The battle of the heart and mind.

Good evening ladies and gents. Boy do we have quite the spectacle for you this evening.
In the red corner, weighing in at 10.5 oz, the true epicenter of your well-being, beating 100,000 beats each day, tiny in size, but can send blood running through 60,000 miles of vessels like a champ; the heart!


And in the blue corner we have the astounding wonder of the world, with the ability to feel no physical pain, but can take down a heart and send it into a whirlwind of excruciating pain with very little effort- the brain!

Get rooted in those seats and don’t move a muscle. ding, ding, ding! It’s on!

Satan gapes with a seductive eye as he watches from the crowd, his pallet wet with anticipation. A battle boiling his every desire - the battle between the mind and heart. Who will win?

My body isn't participating in the battle, but I become weak, and I feel the repercussions of the event.

Do you ever want something to come true so badly that you can close your eyes and feel its presence? Our wants are so real that we can once again feel the texture of a loved ones hair run through our fingers, slip our thumb underneath the flap of an envelope separating the stale glue that separates you and an awaited check that will save you from all your debts, you can feel the vibration upon your temples of an awaited phone call.

 I don't know your wants, but I know the desire in your heart even when your mind sends cautions, limitations, or barriers. Your heart feels the pain and the agony of the prospects of our future; we become anxious, stressed, and even sick waiting and hoping.

"Look with our spiritual eyes and not our natural eyes,"  is the needle on the vinyl record on of my mind. It's on its last track and continues to play over and over.  When Pastor Ben spoke these words last Sunday (listen to entire sermon), my shoulders dropped, my chest opened, and I breathed relief into my lungs. In an instance, my mind sent reassurance to my heart - It's not our battle to fight. If we are relying on man to make our wants come true, it won't happen. Man will let us down, God will not. When we look through God - our spiritual eyes - we see it's going to be okay. Or that our wants aren't part of the plan. We're on his path, not our own.

Drop your gloves.

Step out of the ring.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

Hope for humility this Christmas

The lights are hung, stockings are eagerly waiting to be stuffed, shopping malls are buzzing with hurried feet; as last minute gifts are being purchased. Each slot of the TV guide is lined up with holiday shows, retailers are flashing get-it-before-its-gone sales, and kids are pouncing on Santa's lap to claim the newest gadget or gizmo.

We're ready.

All the money saved, the stress, and the anticipation... we're almost there. Christmas is just around the corner.

But...wait..where's Jesus?

"But we have 6' inflatable Santa's, cookies, trees, a nativity set up on the front lawn." you're thinking.

"good grief, Charlie Brown," I think to myself.

Trust me, I'm well past the age of watching children's cartoons, but I cant help make the the reference. The world is so caught up in "today's commercialized Christmas" and we tend to forget what Christmas is all about.

Let's rewind a bit. I didn't grow up in church. In fact, I have very little religious background. So, what do I know about the history of Christmas? Humility- my heart is full of humility. My first Christmas' were filled with love and very little of the material things we expect today. My family started their first Christmas' together thousands of miles away from "home," with no decorations or the fancy new-fangled things that make up today's Christmas. Thankfully, I had a creative, loving, innovative mother that wouldn't let anything get in the way of providing the spirit of Christmas in our hearts. We created lasting memories through time together, baking, and creating- together.  We would string popcorn one-by-one until our tree was adorned with a one-of-a-kind garland. We would hand make each and every ornament for our tree- many of which still hang on my mother's tree today. Christmas carols blaring mixed with laughter, scents of cinnamon and mulled spices filled the air.  To me, these are Christmas.   Jesus wasn't always the center of our Christmas. However, I was blessed with a true golden foundation of humility and love.

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Imagine, if you will, living among sheep. The smell, the lackluster company. You are a Shepherd. In the time of the upcoming birth of Jesus, shepherds weren't people that had money, jewels, fancy things, they weren't poplar among others. I even imagine them as people that others would completely avoid at all costs. These were the people God chose to spread the word of Jesus Christ's birth- Our Savior. (Luke 2: 8)

Today, we go all out for the arrival of a new baby. We buy 1,000 of the most obnoxious things for our newest little bundle of joy. Why? Because every 7 lb, 7oz baby needs 37 saddlers, 50 wash cloths, 15 pacifiers, bouncy things, squishy things...no. However, we all do it; we're all guilty. So, naturally, Jesus Christ, our Savior, must have these same luxuries. Right? No. God sent Jesus to be laid in a feeding trough/previously used manger (Luke 2: 12) I truly believe God wants us to believe and live in humility through these versus.

Joy and power through humility is the very dynamic of Christian life (Luke 14:11, 18: 14; Peter 5: 5)

 

I have grown up with out a lot of extra frivolous things (Dare I say, Poor.)  And I am thankful for the empathy through experience that I have had instilled into my mindset.

So, how do we have a humble Christmas today?

Charles M. Schulz illustrated it so well:

Here is where I am supposed to have a grand solution to change your heart. I don't have that, but the answer is simple: Experience the thrill of hope. " being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."- Philippians 1:6. I love that God was working through me even before I knew him. I was instilled with humility even before I knew I was living like his word. "For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified." - 1 Corinthians 2:2.  Let hope rise within you. Step away from today's world and look towards God and Jesus Christ. Pray today and let Jesus into your life. Step away from the commercialism this year and know the reason for this season.. 

A wise woman, my mom, once said, "The real treasures of Christmas are the memories we make and the traditions we keep." And when we understand and live through God's word, we will be able to be humble Christians. As, I believe, God wants us to be. (reference: Matt 11:29)

We can only receive Christ through meekness and humility (Matt 5: 3, 5; 18: 3, 4)

Some ways to  have some last minute humbling experiences this Christmas:

Don't JUST give to the poor and homeless. Shake their hand, ask how their day is, have a casual conversation with them. Volunteer at your local homeless shelter, coat drive, and food pantry. You will be surprised that these people sometimes need something as little as a hug.

Get your family members one less gift and ask your local school about an angel tree, gift drive, etc. Sometimes it's easy to overlook the need right in your own community.

Attend local holiday events. Get to know your community members. This will give you the chance to spread God's love and you may just learn a thing-or-to yourself.

Remember to set aside to time to just be with your family this Christmas; Talk to each other, tell stories, laugh, and make memories.

Attend church! Learn about true meaning of Christmas.

 

 

  

God's Promise of Hope

Parenting; a reference I make often on my journey to faith. We are God's children after all.

This week Pastor Ben shared a sermon “The Thrill of Hope” (click to listen) through the fulfilled promise of hope, by Jesus' birth. It's easy to see the thrill of hope in this miraculous blessing. We are all very thankful during the holiday season; on the outside. However, how many of you are sitting here reading this with hurt in your heart? No matter the amount of carols running through your ears, images of laughter and smiles, red and green, glitter and gold, your heart still aches and longs for hope that you haven't received. You are not alone. This isn't an article about the thrill of getting what you want or hope for. It's about dealing with what you don't get and realizing that sometimes our hopes are not what God has planned for us, and that's okay.

Two boys and a girl; I have been blessed with three amazing children. Aren't children the absolute best? Except, when they aren't. I feel, parenting is truly the most difficult job. The main reason: They don't always understand the decisions we make as parents.

Sound familiar? How many times have you screamed, "Why, God?!"

I'm preparing dinner this evening, as I do every single night. My son screams, "I want ice cream!" out of impatience, as he does almost every single night. I reply with a “No”. "Here it comes" I think to myself. You see, in his heart he really does hope that he will get ice cream before dinner. His belly is grumbling. He is impatient and wants what he wants, and wants it right now! Can you blame him? Ice cream is a true culinary, perfected delicacy. We don't want to wait for all the "stuff" that happens before we get to the “good stuff” we are hoping for. You, reading this, know just as well as I do, that the "stuff" in between now and dessert is what helps nourish us; it's what helps us grow. The tantrum has now started. He's young, just as some of us young in our faith (i.e. - me.), he doesn't understand that the "nasty" veggies soon to be on his plate give us what we need to be strong; give us patience to make us resilient and confident. And then he will get dessert. His tantrum goes on so long, that he no longer desires his dessert. He quickly rushed through dinner, got very little of his nutrition, due to the lack of eating, didn't enjoy the time with his family, and eventually forgot what his initial hope was for: dessert. He ultimately walked away from the table unsatisfied and didn't even understand why. I, as a mother understood. One day he will have children of his own and he will understand the discipline of waiting. Until then, I wrap my arms around him and comfort him until the day comes.

The “I-want-what-I-want-and-I-want-it-right-now” feeling is very real, even as adults. Money, love, respect, happiness - we truly hope for these things in our life - the sweet desires we have each day - just as my young son has. When we feel as if we don't receive these things on a regular basis, our soul becomes deflated, our hearts become sick. This past Sunday, Pastor Ben referenced a scripture, Proverbs 13:12, "Hope deferred makes a heart sick..." This could not be more true. Am I right? On a daily, maybe weekly or monthly, basis we feel like God is not listening. "Why am I not getting what I am praying for?", "I feel so alone; no one is listening." Have you ever had thoughts similar to these? He hears you. He is listening. His arms are wrapped around you, comforting you until the time comes for you to understand. He knows why and we have to have trust in him. The second part of this scripture is the most important, "…but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life." We obtain the tree of life when we get what we want. Except we aren't getting what we want. Right? How are we supposed to get over these empty feelings and ultimately obtain this coveted, tree of life?

 
 
 
 

Step One: Know the BIBLICAL definition of "HOPE."

Romains 8:24-25 lets us know that hope comes from a confident expectation, the sure certainty that what God has promised in the word is true, has occurred, and or will in accordance with God's sure word.

Step Two: Ask yourself this one question, "Am I being selfish within this hope of mine?" It's okay if you are. We are naturally selfish. We all want that ice cream before dinner. However, we need to realize that these selfish wants are not our true hopes.

Step Three: Is this want something I am able to obtain on my own or with the help of friends and neighbors? God is miraculous and so are we; as we are in the image of him (Genesis 1:27). We are capable of more than we even know. If this isn't the time for your hope to come to be, let’s work on trying to obtain it on our own. Don't sit by and wait for it!

Step four: This is the absolute, most important. Pray! Pray! Pray! Pray for answer, pray for wisdom (James 1:5). Remember, you are never alone.

I have a diagnoses for all of us: negative-nancy-ism. “Stay with me here.” This disease consumes our brain and eventually creeps its way into our heart. Your heart will ache until you lose all hope. All of your blessings will begin to disintegrate, one-by-one. But, wait! There is a cure. Learn the difference between our definitive hope in the Lord and a temporary, selfish desire. We need to re-train our thoughts into quickly deciphering between the two. Also, retrain our brains to focus on blessings. Only then can you rid yourself of this critical disease; negative-nancy-ism.

 I ask you to do some homework: Before you go to sleep tonight, place a pad of paper and pen beside your bed.  Each and every day, when your eyes open, grab a pen and paper and write down three - five things you are thankful for, or reasons you feel blessed - big or small; Continue on with your day. Commit to doing this for one week. Then try for another week. Then if you can continue for one more week, I feel like you are on the path to redirecting your thoughts. And with this I truly hope you will find happiness within each day.

My prayer today:  "Dear heavenly father, please help the lonely today. Please wrap your arms around those that do not understand, those that want and need something today. Maybe they aren't going to get what they need today. Please Lord, help them understand why. Please Lord, give people wisdom today. For the people that feel like you aren't listening, please let them know you are listening. Let them know you are there. Let them find what they need to find from me and my article today. Let each person find their happiness - if even one small thing - in each and every day. Thank you Lord for giving me the strength, words, and message to write this article today. Amen."