Guarding the Sacred

Guarding the Sacred

My son was watching for his morning ride to school. I was waiting for my rest. The latter wouldn’t come until the former had walked its course. It did, and after hugs and kisses good-bye, I made my way to the bedroom and opened up the Word of God.

I didn’t know at the time that his watching and my waiting would eventually weave together as a sacred portrait of truth, but God knew. He began the portrait even before I began my daily reading. But as so often the case with a heart in a hurry for a quick fix of Jesus, the holy breath of a single moment is sometimes missed. Overlooked and pushed aside in favor of a seemingly more divine approach to doing life with Jesus.

I missed it this morning, temporarily. But God knew that I needed it. Thus, he tendered my heart with his Word, and opened up my eyes to receive a gift that might have, otherwise, gone unnoticed. It would punctuate on the other side of my reading from Proverbs 4:23-27.

“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. Put away perversity from your mouth; keep corrupt talk far from your lips. Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Make level paths for your feet and take only ways that are firm. Do not swerve to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.” (Proverbs 4:23-27).

Guarding the heart. What does that look like? It looks intense. From the Hebrew transliterated word natsar:

“To guard, watch, watch over, keep; to preserve, to guard from dangers; to be kept close, to be blockaded; watchman.”[i]

Further is carries the heaviness of the Hebrew transliterated word mishmar meaning “a place of confinement, prison, guard, jail, guardpost, watch, observant.”[ii]

Guarding the heart is serious business. Why? Because the heart houses the wellspring of true living.

“Jesus answered, ‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’” (John 4:13-14).

“On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.’ By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. …” (John 7:37-39a).

Our hearts are worthy of watchful care. Not only do they rhythm with the pulse of our next breath, but greater still, they rhythm with the pulse of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling. And that combination, friends, is a proverbial dam waiting to burst its wet onto the lives of those who walk within its reach. He is a worthy cause. His holy dwelling—our hearts—are a worthy upkeep.

Keeping purity at a premium requires more than a casual approach to heart tending. Keeping purity means keeping watch. It means a straight walk from today into tomorrow. A fixed gaze on the unseen, yet fully accessible God who seeds our lives with the truth of his identity everyday and in everyway. It means sticking to the beaten path even when the unmarked trails proffer their adventure and intrigue. It means putting one foot in front of the other, even though the dance on the peripheral voices a fanciful escape.

It means not worrying about the scenery on the right and in the left, but only on the scene that landscapes directly in front of us. The long awaited finished line that punctuates with an eternal glory that far outweighs the exploration of temporal paths. Guarding the good and sacred deposit given to each one of us as believers in Jesus Christ comes with a deliberate and focused watch over the heart … over what’s getting in and what’s flowing out.

We do it through spending time on our faces in prayer with that God. We do it by training our minds with the truth of God’s Word. We do it by refusing the world’s dressing and, instead, dressing ourselves in full battle gear that includes: a belt of truth, a breastplate of righteousness, two shoes (not one) of peace’s gospel, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the indwelling and uncompromising Spirit of the living God.

And if you’re a little child, one who houses a wild and tenacious imagination toward all things that go bump in the night or otherwise, you do it by keeping your rifle in hand, pulling up a chair, and fixing your watchful gaze on the world outside.

This is God’s portrait of truth, painted for me without my knowing. Saved for me and for a moment when I was unhurried and unconcerned about a quick fix of Jesus. The holy breath of heaven breathed its witness in my house this morning. He came in his Word and spoke a good teaching. He came through the witness of my son’s imagination and shouted his profound punctuation.

Doing life with Jesus has never tasted any sweeter. I’m guarding it more closely today. Thus I pray,

Thank you, Lord, for the eyes to see the tracing of your hand in my life—through your Word and through the simple posture of a child’s imagination. Never let my spiritual routine become my excuse for not living in the moment. For not pausing to contemplate the extraordinary wrappings of any extraordinary grace that comes in all types of packages, big and small. I thank you for my son’s watchful care of our home. May the watchful care of my heart speak with such similar and fervent intention. Amen.


Copyright © October 2008 – Elaine Olsen. All rights reserved.

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35 Responses to Guarding the Sacred

  1. That, my friend, is a picture that will forever be attached to that scripture. A mixture of guarding the heart with the fervent faith of a child.

    Thank you for sharing your blessing.


  2. Oh how this verse spoke to me. I thought about it and how I have to guard against such things, especially here in my workplace. There is so much that goes on right around me in this building. Foul language, adultery, gossip…

    That picture… as Melinda said will forever be attached to that scripture for me.

  3. Elaine,
    What wonderful insight you’ve given. Your eloquent description spoke to my heart. Oh, how hard it is in the day-to-day to guard our hearts and fix our gaze ahead. I needed to hear that verse from Proverbs, as well.


  4. Beautiful. Thinking about how we should guard our hearts brings me the image of a mother standing guard (protecting) her children…..just my thoughts. =)

  5. My Sister what a wonderful post!!! So refreshing and a joy to read!!! Amen, Jesus knows.. just what I need and when I need it… my part?? To be still and listen!!!
    Thanks Sister, you got me singing!!

  6. Ah…the guarded heart. Not guarded as in me putting a wall around it to protect it from outside pain and hurt, but guarded by the One who allows both the joy and pain to enter at different times. Guarded on the inside by the One who formed it and keeps it beating.

    This morning I had already prayed that God would dress me in His full armour. I like to picture it as the chain mail of medieval times. The armour made up of such fine metal links that no spear from the enemy can touch me, yet it is flexible enough for me to move, choose and follow.

    This week the ‘helmet of salvation’ has been the one I have coveted the most – keeping my mind from thoughts that would only cause worry and panic. God has been good, and His covering has protected.

    Beautiful writing as always. I know it comes from your heart.
    Thanks for blessing mine,

  7. I love what you wrote and how you said a heart that wants a quick fix of Jesus. How many times I’ve been there and needed that. Guarding our hearts is so important, particularly in these times where people seem to “tolerate” everything. That isn’t so for believers in Jesus though.

    Your post was beautifully written.

  8. Excellent reminder. It’s so easy to just drift with the status quo, doing what we can to make life comfortable for ourselves. And comfort is the enemy of watchfulness…

  9. Oh, sweet friend, what a blessing I have just received from your blog. Oh, my goodness. You have opened my heart and soul to so many things that God had you to pen(or type!)

    When I’m in a hurry, and I get that quick Word from God…it’s not enough! I feel it to my very bones that something is missing. I loved how you referred to it as “doing life with Jesus.” That’s what I want to do each day…according to His time table and not mine.

    Thank you!! So,when are you going to pull all of these posts together and put them in a book for us to read and ponder over? Let me know!

    Love ya,

  10. Ironically, my devotion this morning took me to another heart matter-Jer. 17:9-10-the matter of serching my heart and guarding my mind. The two go hand and hand do they not? Like you, I cherish where I have come from with my God and I am ready to fight (Like your son) not to lose the journey’s rewards!
    Love coming here!!

    In His Graces~Pamela

  11. Doing life with Jesus has never tasted any sweeter.

    I have to say Amen. Doing life without Jesus is no life and I am so thankful I don’t have to.

  12. Wow…He is so awesome to teach us!

    Very encouraged to guard my heart and desiring to be teachable at all times!

  13. Guarding our hearts is SO absolutely crucial, and so easily ignored and thrown to the side. Thank you, dear Elaine, for reminding me once again of the importance of vigilance and focus.

  14. Thank you for such an awesome post! Guarding our hearts does, indeed, require that we put on the full armor of God. There’s no way we could win the battle without it!

    Oh, and I agree with Susan, a.k.a. runner mom. You DO need to put all of these postings into a book! I’m getting in line now so I’ll be sure to get one. :o)

  15. What a beautiful post (and blog!). It is an amazing thing God does — placing the words we need to hear and heed right in front of us….

    I don’t quite remember how I landed here. HE does. Your blog was minimized on my screen and (*wa- laH!*) Words (eloquently written words) just for my heart appear just as I was going to shut down PC.

    Guarding our hearts. I find this un-easy. The political activist in me just gets to fired up! It is so hard This spoke tenderly to me and I have a well in my throat right now as I type.

    As a Christian, I do have a good and sacred deposit given to me – I am its steward. I like your words: “deliberate and focused watch over the heart … over what’s getting in and what’s flowing out.”

    God’s WORD is never given out without return.
    Thank you for the gentle reminder to guard my heart!

    Kindest Thoughts,

  16. As usual, your meaty morsels make for a great meal!

    The whole heart thing has taken me many years to fully understand (if yet I even do). I dare say I allowed my own heart to be exposed to way too much in younger days. It bears some telling scars.

    Today is different. For one thing it's new. And oh how grateful am I that a mighty Savior waited & worked so patiently while I learned my lessons.

    Be blessed!

  17. wifeforthejourney:

    Thank you for helping me get my morning off to a good start. Lord, guard my heart, keep my path straight, and help me to be wise and discerning in my day.

    Love you honey,

    PS – Not that its a big deal, but (for reasons I don’t understand) the format of the comment page is different on this latest post.

  18. Guarding our hearts, a timeless exercise. I am always working on this.

    What would we do without our children to help point us in the right direction?

    Blessings friend,


  19. “Never let my spiritual routine become my excuse for not living in the moment.” I echo that prayer of yours, Elaine!

  20. Elaine, your post reminded me of a time when I was very young (3 or 4). We were living overseas and my mom was home with us kids one night while my dad was working.

    Someone was trying to break into our home. My mom placed all three of us behind her and sat in a wooden chair with a loaded rifle across her lap. We were frightened, but knew we were being carefully guarded. Your picture brings tears to my eyes. (We were fine, by the way. No one got into the house.)

    Thanks for sharing.

  21. That has been my life long prayers for all of my children that God would watch over and protect their hearts. I love this passage and so get the gun resting on the chair. I love that picture because with my boys they are the protectors who stand on guard who tell me they are the soldiers for Jesus.

  22. But as so often the case with a heart in a hurry for a quick fix of Jesus, the holy breath of a single moment is sometimes missed.

    Wow Elaine..that was beautiful. The whole post really touched me. Right now I don’t have a computer and my access to one is limited so I can’t blog hop like I want to, but just had to come by here tonight. I have to admit that sometimes I click off your blog because the truth you speak is so loud to me and to be honest sometimes my flesh doesn’t want to read it. I found myself going for the red x in the corner early on, but just kept reading.
    You know where I’m at from our emails…so thank you for speaking nothing but truth into my life. I’m glad I stayed tonight. And just in case your feelings were bruised…someone clicking off your blog before they get to your signature is a good thing…just means the heart is convicting them and God is working. And it is a testament that God is working in your life because this troubled soul always finds herself back for more of Peace for the Journey.
    Love you much Elaine!!!!
    your friend,

  23. This morning, Elaine, I was so desperate for quiet time with the Lord that I was literally in tears as my husband and daughter delayed their departure from home this morning. I wanted to shout, “Would you please just GET OUT!”

    Intermingled, though, with my relief of (finally!) having the house to myself this morning, I feel sorrow and regret for my impatience with them. I suppose I am at fault for letting my well run too close to dry …

    I am now taking my eyes off of myself and praising the Lord for His promises to Israel in Jeremiah 31. Many of the Scriptures there are reinforcing my own heart this morning …

    May your day be richly blessed, dear sister.

  24. Good Morning. I clicked over from Nichole’s blog, and I am so glad I did. This a beautiful post. We do need to guard our hearts. There is so much in the world today trying to grab our attention from our maker. I also loved the post about your son. I have two boys. It is amazing to see them grow, learn and mature in Christ. I really appreciate your heart for God. Blessings.

  25. Amen girl!
    He has been doing a lot of revealing to me what got in because I was not guarding my heart…..doing a little sharpening and polishing of my sword.

  26. I loved your post–and the simple picture at the end of the chair waiting by the window! found you via Lysa’s blog. God bless!

  27. Your teaching is amazing Elaine! With everything going on in society right now we all need to be reminded to fix our gaze on the path directly in front of us! The picture you included is perfect, a precious example of how we all long for protection. God is so good to give us moments like these!!!

  28. Guarding our heart, yet while keeping ourselves open to what God has for us, and to love the un-lovely.

    It is a circle that is never ending.


  29. So beautiful, Elaine. This verse is the inspiration for my website and blog. I have cherished your words. Thank you, friend.

  30. Elaine,

    This is good for me to read today. The Lord always knows when I need to read one of your posts:)


  31. “The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your love, O LORD endures forever–do not abandon the works of your hands.” (Psalm 138:8)

    I loved when you posted this as one of your favorite “love note” verses. It is one I have highlighted in my Bible and dated a few times. I think, like you, it is one of my verses that asks, “Lord, will I ever write a book. Is that what you want because I am not convinced of your purposes in this?” – but I can trust you to fulfill your purposes and never abandon the work of Your hands or mine. Oh, what comfort.

    I have been wanting to pop over for a week or so to see you. God has given me some new and unusual assignments where He’s wanted me to spend my time so blogging was set aside for a litte while.

    Today was just the day for me to come to yours. I loved this post and it’s so perfect today as I once again pick up my pen and begin to write. He is telling me to keep my eyes straight ahead, fixed on Him and to simply take one step – one step of faith at a time.

    Through your beautiful words and such poignant word pictures and a telling photo, He reminds me again that I must diligently guard my heart as I step out in faith – seeking His face and nothing more. Writing for His glory, to tell His story and not even wondering what will come of it. For it will be in knowing Him more intimately through this process that will be my sweet reward – truly my greatest gain. Even if the pages simply find their home on my hard drive.

    Your words have found a home in my heart!

    Love you friend,

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