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Rejoice – verb – feel or show great joy or delight

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I have been reading Deuteronomy lately. Three times in chapter 12 the Israelites are instructed to rejoice. Two of these instances hearken back to my last post. Moses relays God’s instructions to the people that when they take control of the Promised Land they are to gather in a place that God will designate and offer sacrifices and offerings and rejoice. They are to celebrate God and his rich blessings that he had given them.

The third instance of “rejoice” in the chapter occurs in verse 18. Moses tells everyone that they are to rejoice before the Lord their God in everything that they put their hand to. This reminded me of what Paul said in his letter to the Philippians, “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice!” ( Philippians 4:4)

Moses told the people to rejoice in everything they put their hands to, and Paul tells people in the church emphatically to rejoice in the Lord always. After meditating on these words I decided, at least for one day, to be intentional about rejoicing in the Lord.

I get up pretty early most mornings, and when I went outside to begin my workday, it was still dark, and the sky was filled with stars. I rejoiced in this beautiful sight and gave thanks to God for his marvelous creation. All those stars! God didn’t have to make all those stars, but he did because he loves us and wants us to be happy. He wants us to rejoice, to feel great joy and delight.

I’m the gardener at the home for needy children here in Oaxaca, Mexico. One of my jobs is to water the soccer field. I turned on the sprinkler and rejoiced that we have water that keeps the field green and the kids have a wonderful place to play their favorite sport.

My wife, Anita, is the kitchen supervisor and was making breakfast that morning. Walking into the kitchen I rejoiced in the dedicated wife that God has given me, and that we could work together in ministry. Helping her make quesadillas I rejoiced that the children and staff would have a healthy, nutritious meal to start their day. I thought of Jesus words, ” I was hungry and you gave me something to eat…When you have done it to the least of these, you have done it to me.” I wondered what the children would have had for breakfast, if anything, if it wasn’t for this home for needy children.

Afterwards I drove some of the teenage girls to their school in Oaxaca city. I rejoiced that they could go to a private Christian school and get a quality education that would prepare them for whatever career they might choose. I rejoiced that God chose me to be a part of their lives, to make a difference in who they are and what they would become.

And so went the day, rejoicing intentionally in the Lord and all that I put my hands to. I realized that no matter what we do, we have three choices in how we emotionally react. We can complain about what we see wrong or negative in our situations. That makes us angry or depressed. We can react indifferently which makes us apathetic. Or we can rejoice, which makes us alive to God’s presence and his blessings. This makes us happy, and after all, God does love us and wants us to be happy.

Most of the day the rejoicing thing went great because all my situations were pleasant ones. That changed toward the end of my day.

After work I took my daughters, Sally and Kelly, to their piano class. While they learn tunes on the keyboard, I teach the piano teachers daughter English. It’s a barter deal where no money exchanges hands and everyone is happy. I rejoiced that my girls enjoy learning the piano and I could bless the music teacher and her daughter with English skills.

When we finished we went to a little piece of property that Anita’s dad had given us. We are in the process of building a tiny house and have planted a few fruit trees that needed to be watered. I rejoiced at the thought of these blessings as well.

What we encountered upon reaching the property was not a blessing. Some mischievous young truant, or so I guess, had crawled under our fence, had climbed to the top of a shed where we keep a water tank, and had broken off the water valve, unleashing a thousand liters of water. How could I rejoice now?

I felt violated that someone had come onto our property and distressed over the waste of our water by some random act of vandalism. While I stared in disbelief, my daughters kept asking me “Why?”. ” Why, Daddy, would someone do this? “

I told them that this is how a lot of people act in the “real” world. I explained to them that they live in a Christian community and go to a Christian school, and while Christians aren’t perfect, they normally try to live by the standard of love, and that is what they are used to. People in the world who are not Christians, many times just live by the moment and if it makes them happy to cause pain to others and destroy things, they just do it.

After saying these words I found cause to rejoice. I told the girls that we needed to pray. So we prayed and rejoiced at the work God had done in our lives and was continuing to do. We thanked God that nothing worse had happened and prayed for the person who had done this, that he might see the light and come to know the love of God and find his joy in Jesus and not in random acts of violence.

We got back in the car and drove home. Most of the anger and frustration had left me, replaced by the “peace that passes all understanding.” Some disappointment remained, but it helped me to think of Paul’s words to the Roman church, “All things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). And in this I rejoiced.

 

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I have chicken coop dreams and orange tree visions. Am I okay?

My Father-in-law, Artimeo, gave my wife, Anita, and me, a piece of property shortly after we were married ten years ago. It’s right outside a little town called Union Zapata. It’s kinda small, the town and our property. Our piece of land is about one acre I guess, but is in a beautiful location. The piece of land is on top of a hill, with valleys on either side and mountains all around as far as the eye can see. It is surrounded by thorn bushes, cactus and dumb bird trees. What you can’t see are other houses. Our nearest neighbor is about a quarter mile away, which I love. The downside is that there is no electricity or water. Well, it’s a downside for some. For me it is kind of adventurous. I imagine us living off the grid with solar power and a huge cistern full of water to get us by.

So we are trying to build a tiny house. At the end of last year I was introduced to the concept of The Tiny House, and I was enchanted. I thought we would have to wait many years to save up money to build a house. We had waited ten years and had little savings for a house. But a tiny house doesn’t cost so much and you can build a little here and a little there as you get a few pesos, or dollars. So we started in January with a fence, a slab of concrete and a little shed. That’s where we are now.

Our propery, fence and shed. No chicken coop or orange trees – yet.

But you know what we think of most? A chicken coop and orange trees. Well, Anita thinks mostly about the chickens she wants to raise, and I dream about the chicken coop I want to build for her chickens.  I know exactly where it is going to go and what it will look like. I also have visions of orange trees. We live in Southern Mexico, in the state of Oaxaca, where the average daily temperature is 85 degrees. We can grow oranges. I am the gardener at a home for needy children and here we have about a dozen citrus trees that I have planted and that the children enjoy. I look forward to planting a few of my own orange trees on our property and enjoying the fruit of my labor, if you know what I mean.

So my wife is drying stale bread and old tortillas which will make excellent chicken feed, and I am sifting through our rock filled dirt and making a large pile of rich soil which I can use to plant the orange trees in.

I read in the Bible the other day, Proverbs chapter three, which declares, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.”

That reminded me of a verse in Psalms 37, “Trust in the LORD and do good … Take delight in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

Both passages use the phrase, “Trust in the LORD.” Trust in the LORD means to believe that God loves you and wants you to be happy. To enable this to happen he has given us his Word, the Bible, to show us how to be happy. His Son, Jesus, came to earth to show us how to be happy. Jesus said the most important things that you can do to be happy, are to Love God with all your being, and to Love your neighbor as yourself.

That’s all fine and well, but what about chicken coops and orange trees. How do they fit into God’s plan for my happiness. What does chickens and oranges have to do with loving God and my neighbor.

Well, I’m not really sure. Maybe nothing. Maybe everything. You see, I really do love God and reading and studying and meditating on the Bible. I like to think that I “take delight in the LORD.” So if I “take delight in the LORD” then he will give me the desires of my heart. That can be taken in two ways. One way to think about it is that all on my own I have developed the desire to go to Mexico and help poor children and plant flowers and trees and build a chicken coop and grow oranges. Or, it could mean that GOD has given me the desire to come to Mexico and help poor children and plant flowers and trees and and build a chicken coop and grow oranges. I lean toward the latter interpretation.

All of these things have made me happy, either doing them or thinking about them, in the case of the chicken coop and orange trees, and God loves me and wants me to be happy. He created me. He hard wired me. He installed the hardware and software in me. He knows what makes me tick. And that is helping poor children in Mexico, planting gardens and perhaps, just maybe, building a chicken coop and planting a couple of orange trees. I don’t understand it all, but am just trying to trust in the LORD.

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Now that’s a delightful thought.