Ultimate Joy

Posts Tagged ‘relationships

Frustration grew in my heart as I rushed to be on time for an appointment the other day. I had just put the car in drive and was preparing to back out of the driveway when my cell phone rang. I shoved the gear selector back into park and picked up the phone. It was a dear friend of mine from graduate school and her voice was heavy with hurt. Recently, there had been two deaths in her family and just last night, her mother-in-law suffered a terrible stroke and was not expected to live.

Man Holding Cell Phone Camera
Her sorrow broke my heart. I wanted to reach through the phone and hug her. I wanted to lift her burdens and reach through the phone line to hug her. I couldn’t do any of that, so I listened and prayed.
Do you feel overwhelmed today? Discouraged by the complicated challenges in your life? There are so many burdens being carried by souls weary of the task. So many people are desperate for a miracle from God.
God knew we would struggle with difficulties. That’s why so many times the Bible points us back to the hope of Christ. In Mark 5: 25 – 29, for example, we learn of a woman who had been bleeding for twelve years. She heard about Jesus and thought, “If I just touch his cloak, I will be healed.” I love how the Message translations says about Christ’s response to her after He has healed this precious daughter, “Live well, lived blessed.”
Like this woman, the best thing you can do is take your needs to Jesus. Purposefully place your faith in the Faithful One. When you pray, He will strengthen you. But if you try to handle things in your own strength, you will remain weak and ineffective.

If you are desperate for healing, help and hope, ask God to increase your faith today. Make a determined choice to trust Him. When you do, He will meet you at your need and carry the load of your burdens for you. He will whisper to you, “I am here. Now live well, lived blessed.”

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Yesterday, I attended a moving prayer service at Saddleback for Matthew Warren, Rick’s 27 year-old-son who committed suicide on Friday. I didn’t know Matthew, but I am on one of Rick’s teams and one of Kay’s. I’ve come to know both of them and I know their hearts are breaking. Could you say a prayer for them, but also for anyone who has been devastated because of suicide?

Myra+Rick2Richard and I had a very close friend who committed suicide. This happened in 2010 and I still often think of her often. We have always operated with an open door policy on our home; we feel it is God’s, not ours. As we processed our friend’s death, we wondered why she never shared her troubles with us, never picked up the phone to call us or come to stay with us. With all the questions we asked ourselves in our grief, I can’t imagine how a family member recovers from this shock.

Tom Holiday, Rick’s brother-in-law and Matthew’s uncle, gave a profound message this weekend. He issued a call to action: to attack evil with good. So, please take an extra moment to be kind to those around you. Hug your family and friends. Let people know how much you love them. Ask Jesus into whatever grief you are carrying because we all have grief in this life. Only He can completely transform a situation. Nothing, absolutely nothing is hopeless if you invite Christ into it. His very presence covers us with an all-encompassing love and a radiant hope to fill our lives with energy and purpose. So go out of your way this week to become a living, breathing, walking display of His glory.

Let me start: thank you for all the kindness you have shown me through the years. All of you, my readers, have gone out of your way to encourage me and make me into a better writer. I appreciate your acute intellects and wonderful suggestions on how to improve. You are awesome and amazing. My writing has vastly improved because of you.

Thanks for all you do! Now, please say a kind word today, tell someone that you love them or bring a smile to someone’s face with a word of encouragement. Let the world be brighter today because of you.

Chaos always reigns around the holidays, but it also reminds us of how rich and lovely and beautiful life is, full of vitality and laughter amidst lots of busyness. Which might explain why, to me, heaven always seems much closer on Christmas Eve. On this most holiest of nights, we’re done. We’ve shopped and partied, decorated and wrapped ourselves silly, but tonight, weMP900313865 recognize that none of our efforts really matters. Christmas – a true celebration of fresh starts and new beginnings starts tonight if we choose to focus on the tiny baby born in a manger who came to save us and give us true life.

Tonight is the night of new hope.

That hope is available for anyone who wants it; for anyone willing to reach out for it and grab a hold of God’s hand.

His hope is for anyone who clutches to what is important about this night. It is the message brought to us by the child who came to light the world with His forgiveness, that perfect child born in a manger in Bethlehem so very long ago.

He is the gift.

It is all about His love.

And I hope His love comes to you, comforts you and remains.

My greeting and prayer to you is that you’ll create a time in these next few days to reflect on God’s goodness shone down upon you throughout 2012. That in those few moments, you’ll thank him, but also listen, weep, and be still.

Grasp tightly to that holy reflection to be fully present and fragile in the presence of a God who came to earth to be with you, near to you and connected to you.

Merry Christmas!

Are you a Black Friday fanatic? Please tell me you aren’t! This year, I was thoroughly disgusted that major retailers started the Christmas shopping season on Thanksgiving. Instead of giving us a few more hours to bask in the thankful glow for all God gave us, for all the blessings this country has received  –  instead of sitting with family and friends relishing deep community and fellowship – something we all need – folks were out sleeping in tents, standing in lines, pushing and shoving all to save a few dollars on an item that will probably be obsolete in a couple of months.

The saddest commentary for me was a man sleeping in a tent in front of a big box realtor. He explained, “I brought bats and pepper spray; just in case someone tries to cut in front of me.” How very sad that the holiday meant to pause and offer gratitude has become one of battling it out for the latest electronics.

Especially this year, I didn’t want Thanksgiving to end. It’s quickly becoming a holiday that is skipped over in our dizzying rush to Christmas. Instead, I like to make Thanksgiving a time I reflect on all God has done for me. In Luke 8:15, Jesus reminds us, “But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it and by persevering produce a crop.” (NIV)

I long for all of us to have the noble and good heart – to reflect the love of Christ in all we do. There is no better way to express thanks to Christ than that. Could those at the first Thanksgiving dinner ever imagine their holiday of love, peace and thanks would get sandwiched in between Blackout Wednesday and Black Friday? America showed its nobility when it became the first nation to set aside a national day of thanks, yet now we seem to be the laughing stock of the world as we drink ourselves to oblivion the night before and shop ourselves silly on the day afterward. Has that become the sign of a thanking God for our country, life, family and friends?

Thanksgiving for Richard and I has always been a slow holiday. We enjoy each other; we cook dinner together, we talk, we laugh – we open up space to love each other. We both want the same thing, a heart that is humble and fertile enough to receive God’s Word, retain God’s instruction and reflect on God’s character in both action and reactions.

Want a noble heart during this frenetic season?  Here are three simple suggestions:

Focus on People – Open your heart to all. See everyone as someone who deeply matters to God. Place a higher importance on people than on anything you could ever purchase in a store.

Be Generous – Think of your favorite Christmas memories. Most don’t involve the gifts, but the people. Create fantastic new memories for your family. Give your time and your treasures to those around you – even if it means giving up an afternoon of shopping to work in a homeless shelter. That precious gift will bring more joy than anything wrapped under the tree.

Slow the Season – Avoid hurry. Replace it the community, with friends. Sit on the sofa with those you love reflecting on how Christ’s birth impacts you. People are shaped by two things: trust and truth. And those two things require time.

Above all, with a noble and good heart, thank God for the miraculous love He showers on you.

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.

 

“Christ is Risen, He is Risen, Indeed!”

“I don’t have anything to wear!” I cried to my husband.  No one would ever accuse me of being stylish and vogue, shiny and colorful or even stunning and ravishing.  I’m all about comfort, so usually when I utter this phrase, it’s a tip off I’m nervous.

This morning, individuals from my church served breakfast, organized an Easter egg hunt and put on a short service for individuals living in a local residential hotel. The event’s purpose was to share the love of Jesus and offer a hot breakfast to those who might not have a meal today. Additionally, I was asked to give a brief message, a bit of my testimony rolled up with the story of Christ’s Resurrection’s power.

I wanted to look authentic, whatever that meant.  

Wherever you live, poverty lives down the road. We learned our breakfast attendees had been tossed and churned by life, beaten and spit out. And all too often, they blamed Jesus for their suffering. So today was a day to speak life, affirmation, truth and forgiveness into their lives.

What a difference from my childhood memories. Growing up, my family always dressed in our Easter finest. Everyone got a new outfit as we scurried off to church. Once home, we feasted on gourmet food, sat at a table that was impressive and enjoyed Easter baskets way over the top. We were probably a bit prideful, myself included.

But today was not about Easter bunnies, chocolate and delicious brunch food. This was about feasting on the true message of genuine love and faithfulness.

Christ’s death wasn’t pretty or hospitable.  It was authentic and real; offering the total gift of Himself, which resulted in our freedom. And that was the true reason why we were at this hotel.

Easter reminds us that Jesus’ life was not over when He died. He was brought back to life: to live a new life. We celebrate His death and resurrection at Easter. These events point us to the greater work of God – to the bigger, more amazing event that has happened in Jesus and what we wait for: new life promised to those who love Him.

He calls all of us to a new life, a fuller life. A rebirth, renewal, and a reawakening that is fulfilled in Christ’s resurrection.

And when I thought of it that way, I realized I’d never find an outfit that could say all that!

Philippians 4: 4 states, “Rejoice in the Lord, always. I will say it again, rejoice!” Easter is a special time of year when the earth fills with colors, textures, fragrances. It is time to celebrate new life. A time of joy.  A time to rejoice.

I gave thanks for the people who came to the breakfast. I rejoiced they put away their anger with God to enjoy a meal. I found joy in their stories – each one painful, each one poignant. And in the process, God blessed me.

Practice the ministry of presence. It only takes a few minutes to celebrate the life of another.  Who will benefit most from the gift of your time today?

Yesterday, I visited my local post office arms laden with packages to mail. Also needing stamps, I asked the attendant to pick out some pretty commemoratives. Wanting me to chose, she brought out every one in her drawer.  One set caught my eye, not because they were beautiful, but because of the stirring words printed on them:  Justice, equality, freedom and liberty.

ImageJustice, equality, freedom and liberty.

I have not written much about these issues because I have been unable to find my words around or through them. I could write more readily about anger, injustice, racism or suppression. That’s because what I desire to write about most is the sadness and sorrow I can not shake.

I am deeply distressed that every second of every day children are orphaned by disease, women are widowed by conflicts, families are devastated by natural disasters and refugees are relocated to new countries. I am deeply shaken that the roots of racial prejudice run so deep it is difficult to imagine a world without it. The world has done such a good job of teaching and fostering suspicion, fear and hate between people of varied backgrounds. If you want to spark a lively discussion just ask a group a people where they stand on immigration issues. That’s when the ideals of justice, equality, freedom and liberty get hazy.

Sitting comfortably in my living room, I could always fall back on “How can I change the injustices around the world if I can’t even impact the ones in my own backyard?”

Despite my sadness, I know what to do. God has whispered the answer to me, softly and gently, “Just follow your calling.”  You see my heart’s desire, my calling is to know God and make Him known.

I have been called to reclaim my world for Christ – my little piece of it, anyway. How that is facilitated looks different every day.

Daily, I need to point my focus towards Jesus. Daily, like Jesus, I desire to reach the hearts of those around me and connect with them on a soul level. Daily, I crave modeling for others the heart of a woman whose focus is on Him.

Appropriate words, healing words, redeeming words, resurrecting words should flow out of my mouth. The words of those who point me towards God are always welcome. Prayerful words are lifted up for those who seek to bring these four ideals into the dark places of the world – yes, even into my city, my heart because injustice, anger and sorrow live there, also.

Proverbs 3:3 says, “Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.” Oh, if it could only be that easy.  I have built bridges, but I have also burned them down.  I have been both cowardly and brave. I have followed God even when others do not see why I chose this path.  It is sometimes difficult to speak redeeming words, but in that I am building endurance.

Haven’t you battled the same thoughts? We are all works in progress, yet already by the grace of God, amazing God, He see the beauty in us even when all we see is the dirtiness of the world. He will do great things through us – acts that bring justice, equality, freedom and liberty.  He’ll put those redeeming, resurrecting words in our mouths as long as our faithfulness to Him never leaves.