Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Follow Your Heart or Run like your Pants are on Fire.

Every once in a while I stumble across a verse in scripture that blows my mind. Yesterday, I had one of those mind blowing experiences.

How often have you heard a well-meaning parent, teacher, coach, mentor, or even a counselor offer the soundest of wisdom by saying, "Just follow your heart." Yep, me too. Billions of times, right? Following our hearts seems to be the answer to every dilemma if you watch afternoon TV, see a chick-click, or hear a commencement address. Read this verse that God lead me to this week while studying for my ladies bible class...

"The heart is deceitful above all things,
and desperately sick; who can understand it?
I the LORD search the heart and test the mind,
to give every man according to his ways,
according to the fruit of his deed." ~Jeremiah 17:9-10

Whoa whoa whoa! So all those "wise" words from "wise" folks about following your heart to be truly happy...nonsense, complete and utter nonsense.  According to Jeremiah our hearts can lead us astray. Our hearts can be desperately sick. Our feelings can lead us down a path that is not only unhealthy, but is wrought with sin which inevitably leads to death.

This verse explains that God searches the heart and tests the mind to reveal the fruit of the deeds of man. Now tell me, if we follow our hearts straight into disobedience, what is the fruit of those disobedient acts?

Think about it. How many folks do you know who "follow their hearts" right out of their marriage vows? Or "follow their hearts" into some pretty sticky, if not horrible, consequences? I know plenty. I'm certain you do too.

I think this "follow your heart" regime all goes back to one of the biggest lies satan ever told, which is God only desires our happiness and the filling of our stomachs with the simple bite of a delicious fruit. I'm sorry to disappoint everyone out in internet land, but I don't buy that. Our all-powerful creator, God, calls us to obedience. Frankly, obedience sometimes really stinks. If you don't believe me, ask my three-year-old cookie eating machine. In the end though, I know what is best for my son, and God knows what is best for us even if we are not happy following His will at the time.

From here on I think I'll be even more careful of my feelings. Feelings, although relevant, do not always speak truth. Feelings can mislead and manipulate. From here on I'll listen to the brain God gave me and pray for wisdom to discern my steps. From here on I'm going to run in the opposite direction if my heart attempts to lead me astray. I hope you do, too.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

All the way, My Savior Leads Me

This morning was the first ladies class of the fall semester for our congregation. I’ve missed it. Truth be told, I’ve been in denial about missing it. Actually, all summer long I kept telling myself that I don’t have time for it. But, as I sat there this morning amidst friends who encourage me, I realized it is right where I need to be. Honestly, it is hard to make it, having two small people to get ready for school each day, and one following me around asking for “meeeelk” every five seconds, and one big person who grumpily requires coffee before gracing the world with his beautiful blue eyes, and to top it off having the blessing of a new job to work into the mix..and all this happens before I can look in the mirror or brush my teeth. I barely make it, and most of the time I’m late.

The truth is I like to tell myself and others how busy I am. I AM busy. So is everyone else. Sometimes I wonder if we all attempt to comfort each other with pats on our busy backs. “I’m busy. You’re busy. We’re all busy together.” I’ll be the one to jump out there and say, there are some things that I make a priority and other things that I don’t. What I’ve noticed working with congregations is that a lot of times it’s the “church things” that get cut out when life gets busy. It is the personal spiritual growth disciplines that no outsiders witness that get cut out when the grind really gets in the way.

I had a weird conversation with my best friends the other day. Laugh if you must, but I honestly was concerned that the only time I have to talk to God lately is when I’m in the bathroom. My friends and I discussed the daily craziness associated with life and how little time is left for spirituality. I sincerely am worried that I’m offending the maker of heaven and earth that I only give him my potty break. How horrible is that?!? I don’t want more grace here. I don’t want anyone to tell me that I should not feel bad about that. It is a problem, and I can do better than a bathroom prayer session. I owe more to my creator and savior.

No matter how much I’d like to believe that I am steered around at the mercy of my militant pocket calendar. I set the dates. I write them down. I am completely capable of saying no. I can contest; it’s easiest to say no to God, the unseen. It is easiest to make a priority of what the world deems a priority. The tangible requirements are easiest to remember. I know this. I live this, too. My question is this, where's the faith behind saying yes to all the tangibles and leaving our unseen God out in the cold for another day when there's time? There may never come another day with more time.

This is what happens to me when I push prayer to the last of my agenda. I justifiably put my rigid schedule in control. Ironically, I start to control MY life. I start to panic about paying bills, putting food on the table, the education of my children, a PhD for my husband, and anything else that can squeeze its way into my self-inflicted anxiety attack. The provisions of God slip out of view, and before I know it, I’m meeting Him in the bathroom for seconds at a time. That’s when I have to look myself in the mirror as I wash my hands and see that His own creation only offers Him potty time conversation. And that, my friends, that’s when I realize my priorities are out of whack because I’ve pushed my God into the last available space on my calendar removing Him from God-status to second place, maybe third.

As I sat down to work this afternoon, the melody of an old hymn popped in my head. I heard this melody over and over as I waited for everything to boot up. This has happened to me before. I can’t figure out what hymn it is, and I have to run to the bookshelf to grab our ancient hymnal before I can let it go. Then when I read the words, I realize it is God again trying to reach me. I have to sit and absorb what God wants me to learn through a hymn that I haven’t sung in years. Yes, I unyieldingly and sincerely believe He reminds me of His truths through song.

Here is the song that came to me today. I hope it encourages you because it slapped me in the face. You see, as long as I let Him lead, and unfailingly put Him first, springs of joy will abound because He, not I, doeth all things well.

All the way my Savior leads me

All the way my Savior leads me;
What have I to ask beside?
Can I doubt His tender mercy,
Who through life has been my Guide?
Heav’nly peace, divinest comfort,
Here by faith in Him to dwell!
For I know, whate’er befall me,
Jesus doeth all things well;
For I know, whate’er befall me,
Jesus doeth all things well.

All the way my Savior leads me,
Cheers each winding path I tread;
Gives me grace for every trial,
Feeds me with the living Bread.
Though my weary steps may falter,
And my soul athirst may be,
Gushing from the Rock before me,
Lo! A spring of joy I see;
Gushing from the Rock before me,
Lo! A spring of joy I see.

All the way my Savior leads me
O the fullness of His love!
Perfect rest to me is promised
In my Father’s house above.
When my spirit, clothed immortal,
Wings its flight to realms of day
This my song through endless ages—
Jesus led me all the way;
This my song through endless ages—
Jesus led me all the way. ~Fanny Crosby

A note about this hymn:

This beloved hymn came to Fanny Crosby as a result of a prayer. Struggling financially, she desperately needed some money. As her usual custom, Fanny began to pray. A few minutes later, a gentleman offered her five dollars, the exact amount she needed. Later recalling the incident, she said, “I have no way of accounting for this except to believe that God put it into the heart of this good man to bring the money.” The poem she wrote afterward became “All The Way My Savior Leads Me.” As both a songwriter and a woman of faith, Fanny Crosby serves as an example to all.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Humble Pie and a Clean Face.

If you were raised by a beautiful and sassy southern lady like I was, chances are you learned about the saving grace of some good concealer and a little mascara before you started the third grade. I did. Of course, I wasn’t allowed to wear the miraculous duo till Junior High. Nevertheless, I knew the wonders of cosmetics and soon learned the priority of “putting on your face” before you left the house. As a result of this, after years of makeup training, it is literally hard for me to walk out of the house, much less into public, without a little brush of mascara.

Last week, I took my kids swimming for a play date. We were running late again, and I neglected to do much of anything to aesthetically enhance my appearance. I was lucky to have time to run a brush through my hair. On the way to the pool I pulled up beside an older gentleman at a stop light, and for the first time in my life I didn’t throw on the sunglasses and sink as low as possible into the front seat of the car to avoid meeting eyes with my stoplight neighbor. I actually thought to myself, “Well buddy, I hope you don’t turn to stone, but this is the real me.” I am positive that old guy could care less about my personal little victory of authentic living, but in that moment, I didn’t worry about hiding or the embarrassment of my reflection in the rear-view mirror. To me, this was a victory. Instantly, I had this freeing feeling of liberation. I did not worry about judgment. It was me being me, clean face, blemishes and all. This sounds a tad crazy doesn’t it? Don’t plan on seeing me at worship sans concealer. I’m not quite that transparent yet.

A few days before greeting the world un-powdered, I hurt a friend with my words. My temper got the best of me and I said things via email that I should not have said. I broke so many of my communication rules all in one day. So often I advise people to go to the source of their frustration and to never send irate emails because they always intensify problems, and yet, here I was not taking my own advice. For several days guilt controlled me. Paranoia and anxiety set in around day two, and I nearly drove my husband mad with my conspiracy theories all based on my own mistakes. I truly was humbled. I do not have the personality to easily let my blunders go, obviously. (Note, the reliance on concealer.)

I’m here today to encourage you to experience the power and liberation of the apology. Once I apologized to my friend and took responsibility for my actions I felt like a new person. The make-up came off, and I owned who I was, blemishes and all.

Too often pride tells us that an apology is unnecessary or fruitless, but, to me, owning up to your mistakes allows you to sleep easy and truly be an authentic friend. I do not ever want my mistakes to ruin a relationship or be the wall built disallowing a relationship from healing. I want to do everything in my power to keep peace between friends and sometimes peace between friends takes effort and a little pain.

I will mess up again. I am a person that requires a whole lot of forgiveness, but for the moment being forgiven feels great!

It takes a lot of labor to maintain a façade. It is exhausting to fake your way through relationships and life. I do not ever want to do that. I have seen people who do and they are tired messes at home, but happy go lucky to keep the public eye from witnessing their flaws. Well, here it is folks, I’m flawed, and I would rather face hours of scrutiny than to live an arduous life trying to hide it.

Don’t let pride get in the way of authentic relationships. Be you, mistakes and all. Christ sees you sans façade, sans concealer, and He loves you. Give someone else a chance to love the real you, too.