Apr 10, 2013

Changing my lifestyle to honour God.

Recently, I made the decision that it is time for me to get off my butt and get into shape. The decision came from a mix of things; wanting to be skinnier, wanting to be in better shape for my wedding and feeling better for myself.

But there were two other reasons I came across that I had never really thought about before. Keeping myself in shape, healthy and fit is about more than just the affect it has in me personally. As I'm preparing to get married, I realized that keeping myself looking good is about my husband as well. While he loved me before the weight loss, and he would still love and desire me with added weight or if I simply stayed the same, I want to be able to give him the best of me. In a world where men are misled by wrong ideals and expectations of women, where temptation to stray is thrust upon them, I want my husband to have no need to look for other things. By keeping myself healthy and in shape, I honour him by being the best in every way I can.

But more importantly, keeping myself healthy and in shape is another way to honour God. If our bodies are temples, and temples are meant to be well maintained, it only makes sense that being healthy should be a part of that.

God created me to be beautiful. He designed me to be more than I have ever seen myself to be. If I want to be who God has called me to be, I need to first learn how to take care of myself. I want to treat this gift God has given me with the reverence and honour it deserves.

I wish I could remember where I saw the study, but it has been proven that those that love themselves have a much stronger and more fulfilling relationship with God. And perhaps, this is what has been holding me back. In order to be able to fully accept God's love and His feelings towards me, I must first be able to accept and love myself.

And so, this is it. No more excuses, no more hindrances. I will do this for more than just myself, because getting in shape is about more than just me.

Mar 6, 2013

Temptation and Hardship are two very different things.

When I put up my last post about how God doesn't have a rule about not giving us more than we can handle during hardship, I received this in response:

"Just to clarify.. the God won't give you more than you can handle is referenced from the verse below. 


1 Corinthians 10:13 New International Version (NIV)

13 No temptation[a] has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted[b] beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted,[c] he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it."

I don't know who wrote it, because the answer was left anonymous. I'm sure they meant well in the message that they were leaving, but the response itself also worried me.  If people don't understand the difference between temptation and hardship, there are going to be a lot more struggles with faith when hardship strikes. Because the truth is, unlike temptation, God doesn't always prevent us from facing more than we can handle -- if He did, we would have no need for Him, because we could get by without relying on Him. If He always provided a way out so that we could endure it, there would always be a magical answer. Someone would have the money you need to pay off your debts, there would be a doctor to cure your dying family member of cancer or simply a miracle that fully heals them, there would ALWAYS be something.

But the truth is, there isn't. Hardship is left for us to endure through, even when it is beyond our strength, beyond our ability to handle it. That's why God is there. To carry us through it, to give us the strength to face what we cannot.

While there certainly can be and often is temptation during hardship (and a door in which to walk away from that), they are not the same thing. If we as Christians cannot differentiate between the two, then when the goings get tough, get really tough, we're either going to be stuck with a harsh reality check (which is the position I am in right now), or we are going to give up hope and start blaming God for not doing what He's promised.

For years, I definitely fell into the category of believing that God wouldn't let you face more than you can handle. But then real life started to happen. And I did face more than I could handle, on multiple occasions. So much so, that on several of those, I either planned or attempted to take my own life. And each time, it was by God's strength, grace and mercy that I didn't succeed. 

If people are going to believe God never gives you more than you can handle, so if you're failing at life you're doing something wrong, then they REALLY don't understand what life and even God is all about. Struggling in life, not receiving financial blessings or complete healing doesn't mean you're not being a good Christian, you're not tithing and giving enough or you don't have enough faith. It's life. God may choose not to bless you in certain ways because He has a bigger picture in mind, a picture that we can't even fathom.

Besides the bigger picture, if we're going to allow ourselves to believe that God never allows us to face more hardship than we can handle, we're discounting the role He plays in carrying us through and giving ourselves more credit. It's the "God must see more strength in me than I do, because this is more than I think I can handle" way of thinking. It's not our strength that gets us through, but rather God becoming our strength when we are weak.

Feb 21, 2013

I think some people got the wrong idea...

After my last post went up, I received a lot of private messages and comments from people in my life. Comments that I definitely appreciate. It's nice to know that many people care.

But I also think a lot of people got the wrong idea from the post. Many of the messages I received were telling me not to give up, trying to tell me that things will get better and I have to trust God.

As much as I appreciate the encouragement, the post wasn't about me giving up, or even about me losing faith and not feeling like life will work out. In fact, for the most part, the ending of it was supposed to be a fairly positive one.

The post wasn't really about struggles -- it was about the realization of a large change in my faith, in my beliefs and in what I believe about God and how He intends to take care of us.

I have no doubt in my mind that God will be with me through every struggle. I've never believed the old saying that God doesn't let us face more than we can handle. I call BS on that one, because if God never let us face more than WE could handle, we would have no need for Him. Everything that He let Satan throw at Job was far more than Job could handle on his own. But Job's strength didn't come from himself, it came from his faith and trust that no matter what, God was in control, and God would bring him through.

It wasn't easy though. Job became angry with God frequently throughout the trial. He cursed the day that he was born. He was tormented, and there were moments where he was without hope. All the while, not just other followers, but friends, condemned Job, told him that the afflictions he was facing were caused by sins he must have committed or a lack of true faith.

And yes, God restored Job's life, made him wealthy again and helped him get his full life back together. But Job was an extreme case. His afflictions weren't just life. They were caused by a test of his strength and faith in a short period of time. The fact that God blessed him immensely at the end of that trial can't be used to measure our own circumstances. To say that everything we face is an attack or a trial on our faith is giving too much credit to Satan.

The truth is life can suck. It can be really hard. It is really hard. There are things I am facing now that will never cease in my life. They will be there for the rest of my life, unless God sees fit at some point to remove them.

I don't trust that God will though. I don't believe that God is going to work to make my life 'okay' because there is no need for it. In order for me to survive, my life doesn't need to be okay. In order for my needs to be met, for my life to move forward, it doesn't need to be okay.

And that's what my last post was about. The realization that I have stopped believing that God intends to bless us continually and bring our lives to what we consider to be okay and bearable.

Am I discouraged, frustrated and stressed right now? Hell yes. Am I without hope? Sometimes, yes. Am I frustrated with why I have to face a lot of this? Definitely. But that doesn't mean that I'm losing my faith entirely.

The problem comes from the fact that this is new to me. I haven't spoken to God in months because I haven't known what to say. I don't know what to make of this change in faith. I don't know what to make of this change in my beliefs. And while I'm getting closer to being able to talk to Him again, at this point, I still don't know what to say because I don't know how it changes me.

But I can assure you, I am not entirely without hope and I am not giving up. There is a reason I have Jeremiah 29:11 tattooed on my arm. I fully know that God will never abandon me, and He will never leave me to face total destruction.

I'm just learning that this concept of "plans to prosper you... plans to give you a hope and a future' have been taken the wrong way by a good chunk of us.

The fruits of our own lives, the blessings we receive and how well our lives flow are not the results of having stronger faith than others or being better Christians. I'm not less because I have less. I'm not faithless because I haven't been healed, and I'm certainly not giving too little or tithing too unhappily because I'm not being blessed financially.

As I said at the end of my last post, this poses a struggle for me because it simply means learning to accept that. Learning to rid myself of this idea of entitlement through faith and accepting life for what it is. Learning that God isn't always to make everything better, because again, if He fixed everything for us, truth is, we'd really take Him for granted.

Feb 15, 2013

Fearful.

It's been a long while since i've posted. It's not that I have been without inspiration or words, but rather that I didn't feel right posting about Christian lessons, about faith and all that it encompasses when I was fighting so hard to avoid confronting myself on what I was facing.

I've always struggled with trust issues. I am slow to trust most people I encounter, and even those that I develop a certain level of comfort with, I never trust completely. I'm always ready for them to toss me aside or throw me out of their lives.

I've always struggled with trusting God. Always. I had to fight on my own to survive for so many years that I simply didn't know what it meant to trust God. And then it changed. I began to trust Him. I trusted Him in my every day life, in the midst of storms. I believed when people told me He would make things better.

And then, when they finally did get better, I'd get thrown back even further than when in started. While this pattern has been present in my life since day one, it started to get worse about five years ago. And worse. And worse.

I still fought to hold on. To trust in Him with all my might. I listened to person after person telling me that once I started tithing properly and giving extra that I would see financial blessings just as they did. That life would become less difficult, more bearable.

And then the last two years happened. I can't deny that there have been many blessings, and that God has provided over and over. But things never really got better, things never really got bearable.

I had people telling me I must not be giving enough, despite the fact that the extra giving was making finances even more difficult than they already were. People telling me I didn't have enough faith, that my tears and cries to God must not have been heartfelt. That I was denying God access to heal me.

All the while I fought. I fought as our family faced one of it's hardest moments to hang on to that trust that God would make everything okay. But as things stayed close to the same, as certain situations never really altered, my belief began to alter.

Recently, I realized something. It happened at church during an alter call, when the call was for people who were struggling in faith, lacking hope and feeling alone. As God nudged me to go forward and the tears sprang to my eyes, for the first time in years, I told God no. I told him I was tired of going to the front for prayer and feeling like an idiot as I sobbed every time. I told him that others needed it more. And as I told him all this, something dawned on me.

I don't trust God to make things better, to make things bearable. I don't believe He will... Not anymore. After the last two years, I find myself living in a fear I cannot break away from. I live in constant fear of what thing will go wrong next. I'm terrified to hope for the positive things that could be in my future because so far nearly everything I have hoped for has been ripped out of my hands.

I don't believe God will abandon me. I don't even believe that God will allow me to have everything taken away and being left with no will to carry on. But I also don't believe that God desires to make everything 'okay' or even bearable. I believe He intends to make sure I can live, but that's it.

And right now, I'm okay with that realization. I don't know where to go from here. I've realized this refusal to admit this to myself is what has been keeping me from talking to God. But honestly, now thwart I've admitted it, I don't know what to say to Him. Because I don't know where this puts me.

All I know is I'm tired. I'm tired of living in fear, I'm tired of feeling like no matter what I do, it's never going to be enough. I'm tired of this illness and this debt and this streak of bad luck. And right now, I'm coming to terms with the fact that I need to learn to accept life as it is because it's not ever really going to be sunshine and roses. And the sooner I realize that, the sooner I'll stop flinching when things inevitably go wrong, and the sooner I might find some form of contentment with life and with Christ.

Sep 21, 2012

Reignite, burning bright, the fire of my soul...


Do you ever go through times where life has been so nuts and there's been so much crap, so much overwhelming crap that you just start to coast in your faith? And it's not that you mean to, or that you're not wanting to focus on God, but you just get so tired and so busy that you slowly push Him to the sidelines.


At first, it's not that noticeable. You're not spending as much time in the word, or in prayer, but your heart is still there; you're still spending the day singing worship songs randomly and chattering away to God. As time goes on, you still chatter at Him, but you're not really feeling Him there; you've stopped hearing his voice. But life is so crazy, there's so much stress and distress that you don't really notice.



You don't lose faith as you're going along... You stay where you are. You trust God, but you slowly start to feel yourself getting beaten down.



I don't know about you, but my biggest flaw when I hit that point is that it's like I put myself on cruise control. Outwardly, I'm great. I'm passionately pursuing God even when I'm tripping and falling and I am super optimistic about the outcome of everything. But inside? Inside I'm a wreck. I'm still on cruise control, but I'm not stopping at any gas stations to refuel. But just like a car's engine will begin to slow down as fuel runs low, the same happens to us. And I keep pushing forward, refusing to stop and admit that I'm weak. I try to do quick refuels; a little longer prayer time before bed, reading a little snippet of the Word each day, and while I can fool myself for a little while that it's working, eventually I have to come to terms with the fact that I can't hear God's voice and that His will, His Word and His presence are not covering my heart.



But I still try to hide from it. Why do we do that? We know but we just keep struggling. For me, it's a pride issue. I don't like asking for help... I don't like needing help. I have this thing where I have to do it on my own, I have to be strong enough to stand firm and not falter. I hate weakness. I can excuse it in others, but weakness in myself is detestable. So I keep pushing forward, being dragged down by the armour I've put on myself that's way too heavy an too large for me, refusing to admit that I'm dragging myself to my own destruction.



Eventually, we hit a point where we have no choice but to face the fact that we've been on autopilot for far too long and that we're no longer overflowing with God's light.



Our hearts are becoming filled, at that point, with struggles that Christ normally helps us to conquer. Irritation and anger begin to retake our hearts, and the more we try to ignore it, the more predominant it becomes.



But the great thing about God is that He loves us, despite our faults. He'll nudge us and nudge us until we respond. Sometimes, it takes a while for us to notice. Often-times, as soon as that nudging starts, Satan takes the opportunity to bring in someone to knock you away from God's nudges. They bring condemnation for your struggles, and push instead of softly pulling. But God keeps nudging.



And that's where I'm at now. Recognizing the nudge. I've been so hardened by trying to be strong that I've been unable to notice the nudges. But God is incredible. He knows me, He knows my heart, and He waits patiently for the right moment to stir my heart with a flash of emotion, a flash of a state of my heart when I was fully on fire for Him. And that stirring snaps me back. Its a subtle reminder that I need to turn off cruise control and, pardon the cliche term, hand Jesus the wheel.



And I don't know about you, but for me it's that exact thing that shows the depth of God's love for us. Because even when we've lost our focus and taken control back from Him, He still waits to bring us back to His arms so He can carry us through the hard times.

Aug 23, 2012

Being a leader sometimes means doing nothing at all...

It's a well known fact that when you ask God to grant you something, be it patience, leadership skills, anything, adversity is thrown into our paths to help us shape that strength.

I won't claim to be ready to be a full-blown leader. To be ready to write the book that's on my heart or to take on the world. I'm not there yet. I have things to learn, skills to be shaped. I have a journey towards the end-point that's only just begun.

Leading comes naturally to me. I have a way with words, and I'm good at stepping up where it's called for. But where I have struggled my whole life has been my saviour-complex. I don't suffer from such a thing because I think that I'm somehow special or a hero. I suffer from it because I hate to see people struggle and I hate to see people's lives crumble. I want to be the band-aid. I want to fix things so that people can live their lives and not be dragged down by pain and torment, fear and hurt.

Sometimes though, we can't be the ones to fix someone else's problems. Sometimes, as leaders, there is nothing we can do beyond prayer and making sure that the people who are a part of our lives know that we are there for them.

But it's not easy. Especially when you see someone choosing to destroy their own life because they somehow think it will get them attention, or simply because they want everything to be easy in life, everything just to be handed to them. To watch them shake their fists at God and blame Him for their circumstances when those circumstances are completely of their own doing. 

I joked with my best friend that my facing this now is karma for the hell that I put her through while I was in college. But the unfortunate truth is this is something that all leaders must learn. And as hard as it will be to stand idly by and just pray that they find their way, sometimes, that's all that we can do.