What A Mess!

mess-trimmed

The above photo was taken last fall in my backyard. We have several bushes back there that had really grown over the last three years. I had not taken the time to prune them, so this past summer, the vines decided to hitch a ride on the overgrown bushes and began attacking the power lines. I needed to get that situation under control, so that we could continue to live in the 21st century, so I did some pruning.

I now have a big mess on my hands, and it’s all because I didn’t prune.

As I was hacking away at these bushes, the Lord reminded me of His words in John 15:

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” – John 15:1-2

Pruning is necessary. It’s painful, but it’s necessary in order that we might bear more fruit.

My backyard is an example of why our lives need pruning.

When we’re left to ourselves, we make quite the mess. We’re all over the place. But with His direction and guidance via the trimming that He does, we are made healthy and more productive.

This pruning He does can be false ideologies, sin, relationships, etc. He will cut away anything that hinders His purpose for our lives.

When we find ourselves in the midst of a pruning season, it’s not easy to be happy about it. However, we should take solace in the fact that our Father knows what He’s doing and He knows how to best position us for proper, long-term growth.

We must surrender to the pruning shears of the Father. Because only there will our messes be made into lasting fruit.

No Sugar For A Month: How It Went

sugar-top2

Over the weekend I finished up my month of Kissing Sugar Goodbye. I actually went the whole month and avoided sugar. This was a big deal for me, especially as I had tried to go sans-sugar before and I didn’t get past day 14.

I was more serious this time and even eliminated sugar substitutes such as stevia or maple syrup, which I believe helped keep the cravings at bay. I was hardcore about it and it paid off.

Prior to this month, my sugar consumption had already been limited due to following a Paleo/primal/low-carb diet. However, I still supplemented my diet with protein shakes (that were sweetened with a mixture of stevia and cane sugar), as well as mints and dark chocolate after a meal. I would also enjoy a splurge meal once a week that normally involved consuming lots of sweets (and often turned into splurge days).

I walked away from all of that for a month, and I must say I like the feeling of being free of it.

Throughout my life I’ve had quite the sweet tooth. For some people it’s bread. For some people it’s alcohol. For me, it was sugar. Whenever I would get the urge for something sweet, it wasn’t possible for me to just eat one or two pieces and be done. I had to eat the whole bag.

So I took 30 days to see if I could abstain from it all together.

Here are some of the things I did in order to help me achieve my goal:

  1. After a meal

    I liked to have a piece of chocolate or mint after a meal. You know that after eating taste that just sits in your mouth? Ugh. Bothers me to no end. So since sugar or sugar substitutes weren’t an option, I had to get creative.

    Some days:

    I got a travel size bottle of mouth wash and rinsed after a meal. That took care of the taste.

    I added lime powder to my water, which tastes sweet, especially the longer I went away from sugar. That helped with the taste as well.

    I grabbed a cup of coffee after a meal. Again, taste went bye bye.

  2. Cravings

    I think the normal sugar cravings lasted for a week or so. But definitely after about 10 days, I didn’t crave sugar any more. During the time when the cravings were still around, I would conquer them by doing a few things:

    I added lime powder to my water and chugged it.

    I had a few raisins to give me just the right amount of desired sweetness.

    I also ate some cheese. I saw this tip some where online and it actually helped.

  3. Protein shakes

    As I mentioned before, I regularly consume protein shakes to accommodate my working out. Since these shakes are sweetened, I needed to come up with my own concoction.

    I bought some unflavored, unsweetened whey protein. I threw in a half of a banana, couple of teaspoons of cocoa powder, a few drops of vanilla, some xanthan gum and voila a great, natural alternative to the pre-packaged stuff.

  4. Food labels

    I read the labels on everything, as much as possible. There is sugar in almost everything, or so it seems.

    I ended up making pizza sauce at home, as well as my own ketchup and almond butter (pizza sauce, ketchup and peanut/almond butter all have added sugars). And if I didn’t have time or the ability to make my own, I just avoided the item. It wasn’t necessarily the funnest experience (ie. salad with no dressing), but I believe it was and is worth it.

All in all, I plan on staying away from sugar as much as possible. I no longer crave it and I like that feeling. I also like the fact that I was much more emotionally stable throughout the month (I believe sugar to affect me mentally/emotionally as I mentioned previously).

If you’ve never eliminated sugar, I’d encourage you to go for a period of time without it and see how you feel. I bet you’ll be glad you did.

In the vein of full disclosure: I did have Pizza Hut pizza one time during this month. It was a meal purchased for me and I was hangry. I assume there was a bit of sugar in the sauce, it did affect me, however it did not knock me off my horse. I stayed the course.

He Laid Aside His Outer Garments

jesus-washing-feet-of-disciples

The records we have, in the Gospels, of Jesus interacting with others, paint a very important picture of who Jesus was and is. He was gracious, compassionate, merciful and loving. He broke societal boundaries and made the self-righteous religious squirm.

The perspective John gives us of Jesus goes even further than Jesus’ interactions with others to an understanding of Jesus and His relationship with the Father. We get to peak inside Jesus’ head, and heart, for ever a brief moment.

The time Jesus washed His disciples feet, on the night He would be betrayed, gives us one of those glimpses into the depths of Jesus’ soul.

“During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist.” – John 13:2-4

Traditionally, what Jesus did was relegated to the servants, the hired help. Washing the dinner guest’s feet was definitely not something the host would ever be found doing. Yet here we have Jesus, the Son of God, taking off His robe, kneeling down and washed His disciples’ feet.

The verses quoted above paints a beautiful picture of what Jesus was dealing with internally. And theres’s two things that stick out to me:

1. Judas had already been tempted and bought into the plan to betray Jesus.

Yet Jesus still washed His feet. And, Yes, Jesus knew who would betray Him (see John 13:25-27).

Jesus washed the feet of the one who would essentially stab Him in the back.

Wow.

That is so hard to wrap my mind around.

To think Jesus knew who would betray Him and He still washed their feet. He served Judas in the face of betrayal. Why? Because that’s who Jesus is: a servant. He’s a servant even in the face of the one who would set in motion the events of His death.

Wow. Just wow.

The second thing that sticks out to me is this:

2. Jesus was able to do this (face His betrayer and do a servant’s job) because He knew who He was and He knew who His Father was.

This verse: “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper” says it all.

Jesus was confident in His identity as the Son of God, as well as, He was confident in His relationship with the Father.

It didn’t matter what He was about to face. It didn’t matter who was about to do something to Him. It didn’t matter that He was about to do something that would break social norms. He didn’t care what His disciples thought. All of those limits and boundaries we place on ourselves, He overcame because of His relationship with the Father.

I want that understanding. I NEED that revelation.

For someone that still struggles with fear of man, it’s so hard to consistently walk in this understanding that I too am a child of God. I am a loved son. Because of Jesus, I am fully accepted in the Father and no matter what comes my way (people or circumstances) I must walk in this identity and rest.

But that’s so hard, isn’t it?

This is why multiple times in Scripture we are implored to set our minds above, to renew our thinking. We have to allow Holy Spirit, through His Word to change how we think. That takes time. That takes consistency. And while it is by grace, I must obey and work towards setting my mind on the truth.

It also requires we set aside somethings, much like Jesus physically setting aside His robe. One of those things we must set aside is pride and fear of man.

Because come hell or high water… I want to serve my (perceived) adversaries and go against the social grains, while walking in freedom from man’s opinions.

I want to be like Jesus.