Let’s Play!

It’s been a crazy season.  Who am I kidding, every season is a little crazy, but there’s something about May that breeds its own kind of crazy (…like December).  So here I am, over two months later, writing another post.  For those still hanging with me, thanks!

During this crazy season, my family adopted a dog.  This dog is a good dog.  I love all dogs.  I’ve had 3 dogs before this one and I would say all were good dogs, but not like this one.  You see, this one is also well-behaved.  He doesn’t destroy things.  He doesn’t beg.  He doesn’t jump.  He plays well with other dogs.  He doesn’t bark or lick incessantly.  While this dog still hasn’t stolen my heart quite like my other dogs did (give it time, he will), it’s obvious that he is a very good dog.

But there’s one thing we noticed this dog lacking when we first brought him home: he wouldn’t play.

Even my most recent dog played…and he was fifteen when we lost him.  But this dog just wouldn’t play…and he’s one.  He’d snuggle and give kisses and wag his tail, but he wouldn’t play.  We took him to PetSmart and he didn’t pick up one toy.  We would throw a ball, squeak a squeaky toy…still nothing.

For my family and I, his lack of play was sad.  We got him from our Vet, who had nursed him back to health after he’d been hit by a car.  Thankfully for the dog (and us), he’d been socialized, walked, and loved after his accident by the staff.  I’m sure they also tried to play with him, but my mom and I couldn’t help but wonder if his lack of play was because he’d essentially lived in a kennel for over 7 months.

Then one day, something changed.

Milo played.

The toys we’d purchased for him suddenly became interesting.  He jumped around, looking ridiculous, as he carried his ball around, tossed his tug-of-war rope, and chewed his squeaky toy.  He still doesn’t get games most dogs understand (like fetch, tug-of-war, or actually squeaking the squeaky toy), but he does play.

My Psychology mind can’t help but think that Milo now feels safe.  We can’t play unless we feel safe.  For Milo, that took a little longer than the average 1-year-old dog, but it came.

So what does it matter if Milo plays? Sure, it’s cute.  It brings my family joy to watch him.  I think it also helps him though.  The more he plays, the healthier he seems.  It’s almost like each time he plays, looks absolutely ridiculous, and is still praised, the more confident he is about his new home and his new family.

There are some obvious implications about Milo’s play for kids and I plan to write more about that on my website later, but I think there are also implications for adults.

  1.  Play is good.  Our society sexualizes and cheapens play.  Yes, play can be sexual and sexual play is good in the right context, but play isn’t always sexual and it certainly isn’t dirty…at least in the way it was designed.  Adult play is associated with sin in our culture, but God designed us to play.  When Jesus says “let the little children come to me” in Matthew 19:14, I can’t help but think that part of the reason this teaching was unusual was because most rabbis were not into the sticky fingers, silly games, and endless questions that come with kids.  Play is interwoven in each aspect interacting with children, but Jesus welcomed it.  He wasn’t afraid to play and I have a feeling He was willing to look silly too.  I think we are buried so deep in sin that we sometimes don’t even know how to play in a way that honors God.  So, we work.  At the office.  At church.  At home.  (Or we play in ways that don’t honor God.)  Even the silliest activities can be fun if you’re willing to actually engage, like watching my goofy dog play with his newly discovered toys.
  2.  Play is needed.  Like Milo, we all need to play.  It’s a way to rest, recover, and heal.  Play is also how we connect to others.  You have to be vulnerable to play.  If you want to play with someone, you first have to ask or initiate.  That could result in a “no,” but it could result in a “yes.”  The “yes” could mean doing something silly or embarrassing in front of another person.  There’s something about that vulnerability that helps us connect and bond…and we all need relationships.  Play also required our full attention, which goes hand-in-hand with connection.  To really play we can’t be on our phones or multitasking, we have to engage.
  3.  Play has to be intentional.  Yes, the hallmark of play is spontaneity, but how often are we really spontaneous in our culture? Rarely! If we don’t really set out to plan and prepare for play, we won’t play.  For Milo, he needed tools ready for play, so he had them there when he was ready.  He also needed the time to play.  His playing was eventually organic and spontaneous, but it wouldn’t have happened without some preparation.  For us, that probably means getting enough rest that we feel like playing and planning times to play.  What would it look like for you to be more intentional in that area?

So, let’s play! I’m leaving here to toss a ball to the furry friend sleeping by me, what are you going to do?

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Shattered

Anyone that’s worked at a restaurant knows what it’s like to count down the minutes to the end of a shift.  It’s true, I’ve had some absolutely grueling last minutes in an office, but it just isn’t the same as those last few minutes of being on my feet, longing for a sip of cold water.  A few weeks ago, the thing that was getting me through my third day with a 9-hour shift (measly compared to some, but a lot for me) and my third 12-hour work day (I keep thinking maybe I’ll only have 1 job soon…) was this soda my boss gave me for employee appreciation day.  I don’t normally drink soda, but I was so excited about this soda.  It wasn’t just any soda, it was a glass bottle of pineapple soda.  (To those who somehow missed the memo, I love pineapple anything.)

The problem with this bottle of soda was that it had a lid requiring a bottle opener.  Being at a restaurant with the most sober group of co-workers imaginable, we were unable to open our soda gifts during work (there was not a bottle opener anywhere).  This made the build up for our sodas even more intense.  Truly, all I thought about the last four or so hours of my shift was taking a sip of that nice, cold pineapple soda.

I got my hopes up for something amazing.

Then finally my shift ended.  I drove home with my treasured soda nestled nicely in my cup holder.  I got to my door and as I turned to unlock the notoriously stubborn deadbolt, the soda fell from my hands.

In an instant, my soda was in a million pieces on my front porch and my hopes of an after work treat were shattered.

I’d love to tell you I handled this like a mature adult, but that would be a lie.  I stormed inside, took out my frustrations on my mom, cleaned up the glass, and pouted.  Yes, pouted.  Like a 4-year-old.

After a few tears, an apology, and more than a few pieces of chocolate, I started thinking about how often my hopes seem to end up like the pineapple soda on the front porch.  Frankly, I felt hurt.  Yes, it started with the ridiculous question, “Why God did you let me hope for that pineapple soda and take it away?  Can I not just have one joy in life?” But it ended with about a thousand other “whys” about areas where my life doesn’t feel fair and hopes seem shattered.

A few weeks ago I wrote a post called Dare to Hope.  I wrote about how inhibited I am by lack of hope.  I imagine there were (and are) others that struggle with those same inhibitions.  In that blog I mentioned that hope isn’t easy.  Disappointments are truly what drive my inhibitions, my lack of hope.  How many more shattered sodas can a girl take?!

In my flesh, I’m clearly unable to handle one shattered pineapple soda.  (Exhibit A: My 27-year-old pouting.)  In faith, I think the shattered hopes are often things that draw us to Jesus though.  Those broken pieces are where His love often seems to shine the brightest, and our cold hearts are forced to feel the warmth of His comfort.

I don’t think shattered hopes were part of God’s original plan.  I don’t think God designed the Garden of Eden to include heartbreak and tragedy.  I do, however, think there are times when God uses hope–even hope that ends in disappointment–to draw us to Him.

What I love about hope is the mysterious, but beautiful truth found in Romans 5:3-5 (ESV):

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Even in the midst of our sufferings and shattered dreams, God promises that hope will not put us to shame.  Take time to clean up after the shattered sodas.  But then keep hoping, friend!

Dare to Hope

If you know me, you know I love dogs.  I can spot a cute dog a mile away (or really any dog).  My favorite part of working the drive-thru is saying “hi” to all the furry co-pilots.  I also really love babies and kids, but I’m better with dogs (and I think people would be worried if I asked them to pet their kids).

One thing I love about kids and dogs is how uninhibited they are.  They are willing to unashamedly beg, cry, or do whatever they can to get a need met.  They don’t care how ridiculous they look.  Their focus is not on how other’s perceive them.

Uninhibited does not describe me.  In fact, I am exactly the opposite.  One of my friend’s in college loved the verse, “I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes” (2 Sam. 6:22a, NIV).  I, however, loved the verse, “A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls” (Prov. 25:28, ESV).

Now my friend didn’t run around campus naked (see 2 Sam. 6) and I certainly lack a lot of self-control (see my caloric intake for the week), but her willingness to expose any of her own imperfections for the sake of the gospel was a beautiful pairing with my desire to live a life according to His commands.  The key is: we need both.  I love the way 2 Timothy 1:7 pairs these two concepts, “For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love, and sound judgment.”  To God, sound judgment and fearfulness do not go together.  That’s just my skewed version.

People like my friend are rare.  I know very few people as daring as she is.  It’s no surprise that she’s living overseas doing amazing things for Jesus.  Something only someone living by the Spirit could do.  I, however, am pretty normal.  I see a lot of me around.  I see a lot fearfulness guised as self-control.

Knowing me, I’d probably be saying some sort of “but” right now if I were reading this post.

but self-control is biblical!

but the world is a scary place!

but my fearfulness is legit! Look what happened last time I was brave!

So, yes, self-control is biblical.  Please exercise self-control.  Please strive to live a life according to the Bible.  But if you’re like me, check your motives before playing the “self-control” card.  What would it look like to be brave? For most, that’ll include some form of self-control.  It might mean budgeting better so you can bravely donate more money.  It might mean ending a gossip session to bravely share your story.  It might mean skipping lunch to bravely fast and pray.  It could also mean bravely hoping or dreaming again.

(Here’s where I know the “but” would be causing me to want to exit out of this page…hang with me!)

It took my friend 8, hope-filled years to get overseas.  While living here, her heart was torn.  She desperately wanted to go and serve the people God called her to serve.  She kept hitting these road bumps though.  To anyone else, those bumps would have been mountains.  To me, they probably would’ve caused me to look for a different destination.  God used those bumps (or mountains) to create a beautiful step stool for her to get where He called her.  The journey wasn’t easy, it was grueling.  In fact, being there has continued difficulties because of those horrible bumps.  However, she never stopped looking to the goal.  She dared to hope.

When people used to say to me “I just don’t want to get my hopes up,” I used to say, “but that’s what hopes are made for!” I’m not sure that was the most empathic response and I haven’t said it in years, but I do think there is something to be said for that mentality.  Shouldn’t people of faith be the most hope-filled?

How can you dare to hope today? What is it you’re afraid to hope for? How does fear get in the way of living a life of uninhibited faith for the Lord?

The Growth Time

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Last year around this time two of my friends vowed that 2016 would be better than 2015.  Within the first month of 2016, both of them had numerous mini catastrophes.  Although there were a lot of joys for each of them in 2016, I think they would both agree that 2016 did not turn out the way they hoped.

I think a lot of us can relate to that disappointment.  Maybe we didn’t have high hopes for 2016, but maybe we had high hopes for something else.  Waiting for what we hope to happen can be excruciating.  While I was meditating on the Christmas story the past month, I couldn’t help but think about the time right after Jesus’ birth: the growth time.

A lot of people have speculated about what happened during Jesus’ growth time, but the Bible doesn’t tell us much:

“And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him.”  Luke 2:40, ESV

“And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom. And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it” Luke 2:42-43, ESV

“And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.” Luke 2:52, ESV

These verses show that Jesus was obviously anointed, but they also show that Jesus was growing.  It’s hard for me to wrap my mind around Jesus, who was fully God, growing.  The difficulty of that paradox is certainly a challenge, but it also baffles me that God would choose to be in a growth time.

Essentially, Jesus chose to wait.

I associate waiting with suffering.  There’s small suffering like waiting at the grocery store.  There’s medium suffering like waiting for a paycheck when the bills are coming.  There’s horrible suffering like waiting for healing.  Whatever the suffering and however it would be ranked, it seems like most suffering involves some degree of waiting.

I honestly can’t imagine what Jesus’ waiting was like.  I can’t imagine having that kind of power and waiting to use it.  I also can’t imagine Mary’s waiting, knowing Jesus’ destiny and waiting to see it come to fruition.  Through each struggle they faced (and maybe even each joy), I’m sure it was excruciating waiting for Jesus’ debut as the Messiah.

But that waiting time was the growth time.  The Bible associates perseverance and growth repeatedly, but how beautiful that Jesus would choose to experience that as well.  May we take comfort in Jesus’ example during our growth times:

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.

Hebrews 4:15, ESV

 

An Unexpected Check

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Do you have a bucket list?

I can’t say I have a formal one, but I definitely have a few goals I’d like to accomplish before I kick the bucket.  Of course, there are the normal/more serious items on my bucket list like continuing to grow with God, getting married, having a career, etc., but there are also less serious items.  I’ve done some of the less serious items like being a mascot, running a half marathon, and learning to make a pie, but there are still many things to go.  One of the things on this list was unexpectedly checked off this week: to see a polar bear.

I don’t know what originally started my love for polar bears, but ever since I can remember I’ve loved them.  I have always wanted to see a polar bear.  Oklahoma City doesn’t have one in their zoo, which is the zoo I’ve frequented the most.  When I went to the Bronx Zoo as a child, they also didn’t have this furry arctic creature.  People have told me that the zoo in Tulsa has one, but I was told there wasn’t one when I researched it.  Central Park also supposedly had one once upon a time, but we missed the memo when visiting family in New York.  No surprise, New Orleans also doesn’t have a polar bear.  Despite these failed attempts at seeing a polar bear, I still kept seeing one on my bucket list.  I just figured it would still be awhile before I could actually make this dream come true.  After I graduated, I knew that I would be tied up with work and unable to see one for even longer.

After I loss my job a couple months ago, I decided it was a perfect time to sign-up for a training I knew that God was leading me to do.  I expected to wait a little to do the training, but the timing seemed perfect.  I also found a training that was in St. Louis, which was driveable, and I found a good deal on a hotel.  Better yet, my mom was off during the time I had the training, so I’d have a companion for the trip.  As I was looking up St. Louis and what we could do while we were there, I saw the zoo advertised.  Normally, I’d pass right over the zoo (especially in December), but the zoo was advertised with a picture of a polar bear! To my delight, the zoo did indeed have a polar bear.  The zoo quickly moved to the top of my list for St. Louis.

Seeing the polar bear did not disappoint.  The polar bear was very active (not surprising since it was frigid).  The zoo was also empty so I didn’t have to push kids over to see him (again, the weather probably helped me there).

Although I didn’t plan to be in another in-between season, I am so grateful for unexpected opportunities of joy.

I wonder if you may also be in a season you didn’t expect.  After all, life just never seems to go the way we planned.  What are some joys you have experienced that you wouldn’t have if life had gone the way you planned? What are some opportunities you can take now, despite unexpected circumstances? God may be calling you to take a step of faith, or He may be blessing you with a little joy like seeing a polar bear.  Either way, how can we make the most of our present reality?

And finally here are a few pics of the polar bear…I wouldn’t want to deprive you!

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Look how close he came to the glass for me?! He must have known we were destined to be friends.

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He was a little dirty, but the zookeeper said he’d been playing in the mud–adorable!

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Isn’t he pretty??

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He even smiled for the picture! I have a feeling he was almost as happy as me (especially in the freezing cold weather).

 

Words

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God is faithful.

God keeps His promises.

God is good.

All true statements.  All statements we who follow Jesus have likely used.  All statements I love.

Yet, isn’t it true that the times we are most likely to use these statements are the times when life is going great? I’ll admit that some of these may be used after a difficult season, but they are still most often used once that season is over.  I don’t think there’s anything wrong with praising God for good seasons or answered prayers, but I do wonder what our silence in difficult seasons says about our faith.

Social media displays this problem well.  When a person posts, “Closed on our house today, God is good!” What does that mean for the person that keeps losing houses? Or when someone says, “I said ‘yes!’ God keeps His promises!” What does that mean for the person that never marries? Does God not keep His promises to that person? Or the new dad posting, “Healthy mom and baby! God is faithful!” What does that say about God’s faithfulness for the barren? Or the parents of a special needs baby? Or a those devastated by stillbirth? My intent is not to lessen the celebration of each of these milestones or God’s gifts.  No doubt each of the scenarios I described did include God working miraculously.  The problem is these posts sound conditional, like God’s faithfulness, integrity, and goodness are dependent on events.  I too have posted “God is good” after posts and I would encourage others to continue praising Him in whatever way possible, but I wonder if I would share God’s goodness during a not-so-good time.  It may sound sarcastic to say, “Another year without a baby, God is good.” Or “Going to chemo, God keeps His promises,” but doesn’t there have to be a way to more authentically proclaim God’s unconditional love?

I would caution anyone about sharing or posting any hurt that is too fresh, but I also wonder if the messages we send (on social media, in person, or however else) might unintentionally portray a theme inconsistent with the God of the Bible, the One we seek to represent.

Here are a couple of questions that might help us to consider before we speak (feel free to interchange “these words” for “this story” or “this picture” or “this phrase”):

  • What do these words teach about God?
  • How do these words mix with what I’ve said/portrayed about God previously?
  • Do these words reflect Christ’s sacrificial love to my audience?

I hope my words, written and spoken, align with these questions most of the time.  Unfortunately, I know they don’t always.  In the spirit of repentance, first, I sincerely apologize for any of those words that don’t reflect God’s unconditional love.  I know there have been many times I’ve written a post, shared a picture, or told a story that was solely to boast on my accomplishments, gain attention, or just look good. Sadly, I’m sure some of those have even included a phrase like “God is faithful.”  I hope in the future I’ll be more mindful about sharing both praises and hurts, consistently pointing to God’s character with a spirit of humility and sensitivity.

After apologizing, I’d also like to display true repentance by turning from my words immediately.  I certainly don’t want everyone reading this blog post to go off and post or talk about only negative things, or feel like they’re walking on eggshells when sharing something positive.  Words are powerful and I hope this post inspires them to be used well.  Here’s a piece of my life that isn’t so great and an example of God’s unconditional love that I hope serves as an example of what I mean: Not too long ago, I was told I have to take another class before beginning my career.  You know, the one I’ve been working toward forever.  After celebrating finally finishing school less than a year ago, I now find myself on the brink of another semester, more fees, more tuition, more studying…and, worst of all, without a job.  You see, the news of taking another class quickly resulted in losing my job.  After all, you can’t work somewhere when you are no longer qualified to do the work.  The worst part of that is how much I enjoyed my job and how I hardly even dared to hope to work somewhere like the place I did.  Yet, God truly is the same today that He was the day I was offered that job.  God’s love is felt and His light is shinning.  The loss hurts and the wait stinks, but truly…

God is faithful.

God keeps His promises.

God is good.

 

When Life Gives You Lemons…

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…make lemonade.

I’ve heard this age-old expression a lot lately.  For some reason several friends have posted DIY projects with the before labeled “lemons” and the after labeled “lemonade.”  Maybe it’s a trend like #yolo or #treatyoself that I just missed, or maybe I just have particularly optimistic/resourceful friends.  Whatever the reason, these friends have definitely made the most of items I’d never consider useful.

But when I think of lemonade, I still think of the classic beverage sold at lemonade stands.  I’m flooded with memories of pouring lemonade powder into canisters for college ministry lunches (and hauling and cleaning those canisters each week).  Of course, I also think of time spent at Chick-fil-A, home of the best, fresh-squeezed lemonade.  For those that haven’t had the pleasure of working at Chick-fil-A (pun, intended), the lemonade really is fresh-squeezed.  When I worked there they never asked me to squeeze the lemonade (the people that run Chick-fil-A are also wise), but I remember watching one of the guys squeeze the lemonade.  He was a champ! He made cutting and squeezing the lemons look like child’s play.  He cut and squeezed the lemons at lightning speed, never missing a beat.  (If I had been cutting or squeezing, it would’ve taken twice as long, inevitably included lemon peels, and eventually a trip to the hospital without a finger.)

If you’ve ever worked at Chick-fil-A or been on a Backstage Tour at one of their restaurants, you know that Chick-fil-A lemonade only has three ingredients: lemons, water, and sugar (or Splenda if you’re a diet lemonade kind of person).  I never bothered counting the number of ingredients in the powdered lemonade I was using in my college days, but I have a feeling it had more than three ingredients.  But even three makes that expression “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” kind of tricky.

Think about it.  You’re given lemons and someone says, “Make lemonade!”  It’s true, you could rip the lemon apart and squeeze the juice into your mouth, but I would hardly call that lemonade.  To make lemonade, you have to go get the other ingredients and combine them. You need the right tools, supplies, and skills.

My DIY friends were spot on with their expressions of lemonade made from lemons, showing old items made into beautiful creations.  They had the lemons available to combine, but it took their creativity, resourcefulness, and hard work to actually make the lemonade.

I think the first step to making lemonade is thanking God for the lemons.  This is something that I’m not always good at doing.  I’m often so blinded by the pile of lemons in front of me that I can’t see the potential for lemonade.  It might take a while to get to the point of thankfulness.  (I mean, honestly, there are some lemons that just seem extra useless.)  One thing that might help is remembering that God could view us as lemons too, but instead He uses us for great things.  If God can use sinners that nailed His son to a cross, surely I can use possessions, circumstances, feelings, or other lemons that I’d rather trade in for something that seems more useful.  I have a feeling a thankful heart is kind of like the sugar that flavors the lemonade.  Any good lemonade has a lot of sugar.  Without it, the lemonade is just lemon juice that purses your lips and destroys your enamel.

With a thankful heart, it’s easier to work hard to use life’s lemons for great lemonade.  May we not forget that good lemonade isn’t just pouring powder into a canister and stirring it.  Good lemonade involves hard work.

Good lemonade also takes time.  With time, water can dilute the overpowering sour flavor of the lemons and turn it into a refreshing beverage.  With time, God can shift our perspective and help us see how He’s using the lemons He gave us.  With time, we may not like the lemons or enjoy the process, but we can taste more than the bitterness.

Let the Living Water into the lemons of life, trusting that He can do great things through anything we have to give.

The Swamps: A Frustrating Irony

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Bugs, snakes, rodents, birds, and wildlife galore! These are just a few of the animals occupying one of the most fascinating habitats in the world.  Alligators swim freely through the swamps, building enormous nests for their eggs.  Birds soar through the sky, landing in trees at their leisure.  These animals live in an environment that perfectly suits them.  They live extravagantly where they are.

But in the midst of this animal Taj Mahal, there’s a shack where a person lives.  Unlike the animals, this person is not suited for the swamps.  His home cannot endure the water, his body cannot endure the temperature, his young are not safe in their nest.  This man lives in constant envy of his prey.

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A frustrating irony of the swamps.

Have you ever been in a swamp like this? One where everyone seems to glide in the water around you, but you can’t seem to set one foot in the ground without landing in quicksand? I’m sure we’ve all been there.  It’s horrible! We sit in our little shacks focusing on the bugs swarming around us rather than the people we love eating frog legs with us.  Truthfully, we rejoice in each mosquito zapped by our lanterns and fish caught in our nets.  We hurt those we envy, bitterly rejoicing in their demise.

Sweet Life

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I love honey.  My “pantry” (which also happens to be a medicine cabinet) may lack a lot of seemingly essential items, but it never lacks honey.  After all, what kind of self-respecting-hot-tea-drinker would neglect her honey supply?

There’s just something about this sticky substance that makes any item it’s paired with that much sweeter.  Sometimes sugar just doesn’t do the trick.

But even this honey lover wouldn’t deny that honey can sometimes be a pain.  If I forget the end goal of extra yummy tea, bread, etc., I can easily get caught up in its stickiness.  On days I’m running late or tired, it just doesn’t seem worth it to have to clean my sticky spoon or cup.  The sacrifice seems too big (especially when I leave my sticky to-go cup in the sink for a few days).  I get too caught up in the cost, not the reward.

Life is sweet too, isn’t it?

Yet, I just as easily get caught up in the cost, not the reward there too.  Like work, parenthood, or any other sometimes daunting task, school does a great job helping me get caught up in the cost.  When I look at my bank statement, paychecks, syllabi, or planner, I can pretty easily get stuck in the stickiness.  It doesn’t quite seem worth the tasty reward at the end.  In fact, I can’t even see the tasty reward because I’m too focused on cleaning up the messy dishes I have to tackle.  It’s not until I zoom-out that I can see how sweet life really is.  Then, and only then, can I taste the honey.

A Change of Heart

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It’s amazing what a change of heart will do.  Proverbs 17:22 says, “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” I love that the ESV uses “joyful” to describe this kind of heart.  Joy is so different than happiness.  While they may look similar in some instances, their source is completely different.  Joy is lasting.  Joy is not limited to good times or happy seasons.  Joy actually comes from trials (James 1:2-3).

This medicinal heart is not necessarily squeals of laughter at a playground (though it certainly may come in that form).  This medicinal heart could be a friend’s embrace in a hospital room or shared tears at a funeral.  (Note: a smile is not a required ingredient… after all, how helpful is a gawking smile at a funeral?) Since we are to consider trials joyful and those trials produce perseverance (James 1:2-3), it would appear that the power of a joyful heart is found in its strength not its glee.

I’ve heard this same sentiment repeatedly as I listen to those caught in troubled times.  Whether it’s longing for health, provision, love, or countless other desires, those desires seem to so often be fulfilled once there is a change of heart.  Like contentment actually heals the wound.  Of course, I would never assert that is always the case—we serve a God of grace, not of works.  We may not be physically healed, financially sustained, or relationally fulfilled, but it appears that there is wisdom in “godliness with contentment” (1 Timothy 6:6).

“A crushed spirit” also seems different than what we automatically assume.  True, it may look exactly like what the imagery suggests, but the context of the chapter also shows much more than that.  It appears that “a crushed spirit” is synonymous with sin, like someone that’s gotten so discouraged that they throw away their values.  I think it’s important to distinguish “a crushed spirit” and someone hurting.  While they could go hand-and-hand, in God’s grace-filled universe (which is completely contrary to our human nature) someone hurting could actually have a joyful heart.  That person could actually be good medicine to someone with a crushed spirit.  The Lord uses us despite ourselves.