My Heart's Home

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


June 25, 2011

Choose Virtue Over Vice

Filed under: faithfulness,Grace,Love — My Heart's Home @ 3:25 pm

Life is all about choices. We make a plethora of decisions daily without a second thought. Most are auto-piloted, robotic and routine. We don’t deliberate over the mundane. Most of our decisions are made unbridled, with loose reigns, and without reserve. Sometimes it’s beneficial to ‘be slow to speak’ as the Bible says or we may go about our days with our toxic tongue’s tail wagging behind us.

Or we may be caught with that tail between our legs.

Either way we’re bound to trip.

“My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” James 1:19

Ever been around someone who can’t control their tongue or wrath? They spew toxic venom whenever they open their mouth and are quick to raise fists and pummel anyone who stands in their way? A raised hand raised me, so I know how it feels firsthand. I had welts upon my body from the belt they beat against my alabaster skin. One too many times. It was not a pretty picture. I choose to forgive today because I don’t want their bitterness to rub off on me. I don’t want to scar my precious son by carrying around wounds that have never healed. He and my husband deserve all of me, 100 percent, WHOLE and I intend to give it to them.

No matter what the cost.

Several years ago I ordered a free bracelet. It was designed as a tool for people to monitor their success at eradicating complaining from their lives. The goal is to wear the purple band on one wrist and try to go 21 consecutive days complaint-free. If you find yourself griping, you switch wrists and start over. The Founder, Rev. Will Bowen, thought of the bracelet in 2006 to help make the world a better place. His idea exploded and more than 6 million purple Complaint Free bracelets have been sent to people in over 106 countries.

Fast forward five years and I’m still waiting for my free bracelet to arrive.

My question is:

Should I complain? 

I considered it; however, the organization probably doesn’t have a complaint department, so what’s the use.

Instead, I decided to wear my own bracelet, not purple, but 24-karat gold. And for the next 21 days I will refrain from complaining. I will choose virtue over vice. (Please add me to your prayer requests!) Especially on Sunday. Sometimes our sinful nature rears its ugly head when we least expect it…as we’re approaching or circling church parking lots:

‘Why is that person going so S-L-O-W?’

‘Why aren’t they signaling?’

‘Whoa! Did I just run over the pastor?’

I will pray God transforms my heart as he conforms my mind. Every time my brain is tempted to poison my tongue with venom, either about myself or someone else, I will choose to hold that thought captive and replace it with words that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy. 

One day this filtering may become second nature and I won’t give complaints and criticisms a second thought.

Wouldn’t that be nice?

I don’t know if I can change the entire world, but at least I will impact my immediate world.

And that’s the best place to start: in my own backyard.

*I wrote this post before attending church Sunday and guess what my pastor challenged the congregation to do? Memorize Phil. 4:8: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” 

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“The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–His good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2

“Do all things without grumbling or disputing; that you may prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world…” Phil. 2:14-16

A Complaint Free World People complain to everyone except the person who can resolve their issue and then can’t understand why the situation doesn’t improve.

A Complaint Free World Complaining can be thinly disguised bragging. People complain about others to subtly say, “See? I don’t have their character flaws.”
A Complaint Free World When you complain, you take your fears and give them form.

November 9, 2010

The Dance

Filed under: Faith,faithfulness,Journaling — My Heart's Home @ 3:22 am

Through the years I’ve collected journals. Bound pages that are light, dark, lined, blank, spiraled, initialed, gold-edged, round cornered, flowered, Scriptured—all unique and distinct, yearning for ink to tango upon their open dance floor.

Yet, their dance card is unfilled.

“I’m tired of blank pages,” I say after a brief fisticuffs with myself. I pen these exact words in my newest journal—a hard covered, burgundy, gold trimmed, initialed, 9” x 6” booklet—that is almost too pretty to mar. It screams of calligraphy pedigree, not chicken scratch. I force my pen against its will.

Aha! Progress. One graceful pen stroke at a time I waltz across the page. I stain it with my tears, Starbucks, marmalade, drool. (Sorry, fell asleep.)

And when I open my journal the next day, I no longer see emptiness.

I see myself—my dance card full.

I have tap danced across the pages.

Alas…

I am a dancer.

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God gives us blank pages to write upon. He places the quill in our hands, but it’s up to us to dip into His never-ending ink well and breathe life onto each page. Are we going to be wallflowers or glue our palm to His and waltz? Will we initiate that first step despite wobbly knees, wet palms and rosy cheeks, knowing others will be watching our every move? Will we brave the unknown, the unfamiliar and the awkward? Will we risk that nosedive? Will we twirl into His arms or spin out of control? If our routine is forgotten or we misstep, will we trust His lead? Will we kick up our heels or dig them in? Will we stumble upon His toes or match His stride? Will we pirouette to our own melody or sway to His symphony?

It’s our choice.

What kind of dancer will we be?

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