Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all you lands! Serve the Lord with gladness; Come before His presence with singing. Know that the Lord, He is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture. Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.
Getting out of bed is difficult for some people. I am one of those people. I like what Benjamin Franklin said about this process. Now I know he said things like: Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy wealthy and wise. And I know he said: the early bird catches the worm. But the quote I like is: “I wake up every morning at nine and grab for the morning paper. Then I look at the obituary page. If my name is not on it, I get up.”
Waking up early to catch the worm, and be healthy, wealthy, and wise -- at nine -- sounds fine with me!
I’ve read that how you get up in the morning says a lot about your personality. I am not one of those go-getters, who is going to accomplish everything in a short period of time.
Author Christopher McDougall wrote: “Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up, it knows it must outrun the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning in Africa, a lion wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the slowest gazelle, or it will starve. It doesn't matter whether you're the lion or a gazelle-when the sun comes up, you'd better be running.”
So apparently I am either a hungry lion or a dead gazelle. Once I get going, I’m fine; but the first hour or so… I’m pretty much feeling like one of those dead gazelles.
But regardless of how we wake up in the morning, it does not have to affect our attitudes toward the day. A Sufi teacher named Abdullah said this: Every morning when I get up, the first thing I decide is: What do I want? Misery? Blissfulness? What am I going to choose today? And it happens that I always choose blissfulness. It is my choice, it is my life.
That is the truth – we choose our frame of mind at every moment of the day. I may wake up a dead gazelle, but I can at least be a happy dead gazelle; I can still choose to be joyful.
Our Bible verse teaches that we should make a joyful noise to God. To me this means to laugh more, express in some way the joy that we feel inside. Sometimes we want to stay sullen because we believe that is more mature and professional. And perhaps this is appropriate at work. But in the rest of our life – who are we trying to impress? Total strangers seeing us smile is not the end of our world. Honestly, we may never see them again any way. I tend to take myself too seriously at times. It is always my challenge to let my inner child express with joy.
“Make a joyful noise,” we are told. There’s nothing more joyful than laughter. Seek out the things and people that bring a smile to your face and a chuckle in your voice. We are also taught in our Bible verse to worship the Lord with gladness. Part of the reason that I read jokes in church is because of this philosophy. Worship does not have to be solemn. In fact, I believe it is intended to be uplifting, light, and enjoyable. We should look forward to coming to church. We should look forward to greeting a new day and the people around us. Mother Theresa said: “Keep the joy of loving God in your heart and share this joy with all you meet especially your family.”
In that same verse we are instructed to “…serve the Lord with gladness.” Again, this is another avenue for expressing the joy in our hearts as we do God’s work. Do you ever find yourself humming or whistling or singing a song that has caught your attention? They don’t have to be sacred songs to lighten the heart and open our souls for the expression of God. As we give of ourselves, let the joy of God move through us in all that we do. Author Og Mandino, wrote: Welcome every morning with a smile. Look on the new day as another special gift from your Creator, another golden opportunity to complete what you were unable to finish yesterday.
In the third verse of Psalm 100 we are told to recognize that the Lord is God. To me this means to acknowledge that God is our Source – our source of life, love, joy, peace, and abundance … of everything. We are His children, and are looked out for.
We are then told to enter into His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. For me ‘His gates’ is the silence as we enter into prayer; it is the attitude of divinity we adopt as we raise our consciousness to embrace God. It doesn’t have to be in quiet stillness, it can be in His courts, in Creation, as we meet others and go about our daily lives. I think we are being encouraged to be in a constant state of joy and gratitude.
And yet despite our best efforts, sometimes we lose the joyful feelings. So here are eleven things to try when you get a little down.
1. Go out and help someone…anyone. Get your mind off yourself and your challenges. Be generous. Give to people what you feel you are lacking: interest, attention, caring. Soon you will have joy overflowing. Remember the Law of Attraction: what we are we attract. Want more joy in your life? Express joy into Creation. Want more attention? Be more attentive.
2. Engage with nature. Get outside and appreciate God’s creation. Use all of your senses. Expect to be awestruck in everything you do and everywhere you go.
3. Do something physical. Move your body: walk, build, chop wood, golf, do something that requires getting up and moving around. Then appreciate that you have a body to enjoy life through. Then when it is time to rest – then rest, relax and sleep. Take naps.
4. Read something funny; watch a funny movie or video clip. Just watching my daughter and wife laughing at a YouTube video brings me joy. Be ready to laugh; be ready to enjoy.
5. Celebrate occasions. In private, celebrate with your own victory dance the least little thing. You finished loading the dishwasher…great! Do a dance; flail your arms and legs, and then laugh at how stupid you must look.
Enjoy your freedom of expression. Do things that are fun for you, even silly things in private. Sing along to your favorite songs, even if you think you can’t sing. Do a puzzle, and when you finish – you got it! Do your victory dance..
As Leo Buscaglia says, “Live nutty. Just once in a while.” Enjoy life, be glad, and rejoice.
6. Figure out what you love and do it. Make a joy list of the things you love doing. Write down things you can do in 5 minutes, 15 minutes, a couple of hours, and an entire day. When you get a little down, pull out your list and depending on your schedule, put something you love doing into your day.
7. Sometimes we need to bring stillness and quiet and contemplative times to our lives. Stillness brings a new appreciation to the present moment; and in the present moment we find joy.
8. Bring order to some part of your life. Clean the garage; straighten the closet; clean out the storage shed. Creating order within chaos almost immediately brings joy.
9. Get out around fascinating people, joyful people; stop hanging around people who bring you down.
10. Be aware of your thoughts and attitude. Refocus when you find yourself drifting toward the melancholy. Like they say in Peter Pan, “Find your happy place” and think on that.
Here is a question to ask ourselves: Do I want to be with, live with, spend time with, somebody who's always moody, angry, restless, sullen, resentful, complaining, or depressed? If the answer is ‘no’, then the next question is: Does anyone really want to live with me, spend time with me, or be around me, while I have those emotions?
11. And this leads me to the last point: Remember -- you have a choice. If you don’t like how you are feeling, choose another emotion. It really is as simple as that once you understand that no one or no ‘thing’ is making you feel a particular way. You are choosing it, or accepting it – out of habit, or without thinking. It is your life, so choose wisely. Mark Twain said, “Give every day the chance to become the most beautiful day of your life.”
I also acknowledge that sometimes the appropriate choice will be sadness or grief, anger or disappointment. It is fine to feel all of these emotions and visit with them; it’s part of the human experience. But after the visit, come home to joy. Live with joy and love and peace; these are the cornerstones of a divine spirit-filled life. Always come back home to God as our source. Where we allow Christ to express, there will be joy.
Psalm 16:11 reads: You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy, at Your right hand there are pleasures forevermore.
In Spirit’s presence, when our hearts are turned to God, when our thoughts are tuned to the Christ, regardless of what we are doing, where we are, or who we are with – we experience the fullness of joy. Decide today that you want to live your life with more joy, more happiness, more gratitude, and more love.
I leave you with an Irish blessing:
May you arise with joy as bright as the morning, and your sorrows merely shadows that fade in the sunlight of love. May you have enough happiness to keep you sweet, enough trials to keep you strong, enough sorrow to keep you human, enough hope to keep you.