I remember in 1979 when I entered the workplace I was introduced to soda, “Tab” to be exact, with a slice of lemon. Much like a cigarette smoker (I imagine) I was instantly hooked. And it has mastered me countless times over these past 35 years now. If fact, one time I came into work and found a 2-liter bottle of Dr. Pepper on my desk with an IV attached to it, the sign attached read, “Inject-O Pepper”. While amusing at the time, I look back now and realize just how enslaved I was, at that time, to the sugared sodas. I also realized that it has been a habit and not an addiction, because I don’t miss it when it’s not available to be. For instance, when we travel I rarely think about.
As I was reading this past week the section in, Hunger Within, on “God-Honoring Choices” I felt that nudge once again reminding me that my love of diet soda has gotten out of control again and I need to let it go. While Thin Within states that “there are no forbidden foods as we follow the leading of the Spirit, we will find ourselves making wiser, healthier, God-honoring choices.” The section goes onto say, “While we have the freedom to choose what we will eat or drink, we know not every good or beverage is beneficial for us, nor do we want to be enslaved by anything.” (1 Cor. 10:23) “When we are guided by the grace- giving keys to conscious eating, we recognize that certain foods can be detrimental to our health and are best enjoyed in moderation or avoided. We also develop discernment about what we call ‘trigger’ foods and beverages.”
“Anytime we find ourselves repeatedly seeking a particular food or beverage, we need to consider if there is an underlying issue that isn’t being addressed. Everything is fine in moderation (if there are no medical contraindications), but if there is a good or beverage we feel we cannot do without – or that we tend to ingest in excess or use to jump-start our day – it’s time to take a closer look. Bring this matter to the Lord in prayer. It may be a good idea to give it to God for a season and see what life is like without it. God will either keep it or give it back when the time is right.” (p. 113, Hunger Within)
If you can identify with anything I’m saying here you know just how crazy our behavior can get when we are being mastered by a substance of any kind. At one time in my life I would actually arrive 5-10 minutes late for work on some days, just so I could run through McDonald’s to get my daily diet soda! I could easily consume up to a gallon a day if I wasn’t careful. That’s what addiction/bad habits can do to us … enslave us to the point we no longer think or behave rationally. This is so contrary to the Lord and his ways for us.
And so I’ve been in another season of releasing to God my love of diet coke, with a touch of cherry coke for that sugar. It simply gets the best of me and I hate being mastered by anything/one other than the Lord Jesus Christ. And I want to pursue freedom, even if it takes another fresh start.
What about you?Are you being mastered by anything other than the Lord? If so, review the section on “Observe and Correct” in the Thin Within material and rejoice that God’s mercies are new every morning. We can start over again, with our heads held high and our hands gripped tightly in the hand of the Master.
Cathie lives in Decatur, just outside Dallas-Ft. Worth, TX. She and her husband, Matt have three grown children and 4 (expecting #5 next Spring) grandchildren. She enjoys leading women’s bible studies, gardening, walks with Matt and their Golden Retriever, Sadie Mae, when she’s not working full-time. Needlework and reading are also among her favorite pastimes.
During this season of thanksgiving and holy celebration I find myself overwhelmed with the kindness of the Lord in bringing me back to the Thin Within community. Do you realize what a blessed group of people we are to have comrades (companions) in arms, who will help us fight the battle for freedom!
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 says, 9 Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. 10 If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. 11 Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? 12 A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.
Every day as I read the testimonies of others on this journey I am imparted with hope. I see many on this battlefield relentlessly getting up after each setback and pressing on. I see fellow comrades rally around and offer words of encouragement and prayers to help steady the person back on the path toward freedom. And it makes me smile and builds my faith. It also gives me the courage to keep on keepin’ on.
So many of us have no idea the value of accountability and exposing our weakness to another. But as Ecclesiastes says, we are “better off”, we “conquer” when we are walking in community with others. We find Christ-like acceptance in the Thin Within community, acceptance void of all judgment and condemnation. It just doesn’t get much better than that!
If you’re facing discouragement today here’s an exercise that will encourage you. Stand up and take two steps forward, now take one step back. Now do it again, and again and again. See what’s happening? You’re still moving in the right direction, only at a slightly slower pace. Now picture this exercise with one or two others on each side of you … taking those same two steps forward and one step back. For me, this is what comradery is all about. It’s about walking forward, falling at times, getting up and walking forward again, but with others who want to fight the same battle with me. What a precious gift this is.
I’ll admit that this year’s Thanksgiving holidays with relatives was not one of my stellar events with regard to my eating. Added to this was the disappointment I felt after Heidi and Cathy had so selflessly provided victory-tools for us to use. I even armed myself with those tools. But still, I fell on the battlefield. And yet as much as the enemy was hounding me to throw in the towel and just give up, on Monday morning I grabbed my bible, my journal, my truth cards, and a cup of coffee and I returned to that spot in the house reserved for me and Jesus. And there I cried and repented and began to process what happened (how I lost this holiday fight).
How about you? Are you one whose Thanksgiving wasn’t as successful as you’d planned? Have you taken some time to get with Jesus to dialogue about what happened? Have you started working on your battle plan for all the Christmas goodies and the big holiday dinner? Are you thankful for the Thin Within comrades that are standing ready to walk the journey toward freedom with you? Are you taking advantage of the blogs, online bible studies, coaching opportunities, etc.? Or are you discouraged and fearful of being authentic with your Thin Within community? Let me encourage you to not give another inch of ground to our enemy. Instead, turn to Jesus and to your Thin Within community to gain strength for the journey ahead. Afterall, we’re all in this together.
“Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.” I was reminded just this weekend of this aged old hymn. I was reminded because I realized that as that particular day was passing food wasn’t at the forefront of my mind. Jesus was. And as I engaged with Him more and more I was captivated by how delighted it felt to stay fixed on Him.
On that day (Sunday) I served in my areas of responsibly at church, and then participated in worship and the sermon that morning. Following church we grabbed a bite at Subway and then went home. I decided to plant pansies while my husband watched football. Usually I enjoy a Sunday afternoon nap. However, this day was different. All day long I sensed the Lord just wanting to be with me, for no other reason that He liked me and wanted to spend time together.
In the spiritual 17th century classic, Practicing the Presence of God, Brother Lawrence says, “It is exactly that ‘moment by moment,’ every waking moment, surrender, responsiveness, obedience, sensitiveness, pliability, ‘lost in His love,’ that I now have the mind-bent to explore with all my might, to respond to Jesus Christ as a violin responds to the bow of the master.”
Isn’t that lovely ? Isn’t that where freedom resides … in the relationship between us and the Lord, free from distractions and interruptions. It’s not that life isn’t swirling all around us. It is. However, in that time we’re walking by the Spirit and not the flesh (Galatians 5:16-18) and so our minds and hearts are free to embrace His love for us and respond with our love for Him. Nothing else matters. Why then, is it so difficult to find this place and remain (abide) in it for any length of time, apart from our early morning devotional time perhaps? Because fixing our eyes on anything other than what’s in front of us takes deliberate effort and is often hard to sustain, especially when we have an enemy who is constantly and relentlessly, seeking to rob, kill, and destroy (1 Peter 5:8) any and all progress we are making in Christ. And he knows that we are making progress in Christ.
Brother Lawrence goes on to say, “I cannot imagine how a Christian can live a satisfied Christian experience without the practice of being in the presence of Christ. For my part, I keep myself retired with Him in the center of my soul as much as I can. While I am with Him I fear nothing. Even the slightest turning away from Him, on my part, is indefensible.”
Among the Thin Within “Keys to Conscious Eating” are: eat in a calm environment by reducing distractions (or calm your mind), eat while you are sitting; and, eat when your mind and body are relaxed. These three particular keys are challenging to many of us. Perhaps they even come across as less important than some of the other Keys or even impractical for our busy lives. For me, they confirm what Brother Lawrence purposed to do, and what we Christians should seek to do. Because when we make room for Jesus in the rhythms of our daily lives we find Him there faithfully waiting to capture our attention. And it’s in that place where we turn our eyes upon Jesus and look full in His wonderful face that we are walking in the Spirit, making no provision for our flesh (Romans 13:14). Friend, there’s simply no better place to be.
What about you? Do you find it hard to calm yourself down long enough to truly enjoy God’s presence and the food he’s provided for you to eat? Are the three Keys mentioned ones you view as impractical for your lifestyle? If so, you’re in good company. We all live in the same culture that clamors for our attention and too often receives it. Could it be that God is calling us to nestle into His chest so he can quiet us with His love? That’s when we learn once again how to live by the Spirit and not the flesh.
This past weekend was intended to be a great getaway with a dear girlfriend shopping at an area Trade Days, relaxing at a recommended B&B, eating food we don’t normally enjoy, and just catching up. This is an annual event to celebrate our birthdays. However, this year would be different with regard to my eating. So, I strategized with Heidi as to my battle plan for the weekend, and sought to prepare my heart before we took off on Saturday morning.
The morning drive went well and when I was offered warm, yummy-smelling muffins I enjoyed a couple as I was just approaching a 0 and knew we wouldn’t eat again until lunchtime. However, upon entry into the Trade Days we passed a vendor who was making corn dogs and funnel cakes and my friend said we had to get some. I half mindlessly agreed, justifying to myself that we would walk off the calories (old mindset) and likely wouldn’t eat again until late in the day. Nope. A few hours later and still not hungry we passed a vendor making homemade fried green tomatoes and ranch dressing and we agreed to try them out. They were delicious, and while I didn’t eat to a 5 I didn’t start at a 0 either. The next day wasn’t much better because we still had the delicious breakfast to enjoy before checking out of the B&B … yet I still wasn’t at a 0. Did that stop me? No it didn’t. Again, I never did eat past 4-5, but I didn’t start from a place of 0 either. In other words, I was in full violation of the God-given boundaries that I’d armed myself with. Even sadder is the fact that I rose early, before the other B&B guests on Sunday morning and repented before the Lord rearming myself with truth for the coming day. He of course, was faithfully waiting for me when I arrived in my bath rope and slippers. He gently reminded me of something I’d read in the “Hunger Within” book (pg. 47), “God gives us the freedom to observe and correct, to fail and succeed … And when we fail, God is always there to pick us up. He will continue walking with us until we have our ultimate freedom …” How sweet is that!
So what happened? How could I be so confident and prepared going into the weekend, and yet so quickly violate my boundaries? I was determined to find out (observe & correct). And so bright and early Monday morning the Lord again was waiting to visit with me over my morning coffee before the hustle and bustle of another day would hit. And he showed me two primary reasons for my failure. The first was that I stopped paying attention. I got so excited about the glorious weather, all the fun stuff for sale, and the yummy food I was “permitted” to eat that I neglected to pay attention to the faithful promptings of the Holy Spirit. Bottom line, the weekend became “all about me” and little about Him. My focus turned inward. Second, I was more interested in people-pleasing my girlfriend than I was pleasing the Lord. In fact, when I apologized to my friend for being such a poor influence on our eating she responded by telling me that she would have eaten what she wanted regardless of what I did. So my people-pleasing backfired on me all the way around! Oh my, that was a tough one to swallow when the Lord brought that to my attention. I was reminded of Genesis 39:9 where Joseph is confronted with pleasing himself and Potiphar’s wife or pleasing the Lord by honoring Potiphar’s (Joseph’s master) authority. He chose pleasing the Lord.
What about you? Have you ever started out full of momentum to succeed using the Thin Within tools in a potentially challenging situation but ended up failing at the outset? Did you take the time to meet with the Lord and ask Him why this was/is? If not, learn from me. He is waiting for that one-on-one time together so He can share the truth with you. And it’s never too late to spend that time with Him, especially if it means learning something about ourselves.
This morning as I jumped in the shower to get ready for my workday I was overwhelmed once again with the faithfulness of the Lord to meet us each and every time we show up ready to hear His voice. Why I’m surprised I’m not sure. After all, He tells us in Hebrews 11:6 that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. And so today when I stood present to hear His voice (amidst shampoo and soap lather) He reminded me of Key #4 – “Eat when my body and mind are relaxed.” I admit I do struggle with this one. I struggle primarily because more often than not it’s hard for me to relax. If my body’s not moving my mind certainly is.
The older I get the more I realize that God is never hurried nor unrelaxed. And if I want to be conformed more into His likeness I need not be either. However, that’s easier said than done.
The Oxford Dictionary defines the word relax as follows, “reduce or abate (one’s attention or efforts, etc.); cease work or effort. It dawned on me that so many times when I sit down to eat it is for everything but enjoying God’s faithful provision. I’m either squeezing the meal in between the endless demands on my day; I’m preparing food for others; grabbing a snack on the go; and/or, mindlessly pulling something together when I get home from work, snacking as I go (because I didn’t planned better). The bottom line is, I am always going if not physically, then mentally for sure. Making time to “eat when my body and mind are relaxed” is a constant challenge, especially when you have family and work full-time. Nevertheless, it’s a tool we’ve been offered here at Thin Within and there are countless testimonies to those finding success. So we know it can be done.
I recently read the following quote, “Margin gives time for us to breathe in and out – stilling ourselves in the presence of God and allowing all the things which have hustled our attention be cast aside in favor of a purposeful look at our God. Sabbath dulls down the noisiness of our ever-pulsating activities, invites us to refocus our attention on His character, and all He has done for us. It helps us be thankful. It gives us space … to worship. It keeps us from squeezing the Giver out of the gift.” (Priscilla Shirer) Wow! What if we could make our eating times as sweet as this … even if for only 15 minutes.
Last night was the first time in a long time that I experienced this for myself with regard to my eating. I attended our monthly women’s meeting at church where a lavish pot-luck dinner was ours to enjoy. My only problem was of course, I wasn’t hungry or even close. For some reason my 6” Subway tuna fish sandwich eaten at noon had kept me satisfied until long after our 6:00 p.m. gathering. I briefly scanned the table casting my eyes only on a decadent looking chocolate dessert that appeared to have my name written on it. Thinking to myself, “I’ll just take a bite to see if it’s as good as it looks”, I quickly stepped out of the room and said, “Lord, you and I both know I won’t stop with one bite. Please help me to relax and enjoy the fellowship of the other ladies.” And that’s just what we (the Lord and I did). I grabbed a delicious peach flavored iced tea, placed my sweet little self at the opposite end of the food area and got to know some ladies a little better. Hallelujah! A sweet moment of victory!
What about you? Is it hard for you to eat when your mind and body are relaxed? Can you picture giving God honor by eating within these margins? Look for 15 minutes to sit and enjoy God’s gift of food today. I’ll bet you’re rewarded with more than just the experience. I’ll bet you find Him waiting for you when you arrive.