Tuesday, November 27, 2012

My First Advent

This year my husband came on staff at a Methodist Church so for the very first time we are part of a congregation that celebrates the season of Advent.  For many of you this may seem as no big deal, but for others you may find it just as new and intriguing as I do!  If you are one who, like me, has been kept in the dark about Advent then let me explain. . .

Advent is a season of preparation.  A time to prepare for the coming of a King.  It reminds us of the first time earth prepared to “receive her King”, but it also speaks of a present day preparation for the return of our King.  Advent typically involves a season of prayer, fasting and repentance, followed by anticipation, hope and joy.  How many of us start the holiday season off with a time of  prayer and fasting?  Quite the opposite; most of us start a season of holiday binging just before Thanksgiving and don't let up until January 1st!

To be very honest with you I am not a fan of what Christmas has come to look like in the world.  It seems very self-serving and commercial driven.  In-fact, Americans spent $228.4 BILLION dollars on Christmas last year. As much as we don’t want to admit it, as believers we are just as guilty of giving into all of the bedlam.  Think of how much time and money are spent on trees, gifts, food, parties, and other indulgences.  If we are honest most of us would say that Christmas Day is spent in a frenzy of gifts, rich foods and football.  What about that King we were preparing for?  You know, the One who was born in an animal’s feeding trough.  The One who is completely Divine yet laid down His crown to put on flesh and dwell among sinners.  How much of our time and money is spent on Him in comparison? 

So enter the Advent season.  What if we spent our time and energy preparing ourselves for the coming of our King?  What if we sent $228.4 BILLION dollars to third world countries to put a stop to world hunger?  What if we got up each morning and asked the Lord what we could give HIM, how we could serve HIM.  Think about this for me.  If you knew that KING JESUS was going to show up IN THE FLESH again at the end of this month, how would you prepare for that?  Would you rush to every office “elephant-gift” party you could cram in?  Would you make sure your son had the newest Nintendo DS?  Would you spend the entire day watching 24 hours of Ralphe and his red-rider bb gun?  Or . . .would you take your children to volunteer in a soup kitchen?  How about taking that DS money and giving it to “Operation Christmas Child”?  Instead of 24 hours of Ralphe, how about a 24 hour prayer vigil?   

As I am entering my very first Advent season I leave you with the same question that I am asking myself:

Is my life truly saying: “O’ Come, O’ Come Emmanuel”?


Monday, November 19, 2012

A “Thankful” Point of View


My personal theme or catch phrase is to live a "Wholly-Holy" life.  My book touches on how we take care of our physical body, but being a wholly-holy person obviously goes far beyond that.  So as Thanksgiving approaches this week, I want to tell you how becoming more whole in my Christian journey is what I am thankful for this year. 

Both my husband and I were raised in Non-Denominational Churches.  We grew up in what would be considered contemporary worship settings.  When we got married we continued the “Non-Denom” world where he was on staff as both a worship leader and associate pastor for a few different churches.  (Not at the same time).  Our experience as believers was a pretty laid back atmosphere with the kind of worship music we hear on K-Love radio.  This is a great atmosphere for many young people as it seems to mesh well with the mood of younger generations.  We felt comfortable in this setting and looked at the traditional “Orthodox” Churches as out of touch and certainly missing the new thing God was trying to do. (Yes, I know, I am telling on myself a lot here).  Then about six years ago the Lord began to shift our vantage point.  He began to take us back to the Hebrew Roots of our faith.  We began and incredible journey of learning about the Jewishness of our Rabbi, Yeshua Ha-Mashiach ; Jesus the Messiah.  We studied the bible from a Hebrew mindset and learned about the Temple service, the Feasts of the Lord, the Sabbath and so on.  We developed a love for Israel and the Lord put it on our heart to start a teaching and support ministry called Word Made Flesh.  Now He had given us a whole new view of the Bible and the God of Abraham.  We began to enjoy hearing liturgical prayers and the rituals of our Judeo/Christian Faith drew us closer and closer to the Jesus we love!  I am so thankful for the relationships God has given us with Orthodox Jews in the Land of Israel who have helped us see God from a whole different view but God wasn’t finished taking us on our vantage-point-tour yet. 

Just a little over a year ago the Lord brought a few key people into our life.  For Roman it was the Pastor of the First United Methodist Church.  For me it was a Catholic friend.  These relationships brought up new topics of conversation for us about God’s Word and about worship.  I had never been to a Catholic service and so my friend invited us to come on Palm Sunday.  . . .my husband and I both cried through the whole service!  From the priest circling the altar with burning incense, to the holy water, to the cantering of the Psalms; the service made perfect sense to us.  Six years ago we would have considered it odd, but God had prepared us with Hebrew study so that the worship made sense! 

Romans friendship with the Methodist Pastor had grown as well so we decided to visit the traditional service at his church.  Once again it was a fountain of tears.  The acolytes, candles, and hymns all brought out a feeling of reverence for the presence of our Holy God that we had longed to find.  It didn’t take long for us to realize we are most comfortable in an Orthodox Christian setting.  It didn’t take much longer to realize this was also a ministry fit for us and Roman was asked to come on staff this past September.  Now we are learning the Doxology, and the Apostles Creed.  The congregation says the prayer of confession before communion and the Lord’s Prayer just after the offering.  I am learning all about the Church Calendar which includes things like Advent and Lent.  We sat at dinner one evening with our new Pastor and his wife.  I told them I had been a Christian my whole life and now felt brand new to so much of it.  She is the one who first said God had given us the gift of seeing Him from different vantage points.  Kind of like sitting in a new spot at the family dinner table.  If you keep the same chair your whole life the scenery never changes.  When you move to a different spot, you see things you were not able to see before.  God is so BIG that we must be willing to move out of our comfort zones to view Him outside of one little box.  I love walking into my church in the middle of a Monday morning and hearing the organ playing,  or knowing that the first Sunday of each month we will hear a performance of worship hymns played on the hand bells.  The Lord has blessed us with many vantage points of Him and we personally fit in a more Orthodox setting; however; I can still go to a contemporary worship service and feel the breath of the Spirit!   I encourage all of you to; at some point, visit a church that may not do things that are within your comfort zone.  Go with a friend who attends that church and ask them about why they follow, or don’t follow, certain traditions.  You may be and Orthodox who needs to see the Contemporary point of view (or vice-versa).  Like me, I know it will help you grow more whole (and holy) as you are on your journey of faith.

I am so thankful that God has allowed me to see Him from more than one point of view!


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Healthy Holidays!

Monday night was the annual “Have a Healthy Holiday” party that I share with my clients.  We get together and make a game plan for the holidays.  I don’t have unrealistic expectations for them.  I don’t expect to see weight loss from November until January (but it does make me happy)!  I just work with them on NOT GAINING the extra 5-10 holiday pounds.  Each person brings a healthy holiday dish plus copies of the recipe to share.  Below is a list of traditional foods and then the healthy version we came up with. 

3oz dark meat turkey with gravy:  200 calories
3 oz White Meat Turkey:  120 calories

Candied Sweet Potato’s:  ½ cup 250 calories

Roast Sweet Potato’s: ½ cup 75 calories


Green Bean Casserole:  ½ cup 150 calories
Spinach Salad:  70 calories (light dressing)


Stuffing Traditional:  ½ cup 200 calories
Stuffing Light:  ½ cup  100  calories


Pecan Pie:  500 calories
Light Pumpkin Brownies:  90 calories


1 small piece of fudge: 150 calories
Chex Almond Mix:  ½ cup 150 calories


Total for Traditional Meal = 1,300 calories
Total for Healhty Meal= 600 calories
Note that in the traditional meal this does not include the egg-nog, wine, cheese log, mashed potato's, hot rolls or cranberry sauce.  If the extras are part of the meal you are looking at 2,200 calories or more!  If you do this just 10 times between Thanksgiving and New Years you will gain at least 5 pounds.  Think of all the office parties, church meals, family gatherings, and so on; but I can offer a  little hope and holiday advice. 
Be sure to eat a healthy balanced breakfast before any holiday meal; that will keep you from going into the "war zone" starving.  Don't skip your workout today!  Infact, this should be the day for a little extra activity.  Try getting exercise before your meal.  When it is meal time, choose to fill your plate with 1/3 white meat turkey.  Have a small taste of the rich stuff but be sure your plate has plenty of light options to fill up the main part.  After dinner go take a walk or play a game of family football.  Save your dessert of choice until a few hours later.  That keeps your body from taking on such a big calorie load all at once.  (And it keeps you from having two desserts!)
All of my ladies had the same comments after the party:  the food was good; I feel satisfied; I had fun; and I don't feel sick (or guilty).
Healthy Holidays to you all!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Resistance Brings Strength


Does anyone out there know how muscle is built?  Weightlifting; right!  But what is weightlifting?

It’s resistance; tearing down muscle fibers.  It hurts.  The body doesn’t like it. You might experience muscle trembling, naseau and even vomiting during a hard workout.  It’s your body getting rid of toxins and breaking down in order to re-build.  It takes discipline and determination.  If you push through the pain your reward is a strong core, a good heart, and the resilience to handle daily life.

Last night our country had a presidential election.  Most Christians are not pleased with the outcome.  May I offer some optimistic insight?  As Believers I believe we have grown “over-weight” and “soft”.  We now have a choice to make.  Resistance has come our way.  We can either push through or give up.  If we give up we continue down the road of spiritual obesity and laziness.   I have clients who do both.  I have some that push through the pain and finish the process.  I have others who tell me “I can’t do that, it hurts” and they give up.  Just as we allow ourselves to get physically out of shape, I believe we as a Church have also allowed ourselves to become soft.  If we eat donuts and cheetos and sit on our butt most of the day we will be unhealthy.  If we allow prayer to be taken out of school, for public television to air filth, for marriage to be redefined, and we sit on our butt and do nothing about it our nation will stay unhealthy. 

The first thing all of my successful clients do is to “repent” to me of all the unhealthy habits and addictions they have.  Perhaps that is the first thing we as believers should do.  (This is a public confession from the United Methodist Hymnal.)

Merciful God, we confess that we have not loved you with our whole heart. We have failed to be an obedient church. We have not done your will, we have broken your law, we have rebelled against your love, we have not loved our neighbors, and we have not heard the cry of the needy. Forgive us, we pray. Free us for joyful obedience, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen"

After we as a people confess all of our “unhealthy” ways, it is time to roll up our sleeves and get busy re-building The Body.  This is an effort on behalf of EVERY MEMBER of the body.  We can’t have the legs getting a good workout if the core doesn’t want to chip in.  We are to be ONE BODY working together.  Too many times I confess to bringing division and not unity.  How about if we all work in unison to bring our nation back to being ONE NATION, UNDER GOD!  It’s not the governments job.  It’s our job.  Protestant, Catholic, Baptist, Methodist.  Let’s take the resistance we have been handed and work together with our ONE GOD to be a healthy thriving body again!  The resistance will either crush us or make us stronger.  Which will it be?