Open Heart Surgery

heartI was talking to a friend who revealed to me that someone in her family has to undergo an open heart procedure. As I sat in the living room listening to her explain to me the situation, I couldn’t help hearing the fear in her voice. My only response was, “How are you?” to which she responded “sacred.”

As the conversation drifted from my mind due to the cares of the day, I eventually remembered the fear I heard in her voice as she told me the story. Her fear mirrors mine as I see myself on God’s operating table once again.

The most common type of open heart surgery is coronary artery bypass. During the procedure, a healthy artery or vein is grafted (attached) to the person’s blocked artery. As a result, the attached artery will bypass the blocked one to bring fresh blood to the heart.

This is the process of how God purges our hearts of toxins. While in God’s operating room, he puts us on the table and opens our chest cavity. Afterwards, he attaches his word and spirit to our blockages to allow freedom to flow. Unfortunately, though, we’ve become so acquainted with our blockages that even if the surgery is for the best, it produces fear.

My friend’s emotions mirror my own as God operates on me. While I know that over time I’ve hidden things in the arteries of my heart that have caused love to stop flowing, I don’t remember what openness feels like anymore. What if I am unblocked and I don’t manage the recovery well? What if the stress of the procedure causes me to faint? What if I become better?? More willing to love? To forgive?

Yes I want to be better and experience total freedom but at what cost? Will my freedom require me to lose friends? Acquaintances? My present? Will it further separate me from my peers? Will it demand that I have a spirit of excellence?

Matthew 5:8 says that only the purpose in heart will see God, and perhaps I’ve blinded myself by the fear of my past that I’ve skewed my perception of wholeness. It’s interesting the ways in which we make allowance for our dysfunction. The way that we make accommodations for behaviors for so long that we struggle to get out of our own cages. How long are we willing to remain there?

The grafting of the Holy Spirit will cost you something. You will have to recover, but not alone. I’m learning as I undergo my spiritual surgical procedure that God puts us on the operating table for a reason. He opens our hearts to allow us to live and live freely. He will remove our heart of stone and give us a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26), but we have to be willing to experience the discomfort of healing.

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When God Shows You Your Truth

“God, show me my truth”was a statement that I once said frequently. In my attempt to be more like Jesus, I desperately wanted to become better and I knew I needed God to do it. I didn’t realize at the time that my statement was dangerous and that I wasn’t prepared to see what I was asking. One day, God answered me and I didn’t like what I saw.

It’s amazing to me the ways in which we perceive ourselves. On the one hand, we see ourselves moving freely and strongly in the world. On the other hand, we witness ourselves living bound by legacies of hurt, dysfunction, and grief.

I thought I dealt with the things that God was showing me about myself but what I didn’t realize is dealing with a thing, and walking over it are two different things. I didn’t know that in my effort to become well, I healed wrong which brought other areas of my life out of alignment.

The misalignment surfaced in my personality. My inability to admit that I was wrong. My ability to walk away from people without a moment’s notice.

Unfortunately, I thought so much of my life was built on strength, but it has been really built on fear and rejection. Interestingly, the two can pose as close cousins of strength, but when the light focuses they falter.

This is how my life is at the moment. In my attempt to live and say “I’m okay,” I forgot to bleed for the little girl deep inside of me. I forgot to comfort her with questioning eyes who wondered would she be worthy of someone’s love. I forgot to validate the teenage girl who was rejected from the cliques in high school. I mismanaged the moment to speak to the young adult walking through college dorms looking for her father in other men. In essence, I walked away from myself long ago and I have the proclivity to challenge those who want to stay.

God showed me these things about myself. Like garbage kicking up in heavy winds he is stirring the depths of my heart to bring to light the hidden parts of me. If I can be honest, what I see scares me. I thought I dealt with that. I thought I was free of those thoughts. I thought I had moved on.

While I did everything I could in my might to be okay, I’ve never been completely healed. Under the scab of my wounds are tender, pulsing flesh begging that I do it right this time.

I must do my work.

I’ll do it with God this time.

An Open Conversation with Love and Fear

Perhaps its the way that you hold my wounds in your hands without muttering a word.

As you stare at them

 blank expression with questioning eyes

I wonder about the complexity of my last statement.

Without asking me to change, your silence screams TO ME that I’m still broken in areas that I’ve overlooked.

You make me uncomfortable.

As I look at you, the masterpiece of a man made strong by his past I squint to find the impenetrable parts of your heart.

Searching for the ground you left uncovered so that I can know that I’m not the only one still hurting.

Perhaps its my insecurity that wishes you away

Like the story of a man running from God trapped in the belly of a whale to contemplate his actions

I sit in the timeout of my heart

Wondering like words on a page why you’re still here

looking at me

With a mouth as tight as the cage of your heart

I question if I remind you of her

WOMAN

Not she of your past but the one you dreamed to one day be wed forever

She who you can trust  with the areas that you’re

too afraid to look into

Like stammering knees

know stammering needs

I tremble to say that the pieces of my heart spread like a jigsaw puzzle under your gaze stagnate me in ways I don’t like to admit.

I thought I was free

 to love

 to care

to live

but when you’ve been caged for so long even freedom feels like imprisonment to red birds

As I gather the pieces of my heart off of the stained sheets

I ask if you really know the depth of my care

I wonder if I’ve dropped your heart too many times while carrying mine in the backpack of my past

Can you hear past the

fear filled words to listen to the beat of my heart?

It beats because of you

The emotion that I feel within our tense conversations let me know that I am not dead

That I am not immune

That I’m still alive.

I haven’t felt this way in years, but I must admit that feeling hurts.

 

 

 

What Wishing For Comfort Means

IWishing for Comfortn my mind, only twice I’ve wished for comfort. Though the complaints that easily roll off my tongue tell a different story, in my mind I’m not a complainer. I simply voice my discomfort in an attempt to not internally retreat when times get rough. I…think I only wish for comfort in the safety of my mind.

The truth is that every time I say that something happened at an inopportune time, it’s really me silently wishing that the cares of my life would just hold on. Every time that I close my eyes and ask God to make something change, it’s me asking him to put me back into the box that I cried to leave.

I wish for comfort more than I like to admit.

The funny thing about  life is that when we wish for comfort we actually ask to remain the same. People do not grow in comfort. Lives are not changed in comfort. You do not live freely in comfort.

But living outside of it hurts too.

For the first time you may feel the breeze on your back that reminds you that no one is behind you. You may taste the tears that tell you to go forward even though their bitter sweetness give you pause. You may wonder, whether intentionally or not, whether or not you’re worth the sacrifice. See, so many times we are so concerned with letting other people know that they are worth things that we forget to remind ourselves of our worth. Unfortunately, we devalue us more than we like to admit and while we believe that we have chosen correctly, choosing comfort robs us of freedom.

So, when I ask for comfort I’m really asking for the right to remain the same. I’m really attempting to stagnate and sabotage my own progress because it hurts to change and commit to others. I’m really asking to live beneath who I am.

So now I no longer ask for comfort in the same breath that I ask for freedom. Instead, I ask for strength to change my thinking and the courage walk against the wind.

Is Fear Hindering You From Asking the Right Questions?

fearFear has the ability to do strange things to people. It can cause us to stay in toxic relationships, dead-end jobs, and stagnate our progress. Fear can keep us in situations that are purposeless. It can stop us from moving. It can kill us.

There are times when I reflect on my life and can see when fear was in full manifestation. I am not just talking about the fear associated with failure, but also with success. There are moments when my capability reaches out to grab me like light on a shadow. I freeze. What if this works? What if I’ve been capable of this the whole time? Will I be able to live with myself knowing that I am a participant in my smallness?

While all of these things are true, I am more intrigued with how fear has the power to keep our mouths shut in the midst of pressing situations. What if we are stuck because of the questions that we didn’t ask? What if we missed moments of opportunity due to our unwillingness to appear vulnerable?

I was reading Mark 9:32 today. Jesus, like he often does, says things to his disciples that they didn’t understand. Instead of them asking for clarification they kept quiet. The scripture says that, “But they understood not the saying, and were afraid to ask him.” The disciples were gripped with fear. Even in the face (literally) of the Savior they were stuck.

Sometimes we think that if we can just talk to Jesus then everything will be ok, and while this is true, if we are honest there are things that we refuse to say in his presence. There are things that we have hidden in our hearts that cause us to be silent when he is intensely listening. As a result, more times than not, we pay him lip service. We don’t get the answers that we seek because we cannot, for whatever reason, open our mouths to admit our ignorance. Sometimes we are like the disciples.

I don’t know about you, but fear has robbed me of a lot. It has stolen moments from me, caused me to miss out on instruction, and closed my ear to the truth. Fear is a thief that steals in broad daylight. We see it coming but hand our possessions over quickly. Why?

If we ever hope to be successful in any arena of our lives we must with fervency ask God questions. We must petition him to give us insight into the hidden things. We must ask when we don’t understand.

I used to think that when I didn’t understand what God spoke it would  eventually be revealed to me. While this is quite possible, what if I could have received the wisdom in the moment? What if I was postured in a position to seek?

The bible tells us to seek and we shall find, but this is not limited to reading and writing, but inquiring. We have to get to a place of asking even in the face of hear if we hope to have the victory.

 

 

Enduring…

enduringThere are times when I just don’t want to continue doing certain things. You know, those times when you start to feel the pressure of a situation and you’d rather opt out than move forward. I’m speaking about the moments when you realize that you didn’t count the cost of building but started anyway. What do we do, then, when we realize that we are not invincible? How do we continue with the vision when the odds are against us?

Last week was a tough one for me. I am at a crossroad in my life where my next move is crucial. For the first time I feel like I’m playing chess. I have to think a couple of steps ahead. I have to anticipate my opponents next move. I have to be calculated, or at least try. But, my calculations all come up short. The game is down to the last two moves and the pressure is on. Will I go left or right? Should I move forward or stay? Am I too far gone to retreat? These questions and more swarm in the margins of my mind as I struggle to stay focused.

This morning I asked God for strength. I asked him to give me the power and resolve to finish the journey set before me. I asked him to help me endure the process. While at the gym he reminded me of Hebrews 12:2:

Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God (KJV).

The scripture reveals that Jesus did not enjoy his journey to the cross. He did not like being there, the feelings it produced, or the shame attached to it. He did not feel comfortable with it. He did not have peace about it and though he wanted to stop he didn’t. But, why not?

Jesus endured the cross because of the promised outcome. He went through the process to receive the ending reward. And, this is the place where we have to find ourselves when we want to give up. While the road to success or destiny might not be pretty, we have to focus on the end . We have to walk through the darkness to get to the light. We have to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus no matter what.

The reason that I became discouraged is because I started looking at the water. I gazed at my surroundings instead of looking to the sky. I started to count the reasons why things can’t work instead of the reasons why they could. I stopped believing that I was enough. I stopped looking…looking for the reward.

It is imperative that you look to God if you hope to endure your season. You cannot get so entangled with the what ifs that you lose your footing. What did God tell you to do? What did he entrust to you?

Think on these things.

Taking A Stand

Will you be different?Too often we are tempted to compromise and go against our internal convictions. Sometimes it is the pressure to please friends while other times it is the weight of our familial interactions, but what is true is that there are moments where we secretly battle with adhering to the voice of God.

Contrary to popular belief, Christians do not all have the same convictions. Some may have a strong conviction for drug use while others don’t see it as a major issue. There are those that view sexual immorality as a “struggle” while others think it is a choice made in weakness. Then, there are those individuals who think listening to secular music is harmful while others love Jesus and trap music. With the varying opinions, the views of the world, and divisions in the body of Christ, there are people who struggle to find truth.

Don’t get me wrong, the bible is clear on what is sin and what isn’t. It is very open about the impacts of individual sin for generations, but what about those internal conflicts? What about the places where the bible is silent but your spirit is grieved? What, then, are Christians to do when we were once graced to do certain things but are now convicted about them?

We submit to the holy promptings within us.

I learned long ago not to seek validation from others on the things that God was telling me to do. While earlier in my walk I had the grace to party on Saturday nights and go to church on Sunday, I can’t anymore. While I once had the ability to curse someone out who was being ugly towards me, I can’t. Now, this is not a boasting moment, but more of a teaching moment.

We go from faith to faith, and glory to glory in Christ. And, in those elevation times he changes us. Majority of the change does not happen in the church house, but in our intentional quiet time with him. It is in the prayer room that God meets us and begins to transform us. Think of Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration in Matthew 17. He went up on the top of the mountain and his appearance dramatically changed before Peter, James, and John. The key to remember is that Jesus ascended to a higher place. We can correlate his physical movements with our spiritual elevation.

When you are intentional about spending time with God, he will change you inwardly. Your life may begin to convict others who are possibly living beneath who they are called to be. Your words may pinch their souls by just sharing your beliefs. While you may not seek to judge them, they may feel some type of way, because the gospel if shared in love will do that.

Just recently, I had an opportunity to overrule my inner convictions. I was invited to an event that I really didn’t see anything wrong with, but my spirit sent off an alert in warning. I was confused as to why my spirit reacted the way that it did, but I’ve learned hard lessons in the past about ignoring that type of thing. So, I told my friends that I couldn’t attend and while I hoped they had fun, I could not do it for my own peace of mind. As imagined, this upset them but I just couldn’t do it. See, I’m working on something in this season of my life. I’m building some things and can’t afford to have my spirit infiltrated with unnecessary stuff, so I had to decline.

Did I feel bad? Yes. But, I have to give an account as to why I wasn’t in position when needed. I have to be able to live with the consequences of my decisions and I just wasn’t willing to pay the price for a few hours of “fun.” To be clear, my decision was not made from a judgmental place at all, but from one a place of protection for myself, and my destiny.

So I write to let you know that it is okay to say no. It is ok to protect the fruit of your labor. It is ok to take a stand for your convictions.