A Heavy Heart

During this time of the year, it is difficult to walk into stores such as Target and Walmart and not see huge displays of gifts for Valentine’s Day.  Everything from large stuffed animals, flowers, cards, and candy.  At one recent visit, I picked up a heart shaped box of chocolates weighing 5 pounds.  I thought to myself, that is what you call a heavy heart.

A heavy heart.  So often when we use the phrase a heavy heart it is accompanied by bad news.  For example, “it is with a heavy heart that I tell you that this person has died.”  The dictionary defines heavy heart this way: “in a sad or miserable state.” Undoubtedly, everyone has suffered from a heavy heart at some point in their lives. Hearts can become heavy for lots of reasons:  grief, fear, worry, depression, pain, uncertainty, and a host of other experiences that can weigh us down.  During these times the heaviness of our heart drains our living and leaves us wondering if we will ever feel good or happy again.  Someone once said, “When the heart is heavy and the soul is down, the eyes can only speak the language of tears.”

Every day we meet individuals who may be bearing a heavy heart.  Behind the smiles we see on people’s faces, there can be lives that are hurting and burdened by something. Sometimes that person is us.  As people of faith we are called to relate to others in ways that help relieve that heaviness.  In Proverbs 12:25  we read: “Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.”  Kindness towards others should be our response to everyone we meet.  We are called to treat people with kindness so that through our kind words and acts God’s love can be shared. God is truly the only one who can lift up our hearts when the world weighs them down.

man holding red heart poster
Photo by freestocks.org on Pexels.com

Jesus would say, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

The apostle Paul would write in his letter to the Ephesians, “Be kind and tender-hearted to one another.” (Ephesians 4:32)  May we follow Paul’s advice and live with kind and tender hearts in a heavy-hearted world.

A Broken Nativity

During the season of Advent there is always an emergence of people’s nativity sets in people’s homes.  These nativity displays can be very simple as well as very elaborate. Some are inexpensive and others can be quite expensive.  You also see nativity sets outside during the season; wooden ones, inflatable ones, and even live ones.

In our home, we usually display a nativity set that has been handed down by family. As a result, it has been damaged over the years.  With the set, there are a couple of three-legged sheep, a donkey with one ear, only two magi, and the rest of the figurines are chipped, or the paint is no longer where it used to be.  Yet even with the defects, it is special to our family regardless of its brokenness.

In all truthfulness however, it is probably a good example of those who gathered around the new born Jesus on the first Christmas as well as all of us who worship him today.  We all come to Jesus somewhat broken, bruised, and beaten up by life.  Some of it is a result of our sinful choices while others are just experiences that we go through that can leave us damaged.

As joyous and happy the Christmas season can be for many, there are also many who are hurting.  Over the course of the last year, their lives were disrupted by sickness or death, unemployment or financial struggles, family divisions, inner depression and despair just to name a few of the things that can break us.  In fact, there are no perfect lives at a nativity other than a newborn baby in a manger.  Perhaps this is why we are drawn towards Jesus.  Jesus represents hope for lives that have been damaged by life.  The Psalmist would confess, “The Lord is near the brokenhearted, and saves the crushed in spirit.”  (Psalm 24:18) In Jesus God came to us to save us, free us, heal us, and lead us into a greater story.

The nativity tells a story.  It tells the story of how God loved us so much that he gave us his son as a gift to everyone who has been broken and beaten down by life.  We are all welcome to gather around the manger child who would one day die beaten and broken so that we might not ever have to suffer alone.  The coming of Jesus is our hope in our world, even in all its brokenness.


Coming and Going

I think most people of faith have their favorite Bible verses that they turn to often for guidance, direction, and comfort.  For different reasons, a verse stands out to us, resonates with us, and speaks to us.  We may underline or highlight the verse or commit it to memory.

Psalm 121 speaks about God’s presence and help in our lives.  It teaches us that God never dozes off like we may in a Sunday sermon. One of my favorite verses is found in the last line of Psalm 121.  The writer confesses:

The Lord will keep your going out and your coming from this time on and for evermore.

Most of life is spent coming and going.  Now we may take long trips and vacations or see the world, but most of life is journeying simply from here to there.  We leave home and go to work, school, or church.  We stop by the grocery store to pick up a few things.  A trip to the doctor or the bank may find its way on our daily calendar. And if you are like me, you enjoy walking down your driveway to check for mail at your mailbox.  Yes, we spend a lot of time coming and going.

Then there are those times in which life gets chaotic.  There is too much to do or some unexpected event sends our lives into a whirlwind.  Often in such experiences we may remark to another person, “I don’t know if I am coming or going.”  Our lives are in such a state of disruption that our sense of direction is simply off.

The good news is that in all of our coming and going that the Lord keeps us.  The word keep literally means “to guard” in the Hebrew.  Regardless of what is going in our lives God is on guard duty.  God is watching over us with eyes of love and grace. John Newton who gave to us the words to the classic hymn Amazing Grace also once wrote, “If the Lord be with us, we have no cause of fear. His eye is upon us, His arm over us, His ear open to our prayer – His grace sufficient. His promise unchangeable.”

So today in our coming and going, God is with us.  When we don’t know if we are coming or going, God is with us.  And when we are simply stuck in place, God is with us.  God is on guard duty.  We are always and forever in God’s keep. going and coming sign 363.jpg-550x0

Wardrobe Malfunction

I can remember a time when I never heard of the phrase “wardrobe malfunction.”  It is a relatively new phrase in our modern language. A wardrobe malfunction describes a clothing failure that accidentally or perhaps intentionally exposes a person’s intimate parts. It is different from deliberate incidents of indecent exposure or public flashing. Justin Timberlake first used the term when apologizing for the Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime-show controversy during the 2004 Grammy Awards. The phrase “wardrobe malfunction” was in turn used by the media to refer to the incident and entered pop culture. There was a long history of such incidents before the term was coined and it has since become a common fashion faux pas.

The worst wardrobe malfunction I ever personally experienced was at a movie theater with my family; my wife and two daughters.  The movie had not yet started.  I stood up to take off my fleece pullover because I was getting warm.  Unbeknown to me when I pulled up my pullover it also pulled up my t-shirt underneath.  So, there I stood in the middle of the theater bare chested for everyone to see.  It wasn’t a pleasant sight at least for my daughters.

Sometimes as Christians we can suffer from a wardrobe malfunction with the way we conduct our lives.  The apostle Paul in his letter to the Colossians described the wardrobe of a disciple of Jesus.  Paul writesm, ”

As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. (Colossians 3: 12-15)

 However, it seems as Christians and the church that we regularly suffer from wardrobe malfunctions with our faith.  Rather than displaying the characteristics that Paul described, Christians are often seen as judgmental, intolerant, unforgiving, uncompassionate, and self-righteous.  We walk through the world claiming to be followers of Jesus, but our lives don’t look anything like Jesus.  Jesus lived a life that demonstrated the kind of wardrobe Paul spoke of.  As a result, Jesus was often condemned by the religious dress code keepers of the day as being blasphemous, a friend of sinners, and even of the devil.  As a result of his living, Jesus was ultimately stripped of his physical clothing and nailed naked to a cross.  Those who sought to put Jesus to death believed that they had ended this faddish lifestyle of Jesus.  Yet, when Jesus was resurrected on Easter Sunday, he rose clothed in the glory of God that does not fade, wear out, or go out of style.

The world around us is watching what we wear as Christians.  Are our lives modeled after Jesus or something else?  Do others see Jesus in us as we live our lives?  As each day begins, we should prayerfully consider what we wear out of the house.  And at the end of the day we should consider whether or not we lived like Jesus or did we suffer from a wardrobe malfunction? Mahatma Gandhi once said, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” Let us commit ourselves to following the dress code of Jesus and as we do, the world will know from whom we get our style.



What’s The Plan?

Someone once said, “If you want to make God laugh, then tell him your plans.”  The statement suggests that our plans, even our best laid out ones, cannot see the bigger picture of our lives in the way that God does.  Our vision for our lives is so limited. We can only see our lives at street level. God sees our lives from above and from a greater vantage point.

In the book of Jeremiah, the prophet shared this truth when God spoke to him, “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.”  Jeremiah spoke these words to the people of Israel who felt that their lives were in total chaos and where nothing was certain, and the future was one of fear.

Sometimes in our lives, life can become chaotic and uncertain when our lives are not going the way that we planned them out.  Now God does not literally laugh at our lives in such a state, but God does seek to reassure us that He is still in control and that God can see further down the road than we ever could on this side of heaven. In faith we have to trust our lives to the one who gives us life, sustains our lives, and prepares a future for our lives.  Hence, regardless of how our lives may look at any given moment; good to go or seemingly falling apart, God is working out his will. Faith is learning to trust God in every area of lives.  The writer of Hebrews offers us this wonderful promise, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”  God has a plan for each person’s life.  We are not driftlessly at sea, but God knows where we are headed, and as Jeremiah said we have “a future with a hope.”

person holding pen point on blueprint
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

Decision Time

If you think about our lives, we spend a great deal of our time making decisions. From the moment we wake until we go to sleep we are constantly making decisions about things.  Some decisions we are conscious about while for others we simply make a decision without much thought.  Some decisions come easy while others we might agonize over.  Sometimes we just don’t know what to do.

Former First Lady, Michelle Obama, once said, “You can’t make decisions based on fear and the possibility of what might happen.”  Indeed, every decision carry with it some risk.  I’m not sure you can be a 100 percent about many decisions in life.  For many decisions, we weigh them out, seeking to make the best one which does not necessarily mean the easiest one.

As a people of faith, however, we approach each decision in our lives in light of our relationship with God.  As Christians, we seek God out and seek to discern what God’s will is for our lives.  Again, this is not an easy task.  One scripture that I have found helpful over the years is Proverbs 3: 5-6 which reads:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge him,
    and he will make your paths straight.

As people of faith, we must seek God’s guidance in each decision that we must make and trust in God to show us the right path.  Letting God and allowing God to lead does not come easy for us.  Surrendering over to God our entire lives can be difficult. However, in faith we can trust that God will seek to bring about his will for everything we do in life.  When we acknowledge God’s presence then we can trust in God to show us the way.  Ultimately any decision is an act of faith as there is rarely any decision that does not come with some doubt.  We have to trust God with our fears and anxieties knowing that whatever we choose God will remain faithful.  At some point we eventually have to let go and place everything in God’s hands.  As song writer and singer Carrie Underwood would remind us, “Jesus, take the wheel.”  God has a good sense of direction.  In faith, we just need to follow.



empty highway overlooking mountain under dark skies
Photo by Sebastian Palomino on Pexels.com

Caller I.D.

Every day I receive quite a lot of telephone calls on my cell phone.  After being alerted by the ringtone, I can then look at the phones caller I.D. to see who is calling.  If I am friends with the person then the person’s name will appear.  However, if it just displays a telephone number then I do not answer it.  I come to the conclusion that it is probably a telemarketer and I just don’t to hear their offer because I know once you say hello to them, it is hard to end the conversation.  And in some cases, I just hang up.  I just don’t want to be sucked into a conversation.

In the scriptures we are invited to call upon God in prayer.  In Jeremiah 33:3 we read, “Call to me and I will answer you.”  The promise of God is that God will always answer those who call upon his name.  God never hears our prayers and thinks to himself, “Oh no, not them again; I won’t answer and maybe they will stop calling.” No, our God is a God who welcomes our calls.  God not only welcomes our calls, but God listens attentively.  The Psalmist would proclaim, “But truly God has listened; he has given heed to the words of my prayer.” (Psalm 66:19)

God never gets too busy, bored, frustrated, or tired of hearing his children call upon his name.  From the very beginning of creation, God’s desire has been to be in conversation with each person he has made.  God not only wants to hear our voices, but God also wants to speak to us as well.  Saint Teresa of Avila was a prominent Spanish mystic, Roman Catholic saint, Carmelite nun, author, and theologian of contemplative life through mental prayer.  Saint Teresa once wrote, “For prayer is nothing else than being on terms of friendship with God.”  God’s greatest desire is to share his life and love with us; to be our friend.

As our friend, God welcomes our calls.  God loves to hear from us and to hear our voices.  Thus, we can call on God wherever we are, whatever we are involved in, and however we feel.  God will always pick up from his end.  We just simply have to make the call.