UNDER NEW MANAGEMENT

Well, it’s that time of year again. The sun is warm, the grass is growing, the birds are singing. And I become painfully aware of how much weight I put on over the winter. So now, not only are my legs white enough to signal a passing plane, but any part of my body that will be even remotely exposed is flabby.

I’ve struggled my whole life with excessive weight. By the time I graduated from high school, I weighed 200 lbs. A few years ago, I would have given anything to weigh 200 lbs. again; at 5′ 2″, I was pushing 315 lbs. At that point of no return, I gave in and had gastric bypass. I got back down to 200 lbs., which was still more than I should have weighed by at least 40 lbs. That was the first time I realized my post-surgery honeymoon was over. Now, a full 30 lbs. heavier, I feel like a failure.

Like most people who have “struggled” with addictions like food, drugs, alcohol, I use the word “struggled” with more entitlement than I have a right to. The truth is I never struggled that much. It was much easier and more pleasant to just give in. Overeating is hands-down the easiest addiction to get by with. After all, everyone eats. If you hang around with the right people, you can actually bond over excessive eating sessions – like the Super Bowl, Thanksgiving, Easter. And I’ve never met a server at a buffet who’s ever cut me off because he thinks I’ve had too much. I’ve never gotten pulled over or ticketed for overeating. I’ve never overheard others whisper in that patronizing voice, “You know, they say she eats until her stomach hurts.”

But I know. No matter how much I try to comfort myself with those magic words – “I shouldn’t, but…” – I know I’m making a mistake. I know I have no self-control. But that’s my problem right? My family loves me just the way I am. God loves me no matter how big I get, right?

Yes. God loves me. He loves me enough to have sent His only son to pay my price for sin. He loves me and forgives me again and again and again. He has justified me and sanctified me. Galatians 2:20 ESV tells me, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Just think: Christ lives in me! The problem is, at 230 lbs. there’s not much room in this body for anyone else! Know what I mean?

But I have to acknowledge that I am under new management. Most of us are familiar with what 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 ESV has to say about our bodies: “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” And trust me, no one could possibly look at this body, at the way it sits sedentary, and say it glorifies God.

Unfortunately, God doesn’t give us specific rules for what to eat and what not to eat.  In fact, all 1 Corinthians 10:23 ESV has to say about it is: “‘All things are lawful,’ but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful,’ but not all things build up.” So, yeah, I can eat whatever I want. It’s for me to decide what is helpful to my body or if it will build up my body. Fortunately, I’m not stupid. I know what’s good for my body and what is bad for my body. I know what will build up my body and what will tear it down. I don’t even bother to argue over whether this particular chocolate with this specific percentage of cocoa actually has beneficial qualities. If I eat enough of it, I’ll get fat!

The problem I have is that I don’t take seriously my responsibility to take care of this “temple” in which Christ lives. I still think it’s mine to do with what I want. But it’s not. And here’s the final test for me as to whether or not I should eat something or in what amount I should eat: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31 ESV) I would have to be insane to think I could hold up a bowl of chips and dip and truly proclaim to another person, “I eat these chips for the glory of God!” Could that be more insulting to God? And yet I do it day after day, choice by choice.

It’s my prayer that I become more aware of my responsibility to treat my body as purchased by Christ when I choose what I eat or drink, knowing that if I make good choices, I will be healthier and more capable of doing what is good for God’s kingdom. After all, as soon as I gave my life to Christ, I was under new management!

OPEN 24 HOURS A DAY

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

I love going to our local Walmart. It’s one of those stores that has groceries as well as the regular store stuff, so it’s perfect for one-stop shopping. I appreciate that sort of service today because I’m very time poor. The days are gone when I can say I have more time than money.  Unfortunately, I’m short on both.  So I need to make the most of the time I have, and it’s frustrating when I realize that one of the items I need is on the other side of town – away from my one-stop shopping spot.

But I find that when I have problems, doubts, or struggles, I don’t have a one-stop shopping approach. I run to several sources for advice, solutions, comfort. I go online for advice, to my friends for encouragement, to food for comfort. And finally, when I’m exhausted and desperate and feel I have nowhere else to go, I give up. With nowhere else to turn, I go to God.

How very sad that God is my last resort when He should be my first resource. He is my perfect one-stop shopping for all of my needs, open 24 hours a day with no line. But more often than not He’s my last resort, where I go when I can’t get what I need anywhere else.

I’ve often joked about those moments when I finally throw my hands in the air and admit defeat. “All right, God!” I call, “I give up! You take care of it.”

I can almost hear His heavenly sigh when He answers, “Well, it’s about time.” But the best part is that what He actually says is, “Here I am.” And that’s what you call service with a smile!

TRUSTING THE UNSEEN

A gardener planted two peony bulbs side by side. In a few weeks, as expected, the first one poked a single stem through the ground. The other would soon follow, the gardener thought. But it didn’t. Many more weeks went by with no sign of life.

Then one day, to his surprise, not one but five leaf points poked through the soil at once. When the peony bloomed, its flowers were more beautiful & numerous than those of the first bulb.

John Piper said, “In every situation God is doing a thousand things that we cannot see and do not know. When God seems to have forgotten you and hope fails, don’t despair. God is at work, and someday you will see.”

I’ve been waiting nine long months for God to guide me to the job He wants me to do. In that time, God’s used me in many ways to make a difference that I couldn’t have made if I were working full-time. I believe I’ve been where God wants me.

But I think it’s time for me to have a “real” job.  You know, the kind that pays better than unemployment. I thought He was giving me that last month, but I was wrong. I trusted Him to shut the door of any room He didn’t want me to go into, and He shut it!

I wish I could say I called everyone I knew and said, “Praise God! I thought this would be a great job for me, but He has something way better planned for me!”  But I didn’t. I wasn’t happy. I cried, shouted and pouted for a few days. (OK…I fell apart!) But through it all, in spite of how I wanted to feel and how much I wanted to feel sorry for myself, I knew that I knew that I knew that I was wrong. I knew God was preparing something better for me.  I knew He was protecting me.  I just wish it was easier for me to trust Him. I wish I wasn’t so scared. I wish I knew what He was planning so I could put my stamp of approval on it! 🙂

All I can say now is, something pretty amazing must be on its way for me and my family!

IN A WORD…YES!

Psalm 33:6, 9
By the word of the LORD were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth. For he spoke and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm. NIV

This is my  God.  My God is a creative God, and what He speaks comes to be because in Isaiah 55:10,11 it also says, “My Word will not return to me void, but will accomplish the purpose for which it was sent.”  To me, that means that everything He says in the Bible will come to pass.  Christ is proof of that.

That means that each promise that He made to me (and His other children) throughout the Bible is creative in that His word will become something!  If He says He has good plans for me, then I will see good plans for me.  There is no doubt about it.  God has said it, and what God says is true.  God has said it, and what God says happens.  But even more, Psalm 33:9 tells me that what He said will stand firm.  It will be unshakable!  There will be nothing anyone can do to alter what God had spoken.  And one of the greatest things he has declared is that I am His, He will not let me go, and He loves me.

What a creative God we serve!

WELL, THERE’S ONE…

1 Peter 5

7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

8 Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

10 And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.11 To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.

Let’s look at this as my claim as a Child of God:  I will cast all my anxiety on God because He cares for me.  I will be alert and sober of mind.  My enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  I will resist him, standing firm in the faith, because I know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.  And You, the God of all grace, who called me to Your glory in Christ, after I have suffered a little while, will Yourself restore me and make me strong, firm and steadfast.  To You be the power for ever and ever.  Amen.

Yesterday, I didn’t think it was possible for me to believe this declaration.  I was ready to give up.  I was so consumed by what I didn’t have that nothing I had made any difference to me.  Show me something good, and I could find the drawback to it.  I wanted to give up, I was so weary from struggling.  But for the first time in my life, there was an undercurrent to my despair that I just couldn’t shake no matter how desperate and despondent I felt. For the last eight months, I had professed to others that I had confidence that God had a greater plan for me.  I believed that He had removed me from a job that was destroying my spirit.  I believed that he had something better for me.

Recently, I thought He was finally going to give me that “something better”.  I applied for a job that I believed I was perfectly suited for.  And, again, I professed that I believed that if this was where God wanted me to be, nothing – not even having been fired – would keep it from me.  And if it wasn’t where God wanted me to be, He would shut that door soundly.  I really wanted this to be God’s decision because I wanted to know beyond any doubt that I was where God wanted me to be.  Well, it turned out that God chose to shut this particular door.  I have to believe that because when I left after my interview – which went exceedingly well – one of the interviewers told me she was confident that they would be calling me back for a second interview.  The next news I heard was a letter telling me they’d filled the position.

I wish I could say I praised God and called everyone who’d been praying for me and announced, “Praise God!  He saved me from the wrong job and has something even better waiting for me!” but I didn’t.  I cried.  And I cried.  And I screamed and doubted and pouted and wondered what was wrong with me.  I wondered where God was.  When  – when?! – would He help us out?  Our medical bills are piling up.  We have little freedom with our money.  We have no savings in case something goes wrong with the car or the house.  And yet – and yet! – I spend hour after hour helping Beyond the Yellow Ribbon of Brown County prepare to help families when their spouses deploy.  I spend hours upon hours responding to emails and attending meetings for a second board to make sure the staff in my and other board members’ care is taken care of.  I spend time writing grants for another organization I belong to so they have money to put on a performance for the community.  I spend hours preparing a meal each Wednesday for a bunch of kids who may not even care if I live or breathe.  And what about me?  Who’s helping me?

And then I remember that I have trusted God to take care of me.  I may not have a job that I get dressed for in the morning, with regular hours and a paycheck; but I am gainfully employed.  By God.  For the last nine months, I have been doing what I believe I have been called to do.  I have helped.  I hope I have made a difference.  And I thank God that I have had the time to do all the things I complained about.  I have had a rare opportunity to make a difference that I could not have made if I were working 40 hours a week.  Most of our bills are getting paid.  I just wish I were more comfortable with accepting my daily bread on a daily basis.  But the fact is that while we don’t have as much as we might like, we still have more than others.  We have a home, electricity, water, heat and food.  In fact, we have leftovers in the fridge.  How many people would give anything to have enough food for three meals a day, much less enough left over for three meals the next day?  We are so blessed!  We can still choose to give up something.  So many people don’t have that choice.  And we’re healthy. (We have the bills to prove it!)

So back to my promise from God:  I will cast my anxiety on Him because He does care for me.  I cannot doubt that.  He’s not punishing me, He’s protecting me.  He’s preparing me.  I don’t know what for, but it should be pretty good.  But in the meantime, I have to be careful with my thoughts and words.  I have to be on guard against Satan because he knows how easily I can be discouraged.  He knows that I doubt others, including God.  He knows how very little I think of myself and how little I trust others. And he knows how scared I can get when I don’t know what’s going on.

And so I will resist him because I know that I’m not the only one of God’s children who are going through this.  Others have even greater worries than I have.  Others don’t have homes, electricity, water or food.  Others are horribly sick or dying right now.  Others have so much less than I do.

But God has called me and each one of the others to Himself through Christ.  He chose us and and knows us each by name.  He loves each one of us and has good plans for each one of us because He is a loving Father, and He knows that His glory will be shown to the world through us.  And after we have each suffered for a while, He promises to restore us.  Even better, he will make us strong, firm and steadfast.  I said at the beginning of the year that my goal during my unemployment and for the year was to become unshakable in my faith.  Well, I’m not there yet but today I’m a lot closer than I was nine months ago.  I am stronger.  I can stand firmer.  I got up more quickly this time than I ever have before.  I rely on what I know more than what I feel more quickly than I ever have before.

So the enemy had better watch out because this is one woman, one family, one spirit that he won’t devour this time.  Today has seen a miracle because I am standing firmer than I have ever stood before on a faith that I wasn’t sure I had.  For this, I give God the glory and proclaim that all power is His.  Satan lost this one, and I have abdicated my claim on my own life today.

Let’s just pray I don’t ask for it back tomorrow!