Vomiting Up

Okay, let’s get straight to the nitty-gritty, nasty truth:

I’ve been a struggling bulimic for 6 years.

Vomit has been something that I’ve grown accustomed to during my long bouts with this awful disorder, and I realized something today. My own vomiting is causing me to be vomited.

So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will vomit you out of my mouth.”Revelation 3:16

Lately, I have not felt like the “hot,” “on-fire,” or at the very least “smoldering” follower of Christ that I know I need to be. However, I have not truly felt the fear of being the very unattractive and undesirable lukewarm one whom God was so quick to rid Himself of. And while I have been keenly aware that bulimia has been robbing me of my relationship with Christ, I never really made this connection:

Each time I vomit, God does as well. What is He vomiting up? Me. 

In all honesty, these words have shaken me from a long naive coma in which I was feeling more passionate about work and what food I could get rid of instead of how close I could get to my God. I know I have been turning lukewarm. Each time I place my own insecurities and the old, foolish, deadly disorder I have before God, I am turning even more distasteful and tepid.

My wonderful husband put it in a metaphor which was far less graphic:

If you are a Chemistry major, or in a Masters program, or working on lead role in Hamlet, you can’t just spend two hours a week with your lab work or dissertation or script. You would probably spend extensive hours everyday focusing on and studying your subject of choice in order to become an expert. It would be your priority, not something you do just once a week.If we aren’t totally focused, if we are putting anything else above our goal, we’ll fail the test or drop out or get stage fright.

If we want to follow Christ and be holy, we should be the same way about Jesus: we should study him daily and think about him constantly, not just one a week on Sundays. We can’t be lukewarm about our faith and just spend our spare time on Him. He wants our entire focus, as if He were as important as a Chemistry exam, or a Masters Degree, or a staring stage role. (Because honestly, here’s a little secret, He is even MORE important than ANY of those things!)

If we aren’t totally sold our for Christ…. we’ll get vomited up.

To be honest, I don’t like reading about vomit, especially in the Bible. It stings a deep, fragile, and sore place in my heart.

God could have used a host of other words in that verse or even a host of other metaphors, but He didn’t. He chose to use a graphic, descriptive, violent, forceful metaphor.

Just like deep down, I don’t really want to vomit up any of the food I eat, I also really, really don’t want to be ejected, spewed, or vomited from His presence. I want to abide in Him. I do not want to grieve Him or give Him anything but all my focus, all my love, and all my life.

He deserves nothing less and, right now, as I struggle with my own terrible vomiting-up, I deserve nothing less than being vomited from His mouth.

Luckily, no–miraculously, our God is one who loves us. And because of Christ, we do not receive what we deserve, but rather we are forgiven…

Are you or have you ever struggled with lukewarmness? What are you putting before Christ that you need to give up?

More than you can Handle

Have you ever hear the phrase “God won’t give you more than you can handle”?  

The idea that God won’t ever give us too much is a very comforting big, fat, lie.

God WILL Give You More than You Can Handle.

I’ll admit, before I came to this conclusion, I felt comforted knowing that God would never allow anything to happen that I could not “handle,” whatever that meant. Things would always be manageable and I’d always be okay.

The truth is, the Bible doesn’t ever mention anything at all about giving or not giving us more than we can handle.

The verse that some Christians could possible confuse with this phrase is 1Corinthians 10:13:

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

The key word here is “temptation.” Here Paul promises  that God will not allow us to be “tempted beyond our ability.” God doesn’t say He won’t give us what we can’t handle. He says we won’t be tempted beyond our ability.

So…. you may ask. What’s the difference? What is “our ability”? Well, the second half of the verse, I think, helps answer that question: “but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”

Our “ability” is attached to the way of escape that God offers us each time we are tempted to sin. This exit door is what helps us resist and escape it. But more importantly, our ability is measured by our maturity in Christ and our reliance upon the Holy Spirit.

God certainly does allow us to experience more than we can handle, though.

Jesus was given more than He could humanly “handle.”

He prayed that God would take his awful fate away from him, but he added the important words “but now my will; your will be done.”  He was then beaten, crucified, and died an excruciating death. He did so without sin, however, because while he was tempted, he knew the “way of escape”. Still, God game him way too much for anyone to handle.

Like He did with Jesus, God will inevitably allow us to experience more than we can handle. Maybe it’s in death of a parent, or a spouse. Maybe it is watching a life-long dream drift away. It could be soldiers who watch their friends die in combat. Little children and siblings born with mental illness, or physical handicaps. Or may it’s simply God calling you to a very difficult career, financial stress, a draining job, or a very lonely period of time. Any of these things might be more than we can handle… but that’s the point.

Christianity is not the guarantee of an easy life, but the abundant life.

It makes us uncomfortable to think about suffering loss and God allowing that loss. (Don’t get me started on Job.) But God wants desperately for us to cling to Him, to hold onto Him for dear life sometimes, (as we are drowning). Without Him, we would drift away into nothingness. We will suffer greatly, at some time in our life, that’s a guarantee.

And it is because of our  sufferings and through our sufferings that we can become more like Jesus:

“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.” Philippians 3:10

I want to know Christ and, if sharing in His sufferings is one way, then bring it on! Paul also tells us to rejoice in our trials and tribulations of any kind, for the “testing of our faith produces endurance”.

I gladly accept the fact that God will allow me to experience such pain and difficulties that I will be broken under the weight of these burdens. Then I can look to my Lord, the lover of my soul, and cry out to Him, knowing He is the only One who can save me.

I do not want to buy into the lie any longer of naively believing that there is some magic limit or glass ceiling on suffering. There isn’t, and we demean the power of Christ’s sufferings when we assume there is.

If we are do be like Him, we must suffer like Him, and then turn to only Him, only our Lord and Savior. He wants us depending on Him. When are we ever more dependent on Him than when we can’t handle ourselves?

Do you think other followers of Christ will suffer for believing the lie that God will never give you more than you can handle? How is God pushing you to lean on Him more in your life?

Are you a “stalker”?

So, you’re an online blog-reader.

Annnnnd….I know from my stats that most of you get to this blog via facebook.

Have you ever heard someone start a sentence using these words: “so I was facebook stalking the other day…”?

Not you. Oh no, I know you would never partake in such a degrading and time-sucking practice as “facebook stalking”… NEVER!

The truth is, we all have been guilty of clicking through someone’s profile pictures, or following the chain of people who commented on so-and-so’s recent status update, then ended up looking at pictures of a stranger’s baby or dog or….something else equally invasive and downright creepy.

The truth is, we can know a lot about a random person that we are facebook ‘friends’ with. We can know that they like to ride their bike to work or that they are obsessed with One Direction. We can even know who they are dating, when they stopped working at the Dairy Queen, and (if they are as detailed with their status updates as some people I know) how often they go work out at the gym or what they’re making for dinner on Sunday night.

You could know all these random things about complete strangers!

And you’d be considered a genuine stalker in most people’s books.

…Although, social networking and people’s openness about sharing their lives with the world wide web has made this pretty much typical and even expected.

What I’ve found to ring so true for me is this: Often times, we are what I like to call Jesus Stalkers.

We know our Bible verses and our Be-attitudes and we wear our WWJD bracletts (are those even a thing anymore?)– fine. We wear our “Jesus is my Homeboy” tee shirts, and we go to church, and we know about what Jesus said and what he did and who he cured and how he died and how he rose and all of that good stuff.

And that’s good, right?

See, the weird part is that most Jesus Stalkers look like devout Christians who are highly informed about Jesus.

But again, the truth is, you can be highly informed about the dude who sits next to you in Philosophy Lecture hall simply because you’re BFF is ‘friends’ with him on facebook and follows him on twitter.

Knowing a lot of information about someone does not mean you know them. I mean like truly know them. On a personal level.

But see, Jesus wants us to know him personally, intimately, and deeply. He doesn’t want to be stalked. He wants to be walked with, talked with, listened to, and he wants our time.

If you google “stalker definition”, you get this:

stalk·er/ˈstôkər/

Noun:
  1. A person who stealthily hunts or pursues an animal or another person.
  2. A person who harasses or persecutes someone with unwanted and obsessive attention.
 Jesus had a few stalkers back in his day too. They were called the Pharisees. They knew everything he was teaching, what he was claiming, and what he was doing. They harassed and persecuted him because they were obsessed with the Law, which Jesus came to demolish, then rebuild in an even better way.
We are not called to be stalkers of Jesus, we are called to be Disciples.

dis·ci·ple/diˈsīpəl/

Noun: A personal follower of Jesus during his life, esp. one of the twelve Apostles.

Verb: Guide (someone) in becoming a follower of Jesus or another leader.

Synonyms: follower – pupil – adherent – learner – apprentice

This is what we want to be. A follower, a pupil, a learner.

The system of apprenticeship first developed in the Middle Ages. A master craftsman was entitled to employ a young person as an inexpensive form of labor in exchange for providing food, lodging and formal training in the craft. Apprentices lived and worked with the master for years and years until they had successfully mastered the craft completely. The idea of “one teacher per student” was adopted by many Zen teachers in practicing their art as well.

If we want to be true followers of Christ, we have to live and work with Him. We have to be one-on-one with Him. And because his craft is utter perfection, we will never master it completely, so we’ll have to keep learning from him every day, no matter how much we feel we know or how “good” we get at being “good”.

 So how about you? How long have you been a Jesus Stalker? 
What does it mean to know Jesus on a personal level?
What does your relationship with Jesus look like? Are you a true disciple?

Lazy Sundays are A-Okay: Mary vs Martha

Today is Sunday…

It’s a hot and steamy day and I am sleepy for no good reason other than the fact that I am being rather lazy today.

It used to be that I would begin to feel extremely guilty for even feeling tired when I “shouldn’t” be. Well, I might start to feel that way if I had a “do-nothing” attitude every day, but I aslo know myself and my tendencies to be a Martha, so I don’t feel I am in danger of this happening anytime soon.

So today I was restful, sleepy, and at peace with it. 

At the end of an hour nap after church and lunch with my husband, I walked into the living room to go read my Bible and journal, passing by our calendar on the wall. I stopped and looked at it more closely, as if I could not believe what my eyes were seeing.

I found myself staring at the reality that this was my last restful Sunday of the summer. Beginning next week my life will turn into travel, moving to Chicago for my 6-week “independent contractor” job, hitting the road to run some races and go camping with family, then packing up our life and heading out to God-only-knows to go live G0d-only-knows where.

In preparation for my crazy, fast-paced life style which will be coming up oh-so-soon, I thought it might be nice to explore my tendency to be a Martha rather than a Mary (as I referenced earlier).

Mary and Martha are the probably the most familiar pair of sisters in the Bible. Both Luke and John describe them as friends of Jesus in their Gospels, which is why I find them so fascinating. Luke writes only four verses describing the particular interaction I am referencing, yet despite its length, it has been a complex source of interpretation and debate for centuries (at least I presume so).

The Pithy Story According to Luke

Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:38-42)

So basically, Mary sat down and just hung out with Jesus, and Martha was so caught up in serving him as her guest that she didn’t even spend time with THE SON OF GOD.

You know that one friend who you always feel like you have to impress? Who, when they come over, you have to clean your whole house and make sure you buy a bottle of wine to give to them and make sure you are cooking the best meal you’ve ever made? Well, Jesus isn’t that guy. And frankly, if you have a lot of friends like that, you need new friends who are more down to earth.

You know that friend who you can just be yourself around? Who you just value time with no matter what you’re both doing?

That’s the type of guy Jesus is. 

He’s the friend who calls you up and says, “hey let’s hang out– I don’t care what we do, let’s just sit at your house and I’ll tell you stories”.  If we’re like Martha, we highly doubt that’s all Jesus really wants from us, so we take our unbelieving selves to work and end up missing all of his stories entirely.

But if we’re like Mary, we are assured that all Jesus needs is just to be in our presence and to be listened to.

In this slower time, God has been so good about keeping me like Mary; quiet, loving, content, in awe of Christ, and obedient. But I know that with the distractions of this world, I am in danger of becoming a more like Martha. I have a sneaking suspicion that many of us find it hard to live in this fast-paced world as a devoted follower of Christ, so, in light of such assumptions, I have decided to prepare us both for this challenge.

Six Warning Signs You Might Be Turning into a Martha:

Martha’s Musical

1. You are distracted by many things. Martha let herself get caught up in all her tasks and to-do lists. When we let this happen to ourselves, Jesus is usually what gets pushed off to the side. Even if we think that what we are doing is for Christ, it usually isn’t if we don’t have time to be with him. We don’t have time for him because we don’t make time for him; everything else has to get done first before we can truly devote time. This means that Jesus gets our “spare time”, if we even have it. The truth is Jesus is worth so much more than our leftovers, and if we give him our first and best, suddenly that to-do list seems way less daunting. (I speak from experience.)

2. You get upset because you feel like you are doing all the work. So Martha’s the only one in the kitchen cooking, and the house needs to get picked up too, and she knows that lazy little Mary over there is NOT getting out of her seat next to Jesus to do anything! Would you be frustrated? There are times when we are called to work and work hard with our serving, in fact, most times we are called to do that. But there is a time and place. Sometimes it just isn’t the time to do dishes. It can wait. Like I said before, God gets our first and best. Doing the dishes will be so much more enjoyable after some Jesus time. We can approach our tasks with a servant’s heart rather than with grumbling complaints.

3.  You feel like Jesus must not care about your situation. Martha straight out asked Jesus if he even cared that Mary wasn’t helping her. I know; She done got snippy with Jesus! But many times we can feel this way. We feel like God simply can’t know what it feels like to be in our shoes. We need to know that Jesus was fully human and fully God and he came down to this Earth to be tempted and to be perfect. We Christians are blessed that we have God who knows what our human experience is like, who has been tempted in the same ways we are tempted everyday and who overcame them all. Jesus not only cares about our situations, he knows them deeply and personally.

4. You are talking more than listening in your relationship with Jesus. Being a writer and a natural talker, I am guilty of this one… John tells us in another passage that when her brother dies, Jesus tells Martha that Lazarus would rise again. Martha immediately responds that she knows her brother will rise again in the resurrection at the last day. She did get her doctrine right but she didn’t really listen to what Jesus was actually saying. To some of us, myself included, the acquisition of Biblical knowledge becomes more of a goal than hearing what God is saying to us through it. If you find yourself reading God’s word without truly asking how God would have you apply it to your daily live, you might be caught in Martha’s trap. When you read the Bible or listen to some teaching, start asking yourself what does this mean for me?

5. You make rational excuses why you can’t do what Jesus asks. When Jesus tells the sisters that the stone should be rolled away from Lazarus’ tomb, Martha objects, saying, rather insightfully, that the stench would be awful. Sensible, logical, practical; that’s our Martha! But Jesus, the Savior, the Lamb of God, God himself! is telling her to do something….. shouldn’t she just do it?

The sad truth is that we often find ourselves making up even stupider excuses as to why we can’t do what God is telling us to do. Some of you may say, “Well, I really don’t know what he’s telling me to do!” Sure you do. He told you to forgive people who wrong you. But we often reason that the other person was at fault and they should be the first to ask for forgiveness. He tells you to give generously to those in need, but we quite sensibly think that some bills should be paid off first. He tells you not to worry about food and clothing but I know I myself have often laid awake at night wondering what to wear to my job interview, or in tight financial times, how we’ll get through another week without buying groceries. When Jesus says something, you don’t argue with him. Bottom line.

6. You just can’t get into worshiping; you’d rather do something “useful”. Soon after her brother was raised from the dead, Martha serves another dinner to Jesus. Hopefully this time she did it without complaining. Where is Mary during this dinner? There she is again at Jesus’ feet, this time pouring perfume on them and wiping them with her hair. Why isn’t Martha in on the worship? Jesus had already pointed out to her the importance of sitting at His feet and her brother had just been raised from the dead for heaven’s sake! She should have been falling all over Jesus… but she was too busy in the kitchen. Listen up: Don’t waste your opportunities to worship! Remember that Jesus told the disciples that the poor would always be with them when they criticized Mary for wasting her resources on worship rather than giving to the poor. Well, the household chores or business tasks will always be with us too. Prioritize them several notches below worship.

So… Why keep the Sabbath?

During the next few months, I know it will be a challenge for me to be like Mary rather than Martha. I know that despite the fact that this is my last “Lazy Sunday”, I still need to make time to keep my Sabbath and really spend time with Jesus. His desire is to be with us without distraction, worry, or chatter. But Jesus also tells us that God made that time available for us: the sabbath was created for people. So keep it yo– it’s for your own good!

Are there any other signs that Martha may be leading your mentality? How do you keep the Sabbath? What is your experience with creating time for Christ in this busy, fast-paced world? Please let me know!