1Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all you lands! 2 Serve the Lord with gladness; Come before His presence with singing. 3 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. 4 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 best from him is this: “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 lazy 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. Happiness is on the morning menu as a choice.
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. At times I take myself way too seriously. It is always my challenge to let my inner child express its 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 our face and a chuckle in our 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 our Creator, another golden opportunity to complete what we 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 mental space as we enter into prayer; it is the attitude of divinity we adopt as we raise our consciousness to embrace God. It doesn’t always have to be in quiet stillness, it can be in His courts, in Creation, as we meet others and go about our daily lives. We are being encouraged to adopt a constant state of joy and gratitude.
And yet despite our best efforts, sometimes we lose the joyful feelings. Sometimes the World throws things at us that demand our attention and demand a careful and thoughtful response. So here are eleven things to try when you get a little down.
1. Go out and help someone…anyone. We need to change our focus and get our mind off our self and our challenges. Be generous. Give to people what we feel we are lacking: interest, attention, caring. Soon we will have joy overflowing. Remember the Law of Attraction: what we are and what we think, we attract. Do we want more joy in our life? Then express more joy into Creation. Want more attention? Be more attentive.
2. Engage with nature. Get outside and appreciate God’s creation. Use all our senses. Expect to be awestruck in everything we do and everywhere we go.
3. Do something physical. Move our body: walk, build, chop wood, golf, do something that requires getting up and moving around. Then appreciate that we 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 wife laughing at the television brings me joy. Be ready to laugh; be ready to enjoy.
5. Celebrate occasions. In private, celebrate with our own victory dance the least little thing. We finished loading the dishwasher…great! Do a dance; we flail our arms and legs, and then laugh at how stupid we must look.
Enjoy our freedom of expression. Do things that are fun, even silly things in private. Sing along to our favorite songs, even if we think we can’t sing. Do a puzzle, and when we finish – you got it, we do our victory dance! As Leo Buscaglia says, “Live nutty. Just once in a while.” Enjoy life, be glad, and rejoice.
6. Figure out what we love and do it. Make a joy list of the things we love doing. Write down things we can do in 1 minute, 5 minutes, 15 minutes, a couple of hours, and an entire day. When we get a little down, we can pull out our list and depending on our schedule, put something we love doing into our 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 our 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 us 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. Not only find our happy place, but put on a happy face. If we act happy, think happy, look happy, we will begin to feel happy.
Here are a couple of questions 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 live from those emotions?
And this leads me to the last point:
11. Remember -- we have a choice. If I don’t like how I am feeling, I can choose another emotion. It really is as simple as that once we understand that no one or no ‘thing’ is making us feel a particular way. We are choosing it, or accepting it, or allowing it – out of habit, unthinkingly, or intentionally. It is our life; we must choose wisely.
Sometimes the appropriate choice will be sadness or grief 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 bedfellows of a divine spirit-filled life. We can go on our visits, but we can always come back home to God as our Source. Where we allow Spirit 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.
Joy strengthens us, directs us, sustains us, helps us prevail and remain firm during our challenges. As our opening song stated from Nehemiah 8:10 “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” It is my prayer that we will live in the presence of Spirit, turn our hearts to God, tune our thoughts to Christ, so that regardless of what we are doing, where we are, or who we are with – we will experience the fullness of joy. I pray that we decide today that we want to live our life with more love, more happiness, and more gratitude. And I pray that our hearts, minds, and lives will make a joyful noise to the Lord!