I love spring! I love how the flowers start to peek out of the ground. On my walking route last spring, I noticed a residence that had flowers planted in the shape of a heart. (I trust you can see that in the photo I took above.) Spring seems to bring hope, along with sunlight and fresh air, to counteract the bleakness of the past winter.
I think most everyone will agree - this past year has been different, difficult, and perhaps downright depressing! So when this question was posed to me, "How's your heart?" it was very hard to answer honestly. My heart feels battered and perhaps betrayed by all that has transpired through the Coronavirus pandemic and upheavals associated with it, and by the unrest across the United States - whether political, racial, social, etc. Although I have not experienced the loss of a family member or close friend to Covid-19 and the accompanying complications, there are people that I personally knew who have succumbed to the disease, and my heart breaks for their families.
The writer of Psalm 73, Asaph, acknowledges that the human heart is frail, and that strength comes from God.
"My flesh (health) and my heart (spirit) may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever." [Psalm 73:26]
So when our hearts feel battered, betrayed, and broken, and our circumstances are different, difficult, and depressing, we need to give ourselves a "heart-check." A friend and I are starting to go through a devotional study that focuses on renewal, Heart Check, by Christine Caine. The title of the lesson for Day 1 is "Give Your Outlook an Upgrade."
"For our light and momentary troubles are achieving
for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what
is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is
unseen is eternal." [2 Cor. 4:17-18]
Sometimes we need to let go of things - expectations of ourselves and others - and allow Jesus to fill our hearts with hope - with the expectation of living with the reality that this world is not our home. For those who desire a heart check, we need to look up and fix our eyes on God.
Pastor Vicki sent me two prayers earlier this week, asking if they could be used in a blog post; one for looking back on 2020 and the other for looking ahead to 2021. At first, I didn't think now was the time to use them as New Year's celebrations are long past. I then realized that this is a good time - today is 3/20/21. Today is the first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere and for most of us in America, the pandemic restrictions (which started a year ago in March 2020) are looking to be lessened and lifted, so in some aspects, this IS the perfect time to usher in a new year/season! Look for the reminders for a heart check within these prayers.
A PRAYER, FOR LOOKING BACK ON 2020 God of Life, There are days when the burdens we carry Are heavy on our shoulders and weigh us down When the road seems dreary and endless, The skies gray and threatening, When our lives have no music in them, And our hearts are lonely, And our souls have lost their courage. Flood the path with light, Turn our eyes to where the skies are full of promise; Tune our hearts to brave music; Give us the sense of comradeship With heroes and saints of every age; And so quicken our spirits That we may be able to encourage The souls of all who journey with us on the road of life, To your honor and glory. Amen. -attributed to Augustine of Hippo (354-430) A PRAYER, FOR LOOKING AHEAD IN 2021 Wind of God, blow far from us All dark despair, All deep distress, All groundless fears, All sinful desires, All Satan’s snares, All false values, All selfish wishes, All wasteful worries. Blow into us Your holy presence, Your living love, Your healing touch, Your splendid courage, Your mighty strength, Your perfect peace, Your caring concern, Your divine grace, Your boundless joy. Wind of God, Blow strong, Blow fresh, Blow now. Amen. - Pamela Wilding, Kenya (from Prayers Encircling the World)
Both of the above prayers are from a collection of prayers compiled
by Meghan Feldmeyer Benson, Chaplain of Duke Divinity School
When I was re-reading Psalm 73, as mentioned above, the words to the Chris Tomlin song, I Will Rise, came to mind. It is a song filled with hope and a resolve to keep looking up!
There's a peace I've come to know Though my heart and flesh may fail There's an anchor for my soul I can say "It is well"
There's a day that's drawing near When this darkness breaks to light And the shadows disappear And my faith shall be my eyes
Here's the video with lyrics: