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Uganda map - OxfordToday I say goodbye to many of the routines that keep me comfortable in my abstinence, because tomorrow I say goodbye to this continent for the first time in my life. I will arrive the following day in Uganda, a land known as “the Pearl of Africa.” Ugandans have a much healthier diet than Americans since, generally speaking, theirs is much more plant-based. I once read an article that put the two countries as polar opposites when it came to plant-based and animal-based diets and the occurrence of colorectal cancer. There are certainly other factors to consider, but I was encouraged, determined to eat mostly vegetarian fare for the sixteen days I will be there. There is apparently no shortage of open air produce markets anywhere one turns in Uganda, since micro-farming is a popular money-maker there.

 

A visit with our travel clinic nurse ruined my plans for Bugs Bunny-ing my way through my tour however. She told us that all fruit must be peeled and all vegetables must be boiled before they can be eaten by outsiders, and fruit with thin skin (apples, pears, etc.) should be avoided altogether. Meats, she said, should be thoroughly cooked and eaten hot. Water should be verified to be sealed bottled water. Apparently refilling water bottles with tap water is a popular scam. The water and everything it touches was described as the chief contaminant, carrying all sorts of virus, bacteria, and protozoa. Lovely!

 

“…and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all…” (Mark 16:18b, NIV)

 

We will be in a hostile environment microscopically speaking but also politically speaking. We have been warned of robbers, rapists, insurrectionists, guerilla militants, starving pickpockets, con artists, and the desperate displaced both internal and from neighboring D.R. Congo and South Sudan. The Karamajong tribe of northern Uganda still offer the occasional human sacrifice, usually their own children to appease their god and beg for deliverance from disease. We will be visiting several missions to the Karamajong. Needless to say, food supply will not be the only resource for which we will be trusting God. Life, limb, and livelihood are all in His hands.

 

We are traveling light, neither of us taking more than a carry-on backpack. We each have three day’s clothes and plan to wash and wear them repeatedly. It will certainly be an adventure!

 

Since I will be out of pocket for the next two weeks, I do not expect to write on this blog, although I may surprise you. Who knows? I do ask for your prayer support. Thank you very much! One thing I am committed to, even without my convenient tool of a detailed Plan of Eating, is my abstinence. I may not be able to read ingredients lists and keep my detailed food journal that I normally maintain, but no matter where I go, I know what cookies, cakes, sweets, ice-cream and nachos are, and I know what “Forget it, I’m eating!” sounds like. I will have none of that! I will space my meals appropriately, have reasonable portions, and abstain from my problem foods. My plan of eating is a tool that helps me maintain my abstinence; it does not constitute my abstinence.

 

Dear Father, today, I am surrendering all the cups, measures, convenient shopping centers, amply filled cupboards, refrigerators and freezers, and look simply to Your divine Hand to feed me, to guide me, and to keep me standing for this journey as my precious bride and I seek Your will for our future. Thank You for being strong enough for the task and for Your generous supply. I need You every hour! Thank You for this reminder. Please grant us Your will for us and the power to carry that out. In Jesus’ name, amen.

 

Psalm 91

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.[Hebrew Shaddai]
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”

Surely he will save you
from the fowler’s snare
and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
You will not fear the terror of night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
nor the plague that destroys at midday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
You will only observe with your eyes
and see the punishment of the wicked.

If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”
and you make the Most High your dwelling,
10 no harm will overtake you,
no disaster will come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways;
12 they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
you will trample the great lion and the serpent.

14 “Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;
I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
15 He will call on me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble,
I will deliver him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him
and show him my salvation.”

And the Beat Goes On

heart rateThis week I’ve begun to make amends for a harm I’ve been unwittingly doing to myself. It involves figures, fitness, and heart rate monitoring.

 

I have often looked at the numbers on the machines at the gym and thought, “What is more important: the resistance level, the time lapsed, the heart rate, or the calories burned?” Since I’m recovering from compulsive overeating, I cannot focus on the calories burned, or it might make me feel entitled to something extra. I decided that no one of the other numbers was any more or less important than the rest, but that the most important number was “one” – that is one me in this one gym, on this one piece of equipment, one moment at a time. There was a time when just walking through the door of that place was reason to celebrate. As God is instructing me through His various ministers, however, I am learning I need to take a few of these numbers more seriously.

 

When I began working out in a gym, my employer offered free 18-week memberships to what was called “high-intensity training” sessions. I considered that anything with an end date would likely be a problem for me, and an 18-week program would spell a 19th week relapse into sloth, so I declined the offer and went to the cheap gym near my house with no trainer. I bragged to my friends, who I thought were suckers for taking the bait on the high-intensity programs, mine was a “low-intensity” workout, one which I planned to continue even into my seventies and eighties, God willing. I found a fairly self-explanatory express corral of all the resistance machines I need for a “total-body workout” and I improvised off my physical therapist’s instruction for my warm-up and cool down. The improvisation is where the rub is.

 

I thought that, since my PT had me constantly pushing myself to do more since my knee surgery, I would just continue doing more and more as I was able. So I beefed up the resistance every time it got easy, and ramped up the pace when I thought I could. Pretty soon I was making that elliptical machine whistle at ten or more miles per hour for fifteen minutes on a resistance level of 12. What I ignored, in my ignorance, was my heart rate. I partly ignored it because I didn’t really know what it should be, and partly because I was ashamed that my rate would be so high with so little work as I started out doing. At the peak of my body weight, my resting pulse was often in the 140s. I was so desperately out of shape!

 

A couple weeks ago, I began running and chatting at length with trainers and other runners. What I am learning is that my heart rate matters more than all the other numbers combined. Apparently, I am doing more harm than good when I let my heart rate soar like I have. I was kicking two and a half miles in fifteen minutes, but my heart rate was always near the maximum for my age (175 for a 45 year-old, according to the American Heart Association). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends even the most vigorous exercise be done at 70% to 85% of the maximum heart rate. An average max heart rate is calculated by subtracting the subject’s age from 220, rendering mine 175 (220 – 45 = 175). So my ideal exercise target should be between 122.5 and 148.75. I have occasionally used some heart rate monitoring equipment, and have regularly exceeded 180 bpm, only dipping down into the 140s and 160 when doing the step-ups between resistance machines. I spend five minutes cooling down at the end of my workouts, just to get my heart beating less than 110 again, so I can drive home without being drunk on oxygen. I was doing “high-intensity training” without knowing it, and need to tone it down.

 

So, starting this past week, I have intentionally taken a milder pace for my elliptical warm-ups, but have given it all I’ve got during the resistance training, taking full advantage of the step-ups in between machines to recover. Whatever slack there may be in overall work done is more than compensated by my running three times a week.

 

For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. 1 Timothy 4:8, NIV

 

Dear Father, thank You for the transformation You are making in me. Continue to reveal to me Your will regarding my health and well-being, and enable me to perform it. Thank You for my progress, and for the promise that You are making me something new.

 

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23 Then he said to them all, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. (Luke 9:23, NRSV)

Notice, please, because it took me forty-one years to notice, that it does not say, “My disciples should demonstrate that they know more of my words than their fellows by drumming them into each other with judgmental condescension.” Neither does it say, “Make your light so shine that all others may be blinded by the brilliance of it and ashamed of their own flickering glimmer.” God is not interested in the pride of man masquerading as discipleship. That is self-righteousness, which is not righteousness at all, but only selfishness. Jesus’ instruction was to deny selfish desires and motives, even that of self-preservation, in preference for following His lead.

May I say that again?
Jesus’ instruction was to deny selfish desires and motives, even that of self-preservation, in preference for following His lead.

If Jesus instructs that concerning losing life and gaining it, what do you think He means about appetites, cravings, lusts, physical or material desires? If we are to deny ourselves even to the point of taking up our cross, our guillotine, our firing squad, our noose, our electric chair, our lethal injection, then why do we feel so smugly content to pick up our addictive substance of choice just because we want it? It’s not a good time to quit. I’ve got a lot going on this weekend. I just can’t live without it today. Whatever! We are instructed to put Self in its place and nail it on its crossbeams.

It doesn’t matter what you want, Self! I’m following Jesus today!

Dear Father, today, I seek Your strength in hammering the nails into my self-will. Deliver me from the slavery of self-service, so I can be fully occupied with Your service. I cannot serve both You and Self. Help me take up my cross and follow You, not for my glory but Yours.

Every Choice a Crossroad

crossroad treeThe devotion Our Daily Bread focused on this verse this morning:

19 This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live 20 and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life… (Deuteronomy 30:19-20, NIV)

 

Every choice is a crossroad, an opportunity for compromise that leads to judgment or for integrity that leads to the abundant life God bought for us with the precious blood of Jesus Christ. All spirit and nature testify against us that we have chosen poorly since the seed of our race fell in Eden. There is no room for middle ground. I cannot be partially alive and fully in God’s will. This means that every choice I make comes with its own litmus test: will this bring life, light, and good; or death, darkness, and evil? The lie that everything is acceptable in moderation is one straight from the tombs of darkness. I choose to abstain from the things of death and darkness, and choose life instead!

John 10:10; John 3:16; Genesis 3:6; Matthew 6:24, Luke 16:33; John 14:6; 1 Peter 5:8

 

In my NT in a Year reading, I got this confirmation of my new mission:

and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. (Luke 9:2, NRSV)

 

Dear Father, today, as I offer my life, my day, my resources, my very being to You, empower me to do Your will, never mine. Forgive me when I snatch back my will and greedily act out of selfishness and vain fear. I lay down my carnal self before You again and ask that You replace it with my daily portion of Your Spirit, that I might not sin against You or Your children. Cause me to be useful in Your hands today, precious Lord. Make me shine with Your love that others may know You.

Dear sponsor,

In preparation for our overseas travel April 15th I had to change my plan of eating yesterday from four meals to three to accommodate an oral Typhoid fever vaccination which must be taken on an empty stomach. I will have to do this again tomorrow and Tuesday. Yesterday I did this by adding a couple higher-calorie healthy foods to my third meal. I put an ounce of walnuts and a serving of unsweetened Shredded Wheat N’ Bran on my dinner salad. In future occurrences, I plan to spread the calories of the fourth meal into the other three more evenly. This requirement was made of me at the health clinic where we got our vaccinations caught up yesterday. We are very excited about traveling to Africa!

 

 When Jesus heard this, he replied, “Do not fear. Only believe, and she will be saved.” (Luke 8:50, NRSV)

In today’s New Testament in a Year reading, I read the accounts of three miracles which all give some insight into the spiritual reality of man and this dark world. In the account of the demoniac known as Legion, I read of a man who was tormented such that everything in him possessed him to the exclusion of himself, his sanity, his physical well-being and self-care, and even his motor control. The story gives me more questions than answers, as I wonder why the pigs into which the “legion” of demons was cast immediately suicided themselves in the lake and why the demons would prefer that to “the abyss” into which they begged Jesus not to send them. Two things I learn from this: evil spirits are real and they have personalities, struggling to get what they want and to use man as their tool if they are able; and Jesus has authority over all of them, and they submit to Him even when He is casting them to their doom. On a side note, Jesus willingly allowed them to escape this “abyss” for a time, and granted their wish to go instead into the herd of pigs. This holds promise, because they and we know that the eternal condemnation of all evil is yet to come.

 

In the account of the hemophiliac, I read that the faith of the woman in the power of Jesus cured her rather than the will, words, or touch of Jesus Himself. When He asked, “Who touched me?” He announced that He didn’t know, but that He was cognizant of the fact that power had gone out from Him. There is power in those spiritual principles! God’s price for eternal, abundant life has been paid. It is ours to avail ourselves of it if we have the faith to receive it.

But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5, NIV)

 

Jairus’ plea and his daughter’s resurrection gives us a type by which we redeemed are also dead in the flesh and raised to walk in newness of life, but I read of a spiritual principle when I saw the words, “Her spirit returned”. The dead girl was without spirit. She wasn’t carrying a dead spirit, she was altogether without one. It had gone from her and was somewhere else. The Bible shows that, before Jesus conquered death, the spirits of the deceased took rest in a dark place of sleep, referred to as “the pit,” “the grave” or just “death.” This underworld of quiet rest was referred to in the original Hebrew as “Sheol” and in Greek as “Hades” and is not to be confused with Hell, (Greek: Tartarus, Hebrew: Gehenna), the place of eternal torment. The New Testament teachings indicate a different order – of being at home with the Lord when absent from the body (Philippians 1:23-24). There is what seems, on first reading, like a bit of a conflict when one reads of the dead in Christ rising on the last day (1 Thessalonians 4:16). It leads me to believe that the difference is one of soul and spirit (Hebrews 4:12). While one or the other sleeps at rest until the Day of the Lord, the other is with Him in paradise, as the thief on the cross was promised (Luke 23:43).

 

Whether in spirit (life energy, breath of life), soul (mind, will, and emotions) or in body (the tent that will be transformed from flesh into heavenly likeness), we are able to enjoy togetherness with God when we practice it now, aligning all three with Him and His will in ever-increasing measure and be transformed into His spiritual likeness (2 Corinthians 3:18).

 

Dear Father, today, I recognize that I am occupying a dark world that is not my home, but that You are King over all, even that prince of darkness who has limited rein in this age. I submit to You, Lord, and ask that You use me as an agent of Your will here on Earth. Bring about Your will for me, even as I am used to bring about Your will in the lives of those around me. Keep me from harm while I am employed in Your service, that I may be of better use to You and my fellows. Give me this day my daily supply, and protect me from evil, both from the spiritual attacks of the powers of darkness and from the deplorable rule of self in my mind. Help me live in Your liberty, and accept the gift of my voluntary service to You.

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