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Posts Tagged ‘heart’

““The most important one,” answered Jesus,“ is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’”  Mark 12:29-30

Jesus was very clear here.  He was repeating the words from Deuteronomy.  I’ve read this dozens of times, but today the word ALL stuck out.  It was like they are being highlighted for emphasis.  Before I get to the weighty matter of what all means, let’s look at the four elements Jesus articulates.

Heart.  When I think of heart I think of passion.  I think of the thing or things that drive me, that compel me.  “The team with the most heart often wins.” It is more than emotion, but emotion is part of it.  Another analogy is if all our actions were a compass needle, our heart would be the point to which the compass needle consistently points.

Soul.  I struggle with distinguishing this from the other three, but I realize it is place where my will resides.  My soul is the center of my individuality and consciousness. 

Mind.  This is pretty easy, it is my cognitive, thinking self.  It is the part of me that processes data, assesses information, and makes decisions.  It is our intellect and the repository of all the data we have accumulated throughout our life.

Strength.  My strength is the resulting development of all my actions to date.  Much like a laborer muscled and toned from years of hard work, my strength is the capabilities I have now because of the life and actions I have taken.

So back to all.  Does Jesus really mean ALL?  And we are to LOVE with ALL.  If we love God with all then there won’t be anything left over for others – a spouse, children, parents or siblings, will there?  Well Jesus does say ALL and the heart, soul, mind, and strength pretty much encompasses everything about who we are.  How can this be?

It gets back to the reality that God is our creator.  He knows us better than we know ourselves.  He created us on purpose, for a purpose.  It is His desire for each person to fully fill their divinely ordained purpose.  But our purpose can only be found when we are immersed in Him and when we are filled by Him – through the in-dwelling Holy Spirit. 

By giving Him ALL of us, He is able to mold, shape, and transform us into exactly the person we are meant to be.  In some cases it is a transformation of sin habits.  At salvation the penalty for our sin is paid.  Jesus paid it on the cross and we said yes to receive it at our salvation.  We are washed clean by the blood of Jesus.  But the flesh still remembers the old habits.  Sanctification is the process of losing the old, bad habits and taking on new, good habits. 

A life verse for me is Psalm 37:4. “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.”  This verse makes perfect sense when it is aligned with Jesus admonition.  When God has our heart, soul, mind and strength, we cannot help but become aligned with His heart.  When our heart aligns with His heart it will desire what He desires.  When we desire what God desires, we become partners with Him is seeing these things come to be.  In some cases we will be moved to missions, moved to serve sacrificially, moved to go and do the things we have been prepared to do with the totality of our life experiences and under God’s anointing.  In all cases we will be moved to love more deeply and fully than we are able to without Him.

Another aspect of this is we will be moved to pray God’s prayers.  Intercession is a high and holy calling.  I’m not talking about reading through a list of names and asking God to bless family and friends.  Intercession which emanates from God’s heart to our heart is a burden to pray for specific people and needs even to the point of travail. God wants to partner with us, to pray through us.

There is one final element of Jesus’ saying that needs emphasizing.  The admonition begins with LOVE.  Love is a game changer.  We can serve.  We can honor.  We can follow.  But none of these meet the standard of loving God.  They each are manifestations of our love response, but love is deeper and richer than these alone.  Love is the deep-seated acknowledgment that God is the wholly complete other to Whom our devotion, desire, and passion is aimed.  1 John 4:16 says this.  “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.  God is love.  Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.”

To love God with All that we are is to enter fully into the life we were created for.  Amazingly we find that our ability to love and do the things God calls us to do become the desires of our heart.  He takes our attempts to love, pray, serve, work and, through His Spirit, accomplishes His good and perfect plan in us and in those He leads us to.  As we walk the road of loving God with our All we will find that He reveals our All to be more than we knew or imagined.  But it is only in losing ourselves in Him that He is able to do this great and wonderful work in us.

Purpose today to love God with your all and bask in the joy of knowing He first loves us and He will live fully in us as we abandon ourselves into His love.

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While many think that doubt is the opposite of faith, I’m not so sure.  I have come to believe that fear may be a better antithesis of faith.  At the very least fear is a highly effective tool that keeps us from experiencing the peace, joy, and power-filled life that God intends for His people.  Paul writes to his young protégé, Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:7 “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love, and self-discipline.”  Where fear reigns, the people are not living in the spiritual empowerment God has given.  I have just walked through a bit of a fear testing and God has brought me through with a stronger faith and a renewed sense of His abiding presence.

You see, almost two years ago, I had a near brush with death that the Lord miraculously saved me from.  I will repost that after I finish this.  Ultimately I had three stents installed in my heart for significant blockages and a life with a modified diet, meds, and a great sense of thankfulness began.  The past year saw many more changes in my life – leaving regular employment to become an independent consultant, beginning to travel extensively, and admittedly, beginning to slack off on the rigorous heart-healthy diet I had followed for over a year.  For the record I didn’t abandon it entirely.  I just wasn’t nearly as anal about it.  For over a year I pretty much followed my wife’s advice – “if it tastes good, spit it out.”  Well flavor had been reintroduced into my life and, without touching the salt shaker, I had begun to enjoy eating again.

For the past month and a half I have been feeling guilty about enjoying food again.  And I put on about 7 pounds over the past 5 months.  So when I started feeling a little winded after walking up steps and a little ache in my chest, I immediately attributed it to a recurrence of heart issues.  The voice in my head immediately began telling me that “I was a goner”.  “God may have protected you once, but this time you have brought it on yourself with your awful eating habits.”  “You might as well give up, you’ve got heart disease and that’s just the way it is.”  There were plenty of other thoughts going on, but you get the drift.  Oh, there were also three or four conversations I was either in or overhead about someone having a heart attack or heart issues during these few days.  These just added more fuel to the fire of my fearful thoughts.

I mentioned this to Lisa on Tuesday evening and asked her to set up a doctor’s appointment for me and to pray for me.  I mentioned it to a few others the next couple of days asking for prayer, but I tried not to make too big a deal of it.  On Thursday afternoon the doctor’s office called me back to set up the appointment.  I had a choice – go to the ER, come in within a few days and see the nurse practitioner, or see the doctor in a little over a month.  It’s funny, even with all these fear-mongering thoughts clamoring for supremacy in my mind, I chose a faith response.  I said set me up for the doctor and we’ll do my annual check-up.  After I hung up the fear thoughts attacked in a rush, but at the moment she asked the question it was clear I needed to just see the doctor when he was available.

While I would like to tell you I was given a boost of faith that buoyed me, that was not the case this time.  (I have had that happen before, but not this time.)  Instead the thoughts kept coming.  Now I think I may have slipped into a helpful act of faith just by practicing an aspect of my regular devotion to the Lord.  This past Wednesday was Ash Wednesday – the beginning of Lent and the start of a focused season of preparation for Easter.  I typically fast on Ash Wednesday, but with the meetings I was involved in and travel, I postponed it.  After the call with the doctor’s office, I decided that if I was not going to rush in for an urgent check-up, then I was not going to put off the Fast for the start of Lent.  So Friday I undertook a simple 24-hour fast.  While many would say that isn’t much of a Fast, it was both an act of surrender and an act of faith for me to trust that the Lord would protect and carry me through.

Lisa and I went over to my parent’s where I wielded the chainsaw and used the bandsaw with my Dad to handle some chores he needed help with.  Now is when the faith boost occurred.  The entire time I was working – lifting big logs, running the saws, and performing several physically demanding tasks, my heart was fine.  In fact I felt surprisingly good for a Fast.  As I got ready for bed I felt a few more twinges in my chest, but I gave them to God and for the first time since this period began, I laid down simply trusting that God was going to take care of me.  The previous several nights I laid down wondering if I had missed the Lord’s guidance or if it was my time to go home.  For the first night in several I slept and did not wake up wondering if I was having symptoms of a heart attack.

The final piece came the next morning.  I rose early as is my routine and had a quiet time with my Dad.  I had not mentioned my struggle of the previous week or so, but I explained it then without too much fanfare.  He smiled as I talked and he held a look of confidence as I finished my story.  You see, I suspected Dad could relate.  He had a heart attack at age 53, the same age I was when they found my three blockages.  And he has lived with heart disease now for 25 years.  He shared some simple truths about heart disease that I hadn’t really considered.  His perspective was simple, straight-forward, and connected to a living faith that gave me a steady place to stand.

Even as I write this, I realize that writing with my laptop on my lap isn’t the best ergonomic way to blog… at least not if you don’t want an achy chest from having to scrunch your shoulders.  And all that plane travel and carrying a very heavy computer bag and a camera bag – well that’s a good way to create body aches too.

So, I’m achy, but I’m not fearful.  I am in need of a bit more regular exercise, but I’m not dying.  I should eat a little bit wiser, but flavor is not forever forbidden to me.  God has shown me once again that He cares for me and that I can trust Him.  I grasp all that in my head.  It is not knowledge that I lack so much as the settling of that knowledge into my heart where it becomes faith.  Because in the end, it is what is in our heart that really matters.

 

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On March 14, 2014 I had a heart procedure that saved my life.  Eight days after the procedure we were to leave the country on a two week vacation.  At my one week post procedure doctor’s visit I was told that I probably would have died on our two-week vacation if I hadn’t gone to see the doctor and then found and corrected the blockages.  Below is the post that I put on Facebook on March 16, 2014.  I thought I would repost to give context to my post from earlier this week since I have a lot of new friends who may not have heard or read the story the first time.

I am a new heart disease survivor. Two weeks ago my brother-in-law, Keith, and I ran about 3 miles. Friday I had 3 stents placed in my heart where there were 2 – 90% blockages and one 99% blockage. One of the blockages was in the widow-maker. I am so thankful for my family and their faith and encouragement, but I want to acknowledge in the most heartfelt manner my thanks to the Lord for making it clear to move and move quickly.

I want to share a few warning signs for others so you can benefit from my experience.

The first sign that something was not right was getting winded heading up the steps to the daily meeting I attend at 9 am. It was only a few steps but it was enough that I noticed. My thought was that I had to get back into condition. The wild weather this winter combined with lots of long days at the plant had gotten me out of my routine.

The next sign was that I could not run as well when I did run. Keith and I have been enjoying 2 – 3 mile runs over the past several months. It is good exercise and fun to talk about life. But I actually had to stop during a couple of runs. There was one run a month ago that, looking back now, was a clear sign something was up. But I laughed it off and then ran two miles after that convincing myself I was okay, just out of practice.

About a week and a half ago I got home with enough light to run and I did. But the entire run was a challenge. I remember at 2 miles clearly thinking something’s not right because my legs felt like lead and I was laboring with my breathing. I should have said something to Lisa but I didn’t.

Tuesday of this week. The clearest description of what my symptom felt like was to put on a very tight t-shirt. That uncomfortable tightness across your chest that makes it hard to breath. Well I experienced that for 15 seconds going to the morning meeting. A little annoying. That evening I took the wheelbarrow and some tools to the back yard and when I got there I had the sensation for 45 seconds. OK, now I was beginning to be concerned. After supper I took Lisa for a walk and told her what had been going on. We agreed I needed to get checked out.

That night I had a dream. I walked into an open garage on a very windy day. There were no cars in the garage.  As leaves blew in I thought to get a broom and sweep them out. As I began to step in for the broom I noticed a coffee table in the center of the garage with a ball of snakes writhing underneath. I realized they were poisonous and one broke free from the ball and came at me. I knew it was coming to get me. I took one step back and thought to myself, “I’ve got to deal with this.” At that instant my clock alarm went off.  And shouting in my memory was the thought, I’ve got to deal with this.

That morning I was in the doctor’s office. Vitals all looked good but the EKG was A-typical. A call to the cardiologist and I was in their office the next day. I thought a stress test was the next step but after looking at my EKG and hearing my symptoms, the doctor put me in for a heart catheritization the next day. I went in mostly hoping that they would find everything fine, but instead they found and repaired three blockages. An overnight stay in the hospital and I was home before noon on Saturday with 90 mm of SS mesh tubing in my heart. Honestly my head is spinning when I think about the implications.

FITNESS ALONE DOES NOT PROTECT YOU.
For the past 7 years I have become a runner. The past three years I averaged running 15 – 20 miles a week. In preparation for the Cooper River Bridge Run last April I was running 30 miles a week. One of the reasons I took up running was because my Dad had a heart attack at age 54 and I wanted to be sure I didn’t have that problem. I completed the 6.2 miles of the Cooper River Bridge run in less than 49 minutes… I thought I had NO PROBLEMS with any ole heart problems because I was FIT!

STRESS IS NOT YOUR FRIEND.
Over the past few months the stress level at work has increased significantly. While we have been successful in many ways there is still so much to be done… and I take a lot of responsibility for trying to keep my team and the plant progressing. Lately at least 4 different co-workers had asked me if I was okay and they encouraged me to take it easy and not push myself so hard. I realized this morning looking in the mirror how much different I look. I was worn out and tired most of the time and stress was a major reason. This morning I look 5 years younger.

EATING RIGHT IS NOT A GAME.
In addition to the stress I had some opportunities in my diet. I was not a terrible eater and I had made substitutes over the past few years to go “heart healthy”. I added fish to my diet and lot’s of chicken. Red meat had been a staple but I was down to 2 – 3 times a week usually. However it was more of a game than a lifestyle. If I decided I wanted a cookie, I told myself I’d just run a little extra distance. When I did eat red meat it was a well-marbled rib-eye. To balance it out I began eating the petite portion size. I was not committed to a healthy diet. I assumed that I was fit and my vitals were always very good when I had them checked so it was OK for me to cheat on the heart healthy diet.

REGULAR CHECK-UPS MEANS MORE OFTEN THAN EVERY FIVE YEARS
Okay, I guess I have uncovered another area where I went astray. As I approached 50 I had a full physical. Since then I have had annual screenings where they check my vitals and tell me they look very good.  I had even gotten a little smug… “yeah my heart rate is always real low like that because I’m a runner and I take care of myself” sort of smug.  I am ashamed at this moment but I have committed to being honest and transparent in hopes my experience can help others so there is the truth of it. Last fall I set up a full check-up which I canceled 30 minutes prior because we had some crisis going at work. Having good intentions but not carrying through = 0. The result is exactly the same as never having thought of doing the right thing. In my case a November check-up might have revealed a problem that could have been dealt with in a simpler manner.

OTHER RISK FACTORS: SMOKING, DRINKING, CAFFEINE
For myself the other risk factors have not been an issue. I recognize that they are known to be harmful to me and to a degree to those who would be around me, so I don’t smoke or consume alcohol or caffeine.

As I mentioned before my head spins as I think of the implications… I had a time bomb in my chest getting close to going off… I almost missed the warning signs… I can’t hide behind being “fit” to ward off everything that can take me down… God knows me well enough to know I needed a nudge (OK more like a push) from that dream to move and move quick.

One final thing that I remembered a little while ago and told my wife. On Thursday morning (before my visit to the cardiologist) as I was heading to work I turned on His Radio for a little soothing music. While I was not scared exactly, I was running through my mind the likely paths this would take. The possibility that there was a problem with my heart was high on the list. You can’t help but to think about the what if’s in such a situation? What if I don’t survive and my family has to deal with my loss. About that time a song came on and the refrain repeated God’s words to us – “I will never leave you. I will never forsake you”. As the melody and these words soaked into my soul the tears came. Not tears of sadness, but tears of joy and release. I KNOW that God lives and that He is in control of my life. He has given me stewardship my time on earth, but as I release my life to Him I can trust Him completely. He gave me a crazy dream about snakes at exactly the time I needed it to motivate me to head to the doctor. Today I celebrate the reality of Who He is and another marvelous thing He has done for me and my family.

I cannot praise Him enough… but I’m gonna try!

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