Denial Exposed

As I left church this morning my mind went scrolling through the items I needed to purchase at the grocery store on my way home. Suddenly the thought of a warm gooey cinnamon rolled popped into my head. I indulged in the thought for a moment and then released it knowing I did not “need” that today. Today I would buy healthy life giving foods.

When I strolled into Publix a warm sweet smell filled my nostrils. Cinnamon mixed with pastry and cream cheese frosting. How did they know! The baker smiled at me in mockery knowing all too well she possessed great powers. My senses were overwhelmed and my flesh won the battle. As I type my flesh is satisfied and the taste of cinnamon lingers. You might ask why this is such a big deal but what you don’t know about me is that I am a lactaholic. What is a lactaholic? Honestly I made the word up but essentially it is a person addicted to food with lactose in it. Which by the way are most foods good and wonderful!

About nine months ago I found out that I am lactose intolerant and let me tell you I am not a fan of the diagnosis. In fact you might say that I have been in denial for the majority of the last nine months. I recently wrote about letting go and briefly about the process of grieving. Often times the first step in the grieving process is denial. Many of us live there and refuse to move on.

Several months ago I wrote a blog that I never posted and now I want to share parts of that blog. Truthfully I did not want to share that blog before but I realize my not posting it was part of my denial. I am often brutality honest with people I love; yet I struggle with being brutality honest towards myself. Thankfully God is faithful to put people like this in our lives to pull us out of the darkness and hopefully pray for us as we heal.

While I sat with a wise woman confronting me about exercising my core, my mind began to think about how healthy I thought I was. I mean sure I could definitely lose some weight but I am also very serious about being active. On average I hike or walk 10-20 miles a week and I am always up for a good game of tennis. Surely she was mistaken, in fact as I put my hand on my belly all I could think about was how it felt rock solid.

One day later I was carting around my friends ten-pound baby. After a really long fifteen minutes I noticed my stomach and back muscles began to ache. For a moment I thought that maybe my core does need some work. Moms of babies you must have awesome cores! While this small revelation began to simmer the heat was turned up.

Later that week I decided to test my docs diagnosis regarding being lactose intolerant. No more ice cream, no more cheese, and no more butter based products. The experiment lasted a week producing new revelations. To my amazement my stomach stopped hurting, I had more energy, and what I thought was some serious abs turned out to be gas. Yep, apparently when lactose intolerant people eat dairy they get “the bloat.” I was so bloated I thought my stomach was rippled with muscles. Now all that is left is some lumpy rolls of flesh. Denial exposed. So back to the wise woman and her suggestion to work out my core!

Since these revelations I have begun a core exercise routine and have doubled my baby carrying capacity. Yet I still struggle with denial around my dairy intake. As this is month nine I am praying that I will soon give birth to a new season of letting go of dairy. I am not there yet but I am on my way. The are many things that we put under the rug of consciousness. I don’t know what addiction, idea, thing, or person you are hesitant to let go of. But I wonder if you would be open to inviting others to help you see the truth. Having wise and honest friends, mentors, and counselors in our lives will prevent us from being stagnant in the grieving process.

Letting go cannot happen until we give space and time to our denial, sadness, anxieties, and anger. When I wrote about my awesome abs several months ago I thought I was about to overcome my addiction to lactose, yet here I am still in the midst of the fray. Instead of beating ourselves up or judging our lack of will power, it is more helpful to gently redirect us to life giving activities and behaviors. Turning our attention to Jesus and all that He has blessed us with. I am a nature girl and I love people. I see God’s love and action most when I am among his creation including people like you! When I trade my addictions for God and His creation the process of letting go becomes a little clearer. I invite you to explore areas of your life that you are experiencing denial. It is not easy to expose the dark places but in the light of truth we can find freedom. It is my prayer that, “you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)

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A Confession About Letting Go

Confession…for most of my life I have been a captive to things, people’s opinion, money, titles, and control. That is not an exhaustive list for me but I am sure you get the idea. Over the last five years I have noticed the Lord calling me to a simpler way of living. There has been lots of kicking, screaming, and adolescent defiance. But when Jesus said in Matthew 11:28-30, ““Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” I found myself intrigued and drawn to a different way of being.

In many ways the last year especially has felt like a purging of all the things that kept me captive. I let go of my home, two thirds of my possessions, old beliefs, behaviors, and titles that seemed to matter. Even as a counselor I did not really understand what it meant to let go. We talk about it as the last stage of grief but what was I grieving? I realize now I was grieving an old way of being but the time had come to move on. Letting go was not about forgetting but more about what I was giving my life’s energy and attention to. I started praying, “In Him I would live and move and have my being.” (Acts 17:28) In the wake of doing this I have been enthralled by Jesus’ response.

Upon letting go of many things I did not miraculously get blessed with a million dollars, free stuff, and instant fame. In fact from a worldly perspective this is the poorest I have been since college. I can also tell you by unloading all that “stuff” I was able to create space for some pretty amazing things. My Jesus has blessed me with an overwhelming sense of His love and presence. I have found rest, an easier way to live, and freedom. While there are other things I am learning to surrender each thing I release allows a little more space for God’s Kingdom to reign in me.

I am learning to let what He gives me be a gift I can freely pour into others. It is as if the light in my world had been on a dimmer switch and now the light has been turned completely on. All of this just by letting go of what never belonged to me in the first place. By fixing my eyes on Jesus I am fully able to run the race He has set for me (Hebrews 12:1,2 par.)

We all hold onto things that we think we need or want. Sometimes those things make us a captive to this world. In fact it is the things of this world that lead us to feeling tired and weak. But God says this in Isaiah 40:31, “but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” What is the “thing” that makes you a captive or causes you to grow weary? Is it a possession, is it money, is it a desired perception, is it an addiction, or is it a person? Where would God call you to let go? What hinders you from being captivated by Jesus? Do you dream of soaring on the wings of eagles? It is my prayer that we would all be discerning of what we need to let go of. “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. “ Hebrews 12:1

Blessed

Who is truly blessed? As I watch international news my heart aches. Hundreds of Palestinians have been killed many of them children, dozens of Jews, all the passengers and crew on flight MH17, almost 50 people in Tripoli, and an untold amount in Syria. This is not to mention the many innocent children and adults killed daily within our own borders. This list could go on but what it often boils down to is power and political advantage. What can we do?

I was recently talking about the conflict in Palestine with one of my closest friends, as we felt helpless to do anything. Hundreds of civilians are losing their lives and we have little power to change that. Many people take sides and root for their country of choice but how many are praying for the innocents caught in these battles. Every life lost represents a son or daughter, a mother or father, a friend, and human worthy of living a full life.

We excuse these battles by pointing fingers at who started it justifying another political powers right to kill civilians. This is hard for me to understand. As I prayed for the people in the various countries Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount continually surfaced to my mind.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, Blessed are those who mourn, Blessed are the meek, Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, Blessed are the merciful, Blessed are the pure in heart, Blessed are the peacemakers, Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.

Being blessed is not about being strong or having the most power. Being blessed is much more about the motives of our heart and an awareness of what we lack. Jesus said the peacemakers would be blessed, as would those that were persecuted for righteousness sake. I might be wrong but when I think about these descriptions I wonder if people that do not know Jesus could be considered blessed. When I think about people that have crossed my path I confess that I have met some “unbelievers” that fit the above description. It is my prayer that the victims of the various political battles would experience God’s blessing.

Recently I read a devotional by Henri Nouwen asking us, “Who is Your Neighbor?” He talked about the story of the Good Samaritan. It wasn’t a Jewish man or woman that helped the brutalized Jew lying on the ground but a man from Samaria. He was a man with different beliefs that came from a different culture. In fact the Jews treated Samaritans with contempt and prejudice. Yet this Samaritan was able to look past that and saw a human in need. Nouwen goes on to point out that our neighbor is the person in need that we allow ourselves to serve and love.

When I think of the persecuted men, women, and children around our world I start to wonder which of them God is calling me to serve as my neighbor? Many of us tend to only love our “neighbors” that look like us and believe like us. What can we do for the civilians living in fear on the Gaza Strip or along the countryside of Eastern Ukraine? How can we bless the orphaned children in Somalia and the downtrodden in North Africa? Are you someone who is truly blessed? I pray that we would open our eyes to see the humanity behind the numbers of lives lost. I pray that we would realize that many of those people were poor in spirit, mourning, meek, hungry, thirsty, merciful, pure in heart, peaceful, and persecuted. I pray that our hearts would truly learn to see people different from us as our neighbors and someone to love.

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*photo retrieved fromhttp://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/inpictures/2012/11/2012112091248733420.html

The Heart of the Matter

Not too long ago I silently observed a debate among friends regarding modesty. One had posted an article by a popular Christian speaker telling the ladies to cover up lest we cause our brothers to stumble. The other side of the debate commented on the responsibility of our brothers to control themselves and respect women. Multiple voices engaged in the debate and I believe they all had a point. When it comes down to it I really believe it is about the heart of the matter.

Matthew 5:29 tells us to gouge out our eye if it causes us to stumble. Was Jesus being literal or was He trying to make some kind of point? What if he was saying that lust was a common struggle?  What if He was saying that judging others for something so common is not helpful? If memory serves me correctly Jesus was addressing the Pharisees at this point. They were judging others for sins they considered “really bad” and Jesus was drawing attention to the reality that we will all struggle. He was pointing out in an exaggerated fashion that if we were always so legalistic in our judgments that many of us would be walking around with gouged out eyes.  “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)

What is God’s glory? I recently heard author/pastor John Ortberg say we are glorifying God the most when we live out who He created us to be. While this is not only about what we do with our life there is action and intent involved. Perhaps when I am hot and choose to wear a more revealing top I am not helping my brothers. However, my intent here would be about staying cool and not seducing the boys! I am sure men walking around shirtless would often say the same thing. That does not mean a bare chested man does not cause one of his sisters to stumble. My question to those seeking to glorify God is how does your everyday life bring God glory? 1 Corinthians 10:31 says, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (NIV).

I do not think there are black and white rules about how we should dress. And by no means does a man or women’s apparel give anyone the right to violate them. I think this issue is more about your heart. The reality is the standard will be different for everyone, whether you are a Christian or not. I don’t believe anyone out there can tell me what modesty looks like. Just move to the Middle East and I guarantee we would either feel like we were flaunting ourselves about or possibly we would feel sad for the lack of freedom some women in the world possess. Read a book from the 1800’s as scandalous women show off their ankles to nearby men. Today’s scandal’s involve wardrobe malfunctions and scantily clad men and women barely covering the essentials. I wonder if the women in the Middle East ever feel sad for us?

Look to your own heart and to God about what you should eat, drink, and wear. Resist judging others (Mt. 7:1) and lean into the areas of life Jesus is calling you to refine. If it is lust ask for the Spirit’s help and resist blaming others. If you struggle with a need to get attention and approval through your body, than lean into Jesus. Instead of using you, Jesus will show you a love without condition. Yes there are ways we can lift each other up through the way we live our lives, which can include how we dress. Some of us may feel called to address this area and others may not.  We are all being transformed daily and He is faithful to complete the work He has started. Let’s show each other grace and pray for the transformation of each other’s hearts!

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*photo retrieved from hubpages.com

 

Truckers and Yankees

I meant to post this blog on Easter Sunday, however my computer crashed right before Easter and chose not to resurrect itself.  Now that I have a “new creation” I wanted to post a blog I wrote for Easter.

So on Easter Sunday I managed to spill coffee on an unsuspecting lady’s foot. I had put the almost empty cup on the chair next to me and as I went to reach for something in my bag I hit the cup and every drop remaining flew backwards. To make matters worse as I was turning back to survey the damage the chair I was sitting on scooted back jamming into the coffee drenched foot of the lady behind me. Have I ever mentioned how awesome I am?

So clearly this woman was not from the South. While being a Yankee myself, I have learned to recognize our kind in these situations. As I quietly expressed how sorry I was she completely ignored me as she took out some tissue and dabbed away the coffee. At first I thought she did not want to talk since the Pastor was in the middle of talking about how Jesus rose from the dead in the middle of history vs. the end of time. It was good stuff. I turned my attention to him so I would not distract her from quality teaching and settled to apologize properly during the time our church greets each other by passing the peace.

Well let me tell you our peace talk was a little iffy. As I sincerely apologized, instead of saying, “no problem,” or, “it happens,” or whatever good southerners say… (Bless my heart or something!) She looked at me with no expression saying, “At least it was not hot.” True I could have really maimed you! At that point I decided she was not likely to be a friend and I shared peace with others that I did not spill coffee on.

During the season of lent I tried to write about ways we can be captivated by God’s love and I have talked about the ways we get sidetracked and become captives to anything or anyone but God. In doing so I have come to the conclusion that there are many things in this world that distract me from God’s love. On Easter that “thing” was worry and the need for approval.

While the pastor was preaching about the resurrection and God’s timing I was feeling guilty about spilling coffee. I was brainstorming ways to make this woman my friend, as Kris (our pastor) was talking about Jesus being someone we could touch after He was resurrected. Obviously I heard bits and pieces but anxiety overtook my peace, the fullness of God living in me.

Now I make mistakes all the time so there was no need to get worked up over this one, but for a few moments I did. We are people that can be completely enamored by Jesus one moment, and then be people raging against others on the Atlanta Speedway the next moment. With the same mouth we praise God with we utter curses towards semi-trucks that cut you off and slam on their breaks the next moment. While I’m not trying to justify my cussing I’m just saying it happens.

The point is we are all prone to be distracted from God. This is really normal for most of us. To become people captivated by Him we must learn to invite Him into every part of our being, even the ugly parts that cuss at truck drivers and spill coffee on Yankees. Jesus loves every bit of who we are and waits patiently for us to invite Him in to those spaces. If we allow Him to fill us up, parts of us that were once dead may come alive in ways we never imagined. As we greet each other like we do on Easter saying, “He is Risen!” perhaps we can explore the possibility of Jesus being resurrected in us. Yes He is risen indeed!

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The Lost Art of Becoming One

I was listening to a movie director on NPR the other day talk about the lost art of silent films. He had recently directed some animated films that had scenes where he had to portray characters thoughts and feelings through music and movement. He mentioned that he spent time studying silent films to accomplish this feat. “In silent films the actors practically become one with the music and the environment around them.” Then he stated that actors today don’t really understand how to do that. I started thinking about what he said as I was talking with a friend. The friend started telling me about an idea to meld two types of art together to become one. Truthfully I was not fully grasping the concept but I know whatever this artist comes up with will be cool. It made me wonder if we have lost the art of two or more becoming one? We live in such an individualized culture that promotes self. It is no surprise that divorce rates are high and many are questioning God. In many ways we have become a Nation of many instead of a Nation of one. We are a many that care about our own needs and our own benefits. Once I had a pastor ask me, “When you vote, do you vote based on what is best for you or what you think is best for our nation or community as a whole?” I know the answer at that time in my life was more about me than the rest of our country. It was an interesting idea that led to some serious thinking. More recently I have been noticing the nature of the Holy Trinity. When each member of the Trinity talks they usually refer to another part within the Trinity. The Father says, “This is my Son,” Jesus says, “I will send you a helper,” and the Holy Spirit always points us back to Jesus and the Father.  They are three parts yet one God. In the most beautiful and mysterious way they represent perfect community. In John 17:11 Jesus prays that we will be one with Him as He is one with the Father. Becoming one starts with our relationship with Jesus. By learning from Him we will likely have more success becoming one with our spouses, our individual churches, and the community of believers around us. Let us be a people that revive the lost art of becoming one!

Attracting Stickiness

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Does anyone else out there attract sticky? Seriously, sticky goo everywhere! Today I made a PB&J and J is officially all over my arm. As I investigated further I noticed that J migrated his way into my hair. Give me chocolate please but make sure I don’t mindlessly put it in my pants pocket for later. Hours later I may discover it when I am at a dinner party when I briefly put my hand in my pocket only to withdraw it with melted brown goop all over my hand.  The dinner party was not amused.

While that was one of the more embarrassing moments syrup is my biggest nemesis. That golden brown sticky stuff has it out for me! There is no way to avoid getting that stuff in my hair, on my arms, my clothes, and the most unlikely of places my eyebrows (true story)! Sticky stuff is just attracted to me. So if you are sticky come on over we will be the best of friends!

Life is sticky. Sometimes it is a little stickier for some than others. I have to tell y’all in life and in food I am a sticky mess. No matter what is happening in life good, bad, or in between I manage to get life all over me. I suppose by that I mean a couple of things. The first is that life is generally not clear and orderly. The second thing I mean is life is about rolling up our sleeves and getting a little dirty.

Let’s start with the first one. Life does not usually run how we plan for it. For instance when was the last time you looked at God and said, “See I told you what would happen,” as He sheepishly agrees that you truly are all knowing. Yeah that probably never happens and if you think it happens all the time you might have a small case of Narcissism to deal with. Surely there are other people with syrup in their hair! (Yes I will join a support group laterJ) Truthfully our road map in the stickiness of life is in trusting that God will have a Wet One to clean us off when things get a little crazy (Grandma always had Wet Ones for the stickiness.) Let’s just hope God doesn’t pull the classic mom thing and wipe us off with His Spit (at least it would be Holy Spit!) I digress so let me move on to the second point.

Life is about getting dirty. The best part of a one year olds birthday party is the smoosh cake. Welcome to life kid here’s a whole cake, go to town and get as messy as you want! What if we want to go to town on our lives? What if we were all in; living our life for God? He designed each of us with different purposes and He gave us desire to pursue that calling. Some of us slow down in our pursuit, some screech to a jarring halt, and others are driving 100 mph in a 55 mph zone. Yes, yes, there are limits to how sticky God wants us to get. He is not trying to tar and feather us to death!  Regardless He created us to move and flow. We are more akin to a river than a stagnant pond. We all have our reservations but I am certain we would all benefit from attracting some sticky stuff into our lives.