A Grateful Heart

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For the past few years, I have done “30 days of thankful”.   Every day in the month of November I would post something I was thankful for as my Facebook status.  My intent was to do the same this year, until I thought about an old song we used to sing in church, “Give Thanks with a Grateful Heart”.  We “give” thanks with our mouth.  We speak it.     But do we mean it?

The mouth is a wild animal, often speaking before we can check the attitude of our heart.   The song title suggests that when we do give thanks, we must check to be sure that our hearts are as grateful as the mouth.   I didn’t post something every day for thirty days because I wasn’t sure that in years past my heart was sincere.   So I asked myself a difficult question, am I truly giving thanks if my heart isn’t in it?  God hears me when I talk, but he also sees my heart (I Samuel 16:7).  I don’t feel I am truly giving thanks if my heart isn’t in it.  The words of my mouth and the attitude of my heart must be the same.  Then I am truly grateful.

I made a decision to spend the days up until now thinking of things that I am truly grateful for.   Friends, I give you my heart.

I have not and will not have children come through me but I have many whom have come to me.  They enrich me, challenge me, change me, make me think, and give me more love than my heart can hold.   I am so grateful for the gift that is each one of those kids.   Lil Man- in my heart, every day, forever.

My husband- God didn’t give me what I wanted, He gave me what I needed.  And that is so much better than anything I could have ever dreamed of wanting for myself.  He isn’t perfect, and neither am I, but we make it work.  He is my teammate!

My family- all inclusive!  I am blessed to still have grandparents, and at my age that is a true gift.  I enjoy relationship with them.   My parents are such an example of marriage, dedication, and hard work. To say thanks for not giving up will never be enough.   My brother, in spite of it all, we managed to find our way.   My sister in law- truly grateful for the wife and mother she is!  My nieces, you are quite simply my world.  To the many I didn’t mention- thank you for the things you add to my life. My heart overflows because of each of you.

My friends and church family- What a blessing you each are.  It is a pleasure to laugh with you, cry with you, and live out life with you.  You are a community Michael and l have chosen, and I am happy to say we have chosen well.

Last but not least- Jesus, keeper and savior of my heart and soul without whom I would be lost.

This is my challenge to you, when you are thankful today, consider your heart, and listen to it.  What is it grateful for?b4eabf6d80bdd1a0eee5352c88d05920

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November 27, 2014. Tags: , , , , , . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Me, Religion, and Jesus

   Last week something was said to me that gave me pause. I was told I would not have been liked due to my being religious.   I’m not sure how this person defines religion, but I know how I define it and I am not religious. Do I believe in God and Jesus? Absolutely. That doesn’t make me religious. Allow me to explain.                

   I would define religion as following a list of “can”, “cannot”, “should”, and “should not”.   Let me be clear, I understand the Ten Commandments are exactly what I just described.    I agree those commandments should be followed, as does most laws and governments. Religion goes beyond those commandments. It tells you how to dress, what your beliefs are, what you cannot eat, how to pray the “right way”, and tells you not to question what you are told. The list of rules to be followed is endless. Religion keeps you bound, and allows you to hide behind excuses. Religion is life lived from a sense of obligation rather than of love. It prevents true relationship with Jesus because it is a mask that is put on. It keeps you from being real and honest about life and faith.

           I used to be religious. I have felt the shame of committing yet another sin, and the guilt of missing church. I have questioned whether my prayers were good enough, and if I was even praying in the right manner. I believed the lie that if I didn’t pray perfectly my prayers wouldn’t be heard nor answered. Religion left me confused, frustrated, and wanting.  Because of religion I walked away from church for a good long while. I was tired of the game.

             I have since discovered a life changing truth. Jesus wasn’t religious. Jesus went against everything that was religious. Jesus was real, and he had an honest relationship with his heavenly father. It was a relationship of mutual love, not obligation.  He was emotional and expressed those emotions. He asked if it was God’s will to let the pain of the cross pass from him, and then willingly endured it. He had friends, and knew what it was to be both loved and rejected. He slept, ate, partied (the wedding at Canaan), and drank wine. He ministered to those in need. He didn’t judge, he took people as they were and loved them in spite of their frailty. He lived an authentic, honest, no mask life.  That’s relationship.

               I am thru with religion. I desire to be like Jesus. And that means I pursue relationship. Notice the word “real” can be extrapolated from “relationship”. If I want a relationship with Jesus I have to be real.   I can take him my questions, my fears, my hopes, my dreams. I can love and care for others without abandon because he takes care of me. I no longer feel the weight of shame and guilt over missing church or yet another sin. I am human and a work in progress. I accept the forgiveness offered to me, and do my best to change my ways. I do this not because I feel obligated, but because I love Jesus and want to be more like him.   That is why Jesus died on the cross- not so we would feel obligated to him and follow a list of rules. No. He came so we can enjoy the freedom of a relationship with him. That relationship with him frees us and allows us to become the best versions of our true self.

   If I would have been disliked because I love Jesus and pursue relationship with him?  Then I am absolutely ok with that.   Because that isn’t religious- Jesus wasn’t and I won’t be either

March 27, 2014. Tags: , , , , , . Uncategorized. 1 comment.

Love Wanted and Needed

          I   have had two great loves in my life, the one I wanted and the one I needed. To prevent confusion I will call them Mr. Want and Mr. Need.

          Mr. Want entered my life in the eighth grade.  He chased me, and I still remember the first time he kissed me.  He knew I would be making a visit to the nurse for my asthma med, and he waited on the stairs. Just so he could kiss me.  I let him kiss me but I didn’t let him catch me.  I still don’t know why, but I didn’t.  He moved away which made communication difficult.  In those days we didn’t have Facebook, Twitter, E-mail, cell phones, or Skype.   Each time he came to Muncie, however, he would contact me and we would see each other.   Mr. Want was tall, liquid blue eyes, and a voice smooth like honey.   The summer between our sophomore and junior year we made a pact to marry in seven years, and go to prom together.  We didn’t go to prom together.  Mr. Want blew in my life again the summer after we graduated.  He blew right back out like a hurricane. I was left heartbroken and confused.  I thought for sure he was the one for me.  I couldn’t understand why he had said he felt the same and then left me.  I thought our story was over, finished, but it wasn’t.  Mr. Want came back five years later.   I remember everything about those few days.  All the old feelings came rushing back, but it still wasn’t meant to be.  He left again, where I don’t remember, and for ten years not a word.    He came back around in 2009, and by this time I was living in Florida and had met Mr. Need.   Mr. Want tried to talk me into coming home to Indiana and being with him.  Did my heart skip a beat when I heard his voice? Did all those maddening feelings come back?  Absolutely. But by then I knew a relationship with Mr. Want had always been and would always be like a roller coaster; a fun wild ride that would always come to a thudding heart wrenching stop.  And it was time for me to get out of line, and not ride anymore.  So I chose to stay with Mr. Need.

   I never expected Mr. Need.   He was nothing like Mr. Want or anything I wanted at all. He wasn’t over six feet tall, didn’t wear Levi’s, had a quirky sense of humor, and was divorced and had a daughter.  He was calm, crazy about me, and our relationship wasn’t at all like a roller coaster. It was more constant like the waves of the ocean coming in.  I remember our first kiss, our first date, and what he said to me on our first date.  He bought me flowers just because, for my birthday, Valentine’s day and even Christmas.   No matter what came our way he stood by me. I saw him fight for me, and fight to be with me.   For the first time in my life, I was unabashedly adored.  For the first time in my life I was in a healthy relationship.  There was some drama, of course, but nothing that we couldn’t work through or get over.  Mr. Need was the love I needed and never knew I wanted.  It was gentle yet tough when it needed to be, constant and sure.  I married Mr. Need.

            The lesson I learned in all this is love comes in many forms, and what is wanted isn’t always what is needed.    Mr. Need makes me a better person, still unabashedly adores me and brings me flowers.  Our love is still constant, secure, and sure.  We have been to hell and back and have managed to emerge stronger.  I am so happy I married the love I needed and never knew I wanted.  

    I don’t know why I decided to write this today, maybe because Valentine’s Day was just the other day or maybe because I have just been thinking about the difference between want and need.  It might be because Mr. Want recently contacted me via social media.  I don’t really know.  I just know, for whatever reason, I am reassured that Mr. Need was and still is the perfect choice for me.

February 19, 2014. Tags: , , , , . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Habakkuk and Anger

                     Habakkuk paced the floor of his watch tower.  Arms crossed, brow furrowed, one finger tapping his lip.  Destruction, violence, fighting, corruption in the government, and perversion was running rampant.    The law God had previously laid down was useless and paralyzed.   God seemed oblivious, absent.    Why wasn’t God intervening?  Surely God, being all seeing and all knowing, was aware of it all.  Habakkuk could stand it no longer.   The anger and questions in his heart began to spew forth in verbal prayer to his God.  “Don’t you see God!? How long must I cry for help? But you do not listen?  The wicked outnumber the righteous!”   Sound familiar?

                      The things going on in our world today seem very similar to what Habakkuk described in his day.  Violence is abundant – murder, child abuse, children being killed in schools, corruption in the government, and the law seems useless sometimes.   God seems absent.   Do we have right to be angry and question God? Absolutely.    What do we do with our questions and our anger?   Like Habakkuk did, we take it to God.

                       I will never forget the session in which my therapist told me to take my anger and my questions to God.  I believe I looked at him and said “What?”  It was my belief that I could pray to God, but showing him my anger and questions was not allowed.  My therapist told me “God can handle it Mindy. In fact, God is the only one who can truly handle it. He’s a big man; he can take whatever you want to give him. You have to take it to him.”   So I did, I took all my anger and all my questions to God.  I told him all about what I thought was unfair in my situation, what I hated, I asked why, I screamed, I cried,  I told him I hated what he was making me suffer. I let it all out, not all at once, but every time the emotions and anger would begin to overwhelm me I let it all out to God.

                     God created us in his image, which means he created us to have a myriad of emotions including anger, and he created us to have questions.   He wants us to bring it all to him.  His word tells us to bring it to him in Lamentations 3:18-19:  “Cry aloud before the Lord, O walls of Jerusalem! Let your tears flow like a river. Give yourselves no rest from weeping day or night.  Rise during the night and cry out.  Pour out your hearts like water to the Lord.”   If you pour water out of a pitcher you pour till it is empty.  God wants the same thing from us. To pour out our hearts till they are empty of all our tears, anger, questions, and all that is in there.

                      A relationship with God means being real, and in order to be real we have to give him our anger and questions too.   Habakkuk got real with God, I got real with God.   Will you get real with God?  Take your heart with all your questions and anger, whether they are about the state of our world today or a situation in your own life, and pour it out to God.   He can take it.

                       

 

          

January 16, 2014. Tags: , , , , , , . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.