Next month I will be acknowledging another birthday. As time marches on, the years begin to show on lots of areas on my face and body. Each day brings a new sag or wrinkle as the law of gravity does its magic. I can be sad about this. I can take drastic action, like getting plastic surgery. Or, I can accept the natural aging process and take the cheap and safer route by creating an instant facelift without plastic surgery – how? By smiling more. It’s amazing! This smiling stuff really works!
As Christians, we have a lot to smile about! God watches over us and has us in his care. The Bible verse in Isaiah 51:11 says, “Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.”
If you never thought about God having a sense of humor, check out this real picture of one of his creations – an eel taken from a visit to the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. It made me smile.
Women, especially, are bombarded with images of beauty. My husband, Robert, and I will laugh at all of the television commercials with wrinkle creams and related anti-aging products all demonstrated by women in their 30′s, maybe 40′s. Robert will say, “Show us the product on a 60 year old. Now I want to see that!”
I love the wisdom of the Bible. I Samuel 16:7 says – The Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
Our self-esteem doesn’t come from looking in the mirror. Being obsessed with our appearance robs us of our joy.
When I was little, my mother always told me to smile more because smiling made me pretty. Smiles are kind of like joy meters in a sense. They are a transfer of joy from the inside out.
When you need a facelift, smile more. You’ll find just like yawning, smiling is contagious.
My husband had a conference to attend in the great city of Chicago and I got to tag along. It had been a while since I had been there and I was excited to check out all of the new places along Michigan Avenue.
The sidewalks were a literal sea of people. Maneuvering through this mass of fashion conscious shoppers, surrounded by the trendiest and most expensive stores in the world, my attention was not drawn to the display windows.
Along our mile walk my attention was drawn to two homeless people. The weather was cold, but not the bone chilling cold that Chicago is famous for. Still, I wore gloves, ear muffs and my winter jacket. The first person my eye was drawn to was a man sitting outside of a magnificent Presbyterian church on the sidewalk holding a small dog. The second person was a mother and a small child huddled in a tight, corner nook on the sidewalk outside of Tiffany’s.
Most of the people walked by – getting on with their business and looking at the expensive trinkets in the shop windows. I was moved to tears thinking that by God’ s grace, I am not sitting on the side walk.
I didn’t know their stories – all I could think about was Jesus and if he was here, he could cure them or help them. I didn’t stop. I didn’t give them money. I offered up a prayer.
So many times I have driven by someone holding a card board sign along an exit ramp of the highway asking for help. I usually keep on driving. There are so many stories of scams out there, that our hearts get hardened. We don’t want to be taken so we pass on by.
My pastor gave a sermon this Sunday and addressed this very predicament. He spoke from Matthew 25:42-46. Jesus is speaking.
“For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.”
“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
He will reply, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.”
I remember hearing about Mother Teresa and she had said that she saw the face of Jesus Christ in all of his clever disguises on the faces of the people.
As I draw closer to my Creator I know that I will be aspiring to exude more of these three qualities – to love, to live from a place of gratitude and to be more of service to others. May every day be a day that we give thanks.
In seeking a life guided by God, I have experienced the most profound understanding of God’s love for me after venting raw emotions. Take for example last summer going into the fall.
I had to have some surgery done on an out-patient basis. Everything went well and I was feeling good by the fifth day until I received a phone call. It was my eighty-eight year old mother telling me that she had fallen and had broken her wrist. I wasn’t supposed to drive and the good news was, my husband, Robert, was at a rare meeting in town as opposed to being sixty miles away on a typical work day. We picked her up and took her to the emergency room. More good news was that she had broken the left wrist and she is right handed. That would be the end of the good news.
Four weeks later I received a call that my brother had collapsed on the running trail and needed to have open-heart surgery. One week after that announcement, my mother called telling me that she fell and had broken the other wrist. (No wonder I hate answering the telephone at home!)
My mother is fortunate to be healthy and lives on her own. But with two broken wrists, arrangements needed to be made to put her in a care facility until she could use her arms again. So, for weeks I shuffled back and forth, doing laundry, visiting her, sometimes taking her meals, and making sure she was getting the care she needed. During this time I was also trying to launch a business.
Thank goodness I had my constant companion of ten years, Duffy the Golden Retriever. After coming home from running all of the day’s errands, I would be physically and mentally exhausted. Duffy would always burst through the door to greet me with tail wagging and full of adoring love and affection. He had gotten me through the most difficult times of my life and this was ranked up there as one of the worst.
My brother came through the surgery with flying colors. After repeated visits to the nursing home, I was more confident that Mom was being taken care of and she was doing as well as could be expected. Things were starting to look up – that is until Halloween.
From a weather standpoint, It was one of the most beautiful days ever. But at 11PM that night, Duffy got sick and wanted to go outside. He tried to throw up and couldn’t. When he came in, he had doubled in size. I called the animal hospital emergency room and they told me to get him in right away – that his stomach had turned. Robert and I raced the five minutes to the hospital. I wasn’t crying, I was wailing. We got Duffy comfortable and were given the options. We decided to do everything to save him which would mean surgery.
I was fortunate to see him. Duffy had been sedated and wasn’t suffering anymore and he recognized me. I got to say good-bye. I knew in my heart that he wasn’t going to pull through. The doctor said they would call us in a few hours.
At this time it was well past midnight. We drove home and I chose to wait out the time on the patio looking up at the stars. I was SO angry with God. I know that I pleaded for God to save him, but I knew given Duffy’s age that it was probably hopeless. As the hours ticked on, I knew that too much time was going by without a phone call. I yelled. I screamed. I shouted. How could God take Duffy away from me now after all that I had been through? Why of all times now? I don’t ever remember being so angry at God.
It was 4:00AM by the time the doctors called. They discovered that Duffy had cancer of the liver when they did the surgery. He was not responding well. We had to make the decision to put him to sleep.
After my anger with God, the next day I realized that God is a God of mercy. The situation and the alternatives became clear to me. Duffy had cancer. He had been slowing down on our walks and was starting to look old and thin. I could tell that something was wrong. With being ten years old, he was already within the standard 9-12 Golden life cycle. If he had lived, he would have suffered as the cancer would continue to take its toll. I would have never been able to watch him suffer.
That Halloween, Duffy had the perfect day. He spent the day doing what he loved the most – being with his family, walking and meeting people. When it’s our time, we should all have such a perfect day.
I believe that God knows what is best for us. I also believe that God wants us to be real with him. That night on the patio, I was very real. These verses illustrate this well taken from Revelation 3:15 & 16:
“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”
Perhaps you are angry at God for something that has happened in your life. It’s okay to be angry with God, he can take it.
In our busy and demanding world, it is easy to feel overwhelmed. Take a moment and read the following prayer. In this moment, know that God is here.
Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for being the God who never sleeps.
Thank you for always being here for me, even when I’m not always here for you.
Thank you that you are Love and that you want the very best for me.
Thank you for your promises and that you never change.
I am feeling totally overwhelmed.
Please help me.
Help me to rest in the fact that you know what is best for me.
Forgive me for turning away from you and trying to control the outcome in situations in my life.
The Bible says that you are not the God of confusion but of peace.
Help me to rest in your love and to feel the peace of Christ which passes all understanding.
Help me to feel your love and comfort.
Help me to be still and know that you are God and that you will take care of me, just like any loving parent takes care of their children.
Your Word says to cast all of our anxiety on you because you care for us.
I turn all of my burdens and concerns over to you.
Please guide my every step and help me to be attentive to your loving direction.
In name of your Son and our Savior Jesus,
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