Friday, November 27, 2009

The Magic of Carrying the Load

Yesterday was Thanksgiving. It has been an unusual and interesting one as God teaches me so many lessons through it. Above all, I am beginning to hear Him tell me He loves me. That is the number one thing to be thankful for. . . when you can really begin to hear those words.

For this Thanksgiving I volunteered to help my church feed 200 people that were in need of meals. The hard work of cooking and food prep had already been done. About 50 people of all ages showed up to put it all together and get it to the families. It was set up like an assembly line and everyone pitched in doing different tasks. It fell together like a fine symphony and was beautiful to be a part of.

The food was set up like you would for serving a buffet. Helpers grabbed a "to-go" container and got in line. It was filled with turkey, ham, dressing, green beans, mashed potatoes and gravy. We then closed the container, put it in its location to be packed with yeast rolls and various desserts, grabbed another container and got back into line.

We were in line for the last time and we were getting done early. I was standing next to a beautiful young lady that was elementary school age. We were talking when they announced that this would be the last time through the lines. The young lady looked up at me and commented how fast and easy it went. We started talking about how when you share work it becomes so much easier and less of a burden to everyone. I told her that back when people built their own houses and barns that all the neighbors would join in to help. This spread the load and made things go faster and easier.

Later I was pondering this. I switched from thinking about the physical to the emotional burdens as well. So many times we try to avoid the things that hurt and distance ourselves from the hurting. We come up with trite things to say like, "It will all get better," "It can't be as bad as all that," or "If you just would believe this or do that, it will go away." These make us feel better and puts a wall between us and the hurting. It keeps us from truly getting involved and really doesn't do anything for the hurting.

The Bible is very clear though about what to do. Job's true friends came and sat with him knowing that their words would not lessen the burden, but their coming and sharing in the pain would. When Jesus arrived at the tomb of Lazarus, he didn't scold them for weeping. He didn't tell them they should be doing something else. He wept full knowing He could and would be telling Lazarus to rise up and come out of that tomb.

The pain of this fallen world is here affecting so many. What would this world be like if we sat beside the hurting, wept with them and gently shared their burden? And then gently taught them about the love of the one who also will share our burdens and lighten them? The one that will bring Peace in the middle of all the chaos and pain?

Then God showed me something else. Something of His magic, if you will. When we share the burden of pain, that burden becomes lighter as we share it. But when we share joy, it grows exponentially and becomes contagious. Only a loving God and Creator could set up such a thing. Totally amazing.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The "W"

"You are only as good as your last game. It is all about the W." This statement was said to me many times by someone I knew that had been a professional basketball player. The damage done to his knees after years of playing had taken him out of the game in his early thirties. At one time his name had been known by many and now he is remembered by only a few.

And it was the statement that kept coming to mind as I read Ezekiel chapter 18.

"When a righteous man turns away from his righteousness, commits iniquity, and dies in it, it is because of the iniquity which he has done that he dies.

Again, when a wicked man turns away from the wickedness which he committed, and does what is lawful and right, he preserves himself alive.

Because he considers and turns away from all the transgressions which he committed, he shall surely live; he shall not die.

Yet the house of Israel says, 'The way of the Lord is not fair.' O house of Israel, is it not my ways which are fair, and your ways which are not fair?

Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, says the Lord God. Repent, and turn from all your transgressions, so that iniquity will not be your ruin.

Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die, O house of Israel?

For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies, says the Lord God. Therefore turn and live!" 
Ezekiel 18: 26-28

Funny the things that God uses to teach us. I am not a sports fanatic. Not even close. I don't watch sports on my own accord, but will if someone else is interested. But I have watched many a basketball game because my youngest loved to play. And I, being his mother, loved to watch because he loved it. And so my knowledge of basketball made it so I could get to know a pro-ball player. The one who would say you were only as good as your last win. 

What he was saying is that as long as you won, your fans loved you. Winning put you on top. You became idolized. But the minute you start losing, you fast became a nobody. Those fans that would flock for your autograph would no longer seek you out. You would very quickly lose the fascination and glory you received from the watching public. 

At the time he said this, I thought it a very good lesson to take to heart. Never did I ever think that God would apply it to how He sees things. 

In Ezekiel chapter 18, God is letting us know how he views our actions. He really doesn't care or even look at how many things you did correctly in your past or how many evil things you did. He does not keep a score card to see which action out ways the other. He only cares about the current state of your heart. Where are you at this very moment? Was your very last action, thought or deed a "W" or an "L"?  

Through Ezekiel He says that we can cast away all the wrongs we have done. Dispose of them. Completely. We can do this He says by getting a new heart and a new spirit. How do we do this? 

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new."
2 Corinthians 5:17

How cool is this? No matter what you have done in the past, no matter what your thoughts or actions, once you are in Christ, it is all gone. You become a new creation with a new spirit and and a new heart. The old you is wiped away. 

It is so sad that many of us Christians, me included many times, have trouble believing this. We condemn ourselves for our past actions. We condemn others for theirs because we so want them to pay for being "bad". The last thing we want as humans is for someone "to get away with it" scott free. That just isn't fair, is it? Ah, this is exactly how the house of Israel was feeling when Ezekiel delivered the words of the Sovereign Lord. Us humans don't change much, do we? 
What the one who is the epitome of love is saying is, "Really? Who is not being fair? Me or you?" Think about it. The Holy Father says over and over and over again that He does not want anyone to die. Why, then do we want to be such harsh judges against one another and ourselves? Why do we keep picking up the heavy chains and burdens and keep carrying them around? We just keep carrying around stinky, rotting trash. 

The One who laid the foundations of this earth and knows firsthand its measurements and laid its cornerstone, the One who loves you with the love of a dear father, a friend, and a beloved husband, He only looks at this very moment. Where are you right now? What heart do you have at this very moment? An old one? Or have you traded it in for a new one, beloved? 

Friday, August 7, 2009

We Are Allowed Choices

Yep. Allowed choices. Don't you think that God could have created beings without choices? Then there would have never been sin. We wouldn't have to worry. We would be ... robots. 

And the love and relationship that God is wanting from us would not be true love. You cannot demand that someone truly love you. That is a choice each individual has to make for himself and has to come from the heart.

This morning I awoke to something that re-opened a very old wound. Satan filleted that wound open with such precision. He knew exactly where it was. He knew the correct and most painful way to slice. The little girl inside me was devastated. 

But at the same time, God had prepared healing salve and love for me. Already there were sitting before me acts of love and encouragement from friends. No one knew or knows about the other, but they were rallying around with words of love and encouragement in God's perfect timing. Amazing. Perfectly and totally amazing.

Now my choice was right there before me. I could have dwelt on the hurt. Decided that the hurt was more important and done the "poor little me" trip (which I know so very well) or I could focus on the love that God was flowing down on me from such wonderful people. 

Satan was right there telling me how I deserved to feel sorry for myself. Look what I was going through. Poor little me. After such a thing, didn't I deserve some sympathy? Everyone would understand. You deserve to wallow in the ... what? Pig sty? The mud? I can't think of anything that someone wallows in that is "pretty" or "nice" or positive. 

God was standing there. Really saying nothing and yet saying everything through His people, His friends, His loved ones. It was right there for me to grasp. So I climbed up in the palm of His hand and on my knees cried. I mean, bawled my eyes out. Not feeling sorry for myself, but for the release of pain when I gave it to Him and the thankfulness for the healing He had already provided. So joyful that I am so tightly held by Him and his Holy Love.

At the beginning of the book of Ezekiel, Ezekiel is informed that he is being asked to do something that is unpleasant at best. God asks him to witness to the rebellious house of Israel. He is told in no uncertain terms that it will not be the best of times. 

"And you, son of man, do not be afraid of them nor be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns are with you and you dwell among scorpions; do not be afraid of their words or dismayed by their looks, though they are a rebellious house."   Ezekiel 2:6

This makes me want to rush right in there ... not! Hey, who else would like to sign up for this gig? Would you like to go in where you are surrounded with briers and thorns and you get to dwell among scorpions. I don't know about you guys, but I am not a very big fan of scorpions at all.

But you know what? You cannot escape the pain and hardship of life on this little planet no matter how much you try. I have known some very, very wealthy people and some very, very poor. They all had sorrows, hurts and pain. They all struggled somehow, somewhere. The pain part is promised. 

"These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." John 16:33

As for me and my house, I choose the side that has already won. 

Thursday, August 6, 2009

What Lie Are You Listening To?

Last night at church was really interesting. There was a lot of input and discussions. And a lot of transparency in the people there. How refreshing that someone can stand before a group of people that consisted of all ages and say, "I just don't get it. How do you do that?"

He was talking about avoiding sin and becoming the man that God has planned for him to be. After thinking (and praying) about the things that were said, I began to realize that when we sin we have tricked ourselves or allowed ourselves to be tricked into believing a lie. And it seems if you stop and identify the lie, call it what it is, then its power is removed.

You see, growing up the church that I did, I was told what not to do ... a lot! Don't have fun on Sunday because that is a sin. Don't play cards because that is a sin. Don't dance because that is a sin. And on and on and on. There were a bunch of "don'ts" but very few "do's". And by the way, Jesus loves you, but you better not sin. And you better be perfect when you come to church, in your dress, in your manner and the way you pray. It seemed wrong and cold to me when I was growing up, but I was just a kid. What did I know? And this was a huge church full of well-to-do people. Surely they knew what was correct. I now know that they really didn't know much of anything about Jesus, God and the Holy Spirit. They lived their own lie.

You get saved, then what? You are supposed to be developing a relationship with Jesus Christ. Yes, you have to spend time with him to get to know him. But you also have to spend time with him to know the truth and who you are. Much of my sins happen when I am not realizing truth and falling for a lie.

One of the tricky things that lies do is make us feel like we HAVE to have something in order to survive. That we cannot go on one more day without whatever or doing whatever. The first one happened right in the Garden of Eden. Eve, with outside influences, decides that she just has to have that forbidden fruit to exist any longer. She needed it. She would become wise. She would be like God. So she ate it. Did she become like God? No. Did she really need to eat that fruit? No. Did it make her life better? I don't think so. In fact it made things worse. Why in the world did she do that?

When we come to temptations or if we have done things that we know we shouldn't, have you ever asked yourself why? Why does an alcoholic, after being sober for months, walk into a bar and take a drink? Knowing full well what the outcome will be. Because he deserves it? Really? Because he is looking for excitement and fun? Fun? Have you seen a drunk alcoholic? They are in no way having fun. Excitement? Maybe. If you like the kind of excitement of not knowing what a fool you made of yourself, how many insults you have hurled and speaking of hurling ... how many times did you do that in the toilet? Or did you even make it to the toilet? Yep, true excitement. Or is it to escape? Or to better handle things? Trouble is that when you run away from things they only get worse, never better. You are not handling them.

All of the above can be applied to just about any sin.

But here is the truth. We are loved by the Living Creator of this world more deeply than we could ever imagine. He already knows what we did or what we were thinking about doing. And he still loves us.

You want excitement? You want an adrenaline rush? Work for the Lord God. I can testify your life will never be boring. My God is not a boring God. You will then be entering into warfare. You will constantly be learning and growing. Constantly challenged. And he is a God that loves music, good times and laughter. He will sing with you and dance with you.

Do you want what you deserve? Through Jesus Christ you have more than you deserve. With that you have a Father that wants to give you his very best. With Jesus you have guidance through the perils of the world. With him you have comfort and healing. With Jesus you have joy, not just happiness that is fleeting. With Jesus you have peace.

Are you afraid to face things? Ah, with the relationship comes the Holy Spirit. The comforter so that you can face anything. The one that will remove fear. No more running. No more hiding.

So instead of heading off where our brain or emotions are telling us to, maybe we should stop a sec and ask "why do I really want to go there? What is broken in my thinking?" If God said there was another way, then try that. Test him out and see what happens. Then you are off on a truly great adventure.

Now you can truly live. Now you are allowing yourself to be loved.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Why Do I Hold On To The Nagging?

The little nagging messages can come at any point day or night. They tell me what I did wrong, what I am doing wrong, what a failure I am. They cause worry about what I should and should not be doing. And then will question that. They can cause me to awake in the middle of the night anxious and stop me in my tracks during the day. If I dwell there too long, they build a fear that keeps me from doing anything productive.

I have read and heard all sorts of ways to get past these. From spiritual to religious to metaphysical to herbal. There are drugs to help you forget and numb the anxiety. Or you can pick a convenient (or inconvenient) addiction like gambling or sex or just living so fast you don't take time to notice or feel. Some have said that you just need to trust in God. Some that you need to command it to go away. I think I have read about and tried most remedies for nagging thoughts and anxiety that are out there.

The worst cycle goes something like this: Nagging thought - "You didn't do that right." Me back against that - "Just trust in God and he will direct you." Nagging thought - "Well, do you really think you are trusting Him enough to direct you? Maybe you are not doing it enough." Me back - "I have to believe I am. I am doing my best." Nagging thought - "Really? You call that your best? What about this? And this? You slacker! Can you really trust that you can hear Him?" And on, and on, and on.

Then something hit me. Why am I fighting this battle of words of such a creature? Is it even my battle? What a cunning technique of warfare! Get me running around in circles until I am frantic and I am of no good to anyone.

So this morning the nagging started. I decided that it wasn't mine and handed it to my Saviour. The battle is His and He has already won it. He is sitting at the right hand of my Father and is preparing a place for me. He is Lord over my past, present and future. How foolish of me to even think I could fight that battle.

With that, in an instant, a million tons was lifted off of my shoulders. I cannot begin to tell you the Peace that came over me. Such a flood of Peace.

Now Satan will have to face someone else besides just me. He will have to face the One that makes him shudder.

"You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that - and they shudder."
James 3:19 NIV

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Today is a new day!

So yesterday was kind of rough. I thought I had found something really great to do with my life and talents. It was going to be awesome. It fit many of the things I loved to do and the gifts that God had given me. Then my brother pointed out that it looked pretty much like a scam.

All the things that I was so excited about deflated right there. Then to top it off I got an email saying that I was not being considered for a certain job that I had applied for. And I got the email twice yesterday, like once wasn't enough. It wasn't that I really wanted that particular job, it was more the rejection itself. So for a day that started out really exciting, it fast became one of disappointment.

It was Wednesday, so that meant there were things going on at church that night. Since I really needed to be around people and to get out of the house, I pushed myself to go. When I got there, my interaction with people seemed to be all wrong. I cut Pam off at the knees when she tried to give me good information. I interrupted her and Teresa, not once but twice. It all just fed off of the anxiety and disappointment I already was experiencing.

But the message that I heard over and over was to trust. I can't tell you how many times Scott said that as he was talking about the book we were following. Trust in God. Know who you are in Christ and stand on that. Trust in God. Trust in God. Know who you are in Christ and stand on that. Things aren't necessarily what they seem. Okay, okay. You have my attention. Sometimes I can be so difficult.

Then I got home, answered some emails, fixed a bite to eat and turned on the television. There was Jesse Duplantis. And he said something that I had never heard before. It floored me and had me in tears. How could I ever dream that I, me, could be loved THAT much.

Look at John 20. Mary Magdalene had gone to the tomb after the Sabbath was over to finish the preparation of the body of Jesus. Seeing that the body was gone, she left to tell the disciples. Returning to the tomb to show some of them that he was missing, she stayed after they had left to go back home. She was crying. She went into the tomb and two angels were there and asked her why she was crying. She said that Jesus was missing and she did not know where he had been put.

Oh, how she must have been hurting. He was everything that she had put faith in. She had left everything and followed him. He had loved her with a love she had never known before. He was her security. He made her feel like she was worth everything. He was her life. Then, within days, she had seen him ripped apart, naked and nailed to a cross.

People wanted him dead. They ridiculed the one she loved. They spit on him. They pulled his hair. They ripped his back open. They stuck a sword in his side. How could this happen? How can her life fall apart so fast? Once dead, he was brought down and placed in the tomb in such a hurry because sundown was fast approaching and it was the Sabbath.

They didn't even get to prepare the body correctly. Then she had to sit and wait all night, all the next day and all night. There was nothing she could do to serve him, to take care of him, but wait. Wait and wonder. Wait and hurt. Wait and cry. Just wait.

Knowing that she could not go to the tomb till sun up when she could see, she probably went ahead and started gathering the spices and herbs for the body of Jesus during the night. I doubt if she slept much because she was so anxious to get to the tomb. She was totally caught up in the only thing she thought she could do for her Lord. And then when she got there his body was gone, like salt in an open wound. The very thing that she had been waiting to do and prepared for, she could not. Who would have thought that she wouldn't even been allowed to prepare the body. How cruel that someone took the body away. Hadn't they done enough to him?

John 20: 15-17
Then she saw Jesus, but she didn't know it was him.

"Woman," He said, "why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?"

Thinking he was the gardener, she said, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him."

Jesus said to her, "Mary."

And she turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, "Rabboni!" (which means Teacher).

Jesus said, "Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, 'I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.' "

What Jesse D. pointed out last night was that Jesus had defeated evil. He had conquered death and was on his way to his Father to finish the redemption of mankind and he stopped in the middle of it to take the time out to reassure and comfort Mary. To show her what she needed to see. He stopped in the greatest event of the world for her. He didn't have to do it. He would of shown up later and shown them. But he did. He stopped. He took time out to show her he was okay. That it was all going to be alright. To let her know she didn't need to have such sorrows. To show her that the events that seemed to be were not real or true.

So he who spoke the world into being, he who knows each bird that is flying and when he falls, he who knows the secrets of the weather and the sea, and he who is love, righteousness and truth, he cares if my heart is breaking. Cares if I am anxious. Cares if I cry. And will stop the movement of all of creation to provide comfort.

Trust him who cares. Things are not all that they seem. For mighty things are working and you can have a personal relationship with the author of those works.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

There has to be more to Celiac Disease

Going off of gluten over 10 years ago no doubt saved my life. The doctors had just kept doing the same things for years and I just kept getting worse. I got a lot of recommendations for taking a lot of Maalox. I received prescriptions for anti-depressants. I was told to go on a bland diet. When I finally found out I had Celiac Disease, I was eating chicken noodle soup and soda crackers only. That was my bland diet and I wasn't able to digest even that. Go figure. It was almost totally gluten.

Then someone had me stop eating gluten and within two weeks I was back to looking and feeling more normal. It was an amazing transformation. Before starting the diet I was bloating up by a pound a week on that soup and crackers diet. They were unable to get my blood pressure to register because it was so low and my body temp was low. After the two weeks, temp and blood pressure were back in the normal range and the bloating had gone down so much the nurse did not recognize me. 

But there are still so many things that isn't known and so much that doesn't all fit together. I understand that part of it is because it caused malabsorption for so many years of my life. This caused me to live for years without the proper nutrients. In my high school years my weight dropped to 110 lbs. I am 5'6" and that made me very, very skinny. But at times it seems that the damage is continuing, not stopping. 

On Twitter I ran across a tweet that mentioned a cure for Celiac Disease. I have always been told there isn't a cure. You can just "maintain" by following a gluten free diet. So is this a quack thing or the real deal? 

I went to the web site. They are not selling anything. All the info is pretty much there. So where is the catch? 

Let me know what you think!