This is the Year of Possibilities

It’s a new year with new possibilities!  I’m trying to get in better health this year.  I did okay (for me anyway) last year and lost 25 lbs and have kept it off.  I have so many joint and back issues, that I’m limited in exercise options.  To make things worse I had the weirdest fall 2 months ago and injured my shoulder.   But I’m reminded of people that have been in worse condition and retrieved their health. Obviously,  I’m not going to be one of those people that are trying to run a marathon in the spring.  Running was never a great thing for me. But swimming? Hey, I can do that. In fact, my doctor recommended swimming because of my muscle and joint problems.

Running and I don’t mix.

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My small goal is to lose another 25 lbs and maintain healthy eating habits. Last year for 4 months, I almost went vegan. It wasn’t a conscious decision it was a natural process of eliminating harmful food.   I wasn’t a vegan because I ate fish, but I tried to stay 90% fruits and veggies, stayed away from milk etc.    I was determined not to be the vegetarian who downs bags of potato chips and cakes and cookies.images

I can’t explain what happened, I fell off the wagon, got caught under the wheels and tangled in the spokes.  It was terrible. I was like,  ” One meal, ‘it’ll be ok”.  That became 2 meals, then a week later I was practically weeping in whip cream.

But  I’m back inside the safety of the wagon!  My kids are helping by being on this fruit and veggie cleanse with me.

My oldest son in Massachusetts and my daughter warned me that we were all cleansing our system and resetting our bodies this month with a combination of lemonade diet and fruits and veggies.  I started earlier this week and messaged both of them to see how they were doing… Silence. Then my daughter messaged that she was starting with me as planned.

I know this isn’t the best idea, but my daughter and I had a farewell burrito together on new year’s day.  This is how we roll sometimes!

Then she came to me yesterday.

“I might have to leave you alone.  I’m starving. I want a turkey burger.”

 I talked her out of it and told her to grab an apple and binge watch a show to distract her mind.  I know it was tough for her. She’s running after an 11-month-old all day.

Honestly, I have to pull strength from last year.  I did so well! I refused sugar for months. I even posted on Facebook about my victory over sugar.  I actually went through withdrawal symptoms, shaking, chills, headaches, stomach pain.  Sugar, the drug.  Getting sugar out of my system was great and felt really good. Problems with my joints and sore feet completely disappeared.  I walked better because I wasn’t so stiff. My thinking was clearer. I felt stronger and was able to exercise more effectively.  I tell ya, getting rid of sugar is the key to a lot of health problems.

I felt myself slipping around July and tried to get help from a friend of mine who eats very healthy, but he and his wife were busy.  So I pulled in a therapist, and she helped me to get the root of my overeating.

Food and My Inner Child

One of the things she told me is that everyone has their own coping mechanism to relieve stress. I used to wonder why I was so obsessed with food.  I equated it with relaxation and escape.  When I was a child, and my parents had hellacious fights with knives being pulled out, I didn’t know whether I was going to be missing a parent after it was over.  So to stay out of the way as long as possible and get my homework done, I ‘d stay in my room.  This is how I coped.  When I saw things were going wrong, I would get a whole lot of food and go into my room so I wouldn’t have to come out.

Eating had become a habit from being in a lot of emotional pain.  This is what I used to cope with a violent household and a manipulative father. It was the one thing that made me feel comforted.   I could always count on my favorite foods to be the same and give me the same results.   People who are in physical pain are going to reach out for what makes them feel better and when you’re in emotional distress, it’s no different.    Christ helped me with a lot of that emotional childhood pain, but there were some areas I still had to conquer. Since I’ve been focusing on my inner child this past year, I’ve found tremendous freedom not feeding her McDonald’s fries in exchange for feeling comforted.  Knowing the source of the problem helped tremendously. Seeking comfort and relieving stress has been at the root of my relationship with food for most of my life. Now that I’m aware, I can work on finding less harmful methods of comfort in addition to prayer.

I will probably always be a foodie. My oldest son and I love to cook and exchange recipes. For my health’s sake, though, I have to gain better control over how I deal with emotional pain and stress and acquire healthier tastes. My friends have sent me books and things to try and help me, but it’s a struggle I must overcome internally with the help of God.

The Jesus in me ain’t feeling those fries

I know when Jesus isn’t feeling McDonald’s fries, but I am so tempted (they’re so addictive, what aliens don’t like McDonald’s fries?) You have to really slap yourself and realize what’s in them to give yourself any chance to resist.  By the way, Comedian Jim Gaffigan has a hilarious take on junk food.

With 320 billion fries sold per year, I know I’m not alone, and don’t tell me to get one of their salads.  The Caesar Salad contains more fat than their hamburger.

Besides, the Bible says let your moderation be known to all men (Philippians 4:5).  I want to give Jesus this part of my life entirely without feeling I need a hamburger to make it all feel better. These are old habits that need to be conquered.

I don’t think I’ll label myself to quickly.  People ask, “So what are you, a vegan, a vegetarian, pescatarian?”  I suppose vegetarianism has some use, but if you’re going to live off vegetables just go hard, stop being a wimp and go vegan.   I for one may never go vegan as it seems way too much work and worries.   In my many food travels, I found vegetarianism to be too hypocritical for me.   When I tried it,  I was always on the border of something terribly wrong.    Food had two categories for me.  ” HEY, IT’S NOT MEAT” and  “THESE ARE VEGETABLES WITH NO TASTE AT ALL TO WHICH I’M ADDING BAD STUFF.”   The second category is because, to make the cooked vegetables taste delicious, I allowed butter and sauces and other things that didn’t seem very healthy at all.   I ate way too much pasta and potatoes (hello diabetes) and allowed myself to eat way too many sweets because, well…. (hah, hah….it’s not meat). I don’t think I”ll ever be Euell Gibbons (from the 1970s grape nuts commercials, who advocated foraging in the woods). If you remember him, holler in the comments.

I think I want to eat super healthy 90% of the time (like reverse tithing to myself-10% goodies).  I think that feels right for me.  No matter what your struggle, take it one day at a time and focus on progress and not perfection.

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No Capes! The Day I Stopped Fixing Other People

e48df3c7d48dd4cd41c2ff3aae8b2722My goal this upcoming year is to stay focused on the here and now. This year I’m taking the philosophy of Edna Mode, the fictitious designer of superhero costumes in the Incredibles.

I’m going Mode mode. Renee a la Mode. Ok. Enough.

Her sentiment about “never looking back” is fantastic but that can be hard when you’ve got a lot of life to look back on. Staying in the present may require changes that keep me in the right frame of mind. Facebook people may have to be blocked or less contact made with negative people, but I have to do whatever I can to remain on the upward track. I feel the tug from above to face forward and keep my emotions from getting tied up with the past.

I don’t mean to sound weird or schizophrenic, but all of us have an inner voice. The voice that tells us it’s time to move on and start a new chapter.  The voice that warns us in our gut about dangerous people. That gut feeling, Malcolm Gladwell calls it the Blink moment.

For me, after having my gut check, it is time to leave some things behind. I talk a lot on this blog about spiritual awareness, and the hardest thing for me to let go of in 2018 was the comfort of a church home. I had to face that there may be loneliness and uncertainty, but I could feel it was time. Since my church homies were people who had been a constant part of my life for 35 years, letting go was difficult. Probably hour for hour, I spent more time with these people than my relatives. I was a teenager when I became a part of their denomination. I never questioned what I was taught and was a great supporter of their teaching.   I sat at the bedside of their people and held the hands of those suffering, went to their parties, birthdays, funerals, weddings and attended their services faithfully.

But often, as in any relationship, when you start to see disturbing things it may be time to take the good that you learned, move on and not look back. I realized that holding on and trying to fix what I saw would leave my ministry and personal goals unaccomplished. The relationship was not working for my life anymore.

One person from my church asked me what was I doing now. I told them “ I was working on myself.” I do wonder whether the person understood the significance of learning the answer to the great question “who am I.” In my conservative circles, it seemed to be something that was not important.

As a Christian, I’m conscious of my spiritual life. My life walking with God. I was drowning just going to church and not really being able to function in areas that were a vital part of my ministry. Views had changed about women leaders, views had changed about the role of ministers, and for a long time, I wasn’t sure what God would have me to do.

I believe that at the beginning of creation, God breathed a part of himself into mankind (Genesis 2:7) and whether we know it or not, there’s a subconscious way we pick up the truth.  I have to learn to listen to that voice.

Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. John 16:13

There’s no way to know all truth and all things to come. This knowledge certainly has to come to us through the guidance of the holy spirit.

I know that inner voice, most of us do, but I didn’t always listen to it or do anything about it. Usually, because I got caught up with staring at the problems surrounding the obvious conclusions. I felt conflicted about the hows and whys of following that voice.  I over analyzed instead of moving and would get analysis paralysis. Sometimes the paralysis lasted years. What should I do Lord?

For example, have you ever gotten a bad vibe from someone and then down the road, you find out that the weird feeling you had, had been accurate? I’m sure it’s’ happened to you.

Why don’t we accept that initial tug?

For me, it was because I didn’t want to make a mistake. I tried to be forgiving, kind and non-judgemental.  Yet, when it’s clear that the bad vibe is not just a feeling, you have to move forward even when you love people. I wanted to move forward in love.

That’s possible you know.

To move away from a situation and hold no grudges. Why? Because you’re not trying to change anyone. You’ve let them be who they are, and you’ve accepted who they are, but you’ve also realized that being close is not good for your life.

Part of spiritual awareness is being able to listen to that inner voice in time enough to do something about it.

I want to get past the “something told me” phase and start paying attention. Things I’m sure about in my gut.  I had lost trust, and I tried to get it back. I even asked God to give it back to me, only to have God tell me that I had a feeling but not the truth of the matter.

Wow. How many times in relationships have people been there? You see something off about the person, but you’ve put in investments of emotion and time. To give up all that time and effort away seems a waste. But it’s also a waste to stay in the relationship that’s dragging you down.

I’m learning to be the protagonist is my own story and not the villain all the time.

I refuse to take the blame for protecting my spiritual welfare. I am learning to be more comfortable with myself and more forgiving. At, least as forgiving as Christ is to me.

No Capes!

One big lesson for me in 2018. I decided to stop being a hero. No more capes flapping in the wind trying to save the day. Too often, people come to the “heroes” and complain about conditions on the job, or at church or in their home.  If these people notice you have a hero complex or courage to fight, (stupid courage by the way), they may push you into the center ring but then go hide out at the concession stand.  You may be used by the wrong people.

If I go to the center stage to fight, it’s because I’ve walked there on my own, and not because I feel pushed.

One time, a person complained to my husband about church politics being rampant and told him “you can tell them I said it.” Well, my husband took him at his word, when the time was right he mentioned him. Why? Because it meant actual support, an actual incident, a witness to what was happening. The complainer said, ”oh no, why did you mention my name?!” You told me I could. “I didn’t want you to actually tell them…” sigh.

People often want you to take on causes they are not willing to fight for themselves.

More often than not I was a sucker for a crusade. If there was a cause, I was ready for battle. I’ve always been like that. Truth and Justice. I think that’s what drew me to my church in the first place. They talked a lot against falseness in the religious world. In fact, my children are like that. If something is not right, they get incensed about injustice and unfairness. But people like us can’t always be in search of the holy grail. Why?

First, people complain to folks like us, the crusaders, but at the same time, they ’re very comfortable where they are, happy with their positions and really don’t want to change a thing. There are people, usually lazy people who don’t care about any issues at all but will use you for their own cause and to further their own ends. You’re just a pawn to them. I’d been used and spiritually abused and taken advantage of because I wanted to do the right thing. But I’m not ashamed of that it’s who I am. I just trusted people because of their positions.

There are times I must refuse to be a hero for other people’s causes.

2019 will be the year of NO CAPES!

giphyA Pastor who had a burden for church unity asked me if I wanted to help him. He was trying to get some pastors to start cooperating with one another. Noble cause. I applauded his efforts, but for me, I said “Nope” not doing it, because I knew it was a lost cause. I hated to rain on his parade. I knew all the players involved and was not wasting my time. He was a Pastor in a Pastor’s world and still could not get cooperation. I had enough of trying to work with people who were pretending to follow the bible. No Capes! My desire to fix my denomination was very much like a person who is in a relationship, and they realize this relationship is damaging to their mental health and life, but they keep giving their partner chances they don’t deserve. They keep trying to fix the un-fixable. You think maybe if the person went to therapy our relationship would be great, but the person keeps saying that they’re fine.  So your best bet is to move on.  That pastor as of this writing has not been not successful in his efforts.  I applaud him though.

It took me a long time to realize that some people want heroes and others try to be heroes. Folks would tell me horrible things that went on in my church, and since I was an Elder, I guess they thought I could actually do something. They didn’t realize the whole system had changed and unless you were a pastor, or a pastor with a big church, or connected with certain pastors, or someone they liked, you would not be taken seriously.

There’s no reason to be angry at people and wonder why they are n’t better, more compassionate, better listeners, more honest. That’s not my concern. I spent years trying to fix things and people. I realized that often the same people who complained about the conditions weren’t willing to do that much about it themselves, they just hoped I would. Unfortunately, they were talking to a police officer who had a uniform but no badge. It was like a sheriff riding around with no siren. No power to do anything. They didn’t realize the whole system had changed, and the checks and balances that God put in place were gone and swallowed up by groups and cliches. How sad.

Many men and women struggle once they discover and accept the real character of an individual. People always try to put their best foot forward. People will always try to appear 10x better than what they really are, always. It’s in the human genome.

When-people-show-you-who-they-are-believe-them-the-first-time.-Maya-Angelou.How many times do we have to see the lousy character of a person to make a judgment about whether this person should be a part of our life?

As I go into the new year, I’m determined to accept people for who they really are, the first time, and move on with my life. No Capes allowed.

 

The Grinch and Mrs. Milton

 

As I said in my last post, this is the first time in 35 years I’ll be acknowledging Christmas. After hours of discussion during our pre-dawn breakfast brawls, I told my husband that my feelings about Christmas had changed.

Gino and I playfully name our early morning discussions as “breakfast brawls” because we fuss and intellectually joust on a variety of subjects. This year the topic was Christmas.  Both of us spent years loyally supporting the teachings of our church.

NO CHRISTMAS– its paganism–and we had ex’d Christmas out of our family life.

This year, we decided to give Christmas a second look. I  upheld my church’s teaching and custom in my home faithfully: no lights, no trees, no presents, no Christmas cards (well maybe one to my wealthy Aunt in Brooklyn)–No, NO and NO to everything Christmas!

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To our fundamentalist religion, the very idea was too Roman Catholic (since they seemed to be the first ones to combine December 25 with the baby Jesus) and, need I repeat it, the practices were too pagan. In our eyes, Christ’s-Mass represented the combining of the winter solstice with the birth of Christ, and we refused to participate. Those bad Roman Catholics did this to us all.  We had been enlightened, We were above all that, and we were serious about it.

To read about pagan practices associated with Christmas click here.

Many of the pagan practices associated with Christmas are easy to spot. Mistletoe, Yule, drunkenness and yes, caroling. Yet, I couldn’t ignore the fact that worldwide it had become part of Christian custom and tradition to celebrate the birth of Christ. It has become a time of year people try to show love to one another, meditate on the birth of Christ and his purpose for coming into the world, peace on earth and good will toward all men–you know– the Christmas spirit. In short, it is a universal Christian custom to honor the birth of the King of Kings.

Customs are simply practices created by communities of people. Those customs may endure regardless of the original source. Biblically, we have the freedom to acknowledge or not acknowledge a particular day.

Colossians 2:16-17 Let no man judge you in respect of a holy day.

Paul encouraged the Roman Christians not to change their love or view of one another based on differences of beliefs that had little to do with the true kingdom of God.

Paul stated in Romans 14:5
One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.

Yes, Christmas (and Easter) are man-created celebrations of sacred things. Some wish to observe and celebrate; others do not.

In our increasingly godless society, I find value in having opportunities to worship and tell what Christ means to me and how he changed my life.

It was funny to me how folks in my church were cautious not to honor Christmas but when Easter came, all the new hats and clothes would come out on Easter Sunday morning. Where is that in the bible? Were we told to celebrate his resurrection?

In my years since becoming a Christian, this issue of holidays has been a delicate dance. There are Christians who feel you are deceived and nigh backsliding if you join in Christmas celebrations and others don’t care and have their ugly Christmas sweaters and crazy shopping days ready to roll.

Our church was particularly joyless and confusing this time of year.

Let me tell you an interesting story about what happened in our church.

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My husband belonged to our church as a child in the 1960s. Now, up to this point, Christmas was not an issue. In fact, every year a beautifully decorated Christmas tree was placed by the stage in the basement of the church and from what I understand, the Pastor gave away presents to the children.

One year, as lore has it, an evangelist came through and like the Grinch, stole Christmas away in his little bible satchel and ran off.

images (4)He preached against Christmas and decorating trees (Jeremiah 10) and from then on, he convinced the Pastor that it was not good for Christians to celebrate this pagan-infested banquet of evil. The Pastor started teaching against it. After a while, the tree in the basement came down, and the NO CHRISTMAS rule was in effect. It spread and spread throughout the years until, by the time I came to the church, you had to say “happy holidays” and not “Merry Christmas”. Saying Merry Christmas was not right. And you were literally reported to the ministers if you had a Christmas tree in your house.

Where is that evangelist anyway?

Some weakly try to keep this no Christmas tradition going, but many of the people in my church now acknowledge Christmas. Recently a Pastor stated during a church service that “saints (the Bible term for Christians) don’t celebrate Christmas”.download (8)

The people in front of me looked around confused and shocked by the statement. This was the first time they heard this.  Apparently, this was not a “thing” in their church, which was interesting to us because we grew up in an opposite atmosphere where such a statement would have been met with a hearty “amen”.  See what I mean by confusing.

In all honesty, it really should have been left up to the individual.

While in our church,  people were practically “turned in” for celebrating Christmas, many other branches of our church celebrated with vigor. For example, my husband and I were friends with a pastor in Oklahoma, and his kids would send us Christmas cards almost every year. But we felt odd sending them cards because–WE don’t do that. We were enlightened to the truth of Christmas. Well, should we send one back? We wondered. Was that joining in with the wrong “spirit”?  We weren’t sure.

We were being rude for Christ’s sake, I guess. Everyone was left to fend for themselves in these situations.

Gino and I created a Family Appreciation Day around this time where we would give our children presents and tell them how much we loved and appreciated them. We’d stay up all night and have games and videos and special, once-a-year foods. We basically created our own celebration in the midst of our joyless anti-Christmas atmosphere. Our children knew what the deal was. They knew about the pagan roots and why we didn’t practice some things but looked forward to this fun time and the presents every year. We didn’t want them to go back to school from Christmas break with a lump of coal.

Here are some arguments that we used while under this spell and our thoughts on it now.
1) We don’t even know the day Christ was born.
Well, a lot of people of less significance to the history of the world, don’t know their birth date, but they know they were born. So they pick a day and celebrate. American slaves did that all the time. So there’s nothing wrong with a day to call attention to the birth of Christ. Besides, for some, this is the only time they may even think about Him at all. Any time I get an opportunity to talk about the King of all Kings or the plan of salvation is a beautiful time.

2) All the paganism and fantasy mixed in is just lying. Christians promote truth, and Santa, elves, reindeer, flying sleighs, and Ole St.Nick knowing whether your naughty or nice is all part of the Christmas scene. It’s just not truthful.

This is true!  Those things are false. But who says those things have to be apart of your celebration. Why throw out the baby Jesus with the bath water? The birth of Christ is a true event. Stay away from the false.  The original reason for the season is celebrating the birth of the savior to the world. This doesn’t mean one has to live on fantasy island. As Christians, we don’t have to indulge secularism. We can take it back and make it sacred. Make this time of year your own. Create holy family traditions.  Eliminate the milk and cookies for Santa and bring out manger scenes and little drummer boy songs that tell about Christ. You have to stay focused on what is important to you and your family. Any time I can bring up what God has done for my life, it’s worth celebrating.

What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice (Philippians 1:15-18)

3)Where do you see Christ telling anyone to celebrate his birthday in the bible? Ha! I would get my relatives with this one because of course, they couldn’t find any scripture like this.  But we thought about this again. Where do we see Christ telling anyone to make a celebration about his resurrection either? But we gladly do this every year at Easter. It’s customary among almost the entirety of Christendom. Easter is a late development of Christian tradition and was never celebrated in the New Testament.  Acts 12:4 ( only in the KJV) is the only place the word Easter is mentioned. Some Pastors because of this fact have taken to calling Easter Resurrection Sunday. But we won’t fuss about words.

4)We don’t celebrate Christmas. It’s Paganism!
Now, as much as my husband and I hollered these words, and said we were free from the Spirit of Christmas. Several conflicting issues would come up.

1 ) Our church gave out fruit and nut baskets to church members  (BECAUSE IT’S THE HOLIDAYS!)

2) We sang all the Christmas songs in the hymnal around December 25, but not in July…only in December. Hark the Herald Angels Sing just did not fit near the 4th of July.

3) We had special Christmas morning church services, even though it’s “just a day” and Christ wasn’t born on the 25th. The justification was “it’s customary, and people are looking for church services during Christmas time. We’re catering to people’s understanding.” Or rather their CUSTOM. Helllooo?

4) Our church still went caroling on the street to reach people for Christ. No complaints about this. It was appropriate and beautifully done.  But this does come from pagan practices and you don’t find that in the bible either.

5) We were instructed that if someone gives you a Christmas gift……TAKE IT and don’t be offensive, AND THANK THE PERSON AND JESUS….BUT we didn’t give OUT Christmas gifts to our families because that would be participating in the spirit of Christmas.

6) We did visit our families during this time,  ate their figgy puddings, visited each other’s homes, and played board games and then enjoyed the AFTER Christmas sales. We still had a good time, but we did NOT decorate our houses.

So this year, we decided to do wreaths, poinsettias, candles, and cards and we’re working on gifts.  We’re so out of practice. My husband couldn’t bring himself to do the lights and trees yet. Baby steps.

This year we will celebrate the fact that Christ was born, that he came to this world as part of God’s great plan of salvation and grew up to be the perfect example of holiness and the perfect sacrifice for our sins.  And because of all this, we can lay our sins at the foot of the cross.  Hallelujah!

No cookies will be left out for Santa though.

So Happy Hanukkah
Feliz Navidad
Happy Kwanzaa

I’m Out.

 

 

Church Can Hinder Spiritual Growth

Just reading the title may cause you to think I’m a bit off.

“Ain’t she a church-going lady? She’s a minister.”

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But hear me out.

I heard a well-known pastor in my denomination say publicly “Sometimes I find that people when they’re on their own, have stronger faith than those who are in a local congregation.”He went on to explain.

“Folks may be by themselves for various reasons, like too far from a church or something, and they want to obey God, they’re sincere for God, and they obey Him without any interferences. But when they become part of a church, most people become more concerned about what my friends think and what’s Sallie gotta say about it, and disobey God and become spiritually weak.”

Yeah, he said it, and I’m saying it too.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve been involved in wonderful, uplifting church services. I almost felt lifted to heavenly places by the atmosphere and the music. I’ve met good people, and seen good examples of spirituality but church must remain in its proper biblical place.

If you’re deeply involved in a neighborhood church, you have to prioritize and keep God first. I’ve seen many a Christian lose touch with God going to church faithfully, every Sunday. When you ask them if God has revealed his purpose for in the kingdom, they seem lost. Gathering with others that love Christ can be wonderful if you don’t let attending church and church culture replace your walk with God.

A local church is a body of baptized believers in Jesus Christ. Gatherings of Christians in ancient times took place traditionally on the day Christ rose from the dead and usually in synagogues or house groups since the first Christians were Jewish and were used to this tradition. We’ve carried this tradition on since the time of the Apostles. Most churches gather once a week for worship. In theory, these gatherings and assemblies of Christians are supposed to be a place where you can hear the word of God preached, learn more about scripture, grow and gather with other Christians to build one another up and serve one another. Back then, Christians and non-Christians were the only groups that existed and the non-Christians were broken up into a variety of institutions of worship. There were no right-wing Christians or moderates, just Christians.

Now, we have hundreds of Christians groups worldwide and even more splinters of those and so many churches in the United States (at last count from Christianity Today there are 384,000 Christian congregations in the U.S.), that it’s hard to keep track.

The whole idea of the gospel is to bring man back to right relationship with God, and open the way to direct communication with God. Somewhere in all this religion, spirituality and inner communion with the Almighty may tend to get lost. I believe this is why Jesus warned the disciples so sternly to avoid the “doctrine” of the Pharisees. Not because he didn’t believe in the Law, not at all. He came to fulfill the law. Jesus warned against practicing their brand of religion. In short, Judaism at the time consisted of a lot of man-made rules that the Pharisees themselves didn’t even follow. (See Matthew 15, Matthew 23 for Jesus’s criticisms of the religious systems of the time). It’s not religious practices that are wrong, the book of James talks about practices of “true religion”. It’s when religious practices are developed arbitrarily and are held as if you’ll drop into hell if you don’t follow them.

For me, if you can’t cover that practice with scripture..um…what are you doing?

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THINK ON THIS….
Church, pastors, priests, ministers should not be mediators between you and God.

Some Christians put the institution of the local church and all that is attached to it on the wrong level of importance. Why? Well, because this is the one thing they can physically see, and we humans tend to put more faith in the tangible.

So if “Pastor says…”, then should I do it, even if it doesn’t make any sense biblically? I’ve heard people reason themselves into obeying things that their Pastor can’t even explain with the bible. In some cases WON’T explain and just tells them to obey. Often people get so wrapped up in church-iosity they don’t even study or examine what they are taught.

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That type of religion stinks.

Our Personal Walk

According to the scriptures is Jesus Christ himself is our only mediator. He’s the only one worthy of that status as the Son of God. The Hebrew religion already had its, priest and rabbis who, by God’s temporary design, stood as mediators between Israel and God.

But when Christ died, as those who are familiar with the evidence know, the veil of the temple was split from top to bottom. (Matthew 27:50). God tore this 60-foot veil that took 300 priests to move. No human could have done that. For Christians, this symbolizes that God had destroyed the barrier between God and man through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. We no longer had to go through human mediators. Christ became our righteousness, our way to reach God.

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 2 Cor 5:21

In short, no human stands between you and God. God made that clear on the day Christ died.

Often we use our Pastor, or minister or other, fellow Christians as symbolic Old Testament priests.

By placing their opinions and rules above the word and the leading of God, by default, we give them that place. They now become in practice the Levitical priesthood. We imagine and they often do too, that somehow we need their approval for God’s divine favor. It can be deadly to spiritual awareness and our spiritual walk.

Our dependence on the human aspect of religion is what weakens us. We’ll look at our local church communities as the voice of God and replace God’s voice with opinions and rules. We may feel that God will not tell a person a person anything that is not sanctioned by a pastor or other Christians in our circle. The feeling of close community is where we have to be cautious. We can begin to lose the beauty of faith and walking with God when we place people on a pedestal.

It had gotten so bad in specific segments of our denomination that even if someone wanted to wear their hair a particular way if the Pastor didn’t like it or someone of prominence had a problem with it, that hairstyle had to go. Wow! Whenever anyone starts to take the place of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we should respectfully decline to accept masks of divine authority. Whatever God tells us to let go or remove from our lives should be a voluntary act of love. Anything else will be phony and only done to perpetuate a particular image and possibly just the comfort of others.

We weaken ourselves when we don’t live our spiritual lives authentically as God speaks to us. We lose our Enoch-experience. Hebrews 11:5 says that Enoch pleased God. Enoch believed God and loved God, and this was before the Laws of Moses, and any rules instituted as Christian law, so what does that say about what’s necessary to commune with God?

Next time, let’s talk about Romans 14 and its lessons on what’s truly important to God.

Independence From Man-Made Religion

Hello everyone! Happy Independence day. I’ve been super busy with new things going on in my life. I’ve got a new speaking engagement coming up, and me and my husband have started a relationship coaching business. I’ll also do spiritual/life coaching. I’m working on an online bible study based on my book too. Man, I’ve got lots of work to do, not to mention a new grandbaby, helping my daughter and my two sons. One’s gone off to college and the other is starting his junior year in high school and on two sports teams. BUT only one is out of the house. They are learning and starting their lives and mom’s got to be there.

Hubby and I did a photo shoot and things are looking up for us

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Half of the time I look like this…images

 

It’s ok. God is doing new and wonderful things in our lives.

But the subject today is man-made religion. Here’s my thought.

I venture to say that most people if given a choice between church traditions and the Bible will choose church customs every time. This is because I believe people are more comfortable doing what the next man does over belief in something they cannot see. People prefer stability, and if someone is telling them what to do in all areas of their life, this often represents security for them. Often people come to God ready to love Him fully and obey whatever He tells them. This can be obeying what they see in black and white in the bible or just in their intuitive relationship with the Spirit of God. However, when they join a church (it doesn’t matter which belief persuasion) they run into the wall of church tradition. Very rarely do we find a church that allows people to just obey God as he speaks to them. In some way, they will they have to conform to a set of rules that some person has created. You understand that once you tie yourself to church rules, it’s not the bible that reigns, it’s the authority of the person that makes the rules.

This is why I often speak about spiritual awareness. Each of us came from God Almighty. All of us were born bent toward sin and sinful ways. Christ provided the way back to God by paying the ultimate sacrifice for our sins, forgiving us and removing any barriers to God through His Atonement. So why do we feel that unless we are tethered to a church building, we are missing out on a relationship with God?

Don’t get me wrong, I believe, strongly that church community is important. It offers us an opportunity to gather with other like-minded people who follow Christ. It gives a sense of belonging to those that follow the bible and it’s a time we can assemble with other Christians and worship and tell what God has done in our lives and share about his goodness. This is all very fulfilling and necessary for spiritual growth. We edify one another and certainly how can we do this at home or alone.

And yet, when God’s people come together, Satan often joins the party as well. More often than not, Christian gatherings can become a place where good followers of Christ can get sidetracked from God’s goals for their lives. Good people will fall into the trap of “you must do it THIS way” to be a good Christian. And the end result is that we begin to follow man more than God. We find ourselves being more concerned with what people think of us more than God’s view of us. We become more concerned with being called a good brother or sister according to the dictates of a man-influenced dogma, than being called God’s dear child.

So this Independence Day. Let’s declare of our freedom from man-dominated worship and vow to get in REAL connection with God himself.

As a minister, I’ve seen a repeated decline in spirituality from people that live their spiritual lives dependent on other people’s approval. True spirituality requires independence. Everyone must be free to follow his leading and obey His Spirit. Jesus plainly told the disciples, that they would have individual responsibilities to Him in their walk with God. Responsibilities others in their Christian community may not understand. But how many of us have the courage and confidence to move forward? We see this in the last chapter of John, when Peter, after receiving instruction that he should simply follow Jesus, turned and ask Jesus what would another disciple (John) do?

22 Jesus said to him, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!”

This is where we have our struggles! And sure enough, shortly after that, the disciples started a rumor that Jesus said, John would not die. A rumor, a false one, about what Jesus said! This was not what He said, but people start rumors in church all the time don’t they? They know half of a story and fill in the rest with speculation—that’s just how folks are. Our walk with God is as individual as our fingerprints. So make a commitment to follow JUST JESUS and live as JUST A CHILD OF GOD without –isms and –tarians and –ologies and simply Follow Him!

Enjoy the fireworks!

Healing Divine and Otherwise

For the next few posts, I’m back to more spiritual awareness. This next series of posts may be bit dark, but I hope that they help people understand why man-controlled religion can be deadly. , and why it is of the utmost importance to have a relationship with God for ourselves. I distinguish mainstream religion from walking with Jesus because from what I see in America, we tend to get the two confused. When we look at scripture, God says that he will dwell in his people and that those who accept and receive Christ into their hearts and follow his words would be his people. He no longer needed his people to have a temple with His presence dwelling in the ark and the tablets of stone to remind them of righteousness. We, his people were to be living epistles, read by all men. The word of God was to be written in our hearts. We as the people of God were to be his dwelling place, his priesthood and he would establish a new covenant. Finally, because of the sacrifice of Jesus, the veil that separated man from God was pulled away. We no longer need a mediator or anyone to go to God for us, we could approach God directly through prayer and walk with him in a personal way.

In each of these next posts I’m going to use some profound sayings from Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking to talk about the reality of this idea in my life. This book talks about the unconscious decision-making process and the intuitive knowledge we have about certain things. He posits that snap judgments and gut feeling can often be more valuable than an in-depth analysis of a situation.

This week’s quote:

“We have, as human beings, a storytelling problem. We’re a bit too quick to come up with explanations for things we don’t really have an explanation for.”
― Malcolm Gladwell, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

How often I experienced this in religion. If we don’t understand, we make up an explanation. If we don’t know what to do, we just follow what someone in authority or our religious environment tells us is right. We will create a false reality of how something should be just because it seems to fill a void in our head. The human mind needs answers, and the devil will often give those answers.

Men love to follow other men. If something becomes an accepted practice, we all tend to follow suit, and when it comes to religious practice, how many follow a method is merely an indication of the popularity of opinion and not moral quality. As a minister, I’ve visited large megachurches and small storefront places of worship. From experience, I know that the location doesn’t matter. It’s the people inside those places and how serious they are about following the word of God that tells the tale.

In my own religion, even though sincere, they had created their own version of what it meant to follow God. There was a big chasm between what was preached and what was practiced, and it began to widen over the years. So if I am an expert in anything, having lived in a Bible-believing fundamentalist church for over 30 years, my gut has become finely tuned to religious lies
This quote of Gladwell’s reminded me of people’s often misguided practices about divine healing. Although the Bible clearly teaches that Christ came to earth with healing power and God promises that we can ask what we will and it shall be done, he wanted us to know who he was, the great physician and healer for our bodies. However, he did not leave on record what to do if we pray and nothing happens. He did not condemn or place a “woe” on people who sought help from a physician. We accept the Book of Acts as scripture, and this book was penned by Luke, a physician “one who heals” who is mentioned as such in several places in scriptures. This was not a point of contention in the Bible that he was a medical doctor.

Our church highly honors biblical inspiration toward divine healing. Yet, over the years the leaders failed to adjust their practices of simply refusing medical help even when people were not healed and died trying. Maybe not as much now, but there was tremendous pressure to “trust God with your body.” And I would challenge anyone from my religious group who may read this to say otherwise. Diving Healing became such an identifier of our group, especially the African American side of our group, that it was placed in our creed statement.

Are You Trusting God For Healing?

In truth, whether you trusted God for healing became more important than whether you had sinned.  If you failed you were treated as if you had sinned or at the very least, failed a test God put you through. It was a point of shame.   This is a lesson on how a good thing can go too far in religion and become very, very bad.  There was all this talk about “standing” for divine healing, especially for ministers. However, I knew of ministers that had surgery.  images (1)

So if it was ok for them, then it’s ok, right? Well, no, as it was explained to me, it was ok to have repairs done to your body, but other things like, disease and cancers should be left up to the divine hand of God. That was acceptable.

Besides, it was explained, these male ministers had to work so it was ok to get a surgical repair so their families wouldn’t suffer and these the men had to go to work to support their families. What????? When did we decide that little caveat? downloadI had to have a hernia repair at the time, and it was a big deal worthy of discussion by the ministry. I was asking really for prayer and not permission, but it became an issue because I was lay-minister. It was all about the image of the ministers and not me.  They never once asked how this was hurting me or my family.  Fortunately, they didn’t have an issue with the operation, but that’s how it was explained to me as being alright to do. What kept going through my head was a blink moment of sorts that something was seriously wrong. I wanted to ask Later I thought about how everyone didn’t know this tidbit of information. Did the leaders ever have a meeting to let other people know they considered that type of surgery acceptable because Dude, there’s folks out here refusing to have broken legs set, refusing novocaine for dental procedures and everything else. They knew about people doing these things, but provided no public direction. They were afraid to say any surgery was fine.  So, if you knew it was acceptable fine, if you didn’t, oh well, I guess you’d find out later, somehow; when your DEAD!

I personally didn’t have a problem with any medical procedure a person chose to have, everyone was not going to have the gift of faith, the bible says that ( I Corinthians 12:27-31). However, we practiced that every minister and family should be an example of everything when biblically, that is not the statement of scripture–AT ALL. To me, that was a personal decision between them and God, but often in our religion as in other churches with this bent, whoever has the loudest mouth has the most influence.

As Christians, our primary mission is to introduce people to Jesus Christ and help them walk with God. When did this become second place?.

Case in point: Our former Pastor had beautiful testimonies of God healing him through prayer. Not just him, but others in our congregation did as well. This came from a strong faith in God and their gifts of healing, but also just because God honored their commitment and honesty and just worked on their behalf. However wonderful those testimonies, the Bible never meant for these inspirational things to be a rule that would kick you out of the kingdom if you didn’t practice them. In James 5:14-15 Healing is connected with forgiveness of sins.  One problem though, in practice we only focused on the first part of these passages-the healing and not the forgiveness of the sins of the Christian (I am assuming he is talking to saved people in this passage).  The direction is given here to call for the elders to pray, they will anoint him with oil (as a symbol of health and the Holy Spirit) and God would heal them and forgive their sins.

Because the bible said this, you were a second class citizen if you chose the route of medical help. One of our ministers did have surgery at the urging of his family to save his life, and he lost his ministry because it so offended the congregation. He was able to get back up later but was so hurt about how he was treated, when his sickness reoccurred he didn’t want to go through that rejection again and just took on fate as his option. In fact, my husband used to say, “Some of these people don’t have faith, they’re simply leaving themselves to fate.”

However, the atmosphere and teaching by some in our congregation (don’t ask me how it got like that) was that if you were adequately obeying God, you would have the faith to refuse medical help and only trust his divine hand to heal you.

This became not only a test of your present faith but your spirituality. I am writing this because Christians must be careful how far they take scriptural things. God is all wise enough to explicitly state what we must do to be saved. If he didn’t say it, you don’t have to obey it.

In my life, I’ve experienced both: miraculous healings and times that I should have gone to the doctor.

There are no scriptures about the “method” of practicing divine healing. God simply encourages us that we can trust him with our bodies, yet nowhere does he make this a command; but it was in our church, and when the Pastor saw what was happening and tried to put balance in the teaching, some called him backslidden and would not accept his “new”, actually more correct teaching.

Preachers from other congregations came through in the early 2000s and decried “saints going to hospitals” as if they had sinned or had started going to taverns and bars and nightclubs. It was put on the same level.

On top of this, our church fell into the warm waters of De-Nile (denial) about how dogmatic they had made the atmosphere of our churches. Babies had died or were damaged, young people died all on the altar of Divine Healing. Verbally it was said “oh, it’s not a sin to go to the doctor or accept medical treatment” but everyone knew that it was seen as a failure if you did. To this day, many congregations have an unsaid rule and try to keep quiet that a person is undergoing chemotherapy or medical treatment, because “it may disturb the saints’ faith” as if this knowledge will somehow destroy what God would do. One person got up and said, “the devil is trying to take divine healing out of the camp” (meaning, the camp of the saints for the non-initialed). I thought how can that be? If God wants to heal someone, he is all-powerful, who can stop him from performing a miracle?

What I believe he meant was this: If people start going to hospitals and doctors no one will try to practice what we’ve been practicing. Someone may steal the nostalgic practice of the way we do this, and I won’t hear the same prayer requests and testimonies I’ve heard in the past. The only testimonies I accept (No medication was taken for this healing).

In some cases, we were only guessing God would heal. Then, when the person died, we’d say,

“God did heal them, they’re not in pain now, he took them home.” What???? Where was death equated to healing in the bible?  People who were healed lived.

See what I mean. We find an explanation for things we can’t explain.

What I believe happened is that what was once a natural outpouring of God on a particular people began to be a forced practice. They looked at divine healing as a calling card that God is with us. Signs and wonders. It started to overtake certain aspects of their teaching until it began to be treated like a command. Sincerity does not mean that a person is right. God gave men gifts and every good and perfect gift comes from above.

16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. James 1:16-17

To be able to have hearts transplanted, and body parts repaired and go to sleep while someone surgically works you,  and to be able to go back to your family and live your life and make things better with God, that is a knowledge and a chance that came from God to mankind. This is the mercy of God to mankind.   The devil doesn’t want good. So however the healing comes, it’s a blessing from God.

In religious practice, one has to be careful that something admired or inspirational doesn’t become a required for everyone. What was an inspiration about the healing hand of God, became a golden calf upon which some lives were sacrificed, an object of worship that gave our religious group identity. But did we ever stop to think that Jesus stated that our identity is wrapped up in our love for one another?

By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35

The Inspiration of Number 22

It’s amazing how inspiration can be found in the strangest places. Last week was my first week of healthy eating in months. It felt strange, and my body was like “heeyyyy!” but I was feeling pretty proud of myself. My 23-year-old daughter was on this quest with me. I had to slap brownie bites out of my daughter’s hand, but she was thankful and has been feeling better. Here’s the rundown of benefits, my foot pain has diminished, my energy is better, I sleep like a baby at night because my body is not trying to digest tons of food, and I’m more rested when I wake up. I used to sleep and still feel tired after waking up, and I was waking up all weird hours of the night. Because of my recent fall, I’m having trouble with my knee, but that’ll work itself out.

This is a pic of a snack I had this weekend, I can remember a time it would have been an Arizona tea (filled with sugars) and a bag of chips.

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Overall, I’m feeling good about this change, and I’m getting back to my sugar abstinent self.  I try to think about sugar like an allergy, to trick my mind.

It is hard especially the mental fast food triggers I’ve created as a habit. When I’m out and around driving, in my head, it’s like a smorgasbord: Wendy’s, McDonald’s, Jensen’s Drive-In, that favorite corner bakery that sells those awesome cinnamon donuts and I’m thinking “why are there no good Deli’s by my house?” The list of temptations goes on.

How Number 22 Inspired Me

Well, my food challenge this weekend was centered around my son’s volleyball tournament last weekend. First, he tells me he doesn’t know where the tournament is, he’s got to text “Joe”. He has the name of the facility, but no address. We google the name and 2 different sports complexes come up with the same name, but possibly different companies and both have addresses in townships that he swears are “not it.” “That’s not the one” he keeps telling me. We finally find the right one.

We arrive at the place at 7 AM on a SATURDAY. We made it a few minutes late, but hey, we’re here in one piece. Mind you, this tournament is not for his school! This is a club that will HELP him with his upcoming season FOR his school. It’s at this moment I’m kicking myself for letting him get involved in the first place, but then I remember all the trouble he stayed out of being busy with sports.  He loves competition but OMG am I tired. Most of the time, he and his buddies ride each other around to these things but not this weekend.  He’s one month shy of getting his driver’s license, and neither one of us can wait.

“Mom, I’m literally the only kid at my school with no driver’s license.”
My response, “no your not, that’s impossible”.
His response “but I AM!”
“And you know this because….?”
“I just AM!”
Well suck it up buddy ‘cause you can’t drive anywhere without me, your dad or your sister for another month, which to him is dragging on like a Puritan’s sermon– he’s trapped with no end in sight.

He played really well in the tournament but his team overall was not playing their best, so I kept wondering …why are they still playing? Lose already.  The tournament was lasting so long I was praying for a loss. Mind you my son was not going to cry about it. I know it’s terrible, but I almost started to clap when the other team scored. I just wanted it to end. It just would have looked so bad to applaud, though I might have had some company. The other parents looked just as miserable at trying to look interested as I did. The parents out in the lounge area watching TV seemed so happy.

These volleyball tournaments literally last from sun up to sundown. By 4 o’clock pm it’s starting to get dark around here.  You look up in tears realizing how you spent the entire day glued to a bench or wandering around an area of the Chicago suburbs you know nothing about. So you have to find things to entertain yourself. Usually, for me, it was eating. That’s entertaining! Ooh, look at the cute BabyRuth bars at the concession stand! I usually ate out of boredom. Wrong reason but there it is. However, this time I did great! I went to Panera Bread and got a salad and soup. I’m not going down like this!

One bright spot though. My husband came later, and we had the most entertaining time watching the eighth graders in the other court next to my son’s, hairy legged high school team. Mike’s vertical leap is fantastic by the way.photo0

It was fascinating to watch. It was a boy against girls tournament, but it looked like a bet between two teachers at an elementary school. The boys were tiny. I mean thin, wispy small and the girls looked like Amazons next to them. “ Alright, my science class against your cheerleaders.”

My son told me later that they were freshmen girls and those were freshmen teams. Wow, fresh off the eighth-grade press, and they looked every bit the part. The boys were so small, they looked like they were in actually in 6th grade, but the girls were much taller and mature looking. It looked like a total mismatch.  But the size difference was about right. I had forgotten how much boys grow during their high school years. My son, who used to be eye to eye with his 5’2″sister is now 5’11 and still growing. My daughter topped out at 5’ 2” in her Sophmore year of high school and the doctor told her, “Well Sydney, that‘s it. You’re not getting any taller.” She was so upset.

My husband was laughing at the visual, and I pointed out one boy who kept missing the ball and said, “I think he’s the shortest one.”  But my husband insisted he was not. We went back and forth about it during their huddle. He said, “wait ’till that guy gets out of the way you’ll see.”

From the crowd of barely, 5 footers came Number 22. He was so short he could have walked under the net without bending his head down. When I first noticed him near the bench, I actually thought he was sitting down.  He was short, but he had a lot of spunk. He was ready to play, and I loved it. No one had told this little fella that he was too short, and with his attitude, no one would dare tell him he couldn’t play.  He missed a few plays, but I loved that he stayed in the game. Every time he was in, he was shifting from side to side, hiking up his shorts, bent down in a crouch, he even made a beckoning motion for the ball.  I was so inspired by this little guy.  He was not intimidated.  He served pretty good and got the ball back over the net but it was not his skill that won me over. Nobody was going to laugh at him or look down on him (even if they had to physically), he was going to show the world that he was just as good as anyone else.  Confidence.

I’ll never forget that young boy’s look of determination.

I got a lesson from that. We are what we believe we are and even if we’re not the best, we should have confidence like we’re at the top of our game. If we think we’re too short or too dumb, too shy or too — anything, we won’t have the confidence to even try. Seeing yourself through other people’s eyes will only hurt your self-esteem. Our success is in our perception of ourselves.  Its all in the mind.   At the very least, this little guy was trying, and he wasn’t doing half bad. I imagine that’s how we should live our lives.  If we try, we won’t do half bad, and maybe, just maybe, we’ll be our best.