Saturday, June 30, 2007

Guarding Your Heart

"Above all else, guard your heart, for it affects everything you do."
Proverbs 4:23
Guard your heart... this is a concept i've been tossing and turning over the past couple of weeks in my head, and I must be honest, i'm still not sure how exactly to "guard my heart."

The Hebrew word for guard is Mishmar which by definition means, "place of confinement, prison, guard, jail, guard post, watch, observence." I can't help but apply this verse to relationships because that is the circumstance I have most often heard it applied to. And when I am in that situation, this verse is one that always comes to my mind. I have many many questions about this so if anyone out there in blog land has any input (or actually reads this) it would be greatly appreciated.

1. How do you balance guarding your heart with being open to opportunities God presents?
2. How do you know when to let your guard down?
3: Will God reveal to you "who" is worthy of letting your guard down for?
4. If He does... how do you know? What will it look like?
5: What happens if you don't let the person in that God is wanting you to and you push them away? Will God send someone else, or have you pretty much blown it?
6: What if you let your guard down because you feel like God is leading you to do so and the person you let it down for tramples all over your heart?
7: If you feel like God leads you to let your guard down because it's the right person, and it turns out not to be... what will be different when it IS the right person?
8: How do you put your guard back up without blocking out every other opportunity that comes your way in the future?
9: Is it possible to put your guard up or let your guard down whenever you feel like it?
10: What's the difference between guarding your heart to glorify God and guarding your heart because you are afraid of getting hurt?

Now... if your heart affects everything you do, how do these scenarios impact your actions and in turn your relationship with and service for God?

Sincerely Confused,

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

All-Powerful God

"The Lord is slow to anger and great in power... His way is in whirwind and storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet." ~Nahum 1:3

I've decided to take a step away from The Sacred Way for a little while because God has been speaking to me in so many different ways recently that I must share some of these experiences.

Yesterday evening, as I prepared to get some things done around the house and watch a movie with my Mom, the sky became black and that really annoying weather alert beep came across every station on the television. The next 10-15 minutes in my house were pretty scary, to say the least. I've never seen a storm this bad and my 70 year old neighbor, after it was over, said she hadn't either. Quarter-size hail fell, the wind blew harder than i've ever witnessed (so much that it ripped one of the wood panels off of our fence), and the rain blew completely sideways, so hard that we couldn't even see out our windows, and the power was out the rest of the night. I'm convinced it was a small tornado. Here are some pictures of the damage...

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Image and video hosting by TinyPic

God really put a never before realized reverence and fear of Him into my heart through this storm. He is so powerful. With one word, He created the universe and He created that storm yesterday. I don't really even know how to put into words how it made me feel other than that God is in control. He can control the weather and He can control the circumstances of my life; my career path, my education, my family life, my ministry, and my relationships. He knows what He's doing and He is sovereign.

He also showed me that no matter how big the storm may look around me, I can rest in the fact that He is protecting me and working everything together for my good. Even when I can't see out the front window because of the rain, I can rest in the fact that He has ordered my steps and is only waiting for me to trust in Him. After witnessing the worst storm of my life, I also witnessed the most beautiful sunset i've ever seen...

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God is good. He is powerful and sovereign. He knows what we need better than we do. Trust in Him, no matter how big the storm around you may seem.

"Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is in the Lord." ~Jeremiah 17:7

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Spiritual Disciplines

"God has made me as bread for his chosen ones, and if it is necessary for me to be ground in the teeth of lions in order to feed His children, then blessed be the name of the Lord."
~St. Ignatius, Early Christian Martyr

I started a new book a few days ago entitled The Sacred Way by Tony Jones. It describes in detail the spiritual disciplines practiced by the saints during the early years of the Christian faith... mainly ones practiced by the Desert Fathers and Mothers and by monks. This book is so rich in content that I hardly know where to begin with this series of posts. So, I guess i'll start where it does... with spirituality.

What do we think of when we hear the word spirituality? Is being "spiritual" something that happens automatically upon salvation, or is it a process or practice that we must discipline ourselves in order to achieve? Seventh century mystic, Brother Lawrence's definition of spirituality: "the practice of the presence of God." I like the emphasis on practice... it implies that being spiritual is not something that just happens to us, but something that we must work towards and sacrifice for. Tony Jones offers this definition, "the goal of Christian spirituality is to be enlivened by God's Spirit." I also like his definition because it shows God's action through the process. God's Spirit must enliven us... He is the one that gives us His Spirit and defines our spirituality, by His love and grace, not by our own works or deeds. I hope these definitions make sense and coincide in the minds of others as they do mine, although intellectually, I realize they seem to be oxymorons.

So how do we reach this spirituality? There are many specific disciplines outlined throughout this book that are proving to be interesting and beneficial in my own spiritual life. The ones discussed are: silence/solitude, sacred reading, The Jesus Prayer, centering prayer, meditation, The Ignatian Examen, Icons, Spiritual Direction, The Daily Office, The Labyrinth, Stations of the Cross, pilgrimage, fasting, the sign of the cross & other bodily prayers, sabbath, and service. As I study these and practice some of them I plan to blog what i've learned and my reactions to these practices.

I hope this seems as interesting to some of you as it does to me & I hope you enjoy the next few blogs. These disciplines led the saints of old to follow Jesus so wholeheartedly and sacrificially that they made statements like the one at the beginning of this blog and I know that this kind of devotion is what we need today and with God... we can all arrive there.

In Him,