Icing the the Heart

Cold start

Frozen heart

Ready for the thaw.

Ice breaking

Heart aching

Feeling every flaw.

Choices made

Foundation laid

Hurting from the fall.

Corners turned

Bridges burned

Answering His call.

New start

Clean heart

Ready to hold love.

Circle Up the Wagons!

Circle Up the Wagons

I was a surprised by the image of a wagon train circling up on the prairie this morning, but I’m learning not to question God when He’s teaching a lesson. In the wild west, circling up the wagons was necessary for the safety of those traveling through dangerous territory. It is an effective strategy for keeping that which isn’t desirable from getting in and that which is precious from getting out.  It formed a tight-knit community of travelers and probably saved many lives.

In this day and age, the technique doesn’t work. In fact, it acts as a sort of bullseye for someone flying overhead. People have the tendency to clump together when threatened, and that is especially true in politics and in religion. It would be comical if it weren’t creating so much tension in our country and all around the world. It’s easy to throw a rock or fire a gun from the inside of a circle of wagons, but it’s much more difficult to love those who think differently that we do.

I get so very tired of the circled up right and left wings, and I’m sure God sighs each time a group of His children decide to circle up and make a stand. Pointing fingers instead of guns, the circles hurl insults and accusations toward one another while trying to get others into their circle. When God looks down upon the circles, I’m sure His heart breaks. He knows the best way to love is to let others be who they are. Christ didn’t circle up the wagons even though His followers were chomping at the bit for Him to do just that. “Let’s rain some fire down on them Lord!” was the fervent cry then, and it is the fervent cry now.

Having to be right and in control is at the heart of circling up in the political arena, and the same themes abound in the world of faith. I grow so weary of folks worrying about that which differentiates us. Self-differentiation is what God desires. He says clearly, “I AM.” He expects us to be who we are and to love each other not only despite our differences, but because of them. God forbid that we should all circle up one day and spew the same rhetoric.

Circling up the wagons is a great example of what fusion does to relationships. It was good for the pioneers to lock hands and stay very close when danger threatened them, but it is terrible for God’s children and shows a lack of faith in Him. Self-differentiation enables growth in our individual relationships with God and one another. When I feel the wagons circling up, I quickly look for a crack to slide through before the circle becomes a noose. I don’t mind if you are on a bandwagon or in a wagon train, just don’t expect me to be on or in it with you. Love me for who I am, not for what I believe. I have my own unique way of loving and living in this world, and I’m learning it’s best to stay away from those tight-knit circles if I want to love as God desires.

Ready or Not….

Weather isn’t the problem; our preparedness for it is. That’s never been more obvious than yesterday with the crippling snow in the south. The folks in Michigan accuse us of being weak-kneed, but all things are relative. Folks in Atlanta are simply not prepared for the kind of storm they experienced yesterday. The ice storms of 2011 caused them to panic briefly, but the powers that be promised it would never happen again.

We all make promises in the heat or cold of the moment, but they are forgotten as soon as things cool down or warm up. After all, it’s never going to happen again.  While we cannot prepare for or even imagine every disaster, we can be prudent. The storm was coming, and we all knew it. It is better to err on the side of reason and let go of our plans for a day than face the mess those poor folks in Atlanta faced yesterday. I remember a year when I had to wait for all the children to get home before leaving school. I was scared I wouldn’t get home myself, but there was comfort in being with others. I never had to spend the night with my students during a storm, and I’ve never found myself stranded in a storm on the side of the road. I thank God for both and pray I’ll be a little more prudent myself when it comes to future preparations.

I know I should have water, food, blankets, and flashlights in my car, but I don’t. I know I should keep my gas tank full during winter months, but I don’t. I don’t always do what I know I should do. God would interject an amen here if He weren’t such a patient, loving Father. The lesson this week has been, ready or not, the storms are coming. Preparing for the personal storms in life are not as simple as putting emergency kits together or stocking the pantry. They require emptying, opening, and trusting completely.

Stacking supplies leaves me feeling smug and self-sufficient. I’m a survivor, so bring on your worst. I’m ready and looking forward to the opportunity to say, “I told you so!!” Emptying out leaves me feeling vulnerable and dependent. I accept the reality that I cannot make it on my own. I’m ready to say, “I need You so!” There is a world of difference in the way I prepare my home and my car and the way I prepare my heart and my mind.

Ready or not, disasters will continue to come as long as we are in this world. Thankfully, they are few and far between. Ready or not, Christ is coming! Preparing for His return is never a disaster drill, even though it is often portrayed as such. Preparing for His return simply involves letting go, surrendering to His love, and letting Him lead the way home. The beautiful news is that He is always nearby and ready to help with the clearing and cleaning necessary to experience His kingdom now. Lessons in preparedness are most effectively taught in my unpreparedness. That way, I won’t forget them. God mostly wants me to be prepared to accept and share His love. Sounds easy enough, but I often get stranded when it comes to my heart! The path sometimes seems unnavigable, but then I remember I’m not alone. Christ’s promise in Matthew 28:20 is one I can count on, and that changes everything 🙂

 “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” NASB

The Road Less Traveled

Unplugged

I was reminded on Friday that unplugging the computer and waiting a moment before rebooting will solve most problems. The same is true for people. It usually takes an illness or bad weather for me to unplug, and I was faced with both today. Yesterday, I started coming down with the virus the girls have had for the past week. I was running on fumes and worn completely out when I went to bed last night. My schedule today was filled with important meetings and such, but I just couldn’t muster up the strength to get out of the house. I decided to unplug, rest, and reboot.

Weather and illness force me to stop when I want to keep going, but I need to unplug before my system crashes. God knows the importance of rest, so He created Sabbath as a space for us to do just that. There are many scriptures on the Sabbath principle, but I like Mark 2:25-28 best because it emphasizes the fact that God created the space because He cares for me.

Jesus said, “Really? Haven’t you ever read what David did when he was hungry, along with those who were with him? How he entered the sanctuary and ate fresh bread off the altar, with the Chief Priest Abiathar right there watching—holy bread that no one but priests were allowed to eat—and handed it out to his companions?” Then Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made to serve us; we weren’t made to serve the Sabbath. The Son of Man is no lackey to the Sabbath. He’s in charge!” (The Message)

I veer away from the Sabbath God had in mind, but Jesus reminds me that God cares for me and wants me to take care of me. He also knows that when I stop and get still, I’m filled with His presence. I don’t stop often enough. Sunday and Sabbath are not the same. Sunday is the Lord’s day and involves stopping and taking time to honor and worship Him. That is a form of rest that is also necessary to maintain a healthy heart, spirit, mind, and body. Sabbath simply means to cease/rest.

I don’t get sick often, so I’m not a patient patient 🙂 It’s good to be reminded that health is something to be appreciated and not taken for granted. I’m sure this bug will be gone in a few days, but I hope it leaves me remembering to unplug and reboot my system before it crashes next time.

unplugged

Hearts and Hairdos

The lesson this week was about moving on, but I’ve had a hard time with it. As I listened to an elderly lady fret about her new hair length and how to style it, I smiled and realized I was having the same trepidation about my heart she was having with her hair. Once again, God used a very vivid example to get His point across.

As I pulled in to the beauty salon this morning, I sighed because I saw the car of an elderly lady who fusses continuously and disrupts the peace I prefer when going to the salon. She was irritated by my presence and said, “Is she at ten?” I told her I came early because I love to write while I wait. I quickly settled in the corner of the waiting area and listened as she continued to argue with Greg about which curling iron he should use. She wanted longer hair because it was stylish, but she wanted to style it the same way she did when it was short.

Greg patiently explained the problem with using the old tools and styling with her new hairdo. She was frustrated, frazzled, and determined to convince him to do things her way. I was hidden from view, grinning broadly, and enjoying their exchange until I realized God was showing me how I sounded to Him. That sobered and humbled me. I’m glad God loves me unconditionally, and I’m very happy He uses humor to teach. I want my heart to move on, and I want to go where God wants me; but I want things to stay just as they are while I do.

My heart went out to the feisty little woman who always knows best and insists things be done her way. Greg used the curling iron he knew would work and explained why. Last week’s visit was obviously a fiasco that he didn’t intend to repeat. The resulting style was great, and even she had to concede that he had been right. I knew that wasn’t easy for her, but it enabled her to move on, albeit a tiny step. God showed me that I have to do the same thing, trusting Him to know what He is doing.

I marveled at this little woman as she presumed to know more about styling hair than her hairdresser, but I marvel more at the fact that I presume to know more about my heart that the One Who created it and loves me more than I can imagine. Oh well, lesson learned. This lady isn’t the one in the salon this morning, but her expression is the one I had when I realized the lesson was on me this morning!! My heart needed changing even more than that fiery little woman’s hairdo. We both left with a smile on our face, and I know from teaching that’s the best way for a student to leave the classroom 🙂

Hearts and Hairdos

Captivated, Not Captured

Whee!!
Whee!!

God placed Colossians 2:6-8 in my path this morning. As I read these verses in another blog and looked at the snow outside, I thought about the difference between captivated and captured.

“Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.

See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.” NASB

I am captivated by the beauty of the snow this morning, but I feel captured by the freezing temperatures and the ice-covered roads. Children don’t think about temperatures or roads when they look out at the snow. They trust their parents to take care of them. They only see a winter wonderland, and their thoughts are about snowmen and sledding. Being captivated is a beautiful feeling; it’s what Christ’s precious love does when it is firmly rooted in my heart. Like a child, I have faith in my Father’s love.

The principles of the world capture my heart and mind in a different way, but Christ turns those principles upside down with principles based upon love and grace that made, and still make, no sense to pragmatic or lust-filled folks who say it’s a nice idea, but it just won’t work in the real world.

What is the real world anyway? Are the elementary principles of the world right, or did God change the world with Christ’s precious love? The answer depends upon whether or not I’m changed by His love. If I walk in Him and remember that I am firmly rooted and built upon Him, my faith will overflow with gratitude. That kind of gratitude changes the world. If my faith has the attitude that I’m being punished or that others should be punished, the world sees fear. If my faith depends upon or promises prosperity, the world sees lust. There are many in the market to be held captive by either principle. Captivity is the safest place to be because I don’t have to worry once I choose my cage. I can shout my happy song, squawk my rhetoric, or sing my sad suffering all day long and never experience the freedom of Christ’s love.

If I seek the truth and embrace Christ’s love, I’ll be captivated. That makes a big difference in the way I live and love in this world. Gratitude is the key. Gratitude that comes from being firmly rooted and built in Christ isn’t bragging about all I have. It’s a much deeper gratitude not dependent upon circumstances. It can only come when my heart experiences the captivation of Christ precious love. Lust holds the heart captive and is the root of all addiction. Practicality and pragmatism hold my mind captive and is the root of all doubt. Faith sets me free and is the at the root of my love for Christ. It opens doors and sets my heart free to love as God desires.

Warm Whirlpool

Muddy Feet

Living in the world means living in the mess. The mess gets muddy, and that is especially true when cold and wet join forces to form winter mud. The season is a difficult one for the body and the heart. The soothing image this morning was of a warm whirlpool washing the cold, caked mud off my body and my heart. Christ’s precious love is a warm whirlpool of living water. It’s always there when I find myself mired in the mud.

I stay stuck in the mud because I think I need to clean up before getting into His crystal clear love. God reminded me this morning that no amount of muck can muddy His living water. Christ’s love is designed to clean, clear, and cleanse as nothing else can. Many feel the way I do when it comes to entering those waters, but God doesn’t care if we ease in slowly, dive in gracefully, or do an awkward belly flop, just as long as we get in! Once in those healing waters, all that doesn’t belong in my heart or body is released and carried far away. Christ’s love absorbs the hurt, tension, and anxiety, allowing the release I need to move on.

Restoration can’t take place until release takes place. God’s lessons this week have been painful ones, but the sweet cleansing has been worth all the hurt. Releasing and restoring have been the themes this week. God reminded me that I wouldn’t build a new house on top of the ruins of an old one, but that’s exactly what I’ve been trying to do. Razing comes when the clinging mud and debris is removed, and raising comes when Christ’s precious love soaks deeply into every fiber of my body. It’s an amazing feeling, far better than the best spa treatment the world has to offer.

Too often, I try to do what only Christ’s love can do.  That leaves me frustrated because the mess only gets worse as I try to clean it up on my own. Psalm 51:10 says, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.” God already knows about my mess, and He is just waiting for me to put down my hose of cold water, slip into His warm whirlpool, and let Him do what He does best.

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Release & Restore

I didn’t realize when I started a new exercise class on Wednesday morning that God would use it to teach a very important lesson. The class, called Release and Restore, is designed to find and release stress in the lymphatic system. It involves using various balls, one with sharp spikes, to work out the tension in muscles and release built up toxins that cause soreness.

The exercises look innocent enough, and the music is meditative; but the pain that comes when the balls meet the stress is excruciating. I had the urge to scream, but my instructor bid me to relax, breathe, and push into the painful area. It’s a lot like the truth when it hits a spot in my heart. I want to cry, scream, and avoid the pain; but I know I can’t.

My muscles will never be sore if I don’t exercise, and my heart will never hurt if I don’t love. Both will atrophy and eventually feel nothing at all. My instructor is a beautiful young woman filled with lots of compassion. She looked at me with sympathy and said, “You didn’t realize you had so much tension, did you?” She was right; I didn’t, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to know at that point.

The exercise class worked the tension out of my muscles and left me sweating and sore. God’s lesson worked the tension out of my heart and left me crying and tender, but both workouts left me breathing easier and understanding my need to heed the hurt in all my muscles. Since the heart is the strongest and most important muscle in my body, I have to pay very close attention to its sore spots. My exercise instructor is giving me the tools and techniques to help me work out the toxins and relieve stress in my body, and God is giving me the same for my heart.

The Holy Spirit is an amazing Instructor, and Christ’s precious love works God’s Word into my heart in a way that allows His grace and love to bring peace that’s even sweeter than the release I felt in my shoulders, hips, back, legs, and neck on Wednesday. God knows I am a visual learner who needs an object lesson, and He had a powerful one this week. I hope I remember to let Him release my pain and restore my heart every single day. If I should forget, I’ll get a powerful reminder every Wednesday morning from my new little blue friend 🙂

Spiky Ball

Working God’s Word Into My Heart

Luke 6:48-49  is a beautiful scripture that explains why some folks either don’t like to read the Bible or read it without joy while others can’t get enough of it.

“If you work the words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who dug deep and laid the foundation of his house on bedrock. When the river burst its banks and crashed against the house, nothing could shake it; it was built to last. But if you just use my words in Bible studies and don’t work them into your life, you are like a dumb carpenter who built a house but skipped the foundation. When the swollen river came crashing in, it collapsed like a house of cards. It was a total loss.” (The Message)

Studying the Bible is like self-examination. It’s wonderful when the Word works its way into my heart, but it’s terrible when over analyzed. The Word of God is the only literature that is literally alive. I have books I’ve read ten times or more, but there’s no comparing them to the Bible. As I began my study of Mark this week, I was reminded of how much I love his Gospel. I said the very same thing a few months ago when I went through the Gospel of John.

Every time I read Jeremiah, I am awed by the way the prophet’s poetry touches my heart. David’s psalms reach into my soul, break my heart, or lift my spirit depending upon where my heart is at the time of my reading. Revisiting a book of the Bible is like meeting an old friend. My love for them bubbles to the surface, and I cannot contain the emotion they stir up in my soul. Last Sunday, Pastor Jeff challenged us to read the Bible together this year. He asked that we not look at the challenge as a chore but rather as a way of getting closer to God. I had to grin because I’ve been there and knew just what he meant. I appreciate God’s Word more than ever before in my life and lose track of time when I’m in it.

To me, the Bible is a beautiful love letter read over and over until the pages grow soft and the ink fades. There is tragedy, pain, and hurt in the pages, but that’s what makes it real. Love isn’t about getting what I want; it’s about sharing the hurt and the joy with someone who hears my heart. God’s Word does that beautifully as it points to Christ’s precious love, a love so amazing and real that it takes my breath away. I marvel each time it works its way into my heart.

A friend told me today that the ladies in her Bible study discussed the fact that we might live to experience a time when our Bibles are taken away from us. I told her that isn’t a problem if the Word is in our hearts. It can’t be taken from my heart from anyone other than me. It isn’t the printed book I cling to but rather the healing Word that lives in my heart. The Holy Spirit gives the Word life. I have a relationship with God’s Word just as I have a relationship with Christ, the Holy Spirit, and God.

Arguing over what a passage means is the best way to keep God’s Word from taking root in my heart. I love the book “The Blue Parakeet” by Scott McKnight. In it, he discusses the ways in which the Bible has been picked apart by those who would use its precious words to promote their agendas. It’s like taking a love letter and breaking down the syntax or picking out grammar and spelling mistakes. That ruins everything. Jesus fulfilled the law and became the Word. He knows the Word intimately. He is my model when it comes to God’s Word. Satan knows God’s Word well, but he hasn’t allowed it to be worked into his heart. It’s all in his head, and that’s obvious in his encounters with Christ. He is the perfect example of using God’s Word to promote his personal agenda. God forbid that we ever follow his example!

Next time you read God’s Word, let it wash over you like a stream of living water. It sometimes cuts deeply into my heart, but it opens up a beautiful space each time it does. God’s Word isn’t always just what I want to hear, but it is always just what I need just when I need it.

I love that about it!

Working God's Word Into My Heart