Ultimate Joy

Archive for September 2012

Most people think of Disneyland as the “Happiest Place on Earth.”  I call the post office that. Now don’t get all postal on me; I do realize it has its faults. I call it “The Happiest Plae on Earth” because it is the place that takes my cards and letters and delivers them to you, my precious friends. It also delivers your sweet greetings to me.  It doesn’t get much better than that!

The other day, I received an email from a friend about the post office.  I was on the phone completing some marketing research and I started to tear up. Seems that happens almost every time this old dog lover reads this email. I figure the sentiment was worth sharing on this blog:

The email states it is absolutely true. Even if it isn’t, it gives us a lot to think about concerning love…

Our 14-year-old dog, Abbey, died last month.

The day after she passed away, my 4-year-old daughter, Meredith, was crying and talking about how much she missed Abbey.

She asked if we could write a letter to God so that when Abbey got to heaven, God would recognize her.

I told her that I thought we could, so she dictated these words:

Dear God,

Would you please take care of my dog? Abbey died yesterday and is with you in heaven. I miss her very much. I’m happy that you let me have her as my dog even though she got sick. I hope you will play with her. She likes to swim and play with balls. I am sending you a picture of her so when you see her you will know that she is my dog. I really miss her. Love, Meredith

We put the letter in an envelope with a picture of Abbey and Meredith in it and addressed it to God/Heaven.

We put our return address on it.

Meredith pasted several stamps on the front of the envelope because she said it would take lots of stamps to get the letter all the way to heaven.

A few days later, she asked if God had gotten the letter yet. I told her I thought He had.

Yesterday, there was a package wrapped in gold paper on our front porch addressed, “To Meredith” in an unfamiliar hand.

Meredith opened it.

Inside was a book by Mr. Rogers called, When a Pet Dies.

Taped to the inside front cover was the letter we had written to God in its opened envelope.

On the opposite page was the picture of Abbey and Meredith and this note:

Dear Meredith:

Abbey arrived safely in heaven. Having the picture was a big help and I recognized her right away. Abbey isn’t sick anymore. Her spirit is here with me just like it stays in your heart. Abbey loved being your dog. Since we don’t need our bodies in heaven, I don’t have any pockets to keep your picture, so I’m sending it back to you in this little book for you to keep and have something to remember Abbey by.

Thank you for the beautiful letter and thank your mother for helping you write it and sending it to me.

What a wonderful mother you have. I picked her especially for you. I send my blessings every day and remember that I love you very much.

By the way, I’m easy to find. I am wherever there is love.

Love,

God

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He stood surrounded by dogs desperately trying to locate mine. This amazing dog sitter harbors the dogs in his house rather than in kennels, also giving them free run of his considerable backyard. As such, he is in high demand and takes very few canines. Few being around ten. Trying to separate mine so I could take her home, all of the dogs swirled around his feet vying for attention. Finally, in desperation, he called me over to help. 

All I did was say one word, “Lily.” Immediately, my black German Shepherd, jerked her head up, removed herself from the pack, jumped over the gate delineating the “people” side of the house from the “dog” side, climbed over the owner’s living room couch to sit motionless at my side. It was graceful, fluid and sweet all at the same time. No obstacles were going to prevent her from joining me.

Fortunately, she was also quick. There are rules in this house; both husband and wife of this dog sitting couple are also Master Dog Trainers and quite strict. I was pretty certain Lily just broke about 10 of their doggie edicts! Thank goodness with all the commotion going on, the fellow wasn’t aware of Lily’s inappropriate behavior.

It set my mind to wonder:  I was created to pursue God. I was created to know God – to be satisfied in Him and Him alone. To worship Him and Him alone. But even as a believer, do I leave my pack and run to God the way Lily ran to me? Am I so content surrounded by the swirling demands of my schedule, my relationships, my activities that I’d fail to hear my Master’s voice and leave it behind to run to the true source of my satisfaction and hope?

One tiny word and Lily ran to me without hesitation or regret. John 10:27 says, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me.” She knew my voice and she wanted to follow me.

God turned a beautiful display of loyalty into a valuable lesson.  Lily left the clutter of the other dogs because she heard my voice. She recognized me as her Master, knew she belonged to me and longed to be by my side. Like her, I must turn away from anything that muddles my faith and place my trust in Jesus Christ. We were created to be set apart, to live set-apart lives and the only way we can live that kind of life is by spending time at His side.

Who or what are you trusting in today? Are you ready to show your loyalty to God by running to Him; by finding contentment just being by His side?

Today, may you feel the incomparable peace of your Master’s voice.

Last night, I sighed as I opened my front door, returning from a vacation that was more a marathon than an opportunity for recreation. There was no rhythm to my time away, just rush, rush, rush. Ran from one activity to the next trying to see it all, do it all, visit with as many people as possible.

The trip reminded me of an early childhood memory. My family loved car trips. These were pre-Internet days, so at evening’s end, instead of searching the Internet, we searched the “vacancy” signs in front of motels. We were greatly disappointed when we found a fairly decent-looking one, but the “no vacancy” sign out front was lit.  

That memory came wafting back to me because while I was gone, my soul began to feel vacant since I had hung a “no vacancy” sign on my life. For nine days, I spent almost every waking moment involved in my overbooked schedule with little time spent in sacred communion with God.

All sorts of activities vied for my attention to the point I experienced a broken union with Christ. One of the first things I unpacked was my journal, but it sat right where I placed it on Day 1 until I packed it up right before I left for home. While I did pray every night before I went to sleep, that isn’t really enough, is it? We need more than that to deeply fellowship with our Creator.

Yet, while I wasn’t seeking God, I was overcome with joy because I strongly felt His presence in all my activities. That’s because He lives in us, so His sacred love permeates all we do. He was right beside me while I was visiting with friends, in the dentist’s chair or even trying in vain to clean out the basement. All I needed to do was acknowledge His presence.

1 Thessalonians 5:17 says simply, “pray without ceasing.” For many years, I struggled with that. Imagining that meant being down on my knees with my hands folded together, I never thought unceasing prayer was possible.  How does God expect us to pray every moment of every day? That question haunted me until these overbooked days where one activity ran into another ended and the truth slammed me. Our lives should be one giant prayer to God.

I’m not saying to forget about those private extended times alone with God.  We most certainly need those. But by acknowledging God’s presence in every aspect of our lives, we will experience His sacred love in everything we do.

God’s love is powerful – enough to pervade the nooks and crannies of our lives. That includes visiting with friends, cooking dinner, doing the laundry or even packing up your suitcase. I might have forgotten to welcome Him into my presence, but He never forgot to stay with me; that’s how much He loves me.

Those nine vacant days were a wake-up call. My time away taught me I want my life to be more Him, less me. From now on, I want to spend my days acknowledging Him, striving to follow Him even in the busyness of life.

What about you?

People were downright angry…ready to riot in the streets. Some were outright indignant about the wide-spread television coverage of the political convention. Their normal television routine was disrupted causing strong emotions escalating almost to the level of rage!

Don’t get me wrong. I like television. For example, don’t even think of getting between me and the television when Survivor is on!  And when I’m under the weather, there is something about television that soothes and comforts as I lay on the couch nursing myself back to health.

But what was the answer to all this passion exhibited about convention coverage cancelling shows? More television, of course! Different shows on different channels or worn-out reruns of beloved favorites. Which left me shaking my head. Why is the answer to stale television more television?

Why can’t the answer be turning off the television and enjoying life a bit more? How about writing a letter, calling a friend or even an impromptu visit? What about playing board game face-to-face with lots of laughter and conversation? Ever thought about going to your favorite coffee shop and starting a conversation with someone you don’t know? Or baking a pie and taking it next door – yes, talking with your neighbor instead of waving at each other as you pull into your perspective garages! How about taking a walk around the neighborhood or just sitting under a tree enjoying the spectacular sounds of a summer’s evening?

The prophet Zephaniah said,  “He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” I don’t want the soundtrack of my life to be so loud I miss God singing over me. And how better to hear it that to be surrounded by friends – laughing and telling stories?  Living side-by-side with people who care about you, sharing fun and hearing God’s laughter in the background. Or just spending time alone with God simply because He knew before the beginning of time how deeply satisfying it is for us to enjoy fellowship with Him.

The point is, we all yearn to be cherished as an extraordinary treasure. But to me, that longing isn’t satisfied by sitting all evening in front of the television. We dream of life’s adventures, rather than living a life that is fresh every morning with eager anticipation of what the day may hold. We long for a love that transcends meaning, yet are often unwilling to do the hard work of experiencing that love lavishly tucked in moments spent with each other.

So, don’t keep changing the channels hoping for something better.  Make life something better! Listen to God’s love song, the exquisite melodies He crafted just for you, for your life, for now! In your soundtrack, you’ll experience God romancing you towards an adventure with Him that beats any show on television.