I was immediately intrigued when I noticed a tattoo of a bowling ball knocking down pins on my friend Erin’s ankle. Erin was inspired to get this unique tattoo after listening to Sara Groves’s song, “Setting Up the Pins.” The clever lyrics encourage listeners to find joy in the repetitive, routine tasks that sometimes feel as pointless as manually setting up bowling pins over and over again, only to have someone knock them down.
Laundry. Cooking. Mowing the lawn. Life seems full of tasks that, once completed, just have to been done again—and again. This isn’t a new struggle but an old frustration, one wrestled with in the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes. The book opens with the writer bemoaning the endless cycles of daily human life as futile (v. 3), even meaningless, because “what has been will be again, what has been done will be done again” (1:9).
Yet, like my friend, the writer was able to regain a sense of joy and meaning by remembering our ultimate fulfillment comes as we “fear [reverence] God and keep his commandments” (12:13). There’s comfort in knowing that God values even the ordinary, seemingly mundane aspects of life, and will reward our faithfulness (12:14).
What are the “pins” you are continually setting up? In those times when repetitive tasks begin to feel wearisome, may we take a moment to offer each task to God as an offering of love.
Greg and Elizabeth have a regular “Joke Night” with their four school-age children. Each child brings several jokes they have read or heard (or made up themselves!) during the week to tell at the dinner table. This tradition has created joyful memories of fun shared around the table. Greg and Elizabeth even noticed the laughter was healthy for their children, lifting their spirits on difficult days.
The benefit of joyful conversation around the dinner table was observed by C.S. Lewis, who wrote, “The sun looks down on nothing half so good as a household laughing together over a meal.”
The wisdom of fostering a joyful heart is found in Proverb 17:22, where we read, “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” The proverb offers a “prescription” to stimulate health and healing—allowing joy to fill our hearts, a medicine that costs little and yields great results.
We all need this biblical prescription. When we bring joy into our conversations, it can put a disagreement into perspective. It can help us to experience peace, even after a stressful test at school or a difficult day at work. Laughter among family and friends can create a safe place where we both know and feel that we are loved.
Do you need to incorporate more laughter into your life as “good medicine” for your spirit? Remember, you have encouragement from Scripture to cultivate a cheerful heart.
I couldn’t believe it. A black gel pen had hidden itself in the folds of my white towels and survived the washing machine, only to explode in the dryer. Ugly black stains were everywhere. My white towels were ruined. No amount of bleach would be able to remove the dark stains.
As I reluctantly consigned the towels to the rag pile, I was reminded of the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah’s lament describing the damaging effects of sin. By rejecting God and turning to idols (Jeremiah 2:13), Jeremiah declared that the people of Israel had caused a permanent stain in their relationship with God: “‘Although you wash yourself with soap and use an abundance of cleansing powder, the stain of your guilt is still before me,’ declares the Sovereign Lord” (2:22). They were powerless to undo the damage they’d done.
On our own, it is impossible to remove the stain of our sin. But Jesus has done what we could not. Through the power of His death and resurrection, He “purifies [believers] from all sin” (1 John 1:7).
Even when it’s hard to believe, cling to this beautiful truth: there is no damage from sin that Jesus cannot totally remove. God is willing and ready to wash away the effects of sin for anyone willing to return to Him (v. 9). Through Christ, we can live each day in freedom and hope.
Working with a magnifying glass and tweezers, Swiss watchmaker Phillipe meticulously explained to me how he takes apart, cleans, and reassembles the tiny parts of specialty mechanical watches. Looking at all the intricate pieces, Phillipe showed me the essential component of the timepiece, the mainspring. The mainspring is the component that moves all the gears to allow the watch to keep time. Without it, even the most expertly designed watch will not function.
In a beautiful New Testament passage found in the book of Hebrews, the writer eloquently praises Jesus for being the one through whom God created the heavens and the earth. Like the intricacy of a specialty watch, every detail of our universe was created by Jesus (Hebrews 1:2). From the vastness of the solar system to the uniqueness of our fingerprints, all things were made by Him.
But more than simply the creator, Jesus, like a clock’s mainspring, is essential for the function and flourishing of creation. His presence continually “[sustains] all things by his powerful word” (v. 3), keeping all that He has created working together in all its amazing complexity.
As you have the opportunity to experience the beauty of creation today, remember that “in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1: 17). May the recognition of Jesus’s central role in both creating and sustaining the universe result in joyful hearts and a response of praise as we acknowledge His ongoing provision for us.
At Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum in Israel, my husband and I went to the Righteous Among the Nations garden that honors the men and women who risked their lives to save Jewish people during the Holocaust. While looking at the memorial, we met a group from the Netherlands. One woman was there to see her grandparents’ names listed on the large plaques. Intrigued, we asked about her family’s story.
Members of a resistance network, the woman’s grandparents Rev. Pieter and Adriana Müller took in a two-year-old Jewish boy and passed him off as the youngest of their eight children from 1943–1945.
Moved by the story, we asked, “Did the little boy survive?” An older gentleman in the group stepped forward and proclaimed, “I am that boy!”
The bravery of many to act on behalf of the Jewish people reminds me of Queen Esther. The queen may have thought she could escape King Xerxes’s decree to annihilate the Jews around 350
We may never be asked to make such a dramatic decision. However, we will likely face the choice to speak out against an injustice or remain silent; to provide assistance to someone in trouble or turn away. May God grant us courage.
In winter, I often wake to the beautiful surprise of a world blanketed in the peace and quiet of an early morning snow. Not loudly like a spring thunderstorm that announces its presence in the night, snow comes softly.
In “Winter Snow Song,” Audrey Assad sings that Jesus could have come to earth in power like a hurricane, but instead He came quietly and slowly like the winter snow falling softly in the night outside my window.
Jesus’s arrival took many by quiet surprise. Instead of being born in a palace, He was born in an unlikely place, a humble dwelling outside Bethlehem. And He slept in the only bed available, a manger (Luke 2:7). Instead of being attended by royalty and government officials, Jesus was welcomed by lowly shepherds (vv. 15–16). Instead of having wealth, Jesus’s parents could only afford the inexpensive sacrifice of two birds when they presented Him at the temple (v. 24).
The unassuming way Jesus entered the world was foreshadowed by the prophet Isaiah, who prophesied the coming savior would “not shout or cry out” (Isaiah 42:2) nor would He come in power that might break a damaged reed or extinguish a struggling flame (v. 3). Instead He came gently in order to draw us to Himself with His offer of peace with God—a peace still available to anyone who believes the unexpected story of a savior born in a manger.
Sitting in the courtyard of the Church of the Visitation in Ein Karem, Israel, I was overwhelmed with the beautiful display of 67 mosaics containing the words of Luke 1:46–55 in as many languages. Traditionally known as the Magnificat from the Latin “to magnify,” these verses are Mary’s joyous response to the announcement that she will be the mother of the Messiah.
Each plaque contains Mary’s words, including: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my savior. . . . For the Mighty One has done great things for me” (vv. 46–49). The biblical hymn etched in the tiles is a song of praise as Mary recounts the faithfulness of God to her and the nation of Israel.
A grateful recipient of God’s grace, Mary rejoices in her salvation (v. 47). Mary acknowledges God’s mercy has extended to the Israelites for generations (v. 50). Looking back over God’s care for the Israelites, she praises God for exercising His mighty power to act on behalf of His people (v. 51). Mary also thanks God, recognizing that her daily provisions come from His hand (v. 53).
Mary shows us that recounting the great things God has done for us is a way to express praise and can lead us to rejoice. This Christmas season, consider the invitation to list God’s goodness as you reflect on the year. In doing so, you may create a mosaic of great beauty with your words of praise.
A plaque in our home states “Bidden or not bidden, God is present.” A modern version might read, “Acknowledged or unacknowledged, God is here.”
Hosea, an Old Testament prophet who lived in late eighth century BC (755–715
Hosea’s simple but profound insight to acknowledge God reminds us He is near and at work in our lives, in both the joys and struggles.
To acknowledge God might mean when we get a promotion at work, to recognize God gave us insight to finish our work on time and within budget. If our housing application is rejected, acknowledging God helps to sustain us as we trust Him to work in the situation for our good.
If we don’t make it into the college of our choice, we can acknowledge God is with us and take comfort in His presence even in our disappointment. As we enjoy dinner, to acknowledge God may be to remind ourselves of God’s provision of the ingredients and a kitchen to prepare the meal.
When we acknowledge God, we remember His presence in both the successes and sorrows, whether big or small, of our lives.
Dr. Paul Brand, 20th-century pioneer medical missionary to India, saw firsthand the stigma associated with leprosy. During an appointment, he touched a patient to reassure him treatment was possible. Tears began to stream down the man’s face. An attendant explained the tears to Dr. Brand, saying, “You touched him and no one has done that for years. They are tears of joy.”
Early in his ministry, Jesus was approached by a man with leprosy, an ancient label for all types of infectious skin diseases. Because of his disease the man was required by the Old Testament law to live outside his community. If the sick man accidentally found himself in close proximity to healthy people, he had to call out, “Unclean! Unclean!” so they could avoid him (Leviticus 13:45–46). As a result, the man may have gone months or years without human contact.
Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. Jesus had the power and authority to heal people with just a word (Mark 2:11–12). But as Jesus encountered a man whose physical illness left him feeling isolated and rejected, Jesus’s touch assured the man that he was not alone but accepted.
As God gives us opportunities, we can extend grace and show compassion with a gentle touch that conveys dignity and value. The simple, healing power of human touch goes a long way to remind hurting people of our care and concern.