Friday, June 5, 2009

I am the head, not the tail!

Deuteronomy 28:13-14 "The Lord will make you the head, not the tail. If you pay attention to the commands of the Lord your God that I give you this day and carefully follow them, you will always be at the top, never at the bottom. Do not turn aside from any of the commands I give you today, to the right or to the left, following other gods and serving them."

There's an old Pennsylvania Dutch saying: "The hurrier I go, the behinder I get."

Some days I realize just how true that old adage is. I have so many things to do, I just never seem to get caught up. I feel like I'm at the tail end of the line all day long. And when I look back over my life at the end of the day, I wonder just what I accomplished?

Those are the days I need to look at my priorities. Am I a head - really putting God first in all my "busyness" or am I a tail - engaging in things that are unnecessary in God's grand scheme of things?

According to today's verse - there are conditions to becoming the "head and not the tail." Moses instructed Israel to pay attention to God's commands and carefully follow them.

So what are these commands of God that we are to pay attention to and follow? Moses reminded the Israelites of God's commands in chapters 12 through 26 - covering everything from their worship to daily food preparation, to how to treat others. These instructions were an expansion of the basic ten commandments God originally gave him on Mt. Sinai.

In the New Testament, Jesus boiled down those 10 commandments to two - You should love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength and love your neighbor as yourself.

The common thread through all these references to God's commands is that of relationships. How we treat God, others and ourselves is the most important thing to Him.

If I measure my daily activity against Jesus' yardstick, I begin to see that the things I do are only important if they nurture relationships between myself and God or myself and others. Also, they must nurture my own spiritual growth.

Ok - I'm not advocating that we women go on strike and refuse to clean house! But perhaps we need to consider our motives for all the mundane tasks we do. As Christian women, if our motive cleaning furiously is so we can become puffed up by our spotless house, we run the risk of being the "tail."

Consider the story of Mary and Martha. Jesus chided Martha because she was so worried about propriety and duty that she missed a deeper relationship with Him.

Mary on the other hand loved Him so much she was willing to risk her sister's ire to sit at His feet and bask in His presence. Mary definitely got the "head" position.

But I wonder - if Martha's attitude had leaned more toward offering the best food and a restful environment for Jesus because she knew that His teaching, healing and ministry activities tired Him out -would His response have been different? Perhaps He would have had a word of praise for her because of her loving service to Him?

When I feel overwhelmed by my busyness, I wonder how much of my activity is motivated by a need to control, to feel needed or to avoid something else?

If these attitudes drive me, I lose my joy in serving. It becomes a burden rather than a joy to do my tasks. Things take longer to accomplish and I feel disgruntled in the process, often missing opportunities that would bring me even greater joy - just because I'm using up my emotional energy on bitterness and self pity. I will always be "behinder" when my attitudes are off kilter.

Father, examine my heart today. Give me eyes to see my activities as You see them. Teach me to make changes in my attitudes and motives so I do them because of love for You, for others and for myself. Help me come out on top at the end of my day, both spiritually and in all other areas! Amen!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

I am empowered with inner strength!

Ephesians 3:16-18 (New Living Translation)
16 I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.

Which chicken wing is healthier for you?

A. Don Pablo's Buffalo Chicken Wings
- or -
B. KFC's Boneless Fiery Buffalo Wings?

Hmmmm. Ok - I'll bite! Which one?

According to the nutrition experts at Spark People in their daily Food Showdown e-mails, an order of KFC Boneless Fiery Buffalo Wings is the healthier choice. One little wing has 87 calories and 4 grams of fat so the whole order of 6 pieces would have 520 calories and 25 grams of fat.

Don Pablo's wings on the other hand have 129 calories and over 8 grams of fat EACH! That's 1036 calories for an 8 piece order and 78 grams of fat. Wow! That's over half of my daily allotment of calories if I want to continue losing weight!

I've been counting calories and measuring portions for over a year now and have learned how to make healthier choices both at home and in the restaurant. So far it has paid off with a weight loss of over 57 pounds! I'm learning which foods are full of empty calories and which ones contain nutrients that will strengthen my body from the inside out.

Coupled with making healthier food choices, I'm exercising more which helps to tone muscles and improve strength. But the increased activity and healthier eating habits have also paid off in other ways - I am feeling more content - I feel less depressed and anxious than I felt a year ago. Plus I'm enjoying life more.

Just like these healthy lifestyle changes have strengthened me physically, mentally and emotionally, there are changes I must make in my spiritual life to become strong and healthy.

1. I must choose to put my relationship with Jesus first on my list of spiritual priorities.

As a child I learned the way to happiness was to follow the anagram J-O-Y (Jesus-Others-You). But as an adult, I am realizing there are times that doesn't work.

As a Super-mom, I used to think I had to do things for everyone else first and if there was any energy left, I could look to my own needs. You know - "Never say no." My needs weren't important. Consequently, there was rarely time for my own spiritual nourishment. I grew weaker and weaker spiritually until I burned out.

God finally got through to me. I need to keep my relationship with Him open and functional at all times. When I keep that vertical channel open and clear, I am happier, easier to get along with and more productive for Him. Rather than putting my spiritual needs last as I had been doing, I must put them as top priority so all other areas of my spiritual life are healthy and strong. Then I can and want to do more for others.

2. I must eat a healthy "meal" from His Word daily.

I'm active in children's ministry so I'm not in adult church on a Sunday morning. It strikes me as funny when people say, "I can't teach Sunday School or Children's Church because I need to be fed."

Those poor souls! My best meal of the week is seeing the hearts of children open up to Jesus and blossom under His care! As an adult, I am perfectly capable of opening God's Word and reading His truths for myself. I know how to pray and listen for His voice. When I do those things daily, I am strong and ready to minister to others whenever the opportunity arises. I am healthy, not so weak and sickly that I need to be spoon fed each Sunday!

True, there are times when I need the spiritual strength and support of others. We all go through trials which weaken us for a time. That's when I need to call on those around me who are spiritually strong. I can lean into their strength until my own strength is restored.

3. I must exercise my spiritual muscles daily.

Without exercise, the physical body grows weak and flabby. The same with our spirits. If we are not running with endurance the race He sets before us; if we're not putting on our spiritual armor daily to meet the challenges of the day; we will ultimately lose our ability to make it as Christians in this world.

Things are changing - getting more difficult as the days pass. Will we be strong and healthy spiritually, ready for the battles that lay ahead? The answer is "Yes!" - When we learn to make healthy spiritual choices and become empowered by His strength from the inside out.