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Condition of the heart

Last week I finally went to see the doctor about a pain in my chest that had been bothering me for a couple of weeks. He asked me a series of questions, listened to my chest from the back and the front, and told me Pericarditis, an inflammation of the tissue surrounding the heart. Nothing serious, here’s a prescription, come back if it’s not better in a week.
Looking it up on the internet I found the most common symptoms are stabbing, sharp pain in the chest that can radiate directly to the back or the neck or the arm made worse by deep breathing or lying flat and sometimes relieved by leaning forward.
It was reading about the causes that really brought it from the physical to the spiritual heart so quickly it took my breath away and set off a coughing attack. (Also a symptom, one that I had been ignoring for almost 4 months.)
The first cause described was Idiopathic, which basically means “we don’t know”. How many hearts are suffering from unknown, undiagnosed, and untreated conditions causing pain ranging from stabbing and sharp to annoying bursts of air?
The second cause made total sense, Mechanical injury to the heart. Heart attack, heart surgery, trauma, all have a point in time. Something drastic interrupted the normal rhythm of the heart and life changed literally in a heartbeat.
Then came a sneaky one, Infection Bacterial. How many times have relationships been destroyed by viral, fungal attacks on the heart? Gossip, doubt, jealousy, fear, shame, and a seemingly harmless one, busy-ness can’t be killed with penicillin but require something stronger, readily available without a prescription and no co-pay, the healing power of agape.
The most obvious and most focused on spiritually came fourth, tumors or cancer, something that shouldn’t be part of the body attacking from the inside out. Families are too often destroyed from the inside by something growing and devouring the relationships that are supposed to connect and strengthen the individuals into a healthy functioning body. Hours in counseling and therapy and prayer to root out and treat the darkness threatening the very life it feeds on. But even when the threat has been cut out the scars can mar the rest of life.
Closely related to tumors are the relatives, Connective Tissue Disease. Physically they are rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erytematosus, sarcoisosis, and scleroderma. Yep. I had to look them up too. All of them had inflammation as the main condition. When I first saw the term Connective Tissue Disease I thought of all the people we become connected to that just irritate us to the point of dis-ease. There are some people that I enjoy being with. They just make me feel better. Then there are others who, without doing or saying a thing, just rub me the wrong way. Some put me at ease, some put me at dis-ease.
The next two were called Metabolic diseases, Uremia (kidney failure) and Hypothyroidism. Looked those up and found very definite connection to prayer. Not getting the garbage out of your system leads to kidney failure. Not getting the garbage out spiritually leads to a hard heart. Not getting the input you need from your thyroid leads to all kinds of things spinning out of balance. Not hearing from God in prayer….
The last one is probably the easiest to recognize and the hardest to manage, Medication Reactions. There’s a nice list of commercially produced medications that have inflammation of the pericardial sac and pericarditis as a side effect of treating something worse. But when I read “medication reactions” my mind went to those who use drugs and alcohol and food and cigarettes and exercise and anything else to excess to numb the heart, to try to by pass the real issue of the heart and causing even more harm in the long run.
So, for now, my heart is good. But the tissue around it is inflamed. There are things that rub me the wrong way (Connective Tissue). There are things I definitely need to take to God in prayer today(Metabolic). There are several spots on the spiritual x-ray that need closer examination(tumor). My supply of antibiotics for relationships could use a refill(Infection) and the Wii fit is probably a better treat than the pastry shop (Medication). But in the long run So I guess I’m right back where I started…I just don’t know (idiopathic).

Broken Agreement

Today after church Matt and I sat having brunch with our daughter. We were discussing the message we had heard this morning. It was good but not really memorable. The one thing that stood out was that the pastor was talking about kindness being an action not an emotion. At one point in the message he shared about our youth pastor and his wife’s new baby. She is about two weeks old and has already had open heart surgery. Our pastor shared that this young family was under financial as well as emotional strain and encouraged the congregation to drop them a note and maybe include some help. I reached for my purse expecting him to take an offering for them on the spot. After all the message was on the Good Samaritan and meeting needs when you come upon them. But he didn’t take an offering so I put my purse back down on the floor and picked up my coffee. The moment passed.

After church I told my husband I thought the pastor dropped the ball. When he made the need known about the youth pastor I thought of a story Matt told me about the men at Promise Keepers in San Jose a few days after 9/11. The pastor of the small church near the World Trade Center told what his congregation was doing and said they could use some help. When a need was made known the Spirit moved the men to come forward in mass to help. At one point there were so many men trying to get to the front to add their financial support that the men coming back couldn’t move and men just started throwing money on the stage.

Today, when I heard the need of our own youth pastor my heart responded at once but I let the moment pass. The pastor hadn’t dropped the ball. I had. Matt told me next time I felt the Spirit nudge me to hand him the money and he’d take it from there. (I love this man very much)

Then I told him I had something the Spirit had been pressing on my heart for the past few weeks that I needed to take care of. Last year we were in a small store in Santa Cruz. It was a quiet evening and we were just window shopping after dinner. I saw these beautiful hand crafted leather journals. Handmade paper, hand tooled leather cover, and hand bound. Not cheap. Matt said “why don’t you get one?” I told him “Nothing I write is worth putting in a book that expensive.” An agreement was made. For my birthday last year, Matt and our daughter rode his motorcycle over the hill to Santa Cruz to get one of those books. Matt spent hours printing photos and writing our love story in that book. He gave it to me on my birthday. I love it. But…
The agreement was still there. Until today.

A few weeks ago I got my blog site up and have posted a couple of times. But the whispers “no one will read this”, “you don’t have anything to say”, “your words have no power, no value” kept circling. Then the agreement about the journal came back to my mind. I knew it needed to be broken. Today we went back to Santa Cruz. I stood right where I had stood more than a year ago. Today I took back the power of my words. I broke the agreement and chose one of those journals. My life is handmade. Each design and line on my cover was put there by design. The pages are waiting to hold all that God has given me. He has entrusted me with His love, His wisdom and this is our story. And maybe no one will ever read it but I know He will.

For Him, today, my pen is mightier than the sword.

Un-Dying to Self

The past week a very strange battle has been taking place in my life. (Cut to the end of the story for those who don’t have time to sit through the whole movie.) Some serious and very old agreements have been brought to light and broken.

Last Friday I decided to use a color remover on my hair. I have been coloring my hair since I was 16 years old when I found a gray hair and decided that was not acceptable. The agreement was that I wasn’t ok the way I was, that God’s gentle plan to mature me didn’t fit the image I wanted, that I could cover up who God was molding me to be, that His plan could be changed by my will and a box of Miss Clarol. Shame crept in with the gray. Deception and maintaining that false image became routine. I became self conscience if I went too long without covering up the roots of truth that were so persistent.

Anyway, last week I just couldn’t let go of wondering just how much gray there was. After consulting with some of the wisest women I know, I took the plunge and un-colored. It wasn’t until I was upsidedown blow drying my hair and wondering what I would see when it was dry that I was hit with how deep an issue this was for me. I had never seen the agreements before. I had been concerned about the damage I might be doing to my hair by coloring it for more than 30 years but had never seen the damage I was doing to my heart. Maybe looking at life upside down has its way of changing perspective, I don’t know.

Any way now, I can tell you. I love the way my hair turned out. No, I wasn’t able to get all the color out. It will take time just like processing the truths that were set free. But I am excited to let the beauty of God shine through, no matter what color it takes.

“And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered” Matt 10:30
And He knows what color they really are….

My Fruit Trees

Outside my office window is an apple tree. There is not a single leaf on it. This past summer it produced three apples. This was a 300% increase from the year before.

Next to the apple tree is an orange tree. It is probably a good 6 feet shorter than the apple tree and right now it is struggling. The branches are heavy laden with nice big oranges. The wind is blowing but the oranges are holding fast to the slim stem that is their only source of security from the hard ground below.

On the other side of the apple tree is a cherry tree. It stands more than 10 feet above the apple tree. In the spring it fills with the most beautiful small delicate flowers. In the 6 years we have owned the house with the fruit trees it has yet to produce a single cherry.

I think at different seasons my life is very much like each of these trees. Sometimes all it produces is light beauty, no fruit. Other times the fruit is there but just barely. Then when the wind blows the fruit may be tart but it is heavy as long as it holds fast to the source of life.

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