Wilderness Living (3)

Being ill these past seven months has been humbling. My most recent experience with humility happened just a couple of nights ago.  Please understand that humility has never been a familiar virtue for me. I have never experienced much of that in my life, so when it happens, I recognize the feeling because it is such a rare occurrence. My battle has always been with pride - always labeling my pride as a desire for excellence. When one of the original symptoms of the disease came back the other night, I had another major moment of clarity. Once again, I had to acknowledge that I am not in control of my illness or my healing. I cried out to God begging Him to heal me, rationalizing that I can't do much for the Kingdom if I'm as sick as I have been since last July. I pleaded - and continue to plead - with Him to remove all doubt in me for healing. I asked Him to remind me daily that the smallest to the largest event in my life is being filtered through Him and He is a loving Father. What is in my life He can turn to good IF I remain obedient and surrendered - truly surrendered - to Him. As more healing takes place, I find myself happier and grateful, but also tripping right back into some old attitudes. Of course, I label them as competence! Enough has happened  in the last few months that it felt "normal" to think that way, but not right. I think - for me anyway - there is a thin line I easily cross when my "worker bee" energy returns.  A couple of nights ago when I became very ill again, all renewed arrogance melted away in tears of fear and discouragement. He heard me! I am hearing Him too! I really thought more change had taken place in my heart these past seven months. Why is change so hard? Are bad habits we've erroneously labeled as good really that difficult to break? I guess they are for me. I cannot let one day pass without surrendering EVERYTHING AND EVERYONE to Him. I believe that by sincerely repeating a prayer of surrender daily, that a new habit will be formed. Sincere repetition of something we desire to have happen eventually will become reality if both the mind and the heart are in it.  In a novel by Peretti one of his characters - a non-believer desiring to be a believer - asks  Jesus to accept her! I have always been taught the other way around - we are to accept Him. I know we are asked to believe, but when I look back over my life, I need to ask Him if He will accept me! I'm the one that is full of weaknesses, He isn't. I've decided to change my perspective and daily thank Jesus for accepting me! He's perfect in every way. Why would I have a problem accepting Him? I'm the one that's a mess.  I've been struggling to journal on a regular basis since I became ill; I'm not certain why. I take notes when others share with me, and yet the most important Person I talk to is the Father. I have neglected to write down what He is telling me these days. Perhaps that is why I fall so easily into old habits. Today that changes. I will record what He is teaching me every day.  The other day I read: "And you shall remember all the way which the Lord your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. And He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord" (Deuteronomy 8:2-3). That Scripture is why I began to journal again!  
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Wilderness Living (2)

"It's tough when you feel entitled to something just because you exist! That's my problem with having 66 years of good health now compromised over the past seven months. Do I still feel that way? Yep! The last seven months have not wiped that misguided perspective completely off my human hard drive. I thought I was over it,  but attempting to write about my healing process has revealed my reluctance to accept what has happened to me. It's not just a physical healing I'm working through; I also need emotional healing. What moved me to finally write today? A couple of things.

As I have weaned off the medication over the past week, I expected to feel a lot better than I have.  A dear friend of mine suggested that perhaps God was simply making sure I get enough rest before He assigns a bigger work for me to do. I remember thinking "From your mouth to God's ear!"  That thought has been a comfort to me. After all, God wired me with a worker bee temperament so He placed the love of  productivity in me. I abused it in the past; hopefully never again. Gifts God gives us can be worshipped over and above the Giver. 

"In repentance and rest you shall be saved, in quietness and trust is your strength" Isaiah 30:15.

Second, I'm not sure I "believed" He would heal me. Those of you who struggle with a chronic illness will understand what I'm about to say. It feels like it will last forever - at least on this side of heaven. Many do! At the deepest level of my soul, I have doubted my healing will come. I was trying to accept that the pain and weakness I feel would simply have to be my "thorn" - like Paul in the Bible- and I would have to live with it for the rest of my life. I thought I was taking the correct approach to healing, but I missed the mark. I don't know whether this will be a "thorn" or a healing yet. What I have been doing is thinking I can read God's mind and intention - again! Some truths just don't sink in as quickly as others. I have no clue what God is thinking!

I don't know God's plan for my life;  I do agree with my friend Samuel that it is a good plan. Why? Because God doesn't waste anyone. He is not finished with me or I wouldn't be here! Instead of "assuming" that He plans to keep me weak or make me strong, I'm beginning to focus more on what He has for me today. I remind myself daily to approach  each day - like the AA people do - one day at a time. I can't do one thing about tomorrow!  Jesus says that we have enough work to do today that we really don't have time or the energy to worry about tomorrow. I certainly get the "energy" part of that advice.  I simply arrange my schedule around what my body tells me I am capable of doing that particular day. I'm learning to pace myself - I'm not very good at it yet. I've always been the person who makes a list of 150 things to accomplish and then tries to cross all of them off in one 16 hour day! I can't do that any more; I shouldn't do that any more.

I woke up one day last week and my body felt like it did at the beginning of this illness. I just simply cried out before the Lord and told Him that I really, really wanted healing. I meant it with every ounce of strength and faith I had. I have improved every day since then.

Jesus once asked a man - who wanted his son healed -  if he "believed" that Jesus could heal the boy The father replied, "Yes, I believe; please help my unbelief." That was me last week. Our heavenly Father is not about responding to milk toast, wishy- washy prayer requests. I think He is after the real McCoy - someone who wants the request with all their heart. I wanted my healing, I just didn't think I deserved it! I still don't, but I believe He can heal me in spite of who I am and have been. He loves me anyway.

The last seven months have taught me to "know" that He is in control. I may never know why certain hardships are allowed in my life, but I do know that He knows best what I can or can't handle.  I can't see beyond this moment; I can't even take the next breath unless He allows it. 

Jesus told us that we would struggle in this life. I guess I thought I got a pass when it came to health problems! Since He wired me as a "worker bee" I figured He wouldn't allow an "ever ready bunny" to run out of juice. It just goes to show you how little we understand the mind and purposes of God.

GOD, ALMIGHTY GOD: I wish I could comprehend better how huge, awesome and powerful He is!  Perhaps if we could grasp His "bigness" we wouldn't make so many foolish assumptions. I don't know about you, but I humanize Him too much. 

Have a blessed day! 

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Wilderness Living (week 1)

 “To Thee, O Lord, I lift up my soul.” My journey through this illness (2012-2013) has had some interesting parallels with the Psalm 25 Journey I did in 2011.  Both journeys are all about spiritual growth, althought that is now what I thought they were about! I thought the 2011 journey was about losing weight, but quickly got the message that it was, about obedience. This journey is not about my physical healing, although I feel certain that will happen eventually. The hours and hours I have spent crying out to God for physical healing have surfaced emotional and spiritual areas of my life that need healing. Those healings have been coming much quicker than the healing in my body.  Although I considered - months ago - blogging my way through this illness, I couldn’t bring myself to do it. For a few months I was simply too ill to write. Then I just didn’t want to talk about it any more – even in print!  I was also angry. I have never been seriously ill; I didn’t know how to react to months of little productivity and complete dependence on my family to do everything I am usually responsibility for.  I cried a lot; tried to figure out if I was in major sin. I felt like God was punishing me for something. Why would He put a busy, productive person like me down to the point where I couldn’t contribute to anything? I felt guilty about thinking those thoughts and couldn’t bring myself to putting them in print. It felt too much like a pity party - in retrospect, it was! But the Lord hung in there with me until He could help me see the blessing in this illness. God is excellent at making sweet lemonade out of sour lemons.  Our lives are always changing - sometimes over night! He has a plan for my life and it is a good one. But even illness does not keep us from growing. This is not the plan I would have chosen, but then He is a whole lot smarter than me. He could cure me immediately; He could have kept me from getting ill. But He knows the beginning from the end; I can see only this moment in front of me. His plans are bigger and more involved than I could ever anticipate.   I bring up the Psalm 25 Journey I did in 2011 because He led me back through those journals over the past few months. They encouraged me and convicted me. He showed me areas of obedience where I failed to remain faithful,  and then He added some new twists to the lesson taught in 2011 – drawing me closer and closer to Him.  It has been the generous grace of God that messages He gave me in 2011 are the messages of encouragement I need today! If you had told me in 2011 that I would be chronically ill for six month to a year , I would have thought you were speaking a curse over me! But God knew what was going to happen; He used that 2011 joureny to help me through this wilderness walk.  I have no illusions about the days ahead; I still will have some difficult times before I will be better.  Sometimes the Father needs us “busy” people to slow down and listen to Him!  He has taken advantage of this illness even thought the enemy meant it for harm. I’m listening; I have plenty of time to listen now!  Yes, “To Thee, O Lord, I lift up my soul.” I show up every morning for class with Jesus. My classes begin somewhere between 2:30 a.m. and 5:00 a.m.  It just depends on how long the medication allows me to sleep. He has always been present, waiting for me to show up. I felt like I had to do all my "important, busy" stuff and didn't stop long enough to really hear how He could have gotten me through each of those busy days.  I imagine Him sitting in a chair across from me as I read the Word. I need Him close so I can ask Him questions about how He wants me to apply what I am reading. It's a private classroom, so I get all of His attention. He allows me to cry, question and just ramble sometimes. I want the Mind of Christ! I can't have it unless I spend quality and quantity time with Him. Although I may get more sleep when I am well, I will still get up early enough to make sure I don't cheat myself out of time with Him.  He is my Strength, my Teacher, my Comforter, and the One who anoints my work. I could not have made it through the past six months emotionally sound if it were not for our relationship. As wonderful as my family, friends and church family have been, the only One who truly understands how I feel and what I need each day is Him. He is my Lord, my Savior, my Friend - my everything!     
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Shadowing Christ

Many of you may not realize that I am, primarily, a non-fiction ghost writer. As a ghost writer I don’t usually (outside of this column) write my own thoughts. I write the thoughts and opinions of others who are authoring books or writing articles. A ghost writer is usually invisible to the reader and may or may not agree with the values, sense of humor, or causes the published author supports. As a ghost writer, my opinions are never to bleed through and become relevant in the article or book I am writing. I have been incredibly blessed because the individual I ghost write for has values and concerns that align with mine. What’s my point? I just realized that ghost writing principles are applicable to acquiring the “mind of Christ.” Let me explain. A ghost writer must be familiar with a person’s values, personality, temperament, and those things that trigger his or her passion – whether it is a sense of humor, a cause, or anger. This requires spending quality time talking to and interacting with the individual. The ideal situation is to shadow a person as they go through their normal day. It’s important to converse with them about everything from politics to parenting.    Since becoming ill, I spend many early morning hours awake and alone due to the medication I take. My husband has not expressed any interest in getting up at 2:30 a.m. so he can keep me company until 6 a.m. when he normally gets up! Go figure! So, I decided to make this season in my life a time to get “discipled up.”  Prior to this illness, I didn’t have three to five hours a day to study Scripture and pray; but since I’m up anyway, I now spend this time doing just that.     To remain enthusiastic (I miss getting more than 5 hours sleep), I had to visualize this time being more than “I can’t sleep, so I’ll study!” I visualize myself in “class” every morning with Jesus at the pulpit instructing me. In my mind’s eye I am sitting in front of Jesus, Bible open, as He instructs me from Scripture. I read slowly, listen some, and then read some more. As His apprentice and student, He coaches me in His ways and His will for the day ahead. As soon as my husband gets up, class is officially over. It’s working for me! But like most of us, I am continuously frustrated how quickly I lose touch with the awareness of His presence during the course of the day. It’s hard for me to believe that is still the case with me since I now spend so much time with Him! Obviously, quantity of time is not the answer to making Him my priority ALL day. But this morning I saw how the principles of being a good ghost writer might help me stay connected to Him throughout the day. When my husband gets up, I shut my Bible and begin my day. I fully intend to practice what I learned that morning. In fact, I imagine the Holy Spirit following me around and reminding me of what I learned earlier that morning; and that’s exactly what I have been doing wrong! Jesus (His Holy Spirit) should be out in front leading me; I should be shadowing Him, not the other way around! When I think of Him following me around, I can see how I would tend to think, speak and act first. Once I’ve taken some action, then I turn around and ask Him how I did or perhaps repent for what I did. If I shadow Jesus, I am more likely to stop, ask, listen and then take action. He needs to be out front. I need to change the “picture” of how I am doing my day as His apprentice/disciple. Perhaps this seems like splitting hairs for some of you; it won’t be for others and it’s not the case for me. If we don't pre-imagine the scene for how Christ works in our daily lives, regardless of the method, we will continue to have a great morning visit and then do the rest of our day all alone. We have to find a way to stop, ask, listen, and then act on what He directs us to do. The purely intellectual route just doesn’t work from a practical perspective!   We Christians – especially in this country – have an intellectual concept of God’s constant presence. We know that God wants to interact with us in every decision.  Unfortunately, we don’t live like that is true. We know the right words and phrases when we talk about it with others; but most of us don’t “do” it. How can we know if we fall into that Christian category?  When non-Christians observe our lives, do they see daily choices we make being much different than theirs? Do they see kindness and generosity poured out quietly with no concern for recognition? Do they see socially accepted excesses in shopping, food, TV, recreation, alcohol, etc being practiced?  Do they observe someone quick to forgive or bent on justifying taking revenge on another? Do they see someone striving hard for success and money to the exclusion of family? If we are not "different" than those we are trying to reach for Christ, what is it that will draw them? They already have what we have! I want to be "different" – Christ-like "different." I know that you do too. That means that the Holy Spirit needs access to our minds in order to make changes; we need to cooperate with Him by stopping, asking, listening, and then acting according to His ways. If we get quiet enough, we can hear Him! Our minds need repetitive study and some habits established that will fit our individual personality, temperament and talents. Once we make the effort to employ these God-given gifts, we can practice specific disciplines that will gift us with the “mind of Christ” so that others will be drawn to Him. We will then be “different” – Christ-like “different.” I am a ghost writer for Jesus! I must spend as much time as possible with Him so I can continue to get “me” out of the way. That way I can communicate “Him” with my life. People need to see His values, His concerns; His passions – not mine. He must increase as I decrease! I’m having fun as His apprentice and I’m certainly being challenged.    
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“Working” Prayers

We all have strengths and weaknesses. None of us have “it all together” in any area of our lives. It doesn’t matter whether we are above average in our professional, intellectual, relational, or our spiritual lives. We all have places where we shine; and places where we need a lot of help! I have always been one that enjoyed spending time reading and studying, but I have never figured out how to advance in my prayer time. I always seem to stumble over what to say and I often wonder – since He already knows my thoughts – whether I’m boring Him. When I do pray, I tend to do all the talking; and yet, I’m pretty certain a conversation is supposed to be a two-way street.  I grew up in a church where the same prayers were said repeatedly; where ritual was both important and formal. My experience with prayer never lent itself to “friendly” conversation with God. I’ve often tried to change that pattern, but have found it to be difficult to sustain. I recently read (three times) a book on prayer that has given me a whole new perspective. A friend recommended a book entitled “The Circle Maker” by Mark Batterson. It is one of the best books on prayer – from a practical perspective – I have ever read. It is changing my prayer life; I’m beginning to look forward to prayer almost as much as I do to my study time. That’s huge for me!  As most of you know – if you’ve been reading my column for any length of time – I’m goal oriented. I usually have lots of goals. I write them down at the end of December and work on accomplishing them over the course of the next year. I have never really presented my goals to God. I only ask Him to get involved in my spiritual goals. But this book suggests that all my goals are certainly things that God would be interested in helping me accomplish. If my goals can contribute to His purposes, it only makes sense that He would want to be involved. So I have begun to give them to Him as well.  My prayer list of people I care about and pray for daily is usually long. I ask for healing, provision, and solutions to whatever problems they have. But again, it always feels like I’m giving God a grocery list instead of a prayer list. It becomes rote for me after a while and I have little to no zeal when praying. I think that not knowing when a prayer is answered in the life of another person can make it hard to persevere – especially, if my request is for a spiritual need I see they have. I think I give up in my heart, even if I’m still putting that person’s name before the Lord in the morning. But here’s what I’ve been learning and progressively changing over the past two weeks. First: My list of people is still long, but I’m now praying for “one very specific thing” for each person. In that prayer request I’m also asking God to show me if He has something small I can do that will allow me to cooperate with Him as He works behind the scenes to answer my prayer.  Remember how Jesus insisted that the disciples bring Him the bread and fish they already had before He worked the miracle for the 5000? Well, I want to make sure that there is nothing I have that He expects me to bring to the table - in faith - before He works His miracle in my loved one’s life. Second: All of my prayer requests are things that I could never accomplish on my own. If I can do it on my own, then I believe the good Lord would have me get on with it. He did give me a brain and expects me to use it. I need God to intervene with the requests that are impossible unless He is involved. If the prayer/goal is answered, I know exactly who gets the credit. And it isn’t me! Those answered prayers build my faith and tmy confidence in a God who truly wants to be involved in every part of my life. I think that’s exciting! I also don’t feel so alone when facing challenges I’m given or perhaps I have even created for myself. He is completely willing to participate with me; so I’m going to let Him! Third: I’m now watching for little hints of my prayers being answered. He doesn’t want to keep the answers to my prayers a secret from me. He is anxious for me to know His will, but He expects me to put my toe in the water to show that I trust Him. I’ve always just waited for the whole enchilada (prayer request) to be dropped into my lap before I acknowledged that He answered the prayer. He doesn’t always do things that way. When I look back on previously answered prayer, more often than not, it came in stages. If I had been more attentive, I would have seen it coming and developed a stronger confidence in Him. Sometimes those hints come through conversations with someone, something I read, an unexpected phone call, or a card from an unlikely person; that’s when I realize that He is working effectively behind the scenes to bring an answer to my prayer. It encourages me so that I will persevere until the prayer is fully answered.  I don’t understand His timing or even His process the majority of the time; but I am having a blast observing small hints of my prayer requests coming together. Finally: He confirms my new “friendly” conversation/prayer time with Him through Scripture. Hardly a day goes by that there is not some reference to “believing” prayer being critical if I want answers to them.  Jesus asked repeatedly in Scripture, “Do you believe?” Praying without ceasing is not impossible either if what we are having is an ongoing conversation with the Father during the course of the day. I can feel His presence more and more when we are talking in the mornings – and more so during the day when I consult with Him on something.  In the morning, I do my talking and then I just sit quietly for a while and wait to hear if He has something to share with me. What’s funny about this “quiet zone” I’ve implemented is that I don’t usually hear from Him during that time. Instead, I will be in the middle of some task and get an impression from Him about something I prayed about that morning. I think what is very important to Him is that I take time every day to “be still and know that He is God.” He’s not asking me to throw my hands up in the air and pray some eloquent prayer, or kneel in the middle of a gravel driveway to honor Him. He just wants me to want Him, call on Him, ask Him for His will, repent when I sin and listen for His direction. I’m His student (disciple); that’s my job; and I will put my heart, mind and soul into it every day!
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Classroom Time with Jesus!

I’ve been in early morning “classes” with Jesus over the past two months – and I mean early. The medication I’m on doesn’t allow me more than about four to six hours of sleep a night. One day I was actually up for 22 hours – ugh! If I go to bed around 9 or 9:30 p.m., I will generally be up at 3:30 a.m. I have lots of time to study, meditate, and pray. He has me on a fast track for replacing my “old woman” with the “new woman.”   I have been reading and re-reading the following three Scriptures for several weeks. I thought they were separate messages until recently.  But like all of Scripture, they are simply three components of one message – obedience!  “Everyone who comes to Me, and hears My words, and [ACTS] upon them…” (Luke 6:47; emphasis mine). “To what shall I compare the Kingdom of God? It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of meal, [UNTIL IT WAS ALL LEAVENED]” (Luke 13: 20-21; emphasis mine). “And He said to them, “How many loaves [DO YOU HAVE? GO LOOK!” (Mark 6:38; emphasis mine) First: Luke 6:47 is pretty clear. He wants me to obey whatever He commands. That means I have to DO something – talk to someone, keep silent, pray, go visit, etc.  I like studying His Word and knowing a lot about what He wants done on earth; but He’s not looking for information gatherers. He wants me to take every kernel of knowledge He provides and go use it somewhere, somehow, and with someone in His name. He’s interested in “doers” of the Word, not just “hearers.” You might say “That’s old news.” Perhaps, but unfortunately, many of us are too involved in our own way of living that we never hear the still small voice that could turn our lives right side up – His way. Second: I have been confused for a long time about what it means to “live in the Kingdom of God” while I’m still earth bound.  The message in church and in books is always about living the Kingdom life now. I just never figured out what that meant; frankly, I never asked.  Let’s face it; this is not heaven here on earth! Thanks to Dallas Willard, a theologian with a practical teaching style, I finally get it!  I am living in the Kingdom of God that Luke 13 talks about whenever I listen for and obey His will. Examples of His will are: being kind to someone who is unkind to me; doing my best even if the job is menial; forgiving quickly; refusing to take rejection personally. It’s not hard to know what His will is in general. He spells it out in the Ten Commandments, the Beatitudes, and throughout Scripture. If I want to know how to do His will daily, I must read the rule book – daily! It won’t sink in otherwise. Prior to my illness, the phrase “Kingdom of God” was just part of the Christian lingo I read and accepted as true but without ever making an effort to find out how it fits into living life. Being ill for months on end is certainly crummy, but it has rewarded me with many hours of study that continue to bless and change me.  As I searched Scripture for anything that would define Kingdom living for me, I came across Luke 13 and Jesus’ parable about working a little leaven into bread dough. That’s when it hit me once again; our God intends for us to step out and participate in our spiritual growth. I must practice and practice and practice listening; then I must choose to obey God’s will. I am to do it in the little things and in the bigger events in life. I know some day obeying Him will become so automatic that I won’t forget to stop, listen and choose to obey. At the present time, I still barge ahead and find myself saying  “oops” because I forgot to consult Him first. Like the leaven, His ways will one day work their way into all of my character, personality, and ultimately into my behavior.   Finally, the third Scripture in Mark 6 hit me right where my type-A personality lives. When you want God to move in your life to heal someone or solve a problem, His first request is that you bring Him what you already have. I can do that!! I never “saw” the words “Go look!” before when reading this verse. He made the disciples bring Him what they already had – five loaves and two fish. My husband has been out of work for 4 ½ months. What does God want us to do as He prepares a job for Ed? Keep looking! Be willing to do whatever type of work comes our way until God sees fit to provide us with a permanent job. I am confident that Jesus is working behind the scenes preparing the perfect job for Ed as we continue to obey and be good stewards of the provision He is bringing to us in the interim.    Also, I didn’t write for nearly three months after getting ill. At one point, I remember telling Ed that I just didn’t think I would ever write again. I now know that those words came from discouragement, exhaustion, and lots of medication. But it sure felt real at the time! The first piece I wrote was a short column in Why Me Lord. It happened in the wee hours of the morning as I cried over every sentence I wrote. They were tears of joy, not sadness.  The Lord wanted me to take a step of faith and do something. I had to give what little I had in me at that time before He would work His miracle in me. He now provides me with daily energy and material so that I am able to write several times a week. He just wanted me to put my toe in the water again. He’s such a good and faithful Parent! I also noticed for the first time that Jesus “thanked” the Father before the loaves and fish even began to multiply. Do I pray confident prayers like that? Not often enough!  Jesus tells us that believing prayer is the only prayer that’s answered. I love the example of Elijah in the Old Testament. The old prophet was praying for rain. He would stop praying long enough to send his servant out to look at the sky. He FULLY EXPECTED for the servant to report back that clouds were forming – and they did! Too often we doubt that God would want to answer our prayer. That’s a sure-fire formula for experiencing nothing! I’m seeking His will every day the only way any of us can seek it. We must read and digest His Word daily.  Jesus is incredibly skillful at using Old Testament stories like Elijah’s to teach us that we are not EXPECTING God to be God. He continues to insist that you and I do our part, and then turn the results over to Him. He is the God of end results; we are not! This illness has blessed me with the realization that I am weak, and He is strong; that is not ever going to change! I’m beginning to feel comforted knowing that He is in control and I'm not! The more that truth sinks into this old woman, the more I understand that “the truth will truly set you free!” P.S. The diagnosis for the illness I have is chronic mesenteric panniculitis. It’s rare, not contagious, curable, but carries a long term recuperation period. I’m looking at several months before I’m back to normal (whatever that is for me!). Thank you for your prayers. Keep them coming.
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Turn the Other Cheek!

When one is ill and most activity is seriously curtailed (as has been for the past 10 weeks in my life) the mind considers doing a “de-frag” (a computer term). I have begun to reflect on, evaluate the past as I attempt to deal with my present unusual circumstances. I am now evaluating the kind of future I want to create when this illness is just a memory. I’m beginning to see this time in my life as a “gift” which can allow me to make foundational changes in the way I lchoose to live out the rest of my life.  Let me just say that this “de-frag” experience is both sad and exciting. It’s sad that my life had to be forcibly slowed down in order for me to recognize many mistakes I’ve made that – had I done them differently - could have produced a more positive impact in many relationships and projects I was enthusiastically pursuing. It’s exciting because I can see the mistakes and can now make a plan to change my future as I enter into new and similar circumstances. Even an extrovert like me can analyze, reevaluate and move on to make new choices.    “But I say to you, do not resist him who is evil; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone wants to sue you, and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. And whoever shall force you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks of you and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.” (Matthew 5: 39-42)  Like you, I’ve read this verse many times over the years; but only in the last few days has it come alive for me. I am beginning to see how it applies to parts of my character that are certainly not Christ-like. Prior to this week, I saw this verse as applying primarily to missionaries in the field being tortured; and those people do exist even today. But for those of us who claim to be Christ-followers, this instruction must be practiced daily – and sometimes under very intense circumstances. We have an opportunity every single day to practice “turning the other cheek.” Sometimes, several times a day!  In personal and professional situations, we all meet people who “push our buttons.”  A spouse talks down to us because he or she thinks they know more than we do about some subject. We strike back in anger and frustration. A colleague “hints” to our boss that we didn’t do our job as well as we could have and now they have to pick up the slack. In business situations our human defense mechanisms appear in the form of a push back verbally, but more likely in a carefully crafted email that places the blame “where it ought to be” – in someone else’s lap.    According to Christ, both of these situations are perfect opportunities to practice “turning the other cheek.” But are we brave enough or honest enough to take that risk? If we will make the effort, the Holy Spirit will come in like a flood with the grace to give us the courage to “turn the other cheek.” If this is our decision (and it is mine) then I need to make a “plan” for how I will cooperate with the Holy Spirit. If I don’t make the plan in advance, I will simply revert back to what I have done for decades. Let me share my plan ;  just formulated today, so it could change over time to increase effectiveness.  I’ve decided to make a list and read this list out loud for myself regularly. Jesus commands me to do things His way in the uncomfortable circumstances I run into every day. These are loose paraphrases of Scripture that I need welded to my heart. I know for sure that if they are out of sight, they will not be in my mind when it’s time for me to make an appropriate response. Here’s my initial list:  
  • My confidence for living is to remain a daily student of Christ. He is my teacher and He holds all the answers to my questions and responses to problems I personally and professionally face daily. He is the smartest person in the world on every subject matter.
  • Turn the other cheek and watch my Heavenly Father defend me when I intentionally act according to His will.
  • When asked for something, go the extra mile without being asked, thanked or appreciated.
  • Since this is God’s way for me to live, I am to obey and leave the outcome for that obedience up to Him.
  • Remember His promise, “All things work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose.”
 I’m certain I will have many opportunities to practice these disciplines every day. I have built some very high, thick walls which were meant to protect me from insult and hurt over the years; they never worked! I now want to remove the walls, allow myself to be vulnerable, and place my reputation in the hands of God who is quite capable of dealing with the rest of the world for me.  Besides “reading and saying” these reminders to me, I want to daily (or as often as need be) reflect on possible scenarios that normally come up in my day so I can mentally practice putting my confidence in Jesus and “turning the other cheek.” It’s role play, but if I don’t prepare and practice my responses before the event happens, I will likely do what I have always done – attack and defend.  This is a long-term project; I know that. But the process will produce a steady movement toward the fruit of the Spirit being manifested in my responses - love, joy, and peace. When I try to protect myself from the opinions of others I nurture anger, frustration, and fear in my heart. If my very soul begins to reflect more of Christ’s qualities, then others who have not yet seen Christ in me (because I keep Lana on the throne) might actually be drawn to Him. In the long haul, I have personally seen that no one is drawn to me and my silly issues for very long. I am not a person that one wants to emulate! Only the Mind of Christ that replaces my self-centered, self-aggrandizing mind can make the needed changes in me. It will be then and only then that others will see something worthwhile in my life that screams “true follower of Christ.” What is the key to experiencing this transformation for me besides repeating Scripture and preparing in advance for my responses?  First, I really need complete confidence that my Heavenly Father WANTS a daughter (me) to have the Mind of Christ. I must believe, trust and then cooperate with the Holy Spirit who works in me so I will recognize the temptation to sin, decide to do it Christ’s way, and then obey. I cannot do this with pure human effort – although my arrogance will certainly give it a shot more times than I will want to admit. Deep changes that permanently impact character are only possible with the grace of God.  My every day “all day” determination to do it God’s way requires a lot of work in the area of focus and repetition:
  • I must make the decision to change over and over and over again,
  • I must remind myself daily of how Jesus would respond,
  • I must obey immediately when the chance to act for Him presents itself,
  • When I obey, I must be completely confident that Jesus is beside me, ahead of me, behind me, and beneath me supporting me as I operate in His will.
 At this point in my life, I am beginning to gain a better understanding of what Paul meant when he said: “I must decrease and He must increase.” He wasn’t spouting poetic phraseology. It is, in fact,  the very foundation for success as a follower of Christ.     Turn the Other Cheek When one is ill and most activity is seriously curtailed (as has been for the past 10 weeks in my life) the mind considers to doing a “de-frag” (a computer term). I have begun to reflect on, evaluate and organize the past as I am attempting to deal with my present unusual circumstances. I am now considering the kind of future I want to create when this illness is just a memory. I’m beginning to see this time in my life as a “gift” which can allow me to make foundational changes in the way I live out the rest of my life. Let me say that this “de-frag” experience is both sad and exciting. It’s sad that my life had to be forcibly slowed down in order for me to recognize many mistakes I’ve made that – had I done them differently - could have produced a more positive impact in many relationships and projects I was enthusiastically pursuing. It’s exciting because I can see the mistakes and can now make a plan to change my future as I enter into new and similar circumstances. Even an extrovert like me can analyze and reevaluate and move on to make new choices.  “But I say to you, do not resist him who is evil; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone wants to sue you, and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. And whoever shall force you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks of you and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.” (Matthew 5: 39-42) Like you, I’ve read this verse many times over the years; but only in the last few days has it come alive for me. I am beginning to see how it applies to parts of my character that are certainly not Christ-like. Prior to this week, I saw this verse as applying primarily to missionaries in the field being tortured; and those people do exist even today. But for those of us who claim to be Christ-followers, this instruction must be practiced daily – and sometimes under very intense circumstances. We have an opportunity every single day to practice “turning the other cheek.” Sometimes, several times a day! In personal and professional situations, we all meet people who “push our buttons.”  A spouse talks down to us because he or she thinks they know more than we do about some subject. We strike back in anger and frustration. A colleague “hints” to our boss that we didn’t do our job as well as we could have and now they have to pick up the slack. In business situations our human defense mechanisms appear in the form of a push back verbally, but more likely in a carefully crafted email that places the blame “where it ought to be” – in someone else’s lap.  According to Christ, both of these situations are perfect opportunities to practice “turning the other cheek.” But are we brave enough or honest enough to take that risk? If we will make the effort, the Holy Spirit will come in like a flood with the grace to give us the courage to “turn the other cheek.” If this is our decision (and it is mine) then I need to make a “plan” for how I will cooperate with the Holy Spirit. If I don’t make the plan in advance, I will simply revert back to what I have done for decades. Let me share my plan – just formulated today so it could change over time to increase effectiveness. I’ve decided to make a list and read this list out loud for myself regularly. Jesus commands me to do things His way in the uncomfortable circumstances I run into every day. These are loose paraphrases of Scripture that I need welded to my heart. I know for sure that if they are out of sight, they will not be in my mind when it’s time for me to make an appropriate response. Here’s my initial list:  •  My confidence for living is to remain a daily student of Christ. He is my teacher and He holds all the answers to my questions and responses to problems I personally and professionally face daily. He is the smartest person in the world on every subject matter. • Turn the other cheek and watch my Heavenly Father defend me when I intentionally act according to His will. • When asked for something, go the extra mile without being asked, thanked or appreciated. • Since this is God’s way for me to live, I am to obey and leave the outcome for that obedience up to Him. • Remember His promise, “All things work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” I’m certain I will have many opportunities to practice these disciplines every day. I have built some very high, thick walls which were meant to protect me from insult and hurt over the years; they never worked! I now want to remove the walls, allow myself to be vulnerable, and place my reputation in the hands of God who is quite capable of dealing with the rest of the world for me. Besides “reading and saying” these reminders to me, I want to daily (or as often as need be) reflect on possible scenarios that normally come up in my day so I can mentally practice putting my confidence in Jesus and “turning the other cheek.” It’s role play, but if I don’t prepare and practice my responses before the event happens, I will likely do what I have always done – attack and defend. This is a long-term project; I know that. But the process will produce a steady movement toward the fruit of the Spirit being manifested in my responses - love, joy, and peace. When I try to protect myself from the opinions of others I nurture anger, frustration, and fear in my heart. If my very soul begins to reflect more of Christ’s qualities, then others who have not yet seen Christ in me (because I keep Lana on the throne) might actually be drawn to Him. In the long haul, I have personally seen that no one is drawn to me and my silly issues for very long. I am not a person that one wants to emulate! Only the Mind of Christ that replaces my self-centered, self-aggrandizing mind can make the needed changes in me. It will be then and only then that others will see something worthwhile in my life that screams “true follower of Christ.” What is the key to experiencing this transformation for me besides repeating scripture and preparing in advance for my responses? First, I really need complete confidence that my Heavenly Father WANTS a daughter (me) to have the Mind of Christ. I must believe, trust and then cooperate with the Holy Spirit who works in me so I will recognize the temptation to sin, decide to do it Christ’s way, and then obey. I cannot do this with pure human effort – although my arrogance will certainly give it a shot more times than I will want to admit. Deep changes that permanently impact character are only possible with the grace of God.  My every day “all day” determination to do it God’s way requires a lot of work in the area of focus and repetition: • I must make the decision to change over and over and over again, • I must remind myself daily of how Jesus would respond, • I must obey immediately when the chance to act for Him presents itself, • When I obey, I must be completely confident that Jesus is beside me, ahead of me, behind me, and beneath me supporting me as I operate in His will. At this point in my life, I am beginning to gain a better understanding of what Paul meant when he said: “I must decrease and He must increase.” He wasn’t spouting poetic phraseology. It is, in fact,  the very foundation for success as a follower of Christ.          
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Pharisee Eviction

It's been a while! I have been very sick now for over a month. I’ve been in the hospital where they ran all kinds of tests, out of the hospital and at home on medications that made me even sicker. As of this writing, I am not much better than the first day I went to the doctor.  I’m struggling with how my life has changed so dramatically. I’ve never been a sick person. I’ve always been healthy and “overly” active according to my family and friends. To sit for the majority of my day in a chair or have to lay down because I’m too sick to sit up is completely out of character for me. And no - no one can figure out what’s wrong with me yet. I’ve had a difficult time focusing (due to medication and fever) and unable to do two things I love very much - read and write. But it’s 4AM as I write this to you. I’m crying even as I type this because it feels so good to focus long enough to put two thoughts together so I can communicate my heart. This is the first time in over a month. So what could I possibly have to share with you at 4AM in the morning? Only one thing so far - I think the Holy Spirit is evicting the Pharisee in me. I know God is not surprised by my illness. He is allowing me to be inactive right now. But I know my God; He won’t waste me or this illness. He has something He wants me to learn and He’s using a really big 2 x 4 to make His point. I don’t want to miss the lesson. In the Old Testament, the Pharisees always looked good. They wore all the most ornate robes and made sure that everyone knew how perfectly they did everything. They were greatly admired by the general public. These Pharisees were severely addicted to all that admiration. Although I’m not a rabbi, I’m a worldly Pharisee. I’m a good cook, I have a small wedding cake business, I’m a writer  and been published, I consult, I garden and can my own vegetables, I crochet and a whole lot of other useless dribble. I'm that super woman we all love to hate. My family and friends have teased me for years about how much I do.  Yet, I always felt the admiration in their teases and that hint of admiration fed my addiction and drove me to do more and more and more. Frankly, I think the Holy Spirit is just sick and tired of competing with my long time idol. There’s not enough room in me for both of them, and I certainly don’t want the Holy Spirit moving out! He's hanging onto me as tightly as I'm hanging onto Him. It’s time for a major heart change in me and I’m scared. I’ve been like this my whole life; I know I can’t make the dramatic changes  needed on my own. I know the heart has to change before my thoughts and actions can change, otherwise, I’ll slip right back into the old “Look at me! I can do anything and everything mode.” This time my body won't allow me to grit my teeth and play super woman. It's exhausted. It's time for complete surrender for all my emotional needs to God. He has to gut the Pharisee out of me; I don't have the strength.   I don’t know whether God “set me down” with this illness or He simply allowed it. I do know He is sovereign and He will draw me closer to Him as I work through whatever this illness turns out to be. The closest I’ve felt to Him in weeks is writing this column. I know He is with me, but this morning I feel His presence. For those of you who read the column this month, please pray for my healing – both inside and out. Thank you for listening!
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Gimme, Gimme, Gimme!

In Psalm 95 this morning, the Lord showed me two areas of change He wants me to make when I come to Him in prayer. He also gave me a new perspective on the many people, circumstances and things He puts into my life.  First: I am always asking him to protect, grant wisdom, change, stop something or give me or others something in my prayers. It has dawned on me recently that He already knows what is coming into my life – good, bad, or indifferent. None of what is going on in my life would be there unless He allowed them or put them there Himself. i I can make good or bad decisions, of course, but things that happen outside of my control (loss of a job, other people’s decisions that impact me, illnesses, etc.) when I know I am in His will, are meant to be in my life for His purposes. Second: I love watching God work so obviously in my life and in the lives of others. What I have not considered  - until this morning after the first “aha” above - is how I stop being amazed at His work in my life when it gets hard. I like the “God did this” revelation, but I have not really counted the cost of Him placing that person or circumstance into my life. I like the good feelings of “God did this for me,” but have never thought about the “now what” that might be required of me after receiving those gifts. Let’s take the first “aha” from this morning's reading of Psalm 95. In my prayer time,  I am constantly asking for things (like health, wisdom, salvation, etc.). He wants those things too! I’m not suggesting that I should no longer ask for those things. I believe those prayers actually bring hope to me! What I am beginning to see is that the majority of my time in prayer with Him ought to be in thanksgiving. All that I have, all that I am, all that I know came from Him. I rarely express my gratitude to Him for the work I truly love with Hopegivers; the husband who is supportive and loves me; the daughters and grandchildren who think I’m pretty neat; the opportunity to bring my mother back with me and give her a family environment during her last years; for dear friends who love me and accept me with all my warts; a lovely home on top of a mountain (though a small one); for health in my body; for speaking with me, teaching me, loving me, comforting me, and forgiving me every single day. I don’t know about you, but that is a very long list of gifts! It was after this realization that my second “aha” came sliding into home base. Let’s run through MY thank you list as an example, then perhaps you can do the same with Him. I love my work, but like all work we have good days and bad days. He is after a godly response from me on those bad days. I have times when I don’t think I should have bad days! My husband is wonderful, but he can be messy – like many men. I’m grateful for him, but find myself complaining about having to pick up after him. I promise you, if I didn’t have him, I would miss picking up after him. That’s the thought I need to remember instead of getting cranky. My mother is 86 and although she is in amazing shape, her age is beginning to take a toll. I’m grateful God made a way for her to come live very near us. Now I must remember that she may not always be independent and mobile. My “gift” will become a lot more work one day. That lovely home on the mountain requires a lot of work – both inside and outside. Since I work from home the majority of the home – inside and outside - falls to me. I complain about having so much to do on top of my job, but He gave us this place and has helped us keep it in some pretty difficult times over the years. Are you beginning to see what I saw this morning? I am no different than the Israelites in the desert. They wanted fresh water and meat. God gave them both and they still complained. He made sure that their sandals and clothing did not wear out, but I’ll bet that there were women (especially the Sanguine temperaments) who didn’t care about the convenience; they wanted to go shopping and buy a new Sari every month! Are we any different? I have a friend who recently came to know the Lord. Prior to her relationship with Jesus she would tell me “If I were one of the Israelites and saw all the miracles they saw, I can’t imagine that I wouldn’t obey Him!” I quit counting how many times I thought the same thing until I did an honest examination of my failings after He answered my prayers. I want the house, but “does it have to be so much work? Can’t I get a little help around here?” Gratitude has a partner – she is called stewardship. My husband, children, grandchildren, mother, job, home, and health are gifts I wanted, I love and I treasure. All gifts given by my heavenly Father require a servant’s heart that is so grateful that it never complains, resents, or practices “justifiable” self-pity in word or demeanor. I’ve got some bad habits that have “served my ego” for a long time. I – like the Israelites – quickly forget that none of my life is about me; it’s all about HIM!  
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A Re-Take

I was looking over some of my entries in the Psalm 25 Journey and came across the following. I'm re-submitting for you because this seems to be a lesson I keep having to learn. Posted on March 30, 2011 by lanalombardi “Make me know Thy ways, O Lord; teach me Thy paths.” Week 4, Day 4 Do you recall yesterday how I couldn’t get past Chapter 20 in the book of Numbers? I was struggling with what the Lord had for me, so I visited it again this morning. It turned out to be a warning for something I was faced with yesterday – nothing to do with food, but everything to do with obedience. I (we) have gifts God has given each of us. I (we) am to be a good steward of those gifts. I can tell you that it starts out that way! Unfortunately, a comfort level sets in and we thing WE own the gift.  That’s when we begin to boast in our accomplishments only gotten because of a gift we were GIVEN and not something we earned. On some level I understand how frustrated Moses was with the Israelites at Meribah. He was constantly carrying the complaints of the people to God. They were always whining about something and criticizing Moses for things he had no control over. Sadly, he took all of their complaints personally. As soon as he did that, he sinned against God. It doesn’t seem fair, does it? I had a writing project that required a tremendous amount of work. I finished it and frankly, didn’t want to see it again! When the feedback I received caused me to have to go back to parts of it and re-think it, I was angry.  “How dare they (not writers themselves) criticize me? Who do they think they are?  They have no clue how much time and effort I have put into this and now they want to pick it apart! I don’t think so!” In the quiet of the morning, I had no defense before the Lord.  Any obedience with regard to humility flew right out the window the day before when confronted with the need to make changes in the piece. As I re-read Chapter 20 this morning, I saw my spiritual warning tucked neatly into the story of Moses and the Israelites.  Obedience is to permeate every area of my life – not just at the dinner table.  I fell comfortably into the “ego” trap yesterday never once considering that I was disobeying the Lord.  I screamed frustration (in an email) yesterday to my critics and now I need to apologize. I was tired, but that is no excuse. God is not a God of excuses; He is all about denying myself the opportunity to strike back and picking up my cross of “humility” in this case and carrying it. Frequently, stuff in my head will fly (surprisingly even to me) out of my mouth. I’m usually more tactful. Perhaps my stash of “real” feelings can no longer remain stashed. I guess they need to come out (hopefully not spilling all over others) so I can ask the Lord for the root, ask forgiveness and be healed. I would never have guessed that moderation in my eating habits could conjure up so much other junk! This journey could be a lot rockier than I first anticipated. Although I won’t quit, I don’t necessarily enjoy some of my daily revelations! Pray for me today as I make restitution to people who were affected by my lousy attitude yesterday. Weight loss is a lot easier than some of the other areas in which I must obey! !
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