Archive | March, 2008

What it means to be born again

29 Mar

A couple weeks ago, I went through this period of spiritual doubt. I had a hard time understanding why the Christian life works. Whenever I heard stories about people giving up addictions because Jesus freed them, I thought, “How is Jesus enough for them?” When I hear of people who are going through a rough time of trials and they say they’re hoping in God, I wonder, “How does the knowledge of God aid them in their despair? How is it enough that God is a stronghold? Why does it matter that God cares for me? That I’m released from the bondage of sin? If I’m having a hard day at work and pray to God for strength, how does my prayer really matter? How does it change my circumstances? Why do I need to rely on God? What does relying on God do for me? Is it even possible to do? If I say that I’m relying on God and drawing down strength from Him, does He really do anything for me? Or are those words just a human attempt to make life a little easier, to make hard times a little better, to deceive ourselves that ‘everything is going to work out for our good’ when the dice could really fall either way?”

I guess you could sum up my doubts in one question: “How does my relationship with God affect my life beyond salvation?”

As I was journaling about these thoughts on March 15th, I had been reading Romans 7 where Paul says that we are released from the Law “so that we serve not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit.” And as I pondered that verse, I realized that the key to the Christian life, the thing that makes it “work,” is the Spirit. Without the Spirit, I am the same person before and after conversion. But with the Spirit, I am changed. “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”

My mind was comforted after that revelation given to me through none other than the Spirit. But what brought this again to my attention was something Pastor John Piper said in his sermon called The New Birth Produces Love. This is what he said: “As we enter Holy Week, the aspect of the new birth that I want us to focus on is the fact that new birth creates the connection between God’s love for us and our love for each other. If anyone ever asks, How does the fact that God loves you result in your loving others? The answer is: the new birth creates that connection. The new birth is the act of the Holy Spirit connecting our dead, selfish hearts with God’s living, loving heart so that his life becomes our life and his love becomes our love.”

When I heard Piper say that, it validated my personal Bible study. I wasn’t deluding myself with soothing words and vain hopes. This is true and real. My nature really is changed after conversion and I am enabled to do things I couldn’t do before. The Spirit empowers me to live for Christ, to desire God, to conquer sin, to be loving, to desire godly, eternal things over worldly, temporal things.

This is the hope that we have in Christ: “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1: 13-14)

My idol of thinness

26 Mar

Since my senior year of high school, I have struggled with my weight, body image, and eating habits. Growing up, I was a naturally thin child. I didn’t watch what I ate because I just didn’t think about it. I ate what and how much I wanted and stopped when I was full. It was very simple. I was always a little conscious about my stomach–my biological makeup just deposits more fat there than other places of my body. When I was on danceline in high school, a lot of the girls on my team practiced in just their sports bras. I always wore a shirt. I was always concerned about my stomach at the beach.

But my senior year, one of my good friends starting eating only salads and lost a lot of weight. She didn’t look gross but she was thin. Then my boyfriend at the time went away for the whole summer to be a camp counselor. I didn’t have much going on since I was only working part-time at a drugstore/gift shop. So I started counting calories and exercising everyday (I had never intentionally exercised in highschool but had danceline practice 3 days a week and performances on the weekend). I lost some weight but when I got to college, everything went out the window.

My freshman year of college was characterized mostly by weed and munchies. My roommate Hope and I ate so much food when we got the munchies that sometimes we felt like we couldn’t breathe, we were so full. I never exercised (unless you count walking to class). Needless to say, I gained about 20 pounds, which put me at 155. About the middle of second semester, I decided I wanted to stop eating so much and start exercising (my lifestyle had become unenjoyable). That summer, I started running outside. At first, I could only run one pathetic block. By the fall, I could run 3 miles (on the treadmill).

My sophomore year was when my calorie-counting obsession really took off. I still was smoking weed so I still got the munchies. But during the day, I limited my calories to about 1,200. I went to bed so hungry sometimes that I couldn’t sleep because of the hunger pangs. How I ever did that, I have no idea. I ran on the treadmill at the Rec Center, often admonishing myself for a binge the night before due to weed. I lost all the weight that I had gained my freshman year. My desire to be thin became an obsession and was spurred on by the attention I got from guys.

The next summer, I studied abroad in Venezuela for a month and a half. Pretty much all the food I ate over there went straight through me. So I lost some more weight–getting down to 125. I have realized in the past couple years that for me, that weight is only maintainable when my food ends up in the toilet 30 minutes after I eat it. And that is not a fun life. In Venezuela, I became a Christian. But there were other issues more urgent than my body image–things like sex, alcohol and drugs. So it took a backseat.

I still clung to my idol of thinness throughout my junior year of college, even though the rest of my life changed dramatically. I stopped having sex. I stopped drinking and partying. I finally stopped smoking weed. My binges did not exist anymore but there were still days when I only ate 800 calories out of a desire to be thin. Finally, I recognized in my desire to be thin a desire to be sexy and get attention from guys.

My senior year, I let up on my physical regimen. I felt happy with my weight and treated myself to high-calorie food often. I worked at Noodles and Company the fall of my senior year. Between eating their food and not exercising much, I gained about 10 pounds. None of my pants fit anymore and I felt like a fat blob. I started exercising again and eating healthy. Some of the weight came off but I stayed around 145 for that whole summer.

When I got back from Summer Beach Project (in Myrtle Beach), I started running again. My roommates decided that they were going to train for a 10-mile race, so I joined them. Running was good for me. It kept me on schedule and I really enjoyed it. Because of my increase in appetite, I didn’t lose much weight. But I was in the best shape of my life.

Then, the day before New Year’s Eve, Travis proposed. With the biggest day of my life finally on the calendar, I started eating sensibly. I passed up dessert at my workplace and didn’t eat when I wasn’t hungry–even when people brought free food into work. I abstained from Doughnut Monday. I kept running and weight training as much as I could. And on our wedding day, I was very pleased with how I looked.

I started counting calories again the summer after Travis and I got married. He was gone for 2 weeks in Ghana, Africa, and I passed the time without him (much like that summer before college) by counting calories and exercising. I didn’t lose any weight.

Then we moved to Colorado at the end of August. We hiked a lot when we first got out here and I stopped counting calories. I kept running, though the altitude and hills made running even 2 miles a challenge. I listened to my body’s hunger cues and ate healthy foods. We bought a scale in mid-October and lo and behold, I had lost 10 pounds!

Over the holidays, I ate sensibly and didn’t stuff myself. When I got back to CO, I weighed myself and I had actually lost a pound! But soon after that, I started counting calories again. It started off as an education tool–to get an idea of how many calories I was eating every day. But it became an idol. I was pursuing eating healthy and exercising for my own glory–to lose weight and look good. God didn’t factor into the equation at all.

I went back to MN for my grandpa’s funeral and ate way too much while I was there. I was feeling fat and disappointed in myself but Lindsay, my brother’s girlfriend, told me I looked great and like I had been running a lot, so that made me feel better. But now I have gotten to the point that I don’t want to continue this crazy cycle.

I am sick of eating and exercising and the fear of getting fat (and conversely, the desire to be thin) ruling my life. The apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:12 “All things are lawful, but not all things are beneficial. All things are lawful for me but I will not be enslaved by anything.” I will not be enslaved by my desire to be thin!! As I was reading the Word last night, I saw that my desire to take care of my body should come out of a desire to glorify God in everything I do (1 Cor. 10:31) and to treat my body like the temple of the Holy Spirit that it is (1 Cor. 6:19-20).

I have this vision for my life of eating: that I would be so satisfied in God that food would be a secondary pleasure (rightly so). Overeating is a small attempt at filling a void–being so consumed with physical pleasure that reason is trumped and impulse reigns. Often, my decisions regarding food are made according to my fleshly desires, not my Spirit. But Romans 13:14 says “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” So I am waging war against my idol of thinness. I am no longer counting calories and I am seeking to be mindful of God’s glory–and seeking to not be mindful of my own–when eating and exercising. I will listen to my body and treat it with respect. After all, it is a holy temple. It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me (Galatians 2:20). Therefore, I will not starve or gorge my body but I will give it what it needs. And I will echo the words of my Savior in Proverbs 4:7–“You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you.”

Chocolate, finally!

24 Mar

Yesterday was Easter Sunday, which meant the end of Lent, which meant the end of my chocolate famine. For breakfast at home, I had a Reese’s peanut butter egg. (Yum!) We were supposed to have the new members class at church but they didn’t have it because of Easter (except we didn’t know that) so after we showed up at the church awaiting a bagel and coffee but rather finding empty countertops and an empty classroom, we went to Einstein Bros where I had a chocolate chip bagel with plain lite cream cheese. I didn’t have any chocolate for lunch because we ate with some friends from church but when we got home, Travis gave me my Easter present: an adorably sweet card and a little bar of Toblerone. So I had 3 chunks of that as well. Then I had a Dove milk chocolate with caramel. Travis and I went on a walk after I had attempted to teach English (I drove all the way over there and Alma wasn’t home). Then I read the Bible, took a little nap while Travis went on a little run, and then we had chocolate chip pancakes (which I had been planning for all week). Instead of putting butter and syrup on them, we topped them with blueberries, strawberries, bananas, and some frozen cool whip. They were very chocolatey and very delicious. I am almost chocolated out but not quite. 🙂

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So, you may ask, was giving up chocolate worth it? Did I achieve my desired result with it? Yes and no, respectively. It was worth it because I consumed so many fewer calories over the past month and a half (even though the scale denies that). I felt better not eating so many sweets (because cutting out chocolate cuts out a lot of sweets). And I am still going to limit my chocolate intake only to Sundays (except for today, which is an exception). Why Sundays? Why not Sundays? 

As for achieving my desired result, I look back on the past month and a half and see that instead of running to God amidst my almost uncontrollable cravings for chocolate, I ran to Starbuck’s. Those skinny caramel frappucinos man…they are almost as good as chocolate. I have discovered over the past month of stress at work, stress leads to my overeating. I find comfort in food when I’m stressed because it is a little bit of comfort and goodness in the midst of “ness,” as my boss says. I mean, you can’t really sit in a quiet, dark room doing yoga meditation or take a bubble bath at work. Because unfortunately, you still have to work. 

I gave up chocolate with the hope of increasing my prayer life. But while I didn’t eat chocolate, I didn’t pray either. I don’t know why I am so bad at praying–probably because I live in a small apartment so Travis is always there–but I don’t pray on a regular basis. I get convicted of my lack of prayer often but that conviction usually only translates into one prayer that same day. After that, I fizzle out until my next prayer conviction. Up and down, up and down, my prayer life is on a rollercoaster.

But I realize that I don’t need to give up chocolate during Lent to increase my prayer efforts. Like every other holiday, Easter is just a special one day occasion that has year-round implications. We should always be celebrating and rejoicing over Jesus’ resurrection. And I should always be talking to my heavenly Father through prayer, because Jesus LIVES to intercede to the Father on my behalf. Hallelujah!

Shoddy

21 Mar

Wednesday night, I read my usual readings for the Bible reading plan I’m doing. In Deuteronomy, the Israelites were repeatedly commanded to love the LORD their God with all their heart, with all their soul, and with all their mind. That is a big command. The Israelites were to love God with every fiber of their being, with every breath, thought, and action they had throughout every day. It reminds me of Romans 12:1-2, where Paul talks about offering our bodies (and really, our lives) as living sacrifices to God.

The whole thing convicted me that right now, I’m not living like that. I don’t desire God, I don’t pursue Him, and I don’t seek to live every second of my life for His glory. It sorrows me. But it also brings me hope because I know that through the power of the Holy Spirit, I can get back to the place where I do desire God. I see how I have been being shoddy with God, giving Him my old couches instead of my best, as Pastor Rob Kelly says. I have let everything else in my life take prioirity over God. I have read the assigned readings mostly so that I could check them off my list, not out of a deep desire to know God deeper and more intimately.

So I am going to make a conscious decision to put God first. No more waiting until the last minute to read at night. No more putzing around on the Internet during my lunch break instead of reading. My heart and mind used to soak up knowledge like a sponge. Now it has gone numb through message boards and emails. I long for the days when my passion for God was so intense that I felt it in my soul. I always think of the heroes of the faith like Elisabeth Elliott, John Calvin, Darlene Deibler Rose and Oswald Chambers. How they desired the Lord! I want to desire the Lord like they do.

As I was praying Wednesday night, this song came into my head. This is my prayer for my soul and life right now:

Give me one pure and holy passion
Give me one magnificent obsession
Jesus, give me one glorious ambition for my life
To know and follow hard after You

Chorus:

To know and follow hard after You
To grow as Your disciple in the truth
This world is empty, pale, and poor
Compared to knowing You, my Lord
So lead me on and I will run after You
Lead me on and I will run after You

Catching my breath

17 Mar

So the weeks since my last post have been a complete whirlwind. Work has been absolutely nuts. I go home every day with my brain hurting and my body physically exhausted. It is starting to slow down now, which is great because I can actually do things after work instead of just wanting to crash.

My grandpa died in February but we didn’t have the funeral until March 8th so that my brother Brian could come (he had been in Europe touring with a band called Land of Talk). So Travis and I flew to MN on Thursday and then back to CO on Monday. It was good seeing my family and our friends. We wished we could have stayed longer but Travis only got one day of bereavement leave–crap if you ask me.

Then I’ve been training for this darn half-marathon coming up on May 4th. That’s one of the hardest parts about training for a race–it takes up so much time! (I’m up to 5 miles now). One of the best parts about training for a race is that you get to eat a lot and not feel guilty (a 5-mile run alone burns 560 calories).

I’m also still teaching English to Alma and we have our care group and women’s accountability group. I finally have a busy life in CO! Travis is staying busy as well with care group, men’s accountability, running with me, and getting involved with Engineers Without Borders. He’s thinking about getting involved with the project they’re doing in Madagascar. The trip falls in May so I told him that if he went over our anniversary, I was going to come with. He also went to New Orleans with work and is now planning on going out to Las Vegas to see the site of the project he’s working on.

And good news! I have less than a week left until I can eat chocolate!! I have decided that instead of (or maybe in addition to…) a big sundae smothered in chocolate syrup, what I really want to treat myself to on Easter Sunday is a big stack of chocolate chip pancakes. Mmmmmm… my mouth is watering already.

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Perfect Saturday

2 Mar

Travis and I had a fantastic Saturday yesterday. It was the best day I’ve had in a while.

The morning started a little rough because we got into a tense conversation regarding money (never fails). But once we got through that, it was a great day. We went out to breakfast at Einstein Bros. (where I ate a egg/sausage/cheese bagel sandwich containing approx. 720 calories–seriously, eating out at restaurants is sooo frustrating!) The sandwich was delish though.

Then we went hiking with our friends Paul and Carrie and their 13-month old, Ruby. We hiked almost to the top of Flatiron #2 but the snow and icy conditions (and the fact that Paul was carrying a baby on his back) prevented us from summiting. It was a good hike anyway!

Some more friends, Brandon and Reina, met us at the park and we all had lunch together (Travis and I just ate some chips because we hadn’t brought food and had just eaten breakfast). Paul and Travis threw the frisbee around some and Carrie and I walked Ruby over to the playground.

Travis and I then went to Gateway Park in north Boulder to go mini-golfing. Since neither of us have played for over a year, the first couple holes were a little rough. We got our groove down on by about hole 3. (But he still beat me by 6 strokes). We also did the batting cages, me with slow softball pitches, Travis with fast baseball ones. I actually hit every ball out of 20 except one. I was so proud of myself! My forearms and back are sore today. Interesting how you can be in decent shape but do something that works different muscles and still get sore. My calves are a little sore too from hiking.

After that, Travis and I walked around Pearl Street, looking at the shops but not going in (I hate shopping with no money. It’s like going to a restaurant and not eating.) We ate dinner at the Boulder Cafe. I had a glass of white zin (my favorite wine–and always the cheapest) and a goat cheese salad. I didn’t know if I would like goat cheese but I LOVED it! I want to go to the store right now and buy some. Anyway, the salad was spinach, pine nuts, tomatoes, and balsamic vinegarette with flatbread covered in goat cheese. Mmmmm… Travis had 2 beers (Twisted Pine) and a double-cheeseburger with french fries (our meals couldn’t have been more different).

After we ate dinner, we rented American Gangster and watched it at home. It was an interesting movie but not as gang-bang in-your-face as we had expected it to be. (That’s fine with me.)

Anyway, after a long string of Saturdays in which I did nothing much (except maybe exercise, read, and play games at night), this Saturday was a breath of fresh air. And you can’t beat 70 degrees in Colorado. Perfect.