Heart Issues

The Care and Keeping of Our Hearts

woman looking out the window at the night-time city(Taken from Wholly Loved Devotionals on Crosswalk. Find them HERE.)

My heart, when left unprotected, inevitably begins to decay. The busier I am, the greater my stress, the greater the threat. If I want to remain strong and filled with the love, truth, and peace of Christ, I need to guard against negative influences while soaking in all that is good and right and true.

When my daughter was young, I ached for adult conversation. She was an only child, and I worried she was lonely as well, so I began signing us up for low-cost activities and social clubs. I became deeply engaged with one group in particular. We met numerous times each week, for outings and park days or to simply sit in one another’s homes. Unfortunately, our discussions often centered on life’s difficulties and how terrible or inconsiderate everyone’s husband was.

I’d like to say I managed to listen without getting sucked into the toxic vortex, but I didn’t. I always left frustrated with my life and marriage.

Then, one day, reality hit. I realized I always left those interactions crabby and dissatisfied, with life and my husband. These “venting” women were actually harming my marriage. I needed to be selective with my influences—to guard against negativity while intentionally studying and contemplating and learning to live in truth.

The winds may blow, but the woman anchored in Christ has deep, immovable roots. Drought may woman prayingcome, and a heat wave may beat upon her branches, but though these outward challenges are unpleasant, they won’t and can’t destroy her, because she is continually fed by the sweet, pure stream that will never run dry.

Her fruitfulness isn’t dependent on her circumstances or outward influences but the strength, wisdom, and power of God’s Spirit welling up within.

This is God’s call for all of us.

If you found today’s post helpful, you may also enjoy Wholly Loved’s Christmas Bible Reading Plan, Preparing Our Hearts for the Holidays. Find it HERE.

Wholly Loved’s holiday devotion, Intentional Holidays. Find it HERE.

Join our private Facebook group by clicking below. We’re also gearing up for spring conferences. We’d love to come to you! Visit our Conference Page for information on some of our most popular presentations, and contact us HERE to book us for your next event.

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Additional resources:

30 Days of Emotional Health Bible Reading Plan by Wholly Loved

Cultivating a Thankful Heart Bible Reading Plan by Jennifer Slattery

Unclogging Our Spiritual Valves by Jennifer Slattery

The Anatomy of a Tender Heart and a Strong Voice by Amy Carrol

The Heart You Know and the Heart You Don’t by John Piper

Psalm 1: The Way of the Righteous and the Way of the Ungodly, by Enduring Word Bible Commentary

Heart Issues

Cultivating a Thankful Heart

Image of colored leaves and text to 2 Cor. 9:11

Happy Thanksgiving from the Wholly Loved family!

Sometimes, I get so caught up in rushing about, I forget to pause and say thanks. But when I do, peace ushers in as my mind shifts off of all that could or maybe has gone wrong to all that has gone right. To all the abundant blessings God provides each day, and those are numerous. If I were to contemplate my relationship with Christ and all the spiritual blessings He’s provided, that alone would give me ample reason for praise.

I’ve been adopted into an eternal, inter-connected family.

I’ve been redeemed.

I’ve been washed clean–given a new slate and, each day, a chance to begin again.

I’ve been lavished by grace and empowered by the Holy Spirit.

But most importantly, I’ve been given the gift of intimacy with my Savior.

Pause this afternoon or perhaps this evening to contemplate all the gifts God has given you in His Son. Write Him a letter thanking for Him each one, and see if that doesn’t elevate your heart to praise and connect you, on a deeper level, with the Giver of all that is right and true and beautiful and eternal.

Then make sure to check out our holiday Bible reading plan, available for FREE on the YouVersion app. You can find it HERE.

Heart Issues

The Gift You’ve Been Overlooking

The aspen tree leaves popped like golden flames against the evergreen forest. As we weaved through the mountains, the sharp contrast between light and dark leaves enabled my husband, who is colorblind, to notice the fall colors. For the remainder of our mountain trip, he was keenly aware of the golden aspen trees everywhere. Upon returning home to the Midwest, he was awake to the golden fall trees everywhere. The golden fall colors aren’t new, but his awareness of them was.

God'sPresenceWEB

If we want a more joyful and happy life, what if we don’t have to add anything in? What if we simply need to notice something already there? What if God is busy making our lives beautiful, but we've been overlooking it? Click To Tweet

That might seem impossible when nothing in life feels right. There was a time when everything felt dark and lonely. According to social media, everyone appeared to have what I desired. My critical attitude further confirmed that no one, nor anything, was good enough. I strove for achievements to keep me happy and muscled my way through relationships to feel accepted. I thought adding things would create joy, but they fell short. The harder I hustled for happiness, the further joy eluded me.

A friend shared an idea that kickstarted a happiness revolution, “God is not the author of chaos.” She directed me to seek and fix my thoughts on true, lovely, and admirable things, saying, by doing so, I could receive the peace of God (Phil 4:6-9 NIV). It was a mindset shift to intentionally seek God’s goodness, and my world brightened as I witnessed color I’d overlooked for decades.

In fact, brain science calls this frequency illusion. When we become aware of something new, we suddenly see it everywhere. Our brain maintains a heightened focus on this new thing or idea. Then we switch to confirmation bias, which reassures us that each time we see our novel item, it must truly be everywhere. 

I learned I don't have to physically see God to know He is always in my space. Click To TweetKnowing His brand of light helps me find Him when it isn’t so obvious. Chaos subsided, not because God changed my circumstances, but because He helped me look for His truth, “I have nothing, and yet, possess everything” (2 Cor 6:10b NIV). 

Like the blazing aspen leaves, will I intentionally seek light? Or, will I draw in darkness by giving my energy to material things I think will fulfill me? What about you? Like Jacob, choose to awaken to the evidence of God’s presence we’ve been missing. When we overlook His everyday blessings, we deny ourselves the very gift we seek--joy. Click To Tweet

Kelli-joyquoteWEB

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Practical Spirit/Reflection Questions:

When has a change of focus allowed you to recognize God’s presence during a particularly difficult time?

How would your life change if you noticed God’s presence already around you?

Share your thoughts here in the comments below or engage with us on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter!  

Heart Issues

When We Can’t (Or Won’t) See God’s Hand

speaker image with quote

Have you ever poured out your heart, time, and resources to someone only to have them respond with ambivalence, perhaps even contempt? How long would your kindness last? At what point would you grow frustrated, or perhaps deeply wounded, throw your hands up, and walk away?

A few years ago, our family opened our home to a troubled teen. Initially, we knew very little about him. We soon learned our original perceptions were false. His issues were far more extensive than we anticipated, including deep-seated anger and contempt that caused him to lie and manipulate. Our efforts and sacrificial acts of kindness were deemed manipulative.

Nothing we did or said penetrated his bitter, cynical heart. Instead of responding to our care, he rebelled against us, unfortunately, to his own harm. He chose self-destruction over life and hope.

For centuries, Judah responded to God in the same way. He’d nurtured and reared them, providing for all their needs, but they refused to see His hand. Oh, they enjoyed the blessings, much like the resentful teen had ours, but their hardened hearts remained untouched. They drifted farther from their loving Father.

God pleaded with them to return, to consider their ways and His care, but they refused:

“I reared children and brought them up,” God said, “but they have rebelled against Me. The ox knows its master, the donkey its owner’s manger, but Israel does not know, My people do not understand” (Isaiah 1:2-3, NIV).

The NLT puts it this way: “My people don’t recognize my care for them.”

Were they too focused on the gifts God had given them or too entrenched in their sinful ways? Either way, they spurned the One who’d faithfully cared for them and slipped into ever-worsening rebellion. God’s kindness, which is intended to draw mankind to Him, had no effect. Before long, and after repeated warnings, tough love followed.

I may never have turned to idols or perverted justice, but I can easily Speaker image with quote on self-reliancefail to see God’s hand. I can become so focused on the blessings, so expectant and entitled, that what was meant to draw me closer has the opposite effect and fuels my self-reliance.

I think that can be true of all of us. It’s easy to get so caught up in life, so accustomed to all our blessings, that we fail to see our Daddy’s heart behind them. That we fail to understand or recognize the extent of His care for us, and before long, greed and entitlement seep in, pulling us further and further from God. This breaks our Father’s heart.

God issues the same pleas to us as He did to the Israelites so long ago: Lift up your eyes. Return to Me. Leave your rebellious, self-reliant and apathetic ways and let My faithful care for you nourish, strengthen, and protect your heart.

God’s blessings abound, and His love radiates throughout the world. If we can’t see God’s hand, it’s not because He’s not reaching but because we’re not looking, or perhaps refusing to acknowledge the truth. If we but stop and turn our eyes and heart to our loving Father, we’ll find ourselves deeply rooted in His embrace.

Let’s talk about this! How readily do you see God’s care? How often, in the middle of your day, perhaps even in the middle of the hard, do you stop to contemplate the love and faithfulness of your heavenly Father? When blessings come, do you focus more on the gift or your provider?

How might your relationship with God change if you consistently practiced the latter?

Share your thoughts and examples with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another.

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Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION(R), NIV(R) Copyright (c) 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. (R) Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Scripture also taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.