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Food For The Soul Linda Prayer Series Spiritual Growth

And With One Bite, God’s Plan Unfolds

And with One Bite Gods Plan Unfolds

 

It started with a pound or two after vacation, then a few more after the birth of my first child – little by little it crept up and before I knew it, I weighed 8 more pounds than the year before. For so many, like myself, that simple grab and go snack had now become an unhealthy addiction, or at the very least a mindless replacement in times of doubt or busyness.  We believe whatever is tempting us at the moment, will fulfill what’s missing and with one bite, completely unaware, God’s plan unfolds.

My faith and willingness to surrender life’s challenges to God has been a continual work in progress over the years.  Marriage, parenting, and finances took their place in line as God waited patiently for me to let Him join the journey.  It’s no surprise that it took so long for me to give Him this struggle with a healthy weight?  Why is this so hard for so many millions of men and women?  And where does God fit into the equation?

As I mentioned in last month’s introductory post, God often uses our challenges, struggles, doubts, and fears to teach us something about Himself.

For those of us who, for whatever reason, struggle with our relationship with food, there is hope.  Don’t beat yourself up over trying over and over again – focused on failed attempts at being perfect.  Use salvation history as a source of strength and hope.  Our biblical ancestors doubted, fell, and started over again – many times!  But God knew all of this and had a plan! With the redemptive act of Jesus’ sacrifice, came God’s most precious gift to us, the living force of God within us; the Holy Spirit that dwells in the temple of our hearts.

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?

You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. Cor 6:19-20

To learn to love God with all our heart, soul, and strength begins with surrender and trust.  As we begin to dig into this series on discovering a healthy dependence on food, by embracing God as the source of our strength, we will start by unpacking the truth that God created all things, including us.  We were created in His image and likeness, therefore, our wholeness incorporates our body, mind, and spirit. All were created to work together.  We are His masterpiece! 

For we are God’s masterpiece, He has created us anew in Christ Jesus,

so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. ~ Eph 2:10

We cannot be whole, as God intended, by just working on one of these areas. They all need to be in balance. Diets alone don’t address the cause of weight gain.  It’s no coincidence that the very first book of the bible starts with the creation of man, a garden, and a fall. Hmmm, I think there’s a lesson here, don’t you?

So God created mankind in His own image, in the image of God He created them;

male and female He created them.  ~ Gen 1:27

God created a pleasurable world of food. Food is meant to be an instrument that points us to God, not something that takes His place in our heart. In the beginning, God created the perfect environment for His people, in fact, Garden of Eden translates to Garden of Pleasure. 

God said, “See, I have given you every herb that yields seed … every tree whose fruit yields seed. …

Of every tree of the garden, you may freely eat”  ~ Genesis 1:292:16

Yet even within this environment of perfection, Eve faced temptation and doubt entered her heart.  The serpent twisted God’s words, creating doubt and exposing a weakness in Eve.  In that moment, she took her eyes off God. Adam and Eve were given the first test of faith and with one bite, they disobey and lost trust. Here enters the fall. BUT again, friends, there is hope. 

So often we wonder why hard things, hard choices, or difficult moments have to be part of our journey.  We put so much energy in the why’s of life that we fail to keep our eyes on God and ask him the what; “what are you trying to teach me here”?  Even in the midst of Eve’s fall, the serpent served God’s purpose.  Despite Adam and Eve’s weakness, God’s love was so great and He used this opportunity to teach them, and us, how to trust and rely on Him alone; how to become more dependent on His provision in our lives.  God said you cannot stay here, but I will place you somewhere else where you can live, but life will be hard.  Yes, life will be hard but NOT without purpose.  

God now places responsibility on Adam and Eve to learn the skills to work with the garden. In their work, they find their purpose and how to nurture one another. It was the beginning of their journey to discovery and knowledge, through physical work and mental choices.  I believe the combination of physical work AND mental choices placed in God’s hands will help us remove the barriers that lie between us understanding why our hearts reach towards other things for satisfaction and are not satisfied with God.

We are called by God to be good stewards of all He has given us, including our physical bodies.  Each of us has been designed uniquely with a purpose; a unique gift that we bring to the world for God.  To carry out that purpose, we must be strong and healthy.

THE WEIGHT IN OUR HEAD – Keeping our heart and mind aligned.

I believe that the first step in living a healthier life is changing the way we think about ourselves and our health. Once you have made a mental shift, making and maintaining the physical change will be much easier.  If the body is misused, the mind and spirit cannot become what God planned they should be. God intended for us to an abundant life; life to the fullest.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy;

I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. ~ John 10:10

When working with clients, I often hear the weight of their words become as great a challenge as their weight loss efforts.  Sometimes it’s the negative self-talk that we’ve become accustomed to, and other times it’s the doubts, lies, fears, shame, and guilt that we carry around.  For some, the pleasure of food has such control over how we interpret a good evening, a successful celebration, or a remedy to our sadness or discomfort.  This anxiety is real and bringing it to the table, literally, opens up a door for prayer. In researching the word anxiety, I found it literally means to cut into pieces. The effects of our “stinking thinking” can actually cut into pieces the peace and satisfaction that God wants to give us.

I recently read the book Perfectly Yourself by Matthew Kelly and found his description of happiness and pleasure profound.  He states “The difference between happiness and pleasure is subtle but real.  Pleasure cannot be sustained beyond the experience producing it.  You eat, and you experience pleasure.  You stop eating, and the pleasure stops. That’s why we don’t stop eating.  We’re not hungry; we enjoy the pleasure that comes from eating. We have disconnected eating from the function that allows us to fuel our incredible bodies and have turned eating into a past time.  Happiness is different.  Happiness can be sustained beyond the experience producing it”.  This, however, takes making a choice.  To choose between the momentary thrill and the satisfaction and well-being that lasts beyond the activity producing the happiness”.

So how can we begin to live life to the full and grow in our desire to be satisfied in Christ? Let’s look at how Jesus responded when faced with temptation.

Redemption – God’s Blueprint For Structure

God knows and understands our challenges and weakness.  He loves us, as He did Adam and Eve, and doesn’t let our “falls” separate us from Him.  He had a plan all along – His son, Jesus.  In contrast, to the test in the garden of Adam and Eve, Jesus was also tempted in the desert with food, however, his response changed the direction of mankind; he used scripture to respond to the temptation.  When you arm yourself with scripture, you begin to see yourself as God sees you.  No longer is food the central focus of your comfort or pleasure, but you re-direct towards God.

Next time, we’ll unpack some practical steps we can begin to take to keep our focus on God and create a foundation of structure.

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Ink Slingers

God’s Fabulously Fashioned Feminine Form

 

photo credit: hernanpba

It was a clear, sunny afternoon. Immersed in some mundane daily chore, my routine was abruptly interrupted by the ring of my cell phone. It was my doctor. After the usual greetings, she seemed to pause before continuing. “Lynette, I want to commend you for following up on this.” Darn. Any doctor starting a conversation that way couldn’t possibly have good news. “You’ve caught this early and the good news is, it’s not cancer.” Ok…. “but the biopsies did not come back with clean edges and the report states stage 2 and 3 precancerous cells. You will need to have an excision of the area to remove any remaining abnormal cells.” Darn, again. With a family history of melanoma and other related skin cancers, I knew the excision was unavoidable. What paralyzed me in that moment was the realization of what she was implying. This wasn’t my dermatologist. She was my gynecologist and the skin cancer was in an area that had never seen the light of day. Back, arm, leg, even face…. but there?

I met with a highly respected gynecological oncologist a few weeks later and he only confirmed the inevitable. Family and personal history, combined with the biopsy results, screamed negligence if I ignored or chose not to have the excision done. But it wasn’t just a simple matter of choosing to do it or not. Once I accepted the necessity of the procedure, it then came down to my level of pain tolerance. Financially, excision in the office would save a significant amount of money. Torn with the guilt of spending more than perhaps I needed to, I asked for my doctor’s opinion. His words cut through the stillness in the room. Economically, the office was the best choice, “but if it was my wife, I might tell her something different.” Double darn – enough said. Surgery and related appointments were scheduled.

My husband, in an effort to become educated about the subject at hand, spent an evening looking up my “condition”. As he read, he reported interesting information, hoping the knowledge would make me feel better. A few articles into the research, what he was discovering, however, was nothing short of horrifying. What is performed medically in our country as a response to female genital pre/cancer is routinely carried out in other countries as a form of female mutilation. The statistics for FGM (female genital mutilation) are staggering. According to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Fact Sheet dated February of 2017, “More than 200 million girls and women alive today have been cut in 30 countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia where FGM is concentrated.”[i] While some of the reasoning behind FGM is sociocultural factors, the conditions in which it is carried out (unmedicated with poor hygiene), along with the long-term psychological and physical effects, have prompted a world-wide effort to eradicate it.

Lest we fall into proudly boasting our country is above such atrocities, “the Centers for Disease Control estimate that there are around 513,000 girls and women in the United States who have either undergone FGM or who (are) at risk of doing so—mostly in immigrant communities from regions of the world where it is still practiced.”[ii] Although FGM was prohibited in the U.S. with the passing of the Federal Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act of 1995[iii], our country has not escaped unscathed.[iv] On April 24th of this year, CNN reported, “In the first federal case involving female genital mutilation filed in the United States, two Michigan doctors and the wife of one of the doctors have been charged with performing the banned procedure on two 7-year-old girls.”[v] Just two months later on July 14th, CNN published perhaps the most alarming report I have read yet, “The alarming rise of female genital mutilation in America.”[vi] I will warn you. It is not for the faint-hearted.

Years ago, I would have received my husband’s informational reporting with a half-hearted “that’s horrible” response and I would have moved on to my own self interests. But this time, I was almost instantly seized with a deep sadness and pain. Why the difference? My faith.

photo credit: Pascal Rey Photographies

Having recently studied the writings of Pope St. John Paul II on human sexuality contained in his teachings on the Theology of the Body, I couldn’t escape the reality of the attack at the very core of the dignity and the femininity of these young girls and women. We are sexual beings. This fact is undeniable and unavoidable. We are conceived into being within the context of a sexual act. We are formed within our mother’s wombs with DNA that marks us indelibly as either male or female. Not just biological beings, we are made in the image and likeness of God, which means our bodies are “even more so, theological. Our bodies offer us, if we have the eyes to see it, a profound ‘study of God.’ Just as a work of art points to the heart of the artist, so too does the human body point to the heart of the God who made us.”[vii] Every cell, every inch of our body was intricately designed for a definite purpose. To rob a woman of her femininity as God physically designed is to alter what was divinely inspired. And then, as a result of the intervention of man’s disordered misconception of God’s plans, all havoc breaks loose. The pain is felt not just by the woman herself, but it trickles down to every aspect her life touches – her future relationships, her ability to mother, her role within society, her impact on her peers, etc.

We have all heard the cry to protest the “Culture of Death.”[viii] We think of such issues as abortion, euthanasia, capital punishment, etc. With FGM, I propose we are facing a culture of death to the dignity of femininity, a death of the sacredness of God’s design, a death of the beauty God created in the creature He called “woman.” There is hope – a surgeon, speechless by what she saw, hoping to establish a clinic for reversal surgery[ix]; organizations like Kakenya’s Dream[x] that educate and keep young girls safe from FGM and child marriage; and a documentary, Jaha’s Promise[xi], that chronicles the story of Jaha Dukureh, an activist named by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world.

It would have been much easier for me to have brushed aside the inner voice prodding me to write about this. I could have come home from my surgery (which ended up being more extensive than originally planned), pampered myself with pain meds all the while confident in the knowledge that I had an excellent surgeon and medical team who treated me with dignity and respect, and let the topic slide by. But I know God doesn’t work that way. He won’t let me forget those women whose faces I see when I close my eyes to offer my discomfort for them. He won’t let me be silent about the pain they surely endure that I have only experienced a mere fraction of. It is for them I share my story. It is for them I share their story.

________________________________
Sources:

[i] http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs241/en/

[ii] http://time.com/4707899/victims-of-fgm-see-new-hope-in-life-changing-surgery/

[iii] http://www.fgmnetwork.org/legisl/US/federal.html

[iv] https://www.pri.org/stories/2017-04-21/female-genital-mutilation-illegal-us-so-why-it-still-happening

[v] http://www.cnn.com/2017/04/22/health/detroit-genital-mutilation-charges/index.html

[vi] http://www.cnn.com/2017/05/11/health/female-genital-mutilation-fgm-explainer-trnd/index.html

[vii] Christopher West, Foreword, Theology of Her Body, p 2.

[viii] http://www.therealpresence.org/archives/Evangelization/Evangelization_008.htm

[ix] http://time.com/4707899/victims-of-fgm-see-new-hope-in-life-changing-surgery/

[x] https://www.kakenyasdream.org/about/

[xi] https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/mar/17/jahas-promise-fgm-film-premieres-at-copenhagen-film-festival; https://www.theguardian.com/society/video/2017/mar/17/jaha-dukureh-promise-fgm-video

 

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Ink Slingers

Resting in the Blessing of God’s Presence

My daughter, Addie, a blessing of God's presence

Addie (our five year old daughter with cystic fibrosis) had another clean culture last month: normal respiratory flora and normal vitamin levels. We’re all happy she’s had such good luck. And I do call it luck, not blessings or hard work paying off. I don’t know why saying, “We’re blessed,” bugs me so much. I know that all good things come from God. I also know that some Christians have terrible problems. The ending of Hebrews 11 (verses 32-40) tells of those who had miracle lives and those who “did not receive what was promised.” After all, Christ Himself said that the heavenly Father, “makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes the rain to fall on the just and the unjust.” God does not bless Addie more than Rees (our twenty-two year old with cystic fibrosis who has had more trouble with his health) and I do not work harder at taking care of her than I did Rees.

The chapel in our hospital where I have prayed in good times and in bad times, always resting in the blessing of God's presenceI’ve knelt in our hospital’s chapel after a CF clinic visit with a kid and given thanks together; and I’ve knelt in there alone, having signed over a kid upstairs for an admission. Tears both times, the crucifix and tabernacle before me a physical reminder of life’s true love and pain. I turn to God in good luck and in bad luck through this journey from womb to earth and beyond. We all get through on our own trajectory and Eternal Love surrounds us whatever the lab reports read. That surrounding by God is his blessing.

I don’t think to be blessed by God means health and prosperity. I think it means that we are watched by our Creator throughout this valley of the shadow of death where we fear no evil because he is there to comfort us. We are blessed, then. When the lab reports come back badly, we are blessed; and when they come back clear, we are blessed. He is with us.

I did a little digging on the word Blessed and found that it is used in the Scriptures several ways:

  • To praise God: Bless the Lord oh my soul.
  • As a desire for goodness: Blessed are you among women.
  • For sanctification: He took bread and blessed it.
  • As a gift: Children are a blessing.

I did not look these up to be an annoying know-it-all, though! I needed to make sense of things. And my studies blessed me (haha, yes).

A friend of mine lost her son last month and a friend of hers wrote about the question of blessings for some and not others (Why Us and Not Her?). We’re all trying to make sense of things, aren’t we? I wonder if I bristle at reports of health blessings because of the reminder that some are not blessed that way and the unfairness of it all exhausts me. It is still a good word, however, because it brings our focus back to God, so I need to not bristle (Help, Holy Spirit!).

I hope and pray for all of us, my Sistas, that we rest in the blessing of God’s presence in good luck and in bad luck. May we keep our eyes on Jesus this week especially ~ passion of Christ, strengthen us.

Psalm 23:4

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Amy M. Ink Slingers

Planning for the Unexpected

Plan for the Unexpected

“Jesus replied, ‘No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.’” -Luke 9:62

           As we enter the second week of 2017, I am finding I’m having trouble getting myself into the present.  I’m stuck looking back at 2016.  It was a year of medical problems for our family.  We had four different people in the hospital, two surgeries, two broken bones (different children).  It was a year full of physical therapy for our oldest as he tried to recover, then prepare for surgery, then heal from surgery, and recover once more.  And it was also a year of great joy as we welcomed our youngest in May.
            Two of the hospitalizations were planned (the birth of our daughter).  One of the two surgeries was scheduled months ahead, and we were well-prepared to deal with the recovery process it involved (our son’s surgery).  The other surgery seemed to come out of nowhere.  My husband became sick, was admitted, and had surgery within 48 hours.  It was a whirlwind.
            The preparation for the first surgery didn’t make it less scary than the second.  One way wasn’t better than the other, in my opinion.  We called on faith and prayers in both situations.  I can’t say I felt God’s presence more in one surgery than the other.  He was there in both, in the people helping us with our other children and in the peace that only He can give in our hearts.
            Four years ago, my husband lost his mom the day after Thanksgiving.  She had been in the hospital for over a month and had been sick for many years.  When she passed away, he was at her side.  It was sad, and we miss her.  However, we felt she was at peace.
            Six weeks later, on the feast of the Epiphany, we returned home from church to a phone call from a local police department.  They had been called to do a well-check on my husband’s aunt.  She had died suddenly overnight.  His mom and aunt were twins, but his aunt seemed to be in much better health.  We didn’t expect that phone call at all, and the grieving process was much different.
            As 2016 drew to a close, we lost our two furry pets.  Our cat was 18, and we were seeing signs of decline, so we tried to prepare ourselves.  Then, Christmas night our younger dog started acting sick.  By the middle of the night, we were aware that it was serious.  We started to get dressed to take him to the emergency vet, but he died before we left the house.  We were devastated.  Less than a week later, our cat passed away.Planning for the Unexpected
            In each of these situations, there was a planned and an unexpected.  Looking back at each, preparing and planning helped, but no amount of control would make it easier.
            The more life throws at me, the more I try to control my circumstances.  I need to do x, y, and z by a certain time in order to consider the day “successful.”  Pulling in tighter, circling the wagons, so to speak, doesn’t help build trust, increase faith.  Knowing my son was going to have surgery and six extra months of physical therapy didn’t guarantee he would be ok.  He is still relearning how to run, waiting to be able to jump, only halfway through his therapy time.  My husband’s surgery happened before I could worry about it or try to control the outcome.  He needed surgery and needed it now.  It wasn’t a time for debate.  It was in God’s hands from the beginning.
            Losing our pets so close together brought back a lot of the time when we lost my husband’s mom and aunt so close together and also at the holidays.  I feel like I’m getting somewhat lost in the past, dwelling on what has happened and how it affected us.  How can we control situations better in the future?  How can we keep ourselves and those we love from being hurt?
            Dwelling on the past isn’t what Jesus wants for me, for us.  He wants us to go forward, living each day for Him and in His will for our lives, striving to be with Him one day in heaven.  That day may be years from now and expected or may come suddenly.  It’s up to us to be ready for the unknown, not by guessing what could happen but by trusting in the One who knows how everything turns out and only wants the best for us.
            At the beginning of 2016, the events and situations in which we found ourselves as the year unfolded had never crossed our radar.  As much as we planned and thought about the future, these things still caught us off-guard.  Yet God was still there in our midst.  He was still the Guiding Light.  We needed to stay in His shadow and let Him navigate us through the storms.  Once we let go of the helm and let Him take over, He will shelter us in the rain.

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” -Jeremiah 29:11