Ultimate Joy

Archive for July 2012

Great drama always comes boiling to the surface at the Olympic Games.  The 1992 Games in Barcelona were no exception. A British runner by the name of Derek Redmond had his sights set on winning his 400 meter semi-final heat and running in the finals.  About 250 meters from the finish, Derek’s hamstring snapped and he fell to the ground.  Medical personnel rushed over to help him, but he waved them off and grimacing in pain, got up and hobbled down the track desperately trying to finish his heat.

His father, seeing all this and knowing his son needed help, barged past security, ran down to the field, wrapped his arms around his son’s shoulders and walked with him to the finish line. Once Derek crossed the finish line, the crowd of 65,000 rose to give him a standing ovation.

In 2 Timothy 4:7, Paul writes:  “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (NIV) There are days when we all long to quit. When life becomes just too difficult, too painful to move. Yet, we pick ourselves up and we keep going. Sometimes, there are friends and family cheering us on.  They walk the entire course with us providing support, “Come on, you can do it!  Don’t give up,  you are almost there.”

But then there are other times when you look around and you are all alone. There is no one with you, no one at your side and no one cheering you on. Loneliness and discouragement set in.  It’s easy to give up on those days. We become so discouraged we lose sight of the finish line.

But rather than giving up, it is on those days, I need, we all need, to listen more closely, more intently to the still small voice of our Heavenly Father. Like Joe Redmond, Derek’s father, God is there to pick us up when we fall, there to hold us when we cry, hug us when we are lonely, cheer us on when no one else wants to take on that job.  Even more importantly, He loves us just as we are; whether we win the gold medal or are disqualified like Derek Redmond. (Since Derek was helped across the finish line by his father, this officially disqualified him.  Olympic records state he did not finish the race.)

Our Heavenly Father is cheering you on.  He’s saying, “Keep going. Don’t give up! You are never alone. You are precious to Me. You can do it. I will help you every step of the way.”

We need to pay attention to the times God whispers just how much he loves us and is for us. It is not a matter of whether or not he speaks these words to us.  It is always a matter of whether we listen or not.

 

The humidity is shocking today.  I’m sitting in front of my computer sweating without doing anything but typing. That’s usually my cue to turn on the air-conditioning, but my sense of frugality tugs at me and the unit stays off. “Why turn it on,” I reason, “when the sun will be going down soon and the evening temperatures will cool the house?”

I think back to my childhood.  I’m old enough to remember (gasp!) those days when central air-conditioning wasn’t considered necessary.  People went to the movie theaters to cool down, or their basements, or just sat with a cold lemonade on their front porches. Cars didn’t even have it, unless you called the breeze through the open windows air-conditioning.

Talking about air-conditioning seems trivial compared to the days when women had to get up at the crack of dawn to start the fire, get the vegetables from the garden, tend the animals, make their own soap and clothes, knead their own bread. The work day was a long one – from dusk to dawn -and often not everything got accomplished.

We live in a society where our wants often become confused with our needs. While I’m typing here complaining about the sultry humidity, I think about today’s women who live in huts, still drawing water at their well, going to the river to clean their clothes and tending their gardens to make dinner for their families – all in stifling heat and humidity. 21st century women whose only relief for the heat is the shade of a tree during the day and a cool breeze at night. Women in today’s world without the modern conveniences I take for granted.

God used today’s humidity to remind me how easily selfishness creeps into my life. Do I really need air-conditioning? How about my washing machine? Could I live without running water and a working toilet? When was the last time I thanked him for those things? The things that make life so much easier.

Later this evening, I’ll take my dog out for her last walk of the day. In the cool of the evening, I can always hear the soft melody of crickets. In the darkness, that noise calms me, soothes me, relaxes me right before bed. It is in that quiet portion of the evening, under the moonlight, I thank God for what He gave me that day, for the blessings of family, friends, house and dog. It’s a time for my heart to leap with joy for I am truly blessed by Him.

Maybe sometimes we surround ourselves too much by technology that we can’t hear God’s still small voice drawing us closer to Him! Crickets, simple little crickets echoing through the night call me to unplug and pray…lead me back to God.

Something I could never hear over the noise of an air-conditioner…

In the middle of a routine phone conversation, I suddenly stopped and asked my husband, “What are you afraid of?” His answer surprised me! “I’m afraid of life.” I’m not sure if his answer was serious or tongue in cheek. Probably will never know since I quickly replied, “I’m afraid of dying.”

I don’t have to convince myself I’m afraid of dying. One night last week, my dog started barking at 2AM, then again at 4AM, finally waking me up for good prior to 6AM. Every time Lily woke me from a sound sleep, I was convinced some axe-murderer was breaking into the house to do bodily harm to all its inhabitants. With my heart pounding out of my chest, my thoughts immediately turned to tomorrow’s headlines because that’s when our bodies would be discovered by some innocent neighbor who just happened to see the blood dripping from our balcony. (Okay, maybe I do watch a bit too much TV, but it could happen, right?)

On Monday, I’m having surgery. It’s pretty routine, but it is also scary…especially since it is happening to me. This is ironic coming from someone who not only has had surgery before – and came through with flying colors – but generally doesn’t let much scare her. But I must be honest and tell you I’m not happy about this road God has me on right now.

My friend who is driving me to and from the hospital sent me a lovely email. In it she said, “I hope you aren’t worried about this. God’s got a plan to use this somehow for His glory, even if we don’t understand how or why.”

And that got me to thinking – has my fear kept me from doing things that glorify God? I know it has. There are times I haven’t shared the gospel because I was afraid, times I haven’t tithed the full amount because I was nervous about bills, times I’ve turned down ministry opportunities because I let my worries get the best of me. While I was wearing myself out in the process, all the while God was saying, “Dear daughter, I’m here, right here. Won’t you let me guide you?”

My pre-surgical fretting was making me sick, literally ill – until one night while watching the evening news, I heard a snippet from a commencement speech. The speaker said, “Be the heroine of your own story, not the victim.” And I thanked God in that moment because those courageous words struck a chord in my heart.

In Isaiah 43:1, God boldly proclaims, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.”

Peace promptly invaded my soul because the times I’ve acted on that verse, really lived it, said “yes” to God even though I was literally quaking in my boots, I was blessed more than I could have ever imagined.

My friend is correct – God is using my medical condition for His glory. My fear is reinforcing my dependence on Him, my desire to get through surgery is comforted by His strength and the next time I’m asked to say “Yes” when I’m afraid, because I’ve experienced His comfort amidst my fear, answering in the affirmative will be so much easier.

What are you afraid of? Where can you rely on God’s strength to take you down the road He’s carved out for you? Where can you follow God just a bit more closely so you become the heroine of God’s story for your life?