Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Raw (Chapter 3)

It was one of those moments. An average day with an average routine. Nothing seemingly out of the ordinary. But then-as quick and as powerful as a bolt of lightening-it hit. So powerful it literally knocks the breath out of you for a moment. But so fast you have to stop and ask yourself if that really just did indeed happen. And it did. Not only did it happen, but that split second-no!-half a second-was enough to alter your entire world. Your entire faith. 

The day before I had been talking back and forth with my friend Annie over e-mail. We'd been discussing some things I struggle with and she'd told me to take those things and sort of suspend them in air and walk around the other side of them and look at it from another angle or two. I was processing that and asking the Lord to reveal truth to me. And at the end of the night, I set it aside and sort of out of my mind. 

The next day, however, I worked very early and was supposed to be traveling a bit of a distance to visit a ministry that specializes in prayers of healing. My friend Jessie knows the people who work there and I'm not getting help or answers to my health problems with doctors, so I agreed to try this. Unfortunately, my car just keeps breaking down and i had no way of traveling even 2 hours away. It was suggested I rent a car for the occasion, and as I drove home from my early opening shift I debated that possibility. As I wrestled with it, I thought to myself, "All that trouble just to be prayed for. Is it worth all that money just for some prayer? Isn't that a bit extreme?" That's when it hit. Like lightening. 

It felt like I was standing still and the entire world began to spin around me. I realized almost before the thought finished what I was thinking. What I actually believe. Or, rather, what I DON'T believe. Just prayer. Just. Prayer. J-U-S-T prayer?!?! What the heck.....??? In a flash, I realized that I do not in any way have the faith I once thought myself to. I've been spending time and money at appointment after appointment with doctors of western medicine who are actually making my problem WORSE and have not spent any time or desperation seeking out those with the training and understanding of the healing power of prayer as my answer. I have actually allowed myself to believe that doctors can do more
for me, that prayer won't actually work. 

As I looked through the gospels yesterday and today, I watched Jesus heal the sick. Deliver the possessed and oppressed. Destroy death and disease. Redeem any variety of things. Completely shatter the world that the religious leaders of the day had built. And then turn around and give His followers complete and utter authority to do the same. He even makes the statement that they will do all this AND MORE-because the Holy Spirit will live within them. And I am questioning whether the act of coming before Christ's throne will do much for me. Who am I kidding? Where have I gone wrong? What voices am I listening to?! The church's. My upbringing. This culture. 
As I realize and plead with Jesus to teach me how to live in the full authority He's given me, I ask you-where's your faith at? With your big stuff? With the small details of your day? Are you actively living in the authority and power that Jesus himself handed over to you before He left this Earth? Are you in tune to the Holy Spirit's movement and active work every day? Or are we all falling to distraction and American Christianity and complacency and the soft, cozy, cushy Jesus that never gets bold and loud and authoritative and crazily active about the way things are going? Are our actions moving and flowing in tune with His? When's the last time you experienced His movement in the day? Living here is by far the most comfortable, clean, warm, convenient life we could ask for. So why, then, are so many not content? Why miserable? Stressed out all the time? Depressed? Distracting themselves from thinking with
T.V. and food and video gaming?Something's not adding up. I still have so far to go until I've firmly grasped the truth and actually begun living it out. But I'm determined to refuse infiltration by, well, by everything around me. It's going to take daily diligence. But if I've learned anything at all about Jesus, it will be the most exciting and thrilling ride I could ever take. Anyone out there up for serious change? Let's talk. I'd love some company as I walk along this path. 

Monday, November 14, 2011

Raw (Chapter 2)

I'm not sure if this is true of other cultures, and I am the last to know if it applies as strongly to men, but I have become absolutely convinced that the enemy's greatest weapon against Americans, women, and Christians is comparison and the resulting complacency. (And if you're an American Christian woman, I believe he's trying to set you up for disaster.) We are so surrounded on every side so entirely by things and people that we're told to compare ourselves with, that unless you SEE the depth of the infiltration by our media and society and very actively work to be free of it's influence, you are heading up a very swift, dangerous creek without a paddle to be had. Fortunately, if we can become aware of the situation, Jesus  can become our paddle. And with Him we can turn the boat around. 

The amount of comparison that we're just expected to make every day is enormous. We don't even see the extent of it because we're so infiltrated. Every time you go to the grocery store, there are 15 magazines with hot, perfect women on the cover. They don't ever bother to explain to young girls paging through Cosmo and Vogue that every cover made has a bill for tens of thousands of dollars for airbrushing and photoshopping services. And that every size 1 model in the two-page Gucci and Armani adds are either born having a hard time putting on weight, or just threw up their lunch in the bathroom. 
What about Victoria's Secret adds? I saw about 5 in a one hour episode of Grey's Anatomy last week. Those girls look perfect. But oh, yeah. They've had boob jobs and haven't eaten a full meal in weeks. And how much you want to bet their backs and feet are throbbing from wearing the weight of those wings while filming? I even saw it on a Jack in The Box commercial. Hot, perfect "goddesses" eating a huge bacon burger. Yeah. Right. 

We compare ourselves every day to everyone around us and we don't even see it. I didn't realize the extent of it until recently. One day, the Lord opened my eyes to how much I'm living in bondage to comparison and I saw how bad it's gotten. It's hard to flourish as you when you're constantly looking at how pretty and talented and artistic and wise and successful others are and feeling like you come up short. I do this CONSTANTLY and haven't even seen it. I love singing. I actually have a good-ish voice. But I always look at my friends who are great and assume I should just keep quiet. I love art-photography, painting, drawing, etc....but I know phenomenal artists that I always measure myself against. I love writing. I'd actually love doing it for a living. However, I look at several of my favorite people's work and feel completely messy and juvenile. I even compare my weight loss and teaching skills to my Zumba instructor friends and mentors and give up on things too fast because they've lost more weight and teach such great classes. I can't even be at work without watching my co-workers make coffee faster and better than me. 

I've come to see the severity of comparison and how detrimental and painful it can be to the body of Christ. When we allow it to take over, we give up trying as much and we cease to function at the capacity and in the power He has intended for us to, and we become ineffective. Insecure. Complacent. Less dangerous to the enemy. Which is exactly what he wants. If we managed to stop comparing ourself to others, we would become pure dynamite. Dynamite that blows the enemy right out of the way. 

Friday, November 11, 2011

Raw. (Chapter 1)

I've lost 80 pounds. When you lose a significant amount of weight, people are constantly asking you how you did it. What your secrets are. Sometimes I feel as if they ask and then look at me as if I'm going to pull pixie dust out of my purse and sprinkle it on them and magically give them all the answers.  Now, I DO actually usually carry pixie dust in my purse, but that's a whole other issue and story.  The reality is that while people can definitely lose weight on their own with hard work, I found that for me, it was impossible without a dramatic work of Jesus Christ deeply and profoundly affecting,  healing, restoring, renewing, re-wiring, and re-teaching me who He really is. It's been the toughest, most painful, most lonely, most beautiful, most amazing, and most thrilling ride so far. And I KNOW it's only begun. 

 I was overweight for years. The way in which I deal with stress is to eat. It is one of the comforts I turn to. And until I saw and admitted the actions and thoughts that led to over-eating, nothing was going to change for me. And one day, Jesus gently and lovingly poked and prodded me in this area until I finally let go and called it what it is. Bondage. An unhealthy mindset and addiction. The moment I listened to Him and agreed with Him about my eating was the moment everything began to change. 

What happened first was a desire to get over and away from unhealthy and destructive thought and eating patterns. That was a gigantic project that took time, energy, large amounts of dedication, studying, memorizing, re-wiring my mindset and the way I think. It was actually all about learning to Believe God (not believe IN God). Learning to accept who He is. Who I am. Work through all the painful childhood issues. Allow Him full access to my life. (Especially to my past.) once that all started happening, the weight issue naturally fell into step alongside of the rest. I began attending Zumba classes because I was at a point in my spiritual journey of recognizing that God wants to be Lord of all-and that includes having complete authority and access to my body as well. So I was attempting to put my body under His rein and commit to health for Him more than for me. Of course, once I got into Zumba I  fell in love. And it's actually a way for me to give myself to Him. When I dance-even when it's hip-hop, it's a very serious time of working out my day. Mentally I process through the day as I dance. And I am dedicating my health, my body, my well-being to Him. I actually learn so much and gain such perspective from Zumba. It's not just about exercise. It's about something so much bigger and so much greater. Which is one of the reasons why it's so hard for me when I'm not able to do it.  

The point is, weight loss is really a secondary issue and a reflection of the emotional and mental healing that has taken place within me. If you're struggling with big over-eating, it's bondage.  Look deep inside. Or maybe you won't even need to look that far. You will find an issue. A hang up. A hurt. An anger. A fear. It is what feeds that extra hunger. Deal with that, and you will naturally and unknowingly begin to take on and tackle your weight issue before you even realize it. Let Him in. Give Him full access to your heart.  What's your greatest fear or the one thing you protect with a vengeance? Tear down that wall. Give THAT up. It changes everything. He really DOES have only good for you. And more incredible good than you can comprehend. Admit to yourself and Him that you don't fully believe that and you've begun. 

Raw. (The Introduction.)

"The greatest single cause of atheism today is Christians; who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, then walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyle. THAT is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable."

If you're my age, or if you strangely happen to listen to a lot of 90's music, (something I'd be careful to admit apart from M.J. I mean, come on. Everyone loves Thriller. If you say you don't you're lying.) you probably know where I got that quote. It's on the beginning of an amazing track to an amazing DCTalk album-Jesus Freak.  And lately it's been swimming around in my head. 

For years, I loved the concept of that idea. That quote and song and album really had me thinking about hypocrisy. In high school, I believed Christianity was all about not being ashamed to talk about Jesus. So I was bold to say I believed in Him. I was a student leader in the high school ministry. I would talk about Him at school if I got the opportunity. I attended See You At The Pole every year. I refused to attend parties. I thought that's what being a Christian was all about. And I was totally and completely messed up. I was living in a number of pits of destruction-some that I had been flung into. Many that I dug and jumped into myself.  All those years I have looked at the concept behind that quote completely backwards. Here's what I mean:

When people get turned off to Jesus because of Christians, maybe it's not about what we do and don't attend. What kind of language we use. What we believe about Creation, how old this Earth is, whether Jesus is really coming back and when. Heaven and Hell.  How nice of a person we are. These things are important, yes, but I have come to believe that they may actually distract from the heart and depth of things. 

For several years I worked in environments of ministry. I attended a small Bible school where you literally live in a  bubble for a period of time and get to just be infiltrated with Jesus. And after that, I worked at a Christian camp and lived and taught in a Christian Conference Center that I never needed to leave for any reason.  After that I moved home for MJC and ended up being an intern at Big Valley Grace.  Twice. This whole time, I thought I had gained knowledge and wisdom from all I lived and worked with about avoiding hypocrisy. About making sure people  look at my life and see something that makes Jesus so real. And then the hard stuff started. 

I began working in the secular world. SuddIenly I was spending every day in environments of complete darkness. For the last 4 years, I've been the only Christian in my work place. And it wasn't until that began that I truly learned what it is that makes it hard for people to have any desire to know Jesus as they believe He'd be. 

Here's what I've learned. With small amounts of exceptions, over the last several years what I've seen is that when a person who doesn't know the Lord looks at the Christian in their midst, watches their life, they see only the different view of science and the involvement in a Church. Other than those main things, it's very hard to tell a difference  between a believer and an atheist. I've worked with atheists and Buddhists  who are much more joyful and kind than most of the Christians I am around. In fact, a lot of the pastors and believers I know from town are daily customers at my store right now. And I have been getting infuriated by the fact that they are actually some of the most sour, rude, or fakely friendly people we see each day. Trust me, my co-workers are smart people. They can see through a fake nice-ness. Quite easily. 

I have been wrestling for several years with why it is we don't have any very large differences about us. And THAT right there is the issue that I have come to believe is THE greatest single cause of atheism today. We're not getting it. We're living an American, watered-down Christianity that involves keeping your nice house, white picket fence, and new soccer mom SUV. We do everything exactly the same as the non-believer who lives next door, but we add two hours of church attendance during the week and a Bible study of two during the year and we think that somehow that will appeal to others. We're not getting it.

About 5 years ago I realized this. I hit a point where I decided  I was too tired of pretending I was okay. Or happy. And One night I began just unleashing all my fears and concerns to God. I hollered and cried and screamed and began wrestling with Him and myself like never before. I angrily yelled at Him that I was sick and tired of being so messed up. So unhealthy. So deep in bondage. So addicted. So alike every other messed-up person on this planet.  As a believer, wasn't I supposed to have victory over these things? Wasn't I supposed to be on top of hard circumstances and having incredible stories to tell of encounters and healing and witnessing the Spirit's movement and involvement in everything? Wasn't everything supposed to be a dramatically different way of life than with someone who doesn't know Jesus? And I realized that the majority of Christians I know couldn't answer yes to any of those questions about their own lives. Oh, sure. They genuinely love Jesus. They serve Him. They may even truly deeply affect others.  But they are not living dynamically power-filled lives of authority. They aren't taking the few moments to truly SEE the people they encounter throughout the day. They aren't learning how to lay hands on a pray over people in a way that actually heals and cures disease. (Oh, yes. I DO believe that is very possible. Does that make you squirm?) I didn't want to end up like that. I wanted to get it right. Even if that meant being the weird different one at church of all places. I began to understand that when I get it-I mean REALLY get it-I will be living, breathing, moving with the Spirit. And when I do that, I actually CAN have the power and authority to be over circumstances. To see people and have a knowledge and insight of what God Himself sees and thinks. And because I am literally His daughter, I get to have the very real power and ability to rein in His authority. Kind of like when the King would leave for business and leave his signat ring with someone He trusted to make decisions on his behalf and put an order or a motion into effect with his power backing it up. I have the seal of approval from the King. And if I truly understand that, I can live quite differently. I have the authority to literally move a mountain. Tell a demon to leave. Heal a disease. Sound crazy? Well, maybe it is. But it's true all the same. And we don't live this out. We don't take time to be connected to His voice enough for these things. It would take too much time. Be too inconvenient. And really? I think we're afraid if we listen, we'll be asked to do things, give up things, and go places that we most certainly do not want to deal with. It would be disruptive to our live. And people would think we're crazy. But maybe, just maybe, if we began truly living Christianity in the way we're meant to-healing disease, taking care of each other, providing for believers all over the globe-God has such incredible intimacy, miraculous experiences, and mind-blowing amazement to put into our lives, that when others see what we're living and experiencing, they won't be able to deny the Jesus they're seeing there. It will be different, powerful, real, and HUGE. It will become undeniable. 
We just haven't begun to really grab ahold of this. Of all it entails. We're too distracted by that career. That sport. That two-hour episode of Grey's Anatomy. That vacation we have to plan because we're too overworked. Sometimes i wonder.....If  I were as tapped into the spirit as we could be, I think all He and I would be doing together would be such a wild ride that I'd feel like I was being whisked away on a fascinating cruise every day. Hmmmmm.....
I still have so much to learn. I've barely even scratched the surface. But I already have one wild story that's begun to develop......

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Health update #2

Well, this is most definitely NOT the kind of update I expected to be writing. Sometimes you don't realize how invincible you really think you are until it hits an extreme point. Of course, part of that is because everyone and their mother likes to say "Eh. You're young. You can do it all. You shouldn't be tired!" I heard it from a customer for the millionth time yesterday and  actually shuttered. It's beginning to make me angry to hear that. It's a lie. 

I am at a place of exhaustion and desperation. I was supposed to have a bunch of tests run this week to find out what's wrong with me. The night before the tests I woke up with such severe pain that I ended up reading my Bible while curled in a ball on the living room floor. When I went to the doctor the next day she acted as if I was blowing things out of proportion. I explained to her that I've had many operations in my lifetime, I have a high pain tolerance, and was not making things up. She treated me as if I was being too sensitive to the medicine she'd given me. And actually said my list of symptoms may be "me", and not the medicine.  She said they're indicative of clinical depression. I was in shock. Except for some periods of spiritual depression-NOT clinical-I am a flipping ray of sunshine, okay? I'm NOT Eyore! You're pumping my body with hormones and telling me my side effects aren't the meds?!
She then proceeded to tell me she didn't need to run the tests on me. Then why did she tell me two weeks ago to take the pill, to stop the bleeding, to come in, to have these tests run? She just wants to keep me on the pill for a few months.  All she's saying is "we need to stop that bleeding." Well, you're not. And how about finding out WHY it's happening?!?! And then she listened to my heart and informed me that I have a pretty large murmur. Something no one has discovered before. Now I get to spend several days next week at cardiology. And when I asked her how we're going to find an answer to the original reason I came in, she just said it's hormone changes or stress. But the last time I checked, everyone deals with both of those things and does NOT have this reaction. Especially when they're getting healthy and losing a significant amount of weight. 

It doesn't add up. I left the office with more questions than I came in with and an added health concern and appointments with an added specialist. She's just shoving hormones at me that aren't working. It's a band-aid being slapped on a symptom rather than finding a cause for the problem. Since that appointment on Wednesday,  I've been in continual high amounts of pain and am seeing a whole lot of other problems come back or continue. The pill isn't working. At all. Everything's actually getting worse by the day. When you are feeling increasingly bad physically, it's very hard to have to energy and brains enough to figure out what to do and who to talk to and all that. Despite my age, I feel so young to be handling all these things on my own. It's scary. I'm terrified. I'm at a loss for wisdom. 

The good news? The silver lining in all this?........I learned two years ago a truth that I KNOW was given to me for this moment in time. Ready? It's simple: 
He KNOWS it's scary to be us. 
He gets it. 
Thank you, Jesus.