Guard Your Heart, lessons from a puppy

Meet Piper. She is our one year old yellow lab.  She loves to play and like a typical dog, when it comes to play, she is all in!  She doesn’t look around for what could happen, she just plays. Sometimes we take her with her mom and sister for walks in the woods.  She loves it!  She is exploring and having fun with her doggy friends.  She jumps into the creek, climbing things and having a blast. In fact when she is done, her almost white coat is usually far from white!  So off to the bath she goes!   It’s after the dirt is gone, that we notice things.  A scratch on her eye from a branch, her pad on her paw is cut and maybe a few other cuts along her body.   If we don’t take care of those things, they will fester and become infected and an issue.

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We are like my puppy sometimes.  We live life, we are all in.  We take part in conversations where maybe the words spoken are like the sharp branches in the woods.   Maybe someone deals with us harshly at work or at home and it’s a cut on our foot.  By the end of the day, we feel dirty and sore.   We need God to clean us up and heal our hearts.

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So be careful.  If the words coming out of your mouth are not building someone up, do they need to be said?   If you are hearing someone else tear another person down, walk away!   These words cut and wound our hearts.  Those words may cause you to look at someone in a different light.   Guard your heart!  See, a wounded heart  will cause you to look at everything with a negative lens.  A wounded heart will cause you to become cynical and untrusting. A wounded heart overflows, and in our hurt, we may spill over on someone else.   A healed heart is so full of the love of God that it overflows.  Right now my puppy has bandages on her paws and it is slowing her down.  She isn’t too happy with it, but we know it’s for her best.   She can’t play as hard as she wants to. But in time, we can take the bandages off and she will be free again to enjoy her puppy life.
Guard your heart.  God has so much in store for you.  His plans for you are far more than you can imagine!  His love for you is so much greater than we can ever comprehend!

 

Above all else, guard your heart,
for everything you do flows from it. Proverbs 4:23

 

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What is love really?

What is love? What does it look like? It seems today we all have a different definition and if you don’t fall in my box- you must not love me. We are so quick to attack-assume and spread that negativity.

I suppose whatever is your standard will guide your definitions or your beliefs and actions. If you have no standard it will be whatever is the loudest voice in society around you. But the Bible is still my standard.

I’m reading a devotion about marriage and because it draws its truths from the Bible, it’s applicable to all relationships. One thing I read today is, “the way forward in your marriage is a deepening of your relationship with God. ”

If you are struggling with a relationship: marriage, friend, co-worker, neighbor or even church member- before you talk about them to others, before you make a list of all they are doing wrong- look inside.
Love isn’t attacking. Love isn’t harsh words. Love isn’t demeaning. Love isn’t keeping a record. Love isn’t labeling without getting to know someone. Love isn’t tearing down.

If we would be willing to look inside first-we would be kinder. We would be gentle. We would be like magnets where others would pursue knowing us because there is something so different. And there should be.

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. It’s not a suggestion. It’s not a nice phrase. It’s how we should live. It’s love.

It doesn’t mean we agree on every level. It doesn’t mean we are all the same. It means we see a higher purpose. It means we have a greater goal than winning an argument.

Wht do we submit to each other?  Because that honors God.  My love for God drives me to always show honor to Him.

He made it just for me…

Do you ever look at the sunset and become just amazed?  I was driving home from work the other day and the sunset was breathtaking.  The colors were so vibrant mixed with texture of the clouds, it was hard not to notice.  I pulled my car over and took a picture.  As I was taking the picture I was trying to be aware of the surroundings so they didn’t interfere with the beauty; like the power lines or even the lights on my car affecting the colors.

I love nature.  I love sunrises and sunsets.  I love to look outside on a clear dark night and see the stars.  I love it all and God speaks to me through nature.  It’s hearing the bird chirp and the reminder that they don’t worry or fret and He loves me even more.  It’s seeing the beauty of a flower or leaf and knowing that the closer I look, the more complex and intricate it becomes and he made me with the same perfection.  It’s seeing the beautiful colors in nature and knowing he could have made it all black and white, but he wanted us to appreciate his beauty.

So, as I was driving home, appreciating the sunset that I’m convinced he painted just for me, I heard him say, and you are my master piece. It made me think.  Me?  I had a rough day, how can I be a master piece?  But the bigger picture is He created me for a purpose.  I began to think, am I presenting my best or do I let my attitude blur the image he is wanting to create? It’s like the powerlines that ruin the picture.  Are my selfish ambitions interfering with the bigger picture he has for me?

God, help me be aware that each day, I am your master piece for others to see and be inspired, encouraged or just to offer hope.  For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:10

 

What is your motive?

Have you ever met someone who wanted to know you for what you could do for them?  Maybe it was your position, your skill, your abilities, but you found in the process it wasn’t you they were attracted to.  It was what you could do for them.  It stings.  It’s a let down.

Over the years I have had several people want to be my friend because of the title I share with my husband.   For some, being friends with the pastors’ is a goal, an achievement.  I’m not sure why, but it’s something I have observed.  There are also the few who see me as a person and think, I like her.  For who she is.  She is quirky, funny, easy to be around and I want to know her more.  Time passes and we become great friends.

I remember when I was about 12 or 13 and I first read Psalm 37:4 (NASB). Delight yourself in the Lord; And He will give you the desires of your heart.  I thought wow!   This is the secret to getting what I want.  I make God happy and he gives me what I want.   I can do that!   So I tried it.  I was 12.  I wasn’t mature, but for years, I did what I thought was right to make God happy and then wondered why my prayers seem unanswered.

I missed the point.  My focus was on getting what I wanted:  my desires.  I should have been just reading and focusing on the first 1/2 of that verse.  Delight yourself in the Lord.

This is what God is saying to us.  Get to know me for me.  Know my character.  Find out what makes my heart beat.  Discover what breaks my heart.

It’s in that process that we stop chasing the other part of that verse (and he will give you the desires of your heart) and we simply chase him.  My desires become aligned with him.

It’s then, that I discover I don’t have to say, Lord, if this be your will, or Lord if this be your desire.  I know His will. His desires have become my desires.

And whatever you ask in my name, I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  If you ask anything of me in my name, I will do it. John 14:13-14 (NASB)

Regaining the slight edge

Today is day 4 of my fast.

I’m reading Romans 2:1-11.

Vs. 4  or do you think lightly of the riches of His kinds and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?

My daughter lost her glasses last year.  So for over a year, she has learned to adapt to see.  Instead of sitting at the back of the room, she has to sit near the front to see.  On her visit home, we scheduled an appointment with an eye doctor and are getting her new glasses.  Fasting is like that eye machine that brings the right lens until you say, “yes, that is clear!”.  It’s amazing after seeing clearly, what you realize you had been missing.  Tiny details lost, now so vibrant and clear.  Fasting brings that slight edge.  It brings an awareness.  The picture becomes sharp and in focus again.

Fasting brings repentance.  I’m finding myself in a position of repentance, often.  It is like cleaning out that closet.  You know the one you know needs some order but it’s “not that bad”.   But when you begin to take it all out, you see the junk, the trash, the unnecessary, the unused, the “why is this even in here” stuff.  You don’t bring a bulldozer in and remove the closet from the home.  You don’t deem the home un-livable because of a closet (or 2) that are out of control.  You just take time to clean them out.

There is something therapeutic to clean out a closet, a room, a space.  To take it from a place of frustration or maybe just a lack of function, to order, function and purpose.

I believe that is what fasting does for us.  Oh, I know we fast for other reasons. Isaiah 58:6 says, “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?  (NIV)   Yes, we fast to make a difference in maybe a situation we are praying about, for a person we know, to make a difference where we are, but something happens in us when we fast.  It changes us.

It can’t be me…

Has someone ever suggested that the serious problem you are facing could be because the enemy is deceiving you or using your weaknesses?  Doesn’t that make you indignant, even angry!?  Immediately, my fur gets ruffled.  I mean, come on, I’m a child of God.  I’ve been a Christian for so many years. To insinuate that I could be decieved by the enemy, that is insulting. To agree with that statement would be to admit I struggle with my flesh….

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But if I listen close, I can hear the holy Spirit remind me that even Paul struggled with this very issue, daily.

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. 

The battles that we face, we like to categorize.  The battles that hit closest to home, we tell ourselves, are just personal, or maybe it’s “just life”.  It’s not spiritual.  To acknowledge it’s a spiritual battle, is to remove our personal desire to be right- off the situation. To be led by the spirit is to put my personal feelings aside.

Maybe I’ve been wronged and I feel I need an apology, or the situation to be reversed.  To admit that the bigger picture is the enemy trying to pull me away from the mission God created me for, is to take my hands off!  My control must be subject to how God wants to work in the situation.  That is my fear.  I want to be in control.  That is my daily battle.

To be led by the spirit always sounds good in church.  It’s the hardest concept at home with my thoughts, or when I’m with family and my emotions get charged.  Maybe I’m at work and someone offends me, those are the times I struggle the most being led by the Spirit.  I want to be in charge!

As long as I fight to be in control, the enemy doesn’t have to work very hard.

James 1:16-17 shows us that all good things come from God. Period.  Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.

Why does it tell me to not be deceived? Because pride is the root of all sin.

Pride gets in and tells me that I have been a Christian for “X” number of years and clearly the problem is someone else because I am a godly person.

It seems the more I study the Word, the more I see how much flesh is in my own way!  I’m recognizing when the enemy is setting me up to fail- which is good ,but I find I am sometimes my worst enemy!  I am seeing that being led by the Spirit is truly a daily battle. One that I am equipped to win!

The power of a word

Thanks 
Thanks. Just the word lifts the spirit. To say thanks is to celebrate a gift. Something. Anything. Animals. Bald spots. Chocolate. Dictionaries. 
To say thanks is to cross the tracks from have-not to have-much, from the excluded to the recruited. Thanks proclaims, “I’m not disadvantaged, disabled, victimized, scandalized, forgotten, or ignored. I am blessed.” Gratitude is a dialysis of sorts. It flushes the self-pity out of our systems. 
In Scripture the idea of giving thanks is not a suggestion or recommendation; it is a command. It carries the same weight as “love your neighbor” and “give to the poor.” More than a hundred times, either by imperative or example, the Bible commands us to be thankful. If quantity implies gravity, God takes thanksgiving seriously. 
So be thankful today. Say thanks today, to as many people as you can- your spouse, your family, your coworkers, people you rub shoulders with and see how that simple word can impact you today!   
  An excerpt from my devotional, “The Power of a Simple Prayer” -Max Lucado