Weight a Second: The Secret of Good Health and Godliness

Standing on the scale, I watched the digital numbers escalate while my weight was calculated. The final number made me cringe.

file0001681678619

How can I exercise all week, control my appetite, and not lose an ounce?

Five weeks earlier, I faced two choices: Lose weight or buy a bigger pair of pants. I elected to spend my summer eating more fruits and vegetables and exercise regularly.

20150712_130550

I was motivated as long as my pounds decreased. When I hit the plateau, self discipline took a nose dive.

That evening, I indulged my craving for a HUGE bowl of popcorn…smothered with melted butter. Yep, ate the whole thing.

I don’t know how many calories I consumed, but I didn’t taste an ounce of guilt when I licked the bottom of the greasy bowl.

file3471233966753

Contrary to all the weight loss miracle ads, losing weight (in a healthy way) is a slow, methodic process. And when it comes to building and toning muscles, forget instant gratification.  

However, since I began eating healthier and exercising, my pants are less tight. I have more energy; more strength. My mental outlook improved. Isn’t that worth the process?

Or am I only focused on an end result—reaching that ideal number on my scale? If that’s true, my healthy regimen is a temporary fling like a summer romance instead of a necessary, life-long commitment.

The same holds true for spiritual growth.

image

Years ago, whenever I wanted to experience more of God’s presence and become a “better Christian,” I’d pray more and inundate myself with reading the Bible and Christian material.

I experienced spiritual growth spurts; glimpsed moments of euphoria. However, I couldn’t maintain that spiritual high or rate of growth. Finally, I realized…

There’s no such thing as microwave Christianity.

We renew our minds by the daily reading of God’s Word. Then we’re chiseled and changed by the Holy Spirit in the minuscule moments of each day.

This slow, sometimes painful, chiseling process is necessary to achieve God’s finished product: molding us into the likeness of Christ. (Romans 8:28,29)

My task is learning how to obey and cooperate when I’m confronted with God’s Word. For example…

  • Do I listen to my heart’s desire to complain, scold, attack, and ridicule? Or make peace?
  • Do I apply God’s Word throughout my week even though the lessons are painful?
  • Do I sweat to do the right thing? Or cave in when something becomes too difficult?
  • Do I rely on my own strength? Or lean on the Lord to make a way in the wilderness?

“Sanctification is an impartation, not an imitation.” (Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest).

If I want to strengthen my faith and exhibit the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22),

I must abide in Christ.

Not sporadically during a spiritual whim, but habitually.

Even in this … endeavor to lose weight and live healthy.

What Do You Hope For?

My youngest child left for college a month ago. With the exception of some furniture, his bedroom is empty as a conch shell lying on a beach.

The occupant left. There’s nothing but a hollow space where there once was life.

View bigger - Conch Shell FREE for Android screenshotGone are most of my son’s clothes, his laptop computer, his Bible, the scent of his cologne. Even his lava lamp traveled East to get plugged into a college dorm.

So I decided to renovate the room. I stripped posters off the wall, and removed the camouflage curtains that I hand sewed.

Then I patched the holes in the wall with caulk…as if keeping myself busy with a room makeover could fill the empty spaces of my heart.

 If only moving into the next season of my life was as simple as replacing the fan blades in the ceiling fan.

Years ago, when our two older children left home at the same time, our nuclear family of five was subdivided. The sensation was like ripping a plant out of the earth, and then tearing the entwined roots apart to create three separate, smaller plants.

Transplanting my last child across the country feels like an amputation.

I’m still a mother, but there are no longer any children beneath our roof. I’ve severed my apron strings that held them within reach.

Those thoughts hovered in my head while the ceiling fan stirred the air which brushed my cheek like a child’s butterfly kisses.

This room never looked so good. But new paint won’t bring this room to life.

People make a house a home.

What happens when they’re missing?

I tell myself, come Christmas vacation, my son will return and this room will look lived in again—an unmade bed, socks scattered on the floor, the closet door ajar, a cup of water by the bed.

Family reunions, that’s something to hope for, right?

Isn’t hope hinged to every goodbye? If not this world, then the next….we’ll be together again one day!

“Faith is.the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)

I pull the brass chain hanging from the light fixture as the fan blades spin round the globe like planets revolving round the sun.

Who’s the center of my universe? The light of my life?

Have my children and house become the center of my attention…my affection?

If faith is the assurance of things hoped for….what am I hoping for?

Am I hoping my children will move closer? Visit more often? Stay safe? Be happy? Grow strong in the Lord?

“God Himself must be the one object of our hope and trust in our work, our needs, and our desires.

“Just as God is the center of the universe, the one guide that orders and controls its movements, so God must have the same place in the life of a believer.

“With every new day, our first thought should be: Only God can enable me this day to live as He would have me live.” ~~Andrew Murray

When will I learn, its indispensable to meet with God every day in prayer, and allow Him to renovate me.

I can long for the past or fret about the future, but my time is best spent praying for those I love.

So I pray for my children. I pray for my husband of 35 years who walked beside me during the child-rearing years.

And “I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in our hearts as we trust in Him.” (Ephesians 3:17)

Even in this…..season of life.

What Matters Most

Last Wednesday, I flew from California to North Carolina (via Houston) for a She Speaks Conference. I was in the air about six hours. My travel day from the time I left home and arrived to the hotel took twenty-seven hours.

Waiting in an airport terminal was not my first choice however, if you read my last blog, you know I wanted the Lord to teach me no matter the cost.

she speaks 2014 606

Rather than focus on my circumstances and become disgruntled, I chose to surrender my desire to have what I want NOW!

Instead of trying to be patient, I chose to abide in the Lord and experience patience which is the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

I cringe to say those words—I don’t want to sound self-righteous. But after years of striving to be a good Christian, I discovered the easier path is abiding in the Lord.

Abiding is how we become more like Christ….loving, compassionate, merciful, patient…which is God’s predestined will for those He has called.

The Holy Spirit does the work, but my poor attitude often slows the progress.

Only this time, I didn’t choose a one-woman pity party. Instead, I prayed for an eternal perspective while I traveled, and I asked to see people through God’s eyes.

He enlarged my vision.

I found myself drawn particularly to the people who served me at the airport and the hotel. Whether they were a maid, a busboy, a cashier, a waitress…..they each wore a name tag so I was able to call them by name. We’d smile, and exchange pleasantries.

Friendliness is contagious.

she speaks 2014 629

Although my goal was to attend a conference to hone my writing and speaking skills, God taught me to do what matters most. Love one another.

My return flight home went without a glitch. Or so I thought. My traveling companion was on a different airline. Her flight was delayed by four hours.

My skin grew warm when I read my friend’s text. The thought of waiting in the airport terminal till three o’clock drained my last ounce of reserve. I’d been awake since 3:30 a.m. East Coast time, and had gone nonstop four days.

Was I going to wallow in self-pity or abide in Christ?

I sat down at a restaurant in the airport terminal—which began to feel like home—and asked the waitress,

“What’s your name? How long have you worked here?”

As I listened to Lynn’s story unfold, waiting on a flight seemed minuscule.

I’m thankful for the myriad of men and women I met last week, and the opportunity to show small acts of kindness.

God is so patient with me. And He can use everything—even waiting in an airport terminal—to teach me what matters most.

Am I Looking at Me?

IMG_4640Two years ago, I wrote about the murder of my Japanese maple.

Murder sounds melodramatic, but that’s how I felt when someone chopped down my tree. “Too close to the house; gets in the way of the footpath.”

Foul words spewed from my lips. I stomped away from the scene of the crime. No one dared follow me. Friends assured me, “I don’t blame you. I’d be mad too.”

Self-justification didn’t make me feel better. I was broken afterwards, knowing if someone pushes the right button—I’ll turn into Gollum.

I only bring this up because I’m resting in the cool shade of my yard while two squirrels cavort among the trees. Birds swoop down to drink from the bird bath. All’s well with my world and my soul.

BUT, push the right button with a critical thought, a fearful what if, a broken sprinkler head, a chopped down Japanese maple—and my happy world evaporates like a desert mirage.

Circumstances pushed my buttons last week. I was stretched like taffy beyond my comfort zone. God’s grace enabled me to control my behavior, but I was mentally having a nuclear meltdown.

And yet, I want to reflect an inward peace that doesn’t vacillate with my circumstances.

So if God’s Word tells me to trust Him even in this—then I need to believe Him. For my life experience has proven over and over and over again, that God is faithful. There is no circumstance where He is not present.

As a believer in Christ, His Spirit dwells within me. When I seek God’s face, He is kind enough to show me the reality of His manifested presence.

Only, too often I’m preoccupied—thinking about me and my circumstance instead of Him.

He will keep in perfect peace all those who trust in him, whose thoughts turn often to the Lord!” (Isaiah 26:3 TLB)

Do I believe it? If so, I’ll trust the Lord and think of Him often. That’s the key to perfect peace, resting in the cool shade of God’s protective hand when life heats up. Or buttons are pushed.

I mentioned my murdered Japanese maple that led to a broken spirit. Would you believe that same tree has been resurrected? It’s sprouting from the small stump that was left in the ground.

20140705_165912

I laughed, and praised the Lord. He doesn’t hold my mistakes and meltdowns over my head. He uses them to teach me and change me.

Unlike Jack’s magical beanstalk, there is no hallelujah pill that will make me grow godly overnight. The only Miracle Grow is the Holy Spirit working within me, to mold me into the likeness of God’s Son. 

If removing a Japanese maple helps me grow, then chop away, Lord!

What circumstance in your life, is God using to make you grow?

Rain Makes the People Grow

A blue sky and the chatter of yellow finches clinging to the tube feeder beneath my Oak tree beckons me. Come out and play.

However, blue skies can be deceiving in the winter. I open the front door and poke my head outside to test the temperature. The weatherman’s forecast was right. It’s unseasonably warm. I roll up my long sleeves. Grab a rake. But first, I stand still like the Tin Man from Oz and soak up the sunshine as though it were oil lubricating my stiff joints.

20140114_160924

Then I rake the blanket of dry, brown pine needles off my Vinca plants. As sunlight touches the Vinca’s trailing stems, they seem to yawn and stretch skyward. Their miniature buds ready to burst into purple flowers.

Can this really be January?

Some folks may be envious especially if they’re shoveling snow. But as much as I love the sunshine, I’m praying for rain. Plants droop, waiting for a heavenly drink. Without rain, or snow in the mountains, the cost won’t be worth this week’s winter warmth.

I rake sharp needles into piles and look for a God lesson even in this glorious Spring-like day. And He shows me how often I pray for perfect days.

No problems to solve, nothing to fix. Health, wealth, and happiness. Isn’t that what people long for? Heaven on earth?

But I’m no different than trees and grass. I need grey, wet days to grow and thrive. Left to my own self-protection, and idea of perfection, my character stagnates. As a believer, how can I grow more into the likeness of Christ if I cling to the sunshine and avoid the storms?

“Rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that pressure and affliction and hardship produce patient and unswerving endurance. And endurance develops maturity of character.” (Romans 5:3, 4)

A pastor said, “When I pray for a good day, am I asking for a day that’s problem-free so I don’t need to rely on the Lord?”

I don’t have to be a weatherman to forecast my actions. I know I don’t pray as fervently when I’m on a vacation from my problems. I’m content to sail my own ship. Be captain of my soul.

Do I want to grow in Christ, and have my character be more like Him? Then I must stop being a fair-weather friend.

And rejoice even in the rain.

Ants and Application

Ants love sugar water, but they hate chalk.

For years, I fought an army of ants crawling down the chain that holds my hummingbird feeder. Drowned ants floated in the sweet liquid, clogged up the tiny drinking holes.

When I read that ants won’t walk over chalk, I decided to draw a line of chalk around the nail that holds my hummingbird feeder.

Sure enough, the chalk acts like a barricade. I also outline the area around my cat bowl with chalk….no more ants crawling in the leftover food.

Here’s my point.

Last weekend, I allowed disappointing circumstances to put me in a melancholy mood. My emotions took precedent over rational thoughts.

I cried. I vented. I wallowed in self-pity.

And when I’d had enough of ME, I applied what always works for me.

I rejoiced in the Lord, and asked Him to use my circumstances to teach me.

And because God draws near to those who seek Him, the Holy Spirit showed me 2 Samuel 18 & 19.

King David’s son Absalom leads a revolt against his father in order to seize the throne for himself. As civil war breaks out, David and his family must flee Jerusalem. In the ensuing battle, King David’s men win and Absalom is killed.

Despite Absalom’s treasonous act, David is overcome with grief. He mourns the death of his son instead of rejoicing in victory. But Joab, David’s military commander, holds him accountable. He tells David to “snap out of it” and recognize the people who fought for him.

 These events happened centuries ago, but “scripture is alive and active, sharper than any double-edged sword” (Hebrews 4:12)

Rather than read the Bible for content….I search for personal application.

One brings head knowledge.

The latter brings heart change.

In this case, I had two options.

Allow my emotions to become a stronghold which leaves me like King David …. in a funk which robs me of joy.

Apply Biblical knowledge to my circumstances and achieve victory over self.

Like drawing a chalk line, I chose to apply what the Bible says.

I took “captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5)

Because thoughts precede emotions which determine my mood.

And in the process, I was changed for the better.

Walking in Fear

20131109_112324I arrived at Sisters of Mercy for a day of solitude to embrace God’s presence. There was no agenda. I was there to meditate on His Word, listen for His voice.

My mind was expectant, at bliss, as I ventured down a path towards the Ten Stations of the Cross.

I didn’t expect to meet FEAR.

Crossing a small wooden bridge, I walked down a narrow path surrounded by wild vegetation, covered by a canopy of trees. Intermittently, there were small white statues depicting Jesus’ journey to the cross.

20131109_103510

I prayed God would manifest His presence; give me a sign.

Eyes wide-open, I saw a downy feather clinging to a branch….Abide in Me.

Ears alert, I listened to squirrels playing tag among the trees…Rejoice.

Then a brown tiger-striped cat walked by me like a returning conqueror. The words “Sweet Kitty” stuck in my throat, my stomach lurched. A deflated mouse with a tail limp as a spaghetti noodle dangled from the feline’s lips.

My eyes scanned the sun-dappled path for scurrying mice.

Instead, I encountered a large, black dog. He stood at attention on the other side of the dry creek bed, watched me with steel eyes. There was a field fence dividing the retreat property from nearby homes, but with the thick vegetation, I wasn’t sure which side of the fence he stood.

I hurried pass Christ being nailed to a cross, and glanced back to see if “danger” followed.

When the gravel path curved, I came face to face with Jesus hanging on a cross.

20131109_110644

But my eyes were diverted by the same dog standing a few feet away. He was behind the fence, but when the dog barked, I left.

Retracing my steps to the bridge, the cool, green sanctuary took on a Gothic appearance. Branches rustled, dead limbs pointed knobby fingers at me. Winged creatures stared at me.

As I emerged from the trees, the sun’s warmth washed away my goose bumps.

And that still small voice of God spoke:  This is a metaphor of your life.

 Do you realize you spent more time looking at the things that scare you than the images of Christ?

 It’s time you let go of  fear, and learned to walk with your eyes on Me.

How could I argue after that surreal experience?

The rest of the day, I asked God to vanquish fear and show me how to trust Him more.

Even when scary, awful, bad things happen.

 “For God did not give us a Spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control.” (2 Timothy 1:7)