For some it’s bumping unexpectedly into a friend whom we haven’t seen for awhile.  For others it might be receiving a simple gesture of kindness, like an invitation to come for coffee, a box of candy, or just a day out browsing the stores with friends, or taking a walk in the countryside.

For me, it’s spontaneous responses from my canine friends.  For example, just this morning I was taking a friend’s dogs to the park to play ball.  One dog was in the backseat while the other one was in the passenger seat next to me.  As we were riding along, I suddenly felt the lightness of the front seat dog as she slipped onto my lap and lay there until we reached our destination.  I had lay my hand on her.  When we came to a stop I glanced down to find her staring up at me with a look of what I define as sweet adoration.  My heart soared.  “I love you, too, Tilly,” I said while sticking my other arm to the back, feeling for the other dog.  “I love you, too, Poppy,” who licked my hand as she began to prance about in anticipation of the ball game to come.

That happiness of this morning has lasted even until now as I sit typing out the story.  That’s when the reminder came to me about how I respond to my Heavenly Father.   If I get all glowing and overcome with tenderness in response to a dog’s love, how much more must my Father be glowing when I crawl into His lap of love, just because I want to, and let Him know that I love Him.

Have you ever wondered why we are instructed to give praise to God?  Is it because of some ego trip of God to be so adored?  Of course not; it’s for our need, as much as for His delight.  When we take time to enter into His presence with praises and words of love and appreciation, it strengthens our own resolve, puts our thoughts and understanding into proper perspective, and fills us with peace and joy that is so vast it cannot be measured.  Praising God is an absolute delight to Him, but it is a tremendous joy builder for us, too.

When we praise Him when we are sad, downcast spirits are lifted.  When we praise Him when we are glad, our joy buckets are so filled they overflow into that “peace that passes understanding.”  (Philippians 4:6-7)

Just as I adored those little dogs showing affection to me, our Father cherishes our love shown to Him, but the joy He receives is bounced right back to us to overflowing.  Taking time to praise our Heavenly Father is always a peace and joy builder; always, without exception.

“I will praise you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all the marvelous things You have done.  I will be filled with Joy because of You.  I will sing praises to Your name, O Most High.”  Psalm 9:1-2

Paralyzed In Fear

You’ve probably heard stories of people in situations that so badly frightened them they could not move.  I once heard the very sad tale of a boy whose brother slipped in mud while walking along a riverbank that sent him sliding into the water.  When he fell, he hit his head on a rock so hard, he was knocked unconscious.  His brother, who was terribly frightened of water, was paralyzed in fear, rendering him unable to go down into the water to help his brother.

Hearing the boy standing on the bank crying out for help, people arrived on the scene to pull the unconscious boy out of the water but it was too late.  The brother had already drown.  To add to the sadness, the boy was not fully submerged.  His brother could easily have stepped down the bank and lifted his brother’s face out of the water until help arrived.  If not for fear the situation would have been vastly different.

God’s Word tells us that God is not the author of fear.  Therefore, fear that prohibits us from moving forward in a positive manner, comes from the enemy of God — from Satan himself.  This arch enemy of God is also the enemy of every follower of Jesus Christ.  Satan hates that very name and will use every tactic he can conjure up to make us ineffective.  Like all enemies he seeks to destroy and kill.  He wants to destroy success and joy, and to kill all hope and peace in our lives.  He whispers lies that, if we make the mistake to consider the lie, may paralyze us with such a fear that we choose not to walk in the direction that God has chosen for us.  After all, God’s destinations are not always known.  He often asks us just to take a step at a time, trusting the path we take to His leading.

The unknown can be fearful.  When we listen to our enemy, fear can take hold, paralyzing us in fear.  We become weak.  Joy leaves us.  Peace drains away.  Fear is such a joy killer.

“But with God nothing shall be impossible.”  Luke 1:37  

The key word in the above is “with.”  When we rely on our own strength to overcome our fear, it may never happen, but “with” God there is no path too difficult to travel.  “With God” we need fear no direction in which He leads.  We need fear no person or goal to meet.  The key is always — “with God.”

In Father’s Own Words

Here we are once again; seeing one year out and a new one in.  Have you made new year’s resolutions?  Are you wondering what the new year holds?  We all like to dream and try to imagine what the months ahead will bring to us.  There will no doubt be some good times ahead; equally, there will most likely be challenges to face which we will find difficult.  Good days and hard days are all a part of life.  Happiness, sadness, tears and laughter; it comes to us all.  The question at the time of new year may be — how will I handle all that may come my way?  There are no better words of encouragement than from our heavenly Father.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”  Jeremiah 29:11

“I have told you many things, that in Me you may have peace.  In the world you will have troubles and sorrows, but take heart because I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33

“When you go through deep waters, I will be with you.  When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown.  When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.”  Isaiah 43:2

“Don’t be overcome with a love for money; be satisfied with what you have because God has said, ‘I will never fail you or abandon you.’  Therefore we can say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper, so I will have no fear of what mere people can do to me.”  Hebrews 13:5-6

“The Lord is my Shepherd; I have all that I need.  He lets me rest in green meadows; He leads me beside peaceful streams.  He renews my strength.  He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to His name.  Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for You are close beside me.  Your rod and Your staff protect and comfort me.  You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies..  You honor me by anointing my head with oil.  My cup overflows with blessings.  Surely Your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.”  Psalm 23

May 2019 be filled with blessings to overflowing, and my your determination to walk in His ways stay strong; filled with great joy.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

When Bad Things Happen

The young girl lay in her bed and tried to think but thoughts were all jumbled.  Nothing seemed to settle into anything clear.  How would she tell her parents?  They were both so full of love for her; so devoted to God.  What would she say?  Perhaps it really was all a dream; or should she say, a nightmare?  No, it wasn’t a dream. A vision maybe?  Her body felt a trembling.  She turned to her side and lay her hands on her abdomen.  No, it was neither a dream or a nightmare or a vision.  It was real.  She was pregnant; yet she had never been with a man.  How would she tell her parents such a thing; and equally disturbing, how would she tell her fiancé?

Haven’t you and I been in similar situations?  Oh, I don’t mean surprisingly pregnant; I mean, loving and serving God, when suddenly with no warning, the world goes all topsy-turvy.  Everything is going wrong.  You find no words to explain.  Perhaps you can’t explain because you don’t understand yourself why bad things are happening in your once-upon-a-time peaceful world.  Why is God allowing all this, you wonder to yourself, or perhaps your complaints are out loud for all to hear.

Joseph couldn’t sleep.  He never would have dreamed any such thing of Mary.  She came from a devout family, true to God.  Her parents carefully raised their children in His ways.  How heartbroken they would have been to have Mary publicly shamed.  He couldn’t do that to them.  He couldn’t even have done it to Mary.  He had made his decision to break the engagement quietly, hoping that with time idle gossip would subside.  It was in the middle of these thoughts that it happened.  Was it a dream?  A vision?  No, it was a messenger from Almighty God.  What an amazing message indeed. Mary was pregnant by the divine hand of God.

Joseph and Mary were required by law to go to Bethlehem to pay their taxes.  Mary was due anytime now but she pleaded for Joseph to take her with him.  He understood.  Cruel words had been hurled at them both.  “Never mind the words,” Joseph had comforted her,” God’s ways are not our ways but always they are the best ways.”  Mary continually thanked God in her heart for giving her such a man of faith and understanding.  The days had been so difficult, but he was right.  God’s ways are always for our own good, even when the way forward is so unclear and the path difficult to walk.

It happened the very night they arrived in Bethlehem.  So many people were in the town to pay their taxes.  Every inn was booked.  Jospeh could find no room for he and Mary.  Finally, seeing Mary’s very pregnant condition, a kind innkeeper said if they didn’t mind, they could find a place where he kept his animals.  Joseph was grateful.  He piled hay into a sort of bed.  Mary lay there and gave birth to the most wonderful gift God would ever give mankind.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him would not perish, but would have life eternal.”  John 3:16

This is why we have Christmas; the day to celebrate when Jesus Christ was born.  God had Him born in human form.  He had one mission only.  To pay for the sins of mankind by His own death.  It had to be Him to pay the penalty because only He is holy and only holiness could be presented for lasting payment.  It is for anyone for the asking.  There is nothing God will not forgive.  We only need come to Him with a sincere heart.  Seek that forgiveness and you will find it — in Jesus.  There is no other way.  What a wonderful, amazing, peaceful life it is to have Jesus in it.

Merry Christmas and may this New Year be filled with God’s blessings.

The Maple Leaf

There is a place near the seafront where I often take Jack to walk and run.  It’s a beautiful place with vast fields right next to the open sea.  Seagulls are flying, waves are rolling to shore.  Along one side of the fields are trees of varying types, shapes and sizes.  There is a maple tree that I have enjoyed in every season.

Recently I watched the presence of Autumn in its leaves, making brilliant colors of red and yellow and bronze.  All too soon the leaves began to drop to the ground but that held its own beauty.  Jack and I both loved walking through dry leaves, hearing them crunch beneath our feet.

Last week there were several days of rain.  On a walk during one of these rainy days, I noticed a rather large maple leaf laid flat on the cemented walkway, plastered there by the rain.  On every subsequent day of our visit the leaf was still there.  Because it was so large I couldn’t help but notice it every time I passed.

Today as Jack and I walked along I began to look for this very familiar leaf.  We neared the place where I knew it would be found; only it wasn’t there, or was it?  I stood and marveled at the place where the leaf had embedded itself the cement.  The leaf was indeed no longer there but its imprint was perfectly formed.  That imprint will now be seen for many seasons and perhaps even years to come.  When I see this imprint I will always be drawn back to the beauty of its yellow color that first caught my eye.

That’s when I began to contemplate that you and I have the same opportunity to leave an impression of the life we have lived even long after we pass from this earth.  We leave imprints on other people’s lives by the way we speak or react to one another in any given situation.  How we imprint can influence someone else for good or for bad.  It’s like Proverbs 25:11, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.”  

It’s both a lovely and daunting thought that our words and actions are capable of encouraging or discouraging; of leaving a lovely memory or a nightmare in the mind of another.

May we all, with Father’s help, be careful of words and actions, that we may be lasting imprints of great beauty.

The Scary Washing Machine

My washing machine is one that fits under the counter in my kitchen.  The kitchen is also where Jack finds his food and water bowls.  Both bowls are kept clean and fresh to take care of his hunger and thirst needs.  Throughout the day he can be heard happily munching or slurping away.

The other evening I became aware of Jack whimpering.  I looked to see what was the matter.  He was standing at the kitchen door and peering into the room with a very sad look on his face.  “Jack,” I called out, “what’s the matter?”  He looked at me and whimpered again so I got up to investigate.  Immediately I realized the problem.

Jack doesn’t like noises.  I had forgotten that he doesn’t like going into the kitchen when the washing machine is operating. It whirs and spins and gurgles; not his favorite sounds.  As I came closer he looked up hopefully as if to say, “will you go with me, please?” I did.

In Jack’s eyes I was some kind of super hero, bravely facing the big, bad, noisy washing machine.  As I stood in front of the white atrocity, Jack walked over and began to eat from his bowl.  Once in a while he looked up.  “Im still here, boy,” I assured my furry companion. I smiled and felt good all over to know that just my presence, in the midst of what causes him fear, could be such a great comfort to him.

As I stood guard waiting for him to finish his dinner I began to thank Father that He does the exact same thing with us.  He doesn’t chide or become exasperated when we are fearful.  No, He lovingly whispers His words of love like, “I will never leave you or forsake you,”  (Hebrews 13:5) or “I the Lord your God will go before you,  I will neither fail you or abandon you.”  (Deuteronomy 31:6)  

I take great comfort in knowing that as this world spins chaos loudly like a washing machine cycle that seems to be endless, He is right there with me, smiling, comforting, loving, just like I do for my goofy but dear dog, Jack.

When All You Can Shout Is, “Help!”

3:00am.  The dark water was as black as the sky. Waves pitched the small fishing vessel up and down, back and forth.  The men tied down the canvas, secured everything that moved, and held on tight.  That’s when they saw it.  The ghost!  Only it wasn’t a ghost.  It was Jesus!  It was like he was floating in the black of night; but no, he wasn’t floating!  He was walking on water!

The frightened fishermen argued among themselves as to whether or not it was really Jesus.  Finally, Peter calls out, “If it’s you, call me to you!”  Peter obviously hadn’t thought through the possible outcome of that challenge because the recognizable voice of Jesus indeed  bid him to come.  What?  The others were watching open mouthed.  What would Peter do?

He gritted his teeth, wiped the lashing water out of his eyes, and slung his feet over the boat.  Just look at Jesus, he told himself.  He felt something solid beneath his feet, but it wasn’t solid at all; it was all water and Peter was walking on it.  One step.  Two steps.  Gusts of wind hit him full body.  Sprays of hard water stung his face.  In fear he looked away from Jesus, concentrating more on the raging storm around him.  That’s the moment it happened.  The solid feel beneath his feet fell away and water sucked him down, down, down!

Did Peter flap about?  Did he try to swim?  We don’t exactly know.  What we are certain of is who Peter called for help.  “Lord, save me!”  Those three words were all that he had time to shout.  What did Jesus do?  Did he stand there in annoyance watching Peter drown in fear?  No, he did what He always does when any of us calls out to Him for help. He reached out, took hold of Peter, and together they got back in the boat.

Are you fearful about anything in your life?  Are you worried about the outcome of some situation?  Are the winds of life beating you down into despair?  Then do the only necessary thing.  Call out to Jesus for help.  There is no doubt that He will come.  He will come offering His own strength, and taking hold of you, He will put you back in the boat, guiding you to the shore.

The above story is told in Matthew 14.

“Call upon me and I will answer you and show you great and might things that you do not yet know.”  Jeremiah 33:3

 

Keeping The Boxes

Recently I’ve been unpacking boxes; some which haven’t been looked in for some time. I was not a little astonished at what I kept. I didn’t need the objects; some were not even wanted. Why did I keep this stuff! I further realized that having them in my sight was a bit stressful. I could feel a tugging thought in my brain telling me to deal with them later.

That’s when another, equally disturbing thought, grabbed my attention. It’s so easy for any of us to do this same thing in our spiritual worlds. Perhaps something about ourselves has come to light: a bad attitude, harboring unforgiveness, letting bitterness take root. The list could go on.

We realize one day that the above unpleasantries are being stored in the boxes of our minds. We don’t like them or want them, but it’s easier to simply ignore them. The trouble with that is they take root and grow down into our hearts. Like weeds in a garden they begin to choke out the beauty, killing the colorful flowers of our minds.

What can be done? Ruthless and truthful inventory followed by a trip to the dump! The Holy Spirit, when we invite Him, will gladly with expert precision, remove all the damaging boxes stored in our hearts and minds. He will sweep the area clean and fill the space with the very peace of God, the joy of His love, and the beauty of His forgiveness for ever having stored those dirty boxes in the first place.

“…let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up, and let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the Champion who initiates and perfects our faith…”. Hebrews 12:1-2

Happy unpacking everyone!

Gap Fillers

Have you ever seen a brick wall that has begun to crumble?  It’s worn and the mortar in between the bricks has begun to disintegrate.  When that happens; when a gap appears, fresh mortar must be applied to hold the bricks together.  It’s the same in our spiritual world.  God as our Father has made us family.  He has given us the privilege, when called upon, to be mortar in someone’s life.

We have all experienced situations when it seems our personal worlds are crumbling all around us.  The mortar of our resolve has begun to disintegrate.  We are weakened.  We have been hurt or disappointed.  We grieve.  We see no way out.  We need someone to come and  apply fresh mortar.  That’s why Father has made us family.  When one is wounded, another steps in to hold up weary arms, to wipe away a tear, to speak encouraging words of truth and of God’s love.

It is a need we all have for someone to come and lift up our tired arms.  It is a joy to let someone enter our hurting worlds, to speak words of kindness, to lend a practical helping hand.

It is a great sadness when offers of such help are refused.  Father wants us to be quick to bear a burden and to be equally quick to share a burden.  Crooked places are better made straight when help comes to mend the road.  Crumbling walls are made stronger when there are those who come with fresh mortar to fill in the gaps.

I have had precious gap fillers in my life.  For each one I remain truly thankful.

“Share each other’s burdens for this is what Christ asks of you and it pleases Him.”  Galations 6:2

It’s The Little Things

I know we all have big things in life that irritate us to the hilt and we have little things in life that irritate us just as much.  For me, for some reason, it seems to me more of the little things.  A dear friend said to me not long ago, “I can’t figure you out.  You go —  on purpose —  to countries where there are people who would gladly kill you but you get all upset about a store locking its doors before closing time.”  I laughed in the midst of my snort of frustration because he was so very right.

I have made a mental note to be aware of this and while doing so something else has taken place.  I have been thanking Father in a fresh way..  He has been helping me, not only to be aware of the little things that cause frustration, with hopes to overcome that habit, but He has also made me aware of the little things that point to His own goodness: a stranger let me into a busy line of traffic, a young moorhen took flight for the first time right before my eyes.  I watched this little bird grow up.  The first flight brought a tear to my eye.  I parted my curtains and stood frozen as a pink sky greeted me.  Two little dogs that I walk in the mornings leapt into my lap just because they wanted to; their shining eyes touched my own heart with the love I saw there.

Today I did a clean out of stuff not needed.  Old bits of boxes needed to be taken to the dump.  I loaded up only to find out upon arrival that it was closed!  Grrrrr an imitation began but then I glanced at the friend sitting beside me in the car and a smile of warm thankfulness filled me for her treasured friendship of many years.

I love God’s creation and often gaze at it, but this week I have been scrutinizing with fresh eyes.  Every time an irritation has sought my attention, another thought has quickly interfered, leading me to something for which I can be thankful.  The kindness of strangers, the love of a friend, and the handiwork of God.   It has all been fresh air to an otherwise frustrated heart.

Little things can be so exasperating, but the little things can also be the biggest blessings.

Father, help our eyesight to see what’s important and what really isn’t.

“The Lord is my Shepherd.  He gives me everything I need.  He makes me lie down in green pastures.  He leads me beside quiet waters.  He refreshes my soul.”  Psalm 23:1-3a