A Typical or Atypical Pastor's Wife-whichever one you come to believe

Welcome to the barnyard. Watch your step! The things written here are raw and unedited. Just my thoughts thrown on a page as they flow from my heart.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

My Weight Watchers Experiment-The Results Are In

One of my goals this year is to lose some weight.  Slowly through the years, I have put on some pounds. A pound here, a pound there and BOOM!, it’s too many pounds.  I’m not getting any younger and things tend to wear out with age and I’m noticing a few aches and pains that weren’t there before.  My first inclination is that if I lose weight, maybe some of them will go away leaving only legitimate concerns. ( I would rather have my eye plucked  out with a stick than go to the doctor.  Can you tell?)  While researching weight loss, I soon discovered that what one “expert” advocates, another one opposes and I ended up frustrated and confused. So I did what any normal Christian would do…I prayed. Well maybe a normal Christian would have prayed first, but I tend to think that God gave me a brain and I was just trying to put it to good use.  Shortly after I prayed, my company which has a bang up wellness program made us an offer.  If we wanted to join weight watchers for 17 weeks, they would pay for all but $36.00 of it if we met our weight loss goal.  Since I like a challenge, I jumped right away!

I soon came to realize that my problem was portion size and making wise choices. Weight Watchers is a proven lifestyle change diet program, so I thought that I would learn a lot. The first meeting was highly attended.  When the instructor asked how many people had done weight watchers before ¾ of the room raised their hand.  That sent up a red flag for me because I was wondering why, if they had done it before that they had to return, obviously needing to lose more weight. I was further disappointed when I saw what they wanted you to eat. I cook for a family and they either can’t or won’t eat what Weight Watchers was advocating.

First, I am not going to eat ANYTHING no fat for two reasons. I would rather die a slow death than eat that awful tasting, textured stuff and it is well known that what they put in non-fat foods is worse for you than the fat is. So that was immediately out.

Secondly, as if I don’t already have enough to do, they want me to track every single thing I eat all day.  While I understand the concept, I am not going to spend the rest of my life counting points. If this is about lifestyle change, I should be able to get to the point where I don’t need to be so anal about food, yet a lot of people who have been using this program for a long time still faithfully track their points everyday. I was starting to have second thoughts and almost walked out, but decided to stay and give it a try. I’m so glad that I did. 

Even with my reservations, I figured that I had 17 weeks to “experiment” with my eating/exercise program and could probably figure out in that amount of time how to eat and lose weight. I have to admit that I have learned a lot about food, when I have the tendency to overindulge and on what and quite honestly just checking to see how many points that brownie has is enough to make me lose my appetite before I eat it.  The best thing has been that I’ve learned about making healthy choices and I find that the more healthy food I eat, the more awful processed or junk food tastes! Except for ice cream, of course! I added some distilled water to my diet as well to clean out any leftover metals that might be hanging around in my body and I can notice distinct improvement in how sensitive my taste buds are. When you really think about it, God probably never designed our bodies to digest a lot of the stuff we eat on a daily basis, which may be why cancers and certain diseases are on the rise. Furthermore, we really don’t know what’s in a lot of food we eat.  We learned this the hard way.

As some of you might know, our family experienced severe food poisoning in February of 2014. As a result, my poor husband got sick after almost every meal. After months of weeding out foods that we thought might be causing it, we finally realized that he had a yeast intolerance. Now the doctor tells us that there is a lot of literature on this phenomena but no science, so doctors kind of poo-poo the idea of its existence. Well, let me tell you something Dr. Skeptical, when you are hanging over a toilet day after day, when your wife is one second away from driving you to the emergency room because, in 36 years, she has never seen you in such bad shape, that is all the science that I need to determine that this yeast intolerance is real. Because he is so sensitive to it, we have discovered that there is yeast, MSG, and yeast extracts in things that you would never dream! For instance, I fixed a meal for my husband.  It was all whole food, or so I thought.  He got sick.  I cried. I couldn’t imagine what in the world could have made him sick. All that was in the meal was fresh vegtables, butter, and chicken. I slowly went through all the ingredients and ruled everything out. Then it occurred to me to check the chicken packaging. Sure enough, they inject their chicken with chicken broth.  Chicken broth contains yeast extracts! For fear that we would have to become vegetarians, I called a local grocery store that is known for having good quality food and said, “I am looking for chicken breast that has been sliced off the chicken and slapped right on that white styrofoam plate without having anything done to it in the process. Do you have something like that?” Fortunately, they do so they now have a new customer and I don’t have to cry after every meal. And oh yea….my husband doesn’t have to be sick every night. :-)  

I don’t know why I waited so long to think about all this and make these changes sooner, but guess better late than never applies here. So I’ve lost 20 lbs.  I have hit a plateau though, a whole new experience for me. But I just keep plugging away, exercising at least 4 times a week and trying to watch what I eat, but allowing myself some simple pleasures-like ice cream- along the way. I don’t want to become a food nut. Those people have just switched the object of their obsession.  I’m not interested in that.  I’m interested in real change and developing habits that will last a lifetime but not have to be tended after all the time. 

This idea applies to us spiritually as well. As you allow the Holy Ghost to change you, spiritual, Godly habits will be formed in you and they will become 2nd nature and not something that you have to police or patrol. That doesn’t mean it won’t require effort at first. They will! But as you pray and ask the Holy Spirit to change you and rely on His power in those times of temptation that will come along the way, it will happen. “Old things will pass away and behold, all things will become new!” It’s His promise. He wishes us to have joy and freedom in life, not to do whatever we want, but to enjoy living within His guidelines.  As He changes our hearts, our hearts delight to do His will and we truly find the Bible kind of freedom working in our lives.  That provides a level of joy the world can only begin to understand. That is what I love about serving God. Living in a realm outside of the natural world is truly an adventure and always a pleasure!

Friday, August 7, 2015

It Really Pays To Live For Christ

You're probably thinking well duh......Cyndi. Of course it does.  The benefits of knowing the Lord and knowing that He knows you are endless, boundless and eternal! Everyone knows this! But some days His working in the relatively small but seemingly BIG things just reminds you once again of the meticulous care He gives to His children.

We use an accounting software to keep our business files. For some reason that is technically above my minute understanding of technology, I have to have the jump drive that has the records stored installed in order to use the program. I have never understood this so if anyone would like to enlighten me, I would appreciate it. Anyway, I've just been lazy about figuring things out.

Two evenings ago I did some accounting work for my husband. Instead of taking the drive out and storing it away where I usually keep it, I left it in my computer. This morning, as I looked at my email, I realized that my jump drive was missing. I looked everywhere. I crawled under the sofa, moved all the chairs, sorted through the grandchildren's toys, looked behind and under and in every conceivable place that it could possibly be.  It was no where. As I drove to work this morning, I prayed silently "Lord, please help me find that drive.  It has all our records on it." When I got home, I started all over again looking....looking....looking.  Finally I noticed a hairy gold creature watching me intently and it hit me...the dog!! She eats everything that's not nailed down and some things that are! Here is a photo of her. I think she is too ashamed to look at the camera. Or maybe she's just too busy watching for watermelon that's not nailed down.

I went into the backyard and in a few minutes I found this. 

My heart almost stopped beating right there. Then it started beating so fast, I was sure that I was going to have a heart attack.

I picked it and blew it off realizing that it had laid in the dirt fully exposed for at least one day and possibly two. The end was bent from what was obviously where a dog tooth had chomped down on it and I carefully pulled on it to get it open enough to insert in my laptop. As I gingerly pushed it into my computer being careful to keep my fingers on the sides to guard the delicate stick, the light lit up and began flashing!A sign of life! Soon the program popped on and voila, my data was there! I almost couldn't believe my eyes, except I had prayed and believed that God was perfectly able and willing to protect that jump drive. 

Guarding it with my life, I drove the drive over to the office store and bought two...not one....two new drives and had them transfer the files from the ABCD (Already been chewed drive) to the new drives. On the way home, all I could do was just keep thanking God.....thank God...thank God...thank God...thank God! 

Now I don't for one minute think that He protected that jump drive based on my own merits. Yet I do know that obedient living does open the door for God's blessings to flow more freely into our lives. In this case, He saved me tons of time and frustration. 

This may seem small, and in the light of things going on in the world, this was nothing but for me it was just another living example of how God meticulously cares for us and takes care of the things that concern us. He's not some far off entity.  He is near to those who fear Him. And because He is near, supernatural things happen. To me, it was a miracle that I found it at all, much less that I found it in working order. 

I see this as just one of the many benefits of living for Christ. The Bible in Psalm 103 instructs us to "forget not His benefits."

A Psalm of David. Psalm 103:1-18

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And all that is within me, bless His holy name.
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And forget none of His benefits;
Who pardons all your iniquities,
Who heals all your diseases;
Who redeems your life from the pit,
Who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion;
Who satisfies your years with good things,
So that your youth is renewed like the eagle.
The Lord performs righteous deeds
And judgments for all who are oppressed.
He made known His ways to Moses,
His acts to the sons of Israel.
The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness.
He will not always strive with us,
Nor will He keep His anger forever.
He has not dealt with us according to our sins,
Nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
So great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him.
As far as the east is from the west,
So far has He removed our transgressions from us.
Just as a father has compassion on his children,
So the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him.
For He Himself knows our frame;
He is mindful that we are but dust.
As for man, his days are like grass;
As a flower of the field, so he flourishes.
When the wind has passed over it, it is no more,
And its place acknowledges it no longer.
But the lovingkindness of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him,
And His righteousness to children’s children,
To those who keep His covenant
And remember His precepts to do them.
The Lord has established His throne in the heavens,
And His sovereignty rules over all.
Bless the Lord, you His angels,
Mighty in strength, who perform His word,
Obeying the voice of His word!
Bless the Lord, all you His hosts,
You who serve Him, doing His will.
Bless the Lord, all you works of His,
In all places of His dominion;
Bless the Lord, O my soul!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

No Great Victory Was Ever Won Without A Great Battle

Even though I had time this morning to read, the Lord stopped me just one verse away from where he stopped me yesterday. I just love the way He can take one verse and fill my whole day with insights into His heart through His Word. The Word is an endless book. There is always more to glean by reading it.  It is living and active, not in that it changes but in that it is so deep, the treasures of it could never be gleaned even in a million lifetimes. It gently builds faith and revelation in a man, line upon line and precept upon precept but it is endless in its supply.

“3 We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brethren, as is only fitting, because your faith is greatly enlarged, and the love of each one of you toward one another grows ever greater; 4 therefore, we ourselves speak proudly of you among the churches of God 
for your perseverance and faith in the midst of all your persecutions and afflictions which you endure. 5 This is a plain indication of God’s righteous judgment so that you will be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which indeed you are suffering. 6 For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, 7 and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, 8 dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.9 These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, 10 when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed—for our testimony to you was believed. 11 To this end also we pray for you always, that our God will count you worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power, 12 so that the name of our Lord Jesus will be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” 2 Thess 3-12

Paul commends them because their faith and love has greatly increased and was growing even greater. It seems he is indicating that the strengthening of love was related to the increase of faith. I believe that love is a natural fruit of faith since our faith comes from God and God is love.  It would just make sense that love would increase as faith grows stronger. When we do not love one another as we should, it is a sign that our faith is weak because faith works by love. Our understanding of the love that God has for us is directly proportional to the amount of faith we can have in Him, thus affecting the amount of love we can have for others. Not loving others correctly hinders the work of God. If we cannot forgive, we cannot be forgiven. It can also hinder our prayer lives as well so that we cannot receive from God all that He has to give us.

But what really piqued my interest was that their faith and love were growing in the midst of persecutions and afflictions. IN THE MIDST of them. They weren’t as a result of having gone through them. The growth didn’t happen in a time of peace as preparation for affliction. No, they were currently experiencing them. 

I’ve experienced this in my own life.  My greatest battles have proven to be my greatest growth times. Our Pastor said on Sunday, “To acquire a great victory, you must walk through a great battle.” That just made sense to me. So many times we want to have great victories without having to go through the battle that it takes to acquire them. How can a victory be great if it was not hard fought? Even in sports, our greatest victories are the ones that we had to fight hard for. I rarely remember the games where we ran all over our opponent. It didn’t cost me anything to win. I didn’t have to stretch my mental or physical abilities to gain it. It was more like a light practice than a competition. Spiritual battles cause us to stretch, to push, to press through things. This causes growth. If we look at them as opportunities to grow and to see God work in our lives, it immediately takes some of the sting away and turns our minds heavenward from whence comes our help.

The best thing about spiritual battles is that we know who wins before we even enter the fray. So we can view them much differently than one with no hope and no help.  We are guaranteed victory through Christ “who always causes us to triumph.” We needn’t lose any battle that comes our way. Our adversary has already been overcome through Christ.  So the matter is not IF we will emerge victorious, but how we are to wage battle through to victory.

So why do we sometimes lose? 

We were blindsided
Sometimes we just don’t see things coming. Sometimes that is just the way it is. Often it is because we have not been walking entirely in the Spirit or our prayer times have been more talking than listening. When we had a devastating car accident, God did warn me something was coming, but I was so busy getting ready for the trip, I didn’t take the time I should have to pray and seek the Lord. But, on the other hand, I was praying and walking closely with God at the time so when it did happen, I recovered quickly because I realized that God had been preparing me through the months beforehand to handle it. In May my retina detached. In the months before that, I felt God preparing me for some kind of change.  I didn’t know what but I knew that challenges were ahead so when it happened, instead of panic, there was peace. Yes, it was emergency. Yes, we had to scramble to get surgery scheduled and it felt as if the situation was controlling us instead of us controlling the situation, but in the midst of all of it there was incredible peace. 

Lack of Knowledge
Did not God Himself say, “my people perish due to lack of knowledge?” Sometimes our troubles are self inflicted.  If we do not know what God says about the things that come to buffet us, then we cannot know what we can expect Him to do and be in the midst of them. God is merciful. He will even comfort sinners in the midst of adversity but for the Christian there is so much more available. Lack of knowledge concerning the Lord’s body and blood caused weakness (sickness) and even death among believers in 1 Corinthians. How do I know they were Christians? They wouldn’t have been taking communion if they weren’t. If we receive things from God through faith, then we must have knowledge of what we can expect from God if we are to receive by faith.  Without the knowledge of His will in every situation we face, we cannot have faith that He is able to accomplish His will in that situation. Jesus only did what He “saw His Father doing.” He always knew the will of God, even when he prayed “if it be they will.” Because of this He knew He could pray and see the will of God accomplished on the earth.

Christians bear a lot of things because they aren’t that bad or doctors can help with the symptoms. Instead of fighting the fight, by the power and grace of Christ and allowing God to be glorified, they just accept things and live with them. Where physical healing could be there is sickness. Where restored relationships could exist, there are fractured ones. Where emotions could be stable and joy could be the ruling emotion of each day, there is depression or drug-induced happiness because the person is just too lazy to seek God for a victory plan and would find it too tedious to carry it out. This is also most likely coupled with the previous reason-lack of knowledge of the Word of God. Where things are bearable or tolerable, people just tend to put up them and miss out on what God has for them. Maybe these would seem like small victories, but without overcoming the small battles, the large ones are lost before we get started.

One of my favorite stories in scripture is the story of Paul and Silas in prison. They chose worship over worry. They chose witnessing over whining. They chose victory over quitting. How could they do this? How did they have the spiritual fortitude to do this in the midst of their persecutions and afflictions? Because the same grace and peace they brought to believers from God, they had already received themselves. They knew the will of God and rejoiced that they were right smack in the middle of it. Knowing that you are walking in the will of God is the greatest joy that a human can know. His will is perfect and worth every battle that we must face to see it accomplished in our lives. 

No matter what you are facing today, there is victory ahead and an opportunity for God to show Himself strong. Seek Him. Find His will. Follow His plan. Shine in the midst of hardship and let the world see that there is a God who is greater.