Sunday, January 26, 2014

Flex Those Muscles!

The Physical

Exercise... Ugh!  Most of us dread it, few of us love it, even fewer of us are exercise enthusiasts.

I have several reason for wanting/needing to exercise at least three to four times per week: 1) overall health and well being; 2) weight maintenance; and, more importantly,  3) my muscular disability. So, yes, like it or not I struggle with the daily debate as to whether or not to exercise. Conflicted? Admittedly so! 

Nonetheless, I walk for exercise with occasional light weightlifting. It gives me good toning and cardio with minimum stress on my bones and muscles. Most days, I do so on my treadmill as it is safer with my disability. Occasionally, I will wander outdoors for a walk in the neighborhood.

Walking is different now, without my medication, as I have to be much more agile, alert, and awareAgile enough to step lightly and fairly quickly especially crossing streets. (I am anything but quick with stiff, contracted muscles.)  Alert enough to be aware of dogs, obstacles and traffic. Aware of my surroundings in order to navigate the best route on streets and sidewalks. Constant vigilance.

The Spiritual

 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.  Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. 1 Peter 5:8-9

The physical struggle got me thinking about the spiritual struggle. The seen and the unseen. I can hear cars coming. I can see obstacles in my way. The sidewalk beneath my feet guides me along the way.  I stop, look and listen. I take care, I prepare.

But, do I recognize the signs of danger in my spiritual walk or notice 
the obstacles distancing me from God?

Do I take care in being vigilant in preparation to face the spiritual battle that is swirling around me? The battle for my thoughts, my heart, my future? Do I recognize temptations when they are staring at me, the lies of the evil one trying to discourage me from my purpose,  the discord being sewn in my relationships that are impeding my relationship with Him? Do I put my armor on every moment of every day to fight the battle of the unseen?

Agile, Alert, Aware.

Exercise is certainly not my first choice in how to spend those precious moments each day.  I set aside time to eat, work, play and, sometimes, exercise this hunk of flesh. But do I exercise my physical AND spiritual muscles each day? Do I offer a sacrifice of time to Him Who has given me the gift of life eternal?

I am versed in His Word? Is it a priority for me?

Do I know where to look for the true source of strength, peace, love, help, encouragement, 
reassurance and hope when I need it? 

Do I get on my knees, humble myself and spend time with Him 
every day seeking His wisdom as my own? Is it a necessity to me?

Am I truly aware of my own weaknesses and gaps in my armor and how to heal the wounds?

Do I recognize where or when attacks may happen and how to act by the power of His Spirit?

Do I know how to recognize and deflect slings, arrows, and fiery darts of the enemy 
through His Word?

Do I listen to His voice to guide and look for His light 
on my path rather than rely on my own wisdom?

Do I exercise my spiritual muscles every day or just wait until there is a crisis?

Agile, Alert, Aware.
Constant vigilance. 

"But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him." Hebrews 11:6

I definitely want those tools in my tool box!  They impart wisdom, discernment and action (rather than reaction) in times of confusion, discouragement, and tragedy. He is my strength and my shield. My armor. My guide. 

He is worth the time and so am I because I am His.  I will continue to give Him the sacrifice in time for the maintenance of this physical tabernacle as it is home to His Spirit as He lives in me.  And, I will give more sacrifice in time to those spiritual muscles as He also lives through me!

 But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 5:10-11


Sunday, January 19, 2014

Exactly Where He Wants Me

I have a muscular disorder. Unfortunate but true. I was born with it. My voluntary muscles contract involuntarily at various times, from head to toe, and stay contracted for extended periods of time causing stiffness, tightness, and some pain and discomfort.  I also experience muscle spasms, charlie horses, and occasional panic attacks when in open spaces.

Medication was prescribed when I was nine years old after multiple visits to various specialists to ascertain exactly what was wrong.  Once discovered, my parents eagerly rushed off to fill the prescription to alleviate their anxieties and free me from my physical bondage. The medication served me well until I stopped taking it due to pregnancy. I subsequently found out about the damage it was doing to some of my internal systems--adrenals, thyroid, liver--as well as my night vision and my heart.  Needless to say, the meds went 'out the window'.

For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” Romans 8:15

So, I've 'stepped out' in faith. Spiritually and physically.

Been med free for six and half years now. I pray for His healing every day, crying out "Abba, Father". I won't lie to you.... It isn't easy.  I often long for the bygone days of running up a flight of stairs like a 'normal' person, going hiking up hills and down ravines, and attempting to pick up a pen or coffee cup without my hand being unable to grip until the muscles warm up a bit. Just walking across a shopping center parking lot is a challenge.

But, that is exactly where He wants me.

And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

I know what your thinking... These verses apply primarily to spiritual bondage and weakness. And, you are right. However, I know that these physical symptoms can manifest themselves in spiritual ways.  I must remember that I can do all things, that He has set me free, and He is magnified each day as He gives me strength and confidence.  As He provides assistance, reassurance and encouragement through people. It becomes an intense spiritual struggle if I focus on my limitations and take my eyes off of Christ Who strengthens me. If I focus on the 'cannot', I am in spiritual bondage. If I only give credence to my perceived areas of strength, I am limiting my relationship with Him and His ability to do a work in and through me.

Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:10

Because of Him, I am not fearful of the challenges I face physically each day thus breaking any chains and snares that lie in wait. He truly gives me what I need for that day. I am confident He will provide. I am fully dependent upon Him for my strength to push through each day thus He is magnified in my weakness.  If He calls me to do more, I know He will equip me! I am EXACTLY where He wants me to be. Fully surrendered!

In fact, all of us who struggle with infirmities of any sort, challenges, and/or differences that interfere or impede a 'normal' course of living are at an advantage. Of course, the rest of the world doesn't see it as such; we are weak, inferior, and/or incapable. Yet, WE step out of 'the comfort zone.' We become stronger, braver, more confident in who we are in Him because of our perceived inferiority. We gain a greater understanding of His love for us and His suffering.  There we find power. We conquer. We break the ties that bind. Again, we have the victory! And, to Him be ALL the glory!

Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. Romans 8:37

Friday, January 17, 2014

The Unfailing and Failing

It is still dark. I can see no light.

In the still, I hear soft breathing. I feel squeezed. Dread. I ask Him to help me go back to sleep.

I turn. Sleep does not come. I wallow. I wait. In His unfailing and my failing.

Soon I hear the drone of those who watch the clock, have appointments, do the grind. I ask again for sleep. It does not show signs of returning now.

The noise multiplies. The bed moves. Footsteps. The first rays of light. Yet I do not feel the lightness. I want to sleep. I deny. In His unfailing and my failing.

Minutes pass. I lay still. Wanting to avoid. To ignore. The mind begins to look ahead, to review, to realize that sleep will not come again on this morn.

My feet feel like lead swinging off the edge. My being wants to crawl back under, into the cave. My mind knows it cannot no matter how the darkness looms. I MUST embrace the light. In His unfailing and my failing.

I exercise in body and soul hoping to lift the darkness.  I drink liquid power hoping to feel His intoxicating revival in spirit. A glimmer appears.

I sing, in spirit, the worship of one worn with pain, physical and soul searching. Knowing the answer deep down. Not wanting to fully accept. In His unfailing. In my failing.

The struggle lurks on the edge of the light, fingers stretched out. The blackness grabs and threatens. I sing aloud and look deep into the words attempting to find meaning, solace, and justice there. Understanding somewhat. Harder to accept.

Moving forward. The day dawns. Darkness presses heavy on my chest. I look for the bright. I shun the pit. He gives me determination. He gives me hope in His unfailing. In my failing.

"Amazing grace. How sweet the sound. That saved a wretch like me. Once I was lost but I am found, was blind but know I see...."

I see. I know what I must. But to do.... A battle of the fiercest kind. Yet He is there in the pit. Pulling me out yet again. In His unfailing and my failing.

Time ticks. It transcends. Forgiveness glows. Love renews.

Waiting. In His unfailing and my failing.

Praising. Worshiping. Loving. In His unfailing and my failing.

Amazing grace. Amazing love. Amazing God.

It looks familiar, this place. I have been here before. Many times. In variety of degree. I know this place will come again. And, I, in His mercy and power, will conquer.......

May He alone be magnified in my victory. His unfailing becomes my unfailing. Hallelujah!

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.   Ephesians 2:8-9

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Not The Way We Expect It

It's the beginning of a 'new year'. On the Gregorian calendar anyway.  A time of reflection, reminiscing, dreaming, preparing, and planning. Gazing back and looking ahead. Now, for the loaded question:  Are you where you thought you'd be at this point in your life?!

When I was much younger, I was never really much of a dreamer. I was very much the obedient child doing as I was told and somewhat afraid to think 'outside the box.'  There were, however, certain ideas I had about what my future would look like.... (This is the part where we all chuckle!)

Here I am, in 2014, rapidly speeding toward my 52nd birthday and I can honestly say life isn't  AT ALL what I'd imagined it would be when I reached this stage.  In my young adulthood, I envisioned having a successful career, making a nice salary, marrying a career man who also had a comfortable income, owning a nice home, great car(s), having children, traveling once a year minimum, entertaining in my home on a regular basis sometimes using fine china and crystal surrounded by good friends and family and so on. You get the picture.

I can truly say that I have done all of those things but not in a way that I had imagined previously. None of them. The timing was different, the circumstances were different, the outcome was different. Really. And, it's not that I didn't plan as I am a planner. It's that I didn't consult with the Master Planner so I was somewhat unprepared for the outcome and the reason behind it.

Reminds me of two young fellows traveling the road to Emmaus from Jerusalem.  Deep in discussion and thought. Pondering the events that had taken place the past few days. Wondering why things didn't turn out as they thought they should. It didn't make sense:

Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people suffered rebuke, torture and death yet He was supposed to be the One to redeem Israel!
Luke 24:19-24 (summary)

Not what they expected or planned for.  Nor did they plan to meet Him on the road, have Him reveal all things to them, dine with them, and vanish right before their eyes. Looking at life through the human lense rather than the divine. Don't we all....

And their eyes were opened and they knew Him. And He vanished out of their sight.
 And they said to one another, “Did not our hearts burn within us while He talked with us on the way and while He opened to us the Scriptures?”
And they rose up that same hour and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together and those who were with them,
saying, “The Lord is risen indeed and hath appeared to Simon!”
And they told what things were done on the way, and how He was known to them in the breaking of bread. 
Luke 24:31-35

Their eyes were opened! As they struggled to understand, He walked with them all the while. Never left them. Along the road. Into their home. Through His gracious act of teaching and revealing His divine purpose, in His humility in accepting their invitation and of dining and breaking bread with them, Jesus showed them the great mysteries of what happened and why. Things suddenly become clear, made sense. What these two men sought after, hoped for and prayed for was standing right before them. Just not in the way they had imagined.

And, so it is with us.  The pain. The suffering. The surrendering. The questions. With God, most things don't happen to us the way we thought they would. There is a purpose in everything.

I look at back at my journey over the past 51 years and see God's hand in so much of it!  No, it's not the way I had envisioned it; however, His ways are not my ways. My way would be self indulgent, temporal and of the flesh; His way is born of a perfect love and powered by an eternal purpose for me. 

A man’s heart deviseth his way, but the Lord directeth his steps. Proverbs 16:9

Honestly, I wasn't happy before, in my 'other life', when I was making the plans. I now know that I am truly rich when I let Him lay the path down before me. Yes, I have cars, a home, children, a husband, a career, family, and much more.  But not in the way I imagined it.  I don't fully understand all of it; as the years go by, my eyes continue to be opened to the mysterious things of the past.  He has revealed so much to me, opened my eyes to see the beauty of His ways and His purposes under heaven.

I don't look back with regrets; I look back with thanksgiving. For the spiritual gifts rather than material, the eternal rather than those things that fade away with time. For the deliverance from bondage. For the fulfillment in His love and in a treasure that waits for me in His Kingdom to come.... Not at all what I'd expected but, oh, so much better!

Does your heart burn when you spend time with Him?  Does your heart burn when He reveals Himself to you through His Word?   
  • It doesn't happen until you have a heart seeking to understand and know Truth. 
  • It doesn't happen until you have a mind knowing there is more than meets the eye.
  • It doesn't happen until you have a spirit yielded to His will and life with Him.
  • It doesn't happen until you break bread with Him, invite Him to dine with you, until He is your God and no other.

Even when we don't understand, even when things don't make sense, He walks with us never leaving us alone.  He waits for us to ask Him to help us understand, to ask for wisdom and discernment. He answers our questions; He wants to teach us, to show us. He waits for us to ask Him, to invite Him, to dine with us. Won't you break bread with Him so He will make Himself known to you and your eyes will be opened......?

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He hath anointed Me to preach the Gospel to the poor. He hath sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.”
 Luke 4:18-19

"I am that Bread of Life." John 6:48

 "In Him was life, and that life was the Light of men.
 And the Light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not. "
John 1:4-5