My New Eating Plan…

I’ve decided to try a new eating plan.
It goes something like this:
I am only going to eat foods prepared by others.
Restaurants or other pre-packaged, prepared foods. Snack foods, mostly.
Of course, I will only eat from places I like – or are the most convenient.
I’ll try to get in some of those home-cooking places once in a while – a real sit-down meal – but I know my life. Most of the time I will be swinging through a drive-thru window or running into a convenience store.
I will get one full meal a week, though.

Well, if I have time.
And nothing more important comes up.

But it still won’t be anything I’ve cooked.

After all, I have never been to cooking school.
I can’t possibly know how to put together a real meal.
I’ll have to depend on others.
And if they throw in additives and preservatives, I won’t worry about it.
After all, I am not a chemist, either. I don’t know what that stuff is – but surely it won’t hurt me, right?

Along with my new eating plan, I have decided to follow a similar workout plan.
I am only going to work out four times a year.
Holidays, mostly.
When I have time off.
And my Mother’s birthday, because I know that will make her happy.

OK – maybe more than four times a year – but no more than once a month!
That is all my schedule can handle.
And at least I am working out some – that has to count, right??

Are you horrified yet?

Of course, that is NOT my new eating plan.
It would literally kill me to do that.
I know better than to only eat out, to only eat pre-packaged foods, to not worry about the content of what I am eating.
And I know better than to starve myself between meals.
I know better than to work out only sporadically.

My body needs better than that.

And so does my soul.
And yours.

Eating out occasionally is fine – a great treat. Even once a week is fine.
Like listening to a great sermon and getting fed from it.

Prepackaged food occasionally is fine – and it certainly is convenient.
Like getting fed from sermons on TV or the internet; like online devotionals and other resources.

But even in prepackaged food, quality counts.
Reading the label matters.
Being discerning in what you take in is important.
Like listening to that online sermon with a discerning ear, making sure the speaker’s words match what God says on the subject – or making sure that cute meme on Facebook actually matches God’s Word.

If I really ate like my “new eating plan”, my body would suffer.
My immune system would be weakened.
Illness would wreak havoc.

Because many Christ-followers do use that spiritual eating plan, The Body of Christ, His Church, is suffering.
Our immune system is weakened.
And the illness of division, untruth, fractured lives, and shameful practices are wreaking havoc.

And if I followed my new workout schedule, I would never grow muscle.
I would grow – but I would grow flabby and weak.
And because we are “neglecting our meeting together” (Hebrews 10:25) our muscles as a Church are weakened. We are to be the Light of the World, a CITY set on a hill, unable to be hidden.
We are to be a BODY of believers, working together for a common cause, sharing what we have seen God do in our lives with the dying world.
Not Lone Rangers.
Not single flashlights.
A great, un-hide-able Light shining together.
That takes intentionality.
That takes choosing.
And that is not based on convenience, how I feel or whatever better thing has come up.
It is a choice to be committed.
Just like I can choose to commit to working out regularly, which will result in great benefit for my body,
I can choose to commit to gathering with the Body of Christ regularly, which will result in great benefit for that Body.
It takes discipline and commitment. But the payoff is great.
Worshipping – together.
Connecting – together.
Growing – together.
Serving – together.
And then Sharing what we have seen, heard, learned, experienced in the House of God – together.

I have to be self-feeding.
But I don’t have to be a chef to do that.
And I don’t have to have a seminary degree to read God’s Word for myself.

I have to be connected to the community of Christ-followers.
But not because my church, the Body, needs me – but because I need the Body!

Praying that your spiritual eating plan and workout schedule are healthy and holy this week and beyond…

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A Tale of Two Gardens…

God is good.
And everything He does is right.

Do you believe that?
If you do, it will revolutionize your life.

If you don’t, it will paralyze your faith and demoralize your life.

It was the lie – the first lie ever uttered on earth – that the serpent spoke to Eve in the Garden of Eden.
“Did God really say…?” (Genesis 3)
In other words, “Does God really know what He is doing? Does He really have your best interest at heart? Perhaps He is keeping something from you…or you from something…that is really, really good. Because, after all, your eyes and ears tell you that you know better…”
God is NOT good and He does not know what He is doing.

Walking by sight always leads to the same conclusion – this is a mess and God made a mistake.

I am sure that is how the disciples felt as their world fell apart that Thursday night.
It had been such a high point just a few days before!
The world had cheered on Sunday as Jesus rode into Jerusalem.
And then he had kicked some serious butt in the temple, turning out the thieves that were cheating the people who came to make sacrifices.
It felt really good!
Jesus was finally getting the glory he deserved.
He was finally doing something about the evil – something besides talking about it and praying about it.
And then to celebrate Passover with him once again.
A grand climax to a grand week.

Sure – he had been a little strange all week.
At the end of that triumphant ride on Sunday he had cried instead of being jubilant.
And he kept talking about how he was going to die.
But he had still masterfully handled the religious leaders all week as he taught at the temple.
Surely that counted for something!
Yes, there had been that whole bit at the Passover dinner about being betrayed.
But it would all be OK, right?
Because he had gotten away from angry crowds before.
Once in his own hometown when they tried to throw him off a cliff.
And once when they picked up stones to stone him.
He had slipped away both times – so surely this time would be just like that.

Only it wasn’t.
Thursday night they went to the Garden with him to pray – and fell asleep, only to be awakened by shouts, torch light, Roman soldiers everywhere – and that snake, Judas, kissing Jesus on the cheek to identify him in the dark.
And then the all night trials.
And the 39 lashes the next morning.
The mocking, spitting, jeering, taunting.
Name-calling.
Beard-pulling.
Blindfolded and struck across the face.
Crown of thorns.
Bruised and bloody.
And things rapidly going from bad to worse.

Why did he take it?
Why didn’t he make it stop?
After all, he had raised the dead!
Healed the lame!
Calmed the wind and the waves!

And then the ultimate confusion.
The unthinkable – a death sentence followed by a death march through the streets of Jerusalem, out to the Hill of the Skull, the place where common criminals died a common death.
Thousands of people had been crucified before.
But none of them were Jesus.

And the sound of the hammer striking nails rang out over the hillside.

Where was GOD?
Why was He allowing this?
Surely, He had lost His mind.
Surely, He had forgotten to be kind.
Surely, He had made a horrific mistake.

Or they had.
Maybe Jesus wasn’t the Messiah.
Maybe he did get his power from the Devil, just like the religious teachers said.
Maybe they had wasted three years of their lives following this man.
He appeared powerful for three years – but now He was defeated.
He was not good.
He was not right.
THIS was not right.

God is not good and He does not know what He is doing.
The lie of the Garden of Eden.
Turned upside down and exposed in the Garden of Gethsemane.
When Jesus said to His Father, “I don’t want to do this. I do not like what is coming. I know You have the power to spare me this. But I yield. I submit myself to You to do whatever You want.”
Because, unlike Eve, Jesus believed in the goodness of His Father.
He knew that His Father IS good and everything He does IS right.
Even when it feels horribly wrong.
Even when it is unjust.
Even when it means death.

God is good – and everything He does is right.

Because, as you well know, the story does not end on Friday with a crucifixion.
It both ends and begins again on Sunday morning with a resurrection.
God takes what the enemy intends for evil and turns it into good.
Because He is good and everything He does is right.

And that same power that raised Jesus from the dead is at work in all those who believe. (Ephesians 1)
All those who CAN believe because God allowed the unthinkable to happen to His one and only Son. (John 3:16)
You and I, much like the disciples, only see part of the picture.
In the midst of the pain that comes with life in this sinful, fallen world, it is much, much easier to believe that God has lost His mind or was never really God at all.
But He has promised to take every problem, every crisis, every diagnosis, every rejection, every bad choice and work it together for your good and His glory if you are His follower. (Romans 8:28)
If He can do it with the horrific torture and death of His beloved Son, He can certainly do it for You.

Because God IS good.
And everything He does is right.

Do you believe that?

Trapped…

 

She felt trapped.
She wasn’t, really.
But I could not convince her, no matter what I did.

In fact, the reason she felt trapped was my doing. For her protection.
9-year old cats and 2-year old boys aren’t always the best mix.
And a 2-year old friend was on his way for a visit.
So before he arrived, I put her, 9-year old Lucy, her sister, Liza, some toys, and their food in the same room as the litter box. And then I put a baby gate in the doorway.
I thought it was brilliant. Cats can go in and out by jumping the gate, 2-year old visitor can’t go in.
Safe haven for the furry “girls”, safety for the boy.

And my brilliant idea was based on fact. I have seen both Liza and Lucy jump 5 feet to catch a moth or a fly. So clearing a 2-and-a-half foot gate should have been no problem.
Lucy even watched her sister do it successfully.
But the baby gate stopped her.
For a long time she wouldn’t even try.
She laid down on the floor beside the gate and just looked at me.
Her eyes said, “Why, oh why are you doing this to me?”
I called her by name. I shook the treat container. And finally I gave up. My company was on the way and the cat had what she needed – she just wasn’t enjoying the freedom that she could have had if only she would make the effort.
I often feel trapped.
I am not really.
But I cannot seem to convince myself otherwise.

My emotions are often a barrier.
Or they seem that way to me.

I can’t stop worrying. I know Jesus said to not worry – but that scenario keeps running and re-running in my head. So I wallow in worry.

I can’t forgive. I know Jesus commanded it – but I keep hearing those hurtful words, keep re-living those painful circumstances in my head. So I wallow in unforgiveness.

I am scared. I know Jesus said, “Fear not” but surely he didn’t mean in 2016, in the age of nuclear stuff, Isis-stuff, Iran-stuff, election-year-stuff, etc. etc. So I wallow in fear.

I am lonely. I know Jesus said He is always with me but I can’t touch him or give him a hug.
So I wallow in loneliness.

The reality is that I know how to jump these barriers.
I have jumped them successfully before.
But often, like my Lucy, I lay down beside the barrier and don’t even attempt to jump it.
I wallow – and then I wonder why I am in a funk.

Until I hear the Voice of Truth, the voice of my Good Shepherd, calling my name.
And I remember that I can jump, that these barriers don’t have to stop me from living what Jesus called “The Abundant Life.” A life of joy that goes beyond my circumstances and the feelings they bring. A life of “peace that goes beyond understanding”.

And when I hear His voice gently calling, here is something very practical that I do:
I get out a piece of paper and I draw a line from top to bottom.
On the top of one column I write, “I feel…”
And on the top of the other I write, “…but the Truth is:”

It ends up looking something like this:

I feel… …but the Truth is:
…worried.  I am not sure how I am going to get my to-do list done this week.  There just aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done.  Something has to give.  I am overwhelmed. You, God, created time.  You said that my days were numbered before one of them came to be. (Psalm 139:16) You also said that my times are in Your hands. (Psalm 31:15)  You go before me into my day (Exodus 14:14) and will give me all I need to get through it. (Philippians 4:19) I am giving YOU my to-do list.  Please show me what needs to be done and what can wait.  Thank You that You are my strength (Psalm 18:32) and will be this day.
…scared.  This world seems to be spiraling out of control.  Every day it feels like things are getting worse and worse.  Kindness seems to be non-existent.  Being a Christian is becoming a bad thing.  Murder. Racial tension.  Politics and politicians.  World events.  War seems eminent on several fronts.  Terrifying times! You are in control.  You always have been and always will be.  You put in power the Kings of your choosing.  (Daniel 5:21) You are the Sovereign King over all (Revelation 19:16) and I belong to You.  Thank You that You will help me to be wise in my actions and words. (James 1:5) Thank You that I can bring all of these world concerns and events to You, knowing that You are the One who can change hearts, lives, countries. (James 5)

And so on.

Please notice this, however.
The “Truth” side of the equation is not how I feel about Truth or my version of it.
The “Truth” side is based in Scripture, in God’s Word, in what HE says is true. I don’t usually put references for verses when I am doing this in my journal. But I wanted you to see that none of those are my ideas. In fact, if I replace my emotions with truth of my own making that is not based in the Word of God, then I have simply jumped from one barrier to another. This is why it is so very, very important to spend time in Word of God often – so that you can know Truth and apply it to your everyday world.

Because when I spend time getting to know God as He is, as He has revealed Himself in His Word, then I can replace my feelings with Truth – and I can soar above the barriers.

Which, by the way, is what Lucy did – eventually.

 

Truth.

Truth: God created me. God created everything.
And if He created it, He has the right to do with it as He wants.
When I create something – a baked good, a craft, a piece of writing – I throw it out when it “misbehaves”. Or I give up on it completely.

So God the Creator has every right to throw me out. Or give up on me completely. Because He created me. And I blow it. ALL. THE. TIME.

Truth: God doesn’t do that. He doesn’t annihilate me when I blow it. Again. He has the right to – but He chooses not to.

(Amazing mercy!)

Truth: ALL humans blow it. Every day. We like to measure it in degrees – a “little white lie” is better than murdering someone. And yes, they have different consequences in this life. But both separate me from the perfection of a holy, completely righteous Creator.

Truth: God the Creator has the responsibility to keep His holiness intact – or else He is not God at all. He cannot look the other way when I sin. And He cannot call “acceptable” that which is not. And yes, He made the rules so He gets to decide what is acceptable – because HE is the Creator.

Truth: As holy as God is, He is also kind. Merciful. Gracious. Loving. Because He is not willing to abandon me to my own willful bad choices, nor is He willing to be separated from me forever, He provided a substitute to die in my place, His very own Son. Because He (Jesus) had never sinned, He was able to take the punishment for my sin on himself.

(Astonishing grace!)

And that would be enough.
If God my Creator never did anything else for me, that would be enough.
Forgiveness for my sin. Being able to stand before Him because I have trusted that Jesus has taken my punishment on Himself. Mercy.

But then God goes farther.

Truth: God allows me to bring Him all my needs. To lay them at His feet and allow Him to meet them. To come before Him with every request, every desire, every thought.

And I don’t have to cower as I do it!
He says to “Come boldly to the Throne of Grace to find help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4) Boldly! Before the Holy and Awesome God of the Universe, the Creator of All Things. Even though I am a creature that has failed Him over and over again.

But then He goes farther still.

Truth: God not only promises to meet my needs, He promises to never, ever leave me or forsake me. I cannot make Him go away – even when I want to do so! I cannot make Him stop loving me, even when I stop loving myself. (Hebrews 13; John 10)

And that would be enough. But He does still more.

Not only does He not destroy me, His rebel creation, He long ago provided a way to redeem me.
And He not only redeems me – but then He bids me to come to Him with all I need.
And He not only says to come boldly, but He promises me His presence. Daily. Forever.

And then He does even more. He takes all this wonder even farther.

Truth: God does not “put up with me”. There are tons and tons of people who do. I am often too loud, too opinionated, and too stubborn for people. I am selfish and have a very sharp tongue. I am incredibly impatient. And often very, very self-righteous. And if you are sitting there thinking, “I’ve never seen that!” or “No, you aren’t!” then I have done an awesome job fooling you and being a world-class hypocrite as well.

But, for as many people who “put up with me” and my flaws, God is not one of them.
Instead of putting up with me, tolerating me or even shaking His head sadly and saying, “Here she comes again with that same-old same-old struggle”, He does the opposite.

He always welcomes me with open arms.
He not only welcomes me, He runs to meet me.
He delights in me.
He rejoices over me with singing.
He has my name engraved on His palm.
I am always in His thoughts.
I am His beloved.
He daily carries me in His arms.
He hears me every single time I call.
He cherishes me.
I am His daughter.
His princess.

And, if you are thinking, “That’s nice, Kathy, but He doesn’t feel that way about me”, you are dead wrong. Because all of those statements come out of Scripture. And they are not just about me. But they are about YOU, too. No matter who you are. No matter what you have done.

IF.

IF you have accepted that first part – that you are a sinner, in need of someone to take your place before a righteous and holy God – and that the only “someone” who qualifies to take your place is Jesus. If you have acknowledged that Truth, putting your faith in Jesus as your only hope, then:

He always welcomes you with open arms.
He not only welcomes you, He runs to meet you.
He delights in you.
He rejoices over you with singing.
He has your name engraved on the palm of His hand.
You are always in His thoughts.
You are His beloved.
He daily carries you in His arms.
He hears you when you call.
He cherishes you.
You are His daughter or son.
You are His prince or princess.

Do you believe that?
It is Truth – and it is Truth that will change your life if you let it sink in deeply.
Your life can be – will be – transformed by the astonishing, incredible love of God if you will allow it.

Yes, it takes surrender.
But it is worth it.
So very, very worth it.
Truth is always worth it.

On Needing Glasses…

eye_charts_and_glasses

For months I wondered if I needed glasses.
I started giving myself little eye exams throughout my day and especially when I was driving.
I knew that “close work” – time at the computer, doing cross-stitch, reading – was becoming an issue.
I considered picking up a pair of “readers” at Wal-Mart.
But it didn’t seem that bad.
And when I was driving, I could read every sign.

On roads I knew.

I discovered that harsh truth when I drove down to Virginia Beach by myself to visit family.
Getting into town was no problem. I knew the route so I never really checked the road signs.
But when I got into the heart of the city and had to know exits?
And then street signs?
On unfamiliar roads?
With heavy traffic?
I discovered that I not only needed glasses – I needed them badly.

In life, I do the same thing.
I merrily drive through life, rarely needing to read the signs because I am on familiar ground.
I know the route, I know the routine.

Until suddenly I don’t.
Tragedy strikes.
A friendship blows up.
The lab report isn’t good.
The phone call is bad news.
A friend needs answers to unanswerable questions.

And suddenly I am on unfamiliar roads.
Squinting.
The signs are fuzzy.
And the traffic is heavy.
Getting lost – or worse – is not only a real possibility, but a strong probability.

And I realize I need glasses.
Desperately.
I need perspective.
I need something to align my vision.
Because I am not nearly as together as I supposed I was.

Those glasses? That perspective?
It is the eternal one.
The one that remembers that this life is temporary, that these horrors won’t last forever.
The one that recalls that every person I meet is created by God, dearly loved by Him and headed for an eternal destination, one of two choices.
The one that is reminded that this life is very short compared to all of eternity.
The one that sets itself “on things above”. (Colossians 1)
The one that says, “I don’t have all the answers – but I know the One who does.”
The one that cries out in groanings to the only One who can fill in the blanks. (Romans 8)

I have to take every problem, every situation, every decision, every thought and align them with God’s Word.
I have to take a giant step back and ask God to give me His perspective on each thing, person, circumstance, decision.
I have to put on the glasses of what I say I believe and actually apply the words to the reality, choosing to trust that His perspective, ways, thoughts and plans are better than my own.

When I was driving in Virginia Beach, I desperately needed the glasses that would correct my vision.
The problem was, they were still at the eye doctor’s office, waiting to be prescribed.
When my life is suddenly rerouted onto different, unfamiliar and uncomfortable roads, I desperately need the Truth of God’s Word to correct my perspective.
The problem comes when it is still on the shelf, waiting to be read and applied.

My glasses only correct my vision when I wear them.
God’s Word only speaks when I take it in and apply it.

And, just like I need my glasses every day, even when the route is familiar, I need God’s Word every day, even when life is going well.
I need an eternal perspective for the good times as well as the bad.
I need a rich life in the Word of God every day – not just when life gets fuzzy.
Because I have come to find that my vision is always flawed, even in my most familiar and comfortable surroundings.
And I have the “glasses” that I need to correct my perspective every single day.
The question is, am I wearing them?
Or are they sitting on a shelf?

 
*A special note: If you want to get into God’s Word but are having trouble or don’t know where to begin, I have some suggestions for you.
– I love the One Year Bible. You can pick up a hard copy or put it on a reading device. You can also find it online at http://www.oneyearbibleonline.com . You can pick the translation to read it in when you do it online – a different one each day if you would like! You can also put two translations next to each other to help you to get a fuller picture of what it is saying. I like the New Living Translation and the New International Version – but you could try the Contemporary English Version or The Message for the Word in very modern language.
– I also love a book by Stephen M. Miller called “How to Get Into the Bible”. It sets up every book of the Bible like a movie review, giving you the plot, the main characters, the setting, etc. It also shows you where that book fits in the timeline of the Bible AND world events. A terrific resource to help you to understand what you are reading!
– Still not sure where to start? The Book of John is an awesome place to begin. Try setting aside just five minutes a day to read. As you read, ask God to show you what He wants you to see and for the grace to apply it to your life. After John, head for Romans, another great place to start. The awesome thing is that God will bring what you read back to mind as you need it throughout the day.