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Unpacking My Big C

comfort.jpgSo 2 weeks ago our church started this year’s all church journey: Obsessed – Leave Your Mark.  I LOVE it and disdain it all at the very same time. Why? Because like the journey(s) of the past it uncovers things within that need to change, or be eliminated in order to grow in relationship with Christ. And that, dear friends, can be uncomfortable to say the very least.

This past week the message dealt with the 3 C’s that the world uses to pull us from God:

  1. Comparison (the thief)
  2. Comfort (the illusion)
  3. Control (the liar)

In the Crossroads app we do work each week after hearing the weekend message and before meeting for our small groups. And this was no fun at all this week because I had to do an assessment and discovered that my big C of obsession was……Comfort. I was pretty certain it was going to be Control, which, by the way, feeds comparison and comfort. But no, mine is Comfort.

Now, we’ve been told since week one to pay attention to what we pay attention too in the search for our obsessions. And one way to do that was to look at where our money goes because money is connected to literally every aspect of your life. If you think not then rethink it because it is! You can take a walk for free, but you have to do that clothed in these parts so you have to purchase clothing, and probably good footwear is in order, or at least something on those feet and you quickly see where this is going. Everything is connected in some way to money. So, follow the money.

I did that after week one and was very upset to discover I have an obsession with the Yahtzee With Friends and Wheel Of Fortune game apps on my phone. To the tune of a few hundred dollars spent in $5 or $10 increments, each month, to purchase bonus dice and diamonds to advance faster in the games. Virtual crap that I spent real money to obtain that NO ONE cares one bit if I have it. No one. I had NO clue I was spending this much because I was dropping small amounts at a time…just over and over again. And for what exactly? To win designer dice that are simply pixels on a screen. UGH!

Comfort is my big C, so what the heck? Then it hit me, I used that as a form of insulation from the world around me. I can retreat to those games and ignore that my heart is hurting right now over my mom, or boredom that would be better spent in other pursuits, or to unwind from a difficult and draining shift at work, or avoid doing things I do not really care to do.

Comfort didn’t stop there. I noticed I spend money on things I do not need and only think that I want. Like my very cool coffee tumbler that I just had to have because darn it, it sparkles and is pink, and personalized…and keeps my coffee no warmer or colder than the $10 one with the $4 decal on it. This one was like $47 with shipping. And OH the yarn I purchase with the intent to make this or that, and have like 6 projects half done sitting in individual bags (bag lady – guilty!) in my closet because I get bored easily and don’t focus on finishing one thing at a time. Maybe because I’m seeking comfort or escape in things and not in Christ?

There is nothing at all wrong with buying myself something nice, but it has been a lot of somethings lately and it has to stop. I was an emotional, comfort eater until I started health coaching and when I started getting that under control, comfort took it’s form in things I buy. Cool pens and notebooks to journal, air plants that are lucky I haven’t killed them (yet, this is the second series of those and they are over due for water), candles, stickers for my planner no one sees but me, and I’ll just stop there. Small amounts here and there adding up to OMGOODNESS WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME??? My big C of obsession is comfort. And that insulation from the world is, as pastor Mingo said, an illusion. When I put the game down, the crochet hook away, the journal on the shelf, kill the air plant from neglect…my heart is still hurting and my world is still chaotic.

None of these enhances my walk of faith or brings me closer to Jesus. If anything it pulls me further away because my focus isn’t on Him at all, but rather on me. Pay attention to what you pay attention too.

One of the challenges from group was to look at what we have stock piled if we are a Comfort obsessing type and then give part of that away. At first I wasn’t even sure how that worked because I no longer have virtual diamonds and dice stock piled and then it hit me. Closet. Full. Of. Yarn.  SIGH. So, I gave a bunch away and hopefully the son-in-law doesn’t mind that my baby girl shopped from my abundance and took it off my hands, saving her money. She too is a hooker with a shop selling items she crochets.

And for the time being I’m reading in Matthew 6, reminding myself of God’s promise to care for all of my needs and for me to be anxious for nothing. Just stopping the spending reduces my financial anxiety because I’m not spending money I really shouldn’t be and I can save it.

Right now, I am struggling to not spend money. I’m staying off Amazon and just paying bills and then using that stock pile to make something instead of going to buy even more yarn. When tempted I just pray and use the church app daily challenge devotion to work through things.

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When Work Is An Act Of Worship

Marvi Marti

Most days I pick up a coworker on my way in, because she has had car issues and is kinda sorta on my way to my nearby facility. She is also my work bestie, we rock it out together when on the unit. Today she was off, and I had a bit more time to spend on devotions. I read my daily devotion book from Kay Arthur, I LOVE her, but then at work in the parking lot, it was something else. Something that touched deep into where I am at the moment.

I pulled in 25 minutes before clock in, shut off the radio, and opened the Crossroads Anywhere app on my phone. This is the app my church is using, they put out daily devotion things Monday through Friday related to what we are hearing in the services. Today was talking about how anything can be an act…

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My One Word For 2016

onewordI’ve been struggling and contemplating for a bit, trying to figure out what my one word was going to be for 2016.  The word that will guide me, influence me, steer me in the right direction to grow my faith, enhance my walk with the Lord, etc.  I felt it needed to be an action word, not something like ‘hope’, but similar to my previous one, seek.

Tonight I went to the Saturday evening service at church because I work tomorrow.  I am SO thankful I did, because the message series is Anything Is Possible (with God).  WOW was it good!  And it was just what I needed. And it was during the ride home while praying to God, out loud in my car (a favorite time to talk to Him) that I feel He gave me my word:  Discipline

I need more time in the Word.

I need to read more not only God’s Word but other things.

I want to be the best I can be at work, the best aide they have.

I need to get and keep my finances in order, pay off some outstanding bills (which I’m actively doing).

I need to eat better, so that all the physical exercise from my job helps me to be more healthy and continue to improve my over all physical conditioning.

I want to be more organized with my time and life over all.

It all boils down to discipline.  Hitting the nail day after day, as our pastor said.  BAM, have my word for 2016 and it is a very good word.

 

Post Holiday Depression

Recently our church did messages pertaining to the music behind the annual, month long Christmas production.  It is huge, attended by 100,000+ this year, and FREE.  The focus of the messages was on the songs used in this production, songs we all know and love like O Holy Night.  One of the things mentioned in a sermon was how Christmas music stirs up hope and anticipation in us during this season.

This had me wondering, is this why there is a feeling of depression among many of us after the hustle and bustle is done, the torn shreds of wrapping paper have been tossed and the house returns to quiet?  Even for the non-believer or sometimes Christian (the ones who only darken the doorway of the church for Easter and Christmas), there is a sense of excitement that builds as the lyrics of silver bells and snow falling etc, play repeatedly through December.  We have all this hope for a picture perfect holiday, and even if we manage to achieve this, the fervor fades away with the last good-byes of friends and family as life returns to ‘normal’.

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Photo by Stuart Miles, freedigitalphotos.net

The songs around the holidays speak of the longing for a savior to come into this world, a king who would rescue the people from oppression.  Christ was that King.  The over all world took little notice of His birth.  His birth isn’t even something we are commanded to celebrate, that was the thought of the church in an attempt to convert pagans who celebrated the winter solstice, to give them something to replace it.  We are commanded to remember His death and resurrection.  And we know from scripture He will be returning, to abolish evil, gather His people to Himself, and there will be a new heaven and a new earth.  The bible doesn’t paint a very pretty picture of those end times.  Meanwhile we who place our faith in Christ Jesus are supposed to be living in anticipation of this return.  It says He will come like a thief in the night, no one knows the day or hour but make no mistake, He IS coming back and there will be no more chance to save the souls of the unbelievers.

 

So then, why are Christians not living in that sense of anticipation every moment of every day?  Our focus is too often on the here and now, and not on how every single thing we do and say has eternal significance.  How would it change everything we do, think and say, if we live with the hope that it is happening today?  That every work task carried out was with its eternal reward as the driving force, the pleasing of our Father, the longing to hear “well done, good and faithful servant” from His lips?  Surely if that is not the desire of our hearts, we need to stop and evaluate our faith’s walk.  We don’t do this to gain God’s favor, we who are washed in the blood of Christ do it because we HAVE His favor in Christ and we long to imitate our Savior in living a life worthy of the price He paid.  The bible says we will give an account for every careless word we speak, our actions and even our thoughts which we are to take captive to Christ.  Certainly we will fail, we are imperfect and will sin. But we are not supposed to unpack and stay there.

I ask myself, and my readers, are you shedding that sin daily? Are you living in expectancy of His return at any moment?  Does that not impact how you live each day?  Get in the Word of God, stir up that hope in things with an eternal significance, live in His grip like there is no tomorrow.

 

Paper vs. Digital In Faith

iStock_000019755169SmallSo much about this world around us is advancing into the digital world.  Even our bibles are now available in digital format on our phones and tablets.

In many ways I am loving the technology available to me to help me in my walk with God.  My church as a great app, Crossroads Anywhere, which allows me to live stream the services if I cannot attend, has a weekly devotional work that is associated with the past Sunday’s message, and keeps me in touch on happenings around the church.  I love this app.

I love that the verses of scripture are projected on screens for all to see during the services, along with other things pertaining to the message, and song lyrics.  This cuts down on the need for hymnals or other song books, print bibles for those who don’t own one, which really is a cost savings and there is no need to wait while everyone is paging through their bibles to find the passages as we move along.

I love that every book I could want to read, including my bible, is available on my Kindle to go with me anywhere I go, as opposed to lugging books themselves around with me that could get forgotten, not to mention who wants to drag a stack of reading material all around when a Kindle slides right into your purse.

Technology rocks, make no mistake, and I LOVE the devotional apps I have at my finger tips on my phone like She Reads Truth, and First 5, which by the way are excellent.

But NOTHING can replace the feel of my old, leather bound bible in my hand, the sound and feel of those onion paper pages, filled with notes I’ve scribbled  in the margins and highlights over verses.  Just something about it, holding it, reading it, there in my hands, can never be replaced by technology.

What I Learned Facebook Fasting

This past week I went on a fast with my church in the first annual prayer & fasting week.  Our church is moving forward into so huge projects and it was a good way to launch these.  Fasting from food is normally what folks think of but the church suggested those of us who couldn’t fast from food (I cannot with my job), could ‘fast’ from other things.  I opted for a Facebook fast.

I knew that Facebook is a total time waster, but had NO idea just how much of my time is wasted there until I returned.  I had logged out on my PC and phone so as to avoid alerts that might tempt me back.  I missed SO much, like people’s dirty laundry about others including their mates, countless sexual indos, memes of zero importance, cute kitten videos, political crap that is already in abundance over a year before the election of the next president, pro-life/choice/marriage posts, decades old rumors going around about aliens/government intrusion/name it ____, in other words NOTHING of importance at all.  The first 24 hours back on and I’m reposting, tagging, and passing on a few hundred pieces of useless information and STOP.  I’m doubting that I want to continue it at all.  The one post I did make of 14 hard core pieces of evidence about Noah’s ark and even my own father wanted to start taking that apart with logic (missing the fact that God is not bound by human logic) because everything must be ridiculed and debated on Facebook because some folks just have to stir up a fight.

I also noted that while I did have some prayer time in the past week, I did not pray as much as I should have, or use the time off Facebook as wisely as I could have.  I did read an entire novel but, while entertaining (and rest IS important), it did nothing to further anything good in my life or the lives of others.  In 5 days I’ve reached the conclusion that it is more than a waste of time, it is a time sucker! It eats up the time that is better used for important things.

Not one video game played in 5 days, and it had been about a week since I left Farmville 2 for the second time in 3 months.  Another pure waste of precious time.  Some day we all have to give an account before God of the use of our time, our words etc.  I don’t really want to stand there explaining that I played 4 hours a day of Bingo Blitz and Farmville 2 when I could have used the time to pursue better things.  Reading His word, helping tutor kids, napping (because rest is ordained), interacting with others, helping folks grow their faith etc.  Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with the games, but balance is the key and I’m not real good at the balance side of things when it comes to those.  I also have grandkids, a desire to write a book to inspire others who find their life in the swamp of sin that there IS a better way.  What is it they say, garbage in, garbage out?  Um yes, and too much of that is just trash filling the mind.

During that time I also realized that I check in on Swarm etc way too much.  No one really needs to know everywhere I am at a given moment and what I am doing.  It is time to dial that back.  Being ‘mayor’ of any location does nothing to add value to my life but could be alerting people to my location that really have no need to know.  I think I may be removing that one from my phone altogether.

This fast has caused me to take a big look at my time online and on my phone and realize too much time is spend with the phone in my hand (even when out with others instead of talking and enjoying their company the phones are all out and we’re all busy on them playing, gawking at videos etc).  Time to put it DOWN.  Unplug some more and step away from these ongoing distractions.

Yes, I learned that there is more to life than social media. Much much more.

Coming Unplugged

This coming week our church, Crossroads in Cincinnati, is doing 5 days of prayer and fasting.  When I first read that I experienced a moment of sadness because fasting from food simply isn’t a good thing in my job.  I am losing weight (2 more pounds down for a total of 25 lost since the first week of May), which is a good thing.  But my job is very physical and I cannot skip meals and be able to remain on my feet.  Then the pastor sent out a message about this event and talked about it can be ‘fasting’ from something other than food.  YES!

I’ve been struggling to get into the Word and so I downloaded the app from Proverbs 31 ministries, First 5.  I’ve read it in the parking lot at work some mornings, but at least it is something!  My faith is being stretched and kneaded and well it is just difficult.  So this week will be awesome for me, if I can find something to ‘fast’ from.  And so I have.

Beginning at midnight tonight and running through midnight Friday, I’m logged off of Facebook and not going to look at it. I’m logging out on both PC and phone so that no alerts come to me and tempt me.  Every time I wonder what is going on with Facebook, or do get tempted to look at it, I will use that time to stop and pray or be in the Word, or both.

I’m also signed up for the Proverbs 31 online Bible Study, Taming The To-Do List.  I’ll let you know how that is going.  I’m hoping by doing the journaling on my blog that it may help others who are trying to build up their faith!