Lose the Diet: A New Perspective

by Ella Walker Henderson, M.A., LPC, NBCC

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 2 Corinthians 4:7

How many conversations each day do women have about dieting? And how much does the dreadful dieting topic increase as we leave the Holidays and Springtime approaches? My guess is that both of those numbers are quite high. Why do women have such an obsessive focus on their bodies and trying to “fix” their bodies?

What if dieting is all a lie?  What if doesn’t work?  What if dieting is actually a multi-billion dollar industry making a lot of money off of consumers that are willing to try anything to lose a few pounds? What if the hope that life will start after weight loss is the biggest dieting lie of all?

You might be thinking, “Wait a minute…. What’s so bad about dieting? Isn’t it good to want to be healthy?” Unfortunately, dieting goals and health are not always the same thing.  Dieting is about a desire to fix your body to become more desirable and often gets cloaked in the guise of health.  Dieting leads people to separate food into “good” and “bad” categories and use semi-starvation as a means of losing weight.

The problem with the good/bad food categories is that it intensifies emotional eating by leading people to think they are “good” if they eat the good foods and “bad” if they eat the bad ones. Often people decide, “Well, I’m bad now anyway so I might as well finish off the rest of these cookies.”  Or sometimes people try to eat as many of the “bad” foods as they can before the dieting starts, knowing they are about to deprive themselves.  A much better approach than swinging emotionally between the two categories is one of balance. There are certain foods your body needs more of than others, but fat is still something your body needs. God never said you can’t eat cookies (remember, Paul tells us in Romans 14:20 that all food is clean), but if you are eating cookies to the exclusion of other foods you need (like fruit) then something may be out of balance.

The other major dieting problem is calorie restriction.  Restriction of food intake can be dangerous and can even trigger the development of an eating disorder. If you are hungry from not consuming enough calories, you may start to crave the forbidden foods on your “bad” list.  And one of those foods certainly won’t be enough because you are starving! And then afterwards, because of all the guilt and shame, you start to restrict again and on goes the restricting and over-eating cycle.  This cycle can lead into binge-eating or if someone sways too far on the restriction side then patterns of anorexia nervosa can begin to develop. God gave you hunger signals for a reason – follow them! They lead you to more balanced eating.

If you have been a long-time subscriber to the diet-mentality, you may want to consider a book that can help you start to challenge the diet mentality and realize a whole other world of freedom in eating and taking care of your body is out there.  A great book to start with is Intuitive Eating by Tribole and Resch.

Instead of the weight loss focus of dieting, what if what God really wants is for you to take care of the body He has given you.  Our bodies are not our own but are temples, dwelling places for His Spirit (1 Cor 3:16).  Don’t let the dieting illusion fool you any longer: we are powerless when it comes to “fixing” ourselves.

As we let go of the diet mentality, we can open ourselves to the power of God at work in us: “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us” (2 Cor 4:7).

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Ella Walker Henderson is the director of Living Bread, a ministry to those battling eating disorders. She is trained in the treatment of eating disorders, as well as in the integration of Christian faith and prayer into counseling sessions. Ella will be leading a breakout session entitled “The Dangers of Our Dieting Culture” at Take Heart 2014 (March 28-29 in Greenville, SC).  You can connect with Living Bread at www.livingbreadgreenville.org. For conference information and registration, go to www.TakeHeartTogether.com.

The Hope of “So That”

by Sandy MacMillan

For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope. Romans 15:4

At the BSUMC women’s retreat this weekend, we heard some amazing stories of heartache and of God’s presence with women in the midst of their pain.  Thank you Janet, Amy, and Mara for sharing your stories so that we could be encouraged.

As we heard these women’s stories, as we cried with their retelling, we were left with the assurance that each knew God was with them in the midst, redeeming their hard times so that they would come to know Him better.

So that…

BSUMC’s Women at the Well is getting ready to start 6-week Bible studies at a variety of times and places; we hope that many of our women will find a group that works with their schedules.* Each group will be studying Wendy Blight’s new Bible Study called Living So That.

In the first pages of her book, Wendy talks about how, in Scripture, the phrase “so that” is used over and over again to show purpose. It connects God’s actions with God’s promises.**

I don’t know all that Wendy will share about this so that theme; I’ve only read the first chapter (which is awesome). But she’s already got me thinking….

Romans 15:4 talks about the Biblical stories of hardship written “so that through…the encouragement they provide we might have hope.”

In Scripture, in the lives of our testimony women, and in our own lives, God works His purpose through our stories. We may not think that our stories are “testimony worthy,” or our stories may be too painful to share (at least for now) beyond our most trusted circle of friends. But, as Christians we can all know that God will enter our lives with His comfort, His love, and His “so that.”

As I think about the so that’s God has worked in my life, I think of things like:

  • The times I have felt helpless so that I will learn that “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. (Psalm 46:1)
  • The scary steps of faith God’s called me to take so that I will know God “is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us” (Ephesians 3:20 NKJV)

And even

  • The weaknesses that have been exposed “so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

How is God working His so that in your story?

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Dear Heavenly Father,

We are so thankful that even in our pain, you enter with Your purposes.  Help us to look to You, to recognize the so that’s at work in our lives–so that we will have the kind of encouragement that will offer hope. In Jesus name, Amen.

 *If you’re in the Greenville, SC area, and would like to join a study, email us at bsumc.watw@gmail.com and we’ll give you details!

**Go to Wendy’s website, www.wendyblight.com to download the first chapter of Living So That  for free!

The Gift of Hope

ImageAfter the last Take Heart conference, I visited with some participants from Miracle Hill’s Renewal Center. I asked one woman what her favorite part of the conference was. She said it was Denise Gambrell’s session on addiction recovery, because

“She gave me hope.”

As someone who knows the pain of addiction, Denise understands the struggle.  And as a licensed counselor who has been clean for over 15 years, she can also offer hope.

Here are Denise’s words about her participation in this year’s conference:

I am so excited and extremely blessed to have the opportunity to be a part of the Take Heart Women’s Conference 2014.  This year’s conference will be the third for which I have had the pleasure of facilitating a break out session about addiction and recovery. 

 The Take Heart Conference has been such an amazing and rewarding experience for me in so many ways.  Primarily it has allowed me to give back what has so freely been given to me by sharing my experience and providing a sense of strength and hope for women dealing with addiction.  

Although I suffered for many years with addiction, through God’s grace and mercy it was not in vain.   As expressed in 1 Corinthians 15:10, “But by the grace of God I am what I am and His grace to me was not in vain.” God doesn’t waste hurt or suffering and my addiction will not be in vain, just like yours is not!   

ImageI decided to title my session “Breaking the Chains of Addiction” for this year’s conference and to place emphasis on the freedom from the bondage of addiction through the Word of God.  I pray that you can come be a part of this wonderful occasion and to join me and other women from all walks of life in addressing some our most common issues.   

Sincerely your sister in Christ,

Denise P. Gambrell

 For conference information or to register, go to www.TakeHeartTogether.com/conference.

Dare I Doubt?

ifindoubt

by Sandy MacMillan

But anyone who needs wisdom should ask God, whose very nature is to give to everyone without a second thought, without keeping score. Wisdom will certainly be given to those who ask. Whoever asks shouldn’t hesitate. They should ask in faith, without doubting. Whoever doubts is like the surf of the sea, tossed and turned by the wind. People like that should never imagine that they will receive anything from the Lord. (James 1:5-7 CEB)

Last week I wrote an out-of-the-ordinary devotional in response to Facebook posts.  I asked you to consider with me the commenter’s questions, “What if I’m wrong? What if the God I believe in isn’t real?”

I wonder, as we considered together, if any of your own doubts came to mind.  Doubts that you may even be afraid to voice:

How could a good God allow such evil in the world?

Where is God?  If He’s real, why don’t I feel His presence?

How can the Bible be true when it seems to disagree with what scientists say?

Perhaps one or more of these questions has taken residence in your heart.  But perhaps, like me, you have hesitated to consider these questions, to voice your doubts, because of verses like the one I’ve shared above.

The first part of today’s Scripture sounds great: “Anyone who needs wisdom should ask God, whose very nature is to give….”

But the next part stills our tongues: “They should ask in faith, without doubting. Whoever doubts is like the surf of the sea…. People like that should never imagine that they will receive anything from the Lord.”

Yikes! We need wisdom because we doubt, but we’re supposed to ask without doubt?!

Not exactly.

As I study this passage more closely, it seems to me that the issue is not the doubts intrinsic to our questions, but doubts about where to seek the answers—doubts about the source of wisdom.

In other words, we are not called to take our doubts to Wikipedia, or the library, or even our pastor. These resources may be good sources of information, but not our source of wisdom. We are called to take our questions, our doubts, and our information straight to God. Without hesitating.  Because we can know that He is the God who gives “to everyone without a second thought,” or, as the NIV says, “generously to all without finding fault.”

Doubts are a part of learning to trust.

Questions are a part of gaining wisdom.

And God is the source of that wisdom.

So instead of hiding them in fear, I pray that we will encourage one another to share our questions. I pray that we will be bold to bring them to the God “whose very nature is to give without a second thought.”  For “wisdom will certainly be given to those who ask.”

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/rooreynolds/1555706680/”>Roo Reynolds</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

Love Is In the Air

by Dianne Lister

“Love is in the air” reminders are everywhere today as Valentine’s Day is celebrated in grand style.  I recently received this email message:

“Love is in the Air.  Valentine’s Day and iPad.  Made for each other — the way to your Valentine’s heart. Shop Now.”

Lots of shopping is done to celebrate this special day of love.  An estimated billion cards, some 36 million heart-shaped boxes of candy and countless red roses will be among the many gifts given to special loved ones before day’s end.  Whatever the gift, one message will be conveyed–“I love you!”

When I was a child, Valentine’s Day was a huge celebration at school.  Teachers would allow us class time to decorate shoeboxes, which we transformed into lovely mailboxes.   Our mailboxes lined the room on the big day when messages of love and friendship would be dropped into their slots. Candy hearts—that tasted like the fruity antacids I take now for heartburn—were often glued on the Valentine envelopes. I fantasized over every message—“be mine,”  “sweetheart,” “love,” “forever”.  Did the senders really mean what they said?

Today, many look for non-traditional ways to say “I love you.”  My new grandson-in-law is one of those.  He is quite good with the camera and recently sent me a picture he had taken for his bride of only nine months.  His photographic expertise blew me away.  Centering their wedding rings in the middle of First Corinthians 13, the great love chapter of the Bible, and with proper camera equipment, perfect timing and lighting, lovely shadows of hearts were cast across the pages.

ImageAs you can see, the photo is quite impressive. But even more impressive are the deeper thoughts that it led me to consider.

Over 2000 years ago, God sent the greatest Valentine ever when He sent His Son, Jesus, and He penned the first Valentine message to a love-starved world:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life.  (John 3:16)

Nothing speaks more clearly of God’s love than the cross of Jesus.

Gordon Jenson’s “Written in Red” is such an appropriate Valentine song:

In letters of crimson, God wrote His love,

On a hillside so long, long ago,

For you and for me Jesus died

 And love’s greatest story was told. 

I love you, I love you, that’s what Calvary said, 

I love you, I love you, I love you, written in red.I

You may not receive a Valentine in the mail, candy or flowers today, but open your Bible and read about the Special Delivery of God’s amazing love.  Someone once said if we could take a knife and cut through every page of the Word of God, it would bleed with the blood of Jesus.  Without any doubt, the Sender really means the message He sent to the whole world. I LOVE YOU, written in red, from the Cross of Calvary.

 ImageDianne Lister is the leader of Take Heart for the Journey at Taylors First Baptist Church. Her first love is Jesus, but she has plenty of love to share with her three kids, three grandchildren, and all the folks she encounters.  Dianne will be leading the breakout session entitled “Living a Legacy” at Take Heart 2014. For more information or to register, go to www.TakeHeartTogether.com/conference.

What If I’m Wrong?

question mark

by Sandy MacMillan

Note to reader: I realize that this week’s devotional blog is out of the ordinary.  My prayer is that as you “consider” with me, you will find boldness to listen to the questions of others and faith to know that the answers are found in Christ. With love, Sandy

A Facebook friend has chosen to believe that there is no God. He believes that my Christian faith is, at best, a poorly reasoned choice, and, at worst, a harmful delusion. He has taken to expressing these views as comments on my Facebook page.

My friend’s comments ask me to consider the question “what if I’m wrong?” “What if the God I believe in is a figment of my imagination?”

While I have no doubt that the God I know is real, perhaps, if only for his sake, this question deserves consideration.

What if I died tonight and…well, that was it.

Dust to dust and nothing else.

What if?

If that were true, then:

I have lived a far-from-perfect life, but one based on a belief system that values every human being, despite the mistakes they have made.

I have lived a life striving to offer the grace I believe I have received from God.

I have sought to offer hope to hurting people. I have sacrificed my own needs in hopes that I have made life better for others. I have given my children a moral compass that can help them find purpose in their own lives.

I have dreamed big and achieved more than I believed I could without the help of God.

If I were to die tonight, full stop, I would die in peace, confident that my mistakes have been forgiven and content that I tried to lighten the burdens of those around me.

No regrets.

“So,” I say to my friend, “I have considered. And I am content.”

But I ask, “Have you considered…?”

“My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Colossians 2:2-3

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/-bast-/349497988/”>Stefan Baudy</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

Three Ways to Ease Your Time Management Stress

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by Beth Beutler

Sharon collapsed onto the couch wondering, “Where did the time go?” She looked over her to-do list from the day, and saw only half of the items completed.

The list seemed reasonable when she wrote it out this morning, but she went to bed feeling like a failure.

Has that ever happened to you?

A stuffed calendar and an overflowing to-do list can lead to stress, meltdowns, and discouragement, but there are ways to refine how you manage your time, so that there’s more time for an unrushed walk with God and for building healthy relationships. Let’s look at three.

Develop an Evening Routine

What we do toward the end of the day is the most important foundation for the next day and week. Flylady.net calls it the “before bed routine.” I call it “FINISH” and am working on getting more disciplined with an evening checklist that will set me up for a better tomorrow.

You can do the same. Make a list of a few tasks that would positively impact the next morning if you could do them consistently. These may include:

  • packing lunches
  • getting clothes out (including accessories)
  • having a bit of quiet time
  • reviewing tomorrow’s calendar
  • packing up extra items like gym bags, computer items or coupons for shopping

For me, I use the word FINISH as an acronym to represent certain steps:

  • F – fill humidifier/diffuser
  • I – Inspirational reading
  • N – next day prep of clothes, bags, etc.
  • I –  in-box zero (email and snail mail gone through)
  • S – self care (grooming, vitamins, etc.)
  • H – house tidying

Do whatever works for you to consistently finish your day well.

Develop a Morning Routine

An effective evening routine is enhanced by a smart morning routine. Again, write down what would make for an ideal morning, with items such as:

  • having a quiet time with God
  • exercising
  • eating a good breakfast
  • tidying the house
  • checking mail

I use “BEGIN” to note these items. For me they include reminders of components of my morning such as “neaten the house” and “grooming.”

  • B – breakfast
  • E – email
  • G – grooming
  • I – inspirational reading, praying
  • N – neatening up

Again, make a list that’s realistic and that works for you, and be willing to adjust it. Try to get into a daily routine, using your list as a guide.

Plan for Transitions

One of my weaknesses is a tendency to not allow enough time to transition between appointments. In this season of my life, I spend a lot of time at home. Because I live in a somewhat rural area, it’s more efficient to stack appointments when I do go out. That means it often takes planning. I need to have gather what I want to bring along, take a few moments to leave the house in decent condition, and touch up my personal appearance.  Therefore, I am teaching myself to allow at least 15 minutes of transition/pack up time. If I need to be somewhere that is 40 minutes away at 11:00, I need to stop working on the computer at 10 and take 15 minutes for the transition, not push my computer work to 10:15.

Overcoming our time management struggles takes intentionality. They won’t fix themselves. Getting a handle on these first three will be a tremendous help toward significant improvement!

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Beth Beutler is an author, speaker, and communication specialist who will be conducting a breakout session at the Take Heart conference (www.TakeHeartTogether.com/conference) on “Ten Time Management Strategies for Stressed-Less Living.” She blogs regularly at www.bethbeutler.com, with a goal of refreshing busy people with hope and laughter while helping them incorporate biblical and practical skills into an excellent personal and professional life.