Sometimes the most challenging writings are the ones that hit home. I once had a Pastor say to me, "only when delivered from something can you talk about it?" I've always kept those words close to my heart because if my heart needs to be set free from unforgiveness or bitterness, then I must purge it.
I recall praying and asking God to reveal what was in my heart, and sure enough, He did with a dream. In the first dream, I saw myself praying and telling God I was like "Mara." That night I dreamt of telling a friend the same word and how I felt like Mara because of what an individual had done. I knew what Mara meant because I recall Ruth's mother-in-law Naomi calling herself "Mara" after her husband and sons died. Even though I knew the word meant bitterness, it still didn't occur to me; this is what was brewing in my heart. I felt victimized, but unbeknownst to me, resentment was silently growing in my heart. That's until these words hit me, "practice what you preach" Ouch!
Like a virus that attacks our immune system, so is bitterness in our hearts. But bitterness isn't the only "emotion" that can infect our hearts. You and I face an array of emotions; our hearts can become sick if we aren't careful. The book of Jeremiah reminds us, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick, who can understand it. Therefore, "I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds" (Jeremiah 17:9-10). What fruits do you think we'll produce if our heart is deceitful and corrupted? Just look at our world today. For instance, our culture has become increasingly hostile towards Christianity because it wants everyone to believe that sin, God, and truth are subjective and based on personal beliefs. The danger is that once a culture has hijacked your heart, you no longer live to please God but instead man. Therefore we must guard our hearts. In the last article A Hijacked Heart, we spoke about guarding our hearts with L.A.Y.E.R.S. So, let's dig deeper to see what this means.
L – Love God with all your heart, soul, and strength. (Deut 6:5, Matt 22:37, Mark 12.30). What does it mean to love God with all our hearts? I believe when we love God with all our hearts, it overshadows "me-ville"—a world that only satisfies my desires and interests. Instead, you spend time wanting to know what God loves and desires from you —your heart loves what he loves and hates what he hates. You and I can only get to that place if we know what His word says. And I don't mean just reading the word of God but studying it! Get to know God for yourself, and I encourage you to use Blue Letter Bible and the Tony Evans Training Center. I pray that you and I will never perish for lack of knowledge.
A – Affirming words to encourage the heart. In the previous blog, I spoke about speaking positive words. Never underestimate the power of affirming words—offering someone, including yourself, emotional support and encouragement. Check out these scriptural references:
- Proverbs 15:13 "A joyful heart makes a cheerful countenance, but sorrow of the heart crushes the spirit."
- Proverbs 16:24 "Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones."
- Proverbs 12:25 "Anxiety weighs down the heart of a man, but a good word cheers it up."
You and I must encourage ourselves in the Lord daily and remember— hope does not make us ashamed (Romans 5:5). Therefore, always remain positive, even amid adversity.
Y – Yield to God. In other words, surrender all to Him. That includes your past hurts, present hurts—whatever you're dealing with now and your future plans. God wants to be Lord over everything. So, in Joshua's words, throw away the idols among you and yield your hearts to the Lord, our God. (Joshua 24:23) What are you idolizing that is in your heart? What is preventing you from drawing closer to God? And what does your heart want most? Is it God or the things of this world? These questions weren't meant to make you feel guilty; rather they were meant to make you aware of your heart's condition, is it yielding to God or the things of this world?
E – Exhale means to breathe. You and I underestimate the power of taking deep breaths. It may sound trivial, but it has proven effective. Even the military uses it as a technique to help prevent the amygdala  from taking over the frontal lobe of the brain. When it happens, the emotion of fear can hijack the rational side of the brain and take over. Could you imagine a fearful marine who seeks to hide rather than fight? When you breathe properly , you control your nervous system. You are allowing your rational and emotional mind to work together rather than the emotional mind hijacking everything. Therefore, try breathing exercises when you are emotionally upset.
R – Release, this is where the purging takes place. You must rid yourself of the ugliness in your heart. Easier said than done because I think this is the hardest of them all. We are often unaware of the things we harbor in our hearts, and that's dangerous. Therefore, you must constantly bring your heart before God—asking him to purge you of the feelings that contaminate and cause your heart to move away from people, Him, and His word. Only God can reveal the things hidden and buried deep within the heart. And only God can help you forgive and show you how to move forward. So once you yield to Him, let him show you the areas you need to release. So Let go and Let God do what he does best— transform hearts.
S – Sing Spiritual Songs. Ephesians 5:19 sums this up: "speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart (Kardia) to the Lord." And what better way to guard your heart than to sing and make music in your heart to God. If you're an active P.O.W. listener, you're already doing this, and I encourage you don't stop now. Instead, fill your heart with songs that glorify your heavenly Father. In addition, when you and I sing unto the Lord, we are reminding ourselves that despite what we see, God is faithful, and in the words of songwriter Sinach, He is our waymaker, miracle work, promise keeper, light in the darkness, My God that is who you are!"
So remember —we must not only be hearers of the word of God but also doers. So Layers up!
Written by: Cheryl Carty-Strachan
Copyright © 2022 Power of Worship Radio, All rights reserved.
 The amygdala, a center in the limbic brain…is the specialist for emotional matters. If the amygdala is severed from the rest of the brain, the result is a striking inability to gauge the emotional significance of events. Daniel Goleman, Emotional Intelligence (Bantam Books, NY, 2020) 13
 When you take slow, steady breaths, your brain gets the message that all is well and activates the parasympathetic response, said Dr. Brown. The sympathetic response is activated when you take shallow, rapid breaths or hold your breath. "If you breathe correctly, your mind will calm down," said Dr. Patricia Gerbarg, assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at New York Medical College and Dr. Brown's co-author.
1. Sitting upright or lying down, place your hands on your belly.
2. Slowly breathe in, expanding your belly to the count of five.
4. Slowly breathe out to the count of six.
5. Work your way up to practicing this pattern for 10 to 20 minutes daily.
 Check out the meaning of Kardia in "Is Following Your Heart A Bad Thing."