What is the “Joy of the Lord?”

Jesus laughing

We hear a lot from Christians about “the joy of the Lord.”  Often a verse from Nehemiah is quoted when speaking of joy.

The joy of the Lord is my strength.

But I wonder what does that mean?  What is the joy of the Lord and how does it give me strength?  I have found many times in my life when I was going through a difficult time and struggling with pain or sorrow that well-meaning people would quote that verse to me suggesting if I would just be “happy” I would find strength from the Lord to get me through this difficult circumstance.

If I would just adjust my attitude.

If I would just think positive thoughts.

If I would just “put on a happy face.”

Then, God would give me joy.

So – strength from God depended on me.  If in this time of despair I could just either “pretend” to be happy (“fake it ’til you make it”) or if I could somehow find some inner strength to think positive thoughts, God would give me joy and strength.  Our culture (and many TV preachers/teachers) tell us having the right attitude, having self-esteem, is the road to the joy of the Lord.

Yet we know that many great men of God did not always have a positive attitude.  Look at the Psalms.  They are full of times when David and others even questioned if God cared.

for you are my God, my only safe haven.  Why have you tossed me aside?

My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?
    Why are you so far away when I groan for help?
Every day I call to you, my God, but you do not answer.
    Every night I lift my voice, but I find no relief.

As I look at the verse in Nehemiah what stands out to me is that the joy Nehemiah is talking about is not some feeling I produce by my own ability to “put on a happy face” and adjust my attitude.  Rather, this joy is the joy OF THE LORD.  It is something that comes from God.  True joy, I submit, does not come from within me – it comes from without.

The joy of the Lord is not dependent on me adjusting my attitude or thinking positive thoughts.  I am not disputing that our thinking, out attitude does many times needs some work.  Paul wrote in Philippians:

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

And the writer of Proverbs told us:

For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.

But if having God’s joy is simply me thinking on things worthy of praise, then the joy of the Lord is not really from the Lord.  It is simply having a good philosophy or a good outlook on life.  That benefits those of us who have a tendency by nature to be positive, who bounce out of bed each morning ready for the day and get excited about the new coffee favor we just bought at Target.  However, it puts those who have a more melancholy personality and basically say “don’t talk to me until I have had my coffee” at a great disadvantage.

So – what is the joy of the Lord?  And how do we get it?

Take a look at the times Jesus spoke about joy.

In the Beatitudes he told us:

 What blessings await you when people hate you and exclude you and mock you and curse you as evil because you follow the Son of Man. When that happens, be happy! Yes, leap for joy!  For a great reward awaits you in heaven. 

One reason for joy, then, is the hope we have of what awaits us.  This life is not all there is for us.  Regardless of what is happening to me right now, I have a great future awaiting me and when I realize that I have something to look forward to it can give me a sense of peace and comfort.  This present circumstance may be terrible but it is not the end.

But how do I find joy in difficult times for the “here and now.”  Does this mean my only joy is in anticipating what will come in the future?  Can I find joy in this life now?

The Psalmist gave us the secret when he wrote:

in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.

When we learn to stop running about and trying to solve everything ourself, when we take time to be still and quiet with the Lord, when we allow our minds to dwell on Him and His Word, we will find that joy that Peter wrote about that is:

At present you trust him without being able to see him, and even now he brings you a joy that words cannot express

The joy of the Lord gives us strength to face those difficult circumstances because it is the joy that comes from a real relationship with Him, not from something we can create.  I submit if you are lacking joy, ask yourself these questions:

  1. When was the last time I spend some time just sitting quietly reading God’s Word or listening to a good worship song and just remained quiet and allowed God to speak to my heart?
  2. When was the last time I took some moments to sincerely make a list of all the blessings God had given me and then took some time to truly thank Him?
  3. When was the last time I looked at the difficult situations in my life and asked God to show me where/how I could use these times to grow more like Him?

As we take time to focus on God, to allow Him to speak to us, as we come into His presence, there we will find the joy of the Lord.

Help us all Lord in the midst of our busy and crazy lives to take that time and allow You to minister to us of your love and fill us with your joy.

 

 

 

Words Do Matter and I’m NOT Ugly!

Sticks and Stones

Edgewood, Illinois.

Just the mention of that town brings back bad memories.  About three months into my sixth grade school year, we moved from Mason to Edgewood (both small towns about 10 miles apart).  For me, they were opposite sides of the universe.  Mason Grade School was one of my happiest times in school.  I had lots of friends, was always busy playing with the group at recess.  I took my hula hoop to school each day and we would all gather in the playground after lunch to see who could keep the hoop going the longest.  It was great!

My fifth grade teacher was very impressed with me and told mother in testing they had done I tested as a genius.  She also thought I was the most polite child she had ever had in her classes.  When I began sixth grade my teacher designed extra curriculum for me and talked about advancing me to the next grade.   I was a very confident and happy girl.

Then came Edgewood

Shortly after sixth grade started my family moved to Edgewood and there I lost my confidence and happiness.

The school building at Edgewood had eight grades in four rooms.  The first four grades were on the lower floor and the last four grades were upstairs.  My first morning at Edgewood, I started climbing up the stairs to go to my new classroom.  About half way up the stairs, I met two boys coming down the stairs.  As they got about two stairs above me, one of the boys grabbed the other boy, pointed at me and in a very loud voice said, “Move over!  Don’t get near her.  That’s the ugliest girl I have ever seen.”  They both laughed and moved over as far to the other side of the staircase as they could get from me.  I hurried on up to my classroom hoping they would not be in my class.

Shortly after the teacher had showed me where I would sit and I was settled in my new desk, in walked the young boy who had just called me the ugliest girl he has ever seen.  He was sitting in the next row over from me.  Every time the teacher’s back was turned, he would look at me and make faces as if the sight of me was making him sick.  Kids around him started laughing.  Of course, when the teacher turned around and wanted to know what was funny, nobody seemed to know.

The harassment continued on the play ground.  When we played games that required us to pick participants, he would always yell out, “Don’t pick the ugly girl.”  Everyone would laugh and I would be the last one picked.  He was obviously the leader of the kids and he saw to it that no one played with me or sat with me after lunch.

Every day I cried as I walked to school.  I couldn’t wait for the dismissal bell to ring so I could get out of there.  I quit bringing my hula hoop to school because no one wanted me to play with me.  Most of the time after lunch I would sit and read my Bible.  Of course, that probably brought more ridicule for me.

Until that time I had not really given much thought about how I looked.  What little thought I had given was positive.  In second grade I had been in a style show at the high school with my oldest sister  She had made us matching dresses and we were part of a program at the high school showcasing the talents of the students.  My sister practiced with me over and over how I was to walk out on the stage, how to turn around to show off my dress and then return to the back of the stage.  I was the hit of the show.  Everyone had commented how cute I was, how beautiful my red hair was.  My sister was clearly very proud of me.

Everywhere my family went, people would comment on my beautiful red hair so I had a pretty positive image of myself.  But the experiences at Edgewood Grade School left me feeling very ugly.  All though my teenage years and even into adulthood, I felt ugly.  Although the compliments on my red hair continued, I always thought “Yeah, my hair is pretty but it doesn’t make up for the fact that my face is ugly.”

It was only years later that I came to understand perhaps why this boy made so much fun of me.  He was a poor student, barely passing.  He was also a bully and a trouble maker and spent a lot of time in the principal’s office or in detention after school.  And guess who his mother was?  My fifth grade teacher.

I, of course, do not know, but as an adult I realize it is very possible that his mother had told him about me transferring to his school and perhaps bragged on what a smart and polite student I was.  Or, maybe he was just a bully who picked on me because I was the new kid.

Looking at pictures of me as a teenager now I realize while I was no Miss America, I actually was a pretty cute kid.  How sad that it was not until I reached my 40’s that I began to gain confidence in my appearance.

Words matter!

So sad to see today how bullying on social media is causing other young girls and boys to have no confidence in who they are.  I also hate it when I hear parents in the stores yelling at their kids sometimes telling them they are stupid, dumb, mean.

Words matter!  Think before you speak.  Speak up when you see someone bullying another.

International Scrabble Day

Scrabble

Now here’s a holiday to celebrate!

Today is National Scrabble Day and what better way to celebrate than to try to beat my husband in a game of Scrabble.  I have shared before that I am an addict.  Confessions of a Scrabble Addict!  There are groups for those trying to overcome addiction to drugs or alcohol but there is nothing to help those of us who cannot stop trying to make words out of every sign, every book title, every thing we see in writing.  So I guess I am stuck with my addiction.   My Addiction has Returned

Today lets me know I am not alone!

There are apparently many more out there who love Scrabble.  There is an International Scrabble Club created and run by the player known as Carol (real name Florin Gheorghe), who lives in Romania.  There is a World Scrabble Championship which is held every year with players from more than 30 countries.  This championship is the most prestigious title in competitive English language Scrabble.   Contestants come from more than 30 countries to compete.  The 2017 North American Scrabble Championship is scheduled to take place in New Orleans.

Serious Competition

While we will never make it to the national championship, we keep up a tough competition between us.   Many of our games are very close but last January was one for the books.  When the game ended I was one point ahead of my husband.  However, because I had one tile that I had not played, its point value had to be taken from me and added to my husband’s score.  That gave him the game with one point ahead of me.  Needless to say, I was NOT a happy camper.

We also compete to see who can get the highest score in a game.  So far, my husband holds that title with a game played back in May 2015 with 961 points.  Yes we do keep records of our scores.  I told you we are addicts.

Another area where we compete is to see who can play all seven tiles in one turn.  For years I was way behind my husband.  But slowly I have learned to do as he does and keep shuffling my tiles around to see what words I can make.  Of course, this takes time so we have to be patient with each other.  Some of the crazy words we have come up with over the years include unbonnet and yaupings.  He loves to keep reminding me that twice he has had a game where he played all seven tiles five different times.

We have become familiar with the Greek, Hebrew and Arabic alphabet as those words are allowed in Scrabble.  There are 105 playable two-letters words in a regulation Scrabble game, according to the Official Scrabble players’ dictionary and we have memorized most of those.

So for my fellow Scrabble lovers

Scrabble joke

 

 

 

The Power of Our Words

 Sticks and stones

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never harm me!

Growing up, I heard that phrase several times when I was upset about something unkind that someone had said to me.  Sadly that is not true.  Words have such power – power to build up, power to tear down.

Thoughts from the Bible

Recently in my Bible study I was impressed with how many times God’s Word speaks to us about the power of words and warns us of being careful how we speak.

A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.  Proverbs 25;11

Do not be rash with your mouth, and let not your heart utter anything hastily before God.  For God is in heaven, and you on earth; therefore let your words be few.  Ecclesiastes 5:2

Rumors are dainty morsels that sink deep into one’s heart.  Proverbs 18:8

Everyone enjoys a fitting reply; it is wonderful to say the right thing at the right time.  Proverbs 15:23

Thoughts from the famous and not-so-famous

After reading the thoughts I found in the Bible on using our words, I began searching for what others have said about the power of words.

I found some very wise advice from famous and not-so-famous people.

If you wouldn’t write it and sign it, don’t say it.
Earl Wilson

A torn jacket is soon mended; but hard words bruise the heart of a child.  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Advice I wish I had followed

Looking back over my life, I realize that I have spoken many times when I should have remained silent, have given my opinion when no one really needed or wanted it and sadly, have hurt those I love.  Oh, that I had followed this advice:

Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.  James 1:19

Among my most prized possessions are words that I have never spoken.  Orson Rega Card

We are masters of the unsaid words, but slaves of those we let slip out.  Winston Churchill

A time to speak

But there are times we need to speak and unfortunately, we remain silent.

In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.  Martin Luther King, Jr.

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.  Edmund Burke

This verse from the Bible really makes me think about my words

Every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.  For by thy words you shall be justified and by your words you shall be condemned.  Matthew 12:36-37

My prayer about my words

This is now my prayer”

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

Confessions of a Scrabble Addict!

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My name is Barbara and I am a Scrabble addict!

  • I must confess that I am constantly looking for new words to use in a game.  When I read a book I am on the outlook for new words.  As I glance through a magazine, my eyes just seem to latch on to new words in the articles or the advertisements.
  • During the commercials when I watch TV or wait at a restaurant for my food – or any other time I find myself waiting – I often write out a long word or a greeting such as “Merry Christmas” – then see how many words I can make from the longer word or greeting.  (My husband gets tired of finding these lists of words everywhere – in the desk drawer where we keep our mail – on the computer desk – on the end table next to my recliner.  I tell him I will stop – but I can’t seem to help myself.)
  • I actually “read” the dictionary looking for new words.
  • All my other hobbies take a back seat to the game – reading, writing, watching TV.  None of these are as important as getting my husband to join me in a game of scrabble.

I need help!  But……..

My husband is an addict too!

  • He also reads the dictionary learning new words.  He loves to take words he already knows and search to see how the plural or past tense would be spelled.
  • He recently started making a list of all the new words we find and use in our games.

Our daughter thinks we are nuts!

We take our Scrabble games seriously.  We have kept score of every game we have played since 2008.  Even the games we play with family or friends is entered in our book.

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We may have gone too far this winter!

With the cold weather we have been indoors more than usual the past few weeks and I think our Scrabble addiction has gotten out of hand.  My husband is now keeping a record of our average scores for each month.  We are in a serious contest to see who wins the most games for each month.

We play only Super Scrabble!

The regular size Scrabble board is 15″ x 15″ but we use the larger Super Scrabble board.  It is 21″ x 21″, has quadruple letters and words and twice the number of tiles as the regular Scrabble board.  Since we constantly try to increase our scores and take this so seriously, our games can last for two to three hours.  (But we are retired, it is cold outside, so who cares?)

Come on spring!

We really need warm weather to return so that we can regain some sanity and move on to other interests before our addiction overtakes us completely.

If you are addicted to Scrabble too, let me know.  We could start a Scrabble Anonymous Club.