The Cheerful Heart

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by Graham Mol

What is your attitude toward life like?

Don’t worry, you don’t need to answer that right now. Just keep it in mind as we consider the following proverb:

All the days of the oppressed are miserable,
but a cheerful heart has a continual feast,”
(Proverbs 15:15 CSB)

The New Living Translation puts it this way:

For the despondent, every day brings trouble;
    for the happy heart, life is a continual feast,”
(Proverbs 15:15 NLT)

This snippet of wisdom points out the fact that our attitude toward life – the state of our hearts affects how we see, feel and experience each new day. For those who are feeling afflicted or oppressed, in a place of despondency, it seems that each day brings more trouble. They find the negative in every positive, their clouds all seem to lose their silver lining. What a contrast this is to those with a cheerful heart for whom life is not merely “nice” or “okay” but is described as a continual feast. For them there is always something new to try, to taste, to delight in. There is always more, and plenty to share with others.

The facts of life are just that, the facts. Whether or not we can explain them, or change them, we are all presented with them as sure as the sun rises over us. The difference is how we think and feel about the facts and circumstances we face, the difference is how we will respond. Will today bring trouble, or will we feast on the joys and opportunities given to us. Consider how you feel when you read the following statement:

“Anything can happen.”

Does this statement fill you with dread? Or does it speak to you about possibility, discovery and promise?

The proverbs in the Bible are wise reflections of what tends to be true in life. They are insights into our thinking and experience of life. Proverbs 15:15 points out the fact that our attitude, the condition of our heart vastly changes our experience of daily life. However knowing this might not help you feel any better if you find yourself in that place of despondency, afflicted and oppressed by the trials of life. We all wish that we could experience life as a continual feast, but sadly that is not the reality for many.

The good news is that with the Lord we can experience such joy. Psalm 23 was written by King David who, although not perfectly, walked with the Lord in love and obedience. The words of the psalm describe the beautiful reality of having the Lord as our Shepherd loving and caring for us. David speaks of the Lord preparing a table in for him in the presence of his enemies. With the Lord we can still enjoy the feast of life even in a hostile, difficult situation. With Jesus as our Good Shepherd, the cup of our joy will overflow and we will no longer have hearts that are afflicted and despondent but that are cheerful, ready to experience the glorious banquet of life before us.

God Bless

Graham



 

The Lord Is My Shepherd

A Psalm of David.

23 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
    He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
    for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
    I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever.

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Shake It Off

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by Caryl Moll

I wish I could shake like that,” my hubby lamented as he looked at our Golden Retriever, Toby.

This morning, as the sun peeped through the curtains of our bedroom, the dogs stirred. Toby stretched his limbs and then moved over towards his canine companion, Lexi. She rose and nuzzled Toby. Both gave their first ‘shake’ of the day and paused to decide on their next step.  

Over the years, this has become our dogs’ regular morning routine. It’s a collaborative effort to ‘wake us up’. They walk around our bed, moaning loudly and thump their tails against the mattress. Very effective! According to them, nothing is more important than breakfast. Sometimes our beloved pooches whip themselves up into a barking frenzy. Very determined!

“Woof! Woof! Woof!

No matter how much we adore them, it can become really irritating. At some point, we both shout out…

“NO! Go back to bed!”

Toby yawns widely, takes a moment to stretch his body out languidly and then he gives a firm and solid ‘shake’ which cannot be ignored. This shake starts at his head, moves to his ears and extends through his large body to the tip of his tail. It is loud and distinctive with skin flaps rattling across his frame. Afterwards, however, it’s as if everything is new. He quietly goes back to bed as if all is forgotten… for a few minutes.

 Hubby and I lift our heads, look at each other and both say simultaneously…

“I wish I could shake like that.”

This lament is often heard in our household – the desire to shake our bodies just like our dogs do it. Their shake seems to allow all their tension to simply drip off and disappear. They look free, comfortable and happy. This event is sealed off with a languid stretch. I can’t help but think that if we could do it, it would offer us the opportunity of a clean slate to move ahead, refreshed. Yes, it may sound funny for us to shake like this, but there is some real sentiment behind our envy.

Animal behaviourists would call this “The body shake”. It’s a doggy self-calming mechanism which works to settle them down and ready themselves for their next activity. “The past is the past,” they seem to say. “All is forgotten. What lies ahead is totally new.” We could learn from them…

Don’t you wish you could shake it off like this? Well, I most certainly do.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have the freedom to not over-think things; to shake off our anxiety; to calm ourselves and to simply ‘put it all behind you’? How often do we over-worry; mulling things over in our minds. We ponder endlessly over redundant issues: Why did we make that mistake? Why did we say that? Is this the correct decision? How do I deal with this? The anxiety can be debilitating.

So, how do we ‘shake it off’?

Some people attend parties every weekend in an attempt to forget their issues. Others exercise their bodies into fatigue. There’s drinking, drugs and numerous other self-destructive coping mechanisms on offer. But we may be wise to ask: How does God suggest we deal with our tension and anxiety?

In the Bible, Jesus explains:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)

The promise of rest and a new slate is waiting for all of us. We are offered the opportunity of shaking it off and handing it over to our Lord. Indeed, he encourages this. But what is our hesitancy?

I would venture to say that we tend to avoid taking up Jesus’s offer simply because we are fearful of losing our own agency; fearful of being left ill-equipped to deal with whatever situation is presented. Surrendering to the will of God feels scary. Perhaps we don’t trust God enough…? We think he’ll leave us abandoned and we’ll have to ‘go-it-alone’.

But there is more good news. We don’t have to do life alone. Jesus didn’t leave us isolated on this earth. He never intended that!!

“But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” (John 14:26)

These passages are so reassuring.

So dear reader, the next time you are feeling overwhelmed, stressed or at the end of your tether, remember that the Holy Spirit is there waiting. Jesus is waiting for your willingness to ‘shake it off’ and trust him. It’s an opportunity to start afresh; to give it all to Jesus and to free up the tension in your body. Now is the moment to trust that God has got it.

And then, when we have finally dropped our tension at the feet of Jesus…. “WAIT!”  Like our beloved Golden Retrievers, it’s now our turn to wait for the Lord’s direction.

Wishing you a stress-free day.

 

With love, in Christ.

Caryl

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Our All Knowing God

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by Luke Kincaid

Seth and I went for a really nice walk this past Saturday. While out and about I thought it would be cool to have an impromptu adventure and walk to my parents’ house. So we set off, and after about 5 minutes, I realized how hot it was getting and that I had completely forgotten both Seth’s hat and juice bottle. I also had a sudden feeling of this not being the right thing to be doing in this moment. So we set off back home, and while walking, Seth led us down a little cul-de-sac which I was happy about because of the abundance of shade present! We walked around for about 10 minutes, played on some large rocks, and set off on the final leg of our journey back home.

As we walked back to the main road I noticed a young girl, about the same age as Seth, standing at an open entrance of a nearby complex. Her and her dog strolled casually into the road and down toward the cul-de-sac as I stood there confused, not immediately comprehending what was going on. Seth walked after her, seeing an opportunity to make a new friend, while I tried to talk to her to figure out what was going on. Eventually, we all began making our way back to her complex. Upon arriving I flagged down someone inside learning it was her sister and soon her mother came running out to fetch her as they were trying to find where she had gone.

What I believe happened is that this little girl and her furry companion curiously wandered out the gate, moments after a car had left the complex, at the exact same time Seth and I were walking past the gate. While thinking through all of this I couldn’t help but contemplate how this situation could have played out in many different ways with most of them having potential devastating out comes. The only explanation I can come up with for why we were there at the right time is that our God knew this was going to happen and helped Seth lead us down that cul-de-sac after our failed adventure which resulted in her being led safely back home not long after leaving.

One of God’s primary attributes is that He is omniscient which means that He is all knowing:

“God knows everything (1 John 3:20). He knows not only the minutest details of our lives but those of everything around us, for He mentions even knowing when a sparrow falls or when we lose a single hair (Matthew 10:29-30). Not only does God know everything that will occur until the end of history itself (Isaiah 46:9-10), but He also knows our very thoughts, even before we speak forth (Psalm 139:4). He knows our hearts from afar; He even saw us in the womb (Psalm 139:1-3, 15-16). Solomon expresses this truth perfectly when he says, “For you, you only, know the hearts of all the children of mankind” (1 Kings 8:39)” – Got Questions

It blows my mind to try and understand the fact that God knows absolutely everything and this interaction reminded and taught me a lot about God. I was reminded that we can always trust the God who always knows what is going to happen, even when we don’t. It also reminded me to be a bit more aware of some nudges that we may be feeling from the Holy Spirit while also having my eyes opened to the fact that God can speak to my two year old as clearly as He does to me. At the end of the day we worship an incredible God and my prayer is that this story helps you do that in some small way.

 

Much love,

Luke

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Stay Rooted in God

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by Calven Celliers

As someone who enjoys gardening, and watching plants flourish and grow, I am always amazed at the capacity of some plants to spring back to life even after I may have written them off. Once, I had to get a tree feller in to cut down a tree. I decided to leave the stump in the ground as the pedestal for a bird bath. Not too long thereafter, maybe a season or so, the ‘pedestal of my bird bath’ started sprouting new shoots despite the fact that the stump looked deader than dead. The unseen roots of the tree were still nourishing and sustaining the outward stump.

Even a tree has more hope! If it is cut down, it will sprout again and grow new branches.
 Though its roots have grown old in the earth and its stump decays,
 at the scent of water it will bud and sprout again like a new seedling.”  (Job 14: 7 – 9NLT)

Job, in his pain, observed that even a tree that is cut down can sprout and live again, on one condition – its roots are still in the soil! When a tree is uprooted from the ground it cannot survive, no matter how much water and manure you give it. In our own lives we may go through some very tough seasons, seasons where it feels like there is no hope, and we are barely standing because of the difficulties and onslaught we’re facing. But as Job assures us, new life can come and hope can once again be restored. No situation is ever hopeless for the Lord, and nothing is ever beyond His reach.

The growth of a plant will only be as healthy as its roots are strong and deep. Roots provide nourishment for a tree by drawing water and nutrients from the soil and delivering these nutrients to the fruit-bearing parts of the tree above ground. Even during a drought, the tree’s roots will burrow deep into the earth, into hard-to-reach places, to seek out moisture so that the tree may continue bearing fruit. Roots also provide stability and strength to keep a tree planted firmly in the soil. This steadfast footing comes in handy and prevents the tree from being uprooted when buffeted by storms and high winds.

“God uses circumstances to develop our character. Circumstances are simply character-building opportunities, and the more difficult they are, the greater the potential for building spiritual muscle and moral fibre. What happens outwardly in your life is not as important as what happens inside you. Your circumstances are temporary, but your character will last forever.” (Rick Warren)

Think of it like this, roots are what sustain a tree. Leaves grow and are shed. The hope of restoration of a tree is not in its leaves (outward appearance). Leaves and flowers decorate a tree. No matter how many leaves a tree has, if it is cut down, the leaves will wither.

No matter how dry you may be feeling today, and no matter how void of hope your current circumstances may appear, it’s such a blessing to know that our Lord is well able to rescue you and bring a new lease of life upon you. There is always hope that our God can make our lives blossom once again. Just as He brought forth water from a rock in the middle of a desert for the thirsty Israelites, and filled up a very dry valley with water, without a drop of rain, to provide for the armies of Judah and Israel, so too God can, and will, breathe life back into your heart, revive lost hope, and make a way through impossible situations. But here’s the key, stay rooted in Him!

 

God bless,

Calven

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