February 27, 2014

#Courage in the Face of Temptation

"But Lord, how can I possibly resist this chocolate fountain right in front of me? The aroma of the melted chocolate is making me swoon with the desire for just one little taste!"
That will be me tomorrow evening. The ladies' ministry at my home church is hosting over 150 women at a mini-retreat tomorrow and into Saturday. Directly following the teaching portion of the evening tomorrow night, ladies will gather together for refreshments and a "Thrift Store Fashion Show".

Who in the world thought it will be a good idea to have two chocolate fountains, surrounded by mounds of fruits, cookies, and marshmallows available for dipping?! And I am a lady who is a chocolate-lover, make no mistake about that! 

God has seen that I need 1Corinthians 10:12-13 today!! I have been repeating those verses over and over today, to strengthen me and give me the #courage to say "NO!" to the chocolate fountains.

In 1Corinthians 10:1-11, Paul has just finished relating to his readers several examples of how the Jews (he refers to them as "our fathers" in 1Cor. 10:1) had succumbed to the temptation to turn away from God during a time of crisis. With that background setting the scene, Paul is now ready to instruct those he considers "brothers", fellow Christians, on how they are to react to temptation. Here is the wisdom of Paul in 1Corinthians 10:12-13:

12 Therefore vlet anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. wGod is faithful, and xhe will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. (ESV)

Therefore - Since you know these things I've told you about, now listen to this which I am going to say next.
anyone who thinks - using their own knowledge; believes; understands
stands - any person up on their own feet
take heed - look out!
lest he fall. - they may unknowingly be ready to fall down
temptation - trial, being put to the test
overtaken - been put upon a person
common to man - an experience that is the same for every person on earth 
God is faithful - is full of faith, is trustful
tempted beyond your ability - past the point of resistance
he will also provide - God sees a need and gives what is needed
way of escape - an avenue by which to flee the temptation
may be able to endure it - the ability to stand fast in the face of temptation

I am so curious to discover what means of escape God will be providing for me. I will have the #courage to say "NO"!

Praise Him!!

February 19, 2014

A Beneficial Bronchitis

    Last weekend, I was scheduled to serve on our church's worship team for both of our Sunday services. Anyone who knows me knows how I have a deep desire to sing for God, and that being asked to serve on our team gives me so much pleasure and satisfaction.

   So when woke up the Friday before feeling a little bit "punky" I was not confident that I would be healthy enough to sing on Sunday.
Credit: Getty Images
   My fear came true. I wasn't able to sing on Sunday. Or Monday, Or Tuesday, Or even today, which is Wednesday.

   It's doubtful that I'll be getting my singing voice back by the coming weekend.

   Last Sunday, I felt disappointed, but not discouraged. Not angry. Not frustrated.

   At about the same time I would have been on the platform in church, singing glory to God, I wrote these words of reply to a sweet friend's message of encouragement and concern about my absence from worship on Sunday morning due to illness:

          "The Lord is my rock! And He is blessing me right now with this illness, and I thank Him for it. (For whatever reason - giving Him all the glory!)"

   I wondered at the time what possessed me to call this illness - which has worsened since Sunday into bronchitis - a "blessing". It truly was reflexive action!

   This morning, I do. My mind was directed to 2 Corinthians 4:7-11.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.
   My sense is that I am "processing" my experience in the Made to Crave study which I have been writing about here since January 15, 2014. God is at work changing my heart. As a result, my mind and emotions are being changed as well.

   I haven't been made angry or frustrated by this situation. Because there is a reason for everything.

   And isn't God like that, to give us a blessing when we least expect it, for our benefit? Even a blessing like getting bronchitis.

   One time I was blessed financially, which allowed me to finish my Master's degree without needing to take out a loan. I was trusting God to help me pay for my courses. God came through in an unexpected way.

   Another time the blessing came from passing an audition that eventually took me to the stage of Carnegie Hall. That evening I had paused at the door to the audition room and placed my attempt into God's hands for God's decision. To my mind, I "blew" my audition. God thought differently.

   This week God is slowing me down and changing my plans.

   It is a concrete reminder that when God wishes something from me, He will give me what I need. 

   I initially joined the Made to Crave study to improve my overall health. No, I don't believe having this infection is an indication that replacing my cravings for food with a craving for God is detrimental to my health! That conclusion would be totally erroneous.

      The reflex of calling the fact that I was too ill on Sunday to attend worship services a blessing from God is proof that my heart is indeed being changed because I am intentionally making decisions by first asking myself "Will this choice bring glory to God?" and giving a truthful answer.

   It's a process, this walk of faith that is slowly, step-by-step, changing me into the image of Jesus.

   If the blessing from this illness turns out to be that you who are reading this right now are encouraged in your own walk towards the perfection of Christ, then I am more than content to be sick this week - I am THRILLED, and giving all the glory to God!! 

February 14, 2014

My Valentine!

Happy Valentine's Day to my wonderful husband Larry, who supports me, encourages me, and loves me unquestionably.

Here are some of the many faces of Larry.

Funny, talented, loving, generous, tender, and MINE!
Happy Valentine's Day, honey!
I'll love you forever, too.

February 13, 2014

#Truth from Second Corinthians

Who else knows the words to this song?

 "Jesus loves me, this I know. For the bible tells me so. Little ones to Him belong  They are weak, but He is strong. Yes, Jesus loves me! Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me! The bible tells me so."

I can imagine you "singing" this children's song in your own heads right now! Such a sweet little tune.

I was reminded of this children's song this week as I was taking a closer look at 2 Corinthians 12:9.

(ESV) 2 Cor. 12:9  But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me."

I like to look at the verses around a verse I am studying. Look at what Paul is describing back in verse 7:

(ESV) 2 Cor. 12:7 "...a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from being conceited."

In verse 8, Paul says he asks the Lord THREE TIMES to remove this thorn from his flesh. And yet the Lord DID NOT remove it!

God instead has this to say to Paul in the next verse: 

(ESV) 2 Cor. 12:9  "But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me."

Now look at verse 10:

(ESV) 2 Cor. 12:10 "For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong."

We all are confronted with thorns in our flesh. Whether it is issues with food, alcohol, fits of temper, depression over family issues, wandering spouses; whatever the issue, we turn to God and cry out for release from this thing, this issue, these people, which or who are harassing us. Pricking us in the heart just as a rosebush pricks at our flesh.

"Please Lord, take this away! Make me clean! Fix this about my character!"

And when God is silent, how devastated we feel. Or angry. Or further depressed.

But what is God expecting? "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." God is not willing that we deal with our thorns in our own power.
Google images
Perhaps we should instead pray like this, as Paul suggests, boasting in our particular weaknesses:

"Lord, thank  you. Thank you for this addiction to cigarettes. I so want to crave  you MORE than I do tobacco."

"Lord, thank you. Thank you for wanting chocolate. I want to crave you more than I do chocolate."

"Lord, thank you. Thank you giving me this situation. I do want to find my comfort in your presence more than in that person's presence."

Paul says the "...power of Christ may rest upon me."

"rest upon me" - envelop me and become part of me.

Unleash the power of God by turning to Him! Until you do so, you will never experience what God can do for you.
God can heal relationships, can take away cravings for substances and replace them with cravings for Him.

The bible contains #TRUTH. Trust the word of God!

Once we can think like a little child again, and maybe go around humming "Jesus Loves Me", thinking as a child, innocent and accepting, praying in our times of weakness, perhaps our relationship with God will become all that it should be.
I have heard a phrase describing a snatch of music that runs around our brain, recycling again and again, as an "ear worm". 

Enjoy the ear worm I planted in your brain today! May it remind you of 2 Cor. 12:9 all day long.

February 6, 2014

#Peace - Delighting in Obedience

Today I am combining two of the suggested topics from the Made to Crave Online Bible Study:

Is it possible to make peace with the realities of our bodies?  


How will I delight in living in obedience to God, and not place my delight on numbers?
You see, I have lived both of these topics in my life, and it seems just natural for me to think of them as combined into one.

Making peace with the reality of my body has been a recent development. For all of my working memory, I have disliked, loathed, even hated my body. And, by extension, hated God for giving me this particular body with its various "issues".

Like clothes that never fit correctly.

Like stares from adolescent boys as I was maturing from a young girl into a young woman. And their teasing.
Like the dissatisfaction from not measuring up to the standards I was bombarded with by popular media.

Like feeling like the ugly sister. (Sorry, Cheryl, but I am admitting truth here.)

Like wishing to hide from the eyes and the judgement of the world (real or imagined).

So what has changed? Why do I no longer feel this way? How did I make peace with the reality of my body?

I began to love God, I mean REALLY LOVE GOD! It took the total submission of my pride in order to find the place of total surrender to God's will. And the love and gratitude just followed.

It sounds so simple. It's just like my dear friend and teacher Teren Sechrist said a few years ago, when a believer's heart is changed, then their thoughts will change, and then their actions will change, all part of the transformation from sinner to saint. Sanctification. Refinement.

I suppose I have reached a level of maturity as a Christian. I really do rejoice in the reality that God gave me a perfect body!

But looking in the mirror at the size of my body, and looking at blood work results from the lab, well those things tell the whole story, that I have not loved my body as I should have loved this precious gift from God.

That is my real motivation in joining the Made to Crave study.

It's taken the birth of my three granddaughters to make me realize that I have been shortening my life by neglecting my health. And I want to stick around and watch them grow! You can see their pictures on this page, those lovely girls! I want to teach them that they are precious, and that God created them, and that they are loved by Him unconditionally.

So, I came to this study three weeks ago already loving my body, not necessarily liking what it has become, but loving it nonetheless.

As far as living in obedience to God, well that is a great struggle. But it one that I am making progress with!

 James 1: 23-24 "For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like." ESV
In my mirror I see Linda who thinks she can hide from Coram Deo, living in the face of God, 

~who thinks she can act in disobedience by eating whatever she wants to eat whenever she wants to eat it, 

~who thinks that she can distract herself with worldly distractions,

~who thinks she can be sedentary and will still have clear arteries and a well-functioning brain.

The difference with looking in the mirror today from looking at it in the past is that I see the sinner in the mirror. I see a believer who is not a doer when it comes to taking care of herself.

And, at the same time, along with my own image in that mirror, I see God looking back at me. Reminding me that He loves me and that despite my continuing sin He will continue to love me as his child.

I am tracking my weight and posting it in the kitchen. I measure my progress by honest, personal reflection at bedtime. I look back at my day and count the times I chose to bring glory to God with my choice of an activity or food.

I have ceased defining myself by numbers. Instead, I am gauging the progress of my sanctification by the amount of satisfaction I feel from knowing that I am pleasing my Father in heaven.

I love God, and I love myself enough to accept my imperfections as perfect in God's eyes, and that is enough for me, for the rest of my life.