Jan
23

Is Gluttony a Sin? – A Book Review

Every now and then I’m asked by a publisher to do a book review. Not long ago, Zondervan offered to send me the book Every Body Matters by Gary Thomas for free if I’d be to write a blog post about it. Well, uh…yeah! I love to read and stuff that is free. Plus the topic of the book intrigued me.

The title is a play on words – it’s not talking about everybody but every body matters. Thomas connects our spiritual being with our physical body. When you take care of your body with healthy eating and physical exercise, you’re empowering your spirit with zeal to do good work for God.

Thomas is quick to point out that he’s not promoting one to build his or her body to be admired by others, but instead to strengthen it in order to serve God.

One point he made that stood out to me was that Satan is not concerned with “what” brings our ministry down but only that it ends. For some that may be poor health. God desires for us all to have many years serving Him and if our health is depleting, we rob God and ourselves of the opportunity to bless others.

In one chapter he mentioned Nelson Mandela who spent twenty-seven years in jail. His jail cell was no bigger than a queen size bed but Mandela would run in place for an hour, do push-ups and crunches in order to keep him from dwindling.

In his youth, Mandela had been an amateur boxer and devoted runner. He learned lessons of perseverance and strength from these sports that he was able to apply it to his extended stay in jail.

Mandela was 75-years-old when he became president of South Africa and remained in office until he was 80-years-old. He physical strength enabled him to lead his country once he was free. He was able to fulfill the role that God had created him for.

Thomas does warn about idolizing our body and exercising. He’s sensitive to those who may be struggling with food. However, he’s very bold in stating that the church needs to address (in love) gluttony how we care for our bodies.

Overall, this was a really good read that challenged and inspired me to see that caring for my health is a spiritual thing. I don’t need to feel guilty for taking an hour of my day to exercise. He does a lot of quoting to prove his points. At times this disrupted my reading, but not too badly. Plus, most of the quotes were really good so in a sense it negates it.

So what are your thoughts on exercise and healthy eating?

Do you see exercise as a spiritual discipline?

Is it a sin if we neglect our bodies and eat junk food?

Let me know what you think. I’m eager to hear!

Jan
19

Are We Too Touchy on Touch?

It was the worst day in my life. Our daughter Anastasia was two-years-old. We were living in Germany in a townhome, three-stories high with winding, marble stairs. Anastasia, like most two-year-olds, was my shadow and followed me continually up and down the stairs.

I worked busily that morning, getting ready for an overnight guest. The drain to the shower was clogged so I used a spoon to pour with some Draino crystals directly into the pipes. A small amount of the crystals mixed with some water and stuck to the spoon.

I placed the spoon up on a shelf and within seconds I heard an explosive scream from Anastasia. I turned to see her holding the spoon and crying in great pain. I quickly began rinsing out her mouth but she was already swelling.

At the hospital she was put in the pediatric intensive care ward. We were blessed that the majority of the burns were in her mouth but her saliva had carried enough of the chemicals down her esophagus and the doctors needed to see the extent of the damage.

They performed an endoscopy on her, placing a tube with a light and camera down her throat to allow them to see if her burns would require surgery. So, Mark and I waited and prayed.

After a while a nurse hurried to get me. Anastasia was in recovery but was having a reaction to the anesthesia. The tubes attached to her body scared her and she was flailing and screaming. The nurses feared her cries would further damage her burns and cause permanent scarring.

Immediately I went to her side and tried to calm her down. But she couldn’t hear me – she was in a panic zone. I looked at the cords around her and wasn’t sure if I could move her. I asked the nurses if I could try holding her. They worked to loosen and remove cords to help me.

I scooped her up and she nuzzled into me. She recognized my touch and could then hear my voice. She knew her mommy was with her.

Pete Wilson tells us that God’s most frequently stated promise in the Bible is, “I Am with you.” Knowing I’m not alone brings me peace but sometimes it’s hard to feel the touch of an invisible God.

When you compare our culture to the rest of the world, Americans are some of the touchiest about touch. I understand we need to be careful and teach our kids about inappropriate touch. It’s wise to be cautious at times in order to avoid a false accusation or putting yourself in a bad situation. Unfortunately, I’m too aware of the damage inappropriate touch can do and I’m very sympathetic to it.

At the same time, part of me wonders if God would like to use our arms to help others hear His voice?

My cuddles didn’t remove Anastasia’s pain or take her out of the hospital – she still had to endure her situation. But my touch calmed her enough so she was able to hear my voice and see that I was with her, the same way God is with us during our hardships.

Now I’m not saying to go and hug the next person you run into or to pat the lonely sole in the locker room on the back, but listen to the nudges God gives you.

It was awkward for me to ask the nurses to help remove the cords so I could hold Anastasia but that was the direction I felt and it worked. It may not always feel natural but it’s amazing what God can do through our touch.

What are your thoughts on how our culture handles touch?

Has God ever touched you with His power through the loving arms of another?

Jan
17

When Hate Breeds, Our Children Fall

Last week, we passed the 1-year anniversary of the horrific day in Tucson, Arizona. On January 8, 2011, a lone shooter shot U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords and eighteen other people. Six died, including 9-year-old Christiana-Taylor Green.

Recently I read the book As Good As She Imagined by Roaxanna Green and Jerry B. Jenkins. It’s a wonderful book that portrays the life of this 9-year-old, Christina-Taylor. My heart mourned for the victims and their families but especially for the Green family. No one wants to lose his or her child.

Green and Jenkins share stories from Christina-Taylor’s short life and I couldn’t help but fall in love with her and her family. It’s reminded me of the importance of community, love of family and how enduring challenges develops the perseverance needed to survive later trials.

It encouraged me to enjoy each moment with my loved ones. Not to sweat the small stuff and to avoid passivity. Christina-Taylor did a lot in her 9-years on earth and she left us with her mark and a smile.

The book does a great job not to glorify the shooter, however, part of me kept going back to him and wondering, “Why did he do it?”

Years ago, when we were preparing to go as missionaries overseas, Mark studied five common traits that start a movement. One of the greatest unifying factors was a common enemy. People normally at odds bond as they fight and, at times, are pushed to do things they normally wouldn’t do.

We don’t know why the shooter went on a killing rampage. Maybe it was politically motivated.

A voting year is upon us. Emotions are already flying and people are bonding over a common “enemy”. Adversaries are being named and their reputations are being destroyed.

However, when we view another as an enemy, hate is born. It brews and boils and moves us to action(s) and ones we often regret.

Jesus told us to love our enemies. It’s a pretty radical request and not always easy to do. We shouldn’t look at our neighbor as the enemy, even if we disagree or dislike what they say or do.

When we pray for our enemies, God’s power is at work in both them and us. We’re able to love and find real peace.

Before his crucifixion, Jesus prayed that we’d be united. Politics by nature divides us but at the same time it puts his children in each party. Perhaps this is God’s strategic way of shining his light on all sides.

As the debates and campaigns continue, think of Christina-Taylor. She was not at Giffords’ meeting to promote hate, rather to do good. We need to make sure we’re not working to defeat the enemy in the other party but to find the next man or woman God has chosen to lead our country.

Hate blurs our vision but love helps us to see clearly.

Do you have people in your life who are hard to love due to political affiliation?

How do you handle it?

Have you read Green and Jenkins’ book As Good As She Imagined?

Jan
09

Why Does God Interrupt My Plans?

Do you ever feel your life is full of many “almost made it” opportunities? The interruptions of life continually prevent you from accomplishing your goal and living out your dream. You almost got the promotion, almost got married, almost won the competition, almost got into that college, almost bought the house, almost had a baby, almost beat cancer…

They can happen to us or even our loved ones, either way they put a sharp curve in the road, taking us in another direction, to a destination we have no desire to visit.

Some times these are self-invoked and happen because we (or another around us) turned the steering wheel in the wrong direction due to a bad decision – texting while driving, cheating on our taxes, shaving our legs with a dull razor.  (Uh…TMI on that last one?)

Other times we’re driving innocently down our path when God, for some unknown reason, sticks a “detour” sign in the middle of the road. Instead of our intended direct route, He sends us on the scenic one and it feels as if we’re wasting, or losing, time in the process.

Many (many) years ago I was a dancer, a hip-hop dancer (Yep, makes me laugh too, but I was not bad for a white girl, ha). I was getting hired in small jobs around Atlanta and working my name into the business. I was a new Christian and figured I could use music and dance as a ministry to reach the younger generation. It would meet a need.

However, right as my dancing began to take off, God called me into missions. I fought it hard initially but the calling into missions never went away. In fact it grew the more I opened my mind to it.

While in Russia I met a guy who was also a missionary. He became my best friend and remained a friend until four years later, when we began dating and soon married. We continued in missions and traveled all over the world and now have two wonderful kids and have begun our own publishing company.

I don’t share this to brag on me but instead on God and the adventure He gave me via a “detour” sign. You see, if I had of ignored the “detour” sign in the road, I would have never met Mark. I’m sure God would have still blessed my hip-hop dancing ministry, but it would have been without Mark.

I’ve recently begun Priscilla Shirer’s bible study, Jonah: Navigating a Life Interrupted. She teaches that life’s interruptions are often God’s divine interventions.

I joke now about my dancing but at the time it was a very, very hard dream to let go. I didn’t understand why God would give me the gift and desire to dance, only to take it away. In a way, I still don’t. But, I do know is that I would do it all again.

When you follow God’s scenic route, it may take longer. The road may not be as smooth. The curves may even make you carsick. BUT…it will be a great adventure and so worth any discomfort and extra time it takes.

How do you handle God’s divine interventions?

Do you have an advice to offer anyone who may be facing a curve in their road?

BTW – if you are looking for a good study to do – check out Priscilla Shirer’s Jonah study. I LOVE her stuff!

Jan
04

Seeing God When He’s Silent

A cool thing happened to me this morning. I went for an early morning run before work. It was still dawn (I was going to say “twilight” but I didn’t want to distract you and cause you to think the movie Twilight and then wonder if I believed in vampires – which I don’t, btw). The sun was beginning to rise over Boise’s foothills but not enough to give much light.

I like running in the dark. It keeps me from looking at how far I still have to go and instead forces me to focus the steps in front of me. I’m not distracted by the scenery around but look solely at the path in front of me.

It was peaceful and therapeutic.

Life’s been rough lately and the world’s craziness makes it even harder to find peace. God tells us in the Bible not to be anxious about anything but that is easier said than done.

As I ran in the quietness, I prayed through my same petitions, hoping God would hear me in the stillness of the night. But He was quiet.

An old friend once reminded me that God inhabits the praise of His people. “If you want God’s attention, then praise Him!” So I tried it.

It was awkward at first but as I continued, I looked around me and noticed the foothills were glowing more as the sun continued to rise. It was gorgeous, making it easier to praise God for His creation and beauty.

I sensed more of God’s presence but He was still silent. I needed to know if my prayers were being heard. In desperation I pleaded, “God I just need to know that You hear me and see us. Please can You shine some light on us. Please shine Your light on us.”

I walked around a curve on the path that put our house in my direct line of vision. Our neighbor’s trees framed it and exactly behind our house was the sun shining on it, like a spot light. At the moment, only our house was illuminated by the sun. It felt as if God were saying, “Oh yes, I see you. I see all of you!”

It was cool, really cool.

Praise is not a magic formula that will make an invisible God visible, but does help to redirect our prayers. It took me out of my “I want, I need” prayers into petitions of asking to see God.

The time of praise took my eyes off myself and onto God

God may at times seem silent and but when we persist in praise He makes his presence known.

Has God ever revealed Himself to you in a time of praise?