Baby Hoo, with the quirky little grin that makes me happy

Joy can be contagious

I like being happy. And I like being around happy people. There’s just something about happy people that brightens everything up. Even if it’s been the worst day ever, hanging out with someone who laughs and smiles from a genuinely happy heart is refreshing. Even if you’ve had a good day, a person like that can make it better.

But not everyone in life is happy. Have you noticed that? Do you know people who don’t like being happy? Unfortunately, I do. You know who I’m talking about. They’re those people who suck the joy out of the room just by walking into it. They’re the people who open their mouths and drain the sunlight of its warmth and the flowers of their brightness. They prefer dank, gray misery, and they aren’t satisfied until they’ve dragged everyone else around them down into the depths with them.

Baby Hoo, with the quirky little grin that makes me happy

Baby Hoo, with the quirky little grin that makes me happy

Today’s verse is Philippians 4:4.

Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!

Yesterday I got to experience a once-in-a-lifetime event: Baby Hoo in her first Halloween costume (Mickey Mouse, who else?). I don’t know much of anything about babies. I’ve learned more about babies in the last four months than I ever expected. But there is one truth about infants: bring a cute one into a professional office and instantly every responsible, intelligent adult becomes a babbling idiot.

The Hoo Child’s mama (one of my best friends) brought her by my office yesterday afternoon, and I got the opportunity to introduce my coworkers to the little bundle of awesome I’ve been talking up since June. She didn’t disappoint. As usual, she was her adorable, alert, flirtatious self, batting her big blue eyes at everyone and grinning just because she could. I think I had the cheesiest grin ever plastered across my face, but it didn’t bother me. This crazy kid just makes me happy. And a lot of that comes from the fact that she’s just so happy all the time.

Well, maybe I shouldn’t say all the time, because I know she can throw a major fit when she’s unhappy. But generally speaking, she’s a truly laid-back kid, and it doesn’t take much to make her grin. I hope she holds on to that as she grows up because happy people are fun to be around.

I’d had a pretty good day yesterday, in spite of still being exhausted. But all it took was a few minutes with my friend and her beautiful daughter, and I was flying higher than a kite. Just coming to my office to smile at me made my day better. And that got me thinking about being happy in general.

Joy is a choice, and it’s a choice that’s rooted in our perspective. If our perspective is wrong, joy can be hard to find, but if we remember the things that matter in our lives and why we’re here, joy isn’t that hard to grasp.

This crazy kid just grins all the time. It’s not hard to make her happy. And that’s the kind of person I want to be. I don’t want to be one of those joy-suckers, those people who refuse to be happy even when they have every reason. I want to be the person who chooses to rejoice over and over again, in the good times and the bad times. I want to be that person who makes other people happy because I’m happy.

The Bible tells us to be full of joy. That word there, the one translated rejoice, is a verb. It’s an action word. That means it’s something you do. That means it’s something you choose. Joy doesn’t just happen; you have to choose it.

So whatever you’re facing today, choose joy. Remember that God has it under control. He knows what He’s doing, and He’s not going to ask you to face life’s challenges alone. And if you’re having a hard time being joyful, go find someone who is. Joy is contagious after all.

Baby Hoo, a.k.a. Cowgirl Hoo

Baby Hoo, a.k.a. Cowgirl Hoo

And because I can and because it’s just the cutest picture in the whole world, here’s Baby Hoo in her western wear:

Yes, I’m one of those people. I might be a little biased, though….

Reason to rejoice

Well, it’s Monday again.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I used to think peoples’ aversions to Mondays were kind of silly.  I mean, I got the concept — Monday meant you had to go back to work. But Mondays never seemed to be too bad of a day, especially when Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday were all just about on the same level. But as I’ve gotten older and gotten a real job (that helps), you know what? It’s not silly.

Goodness, Mondays are hard. It’s not only the fact that you have to go back to work (and after an awesome weekend , that’s hard enough) but it’s the accumulation of things that coworkers have done over the weekend, it’s the stacks of things waiting that you didn’t get finished on Friday, it’s the looming shadow of projects you don’t have time to complete that are yet to come.

And when I step back and look at all that, performance-oriented person that I am, I feel tempted to slip into a terrible mood. After all, how can I ever get it all done? And how am I supposed to have a life if I have to expend all my energy at work on projects that I will never complete? How am I supposed to do the things I know God has called me to do when I’m investing all my time and energy in my job, which even though I’m thankful for I know isn’t the end-all of God’s plan for me.

In the midst of all the questions and the temptation to despair, the verse for today is Philippians 4:4.

4 Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!

I love Philippians. It’s just as encouraging to me as the Psalms, and it’s a short letter so it’s a fast read too. It’s all about joy and why we should have joy. And the thing I always have to remind myself is that joy and happiness are two separate things.

I may not always be happy, but I can always have joy. It’s like the death of a loved one. It’s not a happy occasion, but I can have joy if that person believed in Christ because I know they’re with him. Like at work–I may not be happy that I’m loaded down with projects, but I can have joy that God gave me a job.

But this verse is different. For grins, I pulled it up in the Amplified Version.

4Rejoice in the Lord always [delight, gladden yourselves in Him]; again I say, Rejoice!

Look at that break out of the word Rejoice. “Delight, gladden yourselves in Him.” What that says to me is that no matter what situation I’m in, I have every reason in the universe to be joyful for the simple reason that God is my Savior. God saved me. He loves me. Jesus is my best friend.

This is saying that no matter how unhappy my situation may be, I should still be able to find joy in my relationship with God. That should be the source of my joy, and that’s what I should focus on. And if I can do that, it doesn’t matter what circumstances may come into my life, I will still be joyful because my perspective is correct.

Before this weekend, I probably would have read this verse differently. And it wouldn’t necessarily have been wrong. But before Pastor’s messages this weekend, I would have thought this meant to focus on the fact that God is working everything out for my good . . . or that God knows what He’s doing . . . or that God can see the big picture so that means I should be joyful about everything.

But the truth is, I should be joyful about God simply because He’s God. It’s not the fact that He’s done anything for me (which He has) or that He’s got plans for me (which He does) or that He will always provide for me (which He will) — it’s the plain and simple truth that God is everything I need. I don’t need my job. I don’t need my friends (although God has given me my friends to help me and He didn’t call anyone to be a hermit). I don’t need money. I don’t need fame. I don’t need anything or anyone but Him.

Today is Monday again. It always seems to come around again. But no matter how difficult the day may become or how high the stack of impossible work on my cubicle desk gets, I will delight myself in my God because when you get right down to it, He is everything to me, He has never let me down, and He’s got everything under control. And in a world that’s spinning out of control, that gives me reason to rejoice.