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“Estera, you got a present from our friend Helen!” my mom told me when she got home from work. Growing up we didn’t have much, so receiving a present in the mail was like a second Christmas. I felt loved, remembered, and valued by God through this wonderful woman.
The poor widows Tabitha (Dorcas) made clothes for must have felt the same way. She was a disciple of Jesus living in Joppa who was well known in the community for her acts of kindness. She was “always doing good and helping the poor” (Acts 9:36). Then she got sick and passed away. At the time, Peter was visiting a nearby city, so two believers went after him and begged him to come to Joppa.
When Peter arrived, the widows Tabitha had helped showed him the evidence of her kindness—“the robes and other clothing that [she] had made” (v. 39). We don’t know if they asked him to intervene, but led by the Holy Spirit Peter prayed and God brought her back to life! The result of God’s kindness was that “this became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord” (v. 42).
As we’re kind to those around us, may they turn their thoughts to God and feel valued by Him.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then they said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.”
— Psalm 126:2
We need to laugh more. It is good for the soul and adds health to our body. One of the reasons we may not laugh more is because we think too much about things that have no ability to bring joy.
Thinking of what I have lost in life is not a joy-bringer, but thinking about what God has done for me and His promise to do even more does bring joy.
Thinking about the people who have hurt us in life is not a joy-bringing thought, but thinking about the grace God has given us to forgive and trust Him for vindication makes us want to laugh (at least it does me).
God often reminds me to laugh more. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I get too serious and I need to have a “laugh break.” There are lots of things to laugh at or about if we will just take the time to do it.
I believe laughter is much more important than we may realize. We aren’t too old or too busy, nor do we have too many problems to laugh! Start paying attention to how much you laugh and try to do it as often as possible.
Prayer Starter: Father, I believe You gave me the ability to laugh for a reason, and I want to take advantage of all the benefits of laughter. Help me take every opportunity to laugh and to make others laugh too. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Finally, on January 8, 1964, seventeen-year-old Randy Gardner did something he hadn’t done for eleven days and twenty-five minutes: he nodded off to sleep. He wanted to beat the Guinness Book World Record for how long a human could stay awake. By drinking soft drinks and hitting the basketball court and bowling alley, Gardner rebuffed sleep for a week and a half. Before finally collapsing, his sense of taste, smell, and hearing went haywire. Decades later, Gardner suffered from severe bouts of insomnia. He set the record but also confirmed the obvious: sleep is essential.
Many of us struggle to get a decent night’s rest. Unlike Gardner who deprived himself intentionally, we might suffer sleeplessness for a number of reasons—including a mountain of anxieties: the fear of all we need to accomplish, the dread of others’ expectations, the distress of living at a frantic pace. Sometimes it’s hard for us to turn off the fear and relax.
The psalmist tells us that “unless the Lord builds the house,” we labor in vain (Psalm 127:1). Our “toiling” and our relentless efforts are useless unless God provides what we need. Thankfully, God does provide what we need. He “grants sleep to those he loves” (v. 2). And God’s love extends to all of us. He invites us to release our anxieties to Him and sink into His rest, into His grace.
You shall give to him freely, and your heart shall not be grudging when you give to him, because for this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake.
— Deuteronomy 15:10
Here's an idea: Get yourself a big box and start going through your possessions, asking God to show you what you have that you can use to bless others. Fill it up with things that are nice but that you no longer need.
Look in cabinets, drawers, closets, the basement, and the garage. You will fill up your box quickly! Don't keep something for years in case you ever need it—if you're anything like me, by the time you need it, you will have forgotten that you have it and go buy another one anyway.
Take the clutter that is frustrating you and turn it into blessings. Keep the box in a handy place and start asking God to show you who needs to be blessed.
One woman I know, who is a radical giver, got all the things together she wanted to use to bless people and displayed them on her kitchen table. She invited several friends over and told them to take anything they wanted from the table. She urged them to keep on taking until everything was gone.
I encourage you to be a giver and look for ways in which you can use what you have to be a blessing to others.
Prayer Starter: Lord, thank You so much for Your goodness and blessings in my life. Help me to always be mindful of other people’s needs and look for creative ways to share Your blessing with others. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
A work assignment had taken my coworker and me on a 250-mile journey, and it was late when we began our trip home. An aging body with aging eyes makes me a bit uneasy about nighttime driving; nevertheless, I opted to drive first. My hands gripped the steering wheel and my eyes gazed intently at dimly lit roads. While driving I found I could see better when lights from vehicles behind me beamed on the highway ahead. I was much relieved when my friend eventually took the wheel of his vehicle. That’s when he discovered I had been driving with fog lights and not the headlights!
Psalm 119 is the masterful composition of one who understood that God’s Word provides us with light for everyday living (v. 105). Yet, how often do we find ourselves in situations similar to my uncomfortable night on the highway? We needlessly strain to see, and we sometimes stray from the best paths because we forget to use the light of God’s Word. Psalm 119 encourages us to be intentional about “hitting the light switch.” What happens when we do? We find wisdom for purity (vv. 9–11); we discover fresh motivation and encouragement for avoiding detours (vv. 101–102). And when we live with the lights on, the psalmist’s praise is likely to become our praise: “Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long” (v. 97).
Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit.
— Psalm 34:13
“You really have the gift of gab,” one man told me many years ago, when I first started in the ministry. He had pointed out something that I already knew: God had given me “a ready tongue.” That is, I speak easily. Words are my tools. The Lord first gave me that gift, and then He called me into the ministry to use that ability to work for Him.
I have no trouble talking. That’s my gift; that’s also been my greatest problem. Because I seem to always have something to say, I have struggled many, many years over the right use of my tongue. It has not been an easy battle.
Over the years, I heard various people saying things like, “Hold your tongue.” “Do you have to speak every word that comes to your mind?” “Do you always speak first and think later?” “Must you sound so harsh?”
Had I truly listened to what people were saying, I might have realized that God was trying to tell me something. But I ignored their comments and continued in my own stubborn ways. I know I have wounded people with my words in the past, and I am sorry for that. I’m also grateful that God has forgiven me.
Several years ago, I realized that if God was going to use my life, I had to gain control of my tongue—not to just stop talking, but to keep my tongue from evil, and my lips from speaking deceit, as the psalmist David says.
I had a choice. I could hurt people with my words—and I could do that well—or I could bring my lips into subjection to God. Obviously, I wanted to be subject to the Lord, but it was still a battle.
Our words are expressions of our hearts—of what’s going on inside us. If we want to know who a person really is, all we need to do is listen to their words. If we listen long enough, we learn a lot about them.
As I learned to listen to my own words, I also began to learn a lot about myself. Some of the things I learned did not please me, but they did help me realize that I had a character flaw that needed to be addressed. My words were not pleasing God, and I wanted them to. Once I confessed my failure to God, the victory came—not all at once and not perfectly, but God is patient with me. I’m growing, and part of my growth is keeping my lips from evil.
No matter how negative you are or have been, or how long you’ve been that way, God wants to change you. In the early days after my confession to God, I still failed more often than I succeeded, but every time I did succeed, I knew I was closer to God’s plan for my life. God can do the same for you.
It won’t be easy, but you can win. And the effort will be worth it.
Prayer Starter: Lord, help me use my mouth for right things. Put a watch over my mouth lest I sin against You with my tongue (see Psalm 141:3). Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to You (see Psalm 19:14). I ask it in Jesus’ wonderful name. Amen.
God’s timing in our lives is perfect, and we will enjoy life much more if we believe that. He knows the exact right time to do the things we have requested of Him.
Don’t waste your time being upset about something that only God can change. If He withholds your desire for the time being, thank Him that He knows best.
Time is a gift—don’t waste it being upset!
Prayer Starter: Father, I know that Your timing is perfect. Help me to patiently wait on You and learn to enjoy each and every moment of my life, knowing that You are in complete control. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.