Tag Archives: Joy

Fake It to Make It

“Turn that frown upside down.”

How many times have you not felt like smiling, you were mad, vexed, disturbed, sad … ? You just didn’t want to smile. You were NOT happy. But you gritted your teeth and forced a smile. Is it helpful? Will forcing such an expression help your mood? Can you fake yourself to happiness?

A study, led by Nicholas Coles of Stanford, was published recently in the journal Nature Human Behavior that is titled “A multi-lab test of the facial feedback hypothesis by the Many Smiles Collaboration” looks at just such a question, “Will faking a smile make you happier?”

“Will faking a smile make you happier?”

In a nutshell – the answer is yes! in their words … smiling more or frowning less—can help manage distress, improve well-being and reduce depression. WOW. So I truly need to smile more.

Now in all frankness (whoever Frank is?), they do say they don’t really know why smiling more helps your mood. They put forth several possibilities … a subconscious mind game … the interaction with others (you smiling prompts others to respond with positive mood, which in return gives you a better mood and so on the circle goes) … a biologic stimulation they couldn’t discern. In the end, they said it helps but they just don’t know why.

True Joy is from the Lord

Now I am all for positive mood vibes. They are much better than the put-down, depressed, angry, critical moods we see so often today. In the words of those famous theologians – All we need is love! Love is All we need! That’s some positive mojo.

And when you want real joy, lasting joy, true contentment, even in a mad, mad, mad world – it is found n something bigger than the world – something beyond the world. More specifically, it is found in Someone. Jesus.

The Joy of the Lord is my strength. Ii will lift my eyes, where my strength comes from.

If we fix our eyes on Jesus – who for JOY paid the price for our messiness and sin …
If we remain in Him – who loved us and gave His life for us …
If we return to Him with humility and transparency – the One who can create in us a new heart …

The we are at the right place to restore the JOY of our salvation, to be upheld by His willing spirit.

He will turn our frown upside down.

So go ahead, SMILE! You’ve got a reason to. You are loved by God. So all we need is love, His love! That should put a smile on any face!

Wonder & Amazement

This time of year is full of wonder and amazement. We are in awe of the lights, the huge displays, the smiles on children’s faces. As I grew, I wondered about the magic of Santa …

  • How does Santa get all around the world in one night?
  • What does he do if there is no chimney? I have a gas supplied fireplace with no chute. Does he come in through the gas line?
  • Do reindeer need fairy or pixie dust to fly? Does Rudolph’s nose ever stop?
  • Why doesn’t the grinch wear pants?

These were just some of the questions my mind wondered about. As I look at the Bible, I see even then, 2000 years ago, there was a lot of questions …

  • How could Elizabeth, being so old, have a kid? And how could Mary have a kid, having never (you know)?
  • And did Simeon wonder how much longer before he saw the messiah?
  • Did worshippers wonder about Anna’s excited praise about a redeemer?
  • What went through the shepherds’ minds when they first saw the Angel?
  • And what did Joseph’s parents think about the new daughter-in-law?

Lots to wonder about. But in reality, most of us don’t think about these things. We have pressing issues to wonder about …

  • Will I get the right presents for the kids? Will I get what I want, or need? How are we going to afford all this?
  • Should I travel to see the kids? Should we do Christmas virtual?
  • What if I get covid? Or worse, what if my elderly mother gets it?
  • What are the real benefits or side effects of the vaccine?
  • What if I lose my job?
  • Will 2021 be worse than 2020?

Life is full of wonder, lots of questions, and some of them don’t lead our mind down a healthy path. Over a thousand years before the first Christmas, there was a poet, a warrior, a young shepherd (or maybe he was an old king by then) that had these type of questions too. But he also had an even stronger confidence in the one who was stronger than anything this world could throw at him. His confidence was in a God who loved him, protected him, and guided him.

In the 27th Psalm, he shares these questions and shares the answer. And he also shares his response …

The LORD is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?

When evildoers assail me
to eat up my flesh,
my adversaries and foes,
it is they who stumble and fall.
Though an army encamp against me,
my heart shall not fear;
though war arise against me,
yet I will be confident.
One thing have I asked of the LORD,
that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD

and to inquire in his temple.
For he will hide me in his shelter
in the day of trouble;
he will conceal me under the cover of his tent;
he will lift me high upon a rock.
And now my head shall be lifted up
above my enemies all around me,
and I will offer in his tent
sacrifices with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make melody to the LORD

Our light … giving guidance and wisdom. I will follow his path.

Our salvation … physical and spiritual deliverance and protection. I will trust his power.

Our passion … to seek His presence, to dwell there and be in awe and wonder of his glory, radiance, and beauty.

Our praise … I will worship him with shouts of joy.

This season, don’t miss the joy, don’t miss the presence. He is Immanuel, God with us!

Joy to the world, the Lord has came. And that is the answer to all our questions! He is Lord.

Joyful > Seriousness

To those who read my blog, I thank you. And you personally know the wonderful nuggets of wisdom, deep theological truths, and powerful practical insights that are posted with every – single – post. (Typed in jest, some days I look back and scratch my head as to what was I thinking, lol.) But this week, something became evident.

People are starving for joy, gleefulness, light hearted humor and positive posturing.

Oh, we may not be able to turn away from viewing the mayhem and madness and our attention may be drawn to the wreckage and disaster; but I really believe we want the good news, we need the good news, we are starving for the good news. Maybe that’s why SGN: Some Good News with John Krasinski was such a big hit.

So this week, I posted a pic online. And it got multiple shares, quite a conversation in the response section, and an overall tremendous and positive reception. To be fair, I ripped it from someone who I am sure did not create himself either.

Maybe that’s why Christmas is such a positive time … it’s good news. In the middle of our normal life of doldrums, madness, or winter blues, we get good news.

Can you imagine Joseph’s life here? You’re engaged to a beautiful woman. You’re planning a life together, building a house to grow a family, and filled with the anticipation of what the future beholds … and all that comes crashing down.

But bad news came … She gets pregnant, and it’s not yours. She tries to explain with a unimaginable story … right, like that ain’t gonna change your mind to what you think happened. Your future is destroyed. Your dreams lay in a shattered pile before you that just reminds you of the betrayal, pain, and heartache. You plan to be kind, so you are going to break it off gently and privately. You just want the hurt and the pain to go away – to make the madness end.

And then, a dream, a vision … an angelic message that what she shared with you is real, is true, is a God-thing. You still have to adjust, have to change your plans forever.

But can you imagine how the good news was received by Joseph. No longer dwelling on the wreckage but the positive. A joy and satisfaction that overwrites the hurt and sadness.

The tough part for Joseph was figuring out how to tell others so they would understand. Who would believe him anyway? In spite of it all, he now had Mary to share that joy with. For the joy she knew from what God was doing and going to do through the child within her was now shared with the one closest to here … Joseph.

Don’t focus on the madness, but focus on the Messiah. Look past the Coronavirus and see the Christ.

Good news and sharing the joy of the good news with friends and family – what a great part of Christmas. This Christmas, be joyful to share with family your time, your love, and God’s great hope through Jesus. And as serious as that is, it’s also great joy.

Joy to the world, the Lord has come.

It’s the Most Loneliest Time of the Year, but Only for a While

For many, this is a time of joy, celebration and exaltation. For others, it’s a reminder of how lonely they are.

My mother called yesterday. I call her regularly, but she reached out this time. And through the normal chitchat and catch up, she was obviously in a deep struggle with loneliness and depression. Tears were muffled as she expressed her emptiness from the loss of her husband a while back, and her first husband (my father) decades ago. She talked of those in her retirement home that were sick and how she continues to be isolated and almost forced to shelter in her room 24 hours a day. She is not an isolated case. Thousands upon thousands remain in this type of forced quarantine.

She does have her phone, and she uses it. But there are many who don’t have family to call, don’t have friends to connect with, don’t have a support group to talk to as they trek through this journey.

I know this is a repeated conversation, but it got me to thinking of one young girl 2000 years ago who also was isolated.

Pregnant outside of marriage – a cultural taboo that could’ve cost her her life – but this pregnancy wasn’t her doing. Her fiancée almost dumped her, and would’ve had God not intervened. Her family sent her away to be with someone. Her being “with child” placed her into a type of social quarantine.

And when her betrothed and her had to travel, they did it alone to a tiny village. And upon arrival, they couldn’t even find a room to stay in … and this was in a culture that emphasized hospitality.

Isolated in a stable, or maybe even a grotto (cave) for animals, she gave birth. Accompanied only by her now husband, she brought forth a child.

Another reason for her isolation was knowing how special this child was and not really being able to share it. Divinely conceived with a destiny beyond what she could even comprehend … this young girl truly carried a great emotional and spiritual weight upon her.

And then there were shepherds, also people who live in a type of isolation. That is unless you count the hundreds of wooly, four-legged creatures. Working the graveyard shift away from town and away from social interaction. Not an easy life.

But this young girl, and these scruffy sheep herders, had their isolated little lives interrupted by the supernatural event of the Creator of, well of everything. The Lord God Almighty emerged into human form in the form of a tiny baby, the Christ child.

No isolation, no quarantine, no social outcasting can stop the joy of knowing Jesus. I know we were created as relational beings, needing companionship, but that should never take away from finding the hope, peace, joy and love of knowing Jesus.

So this Christmas, take some time to reach out to someone that just might need a virtual hug. Give a call, send a card, let them know they are not alone.

And this Christmas, I hope you know the real reason for joy … His name is Jesus.

Post Script

Here is a cool activity down at an Ohio nursing home. Idea brought laughter all across our nation.

See the video here.

People are Happy and Really Hurting

There are so many joyous things in this world. Things that bring smiles, elicit laughter and make one feel the warmth of the goodness in the world.

New born life (My son became an uncle. My youth pastor’s wife had her child.) Job promotions. A kiss from ones’ wife first thing in the morning. Families reunited. New car. The wonderful view from the top of a mountain after a grueling hike. Yes, life can hold some fantastic moments on our journey.

Baby Detwiler, my wedding, dancing at sons wedding, top of Old Rag Mountain, aunt Tiff, me at McAfee Knob, my favorite breakfast partner

But life can also hold some very hard moments. Moments that tear our guts apart and draw tears of pain from our eyes. Yes, there are the global events happening – the loss of life due to violence, COVID, the agony from the death of George Floyd and a nation being torn apart.

But I’m really touching on more with the hurt that crosses my path personally. Family members who’ve lost jobs during this quarantine, rebellious children (and parents), watching one continue to struggle with critical illnesses, hearing my mother’s trembling voice as she is lonely-isolated-scared in her now over 10 weeks lock down at the retirement home, and more.

Recently, I sat with a friend at the local diner. He was holding back tears … overwhelming struggles … family, health, finances, job demands, family (I said it twice for it was lots of family issues), and more.

My joking personality couldn’t smooth this one. And my pastoral instincts knew better than giving trite answers. He wanted to escape, find peace, and mercy. We sat in silence.

What does one do? What can one say?

We sat in silence.

We got up. We moved on to start our daily grind. And then we did something that does make a difference. We prayed. I don’t know the answers, but God does. So we went to the One who can help.

Peace does not come from your distance from trouble, but rather from the nearness of your Savior.

Paul David Tripp

So no matter what you’re going through, take it to Him. He cares for you.

And today, maybe find someone to encourage. Even if it is just sitting in silence at a coffee shop.

Where’s All The Joy Gone?

Have you ever had one of those days? weeks? Maybe even years? You know what I’m talking about – demands at work are piling up, school assignments are past due, your body feels empty of energy, people keep pushing your buttons – or worse, it seems nobody cares. You feel worthless and abandoned – all alone.

Your joy seems to have left the building. But even more, he has gotten in his car, drove off, and texted he is not coming back. This is not a long story, nor one of my whimsically and masterfully crafted narratives – it is a simple reminder.

You can focus on your problems and bathe in those feelings – or you can look fresh into the depths of God’s Grace.

The truth – you’re messed up, life can be hard, and people will disappoint. But we have a God who allows second chances, who gives us the breaths in our lungs anew every morning, and keeps his promises … promises like His presence – no matter where life takes us, His love – no matter what mess we pile on our life, and that He will work it all out – no matter how dark it seems. Granted, it may not be the way you want, or worked out even in this lifetime. But, He will always be there, always love you, and always work it out for good – always.

The truth – Our God is full of steadfast love and forever faithful.

So, look towards Him, get back under His fountain of grace. Let the showers of His simple and undeserved blessings, the reminder of His promises, and the realization of His faithfulness … let His grace, His love, and His mercy … let the renew, excite, enliven, and encourage. May He fan the flames of joy once again – and May you be filled with courage to face the mess and not lose heart.

Maybe it will also brings enough joy and courage that you can share that fountain of grace. Bring someone into your shower – your shower of blessings that is.

Where’s the joy gone? It’s still there, we’ve just gotten away from it ourselves. Get back to the source – get back to the basics of God.’s love and grace. You’ll find joy there. That’s where I want to be too! Will you join me?

Seasons … Which one Are You In?

As we wrap up this year, well, this decade, I shared with some yesterday about seasons. Living in a community surrounded by farmers, they grasp the reality and the importance of knowing seasons. But seasons are more than just weather related. We go through seasons of life too. Dry seasons, stormy seasons, seasons of deluge, and fruitful seasons are just some on the list.

Ecclesiastes has its well known passage that there is a time or season for everything. The Byrds made it a number one hit in their 1965 recording of Turn!Turn!Turn!

But the word in Hebrew doesn’t directly mean weather season, it means an appointed time, or place. Life isn’t always rainbows and butterflies. God allows us to go through tough seasons. And He uses those to teach us. I am not sure what type of season you’re in, so I want to share some of what I gleaned studying the different times of our lives. Since God created and uses seasons (Genesis 1 and elsewhere), we can find joy and purpose in each season of life.

Embrace the Winter … use it as a time to deepen your roots, to prepare for what’s next, to strengthen your trust. I love these words from the Hillsong tune, Seasons.

Though the winter is long even richer … the harvest it brings
If your not done working, God I’m not done waiting

Spring Forward … plant the seeds, invest in new grounds, enlarge your borders, embrace the excitement of life. Maybe even use this time for spring cleaning. Get rid of what you don’t need.

Invest in the Summer … as JFK said, the time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining. Don’t wait for winter or rainy season, that will be too late. Use summer to enhance the work in which you are involved. Get that barn all ready for the harvest and get the crop ready.

Work the Fall … this is harvest season! There are major responsibilities and limited time. Fruit may be character, ministries, evangelism, and so many other things that ‘fruit’ can mean. God gives opportunities and sometimes those opportunities have a limited time span. As many say ‘you snooze you lose’.

You want to know how to survive the seasons? Psalm 1 shows us the rules … be like a tree planted (solidly rooted) by the streams of water (consistently fed) that yields its fruit in season (not perpetually, but in the right time after being fed and pruned) and its leaf does not wither, and in all that he does, he prospers (grows in maturity).

So, no matter what season 2019 leaves you in, you can know God is still at work. Find joy in that and pray for great harvest in 2020. But if you pray for that, be prepared to put in the work.

Baby It’s Cold Outside

Some songs have journeys that are amazing. Such is the case for Baby, It’s Cold Outside.

This song has had some really big highs and some really big lows. Written in 1944 by Broadway legend Frank Loesser, the original intent would surprise people. It was written to be sung at their housewarming party as the last song – to indicate to guests it was time for them to leave. It became so delightfully welcomed that it turned into a parlor favorite. And Loesser and his wife, Lynn Garland, became quite popular.

Four years later, he solid the rights to MGM. This was not something that his wife approved of. She told many she was furious, as if her husband cheated on her. But MGM used it and in 1949, the song won an Academy Award for Best Original Song.

Greats like Pearl Bailey, Ella Fitzgerald, Dinah Shore, Louis Armstrong, Dean Martin, Bette Miller, Vanessa Williams, Lee Ann Womack, Natalie Cole, Christian Aguilera, Lady Gaga, Amy Grant and so many more have recorded it. Rod Stewart recorded it with Dolly Parton. I still am trying to picture that in my brain but it just doesn’t come together.

Then something happened … a new century, a new outlook, and a new culture has turned the song into a target for the #MeToo movement. Some of the song’s lines have been considered predatory, they even claim it is all about date rape. The daughter of the original author blames this backlash on Bill Cosby. She also said her father would be furious for people to take it with such an intent of maliciousness. It was to be fun. Oh well.

So now, some radio stations and stream services are banning the song. From a party favorite, to Oscar winner, to recordings by greats, to anathema of society.

John Legend rewrote the lyrics to change the questionable lines. He and Kelly Clarkson recorded it. And the family still gets appropriate revenue. It was about taking a delightful tune, keep its fun spirit, make it inoffensive, and keep the song alive. He says he did it not to be preachy but for it to be fun.

Yet, the furor continues. Both sides of the issue seem to be unhappy. I truly think in today’s world, nobody ever seems to be happy.

Happiness is fickle … just like the weather. Fortunately my happiness, my joy, does not reside in circumstances but in the truth that God loves me and is for me. This season reminds me of that so much. It may be cold outside, but there is a baby that came to bring joy … Joy to the world, the Lord has come.

I’ve Waited for This … the Newest iPhone

I watched the Apple Event. I fiddled with my cracked, scarred, and beat up iPhone 6 as I watched. I pondered if my present phone was jealous … or elated that he could finally be put to rest.

And I enjoyed the presentation for the 11. But what was it about the 11 Pro that drew me to her. (Why is it that I refer to my present phone – broken and botched – as a he, and the one I desire as a she?)

So, the 11 Pro has the camera with telescopic options, the stronger glass, and a sweet nighttime green. A green that makes me green (See what I did there?) But is it worth the $400 additional cost? I am thrilled Apple has lowered the new entry phones cost. Though it doesn’t have enough memory for me.

Decisions. Decisions.

Desires. Wants. Needs.

For you it may not be the phone. It may be a car, a new outfit, shoes, vacay, or __________? You fill in the blank. It will make us better, more satisfied, and more appreciated by others as they notice our newest acquisition. Or will it?

In a few years, or months, the next big thing will come along. The not too long ago viewed shiny bauble of an iPhone 6 is now ready to be laid aside. And yes, I held on to it way too long. Though some of my friends here still are hanging on to their iPhone 4! But the point is we often exchange the joy of the Lord for the faux gold of the world. We desire, collect, and cherish piles of ‘things’ that will eventually leave us unsatisfied, and in the end, emptier than when we begun.

But there is something greater, something which is to be sought after, something to search for and to enjoy without it ever losing its luster. It is all that which the Lord provides.

As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.

In the words of some wise men, the chief end of man is glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

I will get the new iPhone, maybe not the extreme edition; but I need a new phone.

But may my heart, and yours, forever find satisfaction only in the Creator, not the created.

Paper Airplanes in Worship

Being a preacher’s kid, church services as a kid were often … underwhelming. It wasn’t the worships themselves, it was the fact I was a kid that got easily distracted. Plus, I had to listen to that preacher all week long (not complaining dad, just saying). So I looked for things to keep my attention. Read the hymnals. Look at pictures in my Bible. Read a book. Crawl under the pews. Pass notes … ad infinitum.

But a new one happened this week. And I am the preacher now. One would think I saw it take place. But I didn’t and I don’t know how I missed it. Things happen all the time and I just normally keep going. But I wished I had seen this.

Sometime during the sermon, paper airplanes were being thrown up into the sound booth. The sound booth is a separate entry, balcony type nook that overlooks our sanctuary. And Sunday, my wife was doing her once a month rotation on the board. One. Two. And a few more planes came soaring into the booth. And if that wasn’t enough … a young lad was sent up to retrieve the planes. Then the process started all over again.

I laughed with the parent of the child later that day … but they quickly investigated and discovered her child was just the retrieval device. An adult was at the center of this aerial crime spree as chief instigator and motivator.

Hilarious happenings occur every week. Sometimes it’s me blundering on stage. But very often, very often it’s in the pews … and I love it. So, a few personal thoughts on worship … from the mind of one who is a bit weird anyway …

  • I am so glad people come to worship. In a world of internet, streaming, Facebook live, and so on, it thrills me people gather. There are so many reasons gathering is better than alone on a couch while watching a preacher. But I am just glad people are there. Not for me, far better preaching is online, but for the family of God to be together.
  • I want people to feel comfortable and welcomed. Okay, maybe not throw planes at the preacher while he preaches, but I want people to know they can be themselves when they are here. I declared 4th Sundays as Jean Sundays as a way to say it’s not about attire. However, one kid asked if we could have a pajama Sunday. They do it at schools, and why not at church. You should’ve seen the face of the parent when she saw I was considering it.
  • I want people to realize it’s also about celebration and praise of our great God. Worship should be filled with smiles, wonder, joy, and a sense of anticipation … “What’s God gonna to do today?” Nothing is more of a downer than seeing people, God’s people, who should be the happiest, friendliest, most excited people … seeing them sit around around grumpy, frumpy, and looking like their face would crack if they ever tried to smile.
  • And I want people it realize it is also about reverence as well. This is a time to come boldly before God. A time to hear what He desires for us to hear. To respect His glory. To be thankful for all He has done. This can still be done while also doing the first three. I know it’s hard. But it helps me get more out of all of it when I do all four.

Kids moving around … no problem. ‘Amens’ … happy for it. ‘Preach it’ shouted out … just spurs me on. Crying kids … I’d rather them know they are welcome no matter. No embarrassment on my part. Watching the train outside the window … I want to as well. Services are to be lively places … and life is messy. Worships will be messy too. So join me, or head to your fav place this weekend. Real people wanted.

Have a blessed week and read the Bible as much as you read the blogs.

Todd … that’s Todd the PK, Todd the restless, Todd the paper airplane thrower, and Todd the worshipper … all one person.