Whispersfrommyheart's Blog

Archive for September 2012

Junk In, Junk Out.

There is no greater feeling than pushing your body to the limits on a long distance bike ride. So far, fifty-six miles has been the farthest I have ridden. Eight hours on a bicycle seat. There were twenty cyclists signed up for the 62 mile ride, and a few hard core cyclists who signed up for the 100-mile bike ride. Most of the cyclist had signed up for the easier 15-mile ride. Once the whistle blew, we set our pace and our hearts toward finishing our trek during the time frame allowed. During our rides, we stopped long enough to gobble down peanut butter and grape sandwiches, and banana’s, and grab a bottle of water to wash it down. Then we would stuff a handful of Gatorade packs in our pouches before we were off again. Miles of hills and highway lay behind us, and many more miles stretching out before.

Exhilarating.

As a cyclist, conquering miles and hills on the seat of a bicycle takes grit and determination. More importantly, to keep your leg muscles pumping, it takes proper nutrition.

Before I became interested in long distant cycling, a former teacher and mentor would relate stories of his long distant grueling rides at the beginning of class. His stories intrigued me enough to purchase my own bicycle and begin to ride. My first few days I completed ten miles. The first day I spent a lot of time walking my bike up the hills, but the second day, I was able to ride more than I walked.  By the end of my first week, as I extended my mileage, I noticed my stamina was bottoming out.

I felt depleted.

After emailing my mentor, he gave me tips for nutrition prior to and after the ride, proper rest, and then encouraged me with the following words:

“Junk in, junk out. What you put into your body you will get out. So, if you are filling your body with junk that is what you can expect to get out of it.”

I have never forgotten his words, even though I haven’t followed them all the time. But, when my energy level bottoms out I know I need to provide nutrition: hydration, protein and carbs. That nutrition will revive me and give me what I need to go on.

In order for our body to be its best and work at its peak performance, we must maintain proper nutrition and hydration. Junk in, junk out is easy to remember while maintaining our physical life, but, what about maintaining our spiritual life?

In order for our hearts to be in tune with Jesus, we must nourish our spirit with proper nutrition.  Time in the word and in prayer and time with other believers is the balance we need to maintain a healthy spirit life. The world lures us with television, song lyrics, internet images or social networks. Don’t get me wrong, these things are not necessarily sinful—though some are, but they provide mindless junk. They do not nourish our soul.

In John 6:35, Jesus said, “I am the Bread of Life…” (NIV). Bread was a diet staple during this time; it filled the void hunger left. Jesus claimed to be the bread that satisfies the void the world left.  We must nourish our spirit with this bread. This bread will revive us and give us the strength to go on.

Jesus also declared, in John 7:38, “Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.'” (NLT) Everyone understands that physical thirst, even though it has been quenched, will return. Within us is a spiritual void that must be filled with something. The things of the world do not satisfy. Other religions do not satisfy. Only the living water that flows from the throne of God will create the rivers flowing from our heart. We need this kind of water to revive our soul and to give us strength.

Without Jesus as our Bread and Water, the lure of the world has a stronger pull. A tighter grip. We easily lose our foothold on the slope.

We cannot expect our physical body to maintain an athlete’s pace if we do not nourish our body properly. Likewise, we cannot expect to maintain a healthy relationship with our LORD if we neglect our spirit man. If we put junk in, we can only expect to get junk out of it.

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“Jesus, Friend of sinners, open our eyes to the world at the end of our pointing fingers. Let our hearts be, led by mercy, let us reach with open hearts and open doors. Oh, Jesus, Friend of sinners, break our hearts for what breaks yours.”

Some of you recognized the first stanza of the newest hit by Casting Crowns. The song, “Jesus, Friend of Sinners” continues to climb the CCM charts every week. If you haven’t listened to that song yet, you need to. It is fantastic!

“Jesus, Friend of Sinners,” evokes so many emotions in me. Especially these two lines: “You died for sinners just like me, a grateful leper at your feet.” It resonates with my own spirit.

I am that grateful leper sitting at the feet of Jesus.

When I think about the church, immediately I think of the line that separates a good number of people over divisive issues, such as traditional marriage. On both sides of the divide, people are hurling accusations and slinging mud. What troubles me most, are those in the midst of this moral controversy who claim the name of Christ. They make a stand on moral principles and biblical ethics, only to verbally bash and smash their opponent. They quote scripture in one breath and condemn in the next. But, what horrifies me the most, what tears at my heart more than anything else, is when they hold themselves up with moral and spiritual purity.  They profess to be Christians; blood bought born-again, followers of Jesus Christ.

But, are they really?

They act as though they speak for God himself.

But do they?

Just as the song states, Jesus Christ came for sinners. All we have to do is open his word to find that Jesus ate with sinners and tax collectors. Tax collectors, especially, were a loathsome crew. They were Israelites that aligned themselves with the Roman Empire to collect a tax imposed by Caesar. The Israelites hated the oppression of the Roman government, so, to have one of their “brothers” help a godless nation made their blood boil. But, the tax collectors also added to burden by adding to the amount each Israelite had to pay. Making it difficult for an Israelite to afford to live. In the story about Nicodemus, the tax collector who had to climb a tree to see Jesus, he exclaimed, “If I have cheated anyone, I will pay them back four fold.” (John 3:1-21)

Nicodemus understood what he used to be, and he was not going to let his past to influence his future.

I think we forget the past from where we came.

Those of us who claim the name of Christ once were sinners too. We, too, were once lost in what could be considered an abomination to God. We blasphemed his name and his spirit by rejecting Jesus outright. We, too, were once foul-mouthed, arrogant, sinners who laughed in the face of God. We did it without fear of retribution, and we gladly continued on that path until Jesus opened our eyes to the truth. And, when we first came to Christ, we expected patience from our more mature brothers and sisters. For the most part, that’s exactly what we were given.

So why are we so blind to our own past?

When we deal with others, especially those who are outside of the church, we lack patience. We return slap for slap, and jab for jab. But wait; didn’t Jesus instruct us to “turn the other cheek”? Weren’t we told if someone takes our coat, we are to offer them our coat too? (See Matthew 5:39-41). Yet, for the most part, that is not what is happening.

So-called Christians are getting nasty.

On the Christian based news site, One News Now, I see more hate-filled, arrogant remarks being made by those who profess Jesus. Men and women alike rebuke those who don’t agree with traditional marriage (this seems to be one of the major hot topics). They use scripture to prove their point, and then, to condemn those who are, quite honestly, acting just like a sinner… just like I used to act.

I used to walk the same path sinners walked.

When I look back over my life, and, after a particular rough patch, my choice to walk away from God, I am very aware of things that I did; things I am not proud of. I am guilty of things that cause me great shame. But, just like the Prodigal Son, when he returned from squandering his inheritance in the pig sty, his father restored him back to his original status in the family. God was gracious and forgave me. God also restored me back into the Kingdom of God—just as if I never left.

I can’t forget that.

Even in my dealings with people who are sinners. I must remember that I, too, was once in their shoes. I have no right to situate myself on a pedestal and preach to them while I look down upon the ones for whom Jesus died.

Jesus came for sinners just like me.

There are a few differences between me and those who do not know the LORD. I accepted the work Jesus did on the cross; they have not. I live my life to please God; they live to please themselves. Does that make me better than them? Did Jesus die any harder for me than he did for them? Absolutely not on both counts!

We are all sinners; lepers at his feet.

I, for one, am grateful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do you think God speaks to us through dreams?

If he does, then why can’t we remember most of them?

Scientific research tells us why we can recall some of our dreams, but, it doesn’t clue us in to whether God uses dreams to speak to our hearts.

There are very few dreams I can remember with great detail. I recall bits and pieces of a few others, but most of my dreams are lost in oblivion once I wake up. However, there is one dream, even today, that I can recall as if I just dreamed it last night.

I had a bystander’s view of myself looking into a mirror.

Webworms—what I call Silk-worms—had nested in my hair. They had spun their silken webs; so much so, my hair was no longer visible.   I ran to the bathroom and hung my head over the tub. I grabbed a comb in one hand and the shower head in the other in an attempt to rake and rinse the worms, and their webs, out. But, as I combed, I smashed the worms.  I kept trying, and trying, but, the more I tried, the worse my hair became. The worms kept multiplying, and the more they multiplied, the nastier my hair became. I became frustrated with the sticky, gooey, matted mess that covered my beautiful blonde hair.  I couldn’t see it at all, just the nasty, dark smelly mess from the worms. I put down the comb and began to let the water run over my hair. As I rinsed, the water in the tub began to fill up. As I looked, the water began to turn dark and murky. Bits and pieces of Webworms and shreds of silken web floated on top of the water. I kept letting the water flow over my hair until all of the worms and their webs were gone from my hair, and the water became clear.

For a long time I did not know what this dream meant. It weighed on my heart for months. And then, late one summer day, as I walked along the Tunnel Hill Bike Trail in Vienna, Illinois, God ordained an object lesson for me.

I came across a young Oak tree web worms were just beginning to take over. There were several silken nests spread throughout the branches. I began to think about how destructive these insects were to a healthy tree. The caterpillars had spun their webs and enclosed the tips of the branches. Inside of the web, they feasted on the foliage of the tree. When they ran out of food in one web, they encased another branch and continued eating. Webworms have been known to cover an entire tree making it unsightly. The beauty of the tree can no longer be seen or appreciated because it is hidden. The worms have also been known to strip all the foliage off of a tree within a few weeks, and once they strip one tree, they move on to the next. According to the experts, while their attacks defoliate a tree, the damage is not significant, as the foliage will return the following year.

I pondered that little Oak as I walked. As I thought about it, God suddenly reminded me of the dream. Immediately, I understood the correlation between the assault of the silk worms on that young Oak and the spiritual assault that had taken place in my own life.

Just like the caterpillar’s webs covering the beauty of that little Oak tree, so, too, the lies of sexual assault covered me. There were webs of lust and confusion weaved throughout my childhood. A web of unworthiness embedded into my heart, and webs of emotional, and psychological, lies hiding my true identity. The real me—a redeemed, blood bought daughter of the Most High God—was there, but I was undetectable beneath the webs that had been so carefully woven to conceal me.

I understood my feeble attempts to “fix” what was wrong in my life—represented by the comb in my hand—added to the gunk that was already there. Each time I tried to comb the Silkworms out, I made a bigger mess. The moment I applied just water—representing the work of the Holy Spirit—the worms washed out, and the webs were gone.

The difference between real life and my dream is that the foliage eaten by the Silkworms will return the next year (unless disease hits the tree), but when the true beauty of a life, redeemed by Christ, is hidden beneath the tangled webs of the enemy’s assault, sometimes it can take a lifetime before the beauty of that life can emerge.

Be blessed and walk in truth today!

Pain.

Sorrow.

Heartache.

Tears.

Many of us have experienced these things at one time or another during our lifetime.

We’ve prayed, and have not received an answer. We have confessed our faith, and then experienced loss during our first trimester; the child we so desperately wanted. We’ve believed, and watched our spouse lose their battle with cancer.

Every day, throughout the entire world, people suffer. Most of us turn our eyes heavenward and ask the question; “Why?”

“Why me?”

“What have I done to deserve this?”

“Why is God punishing me?”

Each of us has had these thoughts enter our mind. It is part of human nature to want an answer for the things that bring us such pain. To validate it and to give it purpose. We do not want our suffering to go unnoticed.

But is God the cause?

Has God orchestrated events that create pain just to teach us a lesson? Would he cause heartache in order for us to grow? I believe God is very much aware of the circumstances that touch our lives, and he allows them to happen. I don’t pretend to understand the reason fully, but I will attempt to offer some explanation.

We live in a world that is fallen from the original glory in which God created it to be. Because of sin, even the earth groans underneath its weight. As long as this is true, there will continue to be symptoms of sin; i.e. sorrow, pain, heartache and tears.

Our world will continue to fall apart. Our hopes will continue to be shattered. We will experience death and destruction in various forms until God calls us home, where the stains of this world can no longer touch us, or, Jesus comes back, and the corruptible puts on the incorruptible.

God never promised us a life free from sorrow or pain. What he did promise is that he would always be with us. He promised to be there in the bad times, just as he is in the good. We can count on him.

Jesus reminds us we are not of this world. The symptoms of this world may touch our lives—such as the loss of a baby during pregnancy, or in my case, rape and molestation—however, those symptoms do not have the right to touch our soul.

Forgive.

Forgiveness goes both ways. God forgives us as we forgive him. I know it sounds weird to say, “God, I forgive you,” but, in our unanswered questions is the emotion of anger. We hold anger toward God because he did not protect us from pain. Our anger rages for the loss we have experienced. In that anger is ill will. We feel like God owes us something and we’re angry because he doesn’t pay up. Forgiveness relinquishes that “right of repayment” we feel we are owed for our suffering.

Romans 8:28 reminds us that God causes all things to work together for good to all who love him and are called according to his purpose” (NKJV)

The pain we experience, though it feels like the end of the world, is not the end. It is the beginning of the rest of your faith walk. It is at this cross road, if you chose to walk forward, that your faith, rooted and grounded in a faith that could only be possible by the things you suffered.

Are you still holding on to God?

Have you entrusted your future to his hands?

If you aren’t there yet, don’t worry. There are still processes you have to go through, emotions you need to vent, but in the end, where will you go?

One verse resonated with me through the years of my struggle.

“Where else can we go, LORD, for you have the words of life.”

Peter uttered those words after following Jesus became hard to take; after the crowds, disillusioned by his words, abandoned him. Jesus asked the twelve, “And what about you?” (See John 6:60-68).

He still asks the same question today.


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