Sunday, March 22, 2009

Paradise Lost

So this morning, around 7:30am I go for my run. It is perfect out - the sun is up, but it is cloudy and humid, great weather for the lungs (and someone who doesn't care to be seen running by other humans).

I actually went farther than usual, since I don't have anywhere (like work, ha ha) to be on a Sunday morning. Then on the way back I stopped by my favorite spot. Its like a little slice of paradise.

There is a waterfall, which has to be one of the most calming sounds in the world - and the view off this "cliff" is amazing. Not quite high enough to see the river, but you can see the shape of the gentle, winding valley it cuts through the hill country. I love it. Granted - it is an office park, and the "cliff" is a concrete area that falls off into several levels of drainage ditches created with local limestone, and the waterfall is man-made ... but come on, I live in Austin.

I like to go there to stretch a little, do a few pushups and crunches, and just soak in God' creation and thank Him for another day. So I'm laying on the cool concrete on my back, watching the low clouds whisk by on a breeze that is almost wind, and just enjoying being alive. Suddenly, a huge dark shape looms somewhere over my right shoulder. My first thought is "aw crap, someone is walking their dogs down here again." But when I look, I'm met with the most disturbing sight.

On the corner one of the pristine granite buildings is a pair of vultures. They are about 5 stories up, but close enough to see their bare and wrinkled heads. At first I think "Whoa, I hope they didn't think I was dead" ... but then I realize they probably had no idea I was even there, because they are ... um ... making more vultures.

Disgusting.

I turn back to the view and try to regain my peaceful reverie ... but it just isn't going to happen. Luckily the run home was just long enough to keep that from being my last thought at the end of an otherwise great workout.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Self Help - or - DIY First Aid

Last night, given the cold weather and the rough week I'd had due to the time change, I decided to veg on the couch with the first season of Lost and some soup. My all time favorite soup has to be Italian Wedding Soup - a broth based soup with tiny pieces of pasta shaped like lentils, some wilted greens, and tiny meatballs.

While I've made it from scratch before, a lazy night calls for lazy soup-making and I simply opened a can of 'Healthy Request' and plopped it into a pan. Moments later I was able to sit down with my remote nearby and prepare for a night of laziness bordering on sloth.

Now, watching TV and eating at the same time is something I typically try to avoid - how can you truly enjoy your dinner when you are doing your best to ignore it? But alas, that is exactly what I was doing and it nearly killed me.

I had set the soup on my coffee table, which has a shelf on the bottom. While rather convenient for storing remote controls and coasters ... it means that I can't really sit on the floor and use the table to eat. So I was sitting on the couch, Lost (3rd episode of season 1) was started, and I leaned over the table for each slurp of soup. All was going well, until the show got a little exciting and I got a little careless. I suppose I was trying to slurp a spoonful of soup in this leaning posture, and somehow sucked up a meatball instead of broth. Apparently these meatballs are exactly the size of a human trachea.

My spoon clattered to the table as I tried to cough. I couldn't! I felt myself start to panic when I realized the awful truth - I couldn't breathe hard enough to dislodge the morsel. Amazingly enough, given my First Aid license expired in 2005, my left hand clasped my right fist in the proper Heimlich fashion. The only problem was, I couldn't give enough force to my own diaphragm to free my lungs!

At some point I had risen to a standing position, and my eyes sought the room for something about abdomen height. The kitchen counter! My fist still clenched just below my ribcage, I ran myself into the counter and launched the meatball against the wall. It rolled off the counter, and onto the floor ... and then my poor meatball ... well, it didn't roll out the door but how ironic is that?

Only later did I remember the episode of Sex and the City where Miranda had to do pretty much the same thing. And yes, there is something about choking alone that makes you feel very lonely and vulnerable. Maybe they need to have a "First Aid for Singles" class.

Monday, March 9, 2009

The Root of the Problem

Sometimes you learn something when you weren't really expecting to.

Our current series at ACF is called "Flesh Wounds" and focuses on God's healing. I had missed the first week, but heard the message four times this weekend since I was running the lights. And I sat there listening four times yet it didn't really sink in.

The problem is - I've been through some things, and received some healing, and naively considered myself an expert on the subject. I had unconciously gotten into the mindset that I am as healed as I'm going to be. It wasn't until I downloaded the Podcast for the first week and listened to it that I came face to face with the fact that I've still got a long way to go.

So this morning I was "running" (and walking) and listening to the message, including another member's story of being wounded and healed. And I'm embarassed to admit that, while I was happy for this person, I was also jealous and upset. I found myself beating my chest (luckily I run so early there is no one to see this) and asking God "Why won't you continue healing me? When will you keep your promise and restore what the locusts have destroyed for me?"

And that's when I realized - those things spoken about this weekend, the action points we were given to do - I need to do them to. It was like God asked me when I finished my tantrum - "When are you going to let me?"

One of the action points we were given was to figure out not only our symptoms, but the roots of those things that need to be changed in us. And of course our tool for destroying those roots and growing new ones is God's Word.

Amazingly enough, I remembered the verses we'd been encouraged to read and apply to ourselves, and the book (yes, book) we'd been challeneged to memorize. As soon as I got home, I opened up to Psalm 139 - and ignoring that ugly inner monolog I'm sure most of us have been plagued with - applied it to myself.

God searches me - He KNOWS me, He is interested in me. No one else may be up at 4:30am when I tie on my running shoes, but God knows that I am. He knows all my little habits, but also things I will do outside of my habits. He surrounds me at all times, no matter where I go - even in darkness. He made me as I am - and only good comes from Him. He can search my heart and sift out all that is offensive to Him and lead me closer to His ways.

Which is exactly what I asked Him to do. And what symptoms did I find?

Frustration
Jealousy
Upset
Competitive/combative nature
Lonliness

Ouch - these were the things that I felt like I was a victim of - not things that I was responsible for! But there it was. I get frustrated with people because I'm jealous of them or impatient with them. I get upset because I'm jealous. I feel the need to "one up" everyone, about everything. Think "anything you can do, I can do better" ... and go figure, that leaves me lonely because no one likes that. They don't find it impressive, they find it annoying!

So why do I do things that tend to push people away? Why do I feel the need to prove I'm capable?

Because. I'm afraid. Not a healthy fear of God, but a fear that people will hurt me. And my fear is a results of mistrust ... I say mistrust rather than distrust because it is my misplacement of trust that is truly at the root of this.

So what does God have to say about fear?

A wise man fears the Lord ...
fear of the Lord teaches ...
The fear of the Lord leads to life ...
delight in the fear of the Lord ...
the fear of the Lord is the key ...
Be strong, do not fear ...
do not fear, for I am with you ...
I will show you whom you should fear ...
perfect love drives out fear ...

Fear of man will prove to be a snare ...
Fear not, for I have redeemed you ...
Do not fear the reproach of men ...
to others show mercy, mixed with fear ...

The only one I need to fear, and trust - is God. The root of my problem has been placing my trust in the wrong places, where there is ONE place I can always put my trust. As long as I rightly fear Him in his Glory, and understand that His Glory and Power know no limits to protect me and guide me. He will show me who I can trust, and reenforce me so that I don't feel the need for validation (which isn't lasting anyways) from my fellow humans.

Even the most Godly, kinda person is still human and capable of letting me down. While that doesn't mean I should be afraid and never trust, it means I need to place the bulk of my trust, and fear, in the Lord who will never let me down or fail to keep a promise. I can trust that, in His own timing and in His own way, He will restore what I've lost.