Give me a word, Lord: THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS

Luke 11:28 But Jesus answered, “Rather, how happy are those who hear the word of God and obey it!”

Psalm 144:15 Happy are the people whose God is the Lord!

Psalm 34:8 Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.

Philippians 4:11-13 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Will Smith starred in a movie a few years ago called “The Pursuit of Happyness.” The movie was based on the true life story of Chris Gardner and his one year struggle as a homeless man with a young son living on the streets. I came across this quote from Chris Gardner, and it made me think about pursuing happiness. “It was right then that I started thinking about Thomas Jefferson on the Declaration of Independence and the part about our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And I remember thinking how did he know to put the pursuit part in there? That maybe happiness is something that we can only pursue and maybe we can actually never have it. No matter what. How did he know that?” Everyone is pursuing happiness. Even the guys who wrote the Declaration of Independence over 200 years ago thought that it was necessary to include pursuing happiness as a human right.

Happiness is something that we all want, but we rarely find because we don’t recognize it when we see it. We aren’t looking in the right place for it. What really makes us happy? The scripture tells us that we will find happiness in hearing the Word of God and obeying it, and those whose God is the Lord will be happy. So we find happiness in God, in His Word, and in obeying Him. In Matthew chapter 5, Jesus spoke of those that will be happy. He said that those that are poor in spirit, those that mourn, the meek, the hungry, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and those that are persecuted for righteousness sake are blessed. Well, that laundry list doesn’t sound like a list of happy people. However, in order to truly be happy, we have to seek the source of happiness, and the source of true happiness is Jesus. The Beatitudes listed in Matthew 5 teach us wonderful virtues and values. When we learn these virtues and adapt these values in the way that we live our lives, the result is a joy filled life full of blessings and rewards.

You may remember that old song, “Looking for love in all the wrong places.” I think one of the biggest problems in society is that we are looking for happiness in all the wrong places. We are looking to the world to provide happiness for us, or we are looking within ourselves for happiness. We can look for years on end, and we will never find true happiness in things of this world, and try as we might, we can’t make ourselves happy under our own will. We may find temporary happiness, but it will fade quickly. The true, lasting, full of joy, overflowing heart happiness can only be found in Jesus. And when we find happiness in Jesus, we start seeing things all around us that make us happy. While dressing for work this morning, I made a list in my head of a few things that make me happy: a star filled sky, sunsets, sunrises, fireflies on a warm summer night, my family, my friends, my critters (of course, my critters!), and my list goes on for days. Where do all of these things that make me happy come from? The Creator! He made each and every one of the things, and I find true happiness in these things because I see the Creator in them. Knowing Him and knowing that He created all of these things just for my pleasure brings me extraordinary happiness!

In Philippians 4, Paul tells us that he has learned to be content in whatever circumstance he finds himself in. He says that he has been in need, and he has had plenty. He recognizes that his strength comes from Christ, and no matter what circumstance he is enduring at the moment, he has confidence that Christ will see him through. Peeps, that’s where we find happiness. It is in Christ alone. When we have Christ, we have all that we need. When we look for Him, He is right there with us no matter what circumstance we are going through. If we are enduring hard times, sickness, grief, persecution, or any other difficult situation, we can still be happy knowing that we have the joy of Jesus in our heart and the strength of our Savior to carry us through. I’m here to tell you that true happiness can be found. You just have to know where to look…

Today I challenge you to make a list of things that make you happy, and then look at that list and look for Jesus. I bet you’ll see Him there! If you really want to pursue happiness, all you have to do is pursue Jesus! Pursuing happiness = pursuing Christ!

Give me a word, Lord: DO YOU KNOW?

Ephesians 4:20-24 That, however, is not the way of life you learned when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

My daddy told me a story that an old black minister friend once shared. He said that he asked a boy, “Are you saved?” The boy answered, “I think so.” The minister then told the boy that the way that you can know for sure is “if you is what you was, then you ain’t.” Hey, I know that is poor grammar, and I’m not even going to try to correct it because it speaks the truth in the simplest form. Salvation changes us from the inside out, and we become new beings. We can’t change first, and then get the gift of salvation. It is because of salvation that we change.

Paul explains this in Ephesians chapter 4. When we become Christians, we put off the old self that is corrupted and renew the attitude of our minds. We put on a new self, a self that was created to be like God. We don’t completely change the moment that we accept Christ into our hearts, but we sure start wanting to change. We recognize that our old selves are not like God, and we start gradually changing. The change starts when we learn about Christ, but learning about Christ isn’t the same thing as knowing Him. Far too often, we fill our minds with book knowledge that doesn’t transform into heart knowledge. The more we learn about Christ, the more we want to know, but if we never truly give our hearts to Christ, we will never know and experience the life with Him that He intended for each of us. We must ask Christ to be the Lord of our hearts.

When we accept Christ as our Lord and Savior, and ask Him to be the Lord of our hearts, we put off the old self. “For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin.” Romans 6:6. The person that we once were is no more. The old self was crucified with Christ so that sin no longer rules our bodies and our minds. We are no longer slaves to sin because we are free in Christ. Oh, don’t get me wrong. Sin will still try to creep into the life of a Christian, but knowing and trusting and following Christ will help us to recognize sin as sin, and we can and will overcome and defeat the sin with Christ. Conquering those demons will be hard at first, but as we fall more in love with our Savior, learn more about who He is, learn to fully trust in Him, and start putting on the full armor of God every day, we gradually realize that we can win those battles one battle at a time. We have the strength of the Creator of the universe residing within us. John 16:33 tells us, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Christ has already overcome the world.

Once we put off the old self, we put on the new self. We are a new creation in Christ, and we must continually renew our attitude as a Christian on a daily basis. How do we do this? We must study the Word of God, talk to Him, keep Christ in our thoughts and actions throughout the entire day. If our minds are on Christ, then our actions will be right. We can’t grow as Christians if we accept Christ as our Savior and go to church on Sunday mornings and do nothing else. That’s not how God designed us, and that’s not the kind of relationship He wants with us. We must keep our eyes on the goal…eternity with Christ. We must live each day with heaven in mind.

I ask that you ask yourself this question today, “Am I saved?” And if you’re not absolutely sure that your answer is yes, just remember what that old preacher said, “if you is what you was, then you ain’t.” Are you a new person in Christ? Have you turned away from those sins of the past? Do you know without a shadow of a doubt where your will spend eternity? If not, don’t wait one more minute! We aren’t promised tomorrow. I don’t profess to be the perfect Christian. I’m just an old Mississippi gal saved by the grace of our loving Savior. I’m just thankful that I ain’t who I was!

Give me a word, Lord: RESCUED

Psalm 28:7 The Lord strengthens and protects me; I trust in him with all my heart. I am rescued and my heart is full of joy; I will sing to him in gratitude.

Psalm 107:6 Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble;He rescued them from their distress.

2 Corinthians 1:10 He has rescued us from a terrible death, and he will continue to rescue us. Yes, he is the one on whom we have set our hope, and he will rescue us again.

Part of the fun of Hodge Critter Lodge is the continual animal rescues that occur. We get calls on a regular basis asking if we can take in another critter. Occasionally, we refer the animal in need of rescue to some of the other area wildlife rescue sites, but most of the time, we don’t, or rather can’t, say no. We have rescued so many different species over the past few years. We have rescued deer fawns, fox kits, baby opossums, raccoons, squirrels, flying squirrels, and even skunks. We’ve had fawns running around the house in diapers, and baby flying squirrels jumping from person to person at our kitchen table. We truly love all of God’s creatures. It can be a headache at times, and occasionally lead to heartache, but trying to nourish and provide the needs for a tiny little creature is a true joy.

Day one of the rescue is generally the hardest. The animal is from the wild, and of course, it doesn’t recognize me as the new mama, and that dropper full of formula I am trying to persuade it to drink is nothing like milk from the real mama. It will give them the nourishment and nutrition they need, but they don’t know that. They just see a crazy, kinky headed lady cooing and talking some foreign language trying to force a hard plastic dropper in their little tiny mouths. Nutrition and hydration are truly the most important part of rehabbing, but the babies must be kept warm. We always put them in a small carrier with an electric blanket and a soft towel. We try to make the baby rescue feel right at home. It usually takes a couple of days, but before long, they are taking formula from a bottle, and rather than us trying to force feed them, they begin demanding the bottle. We slowly gain their trust, and they realize that we are there to rescue them and to keep them safe from harm.

There are many biblical accounts of rescues. Not the furry critter kind of rescue, but the good Lord kind of rescue. Don’t you just love the story of Jonah? He always comes to mind when I think of being rescued. God told Jonah to go to Nineveh and preach against the city because they were wicked. Jonah detested the people of Nineveh and going there was the last thing he wanted to do. So he ran. He got on a boat headed for Tarshish which was the opposite direction of Nineveh. Jonah makes me laugh. Did he really think that he could run away and hide from God, the Creator of the universe? Whether he thought he could hide away or not, God showed up and showed him that he couldn’t run and hide. He sent a strong wind and waves, and Jonah finally admitted to the sailors that he was running away from God, and he told them to throw him into the sea to calm the waves. They threw him into the sea, and God sent a big fish to swallow him up. Jonah remained in the belly of the whale for three days. What do you suppose Jonah did next? He recognized the power and authority of God, and he prayed. The fish spat Jonah out, and God told Jonah once again to go to Nineveh. This time, Jonah went. I suppose there’s nothing like living in the belly of a great fish for three days to convince you that God means business.

Jonah traveled to Nineveh, and he preached to the people as God had commanded. To his surprise, the people believed God and repented. God saw that they had turned from their evil ways, and he relented. He didn’t bring the destruction on them which He has promised because they repented. This is where it gets even a bit more funny. Jonah did what he was supposed to do this time. He preached the word of God. the people repented and turned to God and away from their evil ways. Jonah should be happy right? Wrong. He acted like a pouting child that didn’t get his way. He despised the people of Nineveh. He wanted God to destroy them. God had said He would destroy them, but when God saw that they had turned from their evil ways, He relented. This angered Jonah, and God had to remind him that he should have concern for the more 120,000 people of Nineveh. Shouldn’t Jonah have wanted the people to be rescued by God?

God has rescued me too many times to count, and He sent His Son, Jesus, so that we can all be rescued. We have the assurance of everlasting life with the King of Kings. Our eternity is secured if we have accepted Christ as our Savior. Christ rescues us. Without Him, we are weak. We need spiritual nourishment to grow in Christ. We need Christ to keep us safe from harm. He doesn’t force feed us, but He gently guides our path. Before long, we are craving more knowledge of the Savior, and we are spending more time with Him. We may not recognize that we needed saving until we come to know the Savior. We gradually begin to trust Him, and we recline in the comfort and security of His saving grace.

What about those who don’t have that security? What about those who haven’t yet been rescued? What about those people we detest…murderers, child molesters, rapists, thieves, or those closer to home…that grumpy old man down the street, a co-worker that has different opinions, people who have angered us or caused us pain? What about those people?The same God that rescued me wants to rescue them too. The awesome thing about the love of Christ is that there is nothing we can do to make Him love us more, and there is nothing we can do to make Him love us less. He wants to rescue each and every one of us!

If we have the security and promise of eternal life with Christ, He shouldn’t have to make us go tell others like God had to tell old Jonah. We should be telling everyone we come in contact with about the saving grace of Christ. Spread the Good News! And if you haven’t yet been rescued, what are you waiting for? Just call on His name. He’s waiting.

Give me a Word, Lord: CAN’T WE ALL JUST GET ALONG?

Romans 12:9-17 Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all! Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. 18 Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.

As I was reading this scripture, I thought, “Wow, those words are some good, very basic instructions that we should all be living out daily. I have to share this!” Paul is speaking here to the Roman Christians. Chapter 12 begins with instructions to present our bodies as a living, holy sacrifice acceptable to God. In these verses, He lists out behaviors that the Christian should adopt. As always, the first of these is love. Paul recognizes that love is the most important of the behaviors, and everything else grows out of loving others. Paul even points out that we shouldn’t pretend to love others. We have to really love them. If we truly learn to love like Christ loves us, all of the other behaviors listed will come naturally.

We are to hate what is wrong. Now this doesn’t give us the right or privilege to hate others. We can hate the behavior and hate the sin, but we are not to hate the sinner. Refer back to Paul’s first point. We have to love!. However, just because we truly love a person does not mean that we allow the sin in that person’s life to creep over into ours. We are not to accept sin as okay even when everyone around us is doing it. Don’t fall into the trap of letting yourself believe that something is okay when you know that it is not. Too many things of this world are being accepted as a way of life even though God’s Word teaches us differently.

Paul also tells Christians that we should love each other with genuine affection, and to delight in honoring each other. It does the body and mind good to bring honor to those around us. He also says that we shouldn’t be lazy. We have to work hard and serve the Lord. We have hands, and feet, and hearts designed for serving God and serving others. We must work hard in all that we do as if we are doing it for the Lord. We must rejoice in our confident hope. As Christians, no matter what we are going through, we can be confident in the hope of Christ Jesus. We have the hope of eternal life with Christ.

Be patient in trouble and keep on praying. I love that Paul put these two things together. I am guilty of not always being patient in times of trouble, and I’ve lost my patience more times than I’d like to admit, but I have learned to keep on praying through the troubles. It’s easy to try to handle our problems on our own. It’s human nature, but as we learn to let go and let God take over, we feel a freedom and sense of peace like never before. Give it to God. Pray, Tell Him your troubles, and just wait and see how big He is.

Paul also tells us to help God’s people that are in need, and to be ready to help. We should always be eager to practice hospitality. There are so many people in need. Some need help financially, some need a few groceries to get through the week, some need help around the house, and some just need a friend, someone to talk to, someone to show them the love of Christ, and let them know that they aren’t alone. Be that person. Be hospitable in all you do.

In verse 14, Paul gives us a tough behavior to follow. He tells us to bless those that persecute us. Say what? Paul must be crazy. He wants us to bless those that have wronged us. Again, I have to say, refer back to the first behavior: love. Christians have to love. We have the Spirit of the living God within us, so we must love…even those who hurt us, but not only that, Paul also tells us not to curse the ones that persecute us, but rather to pray for God to bless them. I’ll admit, this is a tough one. It’s not easy to bless someone who has harmed us, but if we talk to God about it, He will help us to find a way. He will give us forgiving hearts. Keep in mind that we are all sinners saved by grace. God forgave us of all of our mess ups, big and little. We aren’t any better than those who have sinned against us.

We should be happy for those who are happy. Share in their joy, but also weep with those who are weeping. When we share in the emotions of those around us, we show them that we truly care about them and we show the love of Christ. Paul also tells us to live in harmony with each other. Oh, that we could get this country to memorize and recite verse 16. The world is full of chaos, riots, strong opinions, and there is a complete absence of harmony, but as Christians, we must continue to strive to live harmoniously. Paul also adds that we shouldn’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people, and we shouldn’t think that we know it all. We should treat the janitor with the same respect as the CEO of a large corporation, a CNA the same as a great physician, and so on. We will never know it all, and we should continue to strive to learn more daily, and I can assure you that I have gained a wealth of knowledge from a Certified Nursing Assitant back when I was first training to be a nurse, and I gained a wealth of knowledge from a wise physician when I was training to be a Nurse Practitioner. You have to be willing to learn from those who are willing to teach.

Do not pay back evil with more evil, and do things in a way that everyone can see that you are honorable. That’s Paul’s way of saying, “Y’all just be nice!” Follow the golden rule. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Be nice, and then the next behavior is easy. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone! Don’t take revenge. Leave that to God.

Isn’t this some good stuff? These are some really good basic principles that if we each applied to our lives, our lives would be so much better. I wish that we could teach these principles in the schools and in businesses throughout our nation. At some point, we are going to have to turn back to God. Our nation has corporately turned its back on God. We aren’t living sacrificially for Him. We are too busy living for ourselves. One person can make a difference though. One person can make a difference in the life of one person, and that person can make a difference in the life of another, and the goodness and love of Christ can spread like a wildfire if only we would just learn to love like Christ….and learn to be nice!

Give me a word, Lord: JUST FISHING

Luke 5:4-10 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink. When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!”  For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.”

I love to fish. Beginning in the early spring, we take the boat out to Old River WMA and fish for catfish among the cypress trees and cypress knees. During the summer, we’ve taken many family vacations to various lakes throughout the south. While there, we boat, swim, tube, and we have so much fun, but we never leave without trying the fishing. We’ve even been known to hit a few of the ponds around here from time to time. I’m not an expert fisherman like Paw Paw J. B. or my husband, Jeff. I just go along for the joy of it. It is quite simply amazing to sit out in a boat in the middle of some of God’s finest creations, enjoying nature at it’s best. I enjoy the bird watching, the beauty of the flora and fauna all around me, and I love just being outside in God’s country. We’ve had some great conversations while out fishing. It is quite relaxing, but oh, man, when those fish start biting, that’s when the real fun begins! When I feel that first tug on the line, my heart skips a beat, and I sit up ready to reel in my big catch. Sometimes, I’ve sat out there all day, and I haven’t gotten a single bite, but I keep going back because I know that maybe they’ll bite the next time.

Simon Peter, James, and John were real fishermen. They were serious about the fishing. This is how they made their living. In Luke 5, we see a story about an unsuccessful night of fishing. These old boys had fished all night long, and they hadn’t caught a thing. Imagine how low their heads must have been hanging as they were ready to call it quits and come to shore. Oh, but Jesus! He showed up and told them to go out to the deep water and drop their nets. The men were already familiar with Jesus, and they knew enough about Him, to follow His instructions. They went out to the deep water after coming up empty handed all night and gave it one more shot. They dropped their nets as Jesus had instructed, and when they pulled the nets up there were so many fish that the nets were breaking. They had to call over some friends in another boat to help them, and the catch filled both boats with fish! Whoa! That’s what I call a good day of fishing.

But then, Simon Peter fell to his knees, and he told Jesus to go away from him. He recognized that only God Himself could have performed such a thing, and when Peter looked at Jesus, he saw the perfect Lord and Master. When Peter looked at his perfect Lord, all he could see was his own sins. He didn’t feel worthy to even be in the presence of Jesus. Jesus didn’t turn away, but instead told Peter to not be afraid, “from now on you will fish for people.” I don’t know if Peter really understood what Jesus meant with that statement, but he trusted Him enough to follow, and he did indeed become a great fisher of men.

I love this story because as I said earlier, I love to fish so it is truly relatable, but I also love it because it is a great reminder to us here, more than 2000 years later, that we too can and should be fishers of men. God didn’t send His Son to earth to walk along side His people and then become the ultimate sacrificial lamb just so that I could experience eternal life with the heavenly Father. He did this amazing thing so that ALL people could come to Him. But how are all people going to come to know the Father if someone that truly knows Him doesn’t share the Good News? Isaiah 6:8 is one of my favorite verses: Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” Jesus didn’t just call on Peter, James, and John and all of the other chosen disciples to be fishers of men. He calls upon each and every christian to be fishers of men. We can’t keep the gospel all to ourselves! We have to get out there and share it with this lost and dying world before it’s too late!

I’m not the best fisherman, but over the years I’ve gotten a little better. I’ve learned some skills from my husband. I paid attention. I have learned what works and what doesn’t. When we fish for fish, we always have a great time even if we come home empty handed. It’s okay if we don’t bring supper home because God has already blessed us with freezers and pantries full of food. So even though I take my fishing for fish seriously, it’s just for fun. But fishing for men…well that’s a whole other story! I’ll admit that I’m not the best witness for Christ. I’m still a work in progress, but I pay attention to His word. I’ve learned some things, and I’ve seen what works and what doesn’t work when sharing the gospel. And one thing I’ve learned is that I must share the gospel! If I’m not doing my part to share the gospel, it’s not okay. It isn’t just for fun. It has eternal consequences. I don’t want anyone to spend eternity in hell, so I’m going to keep on fishing…fishing for men. Sometimes, I’ve shared the Good News all day, and I haven’t gotten a single bite, but I keep going back because I know that maybe they’ll bite the next time….and when they bite…my heart skips a beat and I can’t wait to reel them in!

Give me a word, Lord: JUST SMILE

Proverbs 15:30 “A cheerful look brings joy to the heart; good news makes for good health.”

Proverbs 15:13-15 “A glad heart makes a happy face; a broken heart crushes the spirit. 

Psalm 126:2-3 “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.” The LORD has done great things for us; we are glad.”

I love that silly movie “Elf”, and my all time favorite line from the movie is, “I just like to smile…smiling’s my favorite!” Have you ever thought about the power of a smile? A smile is a powerful weapon, and smiling is quite contagious. I’m not talking about fake smiles that are forced. I’m talking about those smiles that are derived from the great joy that starts in the heart and ends up spreading all over the face. I’m talking about the kind of smiling that makes your cheeks hurt with delight. When is the last time you wore a genuine smile on your face?

I can remember stopping by our small town grocery store a few years ago. I was walking behind this older fellow. He stopped abruptly, turned, and almost ran me over. Instead of responding grumpily, I smiled at him and said, “Hello, Sir! How are you today?” He snorted and said, “I’m old and I’m GROUCHY!” Instead of responding in kind, I looked at him, put a big old grin on my face, and as sweetly as possible said, “Well, maybe you could try smiling! It wouldn’t hurt anything. Might even make you feel better.” Before I rounded the corner of the next aisle, he was next to me with his buggy telling me a joke. I think he even cracked a smile. Smiling is definitely contagious!

When I look back on that simple little memory, I think about it with joy. What if I hadn’t been faithful in my christian walk that day? What if I had responded just as grumpily as that old fellow? What would it have accomplished? Not a thing! But because I am filled with the Spirit of the true living God, even on my worst days, my heart is full of joy. I could keep that joy all to myself, but that wouldn’t do any good. Just that one kind word with a smile on my face changed the whole demeanor of what could have been a very mean old man. I don’t know why he was feeling so old and grouchy that particular day, but I do know that simple kindness changed his whole attitude and outlook.

Y’all, that’s the way God works! He fills our hearts with joy, and we can’t help but let that joy leak out and spread all over the place. I think God designed us with the ability to smile so that others could see Him in us. Smiling isn’t just the upturning of our lips. Smiling is what our face does when our heart is glad. In the world, we haven’t had a lot to smile about lately. But if we have a glad heart, we can’t help but have a cheerful face. We can seek fame and fortune, always chasing the next big thing, trying to get more stuff and better things, but all that stuff won’t give us glad hearts. The pleasure of that stuff will last a little while, but in the end, it will just leave our hearts and our pocketbooks empty.

I know the answer for a glad heart and a cheerful face. His name is Jesus. If you invite Him into your heart, EVERYTHING changes! You start to see everything through the light of Christ. Those bad days don’t seem so bad anymore, and those good days are oh so much better. Through Christ, our hearts are slowly transformed and pump with gladness and joy. Your heart controls your face. If your heart is grumpy or sad or gloomy, your face will appear grumpy or gloomy, but if your heart is happy, you can’t help but have a cheerful face. The face is the mirror to your heart, and your heart should be a reflection of the love of Christ.

Put a smile on your face today! Turn that frown upside down! Feel the joy of Jesus, and let other see Who fills your heart with joy! If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a hundred times, “I’m drinking from my saucer because my cup is overflowing,” and “I just like to smile…smiling’s my favorite!” I’m going to keep on smiling. How about you?

Give me a word, Lord: EXPECTING ANSWERS

James 1:5-7 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.  But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.  That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.

John 15:7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

John 16:24 Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.

When you pray, do you pray expecting an answer from God? I hope that you do because if you’re not expecting a response, what is the point of praying? When I have a conversation with my husband, I expect him to hear what I am saying, and I expect that he will respond. I may not always get the response that I wanted, but I get a response. Our conversations with God should be similar to this. It should be a two-sided conversation, but we too often make it one-sided. We go to Christ in prayer with a laundry list of items that we call out to Him in prayer. We may be asking for healing, health, help managing finances, praying for a lost loved one’s heart to be softened so that that person can come to Christ, and so many more things. We spill our hearts, give Him the list, and then we patiently wait for an answer, right? Most of the time, if we are honest, the answer is no. We get busy trying to answer our prayers on our own accord. We try to solve our own problems. We may even say that we don’t hear from God.

I’m here to tell you that I know that God answers prayers. I’ve seen Him answer more prayers than I can count. He may not answer in a loud, audible voice, but He answers. In my experience, it is usually that still small voice that I hear. It may be a strong feeling or a gut instinct that guides us. Sometimes, it’s the voice of another. Christ may put someone in our path to answer our prayers. Christ works in mysterious ways, and He is always working behind the scenes. He knows our needs. He loves us, and He is always listening.

So why then, do we sometimes feel that He isn’t answering us? As I said earlier, prayer should be a two sided conversation. When we don’t hear from God, it’s likely that we aren’t listening. When we go to the Father in prayer and we want an answer, then we have to be ready to hear His response. We need to remove distractions. Turn the television and the radio off. Turn down the noise. Go to a quiet place and talk to Him. People that are hard of hearing have great difficulty hearing what others are saying when they are talking in a noisy room with lots of background noise. If we’re not hearing God, maybe there is too much background noise. It may not be a noise issue, however. It may be a problem of busyness. We may give God our laundry list, and then get so involved with the busyness of the day, that we can’t hear God because we are too busy to hear Him. Perhaps we aren’t hearing from God because what we are praying for isn’t withing the will of God. “Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.” John 16:24. But maybe, just maybe, we aren’t hearing from God because we’re not expecting an answer. If we aren’t expecting an answer from God, we probably won’t get an answer. We have to have faith and confidence that He hears our prayers and know that He will answer. We may not always get the answer we want, when we want it, or how we want it, but rest assured. We will get the answer we need just when we need it and always right on time.

I don’t know what your situation is, but I can tell you that God has definitely answered many prayers in my life. I’ve not always been a prayer warrior. I’ve had a pretty weak prayer life at times. When I was younger, I had a memorized prayer that I prayed each night. It was a laundry list in which I asked God to watch over my family. I would name them off one by one. I would ask for forgiveness of sins, and I would thank Him for His blessings. My prayer didn’t vary much from night to night. As I grew older and closer in my walk with God, my prayer life changed. It was a gradual change, but I went from reciting an almost identical prayer nightly to a continual conversation with God that goes on 24 hours a day. I’m not kidding, y’all. As soon as I wake up in the morning, I start talking to God, praising Him, thanking Him, and telling Him that I love Him. On my drive to work, I sing praise songs very loud and proud (with my windows rolled up to protect the general public LOL), and I talk to God. While I’m working and seeing patients, running here and there, sometimes feeling like I can’t keep up, I stop and pray. On my drive home, I pray and thank God for getting me through another day. I pray before I go to sleep. If I wake up during the night, I pray. I’m telling you that I have learned that prayer is not just for meals and bedtime. Prayer for me is a way of life.

I’ve felt the peace of Christ during a harrowing, hectic day at work. I felt a nudge from the Holy Spirit encouraging me to think about something or pointing me in the direction that He wants to go. I’ve seen my marriage strengthened in a way I never dreamed possible. I’ve seen lost loved ones come to Christ after what seemed like years of praying. I’ve witnessed miracles first hand. I’ve felt the love of Christ. I’ve experienced His mercy and grace a million times over. So does He answer prayers? Yes! All day long, every day He is listening. He is answering. He is there.

Go to the Savior today. Pray. Expect and answer. Listen. Watch. Learn. Our heavenly Father yearns for closeness with his kids. Why don’t you call Him up today?

Give me a word, Lord: FACING GIANTS

I Samuel 17:45-47 David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. 47 All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.”

I John 4:4 You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.

Can’t you just see it in your mind’s eye? Here is a 9 foot 9 inch tall man wearing 125 lbs of armor standing at least 2-3 feet taller than the Israelites. A young, shepherd boy decides that he is going to take on this giant who is taunting the Lord’s army. He tries on the king’s armor, but it is much too heavy and too big for him to wear. He then goes out onto the battle field armed only with a few stones and a slingshot. But if we read the scripture closely, we realize that the stones and the slingshot were not his only armor. He was armed with the mighty strength of God. David told Goliath, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty.” He knew from where to draw his strength, and he had faith and confidence in God. Was he afraid? I imagine that he was. David was probably 5 foot something, facing a mighty giant of a warrior who was almost twice his height and size. Yet, David went out and defeated this giant.

We don’t have a Goliath on a battlefield challenging and taunting us daily, but we do have our giants! Oh, the giants we face! Some are facing the giants of unemployment, unpaid bills, marital issues, problems with children, addiction to drugs or alcohol, depression, and the list goes on and on and on. Our giants taunt us in our beds at night as we try to sleep, at our place of work, in our cars, and in our homes. It seems that the giant follows us wherever we go. We try to avoid the giant. We try to run from it. We may even try to stand up to our giants, only to find that we back down again. No matter what you call your giant, let’s face it, his name is not Goliath. His name is FEAR! Yep, I said it. The giant we are all facing is fear. We are fearful of the what ifs, and we forget who our mighty Savior is and what He can do if we just allow Him to take control of any and every situation.

Fear will stop you in your tracks. Fear will consume you. Fear will cause you to lose sleep at night. But God! Oh, but God! God will push you further than you ever dreamed possible. God will totally consume you if you allow Him to, and fill you with a total, all consuming peace. There is nothing like the peace of knowing that God is in control. And with that peace, God gives you rest. When we truly turn our giants over the God, we can have peaceful sleep and awaken knowing that God’s got this…whatever “this” may be. We can rest knowing that God will defeat the giant, and we will no longer feel defeated.

I know facing our giants is not an easy task. It’s human nature to avoid the problem. Sometimes we think that if we ignore a problem long enough, it will just go away. Well, those Israelites ignored old Goliath, and he didn’t budge. He continued to taunt them day after day until little David decided that enough was enough. But remember that David didn’t go up against Goliath in and of himself. He went against Goliath knowing that God would fight and win the battle for him. He had confidence that the One that was in him was greater than the one that was in the world. (I John 4:4) He totally trusted that God would win the battle for him. What about you? Do you believe that God can win your battles? I do! I’ve seen Him in action too many times. I’ve felt an absolute, complete, overwhelming sense of peace so many times when peace should not have been found. I’ve faced a few giants in my time, but I know now without a shadow of a doubt, that I am not facing the giants alone. I have a heavenly Father, my Savior, my King, who is holding my hand and leading me through the battlefields with His strength and grace and mercy, and I know that the battles have already been won.

We don’t have to face our giants alone. Give it to God, and trust Him. We can go confidently to the throne of God’s grace, and we will receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need! (Hebrews 4:16) Will you give your giants to the Savior today?

What Does 1 John 4:4 Mean?

Give me a word, Lord: FAINTING GOATS & THE SACRIFICIAL LAMB

I Peter 1:19-22 It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. God chose him as your ransom long before the world began, but now in these last days he has been revealed for your sake. Through Christ you have come to trust in God. And you have placed your faith and hope in God because he raised Christ from the dead and gave him great glory. You were cleansed from your sins when you obeyed the truth, so now you must show sincere love to each other as brothers and sisters. Love each other deeply with all your heart.

I am an animal lover through and through, and we have had a lot of adorable critters over the years, but baby goats are probably some of the cutest critters at Hodge Critter Lodge. As a matter of fact, a baby fainting goat, that I named Syncope, was the first goat to steal my heart. We had raised beef cattle, and continue to do so, branched out to some fine feathered friends like chickens, ducks, guineas, and geese, and had started building a new barn when I found a beautiful baby fainting goat online, and I just had to have her. She was a bottle baby, and though I struggled to teach her how to take a bottle the first week, she completely stole my heart in the end. She grew into the sweetest goat and loved all of our attention.

We’ve tried raising a variety of goats on our little farm, but we always end up with a small herd of fainters. We keep them for a variety of reasons. I guess the first and foremost reason is because they are so much fun. Fainting goats do not literally faint. Their muscles freeze up and contract when they are startled and they fall over. It doesn’t hurt them. Its just part of the genetic makeup of the breed. We also raise them because they are very hardy. They are tough little boogers. A reason other people have raised this particular breed is for herd protection. They place a fainting goat in with a large herd of sheep. If a predator comes in to attack the sheep, the sheep run away and the fainting goat faints and falls over thus becoming the sacrifice for the herd. Our animals are kept in a nice big barn with a secure fence around them, so we don’t use our fainting goats for this purpose thankfully.

When I think of the idea of the fainting goat being sacrificed for the herd, I can’t help but think of our Lord and Savior who was the ultimate sacrifice for you and I. When I read the Old Testament. I am always amazed at the numbers of goats and sheep that were sacrificed as sin offerings to God. They had to choose perfect animals for sacrifice, lambs or goats without blemish or stain. Through these sacrifices, they were made right with God again. The sacrifices redeemed them.

In Genesis 22, Abraham and Isaac gave a preemptive view of God’s plan. God told Abraham to go up to the mountain and sacrifice his son Isaac. Abraham followed God’s instructions. He didn’t question. He didn’t refuse. He gathered his son, and wood, and went up to the mountain as instructed. Isaac asked his dad about the lamb. Abraham told his son that God would provide the lamb, and He did. Abraham was given a ram to sacrifice instead of his son, Isaac. Abraham didn’t know how things were going to work out, but He trusted God completely.

God later sent the ultimate sacrifice, His Son, Jesus Christ. He came to earth, fully God and fully man, walked without sin. He was perfect in every way, unblemished and without the stain of sin. He died on that old rugged cross as a propitiation for our sins. Yes, he was the ultimate sacrificial lamb. He was the atonement for all of the sin in this world, past, present, & future. As prophesied and planned by God, Jesus arose three days later. The holy Lamb of God was the final sacrifice. We no longer need to gather our sheep and goats and build alters and offer them in sacrifice. Jesus has already made a way for our atonement. We only have to admit that He is our Lord and Savior and ask Him into our hearts, believe that He died for us, and confess with our mouths and commit to follow him.

I’m so thankful I didn’t have to sacrifice my sweet Syncope, but it pains me to think about the agony and suffering our Lord endured to redeem me. I am ever so grateful that He loves me that much. I know I’ll be spending eternity with the perfect Lamb of God. How about you?

Give me a word, Lord: SHOWERS OF BLESSINGS

Ezekiel 34:26 I will make them and the places surrounding my hill a blessing. I will send down showers in season; there will be showers of blessing.

Zechariah 10:1 Ask the LORD for rain in the springtime; it is the LORD who sends the thunderstorms. He gives showers of rain to all people, and plants of the field to everyone.

Daniel Whittle penned a song titled “Showers of Blessings” many years ago. It’s an old familiar song that we sang in church yesterday morning. The words rang in my ears, and I felt the showers of blessings coming down from above. “Showers of blessing, Showers of blessing we need: Mercy drops round us are falling, But for the showers we plead.”

This made me think about all of the showers of blessings and the mercy drops that the Lord has bestowed on me and my family over the years. We can think about the showers figuratively or literally. Here on the farm, those literal showers can be true blessings. We pray for rain for the crops and rain for the grass for the cattle. There is nothing like a sweet summer shower to cool things off in the midst of a hot Mississippi day. Those glorious showers produce delicious crops in the summer such as sweet corn, tomatoes, peas, beans, squash, cucumbers, and oh so much more. Those showers are refreshing and much needed, but they don’t even compare to the figurative showers that God bestows upon us.

A couple of nights ago, our nightly Bible reading was in 2 Chronicles 14-16. King Asa was the new king, and there was peace in the land of Judah for ten years. Asa did what was good in the sight of the Lord, and he sought the Lord diligently. Because he sought the Lord, his kingdom enjoyed a period of peace. He was able to build fortified towns throughout Judah. God gave him a rest from his enemies. When he did go to battle, he asked God for help and placed his trust in God alone, and he as victorious. Whenever the king or his people sought the Lord, they found him and He was with them. However, in the 36th year of Asa’s reign, King Baasha of Israel invaded Judah. Instead of seeking the Lord as he had previously, Asa removed silver and gold from the treasuries of the Temple of the Lord and the royal palace, and sent these to Kind Ben-hadad of Aram asking that they make a treaty. He asked Ben-hadad to break his treaty with King Baasha. King Asa didn’t rely on God, but rather on man, and because of this, God removed His blessing from King Asa. It was even noted that King Asa developed a serious foot disease, and he still didn’t seek the Lord’s help. He trusted in physicians only, and did not call on God. He died in the 41st year of his reign.

As I read these chapters, I couldn’t help but wonder what in the world was Asa thinking? He had been so close in his walk with God. He was leaning on the Lord, and was receiving showers of blessings. But then, after God had taken such great care of him through the years, he suddenly decided to rely on himself, man, and his own plans. God always wants to bless his kids, but let’s face it sometimes God can’t bless His kids because they are living outside of His will. If we are honest, we would all have to admit that there have been times when we have tried to do things on our own. There have been times when we have been walking outside of God’s will for us. In Ezekiel 34:26, God has promised a time when He would regather His people and pour out His blessings upon them. The Lord promised to provide them with bumper crops in their fields, complete safety from all harm, and abundant rain,.He promised showers of blessings. God wants His people to regather in His name for His purpose. He wants us to follow His Word and live for Him and not for ourselves.

This world is a mess! As a country, we have tried doing things our own way, and we have slowly walked away from God. It is time for all of God’s children to regather and turn back to Him. It is time to seek His will and His ways, and for us to lean fully on Him. I can honestly say that God has showered us with so many more blessings that we deserve. Those mercy drops have been humongous at times, and I’m forever grateful. I just can’t get over all of the grace and mercy that Jesus has poured down on me. I pray that we can regather in His name, and we can enjoy a long, luxurious shower of blessing from our heavenly Father!