Monday, January 27, 2014

Signed, Sealed, Witnessed

So, I have another confession.  When I read or hear biblical passages that list names of families and relationships between generations of persons, my eyes tend to glaze over and I can easily move towards tune-out mode.  I am a big picture person.  This level of detail rarely engages me.  This is what happened at church this Sunday.  The Old Testament lesson from Jeremiah 32:1-3a, 6-15 began with a list of barely pronounceable characters and their relationship to each other.  I was nodding off (I admit I feel shame). 

All of a sudden, I heard these key words, “I signed the deed, sealed it, got witnesses […], in the presence of my cousin Hanamel, in the presence of the witnesses who signed…in the presence of all the Judeans…in their presence I charged….”  I had an epiphany:  the lists of individuals and people included in the Bible are witnesses to thousands of years of history of individuals who bear witness to the work of God in the world.  Listing these people identifies a community of believers.  This is real history:  These are families and generations of believers and a community of God-fearing people.

We are not alone in our belief of God.  Never have been, never will be.

The New Testament and Gospel readings for Sunday went on to continue this theme of bearing witness to the presence of the Holy Spirit in the World (1 Timothy 6: 6-19 and Luke 16: 19-31).  People bore witness for each other in their belief and supported a community that believed in God.  When we have a family Bible with generations written in the front of it, we are continuing this tradition of listing the members who continue to establish generations of believers in a family of God.

When we baptize, we do this in front of a church that bears witness to becoming a member of a community of believers.  We are becoming history when we bear witness and add our name to this long list of witnesses who have gone before us in our relationship with God.

I like being part of a group.  I am a natural extrovert and I am comforted that I am one of many who have gone before me.  The long list of individuals included in Bible readings no longer bores me.  It excites me that there are so many historical believers identified in the Bible itself.

We are not alone in our belief of God.  Never have been, never will be.

#christwalk1 #believer #church

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

My most Stellar Self

This weekend, I wasn’t at my most stellar self.  I got upset at my children, was impatient and crabby:  Snappish.  I probably wasn’t very pleasant to be around.  While there are a multitude of reasons _why_ I was like this, in my heart, I don’t feel like it justifies being a crazy person. We all know it happens.  It happens to us all because we are fallible, and have feelings, but we all wish we didn’t have those moments when we react instead of thinking through the frustration and stress.

 As I went to bed, I prayed for forgiveness.  I prayed for peace of mind and heart and patience. I prayed for serenity.  I often pray that God helps me to stop and think before reacting. Each year I think I get a little better at it.
As I lay in bed trying to move beyond this bad day, I had a light-bulb moment.  I knew that God forgave me.  Not only because that’s what I have been taught, but I know God forgives.  I understand implicitly that God’s forgiveness is for me and for anyone who asks for it. What is more difficult is accepting God’s forgiveness and then forgiving yourself.  I had to realize I made a mistake, accept that forgiveness and let it be as far from the east is from the west in my mind as well as it is in God’s mind.  It is not God that dwells on my sin.  It is I that keeps that sin alive by not allowing the forgiveness of God into my heart.  Once I let that forgiveness in, it was much easier to move on and then the next day, return to my most stellar self.  J

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Getting your Lent On!

Get your #Lent on! Get your #devotions on! During weeks three or four of Christ Walk, I usually coordinate to have a labyrinth set up at the church With which I am working.

A labyrinth is an ancient Christian tool used for meditation and prayer. Using a labyrinth can be as complex or simple as you want to make it. When I give instructions on praying the labyrinth, I follow a very simple pattern:

As you #walk the labyrinth pattern into the center, focus on all the prayers YOU want to share with God. When you reach the center of the labyrinth, pause, quiet yourself and give ALL your prayers, worries, and supplications to God. When you are ready to leave, retrace your steps out. The path out of the labyrinth is for you to be quiet and let God speak to you. As you exit the labyrinth, you take the gifts God has given you on your walk, and use them in your daily life.

A similar pattern can be used with your daily exercise: walking, running, biking, swimming or whatever. Praying on the way out with your exercise; pause, or slow down enough to let your prayers and concerns go; and then on the way home, clear your mind and heart for the word of God to work within you.

There is a link in the comments from huffing ton post Religion on Labyrinths for further reading.

Happy walking!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Me and My High Horse

I always get a little offended when I find that I am no different than a statistic. I have always prided myself as different.  I have always marched to the beat of my own drum. Consequently, when I find that I have the same thoughts, feelings, and frustrations as other women of my own age, I feel as though I have succumbed to the expectations of society, rather than me, myself, and I. 

That's just a little snobby and self-aggrandizing, so it's a good reality check too.  Everyone needs their ego popped every now and again. 

Truthfully, I am just like other women of my age/generation.  I have come to realize that the whole approaching-forty thing is a real phenomenon and one that shouldn't be blown off.  After 17 years of steady work, having two kids and a fifteen year marriage, I seem to have it all.  And I'm tired, pooped, and exhausted.   

Hello!!!  Aging sucks.  

I keep wondering when it's fair to think of retirement; to think of what I want to do, rather than what my kids and husband need me to do. I dread the realization that it's so far off.  I dread the realization that it will come far more quickly than I am ready.  I fear that choosing to work has been bad for my kids. I fear that I stay in my job for the wrong reasons, and then turn around and feel guilty because I have the perfect job considering the life I live. I fear I won't meet the goals I set in college and I realize time is flying faster and faster in my professional, academic, family, and life in general. The kids are growing older more quickly each year. Some goals seem to be further and further away. The desires to be a world renowned professor, researcher, public speaker, missionary and super woman are tempered by the ideals of taking care of my family, raising good kids and the quiet (but no less important) call to be a leader in my local Parrish. Suddenly, at this age, you face the question and wondering if the sacrifices of career and dreams are appreciated by those you love most.  Will your kids ever realize that mommy had a brain--a very good brain-- and while she's not a Fortune 500 CEO, she might have sacrificed what she could have done for what she has done?  Will this ever be recognized? 

Probably not. Just gotta say there are no Nobel prizes in mommy-hood.  

And yet, as I look at the world; the problems that face us; the acerbic comments on Facebook about raising a better generation; I've come to realize that it's on the backs of mothers and fathers around the world that are making similar sacrifices to raise a generation of kids that will continue to make the world a better place. What we teach our kids, and the faith we instill in them is no less important than finding the formula for penicillin. Not everyone can be an astrophysicist, but the contribution that we make to the world in raising kids and creating communities of love is no less important. Maybe that's not the degree I got in college, but it's one that I am working on "expert status" every single day.  

"Be the change you want to see in the world" happens at your doorstep, not just at the podium of some major institution. If mammas and daddies went away, the world would fall apart.  

So, although I have come to realize that I feel very much like other women in my age bracket, I am beginning to embrace that statistic. We DO feel this way. We do question constantly the career/family/spiritual/financial/community decisions we make every day. We question whether or not we are making a difference in the world as we intended in our irrepressible youth. I hope as we mark the passage of this period in our life, we realize with utmost conviction we are executing God's calling in our life. One step in our every day journey, we are making the world a better place to be.

This one is for Andrea, Sara, Jenny, Jenn, Amanda, Lindsay, Heidi, Michelle. Xo. 

Monday, January 13, 2014

Brilliant Changes

In a letter to his son, Albert Einstein wrote, "People are like bicycles. They keep their balance only as long as they keep moving." 

Well duh.   

I love this quote on so many levels. I love it because we, as humans, were designed to MOVE. We lose our mind, body and spiritual balance when we stop moving. We suffer in mind, body and spirit when we stop moving.   When we stop moving, we begin to decay mind, body and spirit. If we stop moving long enough in mind, body or sprit, we will die.  

Now, I believe in the afterlife: a world with God where there is no suffering. What this looks like, I do not know, but I can say with conviction that I do not FEAR it. I just do not believe that I am ready for it yet. I still have many things God has called me to do,and until that time of my heavenly call, I need to keep moving to have the strength: mind, body and spirit to do those things I am called to do. 

As a clinician, the number one complaint I hear from folks is how bad they feel when they cannot do things physically. This affects them in spirit and body and mind. The mind, body and spirit can prey on each other in a vicious cycle.  When one does not work well, it can surely lead to disability in another.  I believe this leads to depression of the mind, body and spirit.   Physical exercise use (in many different forms) impacts so many aspects of our health, including health of the mind and spirit.

I can tell you, from personal experience, that reclaiming physical fitness is life altering. But the process to getting there is slow, sometimes painful and requires discipline, dedication and conviction that your life will get better and you will regain that balance of mind, body and spirit when you keep moving.  

Nothing worthwhile is easy and free. It takes work and commitment. Shed the expectations of what society is telling you that you need to do to be fit. Rather focus on what you can do today to go a little further than you went yesterday. Commit to one change towards health that will have long term repercussions; and then stick with it long term. I can give you a list of suggested changes you can being to make:

*Limit soda to one a day--then get rid of it completely
*Commit to adding one fruit/vegetable once a day--then to each meal. Then replace snacks with a fruit or vegetable
*Commit to walking 1000 more steps a day. Or maybe 500 steps more, and then 1000 more, and then 2000 more.
*Throw our your favorite junk food and replace it with a healthy alternative.  Explore what you can do with fruits, veggies, nuts, nut-butters and whole grain foods.
*Cook from scratch at home once a week.  Then make it twice a week.  Build up to a point where you are eating out no more than once a week.
*Choose another life altering change and make slow, simple steps towards that goal.
Making permanent changes to your health is a process.  You are more likely to stick with those changes when you make slow, reasonable changes to your life.   When you commit to one healthy change, it makes it easier to commit to additional changes when you see the difference that change makes in how you feel and how you manage disease, illness, stress and fitness levels.
#lifestyle #change #health #fitness

Friday, January 10, 2014

Part 1 Pulse Check: Creation

So what does the world of health look like?  What does health look like when it was created in God’s eyes?    Health is harmony of the mind, body and spirit towards God’s will.  Health feels good.  It smells good, it tastes good, it sounds good, and it looks good.  We know what it is like to have health.  We also know what it is like to not have health.  Health can be very hard for some people to obtain.  When we were given the freedom to make choices, the implications of those choices are often played out in our health and the health of generations to come. 

Health is not defined by society.  What may be healthy for one individual may be a different level of health for another.  Many societal ideas on “health” can actually be unhealthy.  Healthy is not solely defined by the absence of disease.   Having infirmity does not necessarily mean you are not healthy.  Health is different for different people at different points in time.  Health is not the status quo or stagnant.  Levels of health change.  Loss of a health level can be devastating, but gains in health can be an amazing experience.  Sometimes we need to have a health shock before we realize we aren’t as healthy as we thought we were. 

We are told from so many directions what health is and what we should be doing for our health.  Sometimes everything we are doing or should be doing gets a little overwhelming and can also make us unhealthy with worry.  We have forgotten how to know ourselves and our balances and to align our mind, body, and spirit health.  Sometimes we have to make decisions about our health that feel right to our gut, but fly in the face of conventional wisdom.  This is okay.  This can be healthy too.

Our bodies were meant to move.  When we do not take care of our bodies, we cannot do the work we are called to do: as mother, father, sister, brother, son, daughter, coworker, parishioner, colleague, leader, or follower.  Because so much of the activity in our lives has been taken over by technology, we need to figure out how to move our bodies to God’s will to keep it going. 

Disease is not of God.  God is with us through our illnesses.  It is easy to blame God when health fails.  Sometimes it doesn’t make sense when health fails especially in small children or otherwise healthy adults.  Changes in societal health choices such as environmental impacts, technology, food and water sources, medications and others; can have long ranging impacts across generations that we may be unaware.  God will comfort us through these times. 

The good news is that we do have the tools and the gifts from God to get back on track. Health of mind, body and spirit should be celebrated.  The journey is ordained from God and a gift for us to share as a community.  The Christian tradition supports a healthy life.    Christ Walk supports this Christian tradition through healthy choices towards physical exercise, eating, prayer and education.  God will support us and strengthen us through all these choices so we are creating a healthy life with God.


Thursday, January 9, 2014

Who do you have by your side?

I have a weakness for Almond Roca.  It is this divine, little, toffee; dipped in chocolate and then rolled in crushed almonds.  Sometimes it is made dipped in dark chocolate which is even better.  During the holidays, they make a special peppermint version that is: To. Die. For.  I salivate at the thought of Almond Roca.  I don’t like candy in general, but this little nugget of sweetness is a downfall.

Almond Roca is the type of treat that I could eat an entire box without paying attention to mindful-eating patterns.  It is a true weakness of mine.  Thankfully, it is often difficult for me to find, and usually only available around Christmas time where I live.
However, the plot thickens with my weakness: a dear friend lives right by the Almond Roca factory.  She has been known to send me a box when I am in desperate need.  It is a great gift and I am always touched when she remembers my little obsession.  She is also a great friend to have by your side when you are focusing on cleaning up your diet and focusing on healthy eating.  I recently posted that I needed to get my sugar intake under control following the indulgences of the Christmas season and my friend wrote to say that she had a box of Almond Roca wrapped for me for Christmas, but she was keeping it.  She was supporting my decision to get back on track.
This is the kind of friend you want by your side as you make changes in your life.  She was supporting my decision to eat healthier and while she knows how much I love Almond Roca, she also knows how much I appreciate my health.  What a fantastic gift she gave in supporting my healthy living!
There is nothing worse than having a friend by your side that sabotages your health goals.  I am blessed that my friends build me up and support me on my journey and often we are traveling the health journey together.  When you are making healthy changes in your life and focusing on long term lifestyle changes, make sure your family knows and are engaged in supporting your decision.  If you are really lucky, your family will also join in your goals and become healthier as well.  Don’t be afraid to tell your friends about your goals as well.  Gather around yourself individuals that seek a healthy lifestyle as well.  Have a friend that doesn’t send the Almond Roca to your door and rather says, “I support you on your journey.”
Does this mean that my friend will never send me Almond Roca again?  Hopefully she will!  But for right now, in this place, and in these goals I have set, it is not the time and place for Almond Roca in my life. I am blessed that my friends support me in these goals and I hope you find a cheerleader in your life that will support you in yours.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Chapter 6 Teaser: The Mind, Body and Spirit Connection

Biblical Big Idea #6: Matthew 22:37: “And Jesus Said, Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”


Steps Taken:_________________

Miles Journeyed: ______________

Exercise Chosen: ______________

Spiritual Thoughts: _____________

Feelings: _____________________

Day Six: The Mind, Body and Spirit Connection

Research supports the notion that mind, body and spiritual health are all connected.  In fact, the World Health Organization’s definition of health is a state of “complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”  This definition has not changed since 1948.  As a Christian, I also believe, and a great deal research supports that spiritual wellbeing is also essential for physical and mental health.  When we are not “right” with our spirit, our bodies and minds can fail.  Spiritual illnesses can cause great mental pain and anguish.  Similarly, physical and mental infirmity can cause a strain on the spirit.  There are stories of people whose doctors could find nothing physically wrong with a patient and yet continued to fail in their well being because their spirit was so ill.


Conversely, strong mental, spiritual and/or physical health can help you overcome disease and illness of the mind or body when they are threatened.  Taking care of your mind, body and spirit is good for the mind, body and spirit.


When Jesus heals the paralytic in Luke 5: 17-26, Jesus first had to heal the man’s spirit before He could heal his body.  Jesus drove evil spirits from minds and souls in order to heal.  Jesus knew that these individuals must be reconciled with Him in order to attain the healing they sought.  Faith has healed many people.


If we look back on our discussion about the things we want to change about ourselves, the things (smoking, drinking, food, stress, etc) are our addictions and vices.  We often turn to these things before turning to God in order to cope.  We look for solace in food or alcohol or drugs in an attempt to manage our spiritual, mental, or physical distress, thereby compounding our problems.  Before we can become strong physically, we often need to address these addictions and seek help in putting them behind us.  Only then can we put God in their place.


I smoked back in college.  I was a nursing student and smoked.  If I could have had a big fat “idiot” plastered across my forehead, well, I had it, even if I did not see it.  The smoking started after a bad breakup, and as the stress of school and as the impending independence from my parents loomed, my smoking habit got worse.  It seemed like a harmless way to deal with the stress in my life.  I also felt very cool and mature.  Then I met my future husband and he was none-too-pleased with my nasty habit, so I started the journey to quit. I knew that, thanks to four years of nursing school, tobacco use is a terrible habit.  Even though I was not a heavy smoker, nor did I use it for an extended length of time, I found smoking incredibly addictive.  Although I quit smoking, I found the stress of a patient dying on the ward would send me back to sneaking a smoke on a break with the other nurses. Then I would feel guilty and try to hide it from my husband.  This was a short but vicious cycle until I thought about my three most important things.  This habit was keeping from my relationship with God.  I could have chosen to talk to God about my stress, my anxiety, my problems and my grief, but it was a lot easier for me to turn to a smoke.  It was terrible to my health and the fact I tried to hide it from my family was just plain wrong.  There was nothing about my habit that was supporting the three most important things in my life.


In order to finally quit smoking for good, I turned to God in prayer and prayed that he would give me the strength to overcome this habit.  I prayed that my desire for the nicotine would be banished.  I have never smoked since.  I feel no desire for cigarettes since that time.  I give thanks to God for the strength he gave me.  I have learned to replace my bad habits with healthier habits of prayer, physical exercise, and mental exercise.  And these healthy habits can replace many unhealthy habits if you arm yourselves with the tools of success.  We will talk more about additional tools to success as we go through the chapters.  But do not doubt that you can be successful.  I know you can and God knows you can.  Don’t be the one to say, “I can’t.”


You have the Christ Spark inside you.  What a precious thing we all carry!  As a mother, I think of my Christ Spark like the child I carried in my womb for nine months.  We all have this spark and we can joyfully nurture this spark and take care of its temple so that it can do marvelous things in the world.  “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”  Jeremiah 1:5.  God has a purpose for every person.  And every purpose when fulfilled to the glory of God is a good thing.


Thoughts to Ponder:

1.                What is your purpose right now at this point in your life?

2.               Has your purpose changed?  Do you think it will change in the future?

3.               How does your purpose make you feel?

4.               Do you think you need to re-think your purpose to ensure the three most important things in your life are a part of it?