Saturday, March 28, 2009

Great is Thy Faithfulness

Ever since I set foot on the campus of Asbury College in the spring preview session for High School seniors in 2000, God has given me a passion and a desire to be in the little town of Wilmore. Throughout the past eight years, I have strayed and struggled, but God’s faithfulness has remained. Going into Asbury as a freshman, I had HUGE dreams. I wanted to go on the mission field, serve as a counselor, be in the student government, and soak up the wealth of wisdom at Asbury like a sponge. I was a lover the Lord and a lover of wisdom. I was ready to worship and study my way to the fullness of God’s calling for my life….8 years ago….
Fast forward four years. I made it almost through college. I made it to the end of the semester when my physical symptoms of the eating disorder were dangerous enough to get kicked off campus. This happened several times over the course of the years at Asbury. My dreams of serving the Lord through campus ministry, student leadership, and Bible study took the back burner, or were possibly just taken off of the stove entirely to make room for the overriding and overwhelming goal of thinness. I forgot the God-given goals for leadership, ministry, loving others, and evangelism. I laid them down on the altar that I had erected for the idol that tried to take over my life. I lived my days in survival mode, just trying to stay alive to graduate. I lived in a fog of depression, starvation, self-hatred, and lies. I walked around as if in a daydream. Others were not important to me. Classes became secondary. My goals were so disoriented and confused. I forgot the high calling. I forgot God’s promises. He mercifully reminded me of them during various chapels. Sometimes, I would cry for the loss of those promises. I have never lost them. Not really. I just couldn’t see them. How could I when I was allowing the eating disorder to consume my whole vision? “Be Thou my vision” reminded me where my vision was not. “Great is thy faithfulness” was our Vessel class hymn. While I knew that God was faithful, I felt so discouraged by my lack of faithfulness. I sang in chapel through tears of longing for the hope that I once held. I limped or crutched or wheeled around campus, injured by my own foolishness.
God in His faithfulness allowed me to cross the stage for graduation. It took almost six years, but He was able to finish what He had started at Asbury, or so I thought. Little did I know that my hardest days were yet to come. I thought that brushing shoulders with death through heart problems, and then breaking my hip were the bottom of the pit. I was wrong. It would get worse. MUCH worse. God never stepped back from His promise, though my wayward heart was “prone to wander, prone to leave the God I love.” The Lord was still tuning my heart. And He was planning His second chance for me in this little town of Wilmore. It is by no means about Wilmore for the sake of Wilmore, or about Asbury for the sake of Asbury. It is about God showing His power and glory by not only finishing what He started but redeeming what the enemy tried to destroy.
Fast forward four more years to the present. He is taking me back to Wilmore to take back the territory that Satan tried to take from me. He is not only going to take back the territory but open new boundaries that have once confined me. He is going to pave new highways. He says, “Do not earnestly remember former things, neither dwell on the things of the past. See? I am doing a new thing. Do you not perceive it? I am even making streams in the desert and a way in the wasteland.” His streams are flooding into the once deserted areas of my life. My once-dry academic life is coming alive with wisdom from on high. My wasteland of anorexia is blossoming with new life and abundance that is going reap a harvest of righteousness and blessing for others. I had given up on myself. Others had given up on me. But my Lord knows that He is greater, and He did not give up.
My return to Wilmore will not be an attempt to “prove “anything, nor is it an attempt to go back to the time that I felt was lost at Asbury. It was not lost. It was part of the process. I squandered and wasted time, but God is the God who can cause ALL things to work together for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose. God’s faithfulness is great. Morning after morning, I experienced His new mercies, whether I perceived it then or not. I see now. All I needed at that time, His hand indeed provided.
Grace for today and bright hope for tomorrow….Oh, the hope of His calling! He has called me to Seminary at Asbury. He is doing a new thing. I missed things in college because I lost sight of the truth. I will make mistakes for sure over the next couple years, but I will not be moved because my foundation is not my own willpower or determination. I stand on the truth of His word through the power of His Spirit. There is no other solid foundation.
I set out to apply for Seminary at Asbury with hope that it was the place which God called me too, but I was not certain. I trusted that He would close and open the right doors. I have been stepping out in faith since then. I have questioned my motives, my discernment, and my goals. But I have continued to move forward toward this goal, trusting that God would in time make it clearer. This week, He did just that. I got quiet before Him, asking Him to make it evident that He is leading me to Asbury. He took me to the daily devotional in “Streams in the Desert.” I was shocked at the relevance of His word. The verse said, “lift up your eyes from where you are and look north and south, east and west. All the land that you see I will give to you.” (Gen 13:14). The devotional goes on to say, “No desire will ever be placed in your life by the Holy Spirit unless He intends to fulfill it.” God is so faithful. He confirmed it beyond a shadow of a doubt. I have so longed for His clear direction, but He wanted to get me to the place that I trusted and sought HIM before I sought His will. I have found Him, and it is in HIM that I find His will.
I did not ruin God’s plan for my life. I may have postponed it and complicated the path to get back to it, but He has brought me to a new place of grace, revelation, and bright hope. Habakkuk says, “Though the promise tarries, wait for it. It will certainly not fail.” His promise has not failed. His faithfulness is greater than I can possibly imagine, and I am ready to join Him in His work.

Friday, March 27, 2009

You Wear Christ Well

I believe that God has truly delivered me, and that I have been walking out freedom in so many ways. Throughout the past couple months, however, I have become aware of bondage to the number on the tag of my clothing. Why does this number have such a hold on me, when it is so changeable? The actual size and fit of pants varies with the store, cut, color, and even just individual pairs of pants. Today’s society has taught young girls and women to attach value to ourselves based on the tag attached to the inside of our clothing. No one will see these tags, and they are in reality arbitrary. There is no consistency. For men, clothing is sized my actual measurements. For women, however, clothing is sized by whim of the designer. It is tragic, because our emotional state can often depend on the number in our clothing. How sad!
I was challenged this week to study what God’s word says about clothing and what being clothed really means. Wow. I am so in awe of the relevance of the word of God to today’s problems. It speaks to every issue that we may face in our daily life. There are days where I dread getting up in the morning just because I am afraid of how my clothing will fit me that day. While my clothing most of the time fits the same, I should never base my emotional well being on the raiment which I choose to decorate my external body. I am so much more than my body, and my worth is of far more value than rubies or diamonds.
In my study of the word “clothe” in God’s word, I find it connected with pride or humility. As C. S. Lewis asserts, most of our issues in human morality are based in the root sin of pride, so this fact does not surprise me. In the Old Testament, I learned that to clothe means to wrap, put on, or arm. As we know, Adam and Eve were initially naked. While I am by no means advocating nudity (I like to stay out of jail), I am intrigued by the clothing situation in Eden. When they recognized their nakedness, they clothed themselves with leaves. God, however, who offered greater gifts than the two fruit -munchers could provide for themselves, gave them clothing made of animal skins. We have our ideas of luxury, but God’s definition is so much greater. The second parallel that I see in the Old Testament which also carries over into the New Testament is clothing in the context of arming one’s self. We are commanded to put on the armor of God. In the Old Testament, putting on armor was vital for survival in battle. This was a functional act, not so much an act of adornment or vanity. Finally, “to clothe” also holds a more figurative significance, where the garment has more abstract quality. This abstract quality can be positive (honor, dignity, humility, compassion), or it can be negative (disgrace, shame, desolation). In the case of Gideon, the Holy Spirit clothed Himself in Gideon’s body. It is amazing to think that our bodies can be the clothing for the Holy Spirit.
Another use of “clothe” is more functional. The purpose of this “girding’ is for labor, not decoration. It can also be seen as a badge of servitude. Here, we see humility as the key to this action. Instead of a size tag as a badge for identity, the simple apron is sufficient to show the nature of a servant. It is a token of deference, or respect and honor, for an Individual higher than one’s self.
In understanding Luke’s reference to the rich man clothed in purple and fine linen (like our desire to wear the best quality, most fashionable, smallest clothes possible), it is important to understand the definition of “clothe” which Luke uses. This form of “clothe” offers an implication of “sinking into” clothing. This sounds to me much more carnal and fleshly. Who wants to sink into their clothing? Do I want the Holy Spirit to robe Himself in my body, or do I want to sink into my own vanity’s perception of beauty and “acceptable sizes”?
Isaiah 52 says, “Awake, awake, put on your strength Oh Zion! Put on your beautiful garments.” I have a feeling that the garments referred to here transcend earthly robes. These are the garments of celebration, honor, and joy. Isaiah 61 says that God has clothed me with garments of salvation and a robe of righteousness. This description does not sound like it is attached to a specific size. Galatians 3 says to clothe ourselves with Christ. Colossians 3 tells us to clothe ourselves with a new spiritual self, which is in the process of being renewed and remolded into a more full and perfect knowledge after the image of Christ.
In further reading of Colossians 3, I am astounded that how we clothe ourselves is rooted in the identity that we have established. My identity for so long was so unstable, and it was rooted in whatever society and the enemy called acceptable and perfect. Now, my identity is found in Christ and what He calls me. This passage says that I am God’s chosen one, His own PICKED representative, purified, holy, and well-loved. How will I get out of bed in the morning with this knowledge? In understanding this, I cannot let the enemy deceive me anymore about where my true identity lies. My identity is in Christ. A recent sermon shed light on this subject when the speaker said that she wants to “wear Christ well.” I don’t want to wear a size zero well. I want to wear Christ well. Is my striving to fit into a certain size preventing me from being able to wear Christ as well as He has called me? Am I allowing the Holy Spirit to clothe me the way that Gideon allowed the Spirit to clothe him as he marched into battle, armed with power from on high?
Every day, I don’t want to step out of bed without putting on the armor of God: The helmet of salvation, the breastplate of righteousness, the sword of the spirit, the belt of truth, the feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, binding them together with prayer. Without these, I am a walking target for the enemy. Carrying these, I can fight the lies about my size and my identity. I will wear clothing that fits my body, and I will wear Christ well. Whatever Christ calls me, I am. I am not defined by the tag on this inside of my pants. I am defined by the badge that God gives me, which says, “chosen, purified, well-loved.” Then, whatever size I may find myself, I know who I am and WHOSE I am. There is no more fear, only confidence clothed with humility. I don’t care so much about wearing my jeans well. I want to wear my Jesus well.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Hope in the darkness

“Our hope endures the worst of conditions; it’s more than our optimism. Let the earth quake; our hope remains.” As I listened to the lyrics of Natalie Grant’s newest song over and over last year, I wept. I didn’t know why. I could make sense out of very little. I was so severely wrongly medicated and traumatized by the events of the preceding months, but something in these lyrics rang true in my heart. There would be days that I would play this song dozens of times in the span of a couple hours. My mind was unable to grasp its power, but the Spirit in my heart knew the power of this hope that would not let me go. My hope endured the worst of conditions. This Hope was not my own. It was not my own effort or even my own understanding. It was the hope of the Spirit living inside of me, even when I was in the deepest depths of the darkest dungeon of my entire life. I curled in a ball in my bed crying for days, fearful for my life. No one outside was out to get me. It was something that was inside that sought to destroy. Who let it in? Who knew that wrongly prescribed psychotropic drugs would take me so deep into the most horrifying nightmare of my life, where I would fear my own mind? I would be a prisoner in a body that was out to annihilate me. If this was not a tool that the enemy would try to use to destroy me, I don’t know what could be. This picture of last year provides the setting in which God showed His power and hope that existed even during a time that I felt the farthest from His presence.
After being a believer for 23 years, I have never felt as rejected and abandoned by the Lord as I did in 2007. I couldn’t make sense out of the Word, the world, or my mind. Nothing fit together. I couldn’t see past my nose. I could not hope in the future, because I was so consumed by total and utter fear. It was a fog of death, despair, and destruction. God’s hand was present, and His arm was never removed. He did not step away, nor did He hide His face. He saw the tears. He collected them in His jar. He held me in His arms. He soothed me with His love songs. He remained my Strength and Song through the darkest night of my soul.
He provided a series of glimpses of His face, which in retrospect, shine so clearly. At the time, only my heart could understand. That spiritual understanding, however, was sufficient for the time. Over the past year, God has restored so much hope, peace, and joy to my life. He also showed me His presence in the pit. He was there. He provided the song, “Our Hope Endures” during those days where my confused mind said that all hope was gone. He said, “ I am Emmanuel, God is with you. I am El’ shaddi, all sufficient.” God was just as present and sufficient then as He is today. He sang this song to my heart last year. This year, my heart and head sing that my hope endures with the perfect Shalom of wholeness and healing. The God of today is the same God of yesterday.
God also provided a precious bracelet from a beloved family member. This bangle has engraved upon it, “the Lord is my strength and song.” I did not know why at the time, but I would absolutely never remove it from my wrist. Though my mind could not grasp its significance, the Spirit in my heart leapt with joy over the magnitude and hope of fulfillment of this statement. Over the past year, God has unfolded this truth in my life. He has given me a new song, which I sing in His strength and power. He has indeed become my salvation. He has saved me out of the jaws of death. This was the song of Moses, the song of Isaiah, and the song of the believers of revelation. This is my song. It was echoing in my heart even in that dark night. The Lord was my strength and song in the hospital bed. The Lord was my salvation when He saved me from death and when He brought me to a place of abundance. This was the bracelet that I went dumpster diving to retrieve at Mercy. It was the bracelet that I tore open garbage bags to get back. The significance and power of this statement became a lifeline for me in time where few lifelines existed.
God sent a third sign and representation of His presence in my life during the darkness. It was a framed picture. On the top, it read, “I am….”. These were the statements of who I am in Christ. My mind did not believe them as my faithful mother sat beside my bed and read them to me as I struggled into fitful sleep night after night. My heart, however, was greatly comforted and strengthened with these truths. The last statement on this framed picture is, “Christ in me, the Hope of glory.” Christ was in me, Christ was with me, and Christ was for me, and He was my only hope of glory. He was my only hope of salvation. He was my hope, my strength, my song, and my salvation. He was the Word of truth, which, though my mind could not grasp, my heart cleaved to for dear life.
“Sometimes the sun stays hidden for years, sometimes the night rains night after night. When will it clear?” My heart held to Him because He first held to me. He held my fragile, hurting, vulnerable heart in His hand. He nurtured it, sang over it, strengthened it, and encouraged it. At the time, I couldn’t see it, and even now, I cannot see it as clearly as I will when all is unveiled, but my perception did not and never will change His intimate presence in my life. My Hope endured. I look back on last year with residual twinges of pain. God is still healing. The scar may remain to remind me of God’s faithfulness. Going deeper than the twinges of pain are rays of hope, human faces of love and mercy, glimpses of His hand, and echoes of His voice, unperceived then, but oh so evident now.
Our Hope endures. My Hope is Christ. Even when I couldn’t fight for myself, He fought for me. Even when I couldn’t save myself, He saved me. He gave me a song, a bangle, and an identity that could not be taken. Let the earth quake. Our Hope remains. My hope remained, because great is His faithfulness. Steadfast is His presence. Relentless is His love.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

True Knowledge

For years, I sought to learn my way out of my bondage. I thought that the more I knew about recovery, psychology, myself, and even God, the closer I would be to true healing. I read all the books on eating disorders I could get my hands on, worked all the treatment programs with commitment and tenacity, and I even majored in Psychology in college. I took a class on Psychology of Assessment, where I wrote about 150 pages on myself. I memorized scripture, attended church, engaged in Bible study, and talked circles around truth. I knew the truth. I preached it to others. In my years of battling my eating disorder, I became a professional at detecting its presence in others, calling it out, and teaching them how to recover. Some even took the knowledge, ran with it, and actually recovered. I looked on with envy, and I wondered why I did not truly grasp it the way that these friends did. It was like when I was a kid and I taught my brother how to blow a bubble with bubble gum. He not only learned how to blow a bubble, but he blew one twice as big as I did. I was irate. I wanted to unteach him. While I did not want to take back the words and skills from my friends, and I truly rejoiced in their healing, I mourned for myself and questioned why I was not finding healing.
I caught a glimpse of why I had not truly experienced healing when I went to Arizona to Remuda Ranch. Though I did not find true healing during my time at Remuda, I was given the life-changing truth that would prove to be the seed for the transformation that would take place three years later. Though I left Remuda defeated and in bondage, I see now that it was all part of God’s process of transformation. I love how, as He gives me His eyes, I see His hand in places where I believed that He was entirely absent. The Lord laid Ephesians 3:19 on my heart, which says that when we receive God’s gift of His spirit and revelation:
That you may really come to know [practically, through experience for yourselves] the love of Christ which far surpasses mere knowledge without experience; that you may be filled through all your being unto all the fullness of God [may have the richest measure of the Divine Presence, and become wholly filled and flooded with God Himself].
Paul prayed that the church at Ephesus would come to this intimate knowledge through true, deep, experiential understanding of the character and person of Christ. The key: This knowledge cannot come except through active, personal, experience of God through His faithfulness as we step out in obedience. I was trying to learn without doing, and I was dying with a very extensive “knowledge” of the truth, recovery, and God. But I did not truly know; because I didn’t take the risk and step out on the knowledge that I was given. God gave me great gifts of a love for learning, study, and research. I was not a steward of this gift, because I was not using it to allow Him to transform me to His true character. Ephesians four goes on to talk about the full knowledge that is promised as we mature in obedience and conformity to the character of Christ.
Because I love to study the Greek language, I am compelled to include this vital distinction between two types of knowing found in the Greek, but not found in the English language. Please don’t miss this amazing truth found in the different Greek words for “knowing.” The basic Greek word for “know” is “ginosko.” This root word means “to be taking in knowledge.” This is what I was doing for years. This was not wasted. I was building this foundation to take me to the next level of knowing. This word also emphasizes approval. I approved of God’s word, even though I had not yet acted on it. It was a divine process. The next step that Paul beckons the church at Ephesus to grasp, is an intimate knowledge, which is known to the Greeks as “epiginosko.” It is a more advanced knowledge and special appreciation of the object known, in this case, God. You can know (ginosko) the truth, but until you know and believe it (epiginosko), you cannot find true freedom. You have to actively participate in the truth in order to truly epiginosko it. This knowledge perfectly unites the knower with the known. I deeply desired to be perfectly united with the Lord, but I had to actively make Him THE LORD of my life. For so long, I felt like my knowledge was only in the abstract, and it was. The only way for it to move from the abstract to the concrete was to bite the bullet and do the hard thing: I had to ACT on it. We are to confess with our mouth and BELIEVE in our heart that Jesus is Lord. Belief is evidenced in action.
For so long, my nutritionist pointed out that I behaved as if I was just a head, with no body. When there is no body, there is no heart. I stayed in my head. I denied the needs of my physical body, and I denied the needs of my heart. I STUDIED the word, I STUDIED the human mind and even the human heart, but I never used my body to act it out. I never sought with my heart. The life of the mind is vital, but it is nothing without heart behind it and fueling it.
In summary, practically, what did this epiginosko look like? I had to eat, not exercise, and listen to God and the voices of truth in my life. I had to combine my Bible study with obedience. It took a while, but not too long. Maybe a couple weeks. But then I started to truly HEAR the voice of the Lord. The head knowledge descended into my heart. I sat and listened to the Lord. I kept studying, but I ceased striving to know more. This epiginosis was deeper, more real, and more transformative than anything that I had ever experienced. They were right at Remuda. I needed to KNOW the love of God that transcends all understanding. I had to stop talking the talk and start walking it out. I was a hypocrite, a Pharisee, and a bodyless head. As I obeyed, my heart came to life. My body came to life.
God is the God of creating good from what Satan intended for evil. Satan tried to keep me in my head. Now, God is using my head knowledge to develop and mature my newly acquired heart knowledge. The years of study were not at all wasted. They were stepping stones to get me to the place where I could use it to step out in faith and see that it was all true. Now I really know, and I will come to know more and more as I walk out my profession of faith. I have the tools. I have the head knowledge. And praise God, in His grace and mercy, I now have the true heart knowledge.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Who am I?

We have been studying Exodus on Sunday nights at church, and this Sunday, I received a new picture of Moses’ dialogue with God in Exodus 3. The background is that God’s chosen people, the Israelites, have been in Egyptian bondage. God had previously made a covenant with Abraham in Genesis 12 that He would make his people a great nation, and will bless them, making them abundant and famous, so that they could be a blessing for the nations. This covenant from the Lord was HUGE. God had just promised His favor over the house of Israel. Fast forward several generations, and you come to Moses, who finds himself and his people (God’s chosen) in bondage to the Egyptians. They were enslaved and oppressed. This did not seem like the inheritance that was the covenant promise of their God.
Moses had quite the illustrious history. As an infant, set adrift in a homemade boat in the Nile River by his mother and sister Miriam, he found himself in the lap of luxury in Pharaoh’s temple. What are the odds? Only God could do such a miracle! God had an enormous plan for Moses’ life.
God had not forgotten His promise to His people. He knew who He would use to accomplish His promise. He knew also that He chooses the weakest of the weak to carry out His purposes. Moses became a murderer and a fugitive. This man had a rage issue. He was running from the death penalty and went to Midian to care for his father-in-law’s flocks in the back side of the desert. It was in this desert that He saw the Lord. Abraham saw the Lord in His glory. Ezekiel, Daniel, Isaiah, and John also saw the Lord in His glory. Responses were very similar. There was a common occurrence of hiding faces, falling to the ground, saying things such as, “woe is me.” In the presence of the Lord, in the light of His glory, we get a good glimpse of our own pitiful, fallen, guilty state.
Moses responds to the Lord’s appeals from the burning bush in a way that I find myself responding to God’s callings on my life. God is revealing Himself. It is obviously all about Him. Even the ground is so holy that Moses cannot keep his sandals on his feet. God identifies Himself. It is a pretty magnificent introduction, if the display of the burning bush is not sufficient to bring Moses to a place of awe and wonder. God says, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” God makes a list of “I have’s”. He has seen His peoples’ affliction. He has heard their cry. He knows their sorrows. He has come down to deliver them. He has come to take them to a place of freedom and abundance. Now He gives an “I will.” He will send Moses the Pharaoh. Moses does something that I often find myself doing. How can Moses, in this glorious display, turn the discussion back on himself? God is HUGE, burning, omniscient, and covenant-keeping, and Moses says, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”
Does Moses really think that he is going to be doing the delivering? Who are you, Moses? You are simply the instrument, the vessel. You can be nothing naturally, but when you are used in God’s great power, you are made in Him sufficient for whatever purpose God has intended. God says, “I will surely be with you.” He does not respond the way Moses wants. He doesn’t even really answer Moses’ question of “who am I?” God gives a better answer. He answers with who He is, and where He will be. God is the I AM, who was, and will be. Moses has got it all wrong. I often have it all wrong. It is not about my talent, ability, or self-sufficiency. God uses the stuttering, fumbling, foolish, outcasts, and fugitives of society to accomplish His God-sized purposes. Then all will see that only God could have accomplished the works displayed in our lives.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

From Anger to Gratitude

My first step at Mercy was one that was vital in order for me to move forward in the transformation process. For over a decade, I had been so angry at God. I was the “best anorexic” that I could be. I restricted so well, I exercised so strenuously. I should have been thinner than 99.9 percent of the population. I continued my self-destructive process for years while perceiving little physical deterioration or significant weight loss. Doctors and professionals couldn’t understand it. I could not understand it, and I was furious. I was not even successful at self-destruction. I ate virtually nothing, ran close to a marathon a day, only to maintain a borderline-unhealthy weight. In the eating disorder Olympics, I should have won a gold medal. I should have been a superstar. I should have been the thinnest, sickest, most emaciated stick-figure in the “thinness competition.” I didn’t even qualify for state finals, however. My body battled against my efforts, and I found myself literally and figuratively running on a perpetual treadmill of performance, fear, control, and bondage. I chained myself on this treadmill, only to finally realize that I was getting nowhere fast. I was going really fast, but wasn’t getting any closer to my thinness goals. Why not? I would constantly beg God to STOP preserving my body. There was a large part of me that believed that God was at work supernaturally preserving my body, and I was furious at Him for foiling my efforts. I worked so incredibly hard to be thin, and I never got thinner.
As I have been praying through this lately, I have been reminded of the verse in Romans 9:20: “Who are you, a mere man, to criticize and contradict and answer back to God? What will the formed say to Him that formed it, ‘why have you made me thus?’ has the potter no right over the clay?” I am the clay. I am not my own creator, nor do I author my days or my breaths. I am not God, and I will never be in control. I am the clay, and God, the Potter, is still in charge of my days. Lamentations 3:21-22 says this: “But this I recall and therefore have I hope and expectation. It is because of the Lord’s mercies and loving-kindness that we are not consumed, because His tender compassions fail not.” Why was I not consumed by the eating disorder? Because of my Lord’s mercies and loving-kindness. It is not through anything that I did or did not do. I was bent on my own deterioration and destruction, but God supernaturally preserved my body. I should have starved to death years ago. I should not have survived my attempts at my life. Any medical professional would agree that there was no reason why my body remained as “healthy” as it did.
When I confronted this issue of resentment toward God for “allowing me to stay fat”, I found His profound, firm, yet loving answer. Through the staff at Mercy Ministries, He made it clear that HE was the reason why my body was reasonably healthy. He also showed me that it was pure pride and selfishness that I felt “entitled” to higher levels of thinness and achievement in my anorexia dreams. It was also evident that the spirit of death that was pouring lies into my mind. He revealed also that my mindset and spirit were close enough to death even if my body was not. I had not died physically, but I was devastatingly far from actually living. God confronted me in my pride and said, “Megan, I have supernaturally spared your body, but don’t let a spirit of arrogance or pride rise out of this awareness. It is not just for you, or even mainly for you, that I have preserved you. I have kept you alive because of the people who I have destined to touch through your life.” I wept with this awareness. I slowly released my death-grip on my quest for destruction and thinness. I repented and let go of my personal agenda. It tends to be pretty pointless to fight against the Most High God. He is the one that builds up and tears down. I recognized finally that it is truly because of His loving kindness that I was not consumed. In seeing His great faithfulness, my anger melted into the deepest gratitude that I could ever know. As I have lined my heart with His, His desires have overthrown mine, and I see the value of His preservative efforts earlier in my life. I am truly so thankful that He protected me. The fact that He preserved my weight and health is an incredible BLESSING. It shows me His hand, His power, and His love.
I do not know why He spares some and not others. I do not know why some bodies are weaker and more prone to illness. I do not know why some suicide attempts are successful and others are not. I don’t understand why the same God preserves some bodies and lets others starve to death. Truly, I know, however, that I have been entrusted with a precious, undeserved gift. If I had been given what I thought was the best, I would absolutely not be alive today. I am so glad that I was not given my constant plea, nor reaped the consequences that should have followed my destructive behaviors. I have been given against all odds my life, and now I have the precious and joyful responsibility to LIVE IT.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Lessons on Sarcasm

When I thought of sarcasm, I assumed that it has a less than charming definition. I knew that sarcasm in its purest form is bad, and I have even heard that it is the devil’s tool in the lives of many believers. I have worked in environments where it has run rampant and seen some of its destructive power. It creates friction, confusion, and inflicts hurt while masking its communicator with a somewhat innocent veneer. It can be subtle or more obvious, but I am truly beginning to believe that it is exceedingly dangerous coming out of the mouth of those who love the Lord. Can the same tongue praise the Lord and tear down others at the same time? Can the mouth express reverence and devotion to God and spout hatred and bitterness toward our fellow man? I have seen the destruction of sarcasm. I have seen the power and healing benefits of direct communication. I have been incredibly guilty of using sarcasm to “hide” true feelings. What I did not realize, however, that sarcasm is a very transparent façade.
The Lord laid it on my heart for the Lenten season to give up sarcasm. I have failed quite a bit. The first several days were the hardest. Sometimes sarcastic comments would pop out of my mouth before I could catch them. Other times, I caught them as they were on the tip of my tongue. I am praying that I get to the point that I don’t even think them. It may take time and plenty of grace, however. I have hope that the day will come that I am a direct communicator who presents the truth in love. If love is absent, then opinion is best kept to ourselves. We can pray for love and discernment of speech to join the attitude of charity and mercy.
I decided to look up sarcasm tonight to see exactly what its definition is. It is worse than I thought. Sarcasm, according to Webster’s is: “from Greek sarkasmos, from sarkazein to tear flesh, bite the lips in rage, sneer, from sark-, sarx flesh; probably akin to Avestan thwarəs- to cut.” I got the cutting part right. I am appalled at the idea of the tearing of the flesh. It is like taking a bite out of someone’s flesh. That is brutal. It is to bite the lips in rage. That is an expression that is dripping with contempt. It is a comment that is a form of wit, used to inflict pain. It is the use of bitter, caustic, and ironic language directed against someone. I always thought of it as lazy wit, but it is far worse than simple indolence. It is vile, evil, and malevolent. The synonyms for sarcasm involve words such as: acerbic, divisive, disrespectful, scornful, and trenchant. None of these sound even remotely positive. I am disgusted that I have been using this form of speech for so long. Proverbs 23: 26 addresses sarcasm, giving it the name “guile,” which means treacherous cunning or skillful deceit. It says, “though the quarrelsome man covers his hatred with guile, his wickedness shall be shown openly before the assembly.” True feeling will be exposed. We cannot hide behind sarcasm forever. We will be found out. “I am just kidding” won’t suffice anymore. Eventually, enough just kiddings will translate into “not kidding anymore.”
Going a little broader, as I study the tongue, I see once again in Proverbs that “death and life are in the tongue.” We speak death or we speak life over ourselves and others. I want to speak life. In James 3, we read that the tongue is a fire, and fire can burn and destroy, or fire can refine. This fire can be ignited by the powers of hell, or it can be set aflame by the words of heaven. In Acts, the apostles were visited by tongues of fire. Is it any coincidence that the tongue was the vehicle of the Spirit’s fire? I don’t think so. Can we at the same time praise the Lord and curse our brother through bitter sarcasm? James asserts that it is impossible when he says that a fountain can not simultaneously send forth bitter and fresh water. The bitter water of sarcasm cannot flow from our mouth with the fresh water of praise and encouragement. Do we use sarcasm to encourage? Absolutely not. Sarcasm often arises out of personal insecurities. If we tell the truth, will we be accepted or cast out? It arises also out of bitterness, resentment, and unforgiveness.
I can’t believe that I waited so long to confront the issue of sarcasm in my life. Now, I think and pray before I speak. I still make tons of mistakes and put my foot in my mouth quite often. But I am much more aware and have been tremendously humbled in my puerile verbal condition. I found myself today wanting to hide behind sarcasm when I needed to call a co-worker out on his inappropriate comments. Instead, I discarded the sarcasm and spoke the truth. I am still working on the love part, but when he said, “I thought you gave up sarcasm,” I responded with, “I did.” He was taken aback when he realized I was serious. But I expressed my true feelings and evoked a change in communication that will forever change my relationships. Hopefully, it will continue to come out of a transformed heart. Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks. I pray that my heart is never filled with bitterness, cynicism, and biting hatred. But I want my speech to be overflowing with love, compassion and mercy.
My sarcasm fast will go far beyond the period of Lent into my practice into every day communication for the rest of my life. I am so thankful for this life-changing Lent season.

Friday, March 6, 2009

My Grace is Sufficient

I've come too far to turn back now,
Freedom tastes too sweet.
You've brought me to this abundant place,
Through your overflowing mercy and great grace.
But you are now taking me deeper, higher
To uncharted and foreign heights.
Do I have faith for the next step?
Do I have strength for this new weight?
You say, "that is the perfect question, my princess.
You don't have the strength, but I do.
My grace is always sufficient for you."
My Lord, I cannot do it.
It is too terrifying and strenuous.
"No, child, you can't, but I can.
My perfect love will drive out your fear if you give it to me.
Come forth and arise,
as my Word and Spirit beckon,
And my grace will be fully, always sufficient for you."

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Shepherd's Rod and Staff

“ The Lord is my Shepherd to feed, guide, and shield me; I shall not lack…Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23: 1; 4b
“A time is coming, and indeed is already here, when the true and genuine worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth; for the Father is seeking just such a people as these worshippers.” John 4:23

God did it again. He spoke to Andrea and to me in very similar ways today. She is in California, and I am in North Carolina, but the same God is inside of both of us, ministering to our spirits in very similar yet individual ways. He has been revealing to me the power of His word and the comfort of His Spirit. He took me to 2 Timothy 3, where He says that “Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for instruction, reproof, and conviction of sin, for correction of error and discipline in obedience and for training in righteousness.” He has continuously been showing me the important of His Spirit’s presence in my life as well as the importance of the truth of His word. These tools work together to help me to worship Him fully with my life. Often, believers either place too much emphasis on ritual, tradition, and dry reliance on the Word of God without understanding the role of the Spirit. On the flip side, however, some believers over-emphasize the work of the Spirit to the neglect of God’s written word.
Andrea texted me tonight, saying that she felt that the Spirit was ministering to her from Psalm 23. As she was praying the fourth verse, instead of rod and staff, she found herself praying “Word and Spirit”. She was exactly right. I quickly postponed my study of Isaiah and looked up Psalm 23, focusing on the cross-references for the two tools of the Shepherd. I also sought to understand the Hebrew definitions of these two terms. I was not too surprised that the rod is indeed God’s word and that the staff is His Spirit. This understanding gives me a whole new picture of the Lord as the good Shepherd. I shall not want because He equips me on two fronts. My mother has an age-old copy of the book by Philip Keller, “A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23.” Keller provided me with amazingly helpful insights in understanding the rod and the staff. The rod is carved by the Shepherd and becomes virtually a part of His own arm. He carries very little as he accompanies his flock into the pasture: only His rod and his staff. The rod is a symbol of the Word of God, which carries great strength, power, and authority. It is also used as a tool to discipline and correct wayward sheep. He uses it to draw them back to His fold. As it corrects, it also provides constant comfort. Just like the rod is an extension of the shepherd’s hand, it is an extension of God’s spoken word, as a projection of God’s mind. It serves as a tool of discipline, not for arbitrary display of authority, but to keep the sheep from consuming poisonous weeds. The shepherd also uses the rod to examine and count the sheep. It helps His to be more intimately acquainted with the sheep, just as He uses the word as a mirror to reveal to His fold its true image. Finally, it provides protection from danger. One of the rod’s greatest purposes is to be a weapon. We know that the Word is a weapon with which we fight the enemy. We use the word to fight the enemy’s accusations. Without the word, we are sitting sheep that will inevitably become prey to the wolf that seeks to devour our souls and lives.
The staff works in conjunction with the rod. It represents the Spirit in the form of comfort. Though the word offers correction, the Spirit is the great Comforter. This Comforter is characterized by longsuffering and kindness. It is a slender rod that has a hook on the end. This hook is used to gently prod the sheep. It guides the sheep on the right path, but the sheep know that the presence of the hook pressing on their side represents the presence and comfort of the shepherd. We know that the presence of the Spirit’s hook on us is indeed comforting and wonderfully assuring. The hook’s second role is to reach out and catch individual sheep to draw them close to the shepherd. I have felt this hook frequently in my life, as I have followed paths that have led to danger. The Lord catches me with the hook of His Spirit and pulls me back to His side.
I am so thankful for the presence of the Shepherd’s rod and staff. Without both tools, I would be without direction and fall prey to the enemy’s attacks. The Lord is my Shepherd, and I will not want. All I need is His rod and His staff. As a true worshipping sheep, I can recognize God in Spirit form and in the form of the truth of His word. In this balance, I can rest assured that only goodness, mercy, and unfailing love shall follow me all the days of my life. I can walk through the valley of the shadow of death and fear no evil. Nothing can stand against the power of His Word and the comfort of His Spirit. In these I am whole and at peace.