Deep In the Heart
Prayers and reflections by Elizabeth Goodine



Used figuratively, the “heart” is the center of who we are. The word often symbolizes our most private thoughts, emotions and desires as well as our intellect, beliefs and conscience. It parallels the actual physical heart in that its condition can often go undetected for a long time. Problems with potentially devastating or even fatal consequences don’t always reveal themselves until it is too late for intervention. We may sense that something is not quite right deep in the heart, but we may not recognize the seriousness of it. Maybe we are afraid to deal with it, maybe we are too busy, or we are embarrassed for anyone to know.  So we ignore symptoms. 


But there are certain times in our lives when we are more open to addressing heart issues than we are at other times. Actually, it may not be that we want to address these issues; we may be forced to address them. When we suffer, face aloneness, or face our physical mortality, we’re ready.  When our abilities and resources can no longer sustain uswe’re ready. When we can no longer hide our sinwe’re ready. But it is better to address them now.


As we carry a lot of responsibility with our families, our careers and our ministry, we may feel some kind of unspoken pressure to ignore our own symptoms of heart problems both physically and figuratively. How do the two phrases, “the show has to go on” and “the machine has to keep running” relate to this pressure?


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Beautiful Eastern Canada, my husband’s homeland, is the setting for one of our favorite stories, Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery. Anne Shirley was a spunky, red-headed orphan who endured the drudgery of life in orphanages and the homes of strangers by using her vivid imagination. Her life took a turn for the good when she was chosen, albeit mistakenly, to go to picturesque Prince Edward Island to live on a farm with Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert, a brother and sister, both single and aging. Under their strict but loving care, Anne grew up to be a lovely young woman and a passionate school teacher who inspired her students to soak in life as enthusiastically as she did. 



Anne met with opposition, however, from a woman named Katherine, the principal of the girls’ school where Anne taught. In response to her own suffering, Katherine had shut the world out, and she could not bear to see the joy that radiated from Anne. In the original movie version, after a particularly tense conversation where Katherine spewed out nothing but meanness, Anne defiantly responded to her harsh words by declaring, “I will not be poisoned by your bitterness!”  


In this scene, Anne was clearly guarding her heart. The Bible says, "Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it." Proverbs 4:23 (NIV). Everything you do! I am thinking about my own life, remembering times when I guarded my heart well and remembering other times when I could have guarded it more effectively.  What lessons have you learned about guarding your heart?


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One of the most meaningful prayers of my life is found in the words of a song that I wrote as a young mother called “Praise You.” The first verse says, "Lord I come to you today with a simple prayer to pray:  in everything I do, let my life, oh Lord, praise you." When I pray this sincerely and keep it as my main focus in life, it helps to keep me steady in temptation, calm when my best efforts are crumbling, surrendered to God’s will when I want to pursue my own agenda, humble when I am full of pride, yet confident when I would otherwise focus on my weaknesses and failures. Most of all, when I feel the pressure to please people, it keeps me focused on pleasing him.  


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On Sunday mornings when I was a child, my mother, Robbie Guidroz, would dress me in my finest clothes, help me put on my white ankle socks with white lace around them, help me put on my “church” shoes, fix my hair in two ponytails or however she did it that day,then hand me my little purse and sometimes my little white gloves. She would see me to the back door of the parsonage, give me a hug, then watch as I walked across the yard and went into the church building. I would walk down the hall and knock on the door of the office of my father, Rev. V. Arlen Guidroz, where I would receive a warm welcome. As a loving father would do, he would tell me how pretty I looked. If someone else came into the office while I was there, he would sometimes say to me, “Tell them about the two kinds of pretty.” I would respond just as he had coached me: “You can be pretty on the outside and pretty on the inside, but the most important is to be pretty on the inside.” As an adult, I realize how blessed I was to have parents who cared for me and taught me what really matters most, the condition of the heart.


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I think of Gratitude as a dear friend who lovingly helps to lift me up from whatever pit of self-centered thinking I may have allowed myself to become stuck in at the moment. I wrote a little song to remind myself to be grateful even when I am weary and when things are not going the way I want them to go. Here are the words: “Gratitude, you change my point of view.  You help me see the bright side even in the dark night. Gratitude, I’m content because of you. You help to make my heart right, Gratitude.”


As I washed my hands late one evening in the bathroom of a large airport, I noticed that the young lady who was cleaning the sink hummed a little as she worked. I said, “Did you have a good day?” She smiled and replied, “I always have a good day. I never have a bad day.” I said, “What?!! Tell me about it.” She began with something like this: “Well, when I wake up in the morning, I’m just thankful and excited about the day.” Now, this young lady spent her days in an airport doing routine, physical work that included scrubbing toilets and cleaning sinks. In that season of my life, I, on the other hand, spent many of my days travelling around the world. I was blessed with opportunities that she probably had never had, and perhaps would never have. That conversation occurred during an unexpected, extended layover at the end of a very long day of travel. I just wanted to be home. I was definitely not in “grateful mode”.  After hearing her talk and seeing her joyful countenance, I suddenly felt about an inch tall.  Thank you, my friend, for reminding me to be grateful.


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I like to hear the story of when my young Aunt Grace, one of my dad’s sisters who was physically impaired and unable to walk from around age seven, talked her siblings into lifting her up into a tree. She orchestrated the entire escapade: two siblings climbed ahead of her to help pull her upward, and two siblings were beneath to push her upward. Her sharp, nine year old mind found a creative way to face physical challenges like this in spite of having a disease that kept her from being able to walk and to play as other children did. The only problem in the tree-climbing came when they could not figure out a way to get her out of the tree without dropping her. My grandfather came to the rescue.


Muscular dystrophy did not keep Aunt Grace from doing much through the years. She could teach others how to cook, and she could sew and paint lovely flowers on a canvas. Aunt Grace had some tough challenges to deal with throughout her life including living with diabetes. However, she lived to be 56 years old, which proved to be much longer than the doctors ever expected. In her later years, she even moved into her own apartment with the help of a government program that provided financial and personal assistance. What an amazing woman she was! 


But it certainly wasn’t easy, and I’m sure she felt discouraged at times. I am reminded of Paul when he pleaded with God three times to take away his “thorn in the flesh,” whatever it was. God declined and replied, “My grace is sufficient for you.” 1 Corinthians 12:9 (NKJV). I’m sure that my aunt also prayed that God would remove her “thorn”--physical disabilities that left her weak and dependent on others to do most tasks for her. She was a woman of faith, surrounded by people of faith, and she knew that God could heal her in an instant. But he didn’t. He had a different plan: God chose to teach my Aunt Grace about his grace.


How have you learned about God's grace through something that may have seemed like a thorn? 


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My paternal grandmother, Dora Guidroz, kept a bottle of Vicks, a salve that contains eucalyptus, next to her bed.  During the night, she would reach for it without even turning on the light, spread some around her nose to help her breathe better, close the bottle, and then return it to the nightstand. This was a common routine. One morning she received the shock of her life when she looked at herself in the mirror: in the darkness of the night she had mistakenly reached for a bottle of ink!


So much in life depends upon our seeing and thinking clearly so we can have good judgment and make good decisions. Drugs and alcohol are not the only things that have the potential to impair judgment. There are many—haste, arrogance, stubbornness, bitterness, unchecked anger to name a few, and the consequences can range from mild to major, temporary to eternal. A simple prayer from the Psalms can make all the difference: "Teach me knowledge and good judgment, for I trust your commands."  Psalm 119:66 (NIV)


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A gentle rebuke by one of my university piano professors taught me a valuable lesson. One semester I had practiced faithfully and was well-prepared to perform my classical piece at the weekly student recital. The performance went well, and afterward I received positive remarks from my teacher and from my fellow students.  However, for my piano lesson following the recital, I was completely unprepared. After my professor had endured about as much as he could take of my stumbling over the notes, he commented, “You are resting on your laurels.”   Although I had never heard that phrase before, I figured out what it meant in about two seconds. Basically he was saying, “You are still basking in the glow of the compliments you received. You need to move forward toward the next challenge, i.e. being prepared for your piano lesson.“ Thank you Dr. Fetsch for correcting me in your gentle, but firm way, and for challenging me to stay focused on the task at hand.


Proverbs 27:21 says, "Fire tests the purity of silver and gold, but a person is tested by being praised." (NLT)

 

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I admire the ability it takes for a surfer to compete with such a strong force of nature, to be so poised and to appear to be unafraid. When I have the opportunity to spend time at the coast with family and friends, I sometimes quote this poem that I wrote:



THE SURFER AND THE WAVE


I sat beside the ocean on a gorgeous windy day.

My eyes focused on a surfer.  I watched him ride the waves.

He made it look so easy, though I knew it took great skill,

For the waves were tall and forceful, yet his body seemed so still.

There was one wave that was larger and more forceful than them all,

And I held my breath and watched because I feared the man would fall.

But the surfer and the wave seemed to have a point to prove—

To find out who was stronger, and see who could conquer who.

As the wave pursued the surfer like a lion and its prey,

The surfer never showed a sign of fear upon his face.

He let the wave propel him, and taunt him with its might.

And he kept a steady course until he knew the time was right.

Then he turned and faced the wave!  He was confident and free!

And he rose above the wave, and he let it pass beneath.

As I gathered my belongings and I walked along the shore,

I thought about my life in ways I never had before.

And the lesson I remember every time I feel afraid is,

You don’t have to fear the ocean when you learn to ride the waves.


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Do you ever feel as if you are being chased by the “one wave that is larger and more forceful than them all"?  Although your own skills, experience, intuition and positive thinking may not be enough to keep you above water, your faith in God will be enough, and you can go confidently forward.


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Out of some tough challenges I faced, I wrote "Truth and time work hand in hand to reveal the heart of every man.” In a biblical account of how God used the prophet Samuel to anoint Saul as king of Israel, we read, “people judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7 (NLT). Never doubt it—God knows every detail of a situation. He sees past all of the conversations, the explanations, the alibis and the speculation. He knows what has occurred, and he sees the hidden motives of the heart. In his own time and in his own way, he reveals what needs to be revealed. 


A few years after I wrote this line, I shared it with David Cook, our former pastor from San Antonio, Texas. With hardly a blink he added, “Truth and time work hand in hand to reveal the heart of God’s master plan.” A scripture in the book of Isaiah says, “For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways
 and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:9 (NLT). How often I have wished I could have a quick answer when I asked God, “Why?” “Why have you allowed this?” “What is the purpose of it?” “What are you doing?” But one thing is certain: his purpose is eventually shown. It may be revealed quickly or it may take some years. And some of our “whys” will be answered in eternity.


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My grandmother Edith Fuller, age ninety-eight currently, was interviewed at age ninety-one for a newsletter called “Prayer Life” at the church she attends. The title of the article was “What Prayer Means To Me.” She said, “When I was a little girl, four or five years old, I remember we had family prayer every night. We all knelt, and my Dad always did the praying. As I got older and especially after I received the baptism of the Holy Ghost, I learned that praying was how I connected to God. I find comfort in prayer. I get healing through prayer. I can feel the presence of the Lord through prayer. After my husband died, I lived alone for many years. Prayer is what helped me sleep well at night and not be afraid through all those years. I pray when I wake up in the morning and when I go to bed at night. If I wake up during the night, I pray. I try to live in an atmosphere of prayer, so if I have to connect with the Lord, I can. Prayer is a great part of my life.


My great-granddaughter Bethany was sleeping in my room one night a few months ago. She told me the next morning about being awakened in the middle of the night. She said, ‘MawMaw was praying for everyone in the family, calling them by name, and prayed that they would be ready for the rapture. And it wasn’t for just a few minutes; it went on and on and on.’ Well that’s ok that it woke her up. She needed to hear me pray because all of my family needs my prayers. And I need their prayers. I thank God for the privilege of prayer.” 


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For thirteen years, we lived in Northern California near incredible beauty—Lake Tahoe, Yosemite, San Francisco and the beautiful Pacific coastline. Then we moved to the desert for a year. The stark contrast in the scenery was a real adjustment. I learned that the desert has its own beauty, and I learned to appreciate it. During that year I wrote this poem:


 

BEAUTY IN THE DESERT 


There is beauty in the desert, but it takes some time to see,

‘Cause it’s rugged and it’s barren--not a place I’d choose to be.

At first I just feel lonely.  It’s almost more than I can bear.

And I’m uneasy with the stillness and the silence that are there.

As the sun beats down upon me, I get weary from the heat.

And I sweat and thirst for water, and the sand clings to my feet.

But the evenings are so lovely.  There’s a gentle breeze that blows.

And I love to see the sun behind the mountains as it glows.

In the Springtime I’m amazed to see the flowers that are grown.

And I never knew the cactus had a flower of its own.

I don’t understand how in this hot, dry desert, plants survive.

But I guess that it’s the only place that some plants ever thrive.

There is beauty in the desert, but it takes some time to see.

And I’m glad I got to live there, for its beauty speaks to me.


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Take a minute and read Psalm 63:1-8.  David was in a literal desert, the Desert of Judah, running for his life when he prayed this prayer. What can we learn from him about worship?


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Trials in life are often referred to as desert experiences. A friend of mine in once told me, “We’ve been on the back side of the desert,” meaning “it can’t get much worse in terms of the pressure and discouragement we have been facing.” If you are like me, in times like this you really don’t want anyone telling you how going through this trial will cause you to grow in your character and become more compassionate toward others. No, you just want to be done with it.  But the truth is, we often grow the most in difficult times.  It is often after the fact that we can look back and see the beauty—how much we have learned and the compassion we have gained.


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Vivian Goodine was awakened in the middle of a cold, Canadian winter night in 1972 by a loud knock at the downstairs door. Her husband, Glasier, was away on a snowmobile trip with some of his brothers and friends, and only she and their son, Wayne, were home. Peering through the window, she was startled to see the face of her pastor who had come to relay tragic news: Glasier had died of a heart attack.


The snowmobile trail had been packed with deep, wet snow making the journey to the campsite twelve miles into the forest much longer and more tedious than the men had anticipated. Around midnight they stopped for a few minutes to catch their breath. When they were ready to continue, Glasier pulled the cord to re-start the engine of his snowmobile. As he did, he fell backwards onto the snow and took his last breath. He was only fifty-five years old.


You can imagine the sense of loss Vivian, my mother-in-law, felt and how quickly her life changed. In a few short months she experienced another loss as Wayne left home to attend college in the USA. But Vivian found strength through her close relationships with family and friends and through her faith that God would take care of her. Her attitude made a real impression on me. She used to say, “Why worry when you can pray?” I’m ashamed to admit how many times I have had the opposite attitude: “Why pray when you can worry?” Can you relate?


What I do know is that worry will not change my situation, nor will it calm my frazzled heart. On the contrary, prayer and worship can change everything. I have learned that sometimes I need to just sit still in the presence of the Lord and sing songs of worship. As I sing, the words of the songs come alive for me and I am able focus my attention on the majesty of our God. The result is genuine peace, refreshing joy and seeing God answer prayer in unexpected ways.


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When my son, Bradley, was two years old, I wrote this as part of a letter to him in a magazine article that I called “Thoughts From a Young Mother”: “God may choose to shine a spotlight upon what you are doing for Him in order to fulfill a purpose. If he does, don’t mistake this light for the light of Heaven. You haven’t made it yet! Also, don’t mistake it for God’s approval on every area of your life. Let humility guide you in everything you do.”


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When my daughter, Bethany, began her second year of college, she experienced anxiety over a certain situation. Once when I visited her I wrote the following and pinned it to the bulletin board in her dorm room. She needed to hear it then; maybe you need to hear it now: “Your value as a person is not based on the approval of any peer or leader, nor is it based on your performance in any area. God loves you more than you can imagine.  What he wants from you is relationship.” 


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“Enter in!” is what I used to say to my children as we walked into a church building to attend a worship service. They knew what I meant: enter into worship with your heart rather than just observing and making mental notes about everything that is happening. I needed the reminder myself.  I'll always need it.


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No matter who you are, no matter the season of life you are in, and no matter if you recognize it or not, you have an impact on other people.  Your influence is as important as that of anyone else as expressed in this poem that I wrote:



YOUR INFLUENCE


Sometimes it is like a bright star, or like the sun on a clear day.

Sometimes it is hidden by a shadow, until the shadow moves away.

It is like a tool that is placed in a farmer’s hand.

It grows like the seed that he scatters on the land.                                                                           

It is like a bird that flies where you cannot see.

It is like a diamond--precious, to be guarded carefully.

It is like the wind--sometimes gentle and sometimes strong.

But always blowing somewhere--for right or for wrong.

Don’t underestimate its reach, or its power to affect,

And don’t let the time slip by you, oh make sure you don’t neglect,

To use it for the good, for the godly and the right.

While there’s time to make a difference--in the darkness shine a light.


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Read the poem again as if you were reading it to a child. How would you help the child understand these terms as they relate to influence: bright star, sun on a clear day, hidden by a shadow, tool, seed, bird, diamond, wind, and light?


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Years ago I purchased three fitness DVDs that included cardio, stretches and light weight lifting. I found them to be very helpful. But the one evening that I just happened to be snuggled in my bed under a pile of blankets and quilts watching one of those DVDs instead of actually doing the exercises, one of my children who was home for a visit came into my bedroom to ask me a question.  The sight of me watching the exercise video from the comfort of the bed instead of actually doing the exercises—well, I didn’t know what was so funny!  I just know that I heard roaring laughter coming from the doorway.


Life-changing truths—those that affect the body and those that affect the soul—can only transform us if we apply what we hear. James 1:22 says, “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.”  (KJV) 


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When my grandmother Edith Fuller was in her eighties, she and I were praying together when I heard her say with a deep sense of urgency, “Lord, scrub the walls of our hearts!” Now, my grandmother has been a Christian since she was a young lady. She goes to church faithfully, loves to worship God, prays fervently for her family, is kind to people, and reads her Bible from cover to cover once or twice a year. I found it interesting that she still felt the need to have her heart scrubbed. But my grandmother understands what the psalmist David understood and what is rejected by much of society today: we all have a sin nature, sometimes referred to as “self,” that gets us into trouble and that we go to great effort to hide. I once wrote about my own self in a paragraph called “My Self”:

 

“My self pretends to be humble. However, it really wants to be exalted. It wants to be the center of the universe. It wants the world to revolve around it. It wants every eye to be focused on it. My self pretends to care for the needs of others, but really its basic thought is, 'I want my needs met and I want them met now'. My self pretends to truly love others, but the truth is it craves to be desired and admired by others. My self pretends to be spiritually minded. It isn’t. My self pretends not to hold grudges, but often it does. My self pretends to be listening when someone speaks when in fact it is rehearsing what it will say when there is a moment of silence. My self likes to appear strong, but really it is weak. My self seems to exude confidence but it is full of doubts. My self pretends to have pure motives. Actually, it is looking out for its own interests. My self may submit to authority, but it really wants to control. My self blames others, is impatient, arrogant and proud. My self sounds like a real jerk, doesn’t it?  It is.”

 

Concealed or completely blatant, “self” (as used in this context) is a jerk. Our natural human way is to let self do and say what it wants. We love to cater to self. We often think how we can make self more comfortable, how we can protect its feelings and make sure it gets the credit for what it does. We let self lash out when we feel that it has been violated. We are quick to defend it. We put its pleasure above anything else. We are easily blinded and bluffed by self. When we give it just a little space, it eventually takes over. We give it a little freedom, it eventually dominates. One day we may find that we are completely controlled by self.

 

I have great vision when it comes to identifying qualities of self in someone else, but I am basically blind when it comes to identifying them in my own life. The closer I draw to the Lord, the more honest I become about each area of my life that in the past I may have excused and justified. But I will never be so holy that I am beyond letting self show its ugliness in any unguarded moment. I will never be so mature that I am beyond letting self give in to whatever it seeks. One thing is certain: self will always be what it is. As a Christian, my daily challenge is to submit my self to the influence of the Holy Spirit.


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The beautiful hymn I Surrender All1 is one that I have sung most of my life. One of the verses says: “All to Jesus I surrender. Lord, I give myself (my self) to thee. Fill me with thy love and power. Let thy blessing fall on me.”  Sometimes when I sing this, I sincerely think that I have surrendered all to him. But later I realize that nothing has changed; I am still thinking and acting the same way I have been doing all along. He cannot fill me to overflowing with his love, power and blessing because I haven’t really surrendered.

 

As we each examine our own lives, it is important to remember that stubborn, self-righteousness will keep us from seeing our own need for surrender. It will cause us to defend, justify and minimize. Yet the part that we hold back from him is the part that will destroy us. The part that we coddle is the part that will cripple us. The part that we mistakenly think we can control is the part that will eventually control us.

 

Another hymn that I grew up singing was ’Tis So Sweet To Trust In Jesus2. The song always comforted me by its reminder that I could bring my concerns to Jesus in prayer and that he would help me. But even as a teenager I was intrigued with one of the lines in verse three which talked about sin and self: “Yes, ’tis sweet to trust in Jesus. Just from sin and self to cease. Just from Jesus simply taking life and rest, and joy and peace.” Somehow, sin and self are connected. We may think of a certain aspect of our self as simply being a problem. But it may be more than a problem: it may be sin. We may think, “Oh, this is just a little something that I struggle with,” when God may see it as sin that creates a distance between us and him, hinders our prayers, and casts a shadow on our character. Even more, sin, in whatever form it is, (borrowing words from the last line of the hymn) steals our life, our rest, our joy and our peace.


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DEEP IN THE HEART


I’ve had this crazy expectation that if I got what I wanted,           

Then and only then I’d be at peace.

I’ve had this image of perfection, and if I just could attain it,

Maybe then I could feel good about me.

But these dreams I’m chasing, they do not fulfill.

And yet so often I expect that they will.

But in my searching, I cry to you God, 

Lord I need you deep in the heart.


I’ve thought my need for affirmation could be filled by another,

A sister or a brother.  But I was wrong.

I’ve thought my heartache and my pain could be healed by another,

Maybe even a lover.  But I was wrong, so wrong.

What I am craving, they cannot fulfill.
And yet so often I expect that they will.

But in my longing, I cry to you God,                                             

Lord I need you, deep in the heart.


Deep in the heart where no one can see,

I’m desperate, I’m bleeding,  

I long for your peace.

I lift up my hands and I reach to you God. 

Lord I need you deep in the heart.

The mask on my face can never conceal,                        

How lost and how empty,

And how lonely I feel.

I call out your name and I run to you God.

Lord I need you deep in the heart.

Lord I need you deep in the heart.

 

Interlude

 

Deep in the heart where no one can see,

You’re giving me purpose,

You’re giving me peace. 

I lift up my hands and I reach to you God, 

Lord I need you deep in the heart.

The tears on my face can never reveal,                         

How free and how thankful, 

And how hopeful I feel.

I call out your name and I run to you God.

Lord I need you deep in the heart.

Lord I need you deep in the heart.



Words by Wayne and Elizabeth Goodine

Music by Elizabeth Goodine

© 2011 Wayne Goodine Music/ASCAP (admin. by BMG Chrysalis, New York, NY, USA)

 


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1I Surrender All:  Judson Wheeler Van DeVenter and Winfield Scott Weeden.

 

2’Tis So Sweet To Trust In Jesus:  Wiliam James Kirkpatrick, Louisa Mr. R. Stead.






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Deep In the Heart, Prayers and Reflections by Elizabeth Goodine.

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Updated December 3, 2017.








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