Wednesday, October 10, 2012

I just don't want to...

      Here's something I've discovered about myself:  I don't want to write about just one topic for 31 days.  It really sounded like a good idea but, honestly, I'm bored out of my mind.  Even a topic that interests me just isn't interesting enough to be my sole focus for a month.  That's just not how my life goes.

      So, I'm giving up that proposed quest and acknowledging that God moves in my life in a multitude of ways.  And that's what this is supposed to be about: how God is moving in my life.

Precious Patrick when he went out to help Daddy plant the wheat last week.
He's so thrilled to be with his favorite man (and around all that John Deere).

      Lately God has been using a certain precious 3 year old to teach me.  I don't know what I'm going to do next fall when he starts preschool, I'll miss my little companion. But that's enough of that, no need to start mourning something that won't happen for another year! Anyway, Patrick is the source of so many good lessons.  Here are a few things I've noticed lately:

  1. Be joyful always.  Patrick is so full of joy.  Nothing seems to dampen his spirits, even disappointment.  I could use more of this kind of attitude.
  2. Nothing is lost by putting another person first.  Patrick has a strong willed older sister.  Now, Helen and I have a lot of talks about being considerate about other people's wishes so I don't mean for this to excuse what is sometimes bad behavior on her part, just to recognize Patrick's good behavior.   Patrick is quick to give in, to let Helen have her way and to do so happily.  He knows that nothing is lost by playing Helen's way, in fact, he knows how much he gains when he does play with his sister.
  3. Move on when you make mistakes.  Patrick makes mistakes.  We all do.  One thing I love about him is how quick he is to acknowledge mistakes and ask for forgiveness.  He is so sweet.  He also remembers the mistake and often talks about how to not make the same mistake again.
  4. Love the little things.  Patrick loves tiny bugs, little rocks, a small candy, a little rest. He will stop for the smallest thing...something that often annoys me but that I'm learning to appreciate.  Sometimes I'm so busy rushing around that I lose sight of all the little things that make this life so lovely.

      My children are such precious gifts.  This list is about Patrick but I could just as easily make a similar list about Helen.  In fact, maybe I'll do that tomorrow.  What I love about motherhood is how many times my kids teach me about the really important things of life.  I hope they are learning those life lessons too.


Thursday, October 4, 2012

Day 4: Exercise that encourages

      A few months ago a friend of mine suggested that we start exercising together.  I thought it sounded like a great idea.  So we had to decide what to do.  We both like to run so that was an option.  But we were hoping to include as many of the ladies from our church as were interested and we were afraid that running might leave some ladies out.  Plus, there comes a time of year around here when we both give up running outside for the more comfortable temperatures of our treadmills.  So, we decided to look around for some exercise video we could do together.

      We stumbled on a new favorite: PrayFit.  PrayFit was put together by Jimmy Pena, a fitness expert and Christian.  He and a friend of his put PrayFit together with the purpose of meeting two basic needs, spiritual nourishment and physical development.  We bought the DVD and the devotional book that goes along with it and got to work.

     Wow!  We love it. I love the PrayFit tagline: In Jesus name, we train.  Because that's why we are doing it. Sure, the side benefits are nice (living longer, looking better in a dress, etc) but the real reason we workout, the reason we do anything, is to bring glory to God.

      The PrayFit workouts are great.  It's just 33 minutes or so, which fits nicely into our morning schedule, and it's a pretty intense workout.  And the level of intensity is really just dependent on the participant.  So someone really fit (like my friend) can work out alongside someone less fit (like me).  Finally, we love the encouragement that Jimmy Pena provides throughout the video.  My friend and I, along with other ladies from the church, now meet three mornings a week at 5:30am to workout together.  And the workouts are an encouragement to my soul as well.

      Also, the PrayFit website has daily devotional thoughts that have been really helpful to me.  Check it out!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Day 3: On living healthy and trusting God

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.  Is not life more important that food and the body more important than clothes?   Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them, are you not much more valuable than they?  Matthew 6:25-26

     Here is the truth about me and food:  sometimes (often?) I turn to food for comfort or stress-relief.  I don't even really think about what I am doing.  I start to feel anxious about something (my health, my kids, the house we've been trying to sell for the last 4 years, money, etc) and suddenly I find myself eating a cookie (who are we kidding?  I mean a bag of cookies) or some chips or everything in the fridge.

     That's my downfall with food.  I actually eat very well during regular meal times.  I manage my portion sizes appropriately, I eat lots of veggies and other good-for-me things.  I don't fill up on sugary drinks.  If you talked to someone who watched my meal-time eating habits, they'd think I have no problems with food.

     It's the in between times that are a problem.  When I put my son down for a nap and start paying bills or talking to our Realtor    When I am irritated with my daughter's back talk.  When I feel frustrated at my son's slowness at potty training.  These are the times when I find myself craving the comfort of food.

     I have been greatly convicted of this lately.  Who should I go to for comfort?   Who should I turn to when I am irritated or frustrated or worried?  When I turn to that chocolate chip cookie, what am I saying?  Am I giving the cookie power over me?  Am I making that cookie into an idol?

    I have been studying 2 Corinthians lately and really had to stop and meditate over 7:1 "Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God."  Do you know what promises Paul is referring to?  Look back at chapter 6: God has promised to live and walk among us, to be a Father to us and to make us His sons and daughters.

     If my children had a worry or a problem, would I want them to turn to some false comforter?  No, I would want them to come to me, to let me walk alongside them in their problems.  I would want to provide comfort and, hopefully, solutions to their problems.  That's what God wants from me.  So, rather than turn to food for temporary comfort, I am learning to turn to Him for eternal comfort.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Day 2: The link between physical and spiritual discipline

"The choices I make today determine whether I move toward Him, or toward self and the world."

"Even though we do not sense that we are doing anything profound for God, it is important to understand that God continually works in the daily circumstances of our lives.  Our part is not to look at our situation, but to set our hearts to draw near to our heavenly Father."

     I actually read both of these quotes today.  I hadn't planned to use them in this post, hadn't even picked up the devotional they are from until this morning.  It's amazing how God speaks to my heart in unexpected ways.

     Today I am writing on the connection between physical discipline and spiritual discipline.  For many years I did not consider my physical life connected with my spiritual life.  I thought my walk with the Lord was just some kind of internal thing.  If I read my Bible, did some praying and participated in some kind of faith community I was fulfilling the things necessary for my spiritual life.  

     So, at the same time I was seeking to grow as a Christian, I was ignoring my body.  I paid very little attention to what I gave my body for fuel.  I was not very active (I spent the first nearly 8 years of my marriage in grad school, pregnant or nursing....and I was not very motivated to exercise during those years).  In general, I was a Christian couch potato.  I was not very energetic but, was that a requirement of a good Christian life?  I guess I didn't think so at the time.

     In the last couple of years, though, I've come to believe that truly pursing a godly life is a mind and body exercise.   Elton Trueblood, a 20th century Quaker theologian, said, "Men are combinations of body and mind and spirit, uniting in a working partnership both hand and brain.  They thus have a variety of temptations and any valid religion will be frankly concerned with all of these."

     Jesus, in Luke 10:27 summed up the Law like this, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and will all your strength and with all your mind."  I am called to love God with all that I am and one way I can bring Him praise and honor is to worship him with my body.  When I started taking better care of this body, I noticed new energy and that energy was both physical and mental.  I started being more joyful in my service to my family.  I started being more open to prodding from the Holy Spirit.  I started to love Him more.  For me, being more disciplined in my physical life has led to an increase in discipline in my spiritual life.  And I notice when I become more lax in either area the other starts to fall off as well.  I am a body and a spirit and I cannot ignore either aspect of who I am.

I want to close with a quote from William Law:

Since we are neither all soul nor all body, seeing none of our actions are either separately of the soul or separately of the body, seeing we have no habits but such as are produced by the actions both of our souls and bodies, it is certain that if we would arrive at habits of devotion or delight in God, we must not only meditate and exercise our souls, but we must practice and exercise our bodies to all such outward actions are are conformable to these inward tempers.


Monday, October 1, 2012

31 days of healthy, holy living

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. Deuteronomy 6:5 

             I found The Nester through A Holy Experience and I am intrigued.  She is hosting a 31 day challenge, 31 days of writing on one topic, any topic.  I like the idea of being mindful about something, of spending the month challenging myself to think about one topic and, hopefully, make some changes in my life as a result.  So, I will be spending the next 31 days thinking about, studying and writing about healthy, holy living.

But what does that mean?

              I recently read a book that really caused me to stop and think about one aspect of my walk with the Lord.  The book, EveryBody Matters: Strengthening Your Body to Strengthen Your Soul by GaryThomas, really convicted me about the link between physical discipline and spiritual discipline. You see, I tend to think of my walk as a purely spiritual exercise.  Like many Christians, I put an emphasis on the growth of my soul and have largely ignored the connection between my spiritual life and my physical life.   Gary Thomas asserts that physical discipline is necessary to become “instruments for special purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.” (2 Timothy 2:21)

                This really shouldn't be news.  The Apostle Paul referred to physical discipline in 1 Corinthians 9:27: “No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”  This verse is toward the end of a passage that compares living the Christian life to running a race.  Paul says that part of running our race is keeping our bodies under control.   A commentary on 1 Corinthians 9 by Jamieson, Fausset and Brown calls this the “keeping under of our natural self-seeking, so as, like Paul, to lay ourselves out entirely for the great work.”  This kind of physical discipline isn't about maintaining a certain dress size or looking good for summer swimsuit season, it’s about putting to death the desires of my flesh so that I can live more fully for the Lord.

                Paul writes more about this soul/body connection in Romans 8.  What interests me most about this chapter is the comparison Paul draws between life controlled by the Spirit and life controlled by the sinful nature.  Romans 8:5 says, “Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.”  We all have a choice.  We can choose to live according to the desires of our sinful nature, the desires of our flesh, or we can choose to live according to the desires of the Spirit.  We cannot have it both ways.  But the good news, according to Romans 8:13, is that it is “by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body.”  Putting to death my sinful nature isn't something I am called to do on my own; it is something I can only do by the power of the Spirit. 

                I was talking to someone about this recently and the person commented, “well, but we don’t want to get too carried away with this.  I mean, there’s nothing wrong with my comfort food.”  I had to think about this for a while.  On the one hand, that’s true.  There’s nothing wrong with your chocolate cake (or whatever) in moderation.  It’s the idea of comfort food that gets to me.  You see, turning to that piece of chocolate cake for comfort is making the cake an idol.  I think this is part of what Paul is talking about in Philippians 3:18b-19, “…many live as enemies of the cross of Christ.  Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things.”  These people, who Paul describes as enemies of the cross of Christ, put their appetites and desires first.  Think about that: how many times have I turned to food for comfort or fulfillment or pleasure instead of turning to the Lord, who is the only One who can truly satisfy my desires?

                It’s funny that it took a book to connect all of this for me.  I have experienced the real comfort of the Lord and can compare it to the false comfort of chocolate.   I know that my most meaningful times of prayer nearly always happen when I am running.  I know that when I am being more disciplined about my physical life, I tend to be more disciplined about my spiritual life.  To me this is all a part of following Paul’s instructions to “honor God with your bodies.” (1 Corinthians 6:20)

                So this is what I want to focus on in the next 31 days.  I want to talk about the practical aspects of being physically disciplined and to that end I will post my food and exercise diary, possibly some recipes and thoughts about the kind of exercise that works for me. I also want to talk about the spiritual connection.  How does being physically disciplined help me in my spiritual life?  What is God showing me through this renewed dedication?  I am really looking forward to this opportunity to be more deliberate and thoughtfult as I learn to take better care of this body that God has given me as an instrument of His service.

Friday, September 28, 2012

We belong to the Lord

If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. 
So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. Romans 14:8

After the first fog of grief lifted, one of things that I thought about most when Becky died was my own mortality.  I was almost 34 when she died so maybe that is the age when people often start thinking about the possibility of death.  I don't know.  What I do know is that Becky dying made me feel old.  Sounds strange, I know.  Maybe it is because it was my first real taste of death.  I mean, you expect grandparents to die.  Sisters are supposed to grow old with you.

I've been thinking about my mortality again lately.  I have been having this pain in my side.  I've been to the doctor about it a lot.  I've been poked and prodded.  I've had gallons of blood drawn.  My doctor doesn't see anything wrong, he doesn't know why I'm having pain.  So he ordered a CT Scan.  For some reason, scheduling the CT Scan was the moment I thought something might be truly wrong.  Something about big machinery and the ability to see inside my body, I guess.

Anyway, I've been thinking about it.  What if there is something major wrong?  What if my kids have to learn about things like cancer and chemotherapy?  What if it is something else, something chronic and disabling?  How would these things change who I am and what I am called to be?

I am not usually a worst-case-scenario kind of girl.  In fact, I generally believe everything will be perfect.  I expect the best in every situation...probably because I've so rarely been faced with actual worst cases.  Waiting for the results of this test, I realized: there is no worst case.  The price has already been paid for my worst case scenario.  Jesus died so that I would be spared the worst case penalty.

Everything else is just the life that He chooses to give me.  So, if I live, I live for the Lord.  If I die, I die for the Lord.   No matter what happens, it is all for the Lord.

When I think about things like this I think about the "what ifs".  You know: what would my husband do; what would my kids do; what would happen to the house/the bills/the laundry.  These are silly things to think about.  If I got sick or died, my husband would survive.  My children would go one living.  Decisions would be made, for sure, difficult decisions.  Who knows how it would all work out.  But that is not worth worrying about.  More than ever I understand Jesus' instructions in Matthew 6:34 "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own."

I recently read a quote: "Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy."  That is the truth.  Worrying will not change tomorrow.  I do not know what will happen tomorrow.  But I can be present today, be joyful today, love the life I have today.  And that is what I am going to do.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

In an instant: Becky's story

     My sister died almost two years ago.  I'm afraid this will be a recurring theme here so you should probably hear the story.  My little sister, Becky, 32 years old.  Wife to Jacob.  Mother to Amity (who turned 10 three days after the accident) and Dara (8).  Becky was a lover of Jesus.  She was a runner.  She was a reader.  She was 4 months away from finishing her Doctor of Pharmacy.  She was smart as a whip, goofy and had the quickest sense of humor I've ever known.  Missing her is like an ache that will never go away.

     That year, 2010, we celebrated Christmas at my house.  I live about halfway between Spokane, Washington (where Becky and her family lived) and Corvallis, Oregon (where my parents and other sister live).  So, in the spirit of meeting in the middle, we all converged on my house.  Thankfully our house is fairly large but, with 7 adults and 4 kids, we were pretty crowded.  It was a great kind of crowded though.  We ate, laughed, played cards, goofed around and celebrated together.

     On Sunday, December 26, everyone headed back to their homes.  Becky had to start a new rotation for her Pharmacy degree the next day.  She was so excited about it and about nearing the end of this program that she had worked so hard on.  Wednesday, December 29 was a wintry, cold day.  Ice storms were forecasted so Becky packed a bag in case she decided it was too dangerous to drive home that evening.  Late that afternoon Becky decided it would be safe to drive home if she left her rotation a little early.  So she headed home.  Approximately 10 miles from her home, Becky hit a patch of ice and her car slid into the path of an oncoming truck.  She died on impact.

     There are so many things in this story that beg the question: "what if."

What if we hadn't gotten together right before that?  What a gift that was!

What if she hadn't gone to work that morning?

What if she had decided to stay in town rather than drive home?

What if the pickup hit her car in a slightly different spot?

What if, what if, what if?

Here is one thing I have learned in all of this:  everything can change in an instant. What does that mean?  It means I need to treasure every second, to live life with the understanding that this moment could be my last.  It wouldn't be a bad thing; I am fully prepared to die.  In fact, my own death is actually less of a fear for me than the death of another loved one.  I know my own death will only be a celebration for me, entering into the presence of my Lord.   And Becky experienced that celebration when she died.