Wit & Wisdom, part 4

Tony is always saying “You can do it!” During one of the ab exercises, he says: “You can do it and if you can’t, we all can tell!” Too true – this is a difficult exercise and I feel stronger as I do more reps.

Sometimes when we don’t spend enough time alone with God, everyone can tell. We have less patience, love and kindness, among other things. After Moses had spent time with God, his face glowed. I’m sure my face has never glowed after time with him, but I know my patience level is often higher, and there’s evidence of other fruit of the Spirit too. Communion with God aligns our will with his and helps us focus on what’s important. It helps us be more responsive to the Holy Spirit and gives us a different perspective.

Jesus said we are to let our light shine. Spending time with him is the best way to keep it bright. If you don’t, we all can tell!

Wit & Wisdom, part 3

When I do the exercise designed to take care of that little extra around the middle, Tony says he will get rid of it for me. If that’s true, why am I the one sweating so much? But he’s only showing the way. I have to do the work.

Many Christians make the mistake of believing that even though we are saved by grace through faith, we are still obligated to work for salvation. Why can’t we let grace be what it is – unconditional, unmerited pardon, with no strings attached? If we still have to do our part then it’s not grace. Grace means complete forgiveness, with no more for us to do. For some reason, maybe pride, we have trouble accepting such an incredible gift. Perhaps it makes us feel better to believe we might be smart, good or strong enough to do this for ourselves.

Unlike Tony, who can’t get rid of love handles for anyone, Jesus really has done everything for us. He did it all – we do nothing, except accept the gift of grace.

Wit & Wisdom, part 2

During one of the exercises, Tony says he doesn’t use weights even though he could because he wants to be like us. If he did I might be intimidated. And it’s true, I don’t use weights – the routine is hard enough, at least so far.

Jesus came to earth to be like us. He was God but he was also fully human (hard to understand but true). One of my favorite places in the Bible is Philippians 2 that says even though Jesus was God he didn’t hold on to being God. He became a human, with all that goes with it.

When Jesus was arrested, Peter tried to come to his defense by cutting off the ear of a guard. As he healed the ear, Jesus said he could have called legions of angels at any time but he didn’t. He could have blown everyone away with just a breath, but he humbled himself, submitting to the human experience, including death. He gave us the perfect example of living in the Spirit and being empowered by the Spirit while being completely human. Jesus showed us the way to live in total trust and dependence on his Father. What an amazing thing he did, when he emptied himself of his divinity to be just like us.

Wit & Wisdom

Part of my exercise routine is doing a Tony Little ab work out. You may have seen him on infomercials. He makes me laugh but sometimes what he says makes sense and even expresses a bit of spiritual wisdom. I call it the Wit & Wisdom of Tony Little. During one stretching exercise he tells me: only go as far as you can go. I always reply, well of course I’m only going to go as far as I can go. I can’t go as far as someone else!

He’s right – we often make the mistake of comparing ourselves to others. But doesn’t the Bible tell us not to do that, and not to try to be someone we’re not? We’ve each been given our own unique gifts and I know from experience it’s best to work in my area of giftedness and not try to work outside. I’m not saying stretching isn’t good because it is and helps us grow. Even when I work out I always try to stretch farther, but I know I’m just not good at some things.

So thanks for the reminder, Tony, to only go as far as I can go – and not try to be what I’m not.

“We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise” (2 Corinthians 10:12, NIV).

A sacrifice of praise

I wrote this poem on 4/20/01 at the Springs, as a sacrifice of praise to God.
“Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name” (Hebrews 13:15, NIV).

The greatest gift
The greatest love
Was given to me
By God above

The greatest joy
The greatest peace
Comes from my God
Who died for me

What can I say
What can I give
To the One
For whom I live?

I’ll give my life
I’ll follow you
You’ll be my Lord
My Way, my Life, my Truth.

Take a big drink

Too many of us subsist spiritually throughout the year on little sips of Living Water. Through NEWIM I’ve been blessed to attend the Springs silent retreat many times during the last 13 years, where I get to drink big. Last week I spent 48 hours (minus time for sleep, but that was welcome too) with God. It was glorious to sit at his feet, with no distractions – no phone, computer, TV, household responsibilities, nothing but resting in his presence.

I read a great book during that time: Is Your Lord Large Enough? How C.S. Lewis Expands Our View of God by Peter J. Schakel. Through many of Lewis’ thoughts and writings, he challenges our perceptions of God. In A Grief Observed, Lewis said “we need constantly to smash the images we form of God, so they can expand into new and larger ones. If we do not, our image of God will turn into an idol, that is, into a solidified idea that we worship instead of worshiping the living God. if we allow it, God will begin breaking those images for us. God, says Lewis, is the great iconoclast – the great image breaker. God will show us where our images are limited and inadequate – through our experiences, our thinking and our contacts with new ideas and other people, especially ideas and people different from those with which we are most familiar.” I realized this has been the theme of my life for the last 17 years and I’m thankful for it.

When we take a big drink of Living Water as I did recently, it’s good to know it’s fresh water. It’s not ice – a solidified image to worship. As it flows in and through us, it renews us and helps us grow. Living Water – the Holy Spirit – pushes on the boundaries of our thinking and helps us get to know more of who God really is. The big gulp was great, but I’m thankful for little sips and small drinks too – it’s all refreshing.

Learn, grow, change

When I first started working out to my favorite exercise DVD, I had to practice the moves over and over to get them right. I would watch the leader and adjust my movements if I realized I was doing something incorrectly. Like a lot of people who begin exercise programs, I stopped. Well, you know how it is, I took some trips, went through a bout with bronchitis and just never got back to it. If you’ve read my other posts from this year, you know I started up again. At my age, exercise isn’t an option, it’s a necessity. So when I began that same routine, I had to start slowly and work up to speed. I noticed I had to adjust all over again to certain movements, as I had forgotten exactly what to do.

In our spiritual lives, we sometimes have to do the same thing – adjust our ideas and behavior when we discover we’re doing something wrong. The other day I snapped at someone. I didn’t stop to think before opening my mouth and immediately regretted it. But I realized it was a good thing in that it helped me make some adjustments. Sometimes we have to make adjustments in how we look at verses in the Bible too – we can think we know what they say and/or mean, but we have to be open to new understanding from the Holy Spirit who teaches and leads us into all Truth – to Jesus, who is Truth.

Being a believer doesn’t necessarily mean we have everything figured out. Reading the Bible once or even a hundred times doesn’t make us experts. We are told to grow in grace and knowledge, which makes me think we should be careful not to think we know everything. Learning is an open ended, lifelong process. There are times we must let go of what we think is set-in-stone understanding and be open to the Holy Spirit and how he wants us to grow. There’s no DVD to follow, but there is a Shepherd to follow and he does know everything.

More signs of Spring

Along with the good comes the bad – side by side in my garden, pretty flowers and weeds. I’m one of those rare California birds who actually does her own yard work so today found me outside mowing, edging, trimming, weeding and spraying even more weeds. It’s amazing how many weeds can grow in one small yard. I did have fun using my weed sprayer, especially on some errant Bermuda grass. I hate that stuff!

When we lived in Arizona, I tried unsuccessfully to keep the Bermuda grass out of my flower beds. I used to have nightmares about what I dubbed “devil grass.” I was told if you covered  your whole yard in black plastic, Bermuda grass would grow under it until it found a hole and it would come up and stick out its tongue at you. I can’t help but think of sin when I’m pulling out devil grass. We are never free from it, and even when we think we are, it lies in wait for an opportunity to reach out and grab us.

Paul put it so well in Romans 8 when he said, “When I want to do good, I don’t. And when I try not to do wrong, I do it anyway” (verse 19, NLT). “Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord” (verses 24-25). Thank God for his amazing grace that completely covers our sins. I just hope my weed spray works half as well.

Where’s my focus?

I’ve been wearing progressive lens eyeglasses for a few months. It took a couple of weeks to adjust to seeing through three different areas of focus. If you wear them you understand. Even though I’m pretty comfortable with them now, I still sometimes lose my focus. Every now and then as I look at something I have to move my head and eyes all around to find the clear spot and I wonder what’s up with that?

We can lose our focus spiritually too. We can become sidetracked into areas that really aren’t important and have nothing to do with salvation or living a godly life. Our focus needs to remain solely on Jesus, who brings love and grace to us through the Holy Spirit, as we give our praise to God the Father. Remember, the plain things are the main things and the main things are the plain things.

Let’s keep our focus on Jesus, even if we have to occasionally adjust our line of sight, or rather, let the Holy Spirit adjust our line of sight. It’s best left to him.

Is anyone more merciful than God?

One day last week I skipped a workout. This was on a day when I had planned to exercise, but my energy level was low and I just didn’t really want to do it. This week, due to my yearly trek to downtown LA to work at Staples Center during March Madness, I will miss several days. But as I said in an earlier post, I’m not going to feel guilty or beat myself up. I’m also not going to use the few days off as an excuse to stop. I’ve done that before and called it inertia.

When I mess up, I’m usually merciful to myself (and good at rationalizations). When our good intentions go awry or we make a mistake, we quickly justify our action or inaction. We often don’t give others the same latitude. We judge and criticize and wonder what’s wrong with them, and we incorrectly project our attitude onto God. Those who don’t understand much about God think he is always looking for opportunities to punish us. But do we love ourselves more than God? The One  who created us is not less merciful than we are; he doesn’t love us less than we love ourselves or our children or friends/family. I can’t remember who said it, but I read somewhere the theology of many doesn’t allow God to love us more than we love our children.

The truth is God loves us more than we love ourselves, our spouses, children, parents and God himself! We love poorly and conditionally – he loves perfectly and unconditionally. I’m going to get back to my workouts next week and while I’m sweating it out, I’ll be praising God for his love that keeps me going.