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Food For The Soul Ink Slingers Linda Prayer Series Spiritual Growth

Food For The Soul: God’s Plan For Structure

God'sPlanforChange

Some call it discipline, others control, but mastering techniques for healthier habits takes more than our own strength.  Jesus’ act of redemption was a part of God’s plan to build a solid structure for our lives.

Last time we spoke we entertained the thought of how God used the fall of Adam and Eve to teach them (and us) to become more dependent on Him; to keep our eyes fixed on Him. When presented with temptation, Eve took her eyes off of God and with one bite, His plan unfolded.  Here, God begins a plan to draw humanity back to Himself.  Did you hear that? He had a plan, and so must we.  But before we make plans for a journey, we need to know where we are.

Jesus prepared for his journey by connecting with his father first, alone, and in prayer.  Jesus understood that his journey was a mission.

The definition of mission is a strong assignment; a strongly felt aim, ambition, or calling. 

He also understood that he needed a team; a support system.  So he stopped at the Sea of Galilee, where he gathered his team and told them to leave their nets behind. It’s scary to leave behind the things we’re used to. For the first apostles, it was their very livelihood.  But they were leaving behind what looked good for the promise of something better.  Jesus told them to fill their nets with the impossible and that is the same message he wants for you and for me.

So how do we prepare for our journey and who are we bringing with us?  We, too, need to start with a plan.  Where are we now?  What don’t we have that we want to create?  Is it weight loss, is it removing a food addiction, is it better blood work, or improving inflammation or disease?  Understanding where we are and where we want to go will be the catalyst for the important choices we make along the way.  It will always answer the question “Is ‘this choice’ bringing me closer to what I want out of life?”

Everything Jesus did was intentional, and he did nothing without bringing His Father with him. He knew the plans his Father had for him and he responded according to those plans.  This is the stark contrast between Adam and Eve in the Old Testament and Jesus in the New Testament.  He answered the call for a new covenant by responding differently.

  • Acknowledge where we are
  • Invite God on the journey through prayer
  • Seek others to support us in our journey

How do we allow the strength of God to help us respond differently and master the behaviors that create healthier habits in our lives? In Matthew Kelly’s book Perfectly Yourself, he describes how fasting during Lent denies us of our own pleasure in order to replace it with something better.  This fasting often becomes a lifestyle change for many.  The reason for this is that we increase our freedom to master the behaviors that prevent us from creating healthier habits for our mind and body.

“Remember, whether a bird is tied down by a thread or by a chain, it still cannot fly.

What is the master of your life?”  ~ Matthew Kelly

Our brain is programmed to seek pleasure and avoid pain.  It’s just the way it is. The messages and experiences we have received over a lifetime have created neuropathways that direct our responses.  These responses are the habits that are set on autopilot. For example, we don’t need a reminder to brush our teeth daily, it’s a habit set on autopilot. That’s a good habit worth keeping, but for those habits that do not serve us – they can be changed!! So, reprogramming our brain and the way we think about food will create habits where we respond to old problems in new ways.  We begin shifting from the comfort of food to the comfort of God. 

If understanding where we are is the first step in our transformation, then here are some questions to contemplate for where we want to be.

  • Who is this person that you want to become? 
  • How would you show up in a room?
  • How would you inspire others?
  • What would you be able to do?
  • How would your life be different?
  • Who would you influence?

God hears the desires of our heart, so if any of these questions resonate with you, use that as a starting point for your conversation with Him.  Ask Him what’s missing between where you are and where you want to be.  That answer is where the shift happens.  That answer is where the work begins in asserting dominance over the body and mind.

THE MOMENT BETWEEN EVENT AND RESPONSE

So how do we shift from feeling that we NEED whatever it is before us to trust that God has the answer?  We acknowledge it! “Yes, I know you want that cannoli, but today we’re going to have a cup of fruit instead and enjoy the sunshine outside.”  Our bodies are our servant, not our master. This little step slows us down enough to then pause, take a few short breaths and become mindful of what is happening around us. Pausing for just a few, short minutes and discovering what we are really in need of and ask God to help us gain freedom from our negative thoughts. 

  • Is this “thing” bringing me one step closer to what I really want?
  • Is this “thing” what I really need right now?
  • Am I tired, bored, lonely, scared, angry……….?

We Live Out What We Take In

Earlier I said the brain seeks pleasure and avoids pain.  If we are going to reprogram our negative habits, we need to replace them with healthier habits that feel like rewards.  So think of some triggers that you may have and before they happen, have a plan in place for some fun and healthy replacements.  We can also learn to love and nurture where our feelings come from because we know that God is with us in each and every one of them.  Food cannot feed an emotion – God can.  The most powerful thing we can do is to read Scripture and be nurtured by His truth.  Write down the negative emotion and the lie (this cannoli will make me feel better), then find the truth in God’s promise that tells us that we are NOT that emotion and that this “food” won’t help us work the emotion out. Then ask yourself, how do I feel like when I make a good choice?  Do you feel more in control, proud, happy, more aligned with your goals?  That’s one small step towards freedom; one small step towards becoming who God intended you to be for the task only you were created to do. 

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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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Charla Ink Slingers Prayer Rosary Spiritual Growth

Tis the Season for weight loss?

ornamentThis is probably the wrong time to broach the subject of weight.  Advent and with Christmas time is not when we want to think about losing or maintaining our weight.  In celebrating this time of year, food is often at the center of our parties and exchanges: potlucks at work, Christmas parties, New Year’s parties—food is all around us.  All the eating often instigates regret; we overeat, over-imbibe, too much sugar, too many rich foods.  We lament the weight gain that comes with this time of year. We do not turn down food offered to us, because we know, “Jenny’s famous apple pie is to die for.” Others prepare dishes as an expression of love for others in their lives, and to turn down such a gift would be offensive.  I find myself in this position every holiday season, and this year I decided to head this off before I got in over my head.

Now, I am not at a weight that I am comfortable with.  I am a yo-yo.  My weight goes up and down frequently.  I have had three significant weight losses in my adulthood, followed by three reversions to the original weight I had started out with.  The first two gains were due to pregnancy—never took off that “baby weight.”  The third was graduate school—no time to exercise or plan meals.  I have had a million excuses.  I know I will get to that frame of mind to get back on that horse and lose the weight, but that time is not now.

However, it is eating season.  I told myself I cannot let myself gain any more than I already have.  I need a means of maintaining so that my health does not suffer and keeping up with an eight year old little dancer is not a labored effort.  Vanity is no longer the issue it was when I was younger, but this is a matter of being a disciplined individual in all aspects of my life, so that is where my faith comes in.  I believe that God wants me to be a person who is not gluttonous, but not vain either.  Losing weight is often about looking a certain way, but at this point in my life, I find it is about focus and discipline– two attributes that will help lead me to Heaven. If I look at it that way, losing weight serves a greater purpose.

I need to move my body more and celebrate this gift that God has given me. My body is capable of running and dancing and jumping and playing.  A stagnant body does not celebrate the gift God has bestowed me with. Focus and discipline of course are parts of exercise; I need to initiate these more in this realm as well. All this takes strength, strength I am not always sure I have.memorare

I know that when I need strength, I must turn to prayer, so why should my weight loss or weight maintenance or exercise efforts be any different.  I decided to ask God for discipline this season: to enjoy food as sustenance and for the love with which it was prepared, but not to overdo it.  I started a 54 day Rosary Novena which will end at Christmas. This has helped me with discipline of prayer.  Every morning before I begin my day, I pray this meditation, asking Mary to intercede on my behalf for the intention of strength and discipline, among other intentions.  I follow up the Rosary recitation with a Novena to Mary prayer, acknowledging my struggles and weaknesses, and then complete my prayer with The Memorare.

After several weeks of this, I have found that I am empowered when it comes to food.  I am not serving myself as much in quantity; gluttony is not overtaking me.  I look at food and appreciate it more for aspects other than taste: the amount of love that went into preparing it, the energy that it sustains. I am not looking at myself in the mirror with disgust any longer.  (Yes, unfortunately, I was doing that too often.) I have no inclination to weigh myself either. I do not know if I have lost weight over the last several weeks, but my clothes are not quite as tight.  I am becoming motivated to exercise and offering it up as a way of praying and valuing the healthy body I have been given. I have prayed the Rosary while working out on the treadmill– walking the Our Father, and running the Hail Marys.  When I have found myself wanting to eat out of stress or boredom, I ask the Blessed Mother for her intercession.  A simple Hail Mary usually helps.  I have sampled holiday goodies, but I am not serving myself full pieces of pies or pastries.  I pray I can continue to use this strategy to get into an earnest mindset of significant weight loss by becoming disciplined in my eating and exercise habits.

scaleWeight issues plague so many of us, hopefully my approach might help someone else who has these same struggles.  Are there any strategies associated with your faith or prayer that have helped you become healthier and disciplined?

 

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Shiela

Lose 20 Pounds by Christmas

I know what sells magazines.  Tell people how they can look and feel better than their neighbor as defined by our secular and materialistic media.  And, if you do want to lose 20 lbs by Christmas, you can.  There are about 2,000 different diet plans that will get you there.  The keys to success are setting goals, having accountability, eating less, and moving more.  It’s not rocket science.  But, I did not really want to write a post on weight loss tips.  What I wanted my title to read is, “How to get closer to God by Christmas.”  How do we get closer to God?  Closeness to God is difficult to quantify, but I think we can use the same approach to spiritual well-being as we do our physical well-being.

 

First, we can set spiritual goals.  Goal setting helps us to be mindful and intentional in our behavior.  Have you ever set a spiritual goal?  What would that look like?  A good goal is both measurable and achievable.  For example, I will do spiritual reading for 20 minutes each morning for 2 weeks.  Reading daily for 20 minutes might be achievable for some, but not for others.  So, know your abilities and  limitations.  Once you achieve this goal, you can reflect on your experience by asking yourself if you feel that your faith is strengthened.    We will face many challenges to our faith everyday.  Setting spiritual goals will help us to be better prepared to accept those challenges.  Moreover, if you set apart a time to think about discuss, and write your goals, you will be more likely to achieve them.

 

Next, incorporate accountability into your spiritual growth.  You can get your spouse to do this with you.  Or you can ask a friend or group of friends to join you.  Being a part of the Catholic Sistas has helped me immensely.  We chat online daily and share ways that we are “dying to self” each day.  In other words, we discuss challenges and sufferings that we are offering up without complaining.  Or, if you want to keep your growth personal and private, you can keep a journal and check off each time you make your goal. The journal can also be a place to record your thoughts about your spiritual journey.
Families can set goals, too.  My family would like to get together to say the rosary.  But, often, life gets in the way and days and weeks pass without a family rosary.  However, if we set a goal together as a family, one that is measurable and achievable, then, we are much more likely to sit down together.  A daily family rosary with five kids, two of whom are toddlers, is not achievable for us.  However, we can gather at least once a week, perhaps on Sunday evenings, to say a family rosary.  If we do this with success for 2 weeks, then maybe we can start gathering twice a week.  Kids are great for accountability.  They know that gathering for the rosary is a special family time and they will begin to remind you and request a family rosary.  I know, because my son often reminds us.

 

Eat less and move more?
Well, that doesn’t apply to spiritual growth, directly.  But, you can certainly sin less and do more works of mercy. How do you sin less?  First, start with a clean slate.  Make a thorough examination of your conscience.  Then, go to confession, as James says, “Therefore, confess our sins to one another”  We can always just bow our heads and pray.  But since Christ instituted the sacrament of confession by saying, “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven. If you retain the sins of any, they are retained,” we know that to be the most pleasing way to confess our sins.  Therefore we will be absolved of all our sins and receive sanctifying grace.  At this time, we can pray that we avoid those same sins in the future.  Set a confession goal, too.  My family makes it a goal to go once per month.  Frequent confession is the key to sinning less.

 

Increasing works of mercy is another way to grow closer to God.  And, goal setting will help you achieve this.    The 40 days for life campaign starts today.  This is a wonderful work of mercy that will increase your faith, grow closer to God and help the most innocent members of our human family.  My daughter and I participated in the Spring.  It was a wonderful thing to share with her and to be able to instill in her not only the value of every human life but also her role in protecting life.  And, we enjoyed the fellowship with others who were working towards the same personal and community goals.

 

Having accountability partners will also make it more likely that you will do more works of mercy.  My husband and family are also my accountability partners.  We have a family friend who is in a nursing home.  And, if we do not set a goal and schedule a visit, life gets in the way.  And before we know it a week goes by, or a month or several months before we realize that we have not visited our friend.  We cannot let that happen.  If we do achieve our goal, we not only please a friend but also and we find ourselves in compliance with Christ’s greatest commandment, to love one another as He loves us.

Of course, I might want to think about those weight loss goals, too.  I mean, what is Christmas without cookies and candy canes? It might be good to make a little exta room for all that yumminess without feeling too guilty.
What are you doing to increase your faith?  What goal can you or your family set that will inspire others in their spiritual growth?