Cleaning out the heart

My animals often reveal things in my heart that I can easily manage or bury in day-to-day living.  Yesterday was Gretchen’s turn to clean out my heart.  It was hot and the week had been long and busy.  gretchen-hug  I planned to stop by for a quick pat on the nose and a weight measurement before heading home to dinner with my family.

Gretchen had other plans.  Initially, it seemed we would play a little game that I call, ‘Who’s the lead mare?’  When I’ve not been spending time with her, she likes to make me work to catch her.  I was okay with that–but like every bad habit, it grew–and it wasn’t pretty.

Instead of the usual leisurely trot by me and a stop to see if I was playing, she ran all out from one end of the field to the other–over logs, through brush.  She kept her ear toward me on each pass and stopped at the other end of the field.  A few laps of that and the amusement of the earlier games evaporated.  I had created a monster that needed correction.  And I wasn’t happy about it; it wasn’t on my agenda for the day.

I was due for a heart cleaning…emotionally, spiritually and physically.  I’ll spare you the ugly blow-by-blow physical details but the fly-over includes the pain of twisting my ankles a few times, some angry words, a few angry kicks from Gretchen, and a lot of panting, sweating and heart-thudding from both of us. Like every time that sin & flesh reign, the unrest spills over onto others…Riesa’s horse got into the action by dumping her as she tried to help me.   Struggles reveals weaknesses–and build strength!  Seeing God clearly requires seeing our short-comings and mistakes.

You can’t go with God and stay the way you are!

What Gretchen reminded me was that my agenda is not the rule of the day–nor is it her reason for being.  She is living, breathing creature with certain needs that must be met–and those are not just physical needs of food and shelter.  She needs attention that includes exercise and discipline.  I can’t just indulge her–not can I indulge myself with her.  She’s not just for my enjoyment.  In fact, her reason for being in my life is to increase my awareness of the goodness of God.  Usually she does that with the sweet enjoyment of relationship and working toward common goals.  Yesterday, her stubborn-ness was an effective tool…because she showed me how I am with the One who ‘owns me.’

You see, God often interrupts my plans too.  His ways are not mine.  Like with my horse, most of my God-time is easy awareness of the blessings of relationship.  To me, the work of faith is as much the joy as the relationship.  The principles of the Word work in life as effectively as they work in the barn.  And the joy of seeing God at work usually keeps my heart singing.  He is my heart desire and usually my preferences coincide with His.  I don’t even know that lurking below the surface is that flesh nature simply indulging itself…not sacrificially worshipping at all.

Those times of failing offer the best potential for transformation!

But yesterday, Gretchen and I had a different agenda.  My preferences were not the rule of the day, and my idols bubbled to the surface.  With my preferences pre-empted, I lost my focus on the One who determines everything.  His goodness didn’t change.  His principles didn’t change.  But I forgot to look at them…and failed to implement them.  It’s the blindness we all experience…but Jesus heals!  Infections have to be exposed and cleaned. I am so thankful for how my animals help with that process.

What we don’t see (or feel) can’t be confessed and released.  

God knew my weariness from the week.  He knew my family was waiting for me to get home for dinner.  He also knew I battle being self-centered; I tend to people-please.  Those things interfere with being a surrendered servant.  They need to go.  In His goodness, he used Gretchen to expose them in me.  In her goodness, she worked me over and through them until we implemented some biblical principles of respectful relationship.  Now it is my work to be sure I implement them in my faith walk.

All of life offers us opportunity to experience transformation.  We are all on a journey to becoming like Christ.  

How does God help you see and feel the things He wants to change in you?

 

 

Family – training for relationship

God created us for relationship–and family is intended to be the safe place for learning and practicing relationship skills.  We become our very best…and relate our very best to others…when we know who we are designed to be and how to live fully in Christ!

What we learn only in our heads can be difficult to put into practice.  A.A.R.T. (animal-assisted relationship training) helps weave knowledge from head to heart to heels!

 

Riddles, unknown objects, observations, errors & blindfolded walking brought truths of our identity in Christ into the light.  AART isn’t a magical solution to building family relationships.  It is a tool to help each person grow more into the likeness of Christ and share more of the glory of God in their interactions with others.

Check out the ways Heartsong helps bring the wisdom of the word to individual walks.

Bunnies are Bullies

BULLYING

Current statistics indicate half of school-age children report having been bullied in the past month.  A strong link exists between bullying and suicide–the leading cause of death for young people.

Bullying is an increasing problem, but it isn’t a new problem nor is it confined to schools.  Businesses bully, politicians bully, police bully, minorities bully, families bully–and sadly, even Christians bully.

Bullying isn’t always violent, but it is always an attempt to control.  It manipulates, pressures, shames and intimidates.  It’s a learned behavior that destroys lives as it proclaims, “It’s all about ME!”

  • Bullies want their own way more they want anything else.
  • Bullies are bossy.
  • Bullies demand their own way when they want it & how they want it.
  • Bullies set themselves up as god.

We can stop bullying…and the creation of bullies…by living as a child of the Most High God!  God NEVER bullies, though the sad truth is many think God is a bully.  He is humble, generous and good.  His Way is the way to end bullying!  Jesus is that Way!

Of course, knowing the answer is way easier than living the answer!

Let the animals teach…
Heartsong Bunnies and Bullies

Bullying is a natural trait of….wait for it…BUNNIES!

I saw that roll of the eyes.  Stay with me.

Yes, bunnies are a prey animal. In nature, they are often on the receiving end of much more than bully-ing.  By nature, though, within their social structure, bullying is a way of life.

BIG Bunny

Bunny hierarchy is pretty interesting but visit this link if bunny details are your primary interest because this will just be a fly (well, hop) over.  While every colony (or warren) will have a Chief BIG BUNNY (BB), there are many BBs  in the bunny world. Every BB expects–demands–to be worshiped and obeyed by every other bunny.  The message from every BB (Big Bunny or Big Bully) is the same:  “This life–including your life–is all about me.”

Good Goals Gone Wrong

Even good goals get lost with a self-centered approach.  Respect & affection are the foundational values of bunny life.  Every demand a bunny makes is for one of those purposes.

Good goals pursued the wrong way stop being good.

Disobedience to bunny social rules is read as disrespect–and receives a punishment.  There are a lot of ways to offend a bunny.  Hopping by without speaking, attention to another bunny or being too familiar can generate a foot flick, an angry look, a growl, bite or complete shunning.  Taking offense is a bunny characteristic…it’s a bully characteristic too.

War in the Warren

Bunny bullying is pretty tame when they live in the wild.  But a bunny stuck with humans who don’t speak bunny can get pretty aggressive.  We humans are prone to disobeying bunny rules and creating resentments.   Bunnies hold a grudge, and just like with people, grudges create walls of separation.  Bully bunnies become so damaged, they do not want a relationship with people.  Sometimes, fear, anger or pride take over every other desire and their innate sociability is destroyed.  It is a sad state for the bunny-and its human family.

Does the Bullying problem in our world make more sense?

A World of Bullies

Self-centeredness and resentments are the commonality in warrens–and in our world.  Selfishness and unhealed, open wounds create bullies…and victims.  Unforgiveness is poison to yourself and the world around you!

The answer for both self-centeredness and resentments is the same:  

Jesus, the Healer….Jesus, the reconciler.

Like bunnies, we people are created to be social.  God so longed for relationship He created humanity.  But God humbly loves…He gave humanity the freedom to choose to love Him or not.  It is a fearsome choice with serious consequences.  While God is generous and good, He is also holy.  We are accountable for our choices.  Every choice is a choice of LIFE or DEATH.  Our choices are actions that produce one or the other.

Sadly, sometimes in our lives, greed, fear, anger and pride push God aside and we take matters in our own hands.  We choose our way instead of The Way.  We choose death.

Bullying is not solved by becoming a bigger bully.

Bullying stops when we refuse to bully–and when we refuse to be bullied–the same WAY Jesus responded.  Instead of taking offenses to heart and holding on to them, we must know who God is and who He created us (ourselves & our offenders) to be.

Victors not Victims

Knowing God as the Bible reveals Him to be gives us victorious courage.  We can walk through life secure in His care.  That does not mean we will never have trials.  Learning to trust God enough to die to self is a daily (moment-by-moment) necessity.

Jesus is the Way…and if we look at His life, we see His earthly life ended by bullies.  In America, that is not a common danger–though it is in some places and sometimes is true here.  Jim Elliott, who gave His life that others would have life, speaks eloquently to that concern:

Image result for he is no fool who gives up that which he cannot keep

Finally, the cure to bullying is in knowing the value of every life.  The King of Kings died on the cross for individuals–not the masses.  He died not as a martyr but as a sacrifice with great purpose:  destroy the works of the devil and re-open the Way to relationship with the Father in heaven.  He gave His life that we would be able to live in union with God and others.  Our lives flow with that power and purpose when He lives in us.

Victors over Bullying

  • Victors want God’s way more they want anything else.
  • Victors are humble and meek.
  • Victors respect people’s right to choose.
  • Victors bow before their God and enjoy His presence.

What things tempt you to bully?

What ways are you bullied by others?

Will you choose The Way?

 

CLICK here for more info or to schedule a Heartsong visit.

 

 

 

 

Do I matter? Does anyone care?

It is the question we hate feeling:  Do I matter?  Does anyone care?  We spend much of our lives seeking activities and relationships that give us an affirmative answer.  There is only One who can answer that to our complete satisfaction.  The only One who can answer it is the One who created us.

Animals are amazingly helpful in leading us to the Answer.  You don’t need to come to an A.A.R.T. session to experience the power.  Use your own pets…even observe on in the wild and ask yourself some questions.  Come on an AART discovery with me!

ABCS of Safety, Security & Significance

In the Garden of Eden, the choice to reject God’s one command cut humanity off from the Need Meeter. When we seek to meet the needs that God built into us…instead of seeking Him…we sin & become captive to that sin. Restoring connection to the Father begins the process of healing…and fulfillment…and loving ourselves. From childhood to senior citizen, we must find how Christ is the answer we seek and understand how to apply that answer to diverse situations.  It isn’t a ‘one and done’ process.  Life gives us new challenges DAILY.  Living fully means knowing IN THE MOMENT, every moment, who we are in the eyes of God.

Acceptance by God restores IDENTITY for individuals.  It provides strength for life in a changing world. When roles or actions give a person identity, they never learn the unique design God gave them. “Who am I” is a necessary question because the answer gives stability.

Animal-assisted Insight

  • How & when did you become a ‘pet parent?’
  • Are they conscious aware of your  care & provision?
  • Does their awareness of your effort change your care for them?

God-sightings:

  • What does God do for you that you may not have noticed?
  • How does awareness of His provision change your view of your worth?

Scriptures:                  Psalm 139:13-14

Belonging to God restores boundaries that provide safety and security. In the natural world, safety is an increasing concern from childhood to old age. Involvement with animals requires learning to be observant of body language and danger zones. It is easy to appreciate the value of fences, leashes and lead ropes. Let’s extend those truths to things we face daily:  the internet, to strangers with candy or puppies and to individual choices.

Animal-assisted Insight:

  • What ways to do you protect your pet?
  • What happens when they break through those boundaries?

God-sightings:

  • What ways does God ‘limit’ His children?  Where do you feel limited TODAY?
  • How does He make us aware when we break through those boundaries?

Scriptures:                  Psalm 46:1

Calling of God restores purpose to lives. The Word tells us God has created us for good works…and for connection to Him. He treasures His children and cares for them. Using the natural needs of animals (nutrition, coat & hoof care, exercise), coaches draw parallels to caring for the body as the temple of God and caring for others.

Animal-assisted Insight:

  • What needs do you meet for your pets that you tend to neglect for yourself?
  • What do you expect from them?
  • Are your animals meeting a need for you that they are not designed to meet?

God-sightings:

  • Christ died so we could take our needs to God:  What needs do you take to God?
  • Are there things you know God desires for you that you do not press toward?
  • What need are you facing today that you are trying to meet on your own–or even with your animals?

Scriptures:               Ephesians 2:10

Heartsong AART

Birthing a new program feels like extended labor.  My gratitude to those who labor with me and listen as I seek to articulate the vision of my heart.  I wanted to share part of the labor with you for feedback, prayers and interest.  We have a new booklet, A.A.R.T., Animal Assisted Relationship Training, which outlines the sessions currently in development to aid in discipleship.

This piece of Heartsong will grow with other animals but the heart remains the same:  to see Christians LIVE out the calling God has placed within them.  Another popular activity is a children’s workshop, “Buddies or Bullies” that utilizes the characteristics of bunnies to point out bullying tactics.

 

Here is a sample of what A.A.R.T. will provide:

ABCS of Safety, Security & Significance: In the Garden of Eden, the choice to reject God’s one command cut humanity off from the Need Meeter. When we seek to meet the needs that God built into us…instead of seeking Him…we sin & become captive to that sin. Restoring connecting to the Father begins the process of healing…and fulfillment…and loving ourselves. From childhood to senior citizen, we must find how Christ is the answer we seek and understand how to apply that answer to diverse situations.

Acceptance by God restores IDENTITY for individuals; it provides strength for life in a changing world. When roles or actions give a person identity, they never learn the unique design God gave them. “Who am I” is a necessary question because the answer gives stability. AART activities help us see through our facades. Scriptures focused on identity in Christ & being treasured by God. (Psalm 139:13-14)

Belonging to God restores boundaries that provide safety and security. In the natural world, safety is an increasing concern from childhood to old age. Involvement with animals requires learning to be observant of body language and danger zones. It is easy to appreciate the value of fences, reins and lead ropes. Extending those truths to the internet, to strangers with candy or puppies and to individual choices is the goal of the coach in the follow up. (Psalm 46:1)

Calling of God restores purpose to lives. The Word tells us God has created us for good works…and for connection to Him. He treasures His children and cares for them. Using the natural needs of animals (nutrition, coat & hoof care, exercise), coaches draw parallels to caring for the body as the temple of God and caring for others. (Eph 2:10)

Why won’t he listen to me?

Jump, Scooby, Jump!

She’s four.  She’s been on a horse for about four hours in her life.  She knew what he could do.  She knew what she wanted to do.  She spoke clearly and told him so.

Scooby, who loves jumping, ignored her.   17579988_1435669199829684_1360804793_n

Her voice became more insistent until the words were a plaintive plea:  “Jump, Scooby,
Jump.”

Scooby walked on, unperturbed.

Finally, frustration flooding and tears spilling, she cried out, “Why doesn’t he listen to me?”

Kendal spoke the words every child of God has cried at some point or other.  We know what God can do.  We know what we want and we ask clearly, repeatedly…and nothing changes.  Hearts broken, frustration overflowing, we lash out at being ignored.

Like Kendal, we fail to realize God won’t do what we are not ready for.  It is not that He disagrees with our request; He just knows the time is not right.  God recognizes our weaknesses even when we don’t.  He feels that our faith muscles need strengthening to keep us balanced in the grand actions we request.

God never withholds what is best and He never gives what will harm.

Next time your heart cries out, remember Kendal and whisper a thank you!