nancy williams

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Archive for April, 2009

Matters of the Heart

Women today often find themselves caught in a whirlwind of activities and demands, from home management to family matters, from friendships to volunteer service, from church to work, not to mention the unexpected challenges that come along. All while trying to squeeze in a little personal time if they dare give themselves permission to do so. Sometimes they manage to successfully juggle those roles and responsibilities; however, all too often, attention to their own wellbeing is set aside, leaving them vulnerable for physical, emotional, even spiritual problems. As I write this, I realize I should exchange the word “they” for “we” because I’m right there with many of you. We want to be smart, savvy women, doing all we can to live our best lives. However, if we’re not careful, we may not see warning signs of problems that could impact our very goal.

The stresses of life impact us on many levels, including matters of the heart. That concern is being addressed in our area on May 1 at the annual Go Red for Women Luncheon. Events sponsored by the American Heart Association have taken place across the country since February’s Heart Health Awareness. The goal is to connect women of all ages and educate them about the No. 1 killer that takes the lives of one out of three women.

More than 41 million American women are living with one or more types of cardiovascular disease, yet only one in five view heart disease as their greatest health threat. The American Heart Association’s goal is to fund cutting-edge research and conduct educational programs that will help women turn simple choices into life-saving actions.

The Association reports that 96 percent of women who “Go Red” have made at least one choice to improve their heart health. For example: more than 40 percent have lost weight; more then half have increased their exercise; six out of 10 have changed their diets; 53 percent have checked their cholesterol levels; one third have investigated their family’s history of heart disease or talked to their doctor about their personal heart risks.

Bottom line, women? We must take care of our hearts, but not just our physical organ that brings life to our bodies. We also need to give careful attention to that which brings life to our souls. What generates health and wellbeing to our spirits? What brings energy and power to help us deal with life’s challenges? What circulates a sense of joy and peace within, even when life is whirling about us? Just as we must care for the organ that pumps blood throughout our bodies, we must also care for that which fuels our soul. For if we’re not careful, we can let the clutter of life clog up our spiritual arteries or prompt us to make choices that are unhealthy for us and damaging to our wellbeing.

If we’re concerned about our physical hearts, we need to consult with a doctor who will assess our condition, treat problems that may be present and guide us toward healthier living. Likewise, if we want to be healthy emotionally and spiritually, we need to consult with the Great Physician – the One who created us and knows us completely. He heals the brokenhearted, fills our hearts with His love and guides us to make choices that will help us live life to the fullest.

God speaks to us in His word many times about the importance of guarding our hearts, telling us that He is most concerned, not about our outward appearance, but about our hearts (I Samuel 16:7). King David taught us how to seek God’s cleansing of our hearts when we make choices that are not what God desires (Psalm 51). Then we read where Jesus taught His followers how to live life as God truly intended and encouraged them to consider from where true blessings flow. In the familiar passage known as The Beatitudes (Matthew 5), He said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”

As we approach our days, let’s do our best to make healthy choices and take care of ourselves physically, emotionally and spiritually. As we do, let’s give careful attention to matters of the heart.

New Season Sparks a Spirit of Hope

Kindness. Seems simple enough. We’ve heard it since childhood. “Be kind,” our parents instructed as we learned to get along with others. We found that being kind at school secured friendships and sometimes landed us a place at the head of the line. Webster defines kind as, “of a friendly, or good-natured disposition; coming from a good-natured readiness to please others.” The Apostle Paul instructed us to “Be ye kind, one to another” (Ephesians 4:32 in the Bible’s New Testament).

Being kind is easy, especially when we know we’ll reap a reward. I’m kind to you and you reciprocate. We both win. We’ve heard that one good turn deserves another, so we look for opportunities to share that kindness and receive the benefits back. On a recent trip, people offered to help with my car and luggage. I valued the kindness but felt I was expected to respond. I did appreciate the assistance, and I suppose we had a mutual understanding: they’d be kind and I’d tip them well.

A few years back, a book gained popular acclaim, encouraging ‘random acts of kindness.’ We were challenged to be kind without expectation of return from the recipient. The focus: the gift being given. The result: satisfaction in giving. Simple. Unselfish. Rewarding.

It was a buzzword that lingered for a while, that is, until we once again found ourselves caught up in the demands and challenges of life. We turned back toward the person in the mirror, making sure our needs were met, sometimes being accused of having a what’s-in-it-for-me attitude. “You need to look out for No. 1” was a message we heard around us. So much for following God’s ‘be kind, one to another’ command.

It does seem as if we can be kind to others when life flows smoothly and our needs are being met. We extend a bit of kindness out of the overflow of our cheerful disposition. But what about when times are hard? When we struggle with life’s challenges and face its disappointments? When people let us down and disappoint us? When stress, anxiety, depression and fear stir in our minds and hearts? And yet, reaching out with gestures of kindness in times like these is a powerful way to look beyond our own problems and experience the joy of giving something of value to someone else. Joy that can ease our burdens and calm our hearts.

I remember watching a television program that dusted off the ‘random acts of kindness’ concept. Each day people gave unexpected gifts to others – roses to passersby on the street, bagels to workers at a nearby laundry, shoe shines to waiters at a local restaurant. Teachers at a community school were treated to manicures. They even paid the fare for drivers on a toll road across town. In some cases, the recipients didn’t know who shared the kindness. They simply received the gift. Kindness, pleasing others, acts of good will, simply for the sake of being kind.

Since that program, I’ve benefited personally from many acts of kindness. A repairman went the extra mile on a job for me without charging an additional fee. I was juggling several boxes while making my way to the office when a voice called from behind, “Here, let me get the door for you.” A client brought this same spirit of kindness to my office, “I bought a soft drink and thought you might like one, too.” Later, I was patiently waiting in line at the store when the person in front invited me to check out my few items ahead of her basket full.

Each one gave a gift – kindness – at just the right time, without expectation of anything in return. I received respect, consideration and assistance. What did I give in return? A thank you, certainly. But it didn’t stop there. They walked away, I trust, with satisfaction from having given a gift. I moved on with a desire to pass that gift on – to pay it forward. In the spirit of kindness, I encourage you to share that gift as well. Then let’s see what happens in our community, in our homes and in our hearts.

Be ye kind, one to another (BYKOTA).