I Blog For Books

07 January 2012

Better Than Sweet Tea

I have often heard that southerners have sweet tea in their veins. Sweet tea is like any beverage, I suppose, in that it can be an acquired taste. I remember living in Colorado and not being able to get sweet tea in some of the restaurants - and having the servers point out that there was sugar on the table. Obviously, they didn't know how to make sweet tea! 

Late in the summer of 2010, I was diagnosed with diabetes. My gut reaction to this news was "Oh no! No more of my favorite things (sugar, chocolate, carbs)." I happened to be on the road traveling to Alabama when I received the news. What was my immediate response? Pull in to the nearest McDonald's and order some Mickey D's Sweet Tea!

Over the past year, I have learned that moderation is the key. While I have been less than strict about following a diet, monitoring my blood sugar,  or even particularly watching what I eat and drink - my A1C had remained the same as the original test. Imagine my surprise, three days ago, to receive the results of my lab work and find out that my A1C had jumped up nearly 1 full point from the last reading! As you may imagine, I do not look forward to next week's check-up at the doctor's office. 

Reading in John chapter 4, my mind immediately went on its own little tangent comparing the refreshing taste of water and the delicious nectar known as sweet tea. How, you may ask, does my mind make such comparisons? I try to see God everywhere, and in every thing. It may sound crazy, but it works for me. However, I digress. Heading in to work the other night, I stopped to get something to eat before my shift. Popeye's sounded good to me, so after ordering the delectable fried goodness along with a large cup of ice cold sweet tea, I sat down for a few moments of peace before work. The strangest thing happened. By my second piece of chicken, the hot and crispy chicken skin had lost its appeal, appearing in my  mind as fried fat. The french fries, so tasty, seemed congealed. The biscuit, hot and fluffy only moments earlier, seemed cold and leaden. The tea that flowed so sweetly was suddenly leaving an aftertaste, and not one that was pleasant. What happened to my meal? My mind was rejecting the physical. Instead of eating what I needed for healthy physical nourishment, I chose to eat what I wanted and ignore the consequences.  

I think the same thing happens when we ignore spiritual nourishment. Our bodies begin to crave something healthy, and so does our spirit. The more I delve into the Word of God, the more I want to know. The quest for spiritual nourishment is growing, as I continue to seek Him in every thing that I do. As with my diet, my journey will be fraught with trials and stumbling blocks. What I know for certain is that He is with me, every single step of the way. There will be times, as the beloved poem states, that He will carry me.  I have to trust Him, I will trust Him. With the love and support of family and friends, the journey will continue.

Lord, I ask that you continue to walk beside me. Make me a beacon, make me your servant. Help me to live so that I am a witness for you in every way.

Then Jesus declared, I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty."~John 6:35 NIV

03 January 2012

Feed the Body, Nourish the Soul.

What did you have for dinner? Did you enjoy the last meal that you ate? How many times a day do you eat?Why do you eat? Seemingly silly questions, but designed to make you think. Now dig a little deeper. What did you do to nourish your soul? Do you nourish your soul?Why, or why not?

Beautifully written words, passionately performed music, a breathtaking sunrise. These nourish my soul. I have found that as I get older, spiritual nourishment becomes more and more important. As we get busier, I think that it becomes even more vital to make sure that we are healthy - both physically and spiritually. How do we increase our spiritual health?

One of my goals for this year was to read through the Bible. Joining forces with others who share the same desire will help me to accomplish that goal. I am reading, and want to read, for understanding. Understanding more about God through reading the Bible fills a need deep within. Reading and studying His word is like a cool drink of water on a hot summer day; it nourishes, refreshes, and satisfies.  

Having been a voracious reader since childhood, I find my reading direction now changing. I am searching for answers, formulating questions, and trying to amass as much information as I can. My main reading source is the Bible, we are reading chapters daily on our quest to read through the Bible this year. The version of the Bible I am currently using is the New International Version of the Zondervan Life Application Study Bible. I am only three days in, and have already taken pages of notes on the four chapters we have read. The study guide in this Bible has been an excellent brainstorm source for digging deeper. I feel this incredible desire to learn and learn. There is so much I want to know, and this is feeding my soul!

Healthy nourishment for your soul is as important as food is to the feeding of your body. God, I ask that you continue to guide my search for nourishment, and help me to uncover the answers that I seek. I thank you for directing me on this path to recovering my spiritual health.

"Jesus answered, 'Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.'"~John 4:13-14 NIV


02 January 2012

You Can't Just Talk the Talk

We've heard the expression "You Can't Just Talk the Talk, You Have to Walk the Walk," but what does that mean in the journey to know and understand Jesus? When I walked down that church aisle so very many years ago, pulled by something that I didn't fully understand, but knowing that it was where I needed to be, I made a public declaration of faith. Have I lived that faith, truly?

I wish I could stand proudly and say that I have. I wish I could shout from the rooftops and speak volumes on the subject of how my life was transformed and the fact that I've never since looked back. The reality is far less appealing. The child that I was grew into the teenager that I became, still walking in faith. I was not - nor will I ever be on this earth - perfect, but I was pretty much the dorky good kid. I minded my mama and daddy, listened to and respected my elders, went to church, and tried to be a good person. Church was not a place to go to see and be seen, it was the place where we learned about the Lord. I rebelled, at times arguing with the fact that we went to church while mama and daddy (and later, my stepdad) didn't always go. Did being an adult mean that you didn't have to go to church?

When I left home at the grand old age of 20 and got married, I didn't go to church. My husband proclaimed to believe, but the entire time I knew him he only stepped foot inside a church when someone got married or buried. Did I witness to Him, share the story of the gospel and how Jesus had made a change in me? Of course not. I was a young adult and I believed and that was all that mattered. Life changes, things happen. Next thing I know, I'm a young divorcee with a child. When I began dating again, I fell in love and married a man who didn't believe in God. How did I reconcile that with my own belief? Did I witness to him? Of course not. Religion became the subject on which we agreed to disagree. As our children were born, the decision was made to allow them to make their own choice when it came to religion. They knew that their father was a non-believer and that their mother did believe. Did I witness to them, share the story of Jesus, and take them to church? No. Why? I still don't have the answer to that question, even though my children are now adults.

Life changes, things happen. Without going through details that I try daily to forget, suffice it to say that we've now fast-forwarded several years. There was another marriage, and another. My husband believes in God, but does not attend church, and hasn't for a very long time. He was born and raised Catholic, which is a faith that I do not profess to understand, having been born and raised in the Baptist church. This, however, is not a discourse on which denomination is best. What this is, in its convoluted way, is a story of a woman brought up in faith, who proclaims to believe, who talks the talk, but hasn't walked the walk in so many years that it is as if I am starting all over as a new Christian. The one thing that I know without fail, without doubt, is that my God loves me. Just as I am, flaws and all. He doesn't expect me to be perfect, He expects me to be me.

What I know to be true, today, is that the last few months have brought the realization that something is missing in my life. It is not about what I have - for I am blessed indeed with great children, a husband that loves me, and a family that always believes in me. I have a home, a rewarding job, and good friends. It is about finding myself in the faith that has never left me, through all the ups and downs of my life. It's not about talking the talk, it's about walking the walk. Am I ready?

I am. This isn't about finding "the church," it's about finding a church home. It is about being with other believers, talking and communing with those who have a true interest in living for Christ. It is about getting up every day, secure in the fact that life on this earth is but a drop in the bucket compared to the beauty of the eternity that awaits me when I get to Heaven. It is about being strong when Satan tries to dissuade me from my path, and placing my trust in Jesus. It is about knowing, believing, and living my faith. It's not always going to be easy, but with Him, I will prevail.

God, I am so unworthy, but I offer myself to you. Make me into the woman that you knew I would be before I was even created. I am clay and you are the potter. Make me into your vessel, fill me with your love, and help me to pour out the blessings as I share my faith in you.

"He must become greater, I must become less."~John 3:30, NIV

01 January 2012

Without Him, I Am Nothing

Happy New Year! Today is January 1, 2012, and the date marks the beginning of several things. It is, of course, the start of a new year. Growing up in the late 60s and 70s, 2000 seemed so very far away ... A few days ago, a friend posted a link on Facebook for anyone who might be interested in reading through the Bible in 2012. It caught my attention for more than one reason. Because I am a voracious reader, I thought "why not?" Because I haven't read the Bible completely through in more years than I care to think about, I thought "this might be a good way to start a new year." Because it offered the opportunity to share my thoughts and feelings with a group of people who were searching for the same solace, I thought "let's do this!" 

We started our reading with one chapter, and not, as you may think, at the beginning of the Bible. Instead of beginning "at the beginning," we are opening our minds and hearts with the book of John, chapter 1. Only 51 verses, yet it packs a powerful punch. Take a moment and think about the first verse:  

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.~John 1:1

What does that say to you? To me, it says that God was, God is, and God always will be. What a source of comfort! Two verses later, in John 1:3, we see that

Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.

I am already seeing why we started with this book. Because of God, we are! The Life Application Study Bible goes into further explanations of most of the verses, and the explanation for this verse stopped me cold. Remember that you exist only because God made you, and you have special gifts only because God gave them to you. With God you are something valuable and unique; apart from God you are nothing, and if you try to live without him, you will be abandoning the purpose for which you were made.

Imagine that! I am here for a purpose, determined by God. If I work for His glory, I will find my purpose. Without Him, I am nothing. If we believe, we become children of God. Once we believe and decide to follow God, we are truly reborn. What an amazing beginning for a year-long journey. I am humbled, and strengthened. Without him, I am nothing. With Him, I have everything.  

While the beginning of a year brings resolutions for many (often discarded before January is over), I challenge each of us -- myself included -- to make but one resolution: put God first in 2012.

God, I thank you yet again for the blessings that I have been given. Today marks a new year, a new beginning, and another chance to fulfill the promise that you gave me. I ask for your guidance as this year unfolds. Allow me to become what you know I can be, what you want me to be..

The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.~Isaiah 40:8 NIV