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Are We Focused on the Wrong Weight Loss Program?

 

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There is no question that we are being urged to get healthier from every direction. From TV, magazine, and email ads, to billboards and government recommendations, we are being urged to look at exercise and eating habits. Research is continually putting out new studies about fats, carbs, and proteins. If you read very much of this sort of thing, you also discover research results are changing.

 

I remember when eggs were taboo, but now they have been welcomed back into our diets (especially if they are cage free). Non-fat was the absolute goal in everything that entered our mouths, but now research is showing us the fallacy of that. Our bodies actually need healthy good fats to function well. Our brains are nearly all fat and if we starve it of “good fats,” we are less healthy.

 

pexels-photoThere is a great deal to keep up with regarding health and weight loss. Some programs seem to work for some people for a time, but once they stray everything slides to worse than before the program started. Some programs seem to work for no one.

 

Then there are the issues of how each decade adds new challenges. We keep trying to hold back the tsunami effects of hormonal changes and each new decade, but keep losing the battle many times. Few of us will have bodies that look or function like they did when we were 20 or 30 when we reach 60, 70, and beyond.

 

I wonder if we are as concerned about the other weight we carry.

 

The writer of Hebrews 12:1 talks about laying aside another kind of weight, doesn’t he?

 

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” Hebrews 12:1 (ESV)

 

The Passion Translation of Hebrews 12:1 reads like this:

 

“As for us, we have all of these great witnesses who encircle us like clouds. So we must let go of every wound that has pierced us and the sin we so easily fall into. pexels-photo-618612Then we will be able to run life’s marathon race with passion and determination, for the path has been already marked out before us.”

 

 Clearly, the writer has chosen the metaphor of a race and there is always a great deal of physical training and exercise and diet regimens when a big race is ahead. But the writer uses that to talk about another kind of race and another issue of “weight control” that can hinder us in that race.

 

The race the writer of Hebrews speaks of and that Paul often refers to is the race we run in our spiritual lives. He makes note that too much weight there can bog us down as well, but I don’t think I hear many of us talking about a weight program to deal with that kind of weight.

 

What would a weight loss program look like for the spiritual race?

 

Matthew Henry identifies two parts of the program in his commentary on this verse.  He clarifies what the “weight” is that we are to deal with as “all inordinate affection and f19d67f40d9e79188d3713b57a10ffb5concern for the body, and the present life and world. Inordinate care for the present life, or fondness for it, is a dead weight upon the soul, that pulls it down when it should ascend upwards, and pulls it back when it should press forward; it makes duty and difficulties harder and heavier than they would be.”

 

That spells it out very specifically for us. These are things that do challenge us on a daily basis in our personal, work, social, and cultural life. Every one of these areas push to keep us focused on the seen world and that world is pretty messy, depressing, and scary. If our focus remains there, we can lose hope.

 

Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 4:18 (NIV) speak directly to this challenge:

 

 “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

 

The “seen” world shouts for and seduces us for attention.

 

When our focus is shifted there, we can become angry, anxious, and ambivalent. We can have difficulty sleeping and our eating habits change as a result of those stirred emotions.

 

The second part of the weight loss program we need to address from Hebrews 12:1 is “the sin that clings closely.”  What sin is that?  It’s the one that has the greatest asphalt-dark-dawn-531321advantage over us based on our lived experience, the circumstances we are in, our overall constitution, and the company we keep.

 

Sometimes that sin is one we can quickly name, but sometimes we don’t want to name it because if we’re honest we aren’t sure we want to give it up. It has become a habit that in some way gives us back something we like, want, or think we need.

 

Yet it is in this area that we add to the weight noted in the first part of the weight loss program Mathew Henry identified. We now add the weight of guilt from unconfessed sin as well as shame that causes us to hide when we most need to be vulnerable with God and other safe people in our lives.

 

There is no doubt we should take our physical health and well being seriously by stewarding our bodies well. But if we neglect this more serious “weight loss program” related to our spiritual life, the consequences will last beyond this life.

 

The Word offers healthy “essential” building blocks for the spiritual weight loss program.”  Here are just a few:

 

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12: 2 (ESV)

 

 “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.”  Galatians 5:16 (NIV)

 

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”  Romans 5:1-5 (ESV)

 

How is your spiritual weight loss program going?

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Tripping Over Obedience

 

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How often have you been walking through your home (over areas you know so well) and tripped? It can happen because someone moves a piece of furniture, leaves an item on the floor, or we fail to turn on the light and try to navigate in the dark.

 

One of the things we sometimes trip over is obedience.

 

Just for clarity, let’s see how a dictionary describes obedience. The dictionary I am looking at reads:

 

“compliance with an order, request, or law or submission to another’s authority”

 

That makes it pretty obvious why obedience can trip us up. If we are honest, most of us will admit that we prefer to do what we want to do, in the way we want to do it, and when we want to do it.

 

Choosing to obey means we need to bend our will to someone outside of ourselves.

 

It’s little wonder that one of the challenges a parent faces is teaching a child to be obedient, to “train up a child in the way he should go…”from that familiar passage in Proverbs 22:6. On the other side of that challenge is the child (of ANY age) who has to comply.

 

accident-banana-skin-be-careful-36763It can be tempting to keep the subject of obedience in the area of childhood or in some cases with the law portions of scripture, but the bigger test is how we respond to obedience as adults.

 

There are the usual things we kid about like whether or not we obey the speed limit, yellow caution lights, school zones, and moving out of the way of emergency vehicles. There are also a fair number of other laws or rules we are subject to in our rule-governed society (even in this era where it seems they can be ignored or mocked).

 

There are the moral codes we tend to know, as well as ethical codes that govern most professions. Then there is the question of whether your marriage vow included the word “obey” or not and your understanding of the vow and what it means. But there is so much more to obedience than even this growing list.

 

Obedience also means tuning in and following the nudges of the Holy Spirit from the Lord.

 

Those nudges are ones we can doubt or question and really get in the way of our plans. Our resistance also reveals remnants of the old sin nature we inherited from the Garden of Eden and our selfish bent.

 

I love what Jennifer Dukes Lee has written about obedience in her latest book, It’s All Under Control:

 

 “Obedience is not for wimps….It turns out that obedience is quite often a gutsy thing that will compel you to stand upright and march forward, even if it threatens your security, forest-forest-path-leaves-1112186your own longings, and your idea of success. Obedience is not an act of the weak, but a rising up of the strong. Obedience might embarrass you or inconvenience you. Sometimes it will leave you in the dark, and the only light you will see is the small patch pooling at your feet. You ask for a spotlight to see straight ahead into the next two years of your life, but instead God gives you a ‘lamp unto (your) feet’ and lets you see no further than this hour.”

 

Because the Lord has not given us one of those LED lights that shine a long distance ahead, the challenge to obey is often difficult since we can’t see why and what He asks of us in the moment may make no sense to us.

 

We tend to be myopic. God has that picture, but He also has the long view and the end is in mind. He obviously knows what is needed to get us there and is committed to help us do so if we will yield and obey those Holy Spirit nudges and whispers.

 

We certainly see a plethora of examples in the Bible of what happens when people don’t obey from Cain onward. Sadly, we mistake the goodness of God when He points us where we should go so we accomplish his will and design for us. What’s worse is how often those around us who didn’t get the same message question what it is we believe we are to do.

 

Something else that happens is that we miss how early He begins to lead us to where He may want us to go and what He wants us to do. Incredible, right?

 

I recently published my first book (Bring Me A Vision, A Story of Redeeming Hope). In the scheme of books and authors, it is a small beginning. Nevertheless it felt like a big risk to take that step.

 

I first sensed a nudge to write the book in 2015 and since it was someone else’s life story, dawn-daylight-daytime-213172I needed to risk putting that idea in front of her for her acceptance or rejection. I didn’t know at the time that writing a true story is one of the harder books to write due to all the legal and liability concerns. I had obeyed the nudge before I knew that, but it didn’t surprise the Lord. If I had known that first, I might have worn earplugs and refused to hear Him.

 

There were many challenges along the way and in September of 2017, we laid the book down when some of the doors to publishing we had pursued closed. We felt a peace about waiting and obeyed that nudge and little by little, one door and then another opened until the book was released at the beginning of August 2018.

 

I was full of self-doubt about nearly every step, but risked being obedient. Then a few weeks ago I was reviewing my 2013 journal and noted an entry from October 2013 where I had written what I sensed from the Lord:

 

“The book is within you. It is you that has not believed. The vision has not been about one thing only, but has been about courage and belief to use what I have placed in you and not autumn-backlit-branch-226721bury that gift.”

 

 I was stunned when I read the entry. I had long ago forgotten this and when I sense something like this and write it in my journal I know if it is from Him that I can wait to see if my hearing was accurate.

 

At the time I was still working as a licensed professional clinical counselor in full-time ministry with no time to write (except case notes) even though it had been a lifelong desire to write. It was not until early 2015 He nudged me to participate in a Writer’s Boot Camp that required I start a website and begin blogging. He put each little piece in place over a long period of time. He saw the big picture. I did not.

 

“Every day we have a choice to make. We can choose to believe that God sees the bigger picture and that we are here to put certain pieces in place, even when it doesn’t make sense. Even when it’s inconvenient. Even when it hurts. Even when we have to surrender every outcome.”  Jennifer Dukes Lee

 

I think we will be less likely to trip over obedience if we can remember that God has the eternal perspective and knows exactly where He wants to take us and do in and through us.

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The Sweet Anticipation

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A few days ago our daughter and son-in-law celebrated their twenty-fourth wedding anniversary and in a few months our son and daughter-in-law will celebrate their thirtieth wedding anniversary just prior to my husband and I celebrating fifty-four years of marriage.

 

What precious memories!

 

It is hard to fathom that time has flown by so quickly that we now mark these years together. How well I still recall the beginnings of these relationships. Getting acquainted, accessory-anniversary-band-265856becoming friends, and then hearing the desire to engagement are still clear in my mind and heart.

 

Then came the sweet anticipation of the wedding day.

 

Every detail was considered to make the day as beautiful and special as possible. Where would the wedding take place? How many guests would be invited? What about the food and beverage choices for the reception of guests? What colors would be chosen for the theme that would go through the engagement to the wedding to the reception? What could we afford for the honeymoon?

 

Those parts of the planning that focused on the bride were a primary focus. What flowers, shoes, hairstyle, and jewelry would be chosen? But central to everything was the wedding dress. It needed to be “just right” and fit like a dream and allow us to feel art-artistic-cake-408495beautiful and cause our groom to be mesmerized as we stood at the back of the aisle waiting for the music’s signal to walk toward him.

 

My mother made my wedding dress, as she was an excellent seamstress. The dress itself was made of beautiful lace and she added a silk peau de soie overlay that attached at the waist and extended into a chapel length train. Her talents included stringing pearls into a design to hold the veil she also made. (Yes, she did an amazing job!)

 

Those gifts of my mother did not pass on to me so when our daughter needed a wedding dress I enjoyed the fun of shopping with her as she tried on one and then another at bridal-design-dress-291738several shops until we found one we fell in love with. Then we called her dad to come and look and participate in the final decision.

 

I can hear more than a few of you reminding me that all these preparations also add more than a little stress and more decisions than we ever imagined before we were the ones making the plans.

 

Even with all that, anticipating our wedding day or the wedding day of a child, grandchild, or very close friend is a never-to-be-forgotten experience.

 

What sweet anticipation of what that day will actually be like and finally becoming beautiful-bridal-design-291759one with the person we love the most in the world!

 

As our pastor has been teaching throughout this year through the book of Revelation, it has not escaped my awareness that we who are betrothed to the Lord are in that time of preparation for the wedding He has planned for us. The bride price has been paid at Calvary for those who have accepted his invitation.

 

Unlike the modern wedding preparations most of us know about, this will be more like the ones of long ago. In those days once the betrothal and promises have been made, the groom would go to prepare the place for him and his new bride to live. The future bride was to be preparing herself so when he came for her, she would be ready. She did not know the exact hour or day so she needed to be in a state of readiness.

 

I was reminded of all the preparations Esther completed written in the Old Testament book of Esther prior to being called to meet an earthly king. There were all sorts of aromatherapy-aromatic-bottle-932577scented lotions, oils, and potions used so that every part of her would be lovely and fragrant. She also received wise counsel about how her deportment and attitudes were to be to please the king.

 

What I cannot help but wonder is how well I am using this time of preparation with that day in mind when the Lord comes for me (and you). Not unlike days of old, we do not know the exact time or hour and yet it is clear from what his Word teaches in both Old and New Testaments that the time is growing near.

 

If I am holding the day that He comes dear, am I experiencing sweet anticipation? We should be getting ready for a party unlike any other.

 

How will I (or you) greet Him? beautiful-bloom-blooming-540522

 

What will I (or you) give Him?

 

If you have accepted his invitation, savor the sweet anticipation, but also be about preparing for his arrival as the Lord continues to prepare the place for us He has designed.

 

Read John’s words in Revelation 19: 6-9 (TPT):

 

“Then I heard what seemed to be the thunderous voice of a great multitude, like the sound of a massive waterfall and mighty peals of thunder, crying out:

“Hallelujah!
For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns!

Let us rejoice and exalt him and give him glory,
because the wedding celebration of the Lamb has come.

    And his bride has made herself ready.
Fine linen, shining bright and clear,
has been given to her to wear,
and the fine linen represents
the righteous deeds of his holy believers.”

Then the angel said to me, “Write these words: Wonderfully blessed are those who are invited to feast at the wedding celebration of the Lamb!” And then he said to me, “These are the true words of God.”

 

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A Model of Courage

 

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Courage is never something we gain easily. It comes at a great cost to the one who gains it because it only comes when an overwhelming fear is faced. And by its very nature, fear urges us to flee when we should stand and fear causes us to doubt when we should hope.

 

In truth I do not consider myself a courageous person as I look at so many examples of courage. I am always impacted by Medal of Honor ceremonies and the stories of great heroes both past and present. I never tire of the heroes of the faith that are written in Old and New Testaments of the Bible as well.

 

David killing Goliath with a sling and smooth stone, Daniel facing lions, Joshua, the 52787_slingshot_lgwarrior, marching around Jericho, and many more biblical stories are never tiresome.

 

Men and women who fight for the rest of us have my deepest respect and honor, but if we look around us we will discover so many other examples to give us impetus to stand when our time comes to do so for whatever reason.

 

In July 2016 our family got to watch an example up close and personal as one of our three granddaughters (Sydney) faced the painful surgery necessary to place titanium rods on both sides of her spinal column to correct scoliosis. I shared that story in a blog post then as she expressed so much faith in the Lord providing as she entered surgery. There was also the truth of the testing that occurred when the Lord did not prevent or quickly remove the excruciating pain and our granddaughter wondered where the Lord was.

 

We watched as Sydney fought through this trial with tears and then determinedly fought again to regain her strength, endurance, and as much flexibility as possible in the months following that surgery.

 

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Sydney & big brother, Austin

One of the things she had done just before surgery was to face and pass her yellow belt test in karate. Her instructor believed in her and that facing that challenge would aid her courage for what lay ahead in the surgery and healing process. (He was right.)

 

Over these two years we have seen glimpses of how Sydney has grown stronger physically and spiritually. Over and over again we have seen the evidences of what she said as a toddler on more than one or two occasions: “Don’t under estimate me!”

 

You see she was and is the shortest and smallest of her siblings (that will never be what you notice if you spend five minutes with her) and this statement was a reminder of how tall and strong she was and intended to be on the inside. She also diligently worked physically and spiritually to grow into that which she desired to become and she knew it would come through the Lord’s help. I cannot help but wonder if it was He who put that determination in her long before she knew what it would mean and what would be needed to gain that strength and courage.

 

Sydney’s return to karate was something she was excited about and this week she faced her next belt test to move to green. It was not going to be easy. There were many aspects to the test including fighting for 20 minutes many who were stronger and more advanced than she. It meant facing the pain and fear of those blows (Her instructor made clear to those who would fight her there were to be no kicks or punches to her spine.), as they would strike her body.

 

Sydney prayed continually before the day arrived for what this would entail and now when the testing came, she prayed more and harder. As the blows came, struck, and green-belthurt, she grew more tired and called on the Lord to sustain her. She reminded herself of the pain she had endured post surgery that had been worse and encouraged herself to stand and keep fighting.

 

Once more she prevailed and now wears a green belt when she goes to karate practice. It is more than just a belt. It represents so much hard work and a great deal of courage and growth in faith.

 

Sydney is not the only child or grandchild to progress through belt tests in karate. (It is a serious disciplined sport.) But as we watch her life unfold during her teen years, we see how her approach to life makes all the difference no matter what she faces. She doggedly embraces the truth of who God is and how He moves in our lives and entrusts herself to Him without reservation. She has learned over and over again that the way to defeat fear is to face it. (She even learned that when she feared riding roller coasters and made herself do it repeatedly to conquer that fear.)

 

Look around you and I am sure you will discover examples of courage in your corner of the world as well.

 

In the midst of a darkening world and growing fear, we are called to stand, to be light, to find courage.

 

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” 

 Joshua 1:9

 

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The Proper Time

 

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Patience is such a challenge for most of us.

 

We don’t like waiting for much of anything. There is that piece of demandingness that lingers in us long after we are toddlers. We usually want ___ NOW! The challenge of putting something on hold seems to be a lifelong learning laboratory for us.

 

One of the things I admired about my dad was how patient he was about nearly everything in life. As I consider what he did for much of his life, I see how that occupation helped shape that in him. A significant part of his life centered on running his family farm. Even as he was older and working at other jobs and a major part of the farm was sold, he continued to plant a large garden. Fruit trees of all kinds, and berry bushes of several varieties were planted and tended on the ten acres he kept of the original farm.

 

agriculture-cereal-country-575102Farming is often an unsung and under-appreciated occupation that young people today don’t think much about and don’t usually choose as an occupation. Yet it is vital to our survival and the economy of any country.

 

Farming may not appeal because it is very hard work with long hours and uncertain results. Farmers are held hostage to the weather despite their best efforts. The careful preparation of the soil and its nutrition, the quality of the things planted, the tending of the young plants and trees, the elimination of weeds and pests that attack, and more, must come before a harvest results.

 

As a child growing up and watching all this, I didn’t really appreciate the significance of all that. I very much enjoyed the results, however.

 

Nothing can compare with the fragrance of my dad’s smokehouse filled with slabs of bacon and ham, the taste of fresh veggies picked earlier that day from our garden, or a warm cherry pie made with cherries picked from our own trees.

 

Even so, the lessons I observed from those years and the fruit in my dad’s life have abendstimmung-agriculture-back-light-533982provided me with a treasure trove to glean from.

 

Farmers must learn to hang on to hope in the spring when the fields and gardens are being tilled and prepared for the seed. They must hang on while they wait to see what comes from the soil. They must wait and hang on when there is too much rain or not enough rain, when there is too much heat or it comes at the wrong time or when an early or late frost destroys that hope.

 

Farmers also must learn to let go of the many things over which they have no control and how that might destroy their income until another year.

 

Unless farming has been in your background, these are things most people never consider or appreciate.

 

gardening-hand-harvest-9301As I recently read It’s All Under Control, the author, Jennifer Dukes Lee, listed some powerful reasons to hang on. If you haven’t read her book, you might want to pick it up (and maybe the Bible study as well). Here is a portion of that great list:

 

“Hang on. Yes, it’s hard, but it might not be time to let go.

 Hang on. You might be the miracle someone was praying for.

 Hang on. This might be only a season, with relief around the corner.

 Hang on. A great crowd of witnesses is cheering you on.

 Hang on. When you hang on with bravery, you emotionally strengthen others who are struggling to hang on themselves. You’re showing them that it’s possible to do hard things.

 Hang on. If you are uniquely positioned to do something to make the world a better place, even if it’s hard, you should do it.

 Hang on. For your marriage. For your kids. For your church. For the people that your ministry bravely serves. For the hurting. For your friends who don’t know if they can hang on anymore.

 Hang on. Because Jesus will meet you in the middle of your hardest battles.”

 

 When you consider the wealth of illustrations that can be made regarding farming, it isn’t surprising that so many appear in scripture. It’s clear that the Lord doesn’t want us to give up.

 

And so we wait.berries-blueberries-bundle-545052

 

We hang on.

 

And we let God be God.

 

We look to the proper time, the harvest, and his return for us from the earth He placed us on and asked us to steward.

 

We look to Paul’s words in Galatians 6:9 (NIV):

 

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

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