Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Climbing With The "Rock" of Ages

My latest endeavors have involved rock climbing with my husband, daughter and friends. It is a sport which is physically difficult, made even more so with only one working leg. On the rare occasion that I actually make it to the top of the wall, I feel accomplished, but getting there can be terrifying, especially for someone deathly afraid of heights! From the moment my feet leave the ground, I am gripping that wall for dear life. I know that I am securely attached to the belaying rope and trust my belayer (the person making sure I don't fall on the other end of the rope), but that knowledge and that fairly thin rope, do not bring me much comfort.

As I climb higher and higher, the fear grows, and I find myself unable to look down. As my arms grow more tired, the reality that each step increases the reality that my grip may give out and I may fall, sets in. Once I reach the top, or realize I can no longer hang on, the moment comes when I must let go of the wall. I must trust that the rope and the person on the other end have me. I mean REALLY trust that they have got a firm grip, and I won't plunge to my death.

This morning's devotional reading, after our night of climbing, was the perfect illustration for this post. From Donald Barnhouse's Commentary on Romans:

     "Let me illustrate in terms of a mountain-climbing expedition. We are roped to our companions and are climbing steadily. Suddenly God plants eternal life within us, and with that life comes sight. We glance at the Savior and see that He is holding us; then we look down and discover that we are dangling thirty feet in mid-air. We turn in terror to the One who is holding us, and regain confidence. When we look down again, we see that the distance below is a hundred feet. We look to the Savior, confident that we are safely held, and He guides us across the face of the rock, telling us where to plant our feet. Whenever we slip we have a new and frightening consciousness of the depth beneath us.......

     When the life of Christ first comes to us it brings the consciousness that there is nothing beneath us in our old life that can in any wise support us. Some Christians struggle, claw with their hands, thrash with their feet, and take a long time to come to rest in Him who is holding them. When you stop resting in Christ and step out on your own, you will find yourself in the place of struggle, and will undergo the wrenching nausea of the pit of Romans 7. But always it is possible to get back into the place of rest - quick as a look." 

No amount of striving, grasping, climbing or gripping will ever save me. I cannot live under the burden of the law. No matter how hard I try, I will never succeed at keeping God's law. My only hope is in Christ alone for my salvation. I must keep my eyes on Jesus where my soul will find peace and rest, and keep my eyes from looking down and living in fear when I see how far I have to fall. While I may never be comfortable at high elevation at a rock climbing gym, I am thankful that God has made me alive in Christ and even when I am a thousand feet in the air, I can let go of the rock face and relax completely, knowing that I am in secure hands.

Seek God with all your heart, soul and mind that you may know that Jesus is holding the other end of the rope, and He has you. With Christ alone as your climbing partner, you can rest in knowing He will never let you fall.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

After The Rain

During my morning walk today, I saw an unusually large number of dried up worms along the path. We have had rain here for several days, and although gloomy today, it is dry. The longer I walked and the more dead worms I saw, the more I thought about them. (I know, I know, a little crazy maybe, but this is just how my mind works)

I love a good analogy. They make for an interesting and hopefully memorable post, and I find them helpful for making mundane, everyday, practical things teach us a spiritual lesson. So, I just knew that there HAD to be a lesson in the dead, dried worms on the sidewalk. Now, usually the analogies I come up with just sort of "pop" into my head. Sometimes in the middle of the grocery store or at 3 am, but occasionally, I actually have to think a little about them!

So what spiritual lesson could be learned from the crusty, old, worms?

Was it the fact that they had ventured away from their safe habitat and into the unknown? Maybe a lesson about turning your back on God and the wages of sin being death? Or making wrong decisions, leaving God's protection? None of these ideas were really giving me a well developed thought, so I walked some more.

The worms quite possibly could represent the Israelites wandering in the desert and dying there, failing to make it to the Promised Land.

Maybe the worms were like the 10 virgins (Matthew 25), five of whom had no oil for their lamps and weren't ready when the Bridegroom returned. Nope, I got nothing.

I am not sure there is a good spiritual lesson to be learned from dried out worms, but they did cause me to think (perhaps WAAAY too much) about venturing out of my comfort zone. Maybe I just needed to learn to get outside, and enjoy all God has given me. Possibly I needed a reminder to just go dance in the rain, enjoy this day, for tomorrow is promised to know one.

Hope you are enjoying today instead of worrying about tomorrow! Today, spend a little time praising God (even in the midst of the rain) and let me know if you can think of any better analogy for dead worms! :)

Friday, September 5, 2014

I'm Sure You've Heard

Thought it was a good time to catch up! It has been a quick summer filled with long walks, bike rides and day trips. I had surgery in July to fix some scar tissue from a previous surgery that had caused a neuroma to form and a lot of pain. I feel much better, and am glad I finally had it fixed. My leg brace is currently getting remade because I lost so much weight it was way too big, and I am eagerly awaiting it's return.

In May, on Mother's Day actually, I stood on the side lines again and took pictures at the Tough Mudder. This year was different as both my husband and daughter participated (last year just my husband ran the event while my daughter and I volunteered). When we left the event, I decided that no matter how long it takes me to finish, next year I will be completing the Tough Mudder course right alongside Chad and Katherine. To my amazement, several of our friends have decided to join my team and help me to finish. I am thankful for such a great support system! (as a side note and shameless plug- there is still room on my team #letscarryshari. If you are interested and live in the Chicago area let me know and you can come join us!)

All of this has me thinking about Philippians 4:13: "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." The reason this verse came to mind, is not what you might expect. This verse has become a common refrain among stars, athletes and everyday people doing activities out of the norm. It has been used to mean "no matter what I decide to do, Christ will enable me to do it." This usage is not at all correct however. This verse is not an indication of our ability to accomplish anything we set our minds too, but it is an expression of our sufficiency in Christ.

Paul was not giving us a prescription to be able to accomplish anything we desire. I physically cannot run any more than my husband can physically give birth to a child. Neither of those things can happen, even if we wanted them to, and believing that "I can do all things through Christ" doesn't change that fact. In Philippians chapter 4, Paul is writing to Christians as a prisoner for Christ, expressing that he has learned to be content in every circumstance. "...for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." (Philippians 4:11-13).

I do intend to finish the Tough Mudder on Mother's Day in May 2015, both with my friend's help and my own stubbornness, and while being both "in Christ" and "with Christ." I have no false belief that this verse confirms that I can complete a Tough Mudder course. This verse will not be my team motto. Whether I finish or not, I can be content in Christ. I can rest in Him and be satisfied in my circumstances. I do not need to be mad or question why God let me fail, because this verse was not a promise that I can do anything I set my mind too, but assurance that He is the one in control. I can trust Him and be content in all situations knowing that every happening is filtered through His loving hands, and through Christ my salvation is secure. Whatever the outcome next May, I am thankful for a God who gives me peace and contentment through His Son.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Carpenter's Wife

Most of you know that I happen to be married to a carpenter. Saying that he is a "carpenter" gives you just a slight idea of what he actually does each day since carpenters do a wide variety of work. Presently, Chad works doing concrete work. In the past, he had done a variety of carpentry tasks including: rough framing houses, remodeling, truss building, trim, decks, and the list goes on and on. The type of tools Chad needs to use depends on the type of work he is completing. Some times he needs a large, heavy hammer or perhaps even a sledge hammer, other times he uses small trim nails in a nail gun, and yet at other times he uses a saw. Each tool he uses creates a very different result, and serves a very different purpose. A skilled carpenter has the finesse to use each tool in the right way and the wisdom to know which tool he needs for the job. When the job is complete, he can stand back and look at the finished project and smile knowing it is a job well done.

We learn in the New Testament that Jesus was the son of a carpenter. Jesus would have learned this trade growing up in Joseph's home. As the ultimate Carpenter, Jesus applies His craft to change our hearts. Some days it can feel like we are being shaped by a sledge hammer, other times His still small voice gently guides us, softly smoothing off our rough edges with fine grain sandpaper. Every event, no matter how small, is lovingly brought into our life, by God, for His glory and our sanctification. The Bible calls us, who make up the church,  the bride of Christ. "....just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish." (Ephesians 5:25-27)

Each day I pray that this construction project, that is my life, might reveal a wonderful finished project. I am thankful to be able to trust my Savior knows best what circumstances I need brought in my life to whittle away my rough spots to help me increasingly become more and more like Him. I rest "being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ." (Philippians 1:6) Today I have peace knowing that I am THE Carpenter's wife.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Why Do Good Things Happen To Bad People?

I know you have all heard someone ask the question, "Why do bad things happen to good people?" I recently heard this asked and it got me thinking. I never hear anybody ask, "Why do good things happen to bad people?" The more I considered this, the more I realized that this is actually the better question.

There are a couple of things we need to consider regarding these statements. We need to define our terms. What is "good" and what is "bad"? I discussed this topic previously in the post about a car accident I had a few years ago. We define the words "good" and "bad" much differently than God does. For starters, as individual human-beings, we could go through the exact same situation and not agree on whether it was good or bad. It would be subjective based on our personalities, previous experiences, etc. God, however, does not change (Malachi 3:6).

We tend to compare ourselves to others, convinced we are doing better than our neighbor, and therefore are "good people." This reminds me of an analogy about sheep. When we see a group of sheep grazing in the grassy fields, we think to ourselves, "wow, look at those white sheep in the green grass." If however, we see those same sheep in a snow covered field, we would say, "wow, those sheep are dingy and grey compared to the pure, white snow." This is what we are doing when we compare ourselves to others. The sheep didn't change color; they looked very white when compared only to the green grass. When you look at them next to a pure white background, the snow, you realize they aren't as clean and white as first thought. We can seem "good" when compared to someone who is worse than we are, but when we compare ourselves to the pure and holy standards of God, we quickly find we are dirty and dingy, and left wanting.

God alone sees the whole picture and knows fully what things are good and bad. As sinners, we justify our actions, thinking we are good people, but scripture is clear- we all fail to live up to God's standards. The Bible says that there are none who are righteous (Romans 3:10). God's good and perfect gift, Jesus, was given to us while we were yet sinners, not because of any good in us, but by grace we were saved (Ephesians 2).

Christ is the (ultimate) good thing that has happened to this bad person....and to all who believe.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Coffee Grinding and Separation

Have any of you ever ground your own coffee beans? While I enjoy a freshly ground and brewed cup of coffee, the process of grinding the roasted beans can get messy. Most of the heavier ground coffee is easily transferred to a container for storage, but there is always some lighter, static-filled flakes from the shell of the bean that end up all over the counter (and sometimes the floor) which end up going into the garbage or getting washed down the drain.

This reminded me of John the Baptist's words in Matthew 3:12 and Luke 3:17-
"His (God's) winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, 
and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire."

Are you wheat or chaff? Will you be gathered into the barn or burned with unquenchable fire?

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Less of Me in 2014

Hello everyone! It has been a rough start to the new year for me. First, we got snowed in at a hotel in Michigan, turning an overnight trip into a 3 day excursion. My husband came home sick and I quickly followed suit. It has been 10 days since I woke up with a sore throat, and I am still not completely well. I thought I would post today with an update and a little encouragement for the new year.

My theme today "Less of Me in 2014" is two-pronged. For starters, I have mentioned before about trying to change my diet to see if there was any way to help ease my physical issues. When I started this journey at the end of 2012, I weighed 163 lbs (my heaviest) and suffered from high cholesterol, climbing blood pressure and hypoglycemia. These added health issues on top of all my autoimmune issues had me fed up. I did a little research and decided to adopt a paleo diet, not sure it would help but figured that worst case scenario I would just be deprived of carbs for a while.

2013 brought new health challenges and I fell off the paleo wagon briefly while going through treatment for the new condition, which involved prednisone usage. I won't go in to all the details, as they can easily be found in previous posts, but suffice it to say, the health crisis that followed was enough to keep me on the straight and narrow. June 2013, was the beginning of getting more seriously committed to the paleo lifestyle, including changing the way I exercise. I also adopted the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) in addition to the paleo guidelines I was following. (If you are interested, you can see what foods are on this program here)While, it is a lot of work, it has been well worth it. I am sure that this doesn't work the same for everyone, and am not suggesting you try it. Each person should talk to their doctors and do their own research before changing diet and exercise routines in their own lives.

Starting out my weight was 163 pounds; today it is 122.5. My blood pressure was running commonly in the 165/95 range and I was told I would need to start BP meds immediately. Now my pressure averages around 110/70. My cholesterol has gone down, and I have stopped taking the statin I had been on for almost 10 years. I still deal with some pain issues, and numbness, but overall I feel much better, sleep more soundly and have less bad days. So for me it was a success, for which I am truly grateful.

While there is literally less of me starting this new year, I am also reminded that there continually needs to be less of ME. In John 3:30, John the baptist says, speaking about Jesus, "He must increase, but I must decrease." As I begin this year, I make this my prayer. I pray that I would be continually reminded of my need to live less for myself and my own selfish desires, and strive to live more for Him, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. May we all be humbled under His mighty hand, that we would all recognize our complete and utter dependency upon His Spirit.

My body isn't big enough for both of us. It is either Him or me; it can't be both of us in control. May God grant that I would more and more die to myself and live for Him. I hope there is less of all of you in 2014 as well.