Heart of Hearing

The lessons over the past two weeks have been hard to hear and even harder to share. Merriam-Webster says hard of hearing is “relating to or having a defective but functional sense of hearing.” My heart’s hearing has been defective, but functional, most of my life. God reminded me yesterday that honest communion fosters a heart of hearing. Nothing is more painful or frustrating than not being heard. The heart is designed to hear and be heard, but I usually let my heart get to its breaking point before I let others hear it. I have a heart of hearing and thank God for all the beautiful people He has placed in my path. There is nothing I love more than hearing someone’s heart, but I stumble when it comes to letting others hear mine.

Lately, I’ve found myself shut up in a vacuum wanting to hear but unable to make a connection. Like a weak signal or limited coverage, my need to please others creates interference and causes a great deal of frustration when it comes to my heart being heard. The same thing happens to the heart that happens to the voice when it is not being heard; it either stops speaking or starts screaming. My heart most often shuts up. This week was different, and that made for difficult learning as God brought me out of my comfort zone.

The pressure in a boiling pot will build to the point of blowing the lid off if there is enough water inside to feed it, and it will boil down to nothing if left simmering for too long. My heart is the same, and the pressure built to the boiling point this week. It’s easy to keep the lid on my heart if I simply don’t feel or replace loving with doing. If I never turn on the burner, the water will never get out of hand. If I never love, there will be no need to worry about my heart. The problem is that hearts are made for loving, and loving involves hearing.

Attention and patience are the keys to both loving and boiling water. When someone says they can’t boil water, it really means they can’t pay attention or don’t have the necessary patience to wait for the water to boil. The very same thing is true when it comes to love. Love takes a great deal of attention and even more patience. It’s okay to let the water boil over or dry up, and it’s okay to let love come to the boiling point or dry up too. It’s all part of the journey. Nothing teaches better than a mistake, and I’ve made many when it comes to cooking and loving.

One of my favorite verses is Romans 10:17

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” (NASB)

I love the simplicity of this verse, and I love that God is using the book Romans in a powerful way to teach me that my heart can be hard of hearing because its capacity to love has been “defective but functional.” God wants so much more for me. Christ’s precious love enables me to hear with a new heart, and that is the beautiful message God had for me this morning. I thank God for an unexpected healing that opened the way for my heart to hear clearly and with love. It changes the way I hear my own heart and allows me to hear God’s heart and the hearts of those in my path with the joy of one who hears sound for the very first time. I pray I never take hearing for granted, and I pray that I speak and love in a way that makes hearing my heart easier for those around me.

Flesh & Faith


Imaginal cells begin to line up in the body of a caterpillar as soon as it goes into the chrysalis. These special cells will eventually become a butterfly. They signal the immune system to begin consuming the body of the caterpillar because it is no longer familiar to the creature. A deep connection to the caterpillar remains in the butterfly because without the body of the caterpillar, transformation would not take place. Anodea Judith’s description of the process resonated with my heart and brought a wholeness that allowed me to breathe deeply and be grateful to the flesh that allowed my spirit to grow in a new and beautiful way.

“With loss, there can be a loss of innocence. And the paradox is that with losing innocence a new found wisdom is gained. In this new wisdom, there is an even greater inner connection to this innocence, allowing the possibility for wholeness.” (“Waking the Global Heart” p. 35)

I’ve always been fascinated by butterflies and used their beautiful transformation to teach middle school students to be themselves. Deep down, my soul has always longed to become the creature in my imaginal cells. I know people don’t have the same cells as a butterfly, but I see a beautiful comparison when I think of Christ’s love trying to form me into the creature God created me to be. My sinful nature has to be consumed like that caterpillar before His transformation can take place.

Lent proved to be a bigger challenge than I expected this year. As I prayed about what to give up, I knew God wanted me to stop trying to please everyone. That included Him!! He doesn’t want to be pleased; He wants to be loved. I really didn’t think it was an appropriate gesture for the Lenten Season, but I knew it was what God desired. Old habits are hard to break, and I was shocked by how much of my time and energy went into making other people happy. I also decided to do something nice for myself each day during Lent. That proved to be an even greater challenge. Why was it so hard for me to do for myself what came so naturally with others?

The answer was not an easy one to hear, but it was one I had to hear before I could move forward. I still did not believe I was worthy of love, particularly God’s. I’m learning that isn’t true and never has been. I have a wonderful family and great friends who love me dearly whether I do anything for them or not. I’m beginning to see myself in the light of Christ’s love, and that precious love is slowly eating away all that isn’t the me God created me to be.

It isn’t easy to go through the transition God desires; but if I don’t, I’ll always be a butterfly trapped inside a caterpillar’s body. The pain and struggles are worth the new life that will come. I thank God for giving me a glimpse of His glory and teaching me that faith is the key to transformation. As the immune system begins to destroy the caterpillar, the new creature has to let go of its flesh and hold on to its faith so God can do what He does best. The same is true for me. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says it best.

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” 

 

 

Fleeing Fear

1 John 4:18-19 reminds me that fear and love cannot exist in the same place. Christ came to cast out fear, and He did just that when He rose from the grave.

“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because He first loved us.” NASB

The beautiful lesson this week was that I must choose whether love or fear will rule my heart. Fear wins by default if I refuse to choose, and I lose the love, joy, and peace God so wants for me. Love causes fear to flee from me, and that changes everything. Fear is at the heart of all that keeps me from loving and being loved as God desires. Insecurity is a particular type of fear that forces me to miss out on life. It’s insidious nature causes me to second guess myself and worry about how others will see me.

Love frees my heart and lets me see and love myself, flaws and all. Security isn’t having it all together or having it all; it’s accepting what is and not letting what isn’t keep me from living the abundant life God has in mind for me. My need for approval has been debilitating because I’ve focused far too much of my energy on getting attention and approval from others. God is always paying attention, and He approves of His creation. He doesn’t expect anything but love from me, and that comes out of my imperfection.

Flaws are part of who I am. God made me flawed so I could understand my need for Him. The desire for perfection was the downfall of Satan, and my pursuit of it will cause a similar downfall in me. I see myself as not needing God or too flawed to deserve His love. He loves me as I am and uses my flaws as tools for teaching and growing me into His disciple. Only one of God’s children was perfect, and I am perfected by Christ’s precious and perfect love. Being perfected is not the same as being perfect. Christ satisfied all the requirements for my salvation when He expressed love in a way that makes no sense to the world. I don’t have to be perfect because Christ is perfect for me.

God’s love is perfect, and it casts out fear. Walter Brueggemann says in his commentary on Genesis 2:4b-3:24, “Perfect love casts out fear. But the man and the woman in our narrative learned another thing. Perfect fear casts out love and leaves only desire (cf. Gen. 3:10) Paul also held the vertical and horizontal together: In Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself,…and he gave unto us the ministry of reconciliation. (2 Cor. 5:18-19)” That helped me to see fear and love in a new light and understand the story of the fall in a way I never have before.

Fear flees from love. God’s love embraces my flaws. An amazing lesson if I ever had one!! Thanks be to God for His Son’s precious love.

My Heart is Strong

The heart is the strongest muscle in the body, so it’s no wonder we associate it with love. The body surrounds and protects the heart in an amazing way. The ribcage is tough, but flexible, and does a great job of protecting the heart. I’ve attempted to fashion a similar cage when it comes to love, but I haven’t had much success.

Whatever covers I created, the end result was always brokenness. God made it clear to me this morning there is only one place for my heart, and He created it. The heart must have a body, and God created the perfect one for my heart. That may seem like a silly lesson to you, but it made perfect sense to me after the clay pots, plowed fields, and wooden vases I’ve imagined on my own. I’ve always seen my heart as being outside my body and needing protection because I learned at an early age it was best to keep the heart and body separate. God knew I needed to see my heart in a new light and bring it back to where He wanted it to be. God used the body of Christ to help me understand His lesson. Christ’s body is the perfect place for His heart, but it has the same problem as I do when it comes to love. The body of Christ tries to fashion the same types of cages and containers I have, and the results are the same frustrations I’ve felt when it comes to connecting. Christ’s precious love belongs in His body of believers; it needs to be shared, not protected.

I can trace my need to protect my heart to an early childhood when love was painful. I understand perfectly why I struggle when it comes to love, but God helped me see the Light with a lesson in trust. It’s hard to admit it, but I have never really trusted God with my heart. I’ve seen Him in the light of my own father rather than the Light of His own Son. Changing my vantage point allows me to see my heart as He does and Him as He is.

Simple lessons are not simply applied to the heart, but I don’t have to worry about my heart if I will simply trust God. My heart is strong and connected to One Who is stronger than I can imagine. Thank God my heart is an involuntary muscle or I would be dead. I don’t sit around all day wondering if my heart is pumping blood correctly, but I do worry about whether or not love is flowing as it should.

God assured me this morning that loving is an involuntary action. Christ’s precious love flows freely in and out of my heart if I take away the obstructions. Love should not be contained or controlled anymore than the blood coursing through my arteries and veins. When I attempt to control the flow of either, I end up in trouble. It’s best to let love and blood flow on their own. I trust the heart to do its job when it comes to blood flow and God to do His when it comes to love.

Strong Heart

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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The Journey Home

I knew I was home this morning when I awoke to the sounds of Lillyann and Mylah squealing. I’ve missed my sweet morning wake-up call while I was away from home. Traveling reminds me that home is truly where my heart belongs. I’ve always  loved coming home, and that was never more true than it was this week. I loved the beauty of Topsail Island, and it was wonderful to see my sister. However, I’ve never been happier to see the mountains than I was on Friday.

For over a week, I’ve struggled with God’s image of coming home. I just couldn’t wrap my heart around the lesson God had for me. I was getting very frustrated this morning as I continued to miss the message. I decided to leave it alone, stop trying so hard, and just wait it out. That usually works when I hit a stumbling block. I was shocked this morning when Pastor Jeff began talking about Jesus telling His disciples He was going home. I hope I am always surprised and delighted by the way God works.

The message today reminded me that I attach my definitions of father and home to heaven rather than letting Christ’s definitions shape my vision. I did, at least, understand that God was referring to heaven when He was bidding me to come home. Going home can be difficult, as Pastor Jeff reminded me this morning. Our homes and fathers are imperfect and always will be. I had to unpack my feelings about my father and home so I could embrace the Father and the home Jesus is trying to get His disciples to see. I’m sure they struggled as I did; in fact, they must have struggled even more because they had Jesus right in front of them. They could reach out and touch Him, so I’m sure they did not want Him to go anywhere without them.

Jesus used the best examples in this world to try and get across the love He so wanted them to know was waiting for them. As I told Jodi this morning, I’ve been looking at home and father from the wrong perspective. I understand God, the Father’s loving home much more clearly that ever before if I think of my own son coming home. It doesn’t matter what he’s done or where he’s been; I want to see him and love him. There is nothing in this world I love more than seeing Tyler after being away from him for a while. God feels the same way about me. I’ve been thinking about past hurt and the difficulty of going home in terms of how I would be welcomed. Looking at it from a different perspective healed my heart in a very beautiful way this morning.

Christ’s precious love brought me to the shore and cleared the path for me to go home long ago on the cross. His grace and love are all along the way home, and His Father’s love is waiting for me at the door of heaven. He’s waiting for me to come home so He can do what I do each time I see my son, my precious grandbabies, or any one of my dear family and friends. I can imagine that love now, and that changes everything. I know the way I feel about my son coming home is a drop in the ocean compared with how God feels when He sees me coming home, and that makes the journey home worth all the stumbling and getting lost.  It makes me want to jump for joy the way my little girls do when they see me. Lillyann literally jumped into my arms yesterday when I was waiting for her at the Play Lodge, and Mylah did the same this morning after church. Children delight in coming home and seeing those they love after being separated for an hour, day, week, or month. It doesn’t matter to them how long they’ve been away. They just delight in seeing a loved one, and I plan to take their attitude as I continue on this journey home.

This picture of Tyler and Lillyann reminds me of how God will feel when I get home 🙂

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