Does Your Heart have to be in it first to be Considered God-Honoring?

I see my friends, my colleagues, and, in hindsight, I see myself miss out on awesome opportunities all of the time.  God opens doors wide open for us, and we walk past it.  Meanwhile, our hearts are empty and we desire a closer relationship with God.

The reason we miss these doors are numerous.  We can hear ourselves often say, “I didn’t want to do it, because my heart wasn’t in it.”  -or- “I would feel like a fake, it wouldn’t be genuine.”

These excuses could be used for a wide variety of things : Not wanting to sing hymns, or refusing contemporary worship; Not signing up for a service project or praying for an individual; Not sharing the gospel with a stranger; Not forgiving a trespasser; Not going to Church or Sunday School.  Because, “I’m not feeling it, it wouldn’t be genuine.”

In our culture, we give our hearts too much control of our actions.  This often leads us to more heart-ache, which is probably what we are trying to avoid.  We need to lead with our minds, and let our hearts follow.

What if we did our Spouse’s chores when we didn’t feel like it?  What if we chose joy when it would be easier to wallow in our sadness?  What if we offered forgiveness before a grudge set in?  What if we sang praise to God even if we didn’t “feel” the music?

I can hear those excuses surfacing back up again in me already… But that’s not genuine, that’s fake, I need to be real.  Yes, we do.  But we also need to understand that the heart makes some bad decisions.  I can attest to that! My heart has chosen some lousy relationships to follow, and has led me to insecurity and bitterness in the past.  This has taught me that the heart is a much better follower than it is a leader.

You can choose, and your heart will follow.  Soon your heart and mind will work in tandem, spurring each other on towards the goal.  When I let my mind lead, in time my heart will catch up and swell at the enormity of God’s grace.  It will overflow at the opportunity that was seized.  Then my heart begins to crave more.  More good decisions, More love, More service, More grace, More God…. MORE GOD.

Let’s be a little more like Isaiah:

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’

And I said, ‘Here am I. Send me!’

Isaiah 6:8

Have you ever done something when your heart wasn’t in it?  What did you learn?  Did your mind lead your heart closer to God?

Sacred Walks

This is what the Lord says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.

Jeremiah 6:16

Tap and I like to go on long walks, especially on days like we had this weekend.  The sky was clear, the sun was shining, and there was a light breeze.  It was a perfectly comfortable day… no shivers of cold to touch your spine, and no drops of sweat rolling down your neck.  Instead, it was like slicing through a peaceful dry cloud.

Tap and Em Walking

Walks are sacred for us.  It is a time that we use to wind down from a long day or week and truly connect.  As we step into a rhythm, our hearts and minds seem to do the same.  With each passing step we feel a little more in sync… with ourselves, with nature, and with each other.  The silence allows time for us to process our day; All the things we buried for a later time start to swell up and come out in conversation.

On a walk, there are no cell phones to ring or beeps to announce an incoming text.  Netflix is left miles behind us, along with all of the other comforting distractions of home.  The act of walking allows us to literally feel the separation of “normal life.”  It opens up a space for us to talk and play without interruption, giving us a sacred space to connect, talk, and walk.

When do you feel the most connected to others?  How do you separate yourself from the busyness of life?

Christmas Eve Service 2014

“In the beginning – that is where this story begins.  After all the beginning is the most appropriate place for a story to start.  It is much more exciting than any “Once upon a time” could ever be.  And it is even more creative than “a galaxy far far away.” 
This story is a tale of expectation, expectation of great promises and wonderful outcomes.  It is a story of patience in the most unlikely circumstances.  This story is characterized by hope, wrapped in love, expressed through joy, all coming together to bring about a result of peace.  It is a story unlike any other and, more importantly, it is our story.”

That was the opening narration from “Expectation: A Moment in Time”, the Christmas Eve drama that Tappy wrote for his position as Worship Arts Pastor at Troy Church of the Nazarene.  He spent many weeks studying different authors’ work and studying different portions of Scripture and spent several days in his office planning out the details and bringing the characters to life.  His biggest influences for the script were Ann Voskamp’s “Unwrapping The Greatest Gift,” and Max Lucado’s “In The Manger”.

The drama was told from the perspective of a woman reading a version of the Christmas story to her daughter in their living room.  As she worked through the story the characters came to life and the audience’s attention was drawn from the “living room” stage to the main platform in the Worship Center.  The drama was also mixed with familiar carols and each family was asked to bring forth a candle and light it as a representation of their family and the true light that Christ brings into the world.
The storyline was crafted around the expectation of the Advent season and each character personified an element of the candles from the four weeks leading up to the birth of Christ.

HOPE: The first biblical character was Abraham.  He shared about the Hope that God gave to him and his wife through the promise of a child.  The promise was exemplified with the visual of stars and the vastness of the cosmos. (Gen. 15:5)

LOVE: Next the story led to the prophet Isaiah who was called to share the ultimate plan of love to those who would not fully understand the meaning until its fulfillment several hundred years later. (Isaiah 9:6)

JOY:  We were then led into the Gospel accounts as we heard from Elizabeth, wife of Zachariah and cousin to Mary, and what happened to her husband in the temple and the importance of listening to The Lord and being grateful for all that He has given. (Luke 1:13)

PEACE: Finally we heard from a Shepherd, a witness of the manger and the true presence of Majesty.  He shared the importance of Christ’s coming for both the elite and the ordinary. (Luke 2:14)…Tap played the role of the Shepherd, as well as sang and played piano for the service.

In one moment, for that is all it takes to change the world, God broke into humanity and brought Hope to the hopeless, Love to the broken, Joy to weary, and Peace to the restless.  One moment, that is all it took to change the lives of these characters, and that is all it took to grasp the attention of those present.

Sparkle Box Progress Report

This year we started a new tradition- to fill a Sparkle Box full of presents to Christ for His birthday (you can read about it here).  On Saturday, we sat down and read a few scraps of paper of the things we did for “the least of these” this month.  It was great to focus on Christ, and know that not all the presents were for ourselves.  However, my hope is that this one tradition grows each year.  For our first year, I’ll admit, we weren’t perfect.  We often forgot about our goal to give a gift to Christ.  We ran out of time or money to do some things that we would have loved to do, and should have done.  Part of me feels bad, because I know that these are cheap excuses that our awesome God doesn’t deserve.  I am humbled by His perfection, His patience, and His unyielding love and time for all.

What gives me hope is that we don’t have to give back to God just in December… This was just a beginning to a wonderful tradition, full of worthy intentions.  And, just like my mom starts shopping for Christmas on December 26th and goes until the following December 25th, I think we will try to fill our Sparkle Box in the same way.

If you need ideas to fill your sparkle box, I found this great blog called The Shine Project.  Check out her entry on 51 Holiday Service Projects and get started with your Sparkle Box now.

How have you done with your Sparkle box? Do you have any great ideas and ways to fill it?

Immanuel

What King abandons his palace to live in the muck of a gutter?
To dwell among them…
What prince denies to have a servant, and instead becomes one to the wretched?
To wash their feet…
What royalty is there, that takes his robes off and puts on the garments of the poor, the weak, the abandoned, and the abused?
To humble himself…
What god of strength would poor out his powers and instead bear the weakness of man?
To die a death on the cross…
Full of righteousness, completely pure, the Holy of Holies resided among us. He resided among the foul, the unclean, the dirt and the grime. He emptied himself and took on flesh. The God who created the universe, the moon and the stars, the God who “In the beginning” started mankind, became a part of his creation- He became a baby boy.

Immanuel

God with us.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

… The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people[c] did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.  For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

-John 1:1-5, 9:18

[Christ Jesus] who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

-Philippians 2:6-11

Life as an Encourager

Not too long ago I attended the Hearts At Home Conference in Illinois to assist a former teacher of mine, Juli Slattery.  I admired her wisdom, counsel, and the testimony her own marriage shined at Focus Leadership Institute.  Because she was coming all the way from Colorado to speak at a local conference, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to visit with her again.  During the conference I was able to hear her main study, and spent the rest of the day with some lovely women managing Slattery’s book booth.

While visiting with the ladies, a Pastor’s wife came up to us and shared a piece of her story.  She ended with an exasperated sigh and said she was discouraged by the other wives around her.  Whenever she gathered with her girlfriends the conversation was dominated by complaints and sarcastic jokes about husbands.  Instead of partaking, this Godly wife always spoke highly of her husband.  Her friends immediately blushed and turned to anger.  “Is it wrong, that I don’t want to talk badly about my husband?” she asked.  She wanted to fit in, but she wanted to uplift her husband instead of tear him down.

How often have you been in this situation?  It’s so easy to understand the stories of the other wives, and want to chime in with a related story of our own.  Sure it is a good thing to connect and sympathize, and to even share life with others, but to what detriment?

After speaking with this lovely lady, I decided to take a vow of my own.  I will try my hardest to “never talk bad about my husband, to anyone, ever.”  But, why?

An excellent wife who can find?
She is far more precious than jewels.
The heart of her husband trusts in her,
and he will have no lack of gain.
She does him good, and not harm,
all the days of her life….She opens her mouth with wisdom,
and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.

Proverbs 31:10f paints a beautiful and challenging picture of what a Godly wife is supposed to look like.  Be encouraged to read Proverbs, and continue the study of “wifehood” in Ephesians 5, Colossians 3, and 1 Peter 3.

Another good reason to make this promise, is because your husband will love it!

Being married offers the most unique and intimate opportunity to know another person.  Marriage unveils all the bad along with all the good.  Not only does marriage challenge an individual in the deepest sense, but those challenges unveil new faults and uncovers dirty truths that had not been found outside the shallower relationships of their life.  With all of these dark secrets, a spouse has a lot of power.  They need to decide whether they want to use this power for good, or for bad.

Tappy and I have both made this promise together.  After an argument, I have the confidence and trust to know that my weaknesses won’t be flaunted.  I know that he will only use the information of my faults to help me weed them out and become stronger.  Similarly, I plan to build his confidence.  I want my husband to know that I love him, admire him, and am constantly in a state of excitement to see the new places God will grow in him.  These secrets create confidence, respect, and a bigger sense of trust and intimacy than what we were originally granted.

Furthermore, in the lack of complaints, we are given the opportunity of compliments.  I love to know the ways my husband brags about me.  Currently, we both work at Walmart, and I have heard so many coworkers come up to me to tell me the latest way my husband had bragged about me.  “Your husband never calls your ‘my wife’, did you know he always says ‘my BEAUTIFUL wife,’ it’s so sweet!”  or “The other day I kept seeing that all the magazines were backwards, I’d go to fix them, and the next time I turned around they were backwards again!” they eventually found out Tappy was doing it, so they asked him about it, “Your husband said he does that because you’re the only girl he wants to see in a swimsuit!”

Now tell me that isn’t encouraging?!

I hope that you choose to use your power for good, too, and build the confidence in your spouse.