One Good Thing

 

Be careful how you think; your life is shaped by your thoughts. –Proverbs 4:23 (GNT)

I’d just graduated from college and had gotten my first job teaching junior high English in Punxsutawney. Mom had wanted me to get a job in the Mon Valley and live at home.

“Think of all the money you’ll save,” she said.

Sure, I wouldn’t have to pay rent or cook (I didn’t know how anyway), but it would mean losing the independence I craved.

I did consider it, though. We were both still reeling from my father’s death the previous November. But Mom and I were too much alike, and when we were together, the sparks flew.

So, knowing not a soul, I pored through the “For Rent” ads in the local paper. Although I grew up in a town, my dream was to live in the country. I found a second story furnished apartment in a village about a mile out of town. Not as country as I wanted, but for now it would do.

My fiancé helped me move in – then drove out of my life, shattering my heart and unleashing a flood of grief I’d held in since Dad died.

At night the pain was the most intense. I awoke in the morning emotionally raw. But I didn’t have time to withdraw from life and give full vent to my sorrow. As a first-year teacher, I was learning the school’s curriculum, planning lessons, and dealing with teenagers. I was barely out of my teens myself. I turned 21 that November, a year after Dad died.

I also had my own place and all the responsibilities that went with that. Which included driving three miles every day to my landlady’s for water.

Who in their right mind, you ask, would rent a second story apartment with no water? A 20-year-old, fresh-out-of-college girl desperate to begin her life, that’s who. Who believed her landlady’s promises that she’d have water “tomorrow.”

After a month of lugging the day’s water up the outside stairs, I found another apartment. In town. Furnished. With water.

When I informed my landlady, she dangled what she thought would be a temptation: “What if I rented the apartment across from you to a nice, single state trooper?”

No dice. Through all the heartache, upheaval, and broken promises, I’d done some growing up and had learned a few lessons.

The most important was the attitude of my mind: that what I focused on – what I chose to think about – determined my attitude and consequently my life.

I could choose to wallow in grief, bewail broken promises, lament lugging water, and feel sorry for myself. After all I was going through, I certainly earned the right.

Or I could choose to find one good thing in each day and dwell on that. Just one good thing . . .

I chose the latter. And it turned my life around. By Christmas, I had a comfortable apartment, contact lenses, a new piano and guitar. At the end of January that first year of teaching, I met the true love of my life. Together we built our dream house in the country.

Another, and probably the most important, thing I chose was to go back to church. Eventually that led me to a deeper, higher, more meaningful relationship with my Creator.

It was only years later that I discovered what God’s Word had to say about the attitude of our minds and the quality of our lives:

Our lives are determined by the way we think (Proverbs 4:23).

When we change the way we think – renew our minds – we are transformed from the inside out (Romans 12:2).

We choose the way we think by taking our thoughts captive and making them in line with what God wants us to think (2 Corinthians 10:5).

We are what we think (Proverbs 23:7).

What about you? What do you focus on?

Thank You, Lord, for being with me, guiding me, and showing me the way to a fulfilling life. Amen.

Read and meditate on Philippians 4:8.

© 2018 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.

Heart Issues

Image in public domain

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. – Proverbs 4:23 NIV

When we had a dog, it was important to give her a medication that guarded her heart against worms. Her health depended on it.

I was reminded of this when I read an article recently about teaching our children to fence in, or guard, their hearts.

As parents, we do our best to train them up in the way they should go (Proverbs 22:6) and teach them which behaviors are acceptable and which are not. With diligent and consistent discipline, we fence in their behavior and in the process teach them to do the same thing. At least we hope so.

But behavior is one thing, heart attitude is another.

While we pray the training we give them and the example we set are automatically going to affect their heart attitudes, I wonder – we may have control over their behavior (to a point), but do we truly have control over their hearts?

Does not behavior result from heart attitude?

We may act a certain way to be accepted, please others, get what we want, but that behavior may not reflect our true heart attitude. Most of us care what others think of us, and we would be aghast if they knew the true condition of our heart – if they caught a glimpse of the ugliness we do our best to hide even from ourselves.

When I gave my heart to Jesus, I gave Him my love, my life, my loyalty, my obedience in exchange for His love in me (Galatians 5:22), His life in me (Galatians 2:20; Romans 8:10), His strength in me to be true and submissive (Philippians 4:13; 2 Corinthians 12:9–11).

But my heart is still mine to maintain. I will always have a choice to love Him, obey Him, submit to Him, follow Him.

That’s why it’s important that I guard my heart and keep it pure.

“Above all else,” Scripture tells us, “guard your hearts, for everything you do flows from it” (Proverbs 4:23).

How do we guard or, in the words of the article writer, fence in our heart?

Paul tells us in Philippians 4:6–7: “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”

God’s peace will guard your heart if you (1) pray and leave things in God’s hands, and (2) thank Him even before you see an answer. Let go and let God do His thing.

Another way to guard your heart is to watch what you allow in. Garbage in, garbage out. Build and maintain a fence that will allow only the highest and best in. Again I quote Philippians: “whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy” (4:8). Guard whatever your eyes see and your ears hear, for these are the pathways to the heart.

We’re also to keep our hearts pure. And we can’t do that alone.

Prayer is the key here. Only God can purify my heart and cleanse me on the inside.

And so I pray: “Search me, O God, and know my heart . . . Point out anything in me that offends you” (Psalm 139:23, 24). And again: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10).

How are you guarding your heart?

Be the fence around my heart, O God. Amen.

Read and meditate on Psalm 139:23–24

© 2018 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.