Thursday, March 10, 2011

Ever-Changing...You remain the same

I like to think of myself as a healthy person, especially in regards to what I eat. This is a really hot subject right now, and it seems like wherever you turn you can hear a different suggestion of something to eat, not to eat, to take, not to take, and so on and so on. I like to eat pretty naturally. Though I have not officially "switched-over" to organic, I try to be aware of what is in the foods I eat and consume as few "processed" or packaged foods as possible. And I love a balanced deal. All my roommates over the years have teased me about this, because I am the girl who wakes up early to make eggs with veggies in them, cut up fresh fruit and maybe even cook up some turkey bacon. It's just what I like to do.

I'm also passionate about missions, and I want to be able to eat whatever is put in front of me. Now, I do draw the line when strange animals or animal parts are offered to me as food (the "fish balls in Thailand - round hot dog like products made out of various fish...yuck!), or other incredibly weird things, but I do what I can. If there's a food that I don't like (especially if it's healthy) I try to train myself to like it, so if someone serves it to me I can enjoy eating it. I've done this for years now, and have successfully added zucchini, bell peppers, onions and mushrooms into my diet, among other things - many of those are my favorite veggies now!

So, recently I've been working on adding 2 more things into my diet: grapefruit, and almond milk. It's going great for both of them (although I took more naturally to the grapefruit over the almond milk)! I started reading about the health benefits of grapefruit in particular and there is a list about as long as my body of what these juicy fruits provide for us! They're packed with Vitamin C and their acidity helps to break down infection and even cancerous cells in our body...the list goes on and on. They also are lower in sugar than many other fruits and help with controlling blood sugar and weight loss. So, I've been having half a grapefruit with breakfast most mornings.

The almond milk thing isn't any great conviction against dairy milk, which, let me tell you, many people have. I've heard for years the argument of us being the only mammals that drink another mammal's milk, or even drink milk past infancy, and always thought that was a good point, but didn't do anything about it. Also, being a musician/singer and someone who deals with seasonal allergies, I've felt the effect that dairy has on my throat and congestion, and have since returning from Thailand significantly cut all the dairy that I consume. I lived with very little of it when I was there, and felt great, so just decided to keep it up upon returning to the US. So it's more of a personal decision than anything. I still eat some dairy and drink some milk. But I did decide to read some articles on dairy milk since I've heard some really negative things about it.

Now let me interject here that I have a Masters of Science in Counseling - a field where research and statistics are vital and required components of our course work. Because of this I am inherently skeptical of "statistics" or "research". An argument can be made for both sides of just about any subject you can think of, nutritionally or otherwise. The person trying to get to the bottom of which research finding are "true" or not could take years studying who funded each study, what their bias might have been in putting forth their answer as "truth", and which results are actually significant enough to prove their point. For example, one time in our graduate research methods class we were assigned to research if Vitamin C really is helpful in reducing the common cold. I won't get all nerdy and scientific on you, but suffice it to say by the end of our study it seemed that the results were not significant enough to prove it actually helped. What could be determined was that if you believed that Vitamin C would help you fight a cold, it probably would. If you did not believe that it would help, it probably wouldn't. Really. Enough about that though...

So back to the subject, I started reading and - surprise, surprise - I found so many different conflicting opinions about the effects of dairy and health. Of course this is what I expected. These things seem to shift back and forth. A new study comes out and everyone switches from dairy milk to almond milk, butter to margarine, then back to butter again, eat eggs, don't eat eggs, drink a glass of wine, don't drink a glass of wine, on and on. I'm sure we all can think of examples of this. It can be very frustrating to a health-concerned individual; and if you get too concerned with it, you can spend all your time researching and changing and re-changing your mind with every new study or fad diet that comes out. It's exhausting. It brings to mind a passage of Scripture:

"Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won't be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth." - Ephesians 4:14

Now, I'm clearly not talking about nutrition anymore, nor do I mean that those who research what they eat and try to implement the new findings on nutrition are "immature like children." I guess what I'm getting at is that at the end of the day the wisdom of the world is just that: wisdom of the world. Fads and teachings go back and forth like the waves in the ocean, and if we rely on that wisdom, we can get taken along for the ride. The good news is this:

"But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere." - James 4:17

While popular opinion changes daily, we have a heavenly Father who remains constant and unchanging. It's important to be healthy, but it's not THE most important thing. Personally, I would rather try to eat reasonably healthy but still affordably, and use the money I've saved from not buying organic or over-priced health food to feed a child in another country who has no food at all! We do our best, and we forget the rest. The good thing is, if there's something we're really unsure about, or really want to know, we can ask Him! His wisdom is available to us about every subject we can imagine - whether deciding to eat dairy or not, what car to buy, how to parent our children, or what to do with our lives. He has an interest and an opinion and it is the BEST one available. While we change and vacillate and develop over time, He just IS. "I am that I am." - Exodus 3:14. What assurance we can find in the wisdom of God when the wisdom of man leaves us grasping for answers!

We are ever-changing, Lord, yet You remain the same.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

What are we saying?

I've been wrestling with some things lately. I think this is an integral part of our faith. Anytime we stop wrestling with concepts in our beliefs we need to be careful. Complacency has likely already seeped in.

For the last year or 2 I constantly find myself reading and gravitating to Romans 8. After getting married, Dan and I have been (although inconsistently) working on memorizing this chapter and renewing our minds with all the truths it contains. We've gotten about 13 verses in, which isn't even halfway, and I can't wait until we get to the end, as this chapter culminates with the description of nothing in all creation or life or death being able to separate us from the love of God. We have, however, gotten to one of my favorite scriptures in that chapter: verse 11.

"And if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His spirit, who lives in you."

The Spirit of God is living in you. This is a pretty basic premise of our faith, but I don't think we really get it. The Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead lives inside of us! We carry that Spirit and that power with us wherever we go! Whoa, that's huge.

When I was in India last year, I traveled around preaching a lot. They would take me to remote villages to preach or would even gather hundreds of Indian pastors together and have me teach them. This was unbelievably humbling, as these men probably have such a greater understanding of taking up their cross daily and following Christ than I when faced with daily persecution and the loss of everything in their lives in order to preach the Gospel. I would wonder what I could possibly teach them, and thought it would probably be better for me to sit down and let them teach ME about what it means to follow Christ. But time after time this passage would come to mind, and I would share an encouraging word with these men of God to help them realize the power and presence of God that dwells within them continually. I felt if they could tap into an understanding of the power they carry inside of them as Christ-followers, they would see their nation totally turned towards the heart of the Father. But in my return back to the US, I think I dropped this truth into the Pacific Ocean somewhere, cause I know I don't implement this into how I live in the day-to-day.

If I really believed this and understood this truth and let it get a hold of me, would I feel the need to constantly pray and ask the Holy Spirit to "come" or "invite" Him into a place? He shows up when I show up. Nothing can separate me from the love of Christ, and it's His Spirit that is living on the inside of me. I can't go anywhere that I don't take Him with me. And yet we sing song after song in our worship settings inviting the Spirit to "come" and "fall." I'm not saying that He doesn't sometimes (and often!) show up in these corporate settings in a "manifest" way that seems like He is entering or filling a place, but in reality is it our mindset that has to change in order for Him to move?Would a better prayer be for the Lord to open our minds to make us aware of the Spirit that is already dwelling in us? Are we speaking in a way that assumes His previous absence in a place until "invited" to be there?

I'm just thinking that maybe, when we use this type of language and vocabulary, we continue to train ourselves in thinking that the Spirit is not already dwelling inside us, and we ignore the fact that He can be released into a situation anytime we just show up. This keeps us continually in a place of lack, and feeling like we constantly need to invite the Spirit into someplace He already is, instead of renewing our mind to accept that He is there as soon as we are there. The power of life and death is in the tongue. How are the words that I'm speaking, or even praying from an earnest-heart releasing life, and allowing His Kingdom - that is at hand - to move on the earth? I would rather pray that my mindset shifts to line up with the Word of God, rather than continue praying in a way that stands in opposition to the truths declared in it.

How differently would we live if we lived with this mentality? What in us would change? What would change in the world? And what would change in the spirit? Lord, let me live in such a way that I release Your Kingdom wherever I go, and that I understand that the One who raised Jesus from the dead is residing inside of me at all times.