One of Our Heart’s Potent Enemies

 

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If you listen carefully, you will daily hear about loss, disappointment, rejection, betrayal, loneliness, and other things, which tear at the fibers of our being and weigh down our hearts until we feel we can no longer bear it.

 

There are many arrows sent to halt our forward movement toward the path we are called to follow. They come from many sources, many directions. The enemy’s purpose has less to do with killing us perhaps and more to do with dissuading us from moving ahead, to take our eyes off the goal, weaken our resolve, and cloud our understanding.

 

As a result, we can be caught in the web of the enemy’s designs much like a spider ensnares a living meal to enjoy at its leisure.

 

Many of the things sent to assault our hearts that I have listed are things we would likely all recognize and acknowledge we have faced at least once in our lives. An insidious enemy that may be far more dangerous lurks about in the atmosphere, however, one we are often slower to recognize, and one we seem less skilled at fighting.

 

The enemy?

 

Indifference.

 

Indifference nibbles at the edges of our hearts steadily creating the belief that no one cares about us, feels concern for us, or views us as important. If this simmers long enough, we begin to believe that perhaps the Lord is indifferent to us as well because our desires have been thwarted, our suffering has not been relieved, or the darkness has not lifted.

 

Elie Wiesel said, “Because of indifference, one dies before one actually dies.”

 

“To be treated with indifference is the greatest tragedy a human soul can suffer.” Tonny K. Brown

 

A tragic result of the wounds we experience over time is when we deliberately choose to be and act indifferently toward others in an effort to protect our hearts from further pain.

 

Indifference becomes something we accept as a part of our lives without paying attention to the nibbling that produces a slowly simmering anger birthing resentment and corroding our awareness of how far we have slipped away from the truth.

 

We have forgotten (if we ever knew) that the enemy of our hearts, Satan himself, knows we are indeed precious, important, and valuable. He knows we were created with a purpose, a calling, and a divine destiny.

 

If he can deceive us so that we believe we are uncared for by a friend, a family member, or anyone else, he shrouds the truth of who we are from us. The results pull us farther off course.

 

We start to rely on ourselves alone because it feels too risky to trust the Lord or anyone else again. We do not even rightly discern love and care when it is shown to us.

 

The world has been pulled over our eyes.

 

We have forgotten there is an unseen world we live in the midst of and we are caught up in a great battle, a battle for our hearts and minds.

 

We cannot afford to indulge in indifference.

 

We must not forget whose we are and why the enemy of our souls is intent on trying to cause us to forget.

 

 We are the beloved of God. He deemed us worthy of sending Himself as His Son to demonstrate how precious and loved we were and are. Despite our condition, He chose to sacrifice Himself for us.

 

He calls us His children.

He calls us his bride.

He has chosen us again and again.

He never stops loving us.

 

How great a love could we ever know? Even if no one else loves us, He does. He does. Even when we are messed up, He looks at us with love, mercy, and grace.

 

The truth is

  • God loves me more than I can imagine (Romans 8:39)
  • God forgives me, no matter what my sin if I return to Him (I John 1:9)
  • When I do not give up and attempt to do His will, He provides (Phil. 4:13)
  • If I seem to fail, He gives me another opportunity (Psalm 37:24)
  • God never wants me to give up or forget who He is (Joshua 1; 5,7,9)
  • If I give up on myself, it will make it harder for me to see His love (Psalm 105:10-12)

 

Stand guard against indifference within yourself. Help others to do the same.

 

In that way, we defend our hearts against the arrows of the enemy and we stand.

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To Trust or Not to Trust

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Words bombard us. They also can have a great deal of power in our lives. They can encourage us, but they can also disappoint us when they are not affirming or absent when we long for affirmation. They can challenge us to try new things, to consider new ideas or thoughts, and discover possibilities, but they can also bore us to tears when we hope for a new or broader vision.

 

I have always loved words. I love what I learn or discover through reading a book, listening to the lyrics of a song, hearing the dialogue in a movie or play, or discovering more about the person I am listening to.

 

And for those of you familiar with Gary Chapman’s book on “love languages”, yes, affirming words is one of my primary love languages along with quality time. But I am not primarily interested in the words themselves, but rather the heart and soul of the one who has written or spoken them.

 

We must spend a great deal of time listening to the words spoken by or written by another person to become acquainted with the depths of their heart.

 

When we do that, we also begin to learn whether or not the person is trustworthy, if we can count on them, if they are a safe person with whom we can share our own heart and intimate thoughts.

 

The trick is that many people are very skilled at words. Words seem to come easily for them and as they openly share, we can be tempted to quickly believe and trust them. Sometimes that proves to be true, but not always. Sometimes we are eager to believe them because they are saying what we hope, want, or need to hear.  Sometimes they sound so self-assured and confident that we are certain they know far more than we do, so we give them our trust more easily than we always should.

 

Some of us can be skeptical about words because we have been tricked by them. Some of us tune out because we are bombarded by them from every direction. Ads and commercials reach out to us from every form of media wanting us to buy this or try that, choose this candidate or choose that one, go to this destination or that one.

 

I get that.

 

There are times I love sitting in my house when I am home alone with no music or sound at all just enjoying the quiet, resting my ears, heart, mind, and spirit even when I am not specifically spending time with the Lord in His Word or journaling.

 

The key thing I have learned about whether or not to trust the words I am hearing is one basic truth.

 

If the words of the person do not match the behavior of the person, the behavior tells me more about their heart than their words.

 

Words can be said quickly or over time. They can be used to persuade, challenge, rebuke, or encourage us, but they can also seduce us to believe without question what we hear.

 

The decision to trust or not to trust is an important one that we face every moment of every day.

 

Words and actions need to match if we are to risk trusting them. We should be cautious and discerning, but not suspicious and closed. We cannot fall prey to closing off our hearts and hardening them.

 

As we listen, observe, and seek the Lord’s counsel over time, we grow in our ability to trust or not to trust.

 

The best example of trustworthiness where words and actions match is found in the person and work of Jesus Christ and He is 100 percent trustworthy.

 

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Who Will Be At Your Table?

 

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In the United States we will pause to celebrate Thanksgiving this week around tables large and small. We will pause in our busy lives to reflect on what we are grateful for and share stories of other Thanksgiving celebrations and people and things dear to us. We will celebrate using various traditions that have become a part of our story and pass them on to the next generations to enjoy or expand.

 

container-cook-cooking-45247There is something about gathering around a table with people and food that invites fellowship we seem to seldom experience elsewhere. The tastes of the food mixed with the flavors of the conversation bring an atmosphere of connection that warms our hearts more than the glowing candles on the table.

 

 

Who will be at your table?

 

My parents have not been at our table for 23 years now, but many of the traditions they started will be present in the homes of their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. My mother’s cranberry salad, dressing recipe, and pie assortment will be centerpieces of the meal we share. My father’s telling of stories will now fall to the new senior generation at the table.

 

But I recall very well the first Thanksgiving when they were not at the table. We had baked-bakery-blur-209403always celebrated this holiday in their home and beyond the food there were many traditions we loved as well. They started with my husband sharpening my mother’s knives, but there were other things like shooting clay pigeons, playing a game from an old TV show called “Name That Tune,” and making taffy and having a taffy pull.

 

That first Thanksgiving was very hard, but we were blessed to have our daughter-in-law’s parents invite all of us to their home for dinner. Even 23 years later, we will tell the great-grandchildren they never met about the fun and laughter we had, about how my mother teased by dropping a piece of warm taffy on the cheek of anyone caught napping in front of the fireplace before the work was done and so much more.

 

berries-berry-citrus-306800My mother had another tradition that always comes to mind when this week comes around. She would open our family table to any aunt, uncle, friend, neighbor, or cousin, etc. who had no one to share a table with. Sometimes these persons were singles, others were widows or widowers, and some had family too far away for them to share the day together. If my mother found out that someone would be alone on Thanksgiving Day, they would receive a warm invitation to join us.

 

I thought then and think now how the Lord must have smiled on my mother. Her first name was Delight and the name suited her well when it came to these little things she noticed and did for others. I often teased that my mother spelled love … “food.”  She was an excellent cook, but it was the warmth of her table and the fellowship around it that caused those invited to it that were not our family to feel “at home.”

 

Yes, there will be various public places where persons who are alone can go to have a autumn-bright-cake-248469Thanksgiving dinner and how grateful they and we are for those who serve them, but it is not the same as sharing a table with a family. Even if the family is not your own, joining around the table of a family makes you feel less alone and more connected as the fellowship begins to flow through each course of the meal.

 

Who will be at your table if you are celebrating this holiday?

 

Is there room for one or two more that will not have a family table to enjoy?

 

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Grappling with Goodness

 

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What is goodness anyway?

 

It seems to be a rather vague term. A quick look in the dictionary and we see a definition: “the quality of being morally good or virtuous.”  That helps and yet can still appear to be general. Perhaps that is because the context in which it is used gives more clarity.

 

God’s goodness is connected with his faithfulness and love demonstrated through grace. And grace is the manifestation of God’s goodness. He extends love and relationship to us before we ever choose Him because He has already chosen us. That blows our mind away…or should!

 

We see the evidences of God’s goodness played out in the Father’s embrace in the story of The Prodigal Son. Such goodness displayed in authentic love has great power to bring about change in any one of us who is blessed to receive it.

 

What’s puzzling is how often we find such goodness uncomfortable. apple-apple-tree-branch-52517

 

The broken chaotic lonely life we have been living may be miserable, but at least it is something we know. Accepting goodness results in our relinquishing control and experiencing vulnerability. Both of those create fear.

 

Andrew J. Bauman puts this in focus in his new book, Stumbling Toward Wholeness:

 

“Goodness produces hope and desire, which feel entirely too susceptible to heartbreak, so we cling to control because we are convinced the goodness won’t last.”

 

 We cannot conceive that God actually would delight in us.

 

“Most of us were taught that God would love us if and when we change.” 

Richard Rohr

 

That kind of “love” we understand better. It is what we have experienced over and over again in many of our relationships from childhood onward. We have missed the point Rohr later makes:

 

“In fact, God loves you so that you can change.”

 

adult-affection-baby-236164 That resonates strongly with me. In my years of counseling others, I listened to heartbreaking stories that brought tears to my eyes while the one speaking reported the story to me as if reading a news item. Their pain had been so great that they shut off the feeling and emotion of their own story. My therapeutic skills and academic training would result in little progress unless I first could be a channel of God’s love for them.

 

Authentic love allows us to be who we truly are with someone without fear.

 

“Goodness and beauty always reveal what is truest in our hearts.

 Surrendering to love is a sacred act of opening our hands, loosening control, and trusting in a God we cannot see.”  

Andrew J. Bauman

 

Goodness expressed in authentic love and grace helps us look at ourselves as we truly cliff-daylight-environment-451817are and accept the truth of that, also knowing the truth that God knew that about us all along. That is what makes all the difference. We can sigh deeply and let go of everything weighing us down with an assurance we will not be rejected. Then we can face the hard work changing the lies and habits that have bound us.

 

Only when the source of our love is His goodness in our own lives can we offer ourselves to be a conduit of goodness to anyone else.

 

“Guidance, like all God’s acts of blessing under the covenant of grace, is a sovereign act. Not merely does God will to guide us in the sense of showing us his way, that we may tread it; he wills also to guide us in the more fundamental sense of ensuring that, whatever happens, whatever mistakes we may make, we shall come safely home. Slippings and strayings there will be, no doubt, but the everlasting arms are beneath us; we shall be caught, rescued, restored. This is God’s promise; this is how good he is.”

 J.I. Packer in Knowing God

 

“So we are convinced that every detail of our lives is continually woven together to fit into God’s perfect plan of bringing good into our lives, for we are his lovers who have been called to fulfill his designed purpose.”

 Romans 8:28 (TPT)

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Feel Better Fast and Make It Last

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Dr. Daniel Amen, psychiatrist, and founder of Amen Clinics, has written numerous books propelling him to the top of the New York Times “Best Seller” ten times. His newest book, Feel Better Fast and Make it Last, it likely to increase that number.

 

Dr. Amen’s passion to improve the health and lives of his patients resulted in his innovative brain studies using SPECT scans. Though he was not revered for his work initially, the years of research by him and his staff including SPECT scans of 150,000 patients have rewarded him with proof that looking at a person’s brain is the best way to help a person move toward a healthy brain and a productive life.

 

One of the exciting aspects of his work is discovering how many things any one of us can do to improve our brain health and life no matter what our age. Although we get older, how we age can vary a great deal and it seems evident we have a great deal of influence of what that looks like if we will take the time to discover how our choices can make all the difference.

 

The subtitle of this newest book, Feel Better Fast and Make It Last, is Unlock Your Brain’s Healing Potential to Overcome Negativity, Anxiety, Anger, Stress, and Trauma.  The book is divided into seven parts known as the BRAIN – XL approach. Each letter in the name of the approach is the theme of one part of the book:

 

  • Part 1: B is for Brain is comprised of 4 chapters looking at how your brain can help rescue your mind and body and includes strategies the reader can use to begin to get healthier, develop greater executive functioning to make better decisions, and learn how to make effective changes.

 

  • Part 2: R is for Rational Mind focuses on how to feel happy and present while conquering worry and negativity.

 

  • Part 3: A is for Attachments is comprised of two enlightening chapters on how to improve relationships and overcome trauma and grief.

 

  • Part 4: I is for Inspiration contains information on how to live with passion and purpose.

 

  • Part 5: N is for Nourishment has two power-packed chapters looking at how our diets can affect how we can improve brain health and overall functioning as well as the most effective choices of supplements to provide the nutrients you need.

 

  • Part 6: X is for the X Factor highlights ten practical lessons Dr. Amen and his staff know from 150,000 brain scans

 

  • Part 7: L is for Love reminds us that “Love is Your Secret Weapon” and looks at different types of love and its power to make all the difference.

 

“In order to feel better fast and make it last, it is critical to develop consistent habits and rituals over a long period of time that help build resilience. That way, when crises come, as they do for all of us, you are considerably better able to deal with them because you have the mental horsepower you need.”

Dr. Daniel Amen

 

Reading this book will provide you with a holistic approach to not only better brain health, but also improve and strengthen physical, relational, occupational, and spiritual aspects of your life.

 

I have read many other books by Dr. Amen and participated in his professional workshops as a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor. This latest book adds new strategies and recommendations any layman will find informative and useful.

 

To comply with new regulations introduced by the Federal Trade Commission, Tyndale House Publishers provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my review.