Freedom In Restriction

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Talk to anyone who is not a Christian, and they would probably say that we are crazy. The bible tells us that the world thinks we are fools, but I’m not even sure that that is a strong enough word. We are probably more like psychopaths to them. No wonder, because everything that we think, say, and do, is SO contrary to the world. It’s like we’re from different planets, and yet somehow both stuck in the present on this planet together for an undisclosed period of time.

How are we so different? Well, let’s just look at one minor example of what are views are on “freedom”. What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of this word? I don’t know about you, but for me the United States of America comes to mind. We are a country, a people, a culture, that screams, lives, eats, breathes, gives our lives for, and fights for freedom like no other people I have ever learned about in history. If it weren’t enough to declare a land of freedom for its citizens, we also fight around the globe for others to experience the reality of the ideal of a life of freedom. You can expect persecution, the loss of a job, restricted rights, and a whole list of other punishments should you choose to impose on the freedom of another, or restrict their right to do whatever they like. Freedom tells me I can drive however fast I want on the freeway, and can sue whoever dares to cut me off and causes my speed to go below 75 mph. In contrast, a Christian understands the concept of laying down our rights for the benefit of another, and the glorification of our Father in heaven. A Christian desires to drive within the safe speeding limits set forth on our freeways, willingly lets others merge in front of them, and is not bothered by the fact that they are now driving very slowly behind a car just cruising along. The bible is filled with such commands for us like: submit to leaders, turn the other cheek, go the extra mile, and lay down your life. The battle Americans wage everyday for the fight for the right to freedom for themselves and others is vastly different from the battle Christians wage everyday with their flesh to give up their rights and count another as better, and greater than themselves. These two lifestyles could not butt heads any harder.

I used to think that it would be impossible to explain to someone why I choose to wage a battle with my flesh every day to lay down my rights. But the Lord was gracious to give me a little glimpse of what that is like. Where did I find this example? I had to look no further than the piercing glances from a four-legged creature eagerly waiting for me to finish this post with a wagging tail so I could focus on her. That’s right; my guide dog puppies have shown me how to exhibit such joy in the midst of a restricted lifestyle.

This idea dawned on me one day after I called one of my pups back inside the house from exploring and romping around loose in my backyard. In that moment, they are about as free as they ever could be. Sure I am monitoring their behavior to make sure they don’t inhale every stick and stone, plant and flower in my backyard. But they are off leash, running sometimes at 100 mph like a race car on a track, as free as a bird. As much as my pups enjoy spending time being “dogs” in my backyard, the moment I bring out the leash, call them back to me, and we head back inside to get ready to run some errands, they run even faster back into my arms then they did roaming free on their own. Their tail wags even faster when I clip my leash on their collar, restricting their freedom to do what they wanted. In that moment I realized, my guide dog puppies in training would rather spend a day of “restriction” with me, then spend the whole day running around loose and free in the backyard on their own. This trait is a mark of a guide dog. Some pups could care less and run away when the leash comes out to restrain them, but those dogs usually don’t end up with a lifelong career as a guide.

The rest of that day, I spent contemplating how I react to the restriction of my freedom and my rights. Am I ecstatic like my pup when the leash of restraint comes out, or do I run the other direction dreading the loss of my freedom? Would I rather relinquish all my freedom and my dreams to God and spend time by His side, or run around on my own doing my own thing?

If we’re honest with ourselves, we will realize that the freedom we fight for can never be attained. You see, we are all slaves to something. Despite what you might think, even in the United States, slavery has not been eradicated. Whether someone is forcefully enslaved by human trafficking, an alcohol addiction, or a slave of righteousness, no one is free. We may be striving for freedom, but none of us have it. In the bible, the apostle Paul spoke to such individuals in Rome who though they understood they were great sinners; that Christ is a great Savior; and that their freedom in Christ and His unending grace was all-sufficient for them; they assumed they could then live a life completely free from all restriction. The apostle Paul’s response to them is classic. In Romans chapter 6 beginning in verse 15, I can just imagine Paul yelling with force at the top of his lungs as he exclaims, “May it never be!”. The remainder of that chapter is an explanation of why Paul felt so strongly about this topic.

I can remember when I competed in debate tournaments in high school, there was always that one debater whose value to support his or her idea in their case was the word “freedom”. Those rounds never went well for either the debaters or the judges. They usually resulted in a confusing topic of anarchy vs. freedom with restriction. I even fell into that trap once, but repented of my sin, and vowed never to have the value of freedom again in any of my cases. Syndrome in the Disney/Pixar animated film “The Incredibles” has a line in the movie that has stuck with me since I first watched it. He states, “When everyone is super, no one will be.” Since hearing that line, I have often replaced the word “super” with other words, and they fit just as well. The word freedom fits in their nicely too. Because when everyone is free, no one will be. I believe we are getting more glimpses as to exactly what this looks like in our society.

No one can be free, because everyone is a slave to something. When people think they have attained freedom, they are actually putting a restraint on something else in order to feel that way. Freedom is a tug-of-war reality that constantly gives and takes in order to attain.

I don’t expect everyone to believe the things I have written here. If you are not a slave to Christ, what I have just written will sound psychotic to you, because the Lord has not allowed you to see the foolish things the Christian culture believes and acts upon, with eyes born again in Him. I just felt a strong urge to share another beautiful example of the impact these precious pups have had on my life. They have not only made me a better person, they have left deep spiritual examples to me about different things that relate to my submission to my Lord Jesus Christ.

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The House Of Revere

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Once upon a time, there was a small village filled with a tight knit community of people, surrounded by a large metropolis full of many people from all different backgrounds and cultures. In this small village lived a well-respected family in the house of Revere. A house long established in that town that had withstood many trials and changing seasons. This house had the respect, love, and admiration from not only the other townspeople, but from travelers far and wide, who knew this house would always be welcoming to them at any time. In this particular story, we examine three members who abide in this home, and the life lessons we can learn about how to live and interact with each other. This allegory depicts the joys and struggles women face on their journey to find contentment, fulfilled longing, and dignity in their person.

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Contentment

Oh, what a happy child Contentment is! She is still so young, and has much of her life yet to live with so many adventures to encounter! Yet, she is close to adolescence and will begin to see many changes in herself and her outlook of life. What she learns in these next crucial years of her life, will either make or break her, and leave a lasting impression for eternity. Contentment has been taught by her mother to be satisfied and full of joy, in whatever circumstance she faces. She is blessed to grow up in the safety and security of a loving home. She cannot stay here forever though. One day she will leave her home and live in the world as a grown woman interacting with and encountering others. Contentment sees what marriage is like through others and hopes for it someday. She gathers wisdom on the subject and stores it for safe keeping until an appropriate time. As we spend more and more time with Contentment, and as she begins to spend time with us, we have a huge role in how we shape her character. We don’t realize how much of an influence we have on her little mind and heart! She is just like a sponge soaking up everything we teach and share with her. Contentment’s married friends share with her the importance of keeping Christ at the center of everything she does. She has learned from them, that one cannot expect to get the desires of her heart without first being so consumed by Christ. If she wants to be married one day, then she must have such an intimate relationship with Him before that can happen; if she wants to travel, she must first have a firm foundation of the teachings in scripture to help guide her way; and if she wants true joy, she must be satisfied with whatever God gives her, whether great or small, in order to find fulfillment. The knowledge she has gained from her married friends seems invaluable to her; but Contentment is also experiencing confusion. You see, Contentment has an older sister named Longing. Contentment can recall very well some of the situations Longing found herself in; in fact, she had a front row seat to the experiences her sister had to endure. Struggling to understand, Contentment talked with her single friends to find out more information about why her sister’s life was so different from the way her married friends had described life to be like. Contentment’s single friends had a very close relationship with Longing and willingly shared how similar their lives were. It was hard for all the single friends and married friends to hang out together, because their lives seemed so different that there was no way for them to be compatible. All the single friends were strong Christians who loved the Lord just as much as those who were married, but they had no life partner. The life formula that Contentment’s married friends had shared with her, did not seem to work in the life of her unmarried friends. They had just as intimate a relationship with the Lord; they had just as strong of a biblical foundation; and they had learned how to juggle joy in the midst of want and plenty – and yet they remained unmarried. That night Contentment went to bed a little more uneasy than the night before. Our response to Contentment will either drive her towards a greater intimacy with Christ, or turn her into her older sister Longing. Contentment knows she needs a firm and solid foundation built on the work of Christ, but we must not promise Contentment that the desires of her heart will be granted when she is completely sold-out for Christ. We must remind Contentment that God in His goodness and infinite wisdom and creativity made all people unique, and made the experiences in their life just as unique and special. No two people in the world will have all of the exact same experiences in the exact same timeline as another. Her life is like a fingerprint – none other are like her – and to try and force her into a mold of how we might have lived our life could crush her delicate spirit. Contentment can never be replaced by a better substitute. She is a child in the house of Revere, and so very special. May our prayers be drenched in her example. Oh that we would be more like her! For we could change the world if we used her properly!

Longing

Contentment as mentioned earlier has a older sister, who, though taught the same principles, has seen herself walk a very different path than what she envisioned herself on; because her struggle for contentment is put into practice day-by-day, and even moment-by-moment. Someday, Contentment may grow up to be like her older sister. Only time will tell whether that will be the case. Where Contentment was fair-skinned, delicate, and pure, her sister Longing was not often characterized in the same manner. Longing has been through the trenches in life, and has not emerged unscathed. Her beauty may not be as apparent on the outside, but inside she is a woman of courage and steel. Longing not only received some of the same advice as her younger sister, she lived through some practical experiences that showed her exactly what they meant. Longing understands the importance of an intimate relationship with Christ, but has also lived through the loneliness of being a single woman desiring to be married. This is what makes her such a great friend to both those who are married and single. However, as the days pass by, Longing becomes more fearful that her childhood dreams may never become a reality. Although strong and full of perseverance, if not careful, we may cause her to feel squashed and defeated by how we respond to her. Longing, like her sister, lives in all of us, and often leads her little sister through the challenges this life has to offer.  She has the same desire as us – to experience a deep connection with another person. This desire is hardwired into most of us and why God says in the book of Genesis that it is not good for man to be alone. How much of an effect do we have on her? Longing has the potential to turn to shame and despair if we tell her that she is sin and must be removed from our lives. Longing itself is not sin. Remember, it is what we do with her that determines that factor. Therefore she has two options to live by. She can be so consumed by a desire that it overtakes her and turns into idolatry where she will never be satisfied; or she can place herself at the feet of Jesus and wait to hear how the story of her life unfolds. All of us struggle with something in this life. The bible is filled with such terms as: running, enduring, wrestling, struggling, contending, sacrificing, and the like. If we forced Longing to live the cookie-cutter lifestyle, she would have a very weak faith because it never would be tested by fire to see how strong she really is, and her relationship with God would be so superficial, there would be no need for Him to prove Himself faithful. I truly believe the Lord has a special place in His heart for Longing. Where joy comes easy to Contentment and sitting at His feet is where she would rather be; Longing has to struggle for that same joy. She openly voices her concerns to Jesus, and is not content with a superficial faith that lets her get by in this life. She is a beloved daughter in the house of Revere. The bible speaks many times about how the weak things of this world will shame the wise, and that the prize will be given to the one who runs the race with endurance. That is the kind of life Longing lives. Her name earns her our respect. Her example earns her our love.

Dignity

Dignity has lived long in the house of Revere, and bears the physical and emotional presence of a life lived in such a worthy manner to be called a child of that house. As the mother of Contentment and Longing, the house of Revere would not be whole without her guidance. She has named her daughter’s after lessons she herself has learned, and continually imparts stories of wisdom to them about how she navigated the trenches of life and battled to have those two important traits. Without Dignity, Contentment and Longing would never have been born in the first place. Dignity is a rare gem, who understood from a very young age to be proud of who she is, even when others laughed at her and told her she was obsolete. You see, Dignity like her daughter’s, longed to be married and have a family of her own since she was a little girl. As she grew, she was bullied by those who had taken their contentment in singleness to the extreme or who had longed so much for a dream that could never be. Dignity however, pressed on, and believed that the Lord would grant her whatever He had planned, which would be the best for her. Dignity’s dream did come true and she married a wonderful man named Honor. She was such a treasure to him! He loved her like no one ever did before because she was so valuable to him; and he was respected everywhere he went because Dignity respected him. Dignity was once a single girl. She climbed the corporate ladder and was very good at her work. She grew in the understanding of herself when she learned not to be shy about her true desires and her longing to be a wife and mother. In fact, the reason her and her household were so well respected was because she often shared with others her belief in the importance of family. She believed it is not degrading for a woman to leave the workforce, but empowering and life-giving to not only her immediate family, but to her community as well in such a way she could never do on her own. Dignity now encourages her husband to be the best husband and father possible, helping him in this endeavor. She teaches her daughters that in whatever path they find themselves on in life, they are important and needed. She teaches them by example and warns of the inherent dangers their natures encompass.

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Women in the 21st century are not very different from the women depicted in this story. We are surrounded by a metropolis of ideas and values as vast and different as the ever-changing colors of a sunset. We are pushed and pulled and shoved into so many ideas that tell us where our value lies. Even among Christian circles, the ideas of how to be a godly Proverbs 31 woman differ depending on whom you speak to. This story is a collection of thoughts and ideas that have bounced in my mind as I interact with people on a day-by-day basis. It is a result of the influence culture has had on me – both good and bad. It is a call to question and check why we believe what we believe and to examine how our ideas impact others in the following areas:

 – Contentment and the promise of a companion

 – Longing and the sense of shamefulness, leading us to believe we are in sin

– Dignity’s success dependent on the standards of our culture

How we utilize and respond to contentment, longing, and dignity in our lives will say much about who we really are. We are fighting a battle in these areas that have a global impact, and will infiltrate every person and every culture for either better or worse, depending on who prevails.

Victor Hugo in his timeless book “Les Miserables” beautifully captures in words the summarization of the story above. He wrote:

“You look at a star for two reasons,

because it is luminous,

and because it is impenetrable.

You have beside you a sweeter radiance

and a greater mystery – woman.”

The Secret Life of An Unsatisfied Stomach…

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It has been a little over a year since I have begun a roller coaster journey to better health; and boy what a ride it has been! I was recently talking to a friend about my current health situation and I realized I began to list several improvements and discoveries that have changed my overall health. I never imagined I’d be where I am today concerning my health!

It all really began when I was pretty young. For as long as I can remember I experienced what I thought at the time were really bad headaches. It wasn’t until more recently that a family friend who is a P.A. informed me that my “bad” headaches were actually migraines. They only got worse in intensity and occurrence as I grew older. Trips to doctor’s offices resulted in no diagnosis and a prescription for pain medication. I finally had enough with my “normal” doctor when I was informed I could either take medication for the migraines which made me very jittery but helped them go away, or not take anything at all and suffer for the rest of my life. I felt like I had been pushed into a corner with no option for relief.

As discouraging as that appointment had been, it ultimately was one of the best experiences, because it forced me to look outside of the normal health care field for treatment/relief from my symptoms. I went to an optometrist to find out if my migraines were a result of vision problems. Sure enough they were. I have almost perfect vision in my left eye, but not so much in my right eye. My brain was trying to compensate on its own for the difference in vision – causing frequent migraines. I was prescribed glasses to help my brain do its job and relax a little. The difference they made was incredible!

While this process was started, my mom and I also began to look for a holistic doctor who might be able to look at my health in a different light and provide me with some answers regarding my migraines that my current doctor could not give me. We found Dr. Rashidi at Women’s View Medical Group (guys can be seen here too!) in Upland, CA. She has a LOT of patients who come to see her so appointments with her are booked a few months in advance. After my first consultation with her I was sent to get some blood work done. I thought I was going to pass out from how much blood they took out of me! It turns out that what the Bible says about how life is in the blood is absolutely right! Not only did I find out answers to questions I had, I found out so much more about my body I never would have known otherwise!

My bloodwork revealed I was anemic, and that my vitamin levels were extremely low. My body cannot absorb the nutrients from food like it should – answer solved regarding the migraines! My doctor also did a generic allergy test to see if anything came up because I have had a real problem with breakouts on my face that I thought was just acne but it’s not. My allergies included: wheat, corn, peanuts, walnuts, and sesame seeds (You know the little seeds on top of hamburger buns. Yep. HIGHLY allergic.) I could NOT believe it. Never in a million years would I have thought that I would be allergic to things I ate on a regular basis. How could I not know? Turns out I have Celiac Disease. Not only is my body unable to absorb the nutrients in the food I eat, but my stomach had decided it wanted to be a security scanner at an airport meticulously sifting through everything passing through and fighting against food as if it were a foreign contaminant. My allergic reaction to these foods (and the others that joined that list later on) is thankfully not life threatening. My reactions are an upset stomach – again my “security guard” ninja-attacking anything I eat that passes through (this is quite a literal explanation by the way).

In the year that I have been with Dr. Rashidi I have since discovered that I am also highly allergic to celery of all things, and although I am technically not allergic to dairy products, sometimes my stomach refuses to let me absorb dairy in different forms. Once we had a good grasp of where I was at with my health, Dr. Rashidi put my on a detox diet to see if my stomach might calm itself down on its own by getting rid of any toxins (real foreign contaminants) that may have been present. Let me tell you I have never drunk so much apple juice in my entire life! That was quite the experience, but SO helpful! I felt so much better afterwards, and have since tried my best to avoid eating certain foods I know my stomach might get mad at. I have lost approximately 9lbs. and feel more energetic. Many of the the improvements and discoveries I have also found along the way I hope to share in more detail in later posts; there’s just so much to talk about, and I don’t want this post to turn into a novel!

I also recently went to go see an iridologist at the recommendation of some family friends because I am still struggling with skin issues. He looked into my eyes (no, he literally did!) and confirmed some of the deficiencies my body has. He then pricked my finger and placed it under a microscope. I was shocked at what I saw! Sometimes I wonder how I even managed to live and breath! One drop of my blood revealed white blood cells that looked like they were about to die, bacteria taking control of everything, and an overall invasion by toxins. We had found the foreign contaminants!! I have since been placed on some natural supplements to help my white blood cells get back in shape. This is where I am today. I hope to go back and see if there are any improvement in the near future.

I can tell you that regarding my health, even being on this new journey hasn’t solved all of my problems. This discovery has been an ongoing battle that I sometimes conquer, and that sometimes conquer me, depending on the day. I don’t know if I will ever fully recover, but now I have the tools I need to help combat the bad guys in my body, and allow me to live a healthier life.

Sometimes I think back to the last visit I had with my “normal” doctor and wonder where I would be had I decided to stick with the contemporary approach to medicine and health care. I would still be on drugs, and have no real answers to questions that had been plaguing me for years. I am so grateful to Dr. Rashidi and others who have opened up a whole new, more natural approach, to living a better life. I hope this post (and the many others to follow) can shed some light on a different approach and maybe help others who are also struggling to find the answers they are so desperately seeking!