Driven to Distraction

You know, I don’t pay attention to many car commercials, mostly because I can’t afford a new car. But I was watching television over the weekend and one caught my eye like none has in quite a while.

Perhaps you’ve seen it: they ask eight or so people to sit in a room and watch a video on a screen.  You hear a verbal command something to the effect, “Please do not remove your eyes from the screen.  Watch the screen at all times.”

Then the producers send in cute puppies, Vegas-style show girls, loud singers, and a host of other distractions.  And of course, not one participant keeps his/her eyes on the screen.

It’s a car commercial with a target audience for those that feel the need to text while driving.  The car they’re advertising has a text screen located high on the dashboard so that you can text and keep your eyes on the road. Sorry. This makes me nervous. PLEASE DON’T TEXT AND DRIVE — EVEN IF YOU OWN THIS CAR.

The fact that I can’t remember many of the details of this commercial says something. I have to say I wasn’t enthralled by the commercial enough to even remember the make or model of the car. From the moment the commercial started, I heard the still, small voice of God whispering in my ear, “That’s you, Sandy.  You’ve been distracted from Me.”  After that, all I could think of was the spiritual implications of how I’ve been distracted from God.

We must never stop looking to Jesus. He is the leader of our faith. and He is the One who makes our faith complete.He suffered death on the cross. But He accepted the shame of the cross as if it were nothing because of the joy He could see waiting for Him and now He is sitting at the right hand of God’s Throne.  Hebrews 2:12 ERV

I am a writer, so distractions can be the death of an afternoon of hard work or even an idea. But you don’t have to be a writer for distractions to wreak havoc on your life.

Imagine cleaning your house and happening upon some really interesting television show (Discovery ID can do this for me). You sit to watch a few minutes and the next thing you know it’s time to make supper and do homework with the kids — and that inch of dust is still layered on top of the mantel.

Just about the time you sit down for your quiet time in the Bible and a moment to commune with God, a friend with whom you’ve not spoken in ages calls…and it just seems rude to hang up. Before you know it, it’s been two hours and you now have to rush to get to your doctor’s appointment.

Or, let’s imagine that you are at the grocery store with your list — your concise, nothing-else-needed list; the list that you diligently went through the kitchen cabinets, refrigerator, and the freezer to make; the list you intend to stick to because you’ve promised God to live on a tighter budget and contribute a little extra to the “Imagine No Malaria” campaign at church.   As you turn the first aisle, you notice Nutter Butters are on sale (Or Oreos!) and you counsel with yourself saying, “Just one little bag won’t throw my budget off too much.”  And by the end of the grocery shopping, you’ve “one-little-bagged it” on every aisle and your budget is blown.

“We must never stop looking to Jesus,” is the first line in Hebrews 12:2.

And I fail to do it every day. If you think I’m writing to tell you how well I avoid distractions, my dear Child of God, you are reading the wrong devotion in the wrong blog. It takes great practice to ignore the pleadings of the world and while I’d like to say I spend a good portion of every day practicing avoiding distractions, I don’t spend nearly enough. I get caught up in the drama of the world and let the rush of “being in with the in-crowd” wash all over me.

The point I want to share with you is that God uses worldly things to remind me just how distracted I’ve let myself become. In my gluttony, He shows me a young couple who is barely making it on their own. In my gossip-carrying mouth, He allows me to see or hear a bit of unkindness about myself so that I can lay my hate-carrying tongue on His altar for cleansing. In my impatience, He allows me to experience waiting in a way that will only point me to Him. If I’m carrying a grudge or hate in my heart toward someone, He somehow shows me that I have the same quality I dislike about that person.  I must humble myself and forgive that person or there will be no forthcoming forgiveness from God to me.

In my distracted mind, God shows me a car commercial in which the message isn’t that I can text and watch the road at the same time, but that I can’t remain close to God and let a distraction take my attention away. I must remain focused on my Lord as if the distractions of this world are nothing or I will miss the joy that is waiting for me.

Do you have a something you’d like to share in the comments?  Do you need prayer?  If so, you can leave a detailed request or simply write “unspoken.”

Don’t miss the joy of the Lord, my friends! And whatever our distractions are, rest assured that God is never distracted from us.

If you don’t know about the wonderful missions project (Imagine No Malaria) by the United Methodist Church, please click on the link above, and if you feel so inclined, a donation would be greatly appreciated.

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Faith It Forward: Tricia Edwards Smith

O death, where is your victory?  Where is your power to hurt? (1 Corinthians 15:55 ERV)

Thursday, October 17, 2013, the angels came to collect my friend, Tricia, and escort her home to Jesus.  Her long and arduous fight with cancer was done.  After years of praying for it, she was finally healed.

Todd & Tricia

Image Source:  www.facebook.com/tricia.smith

But her fight has not been in vain.  In her fight to live, I saw an extreme display of faith that has forever changed me. I watched as her family, her church, and her community rallied around her to offer her strength through prayer and an outpouring of love through deeds of kindness.  The irony of it all is that while we were offering Tricia our strength, she was giving us hers.

Her husband Todd, and sons Carter, Aaron, and Nathan brought her such joy and she was the light of their world.  Her parents, Nancy and Landon Edwards, raised Tricia in a Christian home, full of love and laughter.  Todd and Tricia established the same kind of home for their family.  She had a close, loving relationship with her brother and sisters, Mike Edwards, Pamela Edwards Pritchard, and Teresa Edwards Pritchard.  Her nieces and nephews adored her.

Her friends were another source of joy to Tricia.  A Facebook page, “Friends of Tricia,” was established so we could share with her our thoughts and prayers.  Hundreds of messages were added each day.  She was never far from my thoughts and when I had even the smallest bit of time, I would read each and every message (many of them prayers) and lift them up to God as well.

Never one to think of her own needs first, she was constantly looking out for the needs of others and it led her into healthcare.  As a critical care nurse, she loved caring for others and she was good at her job.  She worked well into her battle with cancer, refusing to let it keep her from the profession she was so obviously made for.  It was not only her medical knowledge that she imparted to her patients — she shared the love of God and joy of serving the Great Physician. Even if you didn’t personally know Tricia, you could take one look at her and know that she was warm, giving, and selfless. She had a million-watt smile that could light up a room and she always had a kind word and a hug to share with everyone she met.

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Image Source: http://www.klove.com/encouraging

Tricia’s greatest source of strength and joy was her relationship with Jesus Christ.  That’s why, even in the last days when Hospice was called in, she wasn’t afraid.  As others tried to comfort her, she sought to comfort them — to let them know that no matter the physical outcome, she was spiritually ready.  She took satisfaction in the knowledge that this world was a temporary residence for her.  She trusted completely that she was just biding time on earth, simply in transit to her true home — Heaven.

I love what her niece, Erica, shared:  “I’m praising God for the life of my Aunt Tricia. So jealous of the angels today. Thank you for your many prayers. Our family appreciates each one. Please pray for continued strength as we go through this arm in arm and only through the grace of The Lord Jesus.

I heard a loud voice from the throne. It said, “Now God’s home is with people. He will live with them. They will be his people. God himself will be with them and will be their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death, sadness, crying, or pain. All the old ways are gone.”  (Revelation 21:3-4 ERV)

We will grieve mightily because we will miss her happy, humble presence — a woman with a gentle spirit and a heart as big as all outdoors!  Her family will especially miss her.  On special days to come — holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, weddings, and the days her grandchildren are born — there will be a yearning for her physical presence. There will be an ache that cannot be soothed because those will be days when there would have been memories to be made with her — that she would have loved to make.  But she leaves such a rich legacy behind that it will almost seem that she is here — and she will here, living in the hearts and accomplishments of those who loved her.

Today, Tricia is rejoicing because she is in Heaven, completely healed, and in the presence of our Lord.  Tricia can finally say, “I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have served the Lord faithfully.” (2 Timothy 4:7 ERV)

I have seen glimpses of faith in my life, but life-altering portraits of faith have been few and far between.  Faith has a new face for me now.  Faith looks like Tricia Edwards Smith.

If you would like to make a contribution to the Tricia Smith Charitable Fund, send your donation to:

Fayetteville Community Church

2010 Middle Road Loop

Fayetteville, North Carolina  28312

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Celebrate Me Home” (The Perrys)

To follow me on my Facebook page, “Loved by the King,” click here.

Music Monday: Die Another Day

Last year in July, I had life-changing knee surgery.  After being in pain for eighteen months, I had surgery to repair a tear in the meniscus in my right knee.  Six weeks later, my knee movement was great and was experiencing no pain from the knee or the surgery.  (Oh that I could have that kind of relief in my back — but that is another story.)

Image Source:  www.medicineworld.org

Then two weeks ago, I pressed on the gas pedal to accelerate my car and something in that knee “popped,” for lack of a better explanation right now.  (I’ve had an MRI and will find out what it shows this Thursday.)  I’m back to always using a cane, instead of just occasionally using one on really bad back days.  I’ve taken more pain medication than I like to take.  I’ve iced it, propped it, babied it, and prayed over it.  So far, no relief.

Image Source:  www.freefoto.com

Enter this morning:  it’s rainy and cold in Fayetteville, North Carolina.  My husband, who teaches Criminal Justice in our public school system here in Cumberland County, started a new school year today.  My daughter, who starts school NEXT Monday as a junior, spent the night at a friend’s house so her mother could take them to cross country practice (thank you, Terrie Fonseca, from the bottom of my hurt little knee).  I was alone in a semi-dark house laid back on the easy chair in which I’ve slept for the past two weeks because it keeps my knee at in incline, which in turn, keeps it from swelling like a melon.

And the self-pity party started.

I started to turn on the television so I could watch the news.  (And find out which was the worst story so that I could at least say, “Ha!  At least my life is better than that!”  Oh, come on.  You know you’ve done it, too!)  Instead, I picked up one of my devotional books from the end table beside my chair.  (God‘s Promises & Answers for Your Life by J. Countryman for Thomas Nelson Publisher.  I wholeheartedly recommend this book because it is a compilation of scripture by subject matter.  For example, “Understanding the Liberty that is in Christ,” or “How to Know that You’re Saved” are two of the subjects listed in the book.)

There, on page four, was this scripture:

If anyone belongs to Christ, there is a new creation. The old things have gone; everything is made new! (2 Corinthians 5:17, NCV)

“The old things have gone.” It was like a slap in the face and I was ashamed at my initial reaction for the start of my day.  You see, I used to start every day in a deep funk because I forgot what I learned as a child:  Jesus makes me a new creation through His blood.  Because I am His child and He gave me this day, rainy and all, I have a new start.  I have to lay down my feelings of self-importance, pride, anger, and anything that will keep me from being all that this “new creation” is meant to be — including my self-pity.

And that reminder led me to today’s song.  I’ve made a pact with my Heavenly Father that should another morning come that I want to wallow in self-pity and be discouraged at my situation, I’m going to play this over and over till my attitude is new again.  The words to the chorus of this song get me every time!

I die to my ambition.

I die to selfish pride.

I take up my cross and cast my will aside.

My life upon the altar, as a sacrifice, I lay.

What joy to live and die another day!

Image Source:  http://stephaniehalstead.wordpress.com

What about you?  What did you promise God this morning?  What will you promise Him now?

Die Another Day (Brian Free and Assurance)

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Weight Loss Wednesday: The Best Kind of Freedom

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   Me:  2008  (unhappy, unwilling, unmotivated, just “un” period)

The fact that I’m sharing this photo (courtesy of the North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles) is a sure sign that I do, indeed, have a the best kind of freedom.  For the longest time, I cringed when I had to show my identification to anyone.  I felt like a prisoner, chained by my excess weight.  You know that look you get when they’re checking the picture and looking at you to make sure you’re who you say you are?  I would always drop my head and vow to do something about my life, which was out of control in every single aspect — physically, mentally, emotionally, and especially spiritually,

At this particular time, I wasn’t weighing myself.  When I did, the number on the scale made me physically ill.  Then I would take out a pint of Ben & Jerry’s and make all the hurt go away.  (I freely admit that ice cream is my food drug of choice.)

In the fall of 2008, I started watching “The Biggest Loser.”  I would cheer for the contestants while snacking on anything sweet I had available.  Sweets are my addictions.  If I never ate another nut, bag of popcorn, chip, or pretzel, I’d not shed a tear.  But sweets — now that’s a different story.  On my worst days, I could eat ice cream for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks.  (If you think I am exaggerating, I will let you talk to my husband.  He’s watched me do it too many times to count.)

At the end of the season, I decided to make a change.  January 1, 2009 (I know.  It’s so cliché to start a diet on New Year’s Day, but that’s what I did), I stepped on the scale and was shocked to see the number that stared back at me in big, bold, black print: 225.8 pounds.  Nearly 226 pounds on my 5’6″ frame.

I went to the freezer, took all the remaining ice cream out and put it in a trash bag.  I went through the pantry (I had a shelf dedicated just to me), and threw away Oreos, chewy granola bars, and scads of other delectable, but destructive, items.  I immediately put the bag in the outside trash bin and headed to the grocery store.  There I loaded up on lots of produce (fruits and veggies that I really did already love, but had abandoned for Hagen Das), lean meats, chicken, fish (which I had avoided at all costs up till then).

My next assignments were to scour the internet for low-fat recipes and get myself moving.  (Most regular readers know that I have degenerative disk disease and nerve damage from a back injury in 1988.  It was my finest excuse for not exercising for twenty years, despite the fact that physical therapists had told me that walking and strength training — especially strengthening my core muscles so that no more disks become herniated in my back — would alleviate some of the daily, chronic pain I lived with.)

Long story short, I lost twenty-five pounds in 2009.  I felt really good about my lifestyle change because DIEts always DIE because they are based on deprivation and unrealistic expectations.  It’s a lifestyle change that has to be permanent.  I was also in a great place with God, my family, and friends.

In 2010, my greatest supporter and the love of my life — my husband, Kelly — became ill.  He was constantly at the doctor and they offered every diagnosis under the sun for almost eleven months.  I did not actively decide to abandon my lifestyle change, but I wasn’t as dedicated as I was the entire year of 2009.  I actually was able to maintain my weight (198 at this time) for 2010.

On December 1, 2010, Kelly was diagnosed with AML (acute myeloid leukemia) and we spent the next thirty-three days at UNC Cancer Hospital.  (See the post about this journey in the related articles below).  I walked everywhere at the hospital.  I lost another six pounds in 2010.

I give all praise and glory to God, for Kelly went into remission after the first chemo treatment, and has been in remission ever since.  We experienced four hard months of follow-up chemo treatments that were very hard on Kelly’s body.  I returned to my comfort eating habits.  (I should have bought shares in Ben & Jerry’s — no joke) and I gained eight pounds by the end of the year — now, I saw 204 staring at me from my enemy, “The Scale.”

For two years, I roller-coastered — anybody ever do that?  (I hear all the “amens!”  Thanks for being honest.)  I even posted a picture with a post I wrote about my “intentions” for getting back into my healthy lifestyle.   I did lose a little weight, but my heart wasn’t in it.

In October 2012, I went for my first visit to my new family doctor.  My blood work was horrible — pre-diabetic signs, high cholesterol, blood pressure through the roof.  And on “The Scale” that day before Dr. Meredith, Nurse Michele, me, and God, there it was staring back at me — 209 pounds.

The first thing we addressed was the blood pressure issue and the fact that I hadn’t had a pap smear in ten years. (I hear the gasps. I’m gasping with you.  Seeing it in print is sobering!) I know it was a horrible decision and I make no excuses.  My lesson — it’s worse to not have a pap smear and worry that something is wrong than to go to the doctor and get a little lecture — Dr. Meredith was kind, but firm.  She said there were other things we’d address at my next visit in four months.

That very afternoon, I watched an episode of Dr. Oz which dealt with body shapes.  I quickly identified myself as an “apple.”  His next words hit me hard — women with apple-shaped bodies (that means you carry most of your weight in your belly) and are over-weight have triple the chance of developing heart problems.  I thought of my Granny Mae, who died of congestive heart failure in 2001.  I thought of my blood pressure reading from the doctor that same morning — 160/100.  I thought of my husband, my kids, my precious granddaughter, and my friends — and I got on my knees beside my bed and prayed to God for forgiveness for not being a good steward of my temple.

You should know that your body is a temple for the Holy Spirit who is in you. You have received the Holy Spirit from God. So you do not belong to yourselves,because you were bought by God for a price. So honor God with your bodies. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20, NCV)
Image   Me: 209 pounds in October 2012

Even through Thanksgiving and Christmas, I lost five pounds.  On January 1, 2013, “The Scale” read 204 pounds.  Four years later and I’m looking at the same weight as I was on January 1, 2009.  This time, I knelt beside the scale and promised God that I would NEVER, EVER, EVER see that number on the scale again!

Talking with my friend and prayer warrior, Michele Bedsole (who is one of my accountability partners — and ACCOUNTABILITY is going to be a post for another day), we decided that our women’s Bible study would be “Made to Crave” by Lysa Terkhurst of Proverbs 31 Ministries.  There were three women who did the study (felt like that was the devil trying to discourage us, but we forged ahead anyway).  Ladies (and gentlemen as well — this book speaks to everyone), this book changed how I looked at why I overeat.  I realized that lack of will power was really a lack of faith.  I didn’t believe that God could change this body of mine and I’d forgotten to turn to Him when I felt overwhelmed.  I let the “comfort of food” be the god of my life.  This was an eye-opener to me.

In January, my daughter, my daughter-in-law-to-be, and decided to join Gold’s Gym.  The upfront fees were enormous and I just couldn’t afford to pay it.  (FINANCIAL STRESS — that’s also a subject for another post.)  As we started to walk out, God whispered, “negotiate.  Don’t take “no” for an answer.”  So, I poured my heart out to this woman who was taking our application.  She called her manager over and I poured my heart out to him.  I almost fell out of my chair when the deal they offered was only five dollars more a month than the monthly fee if I paid that huge membership fee up front.  Of course, I had to agree to a two-year contract instead of a month-to-month, but God and all the angels were cheering me on.

All winter, we went to the gym.  We “treadmilled” and “ellipticalled.”  We used the weight machines.  We danced in Zumba (I did what I could, stopped and watched others when I couldn’t do the moves because of pain, and joined in again when I could.)

At my four-month check-up with Dr. Meredith, I was down to 194 pounds — a fifteen pound loss since I’d seen her in October!  She looked at me and smiled.  “I guess we don’t have to discuss weight loss after all,” she said and gave me huge hug. (Then she told me I had to have a colonoscopy — there is always a balance, the good with the not-so-good.)

My June check-up was equally fantastic.  My blood pressure was down — 120/76.  My bad cholesterol was down (but my good cholesterol was down).  The pre-diabetics signs were gone.  And best of all, to me, I was down another fourteen pounds — 180 pounds and proud of it!

Today, I stepped on the scale, even though it’s not my day to weigh-in.  I usually weigh on Sundays and I thank God for whatever the number is on the scale.  In fact, Sundays are for praise and worship.  No requests to God from me on a Sunday.  (Thanks to Jodie Bailey, friend and talented author of Freefall, for that suggestion a couple of years ago in a Bible study she led.)  I wanted to report my actual weigh to you when I showed you my follow-up photo.  (If you compare it to the second photo in this post, you will notice that I couldn’t even pull the exercise shirt over my belly!)

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Me: 176 pounds on July 3, 2013

If I calculate from January 1, 2009 that’s a loss of 49.8 pounds.  Since October 2013, when I really and truly made the commitment to honor my body as a temple of God, it’s a 33 pound loss.  I know that it’s been me physically doing the work, but God has been my ultimate Trainer.  I don’t make it through a day without Him.  I give all the praise and glory to Him.

The Lord God has put his Spirit in me, because the Lord has appointed me to tell the good news to the poor.  He has sent me to comfort those whose hearts are broken, to tell the captives they are free, and to tell the prisoners they are released. (Isaiah 61:1 NCV)

And THAT, dear readers, is the best kind of freedom — the freedom to be all that God wants me to be, to be faithful and fruitful, and to follow Him — wherever, whenever, whatever.  Don’t you want that kind of freedom?

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P.S.  If there are particular questions you have for me, you can leave them in the comment section or shoot me an email at lbtk1@aol.com.  I’ll be glad to answer anything.  I’m an open book.  And I want to say that every day since last October has not been a success.  However, I have not abandoned the lifestyle — I just made a fresh start the next day.  In fact, every day is really a fresh start for me.  Let every day be a fresh start for you.  You can do this too.  I’ll be your biggest cheerleader.  I’ll offer you suggestions that have worked for me and I’ll share what I’ve read and studied about how the body works and treats food.  I am not an expert.  I’m just a believer.

Photo Credits:  North Carolina DMV and Sandra Hall Rosser

Related Articles:

Faith it Forward:  A Chance to Say Thank You (lbtk.wordpress.com)

If You’re Weighting On Me (lbtk.wordpress.com)

How Can I Keep from Singing:  Beautiful (lbtk.wordpress.com)

HCIKFS: Your Name

The Lord wants to show his mercy to you.  He wants to rise and comfort you.  The Lord is a fair God, and everyone who waits for His help will be happy. Isaiah 30:18 (NCV)

Randy Phillips, Shawn Craig, and Dan Dean (of Phillips, Craig, and Dean) have this amazing feel for choosing a song.  Some of the most meaningful songs I’ve come to love have been their hits:  Mercy Came Running, Friend of God, Favorite Song of All, Revelation Song, Hallelujah (Your Love is Amazing), and a host of others.

Phillips, Craig, and Dean at the Dove Awards

Image Source:  www.wikipedia.com

You know what I like best about PDC?  While they record amazing hits, tour the country promoting the love of God, and win Dove Awards right and left, they each pastor their own churches in Texas.  They are devoted family men.  If anyone knows the true meaning of Isaiah 30:18, I feel like they do because it is evidenced in their actions.

“Your Name” is a PCD song that is speaks to me on many levels.  Mostly, it speaks to me of God’s mercy and how great our Creator is.  My favorite line is: “Nothing has the power to save, but Your name.”  When it all boils down to it, God’s saving grace is all we need.

YAHWEH

Image Source:  www.heartofwisdom.com

I’m ready for a little mercy and comfort today.  I am ready to wait for His help.  And as for being happy?  When I yield myself to the Lord’s will and His perfect time, I am always happy.  Do I always feel happy immediately?  No, because I am a stubborn human being who wants things my way and in my time.  In my fifty years, I have found that waiting on the Lord brings incomparable joy.

How about you?  Are you ready for some mercy, comfort, joy, and happiness?

Your Name” (Phillips, Craig, & Dean)

To Give You Hope

I love to collect quotations that are life-affirming and hope-giving.  I value the words of several Christian authors:  Beth Moore, Joyce Meyer, Creflo Dollar, Joel Osteen, Max Lucado, and David Jeremiah are just a few.

I feel the need to share some hope and affirmations with you because I have been given hope anew in recent days.  I write these kinds of quotes in my journal or on bits of paper.  I find them on the internet, in posts from the blogs I follow, and from scripture.  I post them around my house on index cards or I include them in correspondence to friends and family.  I hope something I share today will be just what you need to hear today.

Photo Credit:  http://yorkshireshepherd.blogspot.com

With God, every day matters, every person counts, and that includes you.  (Max Lucado)

You can change your world by changing your words.  (Joel Osteen)

Let your “mess” be a “message.”  (Joyce Meyer)

Every set-back is set-up for a come-back.  God wants to bring you back better than you were before.  (Joel Osteen)

Photo Credit:  www.thepioneerwoman.com

Don’t waste your time relying on the unreliable.  (Joyce Meyer)

God’s blessings are always better than what we’d choose for ourselves.  (Beth Moore)

God’s efforts are strongest when our efforts are useless.  (Max Lucado)

Unhappiness does not come from the way things are, but from the difference between how things are and how we think they should be.  (Creflo Dollar)

Image Credit:  http://pastorhigdon.wordpress.com

When our lives are filled with peace, love, and joy, people will want to know what we have.  (David Jeremiah)

We cannot “tame” the Lion of Judah (Beth Moore)

God gives us hopes and dreams for certain things to happen in our lives, but He doesn’t always allow us to see the exact timing of His plan.  (Joyce Meyer)

No matter what our circumstance, we can find a reason to be thankful.  (David Jeremiah)

Image Credit:  www.alvalyn.com

Do you have a favorite life-affirming, hope quote?  If you do, please share it in the comment section.  I can’t wait to read what means most to you.

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