Friday, February 25, 2011

Under the overpass: A journey of faith on the streets of america...

Lately I have been feeling a little disconnected with life.  Not that I don’t enjoy my life…but it’s just…at times I feel like… there’s got to be more.  Then I read books like the one I finished yesturday morning by mike Yankoski called “Under the Overpass” and I start wondering…is this really the life I was created to live?!?!  To work to spend my days selling books?!?!  What else might God be calling me to?!?!
  “Under the Overpass” is about two young college students who turn in their life of comfort for 5 months to live on the streets of five different cities across America.  All they take with them are two guitars (to help with panhandling), two $3 dollar sleeping bags, and a backpack each to carry their bibles, journals and an extra pair of clothes.  Though their journey is about their experience living on the street and finding out if their faith truly is what they say it is…I found this book to be filled with many challenges for the “average Christian” sitting at home.
  For one…time and time again in this book there are stories of people walking up to these two “homeless” men and saying they will pray for them but not providing for their obvious needs (like food or shelter).  There’s a story about these church folks sitting at a restaurant talking about the bible but very obviously avoiding the smelly, hungry “homeless” guys sitting just on the other side of the room.  And then there is another story about our two "homeless" friends being kicked off church property by the minister of homeless outreach because there was “important people coming” to the church that day! Stories like this make me angry…they make me wonder what’s wrong with people…and they also convict me, because although I would like to think that put in the same position I would reach out…I can’t always say I would.
  Now don’t get me wrong…there are also some really great stories in this book of Christians stepping up to the plate and offering a meal, companionship, and really going above and beyond to acknowledge both the men and their needs (I’m thinking in particular of one church who not only accepted them into their service but bought them groceries and donated enough money to get them to their next destination)!  And although these stories are much fewer, they also challenge me too.  In fact, they make me want to “be the kind of Christian I say I am”!
  What I liked most about this book though is how it challenged me to truly surrender my life to God.  To not just say I follow Christ but to truly allow that to infiltrate every part of my being.  God’s given me lots of “crazy” ideas over the years.  Ideas that other people have shot down or look down upon as too far out of the box…and because of that I’ve closed the doors on those ideas too.  This book reminded me to trust in God and not the opinion or others…to trust in his ways even when they aren’t the ways of the world…and to recognize that he truly is my “All in All”.  If anything, after reading “Under the Overpass”, I feel the call to trust God more completely and to follow him…..even into the depths!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Weight loss is a Mental Challenge....

So I had sort of an epiphany this morning.  You see, last night I watched a few episodes of “I used to be fat” and one of “heavy”.  I really like those shows because I can relate the characters on them so well.  I was the girl who showed up at summer camp with size 16 pants and the girl who wore size 24 before I was even that age!  I know what it’s like to live life as a fat girl.  I also know what it’s like to be the girl who lost half her weight….to be able to walk into any store and leave with whatever I want… or to be working out and actually feel like I belong at the gym with all the other fit people.  The thing is…through out my whole weight loss journey I’ve always had one fear….basically the fear I have in everything….the fear of failing.
  Gaining back weight after losing so much of it has made me feel like a failure for so long.  Yet I determined that as of January 1st I wasn’t going to give into that mentality anymore..and for the most part I haven’t.  This morning though, it dawned on me that although I don’t allow myself to think of myself as a failure, I still have some work to do when it comes to my mentality.  You see, lately I’ve been struggling a lot with actually working out and especially with eating healthy…and I don’t really know why.  I want to change and be the person I know I can be….but I also know exactly how much work it’s going to take and how hard I am going to push…and I guess I am scared!  What if I can’t do it?  What if I can but it only brings me back to square one (I’ve lost the weight before only to gain it back)?  What if physically I can’t do what I want? What if…What if…What if….that seems to be the theme question in so much of my life!
  Anyway, the thing is…I am right, it is going to take a lot of hard work and effort on my part to get where I want to be.  And honestly at times it might really suck to push myself and find that I can’t do everything I want to.  But I can do more than I use to be able to… and I have to remember that someday I will be able to do even more than I can now …and for that reason I need to keep pushing forward.  Instead of stopping dead in my tracks… being afraid of what I can’t do, I need to learn to trust in what I can…and build from there.  Instead of letting the little voice inside my head tell me that I will never make it….I need to remember that I have and I will (I’ve done it before and I can do it again).  Basically it’s time to not only stop thinking about myself as a failure but also to start seeing all of my successes!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Follow Me to Freedom: Leading as an Ordinary Radical...

Years ago now, I had the opportunity to hear John Perkins speak at a small gathering at a seminary in Oakland.  I honestly can’t tell you a single thing he said, but I still remember to this day being amazed that such a “big time” person would come to such a small group of people and just have a conversation (yeah he preached too, but it was more of an “interaction” then a lecture).  Now fast forward to this past November when I decided to read the book “The Irresistible Revolution” by Shane Claiborne.   I knew nothing about this guy or “The Simple Way” before reading this book and I just happened to pick it up because the title caught my eye…but his words re-awoke the part of me that believes in God’s heart for the poor and the outcast.  So when I was recently browsing through our online database of books at work and saw that John Perkins and Shane Claiborne had written a book together, I knew for sure I wanted to read it! This morning I finished the book and although it was nothing like I expected (although honestly I had forgotten what it was about by the time I got around to reading it), I don’t think I could have picked a better time to read it!
  “Follow me to Freedom” is a book about Leadership and Followership.  Normally I would never pick up such a book.  When I think of a leader I think of someone who is dynamic, charismatic, put together, a go-getter, someone who draws people to themselves, etc.  These are not the qualities I would immediately think of when I describe myself, so spending time reading books about becoming a better leader or sharpening my leadership skills don’t usually rank high on my radar!
  This book however had a lot to teach me and it was written in such a cool way that I felt like I really was a part of the conversation….or at least a fly on the wall listening in.  I love how they talk about how all people have value cause we are all created by god (a lesson I also picked up in “Tattoos on the heart”) and I love how they remind the reader not to think too highly of themselves because God can use anyone, even a donkey.  But what I really loved was the how they interwove the topic of community into almost every conversation (whether the topic was “Prayer”, “Service”, “Humility” or even “Freedom”). 
  I have been on a huge “community” kick for months now.  I guess somewhere along the line I realized that when the bible says we are “the body” of Christ it means that we are actually suppose to be ONE body with many different parts, not many different bodies serving ONE god.  Throughout my life I’ve been accused of being the lone ranger.  I am very head strong and sometimes I think I alone know what’s best and so I go off on my own making my own way…only to fall on my face and come crying back to God.  I act as if I am one body among many who serve God.  But there’s an awesome question this book brings up that goes something like this “You may be strong enough to do it alone, but are you strong enough to do it together?”.  It got me thinking…am I really committed to being a part of the Body?!  Community is hard work….dealing with people is messy and not easy…and there’s always the need to constantly surrender my ideas and wants to God in order for true community to work.  None-the-less this is what God calls us to…to be ONE.   This is the way to freedom…to come to God…to be a part in this body...And to join in with him as he calls people to “Come follow Me”!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Zumba for life?!?!.....

 At the beginning of this year I decided that my mantra for 2011 was going to be “Do hard things”.  I was sick of living inside my little box and fearing the effects of stepping out of my comfort zone.  Tonight I lived out that mantra when I tried “Zumba” for the first time.  Now I know what you are probably thinking…Zumba? How hard is that?  Well about a month ago I probably would have agreed with you.  In fact when I first heard that they were going to offer a free zumba class at the relay for life kickoff event, I couldn’t wait to try it out!  Then a few weeks ago I was at the gym and got sucked into watching one of those infomercials about Zumba and realized it certainly isn’t the class for me. 
  I am a white girl…a really white girl…and although I can fake it till I make it in some areas…having rhythm is just NOT one of those things!  My hips/butt…they don’t shake….at least not voluntarily.... and my dancing skills pretty much fell apart after I stopped taking jazz/tap and cheerleading!  So why I was ever so excited about Zumba is beyond me!  However….even though I certainly wasn’t great at it…I'm glad I put myself out there and just tried!
  I think what I am realizing more and more is that I can sit on the sidelines and wish I could do that…or I could just go out there and do it….no matter the outcome!  Sure I must have looked silly out there….(check out the picture to the right that my niece snapped of me and my sister “Zumba-ing” for proof)…but it was fun…and it not only gave me a good laugh but also a good story!  So I was totally worth it!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Christian Atheist...

  I finished reading “The Christian Atheist” by Craig Groeschel today and I got to say although it was a good book…it wasn’t as great as I wanted it to be.  I remember being really excited about it when I first picked out the book. With chapter titles like “When you believe in God but aren’t sure He loves you” and “When you believe in God but not in prayer”, I was expecting more of a “here’s the truth and how to apply it to your life” kind of approach to some really tough subjects.  Instead what I found was more of a “here are some really relatable stories to remind you of truths you most likely already know” kind of tale.  In fact when reading through many of the chapters I would finally feel like we were getting to that climatic moment of truth…only to have the chapter come to an end with no more than two paragraphs of practical advice and “because I say so” kind of answers (now anyone who knows me, knows I don’t like to do things just cause someone “says so”…I like to know the cold hard facts as to why….which might be why I struggled to enjoy this book completely).
  Now don’t get me wrong, there were some great things in this book.  In fact one of my favorite stories of illustration came from when he talked about a church that started praying that the local strip club would be shut down and then it was.  The owner of the club sued the church for closing his club with their prayers, while the pastor proclaimed they didn’t really think the club would close because of their prayers and therefore they weren’t responsible.  The judge summed up the situation perfectly by pointing out the fact that here was a strip club owner who believed in the power of prayer more than the pastor of the local church!  Stories like that speak to me…and make me question my own thought processes on things like prayer and true faith….and this book was full of them. 
  Another thing I enjoyed about the book was the “openness” with which the author shared tales from his own life (I only use quotes because I was highly annoyed by the fact that in his closing remarks he alludes to this great big thing he finally gave over to God after two years of struggle with it and how now he’s so different because of doing so, but yet he never shares what the “it” was.  To me if you are going to say something like that either put it all out there or leave it out…otherwise it makes the story less genuine). 
  Ultimately though, I just couldn’t get past the fact that there wasn’t anything said in this book that really went to the core of any subject.  Maybe I was expecting too much.  Maybe I was looking to a book for answers that only God can provide.  Maybe I just missed what he was truly saying.  And maybe all of that is why what I thought would be a “great” read turned out to just be a “good” book.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Once Fat, Always fat?!?!....

  So I finally got around to reading this month’s issue of Runner’s World and I have got to say that I was quite impressed by the article “A thin Line” by Peter Sagal the host of NPR’s “Wait Wait…Don’t tell me”.  He starts off his article with a quote by Jonathan Reynolds by saying “If you’ve ever been fat, you will either be fat for the rest of your life or you will worry about being fat the rest of your life”. At first I was like…”Wait…What?!” but as I continued reading I couldn’t help but absolutely agree with what he said.  In fact later in the article when he talks about how many amateur athletes “run to eat” and how it’s not really about the food but about how “we feel for a moment that we are normal people who are able in indulge in sweets and fats without suffering the inner guilt and recrimination usually reserved for embezzlers”, I felt like…I get that…in so many ways I get it!
  It’s the strangest thing….when I was at my heaviest, I honestly did not know how big I was!  I mean any other person could look at me and tell I was well beyond a normal weight for my age (although nobody apparently realized just how heavy I was), but looking in the mirror I didn’t see it.  Once I had my “Ah-ha” moment, I couldn’t stop noticing my weight issue.  Even at my skinniest…when people were telling me I was getting too skinny…I still thought of myself as fat.  Now I am a lot more content with my weight…not that I am at my ideal weight but I’m working at it.  Yet I still find myself thinking “Sure I can have cake since I ran 4 miles this morning” or “those 13 miles on the bike totally make up for the burrito I’m about to eat”…and for a brief that moment I am brought back to the time when I was completely unaware of my weight issue.
  So good job Peter Sagal for being so open, so honest, and so right on with this issue!