Finding Joy in the Moment

 “Happiness makes up for in height what it lacks in length.”

Robert Frost

This week I saw a link posted on social media about a contestant on a talent show. They asked her some questions, and it turned out she was battling cancer. She performed a song she had written titled It’s Okay. When she finished to a standing ovation, they were talking about the way she connected with people and her genuineness that shone through. She said, “You can’t wait until life isn’t hard anymore before you decide to be happy.”

A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.

Proverbs 17:22

There was a lot of truth in that statement. Her joy and happiness came through both in the words she spoke as well as in the lyrics to the song. She was finding joy in the moment of being on stage and singing for an audience, but it doesn’t have to be something that big. Joy can be found in the smallest of moments.

This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.

Psalms 118:24

Earlier this week I was driving to work when I saw an animal scurry across the road ahead of me, but I couldn’t tell what it was until I got closer. The animal had stopped at the edge of the wood and looked back to the road just as I got even with it. It was a fox heading home after a long night. Something that simple brought me a moment of joy.

Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.

Philippians 4:4

I have been going through The Joy Box Journal by Adria Wilkins, which follows along the same lines of finding joy in everyday events. The saying that you find what you are looking for is very true because if you want to find joy, you will find it. If you are looking to be offended, then you will find something to offend you. If you look for the bad in people, you will find it. But, what kind of life is that?

I challenge you in the coming week to look for at least one moment of joy each day. Write it down. Better yet, post it in the comments and share your joy. In the meantime, check out the video of Nightbirde singing, if you haven’t already, and be inspired.

So, what brings you joy?

To Everything a Season

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.

Ecclesiastes 3:1

This fall everything seems to have come early, including Christmas. Since I work part-time in retail, we have to start ahead of the season. We started talking about Halloween decorations in September and planning for Christmas. Then I got an idea. People who know me well get a little nervous when they hear that phrase coming from me, but I should have been the one who was nervous.

My idea was for a collection of Christmas novellas about four women who had lost their love for the season. I came up with the basic concept in the middle of hot Alabama summer at the Southern Christian Writer’s Conference several years ago but never quite got around to working on it. On a whim, I sent an email to Cheryl Wray asking if she had any Christmas ideas for her new publishing company Southern Story Books. She liked the idea but there was one catch: In order to publish by Black Friday, she needed the finished manuscript by November 1.

That was near the end of September, so I had roughly five weeks to write four novellas. Luckily for me, Hallmark starts early too, so I had some inspiration to get me in the Christmas spirit while the world was setting up for Halloween. You may have heard about Novel in November, well I was early for that, too. I did it in October…barely.

But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:19

In the midst of pandemic panic and election mania, God provided everything I needed. He opened up time and space for me to work when I thought there was none. He gave me inspiration and ideas when I thought there was none. He gave me strength and energy when I thought there was none. God has a way of making the impossible possible and something out of nothing.

Now, Black Friday has arrived and so has my new book, something I was beginning to think would never happen again. My Christmas present came early this year, but I am willing to share. So, Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas and may my words spread a little joy and laughter in the midst of this crazy year.

Now I have and idea…

Redefine

Everybody likes makeovers and shows about makeovers. There is just something satisfying about seeing a before and after photo, whether it’s a person or a house renovation. We just like to see something spruced up and revitalized. Given 2020, most of us would like a makeover for the year. There’s just one catch: In order to have a makeover we have to be willing to let go of the old.

18 Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old. 19 Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.

Isaiah 43:18-19

Personally, I reject the phrase “new normal” as most people apply it these days. I prefer the word redefine. My world has changed in recent years but not because of the pandemic. There are different seasons in our lives due to changes in age, job situations, relationships, and health. There are mountains and valleys. When a new season comes, we have to let go of the old so that we can enjoy the new. If we want to enjoy the colors of fall, we have to put away the shorts and flip flops of summer.

The same is true spiritually speaking. Growth can be a painful process sometimes but the blessings far outweigh the negatives. We can sit around and whine about what we don’t have, or we can be grateful for what we do have. Look around and I’m sure we can find reasons to thank God. We shouldn’t let what isn’t steal the joy of what is.

When we are tempted to complain about how different things are at the moment, we need to take a moment to grieve what has passed, whether it’s a loved one, a job, or even a dream. Then, we should take stock of what we have and where we are, and dream a new dream. Give it all to God and let Him make something new out of it.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.

Jeremiah 29:11

God only wants the best for us, but sometimes that means giving up something we think is good in order to have what is best. The key is learning the fine art of letting go so that we can hold on. Let go of whatever is not of God, and hold onto our faith.

Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before.

Philippians 3:13

So, as we move into a time of giving thanks, let’s be mindful of what we have and open to the new things that God will do. Let God redefine us so that we are more like Him tomorrow than we were today.

Flowers out of Season

When Tropical Storm Zeta descended on my house in the wee hours of a Thursday morning, I was awakened by sudden silence. I realized the power had gone out, shutting off my diffuser, fan, and nightlight. It was dark and very quiet in the house, but outside was a different story. The wind howled and yanked at the plastic covering some of my windows. Every time I would start to relax it would start again. After several hours, the storm abated enough that I drifted back off to sleep. I woke up the next morning still without power, but the house was intact, so I was grateful and got ready for work by flashlight. When I went out to the car, I saw these lilies and was reminded of God’s goodness.

Earlier in the summer some friends and I were trying to get my yard under control. Weeds had overtaken my flower bed. In the process of cutting down tall weeds with a Weed Eater, some of my lilies were mown down, too. I was sad but hopeful they would return in the spring. That morning not only had the lilies miraculously returned, they were also blooming in all their splendor totally out of season. God was kind enough not to make me wait; He sent me flowers as a reminder that He was listening to my prayers and was able to answer.

So, as the season for thanksgiving approaches, let us remember that it is always the season for thanksgiving. No matter what the situation, no matter what the problem, God is always the answer and no one else.

21 Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! 22 And let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare his works with rejoicing. 23 They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; 24 These see the works of the Lord, and his wonders in the deep. 25 For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof. 26 They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths: their soul is melted because of trouble. 27 They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wit’s end. 28 Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses. 29 He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still. 30 Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven.

Psalms 107:21-30

No matter what kind of storm we are facing outside, we can have a haven of rest inside when we trust in the goodness of God. When we cry unto the Lord in our trouble, He will bring us out of our distresses and into our desired haven. Above all that, sometimes He sends us flowers out of season just to show us:

 But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.

Matthew 19:26

Heart’s Desire

Why doesn’t God answer my prayer?

How many times have you heard someone ask this question? How many times have you asked this question? The Bible says in Psalm 37:4 that he will give us the desires of our heart. Usually, the request is for something good, so why isn’t God fulfilling our heart’s desire?

Many times we take verses or phrases out of context without looking at the complete picture. We see the promise, but we don’t look at the requirements for the fulfillment of the promise, or we don’t look at the specifics of the verse in its context.

Delight thyself also in the Lord: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.

Psalms 37:4-5

The first part of Psalms 37:4 says “delight thyself also in the Lord.” What does it mean to delight thyself in the Lord? It means to make God your greatest desire and, like King David, be a person after God’s own heart. If we want what God wants, then we will have the desires of our hearts. While what we are asking for may be good in and of itself, it may not be the best or it may be for the wrong reasons.

So they did eat, and were well filled: for he gave them their own desire; 30 They were not estranged from their lust. But while their meat was yet in their mouths, 31 The wrath of God came upon them, and slew the fattest of them, and smote down the chosen men of Israel.

Psalms 78:29-31

The Israelites were wandering through the desert and cried out for meat. So, what’s wrong with meat? They were hungry, so why shouldn’t they ask for meat? First, they weren’t starving. God had been providing food for them each day. Second, manna was considered food of the angels, the best of the best. The issue wasn’t so much their request as it was their attitude. They were ungrateful. God had provided more than enough food on a daily basis, and they didn’t even have to go find it. It magically appeared each morning. They also were asking for common meat when they were getting the food of the angels.

The results are very different as well. When we commit our way unto God and trust in Him, he will bring about the best for us. The result of asking for desires out of our sinful nature is destruction. The phrase “be careful what you ask for” is very appropriate in this situation. How many times have you begged and pleaded for something only to find out what you wanted had negative consequences? You wanted to stay up late, so you woke up tired and grumpy. You wanted to have another doughnut, so you ended up sick and uncomfortable. The Israelites wanted meat, so they ate until they were sick, and then suffered the wrath of God for their ungrateful attitudes.

You see, it wasn’t that they asked for meat. God had rescued them from the hands of Egyptian bondage through signs and miracles. God had parted the waters so that they could cross on dry land and watch their enemies drowned in the same water. They had been given water out of a rock and manna from Heaven on a daily basis, but it was never enough. The sinful nature is never satisfied, but a spiritual nature that makes God’s desires their own is content. The truth is we don’t know what is best for us. We can’t see what the future holds, but God can. He only wants the best for us, so if we delight in him and let Him have His way, then we will have more than we ever dreamed possible.

Yea, they turned back and tempted God, and limited the Holy One of Israel.

Psalms 78:41

Nothing is impossible with God (Luke 1:37), but we can get in the way of God’s blessings when we try to tell Him what to do and how to do it. Someone sang a song at church recently that said I pray that you would “keep me in your will so I won’t be in your way.” When we delight in God, we will be given more than we ever thought possible.

Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us. Ephesians 3:20

He wants so much more for us than we even can imagine. So, delight yourself in the Lord and be a person after God’s own heart, and then watch what He will do.

Daily Benefits

Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation. Selah.

Psalm 68:19

Modern society frequently is obsessed with stuff, never content. We often complain about what we don’t have because we forget what we do have. For example, I had needed my house to be switched from a fuse box to a breaker box, partially because I couldn’t add a plug to move my refrigerator or add a dishwasher until it was replaced and reallocated. When it was finally completed and I could move my fridge, I was so excited because I could finally finish some projects and reattach the water line for filtered water dispenser. Every time I went in the kitchen and used the dispenser, I smiled. Soon, however, I noticed other things I “needed” in the house. My joy started to dissipate because I was focused on what I didn’t have instead of with the things God had already given me.

Psalm 68 says we are daily loaded with benefits from God. Loaded means stacked high, overflowing, more than we need. Every day God gives us benefits that we take for granted, starting with getting up in the morning to a new day. I’ve seen a lot of posts on social media about 2020 being such a horrible year, and I have been prone to agree with them, yet God gave us another year, which is not a gift everyone was given. Most of the people complaining still had what they needed for every day survival. Above that God gives us little blessings as well, but we can only see them if we look for them.

So, take a moment and look around at what you do have. If you can read this, then you probably have a roof over your head, electricity, and electronics. Think back over your day. Did anything good happen? Was there a kind word, a door held open, a chat with friends or neighbors, the love of a pet, or just a ray of sunshine on a drab day? We look at the news and social media and think about all the bad things out there, but do we look at the good things? If you dig a little deeper, you can find stories of neighbors helping neighbors, people trying to meet needs and giving of themselves. The good is still out there.

When you feel yourself overwhelmed by all the bad news and negativity, turn off the television or social media and take out a piece of paper and a pen. Make a list of things to be thankful for in your life. Start with where you are sitting and look around. What do you have here and now? Start with the four walls around you and then move further out into your neighborhood, your country, your world.

I bet you can come up with at least 5 things to be grateful for; actually, I bet your paper can’t hold all the benefits God has given you if you really think about it. Maybe start a gratitude journal. The enemy wants us to focus on perceived needs which are usually just wants in disguise, but God says meditate on His word (Joshua 1:8) because it will keep us focused and grounded on what is true.

What benefit are your grateful for today? I am grateful to have access to a dentist but even more grateful I don’t have to see him again until next year. I am grateful the rain gives me an excuse not to mow the yard. I am grateful for a little furball who snuggles close and purrs even if she emits warmth like a heating pad on a hot summer day. I am grateful for a car that keeps moving even though mechanics warned me years ago that I needed to replace it. I am thankful for a God who gives daily blessings even when we complain. How about you?

A few of my favorite things:

Joy in the Morning

Young Man 2

Young Man walked across me slowly and intentionally, making sure each paw poked my ribs or elbow with precise accuracy. He was fulfilling his self-imposed job of waking me up; however, his internal alarm clock was an hour or two off, so I tried to ignore him. He is not one to be ignored and not above using the cute factor to his advantage. This morning he plopped onto the bed where the sheets were folded back, curving onto his back and facing me. He tilted his head and then proceeded to wallow in the sheets on his back in what can only be described as pure joy. Then, he reached out a paw to me, so I reached back and petted him only to be rewarded with a nip. It was meant in love but it was still a nip. I pulled my hand back and rolled out of bed and stumbled to his food bowl, which was slightly empty, and refilled it. I was rewarded with happy munching, so I went back to bed.

When I did get up, I sat down on the couch with my coffee and watched as he strolled into the living room to settle down for a nap on the rug in front of me. I might have been more annoyed that he woke me up so that he could nap except for the fact that while I was watching him I noticed something. I couldn’t see his ribs. You see, for the last 6 months or so he had been sick and lost a lot of weight. He was finally diagnosed with IBS and after changing food twice and then switching to a daily oral medication, he had started to improve. Besides the obvious that he was starting to gain weight again, I could see it in the joyful wallowing in the sheets that morning. He felt good. That was a joy to me.

Besides the current issues we are facing from the Corona Virus, we also recently faced physical storms as well. I am reminded of Psalm 30:5 “For his anger endSunshineureth but a moment; in his favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” The storms on Easter day were replaced by bright and sunny week. While we are still sheltering at home or abiding by social distancing, we know that this too will end and morning will come.

SunriseI am reminded of Good Friday when there was a lot of weeping. Yet, on that Sunday at the resurrection, there was joy. John 16:33 says, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” Trials and tribulations are a given, but so is joy. Romans 5:3-4 says, “And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope.” We have joy because we have hope for a better day.

Whatever you are struggling with today, you can know that we have hope and joy because we have a God that will go with us each step of the way. So, take a page from Young Man’s book and celebrate the little joys of the moment, whether it’s sheets fresh from the dryer, a cup of hot tea, or a beautiful sunset. It may be Friday, but Sunday is a coming. In the meantime, let’s make the best of whatever situation we find ourselves in and look for the joy of His Presence wherever we may be.

 

 

The Surety of Adversity

Adversity Flower in Concrete

“Divine comfort is given that a man may be stronger to bear adversities. And temptation followeth, lest he be lifted up because of the benefit.” – Thomas A’ Kempis

Storm WarningI was listening to a CD of devotionals and heard an excerpt from Priscilla Shirer. She was repeating something I had heard her say in the simulcast where I got the CD. The idea that a storm is a given. You are either going into a storm, are in a storm, or are coming out of a storm. In any case, it will pass. Either the state of rest or the storm will pass as you move into the next phase of the cycle. Why? I think the quote above from Thomas A’Kempis spells it out for us.

When we are at rest, we soon forget who we owe the joy of rest and peace. Sometimes we even begin to believe that we earned the blessings we have received. We forget that “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (James 1:17, KJV). Storms come to keep us grounded.

Matthew 6:19-21 says:

 “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:

20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:

21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

MistSometimes we must endure storms and suffer loss so that we will remember that everything on earth is ethereal, a mist that can dissolve as quickly as it came. We are merely passing through this world as well. As Christians our eternal home is Heaven where there will be no need of storms to remind us because we will be in the very presence of God.

How are we to live then, knowing storms will come as long as we walk this earth? Learn to ride the waves as they come. Be joyful in or out of the storms, knowing this too shall pass. Enjoy the blessings with a thankful heart and be thankful that in the storms we have the comfort of the Holy Spirit. Lay up for yourself treasures in Heaven through obedience to God’s Word. Then, as Paul says:

 “11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.

12 I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: everywhere and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.

13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (Philippians 4:11-13, KJV).

 

 

 

Make it Happen

In his sonnet “When I Consider How my Light is Spent,” John Milton says, “…They also serve who only stand and wait.” It doesn’t mean that we should sit around all day every day, but there are times when we wait on God to do His part after we do our part. The boy who brought his lunch to hear Jesus preach on the mountain couldn’t feed the multitude without Jesus blessing it first, but he did have to pack his lunch. We do our part and let God bless it, and it will feed a multitude. Our lunch alone will feed us if we are lucky, but it probably won’t satisfy us. We need God’s touch…his blessing…or it is to no avail.

We live in a culture of “Make it happen.” We are supposed to get out there and hustle to make our dreams come true. It is especially true in a writing career. There are countless books on how to write a best-selling book, or how to market, or how to use social media. The truth is no one can really predict what books will go “viral.” The “success” of a book is really up to God. Our part is to write our book to the best of our ability, and to put in the work required, and then leave it in God’s hands.

The same is true of ministry. If God puts something on our heart to do, we should do it to the best of our ability, but God determines the success. He also determines the definition of success. His goal may have been a Vacation Bible School to reach one child for Christ, or to plant seeds alone. That is success even if we have no numbers to report to the congregation or association.

I think we need to redefine the word success so that we merely seek to fulfill God’s call and be obedient to His Word. After that, we have to leave it in His capable hands, knowing He will do what is best. It is not ours to “make it happen.” It is ours to be obedient. It is His to bless as He will.

 

What a Difference a Day Makes

I was watching a television movie the other night and the main character talked about how life can change in a matter of minutes. We often think of it as something terrible happening, but it can also be a turn of circumstances for the better.

Some mornings start out on a negative note and we often dismiss the day as shot, something we must endure until it is over. Then, even a small event can turn it around. The sun can peek out after a torrential downpour followed by a rainbow. We suddenly feel lighter, even more so when we get a glimpse of sun after nearly a week of rain and storms from recent days.

I had high hopes of today being a good day, a productive day. Then a series of unfortunate events sent me into a downward spiral, fearing another day swallowed up in a cloud. I took a moment and tried to get a new perspective. The character from the movie was inspired by the concept of life changing in a moment to take a chance for something great. This is the key to joy. Looking for the opportunity to see God work in the moment and to take a chance on Him. But, with God, it is never really a chance because He was in complete control of the situation all along.