Distracted and Consumed

I am chief among sinners. 

I thought about Paul’s words as my pastor spoke the words “Distracted and Consumed” yesterday. I felt the arrows of conviction hit straight and true as he continued on with his sermon, knowing those three words had struck at the heart of a problem. One that I know many wrestle with, even as a society and culture we are suffering from the very disease of distraction and consummation.

I get the irony of writing about this on a platform (and sharing it on other platforms) because it’s the very thing which is distracting and consuming this heart, this mind, and this time. I like to say “well it’s to keep up with this or to share my writing.” Unfortunately though it’s to the detriment of my heart and my focus.

Maybe it’s not so much social media that distracts you, maybe you don’t get consumed by the words, the actions, and the thoughts of others in such a divisive culture we are living in. Maybe the distraction is binging on the newest release from Netflix or your kids’ ballgames (this one I saw first hand last weekend y’all). It is whatever is consuming your time and distracting you from the very thing which God desires of you.

What is consuming your heart that it’s not allowing Him in? What is distracting you to the point you cannot hear Him? I am the first to admit that I willingly would choose those over time with Him, time digging in to His Word, time spent in silence with Him, waiting on Him. I would rather be consumed with distractions than allow Him space in my life…that’s what I am telling Him when I “scroll for just a few minutes.” Or when I say “just one more episode” or let someone else take up residency in my heart.

When I am distracted and consumed, I am more prone to worry, anxiety, doubt, fear, and control. I find that peace and stillness are commodities in short supply. The quiet filling of connection is negated with an empty longing to be known when we are consumed by anything other than the God who desires to know us more.

Maybe it’s time to stop the fighting for our attention and our hearts by simply giving them solely to Him. Not a screen, not the success or failure of our child’s pee wee league team, and not some fictional characters we enjoy.

 

The Adulterous Single

I thought a commandment didn’t apply to me.

Yep, one of the TEN COMMANDMENTS.

It’s the one about adultery. Because I’m a single, I definitely felt like that just didn’t apply to me. I’m good on that one God, because obviously, doesn’t apply! That was my exact thoughts. Mark it off, I’m good.

But here’s the thing on this. I don’t have to be married to commit adultery. Obviously the very literal line of thinking leads to sexual immorality, whether it’s pre-marital or any of the other related immoral acts related to sexual relations. The one that hit me though was that I have a propensity to an adulterous heart. A heart that puts so much above my covenant relationship with God. A heart that will easily lean into work, people, stuff with more love and focus, giving itself away above my first love, that love with God.

Ouch.

Adultery does apply to me as a single individual. It applies to all of us, regardless of our marital status. It is a heart issue, it’s a covenantal issue. One that starts with God and my heart, not at the altar with another individual.

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.

Proverbs 4:23 (ESV)

Never has that verse become more vivid, breathing and real than looking at it in the context of my adulterous ways in relationship with God. Everything I do flows from my heart. Every action, thought, word…every bit of it, and if my heart isn’t committed and pursuing the love of God in all things? Well that’s where the convenient opportunity of adultery slips in. When I am not guarding that fickle heart, being on consistent watch of it’s consumption and output, then it’ll easily wonder to other, lesser loves. It’ll pursue side pieces that catch it’s eye rather than God Himself, the One Who has proven faithful and good, over and over again.

As much as I’d like to believe I have that adultery thing on lock-down as a single gal, the truth of the matter is that I am far from it, and it does apply to us all. My adulterous heart should be the guarded heart, giving life to the relationship with God and not to the other pursuits that so easily ensnare and entice me from my first love.

Women, Worship and My Comfort

I waited in the parking lot until the last possible minute before being late. I walked in and realized I did not look anything like the other people there.

Here’s the thing, looks are deceiving. They lie to us and give us false perceptions, assumptions based purely on what our eyes are confronted with, and not the truth of a heart and mind.

This past Sunday I had the absolute privilege to sit among a body of fellow believers in a small country church just south of where I live, mere minutes from my front door. I was greeted and welcomed with the most loving smiles and sentiments, handshakes and hugs (and y’all know I’m not a hugger). It was an outpouring of gladness to see someone there to worship the same God they do on that Sunday. The only difference to be seen? The color of skin. (and the fact I had chosen not to put panty hose on…a fact I am sure my grandmother in heaven had a fit about).

But what wasn’t seen was the heart. Can I tell you that my heart needed to be there Sunday? In a house of worship where people weren’t worried what it would look like to praise Him, to shout and lift hands high as the Spirit was felt among us. The word brought from a female on the platform was truly challenging and affirming, reminding me to look and discern with not only a Christ-centered mind but also the female perspective.

Because y’all, the woman at the well? That story we hear so often in the church…the script was flipped and put from her point of view, from the dangers of gossip to the Stranger who became the Changer of her heart and life. I mean, c’mon…that was a good Word given to her to then give to all of us. I appreciated so much the recognition of women in the congregation (me and my friend included) for their Women’s Day. As the service ended, person after person came up to greet us, talk with us, invite us to coffee in the fellowship hall right then.

It struck me as I left that my worries over the stares or whispers, were purely driven by  my own ego, my own self and the comfort I like to live in. What I was met with was the hands and feet of God’s children, my brothers and sisters in Christ happily asking me to join them in giving back praise to our God. When our eyes and hearts are on God, they aren’t on our environment, or our surroundings. They aren’t concerned with how we’ll look to others but how we are bringing the glory to God as is due.

It comes down to focusing on the state of our hearts than the state of how little others are thinking about us. When we right our heart and mind in Christ, we find that the opinions (or lack thereof) of others and ourselves seem to matter a whole lot less. And we find when we take our eyes off of others, we too draw nearer to God in worship, giving Him the attention and praise He deserves and not ourselves.

Home

10421643_10102255291125395_7045934990659585822_nToday marks two years since I became a home owner. I love my little corner of the neighborhood, and even my neighbors (when they pick up after their dogs). It’s been an interesting two years owning a home, with water heater breakdowns and painting projects and nesting.

For ten years I rented places, feeling at home but never quite like it was mine to settle into, to be in. So when I came to own my own home I started making it mine. What I liked, where I liked things, what was important and made sense for me.

Recently someone was sharing that they’d had a conversation where they told someone they felt like home to them. I get that sentiment, a feeling and emotion that roots you with someone that it feels like you might’ve known them your entire life. But I couldn’t help but disagree with them on the sentiment because home isn’t in a person. It’s not in a house, or a place, or a thing.

Home for me is where I place my treasure, where things of value that aren’t defined by the world’s standards are. Home is eternal and burning within me. It’s longing for something more and being uncomfortable until that day of completion.

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:21 (HCSB)

I see the signs saying “Home is where the heart is,” and I can’t help but believe that truth. But my heart isn’t placed in people, or things, or stuff, or places. My heart, and the treasures of my life, are found in eternal hope, redemption, joy, peace, lovingkindness, goodness…they are found in a redemption unfathomable, in an eternity of glory, in a God who provides, sustains and loves beyond words. Yes those things are found in people, in things, and places but they are ultimately a gift rooted in Him.

What we choose to place our hearts in leads to where we call home, reflects what we treasure. When we place it in people, we are sorely disappointed at times. When we place it in stuff, we find it turns to idols and is very fleeting. When we place it in locations, we find over time it loses it’s hues and sentiments. Are we chasing treasure in earthen vessels, in stuff, in places when we should be placing it in eternal hope? In eternal matters?

Instead of building a home here, I seek to build a home where my treasure and my heart are secure, growing and rooted in the truth of Who He is and What He says. That home is truly where my heart is.

 

Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.

Proverbs 4:23 (NKJV)

I am not sure there’s a verse that has been more studied or dug into in my life than that one above. I look at different versions, commentaries and pray over it practically daily.

The heart defines your life. It is your character, the overflow of what you are filling your life with. And yet, it can be easily broken, hurt and captured if you aren’t careful.

Diligence requires alertness, awareness, and steadfast watch. It means a constancy of guarding of this fragile heart, prone to wander, prone to idolize, prone to desire.

Oh this heart…you are the complete package of will, affections, mind and thought. You are the cause of actions in my life, and the lives of others. If we aren’t on watch, with a strict eye, sometimes things/people/satan slip in through an avenue undetected. We are caught unawares in the midst of hurt, pain, sin.

So we come back here. To the place where our heart first felt whole…to bring the broken to be mended, the wounded to be healed. We come back to the place where we find that we have another Guard, with our good in mind, His strength made available. We come not to ask but to give.

To leave this heart here for Him. To live in constancy of a heart that is full of Him and not us. A heart that desires after the things of Him and not our whims and affections. A heart diligent in the work set before it.

A heart guarded above all else to flow out with love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness…a heart whole in Him.

An Armored Heart

Photo courtesy of disciplewalk.com
Photo courtesy of disciplewalk.com

“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” Proverbs 4:23 (NLT)

For so long this verse meant to me a focus on your heart when it comes to relational involvement…boyfriend/girlfriend, crushes, marriage, and the like. It still does in so many ways. Lately though, I have found that guarding my heart has taken on a much different perspective.

I was not careful to guard my heart when it came to every relationship or situation. Instead I bore out my heart to people in ways that ended up being used to harm me–ultimately altering the course of my life.

I assumed the “guard your heart” business meant around those non-believers, those seeking ill toward me as a believer or having lascivious plans for my heart. Never did I once think about guarding my heart from fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Isn’t that often what we find though? That we are hurt by those carrying the banner as family in Christ?

A guarded heart is one aware, not naive, but cautious in it’s pursuits and relationships. Not self-seeking but also not freely given. Guarded hearts seek understanding yet are slow to react. Choosing quiet and responsiveness over impassioned reactions. (Yes there is a difference between a response and a reaction) It is always on alert, armed for conflict and patrolling around the entire perimeter of the inner self, the heart within. There’s a reason why thieves often choose the cover of night to slip in, they need the darkness to intrude and steal.

A guarded heart is to be valued, above all else. It means not only I be on guard but entrusting it to God to safely hold it, knowing His promises are true and faithful. It determines the course of my life, and when not taken care to protect, it can lead to heartache and trouble that could have been protected against. The heart pursues, often after desired things-things not put before Him but of the flesh, when it is left unguarded. Taking care to mind what it engages in, and what it doesn’t, makes the courses of life diverge greatly in two directions.

The Head and the Heart (or what a cd taught me about my own)

I burn way too many cds for my own good. So many in fact I have run out of space to store them in my car…why I usually like to listen to them on those often long(ish) trips to see family & friends on the other side of the plateau.

Almost every time I get in the car for the last week one cd keeps falling down on me and skittering across the passenger seat. Naturally one would think I just slide it into the console. But no. I keep resleaving it above my head in the visor, only to have it come sliding back out each and every time I get in the car.

Finally the other day I flipped it over to see what cd was causing such a hub-bub and being difficult. It was The Head and the Heart‘s cd. I couldn’t let that go after seeing what band it was…because I overthink things obviously, but also because my own head and heart are akin to that cd. 

My head and my heart over the last few months has been somewhat disjointed. Flitting across and around. Not staying in one place for very long. And never resting securely where they should be. Often one wants what the other knows isn’t good for it, and vice versa. They have long conversations and remind one another of things long forgotten…long forgiven.

But they also get in sync…understanding the need to work together and not in tension. To allow one to feel and the other to learn. To both grow and understand. While the union is not perfect, and I doubt it will be, my head and my heart are slowly realizing that unity within is much stronger than a separated state.

Both are gifts given, entrusted in me to care for and look after, neither are mine to give away. And when I attempt to, either by wondering thoughts or fleeting emotions, I am reminded of where they are securely kept. Not in my hands and not in my grasp to slip out…

But in a holy God’s, who knows their fragility and their strength in equal parts, who knows how to care for them and securely use them for the absolute best. For Him, His glory and my good.

Why do you continue to invite punishment?
    Must you rebel forever?
Your head is injured,
    and your heart is sick.

Isaiah 1:5