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Hanging On

hanging.on

God used that stubborn maple tree to draw me closer to him. Here’s how.  Each year we get our gutters cleaned out. But only after the trees surrounding our house have shed all their leaves.  Every tree in our neighborhood had released their leaves. Except the one closest to our house.

Our gutters couldn’t be cleaned until all the leaves on that tree were gone. Why did I become so frustrated with that maple tree? Because it represented one more thing I couldn’t control.

Health is one thing we can’t fully control. Not the health of our loved ones, or our own. Those of us raising kids with mental illness (MI) have learned that lesson the hard way.

In addition to our son’s MI, my husband’s health made me feel a bit helpless. His gallbladder needed to be removed.  As we waited for the day of surgery, I didn’t stray far from home.  At any moment, he could suffer another gallbladder attack.

My imaginary jar of control was filled to the brim. I was successfully handling daily chores—Howie’s and mine. Howie and I controlled what he ate, being careful not to add any fat to his diet. I was even able to control how much attention I’d give to my own physical symptoms (growing fatigue, worsening back pain, annoying runny nose and sore throat…). God helped me ignore all my own pain as He gave me endurance.

The tree became the straw that broke my control container. I couldn’t check off ‘gutters cleaned’ from my to-do list until that tree cooperated!

Why are you hanging on for so long? Let them go!

Those two words, “hanging on” echoed in my mind.

Hanging on … Hanging on …

 Hanging on can be good or bad.  I wondered if I had been hanging onto thoughts of the life I dreamt for Chris. Before his MI hit, he seemed on track to lead a fulfilling life. First there’d be college and then a job. Followed by life with a family in a suburban home.

God had other plans. I wondered if I’d fully accepted God’s plan for Chris. Then I reminded myself of God’s faithfulness. He had enabled Chris to graduate from college. Since then, Chris has remained active.

My deliberate shift in focus back to God’s faithfulness reminded me of what Jonah expressed. For three days he lived inside a great fish, ensnared by his surroundings. Finally Jonah turned his heart to God and said,

“When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, Lord, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple. Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God’s love for them. But I, with shouts of grateful praise, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.’” (Jonah 2:7-9).

When we feel our life ‘ebbing away’, it helps to remember our Lord and cry out to Him.  Our Creator, who kept Jonah alive in a fish, will sustain us. He’s the God of nature who controls all things. Who has power to do more than we can imagine. Who loves us more than we know.

So here’s the good part of hanging on. When we hang onto God, we can relinquish all control to Him, trusting that He’ll care for us and our family.

Maybe we can’t relate to being swallowed by a great fish. (I can’t remember the last time I heard about someone on the news surviving such an ordeal!) It’s easier to envision wandering in a wilderness. In Psalm 63 we read about how David clung to God when he was in the wilderness.

Perhaps you’re wandering through a period of emotional drought—void of joy and peace. Let David’s words be your prayer to God:

“You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water. I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you. On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night. Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. I cling to you; your right hand upholds me” (Psalm 63:1-8).

Hang in there and cling to God.

 

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Waiting for the Payoff

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What’s the point of all we do? No one thanks us for showing unconditional love to our child who has mental illness (MI). No one knows our heartache. Or our loneliness. What keeps us going? How do we continue to support our child with little or help or no recognition?

We don’t see the fruit of our labor like other moms raising kids without MI. There are days when discouragement sets in. Thoughts of our child’s future taunt us.

Will he ever be fully healed? Will joy and peace ever return to him? Will he ever find his place in life?

We’re tempted to shake our fist at God and cry, “Why do you allow this misery to continue?” How is it possible to resist the temptation to lash out at God? By remaining in His Word and clinging to His promises.

How do we face another day? What does keep us going? Certainly we’re driven by our steadfast love for our child. We’re also propelled by the rewards God promises.

Matthew reminds us that there will be an eternal payoff.   He tenderly shifts our focus by saying,

“Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matthew 6:20).

Eye on the Prize:

MI tempts us to abandon our faith in God. For those who trust in God, Jeremiah offers encouragement.

“… ‘your life shall be as a prize to you, because you have put your trust in Me, says the Lord’”  [Jeremiah 39:18b (NKJV)].

For those who earnestly seek Him:

I can’t imagine dealing with MI without access to a real and living God. When earthly reality gets shattered, I can rely on the Truth that God exists. He not only invites us to turn to him in our distress, but He promises to reward us for doing so.

“Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Hebrews 11:6).

For those who persevere under trial:

When things get tough, it helps to have someone cheering us on. Teaching was especially tough for me when multiple sclerosis (MS) hit. My husband kept assuring me, “You can do this.” God reassures us that we can endure with His help. He doesn’t say, “See if you can make this for one more year.” That would sound IMPOSSIBLE. He calls us to trust Him one day at a time. Just like when He told the Israelites wandering in the wilderness to trust Him for manna for each day. For those of us who trust him afresh each morning, He promises a reward.

“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12).

The online Oxford University Press dictionary defines “persevere” as to, “Continue in a course of action even in the face of difficulty or with little or no prospect of success.”

Is that a picture of your efforts? Do you continue to do all that is within your power to help your child, even though deep down inside you suspect it won’t make a difference?

James tells you that you will be rewarded for persevering under trial—for ministering to your child in so many ways and for such a long time.

For those who run as God’s athlete:

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever” (1 Corinthians 9:24-25).

Running the race God has set before us involves strenuous effort, self-control, and concentration.

In the face of MI, we focus solely on fixing our child’s problems. Like a marathon race, our track requires strenuous effort. We can say we ended the day victoriously if we devoted strenuous effort to seek God in the trial.

Ours is a daily battle of fighting fears, self-pitying thoughts, and anger.

When circumstances take a turn for the worst, I’ve had to deliberately interrupt my own negative thinking.

Why must I have to face this AGAIN? I’m just so tired of—No! Dear Father, put a hedge about my thoughts and emotions. Block out any negative thoughts. Help me deal with this situation. Give me steady emotions and Your wisdom.

We can exert self-control. Self-control that will be seen in our gentle responses to our child, regardless of his actions. Restraint that doesn’t come from self-will, but from the Holy Spirit in us.

We can demonstrate a constant concentration on our goal. Many of us function with a clear focus on heavenly matters, in addition to life’s pressing concerns. Yes, we help our child find good treatment, compassionate therapists, and a purpose for their life. In the midst of it all, we also remember to invest Truth into his heart. We share verses and pray with him. And we remind him that God’s power is greater than any problems. We reassure him that God is still on the throne.

Run your race with renewed confidence. God will enable you today and reward you for all eternity. He’ll give you treasures in heaven and a crown of life. That will truly be the best payoff ever!

Searching for Beauty

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What can you do when darkness has shrouded your heart? In the secret places of your mind, are you groping in the dark? Are you squinting to find even a glimmer of hope? Are you straining your eyes to spot a flicker that will illuminate the way out? Are you afraid to admit that your life feels black?

Your child’s struggles with mental illness (MI) may not have ended. It may seem like the light of your life has gone out. Leaving a cloud of doom hovering over your home.

I can assure you from experience that life isn’t always as black as it seems. In the midst of my darkest hours, God’s love and faithfulness shined brightest.

Scratch art symbolizes buried beauty. Young children delight in discovering bright colors hidden beneath black. Similarly, you will delight in discovering God’s light in your darkness. It’s truly there.

Colors are revealed most vibrantly against a dark backdrop. Like a sunset glowing in the night sky. Or a diamond presented on black velvet. Sometimes, you just have to look closely. Like in a microscope.

Those who search for beauty in a microscope find treasures not visible to the naked eye. Dr. Fernan Federici is a perfect example. His microscopic images of plants, bacteria, and crystals reveal hidden masterpieces—created by the Master.

microscp.flourescnt.proteins

That same Master invites us to look into His Word to examine His love. A closer study of the scriptures reveals a treasure trove of Truth. Like the power of a King and the faithfulness of a Friend.

Zoom in on 2 Corinthians 1: 3-4a to spot a tiny, yet encouraging word.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles …”

Did you find it? “ALL” We have access to a loving Father who is the God of ALL comfort. He comforts us in ALL our troubles. How does He do that? By easing our anxieties. Think about each burden you’re bearing and envision God removing them from your shoulders.

Now zoom in on Isaiah 9:2 for a powerful and assuring Truth.

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light.”

Did you find it? “IN” We will find Christ, “the light of the worldIN the midst of our dark times. How does He do that? By making His presence known when we’re going through turmoil. Consider the current struggle you’re experiencing and imagine Christ walking beside you, holding your hand.

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners …to comfort all who mourn … to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair” (Isaiah 61: 1-3).

That same Lord wants to bind up your broken heart, to proclaim freedom for you from the darkness of MI, and to comfort you. He wants to replace your ashes of sorrow with a ‘crown of beauty.’ To transform your mourning into joy. To turn your despair into praise.

Longing for Spock-Suppressed Emotions?

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“Just snap out of it!” What psychiatrist would ever prescribe that treatment for depression? One did. Lucy charged Charlie Brown five cents for that advice. Sadly, we know that it’s not possible to just snap out of it.

So what do we do with our fears and frustrations, regret and remorse, guilt and grief, sorrow and shame? Can we silence those painful feelings which result from mental illness (MI)? Why can’t we just face illogical situations without reacting?

Spock did it in Star Trek. But he was a fictitious alien. That character was portrayed by a real man with human emotions. In the New York Times’ article “Leonard Nimoy, Spock of ‘Star Trek,’ Dies at 83” Virginia Heffernan shared one of Nimoy’s statements.

“‘To this day, I sense Vulcan speech patterns, Vulcan social attitudes and even Vulcan patterns of logic and emotional suppression in my behavior,’ Mr. Nimoy wrote years after the original series ended.”

Is it possible to suppress emotions? Would it be wise to wave a wand over our child’s head and magically remove all feeling? Would it be better to spare him any future pain of MI at the expense of feeling anymore joy?

When Chris had to endure his first stay in a psychiatric unit I don’t know who was in greater pain: him or me. My seventeen-year-old son’s body lay on my lap in a fetal position crying, “Why? Why can’t I go home?” The gentle strokes of my fingers on his head couldn’t wipe away his turmoil.

It took several months for Chris to become functional enough to return to school. My own heartache grew so excruciating that I became numb. I’d watch movies to escape the tragic reality of my life. Even tear-jerking story lines couldn’t cause me to shed a tear. I had already cried an ocean-full.

The book of Psalms became my comfort. I identified with the Psalmist who engaged in healthy self-talk.

“Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God (Psalm 42:5, and 11).”

The Psalmist showed me a better way to escape. In the privacy of my bedroom, I could turn to God and find refuge in Him. Psalm 57:1 became my prayer.

“Have mercy on me, my God, have mercy on me, for in you I take refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed.”

God led Chris to a psychiatrist and psychologist who were both Christians. Those men provided godly advice. Healing words for Chris and for me. I’ll forever be grateful for their expertise. But also feel, “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in humans (Psalm 118:8).”

I’ve learned that, “The righteous will rejoice in the Lord and take refuge in him; all the upright in heart will glory in him (Psalm 64:10)!”

I found relief in the promises of Psalm 51: 10 and 12. That God would restore my joy and sustain me.

“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me (Psalm 51:10, 12).”

So would it be better to be like Spock, void of emotions? Having experienced the joy of the Lord and knowing His perfect peace, I say no! I’m glad I’m not like Spock.

But here’s a thought. We can actually achieve Spock’s blessing: “Live long and prosper.” Christians have been given the gift of eternal life and have access to God’s unlimited riches.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).”

Just close your eyes and picture this heavenly scene:

“Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:4-7).”

We may not know what tomorrow holds, but we have a living hope. So we can join Peter and say, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you (1 Peter 1:3-4).”

We WILL certainly live long and prosper. I don’t know about you, but I’m grateful for emotions. With the ability to love and be loved by God.

By the way, Virginia Heffernan explained why Leonard Nimoy chose his split-finger salute for Spock’s character. She wrote that, “He based it on the kohanic blessing, a manual approximation of the Hebrew letter shin, which is the first letter in Shaddai, one of the Hebrew names for God.”

What a wonderful way to greet others: by sharing God!

Speechless

SPEECHLESS

Silence fell over the college dining hall. Everyone savored each bite of the roast beef. Back in the day, such a meal came only once a year—at final time. Usually we had to choose from one form of “mystery meat” or the salad bar. Entrees often tasted like hospital food. So roast beef was a real treat. We didn’t want to interrupt the taste sensation with casual chatter. We were speechless.

Other things which delight our senses can leave us speechless. A breathtaking sunset which could never be captured. An unmatched athletic fete which would appear impossible to duplicate. An orchestra performance which could only be rewarded by a standing ovation.

The temporary inability to speak is usually caused by strong emotions. Either good or bad. Horror can render one speechless. Like news of the death of a loved one.

Often there are no words to describe secret pain suffered. A mother watching her child struggle with mental illness (MI) doesn’t even attempt to explain what’s in her heart. The carefree smile on her child’s face has been replaced with a dark stare. The young head that used to tip backwards in bubbling giggles now hangs down like a heavy wet rag. Her child once used to be the life of a party. Now she’s an empty shell of a person. Lifeless.

No words can explain the sorrow.

Mothers aren’t the only ones left speechless in the wake of MI. Sometimes our children with MI don’t speak. Clinical depression robs them of any desire to communicate. How their parents long for happy conversations!

Refraining from speaking isn’t always a bad thing. The best response often is silence. Whenever Chris fires unprovoked anger my way, I shoot a quick prayer heavenward. Asking God to help me remain silent. Whenever Chris makes an odd statement, Howie listens without response. Withholding our anger or judgment delivers an unspoken blessing to Chris. Silence conveys our unconditional love.

Poets and leaders have written about the value of silence.

Thomas Hardy (1840-1926), the British novelist and poet observed, “That man’s silence is wonderful to listen to.”

Winston Churchill (1874-1965), the British politician, pointed out, “When the eagles are silent the parrots begin to jabber.”

Mark Twain (1835-1910), a man known for his words, touted the benefits of silence. He chose strong descriptors to convey his passion about a pause. “The Pause; that impressive silence, that eloquent silence, that geometrically progressive silence which often achieves a desired effect where no combination of words however so felicitous, could accomplish it.”

What about the Bible? Does it tell us anything about silence? Christ often didn’t respond. He used silence to convey a powerful message or to make a point. Sometimes His silence was coupled with a look. Peter experienced one of those.

“Peter replied, ‘Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!’ Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: ‘Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times (Luke 22:60-61).’”

We find biblical warnings associated with talking in Proverbs. Verse nineteen in chapter ten tells us that, “In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise.”

That’s what moms raising kids with MI need. Wisdom. Scripture emphasizes the importance of investing serious contemplation before speaking.

“The heart of the righteous studies how to answer (Proverbs 15:28  NKJV).”

Knowing how fragile our children are, we choose our words wisely.

Proverbs 17:27 instructs us to use words sparingly. It provides a formula for a calm spirit. Knowledge + understanding + few words = a calm spirit.

“He who has knowledge spares his words, and a man of understanding is of a calm spirit.”

As we minister to our children with MI we seek a calm spirit. For our children and for us. We not only find serenity in carefully chosen words. We find peace in God’s glory. His creation leaves us breathless and reminds us of His power. In Him we have an all-powerful King who offers unlimited hope.

Phil Wickham, in his song ‘This is Amazing Grace’ sings about how God’s glory which leaves us breathless.

“Who shakes the whole earth with holy thunder

And leaves us breathless in awe and wonder

The King of Glory, the King above all kings”

Reflect on that breathless wonder as you listen to, ‘This Is Amazing Grace’ Phil Wickham    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cgsbaBIaoVc

Never-ending

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Sometimes we don’t want it to end. Other times we plead for it to end. Saying, “PLEASE. Just make it stop!” It all depends on the ‘it.’

If we’re talking about our child’s mental illness (MI), we wish it would end. All of it. In that case, ‘never-ending’ has a painful connotation. It conjures up images of persistent pain, relentless unrest, perpetual prayers, unending uneasiness, and ceaseless sorrow.

Change ‘never-ending MI’ to ‘never-ending God.’ And suddenly, there’s unlimited hope. With a shift in focus comes more than we could ever imagine or need. New words fill our minds with restored hope.

Out from our cloud of darkness we see glimmers of God’s faithfulness that’s endless and ever reliable … for any situation we’ll ever have to face.

Through His Word we gaze into His heart and find love that’s unconditional and unlimited … for our child, our family, and us.

In our situations, He reveals His power that’s boundless and unconstrained … more than we’d ever before experienced.

In our loneliness, His presence is continual and all-encompassing.

Because He’s God.  Yahweh.

Ever wonder what Yahweh means? I did. In my initial search, I discovered it means “HE IS.” That made it clear as mud for me! So I dug deeper. And found a great article.

I learned a lot about the name Yahweh from Timothy Lin’s article “God’s Biblical Name ‘Yahweh’ And What It Means.” Lin explained “HE IS” this way:

“He named Himself ‘HE IS . . . ,’ an unlimited and unsearchable name bearing all the necessities of His people.  If they needed redemption, ‘HE IS Redemption’; if peace, ‘HE IS the Prince of Peace’; if help, “HE IS the Counselor.” If they were sick, ‘HE IS the Healer’; if poor, ‘HE IS the Supporter’; if in trouble, ‘HE IS the Deliverer.’”

Later in his article, Lin wrote something that grabbed my attention.

“Now, Moses came and proclaimed that he had been sent by ‘HE IS;’ that was exactly what they needed to hear. They needed a name by which all their problems would be solved and all their questions would be answered.  And here it was.

“If they would say, ‘We are too weak,’ the answer of this name would be HE IS your strength; ‘We are too poor,’ HE IS your wealth; ‘We are too ignorant,’ HE IS your wisdom; ‘We are not trained for war,’ HE IS God Almighty.

“What name could be more comforting and encouraging to those faint-hearted people? No wonder when they heard ‘HE IS’ had visited them, ‘they bowed their heads and worshipped’ (Ex. 4:31).

“No other words in the entire vocabulary of language could be better used by God to name Himself than ‘I AM’ or ‘HE IS.’

“It is a heavenly blank check. No matter how much one needs, God has reserved more than enough in His eternal bank.”

Now THAT’S something I understand: a heavenly blank check! God is all I’ll ever need Him to be. What an amazing thought: I have access to His eternal bank. And so do you!

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At Christmas we reflected on Emanuel, God with us. Continue to reflect on other names of God. They will remind you of His never-ending qualities.

If you wonder if He’s abandoned you, remember He is the Living God.

If you feel like you’re groping in the dark, look for the Father of lights.

If you need someone to lean on, rest in the arms of your Heavenly Father.

If others have abandoned you, trust your Everlasting God and the King eternal. He’ll always be there.

If your situation seems impossible, leave it at the throne of the Almighty God, the God of heaven, who created all things. Nothing is too hard for Him.

If you’re worn out, enlist Yahweh Nissi: “The Lord is my Banner” to help. He’ll fight for you.

If your resources are depleted or you lack wisdom, look to Yahweh Jireh (Yireh):“The Lord will provide.” He’ll meet all our needs.

If you feel lost, trust YahwehRo’i: “The Lord my Shepherd” to find you. He’ll care for you tenderly.

If you heart’s in turmoil, seek inner calmness from Yahweh Shalom: “The Lord is Peace.”

Hillsong sings of God’s never-ending glory in their song ‘From the Inside Out.’ Unleash your soul and cry out to Him as you listen to their song:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X-afZJ9_TIM

 

Whole

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What’s the dream of a mom raising a child with mental illness (MI)? For many of us the answer is found in the word ‘whole.’ Our greatest desire is for the broken child or family to be whole again. So our broken heart can rejoice once again.

It seems impossible to ignore the shattered pieces of a child’s life. We do all we can to put them back together again. But often feel like Humpty Dumpty’s king’s horses and king’s men who could put Humpty Dumpty together again. We would understand the cry of the king if he moaned, “What made Humpty Dumpty so fragile? Why didn’t he just roll away, unscathed?”

An army of why’s attack:

Why did this happen?

Why can’t any restore clarity of thought?

Why doesn’t anyone understand?

Why do we have to endure another holiday that’s overshadowed and complicated by MI?

Why can’t life just return to normal?

We writhe in emotional pain as we stand defenseless. Our arsenal of answers is empty. The barrage of why’s batters our soul. Leaving us secretly broken.

How can we feel whole while waiting for restoration?

If we love the Lord with our whole heart, we can crowd out sorrow. Sadness will remain, but God will refresh our soul. He did that for me as I searched His Word for verses about loving Him completely. He’ll do it for you.

Your situation may differ from mine. But God is the same. May He bless you as you read the following verses.

God requires us to love Him with our whole heart.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength (Deuteronomy 6:).”

“And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul (Deuteronomy 10:12).”

“The Lord your God commands you this day to follow these decrees and laws; carefully observe them with all your heart and with all your soul (Deuteronomy 26:16).”

“Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (Matthew 22:37).’” Also found in: Mark 12:30 and Luke 10:27

God blesses those who love Him with a whole heart.

“‘If your descendants watch how they live, and if they walk faithfully before me with all their heart and soul, you will never fail to have a successor on the throne of Israel (1 Kings 2:4).’”

“So if you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today—to love the Lord your God and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul— then I will send rain on your land in its season, both autumn and spring rains, so that you may gather in your grain, new wine and olive oil (Deuteronomy 11:13-14).”

“The Lord will again delight in you and make you prosperous, just as he delighted in your ancestors, if you obey the Lord your God and keep his commands and decrees that are written in this Book of the Law and turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul (Deuteronomy 30:9-10).”

“I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the Lord. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart (Jeremiah 24:7).”

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6).”

A prayer asking the Lord for an undivided heart.

“Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. I will praise you, Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever (Psalm 86:11-12).”

Praise results from a steadfast love of the Lord.

“My heart, O God, is steadfast, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and make music (Psalm 57:7).”

My heart, O God, is steadfast; I will sing and make music with all my soul (Psalm 108:1).”

“I will extol the Lord with all my heart in the council of the upright and in the assembly (Psalm 111:1).”

“I will praise you, Lord, with all my heart … and will praise your name for your unfailing love and your faithfulness … When I called, you answered me; you greatly emboldened me (Psalm 138:1-3).”

Our challenge:

“But be very careful to keep the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the Lord gave you: to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to keep his commands, to hold fast to him and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul (Joshua 22:5).”