Over the years I’ve cultivated relationships with friends who were like drinking buddies, only they were “foodies” or food buddies. These were people I especially enjoyed being with over a meal because I could get away with my sin, even have it coddled, casting off all restraint, I could give license to my carnal nature. The scripture is clear when it says, “So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then; you do now. (I Peter 1:14) However, over this past year I’ve come to realize that I do know better, and thus am held accountable to that truth. Who I spend my time with, and how I spend my time, matters … especially if the fellowship helps me slip back into my old ways of living to satisfy my own desires. And this truth does not vacillate between family and friends.
Almost, if not even worse, is that when we’re together I am rarely the standard-setter. I am a follower, a co-laborer in our sin. Truth be told, by choosing things that are not the most beneficial for me and sharing that may also cause my friend(s) to stumble. I guess I’d forgotten that it goes both ways. I realized how they caused me to stumble, yet forgot to consider if I was doing the same to them. “Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” (Matt 7:4-5)
Today I am making a point to offer a Thin Within group in my own home. We’re starting with a small group, though size doesn’t matter. I’m choosing to surround myself with like-minded women who are all about living a God-centered life. And I want to be that for them. Our meeting last night almost brought me to tears as we each shared from hearts of transparency. And then this morning I read the following posted on social media:
“The church should be the safest place on the earth where people can open up and share the deepest hurts and struggles in our lives. Where truth-telling and loving honesty isn’t seen as a lack of grace but as the faithful and life-giving wounds of friends. Where “I’ve been there” compassion flows like crystal clear water over a waterfall, baptizing the weary, sin-laded soul with hope. Where children hear their pastor and their parents say “Please forgive me” or “I’m not good at this” or “I need prayer” more than they perceive strength or pride or self-righteousness. Where small groups welcome the confession of weakness and sin, and people aren’t afraid to talk about lust, greed, jealousy or wondering if they married the wrong person. Oh, Jesus, as you advance Your kingdom by building Your church please make us a family where sins, sufferings and struggles can be shared without fear of uncharitable judgments or self-righteous rejection. Yet also make us a people who speak hard truths to one another and refuse to confuse grace with coddling sin. You are at work, Oh God. Keep working through the weak and sinful like me.”
Oh that beautifully resonates with my heart. I want to encourage anyone reading this blog today to prayerfully consider leading a small Thin Within group in your community. Just contact Heidi or Cathy for details on getting started. There are hungry (no pun intended) women longing for a small group to walk this journey with them. They are ones who don’t want to read it on a computer every day. They want to come in after a hard day’s work, grab a cup of coffee, their bible and workbook and have a place to sit among women who care. It doesn’t take fine leadership skills, or a beautiful home. It only takes a willing heart and open door.
What about you? Are you causing others to sin by choosing the permissible and not the beneficial? Do you long for fellowship with like-minded, God-centered women seeking to apply the Thin Within principles to their life? Please prayerfully consider finding a small group, or starting one. There few blessings that compare with being used by the Lord to bring others to the Truth.
Have you ever heard God’s voice? I don’t mean audibly, but have you heard His Spirit speak to your spirit? I did. When I was a member (for the umpteenth time) of the last commercial weight loss program I went to, I was struggling. You see, whenever I joined up, once again (for the umpteenth time, because this time was going to be different, yes, ma’am!!) I rejoiced in my ability to follow the program righteously. Yes, sir’ee, I was LEGAL!! I weighed and measured my food. I wrote down every bite and sip. I listened with such attentiveness at the meetings. I contributed to the discussions with my wit and humor (and of course all the extensive knowledge I had learned and retained throughout the many, many years I was on that journey). And then, life happened. Life caught up with me. Life grabbed my shirt tail and pulled me back into my failure. I fell off the “perfect” bandwagon. I cheated. I was back to being a failure. I couldn’t do it anymore if I couldn’t be righteous. If I ate my 30 points at the breakfast buffet, then I was done for the day. Who can live that way?? (I just wanted to go back to eating the way I had always eaten. After all, I had lost a bunch of weight already. Wasn’t I cured??) So off into my own self-will run rampant I went. Oh boy, the abandon!! But the next week I would have to face that horrible scale!! Of course, the scale was my BFF when I was legal and righteous!! I could get tendinitis from all the times I patted myself on my back!!
Let me tell you a little bit of my history, and maybe you will understand why this group only fed my pre-set view of myself. I was raised by a mother who was very conscious of body image. She was never larger than a size 16 (and many years ago, a size 16 was smaller than it is today). When I was 9 and going through puberty, my mom put me on my first diet. She really just wanted a diet buddy, and I was her youngest so I made the best choice. We dieted and lost weight. I heard for the rest of her life how she lost her weight and never gained it back. I have dieted on and off from that day on. Needless to say, I lost and gained many times over. My mother also taught me how to be bulimic.
So, I was at my favorite weight loss club, and had fallen off my pedestal of righteous eating and was back to playing games in order to get the scale to remain my BFF instead of my own worst enemy, and in a moment of clarity, I cried out to God, my Father, my Great Physician and Lover of my soul. I cried out, “God, I can’t do this anymore!! I am slowly killing myself playing these games with food and food restrictions, and trying to get the scale to obey me. I am so weary of trying to control this area of my life!! God, help me!!” Clear as day, I felt the Holy Spirit speak to my heart. He said, “My daughter, only in America do people pay money to not eat.” This statement of truth crushed my heart. I don’t want to get into how people are starving around the world and even in parts of our country. We all know this is true. I also know that we are blessed in this country in so many ways. My own life has been blessed with always having enough, even though we had long periods of my husband being unemployed. God always saw us through. We always had food on our table. What God was pointing out to me was what was in my heart. Even though I had enough, I wanted more. I was greedy. I was a glutton. I wanted more than my fair share. Even in my hunger within, my spirit wanted to be filled to overflowing with God and His love and true intimacy with Him, but my flesh wanted to be filled with what the world could give me. And sadly, this filled me physically, but left me feeling so empty. Only in America is what I heard, but in my heart of hearts, what He was really saying was, “Only in your heart are you driven to pay others money to keep you from eating what I have given you to eat with thanksgiving, in the way I designed your body to eat when hungry and to stop eating when satisfied. Sweet daughter, when you eat more than that, you are seeking a filling that doesn’t come from ME.”
Hearing His voice speak to my heart with truth about what I was doing, led me to the beautiful program of Hunger Within and Thin Within. I had never experienced before this time any freedom from the compulsion to overeat or not obsess about food. God, in His great mercy, called me forth from the tomb I was in with my food and eating history. He has unwrapped my grave clothes that have kept me bound up for most of my life, and through eating the way He designed me to eat, all foods with thanksgiving, within 0 to 5, I am truly living a life of freedom. My chains are gone. I’ve been set free.
How about you? What is keeping you held back from hearing His voice? What chains around your eating and food obsession are keeping you from totally surrendering to 0 – 5 boundaries? Are you ready to hear Jesus say, “Sweet daughter, Come Forth!!”?
As my small group was studying Workbook Three: “Rebuilding God’s Temple” the Lord opened my eyes to a truth I never realized.
The question posed was, “What might be the reason for some of your struggles with eating or in other areas of your life? On whom are you to rely in your weakness? What do you think might be God’s purpose for your struggle?”
Here is how I answered. “Because more often than not I live days, weeks, months, even years ahead of myself. It’s very hard for me to live in the moment. This makes me an excellent planner, able to anticipate things some would never think of. However, it also makes me very restless when I’m in that “in between” place. That’s when I usually eat. The purpose for my struggle, I believe is so God can show me how to rest in Him knowing He’s got whatever is coming next.”
It amazes me how much our childhood experiences can influence our adult behavior. When I was age 6 years old my dad woke me up to tell me he was taking my mom to the hospital and I needed to get up and get myself and my sister ready for school. That hospital visit was the beginning of many over the next 30 years. My mom would live in and out of mental hospitals and institutions while my father was involved in politics and away from home often. So, I became a little parent that day my dad woke me up. And, I’ve never stopped living in a place of preparedness for whatever is coming next.
Even though that day occurred 47 years ago I still find myself restless and bored when I’m not under a deadline. No surprise, I thrive under pressure. For the past six years God has had me living in a season of rest (we live in a small town where I can ride my bike to work, I’m paid generously to simply “be available” to my boss, I have a good three hours to myself between my husband leaving for work and me going to work). It’s a quiet and beautiful season to be living in. And yet, I’m still restless and bored and trying desperately to prepare for the next thing. I don’t want to be caught off guard. And so I nibble. I never use to be a nighttime eater. Now I find myself nibbling on popcorn or fruit or animal crackers after dinner. But thanks be the God who is showing me how this exemplifies what Romans 8:5 refers to as, “… those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh.” Each and every time I choose to eat outside the 0-5 boundaries I am turning my back on the power of the Holy Spirit who can change my wanter and my canner. In fact, depending on the Holy Spirit daily for emotional grace and empowerment is an essential element to heal and keep me healthy.
I’ll admit I have a long way to go in learning how to rest and be still when God places me in that “in-between” place, but I’m encouraged that He helped me recognize where that discontentment/ restlessness came from. The enemy would love for me to focus on the fact that it’s taken me 47 years to see it. BUT GOD wants me to focus on the fact that as I’ve prayed for the eyes of my heart to be open during this bible study, He’s heard my prayer and answered me. And He won’t stop there. Because God wants to use me, and has set me on the path that leads to being used by Him, I find myself encouraged. Rather than preparing for what’s next with a fear-based mentality, I can simply rest in knowing, “He’s got my back and my front.” As Psalm 139:1-5 says, “O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away. You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do. You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord. You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head.”
What about you? Are you sensing that God has you in that “in-between” place right now? If so, seek to find out what His purpose is for doing so. Is it hard for you to rest or be still? If so, ask Him where that came from and what He wants you to do with it. Remember, the Holy Spirit wants to energize us with God’s strength and power to help us walk in the resurrection power of Jesus Christ!
“Behold, You desire truth in the inner being; make me therefore to know wisdom in my inmost heart.”
I boast in my own strength. I claim Philippians 4:13, that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. I believe that. But, I haven’t lived it.
I boast in my own strength. I give God the glory for making me strong. I say I am strong because I had to be because of this and that. I say God gifted me with strength for survival; because I had to be strong. I say that I am grateful for being strong because that is the way He made me. After all, I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. After all, my dad died when I was 14 and left me with a mother who didn’t really love me; or at least didn’t love me in the way I needed to be loved. I was the baby of the family and was pretty much left to my own devices as my siblings were out of the house and my mother worked nights as a RN. I had to grow up and handle many things beyond my years when we were going through my dad’s long cancer battle. I could fill a book of all the things I lived through!
But did He really make me strong, so strong that if I wasn’t going through some difficult changes that I wouldn’t have accepted His invitation to be His beloved daughter? Is it not I who learned to be strong – to take care of things – who is still taking care of things? When do I cry out, “Abba Father, help me, I can’t handle this!”? Only in situations where I know I have no control. And then after crying out, I want to run away, because I can’t fix it!
I am a glory thief and the glory I am stealing is Gods’. What am I to do with 2 Corinthians 12:10 where Paul states,
“That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
And verse 9 where God tells Paul,
“My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.”
Romans 7:7 thru 8:4 gives me a beacon of hope for my situation. It is my sinful nature that cries out for me to be strong – to appear strong. Our society looks at strength as a positive attribute, but in God’s kingdom, we are called to be humble. Christ Jesus tells us in Matthew 18:3-4 that,
“I tell you the truth, unless youchange and become like little children, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.”
I get two things from this: Christ says I can change and I can humble myself. Actually, I can’t do it. Only the Holy Spirit can change me to be childlike in my faith and strength, and to teach me to be humble. In The Prodigal God, Timothy Keller says, “To truly become Christians we must also repent of the reasons we ever did anything right. Pharisees only repent of their sins, but Christians repent for the very roots of their righteousness, too.” So, in order for me to grow in this freedom that I receive from Christ Jesus as I allow His truth to invade my mind and my heart, I have to repent of boasting in my own strength.
Abba Father, right now I repent of being strong in my own strength, and for boasting in my own strength. Father, I see my weakened body and excess weight as a sign that it is time to let go and learn from You and to do what You want me to do. Father, my flesh is screaming, “No!! Don’t give up!! We can do this!!” but my spirit is remorseful and grieved and I really can’t be strong in myself anymore. Father, forgive me and let Your Holy Spirit change my direction. Father, whenever the need to be right, the need to control, or the need to fix something I can’t fix pops into my head, I rebuke them in the strength of Jesus. Into Your hands I place my heart, my mind, my emotions, my body and my family. Grow us LORD God by Your strength and power. And, Father, if being weak is how I need to learn, then I pray I will be accepting of weakness for Your glory. In the Name that is above all names, I pray these things, Amen.
I hear Jesus saying, “Deanna, come forth!! I am unwrapping your grave clothes of self-sufficiency and control. You don’t need to try to be strong anymore. Place your burdens, your heart, mind and soul into My hands so that I can teach you the truth and that truth will set you free.”
What about you? Can you identify with being a glory thief? Pretty sobering thoughts, I know. But isn’t God asking for truth in our hearts? What is He asking you today? How will you respond to Him?
“But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.” (1 Corinthians 9:27)
In this passage Paul urges us to keep ourselves spiritually fit. He stresses the necessity of self-discipline and the danger of flaunting one’s liberties. The believer must practice self- denial and self-control. In Matthew Henry’s commentary he says, “The body must be made to serve the mind, not suffered to lord over it.”
This past Sunday morning I awoke at 3:30 a.m. with this passage front and center of my mind. It was one of those times the Lord impressed upon me to get up and get before him. And so I grabbed my coffee, bible and journal and headed to the living room where I sat for the next three hours as the Lord showed me the seriousness of my choice to waiver between obedience and disobedience where the sin of gluttony is concerned.
In Chapter 8 of Hunger Within we read of the “Holy Struggle” we are faced with. And we’re reminded that “this choice of putting off and putting on is one we will face daily throughout our life because we will always have areas where we are tempted.” Earlier in this chapter we read, “Our hunger within has at its core a demand that our needs be met. To those of us who struggle with food, eating, and weight, this hunger – even though it has no physical basis – insists that we be fed. When we acknowledge our hunger within, we often seek food to satisfy our unmet needs. This is the essence of addictive behavior – turning to the quick fix when our emotions are high, when the pain is throbbing.” So when God says, “Wait” or “Be patient, I am feeding you,” often our response is, “Well, great, but it’s not what I ordered.” We struggle against God’s request for patience because everything in us is clamoring, “No!” This hunger doesn’t feel good. It hurts and I want to feel better right now! Feed it!” The chapter goes on to state this sobering truth, “At the heart of our flesh patterns is the sin of idolatry. We think God is not good and will not give us the desires of our heart, so instead of cultivating our interior life with God, we look for life elsewhere by seeking external pleasures.”
For those of us who have been with Thin Within for any length of time, and/or have been given to spiritual growth over a long period of time there comes a point when we are simply called to put into practice what we’ve learned and stop subjecting our behavior to the mental lies we choose to embrace. It’s as if the Lord says, “Enough already! It’s time to practice what you preach more often than vacillating.” This is especially important if you want to share the Thin Within message with others, particularly by example. Paul deeply valued being qualified for service to the Lord and to those the Lord called him to impact. Therefore, the issue of self-discipline, self-denial, self-control, etc. was paramount within his personal constitution. It was not a matter of personal preference but obedience to the One who called him to serve, the One he loved more than anything or anyone else, including himself.
Folks, our lives are no different. We’re either committed to walking out obedience as best we know how, day-in and day-out, or we’re not. And there comes a point when the Lord has enough of letting us live our own way. And so he gives a strong warning, an opportunity to change course. That’s what I sensed he gave me Sunday morning. It’s a type of warning he’s given me before when I was walking defiant of his truth and his way. They are not warnings you forget, nor do you want to.
“For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. You will find me when you seek me, if you look for me in earnest. Yes, says the Lord, I will be found by you, and I will end your slavery and restore your fortunes …”. (Jeremiah 29:11-13)
What about you? Is your body lording over your mind? Or is your body living in subjection to the truth? Do you vacillate on any given day, between whether or not you’ll choose to walk in obedience or disobedience? Do you believe God has a good plan for you? Choose Jesus today and embrace denying your “hunger within” as you submit yourself to the One who loves you and wants the very best for you. And trust that he will satisfy you.
As my new Thin Within class rapidly approaches I find myself struggling once again with the progress, or lack thereof, I’ve made thus far on my journey. I’m referring to my physical progress. I truly wanted the ladies to see the tremendousus loss of weight that has occurred before they joined me on this Thin Within journey. Unfortunately, they won’t. And that is something I have to accept. The enemy would love nothing more than to use this to discourage me and launch mental assaults that tell me I’m not qualified to lead others.
Isn’t it funny the expectations we set for ourselves when God calls us to do something for his Kingdom. We assume we will have “arrived” by the time he has us stand before others and introduce them to the journey toward freedom we’ve been walking, for example. What’s even more uncanny is the fact that people want to know they are accepted right where they are. For that matter, we want to know we’re accepted right where we are. In fact, some, those who may need this teaching most, might even feel intimated if they were to see that I was skinny. My point is not that God doesn’t want me at my God-given size. My point is that he can use me every step of the way, before, during and/or after. It’s up to him. However, we each have a “before place” in the testimony of our lives that God is writing. And we need others who are at different points on the path to help encourage us to stay the course.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 (The Advantages of Companionship) says, “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. “ The bottom line is we need each other regardless of where we are currently standing on the path to freedom. And people need to know it’s okay. As long as we are moving in a forward direction, listening to the Lord, and obeying his commands, we cannot help but serve as an encouragement to others and them to us.
Recently, I reconnected with a childhood friend I’ve searched for over the past several years. As I was documenting some of the major things that have happened in my life since we last spoke, I simply had to marvel at all I’ve come through. Compared to many they wouldn’t be considered eventful or even painful necessarily, but for me they tenderized my heart and certainly could have been much worse had the Lord not stepped in and redirected my path. The reason I’ve searched for her so fervently these past several years is because I owed her an apology. An apology for blowing off her friendship so many times when she reached out to me. Unfortunately, it was in a season when I was a workaholic and paid little attention to relationships.
It’s funny the multitude of emotions that come at us each day and tempt us to eat outside the boundaries God’s set for us. And I’m no exception. As I’ve begun to reconnect with my friend I’ve begun to revisit that season in my life when I was terribly productive but lacked in deep friendships. It’s just this kind of mental and emotional process that can take us one direction or another … into the arms of Jesus … or into the kitchen. I have to recognize that each moment during this process that I’ve turned to Jesus and not to food I’ve made the kind of progress that matters. And it’s this kind of process that these women who are signed up for my class need to know about.
Once again as I sit to write this blog I’m overwhelmed at the kindness of the Lord. Not a day passes that I don’t rejoice at all he’s done to hold me steady and draw my heart toward his. I shudder to think what battle I might be fighting if it weren’t my weight. What about you? What are you walking through right now? Is it drawing you to Jesus or the refrigerator? Do you realize the kindness of the Lord in the testimony he’s writing with your life? Be encouraged at where you stand in the journey today. As Joyce Meyer says, “I’m not where I want to be, but thank God I’m not where I use to be.”