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I’ve let myself slip over the last six months.  I fell down the stairs at work the first weekend of September, and as soon as I was just feeling like I could get back to my exercise, I had a car accident (mid-October, not my fault) and the subsequent back issues didn’t begin to clear up till Christmas break.  I got a new job (finally!) teaching fourth grade at an inner-city Catholic school — this started two weeks before Christmas break, so with everything, I’m just getting to where I’m feeling caught up with everything there and able to spend some extra time catching up at home.  This includes (unfortunately) diet, exercise, house cleaning, and personal devotions.  Yes, I’ve gained weight since October 6, when I had actually dipped below the 140 mark. 😦

Grades were due for midterms yesterday, so I’m not only caught up on classroom organization, but my grading is not a large pile glaring at me. Just this last week’s worth and a couple tests I had to wait for students to finish.  Plenty, yes, but I should be able to spend time tomorrow doing something else other than either grading or stalling getting started. 🙂

I decided, since the grading is done and Ash Wednesday is this week, I’d start my Lent discipline early — today.  My church doesn’t celebrate Lent, but for the past few years I have used it as a time to discipline myself either with my diet or in my spiritual life.  I’m feeling flabby, both physically and spiritually, so I’m going to try to do both this time.

Starting today, I will:

  • Track my food
  • Exercise at least to 10K steps daily — try to do more on the days I can get to the gym
  • Have personal devotions
  • Keep up with my grading!

I’d like to blog a few times a week too, but I know how that goes, and exercising and planning meals takes a lot of time!  So I will try, but no promises.

In looking for images for Lent, I came across one that pretty well sums up what I think it’s for:

lentmmcIt reminds me of the verse in Psalm 1 about the righteous person — “a tree planted by streams of water…whatever [he] does prospers.”

Prayerfully, I hope what I am trying to do in these next weeks prospers as well.

 

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I have to laugh, actually, because in Googling “new years resolution” under Google Images, half of them were cartoons (of course), and the rest were pretty similar to my own mental list.  Evidently we’re all alike in what we want for ourselves.  And in how we are (un)able to keep our resolutions!

My goals are pretty much the same as they are every month on HealthMonth: Eat less junk, lose weight, have devotions, and take better care of myself (sleep, healthy habits, etc.).  Nothing new, really.  But there’s something nice about a new year to give an extra boost to the things I already try to do.  So I’ll plot it out nicely on this blog and then check up on myself next Dec. 31 — hopefully I’ll be able to make some different goals by then!

  1. Save money/get out of debt.
    • I will try to do the 52-Week Money Saving Challenge
    • Refinance the condo.
    • As soon as I get a job (see #3), start smacking money down on our student loan/credit card debts!
  2. Lose weight.
    • Track my foods.
    • Exercise (cardio) at least 5 days a week.
    • Strength train at least 3 days a week.
    • Take the monthly Shrinking Jeans challenges.
  3. Get a job.
    • For right now, get on the substitute lists.
    • Finish practicum (waiting on a placement STILL!)
    • Get a summer job.
    • Get a full-time ESL job for the fall.
  4. Get outside more.
    • Run, bike, and rock climb outside (weather permitting).
    • Work on exploring more of the 60 Hikes in 60 Miles.
    • Go camping.
    • Go to one of the destinations we’ve been wanting to — Ely, Mystery Caves, the Black Hills, Katahdin (if I get to ME this summer)
  5. Be creative.
    • Blog at least 3x/week.
    • Finish cross-stitch projects and give to their owners!
    • Finish Jon and Ali’s quilt.
    • Practice the piano more.
  6. Spend more time with friends and family.
    • Do fun things with Kent.
    • Get together with friends at least once a month for games or other event.
    • Call my friends who live far away — one per week.
    • Write a note to someone every week.
  7. Spend more quality time with God.
    • Have real devotions every day.
    • Memorize at least 1 Bible verse every day.
    • Pray every day!

Obviously, if I do these things, I will be very happy this year!  Although I will have to not read 700 books in 2013 like I did in 2012 – though I would like to get rid of the oldest books on my TBR list on Goodreads

And of course, there is always my 101 Things list — which I have been working on, slowly!

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war on Christmas

The above was posted on Facebook on Friday.  I have to admit, I didn’t read it carefully the first time, and saw “no war on Christians”.  I thought about it more as I went through the day.  When I checked back to reply, I realized it was “no war on Christmas”.  I actually agree with the sentiments there, for the most part.  I don’t actually agree that wishing someone a “merry Christmas” is a bad thing — to me, “happy holidays” is fairly meaningless to the point of being vapid.  Sort of like the phrase “best wishes” — what does that even mean?  But I do realize that many people don’t celebrate Christmas but some other holiday at this time (some do both!), and people may not have the same expectations of the Christmas season that I do, since they aren’t Christian.  I don’t have a problem with that, and if anyone wants to wish me a Happy Hanukkah, fine!  All we’re saying is, “I’m happy right now because it’s a holiday season and I want you to be happy too!”  Everyone can stop having a fit — now!

But what I was thinking about as a result of misreading the post is actually a valid point.  Christianity (as a major religion in America) is becoming the minor majority.  Let me explain how Christianity is in danger.   There are a lot of other religions and cultures in the world, and in this country, each with their own customs, standards, expectations, and — yes — holidays.  In this age of global awareness and ethnic diversity, I agree with the idea that we need to be cognizant of, and respectful to, other cultures.  This same respect needs to be extended to Christians.  It is not.

Christianity is in danger when people who usually preach open-mindedness feel free to say and spread mocking things about Christians and their beliefs.  I usually see this as Facebook posts (such as the above), with a comment about how silly, or stupid, or backward, or ________ (fill in the blank) Christians are to be thinking or saying XYZ (usually to do with something political).  If statements in the same vein (mocking Christians’ belief in literal creation rather than the theory of evolution, for a recent example) were made about the Muslim, Buddhist, or Hindu religion, there would be an uproar against that person.  See what happened when the Danish cartoonist lampooned Muslims!  If a Christian mocked Muslims for wearing hijab, Hindus for drinking Ganges water, or Buddhists for looking within themselves to gain enlightenment, there might be a few who agreed, but mostly that person would have unleashed a storm upon his head.  But many people, whether they style themselves, pagans, atheists, agnostics, or just plain nothing, feel free to mock, satirize, and ridicule Christian beliefs that may seem just as odd to outsiders as the non-Christian beliefs I listed.  It has become popular to ridicule Christians.  And no one raises a fuss.    That is why many Christians feel their religion is in danger — the ‘minor majority’, if you will.

That isn’t the real reason, however, why I feel Christianity is in danger.  Christianity is in danger right now partly because it is being attacked from within.

  • Christianity is in danger when those who call themselves Christians use their religion as a front for bigotry, hatred, and power playing
  • Christianity is in danger when people use Christian beliefs as a stick to beat others with (who may not believe the same way)
  • Christianity is in danger when people who call themselves Christians (part of that 243,186,000, actually) refuse to adhere to basic principles of integrity, mercy, justice, humility, and service.
  • Christianity is in danger when Christians blindly accept the unbiblical teachings of leaders who counsel them to follow tradition and an easier, more acceptable path, rather than pointing them to truth as clearly stated in the Bible (no matter how personally inconvenient it might be).
  • Christianity is in danger when Christians look for a “feel-good” religion rather than conviction of their sins and their personal, constant need of a Savior.
  • Christianity is in danger when Christians focus on the trappings of food, decorations, rituals, and gifts that surround the holidays (Easter too!) and lose the real point of the holidays we celebrate in memory of the work God can do in our lives.
  • Christianity is in danger when we would rather give money, or even time, to people in need and neglect to tell them about God and His saving grace. “These things you ought to have done, and not left the other undone” (Luke 11:42).
  • Christianity is in danger when we are more worried about offending people by sharing our faith than offending God, who has commanded us to “go into all the world”.  Think about it.  In a world of nearly 7 billion, just over 2 billion (2.18) are Christian.  That’s a drop in the bucket of what God has asked of us!

My Facebook friend is right.  No one is making war on Christmas.  Not overtly.  Our greed does that just fine.  No one is deliberately making war on Christians, not really.  Not in the physical sense.  Not in America.  We are allowing our natural, unsanctified human tendencies to take charge — as if we had no Savior to help us deal with our sinful nature — and showing the world what an un-surrendered heart really looks like. No one is hindering the spread of Christianity.  Not really.  We are allowing our fears of embarrassment and social criticism to dissuade us from sharing what should be an unpopular message to most, if it is truly spread.  Truth is always unpopular, and no more so than truth that requires the person receiving it to change.  And the best example of that is every single Christian (including me!) who has not opened their heart and asked God to sweep it clean and dwell in it.

So as we begin December — let’s begin the Christmas season not with greed, aggression, busy-ness, or desire for control.  Let’s surrender that stubborn self to God.  Ask Him to save Christianity, not from others, but from you.  And start Christmas with a peace treaty — with the Prince of Peace.

https://i2.wp.com/1.bp.blogspot.com/_ZgL6TE5BZfc/RqSJDbq9J5I/AAAAAAAAABQ/QMZ1ldwXHRk/s320/Broken_Heart_by_Tortured_Raven.jpg

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This is as far as the light
of my understanding
has carried me:
an October morning
a canoe built by hand
a quiet current

above me the trees arc
green and golden
against a cloudy sky

below me the river responds
with perfect reflection
a hundred feet deep
a hundred feet high.

To take a cup of this river
to drink its purple and gray
its golden and green

to see
a bend in the river up ahead
and still
say
yes.

“Midlife” by Julie Cadwallader-Staub. Reprinted with permission of the author.

As much as I love the woods and water, I have yet to learn this lesson.  Maybe I need to memorize this poem…

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Today’s poem from the Writer’s Almanac, which I get in my inbox every day, sounds so much like me I just had to post it.  You can hear Garrison Keillor reading it if you go here, plus see more interesting facts about today’s date in literary history.

Pursuit

by Stephen Dobyns

Each thing I do I rush through so I can do
something else. In such a way do the days pass—
a blend of stock car racing and the never
ending building of a gothic cathedral.
Through the windows of my speeding car, I see
all that I love falling away: books unread,
jokes untold, landscapes unvisited. And why?
What treasure do I expect in my future?
Rather it is the confusion of childhood
loping behind me, the chaos in the mind,
the failure chipping away at each success.
Glancing over my shoulder I see its shape
and so move forward, as someone in the woods
at night might hear the sound of approaching feet
and stop to listen; then, instead of silence
he hears some creature trying to be silent.
What else can he do but run? Rushing blindly
down the path, stumbling, struck in the face by sticks;
the other ever closer, yet not really
hurrying or out of breath, teasing its kill.

"Pursuit" by Stephen Dobyns, from Cemetery Nights. © Penguin Books, 1987. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

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I know my life is crazy right now, but I need to take more time to enjoy what I’m doing at each moment and focus on the positive in things that happen during the day.  I had a meltdown last week from stress, and I think if I had been focusing more on the positive (and getting more sleep!) I would not have lost it the way I did.  Focusing always on the next thing steals my joy in the things I have accomplished and keeps me mentally frantic.  I think that should be one of my HealthMonth goals for next month — to be more mindful of the moment in which I find myself and also of my successes and joys.

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“…but deliver us from evil…”

Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen (Galatians 1:3-5).

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Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints (Ephesians 6:13-18).

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But the Lord is faithful, who will establish you and guard you from the evil one (2 Thessalonians 3:3).

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deliver us from evil

we pray

piously

while secretly shivering deliciously

at the thought

tantalizing wisps of brimstone

a little touch of naughty

surely just a taste won’t

no one will know if i…

then over our heads

in trouble again we fling up our hands

and cry

why don’t you save me

why me

but once again on firm ground

we tiptoe

peeking over the edge again

just dipping in a toe

danger is the spice of life

and anyway

if it were really bad

it wouldn’t be here

so temptingly

because i can resist anything

except temptation

so we lay down our sword and shield

and stoop to take just one sip

while the water of life

pours out wasted

behind our willful backs

and the Lifeguard sighs and prepares

for action

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I do not understand what I do.

For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 

For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 

For I do not do the good I want to do,

but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 

What a wretched man I am!

Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 

Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

(Romans 7:15-25, selected)

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“And lead us not into temptation…”

O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walks to direct his steps (Jeremiah 10:23).

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The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD, and He delights in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; for the LORD upholds him with His hand (Psalm 37:23, 24).

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Do not take me away with the wicked and with the workers of iniquity, who speak peace to their neighbors, but evil is in their hearts (Psalm 28:3).

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No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God isfaithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it (1 Corinthians 10:13).

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For You are my rock and my fortress; therefore, for Your name’s sake, lead me and guide me (Psalm 31:3).

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Lead me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation; on You I wait all the day (Psalm 25:5). 

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And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). 

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hesitating in leafy shade

pausing at the crossroads

torn by choice

why not take that path

sun-dappled wide and fair

enticing golden-green

so lovely

so close to the way

just a winding smooth trail to follow

never mind the faint sense

the hint of decay under the flowers’ essence

such a bright track

must surely be sound

.

“lead us not into temptation”

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or take that other path

with creeping vines and

darkling shadows

drooping moss and webs interwoven

a swaying curtain brushing

shrinking fingertipes

rotting logs and half-buried rocks

narrow the way

stumbling

bearing straight into gloom and

half-dusk

arrowing true

toward a distant faint

point of white and

beckoning light

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