Dignity and Joy

Every time I go to a new doctor, such as a specialist, I have to go through my medical history, which is rather lengthy. Because some of the history requires explanation, personal history also has to be divulged. It leaves me feeling rather ‘exposed’ in more ways than one… Afterwards, the nurse and the doctor make comments that I have been through a tumultuous series of events in my lifetime. (I am not disclosing everything in this story because some of it is deeply personal.) After nine surgeries, an inoperable brain tumor, a near fatal car accident, failed marriages, and many other catastrophes, I suppose I have, but I don’t look at it that way. To me those things are my past, those are things I’ve survived. I see that I am here, I am alive and I am loved

As I drove home today, I thought about the reactions I have received over the years, the all too familiar ones, time after time, to my life history. But that is the key – it IS history. And that’s where it should stay – in the archives… only to be brought out when needed for medical examination, not for emotional rumination! Chewing the cud is only beneficial to the cow (a ruminant). 

Today, when the nurse finished with all the questions, she looked at me and shook her head. I wasn’t asking for her pity, I was only answering the questions. I don’t need pity. She said the all-familiar phrase, in her words. “You have really been through so much in your life!” I looked at her, smiled, and gently said “Yes, I have, and God is good! He has brought me through it all! I couldn’t have gone through it without him. I am here and I’m sane and I know I have a purpose in my life. It’s funny when I look back, it’s hard to believe I went through all of that, because I don’t think about it until I have to recount it to a new doctor, then I put it away again, in the past. I focus on today.” She just shook her head again and said “Wow!” then left the room.

Yes, there have been things that could have taken away my dignity. There have been times I have lost family members for lengths of time. I have lost friends over lies that have been told about me. I have lost tens of thousands of dollars because of people I’ve been involved with… I’m not discussing details, Thank you. I don’t hold those things against any of them. I pray they come to know God and the truth. But I made it through by the grace of God and the mercy of friends and family. Any of these circumstances could have stolen my dignity or my joy. But, I would have had to allow my dignity and my joy to be stolen. The only way our dignity or our joy can be taken from us, is that we allow it to happen. I plan to hold on to both and I urge you to do the same!

Then I will hold my head high
    above my enemies who surround me.
At his sanctuary I will offer sacrifices with shouts of joy,
    singing and praising the Lord with music. Psalm 27:6
(my emphasis)

Resisting Temptation and Conforming to Christ

When I walked into the kitchen this morning, I saw the pumpkin pound cake I baked last night. I have tried to lose the weight I gained in the last year due to some medical issues. I saw the cake and my first thought was, “I could eat that for breakfast!” and took the cover off.

Immediately, I realized it would be detrimental to my goal of losing the extra pounds. I disciplined myself and walked to the bathroom where we have a set of scales. I stepped on them and was two pounds heavier than yesterday, much to my dismay. I know we fluctuate by a few pounds every day, but I didn’t want to lose this battle! I went back to the kitchen, covered the cake with the lid and pulled out a box of cereal. 

While I was doing this, I thought about how, as Christians, we face temptations every day of our lives. Sometimes it is frustration in traffic, or being impatient in line at the grocery store. It could be irritation at a family member or an acquaintance, seeing what we view as inadequacies, instead of seeing what they add to life. The list is endless and everyone has a different set of temptations they face. I thought about how we need to discipline ourselves to keep our thoughts Christ-centered. It sounds like such a simple thing until we get away from that focus.

… Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Philippians 4:8

… Be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity. 1 Timothy 4:12

The verse in Timothy says to be an example; the Greek word for example is tupos which means to be indelibly marked (marks which cannot be erased). It is likened to a seal on soft wax or to leave an impression of something, to be a replica or pattern. When we bear the image of Christ, we are able to resist temptations, we are sealed in our hearts. It is a surrender to the will of God, which conforms us into His image.

“Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” Mark 14:38

So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image. 2 Corinthians 3:18

Jesus’ instructions were to watch and pray to keep our hearts from temptation. If we don’t keep our Spirits malleable, our fleshly nature takes over. When we submit to God through Jesus Christ the veil is removed and we reflect the image of God.

Either way, Christ’s love controls us. Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life. He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them. So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! 2 Corinthians 5:14-16

The love of Jesus Christ controls our thoughts when we live for him, which allows us to see others with the eyes of God… How awesome is that?!

Prayer: Father, help me to resist temptations and allow Christ to conform me into his image. Guide me to immediately take captive of thoughts which are contrary to your will. Help me to have discipline in all that I do and the way I act towards others. Give me your vision as I keep my Own eyes on you!

Sensual Thanksgiving

As I ruminated this week on what I have to be thankful for, I was thanking God for my five senses; sight, taste, smell, hearing, and touch. While I pondered on each sense, I began to think of how blessed I am. We take our senses for granted.

Without my vision, I could not be a photographer. I would never know the beauty surrounding me in a visual perception. I would not be able to see the glorious colors and the uniqueness of every plant, each person, every food, and the nature that I hold captive through my lens.

I also thought how monotonous eating and cooking would be without the sense of taste! I love to create in the kitchen, to blend savory spices and make wonderful culinary inventions. There is sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and umami! I particularly like the umami (savoriness) in home grown vine-ripened tomatoes! Whatever the flavor, the consumption of food would be rather humdrum without the sense of taste. My grandmother blessed me by teaching me the fundamentals of cooking. I’ve grown and expounded from the principles she shared.

How would I enjoy those palatable delicacies without a keen sense of smell? It is a glorious thing to walk in the kitchen and smell the aroma of apples and cinnamon baking. Then there’s the fresh scent of my grandkids after a bath, all cuddly and loving. Aromas elicit memories. I can open a bottle of talc my great-grandmother used to wear, which I have, and be flooded with a plethora of memories! Oh, how she would sing all the time or whistle! She was such a happy person.

I remember walks with her down the quarter-mile path to our house on a crisp autumn day. I loved the smell of our pecan orchard, a bonfire burning in the field, moist fall leaves exuding fragrance, and the perfume of the woodsy breeze which surrounded us. She would always have a song to sing and the thought of being able to hear her delightful melodies brings a smile to my face. I reveled in listening to her stories of how she grew up and the jokes she shared. How different my memories would be without having her voice to reflect back on. Often at this time of year, I think of the folk songs and hymns she sang and how they have enriched my life. She was white-haired, blue-eyed, ample-busted, slightly rotund, diminutive in height, and constantly smiling!  Furthermore, she was a very loving person who had to have a hug every time she saw you, even if it was just later in the same day. I relish those hugs from long ago and I try to pass them on to my grandkids.

To cuddle, to enjoy snuggling up with one of my grandkids sitting on my lap while I read them a bedtime story or sing them a lullaby is delectable! I miss the feeling of touch when I am separated from those I love. A hug from one of my kids or family can really brighten my day. I love walking hand in hand with my husband on our treks into the woods to hike or capture nature. To feel his hand touching mine and be comforted by the fact that he is near brings contentment to my heart. A gentle loving touch is so important! When we hug someone or touch their hand to let them know we care, we impart love.

   

Embrace the senses you are blessed with and Thank God for blessing you. May your Thanksgiving be a visible, delicious, aromatic, and euphonious caress of all your senses. If you lack any of the five senses, I pray that God blesses you more abundantly in those you do have. Relish that God made you Uniquely you! I wish I could share a hug or gentle touch with all who are reading this!

Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out; 
      you formed me in my mother’s womb. 
   I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking! 
      Body and soul, I am marvelously made! 
      I worship in adoration—what a creation! 
   You know me inside and out, 
      you know every bone in my body; 
   You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, 
      how I was sculpted from nothing into something. 
   Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; 
      all the stages of my life were spread out before you, 
   The days of my life all prepared 
      before I’d even lived one day. Psalm 139:13-14