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Archive for the ‘Christ’ Category

Puzzle Pieces

In Bible, Christ, focus, Jesus, purpose, Scripture, stress, Truth on August 30, 2014 at 12:22 pm

puzle de un corazon roto

It was complicated. Three hundred pieces cut in the oddest shapes I’d ever seen for a puzzle. Some I swore were edge pieces and for a while was frustrated that they weren’t fitting into the frame with the other edge pieces. If you’re like me, you put the edges together first, then work on the various sections that appear to go together, carefully studying the full image to navigate through the picture. But not everyone does it that way.

One puzzle friend of mine never looks at the picture on the box. She believes that’s cheating and so she constructs puzzles solely by their shapes. I nearly laughed out loud when she told me her strategy. To me, her method is ridiculous, especially when she grabs a piece that is totally unrelated in color then turns it round and round to try to make it fit. I watch this and think what a waste of time that is; to not even consider the colors, their patterns, direction or curvatures seems crazy and frustrating to say the least. Yet, after completing over a dozen puzzles with her, I have learned that her technique works well for her; it’s what she knows and her trained eye is like radar, zeroing in on just the right piece. (Need I mention that her patience level is higher than mine?)

Still, I derive no satisfaction from her methodology. I prefer studying the image on the box top, absorbing its wholeness, beauty and nuances. I hold pieces up to it, attempt to match the color and then estimate the piece’s location in the enlarged frame on the table. I relish the mounting anticipation of accomplishment as each piece clicks perfectly into its proper place, revealing increasingly more of the final picture.

This particular puzzle, however, was disturbing. As I said, pieces were not cut in the traditional shapes and so it wasn’t as enjoyable. Many pieces simply rested next to each other without hooking. And, when I’d match up those non-hooked pieces, I didn’t feel the same satisfaction. It was almost as if I was worried they would fall apart or shift; I couldn’t rest until their surrounding pieces held them securely in place.

As I do with everything, I contemplated how this puzzle compared to life. The Holy Bible has always been the picture on the box for me and each event of my life a piece to the picture. At a very young age, I learned to hold up each piece of my life against God’s Word, studying its pattern, nuance and color to see where it fits in His final image of who I should be. In his letter to the Colossians, the Apostle Paul said that Jesus Christ is the “image of the invisible God.” Paul taught in all the churches he visited that Jesus is the picture of what we should work to create from our lives; that all the pieces of our life should fit together to reflect Him.

That being said, I think it is a colossal waste of time to sit and stare only at the shape of an event or circumstance in our life, continually turning it round and round to make it fit with the other pieces in our life without even looking at the big picture to see where it should go. Instead, unless we have great patience, we get frustrated and walk away, leaving the pieces in a pile for someone else to figure out.

I realize this may be a simplified metaphor of living a life that pleases God, but I believe that living the life God planned for us is easier than we make it. I believe we complicate the puzzle by refusing to look at the Creator’s final image: His Son, Jesus Christ. Instead of holding up each of our pieces against the model He gave in Jesus’ life on earth, we frustrate ourselves by turning the circumstance round and round, trying to force it to fit where we want it to fit—where it was not created to fit.

Yes, it’s tempting to get angry and give up when life’s puzzle pieces aren’t traditionally cut; when they don’t fit nicely together the way other puzzle pieces fit. And yes, it’s tempting to look at a piece and think, I know this one doesn’t go with this puzzle. But if it came out of the box, it goes with the puzzle; it’s just a matter of effort and patience to find its place in the big picture.

Are you struggling with a piece of your life? Trust me, it fits in God’s final picture for your life. In His sovereignty He allowed it to happen. It has a place somewhere amongst all the other pieces and from His perspective, it’s beautiful.

~CCS

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Author’s Note: I dedicate this article to my wonderful Editor, Debbie Adlof, who, over the 14 years she has owned, edited and published the Community Word has become a dear friend. Debbie, thank you for letting me write this column in the Community Word and never once censoring my content, despite the mounting public outcry against God’s Word in public venues. Even if you disagreed with my articles, you never let me know and printed them in full. You have always been wonderful to me, though I have been chronically late with my submissions (even on your last issue!). Thank you for your kindness, respect and friendship. May God bless you richly as you focus your attention on your family and any other pursuits He has for you. Believe me, your puzzle, when complete, will be a beautiful picture God created out of beautiful you!

The Prayer Chair

In believe, Bible, choices, Christ, death, God, Heaven, Jesus on May 22, 2013 at 7:45 pm

Ledersessel

Daddy met Jesus in person in the same place he met him in prayer every morning.  It was a burgundy recliner, worn from the years and matted down by the sweat of many days of hard work. Next to it was his abandoned Bible with a duct-taped spine. He didn’t need it anymore because he left earth with its Author.

If you read my column regularly, you know my dad died in January, 2011. Each month’s article in 2012 was written in honor of the life he lived and the godly inheritance he left me and my brothers. I know I have completely mourned his passing, but the other day on my way to church a song on the radio opened up my eyes to something I hadn’t seen before, something about the place where he died.

The song, by Chris Rice, was Untitled Hymn (Come to Jesus), one of my favorites. I was just singing along, relishing the reminder that I am loved by a wonderful Savior when the last verse of the song burst my heart open:

And with your final heartbeat,
Kiss the world goodbye,
Then go in peace, and laugh on Glory`s side… and

Fly to Jesus,
Fly to Jesus,
Fly to Jesus and live,

Fly to Jesus,
Fly to Jesus,
Fly to Jesus and live!

Extreme joy flooded my whole being, forcing a cool stream of tears from my eyes. In my mind’s eye, I saw my Daddy in his prayer chair looking up into the eyes of his Savior who personally came to take him home.

How do I know that’s how it happened? Well, according to my mom, Daddy, came downstairs that Wednesday afternoon and sat in his recliner next to hers to have a fruit cup and watch TV. He had just spent about an hour snow-blowing the six-to-eight inches of snow that had fallen the night before and was worn out. Within seconds of sitting down, he was in the midst of a massive heart attack. Mom jumped up when she saw his contorted face and said, “I’m calling 911!” Daddy said, “No don’t.”

The paramedics were there in minutes and later, one of them told us that when they got him into the ambulance, they tried to put a nitro-glycerin tablet under his tongue to help jump-start his heart. Daddy closed his lips tight so they wouldn’t put it in his mouth and shook his head, “No.”

In the ER, a doctor and his team worked on his chest with paddles, shocking his heart over and over when all of a sudden Daddy lifted his hands and waved them all off, shook his head as if to say, “No more,” and died.

Why would someone in the midst of such a life-threatening crisis refuse the help of capable hands? I believe it’s because Daddy finally got to look into the eyes of the One Who created him in his mother’s womb; the One Who saved him from a deadly fall after a night of drinking with his U.S. Air Force buddy in Berlin in 1956. I believe it’s because he got to look full into the perfect face of the One Who gave him a new life that night so long ago when he embraced the cross of Jesus Christ as payment for his sin—an acquittal from the damaging choices he had made up to that point. Daddy wanted to go home! He wanted to fly to Jesus and live!

Do you have a prayer chair? Do you have a place where you meet your Creator in person every morning, a place where you feed your soul for the day? My Daddy did and now I do, too. Every day I long to look into those forever eyes like my Daddy did on that day. I want to know Him, the Father of Lights, as he is called in the Bible. I want to know Him so completely that when it is my time to leave this earth and He comes to take me home, nothing on this earth will keep me here. My prayer chair will be empty and my Bible will be there next to it because I will be with its Author, the World’s Best Father!

Why Travel this Christmas?

In Bible, Christ, Christmas, faith, Jesus, love, plots, Scripture on November 27, 2010 at 12:29 pm

Thanks to the underwear bomber who ruined Christmas, the friendly skies have turned dark. Travelers over this past Thanksgiving took to the highways in record numbers in order to avoid scanners and strips searches at airports. But travel they did and, regardless of the obstacles and inconveniences, nothing stops travelers at Christmas.

Little is known about the Wise Men who traveled from the east to find the Christ Child. Their appearance, barely a few sentences on the pages of Scripture, dissolves so quickly, it begs the question as to why they have commanded such prominence in the telling of the Christmas story.

Like a side plot, the Wise Men weave into the narrative, unwittingly stir up trouble, present their gifts then sneak out of the country in fear of their lives. That’s it. But why? They were astrologers! Sure, there was one star that was brighter than the others, but what drove them to lay extravagant gifts at the feet of a two-year-old in a faraway land? Why travel if the star was the prize? They could study the sky and its heavenly bodies from their own rooftop.

Clearly, it wasn’t about the star. If that’s all they were seeking, why bring gifts? No, it was the One the star pointed to that drew them to Judea. They knew from their studies of ancient Hebrew writings that this star heralded the birth of a king—a very special king—and they were driven to worship Him no matter what that journey entailed.

Their quest, hardly a passing curiosity, undoubtedly absorbed years of their attention prior to the arduous journey. It was a quest that has inspired millions, including me—souls who will not rest until they find the Christ Child of Christmas.

Fortunately, we don’t need to travel to a physical location to find Him. Our pursuit is one of faith. Believing that God is Who He says He is, that Jesus is Who He said He was, that the Bible is God’s inspired Word and that the story is not over until He says it’s over.

Yes, finding the Christ Child involves travel, but the land we must traverse to reach Him is that of our own heart: the mountains of lies and false doctrines, the valleys of pain and past hurts; the rivers of tears and misunderstandings and the deserts of loneliness and discouragement.

Why travel through such horrible conditions? Why leave the comfort of our habits and familiar surroundings to pay homage to an ancient character in a story that could possibly just be a fable perpetuated by religious fanatics? There is only one reason, and it throbs ceaselessly in every human heart from birth to deathbed: Love.

For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.

That verse, John 3:16, like the Christmas story itself, is still to this day, the simple, uncomplicated reason why millions still travel to places of worship on a silent night in December.

It is the reason we stand in long lines of impatient shoppers to possess gifts for our loved ones—a reenactment of the extraordinary lengths to which God went when He wrapped His precious Son in human flesh—the perfect gift.

Love and hope, and the promise of an eternity of peace and goodwill, is that not the quest that calls to your heart every day of the year?

Travel to see the King this Christmas, He is worthy of your most extravagant gifts.

A Perfect Government is Born!

In Bible, Children, Christ, Christmas, Jesus, kids, parenting on December 7, 2009 at 1:54 pm

Enemy forces occupied their country. Without notice, raids infiltrated their towns and their children’s blood ran in the streets. Spies mingled among them as they shopped. Life was not safe when they made their way home.

The road was rocky, dusty and long. Transportation was smelly and stubborn, an over-burdened burrow that smelled and clopped along in obedience to a sojourner whose pregnant wife was perched on its back.

When they arrived, the town was packed. Inns were swollen with like-travelers who also were required to return to their birthplace. The occupying regime had imposed a national census and the ancient city was teeming with more citizens than it had rooms to spare.

Unfortunately, the couple was desperate. Labor pains were dominating their decisions and soon any kind of shelter would suffice. Only one option arose.

The stable was on the outskirts of town, which meant more travel. Hungry, tired and anxious, the soon-to-be parents welcomed the rough surroundings and settled in for the long night.

As the humble pair wrapped the world’s future ruler in swaddling clothes, they were oblivious to the angelic choir that was announcing the event to a band of shepherds in a nearby field, and to the travelers from the east seeking an audience with him.

They had no idea that the gifts these wise men would lay at his feet would soon finance a midnight relocation to avoid a massacre of every male child two years or younger in their town.

Life was rough for the man and wife, from their betrothal, which was threatened by public shame when she became pregnant before the wedding, to their disappearance for several years in a foreign land.

When their son was twelve he came up missing during a family church visit and nearly gave his parents a heart attack looking for him.

His adult life was short. Within a few years he was known throughout the entire country and beyond its borders for having supernatural powers, and his proud widowed mother watched in horror as the government, fearful of that power, illegally condemned him and publicly murdered him.

But, back in the manger, sleeping safely in sight of their loving gaze, they named him Jesus by divine instruction, unaware that that name would be on every tongue in every nation of the world.

Some would use it to blaspheme, some to praise. Some would use it for gain, some to cry for help. Some would fight to eliminate it from public use; others would engrave it on their hearts.

His name would cause wars, settle arguments, divide nations and flow from the voices of carolers. It would comfort the weak, offend the strong, counsel the uninformed and free the prisoner.

Regardless, the name of Jesus was, is and always will be the only name by which we are saved from eternal death.

“For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. And the government will rest on his shoulders. These will be his royal titles: Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. He will rule forever with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David. The passionate commitment of the Lord Almighty will guarantee this!” Isaiah 9:6-7

Window Shopping

In believe, Bible, choices, Christ, faith, God, growth, Jesus, Scripture on October 3, 2009 at 2:03 pm

iStock-windowSmallOver the past few months I’ve been reading through the Gospels in my Bible. Starting with Matthew, I’ve read a chapter a day with a deliberate desire for God to reveal His Word to me in a fresh, new way.

By the time I reached the last verse of Luke 19, it dawned on me that God’s Word was so much more relevant and alive than all the times I had read the Gospels.

When this revelation fully manifested in my slow brain, I saw clearly that I had been ‘window-shopping’ through the most significant sections of my Bible.

“Oh, that’s neat,” I would say when reading how Jesus fed 5000+ people with a boy’s lunch.

“Huh, that’s cool,” I would mutter when I’d read that Peter got out of a boat and walked on water to Jesus.

I casually passed over these phenomenal acts of God’s Son with little more than a yawn and headed back to the Psalms where I could better relate to the ‘woe is me’, ‘please change my circumstances, Lord’  and ‘save me from my enemies!’ passages.

Don’t get me wrong, the Psalms are timeless writings of precious, heart-wrenching intimate moments of doomed souls crying out to God for salvation, deliverance, hope and healing. So why breeze through the four written accounts of God’s Answer to all those ancient pleas?

I am ashamed that I have merely glanced at the Gospels’ priceless treasure. In them is the path, the door, the key, the hope, the fruition of God’s promise to Abraham and all who would believe – by faith alone.

Now, I’m tearing apart my house like a crazed, madwoman who lost a valuable coin.  I’m selling everything I have to buy a field where I found a priceless pearl.

I finally get it.  The kingdom of heaven should be pursued.  It’s not history. It’s not a shopping expedition for what fits best into our lives.

It’s real. It’s here.

It’s mine.

Alone

In Christ, Easter, Jesus, love on September 26, 2009 at 7:48 am

Love saw Hate and was unafraid.

Sin was great and now is paid.

God sees you through Love’s pure eyes,

He waits until you realize.

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If the human eyes who watched the broken, bleeding body of Jesus Christ hang on a cross could have seen what was actually happening around them, they would have dropped dead.

They would have seen billions of angels hovering behind that instrument of torture, millimeters from their Master’s torn flesh, fiery swords drawn, holy rage pulsating through their veins, awaiting his command to save him. One single word from their precious King’s lips would have released their fury and nothing would be left, not the people, not the planet, not the devil.

But he held them back with outstretched arms.

Those human witnesses would have seen the old dragon, Lucifer himself, parading around, hissing out his victory song off key; its non-melody paralyzing their hearts more than any Roman could. They would have seen him stirring up his recruits, those wicked imps who chose to follow him when God cast him out of heaven so long ago.

They would have seen something that startled even the spiritual host – a twist in the plan.

You see, Jesus died ALONE.

God turned His face away from His Son.  And in that horribly excruciatingly solitary moment all heaven gasped. Satan sauntered up to the cross, felt his enemy’s wrist, found no pulse and danced away; and hell went with him.

The Father and the Son had never been separated. Not once. The angel’s shock was indescribable. The earth itself erupted, sending shock waves through that hill of death outside Jerusalem. The sun ran and hid behind dark clouds.

It was over. To the devil, that meant he won. To God, it meant the devil lost.

In Christ alone.

Sick

In career, Children, choices, Christ, God, healing, Jesus, kids, parenting, resurrection on August 27, 2009 at 1:33 pm

His daughter was about to die.  He had only one option to keep her alive: find the Healer.

sleepless night

That decision could cost him everything; his job, his reputation, his dignity. But Jarius was desperate.

He cast off the protocol of his position as a ruler in the local synagogue like an old stinky coat and publicly threw himself at Jesus’ feet.  Not exactly proper behavior for a religious leader.

Didn’t he already have a hot line to God?  Why Jesus?  Wasn’t this ‘Blasphemer’ just a radical empowered by the Devil?  That’s what his peers were saying.

Looks like Jarius is about to get the pink slip.

So what!  My daughter is dying!

My guess is he didn’t take the time to process the consequences of his actions; he couldn’t care less what anyone thought – only that his daughter lived.

A sick child stops the world for a parent. They will cross social, economic, political and religious barriers to save them and nothing else matters.

It was such a circumstance that caused this father, employed by an institution that was hotly opposed to the ‘False Prophet,’ to beg for help. So here he was.

“My little daughter lies at the point of death,” he said to Jesus, “Come and lay your hands on her, that she may be healed and she will live.”  So Jesus went with him.

But there were snags along the way that I’m sure tested Jarius to the brink.  Jesus had stopped to talk to a woman! She had had the nerve to touch his garment, crawling in the dirt like a dog.

Why are you stopping to talk to a WOMAN?!  My daughter is dying!!  Come on!!

Jesus stood patiently to hear the woman’s story. Come on – come on – we’re running out of time!

A hand was placed on Jarius’ shoulder. “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?”

Jesus heard the news and instantly infused the stunned father with faith. “Do not be afraid, only believe.”

Earlier in the Gospel of Mark, where this story is found, another public situation revealed the huge risk Jarius faced by seeking out Jesus.

His peers, the scribes and Pharisees, were incensed when they saw Jesus dining with ‘tax collectors and sinners.’  They pulled His disciples aside and asked why he would do such an unclean, inappropriate thing.  Of course, Jesus heard them and had an answer.

“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”

Only the sick need a doctor. Do you see His innuendo?   We’re all sick!  Jarius got it, and his daughter lived.


Backup

In Christ, Easter, God, Jesus, plots, resurrection on August 17, 2009 at 8:24 am

It was easy to believe.  It still is for many, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

Attache full of money

The body of Jesus is gone, said the guards who had been assigned to secure his tomb. There was this great earthquake, so we fell over and then there was this bright light so we were blinded and when we came to, his body was gone.

The body was stolen, end of story. His disciples simply stole his body and then perpetuated his claims, that’s what you are to say. If anyone says he was resurrected, they are lying. If anyone challenges you, we’ll back you up. And, here’s a year’s salary for your faithfulness.

That’s my paraphrase of the scene in Matthew 28:13, 14 between the chief priests and the Roman guards who were stationed at Jesus’ tomb the night of his burial. Poor guys, couldn’t even guard a dead man.

What’s more outrageous is when the chief priests – the very ones who represented God on on earth – heard eye-witness accounts from Roman guards, they stomped the story into the ground, replaced it with a lie and paid off the witnesses!

Not only did these priests have the blood of God’s Son on their hands, they denied first-hand witnesses to his resurrection.  Their sin would not go away. They did what every human does when they refuse God – they cover and hide.

Like Adam and Eve. Except their devices of covering and hiding were more sophisticated. Buy off the guards, replace the truth with a lie and promise backup.

If you don’t think lying could get any more sophisticated, then you don’t watch the news. This ancient technique of recalibrating the truth is now common practice. And, those who perpetuate lies always have a backup plan. You have to! Lies cannot support themselves – they have to have backup.

Jesus’ story, on the other hand, needed no backup. He went to the cross willingly. He died to make payment for the sins of the world. He rose again to give all who believe in him a second chance to get it right. He was the second Adam. No backup plan in case his sacrifice didn’t ‘work.’ No payoff to his disciples to assure his story would be spread throughout the world.

All the manufactured devices on earth cannot suppress the truth.  God is truth. End of story.

Lord, help me to face You and not cover my sins, nor hide from You. Thank You for paying my debt to You, for being who You said You were – for doing what You said You’d do. You are the Truth.

Wagging

In Christ, God, healing, Jesus, judging, relationships on August 13, 2009 at 9:16 am

Throughout my life as a Christian, I’ve succumbed to certain beliefs and ways of thinking that I now see stunted my growth.

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One in particular I will refer to as “if this, then that.”  Most techies know this phrase as the logical formula on which computer programs function, but this formula is actually quite ancient. In fact, I was shocked when I read it in my Bible!

“If he is the King of the Jews, let him now come down from the cross and we will believe him!” This statement taken from Matthew 27:42, is one in several that were hurled at Jesus as he hung bloody and ripped to shreds on a cruel cross.

The waggers said, if this, then that. How foolish to box God up so that only one conclusion could be drawn by the scene in front of them!

Matthew begins this scene (verse 39) by saying, “And those who passed by blasphemed Him, wagging their heads.”

Then it struck me. How often have I been the victim of wagging?  People who have no clue of my background, my circumstances or my purpose in life look at me as they pass by and draw a faulty conclusion: if this…then that!

Worse, how often have I passed by others, glanced at their current situation and mocked, if this, then that!

Could Jesus have saved himself?  Of course!  He said as much in the Garden of Gethsemane when his ‘friend’ betrayed him. He calmly told his disciples, who were incensed by the mob assembled with swords surrounding their Savior, “…do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels?”

Wow. A legion is one thousand. Jesus could have had 12,000 angels at his side – instantly – to deliver him from the piddly earthly mob.  The swords of earth’s iron would melt in the presence of God’s army of angels wielding swords of fire. It wouldn’t have mattered though, because in the very moment the angels appeared, those mighty men, puffed up on power  and piety, would have dropped their swords, peed their pants and fainted!  What a scene THAT would have been.

But Jesus had a purpose. He told his disciples in that dark garden that if he called the angels, “How then could the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must happen thus?”

We were each created for a purpose. First to be redeemed from our sin and then to please God. This may play out in a zillion ways, for each of us has a path to follow. But how painful it is when God has us in that path and we are met on the road by waggers!

Moreover, how shameful it is for us to wag our heads at those around us who appear to be fake, foolish or out of God’s will and mock!

Scripture warns us on wagging: “Who are you to judge another man’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand.” Romans 14:4

The challenge then is to stay on the path God has chosen for us and to abstain from judging the progress of others.

Lord, forgive me for wagging my head at others. I have no idea what you are doing in their lives and I am sorry for presuming that I do. And, please heal me from the wounds I have sustained from others who have wagged their heads at me.

Dull Hearts

In books, change, choices, Christ, God, healing, Jesus, prayer on July 31, 2009 at 10:19 am

Last night I was talking with a friend on the phone apologizing for not being available to her these past two months. “It’s like I’ve been in a coma,” I explained.

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I realize my choice of words was exaggerated, as I’ve never been in a coma, but she got the point.  She knew that in June my husband and I uprooted our lives and moved north to live closer to our kids and new grandson.  Thank God for good friends with lots of patience!

But, this morning as I was musing on that conversation, I admitted to myself that I’ve been in a ‘coma’ longer than these past two months.  I didn’t realize my condition until I arrived at Chapter 13 in the book I’m reading:  Matthew 13:13-17 in my Bible.  Jesus was teaching his disciples and those who had come out to hear him speak using parables, short stories packed with dynamite.

After a few stories, the disciples pulled him aside and asked, “Why do you speak to them in parables?”  Jesus pulled a quote from the ancient prophet Isaiah to answer their question.  It was here that I realized the state of my own heart:

“…the hearts of this people have grown dull.  Their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, so I should heal them.”

Ouch.  You mean I can close my eyes and ears to God’s Word?  And, if I do, my heart will grow dull?  It is this word ‘dull’ that caught my attention.  I’ve been so focused on my earthly state of affairs that I allowed my heart to grow dull.

If a dull heart comes from ears and eyes that are closed, then it only stands to reason that my own will closed them.  My will.  What was that one part of the Lord’s Prayer? 

Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Yes, that’s it.  That’s the prayer I repeat when I hear it in church.  Good Christians know that by heart.  The question is, do they mean it by heart?

Lord, I choose to open my eyes and ears so that when I read or repeat Your Word, when I raise my hands in worship or take notes on a sermon at church, my heart will be sharp and not dull.  I want to understand with my heart and turn so that You will heal me.  Thank you for your patience with me and for friends and family who love me in spite of my dull heart.