This Christmas Focus

I remember in former weight loss programs the encouragement to have one day a week where you ate anything and everything you wanted.  After all, who could actually stay disciplined without a “fudge” (no pun intended) day each week.  If only they knew the power of God!

While I don’t want to encourage total unrestraint this Christmas, I do want to suggest that you take the day off from obsessing over (perhaps they’ve already become your natural habit) practicing the Keys to Conscious Eating and what your progress/status is with regard to goals you’ve set, and what others may think of us when they see we are still heavy, etc.  I suggest this to all of those (myself included) who like to check all the boxes, and get terribly discouraged when we miss a box.  By all means, go into the day with a realistic and godly plan for your eating (especially when it comes to setting the day apart before the day gets started)focus However, let’s focus on Jesus instead of our weaknesses.   Let’s focus on what His birth came to bring us (freedom!).  Let’s focus on the loved ones, including those who bring with them unhealed places that rub against us and rejoice that we’re still living and breathing together this year.  Let’s set the tone in our homes for offering peace and blessing and giving words of encouragement to those we’ll see.  Let’s take cookies to that cranky neighbor next door, and bridle our tongue when a sibling forgets to say “thank you” for including them in the festivities, or our child(ren) don’t offer to help with anything.  Let’s take the high road and share with others the great things God’s been teaching us this past year.  Let’s take the day off from focusing on our carnal selves and enter the eternal place that Jesus’ birth has given us.  The place that is free from the sin that so easily entangles us (Hebrews 12:1).

To be prudent we must remember we have an active enemy who will want to use this day to sabotage all thoughts of freedom and hope.  As John Eldredge in his book entitled, Waking the Dead, says, “The enemy knows who you are in Christ and fears it.  His only agenda is to do whatever it takes to hinder you from walking in that knowledge.”  Wow!  Suffice it to say, the enemy won’t be taking Christmas off and so neither should we.   What I’m suggesting is that by focusing on Jesus Himself, and what the true meaning of Christmas is, rather than focusing on ourselves and the flesh of our journey, we’ll find ourselves resisting the enemy at every turn.

faith focusWith regard to “setting the day apart” if you plan nothing else please plan to wake up as early as necessary to grab your bible, journal, truth cards, and a cup of coffee.  Then go and hide yourself in that quiet place where Jesus will be waiting to equip you for the day(s) ahead.  And throughout the day when the conversation goes awry or you find yourself losing your peace step away and quickly go find a place, any place (a closet, bathroom, or car works just fine) to renew your mind and encourage your soul, even if for only a few minutes.  Don’t let the enemy pull you back into the place your purposed earlier in the day not to go.  Remember, Jesus’ birth brought you freedom from that place.

What about you?  As the holidays rapidly approach are you finding yourself anxious or at peace?  Where can you carve out those few minutes to regain some control?  Between now and Christmas/New Year’s visit the Thin Within blog often, even going back through the archives to strengthen yourself in the Lord.  Keep an eye on the testimonies via Facebook.   Remember this Christmas, Jesus’ birth brought us freedom.  Let’s focus on that today.

Out of the Slimey Pit

image“I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry.  He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.  He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.  Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord.  (Psalm 40:1-3)

Recently, I began a word study on the word “pit”.  Mainly, because there are still too many days when I feel like I’m living in one.  My life, by most standards is a great one:  good job (5 minutes from home), godly boss and co-workers, good marriage and family, good health (even the aging aches and pains aren’t that bad), etc., etc.   And compared to so many of my family and friends that are truly living with stress I have nothing to complain or murmur about.  And yet, there is that one thing that has tormented me for 14 years, the battle to come up out of my slimy pit once and for all and stand firm on that rock of freedom!  It’s that torment that keeps me lingering in a place God never intended for me.

The Oxford Dictionary defines “pit” as:  a covered trap, hollow on a surface, sunken area.  Doesn’t that have all the sounds of our enemy’s tactics?  He covers; he traps; he is of no substance, his ways are hollow, he seeks to sink us.  Of the 49 references to the word “pit” in the New Testament I didn’t find one that represented anything good.  In fact, Beth Moore in her book, Get Out of That Pit, says that “a pit is an early grave that Satan digs for you in hopes he can bury you alive.”  Isn’t that powerful?  I read that and thought of a person who might be told her lab results show she’s heading toward pre-diabetes, then she becomes pre-diabetic, then she is full on diabetic.  All because she didn’t heed the early warning signs that a pit was up ahead.  I’ll be honest, while this woman is only hypothetical; it is hopefully a good illustration of how the progression of a pit can occur.  How many days do we watch and listen to reports of others dealing with the onslaught of physical maladies often times because they simply didn’t take care of their temple when they were first warned?  The Lord said to me just this morning, “You must do your part.  I’m always faithful to do mine.”

Thin Within offers a gift like no other program does.  It offers the gift of learning how to let the Lord pull us out of the slimy pit, the mud and mire, and set our feet on a rock, a firm place to stand.  And like I said in a recent blog, there are a multitude of comrades waiting for us on that rock.  Our short-term goal (temporal) is to, “live a new life of joy and freedom” (p. 47, Hunger Within).  That goal can only be met outside the pit of despair where Jesus himself is waiting to put a new song in our mouths, a hymn of praise to our God.  Remember, as it says it the scripture above, “many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord.  That’s our ultimate (eternal) goal.

I’ve agreed to lead a Thin Within small group in my home this coming March and I can tell you I feel less than qualified imagebecause I haven’t made much progress with my physical weight loss.  However, I’ve been growing spiritually by leaps and bounds.  In fact, in my one-on-one coaching with Heidi the Lord showed me something.  God may not allow me to lose weight yet, because he’s doing a deeper work in me.  If I dropped the weight immediately, I’d miss that deep work and likely return to the slimy pit again.  I don’t know about you, but I need that deep work done in my heart.  I don’t ever want to return to that pit again.  And on those days when I feel like I’m living there I have to tell myself the truth, out loud, “HE TURNED TO ME AND HEARD MY CRY.  HE LIFTED ME OUT OF THE SLIMY PIT.”  He’s already done it!  That’s what He did at my salvation.  Now, my assignment is to walk it out, living in the joy and freedom He came to give.

 

What about you?  Do you feel like you’re living in the pit?  Do you recognize the enemy’s tactics to keep you living in that place?  What are you doing to get out and stay out?  Join me in eating, breathing and living in God’s truth … that He’s already turned to you, heard your cry, and lifted you out.  Make it your goal to find out how to walk in your “new normal”, your new reality.  It’s the place where joy and freedom exist.

Walking Away

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. diet tabAnd 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.

diet cokeAnd 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.

Comrades In Arms

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, 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. commarades 1See 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

“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.image

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 enemimagey 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.

Seeing Beyond What I Can See

Penny is working her way through the Thin Within book. She shares with us here about coming to “Day 5” where the reader is called to do an exercise to be reconciled with her physical body. The exercise is not for the faint of heart! I am so proud of Penny for making it through. When she told me about her experience, I knew I had to encourage her to share it with all of you—the faithful readers of the Thin Within Blog. Enjoy! ~ Heidi Bylsma

Written By Guest Blogger, Penny Davis

As I came to day five’s reading, I was very much crunched for time! I had committed to my reading daily and wanted to make sure that I followed through. However, I just really had no time to go thru the Mirror, Mirror exercise. So I gave myself permission to ” do it tomorrow!”

Three days later…

I am standing and looking at myself in the mirror , knowing this is not going to be an easy task for me! I am the type of person who makes it one of her life’s goals not to look in the mirror at herself. So here I stand in obedience to God having no idea what changes are about to happen in my heart.

I start the exercise off in prayer, asking God to help me to see myself as He sees me, not as I see myself. I had just added to my truth cards earlier in the week that He is enthralled with my beauty (Psalm 45:11). I know that has a spiritual meaning but I would like to think that He likes what he sees when He sees the outside of me as well, no matter what size I am! He loves me!

After my prayer, I start with my feet and I begin to thank Him for all the places my feet have carried me. How they have walked along beautiful seashores while worshipping Him for his majestic beauty. How they have walked me into the slums of the mission field in Honduras while I spread the good news of Christ and His love. I continue to worship him for my feet and all the many places they have taken me. By this time I am so moved by the Spirit I can hardly see myself for the tears!

I fall to my knees and my heart begins to break. You see, my husband has bad knees and they don’t give him the strong support as they used to. I have seen the toll it has taken on him and how it has changed his lifestyle. All I can do is stand here humbled and thank God for the health of my knees. I begin to pray for my husband. It is a beautiful moment.fall knees

I do the same thing when I come to my stomach ( which is the place I like to look least). I begin to thank Him for allowing me to carry three of my greatest blessings. God has given me three miracles! The doctor said that I would never have children. But here I stand looking at the stretch marks that prove my God is a God who heals. I also begin to pray for my Sister and Best Friend who suffer from Crohns and my niece who suffers from Ulcerative Colitis. I begin to pray for people who are fighting breast cancer. I go on like this until I reach the top of my head and I become even more humbled at my health and body.

By the end of the exercise I realize that God has in fact answered my prayer. He did allow me to see myself as He sees me. He gave me spiritual eyes so that I could not only see myself, but that I would see others in their pain.

After I had completed the exercise I read day eight’s lesson and it was on rebuilding the ruins (Isaiah 61:4). I had just stood there in front of the mirror looking at the ruins of my temple due to the misuse of my body and eating. God showed me, that I was not beyond repair! That by His grace, I had not gone so far that He couldn’t restore me!

I am still in the process of the rebuilding and there are days that are harder than others. There is one thing I do know: God is a God of many chances. He hasn’t given up on me and never will! He desires for me to be able to look at myself in the mirror and say ” I am the temple of The Most High God!”

~ Penny Davis

 

How About You? Have you been reconciled with your body? Are you able to praise your Lord for each part of your body and the many ways he has used each to minister to and through you? You might want to do what Penny did…set aside some time and prayerfully invite God to give you His eyes!

 penny

Penny lives in Tennessee with her husband of almost 29 years! They have three married daughters and four beautiful Grands that she is hopelessly in love with. She enjoys riding her bike with her husband and although she is not an avid runner, she loves to run. She also sings on the Praise Team at her church.