Temple of the Holy Spirit

One focus of this blog is supposed to be on health.  I haven’t really addressed that in awhile partly because it has been so back-burnered in my life.

Lupus and other auto-immune disorders run in my family.  My paternal Grandma, Margaret Terrell, had parents that fled the hardships of the potato famine in Ireland.  Then she went through extreme hardship enduring the Great Depression as a girl.  She had 14 children and succumbed to lupus and cancer at the relatively young age of 64.

All of my aunts have auto-immune issues.  My older sister has lupus and R.A.  My aunt has done a lot of research and believes that the hardships endured in our family caused a genetic mutation and predisposition to auto-immune disease.

A few years back I was feeling awful and had a lupus test done.  The results showed elevated nuclear antibody activity, evidence my body was attacking itself, but not high enough to be in the “lupus” category.

So this thing is just simmering away in my DNA.  I feel so strongly that I have a responsibility in determining how this is going to play out.  I’ve made many lifestyle changes in order to feel better.  When I take care of myself and minimize inflammation in my body by avoiding gluten, carrageenan, soy lecithin, and preservatives, I feel really good.

But in my role as a caregiver there has been much stress and exhaustion.  My son often can’t sleep at night so I am up frequently with him.

I’ve gone back to drinking way too much coffee and eating stuff I shouldn’t.  Snickers and Reeses cups have become a major staple in my daily diet.

And I feel flipping awful.

The past few days I’ve been feeling like an extra from the Walking Dead, and looking like one.  I’ve had an autoimmune-feverish feeling.  Not good.  a_4x

I was lying in bed a couple night ago just stressing about all of this.  Thinking I needed some huge game plan to save myself from this awful state I’ve gotten into.  But the Holy Spirit spoke to me about just going back to common sense things to take care of myself.  Yes, I need the Holy Spirit because adulting is hard and common sense at times eludes me.

I don’t need 5 cups of coffee a day.  I need more nourishing meals and less Halloween candy.  I need to rest.  Just basic stuff.  I feel 100% that if I treat my body well I will pull out of this.

I also give myself grace because it isn’t all “my fault”.  Being a caretaker is just tough.  When you’re exhausted and stressed it makes more sense (in your fatigued mind) to wash down a snickers bar with espresso so you can power through the day than taking the time to eat a proper meal.

And you can do that occasionally but when it becomes a daily lifestyle, it’s only a matter of time before the crash and burn becomes inevitable.

Our bodies are amazing instruments that God has given us.  We need to treat them accordingly and honor them in a way that is befitting the living, breathing temple of the Holy Spirit.

“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” Cor. 6:19-20

We all face hard things.  Sometimes it’s written in your DNA and you feel like it’s a life sentence.  But the human body is truly an amazing creation.  We are wired to heal.  Whatever you’re facing, don’t give up.  Take care of yourself.  Do your best and God will honor those efforts.

 

Advertisements

Conviction vs. Condemnation

Last Sunday I had a really great day.  My daughter and I met up with my mom and her husband at the Mall of America.  I have so much fun with them.  We walk around and giggle and act silly.

22814359_10159617349975074_6452226001347868145_n
Shiloh had my mom in a death grip!

We bought chocolate at Lindt and had fresh guacamole and chips.  It was just a really great day and a much needed break from the daily grind.

As I lay in bed that night thinking about the day, I started feeling guilty.  Why?  No good reason.  I just felt almost like the day had been so fun and easy that I must be missing something.

As I lay there thinking, I felt like the Holy Spirit reminded me that God is the source of every good and perfect gift.  I shouldn’t feel some weird, misplaced guilt over having a light-hearted day.  “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.” 1 Timothy 6:17

Yes we should be fighting the good fight and fight against the desires of the flesh.  But it’s ok to laugh and have fun and enjoy the gifts that God richly provides.

I was folding laundry the other night when condemnation struck again.  I dump all my family’s laundry on my bed and sort and fold my way through the giant pile every night.  For whatever reason my mind always wanders to dumb things I’ve said and done in the past.  I was going over those same stupid mistakes and feeling the familiar waves of condemnation rolling over me and weighing down on me.  So much so that I just layed my head, somewhat pathetically, on my bed and buried my face in the clean laundry.

The voice of the Holy Spirit interrupted this little condemnation sesh with an abrupt, “You could have joy right now.”  Like, HELLO, you need to reclaim this time.  Stop falling into the old trash heap and letting the enemy beat you down.

The condemnation I was feeling was not from God at all.

Another instance happened today.  I had responded a bit snippily to a woman on my TSW support page.  It was a post from a woman who was only a week or so into topical steroid withdrawal and wailing about “when will this end?!?!?!  Give me at time frame and it better be days!!!”  I was incredulous and irritated because most of the people in the group have been suffering horribly for a long time and yet maintain a positive attitude.  Then she promptly responded even more snippity-ish (yes, I’m making up a word!) and back and forth it went.

Later that day when I was singing worship songs when I got the feeling I needed to apologize to this woman.  “Hmm….  That’s an interesting thought.  noooLet me file that away for later.”  Then later then day when I sat down to read my Bible and pray, I closed my eyes and BAM! “You need to apologize to her.”

I knew it was conviction from the Holy Spirit.

Did I want to apologize?  No.  Is it something God would want me to do?- Humble myself and be gracious..?  Yes.

I sucked it up and wrote her a quick message to apologize for being harsh and that I wished her well on her TSW journey.  I let it go and went back to praying.

When God convicts it is not to bury us alive in feelings of shame and worthlessness.  It is always quick and to the point and it comes with a solution to make it right.  In this case I just needed to apologize for my part.  Because that’s what I responsible for.

The good news is that when we do respond quickly to conviction it brings us closer to the heart of God.  Conversely, when we recieve the spirit of condemnation from the enemy, it does absolutely nothing to help us become more Christ-like.

We all need to be aware of the thought patterns we have in our lives that may be building us up or bringing us down.

       “For as he thinks within himself, so he is.”

Proverbs 23:7

500 Years

It’s been 500 years since Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the church in Wittenburg, Germany. Luther95theses-808

As a girl in Minnesota I grew up going to a Lutheran church, of course.  If you live here, chances are that you’re Lutheran and you go to potlucks. 😉

What is sad and ironic is that my church was very dry and I came away with a sense that if I followed certain rules I was accepted by God.  Ironic because that was the very thing Luther was revolting against.  I was given a Bible after I went through confirmation which I kept on my bedside table at all times and occasionally attempted to read.  I remember trying to slog my way through Leviticus before I gave up.

Of course a system of rules just isn’t very compelling especially as you grow up and your world view gets very much expanded.

When I did come back to God and was filled with the Holy Spirit, the Bible came to life for me.  I read through the New Testament for the first time and was blown away.  This wasn’t dry or boring at all.  It was alive and exciting.

To me, the reformation freed the common believer to experience God firsthand.  It gave the people access to the previously inaccessible- the Word of God in the common language.  It seems shocking to us but 500 years ago the church didn’t want the Bible translated into the common tongue.  They actually rounded up all the copies they could find and burned them.  I guess they wanted to be the people’s only access to God and salvation.

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”  1 Peter 2:9

There aren’t certain believers that are elevated above the rest.   “I now truly understand that God does not show favoritism…”  Acts 10:34  Titles and positions are bestowed by people, not God.

Any believer, anywhere can go directly into God’s presence through our High Priest, Jesus Christ.  “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God…Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:14-16

This verse is saying that we all have Jesus as our perfect priest, and therefore we can commune directly with God.  We don’t have to go to “middle men” or settle for some kind of second hand experience.

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9  It doesn’t say if we confess and then jump through a bunch of hoops to earn what God has already freely given through his shed blood on the cross….

The Bible says that we are heirs of God and Co-Heirs with Christ.  Romans 8:17  Jesus was a priest, and if we are filled with his spirit, we are a part of a royal priesthood.  It’s our spiritual inheritance and it comes from God himself.

I think it is human nature to elevate the spiritual superstars of our times.  I remember doing just that with my favorite Bible teacher.  I could tell she was an amazing godly woman and such a talented writer.  I didn’t think I could ever live up to that so I read all her books and blogs and put her up on a pedestal.  I can just see God shaking his head and saying; “child, don’t you realize I love you every bit as much as I love her?”

There aren’t any rules we can follow to make God love us more than he already does.

He doesn’t want great things from us or even steadfast obedience so much as he wants our hearts.  He wants us to know him and love him the way he knows and loves us.  Consider the prayer Jesus prayed for us before he was crucified; My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message,  that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” John 17:21-22

There are many traditions and denominations in the church but none of us are saved through church membership.  We aren’t saved by communion.  We aren’t even saved by baptism.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God….” Ephesians 2:8

My fear is that so many people are missing it.  They may warm a pew occasionally but they have no real, living relationship with their Savior.  Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’  Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you workers of lawlessness.’ Matthew 7:23

Martin Luther was not a perfect man, not at all.  But God doesn’t use perfect people.  The reformation was an important step into bringing us common, everyday people into the very presence of God and obtaining the gift of salvation, unencumbered by extra-biblical traditions and rules.

 

Enduring through Trials

I was thinking yesterday of the things that have helped me weather the toughest thing I have ever gone through- my son’s extended and very difficult skin condition.  A quick rundown- he was on very potent steroid creams (black box label kind of thing) and we realized that they had basically destroyed his health.  Now we are trying to help him heal from the damage.

God taught me a lesson years ago about the importance of gratitude.  I had heard a radio program where the author Ann Voskamp was interviewed about her book, One Thousand Gifts.  She talked about how gratitude had pulled her out of depression and totally changed her life.  I didn’t even read the book but I was deeply impacted by that one hour interview.

It totally remolded my approach to life.  Every day I do look for the good and offer up thanks and praise to God.  It’s so ingrained in me that it’s my automatic “go-to” response.  There’s been many, many times where my son was crying in pain or just being negative about his (admittedly, terrible) circumstances.  I comfort him but am quick to guide the conversation back to the things in his life that are “good and perfect gifts”.  I truly, firmly believe that thankful attitude has helped us both get through this- and with a good measure of joy.  21557760_10159385235250074_8017605279174650947_n

The biggest battle we face is between our own ears.

We need to take in the truth and renew our minds every single day.  I don’t always have time to read the Bible but I do play the local radio station, Faith Radio 900, every day.  It’s got great biblical teaching that really helps me stay on track.

God is also speaking to me about taking every thought captive and casting down vain imaginations.  When a thought enters our mind that shouldn’t be there, we take action to cast it down.  That’s much easier to do when you are actively filling your mind with the truth of God’s Word.

I also pray frequently about the other battleground- my heartWordly wisdom would tell you garbage like “follow your heart” or “the heart wants what it wants”.  The Bible has this to say in Jeremiah 17:9 – “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”  If we blindly follow our whims, impulses, desires AKA our “hearts” we are setting ourselves up for disaster.  We can’t always trust our feelings or even understand them.  Not only that, but feelings are so fickle and quick to desert us after leading us into a mess. 

I pray often that God would give me a soft, malleable heart.  “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36:26

We especially need to pray over our own hearts during times of testing.  The 3rd chapter of Hebrews talks about how the Israelites hardened their hearts in their time of wilderness testing, and the tragic outcome; “So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.”‘

What this says is that our times of testing and trying are our times of refinement.  We all come to God and are completely accepted, however, we all have junk that needs to be dealt with.  Junk that would surface at the worst possible time and destroy or hinder our testimony.  If we are faithful to soften our hearts and work with God through tough times, there is a promised period of rest on the other side.  God’s rest- which includes blessings, peace, joy, etc., but this also means that if we don’t cooperate we will never reach these “green pastures” that God wants to lead us too.

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9

So, whatever you’re facing today, don’t give up.  Press in.  Follow hard after God.

“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” James 1:12

The Empty Tomb

Yesterday was a real let down for me.

See, it’s been raining here for dayyysss.  Our back yard is a soggy marsh!  But yesterday was beautiful.  Sunny and 65 degrees.  I was really hopeful that we’d be able to get out and hike and have fun as a family.

But Gabe went downhill really quick.  By the time we got to the park he was already frantically itching.  He shredded up his legs and feet.  We had to go home where I spent the rest of the day caring for him.

As much as I love him I have to admit that being a caregiver to a very ill child is incredibly draining.  It hasn’t just been weeks, or months, but years of this.

But what also happened is that we had a really rich spiritual conversation.  Gabe’s suffering has made him very sensitive to the things of God.  That and all this time I’ve spent with him has made our bond so close.  ggcici

Sometimes I just stop and thank God for giving me such a great kid.

I think about how when he was so little, the times his father and I knelt down next to his little toddler bed and prayed over him while he slept.  We dedicated our child to God and asked that he would use his life in powerful ways.

I was praying a few weeks ago and feeling very discouraged and hopeless even, but God reminded me of those prayers.  He told me, “Just keep dedicating him to me, every day.”

I woke up this morning and prayed and petitioned God with tears. for his healing.

I got this image in return of the sun rising over the empty tomb.

It’s our faith, it’s our life.  The empty tomb is the hope of humanity.

By his stripes we are healed. 20171008_074619

Suffering and pain may come knocking at our door.  They may even stick around far longer than we’d hope.  But the empty tomb gets the final say.  Weeping may last for the night, but JOY comes with the morning.

Where I’m At

I haven’t written in awhile.  Amidst the end-of-summer craziness and back to school hubbub, I just haven’t really had anything worth writing about or the time to write it.

But, miracle of miracles; my kids are all in school.  At this moment it’s just me, my dog, and a coconut mocha.

It’s a true miracle that Gabe is in school.  Yesterday he felt good enough that we decided it was the day.  His backpack had been packed weeks earlier.  He was scared but I coached him on what to say if anyone asked what was wrong with his skin.  I said if he started crashing at school to tell his teacher and I would come pick him up immediately.  gg

I dropped him off and got tears in my eyes.  He hasn’t been able to go to school since last February.  He’s come so far and there were days we felt like we would never get here.

He had a good day and was optimistic going back again today.

I had posted about it on facebook when a facebook friend commented, “GIVE GOD THE PRAISE!!!”.

I know she meant well but I felt an unexpected pang of irritation and anger.

A couple weeks ago I had been worshipping in my car and God had revealed to me the nature of the thing I’ve been battling for months, or even longer…

My trust in his goodness towards me has been seriously wounded and it was shaky to begin with.

There’s been so many hard things, so many painful things…and then this?  Even coming out (hopefully) on the other side of the worst of it…my soul has been so traumatized by witnessing suffering that no parent should have to see.

Sobs in the night.  Wounds that won’t heal  A true sense of hopelessness.

I know God is there, has been there.  But, it’s complicated.  I’m hesitant to speak to anyone about my feelings because I just can’t handle getting chastised or beaten over the head with platitudes.

I know what’s blocking my growth is my lack of submission to God.  But how can you submit when you can’t trust?

I’m still working things out.  I still believe.  I still listen.

This is just where I’m at and I have to give myself permission to be ok with that.

Sisters and Grace

Growing up I had two sisters (also a lone brother, pity him).  My older sister is 7 years older than me so I mostly looked up to her, followed her around, and attempted to read her diary (unsuccessfully though because it was in cursive, and I was 7).

My younger sister was only a year younger though so we were incredibly close but fought like you wouldn’t believe.

32435_10152250634410074_184616146_n
We only looked sweet and innocent!

I’m pretty sure my parents considered adoption at points!

We’re both so much alike in that we are head strong, idealistic, and passionate.  We’ve gotten into many debates.  We’ve taken different paths.  At times those paths led us in wildly different directions.  We’ve done things to hurt each other.  I was the dutiful, worried big sister and she was the care-free little sister throwing caution to the wind.

But blood is thicker than water and we’ve always come back and managed to sort through our differences. cicisash

When you love people you find common ground.  You work things out.  You forgive.

Offense can sneak in and bring down families, churches, marriages, even ones faith.

I was wrestling with it recently (um, today, it was today) and I want to share how we can recognize it and deal with it effectively.

As soon as I realized I was upset with a certain someone I tried to quiet my emotions and keep my perspective.  But when you are offended your emotions get inflamed with hurt and anger and indignation and perspective can be quick to fly out the window.  My own tendency is to get offended and then try to figure it out on my own, like “why did that person do that?  What are they really saying?  What is their problem? (it’s always their problem, amiright?!)”…

But today I felt all that rising up in me and I stopped, dropped and prayed.  I did.  I put my hair dryer down and knelt right in my bathroom to pray.  “Lord, I don’t want to be offended.  I know it is a big deal to you.  Lord, help me to let this go.  Lord, please help this person.  Please give them clarity and grace and maybe a gentle smack up the side of the head with an anointing of perspective.  Amen.”

Normally I wouldn’t surrender it like that.  I’d analyze and over-analyze and get all tied up in knots over it.  I would sleep horribly and then feel even worse.  Because offense steals our peace.  It steals our joy.  It stops up the fountain of the grace of God from flowing freely in our lives.

But I did pray, and I felt so much better.  I let it go.  I didn’t pick it back up.

Often, people hurt us out of their own places of wounding.  Our insecurity causes us to act a fool at times.  It can control us if we aren’t careful.  I know I’ve sinned from that place.  I’ve needed grace a’plenty.  Why would I not being willing to extend it?

There are very serious warning about not letting offense come in and take over.

“Pursue peace with all men…that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”  Hebrews 12:14-15 

Your bitter root is not staying contained.  That thing is going to wind its way around you until it chokes the life out of you and goes on to defile many.  Bitterness is something that we starve or nurture.  We need to pull it out by the root.  We need to deal with offenses as they come so that we don’t have any rotten roots growing wild producing rotten fruit stinking up our lives.

We’re all human so it’s safe to say that wherever we gather; stupid, insensitive things will be said.  People will feel left out.  People will clash.

We need to keep strengthening those forgiveness muscles.  Especially in those close relationships where you see people at their best and also at their worst.

There isn’t much sadder than the distance that results from a refusal to forgive.  People can genuinely love each other but lose years of precious time together because of the bitterness that took hold.

Also, (hello) it’s a major, major deal to God.

“But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”  Matthew 6:15

God isn’t going to give you this beautiful and costly gift for you to hoard to yourself.  We don’t siphon grace.  We live it out.  He forgave, so we can too.