My Heart's Home

July 30, 2011

Summer’s Snowstorm

Filed under: Christian,Encouragement,Faith,Healing,Trials — My Heart's Home @ 1:28 am

I envisioned a vacation-packed, hammock-swinging, ice-filled cooler kinda summer. All sunshine, butterflies and lemonade stands. A season of park bench Kindle reading, oars lapping lake and soggy chlorinated swimsuits. Although these delights overflowed, this summer’s also been grueling, heart wrenching and as brutal as a three-digit heat wave.

Except I’ve been pummeled by an avalanche in the heat of summer.

Healing can have that effect. Awakening from years of denial and facing the truth isn’t for pansy wansies. It takes grit. It takes fortitude. It takes digging deep and unearthing dormant heartache and pain then unraveling the mystery of its origin.

Can I have a rain check, please?

Facing the truth feels like dropping head first from a trapeze bar smack dab into concrete. It’s easier to hang in denial than lose one’s grip on ‘reality’. A ‘reality’ defined by others, which I never dared question, until recently when the fog and smokescreen began to dissipate and I yanked my blindfold and removed my muzzle.

God’s word tells us: “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32

Suffering and surrendering to winter seasons may make us uncomfortable—either experiencing our own chill or feeling goose pimply around others—but we often bear the most fruit during the bitter cold, white-knuckled, teeth grinding seasons of our lives. Let’s not discount winter, as less sacred than life’s seasons of spring, summer and fall.

Oftentimes, heartaches and adversities are the means God uses to reveal Himself to us.

And oftentimes it feels like icicles piercing our heart. It’s never a walk in the park.

Whenever trials arrive flooding my heart’s mailbox, I am tempted to slam lid or stamp deliveries with ‘return to sender.’ I put up my dukes, dig in my heels or run like the dickens the opposite direction whenever they blindside curbside. I rein in tears instead of releasing them. I prefer head in sand, like sun kissed toes, rather than facing pain head on. I’m a pearl solitarily confined within oyster’s clam. Shell clenched tight and inflexible like my heart, fists and jaw.

I prefer shade instead of light because sometimes the dawn delivers deeper darkness.

During my Hurricane Katrinas, I don’t want someone serving me a pep talk or warmed-over platitude like yesterday’s stale hors d’oeuvres. I don’t need someone to understand, to try and fix or relate, because unless you’ve been there, you never truly can. I do need someone to listen, wrap her arms around me and ask, ‘How can I pray for you?’ Wouldn’t that mean the world to you, too, when you’re snowballing downhill and you’re world is as cold as an iceberg and only dark clouds loom?

All the Super Glue in the world can’t fix a broken heart.

But GOD can.

If we let Him. Or perhaps we can become the arms of Jesus circling our wounded sister’s shoulders when she needs a shoulder to cry on.

Philippians 1:29 says that not only were you called to believe in Christ, but also to suffer for His sake.

Suffering is part of the Christian faith. It’s not all rainbows, sunset cruises and rose colored gardens. As Christians, we are going to face brutal winters, even more so as we draw closer to our Lord. But take heart…

Suffering shows us the eternal is more important than the temporal.

Character is more valuable than appearance.

Relationships mean more than money.

People mean more than things.

We adopt a new value system through suffering. We have a choice to become bitter or better.  To close ourselves off or reach out. To live in denial or face the truth.

Suffering is not something to be shunned, but embraced. It requires surrender. It requires patience. It requires dependence. It’s a way God reveals Himself deeper to us. He becomes more than a creed, more than a series of theological doctrines, more than a church building or Sunday school verses we rotely memorize. He becomes, in reality, by demonstration, a loving Father, a sympathetic Savior, a compassionate God.

He becomes more than a fair-weather Friend.

He becomes unconditional love incarnate.

If you are going through your own snowstorm right now, how can I pray for you?

He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” 2 Corinthians 1:4

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4 

“My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you.” Job 42:5

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; He rescues those whose spirits are crushed.” Psalm 34:18

 

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July 19, 2011

1 Corinthians 13

Filed under: Contentment,Healing,Love — My Heart's Home @ 11:40 pm

The happiest day of my life: July 19, 2003

I am learning firsthand what love is.

And what it isn’t.

It’s not someone’s backhand or backhanded compliment. It’s not bruises and welts from a leather belt. It’s not criticism disguised as concern. It’s not dismissing, demeaning, degrading and discounting someone else’s feelings and thoughts. It’s not cowering to someone’s raised hand. It’s not being treated like a need-gratifying object, instead of an autonomous individual deserving of respect. It’s not being a docile doormat or mud rug for other’s to wipe their dirty feet upon. It’s not being a stepping stool others use to feel taller.

Yes, I had to learn this. It was not taught to me.

Love’s roadmap isn’t filled with guilt trips. It’s love offerings have no strings attached. It’s tongue does not shoot poisonous darts. It’s heart is not demanding, deceitful or devious. It’s not self-centered. It’s not easily angered. It’s not conditional. It is freely given, not something to be earned, stolen or bought. It’s not one-sided. It’s being the first to say, ‘I’m sorry, please forgive me.’ It’s not controlling, but self controlled.

It’s someone standing in your corner cheering you on. It’s someone who fills your life with joy, laughter and peace. It’s someone who helps you become the best you you can be and wants nothing but the best for you. It’s someone you can trust to cherish your heart in their hands and not bruise or break it. It’s someone who wipes your tears and doesn’t condemn or chastise you for shedding them. It’s someone who points out your successes, not highlight your frailties, faults and failures. Love is not jealous. Love is not mean-spirited. Love is not unkind. It’s someone who encourages, comforts and creates a soft place to land when life’s storms hit hard. It’s someone who holds your hand and never leaves your side when you need them most. It’s someone who lights your path when darkness envelopes and swallows your heart. It’s someone who honors their marriage covenant. It’s someone who’s faithful in word and deed. It’s someone who describes you using positive words like: ‘beautiful,’ ‘intelligent,’ ‘sweet’ and ‘loving.’ It’s someone who allows you freedom to be yourself, not try to force you to be an appendage.

It’s someone who sees the REAL you.

Love is 1 Corinthians 13:

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Anybody can say ‘I love you,’ but without actions to back it up, their words are empty, shallow and meaningless.

How are you being an example of love to others in your life? Do you show love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control in your interactions with them?

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23

My husband is one of the best examples of love I know.

Thank you, Bob, for being an example of TRUE love to me.

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY, HONEY!

I LOVE YOU…FOREVER!!

July 12, 2011

Dust in the Wind

Filed under: Freedom,Grace,Healing — My Heart's Home @ 12:24 am

(Paraphrased from John 8: 1-11)

There she stands. Cowers. Trembles. She’s one amongst the crowd. The hoity-toity scribes, Pharisees, and economically prosperous all thumb their noses at her, this woman covered in dirt. As they cast their judgmental glances upon her, she feels helpless, forsaken, tormented. They are inches away, hurling their insults, accusations, and spittle. Pointing fingers like hair-triggered pistols aimed to kill, not maim. Their fists white-knuckled around stones they are eager to throw. Her heart is their bull’s-eye.

She’s the adulteress… The one judged guilty as sin. 

Another joins the angry mob. On her knees with back bent low, she watches His sandals stir up dust. Through strands of hair possibly streaked with tears, sweat and others’ saliva, she sees Him in the sunrise.

The only One who stands in her defense.

The crowd demands stoning as her atoning; they ask Jesus if He agrees. He kneels in the dirt beside her. His fingertip traces in the sand. They demand His response. They want to know if Jesus agrees with them, this crowd of finger pointers.

He does.

The woman’s heart sinks, like her shoulders, in despair. She’s outnumbered. All hope is lost. She’s doomed. Not one is on her side. She braces herself for stones to bruise, cut and silence her heartbeat once and for all. She waits for blood to spill. Her own.

She feels their hateful glares sear her alabaster skin like a torch. She watches stone filled fists rise and swing like bows bent to hurl sharpened arrows… She holds her breath…she tightens her jaw…she winces and shuts her eyes. Maybe the end will come quickly. One blow to her brow and the deafening crowd will be hushed forever.

Wait! Not so fast.

Jesus no longer kneels. He stands upright in front of her, facing the crowd. He stands for one who cannot. He becomes her only ally, her friend, her Savior. They pause to let Him speak. He tells them they can stone her, but there is ONE condition:

“He who is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone.”

The clamorous crowd is silenced. He kneels again beside the woman. His finger paints in sand. The crowd is perplexed. What do they see? Is He writing their names and listing their sins, one-by-one, as if turning pages in private diaries? (I like to speculate He was, although Scripture isn’t clear.) Are they thinking, “How does He know what I did last night, last week, last year?” Are they ashamed and embarrassed by their own hypocrisy? The logs in their eye? Their Scarlet Letters being exposed for all to read? Their sins hanging like soiled laundry in the light of day? You betcha. (At least I like to picture it this way!)

The adulteress raises her head slowly and peers into their eyes. Young and old cringe as their sins reflect in her tears.

Their raised hands fall.

Their pointing fingers bend.

Their heads held high bow.

Their self-righteous indignation blows like dust in the wind under Jesus’ finger. 

The woman listens to the most beautiful sound she’s ever heard: stones dropping and shifting sands. As each accuser turns and slithers away like snakes into grass. Only Jesus remains. He stands beside her and asks, “Woman, where are your accusers? Has anyone condemned you?” I picture Him smiling and gazing at her lovingly.

She answers, “No man, Lord.” Then Jesus says to her, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.”

Grace. Amazing Grace. How sweet the sound.

I wonder where the adulteress woman went after this encounter with Jesus… Do you think she hotfooted back into her lover’s arms?

Yes, you betcha, all the way.

And He never let her go.

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” – Matthew 7:1

“You hypocrite! First remove the beam from your own eye. Then you will see clearly to remove the piece of sawdust from another believer’s eye.” – Matthew 7:5

“Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter.” – Matthew 7:21

July 2, 2011

Empty Jars

Filed under: Encouragement,faithfulness,Love — My Heart's Home @ 12:47 am

Years ago our pastor challenged us to step beyond barbeques, porch swings and curb-hugging hostas and outreach to our neighbors. I, for one, am a curb-hugger. I prefer my comfortable cocoon, so when someone challenges me to spread wings and fly into unknown territory, I’m taken aback. My instinct is to circle wings and cling tighter to four walls.

But I chose to step out in faith and I’ve never looked back. It’s been an adventure. Just yesterday my elderly neighbor confessed she’s drifted from the faith. Through this revelation I was able to sympathize and tell her I’ve been there. Now there’s a Bible on her nightstand.

A bridge replaced a gap between lawns.

It wasn’t my words that made a difference, it was my actions. I took time to get to know her. John Maxwell says, “People do not care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

I used to take pride in my independence, my self-reliance, and my self-sufficiency. But God has been showing me lately that my I am an Island mentality is nothing less than pride and selfishness. “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” 1 Corinthians 12:27

We need each other.

Ever read a story or passage from the Bible you’ve never read or seen before? That’s been happening a lot to me lately and it’s so exciting!

Today I was reading in 2 Kings chapter 4 about a newly widowed woman whose sons were about to become slaves to pay her debtors. In her despair she beseeched the prophet Elisha for help and advice. He inquired about items of worth in her house. She replied, “Your servant has nothing there at all, except a little oil.”

Olive oil was a valuable and necessary commodity in ancient Israel. It had many practical uses, from the holy to the mundane. It was used for various anointings, for medicative purposes, for cooking, and to fuel lamps for light. Notice she says, “Your servant has nothing there at all … except a little oil.” This widow had barely enough oil for herself, how could it be useful? She disparages what little she has, but God has a plan!

Aren’t we like this doubting widow? We question our resources, our talents, and our seemingly unworthy nothingness. We wonder how God can use our sack lunch, our crumbs, to feed thousands of famished strangers (Matthew 14:13-21). Yet He does, miraculously!

Elisha tells the woman to “Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don’t ask for just a few. Then go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons. Pour oil into all the jars, and as each is filled, put it to one side.” She does as he instructs and jars are filled to the brim with oil. She sells them, pays her debt and lives off the remainder.

Can you imagine yourself in dire financial straits, every Nosey Nelly knowing you’re bankrupt and yet you need to humble yourself and beg door-to-door for spare change? Wouldn’t be easy, would it? Yet that’s how this widow must have felt. She could have chosen to sit behind locked doors with ‘shades’ drawn and wall herself off from her community as she wallowed in grief, but she didn’t. She acted in faith and humbled herself by reaching out. It took humility. It took transparency. It took heartache. In doing so this widow gave others the opportunity to cooperate in God’s work in her life, as well.

Her boldness, humility and faith saved her sons from slavery and herself from destitution.

This story speaks so clearly to me. We aren’t meant to carry our burdens ourselves. We must not build isolating picket fences in our hearts distancing others because our pride won’t admit we need them. If I plaster on Sunday school smiles every time Debbie Downer has Susie Sunshine in a chokehold or just wave passively to passerby from my air-conditioned SUV, I’m not being real and transparent or allowing others to be real and transparent with me. I’m not serving anyone by mask wearing and retreating. I might even hinder and interfere with God’s plan to bless my friends and neighbors by broadcasting His faithfulness through burdens shared and answered prayer.

It takes humble hearts to remove masks and say “I need you.” Maybe in doing so, we can give others permission to remove their masks and say they need us, also. It’s not a sign of weakness, but of strength…HIS strength flowing through our weakness. In turn, we become blessings as God pours out through our emptying.

We are the body of Christ to believers and unbelievers.

In the hustle and bustle of our busy and hectic lives, it’s easy to become self-absorbed, cynical and superficial. Let’s reach beyond manicured lawns and nails and get to know others on a deeper level.

When our neighbor’s lantern’s oil runs low, lets shine our light and become beacons of hope amidst the darkness.

Let’s speak words of encouragement to the weary and heavy laden.

Let’s anticipate our neighbors’ empty jars before they come knocking on our door.

“Love your neighbor as yourself.” Mark 12:31


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