Reflections On Psalm 1

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I can remember when I valued exercise as a very vital, necessary part of my daily life. Back in the 1980’s there was this exercise show on TV called, “The Twenty Minute Workout.” I stumbled upon it one morning after I fed my toddler son breakfast and he was happily playing with his toys. In my early days of mamma hood I often left the TV on just for background noise, to keep me company, I guess. At the time, I hadn’t learned the importance of letting God and His Word keep me company!! Those were the days when I was still fickle and inconsistent in my relationship with Him, finding my way back after years of going my own way.

Sad, but true.

The Twenty Minute Workout was hosted by a woman whose name has escaped me. She and 2 other beautiful women with sculpted bodies and cute coordinating leotards, complete with leg warmers and tights, instructed the viewing audience in a highly energized aerobic fitness routine. I sat and watched that first time, completely enthralled.

The next morning, I donned sweatpants and a t-shirt (cute leotards, tights and the leg warmers would come later) and with all the determination and gusto I could muster, I not only watched, I joined them right there in the living room of my apartment. I’m so glad there was no one but my little boy to watch me moving around the room like that, moving my body in ways that made my bones and muscles squeal with delight. Yes, delight. Because I was hooked.

I started on an aerobic fitness journey for the next 10 years that kept me fit and focused and did wonders for my poor self-esteem. After a couple of years, The Twenty Minute Workout was completely embedded in the halls of my memory bank. I no longer needed the TV. I could take my workout with me everywhere I went and, believe me, I did. When Jazzercise came to town during those lean years I soon learned that 20 minutes of aerobics was no longer enough for me. Jazzercize became my new thing! Three to 4 times a week I danced to music with a roomful of other women for hour-long sessions of intense dance routines that left me breathless.

How I wish I could find my exercise-happy these days. I’m so fickle and inconsistent with exercise that sometimes I just want to scream, “Jesus, PLEASE! Help me take care of this old body. Help me find something….ANYthing…that I love as much as The Twenty Minute Workout!” (Doesn’t sound very spiritual, I know, but I really, really loved that workout and I’ve never found any other exercise I love as much.)

See…it’s important we love it or else we won’t want to do it.

We’re already eight days into 2016. And, guess what? I’ve not even gone for one 40 minute walk around town.

Not one.

And I used to enjoy walking.

I’ve been feeling kinda puny lately. Back in December some health issues creeped into my life and I’m not going to lie…they were kinda serious. After an initial trip to the emergency room, I’ve been passed from doctor to doctor, been wheeled around on more than one gurney for more than one test, and I’m still not done. As one doctor stated, “It might take several tries before you get an answer.”

I haven’t felt much like exercising, but I’ve noticed something….in the last couple of months I’ve gone from walking to standing to sitting.

A LOT of sitting.

And I don’t like it at all.

This morning I was thinking of Psalm 1 where the idea of walking…not standing…not sitting…

speaks to a man who is blessed. A man who is happy. A man who finds delight in the law of the Lord. A man who finds his happy-place by meditating on God’s Word and then living it out.

A man who doesn’t walk in the counsel of the wicked but walks in the counsel of his God.

A man who doesn’t stand in the path of sinners but walks in the path of righteousness.

A man who doesn’t sit in the seat of mockers but walks to the throne of grace.

This man is so happy he’s like a tree. A flourishing tree. A tree with a healthy life and breath and soul prosperity. A tree with strong branches and leaves and spirit fruit. A tree with a mighty trunk and bark and godly roots. A tree where the heart of it is fed water from fresh streams that never run dry.

Man won’t receive all this goodness lying down day after day, just staring at his Bible. Oh no. He must open it. And read it. And study it. And ponder it. And embed it upon his memory bank so he can take it wherever he goes.

And then…then…he must put it to practice. He must sit up. He must get up. He must walk it out, exercising his faith with assurance that all he has and all he needs is found in Jesus, the Living Word.

I’ve come a long way in my walk with Jesus since those early days of my return. I’m not as fickle as I used to be, but I’m not as consistent as I want to be. Yet, of this I’m sure…

The counsel of God is my plumbline.

The path of righteousness is my guideline.

The throne of grace is my bloodline.

The Word of God is my lifeline.

And I am so incredibly blessed. I’m not just happy, I’m delighted. Loving the Word has become part of my fitness journey of faith. I want to read it, know it, live it.

Because I am hooked.

“How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!

But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night.

He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers.” Psalm 1:1-3  

The Fruit Of Self-Control

UnknownI don’t like New Year’s resolutions. Not anymore. I think it’s wonderful that a new year inspires many to make positive lifestyle changes, but why wait for the New Year to start? I found out a long time ago that it didn’t really work for me. Those resolutions I made out of good intentions never seemed to take root. I would revert back to my old ways or habits after a few months and wonder why in the world I made them in the first place so I just don’t make them anymore. Instead, I want to make changes in my life all through the year. And I want those changes to last.

Let’s face it, sometimes change is hard. Breaking bad habits, overcoming addictions, softening hard hearts, tossing out rotten attitudes…it all takes work; like training to run a marathon, lifting weights to build muscle, aerobicizing (is that a word?) to strengthen the heart. Making positive changes requires discipline. Perseverance. Endurance. Self-control.

Oh, help.

I’ve struggled with a sugar addiction for years. I call myself a sugar addict, but I don’t know if the medical experts agree on that term. All I know is I’m hopelessly out-of-control when it comes to sugar. I eat way more than I should. I want it morning, noon, and night. I’d rather have a bag of cookies than a healthy dinner. I can’t eat just one cookie out of the bag…I eat the whole bag! I can’t eat just one small bowl of ice cream…I eat the whole half gallon. In one sitting! The same goes for cake and pie and candy. I drown my coffee with flavored creamers and double the fudge in my hot chocolate. Oh, and let’s not forget the brown sugar in the oatmeal and honey in the tea. Any time I can add sugar to the five, some say six, food groups I’m sweetly satisfied.

The truth is, there’s nothing wrong with one slice of cake after a meal or two cookies with a cup of afternoon tea, but I lack the self-control to do this and self-control is a fruit of the Spirit.

Uh-oh. I don’t like the sound of that because I want to be a fruit-bearer. I don’t want my branches lacking in purpose or withering in function. Just because self-control is the last of the nine fruits listed in Galations 5 doesn’t mean it’s not important.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” Galations 5:22

Lack of self-control means I’m not letting the Spirit control “ME.” If I want to bear more fruit in my life then I need to make changes that reflect the Spirit at work within me. That means I need more than physical food. I need Jesus.

“Remain in Me, and I in you. Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in Me. I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without Me.” John 15:4 & 5

I’ve learned I can never get enough of Jesus. I have to be so hopelessly addicted to Him that when my brain tells me I need a “sugar fix” I can feast on His unfailing love instead and be satisfied. Honestly, it doesn’t come naturally, but if I really want more of Jesus in my life then, for me, that means I have to choose Him over a slice of cake or bowl of ice cream some days. And sometimes it’s hard ’cause I really, really want the cake.

I have to choose discipline. I persevere. I endure. I practice self-control. I depend upon Jesus to help me because I can’t do it without Him and you know what? After a while, I find there’s a sweetness to life that doesn’t include sugar at all. Every time I say “No” to self I’m saying “Yes” to Him. Somehow, no jumbo-white-chocolate-macadamia-nut-cookie compares to the perfect fruit of the Vine.

Maybe one day I’ll have this self-control-thing down pat, but if I don’t start with my sugar addiction it could spread to other areas of my life and that scares me. I don’t want to lose all my branches, even though I know I need pruning every now and then to produce the most fruit possible. I want my roots to run so deep that no fire, no flood, no storm of life can destroy the hard work I put into training my body to reflect the work of the Gardener.

SoOooooo…here’s to a year of fruit-bearing, my friends…may our branches grow strong and produce an abundance of self-control in all areas of our lives. Let’s do Vine-life together where we stay connected to the true Vine…the One who makes life truly sweet. Let’s resolve to make positive changes that last all year long. Why wait for another year to start?