On Losing Weight

From my 2009 Journal. This Sunday I watched a particularly well-padded lady at church who loves to move to the music. I’m fascinated to watch human flesh respond this way in motion. Why does this mesmerize me? I feel sorry for the lady, but in truth I feel sorry for me. Here she is, obviously enjoying the joy of the Lord and (seemingly) oblivious to the fact that the people around her are watching. I feel like slapping myself for my rudeness in staring.

Here’s what I’m thinking: “If she only knew what she looked like . . .” Is that what people say when they watch me? If I don’t like what I see in the mirror, why should others?

I confess my fascination, my rudeness. Why am I not very tolerant of obesity? Why so critical? Is this self-righteousness? There’s always someone who is heavier than I am, and I’m envious of those who are thinner. I don’t like the numbers I read on the scale. I want to lose some weight, but why? To fit my clothes better? To feel better physically? To feel better about my looks?

The one I want to explore is Reason #3. Is this vanity? Where am I getting the belief that thin is beautiful, that I’ll look better in the eyes of others if my underarms don’t jiggle or my stomach is flat?

Though I’d not say I am obese, I do know I’m not at an ideal weight at the moment. What would motivate me to give up one thing in order to gain something else? My strongest drive, and the only one I think, that would work to help me lose weight, is to believe that it would please my Savior. But is that true? He loves me no more, no less, if I’m fat or thin.

What I do know is that obesity is often a symptom of a heart need. It’s just that an obese person’s issues are visible, whereas the issues of a thin person may not be. When I’m judgmental of people who are overweight, I fail to address my own hidden hurts.

Ok, now that the issue is out on the table, what do I do with it?

I’m currently reading Bill Thrasher’s book A Journey Into Victorious Praying. He states, “God wins His greatest victories in the midst of apparent defeat” and “God uses the needy moments in life to prepare us for His work.” And when anticipating temptation, “think ahead and ask God to give you a prayer burden to pray each time you are tempted to go back to your previous lifestyle . . . Make it a prayer that will damage Satan’s kingdom as God answers it” (pp. 33-35).

Suddenly I realize that I haven’t talked to God yet about my desire to lose weight. Oops.

As I pray, I hear Jesus say, “Step into the light. The mirror and the camera don’t lie.” First I have to come out of denial, acknowledge the truth, and confess my vanity. And then I ask God to reveal to me what’s really in my heart. I am willing to stop filling the empty place with food and I ask Him to fill it with something of Himself instead.

I can now see the church lady in all her beauty, loving God in full abandon. God knows her heart. It’s no longer about me.

Chocolate

Live Long and Prosper

From my 2009 Journal. Why do we hold so hard onto life here on earth? Suicide, euthanasia, and murder are odious to us. Is staying alive a God-given survival instinct? What if we knew the date of our death? Would we accept it or bargain for more days?

In her last days, my mom observed, “The will to live is pretty strong,” and she fought hard till the end to stay here on earth. Shortly after she passed away, I read Isaiah 38, the record of King Hezekiah’s demise. God said to him: Set your house in order; you’re going to die.

Hezekiah wasn’t too happy about that announcement and he wept bitterly. Remember my good works and service to You,” he replied. And later, “I must depart . . . deprived of the remainder of my years . . . my sleep has fled, because of the bitterness of my soul . . . Give me back my health and make me live.

I cannot judge Hezekiah for his response. We do this all the time. The minute someone gets ill, we pray for their recovery. I don’t think that’s wrong—but I think it needs the condition “if it’s Your will.” What would happen if, when someone fell ill, we also prayed for their spiritual growth or acceptance of their plight?

We do not always know the mind of God. We think all affliction is bad, but sometimes it fulfills God’s purpose. In Hezekiah’s case, God told him directly that His will was that it was time for him to leave this earth. When we do know His will, why do we fight against God’s directions? Do we really think we know better? He knows our heart. Do we know His? Do we know the whole picture? The whole truth? (See Job).

Surprisingly, God responded to Hezekiah’s plea: I have heard your prayer. I have seen your tears. I’ll add 15 years to your life. And I’ll deliver Jerusalem from Assyria.

It is a comfort to me that the God of the Universe has an ear to His creation. He has compassion on our tears and He responds with abundance. Not only did He spare Hezekiah’s life, but He offered safety from his enemies. He answered Hezekiah’s prayer, but at what cost? During the remainder of his life, pride and arrogance took over his heart. Was 15 years on earth really better than 15 years he could have lived in heaven? I can picture Hezekiah arriving at the pearly gates, realizing the ignorance of his request, hitting his forehead with his the palm of his hand, and saying, “What was I thinking!?”

The Scriptures talk about long life being a blessing. We always assume a person’s life is cut short if he dies young. Somehow it seems easier to grieve an elderly person’s passing than a younger one. But from heaven’s perspective, the younger one has been spared an awful lot of heartache. If God’s best is for a person to live 5, 15, or 50 years, then he has lived for his full quota.

When God speaks, when He reveals His will, it is best to keep silent. I don’t think it’s wrong to struggle and work through our emotions—even Jesus struggled to accept the Father’s will—but our conclusion, in the end, must be, “God’s will be done.” I don’t want someone praying for me if they’re not praying the Father’s will!

I’m not near death’s door. When my time comes, will I, too, scramble for a foothold in order to stay bound to earth?

On Prayer—Doing It Right?

From my 2012 Journal. I started to pray for a friend, asking God to move all obstacles from his path. But then I paused. How can I be sure what obstacles are from God (remember Balaam’s angel?) and which are from Satan? And so I modify my prayer—please, Lord, remove all obstacles that belong to or originate from the enemy. And then I think again, “But what if God was the One who originated that idea (remember Job?) So again I change my prayer:  Lord, give courage, wisdom and strength to grow through all obstacles that You allow to enter my friend’s path. That sounds right.

Does God ever get tired of my asking for the same things every day? Every day, same prayers for the same people, with different words perhaps, or different needs prayed for. But same, same, same. And then I think of my three-year-old Grandson Jack. He walks in my front door, flings wide his arms, and cries out, “Hi Grandma!” followed by “Play Wii?” Every time. And my heart melts, and I delight in his childish exuberance, and I don’t mind that he asks for the same thing every time he greets me. He makes me smile. And maybe, just maybe I make God smile when I open my eyes in the morning and say, “Hi, God.”

To Whom should we pray?

From my 2009 Journal. I listened to a radio pastor yesterday who stated: we are to pray to the Father, through Jesus, by (I think he said) the Holy Spirit.

Always? Is it wrong to pray to Jesus? To the Holy Spirit? And are not all three God—equal, unified? Is it merely semantics? Or is it indeed the biblical model? When Jesus was on earth, He never told the disciples to “pray to Me.” Or did He? He said, “Ask Me what you will and I will grant it.” I know my prayers change in tone and in request depending on the One to whom I focus in prayer.

The Trinity is spatial to me. I visualize The Father high up, above, beyond the earth’s atmosphere, ruling the universe, sitting on His throne, judging, overseeing, in charge of the atoms, big, big, big. Jesus, on the other hand, is here, beside me, friend, intimate, sitting with me on the bed, at the table when I eat, watching over my shoulder while I’m at the computer, walking beside me at the grocery store. I see the Father watching over me; the Son is beside me. But the Holy Spirit is in me. He permeates every cell of my body and brain and heart, convicting, whispering truth into my innermost being, comforting, enlightening, revealing, opening my eyes, teaching.

Three separate Beings? Yes—and no. They are one—there is only one God, no longer separated now that Jesus is home again. They’re not “apart.” Just as I am made up of three separate (but unified) parts—I have a body, soul, and spirit. I can no more separate one from the other than God can divide Himself. I suspect it’s not as big an issue as we make it. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one after all!

I still have my earthly body, and my spirit/soul are finite/limited, but I am made in the image of God. I cannot pray to one “part” of God without praying to all parts. I suppose you could say that I could speak to my body, or I could talk to my “self” (my soul/mind), or I could converse with my spirit, but each part is aware of the other parts.

Just for fun, listen to people when they pray and note whom they address. What do you think this reveals?

Do What You Can

She has done what she could. Mark 14:8 (NKJV)

[Context: the woman with the alabaster jar of precious nard who poured it on Jesus’ head]

From my 2012 Journal. I worry so often about what I cannot do, but when I feel limited, what if I would simply “Do what I can” instead?

What’s holding me back from getting adequate exercise, for example? The wrong focus. I can’t before breakfast because . . . I can’t do it at night because . . . How pathetic my excuses sound! What if, just for once, I tried doing what I CAN do? Then, perhaps, I might see some change.

When it comes to prayer, I feel so inadequate. I opened my reminder list this morning to begin my petitions and recalled Daniel’s prayer—first he thanked God and then he petitioned. Uh-oh. Did I pray in the right order? Did I do it right? And then I realize I’m placing myself back under a “should.”

Boo boo 2

My daughter Cindy with Ben eating spaghetti (comfort food)

God reminds me of the many times my girls would run into the room and ask, “May I go play with [whoever]?” or “I’ve got a boo-boo; need a kiss and a Band-aid.” They don’t need to get down on one knee and formally enter my presence and thank me for being their parent before they blurt out their request. I am not offended if they don’t first tell me how wonderful I am as a mom.

At the end of the day, when all is quiet and still, it is a delight to have my daughters crawl up into my lap and cuddle and pour out their woes and hurts and struggles. And it is a joy to help them work through their issues or give them bits of wisdom to carry them through their day.

And so I see myself running the length of the Throne Room and flinging myself into my Abba Father’s arms and telling Him: I have some playmates who need Your help. Just want to bring them to Your attention. I know You have the universe to run and enemies to battle, but my playmates have boo-boos that need tending to. It’s my little petition … my little attempt to fix things in the kingdom. And of course I know He already knows about them. He has servants all over the kingdom and guardians already attending to those little ones. He knows. He cares. But He’s glad that I’m concerned too. He has it all under control, “but thanks for bringing it to My attention.” He’s glad I’m cultivating compassion in my heart.

Pray how you can, not how you can’t. (Monastic advice)

Why Have You Forsaken Me?

cross

Around three o’clock, Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Mark 15:34 (NET)

From my 2016 Journal. A victim often asks the question, “Where were You, God, when the abuse happened?” In my experience, God seldom answers the “why” question immediately. Generally, there’s an emotion (often anger) standing in the way, behind the “why” that needs to be addressed first.

I believe it was Jesus’ humanity speaking when He asked, “Why have You, Abba Father, forsaken Me?” In my opinion, contrary to many preachers and songs that claim that the Father turned His back on His Son, God had NOT forsaken Him. Never! But in this moment of extreme physical torture, head throbbing from thirst, body in tatters, fighting to breathe, bruised and battered, His back on fire as it rubbed against the wood, three hours felt like an eternity. One minute would be more than the average man could handle. Minute by minute agony, waiting for the end to come. Wishing it to just be over.

Jesus had intimate communion with His Papa all along. He’d wrestled with His own will just twelve hours earlier and submitted to His Father’s plan. But in one’s pain, it’s hard to focus, to think, to use logic. The focus is all on the removal of pain.

“Where are You, Father? I can’t feel You near. I can’t see You or hear You.”

The abused take it a step further: “You could have chosen to stop it and You didn’t; what kind of a cruel God are You, anyway?”

Jesus’ anguished cry could not include sin or blasphemy or lies. “Why have You forsaken Me? It FEELS like You have.”

Jesus is quoting Psalm 22. The words, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” are only the first few words of verse one. The rest says, “I groan in prayer, but help seems far away.” (Note the word seems.)

Verse 19 declares, “But you, O LORD, do not remain far away! You are my source of strength! Hurry and help me!”

Jesus knew the whole Messianic Psalm by heart. It’s a Psalm of agony and truth, but it ends in triumph. Jesus knew this had to be His lot in order to fulfill prophecy.  He did not have the physical strength to quote the entire Psalm, but He could begin it, and those Jews who heard it would immediately recognize its source and be able to fill in the rest.

The abuse victim cries out, “Where were You, God? Why did You forsake me?”

And the Father gently replies, “I was there all along.”

When Prayer Is Not a Good Thing

From my 2016 Journal. Sometimes we pray out of our triggers; and God, for some reason, listens and answers our prayers—even when they’re not good for us or for others.

Moses begged God not to destroy the people of Israel and start over with a new nation. What if Moses hadn’t prayed and God did destroy His chosen people? Israel’s history would have been very different and forty years of desert wandering avoided.

Hezekiah begged for more years to be added to his life, and after God granted him an extra fifteen, this king turned to idolatry.

Abraham begged God to spare Lot’s life, and incest and warring nations ensued.

Hannah cried out for a son and then lived with the pain of giving Samuel up to be raised by an ungodly priest.

And yet—God is capable of turning bad into good.

And yet—we also suffer the consequences of our poor choices.

I wonder if I have ever begged God for something that was not good for me, and He relented, and I paid the consequences, but He turned it for good . . . I can’t think of anything right now, but I suspect I’ll be quite surprised when I find out the truth in heaven.

I think the lesson here is learning to ask God first what His will is, and then praying that prayer, rather than trying to twist His arm to do mine.

Have you ever noticed that the majority of our church prayer requests are for physical needs? We list all known ills from a sister-in-law’s cousin Becky who has cancer to Great-uncle Bob who just had a toenail removed. We pray and ask for healing and get all excited when someone is “miraculously” healed. But what if . . . just what if . . . God had a better plan but He relented and gave me what I asked for? Even Jesus was discerning as to whom He touched and whom He healed. And He certainly didn’t raise everyone from the dead.

For me, personally, I want to glorify God whether I’m ill or well. I can’t ask for something with great assurance unless I discern first that He desires it, lest like a child begging for candy, I do more harm than good. But if I ask for good things, I can trust my loving, heavenly Father to supply what I need.

What’s your experience?

Candy

To Pray or not to Pray

From my 2016 Journal. A conversation

Karen: There are a lot of people out there who need my prayers.

Jesus: (with raised eyebrows) Oh really?

Karen: Well, isn’t that true? We’re taught, commanded, instructed to pray.

Jesus: (smiles) True. But that’s not why you pray.

Karen: It’s not?

Jesus: You pray because you love Me and I love you. It’s not a duty, a job, or a task to fulfill, a checklist to complete. People don’t need your prayers. I’m quite capable of taking care of them.

Karen: Ouch. Yes, Lord.

Jesus: I just want you to be with Me. I’ll guide your mind. Talk to Me about these people who are on your heart. I will listen, and I will consider your requests, but I know what’s best, and My will shall be done on earth as it is in heaven. I know your concerns. I know your thoughts before you even express them. But spoken words are important. “Believe in your heart and confess with your mouth.”

I have been a lifelong student on the subject of prayer and have met many who are skilled at verbalizing their prayers, but I have yet to meet anyone who believes they have mastered the discipline of an inner prayer life. Tell me what you’ve learned on your journey of intimacy with God.

Prayer

Where two or three aren’t gathered

For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them (Matt. 18:20 KJV).

From my 2011 Journal. Every Monday morning I meet with a small group of ladies for Bible study and prayer. And every Sunday I join hands with my Momentum team, and we bring our requests before the throne of God. And many times I’ve begun a prayer session by quoting Matthew 18:20, reminding God of His promise to join us.

We’re all guilty of it—quoting and applying Scripture out of context—but it startles me when I discover I’m the guilty one! The actual context of this verse is regarding confronting a person who has wronged you and forgiving them and getting witnesses and declaring he’s wrong. It really has nothing to do with a prayer meeting!

Is it still true that God is “there” when two or three are gathered together? Of course! But He’s just as much “there” when there’s only ONE of us in one place! I just don’t think I should use this verse as a proof text for something it isn’t.

What verses have you been guilty of taking out of context?

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The People’s Choice Award

KingLike a child begging a parent for candy before dinner, I wonder if there are times when we beg too hard for what we want, and God gives it to us—but it’s not for our best. Better to examine our hearts, motives and emotions to discover why we’re begging for something. Better to ask, “according to God’s will” and from a heart of peace that is aligned with what God has predetermined is best for us or our loved one.

Once more, just before the public declaration of God’s choosing, the prophet Samuel warned the people of their folly in desiring a king (I Samuel 12). It’s like the Israelites begging for meat in the wilderness: God answered their prayers, but then they suffered the consequences.

So why did the people want a king? “To be like the other nations” it says in one place. But verse 12 gives us more insight:

But when you saw that Nahash king of the Ammonites was moving against you, you said to me [Sam], “No, we want a king to rule over us”—even though the Lord your God was your king (NIV).

Their folly began with bending to the culture, followed by fear of the enemy, which led to stubbornness and rebellion against God.

What gives me hope is that even after God granted their request for a king, He still gave them a second chance to do right.

If you fear the Lord and serve and obey him and do not rebel against his commands, and if both you and the king who reigns over you follow the Lord your God—good! (v. 14). [But IF the opposite is true, watch out!]

Even when we sin and foolishly ask for something that’s not good for us, God can still redeem the situation—IF we repent.