Tough & Tender

The heart

 

is a curious

and beautiful

and complex

thing

 

With our hearts we feel the depths

and the heights

 

and all that is between

 

It is the core,

and it is to be guarded

 

But how do we guard it

without becoming calloused?

 

And how do we sense

without becoming overly-sensitive?

 

How is it that we can be strong of heart,

and at the same time

tender-hearted?

 

All in christ

always

 

All in Christ

 

 

And it all begins

 

with a heart

surrendered

to Jesus

 

Only He can bring strength

and tenderness

to co-exist within us

 

Allowing His Words to penetrate

any hardness of heart

 

we let Him soften

the callouses

 

As we become tender to His Spirit

 

our softness and sensitivity toward people

will grow deep

and beautiful

and sincere

 

Forgiveness and grace

will flow

and heal

and bless

 

Then there is His strength

welling up

 

We allow His Words

and His presence

to strengthen

our weakness

 

We believe HIM

and take our thoughts captive to His Spirit

 

We are strong in Him!

We KNOW that He is God!

 

Strength of heart develops

when our focus is on HIS strength

in us

 

not our own

 

And we let His peace

RULE in our hearts

 

Let it rule

 

Which means surrender to His will

and trusting Him

with everything

 

Strength

and tenderness

can live in the same heart

 

through Christ,

the strongest

and most tender

 

Loving with quiet goodness,

fighting for us

with all passion

and strength

 

 

~ Susie Stewart

 

And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.

– Colossians 3:15 (NLT)

 

And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.

– Ezekiel 36:26 (NLT)

 

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.

– Proverbs 4:23 (NIV)

 

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

– Hebrews 4:12 (NIV)

 

So let God work His will in you. Yell a loud no to the Devil and watch him scamper. Say a quiet yes to God and He’ll be there in no time. Quit dabbling in sin. Purify your inner life. Quit playing the field. Hit bottom, and cry your eyes out. The fun and games are over. Get serious, really serious. Get down on your knees before the Master; it’s the only way you’ll get on your feet.

– James 4:7-9 (MSG)

 

They won’t be afraid of bad news; their hearts are steady because they trust the Lord.

– Psalm 112:7 (NCV)

 

I have pursued You with my whole heart; do not let me stray from Your commands.

– Psalm 119:10 (VOICE)

 

Don’t put on a show just because they are looking (as if you were a people pleaser); but as a slave of the Anointed, do the will of God from your heart.

– Ephesians 6:6 (VOICE)

 

Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.

– Psalm 27:14 (NIV)

 

Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

– Matthew 11:29 (NIV)

 

I have hidden Your word in my heart, that I might not sin against You.

– Psalm 119:11 (NIV)

 

A calm and undisturbed mind and heart are the life and health of the body, but envy, jealousy, and wrath are like rottenness of the bones.

– Proverbs 14:30 (AMPC)

 

Photo by Susie Stewart

 

 

Wandering Sheep

The sheep

sometimes wander

 

and instead of following

the Shepherd’s leading

 

they follow nothing

in particular

 

wandering here

and wandering there

 

The sheep know the Shepherd,

they’re within the flock

 

but with choices poor

they meander aimlessly

 

And it may be so subtle

that the sheep doesn’t even realize

 

but then finds himself

in unfamiliar territory

 

lost

and alone

 

But the Shepherd knows

 

and searches for this

lost one

 

enfolding brokenness

with love

 

carrying

and caring

 

back close

to His heart

 

You know Jesus, friend,

and you have been acting

like you don’t

 

He sees you

and wants to bring you back

 

Find safety

in His will for you

 

find security

in Truth and boundaries

 

Stay close

to your Shepherd

 

You are forever His

 

– Susie Stewart

 

For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them.

– Ezekiel 34:11 (NIV)

 

And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.

– Ezekiel 36:26 (NLT)

 

…should I wander off like a lost sheep—seek me! I’ll recognize the sound of Your voice.

– Psalm 119:176 (MSG)

 

My sheep listen to My voice; I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from Me.

– John 10:27,28 (NLT)

 

Photo by Susie Stewart

A Covering

Ashamed, we humans

seek to cover sin

 

In hiding

we want to conceal in the dark

the darkness in us

 

And graciously You call us

out of that darkness

into the light

 

For that is where

we find Divine covering

 

You envelope us by Your sacrifice,

with Your blood

 

Defending and shielding

the ones You love

 

So we go from a covering of darkness

to a covering of light

 

Sin is exposed

confessed

redeemed

Out in the open

 

But we are not exposed

 

Your mighty protection

comes over us

as a blanket of light

 

We are saved from our enemies

and from ourselves

 

A heavenly Paternal covering

wrapping us

protecting us

reassuring us

 

May we not underestimate

what a covering of God protection and love

does for us

 

And may we walk in Your righteous ways

making the most of that covering

 

– Susie Stewart

 

 

Like a bird protecting its young, God will cover you with His feathers, will protect you under His great wings; His faithfulness will form a shield around you, a rock-solid wall to protect you.

– Psalm 91:4 (VOICE)

 

You, O Eternal, are the One who lays all good things in the laps of the right-hearted. Your blessings surround them like a shield.

– Psalm 5:12 (VOICE)

 

The Lord is my strength and my [impenetrable] shield; My heart trusts [with unwavering confidence] in Him, and I am helped; Therefore my heart greatly rejoices, And with my song I shall thank Him and praise Him.

– Psalm 28:7 (AMP)

 

I passed by you again and saw you were old enough to love and to be loved, so I offered Myself to you in marriage. I wrapped my garment over you to cover your nakedness. Then I gave you My divine promise to always be your Beloved, and I entered the sacred covenant of marriage with you. I wed you, and you became Mine.

– Ezekiel 16:8 (VOICE)

 

Whoever covers over his sins does not prosper. Whoever confesses and abandons them receives compassion.

– Proverbs 28:13 (GW)

 

Photo by Susie Stewart

Romance

Admittedly

I’m a romantic

 

and when I heard the words to the song recently

 

about how

 

She is his life

and She is his whole world

 

it sounded so beautiful

and so

 

well,

romantic

 

but I thought about

how my stance has changed

since I was young,

a young romantic

 

Truth be told

when I met Mr. Wonderful

and started dating Mr. Wonderful

and married Mr. Wonderful

 

he was my whole world

 

I could barely think of much else

 

I loved God too

but I cared more about seeking Andy’s attention

than seeking my God

 

But of course

 

earthly affections do not completely satisfy

they don’t completely fill you

 

and when a person is your whole world

you can’t help but be disappointed

 

it’s inevitable

 

because that’s not how it’s meant to be

 

No one fills and satisfies

a soul’s longings

 

even for romance

 

like Jesus

 

He’s the heroic groom

for His bride,

His follower

 

And as I’ve gone through the ups and downs

of life

I am thankful to have gone through them

with Mr. Wonderful

 

and yes, I’m thankful for romance

in my marriage

 

but

 

my love for my Savior

my focus on His affections

my longing to do His will

to do what I do out of love for Him

has surpassed all other loves

 

I’ve come to realize

that He has been pursuing me

romancing me

loving me

all this time

even since the womb

 

And when I focus on Him

other relationships in life pale in comparison

 

but then all is as it should be

 

and I am free to love people

without expecting them to be God

 

 

– Susie Stewart

 

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…Then I gave you My divine promise to always be your Beloved, and I entered the sacred covenant of marriage with you. I wed you, and you became Mine.

– Ezekiel 16:8 (VOICE)

 

As a young man marries a young woman, so will your Builder marry you;

as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you.

– Isaiah 62:5 (NIV)

 

For your Creator will be your husband; the Lord of Heaven’s Armies is his name! He is your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, the God of all the earth.

– Isaiah 54:5 (NLT)

 

I will be faithful to you and make you mine, and you will finally know me as the Lord.

– Hosea 2:20 (NLT)

 

I am overwhelmed with joy in the Lord my God!
For He has dressed me with the clothing of salvation
and draped me in a robe of righteousness.
I am like a bridegroom dressed for His wedding
or a bride with her jewels.

– Isaiah 61:10 (NLT)

 

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone.  And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.

– Revelation 21:1,2 (NLT)

 

“Go and shout this message to Jerusalem. This is what the Lord says: “I remember how eager you were to please me as a young bride long ago, how you loved me and followed me even through the barren wilderness.

– Jeremiah 2:2 (NLT)

 

The marriage covenant of a husband and wife is to be a beautiful representation of Christ and His beloved, the church.  The earthly relationship should never overshadow the Divine.

– Susie Stewart

 

For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her…

As the Scriptures say, “A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.”  This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one.

– Ephesians 5:25,31,32 (NLT)

 

Photos taken by Bob Karraker