Friday Fiction

It’s Friday!  Yay!  Time for another episode of Friday Fiction.  This slice is is brought to you by yours truly, as a result of some fun I had earlier this week as I thought about the sometimes rocky path we trod on the way to Jesus. Enjoy!

Being Patience

She tripped. She stumbled. She fell, and as she did an expletive escaped her lips.

“Ugh! Why is it I can’t control something so personal as my own thoughts and words!” she said. She was angry with herself. Disappointed. “I’ve tried to make my mind fertile ground for God to work in, but it’s not working.”

She didn’t know what else to do. She’d tried prayer, she’d tried meditation, she’d even tried leaving post-it notes all over her cubicle at work. That had gotten some rave reviews.

“Come on, Patience, do you really have to plaster that stuff all over your work space every day?” Jase said.

“Do you think a poster with some holier than thou words on it is going to get you where you need to go?” said Macon.

“This hang-up you have with self-control is bunk,” Maynard added. “I say let me control you, and you’ll get a lot further in this place.” Maynard was her supervisor, for crying out loud. Had he not heard of the #MeToo campaign? Ewww!

Patience wanted to quit the vulgar thoughts, the endless temptations to do what her conscience said she ought not do; her nasty addiction to snide remarks that her pastor had promised would go away once she’d invited the Holy Spirit into her life.

“Why can’t I get some freedom?” she said, staring in the bathroom mirror.

It wasn’t only the swearing.  Her thought life was full of manipulation, anger, and hatred toward others.  So much so, that it made her cringe. She looked at her watch. 10:45pm, her shift would be over in fifteen minutes. Then, maybe she could get some rest from the constant chatter in her head.  It would take thirty minutes to get home, ten minutes to get through her night time rituals, then another five to pray before crawling under the covers and entering sweet relief.

She looked at herself in the mirror and sighed, “We can do this.”

 

 

 

 

Being Patience is an original piece of fiction written by Lori Hoose, copyright reserved.

 

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Unexpectedly God’s Plan

Those who read my blog regularly know that God recently revealed to me my “Word for 2018”:

Anticipation!

You also know that I’m ubber excited about this word and all it’s implications. I’m pumped to see what the word will mean for me this year, and where all of this anticipation will lead.

After I posted about the word last week and included those few items I was anticipating might occur over the next eleven months, I thought, You know, I didn’t say anything about the anticipation I have for bad things to happen over the course of this year. I almost went back and altered the post, including a mention about the  bad things that might happen this year, but then I thought, No, I’ll wait and write about that later, which is why I’m here this morning.

“The word” has already been useful to me, focusing my attention otherwisely in situations were what’s happened has not been what I expected.

Otherwisely is a word, right? If not, it should be, so I’m using it here.

But back to my point…

I’ve found myself in situations lately where I had expectations for what an event or outing would look like before entering into planned time and space with others. Last night was a good example. I went into a meeting with others, expecting to offer an abbreviated version of my week for them, and then discuss it. I didn’t expect to talk a lot about what had happened during my week, but I did want to process some of it, especially those moments when I had been caught off guard by conversations or delays. One thing I have learned over a decade of doing this sort of thing with others, is to be open-minded. Not about all things, but about most. This meeting was no exception. I expected to open up about what had unhinged me this past week, share a little bit about my feelings, and then listen as others offered support and/or feedback. It didn’t exactly turn out as I had expected. I shared much more than I had planned, and it seemed that God wanted me to say even more as a part of His agenda for this sacred time.

At some point last night, I became aware of two things:

1. The medication I had taken to address back spasms plaguing me over the weekend had left me fuzzy-headed and struggling to concentrate.

2. The meeting was not going the way I had planned.

Anticipation!

My plan was to go to my meeting, listen, learn, share, and leave, all in a balanced manner. What I got was me, sharing way more than I planned, and feeling self-conscious about it.

Anticipation.

What I did to remedy the situation when I was feeling like things were spinning out of control was this:  I prayed. I bowed my head, acknowledged God in the room, and said to him, “Lord, this is not going the way I thought it would go. What is happening here is not what I expected.  Please help me to surrender myself to Your plan, right now.”  I can say this kind of things now, because I finally trust God in a way that is reflected by my actions as trust, and I finally believe His plans for me are always going to be better in the end than my plans.

Before you’re tempted to think that I’m so much better than you in my thinking, read on.  This is a new behavior for me. This is huge! This is not something I have not ever done before. This is forcing me to practice what I preach.  It felt weird when I first started practicing this habit, but somehow over the weeks, I have found a sense of relief in simply surrendering my expectation and intentions to God’s better plan. I believe He knows what he is doing, and I trust Him in ways I never have before.

Anticipation.

I’m sharing my thoughts with you all this morning, because I’m anticipating that there will be times in 2018 when things don’t go my way. Times, when my plans will be upset. Times, when God will have other ideas about what ought to happen, and times when I will be caught off guard by His change of plans. When that happens, I will need another quick surrender session with Him.

Anticipation.

I’m not expecting that everything that happens in my life over the next eleven months will be pleasant or that people will operate according to my needs all the time, but during this phase of my faith journey, I think I’m okay with that. I’m learning to trust God more and more each day, and that trust is opening up a whole new experience in life for me.

What about you? Are you okay with God swooping in and messing with your plans? What are you anticipating happening in your life this year? 

 

5MinuteMonday.GRAPHICjpgIt’s been a while since I posted a 5 Minute Monday challenge on the blog.  I thought today might be a good day to do it again.

With this prompt, I’m inviting you into a five-minute meditation time.  Below, is a prompt for this five-minute escape from the “tyranny of the urgent” that might work for this purpose.  If you have something else that God has been impressing on you to think about, ponder, consider, or meditate on, I would encourage you to focus your quiet attention there.  Otherwise,  I’d be glad to have you read what follows, and ask God what He would have you do about what you’ve read.

I find meditation to be a powerhouse of insight that fuels my intuition and pulls me closer to Papa God every time I do it.  I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject (if you meditate, how you find it, and if you don’t, why you don’t).  I always love reading your comments.  Enjoy!

Today’s 5-Minute Meditation Prompt

What if at the end of the day today, when you’re tired, and failure is your real and honest estimation of what happened over the last 18 hours, you said,

“All I did was fail today.”

That’s it.
Nothing more.
Only that.

No angst.
No flailing about.
No big drama, followed by tears, screaming, or hysterics.

No self-recriminations.

Just…

“I failed.”

Oh, and…

“There’s always tomorrow to try again!”

How would your life change if you were able to think this way? Can you imagine it?

Important information for those who want to think accurately about our opposition_ Satan.

Last night’s session of The Healing Journey included a primer on Satan.  It was a good reminder of his origin story and how God has dealt with his particular brand of fake-news over the years.  Today, I created a graphic that lists just a few of the facts about this agent of opposition,and thought I would share it here, first.

About Satan, CS Lewis said:

“There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.”  -CS Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

There was a time when I had an excessive interest in the spiritual forces in this world. Not just God, but angels and demons.  At an early age, I could feel other powers at work in our world; believed that unseen agents were at work all around me.  I wanted to know more.

From a very early age, I remember a visitation from one of these agents. I was sick , when a female unknown to me appeared at the head of my bed.  She didn’t say anything, but calmly kept watch over me while I recovered.  I remember her vividly, still. I can see her face and clothing as I type this.  The appearance of this woman (angel?) has stayed with me over the years. I don’t think about her often, but whenever the subject of angels comes up there she is again, reaffirming me of the presence of other agents in our world.

Last night, in The Healing Journey class, we were reminded that angels are real and some of them are working for God, while others work against Him.  Cyndy Sherwood, the creator of our curriculum highlighted the fact that at this time in history Satan is “flipping mad at God,” and he’s taking that anger out on us.  I agree!  I see too many instances of hard times experienced by good people to not believe there is something going on and we are the target of it.  But these days my fears have been replaced by hope, because I know while Satan may be strong, but he is not stronger than God.

He’s not smarter than God.

He doesn’t have more power than God.

He’s not able to work within us, like God. Not Christians, any way.

He’s being defeated in our lives every day through God and His grace.

Today, we benefit from understanding our enemy and calling on God to defeat him.  We cannot be passive in dealing with him, but neither should we attempt to engage him on our own.  God is the one we need to cleave to and call to when the fiery arrows of the evil one are being flung in our direction. He knows our enemy better than we ever could.  We need to trust our victories to God, and remind Him in our prayers of that hope Jesus had for us all; not that we would be taken out of this world, but that God would protect us from the evil one (John 17:15).

Amen, may it be so, Lord, Jesus!

When have you been hassled by Satan in the past?  How have you fought back against his demolition work in your life?

 

 

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My dear child, don’t shrug off God’s discipline,
    but don’t be crushed by it either.
It’s the child he loves that he disciplines;
    the child he embraces, he also corrects.  Hebrews 12:5
 

Have you ever gone through a tough time and blamed it on God? Me, too. 

When we experience difficulties and are tempted to think God is bringing them into our lives to punish us, we need to think again.  God doesn’t operate that way with his children. He doesn’t store up our misdeeds in a bucket and then throw his wrath on us when we least expect it.  Jesus came and took all our sins on him long ago, so that what we might experience from the Father would be only love.  Granted, that love sometimes comes in the form of correction or discipline, but it is never meant to crush us…only to teach us.  

Correction from Papa is training and preparation that will benefit us down the road.  If we can think of it that way, we can hold onto joy even as we learn hard life lessons.

 Today, would you pray for those who are experiencing difficulties?  

Would you remember those who feel like the hard will never end?

Will you pray for all those who love Jesus, but are becoming weary with the struggle?

Pray that God’s children in your church and community can identify their times of correction and discipline as training, and not build resentments toward God because of them. Pray for Spiritual acuity and moral fortitude to help us see things like hardship in the right light.  And, remember, it’s God’s love for us that signs us up for training class—never His wrath.  

When have you been deep in the thick of it and had God speak to your soul, “I know this is hard, but later, you will thank Me?”   When have your kids thought you too harsh, when what you knew was that they really needed to toughen up and that it was better you teach them this lesson, than the world?

3 things to watch out for on a free work retreat

bucket list 1I was recently lucky enough to take a FREE work vacation to Cozumel, MX.  This trip was the result of the business I work for being bought out in 2015 by another business in Minneapolis, MN USA.  Because there is so much geography between our satellite office and the corporate office, our bosses thought it would be a good idea to get us all together in one location, and hey, why not make it exotic.  We were invited to do what we wished while on the island, but we were also encouraged to get to know each other better while there.

Know each other better, we did!

There was a joke that went around the office before we went on our weekend excursion to Cozumel. I’m sure you’ve heard this one before, albeit in your own version:  What happens in Cozumel, stays in Cozumel.  You know that’s never the case when people with tongues in their heads are part and parcel of any large gathering.

If you know me, you know I’m the kind a gal that is always looking to help her buddies venture through life.   If you are reading this blog, you’re my buddy, so I want to impart to you some of my travel experience connected to this vacation.  I do so in the hope that you, too, will one day be the recipient of a FREE Cozumel vacation.  When that happens, watch out for these three things.

3 THINGS TO WATCH OUT FOR ON A FREE WORK RETREAT

1. The number one thing to watch out for on a FREE work retreat is your luggage.  If you have a brightly colored ribbon or rope tied onto the handle of your bag, that’s a good thing.  Also, if you can, use a bag that is flexible.  If you do these things, you will be able to fit your luggage into almost any overhead compartment and find it quickly when deplaning.  This is good advice, because people who carry luggage that looks like everyone else’s and is not conducive to changing shape in an overhead compartment almost always either have to stand around and wait for it after the flight, or hunt for it for long periods of time.  They often have to check their bags too, especially when the plane is full.  We took only carry-on bags with us, and we made out fine.

2.  The second thing to watch out for on a FREE work retreat is an abundance of liquor.  It is tempting for some to imbibe on all the liquor they can hold when drinks are free and flowing like a river. Taking advantage of this temptation can lead to some bad consequences, though.  Like being hungover at breakfast.  Like sleeping too late and missing your excursion.  Like saying things that you would never say at work.  Like losing your phone in the Caribbean (yes, it happens).  My advice would be not to drink at all on your FREE vacation with co-workers. Another option might be to have something in your room at the end of the day, alone with your sweetie, but hey, that’s just me.

3.  The last thing that I would say you need to watch out for on a FREE work retreat is a bad attitude.  While we were in Cozumel, at an adults-only resort which had a family resort next door, one of the women on the beach was overheard griping about some children that had drifted to “our side” of the beach. My husband and I were enjoying watching the kids snorkel and asked them to bring up from the water a snail they caught, so we could take a picture.  They were not being rowdy, and they were not being rude.  They were two well behaved boys, trying to have fun on vacation, who just happened to land at the far end of the adults-only beach with their parents.  They were not in any way causing a stir or acting out of line, which I cannot say for their adult critics.

There you have it, 3 things I think you should watch out for when you’re on a FREE Cozumel vacation:  your luggage, your liquor, and your attitude.  You might also remember that this vacation was FREE and all-inclusive, and that other than trinkets you brought back from your trip, it didn’t cost you a dime.  Be gracious.  Always, be gracious!!

When have you gone on a FREE work vacation/retreat? Where did you go, and what did you see?

 

 

5 ways to quiet the christian mind

How-To-Relax-A-Busy-Mind-Mediation-Part-2-Unlocking-Your-Truth-Episode-UYT085

If you’re like me, your mind never shuts off!  Seriously, I think the only time my mind goes into sleep mode is when I’m attending a boring seminar or listening to some braggart go on and on about his or her life, including people I don’t know, experiences I’ve not had, and the relaying of information I shouldn’t be privy to or care to consider.  I am a thinking machine, and in years past a lot of that pondering power was fueled by fear.

Fear of the future.

Fear of failure.

Fear of trying.

Fear of rejection.

Fear of financial insecurity.

Fear of others  (that they wouldn’t like or agree with me).

Fear of myself (not so confident in my ability to make good decisions).

Fear, Fear, Fear.

I had to find a way to shut ‘er down and get some peace and quiet.

Today, I’d like to share some of the methods I’ve used over the years for quieting my mind.  It probably won’t surprise anyone who knows me well that the first and foremost thing I have done to win the battle with fearful thinking is write.  It is my go-to method for coping with life no matter what I face, but especially when I’m tending to stroll down avenues built on the dark side of town.  My writing in fearful times can take many forms: journaling, list making, writing devotionals, composing marketing pieces for my fellows, and building bible studies.  Occasionally I drive back the fear with fiction.  It can get pretty dark when I’m in that head space, but I’ve found fiction writing a great way to ease up the load that my brain is carrying, and to create a world in my head that is kinder, gentler, and more safe than what I’ve put on the paper.

Writing—it is my sanity, but I want to also share with you other ways I have settled my restless mind, and made that neighborhood quieter by my efforts.  Below, is a list of the top five things I’ve done to quiet my mind.

TOP 5 METHODS OF QUIETING THE CHRISTIAN MIND

  1. WRITING.  I spoke about this one above, but here I will add that the most common way I use this gift from God to quiet my mind is by keeping a journal or tablet by my bedside. At night, when I’m restless, I write down those things I’m thinking about so that I won’t forget them when I wake in the morning. This practice seems to give my mind enough assurance that I will remember important things to lull me to sleep.  Writing is loud mind arrested!
  1. PRAISE MUSIC.  When the writing of a list of urgent thoughts doesn’t quiet my mind at night, I turn to the radio.  I have it tuned to a Christian station, and listen to soothing nighttime music to help settle my mind. I do NOT listen to talk radio at this time, though I confess to loving talk radio. The problem with talk radio when I’ve already got a frantic mind is that it gives me more to think about.  I do not need more to think about when my mind is running a gazillion miles an hour already.  No way!  This is also why I don’t read my Bible when my mind is racing, and why Bible reading is not on this list of quieting influences.
  1. PRAYER.  If writing hasn’t helped, and listening to praise music has failed me too, I turn to prayer.  “Dear God, please,” I say, “take my anxious thoughts and throw them in the farthest sea.”  Not really, although that is a good prayer to pray. Usually mine goes like this, “God, you know I have to get up and go to work in the morning.  Please; sleep!”  When that doesn’t work, I assume God wants me awake because someone else needs praying for, and I turn my attention to them.  That usually does the trick.  I’m not sure if sleep is my reward for doing right during these times, or if the devil just wants me comatose so that I don’t do him anymore harm.  Either way, I’m thankful to turn the volume down in my noggin in those moments. Very glad, indeed.
  1. PRAISE. When my mind is extremely restless, one of the best things I’ve found to help is praising God.  I praise him for limbs that work, for a roof over my head, for food that helps me sleep, and for a family that is a source of joy to me.  Once I begin to praise God for all the big and little things in my life, my fear begins to dissipate. Funny how that works, and so well. It’s hard, really hard to be a captive to fear when all I can think about is the bevy of blessings I have at my fingertips.  Remembering that once in a while is a good, good thing.
  1. ACCEPTANCE.  This is the final and strangest way of all that I use for fighting back fear. It’s totally counter-intuitive and I don’t know why it works so well, but it does.  Once I have accepted that I am completely and wholly exactly where God wants me to be at any given time of day or night (scared or not), I begin to immediately feel less fearful.  I think the trick is to get to the place where I am willing to surrender my control and acknowledge once more God’s sovereignty in all areas of my life.  He’s not just my Daddy, He’s also the one that engineered the universe and keeps it rolling every day.  He knows what I’m facing and He’s already got a protection in place for me. Even when I am unconscious, my angels continue to guard me.  Papa never sleeps, nor does he forget my needs.  Once I realize that, all fear leaves me. Try it. I bet it works for you, too. It’s a hard discipline, and usually the last thing I try, but acceptance that God is in control is powerful medicine for a sick and racing mind.  Better than aspirin, better than liquor, better than almost anything.  Surrender, praise, and acceptance work to quiet a frantic mind.

Well, there you have them, my top five ways for quieting the Christian mind.  There might be other methods for quieting minds that are not in relationships with God, but I don’t practice many of those.  For me, it’s God and me all the way, all the time, and in every circumstance of life.  I am His, and knowing that soothes me in the times when I’m able to remember it.

Do you possess a Christian mind?  Do you have trouble shutting down your over-productive mind?

Tuesday Meditation Time

Do you have a problem meditating? Many Christians do.  I use writing as a meditation tool, and it works great for me. I never seem to run out of questions, so I ask them on paper, or I write one-liners that seem significant to me after I’ve read the Scriptures.

Maybe you’d like to incorporate mediation into your spiritual repertoire during 2018. Maybe you’ve never tried it before. Maybe finding a few minutes to be quiet before God and consider the love-trail He’s left behind for us to follow seems impossible.  It’s not. Everyone can eek out five minutes in their day for meditation. FIVE MINUTES, that’s all it takes. FIVE MINUTES alone with God–worth 5 million dollars in gold–seriously.

If meditation is something you’d like to do, maybe begin with the following. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter. I’m always looking for new ways to make the old good news new in my life.

Take a minute (or FIVE), to read this passage and and think on these things, then leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question.  The church sent them on their way, and as they traveled through Phoenicia and Samaria, they told how the Gentiles had been converted. This news made all the believers very glad.  When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and elders, to whom they reported everything God had done through them.  Acts 15:2b-4 

Today’s minute with God offers some valuable insight into the workings of the early church. What caught your attention when you read the passage above? This is what I noticed and how I felt God was challenging me to greater trust in Him:

When there was a job to do, the church appointed leaders to “get ‘er done.” Service.

Along with the two main leaders, God called helpers to come alongside.  Brotherhood

The smaller group came out from the larger group to accept their commission. Sanctification.

Travel was involved, so they willingly hit the road with resources provided by the church.  Giving.

They needed clarification, that when obtained, would strengthen the whole group.  Unity.

The church rallied together, and showing their support, sent them on their way.  Obedience.

As they went, they dropped little nuggets of excitement along the way.  Encouragement.

Those nuggets were used like bread crumbs to lead the way to salvation for others. Discipleship.

They freely shared news of new faith partners and their experiences.  Testimonies.

When they arrived at their destination, the church in Jerusalem was happy to see them. Welcome.

Fulfilling their commission meant having a meeting.  Congregating

They reported all that God had done through them. Faithfulness.

The church was strengthened, both in Gentile regions and in faith-central, Jerusalem. Victory!

Moving Meditation Into Action

Here is where we move out of meditation and into action.  Answer these questions honestly to yourself and ask God what He would have you DO this year to make what you read a reality in your life.

What are we doing  in 2018 to share the gospel and how church “works” with others around us? 

What are we doing in 2018 to share the good news that a powerful God can be found at our church?

What are we doing in 2018  to make sure our church obeys God’s calling?

What are we willing to do to make sure our church is a place of welcome to others?

Meditation is a tool for reaching out to God and hearing back from him. It’s also a great way to balance out an otherwise slanted worldview.  I find it helps me feel calmer, more encouraged, and absolutely more connected to God.  Try it for just FIVE minutes today, won’t you? It will make a difference in your day. I promise.

Are you someone who has a planned mediation time every day, week, or month?  How do you “do” meditation at your house?

Reality TV & God’s Mighty Power

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And I will be to her a wall of fire all around, declares the Lord, and I will be the glory in her midst. Zechariah 2:5

I’m a big fan of reality TV. I know, I know, there’s nothing real about reality TV, but I still like it. 😊  I once saw a reality TV show filmed in Africa where the contestants in a game were living on the plains. You know the plains, right?

That place where big, burly, hungry lions roam.

That place where elephants push down anything in their path.

That place where barricades have to be erected around campsites, and fires must be kept burning all night to ward off predators.

That scene of a 10 or 12 foot high fence of tangled tree branches encircling a camp was the first thing that came to mind when I read today’s verse from Zechariah.

The picture below gives you a little sense for what the height and structure of the barricade was during that African game play.

(I apologize for the crazy looking guy in the picture, I couldn’t find one without him).

I will be to her (Jerusalem), a wall of fire all around…

The promise that God made to the holy city in ancient times still applies to you and me today when we identify ourselves as Christians. In the same way that the Lord Almighty protected Jerusalem and lived as the glory in her midst, He desires to live in our lives and keep us safe today. The problem with making that truth a reality in our lives is that we sometimes don’t trust that God will protect us, provide for us, or use His power for good in our lives. We doubt His promises, and as a result His character is marred in our minds. The constant influx of information that goes into our brains from outside influences is to blame for most of the confusion we feel about God, but some of it is also due to lazy thinking that cause us to look at frail humanity and imagine that God is like us. He’s not!

This year it is my hope that we would early and often go to war with the evil influences that tend to make us jaded regarding the Lord. May God be as much a wall of fire to our minds and hearts as He once was to His holy city. And may we, like those contestants on the reality TV show I saw, learn to sleep soundly through the darkest of nights knowing God has our backs. When He’s got the night watch, we have nothing to fear!

What are you most afraid of at this time in your life?  How has that fear shaped the way you view the Lord and His mighty power?

 

Song of Songs, again!

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Recently, I was directed by the Spirit to read the Song of Solomon, or Song of Songs as some call it.

Then I read Deuteronomy.

Then I read Ezra.

Both were fascinating reads, but Song of Songs, it was okay, but not dynamic for me at this juncture in life.

This  morning I pulled another tab from my reading jar and it read: Song of Songs!

I’m excited now.

To begin this book again, so soon after having read it, I have to believe God has something there that He really wants me to see. I imagine He wants me to allow this particular truth to sink beneath my skin, deep into my soul. What is it I missed last time?  I don’t know, but to have that tab show up again so soon after reading this portion of the Good Book last, not coincidence.

What more does God want to say to me about intimacy?

What more about love?

What more about relationships?

Is it more about me and Jesus?

Or is it about me and Bob, my love?  Our 40-plus year marriage, as we are now nearer to the end than the start?

I just realized that Song of Solomon could be rendered SOS in shorthand.  Hmmmm, what implications does that have?  What covert message is hiding in there for me?

What a mystery! I love it!!!

What do you love about the Song of Songs?  What does the message COME AWAY WITH ME, MY BELOVED speak to your heart today?