Monday, July 29, 2013

Guard Your Heart





In Christian circles we've all heard the phrase Guard Your Heart. In fact, I've almost exclusively heard it used in reference to single girls/women. As in, Be careful that you don't get hurt. Well, sistah, that's impossible unless a girl completely shuts herself off from relationships. Even if she did manage to avoid all relationships, there will still be a different kind of "heart problem" because the hurt will come from the lack of relationship. The fact is, we were created to be in relationships (See Genesis 2:18). And any sane married person will tell you that relational hurts still happen after the vows are made.


So what in the world does it mean to Guard Your Heart?

First, let's look at Proverbs 4:23 in a couple of different Bible translations.

Watch over your heart with all diligence,
For from it flow the springs of life. NASB

Guard your heart above all else,
    for it determines the course of your life. NLT 

Keep your heart with all diligence,
For out of it spring the issues of life. NKJV 

Keep vigilant watch over your heart;
    that’s where life starts. The Message 

Watch. Keep. Guard. Preserve.
To keep secret. To be kept close.

The original Hebrew word is used here in the sense of a caretaker who watches over a vineyard. Picture how a caretaker keeps watch and defends. He would be diligent about carefully defending his vineyard from elements or pests that might harm it.

Okay, so based on these definitions, it's very possible that we may need to guard our hearts from someone, but not necessarily to avoid possible hurt. We should guard our hearts from anything or anyone that can mess up our relationship with God. So it's way bigger than just about a boy/girl relationship.

So what are we guarding our hearts from? I won't go into an exhaustive list here, but basically we should be careful about anything we let into our minds (what we see, hear, etc.) and the people we allow to get too close who may influence us to make wrong choices. Perhaps that children's song Be Careful Little Hands What You Do isn't so far off base. 

Why are we guarding our hearts? Proverbs 4:23 continues by saying...For from it flow the springs of life. Come again? Our thoughts and actions can shape the way we speak and live. Wrong choices can lead us down the wrong path. Springs of life sounds pretty nice in comparison to the bottom of the dry pit. One is refreshing and the other...not so much.

How do we guard our hearts? This whole chapter of Proverbs 4 is advice from a father to his son about being wise. If you keep reading beyond verse 23 it sort of all comes together (that's the beauty of reading this in context). It tell us what we should do and what will happen when we do it.

24 Avoid all perverse talk;
    stay away from corrupt speech.

25 Look straight ahead,
    and fix your eyes on what lies before you.
26 Mark out a straight path for your feet;
    stay on the safe path.
27 Don’t get sidetracked;
    keep your feet from following evil.

P.S. Don't stop reading here. The entire book of Proverbs is full of wisdom!


Ultimately, I believe that we should be like a shepherd over our own hearts. A shepherd leads. Likewise, we should lead our hearts and not let our hearts lead us. It's dangerous to allow our hearts to lead us into making decisions. Think about it. I'm positive that you have made at least one heart choice and lived to regret it. 

While I was researching this topic, I came across this great quote from a blog I recently started following. 

"Guarding my heart does mean 
allowing no one access to that 
most central place of my affections 
but God. It means keeping 
the first commandment first—and 
 loving Him with all my heart, soul, 
mind, and strength (Deut. 6:5)." 
~ Paula Hendricks 
You may read the entire blog post here:

 What do you think?




Monday, July 22, 2013

Friendship

I try to make a point to write something meaningful on this blog at least once a week. Sometimes that goal becomes challenging when life gets busy. This past week has been no exception.

My day job kept me pretty busy last week. Then I took some time off to celebrate a milestone birthday. The celebration included a very, very fun karaoke party with people in attendance from infants to octogenarians and everyone in between! The music included a wide variety of styles and there were even a few costumes, too.

As an self-professed introvert, I really stepped out of my comfort zone to allow myself to become the absolute center of that much attention. Admittedly, I was emotionally and mentally exhausted when all was said and done. However, I came away from that party having learned a lot about myself and about friendships.

As I reflected over the weekend of celebrating, I was truly humbled by the number of people who took time out of their busy summer schedules to celebrate with me. Those who could not be in attendance were with me in spirit.

I have also learned in the past decade that even though most of the time I feel invisible, I really am not. People really do notice. I may linger in the background much of the time and not speak up as often as the extroverts, but when I do step up and speak out, people listen. It's actually quite frightening! (I mean that in a funny way.) A weird sudden hush comes over everything because, well--the mummy speaks! All eyes are suddenly on me. Ha.

Not only do people listen closely to what I say, they also observe how my life is lived. They notice what types of choices I make--how I act and react, what types of clothes I wear (modest or immodest), and who I choose to date or not date.

The funny thing is that it's easy to think that all these little choices I make in life are just that--little choices. These choices only affect me. Wrong. All these little choices add up to represent who I am to others.

At times I have often felt as if many people haven't seen the real me. They get to see the me that I allow them to see. Then when I feel comfortable enough around them, they get to see the other layers that I have reserved for my inner circle of family and friends. I suppose that's a self-protection mechanism because I wonder now why I want people to know that side of me, but I'm still afraid to show it. Hmmm. Perhaps it's a fear of rejection? (Okay, this is getting too heavy now.)

Moving on...

What I really was trying to get at was the blessing of friendships. Some of the friends who attended my party I've known 20-25 years. Others were newer friends. However, each friendship is a treasure. And it's interesting to me how God has woven our lives together like a tapestry. The threads overlap and intertwine--all different colors, textures, and sizes.

Had you asked me a few weeks ago how many friends I have, well...

I might have started with the number 175, which is the number of friends I have on Facebook. At least I can give you a concrete number because of social media. But, my circle of friends extends way beyond Facebook.

I also would have confessed that I only have a few really close friends. You know, those who I've let into my layers of craziness. However, after this party I may have let a few more people into that layer of silliness. LOL

Like this quote says, it really doesn't matter how many friends I have. Just knowing that I have one, ten, or a hundred friends that I can count on to be there for me is priceless.

I'm suddenly remembering that wonderful song by Michael W. Smith. "Friends are friends forever, if the Lord's the Lord of them."

I had so much fun singing and playing with friends in just a few short hours this weekend. I cannot wait until we're all in heaven together singing and playing together for eternity. What a joy that will be!

To my friends: Thank you for the blessings you have been to me and allowing me to be part of your lives!





P.S. Maybe this was a meaningful blog after all!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Wordy Wednesday


This is my command--be strong and corageous! 
Do not be afraid or discouraged. 
For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.



This verse in the book of Joshua has become one of my favorite verses. Maybe it's because the Lord puts this verse in my path every so often--particularly when I really need the reminder.

I heard someone wise say that when God keeps telling you something over and over, it's not because He's forgotten what he's said. It's because He's trying to remind you or teach you something. So, whenever the same Bible verse keeps popping up over and over--I take note.

Is there a Bible verse that has become your favorite this way?


Monday, July 15, 2013

What's Love Got to do With It?





We love the "love chapter." You know those pleasant little verses in 1 Corinthians that are read aloud at weddings. We often romanticize what true love really is...


Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud 
5 or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, 
and it keeps no record of being wronged. 
It does not rejoice about injustice but
 rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 
Love never gives up, never loses faith, 
is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.


Have you ever really thought about the placement of this chapter? No? Me either--until this week. I overheard a sermon introduction on the radio by Adrian Rogers. I was in the car and didn't have time to listen to the whole thing, just the first couple of minutes. However, there was enough food for thought in those first few minutes to set my mind to thinking and learn something new.

The "love chapter" as it's often referred to (1 Corinthians 13) is nestled in between chapters 12 and 14 which are about spiritual gifts and relating to the body of christ--other people. 

Why would Paul, the author of this letter to the Corinthian church, decide to talk about love in the middle of teaching about spiritual gifts? It's all rather clear in those first few verses of this chapter...

1 If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, 
but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 
If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of 
God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, 
and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, 
but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. 
If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, 
I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, 
I would have gained nothing.


You see, without love, all of these spiritual gifts are meaningless. Ministering to others without love is ineffective. Spiritual gifts aren't meant to be used or shared for our own benefit. That would be self-seeking and not loving toward others. They are meant to glorify God and build up others.

How do I love others--even strangers or those who are difficult to love--and still minister effectively? Well, it's not easy on my own. Some people are easier to love than others. It does not mean I have to have those gooey, lovey-dovey feelings for everyone. Love is way more than feelings, it's a decision--a choice that's made more in my head than in my heart. 

My own love for God will result in me being able to love others through Him. God loves everyone so I can draw on that love if I love Him.

                   We love each other because he (GOD) loved us first. ~ 1 John 4:19



I wish I had a really great way to finish this, but let me use this somewhat crude illustration. My life should be a mirror. If I am constantly looking at God (through His Word), then I will reflect His love toward others. When I take my eyes off God, what am I reflecting to the world? 



Sunday, July 7, 2013

Leaning In

My main form of exercise is walking and always has been. I nearly always walked to school when I was growing up.

Even though I grew up in the Midwest where the land is mostly flat, my hometown had a few gentle hills and inclines because it was a river town.

I can still recall several paths to and from the different schools I attended. One was downhill going to school and uphill coming home. The following year I was transferred to a new school, but it was uphill going and downhill coming.

My final two years of high school took place on a different campus than the first two years. The good news was that it was closer to my home, but the bad news was that the school was built on top of a hill. The hill at this school had such a steep and grassy slope that it is considered the prime spot for sledding during the winter months. That hill stood between my house and the school.

I could have taken another route which would have not been so steep, but it would have taken much longer. So, the first few days I walked up that hill and was ever-so glad when I reached the top. It wasn't long before I was climbing that hill with less effort. Within several weeks I realized how easily and quickly I made it up that hill!

One of the tricks to walking up a steep hill is to lean in. By leaning forward as you move up the hill, it helps with your center of gravity by providing balance. If you lean too far forward or lean too far back, you might strain muscles in your back. Now, I don't have any scientific proof of this, but I think leaning in helps move me up the hill easier and faster than standing straight.

source: Pinterest
Leaning in is also a technique we use when a strong wind is blowing. If you've ever been caught outdoors on a very windy day, in order to walk against the wind you must lean into it.

You probably know where I'm going with this. When life takes a turn up that steep hill or we feel that sudden strong wind, we need to lean in.

We lean in to Jesus to give us the strength we need to keep going, to stay balanced, to endure. Leaning in also helps us stand firm against the Enemy. He's always trying to knock us down.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. 
Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to
stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 
- Ephesians 6:10-11
 


Hard times make us stronger and prepare us for the next battle (because there will be another battle). Just like my walk up that hill to school, if we keep leaning in to Jesus, we'll gain endurance so that the next time we must walk up a hill, it might not be quite as difficult.

Be a hill seeker and not a hill avoider.


As I was preparing this post, I ran across a blog article which is closely related to this topic. I really like how this quote fit with what I was writing about. I share this quote below and a link to the full article at truewoman.com.

"We like to think of our spiritual lives as a 
steady climb up a predictable hill. 
Just keep putting one foot in front of the other 
and eventually we will summit, having “arrived” 
at the apex of what it means to follow Christ. 

But the reality is there will be very high highs,
often followed by very low lows. God is God, 
and we are called to be faithful at both elevations."


I just couldn't close this without sharing a verse from this great old hymn...


        Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarms;
        Leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms.

        O how sweet to walk in this pilgrim way,
        Leaning on the everlasting arms;
        O how bright the path grows from day to day,
        Leaning on the everlasting arms.


Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Wordy Wednesday: Freedom






So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. 

- John 8:36 (Read in context)


Truth sets us free. Real TRUTH is found in Jesus Christ.

As we prepare to celebrate freedom in the United States through the holiday of Independence Day, let's enjoy the festivities, but never forget the Truth or become independent of Jesus, the Christ. One nation, under God. Let us not forget.


"If we ever forget that we are 
One Nation Under God, 
then we will be a nation gone under."