|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.13(d)|
Read an Excerpt
Don't Toot in a Tanning Bed(and other life lessons God taught me)
By Karen Heinrich
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2012 Karen Heinrich
All right reserved.
Chapter OneDon't Toot in a Tanning Bed
Have you ever noticed how God is able to use the smallest and most mundane (or in this case, perhaps bizarre is a better word) events in life to teach us a lesson? That's what happened to me one day at the spa!
To set the stage for any of you unfamiliar with a tanning bed, imagine being in a large tin can laid on its side, cut through the middle with the top portion operating as a door on a hinge. Now imagine lying inside and pulling the door down, closing the can around you. There are only a few inches between you and the top and each side. A tanning bed is very similar, with lighted bulbs above and below you under a protective casing of a clear substance much like glass (maybe it is, for all I know). At your feet is a fan blowing up across your body and into your face to keep you semi-cool during the 'treatment.' To further set the stage, now imagine that you have been on a temporary meat-free diet consisting of a lot of beans. Okay, you may already have pictured the problem. Once a little 'vestige of beans blip' slips out, so to speak, it is blown right where? You have it! Into your face! Not the best thing to happen when you are in such close quarters! To top it all off, I thought to myself, "OOH, don't toot in a tanning bed" and got the giggles so bad I almost beaned myself on the top of the bed (no pun intended). Have you ever gotten the giggles somewhere when it is totally inappropriate to laugh? Did you have my problem in that it made me laugh even more? I had to try my best to be quiet because I was afraid people would call in the men with the white jackets, thinking I'd lost my mind. I mean, after all, why would someone be laughing hysterically in a tanning bed?
When this happened to me on that fateful day, I asked, as I am learning to ask often, "Does God want to use this event to teach me something?" So, I asked Him and sure enough, He was able to use this as another of His very clever life lessons. What, you may ask, does 'don't toot in a tanning bed' have in it that would be at all spiritual? Let me tell you what He told me that day.
In John 16:8 Jesus tells His disciples that when the Holy Spirit comes, "He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment." God's message to me that day was actually quite simple. He said that my indiscretions, or sins, were as a foul smell to Him. He told me that He had been trying to teach me some things, mostly things to do with my mouth, that I hadn't been hearing (or maybe was just ignoring?), so He was going to blow them back onto my face much as the 'bean blip' had been blown onto my face, and do it in a way that was just as hard to ignore as that little blip had been.
I decided right then and there to begin to do a better job of listening to that still, small voice Whose job it is to convict me of sin and to do my utmost to send good smelling gifts up to My Lord and God! And because we are told in Revelation 5:8 that our prayers are incense in heaven, I began right then by praying a prayer of thanksgiving and praise for the message I had just received!
Now, before you think me some paragon of virtue who can praise God for anything and everything, let me assure you that this has been a journey of many years. Although I always liked to think of myself as a positive, upbeat person, I'm sure those around me often had a completely different perception of me. Funny how that works, isn't it? I think most of us would cringe to know how the perceptions others have of us so seldom match our opinion of our self. I thought of myself as a positive, glass-half full kind of gal because I didn't let things keep me down, but didn't realize that was only half the picture!
Up until quite recently, I had felt completely justified in 'venting' almost constantly to close friends about issues in my life, some very serious and some not so serious-telling myself and others that was how I dealt with problems, it being much healthier to vent than to keep it pent up, waiting to explode. (Have you ever forgotten to poke holes in the top crust of a berry pie? Much healthier to vent, right?) Hmmm, not exactly God's view on the subject, I found out. I Peter 5:6-7 tells us to humble ourselves "under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt (us) in due time, casting all (our) care upon Him, for He cares for (us)." (emphasis mine) That verse had never really hit me in the same way before. When I read it this time, it was as if I was finally hearing God telling me that I needed to go to Him with my problems and not burden my friends with all that garbage. As I heard someone (probably Joyce Meyer, one of my favorite speakers and authors) say once, "Go to the throne, not the phone!"
Don't get me wrong, there is a time to consult with friends and a way to let them assist you in hard times, but it was not the way I was doing things! Proverbs 18:21 tells us that the power of life and death is in the tongue and God let me know clearly that when I had the need to do all this venting over and over, I was releasing death and not life with my words. My venting was often just a way to make myself feel better; it was usually not asking for advice or seeking Godly counsel from an accountability partner in Christ, nor was it done in a positive manner. In dealing with some severe issues going on in my life, I felt the venting helped me keep my sanity, which it may have done, but God told me in I Timothy that He has not given me a "spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind." I needed only to turn to Him to keep my sanity.
I realized also that my venting was just a way to throw a little pity party for myself and invite others to join me- the more pity, the better. "Poor Karen- oh, it is just so unfair the things that have been thrown at her in life." Did you know that Satan just loves it when we do that? He knows that when we are in the midst of a pity party, our attention is so far away from God that it can be as if we don't even know Him. I've heard it said that when we throw a pity party, Satan loves to show up with the cake and balloons. I resolved never again to be the recipient of those gifts! There will be no more balloons at my parties! I decided that I needed to begin to hear what God was trying to teach me and so began one of the most blessed journeys of my life.
In my quest to find out more of what God was attempting to teach me, I was led to Ephesians 4. In the beginning of the chapter we are told to live lives worthy of our calling as Christians: in humility, peace and patience all wrapped up in a bundle of love and unity. Now, when I was venting, it frequently involved complaints about some other person or people- that doesn't sound much like peace or love to me now. In verse 29, God tells us not to let anything come out of our mouths that would tear someone down, but only what would lift them up. That same section of the chapter tells us not to grieve the Holy Spirit- a statement that is surrounded by other sentences talking about how we should not talk-one of which is speaking with any kind of malice. Now, like many Christians, I had read through the Bible completely many times before, but I had never noticed the context in which the statement about grieving the Holy Spirit was located. Did you notice? It is surrounded by statements about how we should and should not talk! Wow, did that get me thinking about my talk patterns! I began to see that the root of my vents was to show the other person in a bad light and myself in a good light-sounds a lot like malice, doesn't it? Instead of malice, I was told to be "kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave" me. It tore me up inside to understand how I had been grieving the Holy Spirit over and over again, day after day, in an attempt to feel better. I had never before made the connection between how I spoke and grieving the Holy Spirit. And I also realized that it grieved the Holy Spirit when I went to my friends for comfort first rather than to Him.
Another passage that made me stop, think, and grieve, is Matthew 12:36-37 where Jesus says that "for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned." Oh my goodness, the number of idle words I have spoken in my lifetime is mind boggling! When I began to realize that I will need to account for each and every word on Judgment Day, I felt so much shame and remorse it was almost overwhelming. Thank God for His mercy, grace, and forgiveness so that I don't need to pay the price for each and every one of those words- Jesus did that for us on the cross! But I resolved right then to work on the issue of my mouth- beginning with my thoughts, so that I have less and less idle words for which to be held accountable.
How do we change such an embedded habit? James tells us in chapter 3 that our tongue cannot be tamed by man. Later in the same chapter we are told that wisdom from above is pure, peaceful and full of good fruits. (emphasis mine) We need to turn to our God to help us conquer our mouth! Matthew 15:18 tells us that what comes out of our mouth originates in our heart, so my heart was where I decided to start in my journey to change. Boy, oh boy, does the Bible have a lot to say about the heart!
I think it is important to stop for a minute and talk about how we are made up-we are a three part being: body, soul, and spirit. Our spirit is made perfect when we accept Jesus as our Saviour and that is where the Holy Spirit resides. Our soul is our will, our emotions, our thoughts: what we often refer to as our heart. This is what Paul talks about in Philippians 2:12 when he tells us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. Our soul is where all the hurts we've suffered in life reside, but guess what? They don't have to stay there! God is just waiting for us to ask Him to help clean all that garbage out. One of the names for God that I love is Yahweh-Rapha, the Lord Who heals (Exodus 15:26). Christ is called Lord of Peace in II Thessalonians 3:16- it's hard have true peace unless we are healed emotionally, so I interpret Lord of Peace to include healing. Of course, you can't go anywhere in the gospels without running into Jesus healing someone and if I know Jesus at all, I know His healings didn't involve just physical healing, but included the emotional wounds associated with them.
After realizing all of that, I knew that the place to start was to get true healing in my heart and only God could do that. In Psalm 51:17 we are told that the "sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart." And a contrite heart was what I had at that moment. It was especially disturbing to read in Psalm 66:18 that if I had sin in my heart, God would not hear me. Now that I realized all my venting and idle words were sin, I needed to clear it all out by asking for forgiveness and truly repenting. It was so tempting to try to justify the sin, rather than truly repenting of it. You know, something like, "Well, God, I'm really sorry, but You know how much I was hurting and I was just trying to do the best I could to survive, but I'll really try harder to turn to You first, I mean, instead of, my friends." No, I needed to get down on my knees and tell Him how wrong I was to put Him last- venting to my friends had become a type of idol when I went to them rather than to God. And I needed to repent of the sin of grieving the Holy Spirit through this behavior- I realized He had been pulled along with all of it because He lives in me! And I needed to repent of the pain I caused my friends, both in making them listen and exposing them to a lot of negative junk they didn't need. Because, let me tell you, I didn't just vent to them once, I had this disturbing need to vent over and over to them about the same thing.
Right now as I'm writing this, my mind is still trying to justify, saying, "Isn't that what friends are for? I mean, sure, I did it too much, but a little would surely be ok, wouldn't it?" God was telling me, though, that there were better ways to get support from friends than by burdening them with a play by play of my problems. Yes, I could go to them for comfort and support, but I needed to do it in a more positive way, perhaps by just asking for prayer and definitely not going into a play by play of events. Perhaps I needed to just use those "I statements" so popular in the mental health field. Instead of telling how awful someone had treated me, I could say, "I'm feeling very defensive by some things that have happened lately and could use some prayer to know how God wants me to handle things." I knew that I needed to get to a point with my heart and mouth in all situations that I didn't say anything I hoped someone didn't hear or find out about. Have you ever told someone something about someone else, venting or otherwise, and then said, "Oh, don't say anything to anyone about that" and then prayed they wouldn't repeat what you said? That's what I'm talking about! How much easier would it be to just say things that you don't have to worry about coming back to bite you?
But, I'm getting ahead of myself! Let's get back to the concept of a broken and contrite heart that we read about in Psalm 51:17. A broken and contrite heart may at first sound like something pretty painful and awful, but the truth is that when I was finally able to get to that place in my life, I felt free and full of peace, not to mention about 40 pounds lighter! (No, for those of you hoping for a new type of diet, I didn't actually lose any pant sizes!) When we are able to turn our focus on God and give him our all, our heart feels the difference. We are able to release things to Him that we have been holding onto and that have weighed us down. It would seem that we would be eager to give up all our pain, but in truth, we often tend to hold onto it. Perhaps we feel a need to justify our thoughts and actions and holding onto the things that caused us pain helps us to do that. Or perhaps we don't even realize we are hanging on to them. I want to tell you something truly amazing that happened to me the day I fully released everything to God.
The day was August 7, 2010. I had just begun to work on this book and was in a period of my spiritual walk where I was seeking to get even closer to God and to more fully understand the blessings He promises us in the Word. I had only recently realized that my time with Him is greatly enhanced if I begin with a time of praise. Sometimes I did this by reading praises I found in the Bible or ones I had written and sometimes I did it through worship music. On this particular day I was listening to music. One of the songs mentioned tearing down walls and it came to me that I had a wall of protection up to keep from being hurt anymore and that wall was even between me and God. I began to pray for Him to help me tear down the wall.
As I prayed, I began to sob uncontrollably and felt that deep down inside me was something that I hadn't given to Him yet. I told Him that I didn't know what this was and declared that I released it to Him, but I could feel strong resistance to that. As I prayed about it, God showed me what I call my little girl self. She was hunched over a large round object and holding on to it as tightly as she could. On her face was a look of absolute terror. I knew in my heart that the bundle held an extremely traumatic event that had happened to her and that she was afraid to release it and let the memory resurface. I continued to pray and also to tell her to release the bundle to Him, but she kept clinging to it fiercely. Then, I felt God tell me that I needed to tell her that I loved her and it was okay to release it. I did so over and over while praying that God would help us to release it, telling Him that He could reveal it to me or just take it, whichever was right. It was a struggle, but gradually, my little girl self began to accept the love both the Father and I were offering her and her grip on the bundle loosened.
I then began to ask her to hand the bundle to Jesus, who was standing beside her, reaching out to her with His precious nail-scarred hands. I continued to pray for her and for healing to follow her release of the bundle. After several false starts, she finally was able to let go. She reached out to take His hand, but noticed several small objects that had fallen out of the bundle. At first she tried to keep them, but gradually she was able to hand them to Him one at a time. As she handed the last one to Him, her face became full of joy and she sprang into His arms to be cuddled.
Excerpted from Don't Toot in a Tanning Bed by Karen Heinrich Copyright © 2012 by Karen Heinrich. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.