"Above all, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it." - Proverbs 4:23
We live in a world that is famished for joy and starving for hope. There is so much injustice and anger and frustration, so much hatred and yelling, so many loud, brash opinions from all directions that constantly bombard us.
And a heart that is bombarded can easily become a heart that is overwhelmed, if we're not careful. And an overwhelmed heart is a sick heart--it's a heart that is out of balance, out of rhythm, and not functioning at peak efficiency. The body doesn't rest well if the heart is out of sync. The state of the heart's wellness determines the state of the person's wellness. And hearts are fragile. But we take them for granted and expose them to all sorts of environments.
Heart murmurs are a sign of abnormality for the physical organ. They can denote underlying heart problems. People will heart murmurs have them monitored regularly.
Have you listened to your heart lately?
Guarding my heart means being aware of its state. It means being watchful to what I let in, what I let stay, and what I release. There are a lot of messages in the world and a lot of clamor, but if the clamor stays too long in the heart, unrest sets in. Unforgiveness. Bitterness. Envy. Anger. Hatred. All sorts of heart murmurs can signal trouble. Our hearts can murmur and complain about the state of our nation, our politicians, our politics and society, or they can be grieved and then determined to make a difference in a loving way, remembering that actions speak louder than words.
How's your heart these days? Is it a source of joy and comfort to a world that needs it? Is it still soft and kind? Are you guarding a flame of hope within it? Could you be the Good Samaritan if called upon to do so? Could you love someone you vehemently disagree with? If you heart is in constant unrest from social media, do you need to step away from the clamor for a while?
Take some time and listen to your heart; what's it saying about the state of your soul?
How can your heart be a bucket of joy to a dry, thirsty world?
Dear heart, in the darkness, let us remember that light is needed over sound.
"...mourn with those who mourn." -Romans 12:15b
"Dear children, let's not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions." - I John 3:18
"Be the change you wish to see in the world." - Mahatma Ghandi
"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." - Edmund Burke
This past weekend, violence again broke out in our nation because of hatred and intolerance toward people because of the color of their skin. Social media is exploding with grief and frustration and rightly so. We should be outraged that people continue to hurt others and propagate racist ideologies; we should never stand by idly while this occurs.
But we can't just stop with jumping on the bandwagon on discontentment, either. The automatic response to tragedy on social media is to post and stand in solidarity with whatever group is grieving; there is nothing wrong with that. But what will you do with the pain past the computer and the phone and the social media account?
How will you allow what is happening in your heart to affect your actions?
We teach our children about knowledge and how we want them to be, but we should also teach them about ignorance and what we do not want them to be like. These lessons shape worldviews and, in turn, our world. Because ignorance like racism needs to be addressed by parents, educators, and clergy in active, responsible, motivating ways.
Conversations about uncomfortable topics and terrible examples of humanity are more than just worthy of grief; they are worthy of discussion and educational opportunities.
I'm praying that out of the mess made, seeds of change will be planted in fertile soil. If you influence a child or any member of the younger generation, talk to them about #Charlottesville. Let them see the pictures and ask questions. Talk to them about the Civil Rights Movement and the Freedom Riders. Explain the difference between peaceful protest and some of the mess from protests that ended in rioting and looting. Talk to them about the history of the Nazi movement and the millions that died due to the pervasiveness of hatred.
Talk to them about what it means to selflessly love those around them, especially those they disagree with or feel frustrated with. Teach them to love their enemies and stand up for others. Discuss with them what goes through their minds when they see someone bullied. Model compassion to those in need in practical ways. This will look different for all of us, but it's in the DOING over the SAYING that things get DONE rather than just talked about.
My first experience with racism happened when I was a fourth grader, at the hands of another fourth grader.
Don't limit your grief and frustration to social media outrage; use it to fuel your motivation to create change where you can.
Pray like you have never prayed, and then ask for wisdom to stand and speak, perhaps like you have never stood and spoken.
"Encouragement is free, and beyond measure in value." -William DeFoore-
"Therefore encourage one another and build each other up..."
-I Thessalonians 5:11-
Buoyancy. Only one small word, but to one who feels as though he or she is drowning, that one word makes all the difference.
One of the tragedies of the Titanic was that there were not enough lifeboats for the amount of people who were aboard; there were only 20 lifeboats and 2,200 passengers! There were life jackets, but the frigid water meant that the jackets would not be enough. In order to survive the conditions, people had to be plucked out of the water; they couldn't remain in it. As the ship went down, women and children were given priority, and sadly, some returned to land widows and fatherless. All in all, 1, 522 people lost their lives. Oh, if only they had been prepared!
We live in a world full of people who face dangerous heart conditions every day: icebergs of loss that they find themselves at the mercy of, cold, shattering waves of insecurity, loneliness, fear... waves that crash over them unexpectedly, wreck their hearts, and threaten to sink their souls.
According to one Titanic survivor, once the night sky became dark and starless, lights began to be lit aboard the different lifeboats, so they could stay together and accounted for: "The stars slowly disappeared, and in their place came the faint pink glow of another day. Then I heard, 'A light, a ship.' I could not, would not, look while there was a bit of doubt, but kept my eyes away. All night long I had heard, 'A light!' Each time it proved to be one of our other lifeboats, someone lighting a piece of paper, anything they could find to burn, and now I could not believe. Someone found a newspaper; it was lighted and held up. Then I looked and saw a ship. A ship bright with lights; strong and steady she waited, and we were to be saved. A straw hat was offered it would burn longer. That same ship that had come to save us might run us down. But no; she is still. The two, the ship and the dawn, came together, a living painting."
Who has been there for you in your times of trial? What encouraging people have been lifeboats or have been beacons for you to follow? Take a few moments and recall them by name.
It can be easy to be discouraged by the darkness around us, but we can all contribute to the survival of someone else. We can bring buoyancy and light to those around us by the words we speak. Stop and take stock of the people you interact with daily and be aware of them; look for ways to encourage them. They may be someone you know; they may be a stranger. We have to look outwardly to notice them. You never know who might be inwardly drowning and who needs your words to lift them out of a vast sea of hopelessness.
quote source: "The Sinking of the Titanic, 1912," EyeWitness to History www.eyewitnesstohistory.com (2000).