Monthly Archives: March 2012

Greek Yogurt and Discipline

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I have decided to revamp my diet. Two reasons: I’m finding that certain foods are starting to trigger migraines and an upset stomach in me that didn’t before and I really should eat better. Oh, and my butt isn’t fitting into my summer clothes. So, three reasons.

Now, what I am getting rid of is mainly aspartame and monosodium glutamate (MSG). I never realized how much aspartame and MSG is in everything! I even had to change the yogurt I was eating. Everyone was talking about how uber fab Greek yogurt was: lots of protein, no preservatives, no aspartame… so I thought, sign me up!

You are what you eat

When you have to stretch your neck to get a food down, it’s not a good sign.

Enter Discipline

I know my over-sweetened taste buds need to be re-educated and Greek yogurt is good for me and I should be eating it—not Cap’n Crunch cereal, which is what I really want. I also know that making these changes takes time and a “walking it out” mentality. Any practice worth doing takes practice.

And additional fruit.

My human nature loves the easy fix. I want things to just happen or change—when I’m ready and in my time. I don’t want there to be process or practice or pain. That’s sucky. But that’s life and that’s how true change happens.

I was reading a blog by Rick Warren (I know, what’s happening to me. I’m embracing the “popular Christian” and it’s actually speaking to me… Blame God.) Warren points out that people who are self-disciplined:

  • Master their moods (Proverbs 25:28)
  • Watch their words (Proverbs 13:3)
  • Restrain their reactions (Proverbs 19:11)
  • Stick to a schedule (Ephesians 5:15-16)
  • Manage their money ((Proverbs 21:20)
  • Maintain their health (1 Thessalonians 4:4)

ALL things I need to do better, by the way. But how do I cultivate self-discipline? (Did that sound whiny? Yeah, it was). I can master my will by yielding it to Christ’s. Now that may seem counter intuitive—shouldn’t discipline come by sucking it up and getting it done? Don’t I need to dig deep, act like I got a pair and just do it?  No, because that hasn’t worked for me for the last 40 years maybe I should change my game plan for the next 40.

Galatians 5 talks about living in freedom through the Spirit and His power.  Verse 16 sums it up: Let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves.

Today I yield. It may seem silly but I need to consciously choose the Holy Spirit. To wake up each day and say, I am Yours. Guide my desires. And break my will if need be.

So hand me a spoon (and some strawberries), I have yogurt to eat.

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I’m not that brave…

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Most of you know that I love WonderWoman.

She’s my alter ego.

And when I think of myself spiritually, I pretty much see this:

How I see my spiritual self

How I see my spiritual self

But this last week, I was wondering (realizing?) that maybe I actually look this:

How I really am spiritually

This week, while reading one of my devotionals, I read about a demonized man in Galilee. Brother was running amuck, naked and homeless, “living” among the tombs of Gerasenes. And the truth dawned on me: I would never seek this kind of person out. Oh, I’d talk about it and I’d encourage you to do it but I’m pretty sure I’d sit that one out.

Well, that’s a pisser. One minute I’m WonderWoman of the Faith and the next Wimpy McWimperson. Awesome. I was frustrated, sad, and repentant throughout the week but I still KNEW that I’d never be that brave like Jesus was—I’m all talk.

Come Sunday

One of my favorite people spoke. Maggie Mraz is the pastor of the Bull City Vineyard (BCV) and I adore her. She is real, she loves Jesus and she loves people. As is God’s way, He had something for me: Maggie preached on the demonized man of Gerasenes and also talked about her journey planting a church in downtown Durham.

I encourage you to listen to her because it is damn good God stuff: Extreme Nature of the Power of God to Change the Life of a Person.

What I walked away with was this: God doesn’t want nor need me to be brave, He desires me to be obedient.

During her talk, Maggie asked how a white suburban housewife starts a black church in downtown Durham, North Carolina. She doesn’t. She didn’t seek that out—she heard the call to plant a church in Durham. That’s it. She obeyed and God decided who to bring.

Maggie describes her “friends” (what she affectionately calls those who attend BCV) as the addicted, the uneducated, the felon, the homeless, the poor, the broken and for the most part, black. In fact, one of her friends (Johnny) even said, “God must be doin’ somethin’ because, Pastor, you’re a white woman.” And Johnny’s right–that’s still a big deal in South where we live. (I think it’s a big deal regardless of where you live but anyway…)

And the key to her success isn’t a great church model or administration skills; it isn’t all the support she’s gotten because to be honest, she hasn’t gotten a ton. And it isn’t her bravery. She is simply obedient.

She prays. She listens. She obeys. And Jesus moves.

I need to stop wanting to be the ass-kicker of God and desire to be the obedient child of God because it is only in that place that I can truly achieve the Kingdom things I desire.

To do this, I will need to walk in obedience, not bravery. It is here that lives are changed by His presence (not mine); where others are loved well and deeply and right where they are (even if it makes me uncomfortable); where our enemy is defeated and cast out from His presence (because He is awesome, not because I am so tough and brave).

Right now my obedience comes from trusting but soon it will grow and I will obey because I have built the discipline to do so. But discipline takes time. So if anyone needs me, I will be at the place where it is found: His feet.

Michael Jackson and Jesus

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Last night, much to my teen daughter’s * delight * we watched the Michael Jackson movie This is It. And I loved the trip down memory lane where the Jackson 5 glittered my childhood with happy songs and Michael came into his own in my teen years making me dream of emotional boys who’d sing to me someday.

Now, many of you have your opinions of MJ, and while I love you more than my luggage, I don’t care what they are. I loved him. But can we agree on some things:

  • He was talented
  • He was troubled
  • He was used

As I watched the movie last night I was struck by his handsome face so altered by plastic surgery, his frail form, his inability to catch his breath at times… It actually angered me to watch these people around him sing his praises and yet all seemed to ignore how sick he was. Did they not see? Or were they so enraptured with Michael Jackson: The Legend they didn’t see the man?

As I pondered this I was reminded that my loving God was neither impressed by nor turned off by the King of Pop. Jesus saw the man who held inside a wounded and exploited child and a broken, lost adult. And He loved him.

Jesus will take anybody.

I had a friend once tell me his biggest issue with Jesus is that He’ll take anybody. It’s true. Jesus didn’t bleed out on the shame of the cross so we could decide gets to come to the mercy seat—He died once, for all, no restrictions, no strings attached. All who come to Him get accepted. Period. You may not like but it ain’t about you, kitten. (Well, it is because you couldn’t get in if it were up to you no matter how great you are.)

Did Michael Jackson die “knowing” Jesus? I don’t know. Christian singer Andre Crouch would say yes. But I do think he lived without Him. And that makes me sad.

We as Christians are so worried about getting people in the gate of Heaven that I wonder if we are missing the point. Jesus died to restore us to the Father in THIS life as much as in the next. Jesus offers peace, restoration, and comfort in this lifetime. And the fruit of His spirit in our lives is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Who doesn’t want more of that?!

The point of this blog isn’t necessarily about Michael Jackson per se. He wasn’t in my realm of influence but I do have people in my life that could really use more of Jesus. And the only way they get that is through me loving them (not witnessing or pointing out their flaws).  Jesus said y’all would know I’m His by my love.

So, I’m listening to Michael Jackson music today and asking Jesus to give me a heart that LOVES the people He puts in my life—no matter how odd they are or uncomfortable they make others (or me). I want to love like He loves—and that is hard but if I have His spirit in me and trust Him to lead me, He will give it to me.

Love God, love others and shake your body down to the ground!

The Chronicles of All Your Choices

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Oh, Chronicles. I know some of us avoid the Old Testament because we think it isn’t relevant or it’s just too hard to get through or boring blah blah blah but I think that’s one, a cop out, and two, wrong—we can learn a lot about the character of our Father in the OT. (And btw, how would you feel if your entire life history was used as living example of how to—and not to—live for God? Yeah, I cringe at the idea so the least we can do is learn from those who have been so “blessed” to be chronicled.)

Anyway, I was perusing Chronicles (you know, because that’s just how I roll) and was really moved by God’s heart in 1 Chronicles 17. David goes to the prophet Nathan and says, “I’m living in this awesome palace and God is living in a tent. I should totally build God a house!” The Ark of the Covenant was how God dwelled with His people at this time and the Ark had been traveling with the people (as He commanded), moving from one place to another.

Nathan says, “Mkay, sounds good to me, God’s with you, make it happen.”

God, however, went to Nathan and said, “Not so fast…”

This chapter is NOT God handing Nathan and David their collective arses, it IS, however, a sweet insight into our Father’s love. David’s heart was completely in the right place—and God always looks at the heart. He didn’t chastise David for his desire (or the fact that he didn’t go to Him first and ask). In fact, God shows David who He is—HIS heart for His people.

There are great “remember who I am” moments:

God also followed protocol: David went to Nathan (God’s spokesperson, who also didn’t ask God if this house-building thing was a go) so God went to Nathan and told him “tell David this…”

God then blows everyone’s mind and tells David that His intent is to build David a house, a “dynasty of kings” that will last forever (a reference to Jesus).

David’s response is so good and right:

Then King David went in and sat before the LORD and prayed, “Who am I, O LORD God, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far?  And now, O God, in addition to everything else, you speak of giving your servant a lasting dynasty! You speak as though I were someone very great, O LORD God!”

David wanted to do something good for God and God turned it around and did something great for David instead.

These chronicles are important because in a few chapters, David is going to seriously peeve God off and get some necessary discipline. However, because of these moments, these God stories, David knows who his God is and trusts that even in discipline, who He is doesn’t change!

I encourage you to go in and sit before the Lord and pray today. He has so much to tell you about who He is! And when you know the heart of your Father, it makes everything else come into a right perspective.

baby dedications and the Eucharist meet my pissy attitude

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I woke up about 15 minutes before church started yesterday. Ok, that’s not true, I woke up hours before it started and refused to get out of bed. It was a baby dedication Sunday and * sigh * I just loathe them. I know, I’m a terrible person.

I spent the morning justifying why I should be able to get to stay in bed. And all He said was, “I have something for you there.” Now, hear me when I say this, when He speaks it is always in love. I may have a sassy mouth and pissy attitude, however HE does not. He states the truth and lets me respond.

Fine. I’ll go…

There’s on time and then there’s Vineyard time, so I was only a couple minutes late. I came in, sat down, greeted my beloved church family with waves and smiles, and then I saw the communion table. Ugh.

I’m just not in a “right” place to take it today, I announce to Him in my head.

Worship was great and the baby dedication began (enter eye roll here). Try as I might, I got caught up in the babies. So sweet and jabbery; I get totally sucked-in in spite of myself. As I was scanning the crowd in front of me (because you know I was sitting in the back third), I caught the smiling face of someone and was overwhelmed by sadness.

He showed me the sad heart behind the smiling face of a woman in our congregation. This baby dedication is hard on her and her hurt and sadness makes our God very sad. To be shown, trusted, with an insight into God’s heart or the heart of one of His beloved is a precious gift and honor. And while I can be a brat, I do take it seriously when He shows me something.

I am unworthy to know such things. Please forgive my attitude. I will pray… but I’m still not taking communion.

 Then our message was on the Eucharist. You can hear it here. It was passionate and gut-wrenchingly honest. It was awesome—and at the end, I was the first one at the table.

After church, another friend told me the thing he had asked prayer for God moved in speed to deal with that week. He thanked me for praying (like I said, I really am good for it).

And off we all went to finish our weekends.

The Point

God is faithful. I mean, I obeyed going to church but we all know I was pissy about it. And even in the midst of my attitude, He still came through on what He said: I have something for you. He had something to show me, something to teach me and something to encourage me. And I didn’t deserve a damn one of them. Thankfully, this faith thing is about Him and His character, not me and mine.

His heart is ALWAYS that He would rather love me than “teach me a lesson” (even if I deserve it). His love is so deep that He would rather have me (even if I am being pissy and stubborn) than not at all.

Oh, and here is the other kicker. Had I chosen to stay home, He’d have stayed with there too. I’d have missed out on what He wanted to share with me but I would NOT have been withheld His presence.

He is so, so good.

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?

Romans 8:31-32

Poor neglected blog

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A friend of mine recently asked me why I stopped blogging. I had all sorts of excuses but no real good reason for him. And now that I have a job that is all about blogging, I’m living with the conviction daily that I’m neglecting my own personal writing. This is the refreshing, the renewing, if you will.

Luckily, I firmly believe that it is never too late to turn around and change directions. So, we’re making a left turn kids and heading back to the land of Stephanie, where we talk about Jesus and parenting and you get to hear me call the devil an asshole. Although I should work on that… (but, seriously? He really is one…)

Buckle up, darlings. The fun is about to begin (again)!