Thursday, January 1, 2015

A Covenant of Self-Care

New Year's Eve came and went once again. I can honestly say that I gave up waiting for midnight (or even our 11 pm toast - we do ours at midnight on the east coast.) However, I was awake again just in time to flush 2014 down the toilet. I don't know what it was, whether it was something I ate or if the acid reflux issues just triggered my gag reflex, but I hope that 2015 holds better things for me.

As I think about the covenant I have entered with God, I realize that I still don't know everything about it. I'm okay with that, because I have enough faith to recognize that I'll know what needs to be added as it comes up. I know that God wouldn't just ask me to ... well, actually He might ask me to change my whole life. It has happened to others before me. Christmas was just a week ago... Didn't God change Mary's whole life? No, I don't expect to give birth to the Messiah. I do expect God to change my world for His glory though. 

I believe that some of the tenets of this new covenant sound remarkably selfish. Like sleep. Getting enough of it. Or eating complete meals. I feel almost ridiculous saying this, but I feel that God wants me to take care of myself. On one hand, it feels so ludicrous because if my body is a temple for God, why wouldn't he want me to care for it? On the other hand, it feels pathetic to admit that I don't do this well at all. I know that I need enough sleep, that I need to eat healthy meals, and that exercise is something that I need to do on a regular basis. The information isn't new, but accepting and embracing it is. 

When I think about really caring for myself, I feel selfish. Like why should I have all of these needs. There are so many people out there who have more issues and are in much worse situations than I am, so why should I spend so much time focusing on me. I've heard the wisdom from several of the women who mentor me - "If you don't take care of yourself, you become useless to everyone." I don't want to be useless to God, so I suppose I need to get myself in gear. 

Just because I haven't been in a dark place (suicidal) in the last year, doesn't mean that I've mastered caring for myself. Burnout is a different dark place. When you push too hard for too long without giving yourself a break, burnout is inevitable. I can say I know this, because I've been burned out for months now. It isn't anybody else's fault, and after being off work for two weeks, I can say that I do feel better. Quitting my job isn't an option though, so other things have had to go. As much as I love playing with my church's handbell choir, I'm giving up playing with them on a regular basis. I'll leave myself open to being a sub, but I just can't keep going at this pace. 

Caring for myself doesn't mean getting a weekly mani-pedi or buying new clothes every month. That isn't in my budget. There are things I can do instead. I do like the idea of being able to cook myself breakfast and lunch instead of fast food or just raiding leftovers. I enjoy cooking, but adding it to my everyday tasks is a rather overwhelming proposition. There is a compromise - cooking breakfast on Friday mornings and lunches on Saturdays while making enough to last me for the next week. 

Not only can I cook, but I can choose to make healthy meals. As much as I love my food "Southern fried", I realize that it isn't the only way to cook. A couple of weeks ago, I got on the scale and was appalled that I could actually weigh in at 228 pounds. Since I'm only 5'3", this is clearly not a healthy weight for me. I'm determined to take some of it off though. I don't need to be supermodel skinny, but I can lose 75 pounds and become an overall healthier person. 

I don't know what I'm going to do as far as exercise, because right now my everything aches when I overdo it. I'll find something, and hopefully soon. Right now, a lot of my options are limited because it is so cold outside. While I've been off, winter has arrived with a vengeance. That kind of hurts my desire to go for a walk or pull out my skateboard. My best options may be to borrow dvds from the library or get a gym membership. 

I'm working on learning to care for myself, because I won't always have someone else to remind me to do it. 

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Years and New Beginnings

In the process of looking back over 2014 and looking ahead to 2015, I have come to something of a conclusion. I am in a period of metamorphosis. The last year, perhaps more, has been a season where I am in a chrysalis. I have been shielded from experiencing some things, for reasons that have yet to reveal themselves. 

At Audiofeed, one night in the Asylum there was a great night of prayer and worship. I was completely unaware of what was going on inside the ministry tent. Instead, I was curled up in my tent having my own moments of prayer with God.

I have spent a lot of time laying down with God. That sounds really weird, I know. But it is accurate. My most powerful prayers seem to have come from the point where I was physically laying down. In some cases, I was in bed trying to fall asleep. Other times, I just felt as though I couldn't hold myself vertical. Either way, it felt wrong to try to force myself to kneel, sit, or stand. It was as though I was so much in the presence of God that I couldn't raise myself at all.

For years, I believed that prayer was something that I could only do in English or in a foreign language if I memorized the words. This year has shaken that logic. I find myself praying in other languages, ones that I don't know, that I've never heard before. I find myself praying in sync with someone else - using the exact same words - at the exact same time that they are praying them. So much in sync that I don't have a chance to hear their words before they have escaped my lips. I've found myself praying with a fire and a passion that I didn't realize existed.

It is with a searching heart that I have entered freely and willingly into covenants with God. Not only did I observe Lent with the desire to become someone greater in God, but I deliberately entered another one in September. It was to last until the first Sunday of Advent, but it did't end there. As I approached that moment of completion, I felt God calling me to renew that covenant until Christmas. I didn't understand why, but I knew that it was something that I needed to do.

As I write this and raise an eyebrow to the screen, for this is not what I had intended to write at all, I feel as though I am being asked to embrace a new covenant with God. Though it will begin with the new year, it will not be a classic list of resolutions. Like so many, I tend to break New Year's resolutions within a few days of making them. Some don't even make it a week into the year. But this covenant that I will be entering into at the stroke of midnight will last for a lifetime. I don't know the "terms and conditions" of this covenant just yet, but I believe that God will reveal them to me.

Tonight, I have no desire to drink or put my sobriety at risk, because I know that God is planning something greater. In this moment, before I leave my computer for the night, I wish you the happiest of new years. May your celebrations be merry and your days be long in the Lord. 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

I Can't Say...

I'm having one of those mornings where having feelings sucks. I can't really voice my true feelings to most of the people around me, because I don't want to deal with their responses. Ultimately, those replies would tell me that I'm being insensitive, that the world does not revolve around my schedule, or otherwise belittle my feelings. I know that it is petty to declare that something was mine first, but really, that is what I want to do. I don't want to share or change. I want to be able to voice my thoughts without criticism. I want people to acknowledge that their decisions are hurtful.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Grunge Rock and the Edge

Usually, I love listening to country music. I grew up with it. It seems like it is the soundtrack of my childhood. It makes me smile on dark days. Sometimes, though I'll switch to "Contemporary Christian" music. It can generally take me deeper into worship. Other times, it is a heavier, darker sound but still within the broader category of Christian music. Then there are the days where none of this just seems to fit. Today is one of those days.

The music that seems to echo the feelings inside me today tends toward 90's alternative/ grunge. I don't know why, exactly, this is today's soundtrack, but it is. I'm feeling the likes of Soundgarden, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Counting Crows, Sublime, Nirvana, Matchbox Twenty, and Vertical Horizon. It is like there is a desperation in my soul for something more, something bigger, something deeper. Go figure. 

I mean, really. Who expects music that has little to no relation to a Christian faith to suit the mood of a greater pursuit of God? Most people would label this music as bordering on/ fully engaged in a mood of depression and endings. But I find a raw desperation that tugs at the very edges of my soul, drawing me to a point of openness that most other music will never reach. 

This is a struggle for me. I'm told that it is Christian music, especially worship music that should draw me in closer to God. That it is Christian music that should suit this mood, any mood, every mood. But there are days like this when the songs we sing in church and the hymns that I was raised with just don't feel right. They just don't seem to convey the longing that I feel. I know that I want more of God, and that I should use the time tested methods to find the next step that I am seeking. 

Right now, as I stand at the edge looking over into the fog obscuring everything beyond my toes, I know that God is preparing me to jump. I pray that it will be more like hopping from one stone to the next to cross the river safely. However, I feel like it is going to be a jump where all I can do is pray that my feet end up underneath me when I land, if I land at all. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Psalm 23: One Step At A Time

I decided to analyze one of the most commonly used passages in the Bible. Almost everyone, believer or not, has heard the 23rd Psalm. This is a psalm of David.

23 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

v. 1

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. 

In Hebrew, the name used instead of LORD in this passage is Yhovah (Jehova) meaning the self-existent, eternal God. 

When Yhovah is our shepherd, He is our friend and companion. 

When we are walking with Him, we will not be in need. This does not mean that we will have everything that we have ever wanted, but it does mean that we will have our basic needs taken care of. 

v. 2

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

Yhovah makes us rest. For a sheep, a green pasture is an ideal home in which to lie down and rest. This is a parallel to what He is telling us to do. He wants us to rest in Him, a spiritual resting - and sometimes a physical one too. 

Still water, while pretty to look at, is almost never good to drink. It is in that stillness that the most toxic of organisms has the peace to grow. This is why we are led by it and not stopped to drink it. Moving water, on the other hand, is fresher, does not give time for things to grow, and is safer to drink.

v. 3

He restoreth my soul; he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. 

When we allow Him to, Yhovah takes our soul and turns it away from evil and heals it. 

Yhovah has a path which is laid out for us,  and the purpose of this path is to glorify and honor Him. 

v. 4

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me. 

While we are making our way through the valley of the destroyer (Satan), there is no reason to be afraid of adversity or harm, because God is with us.

Yhovah's rod is something that is used as a weapon, the source of our safety and defense. His staff is a representation of His sovereign protection.  


Thou preparest a table in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. 

Yhovah is arranging a meal (could be taken to reference the Kiddish cup/ communion) in front of those who seek to bring me harm.

He pours fragrant oil over my head as a blessing. This isn't just any oil though, it is a fragrant oil, and it is likely to be very expensive. Even if it is just olive oil and not infused or blended with various other oils, it would have had a lot of value to those in that period. It seems that there is a lot of symbolism in this oil as it is portrayed to actually represent the holiness and favor of God (see Strong's 8081)

He satisfies me beyond my need. My "portion" is of great wealth and abundance. I am blessed beyond measure. This continues the thought that we are anointed with His favor, because we cannot store up for ourselves anything in the next life on our own merit. What we receive in heaven is something that is only given by God's grace. 

v. 6 

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

To me, it seems that David is confidently expecting that God will bless him in this life, and embrace him into eternity. 

David is anticipating graciousness and favor to always be hunting him. Most of the time, when we think of someone or something being hunted, it suggests that their death is imminent. In this case though, it appears as though David will be hunted by God to receive favor, whether David desires it or not. I think that David did want the favor from God, and even found it to be refreshing because of the tumultuous times in which he was living here on the earth. 

I find this last line intriguing. There are two ways that I believe it can be taken. 

One is that David intends to remain in the temple of Yhovah for the rest of his days here. This seems unlikely, as David wished to rebuild the temple, but had too much blood on his hands to do so. Therefore, it became Solomon who built the second temple, even though David laid the foundation. 

The other, which is more likely, is that David will inhabit the heavenly court of the Eternal Yhovah for as many days as there are in eternity. After all, David is a man after God's own heart.

This is the first Bible passage that I have ever attempted to "translate" or develop commentary like this on. Please let me know of any errors or mistakes that you notice. I'll be forever appreciative of any input that you have to offer, whether it is positive or negative. 

My primary sources for this task include:
1. The Interlinear Hebrew-Aramaic Old Testament, which is Volume II of The Interlinear Hebrew-Greek-English Bible, copyright 1985

2. Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible with Hebrew, Chaldee, and Greek Dictionaries

3. Mounce's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old & New Testament Words, copyright 2006

Tuesday, September 9, 2014


I just don't know what to say.
I just get swept away.

I get caught up in You, God.
I felt that today.
I'm questing for You, God.
I hope You see it that way.

I feel the hunger
Need the desire
Crave the filling
I need you near.

I can't explain it.
I feel like a fool.
I'm starving for spiritual food, God.
Please let me be in You.

I feel so tossed, Lord.
So beaten by the waves.
Please pour your love, Lord,
Completely, today.

I'm overwhelmed, Daddy.
I know that I'll be okay.
You'll protect me, Daddy.
No matter what man may say.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

A Covenant With God

For some time now, I have been longing for a stronger, deeper relationship with God. This isn't a new quest; rather, it is an ever expanding journey. In the last several weeks, God has been calling me to take a giant, flying leap forward in my growth. This leap is something that I have found myself resisting, as I cannot fathom where I will land - as that which goes up must at some point come down. I'm hesitant about the possibility of a bloody and miserable crash landing.

However, God has given me a choice. I can choose to sit and wallow in my present level of belief, or I can take this jump and receive the ability to fly. It is with this decision in mind that I am choosing to jump. With what God is asking of me, I know that I am going to struggle daily to persevere. I'm going forward anyway. He has placed it on my heart to enter into a covenant through the swearing of an oath. On that note, this is the covenant with which I enter (this may be added to as God leads; it will not be removed or modified to suit my personal whims.)

Under the blood of Christ and in the name of God, I speak that in all circumstances I will follow God's will above my own or that of others. In this cause, I believe that God has ordained that I take upon myself the following requirements.

Because I struggle with the need to feel pretty and to put on a mask to hide my true self and therefore hiding God in me, I am going to:
1. Not wear any jewelry or makeup, except for a wedding ring to show that I am married.
2. Not wear any other accessories except for: belts to hold my pants up; hats, gloves, and scarves for cold weather; and scarves and vests as expected by church groups.
3. Not dye my hair, cut, or style it in ways that will draw attention.

Because I find myself becoming easily distracted by the ways of this world, I will:
1. Finish reading the book "Celebration of Discipline" and practice the spiritual disciplines contained within the pages of this book. I have started this book twice as a part of my Lenten study and never finished it.
2. Fast from food weekly, growing from twelve hour to twenty four hour fasts. The times that would otherwise be spent eating will be spent in prayer and reading the Bible.
3. Observe a weekly Sabbath as commanded in the Ten Commandments.

As someone who has struggled with substance abuse and self-harm, especially during periods of spiritual growth, these expectations are to preserve the body that I have.
1. Neither alcohol nor tobacco shall be used.
2. There will be no deliberate damage to skin.
3. No medication of any kind will be taken except when absolutely necessary.

These statements constitute the covenant which I enter into today, September 3rd, 2014. This sworn oath will end on the first Sunday of Advent, which is November 30th, 2014. In the event that this is broken, may the punishment of God be swift and just.