Eclipses, Stellar Alignments, and the Apocalypse… Final Boarding Call!

The earth is wobbling like a top ready to spin out of control.

We are rapidly approaching a point of no return where humanity will tip the scales of God’s wrath and life as we know it will come crashing to a cataclysmic halt.  Christians know it, other religions know it, secular observers know it.  “The Apocalypse” is almost upon us.  It will be a time of chaos, destruction, and confusion.

Fortunately, God has not left us in the dark about what is to come.  God’s prophetic tapestry is woven through like threads in both the Old and New Testaments.  Close up, the intricate designs can seem confusing and even contradictory.  God has intentionally designed a pattern that is complex.  He leaves for us a trail of puzzle pieces, not unlike the parables Jesus told, and exactly like at His first coming.  It is only through rigorously searching and praying through the Scriptures that keys emerge, pieces fit together, and the big picture is revealed.  Keep in mind that these things were written 1900-3000 years ago!!!

God has dealt with humanity in a few different ways.  In the garden of Eden, God met with Adam and Eve in human form.  After the fall of humanity, God continued to speak directly to the early patriarchs.  This continued through Noah and the global flood until the time of Abraham.  The nations had been dispersed at the tower of Babel, and God selected one man, Abraham, to seed the nation of Israel – His nation, His people.  Israel’s purpose was to be set apart, to be a beacon of God’s light in the world and draw the nations back to Him.  Israel, for the most part, failed miserably.  God could rely only on Himself.  Thus, in the fullness of time, God became as one of us in the form of Jesus.  Jesus succeeded where Israel had failed, and set in motion the reclaiming of the nations unto God.  Israel expected this to happen all at once, but the mystery was that this would now be done through the “church” – a body of Jews and Gentiles indwelt by the Holy Spirit.  The church was now set apart as God’s salt and light in the world.  The fullness of time was not complete then, but signs indicate that it is now.   The time is very quickly approaching when the Age of Grace (the Church Age) as we know it will suddenly close.

God’s timeline for humanity proceeds right on schedule.  The end of this age will come abruptly to a halt with the noisy, not-so-secret rapture of the church.  The dead in Christ will arise, and the invisible body of Christ will be transformed in the blink of an eye.  Together they will be snatched away from what is coming on the earth, safely hidden in heaven.  A parable of this can be seen in the ritual of the Jewish Wedding.  We may not know the day or the hour, but there are definite clues to the season.  We can watch for the signs to occur that point to this event:

Those who have held back on God, who have not given their hearts over to Him, will be left behind.  If Jesus is not your Lord, He is also not your Savior – even if you go by the name “Christian”.  This will definitely add to the confusion of what is going on.

You are mistaken because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.  Matthew 22:29

A great divide exists; there are two tracks that humanity will take.  Those who took the narrow road will be a part of the heavenly track:  the body of Christ will be in heaven for the time of “tribulation” on the earth.  They will participate in the Day of Christ.  Meanwhile, the Day of the Lord is the track on earth for those who were on the broad road leading to destruction.  God’s judgment will be poured out in full force on a wicked and Christ-rejecting world.  However, God will not leave the world without witness.  With the sealing ministry of the Holy Spirit in the church complete, the Holy Spirit will immediately move to supernaturally seal 144,000 specially chosen Israelites to be His witnesses.

Before we get any further, there are several prophesied wars involving Israel that will occur in the future.  The timing of these is broadly in “the latter years”.  Several of these may occur before the rapture of the church (The Destruction of Damascus; Arab-Israeli Promised Land War).  One of these may occur during or shortly after the removal of the true church from the earth (Gog and Magog War – many nations rising against Israel).  These wars may blur together and occur in a short span of time. God Himself will intervene to save Israel in these wars, with the result that Israel will want to re-institute their Temple worship of God with Old Testament-style sacrifices.  The person (or ‘being’) who arises and takes credit for winning these wars won’t be God, but he will end up claiming to be.  It is certain that one war will occur approximately seven years after the rapture, in which this god-imposter will be destroyed (The Battle of Armageddon).

With the believers in Jesus safely tucked away in heaven, let’s go over what’s going to happen on earth.  When Jesus rose from the dead, great power was released in some type of nuclear transformation event.  This triggered an earthquake.  When the dead in Christ rise (everyone who has believed in Jesus Christ to forgive their sins, from the dawn of time), it is likely this event will trigger worldwide earthquakes.  The earthquakes will then trigger volcanic eruptions and tsunamis.  The sun will be darkened and the moon appear blood red from smoke and ash in the air.  In a short span of time, 25% of humanity will die from famine, war/murder (likely including the wars as mentioned above), disease outbreaks, and wild animals (emboldened by severe food shortages).  These are the 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse.Image result for 4 horsemen apocalypse

Since the time of Jesus Christ (~2000 years), people who turned from their selfish ways and followed God have been indwelt and sealed by the Holy Spirit (God is three in one: Father, Son – Jesus, and Holy Spirit).  When these true believers are removed from the earth, the Holy Spirit’s restraining influence over evil and the powers of darkness will be removed.  At this time, a cosmic war erupts between the holy angels and the fallen angels.  Satan (the name given to the fallen spirit-being opposing God), represented as a dragon and a serpent, and his demon horde (fallen angels) will be defeated and lose their access to heaven.  They will be granted authority by God to deceive humanity, for the sake of accomplishing His divine purposes.  We are not told exactly what this involves but we do know that satan has been hard at work preparing for it.  He knows the time is close.

The removal of living believers to heaven and the disasters of the 7 Seals will leave the world reeling.  A great power vacuum will exist in the world as social and economic structures collapse under the burden of disaster. A man or being will rise to power quickly, to bring “peace” and “unity”.  This man is known in the Bible as “the lawless one”, “the antichrist”, “false christ”, “false messiah”, and “the beast”.  The “antichrist” will participate in ushering in a new world order.  It appears that the world (what remains of it) will be divided into 10 “kingdoms”, and that at some point the “antichrist” will overtake 3 sections (I’m still researching this).  Wars will be involved as nations and leaders try to sort out a semblance of order and power.  God will be overseeing and allowing this all as part of Israel’s purification.

The “antichrist” will be supported by a false prophet.  These two, and their entourage, will be extremely convincing and will be accompanied by all kinds of miraculous signs and wonders.  They will be empowered by none other than Satan – forming an “unholy trinity”.  Either the “antichrist” or the “false prophet” will enter into a 7-year covenant with Israel.  The signing of this covenant will start an event known as the 70th Week of Daniel, which pertains directly to the nation of Israel and ethnic Israelites.  The Third Temple will be built in Jerusalem (or Shiloh? or the city of David?) at this time.

At some point, the “antichrist” will likely identify as the Jewish messiah.  He may also identify as the messiah for other religions as well, explaining that everyone had different understandings of the same thing.  He may encourage Old Testament-style worship of God… at first.  Some of Israel (up to 2/3) will embrace this man as their anticipated messiah, here to usher in the messianic kingdom.  They will believe the events that have already transpired (wars in which they survived, the Third Temple, sacrifices restarting) have fulfilled the 70th week of Daniel and the Battle of Armageddon.  In reality, the 7-year time of testing is just beginning.

Meanwhile, God will have sent witnesses to declare the gospel.  There will be two special prophets for God who will proclaim truth.  They will speak out against the “antichrist” and his deception and tell people to “repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near”.  There will also be 144,000 Israelites who come to belief in Jesus Christ right after the church is taken up to heaven.  These 144,000 will be sealed by God and protected from some of the cataclysmic events that take place.  The truth will not be popular, and the two prophets will be killed after 3.5 years of ministry (42 months / 1260 days) by the “antichrist”.  Most on the earth will celebrate their deaths.  The 144,000 may also be killed around this time.

Natural, yet cataclysmic, disasters will continue and supernatural beings will appear.  There are 7 specific “Trumpets of Wrath” that will occur.  The first 4 involve death of trees and green grass, contamination of the oceans, contamination of fresh water, and dimming of the sun, moon, and stars (possibly from atmospheric contamination).   These 4 likely occur very shortly after the rapture of the church.  Trumpet 5 involves a 5 month long torment of humanity by a demonic army, where people will seek death (suicide) but it will not be found.  Trumpet 6 involves another demonic army that begins at some point after the 5 month torture ends.  This army kills 1/3 of humanity over a period of time ending when the two witnesses for God are resurrected from the dead 3.5 days after their deaths.  In total, over 50% of humanity has now been killed (over 3 billion people).  It is likely that less than 3 billion people remain alive on earth (remember that true believers were also taken before all this started and those numbers are unknown).  The 7th trumpet blows at some point after the “antichrist” declares himself to be god.

While the first half of Daniel’s 70th week (7 years) will be relatively peaceful, there will be power struggles and wars.  At some point in the first half of Daniel’s 70th week, the “antichrist” will be killed and rise from the dead.  It is likely that the “antichrist” will be killed via a head wound, rise from the dead, and immediately kill the two prophets from God.  At some point (likely upon their death), the “antichrist” will set himself up in the Jewish temple, proclaiming to be “god”.  He will stop all sacrifices to God and desecrate the altar.  This is the trigger for Jews who know their Tanach (Old Testament) to flee.  The warning is given both in the books of Daniel (OT – Daniel 9:27) and Matthew (NT – Matthew 24:15-21).  When Jesus came and revealed Himself to be God after 3.5 years of ministry, Israel killed Him.  When the “antichrist” reveals himself to be “god” after 3.5 years of a covenant, it appears that Israel embraces him.  This is foretold by Jesus in John 5:43 – “I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him.”

While the “antichrist” is celebrating his victory, the 2 bodies of God’s witnesses will lay in the streets of Jerusalem.  3.5 days later, they will rise from the dead and God will call them up to heaven.  A great earthquake will result and 7000 people will die.  This ends the 6th Trumpet judgment as described above.  Despite this, the world will embrace the “antichrist” at the leading of Israel – Mystery Babylon.

The “antichrist” will establish world rule at this time, merging religion, economy, and power.  He will set up an economic system which requires taking his mark or pledging allegiance to him to be able to buy or sell.  Will this mark alter DNA in some manner?  An angel will warn mankind not to take this mark – this is the final warning before God outpours the final 7 Bowls of His wrath.  True salvation is still possible up until taking the mark of the beast.  Choose wisely, your eternal soul is at stake!

Once the mark system is set up, at some point the 7 Bowls of wrath will be unleashed.

As the 6th Bowl of wrath is poured out, the “antichrist” will send deceiving spirits to gather the world for a war against Jesus Christ.  My guess is that he will state that this is the final battle before humankind’s evolutionary transformation/jump can be completed… but that is speculation… Once everyone is gathered, they will prepare for the true Battle of Armageddon.  This will occur 1260 (or possibly 1290) days after the “antichrist” declares himself to be god and sets up the “abomination of desolation” on the Temple altar.

The ending is decreed and it will come to pass – Jesus Christ will appear with His heavenly armies (angels and human followers who were taken at the beginning of this tribulation).  It won’t be a battle though, Jesus will simply open His mouth and defeat all who are gathered by a Word.  All the armies gathered against Him will be defeated in one big wallop by the sword of the Spirit – the Word of God.  Image result for jesus on white horse

The beast (“antichrist”) and the false prophet will be thrown alive into the lake of fire.  All humans opposing Jesus Christ are killed.  It’s not going to be a good death – And this shall be the plague with which the Lord will strike all the peoples that wage war against Jerusalem: their flesh will rot while they are still standing on their feet, their eyes will rot in their sockets, and their tongues will rot in their mouths. And on that day a great panic from the Lord shall fall on them, so that each will seize the hand of another, and the hand of the one will be raised against the hand of the other.  (Zechariah 14:12-13).  Satan is then thrown into the abyss and chained for 1000 years – the duration of Christ’s Millennial Kingdom.

This completes the Day of the Lord and the 70th week of Daniel.  Humanity will be judged on whether they can enter the Millennial Kingdom.  The true Messianic Kingdom will then be ushered in by Jesus, and will last 1000 years.  Remarkably, humanity will still be filled with rebellion, and will rise up at the end of this time period when Satan is released for a “little season”.  They will gather against Jesus, yes, again, and the Last Battle will ensue.  Humanity still hasn’t learned that you can’t beat God, and they will all be destroyed with no actual fighting.

The Great White Throne judgment sees the resurrection of all humanity from the dead to face the living God.  This does not include those who participated in the “first resurrection” – all those in Christ prior to the Millennial Kingdom.  Followers of Christ will enter heaven; those who rejected Jesus will be cast into the eternal Lake of Fire.

Once judgment is complete, Eternity ensues.  Humans are eternal – our souls never die.  Where your soul will spend eternity is completely up to you, but it can only be decided while in your physical body.

For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?

Matthew 16:26

Image result for now is the day of salvation

We urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain.  For he says, “In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.

2 Corinthians 6:1-2

For Further Reading:

Main Menu – God’s Mosaic Prophecy Model

A Disclaimer:    The Bible is infallible.  I am not.  Be a Berean – examine the scriptures to see if these things are so!

 

Honoring God With Our Finances

Money is neutral – there is nothing good nor bad about money or wealth itself.  Money is generally just a means to acquiring resources, and has no real value on its own.  What then does the Bible teach us about what our attitude should be towards our finances?

First, we are not to allow money to become an idol to us.  Loving money (and that which it can buy) can cost us our very lives.  God is to come first.  Our priority in life shouldn’t be focused on money, either earning it or spending it.

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.  1 Timothy 6:10

For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?  Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?  Matthew 16:26

Second, our priority should be God’s Kingdom.  What is treasure in heaven, exactly?  Treasure in heaven is souls – anything we do to help get souls in heaven is treasure.  Our good works, our mature fruit, is treasure in heaven.  Anything we do or give to God to further His kingdom is treasure in heaven.

But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.  Matthew 6:20-21

Third, everything is God’s.  We are accountable to God for all that He gives us . This includes finances – how He blesses us with the capability to work, as well as what we do with the money we earn.  The reason we are accountable is that it isn’t really ours to begin with.  Did we choose who our parents were?  Did we choose our country of birth?  Or the year we were born?  God sovereignly placed us in a specific time, place, and family.  He gives us time, talents, and resources – all of us individually, according to our abilities – and expects us to use them wisely.   We put our money to work for God’s kingdom when we invest it in the eternal.  We are God’s stewards – He entrusts us with His resources and will demand an accounting of them in the future.

The earth is the LORD’S, and all it contains, The world, and those who dwell in it.  Psalm 24:1

“For it is just like a man going on a journey. He called his own slaves and turned over his possessions to them. To one he gave five talents; to another, two; and to another, one—to each according to his own ability. Then he went on a journey. Immediately the man who had received five talents went, put them to work, and earned five more…. “After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them.  The man who had received five talents approached, presented five more talents, and said, ‘Master, you gave me five talents. Look, I’ve earned five more talents.’ “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave! You were faithful over a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Share your master’s joy!’  Matthew 25:14-16, 19-21

Fourth, God blesses us when we give to His kingdom.  It is a biblical principle that we reap what we sow.  God doesn’t necessarily bless us with earthly wealth, but with something much more valuable – a harvest of righteousness.

The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.  Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.  And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.  As it is written, “He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.”   He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness.  You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.  For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God.   2 Corinthians 9:6-12

Fifth, God is more concerned about the heart behind our giving than the dollar value.

Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts.  But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others.  They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”  Mark 12:41-44

Finally, we are to provide for our needs, our family’s needs, and other believers’ needs.

“and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you, so that you will behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need.” 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12

Now all the believers were together and held all things in common.  They sold their possessions and property and distributed the proceeds to all, as anyone had a need.  Acts 2:44-45

 “Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You something to drink?  When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or without clothes and clothe You?  When did we see You sick, or in prison, and visit You?’  “And the King will answer them, ‘I assure you: Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.’  Matthew 25:37-40

So don’t worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’  For the idolaters eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.  Matthew 6:31-33

So, what can we take home?  God wants us to love Him most of all, with all our heart, soul, and strength – more than anything or anyone else in this world.  That includes trusting Him.  He knows our needs and promises to provide them if we seek His kingdom first (what does that mean?   It means focusing on eternity instead of on earth.).  That said, He expects us to work and to use our resources wisely.   We will reap what we sow.

It’s important that we concentrate on the difference between Needs and Wants.  God allows us to have some of our wants, but these can sometimes be a snare to us – dragging us towards coveting, pride, vanity and other sins.  TV, movies, sports, entertainment, eating out, getting your nails or hair done – these are all wants.  Not necessarily bad, but we should keep our eyes open for temptations to sin through them.  For example, is someone else raising our children because we have so many Wants that we “need” to have both parents work?  This is something to prayerfully consider.  God gives your children to you as one of His resources.  He expects you to raise them wisely, in the fear and knowledge of the Lord.  You will give an account to Him on how you raised His children.  This is not meant to threaten or guilt anyone – it’s solely between you and God.  We all fall short, and need to pray for God to forgive and guide us.

It’s not “bad” to be rich – God uses people in all positions of social class and standing.  However, the more we have, the more that will be expected of us.  We must always be on guard that we are trusting in God and not in our wealth.  Wealth is temporary, and can be lost in a moment.  Wealth can also lead us to lust after the things of this world.

God desires that we give to furthering His kingdom and to helping meet other believers’ needs.  This is open-ended, and should prayerfully be discussed with God.  Let Him guide your heart.  This can include giving to specific believers, charities, churches.  It can include giving of your money, but also of your time, talents, or other resources.  You are only responsible for your own resources, not your spouse’s (if you have one) – but ideally, you would discuss this together.  Each one of us will stand before God independently.

A question that frequently comes up is what about Tithing?  Is it Biblical to tithe 10% of income to the church?  Some churches really focus on this to  meet the needs of their buildings and staff.  However, the church was never meant to replace the Old Testament Temple.  WE are the temple of the living God, in our hearts.  It makes my heart ache when I think of all the money that goes into church buildings that sit idle most of the time, while so many believers in this world struggle to meet basic needs.  Paul and the other disciples worked to earn their own living while they preached the gospel.  Believers got together in homes and for meals to study the teachings and to worship God.  Unfortunately, it’s virtually impossible to find Acts 2-like groups of believers  in our day.  But as with the widow who gave her two pennies to a corrupt Temple system that conspired to kill their Messiah, God sees our hearts.  So allow Him to lead yours in your giving.

Tithing in the Age of Grace:

Tithing is an Old Testament concept. The tithe was a requirement of the Law in which the Israelites were to give 10 percent of the crops they grew and the livestock they raised to the tabernacle/temple (Leviticus 27:30; Numbers 18:26; Deuteronomy 14:24; 2 Chronicles 31:5). In fact, the Old Testament Law required multiple tithes—one for the Levites, one for the use of the temple and the feasts, and one for the poor of the land—which would have pushed the total to around 23.3 percent. Some understand the Old Testament tithe as a method of taxation to provide for the needs of the priests and Levites in the sacrificial system.

After the death of Jesus Christ fulfilled the Law, the New Testament nowhere commands, or even recommends, that Christians submit to a legalistic tithe system. The New Testament nowhere designates a percentage of income a person should set aside, but only says gifts should be “in keeping with income” (1 Corinthians 16:2). Some in the Christian church have taken the 10 percent figure from the Old Testament tithe and applied it as a “recommended minimum” for Christians in their giving.

The New Testament talks about the importance and benefits of giving. We are to give as we are able. Sometimes that means giving more than 10 percent; sometimes that may mean giving less. It all depends on the ability of the Christian and the needs of the body of Christ. Every Christian should diligently pray and seek God’s wisdom in the matter of participating in tithing and/or how much to give (James 1:5). Above all, all tithes and offerings should be given with pure motives and an attitude of worship to God and service to the body of Christ. “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).

From gotquestions.org

The Greatest Love – Laying Down Our Lives For Others

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”   John 15:12-13

It’s Mother’s Day today, and as I reflect on what motherhood means, one word that immediately comes to mind is sacrifice.  As mothers, many times we sacrifice hobbies, free time, privacy, sleep, time, money, resources, even access to our own bodies, for our children.  It’s a giving relationship, not a taking one.  We often do reap kindness, friendship, and love from our children if that is what we sow into their lives – but not necessarily.  We love our children even if they do not love us back.  I think most of us would desire that our love for our children be unconditional.  We are human and fallen and we fail our children, but I think we can get a glimpse of how God loves US as His children.  Unconditionally.  With a fierce, protective, sheltering love.

Several thoughts have been in my mind this week around this topic.  One is that I think I might understand what it means to lay down my life for someone.  Yes, there is my physical life, and I believe I would die trying to protect or save my children.   But our lives don’t JUST consist of our physical bodies.  What about our emotional life?  We lay down our emotional life for our friends (including our children), when we sacrifice what we want for what they want/need.  “As mothers, many times we sacrifice hobbies, free time, privacy, sleep, time, money, resources, even access to our own bodies, for our children.”  Isn’t this laying down our lives for our children, in a very active  way?  It’s not just a one time laying down of physical life, but a repeated and deliberate dynamic choice we make many times daily, to lay aside ME for SOMEONE ELSE.  Doesn’t that sound like the very definition of the greatest love?

Laying down our lives for others is how we obey the second commandment – to love our neighbors as ourselves.  Our spouse and child(ren) are our closest neighbors.

The next thought is about this – “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”  Matthew 10:37.  We obey the first and greatest commandment by loving God EVEN MORE than our children.  Does that mean we neglect our children, or love them less?  Of course not.  But our love for God must be so all-consuming that we feel it deep in the heart of our very being.  The fierce, protective, consuming, sacrificial love you feel for your child?  Yeah, that.  THAT’S the love you should have EVEN MORE for God.  If you don’t have that love, that passion for God – He calls it “losing your first love”, or even worse, “being lukewarm”.  Pursue God relentlessly.  With all your heart.  This is what He expects – demands – from His followers.  Repent, and cry out to God for Him to give you that love for Him.  Never stop asking, never stop pursuing.  God is worth it.  Even more than your child.

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers,  nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.   Romans 8:38-39

Mothering Like Mary, Mother of Jesus

And Mary said:

 “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.  From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me— holy is his name.

His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation.  He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he promised our ancestors.”

Luke 1:47-55

 I think about Mary sometimes, and what it would have been like to be a mother to Jesus.  It’s a precious thing to have a child.  There is no love that compares to the unconditional and sacrificial love we feel for the bone-of-our-bones, flesh-of-our-flesh children.

I’ve never adopted, or fostered, or been a step-parent.  I don’t know how the feelings in these situations compare.  All I know is that I would sacrifice anything, including my own life, absolutely and unconditionally for my kids.  What I feel for them is unlike the love I’ve had for anyone else.

That said, I fail them miserably.  I’m impatient, unkind, and controlling.  I’ve bribed them, threatened them, and hurt them.  I’ve had to ask their forgiveness many, many times.  They bring out the best in me, yes, but they also push all my buttons and bring out the worst in me.  Children reveal our true characters.  I am ashamed at what darkness still lingers in my heart, despite trying to follow God as best I can.

God would never have chosen me to be His mother.

I imagine Mary was gentle, patient, and kind.  I know a few mothers who gentle parent who exude a sweet Christ-likeness, and I imagine Mary must have been something like them.  Mary wasn’t perfect, but she was a godly woman.  I’m sure she lost her temper, got frustrated, and maybe even yelled on occasion.  But whether you want to admit it or not, some people are nicer than others, some people are kinder than others, some people are gentler than others.  To some extent, it’s the nature God gives us.  I know non-Christians who are so sweet and lovely.  I know Christians who can be downright nasty.

Our nature isn’t what saves us (Thank God – as the only good in me is Jesus!).   However, God works on our nature to bring it into alignment with His own through the process of sanctification – making us Holy, ripening the fruit of the Spirit in us.  Some of us, myself included, are much rougher gems that need a lot of knocking around and polishing before their beauty can be glimpsed.  I wonder if that means we will shine that much brighter if we cooperate with the refining process?  The ugliest of rocks may hide the most valuable of gems.

Jesus, of course, never sinned and therefore would have been the easiest child imaginable to raise.  He would have cried, of course, and been hungry and grumpy and tired.  He probably smeared His poop and peed on the furniture.  These things are not sins.  Feelings are not sins.  But Jesus was so much like other children, so human, that people in His community had a difficult time believing He was anything but a regular man when He revealed His identity.

My children are my closest neighbors, and I am called to love them as I love myself.  I am called to parent them as I would parent Jesus, if He were my son.  How does this change my perspective?

Would I still work?  Would I put Jesus in childcare?  Would I homeschool Him?  Would I let Him leave His peas, or make Him finish His meatballs before having dessert?  Would I even let Him have dessert?  Would I always let Him have dessert?  Would I leave Him to cry at night?  Would I have more mercy, more compassion?

I think these are questions we need to ask ourselves as parents.  If we would do anything differently if our child were Jesus, then we should be doing that thing differently with our actual child.  That is loving our neighbor as ourselves.

Breaking Through and Finding God – Steps to Freedom in Christ

Are you struggling with:
  • Anger?
  • Anxiety?
  • Addiction?
  • Bitterness?
  • Complacency?
  • Doubt?
  • Depression?
  • Sinfulness?
  • Unforgiveness?
  • Guilt?

These things can separate us from God.

I have struggled in these things.  You are not alone!  And I KNOW that you truly can find freedom in Christ.
This seems silly, but I want you to write out everything that you are struggling with. Every feeling that doesn’t align with who you know you are in Christ – doubt, complacency, anxiety, bitterness, anger.  Write everything you are struggling with – sins, addictions, ANYTHING you love more than you love God.  Anything you spend more time, money, effort, and attention on more than God.  You can write depression, hopelessness, sadness, despair, stuff like that.  Write out anything you feel guilty about, hurts you can’t let go of, fears.  Put it all down on paper.
Truly examine your heart.  Is there anything in your heart you are holding back from God? I want to follow You, BUT ???  Write down all the BUTS.
Take some time, a day, a number of hours, a week, to think about all these things and write them down privately.
Once you have it all written down – don’t leave anything out – I want you to pray over it. Tell God “This, I give You all of this. It’s just all too big for me, I give it to YOU, God.”  You can tell Him about any of these things, or all of these things, and tell Him how you want Him to take them out of your heart and fill your heart with Him instead.
Then find a large glass jar or metal tin or similar. Rip up the paper, and light it on fire until its all burned. 
IMG_20170623_100322123
Gather the ashes in a bottle or little bag or somewhere as a reminder.  Like an altar of remembrance.
IMG_20170623_101022619
Whenever these thoughts, temptations, or fears come to you, say to the feelings/thoughts/temptations – “STOP, in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.”  and “I give this to You, God, it’s too big for me.  Take it away.”  You may have to say it a few times to get the thought or feeling to stop.   Do this EVERY TIME the thoughts/feelings/temptations come into your head.
I am praying that the Holy Spirit will use this powerfully to change your life.  God desires to give you life, and life abundantly.  He has so many plans for you!  I praying that He fills you with His truth instead and that He will remove the lies of the enemy that would seek to destroy you. 

The Long, Dark Night – Struggling with Depression

Depression is common.  Close to 1 in 10 of us will experience it at some point in our lives.  Anxiety is often not far behind.

Depression is not new to me.  We’ve been on and off companions for decades; my earliest memories of pervading depression start around age 9.   Depression is a lurking shadow.  Rarely am I fully aware of its presence, but never am I completely able to escape its’ grasp.  Anxiety is more like a cat stalking prey.  It sneaks up on me and then pounces; suddenly I am in its’ grasp – struggling for my life.

I am first aware of being depressed in elementary school.  Being a sensitive, introverted child, the rug was ripped out from under me when my only friend was transferred to a new school.  Grade 4 was filled with a pervasive sadness for me, as I realized that I was down near the bottom ranks of the social pecking order.  People would rearrange their desks away from me.  The boys fawned after the girl with the long, thick, blond hair and blue eyes.  The girls were paying attention to brand-name clothes and accessories.  I wore hand-me-downs.

School didn’t get much better.  I focused on academics, since I was always the last picked for sports, and tried to fit in with the smart kids.  I was always almost, but not quite.  Not pretty enough, not smart enough, not tall or fast enough, always just a bit too far behind on the latest fashion.  By the time I had saved up enough for my Chip and Pepper, Mondetta, or Hypercolor shirt, the other kids had moved on. (Totally dating myself, I know).

What people thought about me mattered to me.  It mattered a lot.  I cried myself to sleep many nights.

Place In This World

The wind is moving
But I am standing still
A life of pages
Waiting to be filled
A heart that’s hopeful
A head that’s full of dreams
But this becoming
Is harder than it seems
Feels like I’m

Looking for a reason
Roaming through the night to find
My place in this world
My place in this world
Not a lot to lean on
I need Your light to help me find
My place in this world
My place in this world

If there are millions
Down on their knees
Among the many
Can you still hear me?
Hear me asking
Where do I belong?
Is there a vision
That I can call my own?
Show me I’m

Looking for a reason
Roaming through the night to find
My place in this world
My place in this world
Not a lot to lean on
I need Your light to help me find
My place in this world
My place in this world

Looking for a reason
Roaming through the night to find
My place in this world
My place in this world
Not a lot to lean on
I need Your light to help me find
My place in this world
My place in this world

Looking for a reason
Roaming through the night to find
My place in this world
My place in this world

-Michael w Smith

I sought solace in relationships – friendships, dating, marriage.  People will always disappoint.  If we are trying to find ourselves in others, or in things of this world, we will never be satisfied.  We can’t ever “get there” or be or have “enough”.

When I had my first child, we both had a lot of permanent complications from the delivery.  I won’t get into details, but it was way more than I could mentally handle.  I struggled with suicidal feelings for at least a year afterwards, and had a plan and supplies in place.  When I told my husband, he told me to “just get over it”.  I saw a psychiatrist, but was terrified of losing my baby, so only admitted enough to get medications.  The medication decreased my milk supply (I was breastfeeding), and didn’t help much anyways, so I went off it.  I tried 3 different counselors, but didn’t find any of them helpful.  It is only by the grace of God that I didn’t follow through with my plan… The only reason I didn’t is that I couldn’t leave my baby without her mom, and I couldn’t bring myself to kill her too (although I did dream about it).

Counseling, medications – these things can help sometimes, and it is good and right to try them.  Current research suggests that mental health (addictions in particular) can be the result of insecure attachments in our primary relationships.  While this is very exciting research for parenting and for future treatment goals (secure attachments with our spouses, children and other primary relationships bringing healing), what they miss is that our PRIMARY relationship is meant to be with God.  If we do not have a secure attachment with God, it can affect our mental health in addition to our spiritual health.  Although I knew about God, I wasn’t following Him.

Pursuing God with all our heart, soul, and strength brings mental healing.  We can’t just know about Him, though.  He must live in our very being – the Holy Spirit in us (see HERE).

Yes, we may also need medications and counselling (preferably with excellent Christian counselors and physicians).  For me, though, God has been the only effective source of mental healing.  I have found that the more I focus on HIM and the less I focus on ME, the less depression and anxiety I have.  When I discover myself in the throes of depression, or when an anxiety attack comes on , I have to CHOOSE to literally say STOP, I give this to YOU, Jesus, it’s too big for me.   Sometimes it takes multiple repetitions, and then I need to spend time reading the Bible and playing praise and worship music.  Praying also helps, not just praying for myself, but praying for others.  Taking the focus off ME and my problems and worries distracts my mind for the better.

What’s too big for me is “just right” for God – when I am weak, He is strong.

Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People? The Role of Suffering in a Believer’s Life

 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,  and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,  and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.  Romans 5:3-5

Suffering means many things.  It can mean bad and terrible things – the loss of a child, financial ruin, divorce, major injury or illness.  It can mean challenging things – a difficult marriage, a challenging work relationship, surgeries and health concerns, house fires.  It can also mean the irritating things that happen on a regular basis in our lives, that cause us stress and anxiety.

As I continue in my journey with Christ, I have come to understand suffering in a new light.  I understand that NO suffering is fun.  We would never CHOOSE it.  However, it has an even greater purpose perhaps than comfort in our lives.  Certainly, it is more useful than “happiness”.  Paul describes the challenges in this life as “light and momentary troubles”:

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.  2 Corinthians 4:17-18

Now, I’ve never been beaten or jailed, stoned and left for dead like Paul has.  So what perspective does Paul have that I don’t?  His eyes are fixed on eternity – on what is unseen, the Living Christ.  Everything else fades when our gaze is steadfastly on Him.  This is what it means to abide in Christ, to be “in” the world, but not “of” it.

Things are unfair in this world, absolutely.  Life hurts.  Grief, sadness, anger, frustration is OK.  But we can’t lose sight of what TRULY matters.  The more we focus on “me”, the more we drown in ourselves (I’ve found this to be the case with anxiety and depression as well.  The more I look at me, the less I look at Him.  The less I look at Him, the more life overwhelms me.).

Once we are saved, that’s not the end of it.  Salvation is a lifelong process that isn’t complete until the day we meet with Jesus face to face.  God allows challenges in our lives to make us holy.  EACH and EVERY frustration – from teeny to huge – is an OPPORTUNITY to either grow towards or away from Christ.  The quicker we can identify these and yield to the Holy Spirit’s work of refining us, the faster we progress in holiness.  I also find that the more I yield to this process (the less I stubbornly complain and fight it), the less God has to send my way.  Because He will, you know.  His goal is your holiness, not your happiness.

While I already understood that God allows challenges in our lives to develop our character and to work on our hearts (I don’t know about you, but if everything is going really well for me, I can quickly start to feel pretty self-sufficient…), this excerpt on being refined helped me to understand this much more clearly:

 The Refiner and His Fire 

(excerpt from amazon.com – As Silver Refined by Kay Arthur)

COME, LET ME TAKE YOU BACK to a Judean village in ancient days. Inside a small, walled courtyard under a blue and blazing sky, there stands a refiner of metals. In his hands, gnarled with age, he is rolling and fingering a lump of ore. He watches the sun play on the streaks and veins of lead and other minerals running through this bit of rock chiseled from the bowels of the earth.

His experienced eye knows that, intermingled within this ore, there is silver.

He lays the ore on his worktable then builds his fire with care and the wisdom of years. Soon the flames are rising in the pit situated against the courtyard’s stone wall.

At the worktable he picks up his hammer and begins crushing the lump into smaller pieces.

He pauses occasionally to stare at the fire, as if in study. From time to time he places more fuel upon the already-blazing coals and works his bellows until the flames are in a frenzy.

When the fire is right, he gathers the hammered bits of ore from the place of their crushing and lays them in a small, sturdy container of tempered pottery—his crucible.

He places the crucible in the fire and sits down beside it. A long day is before him, and this is where he will stay for as long as the metal is subject to the flames. Silver is too precious to be forsaken in the furnace, too valuable to be ruined through inattention.

Carefully he watches the fire. It must be maintained at exactly the right temperature for the right duration of time to accomplish its purpose. Slowly the ore softens. The silver, with its greater density and lower melting point, liquefies first, hissing and bubbling as oxygen is released. The still-solid impurities rise to the top of the molten metal. This is the dross, and the refiner skims it off.

Now he adds bits of charcoal inside the crucible. He knows this will enhance the sheen of the silver. The carbon of the charcoal will keep the refined metal from reabsorbing oxygen from the air, which would only dull its finish.

He tends the fire, adds more fuel, and applies more air from the bellows. Amid the relentless heat surrounding the crucible, more dull impurities, newly revealed, rise to the surface of the mixture.

Again the refiner carefully skims away the murky, smudgy metal floating at the top of the crucible. Gazing down upon the molten surface, the refiner sees at best but a dim reflection of himself.

The refiner works and watches and waits. The heat and its effect continue. More impurities rise to the surface, and again he skims them off.

He never leaves the crucible unattended, never steps away from the fire he has formed to do its work. The finished product he cherishes demands this process. Only his guided and guarded refinement will yield the promised and precious metal.

And he is not yet satisfied.

He lets the fire cool. Eventually he sets the crucible aside.

Then once again he builds up the fire, and the process begins all over. This time the skilled refiner makes the fire hotter. Within the crucible, new impurities are released, brought to the surface, exposed for what they are, then skimmed off.

Finally his leathery face breaks into a smile, for now as he gazes into the liquid silver his reflection is apparent—not yet sharp, but more distinct than before.

More hours pass as he perseveres in his anxious and delicate work. And then . . . once more he bends over the crucible, and this time he catches his breath. There it is! In the silver he sees what he has waited for so patiently: a clear image of himself, distinct and sharp.

Delight banishes his frown. His task is done. The impurities are gone.

The silver is refined.

He has his treasure.

He has “choice” silver, the most lustrous of all metals, beautiful and highly valued. It’s as pale and shining as the wings of a dove, as brilliant and splendid as the moon, worthy to become coin or trumpet or ornament, worthy to grace the king’s table or to reflect sunlight in a crown upon his head. The refiner has taken what was impure and made it pure.

He has taken what was dull and made it beautiful.

Potential value has become actual value.

And the fire—the guarded, guided, relentless fire—made the difference.

The fire allowed ordinary ore from the earth to be transformed into treasure.

All under the refiner’s watchful care, for all the while he never left it unattended.

You and I are more than observers in this picture, beloved. This image of refinement is something God touches on again and again in His Word. He is the true Refiner. We are His silver.

And the fire is the fire of His making, for through His fire our Refiner will perfect an awesome work, a divine work. He will take what is impure and make it pure. He will take what is dull and make it beautiful. He’ll take what is of potential value and reveal its actual value. He will transform us into treasure.

He’ll refine us in the crucible so that He can see Himself in the silver—in you and me. And so the world, as well as the principalities and powers and hosts of Satan, can behold the triumph of the Redeemer.

The fiery flames—the array of disappointing situations in our lives, from minor irritants to major tragedies—will make the difference. Different flames, different fires will come and go. In the pressure of their heat we’ll see the impurities in our lives being released and rising to the top. Then He’ll skim them off, purifying us, refining us.

He’ll make the fire a little hotter, causing new impurities to rise and be released, exposed for what they are. These, too, He’ll lift away. Early in our Christian lives He may see only a very dim image of Himself as He looks into our crucible. But as time goes on, His image becomes clearer, more lustrous, more beautiful.

And all the while, He never leaves or forsakes His treasure.

Our Refiner never leaves the crucible, never steps away from the fire. He is always there to make sure every flame that reaches us is exactly the right temperature—not too hot!—to accomplish its work in our lives. He knows the precise temperature to maintain so we don’t face more than we can bear. He tests and proves our faith, not to discredit us, but to show us how far we’ve come. He perfects our perseverance.

Years ago I filed away a copy of a poem called “The Refiner’s Fire.” Now is the time to share it with you. Instead of silver, the metal here is gold, as in 1 Peter 1:7—“that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” But the process—and the Refiner’s attitude—is just as we have seen, as the last two stanzas of this poem testify:

Can we think it pleases His loving heart
To cause us a moment’s pain?
Ah, no, but He sees through the present cross
The bliss of eternal gain.
So He waited there with a watchful eye
With a love that is strong and sure,
And His gold did not suffer a bit more heat
Than was needed to make it pure.

The Refiner’s fire is a picture of great worth and importance to God, one He refers to often in His Word. Let me share a few of these verses with you as we begin our study of how to handle the disappointments and difficulties God uses to refine us.

“The refining pot is for silver . . . ,” He says, “but the LORD tests hearts” (Proverbs 17:3).

“The crucible is for silver and the furnace for gold, and a man is tested by the praise accorded him” (Proverbs 27:21). Even the praise we receive can be a refining and testing fire.

“The tongue of the righteous is as choice silver” (Proverbs 10:20). He even uses this image as a picture of His own Word: The words of the LORD are pure words; as silver tried in a furnace on the earth, refined seven times” (Psalm 12:6). Seven is the number of completion, perfection—God’s Word is perfect and complete. And you will be too as you learn to respond to the fires in a way pleasing to God.

The Lord promises to bring His people “through the fire,” and to “refine them as silver is refined, and test them as gold is tested. They will call on My name, and I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are My people,’ and they will say, “The LORD is my God’ ” (Zechariah 13:9).

We can all tell the Lord what the psalmist acknowledged, “For Thou hast tried us, O God; Thou hast refined us as silver is refined” (Psalm 66:10).

Yet unfortunately, there are times when God’s refinement fires are of no avail.

Why? Because you and I can resist and ruin God’s refining process. Jeremiah 6:29-30 describes this very situation as God speaks of His people Israel:

The bellows blow fiercely,
the lead is consumed by the fire;
in vain the refining goes on,
but the wicked are not separated.
They call them rejected silver,
because the LORD has rejected them.

The fire burns and burns. But the dross—the wickedness, the impurities—is not allowed to be released and removed. Instead it’s held on to, stubbornly clung to, no matter how hot the Refiner’s fire. So the silver becomes rejected silver or, as the King James Version puts it, “reprobate silver.”

Therefore the Refiner must reject it. It is impure and unusable and unattractive. God will send the fire several times and with increasing heat to get rid of those impurities, those un-Christlike things in your life and mine, beloved.

But if we insist on hanging on to them, then God must set us aside. He’ll call us reprobate silver—rejected for His use.”

Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.  In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.  And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?

“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
    nor be weary when reproved by him.
 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
    and chastises every son whom he receives.”

It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?  If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live?  For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness.   Hebrews 10:3-10

 

Honoring God Through a Healthy Relationship With Food

Don’t you know that your body is a sanctuary of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? You are not your own,  for you were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God in your body.  1 Corinthians 6:19-20

One of my idols I have been battling for a long time is Food.  In  particular, turning to food (usually chocolate) for comfort when I am emotionally upset.  This coping method is sinful, as I am turning to something other than God for comfort.  I also struggle with eating for pleasure rather than for need – I have a hard time limiting my portion sizes and snacks.  This is unhealthy for my physically, but also spiritually.  When I allow myself to be controlled by food, instead of controlling my desires for it, I am raising it to Idol Status.

Those controlled by the flesh cannot please God.  You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you.  Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.  Romans 8:8-9

I have been praying about this for some time, and have slowly been gaining control over my cravings.  Supplements (glucomannan) did help for a time with feelings of fullness, to break the habit of eating when not hungry.  However, I still struggled with comfort eating and over-eating for pleasure (which would be termed the unattractive word gluttony).

I have been reading through the Old Testament, and am struck by how particular God was with His temple.  He was very specific in defining the temple, and everything about it was beautiful and special in His eyes.  In the New Testament, we are now His temple.  I believe this has implications as to how we are to treat our bodies, and how we present our bodies to the world.  As far as food goes – the food I put into my body is what I am offering to God in His temple.  

Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship.  Romans 12:1

It takes time and energy to change, particularly in a family situation (cooking for more than 1!).  I am not one to follow fad diets, but believe that good nutrition is pretty basic, commonsense, and practical.  I am inspired to try to make the following dietary changes:

  • Try to eliminate highly processed foods
  • Decrease processed foods – make more foods from scratch
  • Increase consumption of whole grains
  • Increase consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Decrease consumption of meat
  • Decrease consumption of fats and empty calories
  • Increase consumption of water
  • Decrease coffee consumption and replace with tea (preferably green)

I have already previously replaced high glycemic index sugar with low glycemic index sugars (xylitol, erythritol, coconut palm sugar).  I also gave up all soda, alcohol (due to the caloric content mainly), sugary drinks, most juice, and milk.  I have mostly replaced snacking with seasoned homemade popcorn instead of chips, cookies, cakes, etc.

Besides addressing nutrition and emotional comfort, I am trying to get at the root of food controlling me (which I believe is a self-control issue).  I am doing this through fasting.  Throughout the Bible, there are many passages where believers are fasting and praying.  It’s something that seems to be a regular and common occurrence – not something rare or extraordinary.  And yet fasting doesn’t seem to be all that common these days.

Biblical fasting comes in many forms and I don’t believe there is a right or a wrong way to do it.  You can fast from certain things or everything, and it can be for any length of time.  As with most things, I think we need to use common sense.  What this looks like for me is on my non-work days I am fasting from all food from bedtime until suppertime the next day.  For me, this is 3 days a week.  I am continuing to drink – water, my one morning coffee, and unlimited tea.

IMG_20170309_112625

I actually hesitated to post about this, because then I would be accountable!  I honestly didn’t know if I would have the self-control to do it.  This is my third week, and although the first day was tough, I committed myself to following through and it hasn’t been nearly as difficult as I imagined.  I am trying to read the Bible and Pray daily, particularly on fasting days.

I have noticed that I am DEFINITELY having LESS food cravings.  Chocolate and pantry-trips are becoming easier and easier to skip in the evenings and on non-fasting days.  Portion control is easier.  In fact I am feeling fuller sooner and often feel uncomfortably over-full after eating regular amounts.  While I hope to maybe lose weight too, I am primarily hoping to develop a healthy relationship with food that honors God.

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.  1 Corinthians 10:31

Struggling to Trust God in the Midst of Anxiety

This fall I had the worst anxiety attack of my life, and I can’t help but think that God allowed it to show me where I am not trusting Him.  It wasn’t that I didn’t trust Him, actually.  It was that I didn’t think I was going to like His will very much.   I tried to focus on Jesus, but was losing the battle of the mind.  I prayed, I called, “Shepherd, come quickly!” and was reminded of Much Afraid and her journey to the high places (Hind’s Feet on High Places – Hannah Burnard).

Suffice it to say, I truly believed that I was dying.  I allowed my mind to follow that path, and had worked myself up to believe that I had only a few months to live.  I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep, and I had a number of panic attacks where I could barely breathe.  I somehow got myself to the doctor’s office, and my blood pressure was so high it didn’t even register on the blood pressure meter.

And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?   Matthew 6:27

I was aware that I was slipping deeper and deeper into anxiety.  That awareness is a good thing.  I also chose to pray, and cry out for help.  Also a good thing.  But I refused to surrender.  This is the bad part.  I refused to accept that God’s will for me might be death.  In doing so, I was claiming that I knew what was best for me and my family – not God.  That somehow His sovereign will might be wrong if it didn’t line up with mine.  And that is sinful.

In daily things, I’ve gotten pretty good at surrendering to God’s will.  Not that I don’t struggle, but I can generally see God’s plan and purpose and rationale.  This makes it easy for me to want to follow Him, since I like rules and logic and order.

Except, apparently, when it comes to death.  THAT, I am not prepared to face.

First of all, God has determined the span of our lives.  He knows the choices we will make, and so these do affect our lifespan (whether we make safe or dangerous choices, whether we accept or refuse medical care, etc), but the number of our days is predetermined.

Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
    the days that were formed for me,
    when as yet there was none of them. Psalm 139:16

When my time on earth is complete, it will end.  No matter what my feelings about it are.

Since his days are determined, The number of his months is with You; And his limits You have set so that he cannot pass.  Job 14:5

I spent many years terrified of death and have been a cautious person because of it.  I’m not a risk-taker, that’s for sure.  In these last few years since being sure of my salvation, I no longer fear DEATH (although the thought of suffering and pain is not appealing).   To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8).  What my fears were directed towards this time, were my children – who would raise them to know Jesus?

So, I allowed my mind to not just believe that I was dying, but to prepare for what I would do next.  Facing one’s mortality has a way of putting priorities in order. 

1. My first priority was to leave a legacy of instruction to my children.  Who would instruct them in the way of the Lord?  This life is about God.  To miss that essential truth, nothing we say, do, or experience has any real relevance or significance.  Above all I want my kids to know, love, and follow God.  I want to spend eternity with them, and there is only one way that will happen – through Jesus!  

2. Developing a relationship with God is important.  It is not so much the individual actions and choices we make that are significant, but the attitude of our heart.  I believe we can worship God through the mundane if we choose to!  That is how God can work for the good of those who love Him through all things, by drawing our hearts to Him if we cooperate with the process.  This world is sometimes boring, sometimes scary, sometimes fun, and always horridly sinful.  We rise above all that when we realize the overarching story – His story.  I wanted to spend my remaining days focused on relationship with God.

3. The “stuff” in this world is distraction.  Most of it pulls us away from God and towards our own selfishness and pleasure – it certainly eats up a lot of time researching, buying, maintaining, repairing, selling.  Only one life, t’will soon be past – only what’s done for Christ will last.  I started thinking about what I would do with my stuff, who would I give it to?  What would I need to keep for living through only another year?  Could I give away the rest?  What about my time?  We can waste time as well as money.  How much time am I spending with God and in doing things of eternal significance?  Most of my free time is spent doing things for me and my own pleasure.  Facing limited time, do I really want all my treasures here on earth where thieves steal and moths destroy?

I found out I am not actively dying (that I know of), and God has graced me with more time for the moment.

God allowed me to be tested, and I failed.  

However, failure is such a great teacher.  I am spurred to move on in instruction of my children in the ways of the Lord and in deepening my own relationship with Jesus, while letting go of the things that would weigh me down to this world. Since my days are ordered and numbered by Him, I want to use them for His glory and not my own. Facing my humanity is a good reminder of what TRULY matters.

Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself.  Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.  Matthew 6:34

The Lord is at hand;  do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.   Philippians 4:5-7

Tackling Emotional Eating – Comfort Food as an Idol

When praying for conviction, many things have been relatively easy for me to give up.  However, there are a few I have really struggled with.  One of these is emotional eating – using comfort food as a crutch.  In this way, it has become an idol to me.  This is an account of my struggle with weight loss and emotional eating in 2016.

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Depression is not new to me.  We’ve been on and off companions for decades.  I’ve tried cognitive behavioral therapy, counselling, and medications.  Of these, only medications helped – and that, only marginally.

What works great is chocolate.  Preferably milk chocolate.  Cheesecake, cheezies, and chips and dip will work in a pinch.  There is a term for this – Emotional Binge Eating.

Unfortunately, these foods (which absolutely are proven to boost “feel good” brain chemicals called endorphins) only help while I’m eating them, or shortly after.  To maintain their effect, I’d have to eat at least 5 chocolate bars a day.  Which I would do gladly, if it didn’t have negative effect.

Hence the weight issue.  My weight has steadily creeped upwards from the normal – high normal – overweight – to the obese BMI categories.  I can still see my toes, but I am not healthy.  I’ve been trying unsuccessfully to lose weight for 12 years now, and any weight I take off I promptly put back on.

I struggle with food being an “idol” or “crutch”, and yet some days I just don’t feel like I can make it through my day without it – I can’t stand feeling hungry.  But it’s not a physical hunger I am trying to satiate.

Much of my depression stems from relationship issues.  My “love language” is words of affirmation – feeling like I am doing a good job and am appreciated.  I don’t always get a lot of this – sometimes, more the opposite – and each sarcastic comment or criticism cuts like a knife.  The thing is, I am confident in my value and position in Christ.  I feel like depression and my stomach should not rule me – that Christ should rule me.  So along with everything else, I feel guilt.  Which entices me to the pantry to eat more chocolate chips.

We are broken people, living in a broken world.

It is only natural that this will hurt.  Sometimes very much.  People will disappoint us and hurt us, sometimes even intentionally and regularly.  Bad things will happen.  Our health will deteriorate.  This is life in a sinful world and shouldn’t be in any way surprising!

I wish that exercise gave me the same endorphins (it does for some people!) , or that I even enjoyed it (which I don’t! – I would rather get a filling at the dentist than do cardio for an hour…).  So for me, here I go again, trying to beat my food idol into submission.

I will try to post my progress.

Today is day 2.  I did great yesterday (day 1), passed up fast food and donuts, went for a walk at lunch (which I didn’t enjoy) and ate low-cal.  Today it’s just after noon and I’ve had a cupcake and a jelly filled donut.  However, instead of throwing in the towel, it’s better to be over my goal by 200 calories than by 1000 calories.  So I dutifully recorded them in my notebook (the only way I lose weight is by religiously tracking my caloric intake), and will try to eat a light supper.

Of note, I have found that other idols in my life have really become much less of a problem!   I do occasionally covet things, but not like I used to.  It has become easier and easier to let things go, and by being attentive to my cravings I can tell myself that – remember how I really REALLY wanted that (shirt, belt, pen, etc) a few months ago, didn’t get it, and now don’t really care?

I’m hoping to get to that same point with food, but for me, this is the biggest mountain to climb.

Weight Loss Week 1 – The Long Dark Tunnel Ahead

Well, it’s been a week since I posted about my struggle with weight gain and depression.  I did really well the first day and was at around 1200 calories for the day, went for a walk, turned down junk food.  Then it was Easter weekend (which I prefer to celebrate as Passover and its’ fulfillment), and I had home struggles and sleep changes and completely fell off the wagon.  Ate several chocolate bars, felt very low, and have survived to this point – but, 1 lb heavier.  Unfortunately, this is a pattern for me – I can get very excited and ramped up and do really well…for one day.

Attempted to start again today as a new month begins, but succumbed to chips and dip at work.  Really need to figure out a way to distract my oral fixation (I ran out of gum, part of the problem).

I had a stranger tell me this week that she herself is an emotional eater, and that she always tells people to deal with excess weight when they are still young, as it becomes so much more difficult to take it off with age.  This is something I already knew, but seem so inept to do anything about.  I feel like a smoker – addicted and aware, but unable to pull the reins in on that which drives me.  It’s the whole instant gratification despite knowing long term consequences.

So. Hard. To. Give. Up. Instant. Gratification.

We never really find out how attached we are to something until we honestly try to give it up.  Shopping, cell phones/internet, TV, smoking, alcohol, drugs, food… We think we are in control and could give it up if we wanted or needed to.  Well, a good way to find out if that is true, is to try it for a week…  Wants vs Needs are tough.  We need *much* less than we want.

This week I also have become quite uncomfortable – this is probably TMI but I feel and look pregnant.  I would probably be more alarmed by this if I hadn’t had several pregnancies already and quite loved the belly.  Unfortunately this time the belly is empty of baby (I even took a pregnancy test to check).  However, strangers (generally children) do routinely ask me if I have a baby in my tummy, or when I am due, or tell me congratulations… So often, in fact, that I am pretty immune to it.

Time to roll up the sleeves and get to work.  Since I hate exercise, I’m going to have to do this the old fashioned way of simply eating less calories.  I am forcing myself to track calories as this is the only way I seem to have any sort of semblance of control over myself.  I will post them here weekly on Fridays to have some measure of accountability.  I don’t know guys, this is a tough battle.

Some days I just tell myself, well, one day closer to Heaven.

Weight Loss Week 3 – The Soluble Fiber Miracle

I didn’t get around to posting last Friday – I have been busy researching weight loss, adrenal fatigue, insomnia, depression, anxiety…  And then I placed a big order for supplements and herbals…  Don’t get me wrong, I’m a sciencey-type of gal.  I don’t jump in on fad diets and scientifically unproven alternative health pills.  However, there are some things that can be taken to help someone like me.

So now I have a plan.  Curious?

First I read an article that validated – “Despite what you may have heard, overcoming food cravings has nothing to do with willpower”.  This was empowering for me because I was struggling with the guilt of not being able to control my eating.  (Source)

People without weight problems benefit from a fully functioning system of appetite control—compounds such as hormones, peptides, neurotransmitters, and glucose that circulate in the blood and are sensed and acted upon by the brain. People of normal weight don’t usually experience frequent cravings for unhealthy foods. They simply feel hungry at appropriate times. They are also inclined to feel satisfied when they eat modest sized portions that don’t promote weight gain.

Unfortunately, when abdominal fat cells are enlarged in overweight and obese individuals, this complex system of appetite control becomes altered. The key factor that leads to this disruption is insulin resistance.

Resetting Appetite Control

Resistance to the hormone insulin sets the stage for intense food cravings. In more primitive times, insulin resistance filled the purpose of helping humans pack on the pounds when food was abundant so that they could survive during famine. Today, we don’t usually have that problem, and as a result our physiology is stuck in the fat-storing mode with an overactive appetite.

If you want to lose weight and keep it off, you have to fix your appetite control system and free yourself from excessive food cravings. Two powerful natural approaches to doing this are stabilizing blood sugar and boosting serotonin levels in your brain.

The article then lists seven ways to improve blood sugar control and insulin resistance:

  1. Eat a low-glycemic-load diet.
  2. Try a viscous fiber supplement
  3. Supplement with chromium, which is necessary for insulin to work properly, at a dosage of 200–400 mcg per day.
  4. Get a handle on stress.
  5. Ensure that you never really get hungry by consuming low-calorie snacks, such as fresh vegetables and fruit, between meals.
  6. Engage in physical exercise for at least 30 minutes every day.
  7. Plan your daily menu in advance.

My major food-related problem is that I *hate* to feel hungry, and that no matter how much I eat, I never feel full/satisfied.  The soluble fiber supplement sounded like it may help in this regard.   The article recommended PGX as one of the most studied/published results.  I looked up the cost of PGX, and it would be about $50-80/month depending how many pills I would need to take to feel full.  This is a little out of my budget, so I further investigated and found that the ingredients in PGX are glucomannan (konjac root), xanthan gum, and sodium alginate – three types of soluble fiber.  Of the three, glucomannan is by far the most effective in studies (see one article on glucomannan here).  Fortunately, buying glucomannan by itself without the PGX brand name is substantially cheaper – Vitacost.com is an option.

I decided to try a little experiment while waiting for my Glucomannan to arrive – I had a bag of Xanthan Gum in the pantry that I had purchased to make homemade dish soap.  I added a scoop to my smoothie in the morning – and WHOMP!  It was so thick I had to spoon it out (like jello).  I ate it all.  Then felt like I had eaten a loaf of bread that was rising in me all morning.  (It seems I took about 2x the recommended dosage).  It kept me FULL for 3 hours!  Amazing for me.  Until my glucomannan arrives in pill format, I am going to continue with the Xanthan gum – because for the FIRST TIME I have been able to stay under 1600 calories.

Here’s my calorie counts (each day I was TRYING to follow a 1500 calorie plan..which I’ve been trying unsuccessfully to do for the last several years off and on):

Apr 1 – 2260

Apr 2 – 2050

Apr 3 – 2100

Apr 4 – 2050

Apr 5 – 1975

Apr 6 – 2275

Apr 7 – 1575

Apr 8 – 2300

Apr 9 – 2175

Apr 10 – 2000

Apr 11 – 2050

Apr 12 – 1575 * started Xanthan Gum 1 tsp with breakfast and lunch daily

Apr 13 – 1225

Apr 14 – 1475

I have also ordered some additional supplements to add in, which I will talk about next week.

I am so cautiously excited that this may actually work this time for me!!!

Weight Loss – Week 10 – Down 8 lbs and making progress

I am happy to report that the weight has started coming off and even more importantly, I have more control over my hunger/satiety!

I went off my anti-depressant medication, which I had been mostly taking as a sleep aid to treat my chronic insomnia (it had sedating properties, but didn’t really affect my mood).  I had researched it well before going on it, and it didn’t seem to have much risk of weight gain (one of my concerns with anti-d’s).  However, I did gain 10lb in a year while on it and struggled with an insatiable appetite all year.  I never made the connection (as I have had appetite issues in the past related to emotional eating and fatigue, as well as on other medications).  However, after going off it, my appetite definitely got noticeably more controllable.

I have started the following supplements (researched on examine.com):

  • Ashwaganhda – Adaptogen – anti-stress, anti-anxiety, anti-insomnia if taken in a.m.
  • Rhodiola – Adaptogen – anti-fatigue
  • Glucomannan – soluble fiber – expands and fills you up so you eat less and feel fuller
  • Cinnamon – supposed to help regulate insulin/blood glucose
  • Chromium (Chromatone) – regulates insulin/blood glucose
  • Magnesium Citrate – helps with insomnia
  • Melatonin – helps with insomnia
  • 5HTP – helps with depression, insomnia
  • Matcha (Green Tea) – anti-oxidant, energizer

Over the last 7 weeks:

  • Most days I have been in the 1400-1700 calorie range.  I was initially aiming for 1200, but this seems much more difficult for me to achieve…
  • I am not limiting treats, but am including them in my calorie counts, so I have to decide if I’d rather have a chocolate bar or, say, LUNCH
  • I increase my calories on weekends.  To about 1800-2200.  My personal maintenance caloric intake is 2200/day (based on weeks of tracking my weight and caloric intakes – I am moderately active but have a decent metabolism).  It just makes it easier to go for ice cream, or do popcorn & a movie, etc.  I figure this is going to take me months to lose 40lbs, so a couple extra months will make the whole process more bearable.  Also, I don’t want my body to go into starvation-fat-saving mode.  So it probably can’t figure out what is going on, and I look at that as a good thing. (For more info you can look up info on low calorie diets and fat storage; long term leptin levels of dieters, etc).
  • I have a pretty decent meal plan:
    • Breakfast – 150 calories – protein shake, or fruit & yogurt with 1tsp Xanthan Gum (I had some in the pantry) – or else 1 supplement of Glucomannan (450-2000mg); Rhodiola supplement; Chromium supplement
    • Snack – 135 calories – matcha green tea latte mix + 1 grapefruit or orange + Omega 3 & Vitamin D (increased absorption with the green tea)
    • Lunch – 250 calories -1/3 cup fridge oats OR soup OR salad PLUS one banana (for potassium) + Chromium or Chromatone supplement + Ashwagandha supplement
    • Snack – 150 calorie choice + 2000mg Glucomannan supplement
    • Supper – 700 calories – 4-6 oz protein, 1 cup carbs, 2 cups vegetables + magnesium citrate supplement + chromatone supplement

Supplement Review (after 8 weeks of use):

  • Ashwaganhda – May help slightly with mood stabilization.
  • Rhodiola – May help slightly with mood stabilization.
  • Glucomannan – This definitely helps me to feel fuller.  It doesn’t automatically decrease my appetite, but it helps me to be able to control it.
  • Cinnamon –  Tastes good, but I don’t know if it has any effect on my glucose metabolism.  I can’t tell.
  • Chromium (Chromatone) – Again, no effect that I can feel, but it may be helping my glucose metabolism.
  • Magnesium Citrate – Definitely helps me to sleep longer and more solidly.  This is a great one for insomnia.
  • Melatonin – Helps slightly with being able to fall asleep.  Even though I have the delayed-release formula, it doesn’t help me to stay asleep very well.  No noticeable effect with decreased fat deposition.
  • 5HTP -Helps minimally with falling asleep.  I don’t notice mood improvement with it, but my mood has been fairly stable anyways apart from some anxiety (panic attacks).
  • Matcha (Green Tea) – Doesn’t give me the caffeine buzz that coffee does, but does increase my energy the same way.  I prefer the taste of coffee, but this supposedly has other health benefits (anti-oxidant).

The only supplement that I really notice an effect from is the Glucomannan, which helps me to feel full (and not hungry as often).  This helps me to control my appetite and food intake.

Magnesium citrate helps with my sleep, which in turn I suppose helps my mood and possibly my appetite.  I have also been taking Benadryl nightly which also helps with my sleep 🙂

Weight Loss – Month 7 – 12 Pounds Down

Ummm, yeah, so as you can tell I have a problem with consistency.  I last a week, several weeks… then can’t seem to stick to it.  (Schedules, supplements, resolutions…you name it).

However, I am down another 4lb, making it 12lb total so far in 6 months which I am feeling very happy about.  At least it’s the right direction 🙂

I haven’t been taking any supplements for months now, because I keep forgetting.  The only one I notice is the Glucomannan.  Whether the others had effect or not I cannot say.  However, I am off anti-depressants and am feeling better without them than with them, so perhaps the adaptogens did their work!  My appetite has settled down and seems more manageable to maintain or slightly lose weight, which makes me wonder if much of my weight gain had to do with the anti-depressants (a common side effect from anti-D’s is weight gain).

My daughter also has also had to start on a weight loss diet.  She is only 7.  As she says, she wishes spicy chips (her junk food of choice) were healthy so she could eat them for breakfast, lunch, and supper.  Don’t we all, don’t we all.  If only fat and sugar weren’t so appealing to our senses.  In order to choose health, we have to learn to choose things that aren’t as appealing options sometimes.  Isn’t that true with our spiritual health as well?  Many times in life the “best” choice is the harder, or less appealing, choice.

In an era of pleasure and instant gratification, it is very difficult to choose the less appealing option.  And not just for food.

Just checking in, and hope to encourage anyone on the same journey to hang in there!!!