Keep your eyes above the waves

stormy waves, reflections

February 2015 was a very cold in eastern North Carolina.  For several weeks the daytime highs rarely rose above freezing, and the nights were in the lower teens and sometimes single-digit temperatures.  There had also been three snows in seven days, and all of nature was covered in a glistening, white blanket.

My one-acre pond was completely frozen over, the ice an inch or more thick in some spots.  With the snow covering it, unless you knew the pond was there, it would have been very easy to mistake it for solid, snow-covered ground.

Toby Dog forgot.  It was a day I’ll never forget; it is forever burned into my memory.

That day, Toby spied a groundhog on the far side of the pond.  In the heat of the chase, Toby chose the shortest route to the groundhog – a straight line, straight across the frozen pond.  Daddy happened to be there, and we stood at the living room windows and watched in horror as he sped across the ice.  Five feet from the far side, just a few feet short of safety, the ice gave and Toby crashed through the ice and went under.

I have never moved as quickly as I did that day.  I ran to the far side of the pond, and plunged in the edge, my fingertips less than four feet from Toby.  I called, reached for him, at the same time screaming prayers for God to help me.  In confusion, Toby began to swim away from me, going back the way he came in, the long way across the pond, breaking ice and occasionally going under.  I started in after him, and immediately realized my winter hikers were dragging me down; I couldn’t swim with them on.

Toby was still moving in the opposite direction from me, breaking the ice a little at the time.  I ran to the other side of the pond, still screaming out prayers to God.  I sat down on the frozen ground in the snow and removed my hikers and socks.  Daddy had gotten a rope out of his truck, and I looped it around my neck and shoulder and went into the frozen pond.

Immediately my body reacted to the icy water; I instantly lost my breath and began to gasp.  For a minute I felt needle-like sensations over my entire body before complete numbness set in.  In seconds I was in water over my head.  I clung to ice with both hands, used my chin to break a path in front of me, and then dug in my fingernails to pull myself forward.  Time passed in slow motion; I couldn’t breathe and became nauseous.  As I pulled myself forward, I continued to pray and kept my eyes focused on Toby, telling him to hang on, Mama was coming.  His eyes were bulging and dilated in fright; his loud cries of fear will haunt me forever.

Inch by laborious inch I pulled myself forward.  When I finally reached Toby, he was in shock and did not recognize me for a few seconds.  I slipped the rope through his collar and began the long swim back through the broken path of ice, Toby slung across my back like a sack of flour.  We were in below freezing water for over 30 minutes, and made it to shore with only a few minor cuts (Toby sliced a paw pad), scratches and broken fingernails and doggie toenails.

It is only by God’s Hand and the protection of His angels that Toby Dog and I survived that day.  When I was in the ice, I knew beyond any doubt that regardless of the outcome, God was there and His angels were keeping me afloat and breaking the ice for me.

You’re probably thinking, “Wow, what a story!  But what does this have to do with my health journey?”  It reminds me of Matthew 14:24 – 31, where Peter walks on the water.  There are several things we can learn from this story and can apply to any situation we face, even the struggle to stick to a healthy lifestyle.

  1. Jesus cares about everything you do, including your struggles to exercise and eat healthy. He wants us to talk with Him about all of our worries and fears, and promises to bring us through them.  It seems easier to take the path of least resistance and stay in the boat.  However, true unity with God will only come when we put complete trust in Him and get out of the boat and “walk on the water.”  God cares about your journey to better health; trust Him and ask for his help!
  2. As long as Peter kept his eyes on Jesus, he was able to miraculously walk on the water. But he took his eyes off of Jesus and looked at the waves.  Peter lost his Jesus-focus, fear set in and he began to sink.  We do the very same thing when it comes to dieting and exercise.  We focus on everything else that is happening around us and look at the size of the “waves.”  You have to keep your eyes on Jesus and never turn to look at the obstacles or impossibilities.  Keep your eyes on Him and not the challenges and you will succeed!
  3. When we mess up, such as skipping a workout or binge on something we know we shouldn’t eat, we tend to immediately give up and let ourselves think, “Okay, I’m done, I can never do this!” We allow ourselves to sink into the waves of defeat.  Don’t do that to yourself – we all have bad days.  It doesn’t mean that you are defeated, you simply had a setback.  The wonderful news is that you can always start fresh right that minute – I’ve done it many times!  We all make mistakes, and when we do we need to cry out to Jesus for help just as Peter did.  Jesus is there, waiting for you to ask for help and will hold His hand out to you and help you.
  4. Sometimes, we doubt whether Jesus can really help us. We ask for His help, but deep inside we cannot fully understand the Spirit’s true power.  Just as when I was in the icy water, breaking the way with my chin, clawing forward inches at the time, I had no idea of the Spiritual realm that was at war around me, fighting for my life and protecting me.  It was only later that I had time to think and process what had happened that I realized that God’s Spirit was in me, helping me.  Don’t for a minute doubt that you can succeed on your journey to good health.  Have complete confidence in Jesus’ power!

What waves are you looking at that are causing you to take your eyes off of Jesus?  Know this – there is no fear that is bigger than God and can keep you from making lasting, healthy changes!

broken ice path

 

Scripture:

Zechariah 4:6:  So he said to me, “This is the Word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord Almighty.”

Prayer:

Father God, you are truly an awesome, amazing God.  I know that You care about every single little detail of my life, including my goals to honor You by becoming healthy.  Help me to remember that when I struggle, all I have to do is call out to You for help.  Thank You, Jesus!  In Your precious name I pray, Amen.

Beautiful! Or . . . is it?

Reflections thorn flower

On a recent jog with Toby Dog, I spied a cluster of flowers on the edge of the milo field (okay, sorghum if you want to get technical).  As we got closer, I allowed Toby to go into the edge of the milo to sniff out rabbits while I bent to closer examine the delicate, blush-colored, bell-shaped flowers.  As I reached out to pluck one from its stem, I instantly received a sharp pain in my index finger.  I jerked back and saw a drop of blood forming on the tip of my finger.  The beautiful, delicate flower was deceptive; it was actually a thorny weed disguised by clusters of pretty flowers.

On the way home, as I nursed my sore finger I began to think about how life is full of weeds in disguise.  In other words, Satan loves to hold temptations out to us on shiny, beautiful silver platters.  He makes temptations so attractive to us that we don’t actually see it for what it is, a beautiful flower beckoning us to pluck it, when it’s actually a thorny weed (sin) in disguise.  We are lured by the surface beauty, but it’s only when we reach out and take hold of it that we see it for what it really is – a trap that only causes pain and destruction.

Satan’s really, really good at this.  He and his armies have been honing their skills for centuries.  Look at how he conned Eve in the Garden of Eden.  Genesis 3:13 reads:

And the Lord God said unto the woman, “What is this that thou hast done?”  And the woman said, “The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.”

When we think about Eve, we must remember that she was God’s first created woman.  So how could His first and precious creation be so easily tricked?

To understand what actually transpired in the Garden of Eden, we have to take a closer look at the word “beguiled.”  In the original Hebrew language, the word used in Genesis is a rare verb indicating an intense experience causing much emotional and spiritual trauma, and means to delude, deceive, to be misled by craft.  It wasn’t as simple as Satan holding out a delicious-looking piece of fruit and lying to Eve.  He didn’t outright lie to her, he just told her half-truths.

Even so, this was not quite enough to cause Eve to quickly cave and say, “Cool, let me have a bite!”  In Genesis 3:4 – 5 we see Satan beguiling Eve, making her question and doubt God.  She struggled with the decision to eat the fruit offered to her by Satan.  When she did choose to do so, it was not because she was tricked, it was because she first looked.  Genesis 3:6 reads:

And when woman saw that the tree was good for food and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.

  • Eve looked: She knew God had forbidden her to eat this fruit, but she looked.  And kept looking.  She knew it was wrong in God’s eyes but once Satan had planted the idea that this was the best fruit she’d ever taste with great side effects (making her wise, better, more beautiful), she couldn’t stop looking.
  • Eve took: I have an image of Eve unable to look away from the tree, heavy with fruit.  Every part of her being knew it was wrong, but she couldn’t help reaching out to touch one piece, temptingly within her reach.  That one touch caused her fingers to curl around the fruit, grasp it and pull it from the tree, taking a huge bite.
  • Eve gave: After eating, Eve probably immediately realized what she had done and drew her husband in with her so she wouldn’t be alone in her transgression.

Let’s think about the steps here.  It was not an immediate giving in to temptation.  A great deal of sin comes in through our eyes.  It was Eve’s own act of not turning away from the temptation and continuing to gaze longingly at what she knew she was not supposed to have.  Satan can tempt but he cannot force.  Satan can persuade us to take that first step to give in to temptation but he himself cannot cast us down.

Now let’s not be too hard on Eve.  Don’t we do the same things ourselves?  For example, in the grocery store, we walk past the bakery section to gaze at the rich delicacies on the shelves.  You’re not going to buy, mind you; you’re just going to look.  Taking a quick peek at pornography; after all, one little peek won’t hurt.  It all begins with the lust of the eyes and our unwillingness to look away.

No matter how you may be tempted in any situation, always remember that Jesus felt the same temptation.  There is nothing you are exposed to that He didn’t face.  God promises us that no matter how hard the temptation is, He will always provide an escape route.

We face temptations daily, numerous times.  So how can we resist?

  • Recognize the possibility of temptation happening to you. It can always happen to you, you are not invulnerable to any temptation.  Keep the image in mind of Satan holding out a beautiful platter; remember who’s holding it!
  • Begin your day with His Word and His Spirit. When God is central in your life and you walk in faith daily, that alone will keep you from many falls and sins.  It’s difficult to give in to temptation when you’ve spent time in His Word in the morning.  Begin your day asking Him to keep you sensitive to temptation.
  • Learn to look away from temptation. Be a coward, run from it!  Run from anything that that is in danger of coming between you and God.
  • Replace bad influences with good ones. If you have friends that tempt you with things like “one little (bite of unhealthy food, drink, etc.) won’t hurt,” and pull you away from God instead of to Him, they are not good influences.  You need friends who encourage you to want you to do better for God and raise the standard.
  • Resolve to take the high road. You have the free will to choose how you want to live life.  Walk with God; fill your life with truth and good, and you will have the strength to face temptation when it comes.  Satan will flee from you and he will have no power over you!  In Christ, there is nothing you cannot overcome!

 

Scripture:

1 Corinthians 10:13:  No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind.  And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.  But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

Prayer:

Father God, I thank you for all the wonderful things you have put into my life.  Thank you for the blessings you bestow on me every day.  Please give me the wisdom to look away and walk away when I am tempted, and the clear vision to see the way out that You provide.  Thank You, God, that You are faithful and always keep Your promises.  I love You, I praise You!