The Christmas Miracle of a Softened Heart

How’s your heart this Christmas? It’s the question that echoes through the “fields by night,” the draughty stable and living rooms filled with lights and decorations this year. I hear it in Christmas readings and songs. What does my heart have to do with Christmas?

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Everything.

Our hearts beat out the rhythm of our lives. Proverbs tells us that we are to guard our heart because it’s from there that all else flows. (Proverbs 4:23) All else. Love, hate, obedience, disobedience, worship, decisions we make and what or who we treasure, all of it stems from our hearts. So what’s the prognosis? 

Maybe over the last year we’ve inched farther away from God. We’ve stopped our quiet time. We only go to church when we feel like it, which isn’t often. We’re distracted by family, our jobs, relationships that all take priority. It’s been a subtle separation. 

Or maybe we ran from God because he disappointed us. We’re not sure he can be trusted. 

Our schedules are full and the days busy. Who has time to meet with God?

The consequence is an unresponsive heart that no longer hears or listens to the whispers of God.  

We’re lured instead, by the lies of the enemy, who knows our weak spots and hits us there repeatedly. We doubt, we question and we believe God has abandoned us. Our hearts turn stone cold. We guard ourselves from the one who has the cure.

The good news is, it doesn’t have to be this way. Now is a great time to make changes.

Christmas gives us both time and permission to turn our heart around. We get a pass to love more, give more and become a better person. To embrace our Christian heritage. Why not take advantage of that? Christmas is part one of a love story followed by part two at Easter. A narration of a God who loved us so much he gave up his only son so he could have relationship with you and me. It’s a hopeful story of redemption, as well a promise of eternal life. Why not take the time to explore it more? Get to know God more intimately? Let the good news of Christ’s birth be a balm to our wounded, hard hearts.

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 36:26 (NIV)

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It’s one of my favourite verses. I need this but I can’t do it on my own. Neither can you. Only God can work miracles and turn our hearts around. This is my Christmas wish this year. I want a new heart.  

In asking, I have to be willing to deal with what caused my heart to harden. Like sin, poor attitudes and false beliefs about myself or Him. Whatever he reveals, we have to deal with it or we end back where we started. Again he walks alongside us as we do. 

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I don’t think we ever experience the full measure of Christmas and its life saving message until our hearts beat warm because we know how great our need is of that baby in a manger. He miraculously changes us. Perhaps it’s the Christmas miracle we’re looking for this Christmas season. 

 

This blog is a result of many readings, sermons and a general sacred echo over the last few months and weeks. One book that has been exceptionally good is Paul David Tripp’s New Morning Mercies, A Daily Gospel Devotional. Check it out.  Also the Christmas sermons at Country Hills Church have been wonderful. You can listen to them here

If you liked this, check out my blog about Heart Shaped Perfectionism here.

The Lesson My Son Taught Me

I wrote this a couple weeks back but didn’t have time to get back to it until now. Even though National Novel Writing Month is over, the lesson my son taught me applies to more than writing. It’s a life lesson.

Today the 5:30 am wake-up call got old. Correction; it got old a few days back but this morning the temptation to stay under the warm covers got real. The battle waged within me, until I dragged my weary body out into the cold dark morning. 

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Today I wanted to quit. My body and brain are tired. Doubts plague my mind. I know I can write fifty-thousand words but will it be any good? Why bother trying?

We all get to the point where we feel like stopping, don’t we? Whether it’s our job, a relationship, parenting, or some physical activity, we get to the point where we think we can’t do it one more minute. One more day. One more year. We’re scared we haven’t got what it takes to finish well or at all. We’re sure we aren’t good enough. The ending is unknown. Will the good guys win or the bad? Why continue? 

Precisely because we don’t know how it ends, we need to carry on. We need to push through to the other side. My son reminded me of this last week. He’s trying out for the basketball team and the coach had them running for the entire two hours. My son has learned over the years that you have to keep running, if you want to make the team. So he said to me, “I wanted to stop but I just pushed through it.”  

My kids are my best teachers. I wanted to stop but I just pushed through it. How different would our situations be if we just implemented that philosophy? 

If we beat back the pain, the doubts, the questions and just kept moving forward. On those days when the bed is warm and 5:30 am seems like the middle of the night. When our kid is hitting our buttons and we want to quit on them. When we have to pay rent but the job is boring. When marriage doesn’t live up to our expectations. When a relationship veers off course. I wanted to stop but I just pushed through it.

We all experience the desire to quit and it’s not weak to admit it. The key is distinguishing between the times we need to stop because we need help, and the times we think it would be easier to quit. I’m writing about the latter today. It would have been easier to stay in bed this morning and forget my word count. But the momentary pleasure of a sleep-in would have faded quickly, replaced with disappointment in myself. The less challenging path may provide temporary relief but it doesn’t last. There’s always fallout that results in regret, disappointment and sadness. 

Calling it a day has a ripple effect and those around us feel it too.  Often times when I’m upset with myself, I take it out on those closest to me. I’m not a happy camper so the rest of the house suffers. So when we consider quitting, we need to keep in mind those around us. Our decision affects them too.

I’m glad I got up today and spent those couple of hours in solitude, writing. I got my word count but more than that, I proved something to myself. I’m not a quitter. I wasn’t raised that way. I have what it takes to stay the course. 

The ending may remain unknown but the journey to its discovery, is worth it. So those dark, cold, winter mornings when the bed is warm and you want to stay put, push through it and get up. You’ll thank yourself in the end.

PS. He made the team and I made the 50K word count. And if you feel like quitting and it’s more than a passing bad day, then I would encourage you to speak out and seek help from a counsellor, a pastor, or friend. It’s not weak to admit you’re at the end of your rope and you need someone to come alongside you. You are not alone.