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Cleaning out your Heart House

Cleaning out your Heart House

Now that we’ve talked about what freedom truly is in light of Christ’s sacrifice I’d like to talk a little bit about what our response to that newfound opportunity for freedom can be. (I hope the wheels started turning in this direction last week with the questions I left you with.)

Do you have a habitual sin? Is there something that you find yourself struggling with over and over, constantly wrestling with and needing to approach God to repent for? I think that’s the case for most of us.

God doesn’t want that for you. He wants to give you freedom from all that. Not in an instant, but over the scope of your life. And the more we give God the thing we most dislike to give him – our sins – the more he can give us this kind of freedom in return. 

That’s why the Gospels, and Christ himself, spoke so much about repentance. It’s not about making yourself feel bad or saying how awful you are, it’s about cleaning house so that when freedom is offered you have room for it. 

But if the house of your heart is anything like my house, you probably don’t just need to clean it once. 

You probably need to clean it, like, all the time.

Repentance is continuous throughout our lives. We keep being human and we keep giving in to sin. We don’t get to clean up once and then just let the dust accumulate. 

Our best response to Christ’s gift to us – the freedom He wants to give you – is to keep cleaning up, keep making room, keep decluttering our hearts so that freedom can flourish and thrive there instead.

To repent. 

Repentance usually isn’t a summertime talking point in the church, but I don’t think there’s ever a bad time to bring it to mind. Goodness knows we aren’t only sinning in certain seasons of the year! If you days slow down in summer like mine do I hope you take this time to repent and clean house. 

We all need it, goodness knows.

With joy!

Jill

 

Imagining Courage vs. Living It

Imagining Courage vs. Living It

When we’re talking about courage the subject of fear so often comes up, and often as some kind of opposing emotion to courage – as if we cannot be both at once. 

I think there’s a vision of courage that we bring from childhood into adulthood that isn’t terribly helpful – the childhood view of adults who seem endlessly competent and able to deal with every situation – that we find, when we are ourselves adults, to look terribly different from who we find ourselves to be. 

That has been one of the most interesting realizations of motherhood for me. As a child I have such vivid memories of how endlessly self-assured my parents seemed. I trusted them implicitly and it was as if there was absolutely no situation that arose in the first decade of my life that they were not completely equal to. 

College students seem much the same to me as well, since I had the privilege of growing up more or less on campus at Purdue University, where I came to know and love so many wonderful young women who were my earliest role models. They seem to know everything that they could need to know – how to dress, how to do their make up, how to get into an excellent school like Purdue. 

I lived in anticipation of the day that I would become like them, or become like my mother, and just know what to do all the time. Imagine my deep disappointment when I reached college myself only to discover that I still felt like I was still about 6 1/2. I had no idea what the heck I was doing and soon realized that no one else did either. And yet when I interacted with children I saw that same adoration that I had had myself. I came to realize for the first time that I was no different than the college girls I had adored as a child, and we were all of us just figuring it out as we went along. 

Talking to my mom about motherhood since having my own children I’m coming to see how many times she was doing the exact same thing I do on a daily basis – completely making it up as I go along.

As we grow we began to see the separation between our childhood view of things and the way things really are, but I don’t know if everyone’s viewpoint of courage grows in quite the same way. I think that our childhood ideal of courage is one of those things that kind of stubbornly sticks around, setting up very high bars for ourselves in terms of what we should feel prior to being brave. 

Sure, we intellectually embrace the idea that you can be both afraid and courageous and throw around terms like “do it scared“ and “live bravely“, but that’s one of those things where I feel like there is a gap between what we say and what we feel to be true.

So what’s to be done about this? 

I feel like my experience of motherhood gives me an insight into this. The day I brought my first child home from the hospital I was more overwhelmed and terrified than I have ever been on any other day in my entire life. But there was no escaping it. I was a mom now I needed to figure out how to be one. It was a part of my identity that was not going to change, but I need to figure out how to grow into it. 

And so it took doing mom things, day after day, our after hour, year after year, to begin to shape myself into the mother that I already was. 

I think it’s the same thing with courage. If being courageous is something that only happens incredibly rarely in our lives, if ever, I think we’re going to really struggle to let go of that youthful vision of what it should feel like to be courageous. 

But, on the other hand, if we create opportunities for courage on a regular basis, then we can become more and more the courageous person we were created to be – the courageous person God already placed inside us.

The Birthright of Courage

The Birthright of Courage

What does it mean to live a courageous life? 

I think the minutiae depends on who you ask. It might look different to a soldier, a septuagenarian, a mother, and a child. But I think you would find commonalities in everything that they say, namely that courage lies in subjecting yourself to something larger than yourself for a better good then simply your own momentary comfort. 

Perhaps the soldier would tell stories of the battlefield facing fears that are hard to comprehend and brothers and sisters in arms laying down their lives for those they serve with. 

An old woman might speak about maintaining a marriage in the face of Alzheimer’s, memory loss, or dementia, continuing to care for a person who no longer remembers you. 

A mother might talk about setting unpopular boundaries with her kids and going through all the effort and work to maintain those boundaries despite how uncomfortable it is for her personally to do so, and all the times her kids remind her that other kids parents don’t have the same standards. 

And I think if you asked my five-year-old he would tell you that courage is protecting his little siblings from anyone that might harm them, putting their health and safety before his own, although perhaps not quite in those words.

There is a nobility in the courage that is our birthright as Christians, daughters and sons of a Messiah who truly was a warrior king but not in the way that anyone expected. Christ went into battle for us, battle against not simply the Romans, which would’ve been quite popular with Jews at his time, but with death itself. 

The harder, better road. 

We are baptized into the family of that warrior king and find ourselves deputized under his same mantle – not the mantle of worldly glory, but the mantle of the better, harder road. 

The mantle of servant hood. 

The mantle of self forgetfulness. 

The mantle of humility. 

The mantle of courage. 

This is our birthright. 

This is who we are. 

We are fighters on our knees, not seeking the glory of the arena, but the good of our sister who cannot fight for herself. 

We could not fight her own battle against death, so Jesus fought for us. 

And so in his stead we find ourselves called to fight the battles that we are able for those who are not – the marginalized, the unborn, the forgotten, and the helpless. This is one of the most powerful ways that we imitate our king and follower commander. 

This is how we are brave. 

This is how we serve.

I’d love to hear your stories about how YOU are brave right where you are. Just comment and let me know. I love to read your stories and learn how I can better pray for you.

A Brave Hope

A Brave Hope

We talked last week about the wounds from human relationships that can make it hard to hope in God.

This week I want to talk about the radical bravery, the audacity, that it takes to hope in God. 

Something that so many in our culture would view as weakness, is actually an incredible sign of strength. Being able to embrace hope in Christ when all seems to be darkness is one of the most courageous things that we can do on a daily basis. 

It’s the kind of courage that draws us into the heart of God – the kind of bravery that God loves. As Paul says in Romans 5:5, hope will not disappoint us. All the people who hope in God will see their hopes fulfilled, whether here or in heaven. 

I have a great privilege of designing a bundle for Mother’s Day specifically created to give to those women who have lost their mothers. (All our Mother’s Day goodies came out last week and you can shop them right here.)  This was something I took very seriously and I spent a long time talking to women who have lost their mothers about what it was that would be helpful to say, knowing that nothing would ever take away even a little bit of the pain of a mother no longer with us on earth, but something that could, in the midst of the pain, point towards hope. The two pieces I created feature the words “Earth has no sorrow that heaven can’t heal.” and “United with heaven in prayer.”

I think a vital aspect of keeping hope alive in our hearts is a concerted belief that this is not all there is. Everything might not look fine here, ever. People reach the end of their lives in all kinds of states of illness, injustice, and violence. But we can maintain hope in the face of this because we believe that our hope is not for this world alone, but this world and the next. 

If everything is not made right here, which it typically is not, that is not the end of the story. It is a brave thing to hope in the face of death, and we can only do it because our Lord showed us how through his own death and resurrection. He invites us into that story, into the hope that that story will also be our own story when all is said and done.

With joy!

Jill

 

Does It Make Sense to Hope?

Does It Make Sense to Hope?

When a lot of people think of hope I think our mind first goes to wish fulfillment – my five-year-old son saying “I hope I get to stay at grandma and grandpas this summer!” for instance. The word “wish” is almost interchangeable with “hope” in that sentence. 

But the hope we are going to talk about is different and deeper than simply a wish.

Christian hope lies in an unshakable belief that God will do what he says he will. That he is who he says he is. That regardless of how things look in the moment, God is with us. That in the face of death, distraction, and despair, the promises of God remain despite the darkness of the night.

So why, and how, can we have that hope? 

The short answer is that we can have this hope because it is logical to believe that Jesus is who he says he is, and therefore his words are trustworthy. And the rational foundation of that trust is founded on the fact that Jesus rose from the dead. Even after his remarkable and exemplary life, almost all the apostles ran away at the time of the crucifixion. If he had not risen that would’ve been the end of it. 

But the fact remains that Jesus did rise, and appeared to not only the disciples but the others, even those who had not believed in him during his life. However even today there remains many people who say that the apostles were merely a part of conspiracy, making it look like Jesus rose from the dead when he really hadn’t. But when we examine those claims, I think it’s easy to see but that doesn’t make sense, if for no other reason than that every single apostle except for one died for the doctrine of the resurrection, and not only died, but died horrifically. 

Newsflash: People don’t just quietly accept horrific deaths for lies that they made up. 

I’m pretty sure that whenever the crucifix came out or any of the other tools of torture that were used on the apostles, that they would have recanted quickly if they were simply the masterminds of a grand ruse. 

And so to me, that is the crux of the reason we can know that Jesus is trustworthy. He said who he was, he showed who he was through his resurrection, and those that experienced it firsthand knew beyond a shadow of a doubt all the things written in the gospel to be true and dramatically demonstrated that belief through their own lives and deaths. 

That is why we hope. That is why it makes sense to hope – not only because of the love Christ has for us and showed us on the cross, but because of the glory of the resurrection which is what we place our trust in when we hope in God.

With joy!

Jill

 

Care and Keeping of a Heart

Care and Keeping of a Heart

In this final reflection on heart, I want to talk about how we can care for our hearts, keeping them whole and hearty in fighting shape, ready for whatever life might send our way. 

Here are a few ideas to help you care for your heart in a way that will open it, strengthen it, and prepare it for battle.

Feed your heart good food. 

Your heart craves consolation, inspiration, and peace. I don’t think it’s necessary to live in a dream world, but I do think it’s necessary to consume more of the Bible then of the news every day if we want to keep our heart healthy. There are awful things happening all the time that we need to not shut our eyes to, but just because those things are real doesn’t make the truth of the Bible any less so. 

I’ve met so many people in my life who felt that it was extremely virtuous to constantly bathe in the sewage of negative news on every front in the globe because those things were “real life.” They thought that by constantly allowing themselves to be washed over by the barrage of awfulness in the world but they were somehow better, that their perspective was “realer” than people who spent much less time consuming the news. 

But the Bible is just as real as anything you read in the news. Christ is just as real as the presidents and politicians you read about every day. And reading your Bible and other uplifting Christian works helps lay layers of stone under your feet instead of negativity and terror that rips around you like a terrible current, constantly threatening to uproot you and carry you away.

Moral of the story? Just because there is bad in the world, that’s not all there is. There is good as well and in much greater measure than evil. Staying tethered to the good doesn’t make you weak, it makes you strong.

Get to know yourself. 

Isn’t it crazy how little we actually know ourselves? I’m constantly surprised how often my husband knows better than me what I will do or think in a given situation. 

But there is one person who knows us perfectly, and that is God. I think it’s cool that God desires to teach us about ourselves so that we can live with more of our heart and have clarity about where and how we can best do his will. 

And so instead of filling out lists and becoming more self-centered in thinking only of ourselves, I think we get to know ourselves best through prayer and journaling when we allow God to write with us. 

Open yourself to letting God teach you more about yourself. I think it might surprise you.

Practice being brave in the smallest of ways. 

Be a little bit brave with things that don’t matter so that when back opportunities to be brave arise those muscles have a little bit of tone to them. 

  • Wear something that you love but don’t necessarily think is in your comfort zone. 
  • Try a restaurant that doesn’t have any of your tried-and-true favorites on the menu. 
  • Call out your friend who is bad mouthing herself and ask her to speak more kindly about herself as a daughter of God. 

We’re not talking big things here. 

But we are talking things that help you show up with all of yourself so that when your day in the arena comes, you have all of yourself to bring to the fight.

I have a quote on my mantle that says “Your heart is the size of a fist because you need it to fight.“ I really love that. I love that it takes a gentle and integrated heart to be strong, because the heart of stone that may seem like an asset will actually just shatter when there is any pressure placed upon it.

Forgive over and over again. Practice forgiving.

Nothing eats away at your heart quite like grudges and unforgiveness. It is impossible to be whole when we have rented out swathes of our heart to old hurts and broken promises. 

But it’s so hard to evict those renters that seem to have so much claim to the real estate.

Forgiving isn’t pretending you weren’t hurt. It is letting the hurt wash over you like a waterfall, feeling it sting every inch of your skin and then having the courage to step forward, into the dark perhaps, but out of the stream. Often we feel rooted to the spot, paralyzed by the pain and the intensity, but there are hands there for us to grasp when we need help moving out of the stream. 

God’s hands are there. 

Sometimes God’s hands look like the hands of counselors, friends, and confidants and sometimes they are simply and truly the ethereal hands of God reaching out in answer to our prayers.

Either way, the hands can be hard to see in the dark unless we train our eyes. And we train our eyes through frequent practice of forgiveness. 

It takes a strong woman to live with her whole heart. But I know that you are strong because I know that God doesn’t make women any other way. In the face of the greatest hurt when we want to call uncle and surrender to the pain, God reminds us that our strength is in our heart, the heart he gave us to be soft, whole, and able to endure.

I’m praying for you and your heart this week.

With joy,

Jill