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Nurture Your Heart
Pregnant with her first child, Jill could barely contain her excitement over the dreams and hopes she cherished for her unborn baby, whom she had already named Mara (she was so sure it was a girl). She practiced the lullabies she would sing as she nursed Mara close to her breast. She imagined how Mara's eyes would light up on Christmas mornings. She dreamt of Mara's first day at school, her first date, and her college graduation. She even imagined how Mara might look in her wedding gown.
Suddenly, on a bleak November morning in the fourth month of her pregnancy, Jill miscarried. Like a sandcastle swept away in high tide, her precious dreams dissolved in an ocean of despair. It turned out that a normally harmless medication prescribed by Jill's doctor produced an allergic reaction, causing a miscarriage. Though Jill later gave birth to three healthy children, she never stopped grieving for her precious Mara.
Jill's anguish is incomprehensibel to those of us who have never lost a child. Equally incomprensible is the grief our heavenly Father must feel when the dreams He cherishes for His beloved children never reach fruiton. Considering the wealth of potential residing in each of us, His heart must agonize over gifts that are never developed, callings that are never embraced, and purpose that is never fulfilled.
People often say, "God has a purpose for your life." That's true. But it's also true that we have a vital part to play in whether or not that purpose is realized.
Just as newly conceived embryo needs the nurturing environment of her mother's womb to gestate and mature, divine purpose must also be nurtured in a healthy environment. That environment is your heart - often referred to in the Bible as your spirit. And the condition of your heart will have a powerful influence on whether or not you reach your divine potential.
The Bible says, "Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life." (Prov. 4:23)
Nowhere else does the Bible use the phase, "Above all else." Clearly, guarding your heart should be a top priority.
Your heart is the wellspring of life. Whether or not the wellspring issuing from your heart brings forth sweet waters or bitter depends entirely upon you. From your heart flows purpose or mediocrity, success or failure, joy or depression. Your heart will define your attitudes, beliefs, thoughts, and choices -- ultimately, they mould your destiny.
"You are what you eat" is not only a true maxim for physical health; it also applies to the heart. Regularly ingest "heart junk food", and every area of your life will suffer.
A caring expectant mother would never intentionally harm her unborn child by ingesting toxic substances or refusing a nutritious diet. But it's surprising how many people neglect caring for their hearts.
Just as physical toxins can damage an unborn child in his mother's womb, heart toxins will hinder your gifts, dreams and purpose from maturing to their divine potential.
Heart toxins come in many forms. External sources may include books, TV programs, and Internet sites promoting themes such as violence, sexual perversion, selfishness, and hatred.
A counselor friend told me about a client who came to him for help, overcome with guilt because of intense sexual desire for his two young daughters. During the session, this man admitted reading pornographic materials, including those depicting sex between adults and children. He insisted there was no connection between his pornographic reading habits and the lust he felt towards his daughters.
"There's nothing wrong with reading pornography," he said. "It doesn't affect me. It can't hurt anyone." He felt terrible guilt and confusion about the lust he had for his daughters. But he refused to see the link between the junk he was feeding into his mind and his perverted emotions.
Most sex offenders are avid consumers of pornography. This reflects a basic life principle: garbage in, garbage out.
Internal heart toxins are equally damaging. These represent thoughts and emotions such as anger, bitterness, worry, hatred, pride, and impure lusts. If you dwell on these negative thoughts and emotions, your faith will weaken and you'll block the river of God's Spirit from flowing through your life.
A responsible expectant mother is not merely concerned with avoiding nicotine, alcohol and carcinogens; she is also conscientious about getting proper nutrition. She drinks more milk. She eats more protein. She may take vitamins or other supplements.
Likewise, we must invest the time to learn about the nutrients that will benefit our hearts. Following are three potent "heart vitamins" that will nurture your heart, build your faith, and empower you to embrace your purpose.
Spending time each day in God's presence will nourish your heart and inspire you with fresh vision.
Recently I went hiking with my sister and a friend in the mountains of British Columbia. The trail started at the creek bed of the Sinclair Canyon; then wound up, and up, and up. We were amazed at how different the mountains, valleys and canyon looked from different vantage points on the way up the trail. From the vantage point at the highest point of the trail, the canyon walls that had seemed so huge and overpowering from the creek bed now seemed small and insignificant.
Prayer takes you to the high vantage point of viewing life from the perspective of God's greatness, rather than viewing it from the perspective of personal limitations and obstacles. Instead of looking up at your problems and feeling as though they are huge and insurmountable, you see them from the perspective of God's power and majesty.
As you spend time in God's presence and focus on him, your heart will be nourished with peace, grace and power - providing a fertile environment for your dreams to thrive.
Another key to nourishing your heart is to discipline your thought life. Our thoughts and emotions are inextricably linked. Next time you are feeling depressed or angry, check your thought life. What thoughts were going through your mind when you began to feel depressed?
The Bible says, "For as he thinks in his heart, so is he." (Prov. 23:7) In other words, the person you become will reflect your thought life.
We must train our minds in much the same way that a soldier trains for military action. Like any soldier, you must be committed, disciplined and consistent. Disciplining your mind not only means immediately and aggressively rejecting negative thoughts the moment they come to mind; but also habitually training your mind to focus on positive, godly thoughts.
The Bible provides practical advice for our minds. "Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things." (Phil. 5:8)
Finally, nurture your heart with creative activities and hobbies. Ask yourself, "What stirs creativity, vision and inspiration in me?"
For me, spending time in nature refuels my creativity and nourishes my heart. Besides reminding me of the awesome majesty of my Creator, nature calms my spirit, renews my faith and inspires fresh vision. Playing the piano and writing are other activities that nourish my creativity.
If you love nature, schedule time on a regular basis to enjoy your favorite outdoor haunts. If you love art, visit art museums. If you love music, attend concerts. If you love flowers, plant the most extravagant one in the neighborhood. If you have always wanted to try painting, take a course. Who cares if you never sell a painting? That's not the point. The point is to cultivate and express the creative nature that God placed in you.
Find at least one creative hobby and make it a part of your schedule. Never say that you don't have time. You'll be a better person and you'll have more to give to others if you take time to nurture your own heart.
Never forget: All of life flows your heart. Your heart is the very seat of your dreams and the womb of your divine destiny. In light of that, I suggest you make a "healthy heart' your number one priority.
Judy Rushfeldt is an author, speaker, and online magazine publisher (http://www.LifeToolsforWomen.com) whose passion is to help women reach their dreams. Her latest book, Making Your Dreams Your Destiny - a woman's guide to awakening your passions and fulfilling your purpose, is available in quality bookstores in Canada and in the United States. You can read more about this book and order online at: http://www.MakingYourDreams.com
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