Ultimate Joy

Archive for May 2012

Clouds

Posted on: May 30, 2012

Sunny, southern California isn’t supposed to be like this. Especially not on Memorial Day weekend. You’d expect it to be bright and blissful and beautiful, abuzz with energy and life, but that’s not happening today. The clouds hang low, the sun is nowhere to be found and the temperature is hovering at 60! The natives are wrapped up at home complaining about the cold wondering where the warmth went.

As Christians, we often have the same reaction. We think life is always supposed to be bright and beautiful. Our paths should remain straight, happy and surrounded by fields of sweet smelling flowers. Yet, just because we have God on our side doesn’t mean we won’t face days like today – dreary, dismal and draining.

Most times I give into the day’s drabness forcing my countenance into a nose dive. But today, I see beauty despite the absence of the sun. That’s because I feel close to God today; He holds on to me with strength that is beyond my comprehension, telling me “Precious child, I’m still here. No matter if the sun leaves, I’ll still be here with you.”

But there are other days…ones where I don’t feel so near to God and try to muscle through life on my own terms. Or worse yet, times when the clouds hang around for days, weeks, even years. Then, in the midst of the dreariness, I wonder “Where have you gone God? Why is life this constant struggle? The burdens are too heavy for me to carry and it feels like you’ve left me.”

I’m sure the irony is not lost on God because He never leaves me; His blessings are even more abundant during my struggles. For wrapped up in the drama, God does something amazing. He reveals Himself in a way that isn’t possible during smooth sailing. He chips away at my defenses and reveals Himself – His holiness, His strength, His wisdom, His love, His grace. The ability to hold tightly to the everlasting God, to understand as God uncovers more of Himself to me undergirds the days when getting out of bed seems like a chore.

In my selfishness, I want to know God in the sun. I want to run to God amongst those fields of sweet smelling flowers, to have Him hold me, to speak tender thoughts to me. On cloudy days, my fear rushes up and I’m immobile – like the clouds unable to give way to the brightness of the sun.

And that’s when I need to remind myself – God wins.

All this fear, all this darkness, all the loss in the world, it doesn’t win. It doesn’t last forever. In the end, God wins.

Today, as the sun desperately tries to peak out from behind the clouds, the rays remind me my life is not for this earth. It lives here and thrives here and often times hurts here, but ultimately its resting place is beyond here. And that gives me confidence to face the next storm for I am never facing them alone. Better yet, I am on the side that wins.

Life’s battles are less frightening when God displays His power through them, as He slowly reveals His love to me. I need to embrace the gray days and God right along with them. Only in our amazing God do I find the strength to overcome my challenges with the abundance of God’s love.

Because, in the end, God wins!

This weekend, I attended not one, but two conferences. Social Media was a hot topic at both – the ability to reach out and touch thousands of people anywhere in the globe, to find people locally and internationally who share your same interests, to post comments and pictures online so friends and relatives feel they are participating in your life.  But are they really?

Why is it we have all these wonderful ways to communicate with each other, yet most of us don’t feel deeply connected? So busy with our electronic devices, we often fail to engage in deep personal conversation. When was the last time you shared your heart with another human being face-to-face with no electronics, not even a phone, between you. When have you taken the time to build into another human by simply walking beside them ?

I’m not writing this as post for a pity party.  Oh, poor Myra, she’s feeling lonely.  Let’s invite her out for dinner.

Mostly, I’m writing it as a call to action. Social Media has its place, its purpose, its benefits, no doubt. But as human beings, we were created to be with one another, to invest in one another, to encourage each other and pour into each other’s lives in a way that can’t happen via Twitter or Facebook. God made us to crave doing life together  by inviting people into our lives and actively constructing a deep relational framework.

While I appreciate the wonderful electronics that help me stay connected with folks all over the globe, there is something magical about the power of presence…the ability to look another person in the eye, to wipe the tears from their eyes, to embrace them with love before you leave.

I want to emulate how Jesus responded to friends and those in need. He had three short years to complete his mission. Not only did Jesus not have social media to help, he walked everywhere he went. Yet, countless times in the Bible, he took time out of his busy schedule to stop, to listen, to touch, to heal.

There is quite frankly, no substitute for face-to-face human interaction. We all need people to hold us and whisper into our ears, “I’m praying for you.  I’ll walk this road together with you.” We need to learn to give each other joy through our physical presence.

You need that.  Your friends need that.

So today, this week, I’m encouraging you to sit with a friend over coffee or better yet dinner.  Take the time to tell them in person that you care about them. Your presence will tell them you’re there for them, you think highly of them and that they matter.

Used

Posted on: May 14, 2012

Listen up, all you coffee drinkers and Starbucks devotees. This is probably the only time we’ll be talking about coffee on this site.   I never developed a taste for it and I probably never will.  Love the smell of it, though. 

My husband has a bad habit of leaving his used coffee grounds in the sink. Why he can’t put them in the trash is beyond me. One day, as I got ready to toss them into the garbage, I took a minute to ponder them. Do you feel ever feel used up liked old coffee grounds? Tired and past your prime.

I searched the Internet and found there are many ways to use old coffee grounds. Everything from exfoliant to hair conditioner, plant fertilizer to temporary tattoos. So even when we think we are used up, we’re not.

Think about Paul.  Prior to his conversion, he was dedicated to the persecution of the early followers of Christ. In his writings, he called himself the worst of all sinners. Despite this, once converted, he maintained a healthy identity in Christ. He did not wallow in his sins or let his guilt over them prevent him from doing God’s work. Paul knew Christ’s death set him free from all his sins and their condemnation. Something utterly amazing happened to Paul; he moved onward and didn’t stagnate because of his inner failings.  He asked for forgiveness from sin and moved his eyes toward one goal – becoming more like Jesus.

Looking at those used up coffee grounds in the sink, I was overwhelmed by God’s love. My identity in Christ is secure…even when life grinds me up, uses me up and spits me out.  Paul was not a spiritual anomaly. The freedom he found in Christ, the positive, uplifting, inspiring identity he found in our Savior, is ours, also. We only need to own our mistakes and move on.

Like old coffee grounds, there are a myriad ways God can use us, even when we think we’re not good enough to be used. So like Paul, let’s be quick to receive God’s grace so guilt won’t paralyze us. Let’s make room in our hearts and souls for the life-giving power of the Holy Spirit to fill every inch of our heart and soul. May the only things we wallow in be His light and His love.

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. Romans 8:1-2.