Down and Dirty: When God Looks At Your Heart

Woman with broken heart.

You’re no stranger to TMI here on Predatory Lies. I subscribe to the belief that if God is teaching me something, no matter how painful or humbling, there’s likely someone else in the world who’d like to hear the lesson without learning it the hard(est) way.

Just this week, the Holy Spirit took what began as self-pity and legitimate hurt, and turned it into a lesson about my own pride and the state of my heart before Him.

No matter how I control my actions and words, no matter the “holy” impression I give to others, or how “justified” my feelings, I am responsible for a heart that loves God exclusively and pursues His own.

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7

I love how He speaks to us, that he’s faithful to continue speaking and teaching and admonishing and explaining even when I get it wrong over and over and over.

My husband has been working maddening hours lately and we’re approaching a six-week training stint where he will be in another state. We’ve had recent weeks when he hasn’t come home at all due to overnight training. So, when we’d just sacrificed another weekend, I was actually looking forward to Monday evening, but he didn’t get home until almost nine. As he debriefed me on his day, he mentioned that the commander had just added a leadership development event to the calendar and he was going to be gone overnight on my birthday the following week.

Tears. Water works. I complained and groused until he was frustrated too. We did finally get over it, I pulled myself together and we went to bed. Then I erupted again. This time, I took it to the Lord alone while my hubby snored. For an hour I cried to God, “I’m so tired of this. I miss him. I feel like I and our coming baby are forced into second place to the Army. I feel alone and hurt. Why God? And what about our baby? What if he’s too busy to enjoy her?”

Additionally, I felt terrible for making my husband feel bad, for complaining about something he couldn’t control and making a crappy situation even worse for him.

Finally, I went to bed—cried out. The next morning, as I sat to do my quiet time, the Holy Spirit flooded me with verses about complaining. Phil. 2:14 came to mind. “Do all things without grumbling or disputing.” He pointed out that even though I hadn’t yelled at my husband or sinned in my words or actions and my hurt was valid—my heart was not right before God. God sees the heart. And my grumbling and complaining did not bring him honor or glory.

Psalm 19:14 says, “Let the words of my mouth AND THE THOUGHTS OF MY HEART be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.”

Our Father is just as interested in the thoughts of my heart as He is in my words and actions.

If you’re brutally honest, what would God say about your heart right now?

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To Write or Not to Speak

I know I said I was taking a hiatus, but my heart keeps breathing thoughts that I have to write somewhere. I can no less write than sleep, eat, be. And I might as well finish out this week, right?

I have decided to step away from my keyboard simply because I believe I’ve gotten too casual with words. “Living” out loud here, publicly on a blog, it’s easy to forget the vastness of my audience. I take thoughts from my journal and burdens from the bottom of my heart and without even the mid-step of airing these dangerous words to a close friend, I publish them for the world to see.

The most shocking thing to me about my mistreatment of words, is that I just studied James – James, the quintessential herald of the tongue’s flaming potential. I have been told, “You don’t need to express every thought you have.”

My husband once told me that he would talk more if I let him get a word in edgewise.

My mother warned me that I confide too broadly, that I don’t need to share my secrets with every new or passing friend.

But I want to live raw and out there. I want to talk through my sloppy mess-ups. I want to share my pain and salve other’s scars by assuring them of empathy. Where do I find this balance? Where is the line between living vulnerably and being too guarded? What is the proper use of words?

One organ that does not require a regular workout, and will not improve your health in any way, is your mouth. Proverbs repeats the warning numerous times, “A wise man keeps his mouth shut.”

On the other hand, God spoke the world into existence and Jesus is called the Word. The entire cannon of Scripture is God’s written, love letter to us. And often he wrote words we don’t want to hear. And He did bear the very essence of His heart on those pages.

I think the caution must be taken like medicine. There will be different doses for varying illnesses. Someone who struggles to share their heart and closets their secrets, will one day discover that those secrets decay and leave a mass of rotten bitterness.

However, I fall in the other category. One who is quick to speak is often slow to listen. Where there is an abundance of words, folly abounds. I think a prudent woman (I’m reading about this character trait) measures, weighs and considers her words before she speaks (or writes) them.

I like being impetuous. I like being colorful with my language and unhindered in sharing. But I have a heavy responsibility to use those qualities wisely – especially in the context of my words.

Defile (take 2)

Last week we talked about the word “defile”. I thought I was finished, but per a couple conversations, I want to present a couple more thoughts.

In an age of therapists, counselors, lawsuits and blaming our mothers, it’s not uncommon to hear people talk about the problems, sins, etc. that they inherited from generations past. Or, we hear of victims who blame themselves for their abusers’ sins. They feel defiled and bear the guilt of someone else’s offenses.

Jesus said in Mark 7:15, “There is nothing outside of a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.”

So think with me and apply this to yourself or someone you know. NOTHING from outside can defile you in the sight of God. If you have been violated and feel worthless, dirty, guilty, Jesus says it’s not true. If you were raised by a critical parent, you are not doomed to treat your children the same way.

NOTHING from outside can defile you. The rape, the abuse, the cutting words of a parent have not, cannot, defile you. You are not made guilty by association. You are not condemned by the environment from which you come.

If you have believed on Jesus, the Son of God, as your very own Savior, then the Spirit of God lives in you. What comes from within you, that which could have defiled you, is of God. You are clean.

“But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world. Those people belong to this world, so they speak from the world’s viewpoint, and the world listens to them. But we belong to God, and those who know God listen to us. If they do not belong to God, they do not listen to us. That is how we know if someone has the Spirit of truth or the spirit of deception. 1 John 4:4-6

Isn’t that Good News?

Shavat

I’ve been trying to wrap my mind around this word: rest. Funny, in order to comprehend it in all it’s forms, understand it so that I can DO it, I have been cogitating and agitating myself – and oops, did you catch what I said: So I can DO it. 

Have you ever caught yourself wondering how to rest? I’m not a great napper, so as a kid when I was instructed to rest I begged to know what I was allowed to DO. May I color? Read? Listen to music? I’m still that way.

So let’s imagine, me, that little kid with a box of 36 crayons, and a blank piece of paper. For that matter, imagine the adult me with a palette of colors and a blank piece of pottery. You do it to. Begin to create, decorate, personalize. My page or piece would have a background of blue, a spattering of tiny, shapeless flowers and sprigs of green spurting up between the buds, reaching for a endless sky.

And then I screw it up.

You probably do too. It’s because we don’t know when to stop, cease, desist, refrain, conclude, shavat. Shava-what?

As I look at my masterpiece, I keep wondering what is missing. So I add a dot of purple, a few birds, bigger flowers, a house, a puppy, a swing, a kid, a fence – and suddenly my work is crowded, fussy and less-than-beautiful. Apparently more isn’t always more.

Thank God He didn’t have that problem with creation. God knew how to Shavat. On day seven, Sheba, he knew that what was good was complete. Interestingly enough, the Bible doesn’t say that God sat back with a good book, turned around to work on a different piece of art or started leading an angelic choir. The Scripture considers God Rested, as a complete thought, and gives no explanation. 

God rested because He was finished. It was good, and perhaps to continue working would mess it up. Hmmm… (obviously a perfect God wouldn’t mess it up, but for the sake of argument, bear with me)

Jesus died on Friday afternoon, the Jewish 7th day, or Sabbath – Saturday. So, when Jesus cried out, “It is finished,” the sunset and next sunrise were Nature’s exclamation point – COMPLETE, DONE, FINITO, OVER, SIN IS CRUSHED, AND THE WORK OF SALVATION IS FINISHED!

The Sabbath and the Old Testament law are no longer binding on Christians. However, Sabbath, rest, is still good. More importantly, because Jesus finished the work, if we continue to work, thinking we can earn God’s favor, we will mess it up.

His and Hers Languages

5000 – 15000.

I wish that were a score. I WIN! Statistically, women use about 3x as many words each day as men do. So, when Patrick comes home having used 4500 words at work, it’s a dangerous situation if we miss-use those remaining 500 words. This post is about 500 words. That’s it, he’s done. As a woman, I have a role in drawing those words out of him. I’m chatting through a minefield if I chose to start a fight with 500 words to go.

That got me thinking about different interpretations of words. Marriage. To men, marriage generally means sexual fulfillment, admiration and an ego boost when they are seen with a beautiful woman on their arm. To a woman, marriage is a promise of affection, companionship and conversation. I am hard pressed to see how 500 words can untangle his misconception!

I checked out a men’s/women’s dictionary:

3. COMMUNICATION (ko-myoo-ni-kay-shon) n.
a. female…The open sharing of thoughts and feelings with one’s partner.
b. male…Scratching out a note before suddenly taking off for a weekend with the boys.

7. FLATULENCE (flach-u-lens) n.
a. female…An embarrassing by-product of digestion.
b. male…An endless source of entertainment, self-expression, and male bonding.

9. REMOTE CONTROL (ri-moht kon-trohl) n.
a. female…A device for changing from one TV channel to another.
b. male…A device for scanning through all 175 channels every 2 1/2 minutes.

A few of my own:

1. Called my folks:

a. female…At least a 15 minute conversation with my mom and solid recollection of the conversation

b. male…I called when I knew they wouldn’t be available, didn’t leave a message, but trusted caller ID

2. A Date:

a. female…somewhere, anywhere, outside of the house, preferably involving conversation

b. male…ordering take-out

3. Clean up:

a. female…involves a vacuum, a sponge, disinfectant and results in an obvious change of appearance

b. male…move some item from one place to another, perhaps the trashcan

I hope you didn’t detect too much bias in my definitions.

I don’t think there’s much we can do to integrate these two languages. Even professional linguists don’t try to consolidate languages, but instead, painstakingly translate one into another. Slowly, if we’re lucky, our common phrases will seep into the other’s vernacular and we’ll develop our own, “marriage slang,” a hybrid form of communication that the two of us can use at home.

Special care must be taken when talking to or about our spouses in public. Occasions when we are in the presence of others require an extra measure of patience, attentiveness and understanding.

Since we cannot hope to reconcile our language differences, the simple and only solution is to be aware of them and make accommodations for them.

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.” Proverbs 18:21

Considering Consider

Recently, someone shared with me their least favorite verse in the Bible. “You therefore be perfect, even as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:48.

James 1:2 used to be a hang up for me. “Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,”. How can God possibly expect us to consider trails joyful?

In our modern vernacular, consider often means, “ to ponder, to bear in mind, to have an opinion, or make allowances for.” (www.dictionary.com) That usage is not very conclusive; it implies an either/or stance.

My sisters and I recently took each other to task, two on two, debating the color of our mom’s car.  Jennifer and Rachelle considered it gray, Kelsey and I considered it bronze or taupe. The battle escalated until we called our mom. We finally insisted that dad pull the car’s original paperwork to prove one side of the discussion. Kelsey and I won.

This brings consider into focus, regardless of how Rachelle and Jennifer considered the appearance of the car, there was a verifiable truth. Truthfully, if I meditate on my trials for very long, I will most certainly not conclude that they are joyful. But, maybe it doesn’t matter how long we ponder our trials. Maybe it isn’t a case of analyzing all the possible good that God may bring out of our pain.

The Greek word for consider, in James 1:2 is hégeomai, meaning, “I lead, I think.” Additionally, it can mean, “to lead, command, have authority over.” When you replace consider, in James 1:2, with the fuller definition, one way it reads is, “Have authority over all joy, my brothers when you meet trials of various kinds.” That’s a different perspective!

This broader explanation of James 1:2, leads us to 2 Corinthians 10:5b, another verse that I have long wondered how to obey, “…and take every thought captive to obey Christ,”. A captive is under the authority of his captor. Biblically, even in the midst of trials, we are the captors, we are in authority of our own joy.

Now on to the rest of James 1:3-4, “for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect that you may be perfect and complete lacking in nothing.”

Do you see the linkage back to my friend’s least favorite verse? James is telling us how to be perfect. Could it be that God will bring us to speechless awe at His never ending ability to reconcile the most polar opposites: trials and joy, perfection and pain?

For what it’s worth, let me offer you my personal paraphrase of the these two passages side by side: Brothers, take authority over your joy when you encounter various trials. Take captive under your authority all your thoughts and fears. It is an indisputable fact that when you remain obedient in the hardest situations you will become more perfect, more like your Heavenly Father. 

And the crowing conclusion: The fulfillment of this obedience, this increasing Christ-likeness, is God’s glory.

“Because of the proof given by this ministry, they will glorify God for your obedience to your confession of the gospel of Christ and for the liberality of your contribution to them and to all, while they also, by prayer on your behalf, yearn for you because of the surpassing grace of God in you. Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!”

2 Corinthians 9:13-14

This Far

Oh God alone

Who brought us this far

God our King

Master of everything.

I ask only for your surpassing presence.

Wash to grey all shades of waste.

Whet my tongue for exquisite taste

Of the shimmering nowness

Of eternity present.

Pregnant with life, in curious labor

Unaware the precious potential

Of this life, your life in me.

I am so tired of shyly hiding

From what I’ve never known before .

Projecting on tomorrow my “far-fetched” dreams.

Longings for rest and peace and tearless eyes

For sight of you to hold your hand.

This world awash like swallowed sand

Beneath a wave

Just there below, more real than me.

Rock of Eternity, Lover of soul,

Support of life and daily stroll.

August

It’s time to plot another month of lies. Oh that sounds bad!

Honestly, in real-life, I’m a wanna-be organized individual. The queen of sticky notes, legal pad lists, spiral notebooks, white boards and owner of multiple calendars – and I’m still confused. Thanks for keeping me accountable here.

I like the variety of posts that pepper the week when the topic changes each day. To that end, I’m going to do another month of one topic each for Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Also, I’m stepping up my goals again of writing more purposefully. I love writing here. I love sharing the truth of Jesus Christ. I love proclaiming the truth that counters body image issues and eating disorders. I love writing my way through the ponderings of my spirit as I wrestle with a new question. And I love the feedback, wisdom and advice you all share with me.

Blog writing, however, is really sheltered writing. No gremlin is going to pop up on my screen and write “rejected” across the page in blood red ink. Blog writing involves very little leg work. I don’t have to meet a deadline, apply a topic, or follow writer’s guidelines. As I amp up my publication efforts, may I share some of my articles, contest entries and short stories here with you for feedback?

OK, on to the schedule:

Mondays we’re going to continue to counter the lies about pain. Is privilege afforded to those who avoid pain most of their lives? Or does the privilege belong to the ones who suffer, learn, stretch, grow and share from their pain?

Wednesdays we will look at the very pith of a lie: words. We use words to weave our lies and words to unravel deception with truth. Jesus was called the Word in the first chapter of John. How valuable are our words – are they dispensable and insignificant? Do we want them to be that way?

From a wise mind comes wise speech;
the words of the wise are persuasive.
Kind words are like honey—
sweet to the soul and healthy for the body. Proverbs 16:23-24

Fridays I will share poetry with you. No promises on the content, but poetry is the native language of my journal and prayers. So these poems will share the truths that I am learning through prayer and quiet time with my Father.

Thank you so much for following and reading Predatory Lies. I treasure your friendship.