Sunday, January 29, 2012

Lessons from under the juniper tree...

It's been a few days since I've added to the blog. I've been sitting under the juniper tree.

For those who haven't read my previous few blogs, this all started one day when I was working out and had a drop in my blood sugar. Follow that with a personal disappointment and a doctor's appointment where he told me all the different ways I could die or be disabled thanks to diabetes and I found myself fighting discouragement in a big way. None of the victories I had experienced prior to this made a difference...I needed to go and sit under a juniper tree. (Ever notice it's not just ONE thing, but a whole bunch of things that seem to hit at once? Yep, that's pretty much the way the enemy works.)

In the Bible, Elijah sat under a juniper tree. He had just defeated all the prophets of Baal, called down fire from heaven, and then called down rain! Then Jezebel, a mere woman, sent word that she was going to kill him and Elijah just sat down. 

A pep talk isn't what he needed...Elijah needed rest, food, and a reality check.

According to the story, the first thing Elijah did when he sat down was fall asleep. Sometimes the main thing we need is rest. We like to believe we are super human and that rest is for weak people, but that just isn't true. We need rest. Our muscles need rest. Our minds need rest. Our spirits...need rest. 

The next thing that happened in the story was an angel woke Elijah and told him to eat. 

EAT AND REST - this does not mean do what I tend to do when my blood sugar drops. You shouldn't reach for the 3 day old doughnut and stuff it in your mouth in hopes of some quick relief. When I am in that "I've got to have food" state, I don't always think clearly - I also don't feel like taking the time to prepare something that will nourish. I want to feed my feelings. But that's not what my body needs. It may give me a moment of relief, but just as quickly I will spiral downward again. What is needed is real food.

When I'm exhausted, I also need to eat spiritual food. Spiritual eating doesn't mean plopping down in front of the tv in hopes of some momentary distraction from the chaos. It might be a quick fix, but it's like that 3 day old doughnut (usually a rerun!) My spirit is hungry and while it is easy to "veg" in front of the tv, it won't help. What is needed is the real food found in God's Word. Like most "real food" it takes a bit more effort to get, but it makes all the difference in getting back up from under that juniper tree. 

If you are fighting discouragement, don't reach for the remote, the computer or the junk food. You were made for better stuff. Rest and real food. It's more than just some old testament's what we need now.

I know there are more lessons underneath this tree, but those will have to wait for another day.

If the devil cannot make you puffed up by pride, he will try to dampen your spirit by discouragement. It's his best tool!

I may not win the battle against diabetes, but I can promise that diabetes will not beat me. 

1 Kings 19

The Message (MSG)

1-2 Ahab reported to Jezebel everything that Elijah had done, including the massacre of the prophets. Jezebel immediately sent a messenger to Elijah with her threat: "The gods will get you for this and I'll get even with you! By this time tomorrow you'll be as dead as any one of those prophets."

 3-5 When Elijah saw how things were, he ran for dear life to Beersheba, far in the south of Judah. He left his young servant there and then went on into the desert another day's journey. He came to a lone broom bush and collapsed in its shade, wanting in the worst way to be done with it all—to just die: "Enough of this, God! Take my life—I'm ready to join my ancestors in the grave!" Exhausted, he fell asleep under the lone broom bush.
    Suddenly an angel shook him awake and said, "Get up and eat!"
 6 He looked around and, to his surprise, right by his head were a loaf of bread baked on some coals and a jug of water. He ate the meal and went back to sleep.
 7 The angel of God came back, shook him awake again, and said, "Get up and eat some more—you've got a long journey ahead of you."
 8-9 He got up, ate and drank his fill, and set out. Nourished by that meal, he walked forty days and nights, all the way to the mountain of God, to Horeb. When he got there, he crawled into a cave and went to sleep.
    Then the word of God came to him: "So Elijah, what are you doing here?"
 10 "I've been working my heart out for the God-of-the-Angel-Armies," said Elijah. "The people of Israel have abandoned your covenant, destroyed the places of worship, and murdered your prophets. I'm the only one left, and now they're trying to kill me."
 11-12 Then he was told, "Go, stand on the mountain at attention before GodGod will pass by."
    A hurricane wind ripped through the mountains and shattered the rocks before God, butGod wasn't to be found in the wind; after the wind an earthquake, but God wasn't in the earthquake; and after the earthquake fire, but God wasn't in the fire; and after the fire a gentle and quiet whisper.
 13-14 When Elijah heard the quiet voice, he muffled his face with his great cloak, went to the mouth of the cave, and stood there. A quiet voice asked, "So Elijah, now tell me, what are you doing here?" Elijah said it again, "I've been working my heart out for God, the God-of-the-Angel-Armies, because the people of Israel have abandoned your covenant, destroyed your places of worship, and murdered your prophets. I'm the only one left, and now they're trying to kill me."
 15-18 God said, "Go back the way you came through the desert to Damascus. When you get there anoint Hazael; make him king over Aram. Then anoint Jehu son of Nimshi; make him king over Israel. Finally, anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet. Anyone who escapes death by Hazael will be killed by Jehu; and anyone who escapes death by Jehu will be killed by Elisha. Meanwhile, I'm preserving for myself seven thousand souls: the knees that haven't bowed to the god Baal, the mouths that haven't kissed his image."

Monday, January 16, 2012

This Day.....

Today has been one of "those days" and I have to be honest - it kicked me in the gut. You know that "fight or flight" response they talk about? Well, today I wanted to run as far away as I could. 

For some reason the prophet Elijah came to mind. I wasn't thinking about when he was being all big and bad with the prophets of Baal, asking them where was their god. No, I was thinking more about the time when Jezebel sent him a message that caused him to run, sit under a juniper tree and request to die. (No, I didn't request to die, but I was cowering in fear.)

It all started with a diabetic episode that scared me. Next thing I knew I was trembling in fear! (No, it wasn't trembling caused by low blood sugar; I was trembling inside!) The next time I tried to workout, it was all I could do to not turn and run away.
Then I went to the doctor and got the basic, "This is something you'll have forever and it won't really get better but it will get worse" kind of facts. I walked out that door completely ready to find myself a juniper tree!

I went to my evening workout anyway...after all - it's what I do, but my heart wasn't in it. As I went around that track (very slowly!) I talked to myself. I had to remind myself that nothing had really changed about my situation...the only thing that changed was my perception of things. 
I was no longer looking at things in faith and doing what I could do; now I looked at the situation in fear. 
That's when this song came on my ipod: This Day by Steven Curtis Chapman. 
Check out the lyrics (emphasis mine)

"Yesterday the sky was bright and clear
I could see the sun and I could hear the song
Faith flowed like a river free and deep
And grace was not so hard to be believed
But that was yesterday
And what was close enough to touch
Now seems a world away
So what about this day

This day all His mercies are new
This day every promise is true
Father, help me to believe
Give me faith I need to know You
And trust You this day
This day

Who knows what tomorrow’s light will bring
Tears to cry or maybe songs to sing out loud
But only God can see that far away
And He made us for living day by day
‘Cause He wants us to see
That the God that He’s been every day of history
Is who He is this day

‘Cause You are the same yesterday and today and forever
Through every season Your truth and Your grace never change
Oh, Lord, I do believe that the God that You’ve been every day of history
Is who You are this day

This day…this day

This day Your mercies are new
This day Your promise is true
This day my hope is in You, Lord
This day"

Okay....even I could hear God trying to get my attention and help me adjust my point of view. Even though this weekend hasn't been what I like, tomorrow is a new day....and His mercies are new. Have a good week my friends.

For the entire story of Elijah's visit to the juniper tree, see 1 Kings 19.

Lamentations 3:22-23

New International Version (NIV)

 22 Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed,
   for his compassions never fail. 
23 They are new every morning;
   great is your faithfulness.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Cross-train...a life in balance

I am a study in extremes. I do everything to extreme...when I work, I work hard; when I play, I play hard; and when I sit, I fall asleep. I have never been what anyone would consider to be a poster child for balance. That's what today's Random Thought is all about - finding balance.

Those who read yesterday's post already know I have been "put in my place" as it were - humbled. Once again I tried to be "more than I could be" and came crashing down. That's really ironic, because what I've been trying to do is cross-train. For those who have ever done this, you know that cross-training is about working all your muscles in different ways so that when you go back to "your sport" you are fitter, more able to push forward. Cross training, according to wikipedia - the lazy man's reference, is listed: Cross-training (also known as circuit training) refers to an athlete training in sports other than the one that athlete competes in with a goal of improving overall performance.

According to another source found through Google, "Cross training is a great way to condition different muscle groups, develop a new set of skills, and reduce boredom that creeps in after months of the same exercise routines. Cross training also allows you the ability to vary the stress placed on specific muscles or even your cardiovascular system. After months of the same movements your body becomes extremely efficient performing these movements, and while that is great for competition, it limits the amount of overall fitness you possess and reduces the actual conditioning you get while training; rather than continuing to improve, you simply maintain. Cross training is also necessary to reduce the risk of injury from repetitive strain or overuse."

In other words, cross training is necessary for balance.

With that in mind, I've been thinking about doing a little "cross training" in my life. I'm starting to realize that some parts have gotten "over trained" and some have been neglected.

My job - definitely takes a lot of my thoughts and can be very's getting a bit over trained. My children - most of the time they make sure they get my attention, but my husband sometimes gets "neglected" in the hurry of life. Need to do some cross training there. My friends - wonderful, but not nearly enough time spent there. Time spent exploring new relationships - non-existent. Get the picture? I'm a picture of a life out of balance...I need to cross train.

The same can happen in my spiritual life as well - lots of time reading my Bible, but little spent in prayer or reaching out to others makes for a life out of balance. Time spent in "service" but not in prayer or study will also result in a lop-sided life. I don't want to be "so spiritually minded I'm no earthly good or so earthly minded I'm no spiritual good!"

This idea of balance even reaches my "workout" routines. I can get so focused on the scales or on trying to push myself and forget that I am fearfully and wonderfully made. In the words of Lysa TerKeurst, "The process of getting healthy has to be about more than just losing weight and focusing on ourselves. It's not about adjusting our diets and hoping for good physical results. It's about recalibrating our souls so that we want to change for the right reasons: because we are fearfully and wonderfully made by God. And created to live in victory, not in defeat." 

Cross training is about a lot more than just working on my physical's about living a life of balance. The only way to do this will be to put Christ in the CENTER and allow all the other parts to follow.

This is from another blog I found on balance. For the entire blog, click here: Finding balance

Scheduling your time: The only way we can get balanced is to schedule times for our activities. We start with the most important areas and work our way down to the least. Some should be daily activities like praying (preferably with your spouse) and spending time in the word. Other activities like exercise might be 3 times per week, etc. It is important to note that if you have never exercised or read the Bible, I suggest you start small and build up so you won’t get burned out. Start with just 5 minutes per day reading the Bible for example and add as you grow. The same with exercise – don’t commit to one hour of exercising if you have never done it. Just start with a few minutes once or twice per week and as you feel motivated add additional time. In addition, don’t work 7 days per week. Take off a day and relax to re-charge your batteries.

Cross training....finding balance...Yep, it's definitely an area where I've got some work to do.

Matthew 6:33 
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Today I was humbled...

Today was not a good day...and I could say that by 9 a.m.

It all started with an exercise class with a friend. I have to admit I was really excited about the class; after all I have been making some real progress in getting "in shape." Oh, let's be honest - I was getting downright cocky. True, I am over 50 years old, but I've been really hitting the gym and pushing myself for a while now. I'm back to running and I can actually see a little muscle tone...only a little, but enough to get excited about. That's why I looked forward to this morning's class with a friend.

I thought I was prepared...ate my oatmeal and everything. I told myself not to use too much weight since I've never tried this particular class before. I looked around at the people in the class. I knew I could do it if they could. Some were almost as old as me...most were a lot younger. That didn't matter - I was determined to do every move...but today my body had other things in mind.

About half way through the class, I realized I was having a little trouble keeping up. I felt kind of weak. Then, I started having trouble seeing. Sort of like being in a movie complete with the distorted faces talking to you out of the tunnel. I was experiencing a drop in my blood sugar like I'd never experienced before. I made my way to the car and my peanut butter crackers.

I'm fine now. I little worn out, but fine....and I'm humbled.

The problem, as I can see it, is that I started over-estimating my ability and that I started looking around. Mainly that I started looking around.

I know this because of where my mind was this morning. Just this morning I was driving to the gym and wondering how other people get to take wonderful vacations and drive new vehicles and do things for their kids and we can't. I want to live that kind of life, too.

I lay in my bed last night and wondered why others seem to have perfect houses with beautiful bedrooms and I have worn out furniture and bits and pieces that were passed down - usually because they were no longer wanted. (My chest of drawers was actually rescued from a friend who was about to put it out for the trash men.)

Funny, I never seem to "compare" myself with those who have less and realize just how blessed I am. You get the picture....I stopped looking at what I have as a blessing and started wanting what "everybody else" has. I started wondering why I can't be like somebody else. I listen to what others are doing in their "exercise" program and I want to be doing the same thing...forgetting that I am as much as 20 years older than them or that they have been working at it a lot longer. I forgot that I am not them - nor are they me. This, by the way, is a formula for failure.

My failure in that exercise class this morning could be blamed on diabetes, but I am humbled when I realize it is just a symptom of something more. It was evidence that I am still out of balance in my life. I am still trying to do what everybody else does and forgetting I am not called to live their life at all.

I have no real conclusion for today's blog....I just know that today I was humbled.

1 Peter 5:6

The Message (MSG)

 6-7So be content with who you are, and don't put on airs. God's strong hand is on you; he'll promote you at the right time. Live carefree before God; he is most careful with you.

James 4:7-10

The Message (MSG)

 7-10So let God work his will in you. Yell a loud no to the Devil and watch him scamper. Say a quiet yes to God and he'll be there in no time. Quit dabbling in sin. Purify your inner life. Quit playing the field. Hit bottom, and cry your eyes out. The fun and games are over. Get serious, really serious. Get down on your knees before the Master [humble yourself]; it's the only way you'll get on your feet.

Deuteronomy 8

The Message (MSG)
1-5 Keep and live out the entire commandment that I'm commanding you today so that you'll live and prosper and enter and own the land that God promised to your ancestors. Remember every road that God led you on for those forty years in the wilderness, pushing you to your limits, testing you so that he would know what you were made of, whether you would keep his commandments or not. He put you through hard times. He made you go hungry. Then he fed you with manna, something neither you nor your parents knew anything about, so you would learn that men and women don't live by bread only; we live by every word that comes from God's mouth. Your clothes didn't wear out and your feet didn't blister those forty years. You learned deep in your heart that God disciplines you in the same ways a father disciplines his child.
(Emphasis mine.)

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

I want to be "Cross-fit"

It's the latest craze and a LOT of my friends are "doing it." They've even talked me into giving it a try. I am talking, of course, about Cross-fit.

For those of you who have never heard of this madness, here's an explanation I found at 
"The CrossFit program is wholly unique in its aims, prescriptions, methodologies, and implementation, writes Coach Greg Glassman in “Understanding CrossFit.”

We sought to build a program that would best prepare trainees for any physical contingency—prepare them not only for the unknown but for the unknowable as well."
link to article

Tonight as I read a blog written by one of my "cross-fit friends" the name just struck me, CROSS-fit. Do you see it, too? 

Someone asked me today why I wanted to try this; why did I keep pushing myself to work harder and harder? I guess I've been sort of dwelling on that question since they asked me because when I saw that word tonight it all came together. The reason I have become so diligent in exercising and trying to get/keep myself in shape is because I want to be fit to carry my cross and follow Jesus. I am not trying to make light of the verse that talks about taking up your cross...but as I looked at that word tonight, it became very clear to me WHY I do what I do.

This year I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes - something you'd expect to find in a kid. Trust me, I haven't been a kid for a LONG time. I could have gotten angry, but instead I am actually thankful. To begin with, thanks to a very persistent friend, I found out I was diabetic BEFORE I wound up in the hospital. Since my levels were 543 when we discovered it, I'd say that's a lot to be thankful for. 

Secondly, since my diagnosis I have really started to understand that I have to take care of this vehicle God has given me to sport around here in while I'm on earth. I may not have the fanciest model, or even the prettiest; but this is the vehicle He chose for me and it's my responsibility to take care of it! I don't get to trade it in this side of heaven so it's my choice to drive a clunker or keep it running smooth. That means I have to watch what I put in my "tank" and I have to include exercise to keep all the parts moving!

I want to be fit, not just to live and enjoy life, but to follow Him! I want to be prepared not just spiritually, but physically as well for the "unknown and the unknowable." I was created for a purpose and I don't plan on finishing out my days sitting in a barn rusting out! This little punch-buggy has got a lot to do! I would hate to stand before my Father one day and say, "I was just too tired and worn out to follow." 

Why have I made exercise a priority in my life? Simply because I want to be "Cross-fit" for the rest of my days. So whether you join in the latest craze or simply get up off the couch and go for a walk, I'd like to invite you to join me. You may be a sports car, an eighteen wheeler or something in-between; but it's never too late to start tuning it up. The journey's not over yet, my friend....

Luke 9:23

New International Version (NIV)

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

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The new has worn off already...

Well, it looks like the new has already worn off of the new year. I guess I knew it would happen, but not this quickly! I blame it on the fact that New Year's Day was on a Sunday this year...followed by a Monday. Poor old Monday. It can put a damper on just about anything!

There are a few hardy souls out there trying their best to keep that optimistic view of their goals for the new year...I know it's getting tough to find an empty spot at the gym to work out, but in another month or two it will be back to the regulars. For, you see, this optimism thing takes work - a LOT of work.

Sometimes people look at those who hang onto optimism and figure they haven't got a brain in their head...after all, nobody can be this happy and have the slightest clue what is going on. What very few realize is, staying positive in this world is VERY hard work. It means in the process, some will call you a "Pollyanna" and usually mean it in a derogatory way.

What? You don't know who Pollyanna is? Let me share the following from wikipedia then.

"Pollyanna is a best-selling 1913 novel by Eleanor H. Porter that is now considered a classic of children's literature, with the title character's name becoming a popular term for someone with the same optimistic outlook.

The title character is named Pollyanna Whittier, a young orphan who goes to live in Beldingsville, Vermont, with her wealthy but stern Aunt Polly. Pollyanna's philosophy of life centers on what she calls "The Glad Game", an optimistic attitude she learned from her father. The game consists of finding something to be glad about in every situation. It originated in an incident one Christmas when Pollyanna, who was hoping for a doll in the missionary barrel, found only a pair of crutches inside. Making the game up on the spot, Pollyanna's father taught her to look at the good side of things—in this case, to be glad about the crutches because "we didn't need to use them!"

With this philosophy, and her own sunny personality and sincere, sympathetic soul, Pollyanna brings so much gladness to her aunt's dispirited New England town that she transforms it into a pleasant place to live. 'The Glad Game' shields her from her aunt's stern attitude: when Aunt Polly puts her in a stuffy attic room without carpets or pictures, she exults at the beautiful view from the high window; when she tries to "punish" her niece for being late to dinner by sentencing her to a meal of bread and milk in the kitchen with the servant, Nancy, Pollyanna thanks her rapturously because she likes bread and milk, and she likes Nancy.

Soon, Pollyanna teaches some of Beldingsville's most troubled inhabitants to 'play the game' as well, from a querulous invalid named Mrs. Snow to a miserly bachelor, Mr. Pendleton, who lives all alone in a cluttered mansion. Aunt Polly, too— finding herself helpless before Pollyanna's buoyant refusal to be downcast—gradually begins to thaw, although she resists the glad game longer than anyone else.

Eventually, however, even Pollyanna's robust optimism is put to the test when she is struck down by a motorcar while crossing a street and loses the use of her legs. At first she doesn't realize the seriousness of her situation, but her spirits plummet when she accidentally overhears an eminent specialist say that she'll never walk again. After that, she lies in bed, unable to find anything to be glad about. Then the townspeople begin calling at Aunt Polly's house, eager to let Pollyanna know how much her encouragement has improved their lives; and Pollyanna decides she can still be glad that she had legs. The novel ends with Aunt Polly marrying her former lover Dr. Chilton and Pollyanna being sent to a hospital where she learns to walk again and is able to appreciate the use of her legs far more as a result of being temporarily disabled."

This whole Pollyanna thing reminds me of another story...the two little boys who were given gifts. One little boy was the optimist; the other was a pessimist. The little boy who was the optimist was placed into a large room filled with horse manure; the pessimist was placed in a room filled with wonderful toys. An hour later, the researchers checked in on the boys' progress.

The little boy who was a pessimist sat forlornly in the middle of the room, grumbling that none of the toys were as wonderful as they'd first appeared. The researchers marked their notes and went to check on the little optimist. They found that little boy digging in the manure, happily tossing it to the side. When they asked him what he was doing, his reply was, "With all this manure, there's bound to be a pony in here somewhere!"

You know, the more I think about it, the more I think being a "Pollyanna" is a good thing...and now's as good a time as any to practice the part. The new year has already lost some of its luster, but there is bound to be a pony in there somewhere. Care to join me in the "glad game" as we discover what this year may bring?

"What men and women need is encouragement. Their natural resisting powers should be strengthened, not weakened.... Instead of always harping on a man's faults, tell him of his virtues. Try to pull him out of his rut of bad habits. Hold up to him his better self, his REAL self that can dare and do and win out!... The influence of a beautiful, helpful, hopeful character is contagious, and may revolutionize a whole town.... People radiate what is in their minds and in their hearts. If a man feels kindly and obliging, his neighbors will feel that way, too, before long. But if he scolds and scowls and criticizes—his neighbors will return scowl for scowl, and add interest!... When you look for the bad, expecting it, you will get it. When you know you will find the good—you will get that..."
(Quote from "Pollyanna" by Eleanor H. Porter)

Philippians 4:8

The Message (MSG)

 8-9Summing it all up, friends, I'd say you'll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.

James 1:2-4
The Message (MSG)
Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don't try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.

Lamentations 3:22-23
New International Version (NIV)
22 Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Everyone thinks their opinion is right

Have you ever heard anyone say something along these lines, "She thinks her opinion is right." Of course I think my opinion is right...if I didn't, I'd change my opinion! Think about it. No one says, "I think my opinion is wrong so I'm sticking with it." That's just silly. That's why I think it's so funny when someone says, "They think they're right." Way to state the obvious!

The thing is, I do...think I'm right, I mean. That's the problem. I often base my opinion on what I think. I'll be honest, I'm not a very good judge of what is right. As a plumb-line, sometimes I can just be plumb wrong! I think my way is the best way, and my opinion is the right one.

Really, the only way we can know what is right and true is to go to the source of righteousness and truth - God. That's when I usually realize just how "NOT right" I am! It doesn't really matter what I think; it's what He thinks that matters!

Looks like I'm in for an interesting year.

Proverbs 16:25

New International Version (NIV)

 25 There is a way that appears to be right,
   but in the end it leads to death.

Isaiah 55:9

New International Version (NIV)

9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
   so are my ways higher than your ways
   and my thoughts than your thoughts.