Tuesday, October 26, 2010

I love to tell the story...Part I

It was 1993. I was in my second year of college, Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You" was at the top of the charts, Dubya's Daddy was ending his run as President, Bevis & Butthead premiered on MTV and my life was about to be forever changed. Up until then, I thought I had it all figured out. I thought I knew what was what...and I was none too happy about it. Truth be told, I wanted a one way ticket out of life as I knew and understood it. It is said "once you are born, you begin to die", but for me, it was more like, "once you wake up, you begin to think about dying". The finality of death was like the happy ending of a fairy tale for me. In my blissful enjoyment of the idea of being "done" with all the hurt and disappointment of my life, I failed to think about how incomplete such "happy endings" are. The story, the people in them, the consequences of their actions don't stop with "the end".

But, as I daydreamed about my end, I didn't think about any of that. And the more I didn't think about any of that, the more appealing my end became.

Since I'd rejected the idea of any sort of God at the tender age of 13, I didn't have any thoughts of eternity to give me guilt. Since I was young and stupid, I didn't think about how my death might effect anyone else on the planet. So, I thought and daydreamed and planned and plotted, and yet, never followed through.

Enter Dr. Simon's English Lit Class, Milton's Paradise Lost, and a tiny girl with huge hair.

During one of our classes, Dr. Simon opened things up for discussion on the ideas Milton presented in Paradise Lost. Being the know-it-all that I was, I felt it was my duty, nay, my moral imperative, to enlighten these poor souls to the truth. So, I drug out my proverbial soap box and proceeded to explain why and how I was certain that God did  not create man...man created God. After the class, the tiny girl with huge hair approached me and invited me to lunch. I was certain she was looking to plumb the depths of my insight and wanted to hear more about the revelation I just shared with the class. On the contrary, once we arrived at the cafeteria, she proceeded to tell me about Jesus. Though this Jesus she talked about wasn't like the one I learned about growing up and dismissed at 13, and though some of what she said was compelling and appealing to me, I argued with her. On every point. Vehemently. Because that's what I did. Because I was right. Because I had to be right. Because of science and stuff.

After about 3 hours of this, we said goodbye, but not before she gave me some little booklets she intended to mail to her boyfriend. "You need them more than he does." She said.

I took her little booklets home and looked at them for a while. I looked up at my bookshelf and saw the words "Holy Bible" jump out at me. To this day, I have no idea where that Bible came from. Honestly. I shed any vestiges of religion (save the rosary my grandma gave me when I made my communion) when I shed my flimsy faith in the god of my childhood. I reached up for it, my head spinning, thoughts racing, thinking back over when I packed my books and unpacked them and who in the dorm visited my room with books, trying to figure out where it came from. I laid it on my desk and thought back to the last time I read the bible. It was when I was 13. It was when I was in catechism classes for my confirmation. I had so many questions. So much of what I read didn't fit with what I was being taught. So much of what I was being taught seemed utterly contrary and/or irrelevant when compared to what I was reading. I asked questions. I got no answers. And, so, I did what any sensible person would do...I decided it was all a lie.

Yet, here I was, years later, wondering...was I wrong? I was young. It was possible that I just didn't get it then.

I looked at the booklets and began reading. When I came to a passage from the Bible, I looked it up. Then I read the verses around the cite from the booklet. It fit. It made sense. It agreed. Unlike the time I took my catechism lesson and put it next to the little Bible I'd won in a poster-making contest at church. I remember that feeling vividly to this day. Growing up in church, seeing the Priest read from and bow before and even kiss the Bible, I assumed the teachings that were instilled in us had their roots there. But, when I read my little poster-making award Bible back then, I saw that wasn't the case. My face got hot. My insides felt shaky...like when you try to press two magnets together on the wrong side. I got angry. I felt lied to. But, when I read the booklet, I found that what I read, the ideas it was putting forth, had its source and/or confirmation in the Bible.

I liked that.

Over the course of the next few months, I gave church a try again, I read the booklets and the mysteriously appearing Bible often, and I asked my tiny friend with the big hair many questions. But, soon, I was right back at 13 again. Right back to feeling the resistance of the magnets. Right back to feeling like the whole religion thing was all made up and a lie.

I didn't know I was right, but only partly.

The following summer, my friend with the big hair and I wound up living and working in the same dorm.It didn't take long for us to start talking about Jesus and the Bible again...and for me to assume my know-it-all/soap boxy/argumentative position. After all, I reasoned, I did question myself and give it all a try again, and came to the same conclusion. But, my friend was persistent. Annoyingly so. Yet, I continued to go back for more. I even took to cooking her dinner so we could talk longer. Then, one day towards the end of the summer, after weeks of debating and searching the Bible to formulate more arguments and find holes in the philosophy, my friend suggested I just go and read, much like I did after our three hour lunch...not to write a position paper and prove myself right, but to see what it has to say, plain and simple.

So, I did.

I went upstairs to my private dorm room, closed the door, grabbed the mysteriously appearing bible off of my shelf, plopped onto my bed, and read. Just read. Wherever the Bible opened. That night, for me, it was The Book of Ruth. I read the whole thing and found myself sobbing at the end. I'd always been a spiritual person. Growing up, I'd leave church humming the songs and/or thinking about the words that were spoken. Even after I'd dismissed the notion of god and religion, I was still spiritually inclined, still somehow yearning for something, anything, bigger than myself. I tried astrology, mysticism, the occult...nothing penetrated. Nothing moved me or spoke to me or gave me hope like my time in the little Book of Ruth that night. It spoke to me of a God who is ever present, who is loving and caring for His people even when they aren't acting like His people, and who works even tragedy and poor choices into something good and glorious. In truth, I didn't think through all of that, I just felt in my soul in that moment. And it was simply, a moment. I reached the end of the book, tears streaming down my face, and promptly rolled over, turned my face upwards and, with staggered breath said "Ok. Do what you gotta do."

That was my "salvation prayer". With those few and unorthodox words, I surrendered my life to Christ. They encapsulated all that I had read and my friend had shared with me about sin and my need for a savior and Christ's sacrifice on the cross. They were my emotional/intellectual/spiritual "amen" at the end of months of arguing and resisting and talking and testing the waters and wrestling with myself.

The next morning, I woke up and didn't begin to think about dying.

That would make a good place for "The End"...but it really was just the beginning. I'll share what came after in Part II. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

"From the first day..."

“From the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard.” ~ Daniel 10:12

I've always been a Daddy's Girl. Always. If I was upset, hurt, excited, crushing on a boy, hurt by a friend, or just looking for someone to talk to, I wanted my Daddy. As such, nothing could destroy me more than my Daddy being upset with or disappointed in me. One stern look from Daddy and I was done...a sobbing mess. In those moments, I remember feeling like I was losing him; like there would always be distance and discord. That was unbearable for me.

It didn't help that my Daddy, wanting to make sure we really learned from our mistakes, seldom took and "i'm sorry" at face value and actually expected us to never commit the same wrong again. If we did, and tried to apologize, we heard about the times before and the weight of our trouble multiplied. Forgiveness wasn't given, it was earned. Though tensions blew over quickly, there was never real forgiveness...just a mandate to "show me you're sorry."

Not surprising, I carry these thoughts and life lessons into my other relationships, even my relationship with God. I sin, and I retreat; I cower; I try to earn forgiveness, and tend to keep that distance until I feel I have earned good graces again. But that is not who God is. God bestows His gift of forgiveness freely and wants us to run to it when we sin...when we need that gift the most! Even if we need forgiveness for the same thing multiple times. 

Even all of these years into my walk with the Lord, I still tend to look at God's love and grace and mercy on me as being controlled by a switch that I flip on and off depending on how good or bad I am. But, in the verse from Daniel, quoted above, God says that from the day I humbled myself before Him, He has heard me. From the first day...to today...always...the same...regardless. And, when He hears, He acts. Isn't that wonderful news?!?!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Yesterday, Part 3

(You may want to read the first two posts first...here and here.)

“We must regularly go to Scripture and ask God to train our minds and consciences to recognize what’s good and evil.” ~ Randy Alcorn

Shortly after lunch, I decided I needed a bit more soul feeding, so I opened my web browser and immediately found the quote above on my twitter feed. It fit so perfectly with the thoughts that swirled as I filled my Tervis Tumbler and caused my heart to cry out and God to put prayer and fasting at the top of my daily to do list. I smiled and stretched, raising my arms over my head as I let out a yawn. That yawn turned into praise. My hands, which were clenched into fists, unfurled and I thanked God for seeing me through thus far and for how good I felt and how good He was to me. This day was feeling like "the old days", the days when I rose early to read and pray, and the background track of my day was Piper and worship songs and quotes from Amy Carmichael or Elisabeth Elliot.

My knee-jerk response during this in-between time has been to try to get back there...to try to recreate those "good old days". I'd lay my quiet time materials out, set my alarm and will myself to get up and get about that old routine. Then the alarm would sound and I'd snooze and that routine never got off the ground. And, I felt more discouraged each and every time.

Fast-forward to today, to me, yearning for what was ... what was lost ... and ready to be done with what has replaced it.  Feeling like I need to look, sound, and act different. Like I need to shed this camo I've been wearing, these thoughts, these habits, these words that swirl around my head and heart and out of my mouth that make me nearly indistinguishable from anyone one else in the world who thinks its enough that they simply "aren't a bad person".

But, so you don't think I'm all "doom and gloom" over here, juxtaposed against these not so pretty or church-facey realities is this...a God who takes thought of me and promises to never leave me or forsake me, ever living to intercede for me, who is the voice behind me that says "this is the way, walk in it."

I may not look, sound or act very different now...But, God.
I may opt for "easy" all too often now...But, God.
I may feed my soul garbage far too much...But, God.
I may blend in more than I am a light...But, God.
I may have no idea how to really change any of that...But, God.
I may still want it to just magically change...But, God.
I may blog about this again and again before I really see a difference...But, God.

He heard my frustrated, emotional cry for help and He answered. This is my God. I have waited for Him...and He has come for me. I will never be the same.

Yesterday - Part 2

 Isaiah 26:12 - ...you have done for us all our works.

Since April, I’ve been pushing towards change. Pushing might be too strong a word. I’ve been meandering towards change? I’ve been walking in the direction of change…sometimes? Maybe a combination of the three? Certainly, there have been instances when I feel I have been pushing, straining, fighting, sweating, striving, working for change. I can look back on times when I didn’t want to work out but did; times when choices were put before me and I chose well; times when I had to physically, emotionally and spiritually will myself to keep running even though everything in me was screaming to stop. Perhaps, my perspective is skewed by my most recent generalities, but it seems those times of pushing have been too few and far between. Mostly, it seems, I just like things to be easy. I like to do what I want to do, and if I happen to want to go for a run or eat a salad instead of a burger or stop beating myself down with horrible thoughts, great…and if I don’t, well, I’m just going to go with that.

Yesterday morning, I sorta got “done” with “just going with” whatever I feel like doing. It all sort of hit me at once. The thoughts had been stirring around for a while, and then, while I was fixing my Tervis Tumbler of ice water it was as if all of the thoughts and feelings had the volume turned up full blast, drowning out all others. My various internal dialogues (what I needed to do to get out the door, what was waiting for me at work, what was on the agenda for the week, what I loved about my weekend, how badly my kitchen floor needed sweeping) all faded into the background and were silenced. The thoughts became louder, the emotion more pronounced and I remember verbally saying “Oh God, somethings gotta give here!” as tears formed in my eyes.

That strange, frustrated little seed of a prayer birthed a real one, a true heart cry, a desperate prayer for God to move, to change me, to help me to be free of all the crap that’s been clinging to me all these years…and that I’ve been clinging to…to finally help me lose the vestiges of how I dealt with life before I believed there was a God and that He cared for me and sent His Son to die for me and had a plan for my life.

The answer was simple: “fast and pray”.

My heart’s response was: “amen”.

Anyone who knows me well knows, I don’t fast. I “can’t” fast. I get migraines and most of them are caused by dietary triggers. Also…um…I like eating, a lot…FYI. So, as a result, I’ve fasted maybe 3 times in my life. None of them really went well. Ok, maybe one did. But, I didn’t think of any of that when my heart agreed with what God was saying. I said “amen” and was at peace.

That was Awesome Thing #1.

Awesome Thing #2 was, I didn’t have a specific agenda. I wasn’t thinking of all the ways this fast would benefit me…all the prayers that might finally be answered. I wasn’t looking at this fast as a magic wand that would miraculously make everything all better so I could have the things I wanted. This fast was about getting all that stood between me and intimacy with God and real freedom out of the way. Period. What He might do from there, at what pace, in what specific order, didn’t even enter my mind.

Instead of listening to the blues station I’d been listening to regularly, I tuned into a worship station. When the first hunger pangs hit at 7:45a, my response was “I know this isn’t going to be easy. It isn’t supposed to be.” Then I listened to John Piper’s poem on the Book of Job…twice. My head started to ache a bit, so I drank some more water and put on some worship music. My lunch was a blog post by John Piper entitled “What Your Soul Eats”. The answer: “Hope”. I pondered on that a bit and also on what I feed my soul too much of: gluttony, vain imagination, the images and news and gossip I entertain and even seek out, music that speaks to what I see as lack in my life and makes me crave what I do not have even more. 

"All is permissible but not all is profitable.”

My “dessert” was the first chapter of Elisabeth Elliot’s book “Discipline – A Glad Surrender”. This thought - ”the closer one comes to the center of things, the better able he is to observe the connections.” – made me think about a documentary on Jupiter I’d watched the night before. A scientist said, if Jupiter were not the type of planet it is and positioned where it is, earth would likely not exist or have existed long. Because of Jupiter’s size, position, mass, and gravitational force, it  deflects meteors and asteroids from hitting earth and/or makes them much smaller when they do. To think that all we see when we look up into the night sky, and all we can’t see, was placed there with a purpose, a role to play in enabling and sustaining life on this small rock we call home, is just amazing. To think that I can look up and see millions upon millions of reasons to believe and love God more, while others see millions of reasons not to makes my heart ache.

By the time my lunch break was over, I was quite hungry and my headache was slightly more than a twinge, but I felt amazing. Invigorated. Refreshed. Excited, even. That was Awesome Thing #3.

Now, to Awesome Thing #4 – when I broke the fast just before leaving work, I told a friend, briefly, about the day. As I shared, it dawned on me…my singleness didn’t come up at all. Whenever I had fasted or set aside times to pray in earnest, my singleness was always #1 on my list of issues I wanted God to address during that time. If I’m honest, my singleness…or more to the point, my desire to be otherwise…dominated my time. I wanted a word, a kernel of hope that marriage would happen, even a “yes” or “no” to the question “will I ever get married?” But on this day, during this fast, this time of prayer and meditation, the only item on my agenda was getting my heart and life right with God. The specifics of that were His deal, not mine.

Finally, Awesome Thing #5 was sharing all of this, and more, with my sweet Canadian friend and having her think it was all awesome, too.

As the verse at the start of this post illustrates, I didn't do this...but, I didn't NOT do it, either. God birthed the desire for this fast and He made it happen. Scripture says that God works in us, both to will (want, desire) and do good works. Wanting and doing. All God...and also all us. Those words there are verbs. Verbs indicate action...and without action on both sides of the spiritual coin (God's and ours) there would be no good works...this blog post would not be possible.

 I’ll share more willing and doing awesomeness in Part 3. Don’t touch that dial! ;)

Yesterday - Part 1

A casual observer or moderately consistent follower of this blog might be pretty impressed with me right about now. They have a sort of bird's eye view, seeing the overall lay of the land, the big, general picture. I'm running. I'm losing weight and must be exercising self-control in my eating. I'm riding bikes and playing tennis. I'm posting more often and sound more upbeat. But, the casual observer and blog follower doesn't get to see the daily, doesn't get to see or hear what goes on in my mind and my heart. Even people who see me regularly see the weight loss, the smile on my face, and think I must be doing awesome. 

Man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart.

Generally speaking, I am doing way better than I was even a few short months ago. But, "awesome" is not really a word I would use to describe where I am. Am I exercising consistently? Yes. Am I exercising more self-control with my eating than I was previously? Yes. Am I losing weight and feeling better? Yes. Am I where I need to be where it counts? No.

I am profoundly grateful for the changes that are being wrought in me, but I am also profoundly aware of the things that are still the same, of the ways I compromise or justify indulging in sinful thoughts and actions. Am I moving forward? Yes and No. Yes, the numbers on the scale are going down. Yes, I'm still running. Yes, I am eating better some of the time. But, I'm also still jumping at opportunities to indulge my flesh, give into sinful cravings and just plain be lazy. Who doesn't, right? 

Its true, we all do what we don't want to do or want to do what we shouldn't at times, but I'm not talking about incidental and fleeting things. I'm talking about areas of bondage, areas of habit that have pretty much always been a part of my life...things I've prayed about, wrestled with, fallen into and repented of so many times I can't even count. Thorns in my flesh that I know need not remain...thorns that are only there because I like them too much to pluck them out once and for all.

Before you think I'm about to launch into a self-help thing, here...I'm not. I know, clearly, that I can't "just" pluck the thorns out. Only God can do that. But, I also know that I am called to exercise self-control, to train my body/mind like an athlete, to submit to God's word. These are all purposeful, effort-full things. They don't just magically happen. God gives us the desire and the ability to do them. But, we must remember that there's a verb in there and action is also required. 

"But, I have tried and I failed!" You might say...I might say...I have said. To that I would say, no attempt to honor and obey God is failure. The result may not be what we want to see, but there will be fruit. 

"But, I can't force a move of the spirit" You might say...I might say...I have said. No, we can't force God to move...but God is never unwilling to meet us, to empower us, to help us when we cry out to Him. I would argue that our problem is not God's slowness to empower us, to do a spiritual work in us, but our own unwillingness to let go of what is standing in the way...to love His ways more than our own...to love what He calls "good" more than what we like.

"But, I don't want to get ahead of God!" You might say...I might say...I have said. To that, I would say, though God does use us and work in us and remain faithful to us in spite of our sin and even works our sin and failings and failures for good...I firmly believe that He would not have us remain in them for one more second, one more minute, one more hour, one more day, one more week, one more year (whichever applies to you). I know there have been countless times I've felt conviction, a desire in my heart to stop, to change, to be different and yet continued on my way. I believe in those times I chose to walk past a way of escape that was prepared for me, past God's loving hand extended to care for, correct and change me.

 With all of these thoughts swirling around in my head and my heart yesterday morning, I cried out to God. He heard. He met me. He did something that wasn't just a bit better than what had been...He did something awesome! I'll share that in my next post. Stay tuned!

Monday, October 11, 2010

What our soul eats...

This was very timely for me today...I'll tell you why tomorrow. But, in the meantime, enjoy and be encouraged by this blog post from John Piper:

Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. (Deuteronomy 8:3,Matthew 4:4)
When our bodies need energy, we know that we need to eat. So we eat a variety of foods, some better and some worse sources of energy (and bodily health, but more on that in my next post). Our body then digests these foods and converts them into energy and we can keep going. No food, no energy. No energy, no going on.
This physical phenomenon mirrors a spiritual reality. Our souls also run on a kind of energy, and so require a sort of food that they convert into that energy.
So what do our souls eat?
Before we answer that question, let’s first ask this: what is the energy that animates the soul? Answer: hope.
Our souls are hope machines. We consume hope every day. And when we run low on hope we start feeling discouraged, even desperate.
All the wonderful things that have happened to us in the past will not fuel our hope if our future looks bleak. We can be grateful for the past. But we must have hope for the future in order to keep going.
But what about faith? Isn’t faith what keeps us going? Well, yes, because you really can’t have hope without faith. They are inextricably linked. But faith is distinct from hope (1 Corinthians 13:13). Faith is the confidence we have that our source of hope is trustworthy (Hebrews 11:1). Hope is the energy of the soul.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Riding Bikes!

Today, I did something I haven't done in over 25 years...I rode a bike.

As it turns out, riding a bike is, just like...as they say..."riding a bike". You never forget how...no matter how many years or pounds get in the way.

I'd been wanting to buy a bike for a while, and decided I'd give it to myself as a sort of weight loss milestone reward. I'd set  "bike' as my reward for losing 100 pounds, but, well, I'm impatient and figured, why not try now? Bike riding is good cardio and easier on my hips than jogging. So, bright and early this morning, after going for a brisk walk/jog, I drove to Walmart in all my sweaty glory, ready to check out the bikes.

I went hoping to buy a cute pink cruiser I saw online, but that one wasn't available. The choices before me were: an aqua and brown cruiser, a purple cruiser and a red cruiser. Since I hadn't been on a bike in a quarter of a century, I decided I probably should make sure I could physically ride a bike before I purchased one...so, with some help from the cashier in sporting goods, I gave the bikes a test drive in the store.

It took me a while to get it going, to get my coordination coordinated and actually get moving, but, soon enough, I was cruising through the aisle while the cashier looked on.

She'll likely be sharing that story at dinner tonight.

In the end, I settled on this beauty...

I decided I didn't particularly care for the aqua bike and the purple one was too "pre-teen.

The cashier listened and nodded and at times chuckled as I deliberated aloud.

She also chuckled when I said I wanted a basket "so I can feel like I'm in the Wizard of Oz."

I could totally fit a puppy in there, but more than likely, you'll just find my keys, phone and Turvis tumbler in there. I don't have a puppy. My landlord won't allow it. That makes me sad. On the bright side, the only hair I need to vacuum up is my own.

Maybe, I'll pretend the bike is a Great Dane and name it Thor or Muffin or something.

Or, I'll just ride my bike like a normal person...and if I happen to give it a cute name, so be it.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Why I don't want to be The Biggest Loser...

I recently started watching The Biggest Loser. Apparently, there's a law that says fat people have to watch the show because every season someone would suggest it to me or stare at me in disbelief when they discovered that I was not a viewer. Finally, my resistance and rebellion wore off and curiosity got the better of me. As I mentioned in a previous post, I cried...lots... through the first episode. But, now that we are into the actual competition part of the show, my tears are less frequent. Mostly, I just sit there wondering, "what were these people thinking when they signed up for this?" I guess they each have their reasons for auditioning for the show, but here is a list of reasons why I never would:

1. I don't need more shame and humiliation in my life: I put a great deal of time, energy, thought and emotion into avoiding being seen in all my flabby glory. There is nothing that would compel me to voluntarily walk around in a sports bra and spandex pants. Squeezing through aisles, not fitting in waiting room chairs, sticking out too far from the table in restaurants, people either staring or averting their eyes when I  pass by...that's humiliation enough for me, thanks.

2. I will not starve myself thin: Basically, that is what is happening on The Biggest Loser. Women are allowed 1200 calories. Men get 1800 calories. And then, they work out for 4-7 hours a day...plus challenges. One man recently lost 41 lbs in a week. That means he had a calorie deficit of -20,500 a day. He consumed 1800 a day. I don't see how that is healthy or sane. A doctor would tell him to consume at least 3500 a day if he was also exercising for one hour daily. I'm shocked that there haven't been more trips to the ER for these folks.

3. I won't make my health about competition: As a woman in America, I am confronted daily with images, opinions, standards, measurements and comparisons that tell me if I am not below a healthy weight I'm not beautiful, I'm not worth anything. As a single woman, in my own head and heart there is a consistent compare/contrast thing going on, stacking me up next to the other single women around me, telling me where I'm superior and where I fail to measure up. I don't need more reason to feel like I'm competing.

4. I want my success to be based on my success: When contestants step on the scale and see their number, they aren't seeing their number, they are seeing how their number relates to the other contestants. Whether I lose 1 pound a week or 6, I need to know and believe that I am moving forward. That every pound lost is a victory.

5. I want the changes I make in my eating and exercise habits to be sustainable: Read interviews with former Biggest Loser contestants and they will tell you, the life they live on the Ranch is not real life. It is not possible in real life. None of us have nutritionists holding our food hostage and dispensing it in modest portions. None of us have 7 hours a day to be forced to workout. We have jobs and friends and family and church functions and responsibilities and concerts to go to and tv shows to watch. On top of that, no one can live in starvation mode for the rest of their life. No one should. This is called anorexia or exercise bulimia when it happens anywhere but the Biggest Loser Ranch. What does work is, knowing what you burn and what you can consume to burn at a consistent and healthy rate. What does work is a regular routine of exercise. What does work is a system that fits into your life and allows you to live it and learn to make good choices and set priorities.

6. I don't want to set myself up for failure again: Any radical, ridiculously restrictive and intense diet plan is going to bump up against reality and, in most cases people are going to find themselves in a place where they can't sustain that extreme anymore. Their motivation is replaced by frustration and they cave. That happened to me when I did a low carb diet. Sure, I lost 100 pounds in less than a year, but I couldn't live that way long-term and I crashed and burned and gained all of the weight back.

7. I want to honor God: I want to learn to be wise, to care for my body and also enjoy the foods God created without sinning. I want my motivation to be free from competition or selfish ambition or wanting to measure up to the malnourished women plastered all over creation. I want to be free from the bondage of food and image and fear. I'm not going to find that when I'm weekly forced to compete with and knock down someone I should be helping and encouraging and happy for.

With that said, will I continue to watch the show? Probably. Though I don't agree with their methods, it is inspiring to watch these folks push themselves to the limit and struggle and fight to reach a goal. More to the point, it is inspiring to watch people that look like me push themselves to the limit and struggle and fight to reach their goal. It makes my 30-45 minute jog look like a piece of cake. ;)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

But, God...

It happens, invariably. I'm listening to a friend, frustrated or overwhelmed with life, sharing all the reasons they feel that way, and I say it. I wait until they take a breath or have poured out all the yuck they needed to, or I just interject when I feel it necessary. The response to my interjection is varied. Some sigh in resignation, some cry, some get a little peeved. But, regardless of the initial response, the truth settles in, light begins to shine at the end of the crappy tunnel they are in and, they find fresh strength for their journey. What is it that I say, you ask? Well, just two words: "But, God..."

That simple "But, God..." says more than anything else could. Oprah, Dr. Phil, you self-help authors, step aside. "But, God..." covers it. Is your marriage in trouble? A cherished relationship causing you pain? Is your child wayward? Are you in financial trouble? Is the latest diagnosis grim? Do you feel like your circumstances will simply never improve?

"But, God..."

He still is. Still on His throne. Still sovereign over all. Still promising to never leave or forsake you. Still promising to work all things together for good. Still saying "all" means "ALL"...yes, even that thing you're thinking it doesn't mean right now.

And, it means the things I think it doesn't mean right now, too.

Though I am pretty faithful to say "But, God..." to my friends when they need it, I don't say it to myself near enough.

Like, when I have a running injury and think that it means I can never run again and, thus, won't be able to complete this weigh loss journey once and for all...

Or, when I eat that meal that I probably shouldn't and think that means I will never really be free from gluttony...

And, when the scale doesn't move like I think it should and I think that means that my hopes for future happiness are dashed...

Or when that guy that I think it pretty wonderful doesn't seem to care or notice...

And, when I can literally feel my ovaries shriveling...

Or, when I've sinned that way, again...

And, feel how cold and hard my heart is when I read God's Word...

Or, spend another week mostly alone...

And, I have no photography jobs...

I need to tell myself "But, God..." The God who is, who hears me, who, more than that, inclines his ear to my supplications, who takes thought of me, who's thoughts toward me are precious, who gave His son for me, a Son who is, at this very moment interceding for me, who is the faithful God, from everlasting to everlasting...that God's got this...every bit of it.

My circumstances, my failings, my disappointments, my running injuries, are no surprise to Him and are each a step forward in the direction of what He's called me to. Even when they don't look like it. Even when I don't like it. Even when I don't understand it. Why God would use my sin or my failing to move me closer to what He has for me, I don't know. But, that he would use my sin to bring about good in and for me, is just plain awesome. Now, if I can just remember that, and remember to say "But, God..." the next time I am tempted to  fret and script out the next 50 years of heartache, that would be pretty awesome, too.