Ultimate Joy

Archive for May 2010

I’m an avid reader of both fiction and non-fiction. As a writer, my writing has always improved by viewing the craft of others. Reading takes me to different worlds – or helps me to figure out the world I’m living in just a little better.  I hate coming to the end of a good book – mostly because it feels like saying good bye to a good friend.

I highly recommend two books, both provided to me by the publisher for review, A Matter of Character by Robin Lee Hatcher and Marriage Matters by Tony Evans.  One a work of fiction, the other nonfiction, but both contain life lessons that are eternal.

A Matter of Character

In A Matter of Character, the heroine, Daphne McKinley, writes under a pseudonym – let’s face it, in 1918 as a woman, you almost had to.  There are no questions about her until Joshua Crawford comes to Idaho to meet the author of her books!  Daphne faces a huge dilemma about the truth and in the process finds out a valuable lesson – words matter.  In the delightful setting of rustic Idaho, Hatcher finds a way to reach out to her readers that what we say and what we do really and truly matters.  What we say, what we write, what we think — words matter. They can tear down or build up. They can spread ignorance or dispense knowledge.

I couldn’t put it down and I know you’ll have the same experience. To learn more about this truly delightful book, please visit Robin’s website at http://robinleehatcher.com/

Marriage Matters

In a marriage, words are especially important.  Dr. Tony Evans examines what God says about marriage.  Particularly enjoyable was the spiritual connectedness between the marriage covenant and God’s covenant with his people.  Marriage has been designed as a tool by God to bring good in your life. 

In these rough economic times, it is difficult to provide unconditional love – love based on a decision to love no matter how difficult the way, with or without a response.  Whether your marriage is great or not so great, or even if you are just thinking of marriage, you need to read this book!  It will provide you many different ways to examine your union and grow more deeply in love.  To learn more about Tony Evans, go to: http://www.tonyevans.org.

Hope you’ll pick up one or both of these books.  I know you’ll enjoy them as much as I did!

Advertisements

Have you ever experienced pure unadulterated strength?  Ever stood next to a powerful beast and understood how truly weak you really were?

I had that experience this week when a friend took me to a breeder to look at puppies.  Not just any kind of puppies, these are highly skilled, high trained German Shepherd puppies.  On the breeder’s property, several dogs were practicing basic obedience and protection maneuvers.  For protection, a “bad man” stands behind a blind waiting for the dog to attack.  But before attacking, the dog must run through several other blinds searching for the bad man. 

Obviously with the keen sense of smell these magnificent German Shepherds possess, they know where the bad man is hiding, but run through the blinds with power and strength to show that they are under the control of their master.  When finally given the command to find the bad man, the dog tear across the field as quickly as its legs can take them – passing you by in a flash at what seems like 25 mph.  Seeing the dog run like that was a glorious sight to behold…chests heaving, paws and legs a whirlwind of speed, its thought process totally focused on protecting their owners.

The dog’s performance reminded me of our reliance on God.  The dog is much faster, stronger and better able to protect against the bad man than most humans.  And probably the biggest mistake we make, as Christians, is believing falsely, that we are stronger than we really are; and as a result, we all too often fail.

But even in our weakness, we can have great strength.  That’s because our real strength is from the Lord and not of ourselves.  In Isaiah 41:10, we are told how to acquire this strength:  “I will strengthen you, I will help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Our strength begins with our union with God. 

We must let go of everything in our being and in our life, and focus upon the Lord, and truly let Him be Lord of our lives.

This kind of absolute submission can come only when we totally and completely trust in the Lord. And the ability to trust in this way only comes with unconditional love – a love so complete that it encompasses the whole of creation, without exception.

In this complete submission of love and trust, we also will find we have a need to let go of any of our own strength or earthly security; for if we don’t, we cannot fully put our trust in God.

We must arise to the challenge that lies before us, and go forth in the strength of the Lord.

The gorgeous sunlight and warmth of this Sunday afternoon has caused me to run to God with my concerns.  Concerns about the future, the direction my life should take; and concerns about where I am at both spiritually and physically. 

Basking in the warm sunlight, one truth about my faith hit me hard.  I’m receiving from Him the beauty of a late spring day…the green grass, the brilliant sun, the varied hues of the flowers; yet I am still waiting on Him.  I’m waiting for my prayers to be answered…waiting for the promise of tomorrow.

Because I am, like this spring day, a new creation in Christ, God eagerly gives gifts that I never have to wait for – His forgiveness, His strength, His presence, His grace.

Yet, my faith is not content to rest on those things given to me, but yearns for the future promises of God.  God’s timing in response to my prayers, clarity in the next steps, waiting for the Biblical prophesies to be fulfilled of one day joyously enjoying a heavenly fellowship with Him.

Too often I get bogged down in the future and forget about thanking God for the present.  My heart overburdened with “next steps” forgets the supreme joy of daily living in the presence of the Lord.  Matthew 7:31 instructs us “Do not worry!”

In an effort to alleviate today’s worry, I try to manipulate the future.  Instead, I need come to the Lord with a thankful heart, a peaceful heart, an unwavering heart; a heart believing God’s timing is always perfect. 

The rebirth of spring gives me hope to believe that God’s ways are perfect.  The natural world provides countless insights into the profound nature of God. Dry winter gives birth to the warmth of spring; the baby birds sing gloriously, the trees bloom with green and the promise of summer’s shade.  And, I receive the rest necessary to wait upon the Lord for all my tomorrows.

Psalm 27:14 – Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.

Since returning from California, life in Illinois is best described as a “tough re-entry.”  I loved the Golden State:  the palm trees, the beaches, all the friends I made, the weather.  To return to 50 degrees and rain has squelched my spirit.  Part of me is happy to be home, but another part of me truly longs to be back in Orange County.  Even as my Illinois friends are rejoicing the glorious spring weather, I’m racing ahead wondering why we don’t have 80 degree days yet. I can say with honesty that I’m learning the joy of living in Illinois all over again. 

When disappointment strikes, things can never go back the way they were.  But, joy comes when we let God take control of our lives.  In Him, things can change for the better.  It is in God that there is hope for the hopeless and relief for the overwhelmed.

Sounds a bit like a cliché, but honestly, praying and journaling has put a different perspective on my situation.  My disappointment has allowed me to grow in ways that ultimately bring me closer to God.  I’ve seen my patience, empathy and compassion for the hurting enlarge.  God has allowed me to grow so that I can be better able to provide comfort to someone else in the throes of disappointment.

How compassionate do you consider yourself? Have you let the disappointments of life help you discover empathy?  Have the disappointments you’ve faced caused you to be better equipped to tend to the needs of others?  I believe that God never wastes a hurt.  He will always use our hurts to change the landscape of our lives so that when we see a brother or sister in Christ that needs help, we will draw on our own disappointments to provide them with understanding, comfort and security.

So commit all your disappointments to God and give Him full ownership of them.  Once God becomes the owner, the disappointments no longer belong to you.  God can then accomplish the work of turning your disappointment into joy.

Today, may you love Him as your Father,
Thank Him as your Creator,
Look to Him as your Guide,
Depend upon Him as your Protector,
Trust in Him as your Provider,
Seek Him as your Strength,
Yield to Him as your Lord,
Worship Him as your God,
Serve Him as your King.

Give thanks to the LORD and proclaim His greatness. Let the whole world know what He has done. Sing to Him; yes, sing His praises. Tell everyone about His wonderful deeds. Exult in His holy name; rejoice, you who worship the LORD. Search for the LORD and for His strength; continually seek Him. Remember the wonders He has performed, His miracles, and the rulings He has given, you children of His servant Abraham, you descendants of Jacob, His chosen ones.
Psalm 105:1-6 NLT