The Quest for Real Happiness

Photo and artwork belong to

This is the continuation of an earlier post about a Bible study in which I’m facilitating and participating.

Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
~Matthew 5:8

The Comparison Trap:  Week Two, Day Three… Some of my reminders and my takeaways from the daily devotional include:

One of the biggest takeaways for me in today’s devotional is the photo above. The locked gate has two sides and two perspectives. Some of us might look at the closed gate and see that the lock keeps us from getting to the other side, but some of us might look at the closed gate and see that the lock keeps in what it’s meant to keep inside its bounds.

Which one do you see?
I hope you can see both.

With the ugliness in our culture and in our world, these are times when we need both sides of that gate to exist. The challenge with the gate is in finding our purpose, our joy and our happiness within the confines and within the freedoms the gate might offer. It can seem like an elusive search.

In today’s verse, the word blessed can also be translated as happy. This isn’t just your “chocolate makes me happy” kind of happy; it’s much more.

It’s the most supreme happiness.

Strong’s Definitions defines the original word makários (from the Greek word μακάριος) as supremely blest. If you go to Blue Letter Bible, you’ll see that Vine’s Expository Dictionary defines the same word as the nature of that which is the highest good. This is a pretty special word, and it means a pretty special way of being blessed.

These are the people who will see God.
These are the people who will behold Him.

The first qualifier to being blessed this much is being one who has put their faith in Christ’s finished work on the cross. Without this, there is no blessing. With this, we can know the eternal blessing of forever being in His presence, but we can also learn to fully experience His blessings and presence on this side of eternity. We will find a special happiness when we do.

Whaaaat? When? It can sound pretty big, but it’s something every Christian with a personal relationship with Jesus wants to have happen to them. I know I’ll walk in His presence someday, but I’m working toward that dwelling place right here on this earth and in this lifetime. It is possible to achieve a truly happy version of that right now.

Do you know that?
Are you working toward that?
Do you live a version of that now?

Above all else, guard your heart,
for everything you do flows from it.
~Proverbs 4:23

For the purposes of this study and where we are in walking through the Comparison Trap, it’s about ridding ourselves—as best as we can—of the temptations and comparisons all around us. Doing so as a follower of Jesus will allow us to start to have a pure heart… one pure enough to allow “us to recognize God’s gifts, to discern his will, [and] to feel his nudging.”

Sandra Stanley closes today’s devotional with a sample prayer. Do more than just repeat the words… approach them with a purely guarded heart:

“Heavenly Father, I so very much want a pure heart. I commit today to doing the work it takes to clean out the comparison and other temptations that make it harder to see you and your will for me.”

When we start to figure all of this out, we’ll see that the locked gate provides us some guarded protection in this life by keeping out what will keep us from being pure AND by keeping in all He wants us to know in order to be supremely blessed by knowing, feeling and walking in His presence.






Finding Hope in the Passing and Gaining of Time

Clock.TimeGainedThe clock ticks. Time passes.

It sits on the shelf in my library. I never wanted a formal living room — I just didn’t see the need for one. I like turning the pages of books, and we had all collected quite a few over the years, so we set a goal to — one day — make that barren room a library. Today it is…rolling ladder, hourglass, floor globe, classics and all.

The ticking of the clock takes me to thoughts, experiences, cultures, worlds and places I might never visit. Time passes, but it does so in a different dimension.

The hands on the clock move, and the sugar-white grains of sand flow through the bulb of the hourglass. I’m getting older, but time doesn’t seem to be passing by and running out. Time seems to be passing by and gaining.

How can that be?

I know…sounds crazy, but it isn’t. If I reflect back on my life a decade ago, there never seemed to be enough time. …never enough time to finish what needed to be done, therefore, there was very little time left over to take on what I might have wanted to have done.

Life changes. Is there less to do today? Is there less to finish now, a decade later?

No. If I answer that honestly, there are probably even more things on the plate of life.
…more to finish,
…more that needs to be done,
…more that I wish to experience
…more that I want to have done.

Blessings. They fill the plate. Even with all the things on the plate, blessings heap it high and pile over the sides.

The mundane items,
the “needs to be done” items,
the “have to do it now” items…
…they share space on that plate with the “want to do it” items,
the “I can’t wait to do it” items,
and the “what a blessing” items.

Visible — some more than others — are also the “I don’t want to deal with this” items and the “really, God?” items.

It’s a jumbled smorgasbord.

That plate, though, is seasoned with wisdom. It’s garnished with discernment. It sits on a charger of faith, and it is seated at a place setting of blessings.

…and those blessings? Time taken to recognize them, to appreciate them and to give thanks for them seems to slow down the ticking of that clock on the shelf.

How can that be?

My youngest just celebrated a teenaged birthday that places him at the point of straddling youth and manhood in one spot? I see it in his body, in his mind and in his choices. How can that be? Where has time gone? Has it been lost to who he was when I held him, nursed him and comforted him? Or, has it been gained when I take a moment to realize who he is becoming, and when I see — right before my eyes — a glorious glimpse of what his future may hold?

Time used to mean yesterday, today, tomorrow, next week, next month or next year. Time is still all of those things, but, these days, it’s also the decades ago, the yesterdays, the challenges, the memories, the hurts, the healings, the smiles, and the heartaches. It’s also the hopes, the dreams and the eternity that is yet to come.

Time doesn’t stand still, but time has come to mean breathing in and breathing out in an attitude of opportunity. Time has been multiplied through knowing it all has a season of worthiness…something to be gained, something to be grabbed hold of, something to be worked for good.

Time is gained when we live a life appreciating the blessings.
Time is gained when we live a life learning from our challenges.
Time is gained when we live a life with expectant hope of what is to come.

The clock ticks. The hands move. Time passes. Time is gained.


The Gratefulness Elixir


I’ve been sick for the last few days. There’s nothing like a quick-onset illness to stop one in their tracks.

I coughed a few times while getting settled for bed on Monday night. On Tuesday morning, I wasn’t feeling quite myself when I was getting ready to head to my women’s Bible study. I needed to drop something off at my daughter’s place after the study was over, and I realized on my drive home that my body wasn’t quite right.

When I walked into the house, I immediately went to the freezer to get a couple of quarts of homemade, concentrated chicken broth. I chopped two enormous sweet onions, a dozen carrots, a head of celery, and I quick-defrosted a pound of chicken breasts. It all went into a soup pot with some garlic and salt to start my elixir. (I added lots of kale, chard and spinach later.)

By the time my prep was done, I knew there would be no stopping whatever ailment was overtaking me — chills were beginning to set in. I felt a sense of immediacy about getting a few things done, as the last time I had this feeling, I wasn’t myself again until six weeks later.

Thankfully, I am coming out of this one much faster. Being sick is never fun, but it does present us with opportunities to appreciate, reflect, pray and ponder.

My guys were all here to take care of me. They brought me glass after glass of icy water with a lime slice, they kept the house quiet for me, and they made me what little food I felt like eating whenever I asked for it. I’m grateful for my family.

My pup provided me with her always-unconditional love, not wanting to leave my bed or my side when I managed to make it out to the sofa in the family room. It also seemed like one of the cats wanted more attention from me during my downtime. The personality contrasts between the “let me just be near you” from the dog and the “puh-lease just scratch me more and more” from the cat are startling, but it made me realize I was calling on my family to take care of me during this time in the same way the cat was calling on me to rub him more than usual. I’m grateful for the pets.

Although not often, I was on the computer to check email and social media. A number of friends and family members sent me messages or texts to check in, sent well-wishes or sent their prayers. I’m grateful for my friends.

I wasn’t able to attend my mid-week Bible study, but I still felt alert enough to spend some time in the Word and work on some study homework. I’m grateful for the desire to know Him more.

There are always blessings around us. When the busyness has to stop or slow down due to an unexpected illness, circumstance or bump in the road, there are still reasons to be thankful.

Chicken soup can be a wonderful elixir, but so can gratefulness.


Finding Hope in His Blessings

Numbers 6.24-26.COMPRESSED

My pastor is taking us through the book of Numbers in the Bible. I know…, right…? Numbers…

I thought the same thing when he told us which book would be next after we finished Leviticus—a great book exalting His holiness and communicating His call for us to also be holy. To my pastor’s credit, he jokingly acknowledged that the book of Numbers isn’t typically considered one of the most exciting books of the Bible.

I know I’ve read through the book (ok, skimmed…) at one time or another, but it’s not a book I’ve ever given any time to deep study as a whole. I recently did go through parts of it while doing a study on the tabernacle, and I learned a few amazing things from Numbers in that study which I had never known. With the exception of the pieces I studied, I think my overall impression of Numbers was that it was…, dare I say it? …boring?

I no longer think that way about the book. We’re just a few chapters into it, and, as we wrap up one week’s lesson, I can hardly wait until next week’s lesson gets here.

I want to take you to one section of Numbers and just share a few verses with you. Chances are, it’s a passage you’ve probably heard at one time or another…in a church at the end of a service, at the end of a wedding, perhaps even at a funeral.

Numbers 6:24-26 says,

“The LORD bless you and keep you;
The LORD make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;
The LORD lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.”

Sound familiar? To me, too!

I grew up in a very small town in central Pennsylvania. My parents attended a Presbyterian church there, so I did, too. Each Sunday at the close of the service, our pastor—clothed in a rustic grayish-white robe tied with a bold cord—would raise his hands, stand before us and recite these words before walking down the steps from the chancel, down the aisle of the church and out to the lobby to greet each church member before they made their way home.

I like familiarity, so when my current pastor read these words, memories of church as a child just flooded back. I could see my childhood pastor with his salt-and-pepper beard wearing that robe saying these words to us. He said them every week, and it became a ritual I expected to hear.

Perhaps, some time in the future, we can dig into the deepest of meanings of this blessing, but, for now, I just want to share a few things with you based upon my initial feelings on the surface of this passage… no study, no word origins, no commentary…just how it speaks to me and quickly captures my thoughts as I read it without studying the depth of it yet…

First, this blessing is FROM GOD and it was given by the LORD to Moses for Moses to share with Aaron and his sons to bless the Israelites throughout the generations to come.

“The LORD bless you and keep you”:  Remember, the LORD spoke these words, so when the words were to be conveyed to His people, the words were spoken through the priests, but they were directly from God. This verse tells me He is saying He is here to walk with me, to kneel beside me to serve me, and to be with me as I walk with Him and serve Him.

“The LORD make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you;”:  This verse tells me that HE has every intention of illuminating my life with His gracious and blessed presence, walking with me as I walk, and offering me his grace-filled forgiveness.

“The LORD lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace.”:  This verse tells me that not only is He going to do everything he’s already said he’s going to do in the previous two verses, but He’s going to watch me, give me his personal attention and—through whatever I have to go through—He’s going to give me His peace with it.

What awes me about our God, is how He plants seeds in our lives and then
tends to those seeds,
waters those seeds,
nurtures those seeds,
breathes life into those seeds and
grows those seeds.
He then watches those seeds sprout, helps them to bear fruit and takes care of every detail necessary for the seeds to reproduce in abundance for the future.

YOU are that seed! I am that seed!

Despite times of drought, poor soil conditions, hibernation and a failure to produce on our part, He still ALWAYS does His part for those who love Him. He doesn’t let His children go despite our foolish efforts or stubbornness in relation to our obedience to Him. And, when we do mess up or when He does allow us to be tested through trials, He promises us over and over again in His Word that our good and His glory are capable of coming from all of it.

It’s no coincidence I am sitting in a church in the todays studying these words, recalling times from the years-ago yesterdays when the words were planted into me, and walking through a life where His promises and His blessings are carrying me through the tumultuous trials, yet still revealing His amazing grace through it all.

There are no coincidences. I’m seeing another seed sprouting from His Word. Praise be to Him!


Monday’s Musings–Fallen Leaves

Fall Leaves - Copy

It’s a breezy day today where I live. As I’m working at my desk, leaves are fluttering in the air and blowing across the yard and the meadows. It’s nice to not have to rake those leaves into neat piles or gather them to dispose of them elsewhere.

I often wish the challenges of life could just blow away like the leaves, but instead, they usually have to be dealt with directly. The leaves are dead, but challenges can bring us a life-giving perspective when we learn from them and see the possibilities about how they can be worked for our good.

If a challenge has been permitted in my life, I know—in faith—that He intends to use it for my good and for His good. I also know—in faith—that blessings will be found.

Something to ponder on a blustery, fall day…