Monday, August 25, 2014

Prayer: Is It Necessary?

Prayer. What is prayer? Why do we pray? Is it absolutely necessary for a relationship with God? defines prayer like this:


a devout petition to God or an object of worship.
a spiritual communion with God or an object of worship, as in supplication, thanksgiving, adoration, or confession.
Notice the words "devout petition" and "spiritual communion". These words indicate a deep, fundamental connection that is difficult for our human minds to comprehend. I guess the closest thing we have here on earth to that would be the bond created when we marry (not that I would know much about that, but my parents have been pretty open about their relationship so I probably know more than some).

The point is, prayer is personal. It's the only way that we can commune with a being that is so out of our depth. You know, I hear a lot about how important reading your Bible is, but very little about prayer. Don't get me wrong: I do believe that Bible study is important, and I've stressed it to my campers more than any other thing, I think. But that's only one way communication. It's listening, but what about talking? What about pouring our hearts out until we feel as though they were bleeding words and emotions?

Jesus understood the importance of prayer. There are many recorded instances of him talking to God as though He were in the very room with him. And when Jesus prayed there was nothing half-hearted or flippant in his words. They were sincere, intense, and open. Just think of his prayers when Lazarus was in the tomb (John 11:41,42) or when he was about to be crucified (Matthew 26:39). Or even while he was being crucified (Luke 23:34,46). If you haven't read them in a while, take some time to read those passages. Now compare your own prayers to his. Can you honestly say that yours are similar? Are they intense? Open? Sincere? Do they resound with your love for God? If you answered yes to all of these, then good for you. If you answered no, then welcome to the club. I think we all have a thing or two to learn about that.

But that's okay because Jesus himself teaches us how to pray a personal prayer- to hold a conversation similar to what Adam and Eve did in the Garden.
"And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this: "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." (Matthew 6:5-15)
Pretty cool, huh? Not only can we learn how to hear from God (Scripture), but we can learn how to talk with Him. In the passage above Jesus is trying to tell us that we can be personal and real with our Heavenly Father. Everything said there can be expounded upon with specific problems, requests, and repentance from our own lives.

Without prayer the danger is that we might become Deist: believing that God exists, but that He doesn't really care about our day-to-day lives. "Prayer doesn't change anything," we say. "He's going to do what He wants whether I pray to Him or not." And you're right. God is going to do His will despite our "interference". But think back to the Old Testament. How many times did God wait to save His people until they cried out to Him? Was He not planning on saving His people anyway? Then why wait? And what about the New Testament instances where Paul or one of the other apostles prayed over someone and then God healed them? You know, sometimes I think God waits on us to pray before He acts because He actually likes to hear from us. But maybe I'm just imagining things. I guess you'll have to read the Scriptures for yourself and make up your own mind on that subject.

Lastly, is prayer absolutely necessary for a relationship with God? I guess my only defense on that point would be that Christ taught us how to do it, so it must be. In the Bible we meet so many differing characters, but those that are truly following God pray- a lot. Just think about Daniel.





And besides that, think about this: In life our human relationships take work. They take intentional communication. So why wouldn't a relationship with a God who designed us in his "image" require the same intentionality?

So how do you practice being intentional and personal in your relationship with God? Is your prayer life healthy or is there something you could do to make it better? What's holding you back from that deep communion? Do you even want it?

Think about it.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Traveling Solo: My Little International Adventure

So I have people wanting to hear in detail how my trip from Romania to Ohio went. Here's the shortened version:
The drive from Hunedoara to Timisoara consisted of Ioana (my Romanian bestie) and I sitting next to each other while giggling over old memories, private jokes, and emoting to Frozen songs. (Our other three friends, Alyssa, and my parents thought we were nuts, I think.) The picture above is our second selfie attempt because the first one had me sporting a lovely double chin, which made us both giggle some more. (And yes, it was really dark.)

After leaving the house at around two AM, we arrived at the airport with over an hour to spare before my 6:25 flight. I'm afraid we did procrastinate a little with the goodbyes, so many photos were taken and hugs given. (I'm totally fine with the hugs, but pictures at that hour?! And with my messy hair? Goodness!)

Just before going through security, Ioana asked, "Are you ready to admit that you are a cyborg?" (I previously went to Scotland and set off three out of four scanners.) I replied, "No, but if I do set off the scanners this time I will." Then I immediately set off the scanner. While the nice Romanian lady patted me down, I couldn't help but grin. Yeah, cyborg.

While standing in line for the flight, I shot up a prayer to God. "Lord," I prayed, "I want this to be an adventure, even though I have never flown internationally on my own." Then something cool happened. I heard English with American accents! 

The guys were talking about Jesus and extreme sports. I didn't want to eavesdrop, but I just couldn't help it. When one of them left for his flight, I found my opportunity and asked them what they were in Romania for. They told me that they were teaching people around the world how to do extreme sports with church youth. Totally neat. They got on my flight but sat so far behind me that I didn't see them again. 

My next stop was Germany. It was so foggy that we landed late and my next flight was late. Thankfully, I found my gate an hour before, although I was a little confused because the paper said Newark New Jersey and the gate said New York. I was then informed that I was going to the right place in Jersey that was in New York. Talk about confusing. Oh, and the body scanner? I set that off, too. Hello, drug test.

The flight to Newark actually arrived early. That was a nice surprise. The landing though... I honestly was wondering if the pilot had ever landed before. The whole thing bounced and vibrated so bad that I was watching the roof of the plane ripple like rough ocean waves. Crazy. I praised Jesus when we finally came to a stop.

Newark was nice. It wasn't the size of most of the airports I arrive in, but it seemed to be more streamlined and efficient. I hand-transferred my bags smoothly and made it through customs without a hitch. The border officer even welcomed me back home. And then I immediately got a mango Jamba Juice. :D

Unfortunately, my last flight was to arrive an hour later than I had calculated, so I really needed to contact my friend who was picking me up. Sadly, you had to pay to use the internet, but by some miraculous grace, I accidentally connected to Facebook. I managed to hold a conversation with her and a few other people who were concerned about me before intentionally signing off so that I would stop mooching off their wi-fi. Then I sat down by the gate and, while I was playing my DS, felt eyes on me. And it wasn't a pleasant sensation. I knew it was the guy across from me, but I didn't want to look at him. But after ten agonizing minutes, I had to look. And, yes, he was looking at me with a strange smile. His friend was trying to keep his attention, but the guy was distracted. The first thoughts that went through my mind weren't pleasant or encouraging, so I decided it was best to remove myself from that environment. I think it was about then that my gate was switched to the one adjacent, so I got up and sat down in front of this lovely old black couple. They were so cute! I fell in love with them immediately and wanted to talk to them, but they were acting so shy that I just couldn't think of an opening. The wife nudged her husband, pointing at my laptop sticker (which has the first verse of Amazing Grace on it). I knew they wanted to ask me about it and then it occurred to me: I'd ask them what time it was. That was just the opening they needed. So we had a brief, nice chat. (Actually, that might have happened before the Wi-Fi incident, but it's hard to keep track sometimes the order of events.)

So, finally, I made it to Ohio. To be honest, it was the most amazing sight I'd seen in a long time. I think Ohio is one of the most beautiful places on earth. And I'm so happy to be able to spend the year here! But be forewarned: I'm booked for the summer. So forgive me if I can't write often. I'll make it up to you all when it's over.

Until then, I hope you enjoyed my little adventure. I hope I didn't leave anything out.... Oh, did I mention that I set off every scanner on the trip? I probably did. But it bears repeating.

So the main idea of this story is:

Yes, I'm a cyborg.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

An Observation On Hypocrisy

Hypocrisy. Wikipedia defines it as
 "the claim or pretense of holding beliefs, feelings, standards, qualities, opinions, behaviors, virtues, motivations, or other characteristics that one does not in actual fact hold. It is the practice of engaging in the same behavior or activity for which one criticizes another.In Moral psychology, it is the failure to follow one’s own expressed moral rules and principles."
Human beings are really good at hypocrisy. And it's not just something that unbelievers have a problem with, but Christians as well. How often have you heard someone say, "The Bible says X is a sin," but you know that they do that very thing when they think no one is looking? Let's face it: Society is stuck in the mire of hypocrisy. It's a disease that is often misdiagnosed as "parental prerogative" or "higher standards". The problem with this is three fold:

  1. People no longer trust each other.
  2. Their standards change with their life experience instead of with the Bible.
  3. Teenagers can't take it anymore and give up on the church and their "parent's religion".
Let's call it what it is, dear readers. When you say one thing, yet you do something totally different, that's hypocrisy.

In my own life I have experienced the detrimental effects of this state of being. When I was pretty young, we were visiting our missions training school, The Master's Mission, and we met a really neat family. Their oldest son was about my age and since we were the only ones in that age group, we spent a lot of time playing and watching our siblings together. He was a nice kid, but had a temper and was constantly picking on his siblings. Toward the end of our stay, I couldn't take it anymore. While he was picking on one of the younger kids, I told him off. I got mad, he got mad, and that was the end of our friendship. Many years later, after God got a hold on and shook some sense into me, I realized what I had done. The way he acted toward his brother and sisters was how I acted toward mine. His temper was just as bad as mine (actually, mine was worse). I began to wonder why I had done that. Then it hit me. When he was picking on his brother and sisters, I saw myself. I saw how badly I treated my own siblings. But instead of humbling myself and changing, I held him to a higher standard, then punished him for not meeting it. Oh, how my heart breaks to write this! 

If I had just realized that my real problem was myself, then I could have saved a friendship. I could have saved myself and others much heartache both then and later down the road. I could have nothing to regret.

But hypocrisy is blinding.

So next time someone says one thing and does another, ask yourself, "Why does it bother me?" Search your own heart to see if what is really bothering you is your own double-mindedness. Only then can you ask, "Do they even realize that they are doing it?" and help them. 

"You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye." -Matthew 7:5

Where are you playing the hypocrite? Think about it. 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Life In Art

I've always thought that life was like a painting. Each person has their own and they are all unique. Some people's have primarily dark colors, others have mostly bright ones, but each one has a mixture of both. No one's life is either all happy or all sad. No matter what you may be feeling right now, at some point in time you experienced the full range of emotion.

Veduta Di Piazza Della Signoria by Carlo Canella

Emotions. Good and bad situations. Think of them as the colors in your painting. Each one produces a different shape, shade, or effect to bring about the beauty that is your whole life. And it is beautiful. The only problem is that we as human beings only get to see one stroke at a time. But God sees the whole picture.

Action painting by VenusVanity
Everyone seems to fall into one of two categories: A Veduta or an action painting. For those of us who are not fine art connoisseurs, a Veduta is a highly detailed painting (usually of a city scape). An action painting, also known as gestural abstraction, is one that has been created by dribbling, smearing, or splashing paint "randomly" onto a canvas. See where I'm going with this?

Some people's paintings are so detailed, the brushstrokes so fine, that we are drawn to analyse them. We step up close and pore over every little action, word, and circumstance in their lives, reveling in all the moments that combined together to form the whole. It's kind of like they have tiny masterpieces within the larger one. On the other hand, there are paintings that, when seen up close, look messy, uncoordinated, and make no sense. Their lives are just not what we would call successful. In fact, we would rather skip over those people and move onto the Vedutas like Steve Jobs or Billy Graham. It's not until we take a step back and see the painting as a whole that we realize....

It's beautiful.

It's unique.

No one will be able to reproduce it ever again in this life.

And those are the types of people who sometimes are looked down upon or are pitied. People think, "Their life is a mess! Someone should totally grab a paintbrush and fix it for them."

But you know what? Harriet Tubman's life was an action painting and she smuggled hundreds of souls to freedom. So was Gladys Alward's- she couldn't even graduate from theology school! And yet the things she did to further Christ and save a hundred orphans from the Japanese invasion? They were amazing.

So, yes, up close your life may not seem glamorous or even put together right, but from far away....

You're life is breath-taking.

Never forget:

You are a masterpiece.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Education: The Timothy Method

You know, I've never felt like I was prepared for life. I guess I kind of was, but I didn't feel like it. It seems like I got a crash course in life and was told, "Now, go get it." Sometimes I wonder if there was a better way to learn. Like apprenticeships.

Think about it. Way back in colonial times they couldn't go to schools to learn their trades. Smithing was taught by the smiths, sailing by the sailors, altering clothes by the tailors, etc. It was so simple then: you watched someone do what they did, practiced at it until you got good enough to sell what you made, then after a few years of working under them, you were told you were now a smithy or sailor or tailor. It required muscle memory. It was hands on. It was simple.

What have we done by institutionalizing education? Education is now a business taught by people who teach a general education because that's what they were taught to do. A child who wants to become a plumber doesn't get courses in plumbing, but they do get the periodic table of the elements. They memorize them and a lot of other things that they will promptly forget as soon as possible to make room for their next class or test. We are raising our children to become a generation of passive learners. They absorb, spit it back out, and never save a copy to their mental hard drives. It's no wonder that many college students still don't know how to use proper punctuation or spell. It's no wonder that we have to repeat instructions three or four times before they remember how to do something.

I'm not saying that they shouldn't learn the periodic table or other "nonessential" things, but I am saying that our detached, unemotional way of teaching doesn't seem to be getting the job done. Let's face it: many students don't want to learn and many teachers don't want to teach. Children leave school with the idea that the point of working is to make enough money that they no longer have to work. And that's wrong. We need people who want to work because they enjoy what they are doing and want to contribute to their community. We need people who would work at their chosen occupation even if they only made $8.00 an hour because they love it. (Even if it's plumbing.)

Maybe our society is too far gone. Maybe we have too many rules and regulations to do things differently. I don't know. But I hope that maybe someday soon things will change. Maybe someday we will raise up a generation of Timothy's.

Young Timothy's education was a pretty thorough one. In Acts chapter sixteen alone we see many ways in which Paul prepared his little disciple to go out into the mission field. Take a look at Paul's steps in Timothy's apprenticeship:
  • Interest and invitation (Acts 16:1-3)
  • Instruction in wisdom (v. 3)
  • Hands on work (v.4-5)
  • Lesson in listening to the Spirit (v.6-9)
  • Demonstration of obedience to the Spirit (v. 10-12)
  • Lesson in dealing with differing demographics (v.13-14)
  • Demonstration of God's/Jesus' power (v.16-18, 25-26)
  • Demonstration of suffering for the sake of Christ (v. 22-24)
Notice how Paul took him under his wing. Notice how sometimes Timothy was involved in the lessons/work and sometimes he was just to sit back and watch the demonstration. Notice how detailed and involved the preparation for his "work" was.

Now, obviously, Timothy still felt a little insecure/ill prepared by the time Paul wrote his first letter to Timothy, otherwise he wouldn't have said things like "Let no one despise you for your youth" (4:12). But I bet he was a whole lot more prepared than most kids of this generation will be.

So what can we do to improve education today? Did you have a "Paul" in your life to help guide you along? Do you think the current "generalized" system of learning is effective? 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Conviction: The Loss of Dignity

So, dear Reader, today has been tough. Well, to be honest, most of it hasn't, but I had another tough moment. And guess who it involved? My brother. If you guessed right, you get a gold star.

Little brothers are like... the puppies of the human world. When they want to be, they're cute, funny, and sweet. But most of the time it seems like they just make too much noise, play a little too rough, and need a bath. I'm not saying that I don't like my brother. That's not it at all. He's just... a little brother. If you have one, you know what I mean.

As I usually do, this morning during my prayers I asked for peace, love, and patience. I'd been doing pretty well with him, so I didn't really think much about the prayer or put too much fervency in it. A half hour later he came tromping down the stairs in his sweats (the ones my sister and I threaten to burn every so often) and opened the fridge. I made an off-hand comment about how we had left-overs. He responded with how he was going to eat a sandwich. I replied a little more insistently that the left-overs really needed eaten. By this time I was a little annoyed that he wasn't listening to me, so when he replied rather roughly that he was going to eat a sandwich, I lost it. The manner in which he replied, in my mind, was unacceptable, so I immediately went into a tirade about... well, you don't really need to know. Suffice it to say, I am not proud of my response.

My brother is the only person who can get under my skin like that. Maybe you have someone in your life who does, too. Maybe not a little brother, but someone. You get along just fine with everyone else but them. You don't know what it is about them, but it's something. Everyone else can walk all over you, and you'll forgive the offense fairly easily, but if they attempt to do so... watch out! It's Go Time. And then you find yourself eating Humble Pie.

This morning I came to realize that not only was I sinning against God and my brother with my reaction, but I was doing something that no man or woman should allow themselves to do:

I lowered my dignity.

I don't mean snobbishness or self-importance. I mean dignity. The type of dignity that Proverbs 31:25 talks about.
Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. describes it as:
Bearing, conduct, or speech indicative of self-respect or appreciation of the formality or gravity of an occasion or situation. Nobility or elevation of character; worthiness.
I lowered my dignity. The very dignity that God wants of all his children. The dignity that says, "I am a child of the King, and He made me in his image, and I will respect that image." Every time we stoop to the point of lowering that dignity, we don't let God work. When our conduct toward someone is bad, we tell them that they, too, do not need to aspire to the dignity that God wants them to have. We give them permission to be less than they could be.

We are children of the King; nobility. And we should act like it.

So, to top all of that off, immediately after my altercation with my brother, my eyes landed on 2 Timothy 2:23,24.
Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil,
Boy, did I feel chastised.

Now, don't worry. I asked my brother's forgiveness for my abominable behavior. And I added those verses to my memory verse list. Needless to say, I think I have learned my lesson. Now, whether I make the same mistake again, I guess we'll see. But God's patient, and I know He'll give me the chance to work that part of my character out. He never gives up on His children.

He is a God of second chances, after all.

So what about you? Who's the difficult person in your life? How have you found is the best way to keep your dignity during conflict? I look forward to your answers!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Thoughts By A Missionary Kid

I am a missionary kid. MK's are not like other children. We see things that kids our age and older may never see- abject poverty, people who are hurting in almost every way imaginable, and religious/nationalistic prejudice against other Christians/Americans, our families, and ourselves. We have counseled people younger and older than we are and know when our family's funds are a little short in any particular month. From very young ages, we are forced to grow up.

When we go back to our mother countries, people flock around us. (It can be overwhelming to go from servant to rock star overnight.) They ask all kinds of questions that we gladly respond to with half answers because deep down we know what it is they want to hear. They want the funny stories and the adventure. But the one thing they don't want to address is the emotional toll that seeing the world like that has taken. They don't know how to help or deal with it. But it's okay: we don't either.

People expect a lot from you when you're a missionary's kid. The adults all want you to be perfect examples of Jesus to their children and to always be on your best behavior. The other kids just want you to be a source of entertainment. The first places more pressure on an already pressured kid, but the second can be even worse. We don't want to entertain you- we already did that for the native kids. We don't want to be laughed at for not understanding your slang because we already know we are behind the cultural curve. You don't need to rub it in. We just want to be your friend.

And through all of that, we go to church service after church service, listen to our parents give you the same presentation they gave the last fifty times, meet yet another hundred people we know we will never be able to remember even if we want to, and allow ourselves to get attached to you even if it's just for the day. But you know what? It's okay. Because we really do appreciate you. We see how much you care about what our parents are doing in another country. We see how much love you put into your special meatloaf. We see that, behind your kids' jokes and the craziness, they just want us to like them. We see the pain and joy that you try to hide but almost imperceptibly flickers in your eyes. Because that's what we were raised to do: to love people. To help them. We can't switch it off.

From what I've heard, many MK's follow in their parents' footsteps. Others settle down and start families. And then there are those of us who can't seem to find a direction. To the outsider, we look like we're lost and just spinning our wheels. Well, guess what? We are lost. We can't find a direction. We're so conflicted between the two worlds of our birth and our ministry, that when we try to choose one or the other, we don't seem to fit. We bump about, trying different things, getting one job, then another, but we're like square pegs in a round hole. I truly believe that for us who experience this, we understand better than anyone what the Bible means when it says that we are not of this world; we were made for a heavenly country. Unfortunately, until then we have to live here on earth. We have to fight through the uncomfortable fit to find a place that's a little more comfortable.

If you ever find yourself wondering what on earth we are doing with our lives, think on what I've just told you. If deep down you think we should be moving on, leaving our families, finding spouses, think about this: how can we move on from something that makes us who we are? How can we figure out what we want to do with our lives when our lives have been spent pouring ourselves into others? How can we let go of the only people who know exactly what we've been through? And how can we explain the depth of our experiences and who we are to another person, when we can't even explain it to ourselves? Please, don't think that I am trying to make excuses for not moving on with our lives. Just know this: we missionary kids are doing the best that we can. Isn't that enough?

So thank you to all of those who show us that we are loved and wanted. Just by taking the time to listen to our rambling and pray for us, you minister to our souls. And you mean more to a MK than you will ever know.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Health: When You Can't Even Look At Food

Hey, guys! So, since my last "health" post was such a big hit with all of you, I thought I would do another one. And this one is about the one thing that plagues many young people in their twenties. Can you guess? Stomach problems!

People in their twenties to thirties have a lot of stress placed upon them. Let's face it. College and new careers take a huge toll on us mentally and physically. And one of the symptoms of this stress is stomach problems. I'm not talking the "I ate too much" or "I'm constipated" or "I've got an ulcer" problems. I'm talking about the "I look at food and think I'm going to throw up" problem.

For many of us, we have way more stress than we know what to deal with and having a sick stomach that doesn't want to be nourished doesn't help. Then, when we try to let go of all that anxiety, guess what happens? BAM! Stomach problem sends us on a wild ride again. You may not even have anxiety before this starts to develop, but once you feel nausea that you can't control, that anxiety rushes in with a vengeance.

Having stomach problems at our age is totally normal. I didn't find that out until a much-needed visit to my family doctor. It was kind of embarrassing at first to tell her that I hated the sight, smell, texture, and even thought of an increasing number of my normal foods (it started with hot dogs, by the way). Up until that moment I had been told that I was developing an eating disorder and it was wrong. It was wrong for me to be full after ten bites of soup. It was wrong to smell eggs and not be able to choke them down. But instead of telling me it was all in my head like a lot of people seemed to think it was, the doctor listened intently. And then she said two words that sounded way too simple:

Sugar. Fiber.

And you know what? She was right! I started increasing my Wheaties and my dark chocolate M&M's and felt soooo much better. (To be honest, I knew she was talking about natural sugar and fiber, but the chocolate kicked in faster.) Less than a month later, I was back to eating anything and everything I wanted. There is hope! (Although hot dogs are still gross.)

Recently, I started developing problems again. This time, though, I decided to do some research and discover a healthier alternative. But I wanted something that I could munch on throughout the day and not feel like it was assaulting my stomach. And here's what I came up with:

  • 1 banana (for sweetness)
  • 1 apple (for lots of fiber)
  • 1 carrot (for more fiber)
  • 1/4 cup bran flakes (for a different type of fiber)
  • Splash of milk (to help break down the bran flakes in your stomach)
  • Any other fruit you like to help tame the flavor (optional)
  • Ice cubes (optional)
In the beginning I just did the first five, and I admit that it tasted less than scrumptious. Since then I've been adding strawberries (more fiber) and berries (antioxidants!) and it has helped the flavor tremendously.

Basically, cut the fruit and carrot up and toss everything in a blender.

Blend it until it is just a little bit chunky, but not smoothie consistency. If you prefer to start out with it cold, add ice.

Ta da!! Your very own fiber mix. 

What I do is carry the cup around with me all day (during the winter) and just eat by spoonfuls. You can also keep it in the fridge and go back to it when you start to feel nauseous, or you can eat it all at once (if your stomach is okay with it). After a week or two of munching on this stuff daily, you should begin to feel normal again. Then you can enjoy your new-found food freedom!

Word to the Wiser Than I: Make sure to keep your fiber and natural sugar intake higher than "normal" after you feel better so that you don't have to feel bad again. Also don't forget to keep up your water intake. And eat your yogurt to get the good bugs in your system! (If you want to, you can add it to your mixture, but I prefer to just get a high dosage of it in the morning.) 

Awesome side-effect of this mixture: Decreased snacking and sugar urges! You might find yourself losing a few pounds. Just make sure you don't make this an excuse to make more than one batch and instead "milk it" to make it last.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

God's Modus Operandi: Communication

It seems like today the whole world is obsessed with one thing: communication. We now have Skype, Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, YouTube, Blogger... and probably a hundred other means of communicating including cell phones and the Post Office. So why is it that with all that we still cannot answer the one question that bugs us the most:

How does God communicate with us?

So does he tap us on the shoulder and whisper in our ear? Write letters in the air? Strike us with proverbial revelation lightning? How?

Before we answer this question, we need a little bit of history. At the beginning of the Old Testament, Adam and Eve had direct, audible, one-on-one discussions with God. But after sin, that ended abruptly. Then people had only one way and one way only to hear from God- prophecy. Sure, they could pray to Him, but the only way He talked back was through the voice of another. Some of the most famous Super-Star prophets were probably Noah, Moses, Daniel, and Isaiah. There were also a few infamous ones like Balaam and Jonah, but God still used them to talk to His people.You see, the "Bible" as we know it today hadn't been written yet, and it certainly hadn't been distributed on a big scale. They had to have prophets.

Fast-forward some and you get the "500 Years of Silence"- no prophecy, no discussion. Nothing new from God. (However- the Torah and other Old Testament books were written down and were well-read in places like the Synagogues [kind of like churches].) By the time the New Testament rolls around, we have a new player on the scene- Jesus. He starts to teach us how to communicate with God again, but instead of focusing entirely on prophecy, he does something totally different- he tells us what God has to say by quoting Scripture. 

"Ok, cool," you may say, "but what about other ways? And can we still hear God through prophecy?" And here I would like to just take a moment and glare at you because you have opened up a whole different can of worms right there. lol :D

But you're right- this is important stuff. How else do we hear from God? Well, just to reiterate, firstly, it's through Scripture:
"All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
 Secondly, it's through the Holy Spirit:
"But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you." (John 14:26) 
"When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you." (John 16:13-14)
Did you notice something in these passages? It all still comes back to God's Word! You see, hearing from the Spirit isn't autonomous from the Word, it coincides with it. The Holy Spirit reminds us of what we already have learned from reading Scripture. Sometimes he brings to mind specific verses for our situation, but other times he just shows us what we already know of God's character through having read His letter to us. (And personally, I would even argue that the current form of prophecy is just someone's special, Spirit-given gift of enlightening others through the Bible. Feel free to differ with me on that, if you want, but I think this passage supports it:
"And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit." [2 Peter 1:19-21])
Anyway, back to the question of how God communicates. You know how people are always saying, "Get into God's Word!" and seem to be pushing us to read, read, read.... There's a reason for that. If we don't, then we aren't hearing from God. We can't. We wouldn't know what he sounded like even if He did strike us with that revelation lightning.

So, in conclusion: Open your ears. Get into the Scriptures. Listen to those sermons and that Biblically correct music. Re-open those communication lines! Let God's words shine in!

And who knows- maybe you'll hear something you desperately need right now. The Holy Spirit's cool like that.

So now that you know how God communicates with you, how are you doing right now in the listening department? Heard anything "new" from God lately?

Share with me.

Gravity Lost: When You're Spinning Out Of Control

Do you ever get that sick feeling in your stomach that just won't go away? Are you strung tight from being tossed about by things beyond your control?

Yeah, that's what I've been dealing with these last few days. It's a feeling of weightlessness, but not the good kind. It's that feeling that I imagine astronauts get when they get knocked into a tailspin in space that they can't pull out of. No matter how desperately they try, all they do is spin. And if they aren't hooked in and can't grab onto anything... they just keep going forever. That has to be the greatest fear- aside from asphyxiation- that every space man has.

Sometimes life is a little like space. One moment you feel yourself firmly planted on the ground, life is good, and everyone you love is fine. And then something happens and gravity is ripped out from under you. All it takes is one thing... one tiny, infinitesimal thing and we lose all orientation.

Up becomes down....

Left becomes right....

We can't stop. And eventually... we're going to run out of air. We know we are. We only have a certain amount left, and once it's out, that's it: game over. We know this in our heads, but that doesn't stop us from hyperventilating. It's eating up all of our precious oxygen. But we just can't stop.

It usually takes a while- a lot of waving of our arms and legs and getting nowhere- before we realize there's nothing we can do to fix what's going on. If only something- someone- would come along and stop the spinning. If only we could just get one toe on the ground, we'd be alright.

You may be thinking, "Hey, this sounds like a great analogy for my unsaved friend I've been witnessing to." Well, yeah, I guess it could be. But pause for a moment and think.

I'm not talking about an unBeliever here. I'm talking about me, you, and every other Christian out there who feels like their stability has just been taken away. Because we all go through it at one time or another. We all start spinning.

Maybe for you it's your kid- he's has left the church and you don't know where it was you went wrong. Or maybe you just got laid off and don't know where this month's rent is going to come from. Or maybe you're like me and God has asked you to step out on faith with something you're not comfortable with. If you are feeling disoriented and confused, you're spinning. But how do you stop?

First of all, STOP STRUGGLING!

Stop your pacing. Stop your worrying. Stop your nervous babbling. Just stop. Sit back and let stuff spin- it's ok. Close your eyes. Open your heart. Make that connection with God that you have not done since this whole thing started. Maybe you've tossed up a prayer, hoping that it doesn't land on deaf ears. But have you had a soul-crying, heart-shredding talk with God lately? Have you cried out to Him with all of your fears? Have you let Him be God? Or have you just been scrabbling around, trying to ground yourself on your own?

Second of all, remember your training.

Think back to those moments in your life where things have gone wrong before, but a miracle happened or where you have had a need/desire and God filled it. If you can't remember one because you are still too emotionally upset, think about someone else's life. I don't know if you've noticed this, but we as human beings can be a little myopic. When it comes to ourselves, we can't see God working very well. But when it comes to other people, we are often amazed. It's not that God hasn't been active in our lives, it's just that we are too emotionally involved to see it. So sit back and remember all that God has done in your life, in others, in the Bible. Count your blessings. Thank Him for every little thing you can think of- even if it's just the fact that you are still breathing! Let the world stabilize.

And thirdly, read the manual.

In every good space movie, no matter how much training the hero has there's always somewhere that he falls short. There are always things he can't remember how to do. And there's always a manual.

We as Christians have been given our manual (the Bible) for a reason. Even if we have struggled through something before, we'll probably do it again. And if not the same thing, something new. Our manual is not like other manuals. It's special. Any Christian who has spent any amount of time reading their Bible will tell you that it 1) never changes and 2) always has something new to show you. It doesn't matter if you've read a particular passage ten times. When you go back and read it again, there will be something totally new that jumps out at you. It's kind of like studying a painting: from far away it looks one way and from up close another, but it's still the same painting. It hasn't changed. Only your perspective.

Today I experienced something similar. A passage from Scripture that I have read a lot of times touched my heart in a whole new way. It was the perfect thing that I needed to hear at the perfect time in a way I don't think it has done before.

When I finally stopped struggling and turned to my manual, I was met with the information and assurance I needed. Did my situation change? Nah. Not yet. But how about the way I deal with it? Yeah, I think it has. I'm at peace with what's going on around me. Space can be space. I'll just wait here until someone pulls me back to earth again. Actually, it's kind of peaceful up here right now.

So why are you still spinning?


Philippians 4:6-"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God."

1 Peter 5:6-7- "Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you."

Romans 8:28- "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose." 

Proverbs 3:5-6- "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths."