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Monday
Nov242014

The lessons my body teaches

I am a few months short of fifty, and I am beginning to feel the signs of aging. I'm not going to complain, though. I am very fortunate. I can walk unaided, and briskly. I can see, hear, and speak. I am not battling cancer or heart disease.

Fragile bodies

When I am sick, I am even more reminded of the fragility of our bodies. Last week, I had a sinus infection; the kind where your head, eyes, ears, cheekbones, and teeth hurt. I told my husband I wanted to push back up on the roof of my mouth because I felt like my sinuses were crushing my throat. I spent most of the week drinking lemon-ginger tea and trying to concentrate while I read. I resorted to an audio recording of The Fellowship of the Ring, only to fall asleep. I felt miserable. I had to miss a social event with my husband, and stayed home alone watching reruns of Call the Midwife. My bed was unmade, and the kitchen counters full of crumbs and other paraphenalia. I don't like being sick. I feel so powerless, so helpless. Yes, I was feeling sorry for myself, and I shouldn't. Some people live with much worse, daily, with no hope of it ending. 

Modern medicine gives us a measure of control by helping us manage symptoms. A healthier lifestyle can help with cholesterol and blood pressure; a diabetic can assist his condition by eating properly; cancer patients can have treatments and surgery. But, ultimately, there is no cure for many health issues. The "control" of our illness is limited. Our bodies are not meant to live forever. They're meant to die.

That middle-aged thing

I've also felt this loss of control as I've moved in and through middle age. From out of nowhere, for no apparent reason, and without any changes in lifestyle, I found myself carrying more weight. All of a sudden, the jeans didn't fit the same. I exercised. Nothing happened. I dieted. Nothing happened. Unless I want to turn my life into nothing but the pursuit of a size 7 (which sounds like a rather empty existence), my extra weight isn't likely to go anywhwere soon. Exercise gurus and personal trainers can give us the same sense of control by helping us control our weight. Women can keep their girlish figures, and maybe some of them will avoid the middle age weight gain, but again, there is no cure for the aging process.

I don't like feeling out of control. Does anyone? Being able to exert a measure of control over our bodies can fool us into thinking we have more power than we do.  We think that our exercise regimens, our diets, and our locally grown chicken is our key to the kingdom. But it's an illusion. It will not prevent illness, aging, or death. Those who deal with serious health issues on a daily basis have already learned this lesson.

He does as he pleases

Psalm 115:1-3 says:

Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory,
for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness.
Why should the nations say,
"Where is their God?"
Our God is in the heavens;
he does as he pleases. 

We know it is true. God is in control, and He does what He pleases. Did you notice how that Psalm begins? It begins with a call for God's glory, not our own. How much of our fascination with our bodies has anything to do giving glory to God? Much of the time, we like to be lean and trim so people can see. Our health is a matter of pride at times, "Oh, I don't eat that, so I'm healthy!" or "I work out five days a week; I'm so fit!"

God is glorified through healthy or thin bodies, but His glory is always profoundly visible in weaknesses. Think about the people you know who are terminally ill, chronically ill, live with physical challenges, or are caring for someone in those positions. You'll learn a lot from them.

I'm thankful I feel better today. And I'm thankful for those times when my body reminds me that I'm not in control. I will get sick again in the future, and I'm resigned to in all likelihood never getting back into those Levi's that are waiting for me to slim down. I think I'll give them to the used clothing pick up next time so someone can wear them now. I'm healthy right now, and I have so much to be thankful for. These lessons from God about exactly who is in control are a good thing.

Sunday
Nov232014

Lifting Up Our Hearts - 48

Under the Shadow of Thy Wings

Grant, Almighty God,
that as at this day ungodly men and wholly reprobate
so arrogantly rise up against Thy church,
we may learn to flee to Thee,
and to hide ourselves
under the shadow of Thy wings,
and fully to hope for Thy salvation.

And that however disturbed
the state of things may be,
we may yet never doubt
but that Thou wilt be propitious to us,
since we have so often found Thee
to be our deliverer;
and that we may thus persevere
in confidence of Thy grace and mercy,
and also be roused
by this incentive to pray to Thee,
until, having gone through all our miseries,
we shall at length enjoy that blessed rest
Thou hast promised to us
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 

Saturday
Nov222014

Saturday Soundtrack

I have enjoyed the musical abilities of Chris Thile since his days in Nickel Creek. He is one talented guy, playing all kinds of music. Who knew someone could make such awesome sounds with a mandolin? His recent work with Edgar Meyer is excellent.

His work with Punch Brothers has become one of my favourites. I often listen to their music when I'm walking. This is their new one, "I Blew It Off."

Friday
Nov212014

The language of grumbling

I've struggled with being a complainer most of my life. I am fortunate, though, that my husband is not a complainer, and over the years, I have benefitted from his example. 

Have you ever spoken to someone who wants advice, and when you offer it, they simply complain more? I have. And I have been that person complaining.

Why do we complain? We don't like things the way they are. We feel that we deserve more. We are bitter. Bitterness is one of the worst contributors to complaining. Bitterness festers and grows so that we see everything in a haze of indignation, and we complain more. I know; I've been that person. I'm not proud of it, but seeing it in myself is very helpful. I don't want to be one of those people whom others avoid because I complain so much.

Philippians 2:14-15 reminds us:

Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation.

Those verses are given in the context of our sanctification. He opens the paragraph in verse 12 with a reminder to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, and then adds the dimension of our witness to the world. What does it say to those around us when we as Christians express a hope in Christ, but complain about every little thing? And I don't mean the occasional grumble about the weather. I'm talking about someone who always has a mouth full of grumbling, yet never utters a word of gratitude when something good happens. What does that say to those around us?

There is something more serious about speaking on a regular basis with the languge of grumbling: our children hear it. It contributes to them grumbling, and they may begin to adopt an attitude of entitlement, thinking everything must always go their way. If we are going to reprimand and chastise our children for using vulgar speech, and then turn around and by our example teach them the language of grumbling, what does that say to them? What do they learn? I am quite sure I was guilty of grumbling in front of my children. Shame on me.

At the root of grumbling is self. We complain because we don't get our way, things may be difficult, things may be hard. The interesting thing is that I know some people who live with some very difficult circumstances, and they are generally the last ones to complain. Yes, our pain may be real, and the situation may be hard, but as my husband reminds me: does grumbling about it help?

Avoiding the language of grumbling begins with fostering a heart of gratitude. God is good. When we're tempted to grumble, we should look around and ask ourselves how God has been good to us. Battlilng a grumbling spirit is hard work, and I continue to battle it. One of the ways I do that is to regularly take stock of God's goodness, as demonstrated in my life, those around me, and in the revealed Word of God, where the truth of the gospel, God's ultimate goodness, is found. 

Thursday
Nov202014

Thankful Thursday

At Out of the Ordinary, we've been talking a lot about thanksgiving this month. I've learned quite a bit. It's a good thing to think about these matters.

This past month has been a time of disappointments and struggles. These things are the regular warp and woof of the Christian life, so I am not surprised. This, too, shall pass.

And yet, I am thankful. And if I am struggling to express my thanksgiving because of my mood or my struggles, I only need to open God's Word to be reminded:

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good
for his steadfast love endures forever! (Ps. 107:1)

Isn't that something to be thankful for? His love endures forever. People come in and out of lives; we have conflict; we have family struggles. This may cause us to feel isolated and wandering. But God's love is forever. His steadfast love is forever.

I am thankful today for God's steadfast love.