Repentance in the Thick of It: Turning to Jesus in the Food/Body Struggle

“Do you feel like you eat when you’re not hungry more often or that you eat too much when you do eat?” My therapist asked. I knew the answer before she was even done with the question.

“Both. Gosh, both.”

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I realize that I’ve said so many times, to myself and my counselor and to my body image group, “I know I can’t do this on my own. I am totally dependent on Jesus.”

I mean that, truly. But part of me doesn’t. Because I don’t do the things that indicate that I am fully dependent.

I’m talking prayer. I’m talking repentance. Right smack dab in the middle of the struggle.

She pauses. “It sounds like you expect this journey to be a sort of a clear and steady mountain climb. It usually doesn’t work like that. Usually, it’s really very hard at the beginning, for months or even longer. It’s only after a long while that you start to see consistent progress.”

I have been wrong. I have been saying I know that this health of body and food takes time but I haven’t been living like it.

I’ve been saying things like,“How am I ever supposed to keep this up for a lifetime if I can’t even do 0-5 eating for a day!?” and, “I get so frustrated with myself, it’s like…why can’t I just get this right?”

The truth is, God wants me to turn to him the moment when I go reaching for the fridge door. I can stop right there and pray, and beg for His help not to shove my spiritual needs down with physical food. Heck, I can turn to Him while I’m shoving my face. I can say, as Paul does in Romans 7:15, “I do the thing I don’t want to do! What is my deal!? You’re the only one that can help me!” (Clearly, a paraphrase.) What it actually says is this:

“For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate….”

If I really realize my full dependence on Jesus, not just to avoid eating when I’m not hungry, not simply to stop overeating even when I am truly hungry, but to enter into relationship with Him in the midst of it, I must press into repentance. The point is not less food or more control. The point is Jesus.

I recently wrote down some lies that I believe about how I relate to food. I’m realizing, slowly but surely (seems to be how growth works…) that these things can only be healed and helped through constant confession and repentance. For me, confession starts with admitting to God the things He already knows and has been gracious enough to show me about how I relate to food.

So here are the LIES:

  • If I’m not “full” (a bit uncomfortable), I didn’t get enough.
  • If it tastes good, I should each as much as I can.
  • If it’s there, it’s an option.
  • If it’s dinnertime, I must eat now even if I’m not experiencing true hunger.
  • I need something to do, so food is an option.
  • I could go get some food, so I will.
  • Just a little something when I’m not hungry doesn’t count.
  • Someone I love is eating so I’ll have some too.
  • Even if a dessert is not high quality, I should try some.
  • A small portion won’t be enough for me.

Here, from what I’m learning, about the slow and sure process of growth, are some TRUTH replacements:

  • If I am satisfied (comfortable, not feeling too full), I got enough.
  • If it tastes good, I can eat it when I’m truly hungry.
  • If it’s there, it’s an option if I’m truly hungry.
  • If it’s dinnertime and I’m not yet truly hungry, I can save it for when I am.
  • I need something to do. Food is not an “option” in this case.
  • I could go get some food, but unless I’m hungry, I won’t buy something to eat.
  • Just a little something when I’m not hungry isn’t worth it.
  • Someone I love is eating. Great! If I’m not hungry, I’ll share space with them instead of food.
  • If a dessert is not high quality, it’s probably not worth my time.
  • A small portion might be just right.

So God calls me into a relationship. For a relationship to flourish, you have to admit where you’re getting it wrong, not to say “Oh crap, I’m doing it wrong and I can’t believe I don’t have it all together by now and you might as well give up on me,” but instead to say, “I need to repent for the lies I’m believing, and only you can help me. Thank you that because of Christ I get to move forward in grace instead of condemnation.”

Idolatry and sin can only be healed in the context of a love affair with Jesus, an overflow of close fellowship. I do have to make outward changes. No doubt about it. But if I don’t press into relationship with Jesus, those will just be actions, and God could care less about that without a heart dedicated to repenting in the thick of the serious stuff.

Anything that I make a habit other than for passionately following Jesus can become idolatry in a split second if it’s disconnected from relationship. As I learned in a class I took this past week, idolatry tells us the lie that we don’t have to be dependent on God for every little thing. There is a way around that. Like the snake whispered in Eve’s ear, we can be our own god, we can rule ourselves.

And Eve ate the apple, and passed some to her husband, who also ate.

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As my professor Dr. Williams says, “Here’s how Genesis 3 should have gone instead. Adam and Eve saw the craftiest of all the creatures in the garden and SPLAT…dead snake.”

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So my pressing into relationship with Jesus, my constant repentance and grateful admittance of my own dependence as a created creature, NOT the creator, that is my way of saying SPLAT! To anything that stands between us- the lies, the whisperings that I should be doing this faster or better or sooner.

SPLAT dead snake. Apple on the ground. No fig leaves needed.

Intimacy is what I long for, and repetance is the only way.

Even seven oreos in.

Grace that will pardon and cleanse within

Grace that is greater than all my sin.

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Losing Weight & Staying Free : Wishful Thinking?

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Perhaps the trickiest place for me in the midst of finding health and wholeness alongside the journey God has me on is this question: Is it possible to lose weight and stay free at the same time? By this I mean, can I make wise choices about what I’m eating and the activity I’m engaging in without feeling like I’m on a “program,” without counting points or recording every little thing I eat, without making the process itself an idol and the goal something unrealistic and ultimately take me captive?

I am starting to believe that it IS possible. Thanks to Revelation Wellness and the beautiful Jessi Connolly (myfreedombell on Instagram), truths like this have been rolling around in my head.

Food belongs to him. AND this is for the heart that feels confused and struggling to fight the voices of what they “should” be eating. If anyone is feeling FREE and good with where they are, then this is not the call for them. I want to serve the heart that is frustrated. I hear the cry for help. So…we are going to take back AND get our hearts clean. And let food be to his glory alone. No rules! Only freedom for the frustrated heart. – Alisa Keeton

I have done the same thing with the phrase “losing weight”. Even now, I cringe saying it. But there it is: I’m trying to lose weight. I have been half heartedly trying for about two and a half years, but in the last few weeks and months I’ve felt the freedom to REALLY TRY. At the root of it, my heart has shifted so much and I wouldn’t say I’m losing weight to be more beautiful or I’m losing weight to be more at home in my body. I’m losing weight because to be at my optimal health, there is weight to lose. And more than any of those things – I don’t crave skinny or tiny or beautiful. I crave freedom. I crave the day when this is NOT A THING for me any longer. And I know that the Holy Spirit can do that work whether I lose 0 more pounds, 20 more, or gain 100.  – Jess Connolly

Do you feel that? It’s the belief that freedom is possible. It’s pressing in without fear. I want that so badly.

Before, when I would think about food, body and Christ I would often think of food and body as something in a box in the corner. I would have conversations in my heart with Jesus like this (His part of course, is not an audible voice that I heard, but what I imagine He might want to say). Needless to say, where the conversations used to end at an earlier point, they’ve taken a turn recently:

Me: “I mean, if you WANT to touch the box, you can, but…I understand if you don’t want to.”

Jesus: “Why is it in the corner like that? Did you put a LOCK on that thing?”

Me: “I mean, yes. Yes I did.”

Jesus: “You don’t want it to be open to me? I can bust that sucker open without your permission, you know. You think it’s too hard for me?”

Me: “It’s not so much that, it’s more like…you have better things to worry about.”

Jesus: “Like what?”

Me: “You know, babies in Africa. People on food stamps. Not girls obsessed with their bodies who so badly want to be free.”

Jesus: “I care about free. I created it.”

Me: “I know. But…”

Jesus: “No buts. I love you, you know that? I love you. Let’s do battle. I’ll win it for you. Stand behind me and take the win. It’s going to take some time. Not because I can’t do it faster, I can do it with a word, but you would miss MY GREATNESS in it. So, let’s go for it.”

Just about a week ago I sent out an e-mail with a question to some friends about how they have found the best ways to stay free and lose weight. Most of the answers were quite helpful. Some were vague, but thoughtful. Those were all fine- I’m vague, I’m trying to be thoughtful, I don’t have it all figured out. It was one in particular that really squished my heart and made me want to climb back into the box and lock it up. Someone, very well meaning, I’m sure, suggested that my interest should not be in body weight percentage at all but should instead be on being at soup kitchens and getting muddy in Borneo. Truly, he made a great point. We should be serving with our bodies, with our hearts. God calls us to that. But he completely disregarded my question. I felt hurt, not heard. Instead of addressing my question, he seemingly “spiritualized it,” which may have even been what he truly believed Jesus wanted him to do. He just doesn’t know my heart. He doesn’t know how strong my desire for Jesus is. By His grace, stronger than my desire for less fat on my body. Way stronger.

Also I’m learning: nothing is “secular.” Me thinking about my body fat percentage and wanting it to go down is not sinning, unless I make it an idol. Yes, I am tempted that way. Yes, I have to watch out for it. But God is not disqualifying me from offering this portion of my life up to Him and asking for freedom. He isn’t telling me to go to Africa and get muddy and scrub floors in orphanages INSTEAD of caring about my body. He may call me to that, but it will still be in this body. And I am too far down the road of freedom now to believe He doesn’t care.

I really think Jesus believes I can walk into a greater fullness of freedom in food and body without falling into idolatry. Without making corn or a cupcake little gods. Without checking my reflection in every shiny surface. Without turning to the doughnuts at church because they look tasty and for that reason only. Without weighing myself. While moving my body in love. While leading others into freedom by his grace. While starting a new business. While not having it all together. While walking by faith.

I long for this. I pray for it. I beg for God to show me the second I slip into idolatry. I pray he will kill all of my tiny gods and absolutely demolish them before my eyes.

Everything is sacred. He cares. I cannot keep the box closed any longer. I let him open it, place it in my lap, see all the grime and the darkness, and even still, a light shining trough that can’t be darkened. He stands in front of me, war ready, and yells a battle cry that the very depths of hell hear, and shudder. With fire in His eyes, and delight in His heart about me, He smiles and says “Let’s go.”

Christ the Victor Over Body Image: Under His Feet

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In my life, there has consistently been one area that I have begged Christ to help me find victory in, and that has been around the issues of food and body, or shorthand: body image. As it now is for pornography with men, so it is with body image for women- you will be hard-pressed to find one out of a hundred women who doesn’t struggle and who in some way has come to have disdain for her body because she just doesn’t believe it measures up. I have, over the past ten years or so, experienced small victories in this area, but they have been far from Olympic. In stops and starts, in tiny obediences, I am finding freedom. Ultimately I believe that the gospel of Christ has something to say about every issue that we as humans could ever deal with. Jesus is not clueless about how women feel about their bodies, and about our struggles. Hebrews 2:14 declares that Christ himself partook of flesh and blood. He knows our struggle most intimately.

As part of my journey in freedom, the Lord had me go through a fitness instructor training with a Nonprofit ministry called Revelation Wellness that longs to help women see their bodies holistically through the eyes of Jesus as they “move in love.” I am now certified to be a group fitness instructor, and I have started a business called Rebel Joy Fitness, LLC. I am brand spanking new at this, and nervous as anything. Still, as I read the pages of Salvation Accomplished by the Son, I started to clearly see how the saving event picture “Christ Our Victor” might speak to this struggle and this ministry God is launching me into.

It is my strong longing to help women walk in victory in this area and to boldly ask the question in light of the gospel: What are bodies for? Should we feel badly if we want to lose weight? Perhaps my greatest fear in this area of my life is wondering if God truly cares about issues of food and body. In my most scared moments, I ask: Am I separated from his love in this issue? Does he look at me and roll his eyes? There are some questions that seem far more easily answered. Does God care about children starving in Africa? Absolutely. Korean Pastors? You bet! Body image? I am starting to truly believe that yes, even in this area Christ is making victory for his people and will ultimately give us full victory. Romans 8:38 and on says that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. He knows me even in the darkest places of my self-obsession, including body image. This is a message that women longing to feel safe in their skin need to hear. If literally nothing can separate me from the love of God, not even my sins of self-obsession and fixation, I can trust him to meet me and these women I’m longing to help. He finds us, as he found people in the gospels, in that exact place of their deepest wounding, the places where they desperately needed victory. I know that Jesus is THE overcomer. Under his blood we are overcomers, not in some “hokey” everything is fine, rainbows and butterflies sort of way, but in a real mud and dirt and guts sort of way, in the everyday stuff of life. Christ came in the middle of our mess, and was victorious even in his death. It only served to lift him higher, to place him at the right hand of his Father! What a Savior!

On popular Christian radio there is a song about “overcoming” that while catchy, I find misleading. It seems to say that complete victory can come this side of heaven, and I’m not so sure. However, the fact that I’m not fully sanctified until I see Jesus face to face doesn’t depress me in the slightest. Rather, it pushes me to depend fully on Christ in an area where I so often attempt to be self-sufficient. I believe in some respect I will have a need for healing in the area of body image every day for the rest of my life, and that doesn’t mean that Christ has failed me. On the contrary, on an eternal level, and in some visible ways from day to day, I believe that my struggles with body image are under the feet of Christ (Eph 1:22). The lies that Satan tries to tell me about myself are under his feet. The number that the scale tries to tell me is how I should measure my worth is under the feet of Christ. There are indeed “spiritual foes more powerful than we whose bent is to destroy us (439).” It often feels like those foes will overtake me, but I am freed from the kingdom of self-obsession (Col 1:13-14), I have been transferred into the kingdom of Christ. Evil powers are subject to Christ, they are underneath Him and they cannot reach Him. His banner over me is love (Song of Solomon 2:4), and I don’t have to attempt to enhance my beauty for the sake of the world, because all my beauty is Christ, who has overcome the world. In line with this, Colossians 2:15 says, “He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.” WOW. Do I really believe that? Satan, even in this area of my life, is disarmed. He can speak His lies, but I can speak the name of Christ my Victor, and find help and healing in my moment of need.

2 Corinthians 2:14 says perhaps the only thing more beautiful than even that Christ has triumphed over those who seek to put his people to shame. It reads, “Thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.” Not only does Christ, our victorious Lord– lead us in triumph– but also he uses us to spread the truth of who he is! I want to be a burning incense stick for Christ, spreading his victory everywhere that I go. In Rebel Joy Fitness I want to lead others into the presence of Christ, to worship him, to rely on him, to know that they are safe in him. Safe enough to bring their real junk and allow him to put it beneath his feet, where it belongs, covered by His victorious blood, not to be “picked up” again. He has taken victory over it. As the beautiful hymn It Is Well says, My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought! My sin, not in part but the whole, Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more, Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

Much like the breathtaking words of that hymn, Ephesians 1:19-21 makes such a bold claim I can hardly fit it into my tiny brain: Christians have access to the mighty power of God. He longs to show us “the immeasurable greatness of his power.” I do truly believe I will see so much of that power in my life in this area and as I serve others, but first I must repent, and call other women to do the same. Under the sure victory of Christ, knowing I am safe in His love, I am called to repent of the ways I have tried to be my own “victor” in the area of body image and failed miserably. In my addiction with constantly trying to “fix” my body, I have made myself an idol. We have made ourselves little gods. In some ways, I have even created a religious system- one marked by rules (working out, eating or not eating certain things) as a way of me trying to “save” myself and make myself worthy in the eyes of others. This is not the way of Jesus. This is not true freedom. It’s captivity. I am stuck if all I have is any victory I can work up. It just will never work! I am much like Israel, who, as Longman and Reid (418) state, “Israel cannot boast in its own strength, but only in the power and might of the Lord, who gives victory in spite of overwhelming odds.”

Here is what I know: The odds in this area for me feel absolutely overwhelming. It seems overwhelming that Christ is calling me to minister to women through fitness in places were I have yet to find full healing. But the truth remains: Christ is a warrior for his people. He does battle and he never loses. Claire can do battle on her own, and she loses, always. The final victory, and all the little victories in-between are truly his and his alone. As I meditate on his incarnation, his sinless life, his death, his resurrection, his ascension, his session, Pentecost, his intercession, and his second coming, I see how in every possible way he has been and will be victorious. He cannot lose. The bliss of this thought: one day, I will be whole and holy, unbound by the chains of my struggle and sin with food and body. In the meantime, I am going to follow the Victor and spread his fragrance like a woman on a mission, grateful that he has entrusted me with such a joyful responsibility.

My Body is Not a Construction Project: Learning to Lay it Down.

It was my junior or senior year in high school when I was at a gym in my hometown. I saw a large, muscle-bound man in a bright yellow and black shirt that read, “Body under construction.”

Our bodies are not construction projects. More at sheabidesinchrist.wordpress.com

My first thought was, “Wow, that’s really stupid,” followed closely by, “also, any more construction and that guy is going to make that shirt explode into pieces!”

That phrase rattled around in my brain for years. It was only 3 months ago that God showed me what in the world that phrase had to do with me. This was the tough news to accept: I have always viewed my body as the intense focus of a never-ending construction project.

It came to me in flashes: passing my reflection when no one was around and checking the flatness of my stomach. Eating more food even when I knew I was already full because I was bored, or tired, or because it was around. The constant buying of every new workout DVD program that came out from BeachBody…. Every. single. one. Sweating, hurting, constant soreness, striving. This will be the program that finally does it. That finishes the construction project. That changes my body, that revolutionizes my eating habits, that leaves me satisfied.

I’ve met some really wonderful people, including counselors, trying to get to the root of why I was never happy with my body. They assumed things that any good therapist probably would. Control issues? Not exactly. Wanting to impress boys? It had never been about that. Abuse? Thank God, no. (Long pause, deep stare). Are you sure? Yes, I’m sure. 

So I didn’t fit a mold, my experience was not wrapped up in an answer to a simple question. No surprise there. Instead, I tended to toss my struggle aside and label it “body image issues”- claiming that I was just like everyone else. (As if being like everyone else indicates that something isn’t wrong.) I was seeing my sin, seeing my patterns, and still, desperately wanting to know more, to be more. Believing there was goodness in my love for working out and nutrition, but seeing so much evil in it too. Wondering if Jesus has anything to do with this health and fitness thing that I loved so much and yet experienced so much of my own sin and idolatry in. Could it be redeemed?

Ultimately, under all of the desires I so badly wanted to label as innocent, It was always about me. That was part of, if not the main issue with all of my body problems. I, Claire, had this idea in Claire’s mind about what Claire should look like. It truly wasn’t to make anyone else happy. Honestly. It was the lie, I suppose, that if I got there, to the end of this construction project I was constantly working on, it would be for me. I would have done it. Yay me. And I could look in the mirror, and move about the world, and be in my body and finally feel like I was truly MYSELF. I guess that’s what I wanted. To be comfortable just being me. To live into the architectural blueprint that I figured I had a right to write up and make happen. I was playing architect and builder. I was the dump truck and the contractor. I was everything. I was the small g “god” of my own twisted project.

I desperately wanted liberation from the never-ending construction project. I wanted to stop looking for Claire 2.0 and live in Claire As She Is, Today. I prayed that God would show me how in the world to live into this. I knew only He could help me. With Revelation Wellness Instructor Retreat rapidly approaching, I believed God had something really epic up His sleeve. Little did I know that so much of that epicness was me needing to face my own pile of dung I had made out of what was supposed to be so beautiful, and so simple.

Day 2 of Revelation Wellness Instructor Retreat, I heard God say to me, as clear as I’ve heard him nudge me into anything, “Claire, your body isn’t for you. It’s for me.”

Woof.

And this, I heard too, echoed in the prayers my husband had been praying for me for so many months, praying over me that God would press into my heart at retreat: I am a body on mission.

Then came the breakthrough, the slugging through the dung pile, finding the gold of His truth buried in all of my mess. I have purpose. I am not living to attain a specific shape.  I don’t have to waste my days wearing my bright yellow hard hat, pointing to different things, suggesting, “What shall we work on today? How do we get that tighter, how do we make that look smoother, and what in the world do we do about those support beams?” I realized, with a flash of blessed clarity, that if I continued to choose to live as a body under construction, I would be living in sin. Deep doo-doo, smelly as all get out, stinking to high heaven sin. 

It was time. Time to lay down my arms against myself. To ask forgiveness from God that for so long I’ve viewed my body as a construction project instead of an entire life on mission.

The world says that in order to feel better about yourself, you must keep focusing on yourself. You try harder. Harder still. Harder. Do better. Suggest things to yourself. Repeat to yourself how beautiful you are, try to point out the good things, lift yourself up. Jesus suggests a different way. Read the Word to find out who you are. Repeat to Him the truth about He is, point out all of His never-ending goodness, lift others up. Point out their achievements and beauties and ways that they reflect their Maker.

So here I am. I’ve put old cooking magazines over my scale, I’ve tossed out the endless numbers of measuring tapes that came with my tens of hundreds of workout DVDs, some of which I’ve shredded. Yes, the DVDs. Shredded. I kept the resistance bands for a good sweaty workout that honors Jesus (Revelation Wellness, obviously). I don’t need the latest nutritional info or someone telling me if today coffee has been labeled good or bad, what kinds of fats are necessary or unnecessary, or what some paleo type person thinks about my pine nuts. I lean into the truth of my Savior, I lean into my Revelation Wellness community, a group of women who really want the world to see that this body stuff isn’t punishment and pain, but goodness and grace. I’m laying all of that down at the cross, and looking into the face of Jesus, and saying, “Make of me what YOU will. I am on Your mission, and this is Your body.”

I see His broken body, bleeding and bruised, to give me life. Life in a body that was made to serve Him from day one I started breathing until forever, when He’ll have me breathing and serving on the streets of gold.

This body is not mine. It belongs to Jesus, who from the right hand of the Father intercedes for me, and for you. I know that when I agree with Him that my body is about Him, that my body is on mission, that I can lay down the tapes and hammers and let him break through the caution tape, He’ll remind me that the only thing I actually have to be doing is letting him re-create my heart. It’s my soul that needs the overhaul, not my skin. My body will change shape many times in my life. There will (God willing) be babies, probably surgeries, sickness, and ultimately, old age and death to a new life. All along what will matter is what that body did to tend to the sicknesses, weaknesses, and pains of others. A body that jumped for joy with the successes of others, celebrated with wild tears and off-tempo dance moves, that held people when words failed and only presence was required.

I remember in 8th grade thinking that someday I would want to get a tattoo that said, simply, “Free.” Probably because I knew even then that I longed for it, even though I couldn’t yet identify that I was already knee-deep in my body construction project at that time. I heard what I now believe was the Holy Spirit, a sort of whisper, saying,  “Why write it on your skin? It will be written all over you.”

That is my prayer. May freedom in Christ  be written all over you, so you can lay down your tools, let the tears stream down, admit defeat, exhaustion, and idolatry,  and turn to your Daddy and say, “What’s next?”

With a smile on His face, I promise He will tell you. And it’s going to be about His glory in the world, and it’s going to be the most, most, most beautiful life you never could have planned.

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The Harder Question: Do You Want to be Healed?

Current remains of the Pool of Bethesdah

Current remains of the Pool of Bethesda

Let’s start here, John 5:1-9:

            After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.

Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. In these lay a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked.

(Please in your own time read all the way through verse 17…even though the religious leaders being poo-faces who can’t accept Jesus healing on the Sabbath…is for another blog post). 🙂

There is so much textual goodness around this passage that I could just sink into with the excitement of a canine with a taste for teriyaki beef, but I won’t right now. Here’s where I want to focus– on the moment when Jesus seems to be asking this man a rather obvious, if not rude, question. Jesus has grown up around this man, would have walked past this pool and seen this man lounging for tens of years, and been absolutely aware of his persisting condition. Why in the WORLD is he asking if the man wants to be healed?

Let’s talk about what we know for sure.

  • Jesus is not reckless with His words.
  • Jesus never uses His words to injure or hurt someone.
  • Jesus uses His words to reveal something about the heart of the person He is interacting with.

With those things in mind, I started thinking, maybe the question Jesus is asking here isn’t as simple as, “Would you like your body to function fully again?” Maybe He’s asking a spiritual question. A harder one.

Skip to Mark 2 with me for a second.

  And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them. And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic—“I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!” (Mark 2:1-12 ESV)

Oh, scribey scribes. They get all up in arms about Jesus because they quickly realize that when Jesus says to this man, “Son, your sins are forgiven” (before he says “Rise up!”), Jesus is claiming authority that only God claims. So they rebuke him, mumbling to themselves, Hey, buddy, CALM IT DOWN, ONLY GOD CAN DO THAT.

As my professor Dr. Peterson would say, “Well, guys, that’s kind of the point.”

Jesus shows that he has the authority of God, because, well…He is God. Not only does he say things can happen, but he MAKES them happen. Jesus declares, “This man’s spiritual state is the harder thing to fix than his physical state. Only God can cure his soul. And right here, in front of you, I did it to show you…the harder thing has been done. I can do the harder thing that no one else can do.”

So let’s travel back to the pool of Bethesda In John 5 and our man being asked by Jesus if he wants to be well. Keep in mind that this man has had his identity for decades based on the fact that he has been “an invalid for 38 years.” You’ve got a lot wrapped up in that identity by that time. He claims he hasn’t been able to get to the healing waters in time to be cured, but Jesus doesn’t ask him about the specific story. Interestingly, this is what the man offers up to Jesus, his tale of woe, instead of directly answering the question Jesus asks.

Sometimes the questions Jesus directly asks me I try to fishtail around. They are kind of uncomfortable. They might seem obvious to everyone else… (Who doesn’t want to get better?) but I hear Jesus saying, softly, but persistently, “Do you want to change? Do you really want this healing and what comes with it?”

I have been confronted with thinking about this passage in this particular way lately when it comes to my own types of weakness and infirmities of my own heart. I’m not talking about legs or arms that don’t work, and I don’t want anyone to read this thinking I’m making a statement about actual physical disabilities, because I’m not even touching on that. I’m talking about my heart.  This crazy heart, while having been saved by the grace of Jesus and being changed every day, still holds on to idols, rebelling against God. Lately I feel like my sins have been popping up in my heart like whack-a-moles, and Jesus offers them to my mind and heart as truths about me that He knows more about than I do, but He is definitely posing a question. He is so tender when he asks, but He does ask, and I believe He wants a response to the question He’s asking.

Do you want to be healed?

Everything in my heart screams, “OF COURSE I DO!” Then, gently, He starts to reveal to me what that’s going to look like, and I tremble. Why? Because it’s the death of “my preciouses,” my idols that I have clung to for comfort and life when all they bring is sorrow and death. When Jesus asks me if I want to get well, I hear Him saying, “There is a cost to this. It will be uncomfortable and it’s not going to let you hold onto your selfishness. If you identify with me, I want you to know what is ahead. Suffering, hardship, struggle. But also grace upon grace, and glory, and resurrection. Do you trust me?”

Healing is not a smooth road. It’s uncomfortable. It’s death before rebirth.

I share with you this beautiful passage by C.S. Lewis from The Great Divorce, about the “red lizard of lust”. Please read it in its entirety below. Think of what your lizard would be, and God’s invitation to take it from you.

 —

“Yes. I’m off,” said the Ghost. “Thanks for all your hospitality. But it’s no good, you see. I told this little chap,” (here he indicated the lizard), “that he’d have to be quiet if he came -which he insisted on doing. Of course his stuff won’t do here: I realise that. But he won’t stop. I shall just have to go home.”

‘Would you like me to make him quiet?” said the flaming Spirit-an angel, as I now understood.

“Of course I would,” said the Ghost.

“Then I will kill him,” said the Angel, taking a step forward.

“Oh-ah-look out! You’re burning me. Keep away,” said the Ghost, retreating.

“Don’t you want him killed?”

“You didn’t say anything about killing him at first. I hardly meant to bother you with anything so drastic as that.”

“It’s the only way,” said the Angel, whose burning hands were now very close to the lizard. “Shall I kill it?”

“Well, there’s time to discuss that later.”

“There is no time. May I kill it?”

“Please, I never meant to be such a nuisance. Please-really-don’t bother. Look! It’s gone to sleep of its own accord. I’m sure it’ll be all right now. Thanks ever so much.”

“May I kill it?”

“Honestly, I don’t think there’s the slightest necessity for that. I’m sure I shall be able to keep it in order now. I think the gradual process would be far better than killing it.”

“The gradual process is of no use at all.”

“Don’t you think so? Well, I’ll think over what you’ve said very carefully. I honestly will. In fact I’d let you kill it now, but as a matter of fact I’m not feeling frightfully well to-day. It would be silly to do it now. I’d need to be in good health for the operation. Some other day, perhaps.”

“There is no other day. All days are present now.”

“Get back! You’re burning me. How can I tell you to kill it? You’d kill me if you did.”

“It is not so.”

“Why, you’re hurting me now.”

“I never said it wouldn’t hurt you. I said it wouldn’t kill you.”

“Oh, I know. You think I’m a coward. But it isn’t that. Really it isn’t. I say! Let me run back by tonight’s bus and get an opinion from my own doctor. I’ll come again the first moment I can.”

“This moment contains all moments.”

“Why are you torturing me? You are jeering at me. How can I let you tear me to pieces? If you wanted to help me, why didn’t you kill the damned thing without asking me–before I knew? It would be all over by now if you had.”

“I cannot kill it against your will. It is impossible. Have I your permission?”……. “Have I your permission?” said the Angel to the Ghost.

“I know it will kill me.”

“It won’t. But supposing it did?”

“You’re right. It would be better to be dead than to live with this creature.”

“Then I may?”

“Damn and blast you! Go on can’t you? Get it over. Do what you like,” bellowed the Ghost: but ended, whimpering, “God help me. God help me.”

Next moment the Ghost gave a scream of agony such as I never heard on Earth. The Burning One closed his crimson grip on the reptile: twisted it, while it bit and writhed, and then flung it, broken backed, on the turf.

I mean, goodness. That’s you and that’s me, as hard as that is to read. That’s us.

 Jesus longs to take from us our self-obsession, our fears and anxieties, and He says, “I don’t need you to tell me why you’re not better yet. I’ve known you for years, since the beginning of everything. I know all your intricacies. I’m asking you the harder question so that you will allow me to do the harder thing.”

Do you want to be healed?

It’s going to be major surgery. Saying yes to being healed means we have to throw our idols at the feet of Jesus and give him permission to strangle them in front of our eyes. We have to stop pretending we are just “playing house” with our idols and fall down on our faces and ask for the mercy of the Lord, because we’ve let them rule us. We thought they were just lizards on our shoulder but they’ve become dark, leeching, life-draining masters. The sickness of our hearts is that we love our idols more than God. If we REALLY want to be healed, Jesus insists on draining them of their power right before our very eyes. There is no other option if you want to live a life that is truly free. And in the Christian life you don’t get any anesthesia for the removal of sin- there isn’t an epidural available when the worst of what it means to give up your idols hits. Here is what we do have, and it’s exactly what we need to get better, knowing we can’t do any of it alone. We aren’t strong enough. That one thing is God’s grace. That grace, His love, is an all-consuming fire, and it’s jealous. Being healed, “getting better” FOR REAL, means letting Him consume the things that hold us captive,

As my current training in Revelation Wellness keeps reminding me, we don’t just want to feel better, we want to get better. If you hand over your idols to Jesus, daily, hourly, moment-by-moment, you are now a witness who bears truth to God’s healing power, and because you’ve handed over your idols you are going to start feeling like a sojourner here on earth. You won’t “fit in,” and that’s a beautiful thing. Idols have no place in the life of a Christian, and a Christian knows they can’t find a real home in a world that worships them. You, belonging to Jesus, are constantly being healed, a worshipping sojourner that carries the message of truth and abundant life: that only Christ can really, fully, heal us.

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How to Fight the Winter Blues: A Full Frontal Attack (By a Girl Who Needs Her Own Advice)

For those of us who do not live in the land of eternal sunshine (I’m looking at you, Phoenix URIGS), this time of year can get pretty darn rough. As someone who has been clinically shown to be low on serotonin, let’s just say the sun going down at 4:30pm IS NOT HELPING at all.

Over the past few days I have slowly but surely felt the encroaching of the bulbous gloom monster attaching itself to my brain and bones. I suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (yes, it is really a thing)…and as funny as the acronym SAD seems, it really isn’t that funny. In fact, it gets pretty rough. It really is quite sad.

seasonal affective disorder 2_v_Variation_2

If you identified with the title of this blog post at all you’ll know what the bulbous gloom monster (my not-so-friendly friend the BGM) likes to tell you on days when the sunshine is minimal and the nights start early.

BGM: “Claire, listen, you need more than 8 hours of sleep. Let’s try 10, maybe 11. If you don’t get it now you can take a marathon nap later.”

BGM: “Every carbohydrate in sight? Yeah, you’re going to want to follow those cravings and eat ALL of them. Particularly white, starchy, fluffy things with no nutritional value.”

BGM: “The slightest annoyance? Yeah, how about we have your brain register a “2” (someone bumping into you at the mall) feel like about a “10” (someone just told your best friend she’s ugly and laughed about it in front of you).

BGM: “Working out might help, but you should probably just sit there and do nothing productive. That would be a good use of your time. Grab a blanket. Cozy up. No need to move.” 

Or, for those of you who want just the facts, jack…here they are, thanks to WEB MD:

Symptoms specific to winter-onset SAD, sometimes called winter depression, may include:

  • Irritability

  • Tiredness or low energy

  • Problems getting along with other people

  • Hypersensitivity to rejection

  • Heavy, “leaden” feeling in the arms or legs

  • Oversleeping

  • Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates

  • Weight gain

It should go without saying that the BGM is speaking nonsense, but his words start to sound all too real as the shorter days of winter roll around. We listen to his instructions only to battle him to the ground and do what is best for us spiritually and physically during this long season. God has given us amazing tools in His Word and in modern research about how the body responds to different aids so that we can do all we can do feel better. 

Let me tell you (if you don’t already know), it is a very strange thing to feel winter depression coming on, to know that it wants to take you down.  But… it is a gift, too, because that means we can do something to fight it, AND FIGHT IT WE SHALL!!!!

My first preference was to move to Hawaii for 5 months, but, since that’s not an option…. here are some real ones.

I’ve split these up into two categories, one called UPWARD and one called INWARD.  Essentially both are about your spiritual life, since we are whole people created by God- everything we do has an impact on our spiritual/emotional/physical natures. for the sake of this post, however, UPWARD is going to focus on spiritual disciplines, and INWARD is going to include a few more practical/physical steps to take.

UPWARD

1) PRAY

How-to-Pray

When I was diagnosed with depression a couple of years ago, one thing that I refused to let Satan convince me of was that it was okay to stop praying. Half of the time I had no idea what to say, but I continued to cry out to God and press into Him. I knew that in the midst of my inconsistency and struggle He was always faithful and good. No matter how out of control I felt, He was always in control and wanted me to turn to Him. He promises in His word to hear us when we cry. Let that be enough, even if all you can do is cry! The Bible gives us an amazing collection of what are called Lament psalms, and they give the people of God words to speak to the Lord when they are in trial. Here are just a couple of portions of scripture that might be helpful to you in this time:

  • The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. -Psalm 34:18
  • Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. -Psalm 43:5-6
  • Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens. -Psalm 68:19
  • My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. -Psalm 73:26

Most importantly, don’t forget to just take time and be with God. Just sit with Him, listen to worship music, praise Him for who He is. The best thing you can do when you feel a bit lost or down is to meditate on who God is. He is the God who loves you!

2) STAY in Community!

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God’s people were never meant to “go it alone,” no matter what they are dealing with. Make sure to surround yourself with people who know if you’re struggling, and ask them to help you. Maybe that means just letting a friend know that this time of the year is harder for you. Ask them to text you every so often to check in and make sure you’re doing okay. If you get a text while you’re elbow deep in a bag of potato chips or sleeping in for another hour, God may use them to pull you out of the doldrums for the day and choose a better plan! Never feel like you are supposed to be able to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps or “do better.” That is how people end up isolated and feeling even more depressed. DON’T DO IT!!! It is not cool AT ALL to pretend to be strong and really be struggling. Find people you can be real with.  Make sure you keep worshipping, going to church, and being with God’s people. Let them lift up your spirits, and lift you up in prayer!

3) READ the Word

Bible-Reading

Basically, consume it. Don’t let a day go by where you aren’t reading the Word of God, no matter how poorly you feel. It’s your daily bread, and you won’t survive without it. Satan would love to distance us from the truth of God’s word and fill our heads with lies about our identity, our worth, and our feelings of hopelessness and “stuck”ness. If you’re gonna battle, you have to do battle with the best weapon in the world. 

“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” – Hebrews 4:12

“For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh.  For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ…” – 2 Corinthians 10:3-6 

So yeah, I’d say that’s going to be essential for battle. I mean, can you do that stuff on your own? Didn’t think so.

Here’s the best part: The Bible tells us who God is. When you fix your eyes on Jesus and take your eyes off of yourself, it’s amazing how He will change your heart- which is His ultimate goal, to give us new hearts, not necessarily new feelings about things. God is making us more like Jesus. I believe He uses everything in life, even the winter blues, to do that- but we have got to lean on Him and keep choosing to press in. He wants to give you grace upon grace. I promise.

4) WALK in the Spirit

Legs walking

Let’s all just pause and realize that if we are believers in Christ, the Holy Spirit resides in us.

What does that mean? Nothing short of this:

But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. – Romans 8:11

Wait, HOLD UP. Please read that again. Yeah. LIVE IN THAT, WHY DON’T WE?!?! Woof. 

For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” – Romans 8:15

God your Father chose you in love. The Holy Spirit helps you call Him by the name He wants you to use- “DADDY!”

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. – 2 Cor 1:3-4

Only the Holy Spirit can make God’s comfort real to us. And we HAVE HIM! He ministers to us daily!

Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to His people to tell them the truth about who God is. Walk in that truth.

INWARD

I’ll keep these short and simple, because they aren’t complicated. They are simple in theory, but harder to do when you’re feeling down. Make every effort you can to do every little thing that might help- it really adds up.

1) Eat Your Veggies and Avoid Simple Carbs: Simple Carbs cause a post-consumption crash much like sugar does (because your body digests white starches very similarly to how it digests sugar). Healthier choices can really make a big difference…what you eat matters!

2) Buy a Happy Lamp: Yes, it’s a thing, and the more wattage the better. It might feel strange to plop yourself in front of a lamp and sun your face for a bit, but there are a ton of great options free of UV rays that really do help people feel better. I just ordered one from Amazon and will be faithfully sitting in front of it for 20 minutes when I wake up every morning while I do my devos. It will look funny, but if it helps, who the heck cares!?

3) Go Out and About: Fight the urge to stay inside and do nothing, even though that’s what the monster is telling you. Ask a friend to grab tea (not coffee, see below), try something new like a workout class, take a hike. It’s good to get in any sunshine you can, and it’s good just to know there’s still a world out there that is moving and grooving- go get into it!

  • 3b) If you really want to feel better, go serve someone else. Help your elderly neighbor with her grocery shopping, help at a soup kitchen, hand out sandwiches in the park, leave a $20 bill in the mailbox of a friend with no note….the possibilities are endless!

4) Put DOWN THE COFFEE: This might seem devastating to some of you, but for me, it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make. Caffeine of any kind has been shown to lower seretonin, and for those of us who struggle with winter blues it’s probably already an issue, so don’t make it worse. Recently I have fallen in love with rooibos teas (naturally decaf), so I’ll be turning to Tazo instead of Folgers.

5) Be Intentional about your Sleep Schedule: Your body is longing for consistency, but when the winter months hit and you don’t want to get out of bed, it gets tough to stay on a regular schedule. Inconsistency in sleep is one of the biggest predictors of sadness among people who don’t even struggle with depression, so for those of us that do, it’s even more important. Plan to go to bed and wake up every day at the same time. Do the best you can with this, but aim for within half an hour of your goal times. Your body will thank you for it!

6) Move your Body, Body: Technically it hasn’t been scientifically proven that exercise helps fight winter blues, but moving our bodies is always a good thing- God gave us the ability to walk, run, dance, and lift- so why not do it!? You may find a new hobby in the process, and by getting your heart rate up you can fight the lethargy that long dark days can bring.

7) Read for Encouragement: A few of my recommendations for those struggling with depression (year-round or seasonal) that have helped me or people that I have loved: Spiritual Depression by Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Christians Get Depressed Too by David Murray, Depression: Looking Up from the Stubborn Darkness by Ed Welch, When Life Goes Dark: Finding Hope in the Midst of Depression by Richard Winter.

I hope you found some of these helpful.

I’m praying for you. Pray for me too. You are kept safe in the love of Jesus.

"Under His wings I am safely abiding,
Tho the night deepens and tempests are wild;
Still I can trust Him—I know He will keep me,
He has redeemed me and I am His child."

William O. Cushing, 1823-1902

The Distance Between Awake and Alive, and How Abiding Changes Everything.

My professors at Covenant have some pretty priceless quotes. I have one professor in particular who is incredibly quotable, but often makes me want to pee my pants because A) He is so smart and B) He doesn’t put up with lazy questions. By lazy questions I mean, you BETTER have got your question ready BEFORE you raise your hand, because if he calls on you and you’ve only got a half-formed thought in your head and you start talking in circles for even 4 seconds, he says something like, “Is there a question in there somewhere?” or “Did I miss something? You’re not saying anything.”

So yeah, needless to say…I don’t ask questions. Someone made the mistake of asking a question today, and was saying something about how death isn’t life and honestly I have no idea what else, and my professor cuts him off and says, “Being dead is not being alive…that’s correct.” That shut the student up really very suddenly. I gasped. GASPED. Audibly. Poor guy.

thatGuy-400x285

you know, THAT guy….

After I got over my panic attack on behalf of “That Guy,” and class progressed, I couldn’t get that out of my head. It seems so obvious- being dead is not being alive. If you’re six feet under, you don’t have a pulse, and you don’t have breath in your lungs, and you don’t need food or water or anything anymore because your body requires nothing.

Still, there’s a different sort of “dead” we can be while not being actually dead, and it can even happen when we’re awake, and technically living. 

So it’s here on the eve of my 26th birthday that I am learning, slowly, what a big distance there is between being awake and alive. Being awake takes a few of my faculties, mainly– keeping my eyes open. Being awake doesn’t have to be that different from being dead. I don’t even have to be alert. You might be totally unaware of everything keeping you alive while you’re awake- your heart beating, the air in your lungs, and other things. Being alive on the other hand, is an entirely different story. 

Some shade on a sunny day!

For the Christian, being alive means being united to Christ. Anything else is death.

If you’ve ever heard anything about vines and branches in Scripture, it’s probably something about an olive tree or something about John 15. I’m going the John 15 route today, where Jesus is speaking about His desire for the believer to bind themselves to Him using the imagery that He is the vine and we are the branches. We are attached to Him, and we grow from Him. We cannot grow alone. A branch chilling on the ground isn’t going to do anything but get stepped on or burned for a fire.

When God chases after us and makes us His own, we belong to him. However, there is something called “double-grace” that Calvin talks about that I think is crucial here for understanding the difference between what I think of as being “awake” in Christ and being “alive” in Him. The first half of “double-grace” is justification. Through the blood of Christ, we are PUT RIGHT with God. We now have access to the Father because of what the Son has done. Through sanctification, the second part of “double-grace,” we find that Christ promises to change us more into his likeness–but that work is done AS we stay connected. John 15:5 says, “If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

Basically, if you remain in Christ, you will LIVE ABUNDANTLY. If you just look at the vine but don’t connect yourself to it, the vine isn’t really a reality to you. He says, “ABIDE IN ME.” Not, “Stay awake and feel the comfort of knowing a vine is there if you need one.” Instead, He says, “TRULY LIVE! CONNECT YOURSELF TO THE VINE AND GROW!!!”

He has so much more for us than just legal status as his children. Can you imagine if a family signed the papers to adopt a child to be part of their family and then didn’t invite the child to sit with them at dinner? Or perhaps the child gets fed, but instead of discussing the joys of the day, they simply read the legal adoption documents over the child to remind him of his new status?! Of course not. That’s absurd, you say! They rejoice in the legal documents to the extent that they make what they have always known in their hearts to be true– this particular child was meant to be in their family.

Yes, our debt (legally) is FULLY paid by Christ on the cross, but there is so much life beyond the payment. We become connected to Christ himself, we become an extension of Him and of His plan to redeem all things. We aren’t legal fodder to him, but his CHILDREN. We are the King’s children, with a royal identity. As my favorite Scripture passage says,

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. – 1 Peter 2:9-10.

Can I get an AMEN HALLELUJAH AMEN HOLLER, please!? There is a huge difference between being AWAKE to who you are in Christ, and being ALIVE in Him. You can be aware and not be connected, and that breaks the heart of Jesus. He died not just to give you legal rights to belong in His family, but to be delighted in, made for a particular purpose in His Kingdom, and celebrated. So refuse to be simply awake to what Christ has done. Be alive in His love. He will always hold up His end of the deal (Bible term: covenant). I mean, have you read the Bible? His people were faithless, somewhat useless, and often downright confused. Still, He loved them. He pursued them with the heart of a Father that says, “You calling yourself my people is not enough. REALLY BE MY PEOPLE.”

When we say we want to be part of God’s family, we don’t just get to put him on like a nice necklace, an add-on to our identities. He becomes our identity. He changes everything as He grows us more into his likeness. We take on His name and His royalty and we hold to him for dear life.

Don’t be a child of God who just wants to see the legal documents and be glad that you have a Dad.

Be so glad that you have a Father that you cling to Him, because out of everyone in the world, He decided it was you that He wanted for His very own, so much so that He gave His very life for you. His love proves far and above a legal document that He wants you alive— not just awake— to Who He is.

Stay awake, but more importantly, stay alive. Stay connected to Jesus. He is the vine, you are the branches. Grow on.

Being awake is not being alive,

that’s correct. 

Floatin’ My Boat September Edition: Claire’s Favorites.

I have about 10,000 ideas for more serious blog posts and it all just became too much for me at the moment to choose…so…I’m doing a fun post. Things I am into, wish I was into, or would like to be into…get into it.

Some of these things are products, some aren’t, some I have actually experienced, some I haven’t….let’s be honest, anything goes. If I have enjoyed it or it caught my eye in August/September, it will probably be here.

also, let's just talk about how the word "boat" starts to not look like a word after about the 4th reading...okay. let's move on.

also, let’s just talk about how the word “boat” starts to not look like a word after about the 4th reading…okay. let’s move on.

Let the list begin!!!

1. Red Hair.

For anyone that has known me, for…well, pretty much any amount of time, you know that I color my hair ONE color and only ONE color, although it has changed in shade throughout the years. That color is R-E-D, people- the vibrant, the sassy, the undeniably not-trying-to-pretend-to-be-a-natural-ginger tone that I have fallen in love with since the age of 14. I color my own hair now on most occasions, and I often get asked what color I use. It’s no secret, so here it is. 

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Garnier Nutrisse Ultra Intense Red for Darker Hair R3.

I jumped around a lot from different shade to different shade until I found this gem. It’s sassy enough to pack a punch, and has amazing staying power, although for the first week when I wash my hair I have to put an old towel on my pillow at night after I shower so my pillowcase doesn’t look like I was bleeding out from a head wound when I wake up in the morning. Yeah, it’s potent. 


 

2. Joy! A Bible Study on Philippians for Women

Folmar 364

When I was at the Women’s Gospel Coalition Conference earlier this summer in Orlando, I entered into what may easily be called the room of my dreams: a 4,000 square foot room of discounted Christian books by brilliant theologians and passionate Jesus-lovers. I lost my cool.

 While I had the above study in my hands, I heard a woman speaking to a lady next to me, saying, “Keri, did you see how the cover turned out!? I love it!” I realized I was standing next to THE Keri Folmar, author of the book I was holding. I smiled and tucked the book into my basket, which, as my 19th purchase of the day, threatened to break the plastic loops attached to my gathering basket rapidly reaching the 25 pound mark.

And out of the 25 books that I bought, none have measured up to this tiny little study book.  

Let’s just say I have connected with this study more than any I have ever done before. The questions are simple, maybe painfully obvious to some, but they made me slow down and see what the text was actually saying. I learned the importance of small details in the scripture, the beauty of Paul’s joy in the midst of being imprisoned, and his deep love for the Philippian church. I have finished that one and since moved on to Keri’s second study, Faith: A Bible Study On James. She only has two out, but I’m really hoping she will write more soon. Do yourself a favor and pick it up here. 


3. Ultimate Sack 

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It’s swallowing me, and I don’t mind.

I would like to think that my sheer joy in this photograph would speak for the merits of the UltimateSack all by itself, but here’s what I have to say. Buying an UltimateSack (the cheaper, just as comfy version of the LoveSac), has been the most random and excellent purchase the Urigs have ever made. Is it necessary? Absolutely not. Has it made everything in life, including watching movies, reading books, collapsing during a workout, and eating a peanut butter sandwich more enjoyable?

It has. I rest my case. 


 4. The Old Parsonage in Oxford, England

Guys. It was a mere month ago that I was staying at the Old Parsonage with my best friend (my sister), her favorite man (my brother in law), the cutest child in the world (my niece), and my favorite person ever (my husband.) Here is a summary: I WANT TO GO BACK AND NEVER LEAVE. Mostly I want to go back to Oxford, but so much of what made that part of our trip around Europe so enjoyable was the absolute BEAUTY and delight of staying at The Old Parsonage Hotel. 

Ode to Oxford & the Old Parsonage: 

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Christ College: Where part of Harry Potter was filmed.

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During High Tea at the Old Parsonage: Can you see me!?

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Panorama of The Library in the Old Parsonage Hotel. I know. I died.

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Ann swaggin’ the streets of Oxford.

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just take me back.

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now. seriously. immediately.


 5. Olivia Burton Watches

Dual purpose: makes my heart flutter and keeps time.

Dual purpose: makes my heart flutter and keeps time.

They are dainty, lovely, floral, and British. I am asking for one for my birthday, and plan to wear it all the time. Being in graduate school again, it just really doesn’t look good if you have your phone out all of the time- even if you are TRULY only using it to check the time. So a watch is in order, and as I haven’t worn one since high school (a smattering of Swatches…) it’s time to put on my big girl panties and get a real timepiece. Just think of it, a timepiece on a dime piece. I could start a female-watch-wearing revolution. 🙂


 

6. Cath Kidston. ALL THE THINGS CATH KIDSTON.

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It’s British again, I can’t help it. Cath Kidston has the most beautiful patterns on just about every type of bag, mug, plate, tea cup, and iPhone case imaginable. She’s a London staple, and I saw so many women in England wearing them, (and had seen none in the States)…that I knew I had to bring one home with me. My amazing husband got me the one pictured here because I told him I was starting school again and had to have a backpack. Practical and beautiful…my favorite combination. It’s this great cheese cloth fabric, so it never gets stained permanently because you can always brush off dirt or wipe off any stains. Pretty fantastic. 


 

Well, that’s that. I always have more favorites to favorite. Summary: I love soft foam blobs, joy in Scripture, ginger hair dye, British bags and watch bangles, and my heart is stuck in a hotel in Oxford. 

What floats your boat? Anything I should know about? Let me know below. 

❤ Claire 

Jesus is Cooler Than Your Brokenness, So Stop Staring.

Hello, you wonderful humans. I was out of the country for a time, but right after that, I moved from IL to MO, so things have been a bit crazy. Oxford, Derbyshire, Edinburgh, London, Elmhurst, St. Louis.

I am done moving around for a time, so it’s back to blogging about things I care about, for people I care about. Usually that means Jesus topics, for you lovely readers. So here we are.


 

brokenness

There seems to be a few movements within the Christian church among people in my generation that I am rather excited about. The first is a return to theological orthodoxy- taking Scripture and the doctrines of Christianity seriously and not just looking for the next “cool” thing to latch on to. This I celebrate with a big, hurrah!!!

The second movement I have noticed is an obsession among believers to feel the need to continually be admitting to “being broken.” Now hear me out- brokenness is a prerequisite to coming to Christ. We must all realize our inability to do anything good apart from Him, to realize our absolute depravity and sin, to see that there is nothing that we can do to save ourselves. We are screwed up folks in desperate need of a Savior. Or, as saucy author Francis Spufford says, “We humans are all carriers of a disease I like to call HPTFTU.” HTPFTU is his slang for sin, and it stands for “A High Propensity to F*** Things Up.”

I don’t ever use that F word. I hate it, really. Yet, it seems to capture the seriousness of what we can’t avoid about ourselves, about the very thing in us that we can’t escape. We really are screwy. We think we know what we want, and we don’t. We want to do the good thing but we keep on doing the bad thing, and we just aren’t sure how to stop.  So our HTPFTUness is something we must accept before we can come needy and empty handed to receive the grace of Jesus. Inherent in our very selves is the ability to keep screwing things over in our lives. Yeah, it’s not super flattering. 

We need saving and we can’t save ourselves. Got that? It’s a reality in your life? Ok. Good.

So this “brokenness is cool” movement that I’m referencing is under a bigger umbrella that my generation greatly values which is authenticity. We see authenticity as being one of the greatest goods imaginable– the holy grail of connection. Here’s the unspoken understanding between us and everyone else: you don’t try to pretend to be something you’re not, and I won’t either. We can smell phonies a mile off. Because of this ability to smell fake anywhere at any time, I think Christians have felt the need to point to our own sin and say, “We struggle too!” We want unbelievers to know that we too have our own pornography addictions, overeating issues, gossip problems, cheating on test moments, and on and on and on. We want them to understand that we are indeed “sinners,” and can relate to them in their broken places. In a way, we imagine this binds our hearts together with them, and that it might even make them more open to receiving the truth of the Gospel.

Here’s what I want to say:   It’s okay to be broken, but it’s not okay to hang out there. The hope of the Gospel is that there is a way out of the brokenness–and yes– that in the midst of it we have Christ’s love. But if the Gospel is not transformative, it’s absolutely NO good at all.

The reason that newcomers to AA are linked up with a mentor who has already been through addiction and come to the other side is because they are already surrounded by “broken” people who encourage them to drink. Those aren’t the folks you want trying to help these guys out of the pit of alcoholism. Even those on the other side of sobriety remember daily how easily they could slip back into their drinking habits, and most still refer to themselves as “alcoholics.” Not as a depressive sort of Eeyore syndrome, but as a way of saying “I’m not clueless about what is in me anymore. I know what I’m capable of, and it’s ugly. I don’t want to live that life anymore. It’s not who I am.” In the same way, Christians move through brokenness by God’s grace and long for healing. Until we get to heaven we will all be “sinners.” We are not afraid to claim that identity because it is the very one that led us to Christ, but once we come to Christ, our primary identity becomes child of God.

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Brokenness is not a state of being for the Christian, transformation is.

The Bible doesn’t say, “The old is mostly gone and the new has kind of come.” It says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.The old has passed away; behold, the new has come!”

God promises to carry out the good work that he started in us– there is always a sense of forward motion. That doesn’t mean that we won’t struggle with sin, or that it will always be say to say yes to the right thing and no to the wrong thing. It means we believe God is changing us, and fight with Him to see it happen. Grace changes people. It’s too powerful to do nothing. The beauty of what the Christian holds out to the world isn’t a light under a basket, it’s a light on a hill.

 So here’s the call to my generation: Be real. Be honest. Be really honest. But don’t you dare hold up your brokenness like a prize when Jesus Christ died to give you a new heart. Instead of constantly pointing to our brokenness, we MUST point to Jesus– the One who died and rose again so that there is no longer ANYTHING in the world that can keep us from the love of God.

His love is changing us.

His love is making us new.

Friday Funday: Faith, Fitness, Footwear….Freshness.

The following is what I like to call a fluff post. It’s light, it’s airy, it’s positively delightful, and you don’t come to this post looking for matters of high substance.

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Although, I have included some high substance, just to keep you on your toes. Also because I can’t help myself.


FAITH

 ((((When Others Shuddered: Eight Women Who Refused To Give Up by Jamie Janosz))))

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This book is just total radsauce. Stories of Christian women who followed God’s call until the very end. Stories of faithfulness that have encouraged me to never stop loving Jesus right where I am, in whatever way He wants me to.

 ((((Teach Us To Want: Longing, Ambition, and the Life of Faith by Jen Pollock Michel ))))

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Maybe the most beautiful work of nonfiction I have ever read. God doesn’t call us away from desire, He calls us to a higher desire- to start to love and want what He loves and wants. He knows our hearts, and He will continue to love us and shape us even when we want the wrong things. He will not desert us or leave us in the midst of our disordered loves, but promises to make us more like Jesus until the day we see Him face to face.


FITNESS

(((( Freedom Feels Better tank by ChristianYogaClothes))))

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Love the simple message of this tank. Freedom, from having to worry about anything other than what Christ things of us, is better than pretty, forever and always.

((((Revelation Wellness))))

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I know in a previous post I introduced you to RevWell, but guys…it has gotten much more awesome for me in the past week. I am prayerfully considering becoming a Revelation Wellness Instructor. I believe that as a Christian it is upon me to believe that absolutely everything can and should be brought under the umbrella of the gospel, and fitness is no exception. I used to like to keep it separated because I thought somehow that was easier, or that I couldn’t imagine what God had to say about my workouts. Well, Revelation Wellness and the grace of God are teaching me how, and I feel so strongly about this that I would love for other women to find healing in this area too. So…stay tuned. Claire may be teaching a workout/worship class in a town near you one of these days! 🙂


 FOOTWEAR

(((( Midsummer Sandals by BaliELF ))))

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Bright blue, leather-buttery-goodness, an electric addition to any “blah” outfit!??? Please, yes!

(((( Handmade Wrap Sandals by Alessia Solari  ))))

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I mean….CUUUUUTE! Could be horrifically uncomfortable, but there is no way for me to prove it, so I’m going to believe they are “slide across the sand” worthy on any tropical island. Umbrella in my drink, please.


FRESHNESS

 (((( Coffee Mug by TickledTealBoutique ))))

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Sometimes in the morning, I can’t even handle full sentences. But if you handed me this mug, I would know exactly what to do first, and in what order. Huzzah!

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(((( Gandalf Poster by Postered ))))

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Small deeds of ordinary folk. That’s you, that’s me! Small acts of kindness and love keep the fragrance of Christ moving forward in the world. Jump on it.

 No seriously.

Now.

What are you doing!???? GET OUT THERE!