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Excerpt for Where Your Heart Meets God's by , available in its entirety at Smashwords



Acknowledgments


You are a Godsend. I say that to all who helped put this book together, such as my husband, Dan, whom I call Ol' Eagle Eye because of his sharp editing skills. There is also the Rev. Danny Daniels who patiently answered my many theological questions. I am likewise grateful to the small groups and Upper Room Prayer Gathering at Park Avenue Baptist Church in Titusville, Florida. They listened to the devotions, caught the vision and encouraged me to persevere. Many thanks also to my dear friends, Nancy Boffo and Kathy Bisbee for the tasty meals out, laughter and their insight. A special thank you goes to my artistic mother, Doris Leischen. During my early years, she read to me and together with her drawings, ignited the fires of imagination.

*The Rev. Danny Daniels and Kathy Bisbee have since gone home to Heaven.

Cover design by: http://selfpubbookcovers.com/SironaDanu

The Jewel of Discovery

"For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matthew 6:21, NKJV).

Treasure hunters hack through jungles, climb mountains and dive into oceans to uncover vast fortunes. Priceless works of art and valuable antiques have been discovered at yard sales, thrift stores and in dusty attics. But sometimes, treasure is found where we least expect, even when we are not looking for it.

I never imagined this could happen to me, especially on that ordinary winter afternoon in the foothills of Maryland's mountains, where our cozy home was tucked away. Like thousands of days before, I'd just prepared supper for our family of five, then sat at the kitchen table while I waited for my husband to return from work. Taking a moment to watch peaceful snow falling outside our picture window, I breathed-in the aroma of food simmering on the stove and listened to my children playing in another room.

Soon, I caught a welcome glimpse of Dan's car pulling into the driveway. Our front door opened and closed. After Dan stomped the snow from his shoes, his footsteps approached.

Entering the kitchen, he brushed my cheek with a kiss on which snowflakes lingered. He placed an old, clothbound book on the table.

"I stopped at a rummage sale and picked this up," he said. "It's the great Christian classic, Pilgrim's Progress written by John Bunyan, a preacher in 17th century England. The book is an allegory, which follows the central character, Christian's, journey through this life to the next. I thought you might want to read it."

Ever the bargain lover, Dan stood tall and smiled. "I bought this copy for only ten-cents."

After Dan went to greet the children, I opened the book and flipped through its yellowed pages. They gave off a musty smell, as if this classic work had been stored in an attic and forgotten for decades. Back then, I never imagined that I had just opened a door to an everlasting treasure of the heart. Nor could I have imagined that God has such a treasure prepared for me, or that every person has the same, if we will but believe.

This can be compared to a treasure chest overflowing with gold coins, rubies, diamonds, emeralds and so much more. The hinges squeal as we crack open the lid and peek inside.

Custom-made to each heart and individual calling, the jewels offer glimpses of realities that this world's trials and even the grave can never take away. The following pages offer steps in a thrilling journey that spans eternity. Will you come along to discover the wonders God has for you?

It all begins with a prayer, "Lord, open my eyes."

Let us extend our hearts and reach for the first jewel.

PEARL TO PONDER: What does "a treasure of the heart" mean to you?

LOVE NUGGET: God gives treasures to those He treasures. "You will be my treasured possession."1

The Jewel of Pondering
"But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart" (Luke 2:19, NIV).

On the title page of Pilgrim's Progress, a statement and a Bible verse stood out.

The statement was that the book had been "delivered under the similitude of a dream."

The author supports this with Hosea 12:10 from the King James Bible, "I have … used similitudes."2

Both echoed what I had read in the Bible about God speaking through dreams and visions. The Old Testament tells of Jacob,3 Joseph4 and Daniel.5 New Testament examples include Joseph6 and Peter.7

However, I believed what I heard from pastors and was taught by Biblical scholars, namely; after the canon of Scripture was complete, there was no longer the need for God to speak in any way, other than through the Bible. This is one interpretation of 1 Corinthians 13:10. "But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away." (NKJV). According to this interpretation, "that which is perfect" is the completed Bible.

I have heard ministers warn that Christians should be wary of wild-eyed mystics. One pastor even attributed visions, dreams and personal communion to indigestion from eating too much pizza. Along with many others in the congregation, I laughed at the notion. Now my laughter was being challenged.

The New International Version of the Bible translates Hosea 12:10 into more contemporary language. "I spoke to the prophets, gave them many visions and told parables through them."

I lingered on that verse and John Bunyan's claim that his book had been delivered through a dream. Like precious jewels, the verse and statement contained many facets. I thought about the word delivered. Babies and packages are delivered. But could a book or a message be delivered from God?

I knew this was true of the Bible, which 2 Peter 1:20-21 describes as written by men inspired by God. Of course, the Bible is the foundation against which all doctrine is weighed.

What about individuals? Does God deliver books and messages to you and me? The questions wouldn't go away.

PEARL TO PONDER: Do you believe that God still speaks in ways described in the Bible, such as visions and dreams?

LOVE NUGGET: God is your friend and you are His. In two-way conversations, friends share their hearts. As we read in the Bible, "I have called you friends."8

The Jewel of Waiting in Expectation

"Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart" (Psalm 37:4, NIV).

Reading Pilgrim's Progress, I set out with Christian as he fled the City of Destruction (symbolizing earth and sin) to begin his journey toward the Celestial City (symbolizing Christian growth and eternal life.)

Along the way, he met characters which depict aspects of our lives and values: Evangelist, Pliable, Obstinate, Money-Love and Faithful. He even encountered and battled evil in the form of Apollyon. Christian was also provided with places of respite and instruction. One of these was the Interpreter's house, where he was shown two children, each named according to his temperament: Passion and Patience.

Both were to receive "the best things," also described as "a bag of treasure," at the appropriate time. True to his name, a discontented Passion insisted on receiving all immediately. But quickly squandering and consuming his treasure, he was left with only rags.

Assured of things yet unseen, Patience was willing to wait in quiet anticipation. As I read about Patience, something new and extraordinary happened. Although written centuries before, those words suddenly became more than ink on a page in a musty book. The Holy Spirit breathed on them and brought them alive. From God's very heart, a message had been delivered to mine. Like Patience, I too would receive a treasure, or the "best things."

Wondering what form this might take, I felt like an excited child anticipating gifts on Christmas morning. At first, I thought the treasure might be some remarkable one-time event, such as a long-awaited answer to prayer or a miraculous healing. Over the years, I would learn it might involve those things, but it is much, much more. It is something personal between God and each believer, who is chosen and favored.

This one-on-one relationship is spoken of in Revelation 2:17, where the overcomer is promised hidden manna and "a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it" (NIV).

What is written on your stone will mean something precious to you and God. So it is with our individual treasures. For now and throughout eternity, what God writes on your heart, will have your name.

PEARL TO PONDER: In Pilgrim's Progress, characters were named according to their attributes and disposition. If you were named likewise, what positive trait or loving quality might your name be?

LOVE NUGGET: Even though, like Passion, we might have squandered some of God's gifts, anyone can start anew. As one pastor has said, "He is the God of a thousand chances."

"Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full."9

The Jewel of Favor

"Then was I in his eyes as one that found favour" (Song of Solomon 8:10, KJV).

God's words to us generally fall into two categories, called logos and rhema. The Rev. Danny Daniels, Director of Prayer and Prophetic at Park Avenue Baptist Church in Titusville, Florida, explained the meaning of these Greek words.

"Logos is the written word of God, as well as the living Word, Jesus Christ. Rhema is a personalized word from God, which might come out of the logos."

To illustrate these terms, I would ask the reader to imagine herself standing in a cheering crowd, straining to catch a glimpse of a king as he passes in his royal carriage, surrounded by his entourage.

You might see him for a moment, or you might be inspired by some words he may pause to speak. However to you, the king would remain distant—someone you read about, see on the news or know facts about. He would not be a friend in whom you would confide your joys and sorrows.

Sadly, this is how many Christians relate to God. They read their Bibles and learn facts about Him, even life-changing facts. But God is not someone with whom they carry on a two-way conversation. His word, the Bible, remains the logos "written" word. It might address the reader's finances, marriage, family or life situations; however, she does not hear the personal love song of the author's heart.

Now, imagine yourself back in the crowd, but this time you see the king glance in your direction. Across the multitudes, his eyes meet yours. The king orders his driver to stop and he emerges from his carriage.

The throngs hush and part as he makes his way closer and closer, causing your heart to beat faster and faster. Reaching you at last, the king extends his hand and leads you to his carriage, where you commune face to face.

This is the rhema message, the kingdom of God within the believer's heart.10 It is heaven here and now—reaching out to you.

PEARL TO PONDER: In the 16th century, St. Teresa of Avila, Spain, wrote a book, "The Interior Castle." What does that title mean to you?

LOVE NUGGET: "I have summoned you by name; you are mine."11

The Jewel of a Young Man's Wisdom

"But our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases," (Psalm 115:3, NKJV).

Soon after my first encounter with a rhema word from God, within the pages of Pilgrim's Progress, about receiving the "best things," I attended classes at a Bible institute. It was a traditional school and my New Testament teacher was a young pastor, not yet thirty.

Following an established lesson plan, he taught that the more "charismatic" stream of belief was not for today. We learned that visions, dreams and personal revelations were signs for the ancient Jewish people and no longer applied after the canon of Scripture was completed.

It must have been providential that I brought my concerns to this young pastor one day after class. I approached him as he sat at his desk.

"Do you believe that God still speaks to people in ways described in the Bible?"

My teacher looked up from his lesson plan, took a deep breath and spoke from his heart.

"God is God," he said with reverence. "He can do whatever He pleases."

Those words became embedded in my heart. They allowed me to see outside a theological box and peer into the very windows of heaven.

Song of Solomon 2:9 hints at whom we may see trying to catch our eye.

"Look! There he stands … gazing through the windows" (NIV).

This indicates that in every human heart, there are windows of access to and from heaven. We can shut those windows and turn away into empty religiosity, or we can respond in faith to Him who loves each of us as if there were no other.

PEARL TO PONDER: Can you recall a time when God's Spirit came tapping at the window of your heart?

LOVE NUGGET: No matter what the situation or sin, heaven does not shut its windows to your cries. God is an attentive Father and His arms are always open to you.

The Jewel of Heavenly Signposts

"My son, pay attention to what I say; listen closely to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to a man's whole body" (Proverbs 4:20-22, NIV).

Sometimes I think my husband would need to be lost on another planet before he would ask for directions. In the black of night, that is how the unfamiliar city looked after we drove 14 hours to visit our son who had relocated with his job. Now if only we could find his apartment.

Weary from the tedious drive and with no GPS to guide us, we drove up and down monotonous, dimly lit streets. Seeing the same buildings again and again, I realized we were driving in circles, going nowhere.

Finally, Dan called our son from his cell phone, but he only chatted while trying to think of a way to admit he was lost.

After a few minutes, the frustration bubbling up inside me exploded. I began yelling.

"We're lost! Help us! We're lost!"

Hearing my pleas, our son gave us directions and we were soon dragging our weary bodies into the comfort of his home.

Our experience can be compared to Pilgrim's Progress and the believer's sometimes difficult journey through life. God has not left us to wander aimlessly, as Dan and I did in that unfamiliar city. He has provided direction. These are His words to us; signposts that help us navigate our journey through life. We read these in the Bible (logos) and the Holy Spirit personalizes them through verses that become illuminated (rhema.)

The Rev. Danny Daniels explained that we are to meditate on these words. According to the Hebrew and Chaldee Directory in Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, this means to "study, ponder, muse, pray, speak,"12 etc.

Because God's word is "living and active,"13 this focus brings life and direction to our situations.

By writing his own "rhema" signposts on 3 x 5 cards and meditating on them, Daniels keeps them before his eyes and in his heart.

This became especially pronounced after he was diagnosed with a virulent form of cancer. Combining Scripture meditation with medical treatment and nutrients he felt impressed of God to take, he is now a cancer survivor of 20-plus years. Step by step along this continuing journey, he has carefully followed God's signposts. They have brought him direction, hope and life. When you feel lost, know God has signposts for you, too.

PEARL TO PONDER: What Scriptures, teachings, experiences or advice have provided signposts along your life's journey?

LOVE NUGGET: Look for the heavenly signposts God has provided for your guidance.

The Jewel of a Life-Changing Logos Word
"Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path" (Psalm 119:105, NIV).

As a child of nine or ten, I occasionally went horseback riding with a friend. This was not something I enjoyed, because while my friend could master her horse, mine always seemed beyond my control.

"Please stop, please go this way, not that way," I would plead.
Paying no attention, the horse would go trotting off the trail and into the woods, where branches slapped and scratched my face.
This should have told me something about motherhood and raising lively toddlers. But like most of life's lessons, I learned this one the hard way, through trial and error—at first, mostly error.
When my toddlers ignored my instructions or had temper tantrums, I would plead with them like I did those willful horses of my childhood.
"Please listen. Please don't do that, sweetheart."

By day's end, I felt as bruised and battered as I did by horses that mocked my authority and tree branches that slapped my face. When my husband came home from work, he often found me weeping in frustration.

One such day, Dan had enough.

Seeing our daughter reach for an electric cord, he introduced her to a new word.

"No!"

Conditioned to ignore me, Amanda ignored him too, again reaching for the cord.

"No!" Dan repeated, removing her hand and slapping it lightly.

Her small face puzzled, Amanda looked from her hand to her father, before again defying his instruction.

"No!" Dan said, now more sternly, removing her hand and tapping it again.

With shock registering on her face and sorrow rushing into her voice, Amanda began to wail and backed away from the cord.

I watched in amazement. In only a minute or two, Dan had accomplished what I could not in a year.

Still, I questioned my husband's method. "Isn't hitting child-abuse?"

"I don't believe it is, when it's done to instruct and not to hurt," Dan said, gathering our repentant daughter in his arms. "I believe child abuse occurs when children are allowed to become so out of control that parents lash out in anger. Discipline teaches a child the meaning of the word no, which life will often tell them, and they will need to tell themselves when temptations come their way."

Dan recalled a Bible verse. "Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it."14

The words "train up" contained in that verse registered in my mind and became a signpost for our household. I realized I could not let my children wander any way they wanted. It was my duty to guide and discipline them as they journeyed from childhood to adulthood.

Although I was not yet a "Bible believer," this helped me to appreciate the instructional value of the written word (logos.) As I applied it, the atmosphere in my home changed from chaos to relative calm.

Even so, the author of this instruction manual for life remained a stranger, as if he were a professor in a crowded hall and I, a student lost in a sea of faces.

PEARL TO PONDER: In the Bible, Jesus is called Rabbi, meaning "master" or teacher. How do you think that applies to you and your life?

LOVE NUGGET: "Your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them."15

The Jewel of a Life-Changing Rhema Word

"When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart's delight" (Jeremiah 15:16, NIV).

Have you ever been a guest at a wedding reception, where the bride and groom serve each other a taste of wedding cake? Maybe you have been this bride or groom, watching the fluffy pastry approach, then savoring its sweetness and receiving it to become a part of you.

This brings to mind the words and promises that Jesus the Bridegroom16 offers those who believe, called "The Bride."17

Although the Bride is corporate, the individual receives these in a heart-to-heart relationship with the Bridegroom. His words, breathed in the intimacy of communion, become a part of us and our place in God's plan. In Biblical terms, one might call these rhema words of promise, bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh.18

I saw this proven in my own life, when I longed to be a writer. But as an everyday homemaker, I had neither the means nor the knowledge to bring this about.

Then one day as I read my Bible, the words to Habakkuk 2:2-3 became personal. As if written just for me, they spoke to this longing of my heart.

"And the LORD answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it. For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry" (KJV).

Those words became a part of me and my destiny. I was to "write the vision," meaning stories and books that God inspires. Even though the circumstances of my life dictated otherwise, I knew He would bring my writing dream to fruition. I would see my words in print. My faithful Bridegroom had promised and He is completely trustworthy with all our concerns.

This signpost helped me take my first steps along a writing adventure that has brought me to miraculous places. Listen for God's assuring words. He did it for me and He can do it for you.

PEARL TO PONDER: Has God spoken to you through the Scriptures, with a promise that you received into your spirit as a part of your destiny?

LOVE NUGGET: God inspired the Bible with His promises to you in mind.

The Jewel of Knowing There Is More

"For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face" (1 Corinthians 13:12, NIV).

"A year of miracles." I wrote those words on the inside cover of my Bible. They describe the year when God's Spirit knocked at the door to my heart19 and I opened to His presence. This wondrous journey began with that first message from Pilgrim's Progress about the children, Passion and Patience, each to receive a bag of treasure.

Passion you may recall, insisted on satisfying his lust for more by demanding everything immediately. However, his treasure was quickly consumed, leaving him only with rags. Patience on the other hand, sat in quiet anticipation of God's treasures, which come in His time and way. And what we see is only the surface. Layer upon infinite layer await the believer's discovery.
When I first peered into my treasure, the Scripture became alive and intimate, like a letter from the dearest of friends. I never imagined God would commune through other means. Then, during a medical crisis, I received a Divine surprise. God reassured me through a song, and a secular one at that. Are you listening for Him in unexpected ways?
Later, He would speak into my thoughts with whispers clearly not my own. I saw meaning in paintings and photographic art, recognizing expressions of the Master Artist that touched and taught me. Have you sensed the wonder of God in His creation?20
With childlike enthusiasm, I began anticipating the unfolding of God's Spirit to mine. This can be illustrated by looking at one mirror reflected in another. The image we see seems to stretch endlessly. God's personal words are comparable, but they are within our reach and beckon us to enter and explore ever-increasing depths.
However, the year of miracles would give way to another, then another, during which my journey of discovery would take a treacherous turn. It would lead me to what the author of Pilgrim's Progress called, "Hill Difficulty." Along its rock-strewn path, I would exchange some of my jewels for a heartbreaking lump of coal. But as I scaled the jagged peaks, an unanticipated encounter would squeeze my lump of coal into a diamond.

Do you have some lumps of coal? God can transform disappointments into diamonds.

PEARL TO PONDER: Has God's voice ever surprised you?
LOVE NUGGET: Wherever you are and whatever you are doing, God is speaking, if you will listen.
The Jewel of Miraculous Comfort
"Though my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me" (Psalm 27:10, NIV).

"Our Father in heaven."

Those words open the beloved Lord's Prayer, prayed by millions throughout the world.

Although I sometimes recited it during my youth, the word "Father" stuck in my throat. I did not want to associate it with God. It conjured up hurtful memories of a troubled relationship with my natural father. I'm sure many know what I am talking about. The pain my mother and I had suffered was a barrier I could not get around. I could almost picture God with my father's face, scowling at me from the clouds.

After my parents divorced and my father moved to Arizona, he and I rarely spoke. However, when I married and had children, we began to call each other and visit back and forth. As my father welcomed us into his home and showered his grandchildren with affection, happy memories crowded out the bad.

He related glad news. Never a religious man when I was growing up, he had been attending services at a church near his home.

"I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior," he said with new peace in his eyes.

About 10 years later, my father's world fell apart. Emphysema and heart disease came on the heels of a near-fatal car accident that left him brain damaged and suffering seizures, calmed only by powerful prescription drugs.

To gain a few of his meager possessions, con artists preyed on his drug-fogged mind, convincing him I was an unworthy daughter. In the end, my father rejected me on his deathbed.

I only survived this great heartache because God had prepared me in a way I would never have thought possible. That life changing night happened shortly before my father's passing. It began like thousands before, typical in many homes. I tucked the children into bed, watched a little television, then kissed my husband goodnight, leaving him glassy-eyed in front of the late news.

As I trudged upstairs to bed, concern about my father's deteriorating condition weighed on my mind, as did worries about those I suspected were taking advantage of his weakness. Breathing a deep sigh, I dropped onto the bed and fell into a troubled sleep. What I experienced next changed me forever, and I suppose it could happen to anyone ….

Whether it was a dream or a physical translation, I will never know in this life. Suddenly, I was prostrate before a king on a throne and in the presence of love infinitely greater than any I had ever known. This love surrounded me like an embrace, yet it was not only external. Like the penetrating warmth from a fireplace, it reached into my every molecule. The love was more than emotion. It was alive and it had its source in the being on the throne.

Even though I couldn't see him21 I never thought to ask why. Whatever happened, I knew this king had my best interests at heart and was committed to my care, like a father for his dear child. Kindness was at His core.

I immediately knew this King of Love was God.22

As He spoke, tenderness filled His voice—a voice that could also be all powerful and in eons past, had thundered the universe into existence.

He issued two promises, one about my children, the other about the writing career of which I had always dreamed. A third, more personal promise came as a wind lifted me into a tunnel connected to the throne room.

At this point, I caught a glimpse of my surroundings, which reminded me of a candlelit grotto carved into a mountain.

Then, I was back to where it all begun—the safely of my bed.

Despite the wound left by my father's rejection, safe is how I continued to feel; for I knew the love that had reached from heaven, then carried me home, was that of my Heavenly Father. He would never let me go, nor could anyone ever take my place in His heart.

With great confidence, I can now pray: "Our Father in heaven."23 My Father, and the loving Father of all who believe.

PEARL TO PONDER: Has your relationship with your father affected your image of God?

LOVE NUGGET: Although parents may have hurt us and as parents, we sometimes hurt our children, we can cry out to God. He alone, is the perfect Father, who promises to "bind up the brokenhearted."24

The Jewel of a Giving Heart

"Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?" (Hebrews 1:14, NIV).

On that steamy summer day, the car trip was too long, the children too crowded in the back seat and our air-conditioner broken. Even the wind whipping in our open windows felt hot and stale. We were all in a foul mood by the time the car overheated.

Dan turned off the road into a large service area. It consisted of several bays, all empty but one, where a young woman stood beside her car with its hood up. She watched us as we drove through the lot and pulled in beside her. In retrospect, it seems strange that we would come so close. However, we seemed drawn to her.

When Dan got out of the car, he noticed there was no mechanic or attendant in sight—only the woman who approached to inquire about our situation and needs.

The kindness on her face was unlike any I'd ever seen. It was more than an expression. It was a caring warmth at her very essence. She made me feel safe. Have you ever encountered anyone like that?

She gave Dan a container of antifreeze, exactly what we needed. Along with some water, he poured it into the radiator and off we went.

A few miles up the road, Dan gasped.

"Oh no! That woman who helped us looked like she was having car problems of her own, but we never asked her about them."

My mouth popped open. How could we have been so thoughtless?

Discussing what had happened, Dan and I realized that even our helper did not appear concerned about her plight. She was preoccupied only with ours. When we drove into the service area, she seemed to be expecting us. She was ready with what we needed. Then there was her otherworldly kindness. Could she have been an angel?

PEARL TO PONDER: Can you recall a kind stranger who helped you make it through a rough spot?

LOVE NUGGET: God sends angels to those He loves and God loves you.

The Jewel of Another Chance


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