Here’s a great verse: “The people of Judah and Israel were as numerous as the sand on the seashore; they ate, they drank and they were happy.”1
I have years of Bible study and learning under my belt, but I’m not sure I’ve heard this verse before. At least, its meaning has always slipped past me.
In spite of every indication that there are difficult times ahead, I’m excited about this new year! I’m enthusiastic about striving for new goals and pushing myself beyond what I think I’m capable of. The noun “enthusiasm” comes from the Greek word enthousiasmos, from enthous, meaning “possessed by a god, inspired.” And interestingly, it was originally used in a derogatory sense to describe excessive religious zeal.
Many adults have looked at a child blissfully enjoying playtime, and have, for a moment, wished they were children again. They look so peaceful, so happy, with hardly a care in the world. Children laugh easily, they enjoy what they do, and they get excited about the simplest things. They generally have minor, temporary worries that rarely last more than a few minutes or an hour. They likely spend so much more time than you do just being happy and engaged.
In his book describing years of veterinary work in the harsh Yorkshire Dales of England, James Herriot tells the story of Tip, a sheepdog at a local farm. He first encountered Tip one freezing morning, when he walked up to the farmhouse door, looking for the owner. Suddenly, from under a pile of snow at the foot of the door, Tip emerged, cheery and full of excitement. James was shocked, and later asked the farmer why the old dog was left outside.
As I was skimming headlines on an online news website, I saw this headline: “He’s a Fighter: Guo Youming Won’t Succumb to Rare Disease.” Intrigued, I clicked on the article and started reading Guo Youming’s incredible story.
As a child, his mother noticed that he walked unsteadily and had frequent falls. His condition worsened until he was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy at age seven.
On a late Saturday afternoon, traffic crawled towards the congested, narrow intersection in the large metropolis. Pedestrians zigzagged through the lanes. Lines of cars were pulling out of one of the busiest shopping malls, adding a strain to the already overcrowded junction. With no traffic lights or traffic controllers around, the traffic quickly became deadlocked.
Last Easter Sunday, I baked a lemon cake for a small group of friends gathering at my place to read the Easter story. We followed along in our Bibles, stopping to discuss interesting points as they struck us, then when it was over, we joined hands and prayed for healing and forgiveness for ourselves, our families, and our friends who couldn’t be with us that day.
As followers of Jesus, “grateful” should be our default setting when we consider that Jesus died to redeem us from an eternity of being separated from God. This should put a spring in our step and cause all the not-so-great stuff to bounce off as irrelevant. But I tend to succumb to less-than-grateful reactions, because, well, traffic, mess, stress, too little of this, too much of that. You know how it goes.
I would love it if the world were filled with joyous and godly laughter: jolly, infectious, festive, holy laughter, the kind that spreads joy to the world! “Happy arethe people whose God is the Lord!”1 I love to hear My people filled with joy, and that joy being manifested in laughter. It reaches up to Me like praise does. It is very like praise and is often mingled with praise. It is joy to the world, and a joy for Me to hear.
You may have seen the quote by American syndicated humorist Art Buchwald,1 “The best things in life aren’t things.” It has a way of popping up in my mind whenever I’m about to buy a new gadget that I’ve seen advertised or exchange a household appliance for the latest model. Sometimes I give in anyway, but at least this saying usually helps me give the purchase some extra thought and consideration.