"I count myself one of the number of those who write as they learn and learn as they write." ~St. Augustine

Sunday, May 20, 2018

God Laughs

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I think God laughed at me.

I am pretty sure of it, actually.  I can't say I heard audible laughter---just something deep and profound---

... seriously, I am pretty sure God had a good ol' chuckle.

There has been an issue that has tormented me my whole life long... since the earliest of years in my life.  This issue, I have written on this blog numerous times, can only be summed up in two words:  gluttony and vanity.  Big, ugly words, right?

Seasons of this struggle have been harder than others, to be sure.  Through the years, at times, I have felt lovely green pastures of freedom and rest.  But, recently the valley of this struggle and the temptations have been dark, intense, and stifling.  ...not to sound too dramatic.  Honestly, though, it can be constant and it can be suffocating.

Gluttony for me can be defined as the focus on food...  too much, too little, the right kind, the wrong kind, the taste, and the lust for---

Vanity for me can be defined as the focus on my body shape, type, weight, or being admired for my outward appearance---

Even as I write these things so black and white on the screen, I can feel the heat of shame and the embarrassment rising up my neck.  Bear with me, please.

I just finished an excellent book, It's Not How You Look, It's What You See by Lisa Bevere.  Funnily, it was handed to me by a co-worker who offered it into my hands as a "resource" for others.  Because, of course, I couldn't possibly struggle with such an issue.  Right?  Someone so "seasoned" in my relationship with the Lord.  Ugh... the masks and the assumptions we make about each other!!  Yes, I struggle with this!  And, boy-oh-boy is it a doosy in my heart.  Lord, have mercy.  

In this book Lisa Bevere, deals with this issue head-on and calls it exactly what it is...  idol worship.  Even in my crazy honesty here--- I will easily name it issue.  Today, I call it sin.

Idol worship.  Wow.  My struggle is that I worship a particular body type.  I worship "thin".  I worship a particular weight on the scale.  I worship food and what I think it will feed in me... the taste, the substance, the filling.  It is a terrible cycle.

I am asking God to instruct my heart in this... to write new truth in my life.  With David in Psalm 32:8, I am asking God to "instruct and teach me in the way I should go."

Today, afresh, I repent.  I choose to resist the world's (and my) definitions.  I choose to crush the idol of thin.  I choose to smash the idol of food.  I am done with the fear of fat and the lie that chocolate is what I need/deserve this afternoon.  I am done with my solutions, my plans, my ideas, and my way forward.

For the last six months, I have been counting calories for the first time in my life.  With keen awareness of this sin-reality in my heart, I have never owned a scale and never been on a diet.  Weird, I know, for someone who struggles with this sin.  I just knew these would be destructive for me. 

But, in desperation, six months ago, I started using a phone app to count calories.  Faithfully, I have been eating the "right" amount of calories that would ensure weight loss.  It is just mathematics, right?

According to my app, I should have dropped 15 lbs... 

I haven't lost a single pound.  Not a gram.  Not a single ounce.  (I am weighing myself like a crazy lady at the local pharmacy---due to "no scale rule!")  NOT a single pound.

Friday, I was out and about town and jumped on the scale.  It read the exact same number it always does (yes, I know the scale works!).
Exact.  Same. Number.

Like the punch line of a joke.  There is the number---staring right back at me.  And, I just stood there.   Really!?  When I stepped off the scale this time, I knew that God was laughing... 
I could just hear/feel/sense His big, belly, friendly, love-filled laughter---  Really, Stephanie?  Really...? 

Does that sound cruel?  It really wasn't.  It didn't feel cruel even at the time.  He was laughing at me, with me... all around me.  Another one of His miracles--- His cosmic jokes.  He miraculously kept the weight on.

As I walked home with His laughter in my heart, whispers filled my mind...  Weight is an ugly idol, Stephanie.  You aren't going to loose weight this way.  It isn't going to happen.  So give up the number.  That is not the point.  Let it go.  Can you let it go, Stephanie? 

I could feel beautiful agreement and submission in my heart...  I feel strong and healthy, Lord.  I want to take good care of this tent.  That's all, Lord.  I know that You alone are my hope, my happiness, my fullness, my joy... not these other things.  

Through the following days, I ponder and I pray.  I repent and I sit.  What is the point, Stephanie?  What are you really after?  Why?  I will instruct Your heart in the way You should go.  I will teach You new things.  

It wan't the first time.  I am certain it won't be the last...
But, yep.  God laughed at me. And, I most certainly won't be getting on a scale anytime soon.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Can you change me?

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Do you ever feel absolutely sure you are right about something?

I read somewhere that a true, genuine conversation can only happen if both parties are ready and willing to be changed by each other.  Conversation and dialogue only happen when I sit anticipating my viewpoint will indeed be altered because of this discourse.  Problem is...  what happens when you think you are absolutely right?  Period.  Full stop.

This prideful, closed way of "communication" happens much, much more frequently than genuine conversation.

I used to think it was certain personality types--- mine or my husband (ha!), for instance!---which felt they were "right" or "correct" all the time.  Or, maybe it was family of origin training.  Certainly my family has it in spades!   All I knew was that I struggled and was upset when my viewpoint was challenged or questioned.

The more years I live, I am convinced that this is true about everybody.  Every-single-body struggles when their point of view feels threatened.  Maybe not on all accounts, to be sure; but, just poke around a bit to find that person's topic-of-certainty.  Push it.  Or have a slightly differing slant or question... and you will feel the mechanisms of defense.  (Defenses are many...and they do tend to suit each personality.)

Don't get me wrong, I am a firm, firm believer if absolute Truth.   I believe that God gives us insight into and understanding of His Truth... certainly He has given us a huge leg-up with the gift of Scripture (the unchanging Truth).  We have a great deal of clarity on many areas from God's Word...  "all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23), for example.  Pretty clear.  I can hold this and many other biblical truths securely. But, I also know that my ability to understand God's ways and truth is significantly limited.   So many things I hold true are impacted by Stephanie-ism.  (Definition of "ism": a distinctive practice, a system or philosophy.)  Stephanie-practice.  Stephanie-system.  Stephanie-philosophy.

Just as there are indeed rock-solid, unchanging Truths in Scripture; equally so, there are many 'not so black and white' areas that I am learning to be at peace holding more tentatively in my hands...

...What one thinks about global warming, boarder control, working mothers, or homeschooling.  How one decides to parent a small child or keep a house.  How one interacts with their adult children, their aging parents or their neighbors.  Where and how one chooses to work, to play, or to rest.  What one thinks about exercise and diet. What one does with their time, their money, their energy... for example.  In these areas, I long to have genuine and true conversations with others.  While I believe that God's Word touches and impacts each of these areas... the "certainty" case is not closed or locked.

Can I be changed by another's ideas and their thoughts?  Can you change me?

All these things above, I think about.  And, I certainly have my opinions on each of these issues---as I am guessing you do, as well.  But, can you be changed---even if just slightly?

Yesterday, I had a conversation where I felt 'changed'.  Honestly (and slightly embarrassingly), going into the interaction, I felt very "right" in my discernment and advice.  Our first interaction about the topic did not go very well.  It was a few hours later over coffee, when this friend and I re-visited the dialogue where the thought twigged for me, "A true conversation is one where you are ready to be changed".  In that moment, I prayerfully looked across the table ready to be impacted.

Was it my openness or just the grace of the person talking with me that allowed for the topic to be resurfaced?  ...maybe a bit of both.  But, I distinctly felt a profound "aha" moment while this dear one was explaining her values and view point.  It was a lovely smack to my pride when I realized that I had been looking at the issue from one singular point---a limited way of thinking---truly unknowingly.  Her words and explanation changed me, even if just slightly.  In that moment, I had available to me another way of seeing the issue and her decisions made sense to me in a way that I had been unable to see before.  Our conversation changed me.

As I reflect on this today, I wonder and quiz myself a bit as to how often I do this with God--- let alone other people.  How often do I pray, assume, and walk forward in the "right" way, without a humble, surrendered heart ready to be impacted by my interactions.

Problem is... I generally think I am right.  Period.  Full stop.

Lord Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner and fallen short of Your glory.  Change me from the inside out.  
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