A Merry Heart Is Good Medicine

The Bible has many passages that teach us common sense wisdom concerning how to think and how to live.  One of the universally recognized keys to good health is to develop and maintain a cheerful attitude.  Sociologists, psychologists, medical doctors, and clergymen can all agree on this matter.  Those who are purposefully cheerful in their attitude and have a positive outlook will suffer less from illnesses and, when they do succumb, will recover sooner than those who possess a gloomy, negative disposition.

To a large degree, our attitude is a matter of choice.  True, there are times when circumstances will be such that it is impossible to be cheerful.  Tears and grief are sometimes on life's menu; and we will all taste this bitterness from time to time.  But while we may visit the "swamp of sadness", we should not put up a mailbox there and make it our residence!  God wants us to practice the arts of our faith with the result that our joy will "be full".  He wants us to "be of good cheer".  Jesus said, "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly."  This new life is not just about quantity (as in eternal life) but about quality as well.

Just as there are positive benefits to having a merry heart; there is health robbing power in a broken and bitter spirit.  Immunologists tell us that someone's natural immune system is weakened by sadness and depression.  In other words, the body has a difficult time fighting off germs and other infectious elements when a person is in a depressed state.  There are several accounts where individuals actually died early for no other reason than they became sad and stayed that way until their body just broke down.

There are two powerful disciplines for the development and maintenance of a healthy disposition:  1. Stay in close fellowship with God.  Walking close to the Lord helps us keep things in perspective and employs the fruits of the Spirit to work in our lives.  and ... 2.  Maintain communion with other positive people.  We need to be in good fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ.  They are the ones that can pick us up when we are down, encourage us when we are faltering, and even lovingly rebuke us when we are headed the wrong direction.  David said, "Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity."  (Ps. 133:1) He also said, "I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the LORD".  (Ps. 122:1)

In church, we find a heightened sense of the awareness of God.  We also find fellowship with one another.  These are two good things for staying happy and healthy!  May God bless you as you walk with Him this week and may our fellowship with one another be a source of health and happiness!


 "While we may not be able to control all that happens to us, we can control what happens inside us."  Benjamin Franklin

  "The graveyards are full of indispensible men."  Charles de Gaulle

 "Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising which tempt you to believe that your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires...courage."  Ralph Waldo Emerson

"You got to be careful if you don't know where you're going, because you might not get there."  Yogi Berra

Time - The Stuff Life Is Made of

This week I experienced a first.  Although I am 50 years old and have been very active all of those years, I have, for the first time in my entire life, picked out, bought, and hung my own wall calendar!
I know this may seem like a small matter to most people, but until this year, I would always just hang up whatever calendar I got from some business that mailed me one for free.  Sometimes it might be an office supplies store, insurance company, or the local funeral home.  In fact, I must admit that because it came free, I did not really appreciate the fact that somebody had to design it, pick out the pictures, make sure all the holidays were properly highlighted and print thousands of them.  What a wonderful and helpful tool this is!
Well, not only do I have my very own personally picked out calendar, I have along with it a New Year's resolution to improve my calendar skills.  For many this is just a natural part of every day life, but for us who are "calendar challenged" it takes more of a conscious effort.  I do not have any real problem keeping busy.  I have always managed to fill a week, month, and year with productive activity, but my innate lack of calendar friendliness has sometimes thrown a wrinkle into my schedule.  Things can sneak up on me sometimes.  So, this year I got some help from my wife and marked my own calendar, for the whole year, with all kinds of reminders of important dates.
Of course it helps to not only look at the calendar but to study it.  For example I noticed that this month all the Sunday's dates are a multiple of seven.  Next month it will not be that way so I must think of some other trick for getting the calendar in my head so when I am away from it I still have a handle on it.  Funny how I can remember the words to hundreds of songs and hundreds of scripture passages but have a hard time recalling what date the second Tuesday of Feb. falls on.  I am always impressed when someone knows the answer just as readily as if they were looking at the calendar with both eyes!  I sometimes have to think about it to remember what day it is today!
The calendar is a living, breathing thing.  It changes each year.  It reflects the past centuries of traditions, occasional tinkering and, if we are truthful, is somewhat unwieldy, yet we all are either served by it, or tyrannized by it, depending on how we choose to relate to it.
The calendar is a thing of this world.  The very names of the days retain their pagan roots.  SUNday, MOONday, Tuesday (after the god Tyr), Wodensday (Odin), Thorsday (Thor), Friday (the goddess Frigga), SATURNday.
The months also bear witness to the pagan origins of our calendar.  Janus (roman deity with two faces), Februa, (Roman festival of purification), March (Mars the war god), April (Aprilis, the season of fertility), May (Maia goddess of growth), June (wife of Jupiter), August (emperor of Rome and claimant to deity).  The rest are simply Latin numbers.
It's enough to make you wonder why Christians did not develop and adopt an alternate calendar system rather than use one with so much pagan leftovers in it!  Yet, we do use it, and we use it effectively every day, to do good works.  It is a universally accepted tool of keeping track of time.  It helps us keep appointments, plan our work, keep track of anniversaries, and mark the amount of time we have spent alive on this planet.
Where am I going with this?  We must all live where we live.  We live in time.  We live here and now.  Let's make the most of our time.  Let's get to know it well.  Every month, every week, every day.  Let's "redeem the time for the days are evil".  Join me in working with this calendar thing to make this year count for the Lord Jesus Christ!
 "Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that the stuff life is made of."  Benjamin Franklin

 "What we love to do we find time to do."  John L. Spalding

"How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives."  Annie Dillard
and for balance.... "Half our life is spent trying to find something to do with the time we have rushed through life trying to save."  Will Rogers

How to Avoid Improvement

This has been running around in my head for some time. I thought I would go ahead and make a list of the ways we rob ourselves of life's best.  I hope God uses this to spark some positive changes in us all.
How to Avoid Improvement:

1. Always assume it is others who need to improve.
2. Maintain a “can’t do” attitude.
3. Gossip about others regularly.
4. Find those who will agree with you about everything and stick only with them.
5. Limit yourself to those tasks that you can do with ease.
6. Let everything “happen” to you.  Do not make any real choices.
7. Complain about how everything “happens” to you.
8. Harbor envy.
9. Trash your spouse to your friends.
10.  Assume that if another is successful, he must be crooked.
11.  Always make excuses for why you failed.
12.  Place “Murphy’s Laws” on your wall at home of the office and buy into that stuff.
13.  Never break out of your safety zone.
14.  Never break out of your comfort zone.
15.  Let criticism rule your life.
16.  Believe the worst about others.
17.  Believe most things are too difficult for you.
18.  Don’t read books.
19.  Do watch lots of TV.
20.  Do what you do for the money.
21.  Do what you do for the approval of others.
22.  Cheat when you can get away with it.
23.  Avoid physical exercise.
24.  Try to get by with the minimum effort.
25.  Say, “That’s not my job.”
26.  Believe you are special.
27.  Believe others owe you something.
28.  Accuse others of what you know, deep down in your heart, is true about your own self.
29.  Do not ask God “What can I do for your glory?”
30.  Do not ask others, “What can I do to help you?”
31.  Believe that life it supposed to be easy.
32.  Expect others to make your life easier.
33.  Get angry when others fail to make your life easy.
34.  Blame others with your own failures.
35.  Make sure you get credit for everything you do.
36.  Make others look bad when you can get away with it.
37.  Be cynical because being cynical is “cool”.
38.  Be emotionally invested in other people's failure.
39.  Be a taker.
40.  Whine a lot.
41.  Reject your elders’ counsel.
42.  Believe your elders are stupid, ignorant, or un-hip.
43.  Listen more to other losers than to winners.
44.  Trust your own emotions.
45.  Never apologize because you are never wrong.
46.  Hold a grudge because you believe it will actually hurt the other person more than it hurts yourself.
47.  Never become silent and submissive in the very presence of God.
48.  Make excuses for why you can’t do something
49.  Blame God for your depression.
50.  Believe that self promotion is a form of improvement.

 "A ship cannot move with yesterday's winds"  (Unknown)

 "What lies behind us and what lies before us are
small matters compared to what lies within us."
Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Imagination was given to man to compensate him for what he isn't.
A sense of humor was provided to console him for what he is."
Horace Walpole
 "Anything I've ever done that ultimately was worthwhile initially scared me to death."
Betty Bender

Good Sleep

I'm going to talk about something we all need...REST, in particular, sleep.
There must be a balance between the various activities we engage in.  Work and leisure must both be given space in our schedules or we can lose the edge in performance.  Failure to have enough to keep one busy can lead to idleness, laziness, and depression.  Not having enough time to rest, recreate, and reflect can leave one with the "law of diminishing returns" in that you end up working harder but achieving less and then crash into an unhealthy burned out state.
Doctors are still learning much from the study of sleep.  This mysterious unconscious state, though found in the animal kingdom, is of much greater importance in human beings.  Failure to get enough sleep can lead to any number of psychological disorders and, in extreme cases, can lead to early death!  It has always fascinated me that we are designed to lapse into a virtual comatose state for one third of each 24 hour day!  Either too much or too little sleep can be bad for one's sense of well being.  Taking rest in sleep is so very important that we should learn how to get the benefits God intends for it to provide.
The Bible teaches us some things about sleep.  There are examples of people who went through experiences that robbed them of their sleep.  There are instances where some purposefully stayed awake in order to pray and strengthen their walk with God. There are also some verses that teach us the secrets to getting a good night's sleep.
Here are some helps taken from scripture:
1. Perform some good, honest, physical work. (Physical exercise has many other benefits also)  Ecc. 5:12 "The sleep of a laboring man is sweet, whether he eat little or much: but the abundance of the rich will not suffer him to sleep."
2. Develop Trust in God (avoid worry)  Psa 4:8 “I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety.”
Pro 3:24 "When thou liest down, thou shalt not be afraid: yea, thou shalt lie down, and thy sleep shall be sweet."
Along with these two good spiritual lessons about sleep, there are some good common sense tips about how to get the benefit of sleep as well as make to most out of the day.
• Sleep only when sleepy.   This reduces the time you are awake in bed.
• If you can't fall asleep within 20 minutes, get up and do something boring until you feel sleepy.  I have some sermons on tape that might help.   :-)
• Don't take naps.  This will ensure you are tired at bedtime. If you just can't make it through the day without a nap, take a very short one but not after 3:00 P.M.
• If possible, get up and go to bed the same time every day.  Your body works better with a consistent routine.
• Refrain from strenuous exercise at least 4 hours before bedtime.
• Develop sleep rituals.  Listen to music, read, have a cup of caffeine free tea, do relaxing exercises.
• Don't stay in your bed for waking activities.  Associate the bed with sleep.
• Stay away from caffeine at least 4-6 hours before bed.
• Have a light snack before bedtime.
• Take a hot bath 90 minutes before bedtime.
• Make sure your bed and bedroom are quiet and comfortable.  Cooler temp is better for good sleep.
Remember, you can have too much of a good thing.  Sometimes the key to good sleep is to sleep less each night than the suggested "full eight hours".  Also, getting up early even on days off, rather than sleeping in and throwing ones body off cycle, may help avoid those frustrating times when it's bedtime and you just can't seem to get sleepy.
Finally, the best way I know to insure a good night's sleep is to fill the day with good works and a clear conscience.  Spiritual disciplines have many practical benefits that we can enjoy now and not have to wait for eternity!
 "I don't know what your destiny will be, but one thing I do know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve."  Albert Schweitzer

"A person will worship something, have no doubt about that. We may think our tribute is paid in secret in the dark recesses of our hearts, but it will out. That which dominates our imaginations and our thoughts will determine our lives, and our character. Therefore, it behooves us to be careful what we worship, for what we are worshipping we are becoming."  Ralph Waldo Emerson
 "I can think of nothing less pleasurable than a life devoted to pleasure."  John D. Rockefeller
 "Tell a man whose house is on fire to give a moderate alarm; tell him to moderately rescue his wife from the hands of the attacker; tell the mother to gradually extricate her babe from the fire into which it has fallen; but urge me not to use moderation."   William Lloyd Garrison