Have you ever been driving along when an unprovoked memory of something funny pops into your thoughts; then you chuckle softly before it all turns into roaring laughter? I read an anecdote earlier this week which made me laugh, but several times since then it has come back to me, prompting much giggling.
There have been medical studies concerning laughter. It helps reduce stress, relieve pain, increase immunity and provides an overall sense of well-being. Of course, God has revealed that to us already. In Proverbs 17:22 we read, “A cheerful heart is a good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” Many years ago a friend said to me that no matter what, she looks for something to laugh about everyday. “Just makes you feel better,” she told me.
I can remember being with someone after she had received some heartbreaking news. We talked and cried together. Then, in the midst of the overwhelming sadness, something rather funny took place. We smiled, then chuckled, then all laughter broke out! When we calmed ourselves my friend said, “Oh, I needed that.” It did indeed give her a needed break in her emotions, a lifting of her spirit.
We are able to laugh because God made us that way. Remember, we are created in His image. Can’t you imagine Jesus laughing with His disciples, perhaps exchanging funny fishing stories, or teasing one another? I have a feeling there was much laughter going on around the campfire. The ability to laugh is a wonderful gift God has given to each one of us. Oh, what was that funny story that has kept me laughing all week? It’s just a silly thing but I hope it makes you laugh, too. Then, thank God for such a wonderful ability He has given us. Here is the story:
“A woman woke up one morning and only had three hairs. She looked into the mirror and said, ‘I think I’ll braid my hair today,’ and went happily on her way. The following morning she awoke and only had two hairs. ‘Today I will part my hair down the middle,’ she stated, and again went happily on her way. The next morning she awoke and only had one hair left. ‘I think I’ll wear my hair in a ponytail today,’ she said, and of course, went happily on her way. The fourth morning she awoke and had no hair at all on her head. ‘How blessed I am,’ she said. I was running out of ways to do my hair.'” An example of laughter — an example of attitude. May something in your day make you laugh today.
Jack, our dog, makes me laugh when it comes to a rainy day. If we happen to be out walking somewhere, and it begins to rain, no problem. Jack continues to run around, enjoying his walk and play time, taking no notice of the torrent of water falling from the sky. However, if we are at home, and I dare to attempt taking him outside when it’s raining, he balks at the front door, gazing up with a look of sheer astonishment that I would even think of such a thing as taking him out in a cloudburst!
Sometimes I insist because I know he needs to go out. He follows on his leash as I lead the way to the garage. He then scurries forward to stand lengthwise, leaning against the door. How am I supposed to open the garage with him hugging the door? I nudge a reluctant pooch (with somewhat bulging eyes, as if I’m making him walk the plank) to the next garage, where he hugs that one, too, while I ease the car out. I open the back door. With head hanging like a vulture he jumps inside, and we’re off.
When we reach our destination, he stands in happy anticipation, seeing the park and the trees. He jumps out in great joy, ignoring the rain, to begin his running and sniffing pursuits. Oh, happy day, in spite of its fearful beginning at the garage door. I can’t help but think, at times, you and I might be a bit like this silly hound.
Father reveals part of His plan for us, but it’s raining doubts of the unknown. Head hanging in dread we tentatively step forward. Then we stop. Maybe we should bolt back to the shelter of home. It’s safer there, we tell ourselves, but the Holy Spirit urges us onward. One scary step at a time we press on. As we move we begin to see more of the plan unfold before us. Oh yes, we reason, that makes sense. The Lord is with us, leading us, gently helping us away from the door of perceived safety that we are leaning against, hugging its sense of security in the midst of the present cloudburst of unchartered paths ahead. We determine to be obedient in the midst of our fear. Jesus is with us, we remind ourselves. The Holy Spirit is our perfect guide, we repeat this fact to help build our own encouragement. Father’s plans are designed “for good and not disaster, to give us hope and a future,” as we read in Jeremiah 29:11. This focus on truth builds our trust as we walk on in the pouring rain of uncertainty.
Unlike Jack, shown a park with trees to sniff and squirrels waiting to be chased, we are shown a steep mountain to climb. The way is hard, but wait! Each step brings with it renewed courage. The higher we climb, strength grows. We seem, at moments, to be gliding. Of course! The Holy Spirit within us provides us with a link to Father’s own joy and His own peace. There are tears but also tranquility. There is pain but also a holy hush as we soak in the beauty of His presence with us.
We tell ourselves His guidance is so lovely that we will never hesitate again — but we do. Sometimes our lessons have to be learned over and over again. We feel a failure, but Father knows our frailties. He understand our weaknesses. His love covers all. When we are hugging the garage door of safety for the hundredth time, He is there to encourage us on — again, joyfully blessing the obedience of our every fearful step. He never gives up on us, just as I never give up on Jack.
“The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is His faithfulness; His mercies begin afresh every morning. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in Him!'” Lamentations 3:22-24
I remember as a child there were certain rules in our home that were steadfast. For example, my father gave me a curfew. If I was told to be home at a certain time, 30 minutes later was unacceptable. There was no watering down my father’s word. Obedience brought joy and reward. Disobedience brought undesired consequences.
It’s the same in spiritual relationship with our Heavenly Father. God has given us His Word. We have the guidebook. In Psalm 119:89 we read, “Forever, Oh Lord, Your Word is settled in heaven.” Therefore, there is no watering it down. Obedience will bring blessings. Disobedience will bring undesired consequences. We see this today on a larger scale. Look at America. Once a nation founded with the goal of obedience to God’s Word. This endeavor brought great joy and reward. Today, those in government seats have watered down God’s Word. They’ve inserted their own philosophies which are blatantly against what God has already declared in heaven to be so.
In Revelation 22:18 we read, “…If anyone adds anything to what is written here, God will add to that person the plagues described in this book.” What is happening in that western super power of a country called
America? Evil roams the streets. Mass shootings, once a shocking horror, are commonplace. Today is January 27, 2023. How many mass shootings has there been thus far this year? 38. Why? Men and women in roles of governmental leadership have embraced a watered down version of God’s Word. Such embracing has trickled down into cities and towns, schools and homes. In fact, God has been told to take a backseat. When mankind turns away from the Light, there is only darkness. There is no grey area of acceptance in disobeying God’s Word, because His Word is already settled in heaven.
Mankind has added to God’s Word, saying it’s okay to accept what was once evil as good, but God’s Word can never be changed. It’s steadfast. A light to guide our way. It is perfection. Until Jesus returns, because mankind has turned away from God’s Word, evil will grow. It will be harder to stand strong in the teachings of God’s Word. Persecution will grow in the guise of hate crime, just for standing on the truth of God’s unchangeable Word. Take heart! Be strong! Be courageous! You have the Holy Spirit to fill you with God’s peace and stamina. Never forget — obedience brings blessings that will last for eternity. Refusing to walk in the ways of God will bring unwanted consequences.
May we each one pray for one another as we see a majority turning from the Light to walk in darkness. Hold each other up. As we are reminded in Hebrews 10:24-25, “Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of His return in drawing near.” Be kind. Help the poor and homeless. Support the sick and hungry. Speak the truth. Share the Good News. Seize every opportunity to be the love of God in action.
In these days of darkness, remember brothers and sisters — obedience brings blessings.
“The love of God to people is omnipotent; there is no force in nature that can for a single moment be compared with it.” Charles Spurgeon
Our world is hurting. Every government is suffering inflation and political angst. The whole world groans beneath unprecedented fires, floods, storms, volcanic eruptions, hurricanes and tornadoes, avalanches, mudslides, earthquakes, disease and poverty. Our world hurts and its people despair — but God’s children needn’t be overcome by things negative because we know the certain, positive outcome of our future.
God loves us, all of us, and He desires that we all want to live with Him for eternity in that place where no tears or sorrow exists. It’s a glorious future He has promised for all who receive the gift of salvation. His Son died to pay our sin penalty, but He won’t force anything on us. It’s ours for the wanting and receiving. Just reach out, declare you believe in His love for you, that He indeed died so you may live, receive His forgiveness, and go forth with assurance that your future awaits you with joy and peace that is literally out of this world!
What do we do until that glorious time comes of no more tears and sorrow? Every child of God has within him or her the Holy Spirit of God. He whispers reminders of God’s love when we are hurting. He gives us wisdom when we feel we have lost our way. He gives us courage to press on when we can’t see what’s around the corner. He endows us with inner peace that surpasses all human understanding. He speaks to us through His Word which is more than printed ink on paper; it is the Living Word of God! When we read, asking the Holy Spirit to speak to us through it, He reveals deep spiritual truths that we could not otherwise know.
In this hurting world in which we physically live, He lifts us higher in our spirits, out of the drudgery and despair, giving us instead, hope and quiet joy that cannot be shattered no matter what takes place around us. How can this be? The answer lies in Acts 17:28, “For in Him we live and move and have our being. As some poets have said, ‘We are His offspring.'” He is our everything to get us through anything.
It’s so interesting to follow the life of the twelve disciples Jesus chose to travel with Him. In Mark 6 we come to a moment when Jesus fed the five thousand with only five loaves of bread and two fish — with twelve baskets of leftovers! It is what happened prior to this event that captures my attention today. In this story thus far, the disciples have listened to Jesus teach through parables. They have seen Him calm a storm, cast out a demon, and then, amazingly, Jesus gave them authority to teach in His name. In Mark 6:13 we are told, “They cast out many demons and healed many sick people, anointing them with olive oil.” That’s amazing, right? More amazing, when a little time had passed, Jesus was teaching five thousand people. As evening approached the disciples suggested that Jesus send the crowds away so they could buy something to eat. Jesus answers, “You feed them.” What did they do at this command? They looked at the purse.
Isn’t it astonishing that, after watching Jesus perform absolute miracles, when such a moment of daily need presented itself, they didn’t think to look to Jesus for instructions; they looked at the practical, seeing the task at hand as impossible. They had not yet learned that Jesus isn’t just on the mountaintop of miracles; He walks with us through the daily routine of in the valley.
We love the experience of joy and the unexpected. To see a miracle (and many of us have seen them) sends us to the heights, but daily life isn’t a continuous journey on the mountaintop. Most days we are taking kids to school, going to work, cleaning house, cooking dinner, looking at the budget and the rising food prices, feeling concern at making ends meet. We fret, and we always will, as long as we keep looking at the purse.
Just like the disciples, we can be thrilled at watching Jesus’ miraculous provisions, but how soon we forget He is just as present in the ordinary, even the hum-drum situations of life, as He is on the mountaintop. What was the disciples mistake? What is the same mistake we make? We look to an experience to be our joy, rather than believing it’s our relationship with Him that brings lasting peace which sweetly fills our being in any storm of life.
Sadly, there are many of God’s disciples who chase experiences. For example, they may attend a church where fabulous things are happening, but when the experience fades and life takes on routine again, they flitter away in search of another experience. Jesus is indeed on the mountaintop, but He isn’t any less present in the valley. In fact, it’s often in the valley where we come to know the sweetness of His nearness when we hurt. It’s in the valley when we are most pliable to be molded into His image. It’s in the valley where that, “peace that passes all understanding,” penetrates into the depths of our being. (Philippians 4:7)
The experience of the mountaintop is fabulous, but it’s in the valley that we come to know the depths of His unfailing love for us. It’s love that surpasses all, that no wind of worry can blow away, that no experience can overshadow. Enjoy the mountaintop; the views are amazing, but do not despair the valley. Jesus is there, too, waiting to lead you on a daily, amazing journey. It’s in the valley where we most often hear Him say, “this is the way, now walk in it.” (Isaiah 30:21)
I’m in the process of writing my next book. In it I include a chapter on the art of listening. As I’ve been praying, writing, meditating on what God gives me to write, I have been stirred and challenged in my own heart. I want my walk with God to go deeper. Therefore, I must have my spiritual ears open to hear Him say, “this is the way, now walk in it.” Many of you reading have the same desire. I thought I would share an excerpt from my next book which I am calling — Strength For the Weary. I hope it blesses you.
Making time to come before God with the sole intent of listening is something many have never thought of doing. When we think of prayer, we imagine the words we will speak to Him, imploring His daily help. We don’t always imagine ourselves just waiting, listening.
We feel we have an understanding of what prayer is and we practice it with regularity. We are content for the most part, but often, even in our most earnest of supplications, we can feel as if our prayers aren’t getting above the ceiling. The reason may be as simple as learning the art of listening.
The key is in how we approach God. Of course, as His children, we have the joyful right to rush into His presence at any moment, and He welcomes us to do so. I’m referring to something different. I’m referring to those moments when we deeply desire to hear Him. There must be no rushing about during those intimate moments of communing with our Father.
In his book, Making All Things New, Henri Nouwen wrote, “Jesus’ life was a life of obedience. He was always listening to the Father, always attentive to His voice, always alert for His directions. Jesus was ‘all ear.’ That is true prayer: being all ear for God. The core of all prayer is indeed listening, obediently standing in the presence of God.”
We read in the four Gospels that Jesus often rose before daybreak. The reason? He was praying. He was seeking His Father’s direction for the day. He was doing more than petitioning. He was listening. He was engaged in private, intimate communication with His Father. His trained ear was open and earnestly waiting for His Father to speak.
You and I are busy. Our world is fast paced and instant. Through computer technology, television, and the microwave, we can watch news, play games, be entertained, communicate, and eat our meals in fleeting minutes. It’s all instant. Therefore, it’s no surprise when we come to God, we want instant response, too. It’s the way the world has conditioned us, but we don’t come to the throne of God as the world comes; we come in a spirit of sacrifice and humility. We must come as David wrote in Psalm 51:17, “The sacrifice You desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.”
As we walk into this New Year, may we each one be blessed with great joy and inner peace as we practice, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the art of spiritually listening.