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How Moods Go: By Kicking

Oswald Chambers wrote, “Moods never go by praying, moods go by kicking.” And he’s right. “Gently” isn’t an adjective that can be applied to mood-removal. Moods must be eradicated by force.

Although I’ve read Chambers’ words countless times and heartily agree that what he wrote is undeniably true, I must admit that I’m often reluctant to kick my moods – especially “sick” mood.

When chronic illness gets me down and I become trapped in a dark and gloomy pit I call it “sick” mood. In an emotionally sick state I feel too low to rise and too hopeless to try. I reach the end of my rope and all I want to do – all I can think to do – is sulk. Tears are usually shed as I cry over my physical maladies and question why God has allowed this debilitating illness to plague me for so long.

Self-absorption is key to “sick” mood. Fixation on the self is at the heart of it. While trapped in a “sick” mood I am entirely consumed with my chronic illness, my pain, my suffering and my personal disappointments. My every thought revolves around me, myself and I.

The very last thing I want to do in a “sick” mood is kick myself – even if only metaphorically. I want the exact opposite of a kick. I want a hug. I want to be coddled, indulged, justified and humored. I want to be told that my feelings are understandable; that it is okay to get down in the pit; that I should lay low and feel my pain. I want to vent to God and lament my lot in life.

But “sick” mood always makes me sicker – physically, mentally and emotionally. When I give “sick” mood an inch it takes a mile and, before I know it, I’m completely paralyzed by pain and suffering. By indulging the mood I issue an open invitation to sorrow and sadness. Every negative, depressed, hopeless feeling receives a boost of discouraged energy and I get dragged deeper into the dark pit.

There is only one way out of “sick” mood: a round-house resurrection kick.

Even in the midst of pain and suffering Christ’s light and overcoming life is available to me but I can’t experience it if I’m unwilling to kick my mood. Until I reject the sadness of sickness and take hold of Christ’s resurrection power the mood won’t flee. I cannot capitulate to chronic illness and claim the joy, love, peace and hope of Jesus at the same time. One must go for the other to thrive. “Sick” mood must die for the Risen power of Christ to survive in me.

Jesus stands at the ready, willing and able to provide all the strength I need to kick “sick” mood and it can be mine the moment I surrender my will, ways and self-absorbed wallowing. The second I deny myself at the foot of the cross and claim the truth and life of the Holy Spirit “sick” mood is defeated.

When “sick” mood gets kicked abundant life is ushered in. Overcoming, spirited, energetic joy is revived. Restful, calming, comforting peace is restored. Hope makes a comeback and all is well with my soul.

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Choose Joy

It was 5 PM on Halloween night and the thought of Dr. Seuss’ Cat in the Hat attire was taunting me. “You’re too sick to dress up in a fun-loving character’s costume”… “You feel too lousy to wear a stripped hat and big red bow… “You certainly can’t put on a cartoon character smile in your physical condition.”

Weeks before the October 31st holiday I purchased my Cat in the Hat costume accessories. With high hopes for my Halloween day health I double-clicked on Amazon and, two days later, Prime delivered a classic Dr. Seuss inspired ensemble featuring the Cat’s signature tall, white and red-stripped hat, big red bow and white gloves.

When the package arrived at the door I let out an audible sigh. On the day I clicked “Complete Order” I’d felt strong and hopeful for my health’s near future. That had only been two days prior but already my gut had taken another hit. With Halloween still a few weeks away I silently prayed that the suffering in my stomach would subside before the holiday arrived. “God, I want to be a joyful Cat in the Hat on October 31st but I can’t if I’m plagued with a gripping pain in my gut. Please heal me…and quick!

For the next three weeks the costume accessories remained unopened in my closet as I waited for my prayer to be answered. Days passed and the pain didn’t. When October 31st finally arrived my physical condition wasn’t the least bit improved. In fact, it had worsened.

As the sun was beginning to set on Halloween night and trick-or-treaters were about to hit the streets in search of candy I laid on my closet’s floor gripping my stomach in pain. That’s when I looked up and, out of the corner of my eye, caught a glimpse of the Cat in the Hat attire still in its bag. All day I had tried to avoid the accessories, too discouraged by my condition to consider changing into a costume. The very thought of the Cat in the Hat produced in me feelings of sadness and grief until I looked up and noticed a picture on the side of the package – a picture I hadn’t noticed before: two smiling faces dressed like Cat in the Hat smiling back at me.

The sight of those smiling faces quieted my mind’s taunting voice and flooded my spirit with a fresh burst of resolve. It was as if the Cat in the Hat himself were beckoning me to rise up, change my attitude and my attire and choose joy.  

Five minutes later I was wearing black pants and a black button up shirt underneath a white suit jacket. Around my neck was a big red velvety bow. On my hands were white cotton cartoon gloves and on my head was a tall, wide brimmed, white and red-stripped hat. On my face was a big, wide toothy, cartoon smile and in my heart was overcoming joy.

On Halloween 2018 I embraced the joy and delight of the Cat in the Hat. On All Hallows Eve I choose to wear a smile. Yes, I was in pain. Yes, my gut was still in distress. But my heart was full of persistent hope. In my spirit that was determination and resiliency.

Choosing joy transformed my Halloween night from one of defeat into one of overwhelming victory. Choosing joy will do that – it will change things. It will change people. It will transform circumstances and outcomes.

When I prayed to God weeks before October 31st I believed my pain needed to be removed in order for joy to be restored but God showed me the error of my ways. God used a Cat in the Hat costume to remind me that the presence of joy is not contingent on the absence of pain. I do not need to be painless to be joyful because the joy of Jesus is so powerful it can overcome my pain.

Every time l rise up and approach God’s throne of grace with faith and belief, asking to be filled with the Holy Spirit and joy of Jesus’ victorious life, God always delivers. He annihilates pain’s power in the presence of Christ’s resurrection power. He lifts sorrow and sadness and replaces it with joy and gladness.

Every day I get to make a choice about the attitude I will wear. By the grace of God and the strength of the Risen King I pray I’ll always choose joy.

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Don’t Cry Over Spilled Milk

I grabbed the blue carton with purpose, eager to moisten my cereal and dig into breakfast. With my grip secure and arm poised with strength, I picked up the gallon of milk from the counter top and, following the labels instructions, shook it with vigor. A decision I immediately regretted.

As I threw my arm backwards with the brand new, full gallon of milk in hand, a stream of white liquid went flying into the air. Time stood still as the milk exited the opened bottled, traveled straight up towards the ceiling and cascaded downward, flowing like a fountain. One enthusiastic shake of the uncapped carton created Lake Milk on the kitchen floor.

Maybe my milk mishap was due to morning grogginess or perhaps hungry haste was to blame. Whatever the cause of my clumsiness the effect was the same: a milky mess. Removing the cap on a full milk carton prior to shaking well resulted in a whole lot of spilled milk.

For a moment following the mishap I paused, stunned by how quickly the mess was created. One moment the carton was full. The next, half of its contents were on the floor.

As I set the half-full carton on the counter and surveyed Lake Milk I paused for a moment, considering the best way to respond to such as mishap – silly and innocent as it was. One thought immediately came to mind. Don’t cry over spilled milk. Just clean it up and move on.

A few minutes and many paper towels later, the mess was gone and the floor was clean. Before I knew it I was seated at the counter eating my breakfast cereal as if the spill had never happened. In the end, all I lost in the mishap was a little extra milk and a little time but, thankfully, I didn’t lose a single tear.

In life there are bound to be innocent mishaps and mistakes. Milk is going to get spilled and slip-ups are going to happen because we are all imperfect humans prone to grogginess, clumsiness and haste.

But we don’t need to cry over every spill. We don’t need to make a production over every silly accident and shame ourselves over every innocent slip-up. We simply need to accept that we’re all imperfect milk-spillers in need of forgiveness and a fresh start.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that you go throw milk all over the floor just for kicks and giggles. Choosing to respond to the accident with a laugh and accepting attitude is not an invitation to spill just like forgiveness is not an invitation to intentionally sin. The forgiveness to laugh at the spill is an extension of grace that invites the pure in heart to move forward and start again with a clean slate and clear conscience. Mercy removes the mess and invites us to grab the milk again tomorrow morning and shake that carton with confidence (and the cap securely fastened).

With a pure heart seeking to live embodying the righteousness of Christ you need not cry over spilled milk. All you need to do is confess the mistake, ask God for forgiveness and let Him clean up the mess. God will always meet you on the floor to wipe away your tears and give you a fresh start.

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Bloom Where You’re Planted

“Bloom where you’re planted” is one of my favorite sayings and a sentence I strive to live by. To bloom where you’re planted means to thrive and flourish in the life conditions God has placed you. Or, as Paul put it in his letter to the Philippians, to be “content whatever the circumstances.” (4:11)

While working on my blooming skills I’ve discovered that reciting the sentence is a whole lot easier than actually growing the blossoms. Thankfully, God is the faithful and patient Gardener who has not given up on tending to my flowers while teaching me how to grow more bountiful, beautiful blooms. Under the care of God’s cultivation I have learned that the following three principles are key to experiencing blooms right where you’re planted.

1.     Be content in the soil of your circumstances.

Different types of flowers flourish best in different soils. Some species need moist soil while others grow best in dry conditions. And so it is with people. We do not all thrive in the same circumstantial soil. One person is best planted in physical suffering while another person will flourish under the demands of a laborious job. One will thrive single while another will grow fuller and stronger as one of half of a pair. God knows what we need and He plants us in the right soil to produce the very best blooms.

To experience the blessing of a healthy, bountiful garden we must remain content in our soil. Transplanting to what we believe will be more favorable conditions could prove disastrous for our blooms. The best growing conditions will always be in the unique ground of God’s flawless choosing.

2.     Enjoy your ideal exposure.

Like soil, sun and shade conditions are not one-size-fits-all. Cacti thrive in the direct desert sun. In fact, they will die without the light. But Begonias prefer shade. Too much sun will cause them to shrivel up and die.

You and I function much the same. One person will flourish in the heat while another will need the cool of the shade. To wish we had a different exposure to the world and its elements won’t aid in our growth. Seeking the wrong exposure could actually prove fatal.

It is always best to enjoy the exposure God has determined is just right for your ideal growth. If He leaves you in the quiet, enjoy the silence. If He surrounds you with activity, embrace the commotion. God knows the exposure that will serve you best and bring the most glory to His great name.

3.     Be satisfied with your saturation.

Back to the cacti we go for a perfect picture of the dangers of over watering. If cacti have too much water they won’t survive. Cacti were created to stand strong in climates with little rainfall.

Like wise, God purposefully plants people in grounds that are destined to experience drought. You and I may look up to the sky and wonder when God will send down blessings like rainfall but if we are a flower created to flourish in a dry and barren land we need not fear the lack of water. God never withholds what we need. If He does not deem it best to send down blessings in showers He will cultivate His goodness from the root up.

God knows how best to water the soil of the soul. Resist the urge to grab the hose. Be satisfied with your saturation and leave the soaking up to Him.

 

There is one more secret to blooming right where you’re planted and it holds the other three principles together: trust.

“Trust the Lord your God with all of your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5)

When we trust God, the master Gardener, to cultivate our garden and tend to our flowers He never disappoints. When we leave it up to Him, He always makes us bloom beautifully right where He plants us.

You need not have a green thumb to bloom where you’re planted. All you need is to know the Master Gardener and entrust the garden of your life to His care.

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Squirrelly Behavior

Let’s talk about squirrels.

I love squirrels. They are a joy to watch as they scurry up trees and chase each other across branches. With their bushy tails and furry coats, squirrels appear so soft cuddly and cute.

But don’t be deceived by their sweet and friendly exterior. Squirrels can be dangerous, even capable of causing deadly disasters.

Squirrels are inherently erratic and their squirrelly behavior is well known for causing distracted driving. One moment the road way is clear and the next a crazed woodland creature is leaping from the shoulder right in front of oncoming traffic, leaving drivers little to no time to react. Squirrels are notorious for this behavior. They run across roads and pause in the middle of busy streets with absolutely no regard for traffic patterns or oncoming cars.

While distracted by squirrelly behavior drivers often disregard road rules and act on instinct. Often time’s well-intentioned, nature-loving drivers will slam on their brakes or swerve into oncoming traffic in an attempt to spare the fluffy rodent’s life. Although the animal might escape the scene unscathed, the driver is not always as fortunate. Squirrels on the road have been known to cause serious accidents and have even been to blame for fatal crashes involving pedestrians, bicyclists and other motorists.

As much as I love squirrels, I cannot deny that they are a deadly distraction to drivers. Squirrels are not just harmless woodland creatures; they are enemies on the road.

 

Drivers should be on their guard against squirrels – and not just those with bushy tails and furry coats. Drivers on the road of life must be on their guard against the enemy’s squirrels.

The enemy sends squirrels running into our lives disgusted in “harmless” exteriors. He is famous for sending seemingly cute and cuddly “squirrels” that scurry in front of our tires to distract us from traveling safely on Christ’s road of righteousness. Health, marriage, money, purpose, careers, and “fun” can all become distractions when they come darting out of their natural habitat. When they run in front of our unity with Christ they cause us to pull our attention and hearts away from the straight and narrow road of God.

Distracted by the squirrels of life, God’s rules for safe driving are often disregarded. Sinful and destructive moves are often made while our eyes are on the squirrels, resulting in a deadly crash of wills. Brakes are slammed and wheels swerve, sending us into a guardrail, pothole… or worse.

Remaining steadfastly fixated on Jesus is the only one way to avoid the dangers of driving distracted by the squirrels of life. Keeping our eyes on the way, true and life of Christ is the only sure way to travel safely. The enemy will still try to hinder our travel but with when we stay faithful to the Lord we will not be distracted, deceived or destroyed.

In the midst of the world’s squirrelly distractions, keep your eyes on the Savior. Under His care and protection you will be kept safe as you maneuver the roads that lead home to Heaven’s gates.

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What NOT to say to a “skinny” person

“You’re so skinny!” If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard that statement directed towards me in the past eight years I’d have a very flush bank account.

Unintentional weight loss was at the genesis of my health saga. I dropped thirty pounds in less than three months and unsolicited commentary from friends, family and complete strangers soon followed. In response to questioning and (oftentimes callous) comments I used to freeze up. Being accused of anorexia or some kind of eating disorder hurt me. I could barely swallow let alone talk, thanks to the lump in my throat. To cope I’d crumble internally and cry externally once the offending commentator was out of earshot.

It has taken a long time (I’m a slow learner) but God has faithfully been teaching me how to handle low weight comments and questions. I’m learning that it is better to extend forgiveness to those who know not what they do and say rather then hold a grudge or be hurt by their words. It is far better to give grace and educate instead.

By opening up in honesty about my diagnosis and health struggles I’ve discovered that most people have no idea that weight loss can be a symptom of Lyme disease. In fact, most people don’t seem to realize that low weight can be a symptom of a whole host of chronic illnesses. The fact of the matter is low weight does not necessarily mean a person is not eating or that they have an eating disorder. Low weight can be a debilitating symptom of chronic disease… Like it is for me.

In an effort to educate with love and grace I have compiled my top three comments that should not be made to someone who is visibly underweight. Although these comments are specifically directed towards low weight the principle behind them applies to all chronic illness. We should all treat each other with love and grace, in sickness or in health.

So, without further ado, the top three comments you should never make to a person who is obviously under weight. And one tip on what to say….

 

1.     Don’t say, “You look like a Holocaust victim.”

Yes, it’s true, I have been on the receiving end of this comment.

It should go without saying that this statement should never be made to anyone, ever. 11 million innocent Jews were killed in the Holocaust at the hands of evil. Telling someone they look like they have been or are in a concentration camp is not only rude it is callous and disrespectful to the immense suffering of millions.

2.     Don’t say, “I wish I were as skinny as you.”

No, actually you don’t. I can’t sit for long periods of time because my butt has no cushion. My feet have lost all the fat on them causing the bones to rub against my shoes, producing constant pain. Because of my low weight I have an extremely low blood pressure, low body temperature, infertility and hair loss.

I could go on but you get the point… Be careful what you wish for. And don’t wish to be as skinny as me.

3.     Don’t say, “You should eat more.”

If only you knew how much and how often I eat then you might change your tune. Unintentional low weight cannot be remedied by drinking more milkshakes, as a doctor once suggested. The food type and amount is not the issue. The problem is the body’s ability to metabolize, digest and use the food. For eight years my body has not been utilizing food leading to blood sugar drops, gallbladder troubles and inescapable stomach pain. If eating more could solve my problems I would have been healed long ago.

4.     Do stay quite about the obvious ailment.

Let me be clear. I do not mean that the underweight person should be treated as if they do not exist. Being treated as invisible can be hurtful, too. Simply treat the underweight person like you would a normal or overweight person. Do not treat the individual as if they were an alien with a mental problem. Treat them like a precious individual with a heart and feelings. Treated every person, regardless of weight, with the dignity and respect you would like to be treated with.

So, in other words say, “Good morning!” and not, “You’re so skinny!” Or say, “How are you this bright and sunny afternoon?” instead of, “You should eat a Big Mac.”

 

For those who have been on the receiving end of callous comments regarding a physical condition or weight I urge you to “forgive them for they know not what they do.” Responding in anger only perpetuates the hurt and does not help you heal. Opportunities to enlighten and educate can be missed when we allow rude comments to build walls and burn bridges.

Instead, let us respond like Christ and turn the other cheek. Instead of lashing out, crying or storming off in anger (all of which I have done), choose to extend forgiveness and show mercy. Even if the person making the comment never asks for forgiveness – which they most likely never will – give it anyways. Extend the grace that has been given to you.

 

At every weight and in every physical condition may the encouragement from Ephesians 4:29 guide our speech and heart in every conversation: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”