Rejoicing in the Small Things

The Bible has a lot to say about child-like faith, but I think we would all do well, too, to have a child-like appreciation for the little things in life.-2.png

I don’t know about you, but I tend to save my celebrations for the significant moments in life. The big promotion. The new baby. The summer vacation. The sizable financial donation. Big things. Good things. Things that make me want to praise the Lord, sing a song, and maybe even dance the jig (though I’ll admit it’s not pretty).

But this morning, the Lord reminded me that every moment on this earth is precious. Every person is a blessing. Every event is momentous. This revelation occurred on my morning prayer walk.

As I typically do, I passed by the Swamp Rabbit Cafe, which has a small play area for children. Except in harsh weather, the area is filled with parents and small children, climbing on the various equipment, riding small tricycles, or playing with their toys. Today was no different, but as I walk by, I noticed a little girl playing alone in the corner of the fenced area. At first, I felt bad for the young girl, fearing she was being shunned by the other children and even that she may be crying about her loneliness. But as I drew closer, I realized nothing could be farther from the truth.

This sweet child was jumping. Not jumping rope or jumping over obstacles. She wasn’t aiming for a target as far as I could tell. No, she was jumping for the sheer joy of it. Arms pumping as her little legs propelled her into the air. And with every landing, she giggled and shook her blonde curls. Then, she jumped again and again and again—each jump eliciting a joyous response.

As I walked, I marveled. This dear child was content.  Truly content. She didn’t need toys or equipment or fancy games to bring her happiness. Instead, she found joy in the simple act of jumping.

The more I walked, the more I realized how much I long to be like that little girl. I want to find joy in the little things. I want to make a big deal about all the good things in my life. The scale this morning said I'd lost a pound. Let’s celebrate! I received a $20 check in the mail yesterday for a survey I completed. Let the songs break forth. After several days of a very rough detox, I finally feel almost human again. Let’s do the Hokey Pokey (because honestly, that’s the only “dance” I know how to do.) But I think you get my meaning.

Why should we wait for the “big things” in life before we praise God or celebrate? Why don’t we recognize the many blessings we’ve been given, both big and small? Yes, as I thought about that precious child this morning, I wondered how much more I would enjoy life if I’d genuinely take time to appreciate it. Every minute. The sun on my face. The breeze through my hair. The colors of the sunset. The loving embrace of my husband. The nuzzles from my precious pooch. The ability to be, walk, and yes, even jump (though it may not be graceful).  

I’m reminded of the song, “Count Your Blessings,” but even more than that, I’m reminded that it’s more than just a song. It’s an essential ingredient for a joy-filled life. Sure, we can look around and find problems everywhere, but if we’d stop and count our blessings, we’d see they far outnumber the problems. The trouble is, we don’t notice all our blessings—only the “significant” ones. But, friend, that little girl reminded me this morning that every blessing is significant, and none of them should be taken for granted.

The Bible has a lot to say about child-like faith, but I think we would all do well, too, to have a child-like appreciation for the little things. We would all be much happier and much more content if we did.

 For who hath despised the day of small things?
— Zechariah 4:10a

Temperance as a Characteristic of Love

If we’re allowing others to dictate how we act or feel, we’re giving them far too much control over our lives.png

Leave it to the Lord to save the best (or worst, depending on how you look at it) for last.  Yes, today, we’re talking about temperance—another word whose usage has been lost over the centuries.  However, if we pinpoint the beginning of the word, we’ll see something we’re all painfully familiar with—temper.

In its simplest definition, temperance means self-control or restraint.  It carries with it the idea of keeping a tight rein on our words, actions, attitudes, and desires.  This is not a popular principle in this day and age where people live to “get what they deserve.”  Between all-you-can-eat buffets, credit cards, and social media, our self-control is tested every day.  Should I go back for another plate, or is three enough?  Should I go ahead and spend the money on that new furniture even though I don’t have the money to spend?  And don’t even get me started on the rants that take place on social media.  Of course, this is only a few areas where our temperance is put to the test.

First Corinthians 13:5 tells us love is “not easily provoked.”  Jason and I joked about this on the way to the grocery store this morning.  He was in one of his playful moods (which translates into seeing how much he can annoy me) and was making this terrible clicking sound with his mouth.  After about ten seconds, I looked over at him, and I guess the expression on my face was comical because he burst out laughing.  “I was wondering how long you’d let me do that before giving me that look.”  I laughed too and told him how my devotion today was on temperance.  I don’t think his clicking truly provoked me but had he continued, I may have become a bit irritable.  So much for self-control, right?

As if that phrase doesn’t make us squirm enough, Paul doesn’t stop there.  He goes on in verse 7 to remind us that love bears all things.  The word “bear” in this verse implies a covering, as in love covers all sin.  It’s not that we excuse the sins of those we love but instead, we choose to overlook their faults and focus on their strengths, and let me tell you, that takes a lot of self-control.  So many times, it’s easier to see the bad than the good.  Dwelling on the negative leads to bitterness which then leads to hateful words and harsh actions.  From there, the downward spiral continues until marriages are ended, friendships are ruined, and other relationships are destroyed.

As I was praying about and considering my word for 2019, one that ranked high on the list was the word “choose.”  Had I decided to use it as my daily motto, it would have served as a reminder that I have a choice in how I think, act, and feel.  Each day, I choose to dwell on the positive or the negative.  I decide whether or not to surrender my will to God fully.  I determine how I act and what my attitude is like.  Each day is full of choices.  I can choose to let my temper get the best of me—to be easily provoked—or I can choose not to sweat the small stuff.  So what if Jason left his socks in the middle of the floor again?  In the grand scheme of things, does it matter?  Isn’t it more important that I focus on the fact that he took time out of his day off to help me with the grocery shopping so the task wouldn’t be too much for me?  Absolutely!

One phrase we carelessly use in our everyday language is the phrase:  “make me.”  For example, “he makes me so angry” or “she made me feel bad.”  Dear one, if we’re allowing others to dictate how we act or feel, we’re giving them far too much control over our lives.  No one can “make us” angry or emotional.  We choose to give in to those feelings, and that’s where temperance comes in.  I’m not saying it’s easy.  When someone says something unkind, my first reaction is to take the comment as a personal insult and give into the painful emotions that accompany that choice.  Instead, I should shrug my shoulders and hold fast to the truth found in God’s Word.  If someone doesn’t like it, oh well!  As long as I’m doing right, that’s all I need to worry about.  It’s not my job to please everyone in the process, and the sooner I get that through my thick skull, the better off I’ll be.

Temperance.  Self-control.  Restraint.  How are you doing today?  Are you easily provoked by someone’s annoying habits or quirky personality?  Do you find it difficult to look past the negative to focus on the positive?  Do you blame others for how you feel, speak, or act?  If so, you may want to talk with the Lord about helping you work on your temperance.  After all, if we—as Christians—lack self-control, how can we adequately portray the love of Christ?

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
— II Timothy 1:7

Forget About It

Press on, and don't look back!.png
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, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
— Philippians 3:13-14

As I read through this familiar passage this morning, the Lord gave me a new insight on the phrase "forgetting those things which are behind."  In the past, I've assigned that phrase to past sin, guilt, mistakes and such.  But this morning, I heard the Lord whisper, "What about past struggles?  What about past valleys?  What about the difficult yesterdays?"  For me, that's another story.

I don't know about you, but my bad days tend to be more like bad weeks, months or even years.  The valleys in my life are not typically one-day hikes; they are lengthy journeys.  But could it be that I see life that way because I'm carrying yesterday's heartaches into today?  Instead of beginning the day with new strength and a fresh perspective, I wake to the weariness of yesterday still weighing heavy on my shoulders.  Is it any wonder then that the rest of the day is a struggle?

My friend, it's time for us to leave the past in the past, whether that means mistakes or trials.  Forget about the weary yesterdays.  Strike from your memory the pain of last week's heartbreak.  Begin each day with a clean slate and a new perspective.

This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.
— Psalm 118:24