Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Determining What Will and Will Not, Define ME...

  The past several days I've been getting up early in order to ensure I take some quiet time to connect with God at the beginning of the day.....this is HUGE for me by the way considering I am NOT a morning person and as also a BIG fan of my bed and the snooze button.  Anyway, this morning I was reading through the devotion "Made to Crave" by Lysa TerKeurst (or rather re-reading through since you might remember I started it once before at the beginning of the year) and she pointed out something that I had long since forgotten.  Acts 5:29 says, "We must obey God rather than man"....a verse that I have heard millions of times before...but she put a bit of a spin on it and went on to explain that this verse can also be interpreted that we are to obey God over human values....things like what the world says means success or thinks is important or even finds beautiful.
  For me I know that one thing I always think about in terms of the worlds system of beliefs, is beauty.  As a woman I am inundated with images that portray the ideal woman to be skinny, with flawless skin and perfect hair.  And while I try to remind myself that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and that true beauty comes from the inside not the outside, it's sometimes hard to not feel bad about myself for being overweight with frizzy hair and a freckled faced!  So I'm continually finding myself on again and off again the diet roller coaster.  I want to be healthy and fit and be a good steward of this body, so I keep trying once again to lose weight and take better care of myself.
  But one thing I realized after my quiet time this morning is that in order to truly be that, I need to make some changes, besides eating healthier and working out (both of which I've done consistently the past few days)...and the number one change I'm going to make is that I'm going to stop weighing myself every day.  I don't know when I got into that habit, but it's honestly become part of my morning routine...I get up, go to the bathroom and step on the scale.  Then depending on that number and whether or not I've been working hard on my weight loss, I will either feel like I can keep going on this healthy lifestyle one more day or think that it's all a waste of time and I'll never be fit again and thus give up.  I let the scale have too much power of me and that has got to stop.  So I've decided that I'm going back to weighing in once a week (cause lets face it, I do have to check every now and then to make sure I am going in the right direction).  To be honest....I think it's going to be hard to no longer sneak a peak each day...but I will not be a slave to the scale....my only master will be my God!  I'll let you know how it goes....

Thursday, May 24, 2012

When You Realize the Grass Isn't Always Greener...

"Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done and you won't need to compare yourself to anyone else.  For we are each responsible for our own conduct" Galatians 6:4-5 (NLT)

  I struggle with comparing myself to others.  I don't mean to and honestly half the time I don't even realize I've done it until I'm so deep into the comparison that I've forgotten that I'm suppose to be an individual and not just a carbon copy of somebody else.  
  Usually my comparisons fall into either one of two categories.  One the one hand I will see someone I look up to, someone who has taken life by the horns and not looked back, and I realise how far behind I am in life.  I compare their greatness to my lack and before I know it I'm stuck in this depressed state of mind where not only I suck but so does the world.  On the other hand I will have times where I feel like I'm on top of my life and I'll look around at others just to feel the satisfaction of knowing that I have it together more than somebody else.  Neither side of the coin is a great place to live though, and lately I keep running into a reoccurring theme in my life concerning this.
  It started a few months ago when I was at work and getting more and more annoyed because I was being pulled in eight million directions while it seemed other people were just sitting around.  I started complaining to God about it....about how if I were only more mature and grown up like "So and So", I wouldn't still work at the bookstore and I might actually be making something of myself.  Quietly in the recesses of my brain I heard God say....."What concern is it to you what other people are doing".  At first I had quite the rebuttal.....OF COURSE it was my concern, I was doing their work and if I had just done what "so and so" did I would be living like them...happy and not so annoyed.
  Boy was I wrong!  They say the grass always seems greener on the other side of the fence and turns out...it's true!  Getting a glimpse into other people's lives....people who I thought were so perfect and had so much together....has forced me to see that I have no idea what I am talking about when I compare myself to others, because I don't truly know what other people's lives are like!
  Over and over again I find myself in situations where I want to compare myself...and over and over again I hear that voice again reminding me that I not only don't know what other people's lives are like, BUT also that I was never called to live their life!  God has a plan and a purpose for my life, and even though I seem to be taking the round about way of getting there, it doesn't mean I am any less or anymore than anyone else.  I am just me....created wonderfully and fearfully by God....I shouldn't take that lightly...and comparing myself to others is only a slap in God's face.  I am responsible for me, for my attitudes and actions....I need to learn to stop being so concerned with others and realize that my life is my worship to God....not man!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

In Spirit and in Truth...

  I once heard someone say that Christians don't tell lies, they just sing them to God in church.  I never wanted that to be true of me, so I made up my mind years ago not to sing any lyrics in church that I didn't believe to be true.  It was never meant to be a defiant act or to me make me look holier than thou.  I simply just didn't want to lie to God....not in spirit and not even in song.  Then today I was sitting in church skimming the lyrics to one of the songs we were about to sing and I realized maybe it's not so much that people are singing lies as much as they are voicing truths their hearts have forgotten somewhere a long the line.   And so contrary to everything I've stood upon for years, I opened my mouth and sang the words "I am free" even though I wasn't feeling it.  Honestly, I haven't felt very free as of late.....I know I have freedom in Christ and that through Him sin has no hold on me....But....well....lately....it feels like sin has been winning out and binding me up.
  It all started a few weeks ago when I decided to change up my morning schedule in order to meet my friend at the gym before work (time I usual reserve for God and God alone).  Before I knew it, I had gone a whole week promising to make time for God before hitting my head on my pillow at night but never once cracking my bible or offering up much  of a prayer beyond "God help me".  Then I got sick....a perfect time to just lay around and soak up in God's word....except by then I much preferred to soak up the non-sense of streaming TV on Netflix, which only continued into this past week when I spent most of my week on the couch recovering from a root canal.  Today was actually the first day in weeks I've actually spent any real time with God....and although I knew I needed it (more on that in a moment)....it was hard, it seemed to take effort, and that makes me sad.  Now my first response is to just cover this all up....act like it's no big deal....and pretend that me and God are so tight it's scary.  But what does that accomplish?!  Nothing!  It's like cutting  yourself and then pretending like you aren't bleeding....whether or not you want it to be seen, it's still there.
(My scattered Sunday Morning Service Notes)
  I started realizing the "there-ness" of it all earlier last week, when I seemingly couldn't stop myself from having an attitude in almost everything I said.  I blamed it on being tired and sick, but I knew there was something more there.  Then this week, when I found myself constantly assuming the worst in people and thus choosing to push them away, I realised that my reactions had a direct correlation to the lack of time I've been spending with God.  And then, as I sat in service this morning, pretty much debating every word that came out of my pastors mouth, I new I had a problem and needed to spend some serious time with God.
  Why does it work out like that?!  Why do I always turn into such a jerk when I am distant from God?!  Probably because those are the few times in life when I feel like I am the center of the universe....I'm right and everyone else is wrong, my feelings and wants are what are most important, life is all about me!  What a bunch of baloney!  But it's only in God's presence that I am reminded of the reality that life is really all about Him and for His glory.  So today I repented....to God....to some people....and now on here.  I need God. And I know when I take the time to rest in Him and turn to Him, then I can confidently sing the words my heart has forgotten...."I'm Free"!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Another "B" Word Conversation....

  Today was the first time since March that I've actually had the chance to sit in a church service.  Between vacation and teaching Sunday school, my only real "church" for the past month or so has been the podcasts I listen to during my workouts (and to be honest I haven't worked out in a week...so that should tell you something right there).  Thus lately I have felt pretty disconnected from God  and honestly had mix feelings about going to church today.  For the most part I truly do enjoy my church.  My pastor is an excellent preacher and I know enough people to feel connected in some way.  But, I always seem to struggle to actually get myself there.  It's kinda like going to the gym for me.....I know I should go, I know once I get there I will be glad I went, but the getting myself there is the hard part.  Anyway, I went and it was good.....until our pastor mentioned to "B" word.  Now maybe you don't know what the "B" word is....No it's not what you're thinking, if you're thinking of a semi-curse word....for me the "B" word is baptism.
  I don't know why but baptism has always been such a hard topic for me. I hate when it comes up in service because it seems no matter how much of a handle I think I have on the issue, it always blows up in my face the second anyone mentions the word.  You see, I was baptized when I was 13 years old.  I remember wearing the white robe, climbing into a church members pool, and I'm sure there are pictures somewhere of my former pastor dunking me in water.  The only problem was/is...I didn't become a Christian until I was 14.  For me, at the time, baptism was just something you did as sort of a rite of passage.  All my friends were doing it and I knew my parents wanted me to do it....so I did it.  Then a few years ago when I re-committed my life to Christ I started to feel really dirty about it....like somehow I had cheated God and myself out of this holy experience by not really understanding or even caring about why I had done it.
  In recent years I've thought a lot about being baptized again...this time with meaning....but I always seem to find myself hung up on one thing or another.  For a long while I couldn't entertain the idea of being baptized because I really didn't get the point of it. I remember going around asking a bunch of people why we get baptized and getting the same rhetorical response from ALL of them (That it's "an outward expression of what God is doing inwardly") and that kind of just pissed me off since I couldn't really understand the heart behind their words.  And although I've now come to a more clearer understanding of what that means....that it's symbolizing your "death" (being buried in water) to sin and being made "alive" (coming out of the water) in Christ, that only brings up new questions for me.  For instance, how can anyone justify claiming to be dead to sin in one symbolic moment, when before the day is over (or in my case the next hour even) they will sin again?!  Isn't that like lying to God?  And I know God sees the heart and that whether or not we are baptized we are called to live a life of holiness.....but how can I stand there in front of a crowd of witnesses and proclaim such a promise that I can't keep?  And before anyone jumps all over me....I know my theology is off here.  We are human and not perfect, only God is perfect and that's why He sent Jesus as our Savior to pay for our sin so that sin would no longer have a hold on us...but I can't seem to connect all the dots here in my mind.
  Then there's the measly little problem of somebody else having to dunk you in the water.  For one thing, I feel as if baptism should be a holy moment and moments like that you don't just want to share with anyone....you want those who love you and care for you the most standing by your side.  So why is it that only pastors baptize people?  I'm sure there is a logical reason for it that makes sense, but if I were honest it's definitely a hang up of mine.  I often think, however sacrilegious as  this may sound, that I would rather be baptized in a dunk tank then be dunked under water by someone who I don't feel completely comfortable around...and since none of my local friends are becoming ordained ministers any time soon...well you get the picture.
  The thing is....I know eventually I will probably come around, figure out all my feelings on the matter and finally get baptized.  And I know that when it does happen it will be in God's perfect timing......but until then....the "B" word will continue to haunt me.