Condition of the Heart

Physically, the heart must be in good working order for the body to flourish. When the body has a faulty heart, it affects that body in negative ways. I have a mitral valve prolapse. At times, I feel pain. When this happens, I know I need to listen to my body as it calls out for rest time. If I ignore it, the pain increases. Thankfully, I have learned to do what my physical heart directs me to do. Therefore, I recover and continue on with daily activity.

It’s no different in our spiritual worlds. Jesus said something of great value to His followers in Luke 6:45, “…Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.” We have all experienced moments when we hear ourselves spew out negative words, angry, full of condemnation for ourselves, others, or our difficult situations. At the end of such emptying of negativity in our hearts, do we feel joy and peace? Of course not. Negative words damage ourselves as well as others, bringing more pessimism, doom, gloom, and growing anger.

How then, do we put positivity into our hearts? There’s no button to press that suddenly makes us “feel better.” The power to a positive heart lies wholly in developing an attitude of thanksgiving. I now share with you a dream I had this week. I dreamed a man was taken prisoner through kidnapping. He was put into a room with no windows. Lights were off. He could not see even a sliver of light beneath the door. In my dream the man was afraid. For a long time he was frozen in his fear, unable to move, breathing shallow. After a while he slowly put out a hand and felt the wall. He kept his hand on the wall for a long time. The man whispered, “at least I can still feel.” Then I woke up.

Throughout the day the dream stirred in my thoughts.. After a while the following came to me: at times we are each kidnapped by our fears, imprisoned in the dark because we cannot see tomorrow or the outcome of a bad situation. However, in our hearts, we grow either fear or peace. When we choose to focus on the dark, the fear only deepens, but when we focus on something positive, giving thanks for the smallest thing, then peace begins to replace the fear no matter the darkness. Maybe all one can say is, “thank you, Lord, I can still feel.” You see, the fact that you feel pain, sorrow or fear, is in itself a sign of life. Life is always a sign of hope.

When we choose to fill our hearts with positivity by concentrating on the things of God; like His character and love, His promises and grace, then fear of the dark takes second place. Instead, we feel His nearness. We feel His hope. It’s a matter of the condition of the heart. A spiritually healthy heart finds reason to praise. One can then say in his or her darkest moments, “thank you, Lord, I can still feel.” We can add, “thank you, Lord, you are in all our tomorrows.”

“Above all things, guard your heart, because it affects everything you do.” Proverbs 4:23

When Shadows Darken the Way

The days are growing shorter with the arrival of Autumn. Just a few weeks ago, when I would take our dog, Jack, for his first walk of the day, it was fully light at 6:00am. Yesterday was much different. We stepped out to a cooler and darker morning. Everything was covered in various shades of grey and gloomy shadows around trees, lurking in corners, and peeking from behind bushes.

As we were walking down one dark street, Jack paused to have a sniff at some interesting bits of grass growing between cracks in the pavement. As he slowed, I glanced behind me. Oh, what a surprise met my eyes! I was astounded at the beauty! The sky was painted in bright pinks and blues as a golden sun was rising to wash away shades and shadows. I stood several moments basking in the light. It not only began to brighten the day but also awakened my senses to joy and appreciation.

This is the same in our spiritual lives. The troubles of this world, if we’re not careful, can equate to a constant walking in shadows of gloom, forgetting that light will ever come again. I take great comfort in something Jesus said to His followers in John 16:33, “…Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows, but be of good cheer because I have overcome the world.” Jesus, and everything about Him, His own strength, courage, peace, and joy in the face of any calamity, is promised to be ours, too.

We may walk down a long dark street of despair, not knowing what’s around the next corner, but turn around, see Him there. Focus. Listen. Enjoy. Walk on in the comfort that the light of His love and guidance will indeed light our way again.

Feet of Iron and Clay – (#3 in series)

Headed For The Road

Jack, our dog, and I were walking through a wooded area where trees grow tall and foliage scents the air with luscious earthy smells. Jack was happily looking for squirrels jumping from branch to branch. We were soon coming to a road we would cross before continuing our wooded walk on the other side. Jack normally begins slowing his pace so I can hook his leash to his harness. We then cross the road in safety. However, I could see he was not stopping. I called him. Nothing. A car swished by. I called again. Nothing. If he crossed the road on his own it was anyone’s guess what would happen. He may cross safely with no car in sight or he may get hit. I sternly called again. To my relief, he stopped. I hooked him to his leash, and we proceeded safely to the other side, where I let him run free through the woods again. I love to see him run happy and free, but he must listen to my guidance for his own good. I love my dog and want him to be safe and happy. It’s no different than what our Heavenly Father desires for us.

Father God loves for us to be happy and run free, but for our own good, because He loves us so much, He sets guidelines. Is it because He is a control freak? Of course not. It’s because He sees the dangers ahead, just as I knew there were cars in the road that could harm Jack. He knows what will happen should we decide to ignore His call, His guidance, and His commands that will keep us safe. When He utters a “thou shalt not,” it’s only because He loves us immeasurably. He knows His ways are perfect. Our ways may see us getting hit by a car, ending up in a pile of wreckage. Therefore, it stands to reason that when we follow the perfect way, we will walk safely and be filled with peace and joy. That’s a good measuring stick to know if you’re doing what is right in His sight or not. Are you joyful inside or filled with turmoil? Are you breathing in peace or sighing in despair? Is you heart light or weighed down in guilt?

Remember, His commands are never grievous nor harsh. They are set forth to guide us deeper into a joy that the world can never give. Obedience brings blessings, not some of the time, but all of the time. Are you about to cross a road without the safety of God’s loving leash to guide you? Are you ignoring His call, ready to run into the road to take your chances like a lucky spin on a roulette wheel? Please remember, the only reason God gives you commands is solely because of His love for you. He said in Deuteronomy 12:28, “Be careful to obey all my commands, so that all will go well with you and your children after you.” What does that mean, “and your children after you?” Who is watching you more than your own children? If they see you choosing to obey God, they will consider it’s important. If they see you taking your chances, running disobediently into the road of possible danger, they will see obeying God is perhaps not so important after all. Imagine the day when we all stand before the Lord and we hear someone say, “my parents became Christians, but they didn’t do what you said, so I didn’t think it mattered.” Someone is always watching, be it our children, neighbors, colleagues. Take care — for your own joy and peace — and for those observing you. Focus on your Father as you head to the road.

Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream (#2 in series)

The Queen Meets The King

Yesterday the entire world heard the news that Queen Elizabeth II passed away. The United Kingdom and the Commonwealth are now in mourning as its people reflect upon her life and anticipate the sad day of her funeral. There are many things to be said about Queen Elizabeth. She met dignitaries, celebrities, and multitudes of common people throughout her lifetime. She experienced the horrors of WWII. Churchill was her first prime minister. She endured parental fear when an assassination attempt was made on her daughter, Princess Anne. She suffered family scandals (everyone has skeletons in their closets) with grace and dignity, comforted the nation in times of turmoil and hardship, and made everyone she met feel important. All of the above is most admirable, but there is one thing about her life that stands above all else, and that is her personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Queen Elizabeth was very open about her faith, often saying in her Christmas messages that she did her best to follow the teachings of Jesus. In celebration of her 90th birthday, the London Bible Society published a book titled, “The Queen and The King She Serves.” The Queen wrote the forward for the book herself. In that forward she writes that upon her coronation she, “asked the people of the Commonwealth and Empire to pray for me as I prepare to dedicate myself to your service.” In conclusion she quoted the words of a poem, “I said to the man who stood at the Gate of The Year, ‘Give me light that I may tread safely into the unknown.’ And he replied, ‘Go out into the darkness, and put your hand into the hand of God. That shall be to you better than light, and safer than a known way.'” She also called her faith, “the scaffolding of my life.”

The Queen has now exhaled her last breath on earth. She inhaled her next breath in the presence of Jesus. All who receive Him into their lives, asking forgiveness of sins, thanking Him for His death on the cross, will live with Him eternally where tears nor sorrow exists.

It is an honor for all who ever met the Queen. Yesterday she was honored, too. It was the day the Queen met The King face to face. She was swiftly ushered into His loving and magnificent presence. Can you imagine her joy? What she now has is available to each person who comes to personally know Jesus. Salvation belongs to anyone for the asking. I hope you do. I hope you have your day of indescribable joy, like yesterday, when the Queen met The King.

The Book of Daniel (#1 in series)

Looking Through the Windows

I take our dog, Jack, out for his first walk at 6:00am. That time of morning is so invigorating, a lovely way to start the day. Whatever the weather the air is fresh and near silence surrounds us. We walk around the nearby lake glancing at moor hens, ducks, and seagulls enjoying their own welcome to the morning. Once in a while we see another early morning dog walker with his or her own furry friend enjoying the gentle waking of day.

Often, especially as days grow shorter, making the mornings a bit darker as they are doing now, I can see lights begin to come on in various homes around the lake as people begin their day. Some windows are covered with curtains, others with blinds, but many never cover their windows. Walking by, anyone can glance in and see what’s going on. There are people sipping their own morning mugs of tea or coffee. Television’s are on with flashes of world news displayed. Some are dressed for the day while others are still adorned in their pajamas. They are not concerned at all that anyone can see into their windows.

A verse in I Corinthians 10:31 came to mind this morning: “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God.” I learned this verse as a teenager. It impacted me then and it still does today. Just as homes with no closed curtains allow the world to see in, so our lives are watched by everyone we know. It’s rather daunting to think about — how we react in situations be they good or difficult, how we respond to the words of another be they words of praise or even cruelty, how we press on when we find ourselves in unwanted situations — somebody is watching. Someone is wondering if God in our lives is making any difference.

This brings another verse to mind. Psalm 19:14: “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and redeemer.” Our own words affects our own behavior. If we speak harshly, our whole demeanor changes into something unpleasant to observe, but if we speak truthfully with intent to bring about good, our manner will be one of peace and serenity. Others may respond in calmness, too, when we display an even temper. It’s hard at times when injustices are done to ourselves or to others we love, but remember, with the help of the Holy Spirit, what our mouths say, what our eyes see, what our hands do or where our feet take us, inner peace and right behavior can remain intact. When that happens, it never matters who is looking through our windows.

An Unwanted Flight Plan

Some years ago now, my flight from Central Asia had just landed in Istanbul. I had been up since 3:00am. It was now midday. My next flight was scheduled to leave in just an hour and a half, but no, that flight had been delayed. I would now have to wait a further five hours! Many of you will know the aggravations that come with postponed flights.

I wandered around and saw a welcome sight; a coffee cafe with enticing aroma filling the air. I ordered a cup and walked over to a table. The cafe didn’t have the sit down with chairs tables, but the stand as you drink kind. I sipped the comforting brew, watching other travelers hurriedly to-ing and fro-ing. Several tables away, another woman stood alone with her own cup of warming coffee.

As I watched her it seemed to me that she had about her, not just a tiredness of being a weary traveler, but a sadness. I began to pray for her. I have made this a practice over the years, praying for strangers I see, asking God that if they know Him, would He bless them today with a sweet sense of His presence, and if they do not, would He send someone or something across their path to reveal to them the Good News of how Jesus loves them.

As I prayed for this woman, a growing sense of urgency and caring for her grew within my spirit. Then it happened. God was speaking to me, telling me to go over and talk to this woman. My heart was pounding hard. This physical occurrence often happens when God is leading me to do something. I uttered a mild protest, saying to the Lord that she might not speak English. My objection did not work; instead, a growing imperativeness made me pick up my mug and let my feet take me to the woman’s table. “Excuse me,” I heard myself say, “but you look so sad. Are you okay?” She looked up, surprised, as her eyes glistened in tears ready to spill over.

For the next three or four minutes I told her how knowing Jesus as my personal Savior had changed my life for the good. I told her that not only did it promise forgiveness of any sin I ever committed and eternity with Him after death, where no sorrow or tears existed, but that it promised help for the here and now, giving me hope, inner peace and joy, even in difficult moments. The woman was so ready to receive Jesus. I prayed and she repeated after me. Her words were sincere and full of longing. When we said “Amen,” she looked up a transformed woman. I could see joy and hope in her eyes. I told her to get hold of a Bible and find other Christians to help her, for this is how she would grow strong in her faith. She thanked me. We hugged. She then hurriedly left as her flight was called for boarding.

I’ve never seen that woman since, nor did I even get her name or know where she lives, but what a joyful reunion we will have in heaven. I continued sipping my mug of coffee, a refreshed spirit within me as I said “thank you,” to the Lord for allowing my flight to be delayed. The remaining hours were pleasant as I rested in inner peace.

God may allow many unpleasant situations in our lives, some merely annoying while others may be fearful and full of inner pain. Even so, “all things” do truly “work together for good,” as we are reminded in Romans 8:28. The Apostle Paul knew that no circumstance was ever a waste of time in God’s economy of minutes and hours. Paul’s understanding of that is why he could write in Colossians 4:3, “Pray for us, too, that God will give us many opportunities to speak about His mysterious plan concerning Christ. That is why I am here in chains.” Imagine that! Falsely arrested, but it was an opportunity Paul would not otherwise have to both, share the wonderful love of Jesus with others, and to grow in personal intimacy of relationship with Him. We learn in Scriptures elsewhere, that because of his imprisonment, Paul was used of God to lead even some of Caesar’s own household to the saving grace of God. His joy in his dismal circumstance had to be an infectious encouragement to others.

When our every minute belongs to God, then even our most difficult situations count for something good on the timeline of eternity. May you be blessed as you give your every minute to Him — the good, the difficult, the unwanted minutes. In Him not one moment counts for nothing.

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