10/27/10

Tuning the Heart

I played the saxophone for three years, and the violin for one year. But I can't play a note today. I've lost the skill from lack of use. I never wanted to play the saxophone anyway; and the violin? Screeching strings never made my family happy.

I always wanted to play the pan pipes. Still do.

But that aside, my favorite part of orchestra practice was the first few minutes when we tuned up the instruments. The tuning fork sounded and everyone tried to match the perfect, absolute tone.

Just as musical instruments need to be tuned, our hearts should be tuned to God's heart. Too many times, our hearts are tuned to the whims of the day. The culture tries to squeeze us into it's mold, but Paul encourages believers to resist the pull of anything that turns our hearts from God. "Don't become so well adjusted to your culture," he wrote, "that you fit into it without thinking" (Romans 12:2, The Message).

It's not wrong to follow modest fashion and try new things, but conforming to the world is not wise. Rather, we tune our hearts to the Lord ~ to His ways. We seek His will. We tune our hearts to the sweet music of heaven, which is so unlike the music of Earth.

For those unfamiliar with a tuning fork, consider a radio (before digital radio). As we turn the dial, we tune in to a particular station at a particular radio wave frequency. When we reach the right frequency, we eliminate static and "interference" from other stations.

The same is true when we tune in to God's frequency. Everything that doesn't fit into that sweet connection must be eliminated, including interference from competing "stations."

So, how do we tune in? There are many spiritual disciplines that help, including prayer, study of scriptures, meditation, worship, service. And God gives us creative thinking, to discern other ways to connect, perhaps through journaling, fasting, or times of silence and retreat. The important thing is that we set aside time to tune in.

The phrase that helps me tune in to God's frequency is "seeking Him." In the Old Testament, believers were told to seek God's face (1 Chron. 16:10-11; 2 Chron. 7:14; Ps. 27:8; 105:4). We are to pursue intimate connection with God ~ to tune in to Who He is and His desires for us. The rebellious in heart will not seek God; in fact, there is no room for God in the thoughts of a wicked person (Ps. 10:4).

In the New Testament, the early Christians were also encouraged to "seek the Lord" (Acts 17:27). My favorite scripture about seeking and knowing God is Ephesians 1:17-21, where tuning in to God takes on an incredible, majestic tone.

What helps you tune in to God? How do you seek the Lord in ways that encourage and motivate you to live for Him?

10/20/10

Dreams Come True

Cindi McMenamin wrote, in When a Woman Discovers Her Dream, "If you've ever found yourself thinking 'I wish I could do more with my life,' you're not alone. If you've ever had the idea that there might be something that you're missing, there is. It's the dream you were designed to live out...."

We all have dreams, sometimes from childhood. One of my dreams stems from the comment I heard since I was four years old. "You're going to be a writer someday," my mom said. "Your kindergarten teacher even said that." Am I the best writer? Oh, no. I still have so much to learn about the skills of writing. But I am a writer.

And recently, I wrote a book. LOL with God: Devotional Messages of Hope & Humor for Women ~ co-authored with Pam Farrel ~ is my first book. I intend to write more.

Ephesians 5:17 invites us to live intentionally, not carelessly. We need to be sure we understand what the Lord wants for us, the dream He has put in our hearts; and then we need to go after our dream! Cindi noted, "We cannot separate the dream from the One who has whispered that dream on our heart." In my case, that dream began in childhood. But others do not discern their dream until much later in life.

We all have an enemy who desires to destroy our dreams, and sometimes other people ~ even those we love ~ do or say things that sidetrack us from pursuing those dreams. We get distracted, discouraged, or doubtful. Sometimes the dream takes a different shape in the stages of our lives. Sometimes God resurrects a dream when we are ready for it, better prepared or more passionate to see the dream come true. Often, we need to hand our dream back to God for safekeeping until the time is right.

But the wonderful thing is, because God is the Creator of all good things, it is never too late to dream. If God can give Sarah the desires of her heart for a son in her old age, when she was far past the years of childbearing (Genesis 21:1-7), He can do anything in and through us, too. Nothing is impossible with God! (Luke 1:36-37).

When we delight in the Lord, He gives us the desires of our hearts ~ desires that He put there! To delight is the Hebrew word anag, which is to humble ourselves before God, rest in Him, and relax our control over our lives so He can work. We simply rest our head against His chest (Deuteronomy 33:12) so to speak, secure in the knowledge that He is working all things according to His plan, and for our good (Romans 8:28). We delight in God through our willing, obedient spirit, ready to do His will. We are faithful in little things, sometimes enduring testing and trial, but always inching closer toward the fulfillment of our dreams. It's a paradox. We rest and wait on God while we pursue His purposes for our lives.

I recommend Cindi's book to help women discover and pursue their dreams. She continually points women to our Father God, the ultimate Dream Giver.

10/13/10

He Knows My Name

Passwords drive me nutty. Several times lately, I've scanned my brain for the right one, locked out of a personal site until I remembered which password applied. And now I need to remember a password to purchase apps on my iPhone. Will it never end? Experts recommend that we change our passwords periodically ~ which requires even more memory (not for the technology, for my brain!) I mean really, do I need this much frustration?

I am so glad that I don't need to continually change my personal identity connection to the Lord. I am eternally linked to Him, and not with a "strong password" of "a combination of letters, numbers, and punctuation," but with one very special promise: God knows my name. It is written in His book of life ~ forever! (Philippians 4:3; Revelation 3:5; 13:8; 21:27) because I have trusted in His Son's sacrifice for me (John 3:16-18, 36). There is no other way for my name to be entered there (John 14:6; Acts 4:12); and God keeps good records. My name will never be erased (Romans 8:37-39).

Our names are important to God. He told His children in Old Testament times that their name (and descendants) would "endure" (Isaiah 66:22).

In a world clamoring for personal acceptance and recognition, how wondrous to know that the Creator and Sustainer of the universe cares about us in such a personal way. He knows His own (John 10:14, 27). He remembers that we are dust (Psalm 103:14), but He loves us dearly (Zephaniah 3:17).

Is your name in the Book of Life? Are you a Christ-follower ~ following the Lamb of God (Revelation 14:4). It's the only "password" you'll ever need to enter eternity.


If you do not know the Savior, the scriptures in this Christmas blog can help you understand how to trust what He has done for you!

10/6/10

Communication: On the Same Page

It's important to be "on the same page" with those we love. Normally, we find out if we're connecting ~ on the same wave length ~ as we communicate.

For example, I once asked my husband, "What shirt are you going to wear, Honey?"

"The Blue one," he replied.

Now, if you look in my husband's closet, you'll see various shades of blue: sky blue, robin-egg blue, baby blue, Persian blue, powder blue, periwinkle, sapphire, royal blue, navy, and indigo. Which blue, indeed!

But to Bob, they're all just "blue." I would be upset about this, but I've discovered it's pretty much a man thing, unless a man is into fashion design. Men also do not understand the concept of one style of shoes in four colors. Black and brown shoes are just fine with them.

Men and women are different in more than their physical make-up. That makes communication so interesting!

Pam Farrel and I wrote about this in our book, LOL with God: "How do we speak the same language? We don't! We learn to adjust, pray for wisdom, and try to explain things in terms of the other person's perspective."

We learn to speak with respect, humility, and patience with the goal of understanding. (And when understanding doesn't come, there is still a response ~ a charitable spirit. As a magnet on my refrigerator says, "Women are made to be loved, not understood.")

Good communication takes practice, and we need to allow time to communicate. We need to slow down, think of the other person's needs, and plan for times to share and listen without interrupting (Prov. 18:13). We need to observe the other person, too, because communication is more than words. Watch for the nonverbal elements of conversation: facial expressions, the movement of the body, etc.

When we speak, we must speak truthfully, but with love (Eph. 4:15a), because once words pass our lips, we can't take them back. So guard your lips (Prov. 21:23; Prov. 14:3). Timing and appropriateness are important, too. "A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver" (Prov. 25:11).

The disciple James had excellent advice concerning communication (1:19): "My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry."

Which of these points is the most difficult for you ~ earnest listening, patient speaking, or a kind, charitable spirit?

For more about communication, see "Carefully-Chosen Words."