Sunday, June 30, 2013

June gifts

Note: I started writing this in June; it's now over six months later (January, 2014) but I only now feel able to put this post up.

In June, something happened that made me feel humiliated, and I ran away from my home and went up to the mountains for an hour to get the tears out of my system. Crying out: God, what are you trying to teach me here, with this humiliation? (Six months later: I'm still thinking about this...)

What a tough year it's been so far.... This following on the heels  of a couple other really tough things, stuff I don't even want to mention again. And yet, through these trials I am learning so much. And the blessings keep pouring in, too, like these...

640. How beautiful this summer is, it takes my breath away!
There seems to more color, or richer color, somehow. The skies are a landscape painting. Love my evening walks. No mosquitos this summer! Lush wildflowers, scent everywhere.

641. An agent requesting more pages of my book
A few days after my meltdown, I got an email from an agent (C.H.) that she read my samples pages and liked my premise and requested another 100 pages to read!  This made me feel so much better, like maybe I am supposed to be a writer/author... But still, God, what are teaching me? I want to know and live your will and lean not on my own understanding.

642. Summer, Dreamer's new horse
While the kids are allowed to "claim" a horse as their own, our real policy is the horses are family horses, for everyone. Nevertheless, 9-year-old Dreamer was thrilled when Daddy said this new mare could be her horse and she could even name her (though I retained the right to veto certain name suggestions). After a few vetos, the name "Summer" was settled upon (Blaze's palomino mare is Spring, so Summer felt like the perfect name for Dreamer's palomino mare).

643.  Steps 4 and 5 in the AA/OA Twelves steps
I went through steps 4 and 5 with a friend from OA and gained some startling insight into how a problem I never addressed in my teen years has manifested itself (in a different but related way) as another problem right now in my life. It's still too personal to share on a public blog, but I can share this: another OA member talked  about how one of his weaknesses is self-entitlement and I realized that might be mine, too.

644. The quality of the moment is what matters
Another great insight from OA: "The quality of the moment is what matters, not the quantity of success." 

645. "My life has not been easy, but it has been full" - Beth Moore
The full quote, in her To Live is Christ workbook: "I could never tell anyone that becoming a Christian makes life easier. But with a heart full of emotion, I will tell anyone that a life surrendered to Christ is a life that is full. My life has not been easy. I've made many mistakes and I've been the victim of others' mistakes. Yet I would not trade lives with anyone. Why? Because my life is full. I believe emptiness causes more people to despair of life than pain."

646.  "How I long for new words, new shades of paint, new notes on a scale" - Beth Moore
Also from Beth Moore's To Live is Christ:  "I will never be able to translate  on paper the emotions bursting through the old wineskin of my heart with the new wine of fresh love. I wish I could somehow describe how I feel about my God this moment. How I long for new words, new shades of paint. New notes on a scale."

647. Homeschooling convention
One step closer to committing to homeschool this fall: went to the big Denver homeschooling convention (it helped that they let first-time attendees come the first day for free). The talks were inspiring and a confirmation that this path is not an easy, but a truly fulfilling one. Also learned a great deal on getting started and different learning styles, but overwhelmed by all the available curriculum and materials!

648. Wedding ceremony on a bridge over a stream
A daughter of dear friends of ours (D.D and R.D.) had her wedding on a beautiful ranch resort at Red Feather Lakes, Colorado. The ceremony was held at an outdoor chapel, and the bride and her father rode up to the ceremony on horses. Loved it! (makes me want to get married again). The couple said their vows standing on a little bridge, loved that too.  They had two sets of vows - the "fun" ones and the serious ones. The fun ones were along these lines "I promise to allow you at least one third of the blankets in bed." The wedding program was fun, too, with this title and subtitle: "So you're going to sit through a wedding: a practical guide to not falling asleep and figuring out just what exactly is going on."

649. Bearcrawl
Serious loves to bearcrawl and it cracks me up every time.

650. Dreamer said I look pretty tonight, "Your eyes are sparkling"

651. Are you willing to give back what God gives you? 
John H. preaching on when Abraham took Isaac to be sacrificed. They had to travel three days - he a  lot of time to talk himself out doing this thing. Are you willing to give back what God gives you? Even if it seems like God is contradicting himself? When we surrender, then God steps in and sacrifices the ram for us. "Then you will know (experience) that I am God"... you go from head knowledge to a real living relationship experience.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Made to Crave

Made to Crave delves into much more than losing weight and emotional eating habits; it addresses spiritual aspects in many different areas of life. It's really all connected.

Lysa starts with addressing the question, is losing weight even a spiritual issue at all? Isn’t it just a physical issue? 

When you’ve tried and failed as many times as I have, you start to feel gun-shy about trying again. I’d lose the weight, feel great for a couple of months, deceive myself into thinking I could return to old habits, and all the weight would creep back on. I’d failed at finding lasting victory with every other attempt. 

...why in heavens would I want to add spiritual guilt on top of my physical guilt?

...Guilt wrapped in shame is a terrible burden to carry. Guilt always came when I knew I was making poor choices and could see the scale numbers climbing. Shame came when my weight gain became apparent to everyone else in the world. Battling something so raw, so deeply personal was hard; knowing my failures were apparent to everyone else added humiliations to my toxic stew of emotions.

Yes, the physical struggle was hard enough. I certainly didn’t want to drag down my spiritual life with this struggle as well.

But here’s the problem: whether or not I wanted to admit it, my weight issues were already dragging me down spiritually....I needed spiritual motivation to step in where my physical determination falls short. So I started reading the Bible from the perspective of someone struggling with food issues. Though I had read the Bible many times and have even taught Bible studies for years, I’d missed how much God cares about and talks about this issue. Tucked within this book written thousands of years ago are some of the most astounding and life-changing truths directly applicable to this modern-day unhealthy eating epidemic.

From Day 10: 

Why do we crave?

The definition of craving is something you long for, want greatly, desire eagerly, and beg for. God made us to crave so that we’d always desire more of Him. 

Don’t read over that last sentence too quickly. Go made us to crave Him. But Satan wants to do everything possible to replace our craving for God with something else. I like how the New Living Translation puts this:

Do not love this world nor the things it offers you… for the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. (I John 2:15,16)

This passage details three ways Satan tries to lure us away from loving God. And Satan used these very same tactics the first time he tempted humankind through Eve:

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food [physical craving] and pleasing to the eye [material craving] and also desirable for gaining wisdom [significance craving], she took some and ate it. (Genesis 3:16). 

Eve kept her focus on the object of her desire. The Scriptures give us no indication she tried to check in with God or Adam. She didn’t walk away and truly consider this choice. And she certain didn’t take time to consider the consequences.

...Interestingly, Satan later applied the same three tactics he used with Eve when he tempted Jesus, in Matthew 4. ….While Eve focused on the object of her temptation, Jesus kept His focus on God’s truth. He refuted each of Stan’s lures with Scripture. 

...When we face our own cravings, will be we like Eve, focusing on our object of desire? Or will we be like Jesus, pausing, reciting truth, and remembering what matters most? Temporary satisfaction or true contentment? 

Just as I must have physical food for my body to survive, I must have to have spiritual food for my soul to thrive. Jesus says, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish His work. (John 4:34). And He goes on to say , ”I tell you, open your eyes and looks at the fields! They are ripe for Harvest.”

There is bigger plan here! Don’t get distracted by physical food... it can’t satisfy the longing of your soul. Only Jesus can do this. Our souls were created to crave Him and love others to Him. 

The first time I read this, I only picked up on how food can’t satisfy our soul; only God can fulfill that craving. The second time reading, while typing this up, I picked up the second part that I had glazed right over the first time (no doubt because of my fixation with food!): we’re created to crave Him AND love others to Him. I wonder how often when I’m reading or studying the Bible that I pick up part of what God’s saying, but totally miss other parts?

But that’s the reason why God says the Word should be our daily bread; we should partake of it daily, just as we do food. The meal we ate last nite does not benefit us all week, we need to keep eating. The same with the Word. We can’t expect to live healthy spiritual lives if we rely on one reading of the Word a week! 

And this passage taught me as I read it again that I can replace my craving for food with a craving for God, but that craving God will also necessarily result in my eyes being opened to see the harvest in the fields – other people who need God too. Now if I thought turning to God instead of binging on food to fill an emotional need was hard, it’s even harder for me to tell others about God if I don’t know how they’ll receive it. I’m scared they’ll sneer at me. But God says the fields are ripe for harvest. Someone out there is ready (ripe) to hear the Word of God. 

Each devotion ends with a short one or two sentence prayer. Don’t skip these! I’m often tempted to skip other people’s prayers and come up with my own instead. This is fine, too, but still read what Lysa writes here, because otherwise you’ll miss one of the crucial steps that doesn’t show up in the rest of the text.

What I mean is that the text is insightful and encouraging, but it often plays out this formula: “Now that you’re enlightened, go do this.” But how often have I been enlightened by reading and studying the Word, and I head out all fired up to apply it in my life and I succeed for a day or two, and then slip. I lose my focus; other things get in the way. Then several weeks later when I realize what’s happened, I feel like a failure!

What’s missing here is the crucial understanding, so, so, so crucial, that “apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). On our own, even with the best of intention and motivation, we’ll quickly run out of steam, and ultimately fail. Change is hard. Everything is against us making true, lasting change. It’s been a long slow learning process, but I’m learning I can only change by leaning (sometimes even falling) on Jesus the whole way. Remembering that God’s power is made perfect in weakness. Remembering that my own will power always fails, so I must call on God’s power instead. This serves the triple purpose of strengthening us, keeping us close to God, and keeping us humble. 

If you don’t read the prayers at the end of each devotion, you will miss this crucial point, and find yourself one day dusting this book off your shelf and sighing “that was such a good book! Too bad it didn’t work for me.” Of course no book will work for you! It’s just a book! (except the Bible). All books can do is give us new insight and then point us toward God and his truths. There is where the true power lays. 

Don’t be fooled into thinking that once you understand, you can do it. Not without God on a daily basis you can’t! And the bigger the change in your life you want, and the longer you want it to last, the closer you must draw to God, talking to Him and listening to Him, often in a moment-to-moment relationship if you’re an addict facing strong temptations and cravings.

I really recommend reading Made to Crave as part of a group, or joining a group of other believers desiring to address this aspect of their spiritual and physical lives. I tried connecting with friends at church on this issue, and didn't have success, but I kept trying and eventually connected with a wonderful Overeaters Anonymous group applying the 12 steps with the God of the Bible as our higher power. I am not sure if could have applied what I learned in Made to Crave on my own; I needed the accountability, encouragement and feedback from face-to-face meetings with other people who understood my weaknesses and struggled with it themselves. 

But back to the book: I often find myself wishing I had a closer relationship with God, but there are days when I read his word that the words don’t sink in, and days when I pray where I feel I’m talking to the wall. Several of the devotionals in Made to Crave address this problem too:

Then Jesus said to them: Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.

I want this kind of all-out pursuit with God. But what does this look like in today’s culture?

I think part of what it means is breaking old habits to create space in my heart for new growth.

In reality, God desires our sacrifice – our turning from selfish ways – not for His benefit, but for ours. For instance, I stopped watching TV for season. I realized I was turning the TV when I felt must depleted – and when I’m most depleted, I soak up deeply whatever I take in. Why would I want to soak in deeply the entertainment of this world and not things that breathe life back into me? I broke the old habit of watching TV and created space in my heart for new growth.

Another example is my commitment to do nothing else each morning – including checking my phone or turning on the computer – before I open up God’s word. I used to wake up eager to tune into the world. I’d soon be sucked into answering this email, reading that Twitter post, and returning phone calls. Before I new it, half my days was gone, and I hadn’t let God prepare my heart for any of it. So I broke the old habit and created space in my heart for new growth. 

Right now I’m intentionally sacrificing sugar and processed food that turn into sugar once consudedm. Tyes, I want to maintain my weight loss. But this journey is so much more than just that. It really is about learning to tell myself no and learned to make wiser choices daily.

...Am I saying all my Jesus girlfriends need to do the same? No more TV, no more checking your computer and phone first thing in the morning? No sugar? Nope. These aren’t things I think everyone needs to do. They were personal practices for my own benefit. I’m not asking you to follow me; I’m saying to follow whole-heartedly after God. Ask Him. Seek Him. Do what He tells you.