Day 18 — Matters of the Heart

Yesterday I sat down in the morning to spend time with my Lord.  It was uncharacteristically warm, so I sat out back on the deck, my legs propped up in the direction of the lake that lies straight back, beyond our yard.  The sky was an amazing, clear blue, and somehow seemed the slightest hue darker than I remembered the sky to be.  The trees and grass were lush and bright from the spring rains — the perfect shade of green married against the blue.  It was very still.  And very quiet — except for a small chipmunk off to my right tirelessly chirping away with an unexplained earnestness that made me smile to myself.

I had grabbed my already-opened Bible from the kitchen table as I headed out to the deck.  For some reason, it was haphazardly folded over to a particular page, and that’s how it lay in my lap as I settled into the chair and looked out over the scene the Lord had set before me.  After a time, I slid my sunglasses down onto the bridge of my nose and began to read Zephaniah 3:14-17, God’s voice speaking to me from that solitary page waiting in my lap:

Sing, O daughter of Zion!
Shout, O Israel!
Be glad and rejoice with all your heart,
O daughter of Jerusalem!
 The Lord has taken away your judgments,
He has cast out your enemy.
The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst;
You shall see [fear] disaster no more.

 In that day it shall be said to Jerusalem:
“Do not fear;
Zion, let not your hands be weak.
 The Lord your God in your midst,
The Mighty One, will save;
He will rejoice over you with gladness,
He will quiet you with His love,
He will rejoice over you with singing.”

My eyes filled with tears as the Lord began to move these sentiments of His heart into mine.  I felt . . . what?  So comforted, I guess.  I can’t capture my thoughts, my heart, beyond that.  The only way I can describe it is that the Lord was experientially with me, comforting my heart.  “I’m with you, and it’s ok.”  A kiss from God.  His presence.  I am at peace.

After a time I walk back through the sliding doors, through the kitchen, to a card table we have sitting by a picture window looking out over the back yard.  I sit there, and my Father continues to speak to me, His son, His love, from the text:

“Sing! . . . Shout! . . . Be glad and rejoice with all your heart!”

Yes, my Father . . .

 “The Lord has taken away your judgments.”

Ah, yes.  Judgments.  My heart again fills with tears that begin to show themselves at the corners of my eyes.  I try to blink them back, but they slowly spill down my face.

My Abba, my Father, He speaks now to one of my fears.  No, He takes away that fear, fully and finally. You see, early on, when the mortal nature of my sickness first found its way into my mind, I kept wondering “why?”.  “Why?”  Not asking God, really, but . . . condemning myself.

Now I know, I know, I know:  “why?” questions like that are not healthy questions to ask!!! ☺.  Best, always, to focus on the face of my Savior, my Abba.  To see the lines on His face, lines etched from a lifetime of His smiles and delight as He watches me and walks with me.  (And you!)  Best to anchor on Truth(!), lest I sink like Peter walking on the sea but focused on the storm (Mt 14:22-33).

But nonetheless, I found myself focusing on my pathetic record of disobedience, my failure to love, my stiff-necked refusal to heed His voice.  “Why is this happening to me?” very quickly became “why not me?  I so deserve this!”, as if God was somehow punishing me.  (Which, of course, He is not, as Jesus took all my punishment on the cross(!).)

I passionately prayed Psalm 51, and tried to re-orient my thinking.  To line it up with God’s heart as revealed in Scripture.  I reminded myself of truth (e.g., “as far as east is from west, so far are our sins removed from us”), and sought the counsel of great men of God — both our forefathers who live on in their writings and sermons, and some of my closest brothers in Christ.  I sang in church, “what can wash away my sins, nothing but the blood of Jesus!”  And slowly felt as if I had found resolution, peace.

But, oh, how God knows differently!  He knew those truths had not gone deep enough inside of me yet.  That although I was not actively asking “why not me?”, there was a place, deep in my heart — beyond my ken — where a quiet, unsettled churning, a vague uncertainty, refused to be stilled. . . .

And so what does my Father do?  He comes to me on a porch on a soft spring morning, just Him and me, paints a serene, romantic landscape for my eyes and my heart to behold, and then reaches over and sweetly pours His balm into the deepest hurts and fears of my heart that only He is able to see, or heal.

“I have taken away your judgments.”

The Father healing me through His Word.

The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst;
You shall see [fear] disaster no more. 

In that day it shall be said to Jerusalem:
“Do not fear. . . .”

Oh, how my heart desperately needed to hear those words, “I have taken away your judgments . . . do not fear”.  And yet, until my Father whispered them to me on that porch, through His Word, I didn’t even realize how I longed to hear those words.

Think of it!  I am me.  I am meand I did not know what was in my own heart!  But our God — He saw!  And He cared!!  And so my Abba Father stooped down and came to me and healed me of lament and uncertainty in my deepest, secret places.  He came and by His Holy Spirit sealed His truth — His Word — deep within me.

“For the Word of God is living and active, sharper than a double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joint and marrow.  It understands the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb 4:12).  Amen and Amen!!  I knew in my mind that Jesus had already died for all of my sins, that there is no present judgment for my transgressions (“It is finished!”, Jn 19:30; “For there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,” Rom 8:1).  But, oh how I needed that truth to go from mind to heart once I was diagnosed with cancer.  How I needed those words to go deep — though I did not even realize it.  And the thing is, my Abba, my Savior, He knew(!) . . .  and it mattered to Him(!).

I, dust, mattered, to Him.

The deepest places of my heart matter to Him.

And the deepest places of YOUR heart matter to Him!  And He will take you deep.  He will meet you at the point of your deepest needs, your deepest fears, take you to secret places that you — you!! — don’t even know.  His still, quiet voice penetrating even to dividing soul and spirit, joint and marrow. . . .

In my family room, I begin to write out those verses from Zephaniah 3, ending with

Zion, let not your hands be weak.
 The Lord your God in your midst,
The Mighty One, will save;
He will rejoice over you with gladness,
He will quiet you with His love,
He will rejoice over you with singing.

Yes, He has quieted me with His love.  Stilled my soul.  Somehow I sense His presence, in my midst, rejoicing over me with gladness — and my heart rejoices with Him. . . . Here, on Westhaven Drive, sitting beside a picture window.  It’s too much.  I’m overwhelmed.  For there is no God like our God, and my deepest heart matters so much(!) to Him.

Later in the day, as we open the mail, a card is pulled from an envelope.  I read, aloud, the verse printed on its face:  “The Lord will take great delight in You.  He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.  Zephaniah 3:17″  My wife and I look at each other, amazed!  Wide-eyed, I just keep saying “Can you believe it?!“  “Can you believe it?!“  “I mean, can you BE – LIEVE it?!” while my wife shakes her head in almost-comic disbelief.  The Lord has punctuated the day with His own exclamation point!  As if to say, “Yes, Joe, yes!  That was Me this morning!  Those verses were meant for you.  Truly, those verses were meant for you!”

The deepest places of my heart matter to Him . . . and oh how your deepest heart matters so much(!) to Him as well.  How He longs to be with you, even this Sabbath afternoon, this warm spring day, to speak to your heart.  Hear His voice, even now, calling to you — to you(!):

“Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.
For lo, the winter is past,
The rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth;
The time of singing has come,
And the voice of the turtledove
Is heard in our land.
The fig tree puts forth her green figs,
And the vines with the tender grapes
Give a good smell.
Rise up, my love, my fair one,
And come away!”

Songs 2:10-13.

4 thoughts on “Day 18 — Matters of the Heart

  1. I’m so sorry that this had happened to you, I never would of even thought of it. I hope everything is going well at home for you. Ill be praying for you & the family! God is with you, I know he is! Just hang in there.
    Love your friend Danielle Wain
    P.s good luck

  2. I want you to know how much this post influenced me to go back to my savior. I get so busy, so distracted, that I forget and grow weak. His infinite love becomes a distant memory and I find myself again as a foolish bridesmaid, dressed in a filthy robe. How sweet and tender is our merciful savior, how I miss our intimacy! Thank you, Joe, for helping me to REMEMBER.

  3. That posting was so humbling…. I can have such improper grasps of our Heavenly father….the whole story was such a blessing to me as I sit mired in “busyness” and luke-warmness. Interestingly, the Lord told me to sit on the card for a day, I could have mailed it sooner. Didn’t Larry Burchet (sp?) say about the Lord’s timing: “rarely early, but never late”.
    You all remain in our prayers.

  4. Hi Joe,
    I am a friend of Carrie LeBay’s. Out of her deep love for you and your family she has shared your site with me and asked me to pray for each of you. It is an honor and a privilege that I will joyfully do. I am so blessed this evening by your entry today and your testimony of how the Lord met with you so privately and personally and then the card in the mail later in the day……=o) That made my heart beam for Him, for you, for your wife. All glory to Him for His goodness to us and His faithfulness to us. I am praying for you, my brother in Christ whom I have never met and I and my family will pray for you faithfully. May the Lord bless you and your dear wife and sweet children. I believe Carrie shared with me that one of your daughters is adopted from China…..Both of our daughters are adopted, one from South Korea and one from China. =o) Sending you all our family’s love, Sheila

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