Monday, September 29, 2014

Should You Follow Your Heart or Your Head?

I remember very clearly, as a young adult, struggling with the dilemma of should I make decisions according to my heart or to my head.  I always questioned what would be the best advice to follow - from my emotions or my head knowledge.  I wasn’t following God at that point, but I possessed a strong sense of right and wrong.  I knew that God would have a plan for me if I chose to accept it, but I ignored Him at that time.  Looking back, I realized He never ignored me.  He was there all along skillfully guiding me without my awareness of His hand on my life.

As a young adult working full-time in an insurance company, I dreamed of touring around the country performing music. I hated the confinement of an eight-to-five job that I despised doing. After the divorce of my parents and leaving college with only one year under my belt, I didn’t have a great deal of confidence in myself.  The desire to play music, though, overpowered any doubts I had about my abilities.
At the time, I dated a young man who didn’t particularly care for my dreams of entertaining.  He was very jealous, and I knew our relationship would be challenged if I chose this career path.  My heart told me to stay at the insurance company and build a life with my boyfriend.  My head told me to pursue my dreams.

I fretted for weeks over this issue.  What should I do?  Of course I talked to everyone about it with varying advice from all.  I may have cried out to God for some help but don’t know that I listened long enough for His answer.  I believe He led me to the right decision in spite of my careless prayers.  He had a plan for me and diligently sought to lead me even when I had no desire for his guidance.  Thank God for His perseverance!

I wound up joining an all-female show band mainly because of my jealous boyfriend.  I thought he could handle the idea of me working and traveling with women.  Watching men gaze at me as I performed on stage, though,  was more than he could bear, and that relationship ended soon after I began traveling with the group.

As it turned out, I traveled around Korea with this group where I met my husband, Rick.  And so the story began, and eventually, a ministry that we are both passionate about.

The other major point of my life where I faced the crossroads of “follow your heart or your head”, was when I contemplated divorcing Rick.  He received an assignment to go to Germany, and I had no desire to join him.  I had considered leaving him for another man.
All the while that I struggled with what I felt like doing and what I thought I should do, I heard a still small voice telling me, “I won’t be happy if you divorce your husband.”  I knew it was God, and I couldn’t understand why He wouldn’t leave me alone.  I hadn’t given him the time of day since I was a child.

How grateful I am to Him, now, for never giving up on me and never leaving me even when I lived a life detestable to His standards.  Through it I learned the importance of not acting on emotions or feelings that would probably change.  And change they did!

We don’t always have control of our emotions, especially as women.  We must realize that emotions are fleeting, and a good night’s rest and some quality time with God can easily change our perspective on what seems to be an insurmountable problem.  Most importantly, we need to ask God to guide us before we make any life altering decisions.  Let Him be your guide, not your emotions.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Through the Valley

Vacation time is always an anticipated adventure that I can hardly wait to get out the door and begin.  My favorite vacations are in our motor home, and they are usually spent visiting family that I don’t get to see enough.  I enjoy it so much that returning home is something I don’t always look forward to.  I know it’s a return back to reality.

We (especially us women) tend to ride on this rollercoaster ride called life, jumping from highs to lows at the flicker of an eye.  We rarely stand on that even keeled middle ground for very long.  Reality has a way of influencing our emotions, and we have to constantly be on guard.

If we’re not careful, our times in the valley (our lows) may send us in a tail spin that turns us away from what’s really important - God and our spouse.

Our relationships with God and with our spouses can often feel like a rollercoaster ride.  One day we’re high as a kite in love (with God and/or our spouse), and the next day, we may feel dismayed as we wonder why they don’t give us the attention we think we need (God and/or our spouse).

If life was always a vacation and always full of highs, we would take it for granted.  Everything would become humdrum.  If our marriage and our relationship with God always soared, we would never seek God’s will in our lives.

It’s in our valley experience that we lean on God.  When things are going well, we often forget to show our gratitude to Him.  It’s like many friends we have; we don’t hear from them until they need something.  A true friend stays in touch and wants to share your life with you.  That’s what God desires from us.

It’s the same way in our marriage.  We can’t just live in a house with our spouse and not be a part of their lives.  When we continually work on our relationship with our spouse, the lows in our marriage will become less and less, as in our relationship with God.

Circumstances and life will always bring lows in our lives, but having a faithful God and a loving husband by your side will ease you through those lows.

 The 23rd Psalm starts out, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.”

 With God actively in our lives, we will not be in want.

The last verse says, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me, your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

Our valley experiences don’t have to devastate us. We can walk peacefully through them if we have God by our side, and a wonderful soul mate, our spouse, that God gave us to share our  life AND our trials.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Agape Love

Love, according to the New Testament, should be a deep, long-lasting commitment to principles, not an erratic, flesh-fed emotion that we are programmed to believe in.  If we put the fleshly feelings aside, we can discover love as God intended.

The Greek word for that kind of love is agape.  Agape depicts the love of God.  It is a very difficult word to translate properly from Greek to English.  Rick Renner describes it very well in “Sparkling Gems.”

"Agape occurs when an individual sees, recognizes, understands, or appreciates the value of an object or a person, causing the viewer to behold this object or person in great esteem, awe, admiration, wonder, and sincere appreciation.  Such great respect is awakened in the heart of the observer for the object or person he is beholding that he is compelled to love it.  In fact, his love for that person or object is so strong that it is irresistible." 

Agape is a love that has no strings attached.  It isn’t looking for what it can get, but for what it can give.  Its awe of the one who is loved is so deep that it is compelled to shower love upon that object or person regardless of the response.  This is the profound love God has for the human race, for He loved man when he was still lost in sin with no ability to love Him back.  God simply loved mankind without any thought or expectation of receiving love in return.

When you love with such a pure love that you expect nothing back in return, it is impossible for you to feel hurt or let down by the response of the recipients of your love.  You don’t love them for the purpose of getting something in return; you shower them with love simply because you love them.

This last paragraph says it all.  We’ve gotten so far away from this kind of love, though, in our “me, me, me” society.  Our relationship with our spouse should be like our relationship with God.  Both have to come ahead of our own “self”.  That is when you arrive to the deepest level of love, the healthiest part of marriage - when your desire is for what is best for your spouse. Any less will result in problems and possibly divorce.  When you convince yourself that what you want is more important than your spouse’s needs, you might as well start packing your bags.  The world will advise you to divorce – and lead you out the door.

The greatest example of agape love can be found in John 3:16.  “For God SO LOVED the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.”

God loves us SO MUCH that He gave HIS SON to DIE for our sins.  Wow.  That always boggles my mind.  I cannot comprehend sacrificing my child, especially in the manner that Jesus was sacrificed.  Easter is always a very emotional time for me as I try to grasp the depths of the crucifixion.

God thinks so greatly of us, loves us so deeply.  He stands in awe of His creation.  He admires and holds mankind in the highest appreciation.  Yet, when we aggravate Him or sin against Him, He does not divorce us or leave us.  He will always be there for us, no matter what we do.  That is complete unconditional love - agape love.

That is the love we should feel towards our spouse.    Agape love is so deep and profound that it knows no limits.  The highest form of love, it will sacrifice for the one it cherishes.

There are no strings attached to this kind of love.  It expects nothing in return - it only desires to give.  No matter what the response may be, agape continues to love - as God continues to love us no matter what we do or say against Him.

This kind of love can seem impossible, especially when we live in a world that promotes a “what feels good” attitude towards love.  Fleshly love is selfish and self-focused, unable to obtain such a high level of love.

How do we possess agape love?  We already have it.  Because the word of God has been sown into our spirits, we have access to this powerful love.  All we need to do is push that fleshly love aside and release the love of God we carry to share with our spouses and others as God intended love to be.