Choose A Cape – Not A Cardigan.

When I was 16, I worked as a counselor for a Christian day camp, at a leafy summer spot across the lake from my house. Although I liked singing every morning in the round theater that smelled like old milk and cedar, I kind of faked it because I didn’t want to become the churchy weirdo who misses out on every bit of teenage fun.

Photo Credit: shenamt

Photo Credit: shenamt

Because as far as I could tell, the Christians were selling cardigans, and I wanted a cape. It looked to me like people would take a deep breath, step to the front of the line, pull on their scratchy, over-tight synthetic sweater, and promptly start dying.

But the world is huge and I was hungry. I didn’t want to get married. I wanted to date inappropriate men and lose my shoes in a bar in Cancun. I wanted a big job where people knew my name, and to drive across country listening to EmmyLou Harris. I wanted red deserts and empty coastlines, art and chaos, perfect liberty and rapture.

And I thought Jesus wouldn’t let me have that, so I played along, picking and choosing. Maybe you’re doing the same.

But nobody ever told me, perhaps because they didn’t know either, that Jesus is all about capes, and he wasn’t the only one who walked on water. Peter did it too because Jesus told him to.

He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. Matthew 14:29

I want to walk on water and I want you to come too. Forget the bumper stickers and election season rhetoric. If I lose 100 lbs you’re going to ask me how I did it. Well, I lost 100 lbs of shame and rejection. Fear doesn’t sit on my chest anymore. I no longer burn endless heaps of mental garbage and have imaginary arguments with people before meetings.

Yes, I absolutely had to quit losing my shoes in bars and running around with bad men, but what I got in return so thoroughly eclipsed those amusements, I can’t believe I ever chose them over Jesus. And if the proof’s in the pudding, here are a couple of things happening around here lately:

I quit my lucrative job in corporate insurance sales and became the writer I’ve wanted to be since I was 12. Though I have a lot less money now, I seem to always have what I need, so I give some of it away, which makes me happier than anything else I do. Surprise!

Last month, I spoke from the back of my horse, to an arena full of East Texas cowboys. I talked about how proud we are of the leaky cisterns we build, and how Jesus just wants to smash them and start over with us, building something that can actually hold water.

I leave Tuesday for West Africa, a place I never imagined going. Not only does my new job at Mercy Ships send me around the world, but it gives me unfettered access to people who are  groping their way toward the light too. They are also known as friends.

Look out world!

The fabulous Lisa Long, author Bob Goff and me.

And I’ve finally met the Christians I didn’t know when I was 16 – people like author Bob Goff who wears his cape like a freak flag and swoops into people’s lives and makes them better.

The Bible says God is no respecter of persons, so if he’ll do it for me, he’ll do it for you. It’s a process but if it’s one you’ve considered, here’s me cheering you on.

Wondering where to start? Try the Gospel of John. It’s refreshing to see what Jesus actually says, not what people say he says.

Fasting and the Emotional Eater

dfpb239-282Last week I became a vegan and I live in Texas.

As you might already know, meat raising, preparation and consumption is basically a sacrament in Texas, so a decision to quit eating it casts immediate suspicion about infiltration by tree-hugging, West Coast liberals.

Mention that you quit sugar, dairy, eggs, caffeine and alcohol too and you might as well tell folks you walked precincts for Obama.

Which I did.

But as labels go, I’m a Jesus-freak too and he’s the reason I started the 21-day Daniel Fast.

When I began reading the Bible three years ago, I decided there was present-tense value in doing what it says. As I kept reading and studying, I developed some control over what comes out of my mouth, but I still struggle with what goes in it. When it comes to what I eat, my squealing, whining, impulsive, thoughtless, unconscious human nature is still well in control. Christians call this “the flesh.”

Sam calls it cycling.

Because I’m a yoga instructor, organic farmer and lover of food politics, I know what to eat and I can go ages doing it well, but when I go off the rails look out; it’s a spectacular, nutritional train wreck that can smoulder for months. And Texas is the penny on the tracks.

I know I can’t eat dessert at every meal, but at a gathering where Texas women are putting on the dog, turning out warm peach cobbler, German Chocolate cake and coconut pies from the kitchen, seriously, who can resist that?

Crispy, greasy french fries and beer go with the state’s famed barbecue like Captain goes with Tenille, and the portion sizes…please…especially at Tex-Mex joints,  food nearly falls off plates the size of hub caps.

And all of it makes my jeans shrink.

Box of Sprinkles Cupcakes in Dallas, Texas, in...

Box of Sprinkles Cupcakes in Dallas, (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But more troubling is my habit of absorbing all of my husband’s anxiety and calming myself down by blankly staring at the refrigerator door and shoving cupcakes in my mouth.

Sprinkles Cupcakes in Dallas is torture because I fear I will choose wrongly between red velvet, lemon or salted caramel, so if nobody’s looking I buy all three.

Luckily I’m 5’9″ and have kind of gotten away with this behavior for years, but now I’m 40 and let’s not kid about what happens to 40 year-old women with cupcake issues.

Fasting is about discipline and consecration, sweeping the decks of useless clutter. It uses physical hunger to bring quiet awareness to spiritual hunger.

This fast is based on the Jewish Prophet Daniel who, while conscripted by the Babylonian king, refused to eat rich, palace food. Daniel lived on water and only things that grew from seed. The Bible says he thrived.

So for ten days, I’ve done just that. Here’s what I’ve learned:

1. It’s not about the weight. It’s about poking around in the dark rooms I’d rather you not see, the ones where I can hide, pound cupcakes and loll around in pools of self-loathing. In those secret rooms, fear, depression and anxiety tell me “don’t worry, you deserve it. As long as nobody sees it, it’s not a problem.” Whoa. Thank God I don’t love alcohol like I do cupcakes.

I realize that’s a lot to unpack, so we’ll talk more later, but the point is, I don’t believe those crappy lies in other areas of my life anymore. Why in this one?

I want bacon.

Sam likes bacon.

2. Praying hard ahead of time is a good idea. Here was mine: “Lord, you know I suck at this, and if you don’t help me, I will quit in three days, so please help me.” Today is day ten, and it’s evidence of the Holy Spirit that it really hasn’t been that hard.

3. Cattlemen like Sam Kirk don’t want to be vegans. They will ask at every meal, “where’s the meat?” to ensure you aren’t tricking them with tofu. So planning meals for everybody ahead of time is crucial. The book is helpful in this regard.

Do you struggle with your eating too? What triggers it? What do you do about it?

On Taking Things For Granted

The other night, Tim Garland of SCRUBS Medical Mission described what it is like to be peed on by a child that isn’t yours, knowing a shower is nowhere in sight.

“Somehow, it doesn’t bother me.”

At the Light-Hope School in Chongwe, Zambia, a child, who is literally and figuratively hungry, is likely to crawl into your lap to be held. Sometimes they fall asleep and pee.

Victoria Falls

Victoria Falls (Photo credit: tonymz)

Why am I desperate to go on this upcoming medical mission trip to Zambia? Why do I want to sleep in a crowded grass hut, in a village with dirty water, hungry children and people who walk for miles for help with an infected tooth. Why do I want to go somewhere for two weeks and make a negligible dent in human suffering?

Because I believe the gospel, but I take it for granted.

What if you never heard of a God who so loved the world he sent his son to save it? What if you never heard of Isaiah who predicted a savior would come and announce:

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners. Isaiah 61:1

Jesus showed up 700 years later and said: “I’m Him, I’m the one you’re waiting for.”

Doesn’t that sound like good news? Especially if you’re broken-hearted, mourning, captive or poor?

It’s unbelievable of course, and yet here are a bunch of his followers, rich Americans not eating overpriced hot dogs at Disneyland but kneeling in the dirt, hungry and unshowered too, cleaning a wound on a child they don’t know. Why would they do such a thing?

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. James 1:27

Initially, I believed going to Zambia was about bringing my skills to them, but that’s silly, I’m not that skilled. Rather, I think God just wants my faith, so he can show me miracles. He wants to show me what He can do among people – African and American – who will believe Him without disclaimer.

Why can’t I do that in Texas?

Because I don’t know how. I’m stupefied by my own excess, the petty tyranny of my first world problems and what passes for Christian behavior in our culture. I don’t have enough faith to say “give us this day, our daily bread” and mean it literally.

So I’m planning to take what little I’ve got and lay it before God, and do what he asks:

Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy. Proverbs 31:8