Gifts
The Shifting Sands of Worry
Train to Heaven

Smile, Darn Ya, Smile


Watermelon SmilesFor the despondent, every day brings trouble; for the happy heart, life is a continual feast.
(Proverbs 15:15)

On our recent cruise we participated in a bunch of on-board activities meant to bring enjoyment. I noticed that although people attended, there just weren’t many smiling faces, not much enthusiasm, not much laughter – a deficit of fun. Even the people who won prizes didn’t seem excited enough. I wondered if it was the result of too much time in the shadow of COVID, bad news, bad weather and inflation. Maybe it’s time to allow ourselves – perhaps retrain ourselves - to be happy again.

Wanna feel happier? SMILE. Years of research has now confirmed that smiling can increase your happiness. (https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/04/190412094728.htm) I guess you can file that one under ‘fake it ‘til you make it,’ but Solomon knew it thousands of years ago when he wrote Proverbs 15:30. And science backs up the positive effect of good news as well. (https://www.goodnet.org/articles/why-reading-good-news-is-good-for-you) Conversely, a negative outlook is the first symptom of depression. (https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/articles/200107/depression-doing-the-thinking)

I would guess that most of us already knew that from experience. You may have also noticed that moods and attitudes can become a habit. And they can be contagious. Unfortunately, too many people allow the negative moods of others to corrupt their own happiness, and for far too long.

What to do? The best-selling book on human psychology, the Bible, says that not only can we take control of our thoughts and feelings, we must!

We take hold of every thought and make it obey Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:5)

Finally, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Philippians 4:8)

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. (Colossians 3:2)

Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:13)

Thinking about meeting Jesus someday should put a smile on your face! Being sober-minded (clear-headed and self-controlled) does not mean bottling up your emotions, though. As new believers we attended a large Pentecostal church in our area. It was full of sincere believers and the Spirit of God. And immediately apparent was the ‘audience participation.’ This was no college lecture! Rather, there were ‘Hallelujahs” and “Amens” coming from every corner. And when the preaching was particularly touching people, hands shot into the air and people would dance in the aisles. It might have been off-putting if wasn’t so obviously sincere. But we had a hard time letting ourselves express our emotions so openly and publicly. What would people think? When it comes to Worship, though, it’s much more important what God thinks! After a little research in the Good Book, I saw that God appreciates demonstrative worship:

Lift up your hands in the sanctuary and praise the Lord. (Psalm 134:2)

Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Let all the people say, “Amen!” Praise the Lord. (Psalm 106:48)

Let them praise his name with dancing and make music to him with timbrel and harp. (Psalm 149:3)

Despite what our parents or Sunday School teachers may have told us, God doesn’t intend church to be silent and dour. He wants us to feel our feelings. God invented joy and laughter and he wants us to enjoy Him. He wants us to celebrate the joy of our Salvation.

These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go to the house of God under the protection of the Mighty One with shouts of joy and praise among the festive throng. (Psalm 42:4)

Then I will go to the altar of God, to God, my joy and my delight. I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God. (Psalm 43:4)

My lips will shout for joy when I sing praise to you— I whom you have delivered. (Psalm 71:23)

Sometimes I like to imagine Salvation is like being on ‘The Price is Right’. Up on stage is Jesus with the microphone. We’re so excited to just be in His presence. Maybe we made a special tee shirt for the occasion: ‘Here I am, Lord! Pick Me!’ with a big red arrow. Jesus speaks: “Okay, St. Peter, tell us who will be the next contestant on “The Christian Life.” And St. Peter announces: “That would be (insert your name)!” The music plays and everyone applauds, and you – you realize you’ve just been given an incredible opportunity to participate in something life-changing. You leap from your seat! Jesus is calling your name and beckoning you to “come on down.” Tears of joy stream from your eyes. You run, leap and dance your way to the front filled with joy and disbelief. You are excited and humbled and eager for whatever comes next.

Every morning and every church service should be like that. If they aren’t, we need to work a little harder at adjusting our attitudes. We can start by letting go of negative thoughts and sharing good news. And of course – SMILE! (Because you’re never fully dressed without a smile. 😉)

Blessings of Good Cheer,

Jen

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