Ultimate Joy

Archive for October 2011

I love the water.  Always have, always will.  Walking along the beach is a singular delight – embracing the water as it crashes on the sand.  It tickles my toes in an effervescent sort of way.  The breezes that whip through my hair and the sound of the waves as they wash up on the shore are so symbolic, exquisite, intense and reflective.  Before I moved to California, I’d make sure every trip here included a walk on the beach because that’s where I met God.  I poured out my heart to Him, pleading with Him to find a way for me to live in California.

And in His grace, He moved me here.  For a while, my life’s goal was getting to California.  The trick now is not to get too comfortable sitting on the beach. Our lives are not about sitting comfortably, but taking a risk – a leap of faith. Now I need to search my soul, listen to God and find my life’s next adventure.

There is a tendency when you reach a goal to believe you did it yourself.  My hard work, my time, my goals got me where I am. It is easy to lose sight of the One who blesses you.  My heavenly Father moved me here only in the fullness of the plans He had for me.

I’ve learned since moving here, each season the beach needs to be refreshed.  Debris is removed, kelp and seaweed hauled away and new sand scattered so the shoreline remains pristine and beautiful. That kind of renewal is something we all need.  Otherwise our lives become littered with wreckage, paperwork, phone messages and a pile of dirty laundry with too little God in between.  I remember walking blindly by the shoreline, weary and worn out from asking God to answer my prayers to move here.  Finally, a huge cleansing wave came, tumultuous, powerful and majestic, washing away my old life and catapulting me into a new one.  With it came renewal – God-breathed and holy.

I’m not suggesting you renew your life by moving 2500 miles away.  But I do know in order to experience this major renewal, God brought me to my knees in humble submission over and over again.  It took me years to see the purpose.  I asked the usual questions, “God, why are you moving so slowly?” “What do you want me to do, God?”  “Am I understanding you correctly?”

I still wonder what God wants me to do, but I’ve learned through humility to wait for God to supply the answers.  He carried me through the years back in Illinois, when I deeply desired to embrace the warm sun of California.  Back then, my life was filled with the debris of doubting God, limited faith and ineffective prayers.  But on my knees before His throne, God rinsed away my failings, propelling my heart to accept that when I am in His hands, I have all I need.

Right now, my beach is clean and refreshed with new treasures to be found.  I’m ready and pray fervently, “God bring it! Bring me a passionate dream to fulfill for Your kingdom purposes.” My waiting is easier because I know God will launch me on my next adventure.

My life is before me yet I still stand at the shoreline ready to jump into His waves of grace.

Where in your life do you need renewal?  What shoreline are you walking, fervently awaiting God’s answer to your prayer?

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When you were in high school, did you ever do anything utterly stupid?  Or were you part of the “in” crowd sailing through life with homecoming corsages and “most likely to succeed” accolates?

Were you ever misunderstood? Did you invoke laughter because you wore the wrong color shoes or your Halloween costume wasn’t scary enough?

Was the weight of the world on your shoulders during exam time because you spent too much time at the hamburger hangout instead of studying?

Do you look back with fond memories or the searing pain of heartbreak?

No one is immune – then or now.  If you are normal, you probably had experiences on both ends of the spectrum.  After all, high school is only the warm-up for life.  These feelings aren’t reserved for teenagers alone, because let’s face it – life isn’t always fair.

But if you had someone surrounding you with love during those times, you know just how powerful love can be.

Love heals and restores.  It lifts your spirit by encouraging your soul.  It gives you air when you can’t breathe.  Perspective when you’d swear you’re ready for the loony bin. Joy when there should only be sorrow.

Love.

Love is its most intense when you don’t deserve it. One evening, my boyfriend broke up with me at a dance at my high school.  Feeling stunned, dazed and weak, I walked over to the nearest teacher literally falling into her arms sobbing uncontrollably.  She held me until I had cried myself dry. When I calmed down enough to leave, I realized my makeup was all over her dress. She laughed about it; making light of the spots. Love undeserved.

And when we’ve done something ugly or foolish and we can’t shake the consequences, but love comes anyway; it is freeing.  It brings a shower of grace washing the manure of shame away.

I want to love in that way – giving it when it is undeserved.  Providing love that bathes away another soul’s remorse.  After all, we need all the love we can get.  We’re all wounded, struggling, fragile.  And just like in high school, we manage our image because it hurts and is humiliating to appear anything but in total control.

What if we loved ourselves more because we know God gives us abundant grace even though we fail?  And what if we loved those around us all the more because we have so much more to share?

Some practical ways to love:

Use gentle, gracious words

“Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.” Proverbs 16:24

“A gentle answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger.” Proverbs 15:1

Forgive over and over again

“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” Mathew 18:21-22

Make every effort to pursue and live in peace with everyone

“Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” Hebrews 12:14

“Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.” Romans 14:19

Love for a greater purpose

“By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35

Real love isn’t like some mushy date movie.  It is challenging, gracious and brave.  It calls on you to give more than you think you are able, but remember this – God always has your back when you love someone.

What are your biggest hindrances to loving yourself or others?

I’ve never seen a dog cry.  I’ve never seen one laugh for that matter.  Yet, I have experienced their intense joy as they whirl and twirl chasing a ball. And I’ve seen sadness and bewilderment in their eyes when I leave.  Their intense, indescribable canine loyalty makes me wonder what deep, passionate emotions beat in their hearts.

One touching display of loyalty is currently making the rounds on the Internet.  It shows Hawkeye, a Labrador Retriever, lying at the coffin of his master, Petty Officer Jon Tumilson.  A Navy Seal, Tumilson died on August 6 when his Chinook helicopter was shot down by insurgents in Afghanistan.

When the Petty Officer’s friend took the podium to eulogize his lost pal, Hawkeye followed and went straight to the casket at the front of the gymnasium where the service was held, lying down with a heavy sigh and refusing to leave the side of his owner.  If that isn’t sadness, what is?

In a solemn display of grief and love, the dog remained dutiful to his owner, even though his owner had passed.

For those who knew him, the loss of Tumilson has been described as “immeasurable.” The heart-wrenching actions of his loyal Lab Hawkeye only show that the loss of life, similar to the loyalty shown by our pets, is not at all quantifiable or measurable.

God’s loyalty to us is limitless, also.  When we feel dry, worn out or empty God never leaves our side. When we struggle with finding our purpose and our worth, as our faithful Companion, He whispers kind words to us.  He tells us how much He loves us.  He renews us and He inspires us.

When my dog Rascal was dying of cancer, she suddenly decided she didn’t want to make the trek to our upstairs bedroom. So, I moved downstairs – making a bedroom out of our living room by putting a mattress on the floor.  One night, I had several nightmares so terrifying I began to cry out in my sleep.  Rascal tenderly, gently put her paw on my bed to soothe and quiet me.  It was as if she was saying, “You’ve always got me, you know. We’ll go through the world together, and always stand by each other.”

I don’t know about you, but I want to be known for that kind of loyalty.  I want to live a life recognized for reflecting God’s loyalty so completely that my life is reshaped and my relationships are refurbished.  I want to leave behind my negative attitudes of comparing, contrasting, evaluating, doubting, and allowing myself to feel like a disappointment even though the Lord tells me over and over that He loves me.  He blesses each and every day with His grace and loyalty.

That’s why today you can begin with a new confidence and with a heart aligned with the One who knew your name before time began. He provides tranquility with His love. If you quiet yourself before Him, you will hear the sound of your own name echoing back from the great I AM.

My dog Lily is asleep at my feet as I finish this entry.  She’s had a busy day protecting me from other dogs and various visitors to the house. Her loyalty is touching, but it will never outshine the loyalty of God.  You see, I’ve had to earn Lily’s respect, love and loyalty.  Over the months of feeding her, taking care of her, loving her, she’s bonded to me.

But God’s love and loyalty are there for the taking.  We don’t have to earn it.  He reaches out to us and consistently showers us with His bold love and profound loyalty to us.

So, join me on the journey of reflecting the loyalty of God, won’t you? I’m pretty certain that every step of the way will be well worth it.

There are some days when I feel the world threatens to get the best of me. But today is not one of those days.  There are other days when I feel so helpless, so useless, so unloved.  But, again, today is not one of those days.

Today is a day for rejoicing!  Oh, nothing momentous happened this week except for the time I spent reflecting on the love of God.  How big it is, how all-encompassing it is.  How beautiful it is and how that beauty washes over into each and every day – whether we feel it or not.

God’s love was pointed out to me via a flower.  Gorgeous red flowers bloom in my garden almost every day.  They delight me not only for their serene loveliness, but how they are unfazed by the calendar. Here, October brings gorgeous colors while, in my native Midwest, the radiance of our flower bed is slowly diminishing with fall’s chill.

Each delicate bloom reminds me how God interjects such exquisite beauty into our lives just to remind us of that love. And then it struck me, when I can’t Jesus can.  When I ask Him to come quickly, He is there by my side.

In that moment starring at the flowers under a bright blue sky, God’s awesome love pricked my heart in a profound way.  He tells us in Matthew 6: 28 – 30: “See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.  If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?”

Yes, Christ was talking to me when He spoke about those with little faith.  My puny faith often doesn’t appreciate the remarkable strength of our God.  I must remind myself that no matter what troubles I experience in my life, they are still not bigger than God.  His peace still surpasses it.  His strength can overcome it.  That He is control brings comfort to me.

Whether it was a flower, a cloud, a person or an experience, God brought something into your life today to remind His magnificent love covers you always.  And that calls for rejoicing!