Archive for the ‘Spiritual Struggle’ Category

Ever have one of those days where you feel like scrapping everything you’ve worked for because things are just that hard? Today, I came too close for comfort.

The problem. Well it is complex. Apparently my previous university gave me about $1,000 too much in subsidized Stafford loans. I didn’t find out about this until I got accepted to UNC-Greensboro for my doctorate. At which point I was told I couldn’t receive ANY unsubsidized Stafford loans because of the over payment.

The last three months have been a quest to find out who is responsible: Wells Fargo (my lender), North Carolina State (my previous institution), or Direct Loans (the federal program). I have been told of two possible solutions.

  1. I figure out a way to pay my lender (representing the feds) $1,000+ dollars. Such is impossible since we don’t even know how we will pay our living expenses this July (no paychecks for either of us). So how in the heck am I going to find $1,000 bucks?
  2. NC State sends Wells-Fargo the money back and in return Wells-Fargo cuts a new unsubsidized loan for the same amount. That sounds simple doesn’t it? Well it is. In order to do that I would have to apply for a whole new loan and the process would take 4 – 6 months. I start classes at UNC-Greensboro in August- two months from now.

I could just scream I am so angry. No one at NC State is offering me any help. No one at my lender is offering any help. And no one at the U.S. Department of Ed. is lifting a finger. Each one says it is the other two’s problem.

Meanwhile I have no clue how I am going to afford the gas to drive back and forth to UNCG- a two hour drive each way. Much less pay for books, fees, etc.

Please keep me in your prayers. This is taking a serious toll on my sanity and my stress level is way up.

I just try to have faith that God will provide and remember Christ’s words

“Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” Luke 12:6-7

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?”

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:25-34.

God values me and he will never forget me. Although it is a struggle, I will keep my faith that the Lord will provide. Whether it means finding a job for the month, a check in the mail, or a kind stranger. I have faith God will come through. And I must admit I can’t wait to see how he does it.

Well this morning I weighed in only to find out (despite my expectations to the contrary) that I weighed 169.8 lbs.  170 lb barrier, meet determination, determination, this is 170 lb barrier.  It is good to see that determination won out. 

This means that I am now less that 10 lbs away from my goal weight of 159 (healthy) lbs.  Just to think of that is amazing.  Even if I only lose one pound a week, that means that in ten weeks I could be at that point I have thought of since I began this weight loss journey in February.  It doesn’t get much more inspiring than that.

Thank God for the patience- since I know I have never had enough before. I feel so blessed to see this moment.  After countless failed diets and only semi-successful attempts at weight loss I had been discouraged when I began four months ago. 

Just to think of my past attempts was depressing.  I tried to lose weight before my wedding (in 2004) and got down to 179 lbs only to regain the weight during the first few months of my marriage.  I tried to lose weight back in 2006 only to get down to 184 and then balloon back up to 206 (my highest weight ever) thanks to just giving up when I hit a nasty plateau at 183 lbs.  The only difference between me then and me now is determination and perseverance.  The old me would have given up half a dozen times these last few months, the new me finds enough support and encouragement in prayer and friends to move ahead despite despair. 

Thank you all for your help and encouragement over these last few months.        

When I get home I will take some new pics and have them posted sometime tomorrow. 

Solomon is a good example of starting strong and fading away as the race goes on. Tempted by foreign wives and gods, Solomon forgot his roots. Yet, his writing are enormously beneficial to us. Perhaps they are more beneficial to us than they were to him. Why? Because we have the benefit of his knowledge PLUS the hindsight to know how his life turned out.

Solomon’s pursuit of wisdom began pure and righteous:

“Now, O LORD my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?” 1 Kings 3:7-9.

In Response God blessed Solomon with great wisdom:

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Today I will be working on some unfinished work. I am polishing up a short article for submission to the New Bern Historical Journal about the events as Street’s Bridge in 1821. For anyone interested, a larger discussion of the events at Street’s Bridge can be found in the first chapter of my thesis.

Beyond that I need to begin work on a new article I hope to submit to the North Carolina Historical Review. My new article will discuss the condition of the North Carolina Militia between the war of 1812 and the Mexican-American war of 1846.

Beyond the above topics I am looking into possible papers on

  1. “Amazing Grace:” A Look into the Religious Outlook of Southern Slaves. Reading through slave narratives, the amount of faith in Christ (and their own personal redemption from slavery) is amazing considering their unique circumstances. (I’ll post an example later)
  2. North Carolina Slave Patrols on the Eve of the Civil War.  Very few have researched North Carolina’s slave patrol system.  With the exception of Sally Hadden’s work (not to mention my own thesis; and that of another grad student) the study of North Carolina’s slave patrol has been largely neglected.
  3. Wards of the State: The Orphans of War.  The story of how the children of one officer who served in the war of 1812 received significant compensation directly from the state- including financing an education at West Point (books, uniforms, etc.).

I know I promised I wasn’t going to weigh myself for two weeks.  Here we are three days into the challenge and I couldn’t resist.  So, while the bad news is that I failed to keep my promise, the good news is that I now weigh in at 173.8lbs.
While my O.C.D. isn’t serious, it is enough to be quite frustrating.  I think I inherited this problem from my parents.  My mother can’t leave the house without checking the burners on the stove at least four times.  My father uses boiled water to clean his toothbrush every time before brushing.

What about my O.C.D.?  Well it takes several different forms.  Every since I started this weight loss journey, most of the time I’ve been weighing in about three to four times a day.  But it goes beyond that.  I also feel the need to check my car’s emergency brake repeatedly during any ride in the car- same thing with the door lock button.

So while I am not opening and closing every door three times, or arranging everything around me in an orderly manner (I am actually quite the opposite), this mild form of O.C.D. is bothersome enough.

I was originally going to title this post, “How to Leave Your Church.” However, the title fell far short of what I wanted this post to convey. While this post will address the right way to leave a church, this post is much bigger than that. I want to speak to our western world view and how it plays into our actions within the church and as a body of believers.

Take that phrase, “body of believers,” and think on it.

Paul refers to the “body” often in his various epistles. But can we understand what he means? Is our frame of reference able to comprehend the gravity of that word?

Living in a Constitutional Republic, each of us is accustomed to knowing and exercising our rights. Even those ignorant of the Constitutional specifics know that they have rights. Those rights don’t belong to certain groups, but to the people. They are individual rights that each member of society is capable of exercising without seeking permission or blessing. And while this has been a political blessing, it has also served as a spiritual curse.

As a result, we feel entitled even in the church setting to seek comfort, to go after what pleases us, and to find our own happiness. Just think of how many times you’ve heard the phrase, “How can I grow in Christ” compared with the phrase, “How can we grow together in Christ.” Sadly, church has become an individual exercise of weekly attendance. Where is submission? Where is sacrifice? Where are the shared burdens?

To make matters worse we use or freedom to avoid growth.

Too often, as members of the church we take offense, and instead of confronting our brother, we simply move on to another congregation. Instead of letting these kind of conflicts lead to stronger bonds of brotherhood and friendship, we seek the immediate comfort of avoidance. But in doing such you haven’t solved a problem, you have merely carried your own problem to another church- where it is destined to arise again at some point.

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You’ve seen these folks before, you might even be one. They don’t trust in their own abilities. They worry about whether or not they can make (and keep) a real commitment and as a result never commit to anything. They stagnant and fester, unchanging and afraid. That kind of life isn’t worth living, I know because I’ve lived it.

Losing faith in your own abilities doesn’t happen overnight. It is the result of countless promises you failed to keep. For me it was a promise I made to conduct a bible study everyday for 45 minutes. I would try and I would fail- over and over. Finally, I rationalized my failure, I just couldn’t do it. So I refused to start that commitment over again. Why should I? I was destined to fail- or at least I thought so.

I followed the same course with my eating habits.  I tried to commit to eating better.  And I did- for about a week or two, sometimes maybe four or five.  But eventually it happened, inevitably I went off the deep end and consume a whole pizza or a whole king sized Burger King meal.  Once I did that, why not eat some cookies and drink a milkshake?

So I want to ask you. How often has a lack of faith in your own abilities kept you from God? How often has it kept you from adopting a positive change in your life?

Yes, when we come to God, we must at some level accept that we are powerless to save ourselves. But we must also have faith that He will give us the strength to move ahead toward a better and more fulfilling life. Without that faith we are left to flounder and wriggle at the end of a hook composed of our own self-doubt and lack of trust (in self and God).

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation ; the old has gone, the new has come!” 2 Corinthians 5:17.

Submit yourself prayerfully, look towards the end in all you do, and walk your path accordingly. You will find you can accomplish more than you ever thought possible.

“God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Galatians 6: 7-9.

How often do we (to use a Covey phrase) begin with the end in mind? How much would our lives improve if we thought about the possible outcomes of our actions? Not just the big ones, but our daily attitude, perspective, and actions.

Too often we sow all kinds of harmful seeds without even realizing our actions. It might be harmful habits like smoking, unhealthy eating, and excessive drinking. These actions build up and snowball over time. But what will you sow?

A life of hard drinking can lead to small things at first, things like simple regret over saying the wrong thing. In the end, after a longer season, the results can be much worse- losing your family, home, and even your life. A life of over eating can at the least lead to sluggishness and poor self-image. But given long enough over eating can bring you to the horrors of clogged arteries, heart disease, etc.

You can change this though!

Start sowing new seeds today. Live a deliberate life, think out your choices, fully contemplate your actions. This is your choice; this is your life. Take control.

“…in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”

Life changes take one day to begin, and a lifetime to complete. But if you persevere you will reap a reward. If you change your unhealthy eating habits today, down the road you will reap a bountiful harvest.

Take my transformation challenge as an example. After only a week not only had my weight declined, but my resting heart rate and my blood pressure improved. In two weeks the drop in my resting heart rate and my blood pressure was significant. After a month I weighed was almost sixteen pounds less, and my waist was almost two inches smaller.

And now, here I am three months and two days later. When you see these numbers, don’t think of how far I’ve come, think of how much YOU COULD DO in just three months.

Weight then 206.3 lbs

Weight now 175.6 lbs

Waist then 41 1/2 inches

Waist now 36 inches

Body-fat Percentage then 27.8%

Body-far percentage now 19.7%

BMI then 29.7

BMI now 26.

I am not special in this regard. You can do this too. Just follow three simple steps.

  1. Visualize and write down your goals honestly and specifically.
  2. Start taking the necessary steps to achieve your goals.
  3. Persevere! Persevere! Persevere!

I didn’t want to give a false impression with my last post. The change that took place required 3 long months of patience and endurance (and much prayer). Here are the pictures to prove it. I tried to take at least one for each week, some weeks I took more, some weeks I took less.

Feb 8th                      Feb 15th

croppedchestfeb81.JPG feb 15th

March 2nd                   March 16th

march2frontcropped1.JPG  March 16th

April 4th                 April 23rd

April 4 front april 23rd crop

May 6th

may-6-2007-crop-front.jpg

I will repost this when I reach 170lbs. Same goes for new after pictures.

For all of you out there toughing your way through a weight loss program- hang in there. Given enough time, we all can succeed.

What motivates growth? Not too long ago I posted about how change forces us to grow. Today, I have another factor that contributes to personal growth in mind. That factor is pain. Who hasn’t heard the saying, “No pain, no gain.” Whether on a T.V. show, and old training video, or from the lug-nut at the gym who is bench pressing a weight so heavy that it appears his eyes will pop out of their sockets and his arms are shaking so hard they just might fall off- at some point someone has said that phrase within ear shot. But is it correct?

Pain is a large motivation for change. It pushes us to adapt or give in- there is no middle ground. It might be your workouts; it might be your commitment to church; it might be your marriage.  Whatever the circumstances, can you give even when it hurts.  Can you do that last rep in a bench press set?  Can you work for your church on more than just Sunday morning?  Can you let your wife choose the T.V. show for the night?

Can you move beyond your comfort level, can you move beyond convenience.  When you do, you will discover a new life- one much more fulfilling than the older version.