Preparing the Heart
Growing up, my parents often invited people over for dinner the pastor’s family, people from our church, and missionaries traveling into town—sometimes they stayed for weeks. Looking back, I marvel how momma handled this with ease. I’ve lacked that talent for being hospitable. I become a stress case thinking about cooking dinner for anyone outside my family. What if I burn something or something gets cold while I’m making something else. How in the world do you time it all? What if…I poison someone! Welcome to my internal dialogue.
I’m embarrassed to admit the first dinner I made for my husband (we were dating at the time) was boiled chicken. It boiled up and over the pot and made the biggest mess. I plunked that flavorless white chunk of boiled-mess on the plate. Immediately, he ran out and purchased me an engagement ring in an attempt to save me from starvation. (Just kidding here, hmm…but possibly)
In my defense, I can set a beautiful table, but I suppose no one’s going to remember that beautiful table unless there’s something to eat on it.
This insecurity has allowed me to buy into the lie that I don’t have to cook dinner for anyone, and I’ve gone long periods of time without one dinner guest. It’s as if that southern culture my momma created fizzled out in me. I’ve bought into the lie that it’s not my talent therefore let other’s do the inviting and the feeding, but this has come at a cost. Throughout Christ’s ministry many times the personal relationships He developed were over a meal, think about it…the last supper, at Mary and Martha’s house, at the beach when He cooked fish for the disciples.
I read an article not too long ago that stated God wants us to be hospitable. The writer pointed out we must have a willing heart even if it’s something we are naturally not good at because first it’s a sign of our faith (walking forward in uncertainty) and secondly, an act of worship.
Throughout this Christmas season I’ve reflected on Mary’s willing heart. When the angel Gabriel visited her and told her she was to give birth to the Messiah, she asked one question, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” At first glance, one would think she was doubting what the angel Gabriel told her, but because of the angel’s response to her we know it wasn’t doubt in God’s power, but innocent curiosity. I love this because it shows God sees the heart of a person and knows us. He understood Mary’s limited experience in her mere thirteen years (or so) of life.
The opposite is true in Zechariah. When Gabriel told him he and Elizabeth would have a child and they were to name him John. Zechariah questioned how he could be sure this would happen since he and Elizabeth were so old. Zechariah wanted proof. This angered God because first—pointing out the obvious—God sent an angel to tell him the news. Wouldn’t that be proof enough? Secondly, Zechariah was a priest and knew the scriptures backwards and forwards. He knew God blessed Abraham and Sarah in their advanced years with their son Isaac. God held a higher expectation from an older priest than a young girl; causing God to take away Zechariah’s ability to speak until after John was born in response to his lack of faith.
Once Mary heard the Holy Spirit would overcome her and impregnate her, she stated simply, “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.” Mary was willing to carry the Christ child even though it was against the law for her to be with child and unmarried. She knew she could’ve been stoned to death, but she was willing.
Four years ago, I felt God impressing upon me I would be speaking. I journaled it as I do when I feel God is trying to tell me something. I can talk the cows to sleep, as my Momma so eloquently will tell you, but I hate speaking. Soon after, I journaled this, the leader from MOPS asked me to speak about Finding Joy in a Sorrowful Season. I had an hour to speak. I walked up to the podium gripping a barf bag. As soon as I began to speak God took over for me, and midway through I watched a tissue box being passed around between the young moms.
Before opening Hallelujah House, I felt the Father impressing on me I would be making videos and speaking in them. This is way out of my comfort zone, so I’ve tried to negotiate my way out of it. One morning preparing for my next Bible study on The Armor of God by Priscilla Shirer, somewhere in the middle of the workbook page I felt His nudging again.
“Why now? Why didn’t you call me in my thirties?” I prayed. “You don’t see 50- year old’s on You Tube!” Not only that—I’m losing my hair from my double mastectomy. I imagined the criticisms that would pour in. The enemy whispered in my ear and filled me with angst. I compromised I’d speak—but off camera, yet I knew in order for the watcher to feel a connection with you and your story they need to see who’s doing the talking. I told myself I imagined it all. God isn’t asking this of me, besides I’m a writer. He wouldn’t ask me to do something I’m not inclined to do. (Please tell me I’m not the only one who does this.)
Just then my computer screen flashed a tweet by the very person who wrote the study I was working on. Priscilla Shirer tweeted, “Just Obey.” The words hung suspended glaring at me and seared my heart.
I sank in my chair.
I penciled in the date my son and I would do the filming. I pinned my hair back so it wouldn’t flap around in the wind and I sat in front of the camera in a barn stall on a hot morning with a wool wrap on (sweating bullets) and told the message God put on my heart, The Best Gifts Come in Ugly Wrappings. You can see the video here: https://videopress.com/v/0WpWDM7z
In God’s word, the Christmas story not only illustrates a willing heart but a mind inclined to obedience. What if Joseph didn’t take Mary to be his wife after finding out she was pregnant? Or if he chose not to obey when the angel told him to get up and flee to Bethlehem? Or if the wisemen chose not to go home another way as God told them to? Without a heart that’s willing and a mind focused on obedience we could fall out of God’s protection and blessings over our lives.
Are we willing? Are we willing to do whatever it is God has called us to do no matter how uncomfortable, embarrassing, or risky it is? God blesses a willing heart and an obedient mindset. As we face the New Year the best gift we can give the Savior for His birthday is a willing heart and obedience to His call on our lives. Whatever He asks us to do it’s already bursting forth to bring a harvest. He’s gone ahead of us and paved the path to completion; we just need to relinquish our reluctant spirit.
Please note: We will have one more blog written by Lisa Sciacco posted Monday on how to make an easy last minute homemade gift for your loved ones. After that, Hallelujah House will be taking a break through the Christmas holidays. In January our theme will be… drum roll….Spiritual Warfare, so get ready to get on your spiritual armor. We’ve got some great things planned. I’ll catch you on the other side.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!