Come on. Beat yesterday. You got this!

(Guest blog by Jodi Shultz Klepper)

d0e721f7-be7e-44be-b24e-e336ab8b1e88-getty-916942690We are completely spoiled. No milking cows in the morning to have milk for breakfast. As a matter of fact, we have many options. Soy, Almond, lactose-free, full-fat, lower-fat, fat-free, chocolate, hazelnut, even pumpkin spice when the time is right. No more chasing a chicken around, killing it, plucking it, boning it, and butchering it when it is time for dinner. We just go to the store and pick out the parts we desire! If we want salad, there it is in a bag, washed and ready to eat. Veggies to munch on? Yep, all cut up and packaged to throw right in the picnic basket. And the grocery stores just keep making it easier and easier! Deli sections with ready to cook (or already cooked) meals, fresh breads and sandwiches already wrapped just waiting for a plate. An Olive bar, salad bar with steaming soup, chicken wing bar, sushi counter, and even a Starbucks—all in the Fry’s Marketplace one mile from my home. And Click List, where were you when I had babies??? Seriously, there is no room for argument, we are completely spoiled.

Oh, and don’t forget the companies that deliver boxes of fresh ingredients, with a recipe, and all you have to do is open and follow directions for a fresh, hot meal. Alexa, Smart phones/TV, Amazon prime even got one-upped by 2-hour delivery! Let’s talk online shopping for a minute…oh my goodness, my favorite. Am I complaining? NO! The blessings abound! So many wonderful tools, it all makes living a healthy lifestyle so easy…right?

Know better…Do better.

We know so much and have so much at our disposal. And yet we live in a time when obesity is an epidemic in the United States. Diabetes and heart disease kill moms, dads, brothers, aunts, sisters, grandmas, cousins, friends…not just numbers on a graph…people, loved ones, every day. Maybe you are still sitting on the fence trying to decide if it is worth the effort to lose the weight you want to. Maybe you are dragging your feet on your annual checkup even though you’ve been having shortness of breath. Maybe you just can’t cope like you used to be able to and would be embarrassed if your co-workers knew how much you drink. Please hear me, the time for change is now.

Here are some headlines from the local news today: (Thanks AZ family app)

“Woman struck by car, left with critical injuries”
“Teacher dies from flu…”
“Father of 4 kill at sports bar after fight over dog’s weight”
“Grand Canyon helicopter crash…4 rescued, 3 dead”
“Family IDs British tourists killed in Grand Canyon crash”
“Driver hospitalized after car hits pole in Gilbert”
“Woman killed by RV backing up at WestWorld in Scottsdale”
“Teen boy wounded in Glendale shooting”

This is some crazy stuff! Did any of these people expect to be injured or killed as they put their pants on yesterday morning? Doubtful. There are many variables that we have no control over. But what about the variables we can control?

  • We can enjoy the Fry’s’ amenities and eat more healthfully.
  • We can decrease our stress.
  • We can have open and honest relationships.
  • We can exercise on a regular basis.
  • We can forgive and let go of bitterness.
  • We can pray.
  • We can have meaningful hobbies and play.
  • We can learn and grow and heal destructive patterns.

It is easy to get overwhelmed if we try to change fifteen things at once! So, I usually pick one or two areas to focus on and then set some goals, short-term and long-term. I also like to hang a carrot out there…something I want or would enjoy that I can shoot for. A trip, a tattoo, dance lessons, plastic surgery…something you’ll work for! We are created to work and crave, we just need to get moving in the right direction and then we’re golden!

I’m so inspired by watching the Olympics. However, sometimes I look at my own life and think, “they are so disciplined and so driven, and I can’t even stay away from chocolate for a week”. Then comes a choice. I can sulk, feel sorry for myself, and beat myself up while I eat chocolate covered pretzels, OR I can be motivated by their accomplishments, put some gum in my mouth, and draft a plan! Creating a healthy lifestyle is a day to day journey. The choices keep coming and the struggle is real, especially when curve balls come and hit you in between the eyes. But please step towards health. No one is guaranteed tomorrow. That’s legit. So, come with me! Make some goals, find some friends for the journey, and create the life you want. It might take some time. But next week, you’ll be glad you started today! Come on…beat yesterday…you got this!

 

The Elephant Whisperer

dream-flyingHave you ever awakened from a vivid dream that seemed, after you were conscious, to be totally ridiculous? As I was growing up, I often dreamed that I was flying, an exhilarating experience swooping up and over treetops and soaring high above the clouds with the birds. I wish I could lasso that dream again! Sometimes I dreamed that after tying up snakes they grew legs through their ropes and ran after me! As I grew older, I began to have that awkward dream in which you find yourself naked in a crowd.

In my teenage years my dreams included sexual fantasies that embarrassed me upon waking up. Usually they included no one I knew. Only once do I remember a truly frightening dream. Our family was being chased by a crazed madman with a knife through endless rose gardens and mazes of a huge mansion. I woke up right after I had stabbed him to death. I was out of breath and wet with perspiration.

One of my most memorable and revealing dreams occurred as I was sinking into major depression. I was on a high suspension bridge over a murky river at the bottom of a rocky gorge. The cold water was foaming and churning far below. Many people were on the bridge with me, all members of the church I was pastoring at the time. One young woman ran to the edge, climbed over the railing and jumped, plunging like a rock. Most of those on the bridge rushed over to me, calling out that I should to jump in after her to save her. I knew that my jumping could not help her, and probably would be suicidal. Even so, after a moment of agonizing indecision, I jumped. I woke up as I was falling.

Today my dreams tend to end in frustration: e.g., I am ready to officiate at a funeral and look in the coffin only to discover that I have no idea who the person is; or I open my Bible to preach in front of a large crowd and my notes are completely blank. For several months last year I had severely troubling dreams which left me feeling hopeless and lost.

 Where do dreams come from and what do they mean?

The Bible sometimes describes the purpose of dreams as the foretelling of some future event, such as Pharaoh’s dreams that predicted seven years of famine. Daniel was able to tell Nebuchadnezzar the meaning of his fantastic dream which explained the future downfall of his Kingdom and the eventual rise of the Kingdom of God. Joseph, Mary’s husband, was directed specifically through dreams both before and after his marriage.

Modern psychology has opened doors to dream interpretation. It seems that our subconscious mind uses sleep to process our experiences and emotions. Many dreams are shared by people of all nations and generations: they include falling, flying, being chased, taking a test for which we’re not prepared, and that dream about being naked. Generally, these dreams are easily understood, as they express feelings common to humankind.[1] Normal dreams are forgettable, often nonsensical, and of little consequence. However, dreams can be complex and difficult to understand. Dreams can also be frightening or bothersome, leaving you troubled and fretful. Traumatic experiences often replay over and over in dreams, further exhausting us. War experiences, abuse, deprivation—all of these slog their way through our dreams. And dreams occasionally reflect darker events that reflect severe emotional imbalance, psychosis, or even demon possession.

 The Elephant Whisperer

John, a pastor friend of ours, said recently that our emotions are like an elephant and we are the rider/handler, or mahout. The rider has the implements of control, yet sits in a precarious position because the elephant is much stronger. Most mahouts today live in India and Thailand. A recent study of these mahouts divulged that most of them were raised with the elephants they handle, and all of them claimed a deep love for their animals. Yet an overwhelming 91.7% have been attacked/injured by their elephant. Among the mahouts who have been attacked by an elephant, 56.7% were attacked more than three times and remaining 35% were attacked one or two times. According to the nature of injuries sustained, 45% of the respondents received major injuries, 26.7% sustained minor injuries, and the remaining 20% of them were grievously injured with a resultant handicap.[2]

Our emotions are like those elephants. We are familiar with them since they’ve been around as long as we can remember. Yet they can catch us off guard, wound us, or even provoke despair and sadness. Dreams move like shadows, nighttime waves on an ocean shore, difficult to understand because of the darkness of the subconscious. They are unpredictable reflections of our elephants/emotions but often reveal what we cannot see in our waking moments. Dreams are neither right nor wrong. They rise in our deepest psyche where our truest personality resides. Can their meanings be harnessed? Is it possible to tame their frightening episodes or banish their lusty images?

A horse or dog whisperer is someone who has an almost mysterious ability to communicate with horses or dogs. They can communicate on equine or canine levels to bring difficult animals under control and to rehabilitate animals that seem beyond help. Jesus is our elephant whisperer. He not only can tame our emotions but he brings sense out of them and orders them into life-giving patterns. Furthermore, Jesus moves effortlessly through our subconscious world and clearly sees the sources and meanings of our dreams. He can help us control them, banish them, and learn from them.

Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 2 that because of the Holy Spirit, we have access to the very thoughts of God. In chapters 14-16 of his gospel, John explains the work and purposes of the Holy Spirit: God’s constant companionship, his desire to open our hearts and minds to God’s truth, and his superhuman ability to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. Paul teaches that those whose lives are under the control of the Holy Spirit—our Elephant Whisperer—will enjoy love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control (Galatians 5:22-23).

 But back to dreams…

Remember my disturbing dream of the bridge and the jumper? I was led to a godly counselor who helped me understand that this dream revealed that I had the Messiah Complex: I was operating with the unconscious belief that I was personally responsible for the decisions and actions of my church members. If they did well, I rejoiced. If they made bad choices, I took the blame. The counselor helped me see how ridiculous this was, and I, in turn, have been able to better manage my life. Depression was the end result of this complex, and now I lead a more normal life with the help of medication.

elephant_rider_by_gorosart-d7azk1i At bedtime I ask God specifically to control my dreams. That children’s prayer, “Now I lay me down to sleep, I ask the Lord my soul to keep….” is a good idea. God revealed to me that I should ask Karon and my children to pray with me to help control my severely troubling dreams that oppressed me for several weeks. I also have learned to wake myself up if a dream begins going toward that bad ending.

I said earlier that dreams are neither right nor wrong. But they can express horrible emotions or gratuitous sexual fantasies that feed the evil tendencies we all find within us. In that same nighttime prayer—or perhaps throughout the night—ask God to remove all that is profane from your dreams. (For ideas, read Galatians 5:16-21).

How about your dreams? Perhaps the Elephant Whisperer will open a window for you into this mysterious world.

 

[1] Meaning of dreams: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dreamscloud/meaning-of-dreams_b_4504512.html

[2] http://asiannature.org/sites/default/files/OR%2014%20Elephant%20attacks%20on%20mahouts%20in%20Kerala.pdf

I Will Take Care of You

In earlier blogs I have talked about my pain from a degenerating spine. Surgery in October of 2014 promised relief which did not materialize. More recent tests have revealed multiple issues and my surgeon has declined further surgery at this point. For the last year I have managed pretty well with pain medicine and even enjoyed a trip to Florida for our fiftieth wedding anniversary. In recent days, however, new pain episodes have occurred which impeded walking. Fortunately this pain has been temporary and passed in a day or so.

These episodes have made me think. If you’re like me, you usually jump to the worst scenario. Will I have to use a wheelchair? Will I be able to walk? Will we have to sell the house? The fact that my mother spent the last twenty years of her life in a wheelchair lurks darkly in the back of my mind.

My wife, Karon, is always super helpful at times like this to keep me level-headed. She is good at balancing compassion with level-headedness, and and so I am going to return to the doctors and see about additional spinal injections. Yet I wonder…

God speaks

light streaming through forestA couple of days ago I went into the bathroom late afternoon for medicine. My hamstrings were aching terribly and the new pain was on my mind. Out of the blue God spoke: “David, I will take care of you.” I have learned to recognize these rare moments when God intervenes with a word for me, but these unexpected words of comfort were clear and incontrovertible. They were not whispered but almost shouted into my ear.

I don’t know if you believe in things like this, but I do. I am immensely grateful for such undeserved moments. Why the Creator of the Universe should care about me, much less communicate His care, is inexplicable. But God wasn’t done yet…

Quite often I waken in the night from troubling dreams. I think perhaps that my medication makes them more intense. These dreams are all similar: in every one I am in an exasperating situation, like showing up to preach a funeral only to discover I don’t know any of the people there, including the deceased. At times I am traveling and get lost in a large foreign airport teeming with strangers, or I arrive to speak at a convention, step to the podium, and discover the notes I brought are blank paper. My entire career involved preaching and traveling and perhaps my subconscious mind is processing years of unspoken fears. Occasionally I have enlisted prayer support from my wife and children when the dreams become darker and scarier.

God’s gift

Just one night after God’s message to me, “I will take care of you,” I had a vivid, brilliant, and completely different kind of dream. I found myself in an extensive building with soaring ceilings and beautiful appointments. An ingenious blending of indoors and outdoors gave the impression of timeless wonder. Wide corridors lined with planters and fountains opened into spacious rooms filled with light and peace. Everywhere there was a sense of tranquility, holiness, and safety. Beautiful, ethereal music somehow interpreted what I was looking at.

Tall windows looked out onto breathtaking views. Behind three churchlike windows tall trees in the bronze of autumn color stood majestically. They were backlit with the light of dawn. A gentle breeze drifted through their branches and leaves floated quietly down, spiraling, twisting, hovering, and sinking. The slightest tinkle of wind chimes could be heard in the distance.

Behind a wall of the palest aquamarine glass was a huge aquarium in whose transparent waters floated exotic fish and coral fans swaying in the warm current. There was no sound, but the movement of the fish and the corals seemed to produce their own music.

Hallways and alcoves were covered with iridescent mosaics that shimmered in hues of pale green, blue, and mother of pearl. High windows slanted light and shadows into the rooms and hallways where benches offered a many places to sit in contemplation.

There were many people present who met me with warm smiles and kindness; but no one intruded into my thoughts or interrupted my observation. I felt almost as though I were in a large hotel where the muffled sounds of conversation mixed with the clinking of silverware and china in a nearby restaurant. It was a holy and indescribably beautiful sanctuary that went on forever without effort, maintenance, or care. There was no hurry. There were no expectations. No lost notes. No pain. Only wonderful beauty, light, peace, and uninterrupted serenity.

As I awoke from this dream I again heard God’s voice, “I will take care of you.” I am not sure whether, for this blissful moment, God gave me a vision of heaven, that unimaginably beautiful place where death, fear, pain, and tears will be banished. Maybe God created this vision of the things I love, the world that feeds my soul, and beauty that transcends pain in order to let me know that the desires of my heart are important to him. But I know this, I am not alone and the One who redeemed me also cares for me now and forever.

I know something else. God cares for you, also. He will speak into your life and your pain if you will listen for him. Have you noted that in Scripture, whenever an angel came to someone, the first words were, “fear not?” This is God’s first and deepest desire for you. Jesus said, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am” (John 14:1-3).

He will take care of you.