"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"
February 27, 2019
When is the last time that you really laughed? Not just a polite chuckle or half-hearted laugh or small smile; but a real, full, laugh out loud experience. Perhaps a belly laugh till you almost pee your pants; or a laugh so hard you snort; or one of those laughs where the hilarity is to the point where you can't stop giggling; or a roar of laughter that burst forth from deep inside.
The truth is, many of us have forgotten how to laugh. Our lives have become so hectic and stress-filled that we focus on our schedules and what needs to be done. We spend our time running here and there, working, taking care of family, running errands, church activities, and fill every moment of our day with some type of busyness. Fun is seen as an extra-curricular activity that can be done if there is nothing better to do or place we need to be. We end up taking life way too seriously and in the process have lost our joy.
There are proven health benefits to laughter. Here is a list: boosts immunity, lowers stress hormones, decreases pain, relaxes your muscles, prevents heart disease. There are also mental and social benefits to laughter: adds joy to life, eases anxiety and tension, relieves stress, improves mood, strengthens resilience, strengthens relationships, enhances teamwork, helps diffuse conflict.
Laughing maintains a healthy endothelium and reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, heart attack, and stroke. The American Heart Association recommends laughter for a healthy heart, adding that research shows that laughter promotes reduced artery inflammation and increased production of HDL, or "good" cholesterol.
The Mayo Clinic has an article regarding the benefits of laughter. Here is some information contained in that article: Laughter enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart, lungs, and muscles, and increases the endorphins that are released by your brain. A rollicking laughter fires up and then cools down your stress response, and it can increase your heart rate and blood pressure; which results in a good, relaxed feeing. Laughter can also stimulate circulation and aid muscle relaxation, both of which can help reduce some of the physical symptoms of stress. These are just some of the short-term benefits of laughter.
In that same article it also lists some of the long-term benefits of laughter: Negative thoughts manifest into chemical reactions that can affect your body by bringing more stress into your system and decreasing your immunity. In contrast, positive thoughts can actually release neuropeptides that help fight stress and potentially more-serious illnesses. Laughter can ease pain by causing the body to produce its own natural painkillers. Laughter can also make it easier to cope with difficult situations. Laughter can help lessen depression and anxiety and may make you feel happier.
Proverbs 17:22 (NLT) says, "A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person's strength." Another version say that a crushed spirit dries up the bones.
The Amplified Classic says, "A happy heart is good medicine and a cheerful mind works healing, but a broken spirit dries up the bones."
The Passion Translations says, "A joyful, cheerful heart brings healing to both body and soul. But the one whose heart is crushed struggles with sickness and depression."
The truth is, God created laughter and joy and I believe that He did so in order to keep us healthy of body, mind, soul, and spirit. A cheerful, happy, joyful heart is good medicine! That isn't someones theory, but it is scripture. So the scientific proven evidence that laughter has health benefits only verifies what is written in the Word of God.
Psalm 118:24 is a scripture that most of us are familiar with: "This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it." We can quote this scripture and sing the song, but do we truly put into practice rejoicing and being glad each day? You can't rejoice and be negative and depressed and unhappy; you just can't.
Rejoice means: feel or show great joy or delight. Glad means: pleased; delighted; grateful. So each day, which was created by and given to us by God, we are to feel or show great joy or delight; be pleased, delighted, and grateful! When you do so, then you will have a merry, happy heart filled with laughter and joy.
Honestly, I struggle with this. I become overwhelmed by life, busy, stressed, running from one place or thing to another, and focused on what I feel that I need to do or accomplish each day. I often put things on the calendar on my phone so that I can keep track of what I need to do for the week and not forget something. I have an agenda, and that agenda too often doesn't leave room for laughter and fun. My priority is to take care of those things that I have to do each day.
No wonder we have churches full of stressed, overwhelmed, frustrated christians! We have forgotten how to maintain joy and laughter and fun in our lives. We have forgotten how to "lie down in green pastures" and allow God to "restore our soul". We have forgotten how to "be still".
Isaiah 12:2-3 says, "See, God has come to save me. I will trust in Him and not be afraid. The Lord God is my strength and my song; He has given me victory. With joy you will drink deeply from the fountain (or wells or springs) of salvation."
John 7:38 says, "Whoever believes in Me, as the scripture has said, 'Streams of living water will flow from within him.'" Jesus is the living water that we are to drink.
When we drink the living water that can only comes from Jesus, then He flows forth from within us and overflow out of us. We can't just take an occasional sip, but need to drink deeply from Him. When we drink with joy, then we will experience the joy that comes from Him.
We can't have spiritual joy and it not overflow into our every day natural lives. Joy in the Lord will result in joy in every area of our lives. Laughter and smiles and giggles are a natural response to joy.
I believe that too often we forget that true joy is in the Lord, not in our circumstances. We tend to feel more joyful and happy if life is going great and we are healthy and being blessed. But when problems hit us square in the face, we allow them to dictate how we feel, instead of focusing on the Lord and allowing our joy to remain in Him.
Recently, Jon and I realized that our lives have become too serious, too stressed, too busy, and we had lost our laugh. Oh, we might chuckle occasionally, but not that deep-rooted, spontaneous laughter. In doing so, we had lost a lot of our joy. Not that we were unhappy or miserable, but we were not maintaining our joy.
Nehemiah 8:10 tells us that the joy of the Lord is our strength. If we lose our joy, we lose our strength! You can't be strong and not have joy.
So we began a journey to recovering and reconnecting to joy and laughter. Every night before going to sleep, we listen to clean, funny videos on YouTube. We laugh! And we have found that we sleep better and more restfully.
I used to hum and sing all the time, and discovered that somewhere along the line I have lost my song. Not that I don't sing occasionally, but not as I used to. There used to be a continuous song in my heart that would come out throughout the day through humming or singing. I've been trying to remember to sing or hum as I go through my day, and have found myself more peaceful and happy when I do so.
Sometimes we need to stop and ask ourselves when we lost our joy... when did we stop laughing... when did we stop having fun and enjoying life. Perhaps we need to ask why we lost it; what happened. Sometimes something may have happened that we had no control over and the loss of someone or something not only affected our life, but it stole our joy. But God never intends for anyone to live life without joy, although He understands loss and grief.
Psalm 30:5 tells us that weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning. Then Ecclesiastes 3:4 says there is "a time to cry and a time to laugh; a time to grieve and a time to dance." Sometimes we may need to ask God to restore our joy and our dance back to us. We are not to stay in a perpetual state of weeping and grief; but to enjoy times of dancing and being filled with joy.
Sometimes the lack of joy in our life may be due to us harboring unforgiveness in our heart, or holding onto bitterness, or allowing negativity to become a habit. If so, we need to first of all repent; then we need to choose to forgive, let go of bitterness, or change our thoughts and speech to rid ourselves of all negativity and criticism. When we do so, then the joy of the Lord can once again fill our lives.
If you are feeling weak, then do a check to see if you have lost your joy. If so, then take steps to restoration and allow the joy of the Lord to fill you once again. Find your song. Find your laughter. See what happens and how it changes your life when you do!
I think that often we feel that we have to be really serious about our faith; which we feel we need to manifest to others by being very solemn and somber. We do need to be very committed and sincere in honoring our relationship with Jesus; but it doesn't mean being joyless and serious.
One of the fruits of the Spirit is joy! (Galatians 5:22-23) Paul used "fruit" to help us understand the product of the Holy Spirit, who lives inside believers. As we grow, the characteristics of Christ should be manifested in our lives; and one of those fruits is joy. The presence of the fruits of the Spirit is evident that our character is becoming more like Jesus.
If joy is one of the fruits of the Spirit then we need to know that Jesus is filled with joy; and in order to be like Him, we too need to be filled with joy.
We tend to rely on television and movies for our humor. I can't say it's all bad, but honestly, that isn't typically the most wholesome source of entertainment.
There are a lot of good, clean, hilarious comedians worth watching.
It's good to know that we don't have to live boring lives to be devoted to God. We can, and should, enjoy our lives, and be grateful for what He has given us to enjoy.
Easy No-Bake Chocolate Oat Bars
1 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups rolled oats
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup dark chocolate chips
3/4 cup chunky peanut butter
Line a 8x8 inch baking pan with parchment paper and set aside. In a medium saucepan combine the butter, brown sugar, and vanilla. Heat over low heat until the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved. Ad the oats, cinnamon, and salt. Cook, stirring constantly, for 4 to 5 minutes. Pour half of the oat mixture into the prepared baking dish. Spread out the mixture evenly, pressing down. In a small microwave-safe bowl, combine the chocolate chips and the peanut butter. Heat on high in the microwave, in increments of 40 seconds, stirring in between each increment, until melted and fully combined. Pour most of the chocolate mixture into the pan over the pressed oats, reserving about about 1/4 cup for drizzling. Top with the remaining oats. Drizzle with the remaining 1/4 cup of chocolate mixture. Refrigerate for 4 hours, or until set. Cut into bars and enjoy.
Occasionally we have those blooper moments that are embarrassing at the time, but rather funny after the fact. I've had my share of such incidents!
Several years ago, we had a ladies' joy fellowship at our church. We had eaten and sung and had a speaker and it had been a fun evening. Afterwards, I stayed and was helping the lady in charge clean up. I didn't know her that well at the time, and we were visiting and getting to know one another better as we picked up and put things back in order. I bent over to pick something up, and very unexpectedly and with no warning I farted! Not just a tiny, silent lady-like toot.... but a full-blown one with some force behind it. What to do?!? It wasn't as if it hadn't been heard by her. So I laughed, embarrassedly, and said, "Oops!! Sorry about that!" She laughed and that was an ice-breaker that began of a very special friendship between the two of us. You never know what will begin a friendship; but beginning it with laughter is a good start!
God is who He says He is.
He can do what He says He can do.
He is faithful. - Christine Caine
We love you!
Loretta & Jon