Hands and Heart – Part 1

The Hand In Your HeartAt the end of my arms are these things called hands.  They are “handy” to say the least. (OK, that was bad, but if you know me, you know I like a good pun, and I really like a bad one!) Hands can be used to do anything from brain surgery to automotive repair to plunging a toilet.  They can wage war, build buildings, and comfort the sick.  Some are big, some small, but all of them have one thing in common – they are servants of the heart and mind and will reflect the attitude of the person that owns them.

I have been thinking a lot about hands lately, and how they can be a reflection of the heart.  I don’t think it is a coincidence that God made the human heart about the size of your hand when closed in a fist.  How we hold our hands can be a picture of the heart.  Take a minute and think about how your heart feels and put your hands in that position.  Are they closed in a fist? Open?  Are they trembling?  Limp? Are they clenched in anger or fear?

10 years ago I would tell you that my heart and hands were pretty hard and closed.  I didn’t really intend it to be that way, but my default was usually a fist.   A fist has its benefits:

  1. I could hold things tightly. – I didn’t want to lose the things that I had.  There were things that I had worked very hard to get, and at time I felt that I was having them taken from me.  That made me very fearful, and I would hang on with all I had to keep those things close.
  2. I could keep things away from me. – Ask anyone in law enforcement, and they will tell you that in some circumstances the way a person stands will tell you what they might be willing to do, and a closed fist is a sign to be very cautious.  I would let people be around me, but I know that I didn’t attract many either.   That “closed fist” aura was around me, and I was fine with that.
  3. I could fight at any time. – It doesn’t take long to make a fist, but I was already set to go.  I was willing to wade into a war at a moment’s notice.  If I felt the threat it was go time.  If I saw a cause I wanted in on, it was time to throw down.  It didn’t need to even be my problem, I was willing to make it my problem.  I wasn’t physically fighting, but my heart was a closed fist and ready to go to defend anything.

Slide3As time went on I began to see that this closed fist mentality also had some real problems too.  I had an opportunity to join a men’s group about 5 years ago, and as a result I learned that I had some changes to make.  Our leader saw some things in me that needed change, and as we reflected on them together, he helped me see some of the negatives of a closed fist way of living:

  1. I was pretty much alone. – Like I said, I did a good job of keeping things and people away from me.  I knew I had people that could hang out with me, but I didn’t really have anyone who knew me well.  I lived a life where I didn’t trust people or want them to get inside a certain level of friendship because it could cost me something.  They might want to get into my hand and take something from me.  I couldn’t let that happen.  It was “better” to be alone.
  2. I had alienated people. – My words, actions, and selfishness had driven some people away from me.  I needed to be heard, understood, and most importantly, I needed to be right.  To that end I would escalate simple differences in opinion to the point of pushing good people out of my life.
  3. I was unable to give. – My hands were so tightly closed around what I perceived to be mine that I was not able to even comprehend what it was like to have a generous heart.  I saw people enjoy giving gifts, or helping others and I just could not understand how they could do that.
  4. I was barely able to receive. – Make a fist and then have someone throw you an apple. Try to catch it with that hand.  I was so clamped down on life that I know I let opportunities pass me by because I was more concerned with what was in my hand than what better things might have been available.

I’m a child of God, and when God has a child that He wants to speak to, He will send gentle reminders from time to time in order to bring them around.  Looking back, I can see a lot of them that He sent my way, but I missed them at the time.  When a person is a closed fist, they tend to miss a lot of things – did you catch the apple?  Eventually, God may decide it is time to put His hands into the process.

When my kids were little, they would sometimes grab things that they were trying to shove into their mouths.  We would tell them to stop and try to take it from them, but they would squeeze their little fist as tightly as they could to hold onto that prized morsel of indeterminate and probably unsanitary nature. We would grab their little hands and pry their fingers apart to take it away.

God’s hands are bigger than mine.  Almost 5 years ago He used His big hands to pull my fist of a heart open.  My heart that was determined to do things my own way needed to be pried open as only God could have done it.  I lost my job, and that was the beginning of the release of a lot of things.  I lost my income, and in a lot of ways, I lost my identity.  I lost some pride, but that was a good thing!

I’m glad I no longer had a fist in my heart.  It was finally open, but I can tell you that it was broken.  I was dislocated in a lot of areas, and that was difficult to get past.  God had broken my closed-fisted heart in order to get me to see what I was and my need for Him to be in control.

Looking back, I am glad He did.  It set me on a journey, and that journey has brought me where I am today.  It led me to an understanding that the call of my life is to be Relentless in my pursuit of what God may have for me.  I can tell you today, that it is becoming clear.  God is making some changes in my life and that of my family as well.  We are very excited to see how things will play out as we continue to see His leading in our lives.  I look forward to telling  you more about it next week!

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Happy Birthday, Tammi! I Love You!

We have moments in our lives that shape us, define us, change our paths. I think it is important to recognize those moments and reflect on their significance because when we do, we see how good God is to us.

For me, one of those moments took place before I was born.  Today is the anniversary of the day my wife was born, and I am so blessed by the changes in my life that have come as a result of her birth. So, I want to take a few minutes and tell her how much she means to me.

10534681_10204206015501628_1184979595712247813_nTammi,

It is so weird to think back on life and realize that even though I had 18 years of it before we began to date, I can’t remember much of my life that didn’t have you in it!  We met as kids, and now 23 years have passed with us as a couple.  I often think about how God brought us together, an d it makes me smile to think that He had a plan that would make so many people scratch their heads early on.

In you I see so many good and wonderful gifts that God has put in you, and I want to take a moment and tell you about a few of them. couple

Your Smile

Tammi, your smile brightens my days more than you will ever know, and it does the same for so many other people as well.  You have been given this gift of being able to lighten the mood in a room with that smile.  God has used it to bring reassurance to people who are nervous or upset.  You show the joy that is in you whenever you smile and your eyes get that little twinkle in them.

Your Heart

Your capacity to love and to show concern for others is the gift in you that I most admire.  God has put an ability in you to hear the heart of anyone you are talking to and you don’t stop with hearing it.  You genuinely care.  You care in a way that I am not wired to do, and it absolutely blows me away.  I am learning from you to be more caring and interested in others, and I am so glad that God gave me a teacher like you, because you are a natural in it.

BeautyYour Love

You are my wife, and I am so thankful that I get to share that with you and all that it entails as a husband, and as parents of our kids.  You make our house into a home with your love.  You are so busy, but you are always able to show us the love we need in even the most hectic of times.  I know you don’t feel that way too many times, but I assure you that we feel it.  Think about how our kids never go a day without several hugs and words of love from you.  You show your love in the things you do, the words you say, and again, the smile on your face.Tammi and kids

Your Dreams

Yes, I said your dreams.  In spite of all of the work they have created over the years, your dreams have brought our family so much joy.  As a result of those dreams we have a beautiful home, we have amazing flowerbeds, we have animals – lots and lots of animals… Your dreams have brought more than that though.  Your ability to dream has brought out mine as well, and God is using those dreams in shaping our future.  There are so many things that God has done in our lives as a result of dreams, but I love how we are both looking around in anticipation of what He might do next.  I absolutely love dreaming with you.

tnt2Your Promise

That you are my wife is the thing I love about you the most.  We will be married for twenty years next month, and through all the crazy times of getting to know each other as a couple, learning to understand each other as a couple, how to resolve things as a couple, and learning how to almost everything as a couple, I have had your promise to stick with me.  Even when I might not have been very “stick with worthy”.  Your dedication to improving our marriage as a team has made me love you even more.  I thank God for you every single day, and I can’t thank Him enough for you an your love.  You are the most “Very Good Thing” in my life.

Happy Birthday, Honey.  You are phenomenal, and you are a blessing to us as well as anyone else who really knows you!IMG_0371

Love you,

Tom

 

 

 

 

 

Worthy of Your Calling

walking worthy of your calling_t_nvWhat is a “calling”?  I have heard the word “calling” used as a noun for most of my life, and while I understand the verb form as a way of communication (shouting or using a telephone), I have always struggled with the word.  I mean, I understand the dictionary definition, but I have never really understood it as a part of my life.  It has eluded me in practicality.

I know that a common description of it has been to call it a career.  Something that you do for a living is considered to be your calling.  Well, that may be well and good, but I am now going on 25 years in the workforce in three different full-time jobs, and I still don’t feel that I have a “career”.  I have a job that gives me a paycheck so I can support my family.  I really enjoy what I do most days of the week, but I don’t feel that I have a calling for what I do.  My work ethic is part of who I am, and that is what I bring to my job, but career? Nope.  It’s a great job, but not a calling.

In the last couple of year s I have wrestled with this idea a little more, and I think I am finally getting a better understanding of it, but the roots of a calling for me have little to do with the business world.  It has been through reading my Bible that I am starting to figure this out a little better.  As I continue through Ephesians I hit this verse today, and it is clearer to me now than in the past.

Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God

– Ephesians 4:1

The first three chapters of Ephesians have been about telling me who I am in Christ, and now Paul is getting ready to take me on the next part of the journey:

Take your identity and use it in your life!

In a nutshell, that is a calling!  I have an identity in Christ, and the more I read and understand what that means as a child of God, a sinner redeemed, an adopted heir, a person able to call on the power of God, a person able to gain wisdom through God’s teaching in His Word, I realize that I am called to something more than just existing in His presence.  I am called to action!  I am called to share!  I am called not to repay what I have been given, because I never can, but to live a life that says I understand that I am blessed!

I am called to live my life in a way that shows people the power of the Christian life.  It’s not about avoiding troubles or heartaches.  It’s not about getting wealthy.  It’s not about following a bunch of rules I don’t understand.  It’s about a life that is relentlessly growing, thriving, and reproducing!

I’m not sure where this calling is going to take me.  I’m starting to see that all the aspects of my life play a part in this calling, but those parts are not the calling.  I’m a Christian before I am anything else, and that is where I find my calling to influence the various parts of my life and those in my life.

I probably don’t have a complete handle on this thing yet, but the picture is getting clearer by the day, and I have faith that as I stay close to God, study His Word, and interact with His people I will continue to grow in my understanding of it all.

What are you doing in your life that shows people who you are in Christ?

I hope something that I said might have been an encouragement to you, Dear Reader.  That is one of the reasons I do this.  Not because I have all of the answers, but because I want to encourage others to let God have control of your life.  Trust me; He’s better qualified than we are to run things!

In His Grip,

Tom

PS – I have been asked to hit on a topic that I have brushed over in the past in an upcoming blog.  I am in the early stages of it right now, and I would appreciate your prayers as I figure out what God would like me to say.  It will be a look into legalism and what it takes to transition to a life of truth and grace.

It will require me to pull back some curtains and look at some stuff that may be uncomfortable for me and maybe even some of you.  Please pray that God will give me wisdom in what to share, and that it will be something that will help people grow rather than tear people down.

That will be coming sometime by the end of the month.  Thanks again for your prayers.  It is encouraging to me to know that people are praying for me, and that God is using this to encourage others!

TT