Saturday, June 27, 2015

My PB&J Isn't Good Enough Today

I'm down 23 lbs. Aaron... He's down 54. Pretty incredible, huh? Yeah... I'd be fooling if I acted like I wasn't super proud of this accomplishment. It's been rough! Hitting it hard at the gym, chugging down the water, and changing the diet plan.

It was the norm to pack a sandwich, some chips, a Little Debbie snack, sweet tea or a can of soda. If we weren't really digging the ham and cheese (and tons of mayo), I'd throw in some pizza rolls or bagel bites. Of course, a couple times a week, it just felt necessary to go out for a juicy burger and fries. Needless to say, sticking to veggies and baked chicken... Well, you know. Yes, it's paid off immensely. No, I wouldn't go back to processed foods and pounds of preservatives and hidden chemicals. Still, sometimes, I just want McDonald's!

That's how I was feeling today. The classic PB&J, the delicious goodness that it is, just wasn't cutting it for me. I wanted beef. I wanted substance. I wanted something a little more satisfying. So, what did I do? I decided to go to Toast on Market and get an absolutely scrumptious California Club. The roasted turkey and fresh avocado smothered in their very own aioli sauce... You just can't match that, PB&J! It was like heaven nestled between two pieces of warm, melt-in-your-mouth, ciabatta bread.

Yep. I'm a foodie. I can't do the same dish everyday.

And with that comment, I shall move on to deeper things.

How is it that we are so quick to give in to the wants of our appetites and needs of our flesh, yet we forever stay hungry for the things of God? I know that there will always be more of Him to experience, so we should never stop hungering for new things, but I'm referring to the state of hunger we remain in for long periods of time. We never go to the table to fill up, if you will. We eat that PB&J every single day for every single meal. No, we don't enjoy it. Yes, we're burnt out. Our spiritual man is screaming out for some nutrition, but we don't take the time to place the order. Why do we do this?

I'm not just pointing fingers, believe me. I'm asking myself these same questions. We do our same devotions, we pray over the same needs, we attend church on Sunday... but aren't we hungry for more? I am! When will we decide we don't want to eat that sandwich anymore? Will we ever take advantage of the many different things He's placed at our fingertips? Are we willing to put a little more effort into what provides us the strength and energy we need to be healthy?

In light of the recent issues that have swept across our nation, I am broken. I am compelled to do something. There is an urgency inside me that I can't even begin to explain, and I refuse to put out. I've realized that whatever we were "eating" before... It wasn't enough. The "entrees" we were offering those around us, they weren't filling them up. They were hungry... but we couldn't feed them what they needed, because we weren't completely satisfied with it ourselves. Why? Because we settled for the easy, convenient, affordable PB&J day after day! There's so much more than that!

I want to dig so deep into the things of God that I get served something different every day. I want to be smothered in satisfaction and filled to the brim. Every morning His mercies are new... so why do we live on the leftovers? I refuse to do that anymore! He's got too much in store for me to reach for the easy. Sure, it may cost more to get something better, but anything with quality usually requires a little more. It's probably going to take a little more of my time, but just like this weight loss journey... it will be well worth it!

I've just been convicted today. Everything around us is "progressing," because the people of God aren't allowing Him to. We have to discover Who Jesus really was and is. How did He act? How did He respond? In what way did He handle controversial issues? Push your plate back... Your PB&J hasn't worked, remember? We have to change what we're feeding ourselves.

I've seen so many harsh words and condemning judgments splattered all over social media... from all sides. There's been an uproar of opinions and beliefs, a vast amount of debating on what is constitutionally right vs biblically sound, and a lot of mass chaos and confusion. What's been most obvious? The lack of and longing for love.

I have something deep to share right now... Hang on to your hats, folks. Non-Christians will not act like Christians. It's true. They will not share our values. They could care less about our beliefs. Our morals are nothing but a "conservative's way of life," in their eyes. They don't understand why we do what we do, and they don't uphold God's Word as THE authority like we do. Therefore, we cannot throw scriptures at them and expect them to feel guilty. We should not act like they're ignorant for not seeing things like we do. We can't get angry at them for disagreeing with us. People have been trying this tactic for years, and where has it gotten us?

No, you can't blame everything on the devil, and you can't push it all off on "Well, we're just in the last days." Both may have a factor, but that does not in any way change your calling. We were commanded to "Go, into all the world and preach the Gospel." What is the Gospel? The dictionary defines is as "glad tidings; especially concerning salvation... as announced to the world by Christ." The Gospel is not our doctrine. It is not our list of do's and don'ts. It is GLAD tidings... concerning salvation... by Christ! HE is what saves. We have to get that in our heads and hearts! Quit spending so much time talking about everything else. Stop pointing out everyone's wrongs. Without Him... we ALL are! In no way am I saying that we need to stop preaching against sin or keep silent what God commands. I'm just saying, I did not change my life because I was scared or because I felt guilty. I wanted Jesus because I heard that He loved me even though I had problems, and He was going to help me overcome them.

In case you're still not understanding what I'm trying to say, think about this:

A man that does not love his wife will not care to cheat on her. There will be no guilt or remorse. There will probably not even be any trying to hide it. But, a man that adores his wife and has committed himself to her would not think twice about doing such a thing. Right? Point being, if someone hasn't fallen in love with Christ, they will not want to dedicate their lifestyle or behavior to Him. You have to show them how easy and wonderful it is to love Him and He will take care of what they need.

When HE is lifted up, what did He say He'd do?  Draw all men to Him.

Maybe we're spending too much time putting others down... because our country is further away from Him than ever before.

Take a look inside and ask yourself if your words and behavior are really reflecting His life. Jesus didn't focus His attention on what He did or didn't do. He didn't have to. He was perfect. When we get saved, He lives in us, so we shouldn't have to put all of our energy into constantly "perfecting" ourselves. That work was completed through Him on the cross. We need to follow His example by reaching out to the ones others have rejected. THAT is who my Jesus is. We need to show them love and acceptance as a soul that He loves. Only then will they want to put down the sin.

I've decided, my diet is changing. No more settling. PB&J isn't satisfying. I'm not supposed to live on this same thing for the rest of my life. My appetite craves more. Why? Because there is more. We just have to get it. So, I am. And, I hope you do, too. We need to do this together. God's got too much more for us.

God's got too much for America.

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Monday, June 8, 2015

Why Did God Let that Happen?

For probably forever, people have delayed or denied a belief in God because of this unanswered question. I've read countless comments and heard an innumerable amount of statements from people ostracizing the slightest chance to believe there is a God, because of the unfortunate things that happen here on earth. And then on another level, if they do believe in "a God," they refuse to accept that He is good.

I want to start off assuring you that my heart goes out to these people. I don't get angry or critical. I refuse to respond hatefully or harshly. The fact of the matter is, they have obviously seen a lot of horrendous and awful things during their lifetime. They've apparently faced an insurmountable amount of hurt and disappointment, that it's become all they expect from anyone and anything. So much so, that they've lost sight of anything truly great or hopeful. Because of the amount of strength and endurance it took for them to simply keep breathing, they can't willingly give credit or thanks to anyone other than themselves and maybe a couple of other faithful friends. That image devastates me. That reality truly breaks my heart.

Because of my relationship with Christ, I can look back on my life and say that I've been blessed. However, without Him to lean on and trust in, I can recall instances where it would have been easy to feel like I had a reason to feel betrayed by Him and a right to be angry. Still, whether or not my reason was legit, the right would have never been mine.

This may sound absurd to some... so prepare yourselves. But, I've come to realize that even the unfair things in life hit us because of His goodness. How, you ask? Because He is a God of choices. He is a God of freewill. He's a God that does not pressure anyone into anything. He leaves your decisions up to you... He leaves my decisions up to me... and everyone else in the world gets that same privilege. While He has all power and complete control, He refrains from using it to dictate the very people He created to bring Him glory... even if a big number refuses to do so.

Sure, He oftentimes answers the prayers we pray. But, there are also times when He answers in a way that we don't like... He says wait. He says no. There are times things happen so suddenly that we don't even have time to utter a prayer. A loved one dies tragically in a car accident caused by a drunk driver. A child is abandoned. Someone decides their spouse is no longer enough. These situations would cause an unbelievable amount of pain, betrayal, and possibly a decent portion of self-loathing for the unfortunate victim on the receiving side. Yet, even in these unwelcome circumstances, the souls making the choices were simply abusing the privilege God gave them. He never intended His graciousness to be trampled on and misused, but humans were born with a sinful nature, and some exhibit that quite well. While I would love to cover all my loved ones from ever experiencing rejection or loss, I can't. And while He is capable, He has to be consistent. His Word says that "it rains on the just and the unjust." Why? Because, He also makes it clear in His Word that "He is no respecter of persons." Everyone is given the opportunity to make choices in this life. That alone is a precious, incredible gift. The Bible gives clear direction on the best way to make those choices; ones that would allow a peaceful life for everyone. Yet, because of His faithfulness, He leaves those decisions up to each one individually. Sadly, when one shows no concern for doing the right thing, they usually don't... and innocent people sometimes suffer for it.

Writing this out now, part of me wants to just cross that last statement out and pretend it never escaped my brain. But, I can't. Because it's completely true.

Before you bow your head in hopelessness, or stomp off defeated... Prior to deciding trusting in Him just isn't worth it, let me explain to you why it most definitely is. And before you convince yourself that I've had the perfect little life, just read on. You'll discover quite the opposite.

Well, almost.

My parents divorced right before my third birthday. I honestly have no memories of me and my parents together. I can't reminisce about the vacations my family took together. I don't have Christmas pictures of me being squeezed between my mom and dad. Holidays were always a battle, because it was always a loss for one side of my family. Half of all the family pictures are missing my face.

My mom remarried, and my step-dad was great. But, he got very sick at only 30 years old, and our family struggled immensely. Mom had to work 3 jobs, but it still wasn't enough to cover the big loss in income his sickness brought to us. People took our cars. A new family moved into our house. I watched my mom cry quite a few tears.

The sickness took my step-dad out of this world at only 43. I was devastated and confused as to why the last several years of his life had to be so hard for him. Why did he have to suffer? Was all that pain and loss truly necessary? Why didn't God answer my prayers to heal him miraculously? Why did my little brother and sister have to lose a parent at such young ages?

I've been married for 8 wonderful, amazing, indescribable... childless... years. All I ever wanted to be was a mommy. Why hasn't God allowed me this blessing? How come women get pregnant just to terminate or abandon those precious little humans, and yet when my heart was pleading for one, my womb failed to offer that for me? Why?

Why did my sister's best friend and brother die in a tragic car accident? Why did their precious family have to endure such devastation and loss that will live with them every day of their life? Why did a friend of mine lose his dad when he was just a boy? Why did he have to grow up without a father? Why does one of my most thoughtful friends have to deal with the question of why her mother decided she wanted alcohol more than her daughter? Why? Why? Why?

Why did we face rejection and ridicule? What was the purpose in layoffs and wrecks? How did betrayal and deceit work any good in our lives?

Why did God let all that happen?

Stop. Breathe.

Let's quit asking that question just for a second.

We already discussed the fact that He is a God that allows each and every one of us to choose our own path. He guides us along the way on the best choices to make, if we decide to listen. He will not force anything on anyone. Because of this amazing privilege, we sometimes have to face life's unpleasant situations.

But, we don't have to face them alone.

That's why I love Him. This is why I follow Him. Because, Christian or not, life happens. Believer or not, hardships come. And although life can be cruel, His peace obliterates the pain it causes!

"His strength is made perfect in our weakness." 2 Corinthians 12:9

He enables us to do "all things through Christ who strengthens us." Philippians 4:13

Psalm 34:18 assures us that "He is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit."

When you keep your mind on Him, He will "keep you in perfect peace." Isaiah 26:3.

He keeps track of all of our sorrows. He "puts our tears in a bottle." Psalm 56:8

We are "precious and honored in His sight..." Isaiah 43:4

Psalm 119:114 tells it like I feel it, "He is my defender and my protector. I put my trust in Him."

The things that I faced in life that were less than appealing did not destroy me! I don't even like mentioning them, because I don't feel like any sympathy or pity is ever needful. The only reason they get brought up is to prove the point that my inner happiness does not come from an easy, perfect life. It is solely there because of a loving, compassionate, always present God. Because of Him, the unpleasant trials of life didn't even weaken me. In fact, He used them to make me stronger. While it is sad that my family split up, I gained another one. I got a brother and a sister out of that situation, and they are my biggest support system! I love them more than life itself and I wouldn't trade them for anything!

My step dad let me know that he was prideful when he seemingly "had it all." He made good money, had a nice house, drove pretty cars... But he credited it all to himself. He confided in me that in those days, the happiness he expressed was a nice little facade he worked with. God used his harder circumstances to win his heart. He was happier in his last few years, even while sick and in pain, than he was at his healthiest... because He finally learned who God was.

Not having children just yet has proven to be a blessing! Actually, I wouldn't trade this time Aaron and I have been able to share for the world! We've gotten so close and have been able to do some pretty amazing things. We were able to move my brother in and help take care of him and teach him how to one day be on his own. If we had a houseful of kiddos, it probably wouldn't have worked out. We've all been blessed in this situation. Not only that, but I've seen God's hand work wonders in my physical health. Answers to prayer than can't be attributed to anything but a loving, personal God. One day, I'll be writing the incredible testimony accompanied by pictures of my sweet children... I know this. It'll happen when He's ready... and that will be when I'm ready. But, I'll save that one for another day.

In my darkest times, I've felt peace stronger than anytime everything seemed to be perfect. It was during tragic times, I experienced true joy. When I felt that my dreams were lost, purpose was never any clearer. It's just one of those things... I can't explain the way or the reason I'm feeling it... I just go with it!

My pastor brought up the blind man that Jesus healed in John 9 yesterday. He was born without any sight. He cried out to Jesus and with just a little spit and mud, (and a crazy amount of power), his eyes were opened. The self-righteous Pharisees tried to dampen the awesomeness of the situation. They tried to persuade bystanders that it was "fake." "This wasn't the man that was born blind, but simply someone that looked like him."
All the while the little man was crying out, "No! I am that man!"
Then the questions were shot at him. "Where is He now?"
"I don't know."
"What do you think He is?"
"I don't know."
"He must be a sinner to do something on the Sabbath. Do you think He is?"
"I don't know. But, one thing I do know... I once was blind... but now I see!"

That's the revelation of God in my life. I can't fully tell you why God does what He does. I can't accurately explain the reasoning behind pieces of His will. I can't completely describe why and how I feel Him so closely in my life. But, you can't argue with experience. I was blind, per se... but now I can see! The moment you allow yourself to believe that He is... you'll soon understand that He is also very good.

Why did God let that happen?

Because He is consistent.

Just as He made us aware that we would have tribulations in this world, (John 16:33), He also assures us that we will be taken care of.

Romans 8:28- "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God..."

Just as flour alone is nasty, and a raw egg is disgusting... mix them with some sugar and milk and a few other goodies... you have a delicious dessert. The process isn't always amazing all the way through... but the end result is pretty incredible.

Why did God let that happen?

Because He was confident that you would be okay.

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