I've been thinking a lot lately about the importance of keeping a cheerful heart regardless of all that we may be dealing with in life. My thoughts are all over the place, but I hope to corral them and write a coherent post.
One of the character flaws in my own life that I pray about regularly is a tendency to be negative. With God's help, I've come a very long way in this area, but I still keep it before the Lord on a regular basis.
My scanner would not scan the entire page from my prayer journal, for whatever reason, but you get the idea. Although I do have a natural tendency to be negative, I am so thankful that God is changing me from the inside out and inclining me to keep a cheerful heart regardless of circumstances.
Lately I have read some very encouraging thoughts that others have shared. Abby at Little Birdie Blessings wrote, "Our life circumstances don't have to decide for us if we are going to have a cheerful outlook. I choose to look for my blessings each day. Family that loves me, my home, my church, snuggling with my grandchildren, flowers in the garden, a friend dropping by. If your trials are consuming you, ask God to help you rise above them. He may not take them away, but He'll help you get through them. He's there for you, just reach out and He'll give you inner peace which in turn will show a cheerful countenance."
The daily news can be terrifying, but I can consider it in the light of
God's sovereignty and know that He is working all things after the
counsel of His own will. (I also don't watch or listen to mainstream
news, preferring to follow the injunction of God's Word to think on what
is true [Philippians 4:8].) I have been thinking since Day 1 of this "pandemic" that in spite of all that is happening around us, our children and grandchildren need to see us keeping a cheerful heart and remaining unafraid as we trust in God.
Sarah Beals wrote this on Instagram: "Cultivating beauty is an act of defiance in a world that fixates on strife, violence and hate.
even small acts of beauty,
in the form of a bouquet of flowers, a line of verse, a beautiful painting, delicate lace curtains, tea in a crackly, glazed chintz patterned cup, a sunset walk,
slow us down and remind us that there is more to this life than the ugly, painful aspects we experience.
Beauty reminds us of Heaven and hope and points our minds upward to Christ and outside of ourselves.
Curating beauty is the job of every mother, making her home a peaceful, joyful place to dwell.
And though sin inevitably invades all of our homes and no family is perfect,
Beauty is an antidote to heal wounds and inspire hearts.
What we take into our minds,
How we interact in our homes,
Who we surround ourselves with,
How we talk to others and to ourselves,
(And how we allow others to interact with us)
all speak of our dignity, worth and value.
As much as you can, show your children beauty by your life and by what you love. Show them the beauty of sacrificial love. It may take work as setting a table or inviting someone in often does, but it's a work that reminds us all that no matter what the culture says, no matter how others value or devalue you, whether you are cancelled or celebrated, God values and loves you and God's assessment is your *actual* worth, no matter what anyone else says...
Kingdom living can start today in your home with little glimpses of daily beauty, gracious community, place-making, warm-hearted friendship and loving communication around your kitchen table. Don't underestimate it."
You may read Sarah's entire post here, and see her lovely photo. These are such wonderfully encouraging thoughts, don't you think? I loved the thought that cultivating beauty is an act of defiance in this world that is so fixated on violence and hate. I know it's true. You must know, too, that I also loved the emphasis in the last paragraph on our kitchen tables being a place where we can share "little glimpses of daily beauty" and much, much more.
My friend Deanna at Creekside Cottage shared this insightful quote from Sally Clarkson:
Oh, isn't that so true? Should we as Christians ever have pervasive fear settling in our hearts? Celebrating, laughing, and enjoying life are some sure ways to push back against it -- along with remembering that God has not given us the spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1:7).
Deanna added, "This is why I share good news with you. This is my way of fighting against the darkness of the world. I don't want to be filled with fear, I want to keep my eyes on the Lord, and to keep celebrating birthdays, anniversaries, family, good friends, events."
I loved both of these quotes as well as Deanna's thoughts. Cultivating beauty is an act of defiance in a world filled with hate. Celebration is an important and effective weapon against the powers of darkness. But there is even more to consider as things in our world appear to grow ever more threatening.
Annie Holmquist noted in this Epoch Times article, "If totalitarianism wants us to erase our memories of history, community, morality, and faith, then we must cling tightly to those very things." Cultivating beauty in everyday life and continuing to celebrate each day will surely help us to cling tightly to those things.
When I think of how frightened we could be if we allowed ourselves to look at world events rather than Jesus, I'm often reminded of the scenario we see in Matthew 14:22-27. Jesus had sent His disciples to a ship, to cross the Sea of Galilee, while He went into the mountains to pray alone. Verse 24 tells us what happened next:
"But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary."
But then we see in verse 25:
"And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea."
The "fourth watch of the night" is between 3 and 6 a.m. The disciples were terrified. Verse 26 tells us,
"They were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear."
"Straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; It is I; be not afraid."
What a great reminder for us in the storms of life, be they storms in our own personal lives, difficulties in our country, or even tragic and frightening events in our world. Jesus sees all that is happening. His heart goes out to His children who are in the midst of storms. He draws near and reminds us that He is with us. He even tells us to be of good cheer!
William MacDonald comments, "How true to our own experience! We are often storm-tossed, perplexed, in despair. The Savior seems far away. But all the time He is praying for us. When the night seems darkest, He is near at hand. We often mistake Him even then and push the panic button. Then we hear His comforting voice and remember that the waves that caused us to fear are under His feet."
I don't know about you, friends, but this encourages me. He loves us, He is with us and all is under His control. He will help us to keep a cheerful heart, to nurture beauty and to celebrate everyday life, no matter what we are facing. Let's purpose to do just that, with His help.