heart-spoken

“The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” Jeremiah 31:3 (NIV)

“Get into the habit of saying, ‘Speak, Lord,’ and life will become a romance.” Oswald Chambers

The use of the word “romance” here in this context is a spiritual show-stopper the more I think about it.  Such a romance is a life of excitement, a shared journey of love that is an adventure filled with mystery, surprise, longing, and beauty between God and ourselves.  It’s an extraordinary invitation to embark on a remarkable Coram Deo life alongside Him.  It is everything we long for, and so much more.

I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.  John 10:10b (NKJV)

Hear what John Eldredge has to say about a life of romance lived in God’s presence from his book, “The Sacred Romance:”

“The Sacred Romance calls to us every moment of our lives…invites us through the laughter of good friends, reaches out to us through the touch of someone we love. We’ve heard it in our favorite music, sensed it at the birth of our first child,been drawn to it while watching the shimmer of a sunset on the ocean. Something calls to us through experiences like these and rouses an inconsolable longing deep within our heart, wakening in us a yearning for intimacy, beauty, and adventure. This longing…fuels our search for meaning, for wholeness, for a sense of being truly alive. And the voice that calls to us in this place is none other than the voice of God.”

He has made everything beautiful in its time.  Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end.”  Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NKJV)

That longing for eternity can be satisfied only by God.  Only His voice can meet that need purposefully implanted in the depths of our hearts so that we would seek Him.  Oh, but when at long last embraced, the sweetness and beauty of His voice are miraculously transformative. 

“And what happened, then? Well, in Whoville they say – that the Grinch’s small heart grew three sizes that day. And then – the true meaning of Christmas came through, and the Grinch found the strength of ten Grinches, plus two!” (How the Grinch Stole Christmas! by Dr. Seuss)

Indeed!  The Lord’s presence continually delights and surprises me.  His love wonderfully turns me upside down, sideways, and gratefully, every which way but loose, as if I’m a stone joyfully borne along by a sparkling, rapidly flowing river.  All that matters is that I am within the loving embrace of His arms of living waters.  After all, what about the destination can be of concern when He is the River Boat Captain of my soul?

When you’re in His embrace, you see and understand things differently than the world does.  I can’t help but think this is what Oswald Chambers was alluding to when he said in his devotional, My Utmost For His Highest, “Do you perceive mere coincidence, or do you discern the hand of God?”  When you know yourself to be in His hand,  you see anything, and everything with Him in mind, no matter how big or small something is.

Take, for example, my friend, Nicole.  She frequently sees heart shapes in clouds, leaves, and even the icing on a cupcake, to name a few.  Nicole recently found a heart-shaped piece of meat hiding underneath the holiday ham when she removed it from the cooking pan. 

These heart surprises are always a great encouragement because every time she spots one, it’s a glowing reminder of how much God loves her.   Finding one never gets old for her.  Each discovery delights her more than the previous one.

Not surprisingly, she’s always on the lookout for these spontaneous “God hugs” because you never really know when or where one will show up.  To that end, it’s worth noting that one often shows up just when she needs it most. It’s a much-needed, sweet reminder to her of Whose child she is at just the right moment.

If you’ve ever turned the radio on and immediately found yourself listening to the perfect song to meet your needs in that moment, you know this “God hug” feeling. Or perhaps you’ll come across just the right words in a book, article, movie, devotional, or scripture that seems like a custom fit perfectly tailored for your circumstances.

Several posts on this site speak to these sorts of heartwarming moments.  Please check out “meanwhile behind the seens,” “diamond in the rough,” or “blanket coverage,” for example,  if you get the chance. “Trucks top rescue” is a post describing another friend’s spiritually meaningful and oh so timely encounter with a dove in an unlikely location during a difficult time in her life.

There’s a thought expressed in the movie August Rush that I find notably engaging and pertinent to this discussion.  Evan Taylor( August Rush) as played by Freddie Highmore: “Listen.  Can you hear it?  The music.  I can hear it everywhere.  In the wind…in the air…in the light.  It’s all around us.  All you have to do is open yourself up.  All you have to do…is listen.” 

Try exchanging “God” for the word “music,” which is no great stretch of the imagination since music finds its very beginning in our Lord.  Now,  before you move on, reread Evan’s observation with God in mind instead of music and let it flow powerfully into your heart. 

“Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”  Matthew 1:23 (NKJV)

When you recognize you are always in His presence, your world will grow decidedly more hopeful and more beautiful. 

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”  Matthew 11:28-30 (MSG)

Do you hear His voice, a voice like none other?  Are you listening?  Oh, how I pray you are.

“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”  John 14:27 (NKJV)

This post’s original title was “heartbroken” because that was my first impression upon seeing this heart as pictured above, which I spotted across the street directly in front of my house.  Heartbreak and pain practically oozed from it when I first saw it. 

As hearts go, this is no visual role model, to be sure.  It’s so disfigured as to be almost unrecognizable as such.  Questions abound.  What about those two holes?  Why is this heart composed of two different materials?  What does it mean that part is on the grass and the remaining portion is on the concrete?  One is left only to likely observe this is a divided heart, ripped into pieces.

Undoubtedly, some will say while looking at the photo, “You call that a heart?  That’s no heart!  Besides, even if it is whoever heard of a heart wearing a mask?”   You and I already instinctively know the answers: “The world has a cruel and heartless way of crushing a person’s heart.  The mask is for protection.”  We know this because, at various times, we have all endured the heartache and heartbreak the cold hands of this world can inflict upon a person.  And we have the scars, wounds, and limps to prove it.  We all wear masks of one variety or another in an attempt to protect ourselves from being hurt again.  To show our true selves makes us vulnerable to attack, so we hide behind the mask.

When it comes to romance, being heartbroken is not where anyone wants to find themselves, of course.  Writing about heartache is not a warm and fuzzy experience, either, as I can readily attest.  Indeed, I was conflicted in those efforts from the beginning.

Mercifully, the Lord gently redirected my initial thoughts by bringing to mind one verse in particular in the middle of the night as I wrestled with this sadness.  In an instant, He rescued me from drowning in the dark, quicksand-like waters of despair I was experiencing.  The hopelessness of “heartbroken” joyously gave way to Jesus’s ever hopeful and life-giving perspective of “heart-spoken.”

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed”  Luke 4:18 (NKJV)

The whispered gift of “heart-spoken” warmly greeted me in those quiet, still, and uncluttered hours of a new day.  Joyfully it buoyed my spirit aloft on the wings of hope like an early spring flower emerging from melting winter snow brings.   No longer constrained by string, I’m a kite set free to fly where once I could only longingly gaze.   Yes, hope forged in the fires of His boundless love is the real message of Christmas that we can rejoice in throughout the entire year.

“For to us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder.  And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6 (NKJV)

What does that hope mean for His children, the captives whose hearts He has come to set free?

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”  Ezekiel 36:26 (NKJV)

‘Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”  2 Corinthians 5:17 (NKJV)

As we learn to embrace the rhythm of His grace with our new hearts, He is teaching us a dance of freedom we’ve never experienced before according to His good purposes.  We are dancing to His music in His arms, each of us in our own special and unique way.   Apart from Him, we knew only division; now, a part of Him, our hearts know harmony.

Ever so gently, He tenderly removes the mask we’ve hidden behind. Instinctively we lower our eyes, afraid He will find us ugly and unlovable, just as the world has pronounced us to be.  Casting our disguise aside, He reaches out, lifts our chin, and lovingly gazes at our now naked face.  Looking deeply into our eyes, He tells us the mask has hidden a wondrous beauty for far too long that He has uniquely created for a time such as this.  And, then, the unexpected happens. He begins to sing over you drowning out the world’s curses you once knew all too well.  Do you hear Him speaking to your heart?  Oh, how I pray you do, my brother and sister, for you are heart-spoken and greatly loved!

“The Lord your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.”  Zephaniah 3:17 (NKJV)

1!1!1!

Alisha.mp4 “Feel My Love” (Bob Dylan)

(note: Nicole’s good friend sings this cover to Bob Dylan’s song.  Heartfelt thanks go out to Alisha for allowing me to use her version of this song.  Close your eyes, friends, and listen to this song as if God is singing directly to you.  What a blessing!)

 wrecker for the wrecked soul

And then mercifully appears in the lane alongside you a guiding and gleaming reminder…

wrecker for the soul WP lens flare

                                        

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”  Matthew 11:28 (NKJV)

Hope.  What a precious commodity.  When present it lifts our very soul as if gravity no longer exists.  The blue of the sky seems endlessly radiant filled with twinkling stars of optimism that beckon us to embrace everything we see before us as we eagerly and delightfully ponder and dream about what could be.  Our dreams are no longer bound, but come to life with a voice all of their own.  Not only do we feel unlimited and unrestrained, but we believe in unlimited possibilities as we longingly and confidently gaze at the horizon’s welcoming arms of exhilaratingly saturated colors.   

Sadly,  hope’s immense, life-giving value often goes unrecognized and unacknowledged so long as we have it.  But, oh, when hope is gone or nearly depleted, well, that’s a totally different existence for a hurting and mournful soul.  Even the brightest of sunny days seem completely uninviting as we ponder what could’ve been but has now been seemingly lost forever.   Our world seems to be growing frighteningly smaller by the moment.  The very life we used to hold so dear is being squeezed slowly out of us as each breath becomes an increasingly labored and audible sigh of regret and loss, yet another link in the heavy chain of ever-growing self-pity that seeks to further bind us saying, “Why………….…go…….……..on?” 

Is there not one who will set us free from this sentence of perpetual despair, from this quicksand existence that pulls us further and further down until all but our faces are visible in the gloom of the muck we now call our life?

Surely this loss of hope is what Paul was feeling as he wrote in 2 Corinithians 1:8-9a (NKJV), “For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethern, of our trouble which came to us in Asia:  that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life. Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves…” (emphasis mine) 

Think about it for a moment:  this is Paul, called by God to miraculously transform the spiritual landscape for Gentiles by proclaiming Jesus as Savior, who in so doing was led to write so much of the New Testament,  and who is now experiencing such despair that he no longer can see a future beyond his next few breaths?  How and why can this be? 

What is the application for our own lives thousands of years later as we struggle to maintain hope when we face struggles that attempt to rob us of all hope as well?  The very next words of v9b-10 (NKJV)  answer these questions saying, “…that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead, who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will deliver us.” 

So great was Paul’s deliverance and comfort that he had received from the Lord who is able to even raise the dead, that he felt compelled to talk about it first before addressing his seemingly hopeless, all-consuming former circumstances. 

Immediately preceeding these verses of despair, we read in 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 (NKJV) where he boasts in the Lord proclaiming, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.  For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ.  Now if we are afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effective for enduring the same sufferings which we also suffer.  Or if we are comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation.  And our hope for you is steadfast, because we know that as you are partakers of the sufferings, so also you will partake of the consolation.” 

Later in 2 Corinthians 12:9-11 (NKJV) Paul again affirms his beliefs when he says, ““And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  Therefore I take pleasure in my infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 

Becoming weak in order to be strong and at the same time rejoicing and praising in such:  Now there’s something the world cannot and will not teach you and if missed or avoided has the potential to create misery and sorrow, or as Paul says, despair, in a person’s life.

Perhaps you’re in a difficult situation similar to Paul’s experience in which you too feel all hope has been lost.  The truth is you have lost hope in hope.  Navigating down the unforgiving and hardened concrete highway of your life you are surrounded by the restless storm of humanity caught up in their own fight for survival.  Each is caught up in their own lives and worlds as they speed by without giving you so much as a second thought. 

Ironically, we are alone in the midst of many, each of us feeling as if we’re a castaway on a deserted island often unnoticed by even those closest to us.  As your eyes desperately seek to make contact with those around you only to be greeted by a blank stare your heart cries out, “Is there not one who can help me?  Will you help me, please?”   Sadly, they are seeing, but not seeing, hearing, but not hearing, and as the reality of this sinks ever deeper into your soul your heart beats a little less enthusiastically with a little less purpose with each missed opportunity of hope.

“I am done…it is over…I am broken and ruined,” you say to yourself.  And then mercifully appears in the lane alongside you a guiding and gleaming reminder there is One who hears each of your cries for help, there is One who knows your pain and suffering because He too has been there, there is One who captures your tears in a bottle and holds them next to His heart for they are dear to Him, there is One who not only seeks to deliver you out of your despair but actually can do so, there is One whom stands by your side and who alone is your rescuer and deliverer for your grieving soul.  

For far too long you realize you’ve been holding onto that last deep breath of yourself as the murky waters steadily rise around you for fear it would be your final moment. 

But what if that last breath you’ve so desperately clung to all of this time if once given up was actually a necessary step towards hope? What if your last exhaled, heaving gasp of yourself rather than signifying the end was the beginning of the path called hope you have longed and wept for so many lonely days and nights ? What if that long, last breath of yourself you just expelled heralded your first inhalation of true life through Him as He intended it to be all along for you? No longer is it your breaths filled with so much hopelessness, but instead His breath of life that sustains you.   

Friend, now that you have Him firmly in sight steadfastedly fix your heart’s gaze on His cross and determine to wholeheartedly follow Him wherever He might lead for true hope can only be found in Jesus, the strong wrecker for your weak and wrecked soul.

“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”  Galatians 2:20 (NKJV)

“Therefore we do not lost heart.  Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.  For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen.  For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things that are not seen are eternal.”  2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (NKJV)

tapping into hope

“The Lord is my portion’, says my soul, ‘Therefore I hope in Him.’” Lamentations 3:24 (NKJV)

A town of about 600 people in Morocco was recently reported as not having water for three months during the summer.  A three month dry spell with no running water is a long time.

It’d be really easy and tempting to just shut the tap off and be done with it, but if you choose to live expectantly then the only logical thing to do is leave the tap open because today might be the day that the water once again flows.   And when it does you want to be ready to capture every sweet drop because there’s no guarantee as to how long it will flow for these people.  It could be on from here on out, but it could be just a momentary surge lasting only a few hours.

Regardless of how long the water flows how terrible would it be if you were to find out later in the day from your neighbor that the water had indeed come on, but just for the morning, so you missed out on this opportunity because your tap was purposefully turned off?

No, this is so important that you need to experience it first hand for yourself.  You don’t need to be found waiting to be told the good news too late to do you any good by your neighbor.

Your neighbor, by the way, didn’t tell you sooner because she was busy in her own house filling as many containers with water as she could at the time leaving you with that woulda, coulda, shoulda sinking feeling.  “Gee, it was so dry before, but now somehow it really feels even more dry,” you say to yourself as your neighbor heads back to her own house for a cool drink.

When times get hard or tough it’s easy to fall into the spiritual trap of pulling back, of giving up.

While it’s true you managed to keep your spirits up for a few weeks by remaining faithful with your devotional and prayer time, but as the “dryness” of your seemingly unanswered prayers continued on day after day you gradually spent less and less time alone with the Lord, until one day you threw your arms up in the air in “what does it matter?” futility, turned the “tap” off, and walked away.

Maybe you didn’t walk permanently away for good, but the wonderful times of closeness you used to feel when you were with Him just didn’t have that same intimacy that they once did.  So now your time spent with Him is much more like a quick 5 minute hit.  You hurriedly walk up to the faucet, give it a quick flick of your wrist, nothing comes out, so you turn it “off” just as quickly as you turned it “on” all the while muttering to yourself,  “Why did I even bother? I knew nothing was going to come out.”

And so you continue on with your day with an ever growing sense of hopelessness.  The very thought of leaving the faucet open all of the time as some of your friends have suggested is simply more than you can bear.  “Why that sort of expectation encouraging me to wait on Him is only setting me up for even more heartbreak,” you say to yourself as you kick the rock on your sidewalk off into the street.  “Besides, they don’t have a clue at all about  what I’m dealing with over here.”

Before you know it you’re spending less and less time with those friends who used to be so close to you.  In his book, “The Making of a Man of God, Alan Redpath says, The burden presses you down to the point where you have begun to doubt God, and even to doubt your friends.  The one always follows the other; when a man begins to loosen his hold upon the promises of God he begins to lose his contact with spiritual friendships.  A chill in our relationship with heaven is always followed by a chill in our relationships down here.  Oh, how readily the sheer pressure of some situation that is absolutely overwhelming throws us completely off balance, until we learn the lesson that God has for us right in the middle of it.”

In our season of dryness, of difficult circumstances, and as believers we all experience them, what lesson is the Lord trying to teach us? Or is the pain of your circumstances so great you prefer Him not to even be present?  If so, essentially you’ve turned the tap completely off.  Unless you invite and embrace the Lord’s active presence into your life regardless of your circumstances you are left to fight a battle you cannot win in your own strength.

Surely there must be a reason, His reason, for this drought in your life, right?  Life quickly becomes meaningless especially in bad or difficult times when viewed from only our own limited perspective.  Such a perspective can find no reason for suffering whatsoever leading one into despair and hopelessness.

One must believe God has a reason for this dry time of trial in your life, otherwise what is one to do?  Where can hope be found apart from Him?  Hope leaves the tap open no matter the circumstances.  It has to, it has no other choice.

Circumstances in our lives that put our hearts right up against the choice to leave the tap open or leave it closed are defining moments in our faith journey.  It’s as if God is saying to us, “You say you trust Me, but do you really?  In the face of trials do you really believe I am good and always have your best interest at heart?”

The faith rubber hits the road like a jet airliner’s tires give up that tell-tale puff of smoke once they touch the tarmac during landing in trying times.  He’s asking if we will embrace His rightful place as our Heavenly Father and give Him the reins to our lives so that He can accomplish His good and perfect will in our lives for His purposes as found in Isaiah 61:3 (ESV), “to grant to those who mourn in Zion-to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” 

Surely you didn’t think becoming an oak of righteousness would be an easy journey did you?  A heart after His own heart does not, and cannot, magically happen overnight with the wave of some magic wand.  It is a road that calls for perseverance.  It is a road that calls for us to leave the tap open.  Romans 5:3-4 (NKJV), “And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance,; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.”

Why do we face various trials?  What is the purpose?  Is there a purpose? His desire is that we become like His Son, our Savior, as found in Romans 8:29 (NKJV) which says, “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.”  Knowing this should our expectations for this sort of life journey to such a glorious destination be much different than Jesus’ own path that He walked while here on this earth?  Praise God that Jesus embraced His purpose and left the tap open all the way to the cross!  He placed Himself second to the Father.  And so must we.

Redpath goes on to say that each of us as His children have a “stone of destiny in every circumstance of life.”  He bases this on the story found in 1 Samuel 20 concerning how Jonathan would let David know of Saul’s intentions toward him, whether of peace, or death.

As the story goes once Jonathan determined Saul’s intentions toward David he would shoot arrows into the field in which David was hiding.  If the arrows came close to David then it was safe for him to come home, but if the arrows were to fly over his head then he must leave in order to live.

As they had planned David hid next to his own stone of destiny known as Ezel (I Samuel 20:19; “the stone that sheweth the way” AV) and upon seeing Jonathan’s arrows fly over his head David knew he could not return home but must leave immediately.  Redpath describes the situation like this, The decision, however, was out of David’s hands completely.  All he had to do was to stand by the stone Ezel and wait for an arrow from heaven unerringly to hit the target-an arrow that would tell him either to go out into the wilderness or back into the palace of Saul.” (emphasis mine)

Are you able or willing to keep the tap open by recognizing at some point in your circumstances that the decision is out of your hands and solely in the Lord’s?  Or as summarized by Redpath, “If I truly belong to Him, if He has filled me with His Spirit and marked me as His, then whatever the pressure upon my life at this point, the issue is out of my hands altogether.”

Please allow me to once again to quote Redpath as this particular writing comes to a closeI think what he says is beautiful and rather than attempting to paraphrase his words, I simply choose to let his heart speak directly to our hearts. “Jesus Christ is our stone of destiny, rooted in a green hill outside Jerusalem.  The burden of the pressure of circumstances, whatever it is, may be rolled away as you bring it and leave it at His feet.  What else can you do?  You are in a predicament, unable to turn this way or that.  It is a glorious position to be in: the government is upon His shoulder and your hands are right off the situation; only He can guide.  All you can do is what David did, as he took his stand at his stone of destiny and waited.

It is a great thing to be in a position like that, when all you can do is to take your stand at Calvary, and wait.  There are so many paths, and naturally some would seem far more attractive than others.  Left to choose our way, what fools we make of ourselves!  There may be many alternatives that seem, humanly speaking, more reasonable and attractive than God’s way.  But there is only one way that leads to the throne, and that is God’s plan for your life and mine.”

We’re all familiar with that television commercial from a few years ago that used to end with “We’ll leave the light on for you.”  My brothers and sisters in Christ, as we struggle to find our way through various trials let’s determine right here and right now that we will choose to leave the tap wide open and not closed because He is indeed worthy and good, and yes, He always has our best interest at heart.

Yes, it’s a risk to our hearts, but consider, if you will, the risk He first took that day on Calvary for each of our own eternal sakes.  He held nothing back…He’s asking us to do the same.  You know it as well as I do, my friend…He would’ve died for you and you alone even if no one else would’ve chosen Him generation after generation after generation.  You are His.  He is yours.  Tap into His heart for it is good beyond measure.

“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”  Hebrews 12:1-2 (NKJV)