Thursday, January 8, 2015

Planning change

Oh boy. Hey friends.

I'm super excited this morning because upon my arrival to work I have already walked 3,207 steps of my 10,000 steps per day goal.  My husband bought me a Fitbit for Christmas and it has stirred up my competitive spirit, even if I am only competing with myself (that might be the best person to compete with.)

Two years ago at this time I was at the point of a 50 lb weight loss. Today I am almost 25 pounds UP from that point.  That's not a very happy place to be.  I am 13 lbs down from where I was this past November 1st, but 14 lbs up from where I was the November before.  Up and down, up and down.  But I've decided I don't want to focus on being skinny but being healthy.  And I feel like that is something I am moving towards- eating right for my body since the beginning of November (except for a horrible lost 10 days surrounding Christmas) and since the 28th of December upping my activity level considerably. (Since December 28th I have walked over 60 miles, and over 135,000 steps.)

So I have digressed because this post isn't actually about my successes, but about my plans for continuing to be successful, and wondering how that's going to happen since in just a couple weeks, I am going back to college after a (cough) 22 year absence... I find myself looking ahead and wondering what I was thinking signing up for this... and signing up for not one, not two, but THREE classes.  So this morning I find some encouragement in being able to up my step level in the mornings like I have for the last couple days because I think maybe just MAYBE I'll be able to continue to work in my 10,000 steps a day along with school work, homework, papers and whatever else may come.

So I am planning.  Without vision the people perish, right?  Isn't that what the Bible says?  Oh and on top of my physical goals and my school goals, did I mention I intend to read through my Bible in a year again this year, chronologically.  Because I need to be in the Word too.  Please note, this list of goals and intentions is not so far listed in priority. It's just all on the buffet and all what I would like to put on my plate, in addition to my full-time job and being a wife to Neal and mama to my three kids.  Plus I still have my Tuesday night Bible study group and Bunco once a month and other friends I want to stay actively connected to.  Because, relationship matters as well.

So like I said, I walked into work this morning pleased with my step count so far because it gave me hope, and in my mind I started to plan.... In the mornings I will go like I have the last two days.  I have three classes, one online, one that is a hybrid that requires an hour of lab on campus each week and one that has me in a classroom every Monday for 4 hours. Totally doable, right? I will do homework on this night at this time and I will cook these meals on these days...

As I was full of good planning and intention this morning with my 3,000+ step count by 9 am I heard a Bible passage in my brain.

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil." James 4:13-16

Ouch. Here I am thinking and planning, I'll do homework here and I'll walk there, and I'll meet so and so for coffee then...  The reality is I have no clue how this is going to go.  I don't know what the reading load or the homework will be like, or how busy things will be at work or if and when my kids will get sick or need a ride or if the weather will trap me indoors and prevent my walks, I don't know anything.  And all this silly specific planning in my mind is futile.  I cannot begin to plan for the changes ahead because so many of the factors are completely unknown to me.

That's when another verse played in my head.

“Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. Matthew 6:31-34

Ok, deep breath.  I cannot plan for tomorrow because I don't know what tomorrow holds, but I do know Who holds tomorrow, and the rest of the weeks and months that lie ahead, with all the activities that are on my calendar or are soon coming.  I don't know, but God knows. So I am going to lay aside my plans for the specific changes on the horizon and focus on my general intentions, and those I will plan to do my best to follow through on. 

I will continue to put my Bible by the side of my bed so that I read God's Word first thing in the mornings.  Weather permitting I will try to have mornings like today to get many steps in before I get to work.  I will try to meal plan for my family, and I will try to schedule my homework so Bible study and Bunco night are not affected.  I will do my best to be healthy and make meal plans and make healthy choices spirit, mind and body. And I will know that I will not be able (probably) to do everything I want to do every day.  And I think I have decided not to measure my success in the number of steps, grades, gourmet meals cooked or pounds lost.  I'm going to try very hard to be successful in those things, but those things will not be my focus. 

I'm going to fix my eyes on the Who, and on His agenda, not mine.  I believe going back to school was a God idea and not just a good idea and I feel strongly that being healthy and fit to serve are part of his plan, and I know time with Him in prayer and His Word need to be a definite priority. My job has to be done properly and I have to be the wife and mama in this family. So even if my prayers are mostly the "God, please help me," and I occasionally fall a day or two behind in my reading along the way (think Leviticus and Deuteronomy), or I flub an assignment, I know God's grace is greater.  I know succeed or fail if I draw close to Him, He'll draw close to me.  And I know His power will be made perfect in my weakness. I know He has promised to work ALL things together for my good because I love Him, and I am called according to His purpose.  I may not have all this covered, but I know God does. 

So, as far as planning change ahead goes, I know change is coming, I can plan on it - but as for God, He is the same yesterday, today and forever and I can REALLY count on Him!  Feel free to pray for me if you're willing over the next few weeks and months.  I'm certain I'll need it.  And if you see me panicking a little, or becoming overwhelmed, remind me God's got this and to just get my focus back on him. 


Monday, January 5, 2015

The purpose of altars.


I am just going to be very honest here and confess, lately I feel a lot like my mind and my faith are under attack.  When I think about God and eternity, my mind is easily overwhelmed. It's almost as though I hear a little whisper behind me that says "It can't really be true."  Sometimes lately, "the Greatest Story ever told" feels just like that, a story.

Even as I am reading my bible, a place where I would hope strength for my faith would always be found, I find myself falling into a battle with doubt. "How can this be?" I think.  "That sounds so crazy," I mutter under my breath. And there is a catch in chest. I ask myself, "What if none of it is true?"

I don't think this is a strange experience for believers.  Though I think most of us won't talk about it, or admit it out loud, I imagine we all have these battles of the mind.  Because honestly, living forever sounds crazy, especially when I am tired.  I cannot begin to imagine going on and on in eternity when I'm tired.  Heaven is a concept I cannot full grasp.

It's kind of crazy for me because I am "a woman of the Word."  I love the scriptures, I have friends who refer to me as their source when they want to know what the Bible says about something or where it says it.  I love words in general, they have great value to me, but the Word of God, well, that's Jesus Himself, and I can't begin to express the "higher level" that takes the value of His Word to for me.

And despite that I find myself battling lately with the Word, and what I believe about it.  And yet, at the same time, strangely, I don't.

Even as I am working through my thoughts and struggles I think about what the Word says about the last days, and the "Great Apostasy" that will come - the days and times when MANY who know the Word, and are followers and faithful believers in Christ will fall away and stop believing.  I believe there is evidence of this happening all around us.  And so I am mindful of the possibility that my battles are exactly a part of that.

Or perhaps not, maybe it's just part of the process of "going deeper" with God.  A lot of folks don't like their authority or expertise being questioned.  You find that mindset among pastors, teachers, parents, bosses - our egos get in and if we are convinced of what we know, we are not ok with that "truth" (little t) being questioned.  But God has no ego, and I don't think He is at all intimidated by the questions, struggles and doubts of His own.  Maybe that's what "working out one's salvation" is all about.  Working through the questions with the Lord is a right response, even if you're struggling with doubts about Him.

One thing has kept me anchored through these recent battles.  It's the "altars" I've built in my life.  There are different stories in the Bible where God called people to build altars. He told Jacob to build an altar where he had battled with God, Noah built an altar after the flood, and the Israelites built an altar where they crossed the Jordan.  God commanded them to do this.

Why? I think because these "altars" represent more than head knowledge of faith - these altars are built as reminders of people's very personal interactions with God.  Noah had done the crazy and ridiculous at God's command, and as crazy as it sounds, after the waters subsided, I think Noah in is humanness was at risk of forgetting that what saved Him was the clear voice of the Lord that called him (Noah to radical obedience.)  In quieter days ahead as life had gone on, I think Noah was likely to forget Yahweh wasn't just God, He was Noah's God. You won't find piles of stones in my backyard or anything, but I have places that I have written down, spoken of, and I refer to, where I know God met me.

As I look at all the things that I read and learn and hear about God and from His Word, it is easy to have my mind overwhelmed.  But, BUT, I can look back on my life in places that God met me personally, and spoke to or directed me personally (yes, He does that) and whatever my head may argue, my heart cannot deny that God is not just God, but He is my God, and He loves me, has (and will again) ministered to me in a very real and personal way.  And He has called me to a very specific life that He has chosen for me, even when I cannot begin to fathom exactly what that is.

Altars are what we need to "build" in those places God has called us to step out in faith.  They need to be built in the places that God provided when no one else could.  They are the intimate moments of worship where His presence is felt, they are the touches from heaven, whether healing, help or hope that only God can provide.

Walking with Christ does not mean we will never question or doubt, but it should mean that more than head knowledge, there are altars placed where the personal knowledge of the God of the universe who loves us individually, intimately and personally can be looked upon to help us hang on as we work through the struggles.

If you are in that place where God is guiding and directing, where he has shown Himself faithful and provided, then build your altar there today. And if you are struggling, feeling lonely, lost or overwhelmed, look back, look carefully, find them, the undeniable Truth (big T) of your altars is there.