Thursday, December 23, 2010

Hunger--Part 2

Spiritual hunger.

Things of the Spirit.

What drives us to fill ourselves on our own?


But there's hope!

There's good news!

Joy comes in the morning (mourning, too!)

For, love comes from God, and anyone who loves comes from God, and is born of God.

We can only be filled to the fullness with God and His love.

There is no other satisfaction we can have on this earth but to be filled to the full with Him.

So why do we try to fill ourselves with lesser things?

Being in love with my husband isn't bad. Nor is eating food, or buying a new shirt because my other ones are stained with toddler paint.

It is only when these quite simple pleasures of life overtake my first love--Jesus Christ--that I have a problem.

That problem is called idol worship.

It is so subtle, at times I almost don't recognize it. That is Satan's superior form of bondage--the subtle captivity--that I almost didn't see it coming. The Bible says the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand on our guards, then, God whispers.

The only way I have found that always works as I stand firm is to stand firm on God's Word. Yes, community; yes, worshipping God by singing and fellowshipping; yes, serving. All of these are good things. And there are many others to add to that list.

But they are lesser compared to Christ. I cannot healthily be in community, worship God in song and fellowship, or serve unless that love first springs from God. God is love, so unless I am acting out of His love, I am loving on my own limited love. So, then, I can rely on the love God has for me.

Once I am rooted, established, built up and believe fully that I am loved by God--beloved of Him!--then I can love. Then these "lesser" things, the things the Bible says are "all these things which will be added unto us," aren't lesser anymore. They will be made holy, because God's holy and filling love has outfitted me for my calling to walk in love.

I am learning to love even when I am not loved by others.

This is very hard for me.

I used to be an overly emotional person...

...and a very openly vulnerable person...uncomfortably vulnerable, like, why-did-you-just-ask/tell-me-that vulnerable...

...and a person who enjoyed giving and receiving lots of body love (i.e. hugs, rubbing someone's feet, holding the door for someone, being the first to volunteer.)

Although I wasn't always acting out of limited self-love, more of my actions were rooted in how loved I felt.

This was emotionally-charged love.

Not the love God my Father, Jesus my Savior, the Holy Spirit my Counselor loves me with.

When I felt cherished, I cherished.

When I felt loved, I loved.

My emotions were too tied up in this whole love thing.

This last year or two of my life has been an extreme sifting for me (spoken of in the Word of God concerning Peter.)

I am now learning how to love based on God's lavish love for me.

There are a few lessons I have learned concerning this.

I am learning to be emotional in healthy ways so that I am not codependent on others. Sometimes, that means I take care of myself in a different manner than I have before. I may not receive your help, for instance. Remember, I am learning to not be codependent. Please be gracious as I learn.

I am learning to be vulnerable in a manner that invites others to share of their true selves so they can be healed not by any love I can give, but by Christ's love. Sometimes, that means I may not share as much as I have in the past. I may appear secretive or uncomfortable when you ask me questions, for instance. Remember, I am learning to share what is appropriate and what I feel safe sharing. Please be gracious as I learn.

I am learning to love in other ways than body love. Sometimes, this means I don't have to touch someone to show them I love them. This means I sometimes rest and give myself what I need instead of jumping up to serve. This means I sometimes don't volunteer because God's purpose prevails: perhaps someone else is called to step forward this time. Remember, I am learning to not be first, or the most, or the best. Please be gracious as I learn.

This, at times, may appear or may have appeared selfish to you.

Please be gracious to me as I learn new ways of relating with you and others. Please forgive me as completely as Christ Jesus has forgiven you. Please remember that I am different than you.

I am learning that in order to love--with the love that comes from God--I am to love my first love first, Jesus Christ.

You are free in Christ. I may not always understand why you act the way you do, but I still love you. I am committed to loving you even when I don't understand you.

I pray this for the entire body of Christ. May we be one as the Father and Jesus are one.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Phone Call

This morning, Shiloh and I began reading Chippy Goes to the Dentist (one of Shiloh's current favorites) and didn't get too much into the story before Michael/Daddy woke up and we ate breakfast together.

After breakfast, as I was putting away the leftover food, I saw the book nearby and said, "Shiloh, do you want to finish Chippy Goes to the Dentist now?"

Shiloh replied, "You can, Mama. I am getting a phone call from Pooh Bear," and picked up her "cell phone."

I can say heartily that children learn by modeling! Michael and I are not people who are on our phones a whole lot, but I suppose she's noticed times that we're momentarily unavailable because of a phone call.

May I endeavor to be fully engaged in every moment, O Lord.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Hunger--Part 1

I usually share my personal spiritual thoughts with God, my husband and daughter, or in my journals, workbooks, Bible pages and face-to-face with people. However, I have some things I'd like to share here this morning.

I believe my greatest thorn in my life is my insatiable hunger for more (although God uses this for His ultimate glory.) I know that if physical things were allowed by God to completely satisfy us, we would forget our God and turn away from Him in pride. I am thankful for His provision in this in my life.

However, I still struggle with this thorny pain of always being hungry. I am hungry for more of Christ Jesus in my life. I am hungry for more of Christ Jesus in others' lives. I am hungry for more of God's Word in my life. I am hungry for community. I am hungry for beauty. I am hungry for strength. I am hungry for others coming into the fullness of their identities and callings in Christ Jesus. I am also hungry for lesser earthly things like good organic local food, fair trade, things made from nature, handmade items, anything that inspires creativity in God's people in healthy dynamics, things that do not destroy or take advantage but rather take care of God's creation; I speak of the purity of earth-living that comes from the purity of God-living.

I desire more from relationships at all times. I am never content with less than more. I have the strength and weakness (strength when I walk with Christ's Spirit in this, and weakness when I depend on my flesh) of never letting myself and others settle for less in relationships with Christ and others.

This, at times, makes people uncomfortable...but I will continue to say, I am not asking anything from anyone that God doesn't hold me greatly accountable to already. He gives me more grace to extend to myself when my heart would condemn me, and also the wisdom and love to extend His grace to others.

When I say "hungry", I do not mean only physical hunger, although I can attest to this. Physical hunger will be the subject of this particular blog.

I have to chew every bite of my food thoroughly or I have MAJOR digestive problems in every sense of the word, sparing all details from public reading for your comfort and mine. I have to eat mostly real food (organic/all-natural/local) or I get very sick almost immediately.

Both of these I have found through trial and error of many years--working out my own salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12). Before I knew the answer, I used to ask myself questions like, "Why do I always get sick when I eat cow's milk products, and how can I change this?" Becoming deathly ill on a number of occasions, and these times affecting my life in unhealthy proportions, and this all purposed by God to bring me back to fill myself with what is REAL AND TRUE, finally drove me to the truth of eating according to His Will for my life. This is true not only for physical food, but also to spiritual food--eating of His Word according to His Will for my life (spiritual hunger will be the subject of another blog.)

Now please read that carefully, lest you believe I am telling you and everyone else that everyone should do what I am choosing to do with food. I have been delivered from that legalism, although I am certainly not exempt from sinning in that area since it was once an area of bondage. You have the freedom to call me out on that, and I deeply desire that if God has told you to exhort me in this, please do.

I am now a "communitarian," a term that I use to apply not only to eating food in community, but extend to all aspects of life. What I mean is that I live out my identity in Christ Jesus rooted and established in Him, doing and saying what He calls me to, and then I keep God's people--true Christian community--in mind as I balance the two.

Below are some references from God's Word that offer an alternative to the legalism.

God's Word says: "[We] are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols...[we] will do well to avoid these things." (Acts 15:29) I believe that we are not to eat food that would cause us or another to stumble (for this is idolatry.) Only the Spirit and God's Word can show us this ultimately, although others in community surely help and are essential as we walk by faith and not by sight.

I believe that we are not to eat food in community when doing so could, in our own hearts, be considered to be idolatrous (once again, the Spirit, God's Word, and those in community with us show us this truth.) I do not mean that we should we go the extreme of proclaiming that if someone is not in Christ, or is sinning in some way (for then we could not even eat with ourselves, because 1 John 1:8 says that if we claim to be without sin, then we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us) we are not to eat with them. We are to be as Christ was, who ate with sinners although He was sinless. However, we are to carefully consider what God calls each of us to in relationship to eating in community.

For example, if I said, "I should go take my neighbors some organic food because they're eating food that is unhealthy for them," then my heart is idolatrous because I am assuming God's role in their lives. But if we invite our neighbors over for a grill-out and offer them the organic food that we ourselves eat, then we are eating healthily in community. There is no pretense there, just being who we're called to be in Christ Jesus.

I also believe that "everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial." (1 Corinthians 10:23) Everything is permissible for us in Christ Jesus--we have complete freedom in Him. However, not everything builds us up or is helpful to us in our walks with Him. When I eat certain foods at certain times, I can actually cause myself or another person to stumble. I'll share an example of my experience with this. This is a daily, moment-by-moment battle with my flesh. The example below indicates both an example of how I can cause myself and others to stumble unless I live and keep in step with the Spirit.

I was at a house party to celebrate with friends a while back. The food was homemade and very delicious (but not organic--I share this only because of the subject at hand.) As referenced above, I ate as a communitarian that evening (i.e., I don't "bring in" my own food, or really even mention the way I eat differently unless God tells me to or someone asks.)

After the meal, I had a short conversation with God about the dessert table. Anyone who knows me knows that I have a sugar weakness (which is largely why I do not keep any type of sugar in our home unless necessary for living in community, for it is too great a temptation for me otherwise. Raw honey works for me.)

This conversation went something like this: "Should I eat dessert? I don't want to be legalistic, and it looks yummy. There's lots of chocolate and I love chocolate. Would I cause others to stumble once they see the dessert I get because they [these particular people] know I eat healthily and organically? Could I potentially be filling my mind and body more with these tasty treats rather than filling myself with Your Spirit the way You've called me to tonight? Will I easily fall back into the flesh of avoiding relationship out of fear and not share the real me in Christ? Will I isolate myself even the tiniest bit by eating this and thus allowing my body to be stimulated by the caffeine high? Will I fall back into legalism and act more highly than I ought because I believe I'm able to withstand temptation on my own power?"

And finally, "Will I be acting in Your Spirit to eat the dessert, or by not eating the dessert?"

God's answer: "This is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in His presence: if our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts and He knows everything. Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from Him anything we ask, because we keep His commands and do what pleases Him. And this is His command: to believe in the Name of His Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as He commanded us" (1 John 3:19-23.)

God gave me the go-ahead that night because I did not believe I was condemned. I was completely open to His Spirit that even such a thing as eating chocolate that night (dear children, we are to keep ourselves from idols; 1 John 5:21) could cause myself or another to stumble, so I was ready to act according to His Will out of love for my first love, Jesus Christ. I chose to walk in love--walking in obedience to His commands, which I can only do because He gives me grace each moment to obey. I can only obey by His Spirit in me: "for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose"; Philippians 2:13.)

I saw God in action soon after I sat down with my dessert plate. I am so thankful He gave me the grace to obey that evening.

My friend (who has also expressed to me a struggle with food-things) said to me, "Oh, I'm so glad that you got dessert; I was feeling guilty about wanting some. I even talked to [another friend] about it and we decided to get dessert anyway because it looked so good. Is that okay?"

I said (which I know was inspired by the Holy Spirit because I cannot remember everything I said, so much had He taken over at this point, and what I said even surprised me in its love and truth) something like, "Yes, you are free! We are given freedom in Christ. He desires for you to be loved tonight. But you are free in Him to say 'no' as much as to say 'yes.' We are not to be held captive but to stay in the freedom of His truth. Do you feel loved by God tonight since you believe He gave you the freedom to eat the dessert?"

"Yes! I KNOW He loves me because He knows what a fanatic I am about chocolate! He is so good to me!" she responded.

See, we are called to "save others by snatching them from the fire [of hell.] To others, show mercy with fear, hating even the clothes stained by their sinful lives" (Jude 1:23.) My friend in Christ was on the 'mercy with fear' side. She needed to hear the truth in love but be able to have her own freedom in Christ for where she is with Him. It seems that God spoke different words over each of us about our freedom in Christ, but we ended up in the same place: eating dessert and not living in condemnation, but walking in love next to one another, toward the same goal: Christ Jesus. This is one way we can be in loving community with one another--interdependency--yet still retain our identities in Christ.

It is my role in my friend's life to tell her what God's Word says, to speak the truth in love. However, I am not to assume the role of God over her life. I speak His Word; it is God's Spirit who works in us:
"So let's keep focused on [Jesus], those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision--you'll see it yet! Now that we're on the right track, let's stay on it...easy street is a dead-end street. Those who live there make their bellies their gods; belches are their praise; all they can think of is their appetites. But there's far more to life for us. We're citizens of high heaven! We're waiting the arrival of the Savior, the Master, Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly bodies into glorious bodies like His own. He'll make us beautiful and whole with the same powerful skill by which He is putting everything as it should be, under and around Him" (Philippians 3:15-21.)

"Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth" (1 John 3:18.)

It wasn't that long ago that I, too, was in a similar mindset on a regular basis, and I could have easily gone back to that mindset as a stronghold if I had judged her:
"Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. But now that you know God--or rather are known by God--how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again...have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?" (Galatians 4:8-9, 16)

"You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things" (Romans 2:1.)

Since that was a long example of "everything is permissible but not everything is beneficial," I thought I'd recap:
*We are free in Christ.
*We are not to judge others in Christ.
*We can walk in love by keeping in step with the Spirit both in our own God-given identity and in community with God's people.

That is what I would like to share this morning--not my word, but His Word.

I will close with the highly appropriate 2 Corinthians 13:14, "May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all."

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Chicken

My latest story on Shiloh is from breakfast. Positioning her chicken on the table next to a sky-blue clay "homeopathic tablet tube", she pronounced...
"The chicken is going to the store to get food. He's going to get some cheese, and a squirrel, and the squirrel is going to give him homeopathic."

A few moments later...
"He won't eat the squirrel, he'll just give him hugs and kisses."

I am thankful she clarified.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Little Tidbits

*Shiloh fed homeopathic tablets to her pretend frog and ladybug a few days ago. They remain on the shelf. How can I move them? (Btw, the frog's tablet has a bite taken out of it.)

*She has been asking, "Might I do such-and-such?" before she does something she isn't sure she could/should do. Michael and I have found ourselves beginning to speak to each other and our daughter more kindly too! This has changed the atmosphere in our home so much!

*On her own initiative, she washed the dishes a few days ago while I scrubbed the bathroom. I left the cold water running for her and she spent about 15-20 minutes washing the breakfast dishes and placing them neatly on the dish towel.

*Also on her own initiative, she has begun taking rags (they're within her reach on purpose for nose wiping or for helping with cleaning) and cleaning the floors! She told me the other day, "Now it's squeaky clean!"

*She named her bunny "Bunna" or "Peter Rabbit." I am amazed at the creativity God places within our children even from birth.

*When we picked tomatoes for our November harvest (wow! they're still alive!), Shiloh brought her stuffed monkeys outside. After the tomato picking, I began cutting down a large bush overtaking our fence. Shiloh asked for trees for her monkeys because "they live in trees." We used the bush branches as trees. She desired to leave them hanging from their places until her daddy came home so he could enjoy them as well.

*I've noticed ever since she was a young baby, when I'm singing worship songs to the LORD, there are times she'll raise her hand to heaven in worship. Hm. Quite a breathtaking sight: "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth."

*Even what could be considered a nuisance by some becomes a fun activity in our household: (thank You, God, for saving me bit by bit from my own controlling sinful nature!) Shiloh found packing peanuts I am sewing into pillows and began scrunching them up instead of obeying me in getting dressed. I said, "oh look, it's snowing!" Smiles all around! And now this evening, God gives me time to clean it up. We'll remember those times so much more than the "clean" house.

*I have been working on a monkey patterned backpack for Shiloh for a while now (she loves monkeys.) I was finally able to finish it today and Shiloh wore it out on a corner coffee shop date with her daddy. She told me, "I'm so proud of this backpack." I am humbled because I know that my skills are not nearly close to many professionals. What matters to Shiloh, though, is that her Mama loves her and made something special for her. God speaks so clearly to me through that: I am loving her with His love.

*We made sweet potato/squash star cookies today. They sound unyummily healthy but they are tasty and yummy (or should I say "yammy") too. I taught Shiloh how to roll out dough and use her star cookie cutter to make little stars, a smaller version of my big stars. We ate a good-sized amount of the dough and had such fun connecting on a mother/daughter level and even a healthy friend level. She is truly a joy to be with.

*We played with sidewalk chalk outside on our porch this afternoon. We drew a chalky road and rocks became the cars. An entire city emerged, with grazing grass for cows in the median of the only intersection, a Children's Museum, and a pond with a lone duck. We had a Daddy, Mama, Shiloh, and Jesus car set. (Jesus goes everywhere with us, a concept we talk about frequently, especially when Shiloh is afraid and Michael or I are not there.)

*A morning time of playing dollhouse resulted in the dollhouse people having a tea party with tea and crumpets. I began thinking about crumpets (I have never made them or even eaten them) and so we had crumpets with our evening meal of homemade tomato soup (Shiloh's idea!) Crumpets are British-inspired and involve a crepe-like pancakey sponge that becomes a sandwich once a filling and a top and bottom layer are placed together. We filled ours with honey and jam.

*In our home, it is often Shiloh on food processor duty. She is the one who makes the nut butters, the pesto, the anything that we make in a food processor. I add the ingredients and she mixes it up.

*We like to make a "volcano" in the toilet when it's toilet cleaning time. We add apple cider vinegar, baking soda and Borax to make quite a foamy flush!

*Painting one of the chairs that goes with her play table was a memorable activity this week. I gave her a paintbrush, squirted some paint in a box periodically, and we went to work creating a beautiful masterpiece complete with hearts, solids, and swirls. I love that she now can sit in a chair that she herself painted, with freedom to express her own creativity.

*We now own a nebulizer (aromatherapy benefits) and I am amazed that she can say the word.

*The library has become a favorite past-time. I pick books out online, the library holds them, and then when they have a few ready, we go and play puzzles, read stories, play stuffed animals, and play "library." She knows how to swipe the books and put the cards in the back.

*Shiloh loves to swing outside in our hammock underneath our bird feeder. Sometimes, she wants me to swing her, and other times, she just swings herself and looks up at the sky quietly, singing. She loves Jesus so much, and it is evident to us.

*As a family, we have nightly devotions, which involve children's Bible stories, a reading of a chapter in the big Bible, and prayer over each other. Then, we finish off with worship songs to the LORD together. A few nights ago, one of the most precious memories to me since we've had Shiloh occurred. Michael and I began singing "Jesus loves me" and Shiloh joined in! She knew the full song. We went on the sing "Humble Thyself in the Sight of the LORD" and Shiloh knew those words too! We had a family worship service in a new way!

And I could share more: there's the decorated pumpkins (complete with markers and festive jewelry), the corn stalks in a cup after our corn harvest (looking beautiful as an indoor fall influence), and the making of the pumpkin pie (Shiloh helped pat the dough. "Make sure there aren't any holes, Mama!") And the singing of the "little red wagon" song anytime we see a little red wagon, the stuffed bunny having its own bedding in a bowl like her pet bunny, the Shiloh rendition of "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" on her little piano, and the jumping into leaf piles as soon as I make them. She helps me fully engage in life--that is her greatest spiritual gift. Through my husband and my daughter's influence--by the Holy Spirit within them--and by being in this safe and secure home much of my time for this season, I am slowly being restored to who I am made to be in Christ Jesus.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Toddler Quips

"Sometimes big girls want their purple blankets. Sometimes big girls don't."
~Shiloh, upon waking up this morning, musing on her choice of resting adornment

Shiloh: "Heeheehee!"
Allison: "Where did you get that from?" (She had not laughed that way before that I could remember.)
Shiloh: "From my mouth!"

November 3rd, 2010
"Mama, thank you for your choices in loving Shiloh and Daddy. Daddy, thank you for your choices too."
~A song Shiloh made up today at breakfast

December 5, 2010
You're My Little Bunny--Shiloh read this to her bunny today