When Marcia’s out in public, she always tries to smile at others. It’s her way of reaching out to people who might need to see a friendly face. Most of the time, she gets a genuine smile in return. But during a time when Marcia was mandated to wear a facemask, she realized that people could no longer see her mouth, thus no one could see her smile. It’s sad, she thought, but I’m not going to stop. Maybe they’ll see in my eyes that I’m smiling.
There’s actually a bit of science behind that idea. The muscles for the corners of the mouth and the ones that make the eyes crinkle can work in tandem. It’s called a Duchenne smile and it has been described as “smiling with the eyes.”
Proverbs reminds us that “a cheerful look brings joy to the heart” and “a cheerful heart is good medicine” (15:30
When life seems dark, choose joy. Let your smile be a window of hope reflecting God’s love and the light of His presence in your life.
Caden, a young man of almost eighteen, was anticipating attending his first choice of a college on an academic scholarship. He was involved in a campus ministry in high school and looked forward to participating in a similar ministry in the new environment. He’d saved money from his part-time job and also had an excellent lead on a new job. He’d established some great goals, and everything was coming together exactly on schedule.
And then in the spring of 2020 a global health crisis changed everything.
The school let Caden know that his first semester would probably be online. The campus ministry was on hiatus. The job prospect dried up when the business closed. As he despaired, his buddy glibly quoted words from a well-known professional boxer: “Yeah, everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”
Proverbs 16 tells us that when we commit all we do to God, He’ll establish our plans and work things out according to His will (vv. 3–4). True commitment, however, can be difficult. It involves an open heart to God’s direction, along with a willingness to resist charting our course independently (v. 9; 19:21)
Dreams that don’t come to fruition can bring disappointment, but our limited vision for the future can never compete with God’s all-knowing ways. As we yield ourselves to Him, we can be certain that He’s still lovingly directing our steps even when we don’t see the path ahead (16:9).
On January 28, 1986, the US Space Shuttle Challenger broke apart seventy-three seconds after takeoff. In a speech of comfort to the nation, President Reagan quoted from the poem “High Flight” in which John Gillespie Magee, a World War II pilot, had written of “the high untrespassed sanctity of space” and the sense of putting out his hand to touch “the face of God.”
Although we can’t literally touch God’s face, we sometimes experience a stunning sunset or a place of meditation in nature that gives us an overwhelming sense that He’s near. Some people call these moments “thin places.” The barrier separating heaven and earth seems to grow a little thinner. God feels a little closer.
The Israelites may have experienced a “thin place” as they sensed the nearness of God in the desert wilderness. God provided a pillar of cloud by day and pillar of fire by night to lead them through the desert (Exodus 40:34–38). When they were staying in the camp, “the glory of the
As we enjoy the incredible beauty of God’s creation, we grow conscious that God is present everywhere. As we talk with Him in prayer, listen to Him, and read the Scriptures, we can enjoy fellowship with Him anytime and anywhere.
For more than fifty years, my dad strove for excellence in his editing. His passion wasn’t to just look for mistakes but also to make the copy better in terms of clarity, logic, flow, and grammar. Dad used a green pen for his corrections, rather than a red one. A green pen he felt was “friendlier,” while slashes of red might be jarring to a novice or less confident writer. His objective was to gently point out a better way.
When Jesus corrected people, He did so in love. In some circumstances—such as when He was confronted with the hypocrisy of the Pharisees (Matthew 23)—He rebuked them harshly, yet still for their benefit. But in the case of his friend Martha, a gentle correction was all that was needed (Luke 10:38–41). While the Pharisees responded poorly to His rebuke, Martha remained one of His dearest friends (John 11:5).
Correction can be uncomfortable and few of us like it. Sometimes, because of our pride, it’s hard to receive graciously. The book of Proverbs talks much about wisdom and indicates that “heeding correction” is a sign of wisdom and understanding (15:31–32).
God’s loving correction helps us to adjust our direction and to follow Him more closely. Those who refuse it are sternly warned, but those who respond to it through the power of the Holy Spirit will gain wisdom and understanding (v. 10).
On his twelfth Christmas, the boy eagerly awaited the opening of the gifts under the tree. He was yearning for a new bike, but his hopes were dashed—the last present he received was a dictionary. On the first page, he read: “To Charles from Mother and Daddy, 1958. With love and high hopes for your best work in school.”
In the next decade, Chuck did do well in school. He graduated from college and later, aviation training, and became a pilot working overseas, fulfilling his passion to help people in need and to share Jesus with them. Now some sixty years later, he shared the well-worn dictionary with his grandchildren. It had become for him a symbol of his parents’ loving investment in his future, and Chuck still treasures it. But he’s even more grateful for the daily investment his parents made in building his faith by teaching him about God and about His Word.
Deuteronomy 11 talks about the importance of taking every opportunity to share the words of Scripture with children: “Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (v. 19).
For Chuck, the eternal values planted when he was a boy bloomed into a lifetime of service for his Savior. With God’s enablement, who knows how much our investment in someone’s spiritual growth will yield?
Over several years, a British couple living in West Africa developed a strong friendship with a man in their town and many times shared the love of Jesus and the story of salvation with him. Their friend, however, was reluctant to relinquish the lifetime of allegiance he had to another religion, even though he came to recognize that faith in Christ was “the greater truth.” His concern was partly financial, since he was a leader in his faith and depended on the compensation he received. He also feared losing his reputation among the people in his community.
With sadness, he explained, “I’m like a man fishing with my hands in a stream. I have caught a small fish in one, but a bigger fish is swimming by. To catch the bigger fish, I have to let go of the smaller one!”
The rich young ruler Matthew wrote about in Matthew 19 had a similar problem. When he approached Jesus, he asked, “What good thing must I do to get eternal life?” (v. 16). He seemed sincere, but he didn’t want to fully surrender his life to Christ. He was rich, not only in money, but also in his pride of being a rule-follower. Although he desired eternal life, he loved something else more and rejected Jesus’ words.
When we humbly surrender our life to Jesus and accept His free gift of salvation, He invites us, “Come, follow me” (v. 21).
Heidi and Jeff came home from an overseas work assignment and settled for several months near family in the state of Michigan—just in time for winter. They were coming from a hot climate and this would be the first time many of their ten children had seen the natural beauty of snow.
But winter weather requires a lot of warm outerwear, including coats, mittens, and boots. For a large family, it was quite an undertaking just to outfit them for the bitterly cold months ahead. But God provided. First, a neighbor brought over footwear, then snow pants, then hats and gloves. Then, a friend urged others at her church to collect a variety of warm clothes in all twelve sizes for each member of the family. By the time the snow arrived, the family had exactly what they needed.
One of the ways we serve God is by serving those in need. First John 3:16–18 encourages us to help others from the abundance of our own possessions (v. 17). Serving helps us to be more like Jesus as we begin to love and see people as He does.
God often uses His children to fulfill needs and to answer prayers. And serving others will encourage our own hearts as we encourage those we serve. As a result, as we move into action, our own faith will grow as God equips us in new ways (v. 18).
A woman complained to her pastor that she’d noticed a lot of repetition in his sermons. “Why do you do that?” she queried. The preacher replied, “People forget.”
There are lots of reasons we forget—the passage of time, growing older, or just being too busy. We forget passwords, names of people we’ve known for years, or even where we parked our car. My husband says, “There’s only so much I can fit in my brain. I have to delete something before I can remember something new.”
The preacher was right. People forget. So we often need reminders to help us remember what God has done for us. The Israelites had a similar tendency. Even with the many miracles they’d seen, they still needed to be reminded of His care for them. In Deuteronomy 8, God reminded the Israelites that He’d allowed them to experience hunger in the wilderness, but then provided an amazing superfood for them every day—manna. He supplied clothing that never wore out. He led them through a wilderness of snakes and scorpions and provided water from a rock. They’d learned humility, as they realized how totally dependent they were on God’s care and provision (vv. 2–4, 15–18).
God’s faithfulness “continues through all generations” (Psalm 100:5). Whenever we find ourselves forgetting, we can think about the ways He’s answered our prayers, and that reminds us of His goodness and faithful promises.
Each night, as young Caleb closed his eyes, he felt the darkness envelop him. The silence of his room was regularly suspended by the creaking of the wooden house in Costa Rica. Then the bats in the attic became more active. His mother had put a nightlight in his room, but the young boy still feared the dark. One night Caleb’s dad posted a Bible verse on the footboard of his bed. It read: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; . . . for the Lord your God will be with you” (Joshua 1:9). Caleb began to read those words each night—and he left that promise from God on his footboard until he went away to college.
In Joshua 1, we read of the transition of leadership to Joshua after Moses died. The command to “be strong and courageous” was repeated several times to Joshua and the Israelites to emphasize its importance (vv. 6–7, 9). Surely, they felt trepidation as they faced an uncertain future, but the Lord reassuringly said, “As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you” (v. 5).
It’s natural to have fears, but it’s detrimental to our physical and spiritual health to live in a state of constant fear. Just as God encouraged His servants of old, we too can be strong and courageous because of the One who promises to always be with us.