Are you pessimistic like my mother-in-law?

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Isaiah 55:2b – Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in rich food.

Are you around pessimistic people, folks who think our country is ‘going to hell in a handbasket,’ as my dad used to say?

Each week I call up and chat with Mike’s mom. Her end of the conversation often focuses on the state of our country and American society. My mother-in-law, who is 90, lives far from us in Seattle. Her two-bedroom apartment is in an upscale retirement complex.  As a very outgoing widow she does enjoy all the social activities offered to residents. However, she does find it awfully quiet when she closes the door to her 6th-floor apartment overlooking Lake Union.  That fact combined with a life-long TV-watching habit means that she likes to keep the TV going for about 5-6 hours a day.

What does she watch?  For 4 of those hours, she’s tuned in to ‘newsy’ programs.  If you know anything about human nature, then you’ll agree that people are more drawn to bad news than to good.  Content creators of these news shows take advantage of this fact and create what people will watch.  I get that. But absorbing negative news for 4 hours a day, together with digesting all the articles in a typical big city newspaper can’t help but color one’s outlook.

What my mother-in-law watches, reads and discusses with others who form part of her retirement community feeds her soul, her thought life. It follows, then, that what comes out of her mouth is negative.  What we dwell on we talk about.

This morning, I came across the familiar exhortation from the Father to his people via the prophet Isaiah about good food.  I immediately saw the connection between what we eat and the ideas we allow to enter and dwell in our mind.

Just as food is tasted, savored and chewed up in our mouths, so too is news (both cheery and depressing) tasted and experienced.  By nature, we image-bearers like to share with others both what delights us and appalls us. Hence, every weekly conversation with Mike’s mom invariably touches a horrible national event, a further rip in societies institutions like the family or school or an international crisis.

Yesterday, I innocently asked, “Have the public schools started back up since it’s the end of August?”  That led her directly to complain about the scandal of teacher unions and how teachers and families and children and society…..are not like they used to be.  When she was growing up.  I tried to say that human nature doesn’t change; that there are still plenty of caring people in the world showing kindness, working for justice; that most news shows report just the bad; that God is sovereign and we can trust Him and pray……

She brushed my responses aside. Mom is a kind-hearted elderly gal, BUT she is very pessimistic.  Although a Christian, she hardly takes in any good news from God.  Her church focuses on social justice. She reads a devotional written by clergy in her denomination and she prays.  Bible ‘food’ comes in a few Sunday tidbits of scripture read before the homily and the words of hymns and repeated liturgical prayers.

In short, Mom is starving. What she eats of the ‘food that is good……the richest of foods’ is but a bite here and there.  NOT enough to change her soul health.

Dear, dear fellow Christian and laboring sojourner – you and I need to eat up, fill up, take in REAL food, LIFE-GIVING food that God gives us through His Word.

What is your daily fare like?  What do you allow into your mind? Are you living on a concentration-camp ration of good food?  Then that might explain some of your outlook.  We’re called to ‘DELIGHT ourselves in good food.’

May you and I eat to satiety, fill up, take in, savor, roll around in our mind’s mouth, letting God’s Word flow through each and every molecule in our spirit.

 

Shutting doors on lesser things

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Journeying through Genesis again, I’ve seen how God closes and opens wombs.  Wombs are a sort of door, a door to fruitfulness. When Abraham passed off his wife Sarah as his sister (for the second time!), Abimelech took her into his harem.  Immediately, we learn in Genesis 20:17-18, that God afflicted Abimelech, his wife, and his slave girls so they could not have any children.  God took away their fruitfulness.

Catching my attention after this account were the words: Now the LORD was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did for Sarah what he had promised.  Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him. Gen 21: 1-2

God opened a door; he made Sarah fruitful.  Yes, Sarah and Abraham came together as husband and wife so a baby could be conceived.  But the conception and subsequent birth were entirely OF the Lord!

God has been shutting doors in our lives, specifically in Mike’s life.  We finally have seen and come to the decision to go in the direction God is leading. We don’t yet know the where or the when.  That is up to God.  However, we are doing what he gives us to do: apply for jobs, list our house.

The Holy Spirit has yet to close any doors at this point in my life.  Instead, He has recently shown me a door I am to close.  As an act of worship.

Those who know me well, put up kindly with my seeming insatiable quest for information.  Over the past 7 months, I have binged on podcasts and books about Keto.  Keto is a health-promoting low-carb, high-fat way of eating.  Mike and I switched to this protocol for brain health and disease prevention.

Keto is what I talk about.  Constantly.  My computer password has included a reference to Keto.  I have listened to at least one Keto podcast a day on my long commute to and from school.

Two days ago, God opened my eyes to this idolatry.  Painfully, and in a way that fit me.

  • My weight climbed, something that always ‘sends’ me into self-preoccupation and temporary depression.

How did He connect that with my idol worship?  That very first morning of weight gain something came up in one of my prayers. Scotty Smith, a PCA pastor who writes daily prayers, had used the example of  Betsy Ten Boom urging her sister Corrie to thank God for the fleas in their Nazi concentration camp barracks.

Convicted, I thanked God for the weight gain, not an easy thing for a weight-obsessed Maria to do.  During this same morning time with the Lord, I read another prayer and wrote this down: “Whatever we treasure in our hearts will be reflected in the stream of our words.”

Ouch!  What a closeup snapshot of me!  Almost daily I have flooded poor Mike with what I have newly absorbed in a Keto podcast.  A clear illustration of the principle:  what you dwell on and talk about reflect what is important to you.

The final gentle but firm push from the Holy Spirit was something Charles Spurgeon had written this week, based on a text from Psalm 109:4 ……but I give myself to prayer.  At the time I read it, I had said to myself:  I am a woman who gives herself to prayer.

Two days later, I saw that my conclusion was NOT true.  I had become a woman who gave herself to Keto (the latest in a long string of a ‘passion of the month/year’).

I knew what I had to do. Unsubscribe from the podcasts and the email newsletters.  Go back to podcasts about God. Change my password.

During our nightly prayer check-in, where Mike and I open our hearts to one another and write down what we need God to do for us, I confessed my sin and how the Holy Spirit had revealed it to me.  He prayed for me.

This morning, God has kept up the training.  I wrote in my journal:

  • Maria, repent when you are more interested in a created thing than in the Creator!

God then directed my mind to this exhortation from Isaiah 55:2:

Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare.

To eat what is good, I have to stop putting garbage into my mouth.

I almost fell into temptation this morning. There remained ONE Keto podcast I had not unsubscribed from.  I started to justify, “Surely ONE podcast a week won’t hurt me…..”

(the Serpent’s lies feel so palate-pleasing and harmless!)

I unsubscribed.

My conclusion?  In this case, God did not shut the door for me, He instead urged me to shut the door myself.

I now understand that giving up this lesser thing IS a sacrifice He calls me to make.  Worship is about sacrificing the best-created thing to show yourself, God, maybe some of the watching world, and all of the invisible world, that our triune God is worth MOST OF ALL!  Sacrifice and worship are not about earning God’s favor.  His children already HAVE received His grace and can’t lose that.  But we need a constant reminder of Who is supreme.  The world, the flesh and the devil all can look mighty satisfying.  All a lie.

Eating what is good trains our palate for the Holy.

I wonder what other doors He will reveal.  More doors to close?  Or maybe new doors to fruitfulness.  Eat up, Maria!  But only what is good.

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