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Posts Tagged ‘heart’

Scripture is clear:
“Heal me, O LORD, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved, for You are my praise.”—Jeremiah 17:14

And yet, there’s no magic here. In fact, it’s a process just like everything else. What have I learned in the last eight and a half weeks?

  1. The pain is real. And honestly, I’m not even talking about the initial breaks. I’m talking about this healing process. Most people ask, is it getting better? I guess. I can do a little more, move more, and it only hurts part of the time, not all of the time. That’s progress. I’ll not mention the ice pick jabs that stop me in my tracks.
  2. It’s slow. I mean painfully slow. After eight weeks, I only have to wear my brace at night but now I’m supposed to voluntarily move my hand and wrist. Each effort is a test: does it still hurt? See point one.
  3. The healing is not observable. In fact, I think my wrist looks like something leftover from a Frankensteinian procedure. There’s some weird things going on inside my skin: the tendons are tormented, the nerves are shaken, the bone is unyielding. The outer skin is poor camouflage to what is happening inside.
  4. Limitations are numerous. I suppose there is improvement here, after all, I can wash my own hair, put on deodorant, and snap my bra. Breakthroughs. But not for many weeks on the front end and the last thing I wanted to do was ask for help. But I see the truth of it. The initial pain is simply too much to bear alone. I had to confess to my restrictions, my body imposed prohibitions.
  5. Inertia prevailed. Exercise? Forget it. Productivity? No chance. Typing? Be still my hands. Field trips or escapades? Not hardly. The bed drew me mostly. I wasn’t just tired in my body, I was tired in my mind. I didn’t want to think about my injury. I still don’t, not really.

So where is the good news? The list is the same as always: patience, trust, gentleness with oneself, and a sense of humor. This is tortoise territory (as in the tortoise and the hare); slow and steady wins the race.

But the last thing I want to share is that these lessons are the same for the heart. If anyone has experienced a broken heart, the symptoms are probably the same, as well as the “solution.”

Time heals, God heals. That’s a promise. But it’s still up to each one of us to walk it.

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“May He send you help from the sanctuary (His dwelling place)
And support and strengthen you from Zion!” [Psalm 20:2, AMP]

What is the sanctuary? Initially, of course, my first thought went to the Temple or the Church. After all, it’s the word we have used through the ages to signify God’s dwelling place.

But there is so much more, that place of indwelling within us: “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?” [I Corinthians 6:19, NIV] Oh, how God wants us to search for our help from within! We have an opportunity to experience the support and strength of a Holy God. If we invited God into our lives, then why do we keep trying to operate on our own strength? I do this all the time. Help me, I cry, and then go about figuring my own solution.

I am slowly attuning my heart to questions, particularly the ones I have no ready answers for. This is my response to this scripture: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” [Matthew 7:7-8, NIV] Not ask for things but answers to the questions of my heart.

And one last thought: I bless you with the same. This is a prayer for you, for my loved ones, and for the strangers who cross my path. Look to the Sanctuary of God for help.

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fastingThey said to him, “John’s disciples often fast and pray, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours go on eating and drinking.” [John 5:33 NIV]

In this instance, Jesus clearly stated that his followers did not need to fast while they were with the “bridegroom.” But of course, the implication is equally clear that once the bridegroom is gone, then fasting will be back in the picture.

It’s actually a ancient practice but a simple one. Up until more modern times, fasting has been all about the food. The preparation and consumption of food used to be a large portion of a person’s day (hunting and gathering and all that).

According to a study done back in 2006, the average American now spends 67 minutes a day eating and drinking, literally. That’s a lot less than our ancestors. Ironically, we spend more time driving (average 101 minutes per day) and a whopping 2.8 hours watching TV. A more recent report, lumped all media together which added up to 500 minutes a day or almost 8 hours (this includes work and pleasure).

daily consumption of media

So, perhaps you considered fasting from food during Lent this year, but quite honestly, a little fasting from media might be a more challenging sacrifice. 🙂

I have fasted several times before from food. Usually, for me, it has to be an all or nothing kind of thing. I can’t just fast a single meal a day or one day out of the week. If I’m going to fast, then I need to fast for several days running. The first three days are usually the most difficult and then after that, it’s pretty straightforward. The best part is not the food or lack of food, it’s the space that not eating leaves in my day and in my mind. I may only eat and drink 67 minutes a day, but there are countless other minutes involved with food.

I’d love to know if anyone has counted the number of times a mom is asked over a lifetime, “What’s for dinner?” I think a lot about the logistics of meals: what to make, what is needed to make what I decide to magrieving girlke, when will I have time to go to the store, what time do I need to start, what time should we sit down, who can’t make it to the table, what foods go together, etc. etc. Yeah, I like fasting. They’re on their own next week.

I usually start my fasts with a dilemma or a question. As I had anticipated, my move out of my big suburban house where we raised our kids and into a much different downsized old house in town, has generated some new grief and the outlines of depression. I don’t much like being a widow even though it’s been tempered by a delightful but demanding infant grandchild in the room next to mine. But even that can’t push back the weight of what feels like a heart of stone. Come sweet Healing God and speak into my losses and birth something from them; soften my heart again.

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God does not participate in Valentine’s Day. God is not particularly interested in the hearts and flowers of young lovers wooing one another. God is not about Cupid and arrows and online dating. God is about our innermost being, the center of ourselves, our gut, our center, our soul and spirit. Our identity. That heart.

You desire truth in the inward being;
    therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.heart of the matter
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
    wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
    let the bones that you have crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins,
    and blot out all my iniquities.
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
    and put a new and right spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence,
    and do not take your holy spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
    and sustain in me a willing spirit. [Psalm 51:6-12, NRSV]

Anything else, and we are lying to ourselves and to God. We could be living a myth of faith if our “hearts” are not in it. If all we have is a semblance of faithfulness, a Sunday morning piety, a “Praise the Lord” verbiage, we are missing the depth and breadth and length of God within.

The heart of a matter is the crux of it, the most vital part that implies the rest is totally dependent upon it. Is your faith totally dependent on the presence of God in the core of you?

It is from this center that decisions are made and hunches are formed and hope is nurtured and sin is birthed. But it is also here that faith is planted, where God manifests as the Holy Spirit, where change begins.

Oh yes, “create in me a clean heart, oh God.”

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Art by Laurie Justus Pace

Art by Laurie Justus Pace

And this is the point, whether one believes or does not believe: God knows our hearts. God knows my heart. There is no sin I can craft in my head that is unknown, there is no good deed seed not watered. God is sovereign over the heart — the soul of humankind.

Forgive and act; deal with everyone according to all they do, since you know their hearts (for you alone know every human heart) . . . [I Kings 8:39b, NIV]

For this reason, when life circumstances challenge my way, there is only One who can truly help me or actually altar the course of my steps, transform the crushing press of deadlines and drama and duty, rally the troops of heaven on my behalf and, ultimately, on behalf of my loved ones.

Forgive me Spirit Father, Adonai. Forgive my stealthy forays into the world. Forgive my selfish ambition. Forgive my judgments of others. Forgive my callous eye. Relieve my fears. Strengthen my trust and resolve in You. Sustain my mindfulness that I might pray without ceasing.

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ash-wednesdayTonight our church entered Lent with two Ash Wednesday services. One of the themes was “keys” and how we can use those keys to unlock those places hidden away inside our hearts.

Even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” Rend your heartand not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity. [Joel 2:12-13]

We mark the beginning of Lent with this day. It can become a mere ritual of ashes, bread, and wine, or it can be enriched with commitment and desire. Do I want more of God in my life? Do I want to surrender the secret places?

Lent is not just a time of “giving something up.” It’s a time of exchange. I will to exchange one time sucker, one habit, for something new, for devotion, for meditation, for prayer, for reading, for conversation with Spirit. I not taking away. I am adding. I am making a promise. That is the message of Ash Wednesday and Lent for me.

One of the stations we had was a cross where we could affix a simple post-it note with something (or someone) that is hindering our journey to the Cross. This roadblock we gave to Christ. As one of the organizers of the Ash Wednesday service, I feel compelled to treat these requests with respect. And so, as part of my devotion, I will be praying over and with these requests along with those who left them there. I will be their Aaron for these 40 days, as God reveals.

 

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But it’s not very effective, this promise about the desire of the heart if you don’t know what it is. So many people suffer from this basic malaise. What do I want? What does God want me to want? What should I want? And on and on and on.

desire of the heartTake delight in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart. [Psalm 37:4; NIV]

The desire of the heart is serious business. This is core belief and core longing. This is essential to the day and the tomorrow. This desire keeps us going. No cliches will do. We can’t say, “oh, I desire Jesus” and all that. In this context, that is a given. With the Christ IN our hearts, what do we desire?

I have been writing a lot lately and I was sliced at the knees at one of the comments I received from a knowledgeable critic: what does your character really want (whether she knows it or not, you, the author, must know). And there it was, back again. For this issue has been tiptoeing around my soul for years.

The first time I took the enneagram, I was shocked at my results for my “number” indicated I was a bit shallow. How could that be? I always believed myself a thinker, a smart cookie who sought out the deeper things of God, living, and loving. But I had to face some difficult truth, I am really a scattered soul. I have dabbled in so many arenas from acting to photography to writing to library maven to arts management to exercise queen to organizational specialist to prophetess to prayer warrior to church matriarch . . . well, the list goes on. But where is the real desire?

When I did identify a strong desire, one that has done a lot of the driving, it made my blood run cold. It’s a self-serving desire, one that is not compatible with a life in Christ, yet rooted deeply.

My current manuscript, The Saving of Phoebe Clay, will test the depth of this desire and what it can do or not do. It’s time to unmask. For it is only in the unmasking that change can begin.

And in the meantime, as I pull the anchor from this old desire, I may flounder but I will keep this thought as near as I can:

God is our [my] refuge and strength,
    an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we [I] will not fear, though the earth give way
    and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam

    and the mountains quake with their surging. [Psalm 47:1-3, NIV]

 

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