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Idols of the Heart

I grew up in a small peach colored house in Southeast Texas. We had a huge yard, roughly 1.5 acres I think. I spent most of my days as a younger child outside exploring the woods around my house, catching crawfish in the ditch that spiraled the side of our home and just enjoying the many possibilities that a big yard and an ambitious imagination afforded me.

In two particular areas of our yard where the landscape was lower and prone to hold water, you could hardly take more than a couple of steps without stepping on a “crawdad” mound. They were prolific! If you have never seen a crawdad mound, they are ugly. I would equate them to a tiny black or brown cone shaped igloo made of mud.

As a kid wanting to run, turn cartwheels, jump and roll in the green grass, particularly fresh cut, in wide open spaces, the crawdads and their homes were unwelcomed intruders. I can vividly remember ever day in the summer time I would kick those suckers over thinking I was reclaiming my territory. One by one, I would go through and clear my space for play. The frustrating thing about destroying the crawdad’s homes, however, was that it seemed that no sooner than I flattened them, I would return the next day to find them there again.

My attempts at creating a clean, green, grassy playground were endless. Day after day I would have to return to knock down the unsightly invaders to start with a clean slate for play.

This past week I was thinking about idols that set up home in my heart. Those thoughts are what rekindled my childhood memories of the crawdad mounds. I will think I have excavated an idol, feeling like I am ready to start anew, much like my play yard growing up. But the reality is, as soon as I rid myself of one, ten more crop up. Also, it is usually not very long before the “kicked out” idol resurfaces, and I have to deal with it yet again.

John Calvin said the human heart is a factory of idols. I will add to his observation that mine is no exception. Idols are the thieves of souls and confiscators of peace and joy. They are dressed up impostures that promise pleasure but ultimately never deliver the pacification they purport. They have an inferior half-life that leaves all partakers thirsty and still longing for more.

Tim Keller defines idols this way, “[An idol] is anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give.”

Idols are insidious. They can be occupying my heart and monopolizing my mind long before I realize it if I am not guarded. My heart and mind are permeable, and I have to be a good steward of them because our world is in pursuance of them on all fronts.

If you, like me, regularly find yourself having to expunge the idols that wedge themselves into your heart, do not be discouraged, friend. A wise person once told me that seeing more gaps in my life, is a sign of spiritual maturity.

Only what is acknowledged can be abolished. There is freedom in recognizing our sins because only what is seen can be surrendered. You are loved!

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For life travelers longing for an analgesic to satiate the ache that feels as if it were born and branded into every beating heart, we search and scurry for a cure as if that longing is something to be erased and replaced with happiness when all along it is an immutable hunger for Home.
Friend, I know it is tempting to numb. The food, the television, the drink, the romance novel, the internet, the busy schedule, they all eventually fail us. There is not one possession or person under the sun that will complete us.

John Calvin said the human heart is a factory of idols. I will add to his observation that mine is no exception. Idols are the thieves of my soul, robbing me of peace and joy. They are dressed up impostures that pursue me, promising pleasure but ultimately never delivering the pacification they purport. They have an inferior half-life that leaves all partakers thirsty and longing for more.

I was sitting on my counselor’s couch Tuesday and as I was talking to her, staring out her big window in the sky, my words were interrupted. As it sometimes happens a memo from semmingly no where comes as if it is being spoken in my head. That day the message was, when you are only concerned with One none of the other stuff matters.

Too often that one I am concerned about is me instead of Jesus. When my eyes, ears, and mind are fixed on Him, I do not need to numb. I do not need to find satisfaction in secular things. But surrounded by my desirous heart for God is a deceptive flesh for gratification; and this is why I need Jesus every moment of every day.

Jesus secures me when I am splintered. He welcomes me when I am weak. He “feeds” me when I am famished. He lifts me when I am low; and Jesus desires me when I am disappointing.
If you have received the gift of God’s only son, you can replace every me in the sentences above with your name. Isn’t that a breath of fresh air! If you have not received His gift, right now is always the right time to make the right decision.

You are loved, friend!

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What Are You Running After?

 

What are you chasing today that is seemingly bigger, better, prettier or more satisfying than what you have?
I have written about our dog, Paisley, before. She teaches me valuable lessons when I am paying attention. I often bring her a new toy. Shinier, bigger and better toys. When she first gets them, she is elated. She plays with them non-stop for a few days, and then they suddenly lose all their mystery, charm and satisfaction, only to sit untouched in her toy basket until the next better one comes along. The cycle again repeats itself with each new toy.
I am a lot like that, too. The world has many distractions that capture my eyes and shift me from an eternal focus to an earthly one. I become an exhausted runner, chasing, chasing, chasing. Every time I attain what I am chasing, that deep soul ache is temporarily satisfied, until I realize the ache is still there and that next “better thing” did not come through for me either.
What I have learned after years of running is that I do not need to be running towards something, but to Someone. If I am not chasing a deeper relationship with Jesus, I will be chasing something all my life that has a temporary return and fleeting satisfaction.
Life is a marathon; that is true. I don’t want to get to the finish line with only shiny medals that will rust and turn to dust. I desire to cross that line falling into the arms of the One, who will always satisfy, eternally provide and perpetually be at my side.
What are you running after today?

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Running After Dirty Water

About a year ago we added a puppy to our family.  She has brought a lot of joy to our home.  There have been some ups and downs as there always are with a puppy, but more and more I notice the positives.
Yes, she is a dog, but she is also a teacher.  It is amazing how God can transplant His presence and instruction into any person, place, thing or situation.  Like a chameleon, God’s truths adapt to all surroundings. As we become familiar with Him, we develop a keen eye and acute ear for His presence, and the areas where He is convicting our hearts.

I see valuable lessons in the life of our puppy every day.  By the way, her name is Paisley, which means, the church.  It only fits that she would bear a name that is indicative of a place where people go to learn, grow and feel loved.

Loved.  Is that not the deepest inclination of so many hearts?  Few people this side of the garden know a more pure, rich form of unadulterated and genuine love than that of a dog.  If only I were half as good most days as I am every day in Paisley’s eyes.  If I loved like her,  always unconditional, cheerful and consistent, how my joy would multiply.  She is an example of how to love and be loved with no hesitation, terms or conditions.  She is an example of how Jesus loves us!

Many people have reported this kind of organic love and loyalty of dogs.  Although it is a highly important lesson, and one I am thankful she reminds me of daily, God has revealed much more to me through Paisley.

There is an area on our sidewalk that forms a corner.  Dirt and rainwater collect there, making it a well of dirty water.  This dirty water has become an alluring temptation for Paisley.  She has fresh, clean, life sustaining water available to her all day.  Her water bowl sits in the same place, and it never moves. Invariably Paisley will scratch the door to go out in order to run for a drink of the dirty water.

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Yesterday in my frustration of her repetitive, wrong and potentially hazardous behavior, I went out to stand guard over the murky water.  As I was walking towards her with her head down drinking, a teaching moment transpired in my head.  I am a lot like Paisley!  I have a Savior, who is always present and immoveable.  He provides an abundance of fresh, living water to me every day.  I know that. I know where the living water is and Who it comes from, but how many times in my flesh born tendency do I opt for dirty water?

I am running after dirty water every time my eyes, ears, heart, and mind become attracted to the idols of this world.  I run after dirty water each time I try and maneuver my plans into alignment with my wishes, not the will of my Father.  I am drinking dirty water when I worry or plan excessively, which in reality is control indigenous to unbelief. I am resorting to dirty water when I lose my patience with my children, husband or someone who thwarts my purpose, or threatens my misplaced righteousness.  I am running to dirty water when I forget prayer as my first line of defense and look for solutions inherent of the world.  I am running after dirty water when I look to anesthetize a desire in anything outside of Jesus.

There are so many instances I run after dirty water.  It is comforting to me that Jesus is not surprised by this.  Nor is He disappointed in me.  His well of nourishing water is always available, and it rests under an umbrella for sinners like me who need to run back and find a refreshing drink in the shade of His amazing grace.

Whose water are you drinking; that drawn from the soil or that flowing from The Savior?  It is never too late to switch sources. This verse in Isaiah is equivalent to a cool, cleansing drink of regenerative water.

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This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says:
“In repentance and rest is your salvation,
in quietness and trust is your strength.”

Father, forgive us all the times we run for dirty water.  You know this is our sinful inclination.  You also know our hearts true desire is to grow in obedience to You.  When we squander our focus, gently redirect our gaze back to you, the only source that will adequately quench our thirst.  May we find rest in your patience and grace.  Amen.