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Not Always Merry and Bright

I so wish for life to be like a Hallmark movie. Love and contentment always win. The ending is tidy, happy and sealed in a pretty package accentuated with a red bow on top. But it is television, and so far from the reality, we inhabit.

I think that is one of the allures of Hallmark movies. They provide a magical escape from the tender truths that are indigenous to what we have always falsely believed is the happiest time of the year.

Pain wears many faces and holds no prejudices. It does not adhere to our calendars or circumstances. Maybe the agony shows up in the loss of a job, marriage, a parent, a spouse or the incredible heartache that settles in when we hear someone has to bury their child.

Broken people, broken families, broken worlds; they may all present differently, but fractured hearts are inherent to us all. The holidays as merry and bright as they are for many, are equally melancholy and bleak for others.

Life is incongruent to my desire for everyone to be happy, but I have learned this piercing lesson: happiness is a circumstantial frailty, not a gospel actuality. Without the assurance of our eternal inheritance, we stand here today poor, hopeless and lost. But it does not have to be that way.

A 1700s French writer captured something very tragic, yet I think significant in his last words. “And so I leave this world, where the heart must either break or turn to lead.” ~ Nicolas Chamfort

Sometimes our greatest challenge as we go about living in this world that is remarkable one moment and ruthless the next is continuing to engage. It is so easy to check out, but we are called to check in. It is so simple to let our hearts turn to lead, but we are called to be light instead. Is any of this straightforward in our climate of death, destruction, hatred, and hostility of unparalleled proportions? No, it is not effortless, but it is essential.

Dear friends, I know many of you are facing unspeakable burdens. My heart aches for you and throbs with you. Right now pressing in may be asking too much. That is ok.

We, unfortunately, have to drink from the cup of hurt before we can be quenched by the hand of The Healer.

God never forsakes us, though. One way He manifests himself is through our community. I pray wherever you find yourself today, the love of those around you warms, even if just slightly, the weeping heart inside you. Your internal song may never be the same, but this I know, someday your soul will sing again.

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His Promises Endure

I am a tremendously deep feeler in a terribly fallen world. I experience your success and your suffering, your communication, verbal and non-verbal, your actions and your inactions. I endure all your raw edges and finely buffed emotions. I sense your masks because I have worn them as well, but I long to see your soul. I carry your praises and your pain, and that is why I laugh a lot but frequently lament, too. Some people would say I am a mess. Some days I say, I am a mess. That is ok because it is in the sediment of tribulation that I discover significance when I have anchored my eyes, ears, and heart towards the eternal message that I know is always there. Right now the world sits raw and heavy upon my heart. I feel like I am in a tug of war between the desire to surrender to the sadness or continue standing despite its presence. There is only one choice for me; I know that. But, the fight is real! Thank you, Father, for your promises that endure all storms, whether we are standing well or weary.

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

“I am leaving you with a gift–peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid. John 14:27

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

 
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When You Are Ready, Run Friend

c906e19c5f3fa56976c39a937f60729dTime heals all wounds; so it has been said, but whoever coined this was possibly confused by the challenge of wounds of the heart and soul. I am certain this is not true, but will submit that maybe it lessens their sting.

Healing is not just a passage of time but a process of purposed pain.

We cannot wait out deep wounds; rather we have to press into them when we are ready for renewal to begin. The mending of mangled hearts is hard work. It takes courage and the perseverance of a marathon, not a sprint. There are no short cuts. It is facing the fire and walking straight through.

As children of King Jesus, we can do this, though. We can enter the furnace with the confident assurance and walk into the affliction that has seared our souls. We are going to get burned up a little, but not consumed because we have a Father who is walking beside us and buffering our burns. Isaiah 43:2 ~When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.

I often got splinters as a child. I dreaded them with a heart-pounding fear because I knew those intruders would have to be removed to stop my pain. My parents would burn the end of a needle to sterilize it before dislodging the splinter. The process of removing the splinter was painful and often involved digging, twisting and pushing of the needle into tender parts of my flesh, but my parents had carefully prepared the process, not because it would prevent present pain but because it would preclude future infection.

The healing of our hearts is like this process. Jesus is removing our splinters to prepare us for His purpose. He carefully prepares the way, and it burns. He knows it is presently going to hurt, but more importantly He knows it is eternally going to heal.

No one can tell you how to mend the heaviness of your heart, nor can anyone give you a timetable. There is no instruction manual or twelve step program for personal pain. No one should tell you to disown your feelings through the process. It is important to remember, however, that feelings ARE indicators, but they are NOT inditers. The enemy will use them that way; to discourage, distract and derail your progress. When he begins charging you with weakness, insufficiency, or whatever his poison is, remember the importance of removing and replacing. It is not enough to eliminate incorrect thoughts; we also have to replace them with infallible truths from God’s word.

God bless you on your journey to heal, friend. It will be a bumpy road, but not bare of hope and hidden treasures that will encourage your heart. Isaiah 45:3 ~And I will give you treasures hidden in the darkness–secret riches. I will do this so you may know that I am the LORD, the God of Israel, the one who calls you by name.

When you are ready friend, run to your pain, not away. It is when we face our giants that we win the war. You are loved!

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A Place That Makes Your Heart Sing

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The Holy Spirit reminded me again yesterday; the second time in a few months, that too often I get lost living for the completion of my schedule instead of the care of my soul.  The difference in the two is one of panic versus peace, calm versus chaos and rush versus rest. As I am practicing this myself, my prayer for you today, friend, is that you may take some time to LIVE, not from a planner but from a place; a place that makes your heart sing.  You are loved.

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Congruence


 

Last night my son and I had a dinner date. He wanted pizza. Pizza is always the predictable choice for him! Unfortunately, he did not have to twist my arm very hard, especially for Davenport’s Pizza in Mountain Brook.

“Let me drive mom.” Those words still jolt me. I just turned sixteen, or so it feels that way some days.

During our drive, he said to me, “Mom, your car is clean on the outside, but always messy inside.” I did not have much room for dispute, so I just affirmed his observation as subtle shame sunk me a little deeper into my seat.

Later I was thinking about what he said. I saw a picture of life that was worthy of consideration. Like my car, I typically clean myself up on the outside but easily neglect the inside. I cannot hide the external, but I sure can the internal.

I have a lot of “junk” inside. Some out of my control, some in my control. Some deposited by me and some left behind by others. I eventually get around to cleaning out the inside of my car, but I cannot be that nonchalant with my soul. Taking inventory of the inside mess requires daily diligence. When I neglect this process, it is to my detriment as well as those closest to me.

I want to be a congruent person. My desire is that my interior matches my exterior. I cannot withstand shining myself up all the time. That is exhausting and not realistic. Trash can be buried but unless destroyed, it will eventually stink again. I must be attentive to what I am fighting inside while being authentic about what I am flaunting outside.

Jesus addresses this very issue. Luke 11:39~ “I know you Pharisees burnish the surface of your cups and plates, so they sparkle in the sun, but I also know your insides are maggoty with greed and secret evil. (The Message)

Father help me to live a congruent life between what people see and do not see. Give me the grace to dismantle facades and presentations based on social pressures and expectations. Grant me the courage to live free as I am in every moment within the parameters of your spiritual fruits: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Thank you for the ways you pursue my whole heart; even through the observations of my children. You are a faithful God. Amen.

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We Must Live As We Believe

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At the root of anxiety, fear, worry and discouragement is always the seed of unbelief. When I find myself fraternizing with any of the above, as I often do, I have to ask which of God’s promises I am not living? Self-examination is liberating and crucial to soul stability.

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Soul Maintenance

 

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We are having a good number of windows replaced around our house the next few days.  As I am sitting here watching these guys rip away the old;  it occurred to me I am watching a picture of life.

These windows needed caulked and painted a long time ago, and because they were not, that lapse of care allowed for environmental elements to compromise not only the windows, but their surrounding support structures, too.  The more they take out; the more decomposition years of neglect exposes.

Disregard transitions the process of restoration from superficial to deep rooted.

I am a lot like those windows.  Whether it be my health, my relationships, nourishment of my soul…neglect creates a threshold for degeneration in all those realms.  Once rot sets in, over time it runs deeper and deeper through those areas,  just like my windows.I can unknowingly arrive at a place of deep disintegration simply from a failure to consistently maintain.

The demands of life can keep me distracted and busy.  It becomes easy to disregard soul maintenance above all things.  When I become negligent in my time spent with The Lord, unwanted impostures take root in my heart.  You may know some of them? Anxiety, worry, and fear are a few of the familiar ones.

My mind and heart require daily nourishment and cleansing to protected me from destructive paths.  Proverbs 4:23 illustrates this so beautifully ~Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.  Part of guarding my heart requires consistent, fruitful nourishment.  It is not an efficient process, but it is highly effective.

When I neglect my spiritual well being, days become exhausting.  Life is already difficult. It is essential to be intentional so that I may weather storms without the threat of deep-rooted destruction.