Unexpected Pleasures

You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. Psalm 16:11

My life changed dramatically a week ago. Our family brought home an eight-week-old miniature Aussie puppy.

We already had a seven-year-old Australian Shepherd that we adore. Now Annie has a tumbling ball of fur named Jack for a playmate—whether she wants one or not.

At first she appeared less than enthusiastic about his arrival. He would snuggle into her for a nap, and she would abruptly move to another part of the room.

Now Annie has discovered what many of us do when we’re willing to open our hearts to unwanted interruptions in our comfortable lives. In God’s hands, things we once viewed as intolerable inconveniences have the potential to become our greatest blessings.

The two have become inseparable. Change can really be good.

Our house has become decidedly less quiet since Jack’s arrival, mostly due to all the laughter. He continually entertains us, enthralling us with his puppy antics. I wonder if Jack realizes how funny he is. He has single-handedly redefined the word “adorable.” I think Webster should put his picture in the dictionary.

He may be cute, but he’s only still when he’s sleeping. He loves to explore, leap and pounce on anything that moves, or anything that doesn’t move, for that matter. Nothing is off limits to his paws or his curious little mouth. At least, he doesn’t believe it should be.

That’s where I come in. Someone needs to give Jack direction to save him from himself.

Left on his own, Jack would have already choked on mulch and various small stones, broken some bones leaping from surfaces that are much too high, electrocuted himself chewing through my computer charging cord, and possibly drowned in our pool. Not to mention the many times I’ve rescued him from Annie when he insisted on taking her favorite toy.

Yes, limits and direction provide safety. That’s why our loving heavenly Father provides them.

. . . what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, to observe the Lord’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?  Deuteronomy 10:12-13

Did you catch that last part? God has provided commands and decrees for your own good.

With the same tender love that leads me to set boundaries for Jack, God has established boundaries for you and me. His limits don’t take from us or cause us harm. No, God has outlined limits to keep us safe.

We just don’t always see it that way. Jack doesn’t either.

For instance, he wasn’t fond of his crate when he first came home with us. He had enjoyed bounding around the house all day and did not agree with our decision to place him in a crate to sleep that night. He hardly noticed the nice, soft bed for him to snuggle into or his toys to keep him entertained. His eyes focused on the bars keeping him from “possibility.”

So he whined. And I wondered why we ever decided to get a puppy.

A funny thing happened on the second night. My husband lay down on the floor next to Jack’s crate after he put him in, and Jack discovered something. He didn’t really want the intriguing things that called to him from beyond the bars. What he had really been after was companionship. He snuggled into the corner of his crate nearest Steve, lay down his tiny head, and fell asleep in about a minute.

The joy Jack found in my husband’s nearness outweighed the lure of what enticed him from beyond the boundaries we had set for him. Perhaps if we learned to enjoy God’s nearness a bit more we wouldn’t grumble so much over His restrictions. After all, they help keep us in a prime position to experience Him fully.

Jack has now discovered the crate isn’t really the enemy he thought it was. It offers something that he doesn’t have when he’s outside its boundaries. Security. He doesn’t need to worry about every little sound or movement; he’s safe inside. Last night when I put him to bed, he didn’t even wine. He drifted off in peaceful sleep and slept for seven straight hours.

Isn’t it funny how things we think we’ll hate can end up being our favorites? Something we fear can become our security. Something we view as a nuisance can turn into our comfort and joy.

Perhaps we should open up our hearts to trust God for His best. Our emotions tend to lead us astray anyway. Just ask Annie and Jack. Their renewed thinking opened them up to tremendous blessing.

Yours will too.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

Romans 12:2

Sounds like a good plan to me.

The Father’s Love

This week’s post comes from Juliet Sharrow, my dear friend and assistant in ministry. Her story reveals God's great power to redeem. I pray that it will bless you and help you to know that you are never alone, no matter how desparately isolated you feel. No matter your circumstance, your Heavenly Father rejoices over you, and He will never abandon you. Be blessed, dear one.


Guest Author Juliet Sharrow

I was 21 and my life had spiraled into such a deep pit, I saw no way out. I was in pain, pain that I could not bear. All I wanted was someone to love me for me, to accept me the way I was.

I never felt loved as a child. I was never told I was pretty. No one told me I was good at anything. I felt unloved and ugly, like a failure.  And because of this, I did what failures often do. I made one bad choice after another trying to earn love and acceptance. By the age of 21, I was finished. I decided to kill myself.

I knew in my heart that no one would miss me. I knew that I was doing everyone a favor. I had convinced myself that this was the answer.  This would make the pain go away. I was desperate to make the pain go away!

Have you ever been there, my friend?  Willing to do anything to make the pain go away?  Maybe you didn’t resort to suicide for your way out. Perhaps you turned to alcohol to dull the pain, or drugs to help you forget, or maybe the arms of a man to try to fill the emptiness inside.

I saw death as my only escape, so I made up my mind and took a whole mix of pills.  I went to sleep knowing it would soon be over; I would never be in pain again!

But God had other plans for me. He sent paramedics to break down my door and save me from myself.

As I lay there fading in and out of consciousness, I heard singing!  Just one voice—a man’s voice—so tender and sweet, singing, “I will always love you . . . I will always love you . . . I will always love you . . . yes, I will!”

 Zephaniah 3:17 teaches,

" . . . He will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing."

I should have died that day. The doctors did not understand how I made it. But I did.

You might think at this point I surrendered to God. No, not me!  Instead I knew I deserved to be punished, not just for trying to take my own life, but for all the bad choices I had made, for all the times I had turned from God and went my own way. And so I ran, right into the arms of an abusive man.

When he hit me that first time, I knew I deserved it. I deserved every beating, every broken bone—every humiliation! For almost 3 years I was beaten every day, and I would think, maybe today he'll kill me.

Then God sent me a precious gift, a life saving gift. He sent me a son.  And how I loved that child! I took many beatings to protect him. I cried out to God to save him from my fate. And one day the revelation came. I would do anything for this child, and he deserved a better life than this. I loved him so much I'd die to save him, and that's when God spoke into my heart, "Don't you see? That's how much I love you. I gave up MY son for you!" 

I thought of John 3:16. “For God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten son…” And I realized God was saying He so loved Juliet that He gave His only son to die for me!  He loved me enough to sacrifice His son for me!

I had never believed that God could love me unconditionally, because I did not understand unconditional love.  I had never known that kind of love.  I never knew my real father, and the man who raised me was strict and unloving, even cruel at times.  He was always condemning, punishing, and berating, never forgiving and loving. So I thought my heavenly father must be the same.

That day God revealed to me how much He loved me, and He showed me He’d always been there. He reminded me how He had sung over me as I tried to take my own life.  He reminded me that He would always love me, no matter how far away I ran, or how many times I turned my back on Him, or how many bad choices I made!  

Having my son showed me what unconditional love was for the first time. And so my love for my son saved my life in more ways than one. I found the strength to leave my abuser. I found new life and love in the arms of my heavenly Father, love no one on earth could give me.   And God showed me there was purpose in all my pain.

Do you know the Father’s love, my friend?  Have you allowed Him to sing over you?