Ultimate Joy

Archive for November 2010

For some unknown reason, my family never used electric blankets when I was growing up.  It wasn’t until I was an adult that I was introduced to the magic of an electric blanket.  I love their luxuriating warmth on a cold winter’s day; the ability to lose yourself in the tender coziness is almost beyond words.  I inherited my husband’s old blanket, well loved when I received it and getting even more loved as time goes on.

 When I snuggle deep within the folds of the blanket, I can’t help but think of God’s tender warming touch to my cold, foreboding heart.  When His spirit entered my heart, it changed me offering comfort and contentment – much like my blanket.  Hearing the truth that “God loves me” is like turning the heat on my electric blanket – I feel excitement, anticipation and contentment will soon be coming my way.

Just as I struggle with the cold winters of Chicago, I resist fully understanding the depths of God’s love for me.  I pray consistently that the Holy Spirit will sweep into my soul and reveal to me the greatness, completeness and fullness of God’s love for me.

God’s love is one of the most exciting and life-changing truths I’ll ever know.  I want to wrap myself in the breadth of God’s love for me.  I want to feel the length of His mercies and the depths of Christ’s sacrifice.  I never want to go anywhere unless I am blanketed in the red hot fire of His love for me.  How could a God that loves me this much fail me in any way?

On those cold, winter nights when I’d rather be lounging on beach than snuggled up in my enchanting blanket, I thank God that I’m covered by His love. I nestle safe and secure in the tenderness of such an extraordinary God…one that moved heaven and earth to rescue me from the coldness of my own heart.

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On this Thanksgiving, I am especially thankful for several things:

  • Freedom to worship as I wish and for the glorious Thanksgiving service we attended last night
  • Life, both earthly and eternal, that God has so graciously given me
  • Bountiful tables of tasty food
  • Good health
  • The joy of writing on my computer
  • All the traveling Richard and I have done
  • My wonderful family and friends

Normally, I set the level of my radio in my garage just before I pull out.  While I’m tooling through my subdivision, I can clearly hear the music playing through the speakers.  But as soon as I hit the main highway, and the road noise starts to block out my selection.  Get to the interstate and all of a sudden I find I can’t hear the radio at all.  The road noise had taken over.  It had become the loudest sound in the car – blocking out anything coming from the radio.

Our walk with God is very similar to this.  Life creates a great deal of road noise for us, and we often find we have lost the sweet, small whisper of God in our lives.  The clamor of life picks up as our lives become faster, days are filled with appointments, schedules become unworkable and the general commotion of life reaches a headache producing din.   

Is your pace of life creating road noise so high that you can’t hear yourself, much less God?  If so, it is time to quiet your heart.  And what better time to do it than during a day set aside by our forefathers to give thanks to God?  The holiday itself is filled with lots of activities, family traditions, food and football.  But at some point during the day, just sit back and tell God how much you have to be thankful for.  Make sure to quiet your heart so that you truly can “Be still and know that He is God.” 

Between now and Christmas, make sure there is ample time to just sit and be with God.  Now is the time to wait on the Lord and have your strength renewed. It is time to hear Him say, “Peace Be still.”

May I pray for you?

Lord, as we in America head toward Thanksgiving, remind us all that You are a great God and we are to be your grateful people.  Help us to see Your blessings in the everyday small things.  Help us to praise You when things seem overwhelming.  Please provide our basic needs and give us faith to be generous. Help us to know you even more deeply as we grow closer to celebrating Your birth.  Amen.

This week, Richard and I have a house guest…one of the four legged kind. Victor, a fox terrier, loves playing tug-o-war with my husband. He grabs his little chew toy, playfully shoves it into Richard’s hands and then doesn’t let go.

How often do we do that with God?  We pray to him for an answer to our burdens, but then when God gently, lovingly tells us to drop them in His capable arms, we don’t trust Him enough to lay our burdens down.  In the process, we become overwhelmed. Yet God does not want us to be overwhelmed.

He whispers to us everyday, “Child, open your heart to me instead of the demands of the day.  Lay those burdens at My feet rather than on your shoulders.  Let go of the list and dare to embrace My grace.”

John 16:33 says, “I have told you these things so that in Me you will have peace.  In this world, you will have trouble.  But take heart.  I have overcome the world.”  God always offers us grace undeserved, beauty that wraps itself around our messy lives to make us whole again and joy that arrives like a candle and reminds us brighter days will come.

So today, despite the hustle and bustle of the day, in the midst of creating my long overdue book proposal, I thought about you, my friends.  That you must feel the same way I do sometimes…overwhelmed, ordinary and small.  In the midst of the tug-o-war of life, life is hard.  But God always gives us strength.  He promises that anything we face, He will give us everything we need.

To all of you I know and to those I don’t know, I want to whisper something to you, gently, lovingly “You are making a difference. You are changing the world in your own unique way.  You may not see it, but with one word at a time, one heart at a time, in all that you do, the One who sees loves you.” 

May we all have the courage to let go of our burdens and lay them tenderly at God’s feet.

Yesterday, I attended a dog show featuring obedience and protection trials.  What amazed me was how the dogs obeyed their masters, willingly giving up their own minds in order to please.  Dog after dog went through the paces of a well-rehearsed routine and enjoyed the praise of their masters.  The ballet of retrieving weights especially when it required jumping over a 3 foot high fence or an A-frame obstacle was remarkable.

But it also gave me pause.  Each day, I walk with my God, yet I wonder if I show him the obedience the dogs showed their masters.  The importance of obeying the guidance God gives us can not be minimized.  God will be very specific as He guides our lives. When Peter was troubled over something Jesus said to another disciple, Jesus’ answer in John 21:22 was clear, “…What is that to you? As for you, follow me.”

We must know what God is asking us to do and not be led astray by what others want us to do. As the Holy Spirit guides us, He will not say “yes” to every opportunity that presents itself to us. Not every urge we have is necessarily the Holy Spirit prompting us to do something. Don’t be troubled if the Holy Spirit is telling someone else to do something and He is not telling you. Walk in His peace and only do what He is asking you to do.

Micah 6:8 states, “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.  And what does the LORD require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” If we put our complete trust in God, as the dogs did with their owners, we’ll find strength in His grace, assurance in God’s word, contentment if God’s provision and fulfillment in His purpose for our lives.  We’ll learn to live with the desire to walk each day in the presence of God.  We’ll crave the peace that comes from following God to His desired place for us.  We’ll rejoice in the understanding the every decision that God makes on our behalf is for our protection and our benefit. 

What is more pleasing to the LORD: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams. 1 Samuel 15:22

My friend’s father died on Monday.  She was understandably upset at her dad’s passing.  He was her daddy, a friend, a comforting beacon in a world of insecurity.

To offer comfort and support, I went to the funeral and burial.

Only one slight concern, my friend is Jewish.  Being a Christian, I’d never been to a Jewish funeral.  I was a bit nervous going thinking, “Would I fit in?  Would they let me in?  What if I unknowingly did something that was inappropriate or offensive?”

Emotional, moving, profound, the service was an ocean of memories – a loving marriage, nurturing family and a successful career.  The reading of the 23rd Psalm (The Lord is My Shepherd) magically made some of the differences between our religions melt away.  And, thankfully, I didn’t do anything out of step with the other mourners.

In Luke 13, the rich young ruler asks “What do I have to do to gain eternal life?”  Christ asks him what does the law say and he responds, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”  But when the ruler asks, “Who is my neighbor, he hoped for an easy answer.  In typical fashion, Christ explains through the parable of the Good Samaritan that our neighbor is everyone.  As my pastor is fond of saying, “You have never locked eyes with someone who doesn’t matter to God,”

When I made my decision to attend the funeral, I only saw a woman, my friend, who was hurting and mattered to God.  In this instance, I was called to be the hands and feet of Christ and did it by crossing a religious barrier; one that seemed minimized by our mutual sadness.

Please don’t let a day go by without taking the time, creativity, energy and risk to speak love to another human being.  Tell them exactly how valued they are regardless of what barriers – social, racial, religious, economic – you need to cross to do that.  Let that be our mission:  to be kind to one another and to smile with each other through the tears. 

I love the idea of living in a world where we see all people as immeasurably loved by God.  I’d sign up for a world like that everyday!