Matters of the Heart

I went to high school with a really neat young lady who habitually did random acts of kindness and stayed active as a cheerleader. It came as a complete shock when she died suddenly in her twenties.

The doctor’s examination reported she had Marfan Syndrome, which neither she nor her family knew about. This inherited disorder affects connective tissue. In her case, her condition became life-threatening as faulty connective tissue weakened her aorta — the large artery that arises from the heart, supplying blood to the body. Sadly, this led to an unexpected Aortic Aneurysm.

I’m not a doctor, but it’s no secret that if the heart stops functioning, your body begins systematically shutting down. The heart is the hardest working muscle in our bodies. According to The Library of Congress, it pumps out 2 ounces (71 grams) of blood at every heartbeat. Daily the heart pumps at least 2,500 gallons (9,450 liters) of blood. Our organs and tissues will die without the oxygen and nutrients our blood carries.

A healthy heart is vital to our physical well-being. In the Bible, the term heart usually refers to the inner person and the spiritual life in all its many aspects. Is it any wonder that God references the heart so often in the Bible? Like the human heart, we need to keep our spiritual heart healthy in order to live an abundant life.

While Marfan syndrome is rare, Coronary Heart Disease is not. It affects approximately 16.5 million Americans over the age of 20 ( This disease often develops quietly over decades. One might not notice a problem until there is a significant blockage or a heart attack. But the good news is: We can take steps now to prevent and treat this disease. Healthy disciplines can make a huge impact.

Similar to our physical heart being damaged due to blockage of life giving blood flow, sin also blocks our heart’s spiritual flow.

First, what is sin? Defiance. When we willfully refuse to obey God, we are acting in defiance. Although there are times we make mistakes and are unaware of our sin, we are all born with this sin nature (Rom. 3:23). King David gave us a good example of how to pray: “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting,” (Ps. 129: 23-24). 

If we take the time to ask, God will bring to light any offense we may have inadvertently committed. At this point, if we refuse to confess and ask His forgiveness, and choose to stubbornly persist, then we are being defiant toward God.

There are times when we need to give God our hurt and anger. I remember going to a small worship event as a young college student. Although it had been a difficult year, I didn’t realize I harbored resentment in my heart. This man who sang and played the piano said, “God has laid it on my heart while in New York that there is someone here (in Oregon) who needs to forgive. God loved me enough to point out my sin blockage of unforgiveness as the Holy Spirit visited me that evening. After surrendering my stubborn will, I left feeling renewed and completely loved by my Savior.

Usually it’s the small things that trip us up. Our Enemy is an expert liar. He tries to persuade us that just a little won’t hurt. . . besides nobody will know. Well, God knows. He not only knows the number of hairs on our heads, He also knows our struggles and every time we give in to temptation. He knows that if we persist in our sin, or choose not to forgive, that it will eventually lead to our spiritual death. “For the wages of sin is death. . . “, (Rom. 6:23). If we take advantage of a friend, yell, or backbite, a part of that friendship dies. If we’re in the habit of exaggerating, it’s easy to cross the blurred line of a little white lie. Before we know it, lying becomes a habit and a piece of our reputation dies.

I am so thankful that we have a merciful High Priest in Christ Jesus. He not only endured an onslaught of temptation from Satan in his 40 day wilderness testing, but He also was the only one to triumph over sin. He is the perfect God-man who not only is perfectly able to help us when we’re tempted, but also provides a way of escape in the heat of temptation (1 Cor. 10:13).

I am also extremely grateful that God’s love is unconditional and patient. He longs for the sinner to “come home” to Him. But He is a gentleman. He never forces Himself or His ways on anyone.

Four Sin Heart Blockages and Solutions:

  • Selfishness needing surrender
  • Bitterness needing forgiveness
  • Rejection of words of life
  • Evil thoughts needing cleansing

What Should I Do About My Sin?

  • Invite the Holy Spirit to show me, (Ps. 139:23-24).
  • Confess it and turn away, repent, (1 Jn. 1:9).
  • Invite the Holy Spirit to create in me a new heart, (Ps. 51:10-11).
  • Invite the Holy Spirit to fill me, (Eph. 5:18).

“But thanks be to God that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and having been set free from sin, have become slaves to righteousness.”

~Romans 6:17-18

Without blood, there is no life. God has graciously chosen us by providing eternal life and His righteousness through the shedding of His Son’s blood on the cross. Now it’s our turn to choose. Will we accept this free gift of eternal life and forgiveness of our sins, or will we go our own sinful way in defiant denial of God and His standards of living? It’s an individual decision, which also affects each individual’s eternal destination.

"For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." ~Rom. 6:23

Prayer: “Teach me your way, O LORD, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. I will praise you, O Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever. For great is your love toward me; you have delivered me from the depths of the grave.” (Ps. 86:11-13)

When God Whispers

“And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper.”

~ 1 Kings 19:11-12
I wonder if God’s gentle whisper completely surprised the prophet Elijah. It’s possible he had only known God’s justice. For God had called him to confront an evil king, his court, and corrupt priesthood. Elijah’s call wasn’t easy, but with it he experienced God’s awesome might and power, like the time God flashed fire from heaven (1 Kings 18:36-38). God not only worked miracles through Elijah, but would also whisk him away in a moment’s notice to the next mission (1 Kings 18:12). Up until hearing God whisper, Elijah’s interaction with Him seems to highlight His wrath. Maybe Elijah didn't know God's mercy.

After defeating Baal’s prophets, Elijah fearfully ran from the furious Queen Jezebel to Beersheba, then into the desert, and finally to Mount Horeb, which was also known as Mount Sinai. One doesn’t have to be in a crowd to hear noise. Besides the loud beating of his heartbeat, I imagine Elijah’s initial adrenalin rush filled his head and heart with the noisy anxious thoughts that spiraled into his state of despair.

But why was Elijah set on going to Sinai? Why travel over 200 miles‒in a state of exhaustion‒to a mountain that literally shook violently from God’s presence centuries earlier when the nation of Israel returned and received God’s laws (Exodus 19:1-3,18)?

This sacred mountain was a constant reminder of God’s words and promises. It was here that God met Moses and commissioned him to lead Israel out of Egypt (Exodus 3:1-10). (Interestingly, centuries later, Moses, Elijah, and Jesus would once again meet together on a mountaintop, Luke 9:28-36.)

Even though God questioned Elijah twice, “What are you doing here?” first on his solo trek across the desert, and then again at Mt. Sinai, He knew Elijah’s heart. God’s question brought clarity to Elijah’s troubled mind.

Lonely and discouraged, Elijah believed the lie that he was the only one left who was still true to God. In desperation, he determined to hear God’s voice, even if it meant an arduous journey to this sacred place, Mount Sinai, where his ancestors heard from God.

And though God knew Elijah was immersing himself in self-pity, I think it pleased Him that Elijah was seeking after Him. He sustained him by counseling him to take a good nap, and then eat supernatural food, angel food cake. 🙂 Thus giving him energy for the forty days and nights journey, (1 Kings 19).

Upon arrival at Sinai, Elijah obeyed God by standing on the mountain in His presence. As he waited and experienced the terrifying wind, earthquake, and fire, he realized that God wasn’t in these dramatic displays. He also realized, perhaps for the first time, that the sound of the gentle whisper was God’s voice.

God doesn’t reveal Himself only in dramatic, powerful ways. How many times do we miss Him when our focus is finding Him in big rallies, conferences, churches, and/or highly visible leaders?

How many times have I missed God’s voice from my own busy activities? How many times have I rushed through my Bible reading and prayer requests without taking time to quiet my thoughts and be still, allowing God to speak to me? Too many times. . . too many forfeited blessings.

Thankfully, we don’t have to trek to a mountain to meet with God. As born again believers, we have His indwelt Holy Spirit who is always with us. The location of worship and fellowship with God isn’t nearly as important as our attitude.


Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross proves His deep desire is for us to know Him and commune with Him.  Do you struggle to hear God’s voice? If you haven’t already, try implementing these practical steps:

Spend time with God every day. It takes time and work to develop a relationship. The same is true with God. “In the morning, LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly,” Psalm 5:3

Pray. Ask God to help you hear His voice; to show how He speaks and that He would reveal himself to you. Ask Him to reveal any unconfessed sin. If He does, ask for forgiveness and turn away from the sinful activity that has broken fellowship with Him.

Join a church. Grow together with other believers.

Journal. What is God is laying on your heart? Record it in a notebook. Be slow to judge a thought or impression too quickly. After a few weeks or months, read it again. Does it align with God’s character? A trusted mentor or Christian friend can sometimes be helpful in discerning experiences.

Study the Bible. This is God’s infallible, anointed WORD. We need to be in it on a regular basis to know what it says. Join a Bible study group. Follow a daily Bible reading plan. When God’s Word is your foundation, you can discern if what you’ve heard is from God or not. If it doesn’t align with Scriptural principles, it isn’t from God.

Pray about everything you’ve heard the Lord say. Do I need to take action now? Is this something in the future? Do I need to surrender something? Ask the Lord what He wants you to do with His revealed word. 

Be patient. Like anything else in life, it takes time and work to discern God’s voice. I’ve never heard God’s audible voice, but He speaks to me often. He brings peace, comfort, guidance, and even conviction.

“Lord, thank you for your incredible patience. Thank you that you want to fellowship with me. Although you are powerful and mighty, You are also a friend of silence. Your very creation‒flowers, trees, the moon and stars‒not only witness to your powerful creativity, but also grow and move in silence. Quiet my rumbling anxious thoughts. Help me to wait on you, humbly listen, and then obey.”

Run, Elijah, Run!

Run, Forrest, run!”

I love this scene from the movie, Forrest Gump. Little Forrest was being bullied by the other kids from school. So his small, female friend, Jenny, took charge and admonished him not to fight, but run! Bolstered with speed, Forrest not only lost his weighty leg braces, but also made record time.

Impressive. I ran that fast once . . . yes, in a dream, but it felt exhilarating nonetheless!

There was another man. . . a prophet, who had an impressive speed streak. He may have even been faster than Usain Bolt, who set the 2009 world record of 9.58 in the 100 meters. His name was Elijah.

After God used Elijah by powerfully demonstrating His sovereignty over the false prophets of Baal, “the power of the LORD came on him and he ran ahead of Ahab all the way from Mount Carmel to Jezreel,” as King Ahab sped away in his chariot in order to beat an angry storm, (1 Kings 18:44-46).

Most scholars suggest the distance to be approximately 17 miles, others suggest it could have been as far as 30 miles. Although we don’t know Elijah’s speed, we know God miraculously gave him strength to run ahead of Ahab in his chariot, which could have easily been about 35 miles per hour.

Elijah ran in God’s strength in 1 Kings 18 and ran on his own fumes in chapter 19. When we are exhausted, we need to stop, rest, and wait on God. It’s pointless to take matters into our own hands. Faith isn’t the opposite of fear, but rather trusting in a greater God when facing our fears.

When Elijah obeyed, God supernaturally equipped and empowered him. But when Elijah disobeyed by not confronting Queen Jezebel and instead ran away from her death threats, he placed himself outside of God’s will.

With the amazing miracles God accomplished through Elijah, especially on the heels of Elijah’s major victory over the false prophets of Baal and Asherah, (men who led the nation into idolatry and ate at Queen Jezebel’s table), it’s hard to grasp how this committed man of God could fear Queen Jezebel, sinking into a pit of despair to the point of asking God to take his life.

But if this tough minded prophet with an impressive track record, both literally and spiritually, could be vulnerable to discouragement and depression, then so can we.

What can we learn from Elijah’s story?

The Enemy’s lie: “You’re life is over.” Do you ever feel stuck, or in a season where you don’t feel very fruitful? I know I have. There have been mountain top times when I can see God move and feel blessed because I know He is using me. Then the winter season hits when I struggle to hear God’s voice. Unsure where He wants me, or what He wants me to do, I give way to frustration and feelings of hopelessness. But it’s during these seemingly long, unproductive times that He prunes and teaches me to simply trust, rest, and just enjoy His presence. Because Jesus cleared the way through his atoning sacrifice, I can not only come as I am, a complete mess, before the Father, but He also welcomes me with open arms.

He forgot what God had done. All of us have struggles. But God is faithful. He has seen me through many difficult and good times. I have witnessed His gentle strength, guidance, healing, comfort, and counsel numerous times. I not only need regular time of reflection of His provision and blessings, but also need to remember to thank Him daily for His goodness. While we’re admonished to forget the past in regard to sin, we’re reminded to remember what God has done.

He listened to the enemy’s lies. We have a real Enemy who knows us and seeks to discourage and trip us up. I am sensitive . . . to a fault sometimes. The enemy has used this area before, whispering lies when dealing with difficult personalities in the church. Telling me: “You don’t belong here. You don’t fit into this church body.”

But just because I am hurt by someone’s words or actions, or didn’t agree with someone, doesn’t mean I should leave and run to another church. God plants us where He wants us. When we feel pressure, we look for a word from God to bring relief. But sometimes God is quiet and places us in very uncomfortable situations to refine and strengthen us, not to cut us down.

If we’re not facing some opposition, could it be that we’re not fully walking in obedience? When we actively seek to obey God, we need to ground ourselves in His Word and in prayer, because the Enemy has marked us as targets. But He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world,” (1 Jn. 4:4).

He isolated himself. Maybe other believers steered clear of Elijah because he was called to confront, not comfort. Whatever the reason, he ministered solo and suffered because of it.

I need quiet time to recharge. But there is a difference between recharging and having alone time with God, which is beneficial, than cutting myself off from others.

Some people withdraw because they don’t want to be a burden or obligation to anyone. I tend to withdraw when I’m tired or feel like I have nothing to offer, (which would also be a lie from the Enemy). But these are the times I especially need God’s people around me for encouragement and edification.

He began fantasizing about escape. Hmm . . . how about a romantic movie? (Writing to the ladies here.) Chocolate ice cream? Digging my feet in the warm crystal sand beside the turquoise waters? A shopping spree, courtesy of my visa? I could go on. . . Maybe Elijah justified his running away from confronting Jezebel with his strong desire to hear from God. The void he felt within and the hunger to hear a word from God changed his focus from stepping out in obedience to fleeing to Beersheba, then into the desert, and finally to Mount Horeb (Sinai). It was there, like Moses centuries earlier, that he finally talked to God.

Personal Application

Take some time to look for the following red flags and ask God for clarity:

  • Am I physically exhausted?
  • Am I isolating from people who love me and are willing to challenge me?
  • Am I consumed with either self-pity or shame?
  • Am I fantasizing about unhealthy escapes from my situation?

If the answer is “yes” to any of these questions, take these steps:

  • Acknowledge why I’m running.
  • Read Ephesians 6:10-18 and gear up.
  • Remind myself of what I know about God and what I’ve seen Him do.
  • Let someone else know where I am and ask them to pray with me.

Of Bridges, Dolphins and the Church

“There’s a broken beam inside of the big big bridge
I guess that whole thing is caving in
Maybe it is time I learn how to swim
I’ll be a dolphin, I’ll be a dolphin” ~ Dolphin song by Poe

Soaking in the warm sunshine and turquoise water, my husband and I ferry toward Shell Key Preserve near Tierra Verde, FL with our Eco Tour Guide at the helm.

“Do you know the story behind this bridge?” Our guide points toward the Sunshine Skyway, a bridge that spans at least four miles, connecting St. Petersburg and Bradenton over Tampa Bay.


“In 1980, a violent wind blew a freighter off course. With impaired visibility, he crashed into a bridge pier causing 1,200 feet of the southbound span to collapse into the bay. With very low visibility, eight unsuspecting motorists had no clue they would be driving off the edge. Thirty-five people lost their lives that day.”

(Photo Credit:

Surveying the 430 foot high bridge packed with vehicles. . . packed with lives, questions rise and fall like the tumultuous waves that probably swallowed them below. What flashed through their minds as they plummeted to their death? Fear? Regret? Were they right with God?  

“Over there!” One of the other passengers points. Shark or dolphin, I welcome the interruption.

It is a dolphin! No, two dolphins!

The pair swim closer, surfacing near our boat several times as if to say hello. Thank you, Lord! I asked Him just this morning if we could see a dolphin or two on our excursion. 🙂

Dolphins . . . with the impressive range of different species, unique characteristics and identities, small wonder they charm so many. Not only do they appear to smile, they are also intelligent, athletic, and social aquatic mammals who can form groups of over 1,000 individuals, known as super pods.

(Photo by christels on Pixnio)

I know, sounds like I’m going down a rabbit’s trail, but God showed me a connection between the broken bridge, dophins, and the church, so please bear with me!

With my newfound dolphin fascination, I later learned that the builders of the new Skyway Bridge strategically placed 60 foot bumpers they appropriately called ‘dolphins’ around the piers to protect the bridge’s structure.

Why do dolphins group together? Besides being social, small dolphins will gather into multi-member pods when facing predators. These groups provide protection to an animal that does not have large jaws or sharp teeth. When dolphins are together, It’s easier for dolphins to survive as they communicate or intimidate the predator.

Like our Flipper friends, the church body desperately needs each other, not only for friendship, edification and accountability, but also for protection. God never intends for us to be isolated, independent Christians.

God also desires His church to be like a bridge, anchored in Him, supported by Him. People that stand strong and steady during tumultuous times. He not only helps and blesses us when we help others connect with Him, but also blesses us when we seek to help and support each other along our earthly journey.

I know I need people in my life whom I can count on when the going gets rough. Relationships and parenting, to name a few, have festered into squalls in my past, making me feel as though those piers might collapse in a given moment. But when I am surrounded by caring people, I am bolstered with encouragement and hope. I also realize I’m not the only one struggling to stay the course. We need to gather together not only during formal worship services, but also beyond the formal settings, whether that be getting together for Sunday School, coffee, hiking together, or joining a life group at church.

Covid has disrupted all of our gatherings. It hit not long after our last move, which resulted in a year when my husband and I weren’t plugged into a life group at our new larger church. Feeling isolated, however, has given me a deeper appreciation for family and connection.

If I’m honest, there have also been times that I have put off seeking a church “life group”. Someone carelessly sharing information outside of the group; exaggerating a truth that borders on a lie; gossip; subtle manipulation to ‘promote one’s ministry’. Unfortunately, I’ve seen these within the church. All of these result in hurt, misunderstanding, anger and distrust. These are not from God, nor are they by-products of Him.

Perhaps we’re the most Christlike, however, when we choose forgiveness. Remembering that Christ has forgiven me, and seeking His help, I can also forgive whatever “grievances” I have with another, (Col. 3:13). God never said it would be easy, but it is possible. And the really scary part is that God won’t forgive me if I choose not to forgive others (Mt. 6:9-15).

Although it takes courage and resolve to seek out another ‘life group’, it’s okay to do so.

I find the following discovery interesting: “Scientists discovered that when dolphins belong to a group, nothing binds them to it in a matter of space and time, this means that they can move freely to different pods that are in their vicinity, then the movement of members is continuous. This type of social network is flat and open, and scientists found no evidence of a rigid, closed or semi-closed structure, so dolphins do not have permanent “membership” in any pod,” (Dolphin Social Structure).

This is where my analogy breaks down in part. I’m not advocating ‘church hopping’, but we’re not married to our life group either. God gives wisdom to the one who asks in faith (James 1:5-6). As God’s children, we are free in Christ (Jn. 8:36), not only free from enslavement to sin, but also free from remaining in an unhealthy group and/or church. If someone can’t control their tongue (James. 3:5), and/or doesn’t seek to love and protect others, we are free to leave and seek a healthy group. We need mature believers to come alongside new and younger believers, ones who seek to mentor and help us grow so we might function properly within the church body.

Like the wind, words come easy. But let’s seek to model Christ; forgive, and be that faithful friend who genuinely loves (1 Jn. 3:16). Who knows. . . we might just be the ‘dolphin’ bumper that prevents someone’s ‘bridge’ from collapsing, as well as saving the lives of those who travel over our life bridge.

What is Good Friday?

Why do Christians refer to Good Friday as “good”? After all, the Romans and Jewish authorities were anything but good to Jesus (see Matthew 26-27).

The results from Christ’s death, however, go far beyond “good”. There really are no words that ascribe the greatness of Jesus’ sacrifice, or the depth of gratitude we should have for the eternal, abundant life He purchased for those of us who believe and place our faith in Him as Lord and Savior!

“For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.” 1 Peter 3:18

Many Christian churches celebrate Good Friday in a serious and reverent manner. This is a time of remembrance of Christ’s death, usually expressed through prayers of thanksgiving, solemn hymns, a message centered on Christ’s suffering, and observance of the Lord’s Supper.

The events of that day, Good Friday, should always be present in our hearts and minds. For Christ’s death on the cross—along with His bodily resurrection—is the foundation of our Christian faith. You may read more about Good Friday here, What is Good Friday/Holy Friday?

You can trust the One who laid down His life so we might live.