Posts Tagged With: bible

A Gift Of Freedom Gold Can’t Buy

october15     October 15th is always a day that carries with it the light and dark of so many past Octobers. It’s a day that He makes all things new, a day of beginnings, of healing, of fulfilled promises, and of learning what it means to be held.

This is what it is to be loved and to know
That the promise was that when everything fell
We’d be held

-Natalie Grant “Held”

Ten years ago today I left the hospital after a two-week stay, and my Dad boarded a plane with me to Wickenburg, Arizona, where he dropped me off at an eating disorder treatment center in the middle of the desert. Even though this was just one of several places that came to be a temporary home during the roughly four years of my treatment, it was the most significant. I walked through those doors in fear, feeling as if I’d made a huge mistake in agreeing to go there, and begging my Dad not to leave without me. But during my almost 3 month stay, while I did not find an immediate cure, I did come to 3 new and very important things: hope for a life beyond my illness, a personal relationship with Jesus, and the choice to live. It had been years since I’d dreamed of living past my 20th birthday, and a life of freedom was completely incomprehensible.

I had left college two weeks before arriving in Arizona, when I finally realized that if I stayed any longer I was going to die. But being scared of dying, and choosing life are not mutually inclusive thoughts. I lingered somewhere in the middle where I could no longer handle the miserable existence I was creating for myself, but the highest my aspirations went was for an existence more manageable and just slightly less miserable.

I was devastated that my choice must include abandoning my Big Ten college volleyball team in the middle of the season and walking away from everything I had worked so hard for for years. Even though I told my coaches I’d be back in the Spring, I think I knew deep down that I had played my last game, that I was surrendering all my dreams. But I also knew that I couldn’t hope to play professionally overseas after college if I couldn’t even make it through college. And if I was really being honest with myself, playing wasn’t even fun anymore. After all, I was at that point a state and national champion, and a starter on my college team as a freshman, and I couldn’t even enjoy that because I was too busy berating myself for any imperfections. I couldn’t enjoy the sport I loved because I was too preoccupied in my own head in this other game that demanded all my attention and energy. It was devastating. And being in treatment, living amongst strangers who knew nothing of my athletic pursuits was the first time I had to actually find an identity in something other than being an athlete. I didn’t know who I was, or what my likes and dislikes were, or strengths and weaknesses outside of sports. As uncomfortable as shedding that persona was, it was time to find out who I really was, and who I was to my Creator.

grain of sand

That time in the desert was the biggest turning point of the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life- recover. Every single day was like visiting the battlefield in my civil war of one. But when I got back on a plane to head home in January, I was unrecognizable from the person I was on October 15th.

This is where the healing begins,
This is where the healing starts
When you come to where you’re broken within
The light meets the dark

-Tenth Avenue North “Healing Begins”

That was where my healing began. That was where His light met my dark.

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October 15th is a day of beginnings. A day to cherish life and health and new chapters, and a day of promises fulfilled.

Four years ago today I met the man that is as much of a soulmate as one can be, if that kind of thing even exists. He fulfilled a promise made to me by God. You may think that sounds silly. How could God have promised such a thing to me? I’d argue that God made promises to those in the Bible who were also just ordinary human beings, and he made promises to humanity as a whole. He’s the same God today as He was then, so why wouldn’t he still be in the business of making and fulfilling promises? If you’re curious, you can visit the link above and discover what I am referring to, but if not you’ll just have to trust me.

Nonetheless, October 15th once again was a turning point in my life. It was the first day of the best 4 years of my life thus far. I am so blessed and grateful to have a partner in life that was seemingly appointed by heaven itself. Someone who anchors me, encourages me, challenges me to grow continuously, and loves me without condition.

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October 15, 2011 found me unrecognizable from the person I was on October 15, 2005. And while October 15, 2015 carries with it my resemblance to the person from 2011, I am once again not the same. This year finds me stronger, braver, and with a bit more wisdom after a few more years under my belt.

Looking back, I can see that all along, I was being held. There were times in the Arizona desert and throughout my treatment that I felt the miraculous presence of God, receiving immediate undeniable answer to prayer, in a way in which no mere “coincidence” could provide explanation. And there were other times of prayer throughout the years when my knees hit the ground and I felt largely unheard. But some of those times, I found in His time, not mine, that he did answer after all. He always answers. We just aren’t always patient enough to listen.

One day I asked God for a sign. As I was driving, I asked Him to give me the biggest hawk I’ve ever seen as I round the next curve on that 2 lane country road. To just place one right in the middle of the road as I come around the corner, as confirmation that I was on the right path. I didn’t get my hawk that day.

image source: ejphoto.com

image source: ejphoto.com

A year and a half later I went home after taking my College Algebra final exam, evidence of tears of joy still glistening on my cheeks as I secured an A in the one subject that challenges me, and the one class I didn’t dare believe I could get through without damaging my GPA. I immediately jumped out of the car, changed shoes, and jumped on one of my horses bareback, feeling a rush of peacefulness and pure joy wash over me. I took him into the woods, and rounded a curve just beyond the mouth of the trail. I had to hold in a gasp that almost escaped my lips before I could catch it, because a dozen or so feet in front of me, perched on a branch jutting out over my path was a red-shouldered hawk- by far the biggest I’ve ever seen in person. He turned and looked at me, his steel gaze piercing right through me, and held it for what seemed like an eternity. Time stood still. He stayed for probably no more than 20 seconds, but 20 seconds in a staring contest with a bird of prey, close enough to count his feathers, while sitting atop a large animal who doesn’t want to stand still is a really long time.

It was one of those moments in my life many would chalk up to coincidence, or not even think twice about. But for me, in that moment I just knew. I knew God was finally responding in a way that He knew I would recognize. It was just an acknowledgement of what I at times have begged Him for- confirmation that I’m doing okay, that I’m moving in the right direction, that He is still holding me.

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Why do I share all this? Why do I publicly reflect on the meaning of landmark Octobers and answered prayers? Why take you back a decade to a different lifetime that seems more like memories of a movie I watched about someone else’s life, than the one I actually lived myself?

Because I feel the responsibility that comes from having known darkness, yet finding redemption. The responsibility to be a voice and an example. If one person might see this and may find hope that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and that things really can get better then I need to be here to say it.

Because there is hope. Because you’re not alone. Because after 7 years of being recovered, I can tell you that my absolute worst day, amplified, is still worlds away from my best day with anorexia and bulimia. Because even though sometimes choosing life is the hardest thing you will ever have to do, it is worth every single second.

Maybe you’re struggling with that choice. Maybe you’ve made it but don’t even know how to start picking up the pieces. Well know this: I found my life when I laid it down. Maybe you can too.

image source: spiritualgym.tumblr.com

image source: spiritualgym.tumblr.com

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Categories: Mental Health and Recovery, Spirituality and Faith | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

According to Your Faith

”The Bible says in Matthew 9:29 “According to your faith it will be done unto you.” That’s one of my favorite verses in the Bible. What are you expecting God to do in your life? This is the law that God has established. It’s called the Law of Expectation. The fact is, we tend to get what we expect out of life. We tend to see what we expect to see. We tend to hear what we expect to hear. We tend to feel the way we expect to feel. We inevitably accomplish what we expect what we’re going to accomplish. This is the law of faith. God says you get to choose. Because “According to your faith it will be done unto you.”

– Rick Warren

Image

christianphotoshops.com

Jesus talked a lot about faith in his time on Earth, and examples of its power go back to the beginning of the Old Testament. We are told that with faith the size of a mustard seed we could tell a mountain to move from here to there and it would move, and nothing shall be impossible for us (Matthew 17:20), and that if we tell a mountain to be taken up and cast into the sea, it shall happen (Matthew 21:21). Jesus healed people, and told them it was their faith that made them well (Mark 10:52), and again we are reminded of what we can accomplish, that we can do all things through Christ who gives us strength (Philippians 4:13). All things, not some things, but all. After all, if God is for us, who can be against us (Romans 8:31)? We can walk through life re-assured, because greater is He who is in us, than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4), and no weapon formed against us shall prosper (Isaiah 54:17). He wants us to be the head, not the tail, on top, not the bottom (Deuteronomy 28:13).

I declare these verses out loud on the way to work every morning. I declare His blessings and favor over my day and thank Him for already being at the end of the day waiting for me, thanking Him for things He has done before they even play out in my life. In doing this, I notice those blessings pour out and my mood is better, I’m happier and more positive.

When I take a step back and look over my life and how far I’ve come, over the past year, the past two years, five years… I’m amazed at the growth. I’m amazed at where I am today. In many ways I’ve worked very hard to get here, but there are also many situations and blessings that I couldn’t have done anything about, that had to fall into my lap so to speak.

Maybe that’s what faith is about, maybe it means we can’t do everything on our own, but it also means we can’t just sit back and expect God to hand us everything out of thin air. Maybe God helps those who help themselves. Maybe we have to do everything we possibly can, and then when we can’t do anything more, when we are at the end of our abilities and resources, we then lift our gaze to heaven and trust God to do what only He can.

Image     The Secret was a film and best-selling self-help book from 2006 displaying the power of thought and the law of attraction. Everything we could want or ask for we can attract through our daily thoughts and focus. If we think positive, we attract positivity. If we have a negative outlook, more negativity comes our way. This can be life-changing and affect wealth, health, and happiness. What you seek you will find. This concept is based on science and brainwaves and frequencies.

The funny thing is, this scientific concept, this eye-opening phenomenon that grabbed the attention of millions, has been around for a couple thousand years.

 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” -Matthew 7:7

     It’s funny how today we see things as either science or religion, one or the other, right or left, yes or no. Maybe it’s both. In Rob Bell’s video “Everything is Spiritual” he suggests the answer is simply, “Yep.” It’s both.

“Is it science or is it religion?”

“Yep.”

       Maybe we have more control over our lives than we think. We can do more and go farther than our circumstances suggest. Maybe what it takes is faith. Faith, backed with a humility as mentioned in Matthew 18:2-4, to be child-like, humble and teachable, without pride or haughtiness. To know that we can’t do it on our own, that we need Him, and then believe that He will show up.

      So, will we climb out of the boat we are in, and step out of our comfort zone, onto the crashing waves where Jesus is holding out his hand?

     Will we stand before a giant with just a sling and a stone, surrounded by the sound of a thousand warriors shaking in their armor?

     If we can ignore the world laughing at us and reminding us of all the times we’ve failed, and choose to listen to the voice of truth, maybe we’ll find the stone was just the right size to put the giant on the ground, and the waves don’t seem so high from the top of them looking down. 

Are you walking by faith today?

Categories: Spirituality and Faith | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

By their fruit you will recognize them

Matthew 7:15-23 – A Tree and Its Fruit

 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. BY THEIR FRUIT YOU WILL RECOGNIZE THEM. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. THUS, BY THEIR FRUIT YOU WILL RECOGNIZE THEM.

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prosphesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ “

WHAT KIND OF FRUIT ARE YOU PRODUCING?

I’m sitting here at my kitchen table, a delicious chicken caesar pita filling my tummy, dogs at my feet, with Casting Crowns in the speakers, “Lord this time, I’ll make it right, here at the altar I lay my life. Your kingdom come but my will was done…. This time, Jesus, how can I be sure, I will not lose my follow through between the altar and the door?”

There is a reason the saying, “actions speak louder than words” is such a popular phrase. It’s because it’s easy to say something, to give advice to another, to recommend an option or path, but it’s much harder to follow through with those very things you say. It’s not easy, and it wasn’t meant to be. It’s supposed to be hard and we are warned as Christians that it WILL be hard. I think it’s common to lose our follow through between the altar and the door, and I have been convicted of doing this myself. What good are my words, if my actions don’t follow? What good am I as a disciple of Christ, spreading the gospel, if I don’t follow through? Will anyone believe me? Can they? Can others take me seriously if I proclaim to abandon my life to God’s will, but continue to do things my way? What message am I giving to my brothers and sisters in Christ about what it means to be one?

We cannot say with our mouth we love Jesus, while in between words putting harmful things into that same mouth. Our body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. It does not belong to us, but was bought at a price, a very high price, by our Savior. We cannot acknowledge this and still immerse our bodies and minds in drunkenness. Yes, even Jesus drank wine, and the Bible does not say drinking in itself is a sin, but drunkenness is. Getting hammered every night, to the sloppy point of sending drunken text messages and barely remembering what happened in the morning, is not respectful of our temple. Cigarettes, drugs…

….lies, judgmental words, lofty glances, gossip, hatred, hypocrisy, teasing, etc. Yes, when He let Himself be nailed to a blood soaked cross heavy laden with our sin, he bridged the gap between humanity and Himself, he provided us a way out, a way to be forgiven. If we ask forgiveness, it is done. As he said, “It is finished,” then he hung his head and died. But for one, if we use that as a get-out-of-hell-free card, and then continue to live life our way, do our own will, isn’t it moot? Do we become the “evildoers” Jesus speaks of in Matthew 7:23, as He sends them away? And for two, is that really how we thank our Creator/Redeemer/Healer/Savior/Father?

I hope not.

Yes, we are all human. We fall. A lot. And our Father catches us, as fathers do. But just because we are human and have the tendency to fall, doesn’t mean it’s okay to decide to stay on the ground. He loves us just as we are, yes, but He loves us too much to let us stay that way. And we shouldn’t want to! If we love Him as we say we do, then let us daily strive to better ourselves, to grow towards Him, to let His light fill us from the inside out. If we truly love Him, let us offer our hands and feet, our hearts, our wills and lives.

Is it worth it, to gain the whole world, and lose your soul?

Do others look at you and recognize you as a disciple of Christ because of your fruit?

What fruit are you producing today?

 

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Armor of God and the Jesus patronus

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the Full Armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the Full Armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming missiles of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God. With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints,…”
(The Bible, Ephesians 6:10–18)

Spiritual warfare is real. As real as the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Just like not believing in Satan won’t protect you from him, not believing you’re in the middle of a war won’t keep you from getting shot at. Satan knows our weak points and will attack us in that very spot, twisting the knife, over and over again. He will use those closest to us, our friends, family, and loved ones, to hold the knife and do the twisting, without them even being aware of it. Satan knows the wounds deep in our heart and he is bound and determined to continue the bleeding. Each wound is personal to us, delivered by our childhood, our parents or lack there-of, our experiences…  My personal and not-so-unique female wound is that I am unloveable. That no one will ever choose to be with me and to keep me, that no one will ever fight for me. Satan is relentless in attacking this deep-rooted spot in the recesses of my heart. The evil one knows that is the spot that will hurt me the most severely. And we each have one of these. And only God can provide full healing, only He can make whole and leave not even the slightest scar.

Sometimes I see the demons and evil spirits in this world as the dementors in Harry Potter. They are cloaked, dark, vile, soul-sucking creatures, that deplete the very hope and light and warmth from their surroundings. They lurk, and wait for their chance to devour another soul, to bring someone down, and leave them empty and lifeless inside. Isn’t this exactly what demons do to us? Thinking along these lines, I realized Jesus is my patronus. When the dementors swoop down, sensing weakness, leaving me surrounded and scared and weak and seemingly defenseless… Jesus is THE patronus of light that will surge forth and banish and bind my dementors, sending them running the opposite direction as fast as they can. All I have to do is call on Him. All I have to be able to do is say those words, and ask for Him. Sometimes it may seem like I can’t conjure Him right away, or I can’t quite feel His presence and break through the chill of the demons to let His strength overpower them. I have to be strong. I have to be confident. I have to have faith. I cannot give up, or give in. In this spiritual war, there is no such thing as lying on your back and playing dead, there are no white flags to hold up. They will not be honored if I tried. But with Jesus on my side, the dark ones will run and hide.

1 John 4:4………..”Greater is He that is in me, than he that is in the world.”

Each day I will rise, and put on my God-given armor, I will take my wand in hand, and be secure in the knowledge that my patronus has more power than the world, that He will come through, I believe He will come through.

David had the faith to stand before a giant, with just a sling and a stone. Our God today is the same as David’s God. He is the same today, yesterday, and forever. Equipped with faith, all I need to stand in the midst of this fallen world is His holy name.

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