Rev. John Farmer’s ‘Reflections’ column


by Rev. John H. Farmer

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Love the Lord Your God with all Your Heart

In years past I would saunter into a living room, or parlor, where sat an old upright, or a shawl draped baby grand. Invariably someone would lift the key cover and play a one-song concert, “Heart and Soul,” a popular 1938 song by Frank Loesser and Hoagy Carmichael. That song stayed on the charts through the 1950s. Sometimes another would rush the keys to make it a duet, one on the high notes the other the low.

Remember the melody and words of another popular, twangy song, long forgotten: “You gotta have heart, lots and miles and miles of heart?” I cherish the rendition by Gwen Verdon in the 1958 movie “Damn Yankees.”

Poets and songsmiths by the thousands have penned lines upon lines of variations upon a theme that relate to one’s heart. Sonnets abound with a ripe yearning for often-unrequited love. Country music gained its popularity with “somebody-done-me-wrong songs.”

The word “heart” appears in the Bible more than 600 times. It is most often used in conjunction with the seat of human emotions. One learns that our best emotions and our deepest sins are thought to abide there. Our hearts are the battleground for human development.

Some will say that the heart is only a circulatory pump who’s job is to get oxygen to all our cells. But, I have learned, especially on this side of 70, that strong emotions always extend from my chest. Maybe they react to signals from the brain… who knows? Does it matter?

Remember that first kiss which brought a stirring in your heart? Remember the first time you saw one of your newborn children? It was a breath-snatching event. How about the first time you saw that first grandchild? Just today I witnessed my son, pastor Lee, babysitting his grandson Austin; one of our six great-grands: my heart is full.

Some sad goodbye to a friend or loved one left a hollow feeling where? Why it was in our hearts of course.

If our heart is the seat of emotions how do we fuel it? How can we feed the heart for strength for daily living? Well, there are many good gospel hymns that reward us. Not the least of which is “In My Heart There Rings A Melody.” Remember this? Ever heard it, or sung it? It goes like this:” I have a song that Jesus gave me, it was sent from heav’n above; there never was a sweeter melody, ‘tis a melody of love. In my heart there rings a melody, there rings a melody with heaven’s harmony; in my heart there rings a melody; there rings a melody of love.”

Thanks. I feel the better for just having hummed along. Hope you do.

I find that in my church life it is too easy to spew words about heart. They fall freely off our lips.

There is a poignant bit of text that nibbles at me, speaks to me. Chaps are questioning Jesus about the weightier things of life. “Jesus answered, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’

The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.

“Then a scribe said to him, ‘You are right, teacher; you have truly said that ‘he is one and besides him there is no other’; and ‘to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,’ and ‘to love one’s neighbor as oneself,’ —‘this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices,’” (Mark 12:29-33). Elsewhere in the Gospels, Jesus offers that the greatest commandment is that “Ye love one another.”

Our hearts need fuel. The only good fuel is love. We must first learn to love our Lord. This comes with preparation. Receive him as your Lord and savior. Read the words of his book. Hearts are broken and rebuilt every moment of every day. Healthy hearts heal the quickest. Armed with the teachings of our God we can stand the test of time. Our strength is truly in the Lord. Read, read and re-read the Bible. Get back to basics.

Then heed the words of the book; study them. Get to know them intimately. Now adjust to the truths you’re learning. God is calling us to purer lives. Claim what you are learning.

Next we need to spread the words of the Book. Tell others, tell yourself, tell everybody. There is a God who loves us beyond human measure. He loved us enough to give the most precious gift of his heart: he sacrificed his son for those who would believe.

Have a heart. Take heart. Don’t just let it thump away in your chest. Put it to work for God by learning to love others—even the most unlovable. It is not what we claim to believe, rather what we do that matters. Jesus taught us that our actions preach the real sermons.



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