Shattered Illusions of a Goody-Goody

July 9, 2020 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Family Focus

By Jane Thornton

Confession: I captured my husband under false pretenses.

Not intentional deceit, I make every effort to be open; I strongly believe in being frank—but somehow, on first impression, most people judge me to be ladylike. This notion even lingers beyond acquaintance. Perhaps some of my traits and habits reinforce the reaction: I have a girly southern voice; I collect china cups and saucers; I tear up over Hallmark commercials and romantic movies.

Even those who are not so impressed with me have been known to categorize me as a goody-goody.

Unfortunately, as my husband discovered after our wedding day, the illusion does not hold up under day to day living. I’m often loud, silly, grouchy, and selfish to name a few not-so-ladylike attributes. Thank God, over the last twenty-five years, Wes has found other reasons to love me!

One day in the first year of our marriage, I shared with him the story of what I considered the follies of my youth:

As a freshman in college, I wanted to spread my wings and test my new freedom. I stepped outside of my moral standards and went with a group of friends to well-known strip club. (Please hold back your gasps; there’s worse to come.)

I felt daring, cosmopolitan, wild. Upon the urgings of the crowd, I even tipped a dancer a dollar and asked for a kiss. I flushed with my audacity. I managed to rationalize and smush any shame.

We tromped back to the dorm and fell into the dreamy slumber of slightly tainted innocence.

The next afternoon, I developed a scratchy throat. By evening, my glands were swelling and red. I scrambled through my mail, and, with horrified dread, I re-read the letter from my mother: “Mimi says to be careful. She read an article saying that there’s an epidemic going around of gonorrhea of the mouth.”

Fear drove spikes through my heart. Shame escaped its prison and swamped me. I cried myself to sleep, nightmares haunting me with the necessity of confessing to my parents that I had an STD.

I did not.

And, I did not confess my misdeeds until much later. In spite of my own regrets, I was surprised that when I told Wes, seven years later, he was angry. Now, with the perspective of our silver anniversary, I know that I shattered some of his illusions with that confession.

Recently, I revealed this story to a church friend. She, too, was horrified and grossed out by my peccadillo. I tumbled off the pedestal I didn’t know she had put me on. That fall is probably a good thing since I don’t belong there.

Praise the Lord that I do not have to earn the image of being good. In Romans, Paul says Jesus gave me His righteousness (3:22). “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:23-24 NIV).

Comment Prompt: What impressions – true or false – do people have of you?

Strength in Numbers

By Don Otis –

The Santa Rosa Plateau is a beautiful oak and Manzanita-strewn area hugging Riverside and San Diego Counties. The countless trails wind up and down canyons and provide views of 11,000’ peaks and Mt. Palomar Observatory to the south.

For the last three winters, I have made my way from Colorado to that beautiful spot. Two years ago I bumped into Rob, a chiropractor who happens to be a Christ-follower and avid mountain biker. While each of us ride alone most of the time, when we have company, we enjoy the experience even more.

Any time you start a new workout routine, having companionship can be the difference between success and falling back into old patterns of inactivity. The struggle for most of us is to find someone whose schedule meshes with our own. If this is the case for you, focus on the weekend where the time pressure is not a factor. For most of us, joining a gym may not be enough. Many gym memberships remain dormant shortly after a person signs up. Still, most gyms have programs or group activities–aerobics, spinning classes, or Silver Sneakers. If the energy from joining other “partners in pain” is helpful to you, then plan out your week or month to include some of the classes they offer.

There are some activities where partnership is important–not just for the motivational benefits, but also for safety. In North Idaho where I lived for fifteen years, my hikes in the Selkirk Mountains often included trailhead signs which read, “Beware! You are entering Grizzly habitat.” Since I often hike or climb alone, those signs caused me to think about what I was doing.

If you enjoy the outdoors, awareness of your surroundings is essential. Turn off the ear buds and focus on your environment. This applies equally for running, walking or biking in urban environments as well.

Team sports are another place to find camaraderie. You can participate in league sports though a gym or YMCA. Most areas also offer adult sports through Parks & Recreation. By joining others to work out, you gain not just a partner who keeps you accountable; you also push one another to improve.

In his book You Can Get There from Here, author Bob Knowling says, “People who don’t know what sports can do think of it as an endless collection of games with scores and stars and failures and winners and losers. For me, it was learning of lessons, hour by hour, that carried straight off the playing field and into my life.” i

Just as Bob Knowling discovered, we learn from sports, from teamwork, from being in the presence of others who share a common experience. I learned, as countless others have, that sports don’t have to stop in high school. Nor does one automatically have to get fat or out of shape at a certain age or stage of life. We have bought these lies that childbirth, turning 40, getting older, or becoming injured means we are washed up. This is simply untrue. We have also bought the lie that just because we were never an athlete in the past, we won’t be one in the future.

I want to encourage you this month to put aside the old stereotypes. Put aside the notion that you are “washed up” and can’t possibly get back to where you once were. I want to encourage you to find a workout partner or join a group activity that will keep you motivated even when you don’t feel like doing anything.

Comment below and let me know how it goes!

i Penguin, 2011, p. 38

Watches of the Night

June 26, 2020 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Family Focus

By Heather Allen –

As long as I can remember there has been a yearning within to know God. There are many things material and immaterial that people place hope in. I have read about the mythological beliefs of the Greeks and Romans. They share something with every other culture, gods fashioned in human likeness. But as much as mankind desires to promote self-worship, there is a craving for something so much larger than self. There in the bitterness when sin runs its destructive course is the looming questions; is there nothing more?

This past month was filled with restless nights. During these dark watches I was in agony over sin. I have never experienced anything like it before. I have been studying the gospels and have been struck anew at God’s imperative love. We have no hope without a covering for our sin. Yet as I twisted and turned my way through repentance for myself, family, and our nation, what stuck was a new understanding of what it meant for Christ to become sin.

“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21 NIV).

As I lay there grieving I could not imagine the terrible load Christ carried on the cross. The only relief on those nights has come from the Lord; I cannot imagine my distress if He turned his face from me.

He is mercy. I longed to understand what was happening to me on these sleepless nights. I have heard friends talk about intercessory prayer but I have never before felt this type of weight or grief over our nation. A close friend called and unknowingly began to describe the same scenario. She described waking at the same times and crying in repentance to the Lord. Unexpected joy surged through me as she shared what God has been teaching her through this. And as I re-read the account of Jesus’ last night in Gethsemane I was soul struck at His instructions to watch and pray.

The disciples were sleepy. Jesus acknowledged their reality “the spirit is willing but the body is weak” (Matthew 25:41b NIV).

But He admonished them three times to keep watch. He told them to pray so they would not fall into temptation. Interestingly enough, the instructions are the same in Mark 13:33 “Take ye heed, watch and pray, for ye know not when the time is” (KJV). Only this passage in Mark is referring to the end of the age.

The night of Jesus’ arrest must have seemed the darkest of all nights. His disciples scattered, except Peter who was left to grieve, denying He was Jesus’ disciple. Jesus had told them what to expect. Yet I have to wonder what raced through their minds that horrific night, and when they woke to the grim reality that their Messiah was convicted despite perfection. The world would have seemed incalculably evil. Did they lose heart that Passover?

What seemed the darkest hour in history became the pinnacle moment of redemption. They did not understand like we do not understand. Because when we draw near to the end of the age and all seems depraved and lost it is then when we will look up and see our glorious redeemer drawing near. This hard fought battle will be done. Until that day watch and pray.

Time-Saving Fitness Tips

June 23, 2020 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Health and Fitness

By Cami Checketts –

As a new year dawns, it’s important to make goals to fit in time for fitness, but with all we have on our to-do lists we don’t want to waste time. Following are a few fitness trends that are a waste of time. Below each you will discover effective things you can do instead:

1. Lifting too quickly or with weights that are too light.

You’re not doing anything to increase your muscle strength if the weights are so light you can cruise through more than twelve reps or if you’re bouncing through your reps. It’s better to do six to eight reps with good form–very slow and controlled–rather than do forty reps with two-pound dumbbells. Not only are you wasting your time but you could injure yourself.

Women will not bulk up from lifting heavier weights. In fact, it’s been proven that heavier weights (I recommend beginning with ten pound dumbbells and working up as your strength improves) will increase metabolism, burn more calories during and after the workout, and improve the density and tone of a muscle much quicker than light weights and high reps.

2. Ineffective cardio

Any kind of movement is going to burn calories and improve your health–helping to prevent a myriad of diseases and boost your mood and energy. There is a lot of proof that people who wear pedometers and move more than 10,000 steps a day improve their health without any formal exercise.

But if you are trying to lose weight, you have to challenge yourself with speed, duration, and intensity. You also need to vary your cardio. Your body adapts quickly to the demands placed upon it. Cross-training is key to combating that. If you normally run, try swimming. If you bike, go to a kickboxing class. If you climb on the Elliptical machine every day, rent a yoga video for a change.
Interval workouts are a brilliant way to challenge yourself. Basically you warm up, then alternate a high intensity for thirty to ninety seconds with a moderate intensity for two-three minutes. Repeat the cycle four to seven times before cooling down. Intervals have been proven to help people lose up to five times more weight.

3. Inner and outer thigh exercises

The TV commercials for those special machines that reduce your thighs make me want to scream! There is virtually no muscle on your inner or outer thighs. It is physiologically impossible to spot reduce (burn off fat by working a certain part of your body). Therefore inner and outer thigh exercises do nothing but make your legs burn. Just because something hurts or burns does not mean it’s effective. Doing fifty outer thigh lifts in aerobics class will build up lactic acid and hurt, but it won’t do anything to slim your thighs. Concentrate on lifting on the major muscle groups to improve strength and increase metabolism.

4. Abdominal Machines

The abdomen is a stabilizer muscle. You use your abs to hold your mid-section steady throughout your day. Because you use your abs so often it is hard to overload them and increase strength. Most of the ab machines you see on television are a waste of time and money.

The most effective ab workout is crunches on an exercise ball or the plank. As you work your abs, make sure they are tucked in flat. Never strain and push past your ability to hold the abdomen tight. When I go to Pilates, I quite often find myself letting my abs protrude because I’m trying to hold a certain pose. It’s not worth it! Promise me you won’t get prideful like me. Keep those abs in.
Another cheap, easy, and effective thing you can do for your abs is suck in and stand up straight and tall. Remind yourself throughout the day: tighten abdomen, tilt pelvis, and throw shoulders back. Your body will become accustomed to holding you that way and you will look ten pounds lighter.

Effective exercise will maximize the time you spend in the gym making you healthier and giving you more time and energy to focus on the most important things: serving and loving those around us.

The Golden List Legacy

June 14, 2020 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Family Focus

By Marty Norman –

Recently a friend and faithful follower of Christ gave me a thought provoking book, “The Ultimate Gift”. A  book about morals, principals and life lessons it encourages one to reflect on the values and principals in one’s own life. I’ve been pondering it ever since.

In one of the chapters the main character, Red Stevens, travels for a year with a homeless man named Josh. As they travel, Red asks Josh why he is always in a good mood. Josh tells him about a discipline that he learned from his mother called the Golden List.

This is the way it works. Every morning before he gets up, Josh lies in bed or wherever he’s sleeping and imagines a golden tablet. He evaluates his day and where he is in life. He then writes down, in an imaginary way, ten things he’s most thankful for. This keeps him focused on the things of importance.

This is not a new idea. It’s called a gratitude list. Many people and religions do  it. Even Oprah talked about it on her TV show.  In fact, she did many shows on this topic. But “The Ultimate Gift” and the golden list are good reminders and a good exercise for all of us to start for the New Year.

Not only is it a good discipline but it is also biblical:  Psalm 107:1 “O give thanks unto the Lord for he is good.”  II Corinthians 2:14  “Now thanks be to God.” Ephesians 1:15 “I have not stopped giving thanks for you.” Ephesians 5:20  “Always give thanks to God the Father for everything.” I Thessalonians 1:2 “We always thank God for all of you.” I Thessalonians 5:18 “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Revelation 10: 17  “We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, the One who is and who was.”

This is not a suggestion. It’s a command.  Clearly God knows what he’s doing.  Psychologically if one concentrates on what’s positive in life, things go better. It’s a mindset as well as a discipline. It’s a habit worth cultivating. The scripture tells us to give praise and thanks in all things.

I can’t help but contemplate the importance of beginning this practice now. As the days darken, and as the world moves into chaos, we as believers have the opportunity to be salt and light in a world gone awry. The first step is to get our minds right by walking daily in praise and thanksgiving for all things.

One of my favorite books is “The Hiding Place” by Corrie ten Boom. During World War II she and her family faced some of the most horrific situations and conditions known to man. And they did so with integrity and faith, which is a great model for us to follow. The foundation of their response to the inhumanity they experienced was to love and give praise and thanks in all things. In one scene they even give thanks for the fleas in their compound. Later they learned that they were able to do uninterrupted evening Bible studies in their compound because the guards were afraid to come in because of the fleas.  Go figure. God works in mysterious ways.

This type of faith is surely beyond the understanding of most of us. But I don’t think this habit began for Corrie ten Boom while in the concentration camps. More than likely, she took the scriptures literally and began this spiritual discipline many years before. Eventually it moved from habit to an attitude of the heart that became part of her daily life and character. She could then draw on it when needed.

Makes sense to me. So start now. Make January 2012 the beginning of the rest of your life. Develop this spiritual discipline now while there is still time. Give thanks and praise to God in all things. Make a daily gratitude list, thanking God for the many blessings of this life. Move from a habit to a discipline to an attitude of the heart. Prepare yourself spiritually, for no one knows what the future might hold.

Maybe, just maybe, one day your golden list will be the ultimate gift for a world in darkness.

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