Rely on Joy

28 Mar

After Zeuxis, a Greek painter, completed his painting of an old woman, he thought it was pretty funny. The painter laughed so hard at his creation he couldn’t catch is breath. He ended up choking to death! (Mentalfloss.com relates this and nine other stories about people in history who laughed themselves to death.)

It’s one thing to laugh until you cry. But laugh until you die? I’ve heard the phrase, “I laughed my ClingToJoy_LOLhead off.” Really? Maybe it just felt like it. It’s been my experience that extreme laughter can give me a headache.

Have you ever laughed so hard, maybe even while crying and holding your sides, that you declared, “Oh. Oh! I can’t breathe!”

I’ve had those moments. Once, while on vacation with my husband, his sister and her husband, we got so tickled we were all laughing, crying and pounding the table, yelling, “Stop! Stop! Oh . . . it hurts!” Just when we got settled down, one of us made a comment and we’d sputter into a laughing jag all over again.

Health mag* shared some facts about laughter.

  • 25 – number of calories burned in a five minute laugh session
  • 17 – average number of times an adult laughs every day
  • 15 – number of facial muscles that contract when you laugh
  • 5 years – age at which we laugh the most exuberantly
  • 30 times- greater likelihood of laughing when with others rather than alone
  • 3 months – age at which humans start to laugh
  • 4/10 second – amount of time between the occurrence of something funny and your brain’s  reaction to it

Clearly, laughter is good for us – when it doesn’t kill us!

And it is, the Good Book says, “good medicine” (Proverbs 17:22).

But what do we do when laughter escapes us — when circumstances hurt and we think we’ll never smile again, let alone laugh?

Then we rely on joy.

Depending on the translation, the words “happy” and “happiness” show up in the Scriptures around 30 times, but “joy” and it’s cousin “rejoice” appear more than 300 times!

James says joy can occur even in the midst of trials (James 1:2) . . . “Knowing that the testing of our faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:3-4). This kind of joy comes through the Lord as He strengthens and matures us, in spite of our struggles, but also in our struggles as we place our trust in Christ.

For Christians, when happiness flees, joy remains. It’s not dependent on circumstances. Paul could speak repeatedly of joy while in Rome’s prison because God transformed his perspective about suffering. Paul rejoiced because He relied on God’s purposes, and He understood one of those great purposes was for him to share the Gospel with the prison guards (Acts 28:30; Philippians 1:12-24).

Cling to joy. It’s a gift of the Spirit. And when you can, enjoy a good, healing dose of laughter.

When do you find it most difficult to laugh? Can you cling to joy instead?

* “Laugh It Up,” Health mag, June 1013, p. 90.

Graphic adapted, Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

- Dawn

 

The Ingratitude Twist

28 Feb

IngratitudeAndPride_Pretzel_LOLwithGodA little old lady sold pretzels on a street corner for 25 cents each.

Every day a young man would leave his office building at lunch time and, as he passed her pretzel stand, he would leave her a quarter, but would never take a pretzel.

This went on for more than five years. The two of them never spoke.

One day as the man passed the old ladies pretzel stand and left his quarter as usual, the pretzel woman spoke to him,

“Sir, I appreciate your business. You are a good customer, but I have to tell you that the pretzel price has increased to 35 cents.” *

The surprising twist to this humorous story is the woman’s ingratitude. She apparently couldn’t see how much she’d already received.

Ingratitude and pride are often connected and twisted together, because pride always expects more than it receives.

I think of Satan, once a glorious angel, who indulged in pride, practiced ingratitude and will ultimately reap judgement (Isaiah 14:12-14; John 12:31; Revelation 20). He desires to cultivate pride and an ungrateful spirit in the hearts of all who love God.

C.J. Mahaney wrote in the book, Humility:

“Are you a thankful observer of the countless indications of [God’s] provision, His presence, His kindness and his grace? An ungrateful person is a proud person. If I’m ungrateful, I’m arrogant. And if I’m arrogant, I need to remember God doesn’t sympathize with me in that arrogance; He is opposed to the proud.

Gratitude fosters humility, and humility fosters gratitude.

America has become such an ungrateful nation. America is abundantly blessed, but she is shamefully proud. I’m not talking about American “exceptionalism.” America truly has been blessed by God and has unparalleled freedom. But no nation is truly free that rejects the truth and wisdom of God.

We who have so much have become a nation of grumblers, always wanting more. Unlike many places in the world, we have indoor plumbing, air conditioning, running water, grocery stores stocked with food, electricity – so many blessings.

Like ancient Israel (Numbers 13:27; 14:2-4, 11), we complain that we never have enough. And God is angered by our murmuring. The Lord called Israel a “wicked congregation” (14:27) because of His people’s sinful ingratitude.

We see the same pride and ingratitude in Jesus’ day. He healed ten lepers, but only one—a Samaritan—turned to glorify God and give thanks (Luke 17:12-19).

We become ungrateful when we forget the gifts of God, or pridefully think we deserve more from His hand, rather than being thankful for His abundant mercy, grace and provision.

Americans are fueled by commercialism—magazine ads and television commercials that make us think we deserve more … More … MORE! If we don’t get the “more,” we think life is somehow giving us a raw deal.

Abraham Lincoln once said, “We have been the recipients of the choicest blessings of heaven. . . .  but we have forgotten God! . . . we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own.”

That’s pride. Pride that leads to the corruption of ingratitude. It’s a selfish sin that is growing in these last days (2 Timothy 3:1-4). We are “proud … ungrateful ….” We haven’t just forgotten God. In many cases, Americans deny He even exists!

But what happens when a person remembers God—when a person stands in true humility before the great, sovereign Lord of heaven?

King David exemplifies this so beautifully as he spoke before his people who gave to the building of the Temple:

Blessed be You, Lord God of Israel our father, forever and ever. Yours, O Lord, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is Yours; Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and You are exalted as head above all. Both riches and honor come of You, and You reign over all; and in Your hand is power and might; and in Your hand it is to make great, and to give strength unto all. Now therefore, our God, we thank You, and praise Your glorious name. But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly after this sort? For all things come of You, and of Your own have we given You” (1 Chronicles 29:10-14).

Do you have a humble spirit like David before the Lord? Or do you have the “ingratitude twist” of the murmuring Israelites?

* Cybersalt Digest, Issue #3926, 12-20-12

- Dawn

Miles Apart: a Special ‘Valentine’s Day’ Message

14 Feb

SnoopyAndHeart_AbsenceQuote“Absence makes the heart grow fonder”? I’m with Schultz. Absence makes my heart say, “Hurry home, Babe!”

My husband and I are often miles apart.

He’s in another state or somewhere around the world. I can’t tell you how many birthdays, Valentine’s Days and anniversaries we’ve spent apart since we were married 40 years ago.

But one thing’s for sure,

I’d rather be miles apart than “miles apart.”

I know so many couples who are miles apart spiritually, emotionally, socially, financially, physically. They’re under the same roof, but . . .

They’ve embraced different worldviews. They can’t agree. They don’t see eye to eye. Their hearts aren’t in the same place. They might not even share the same bed.

It’s so sad.

God made us all different, and He doesn’t want cloned spouses. But His plan is for couples to be “one.” Not only one in physical union, but together in the way they face the world, united in how they will bring up children, agreeing in how to use resources, etc.

Each partner might bring something unique into their union, but the goal is to be a stronger “one.”

My husband and I could not be more different in how we approach social events, how we disciplined the boys, how we spend or invest, how we worship. But together, our friendships, parenting, finances, and communion with God have grown. Our oneness is more beautiful than we ever were alone.

Humans struggle over unity (with anyone). We like our independence. But if God calls a couple to marriage, He also calls them to unity (Genesis 2:24-25), a reflection of the unity in the Godhead (John 17:11, 20-23).

God doesn’t want us to be “miles apart.”

Here are eight ways to promote more unity in your relationship:

  1. Pray together. Ask God to bless your relationship and create the “oneness” you desire.
  2. Seek God and imitate Christ. Remember, if you are both Christ-followers: the close each of you draws to the Lord, the closer you will be drawn toward each other.
  3. Study your spouse to understand his/her basic personality, temperament and gifts.
  4. Create undistracted time together to discuss mutual goals.
  5. Show genuine love to each other each day.
  6. Play together. Don’t make marriage just about dealing with all the “hard stuff.”
  7. Be honest. Discuss your and your spouse’s needs.
  8. Remember you are “one flesh.” Sometimes, plan for your partner’s sexual needs; other times, be spontaneous!

Are you “miles apart” from your spouse today? What can you do to shrink that distance and create more unity today?

- Dawn

 

 

 

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