Do You Have an Idol? Guest Post

My friend, Barb Raveling, wrote this blog post for her own blog and it appeared on Tuesday at her website. I asked her if I could share it with you. She modified the 2nd day in the Idolatry chapter in her printed workbook, Freedom From Emotional Eating.

HEAL Group Session 3 will be shared tomorrow here at the blog.


shape of thin woman

Photo Courtesy of iStockPhoto

I still remember the words of a successful agent at a writer’s conference: “Money changes people. I’ve only met a couple of Christian writers who haven’t been negatively affected by success.”

That’s a little scary.

Everyone tells us to pursue our dreams, but no one tells us to make sure we keep God first while pursuing them.

I’ve only been blogging for a little over a year this time around, but it didn’t take long to see how easy it would be to make writing an idol.

Living the American Dream

If you’re pursuing a goal, you know what I mean. It’s easy to become consumed by it.

And while the goal itself might be wonderful–a way to love God and others–it still has the potential to mess us up. If we’re not careful, it will lead us away from God.

God has convicted me that this is something I need to work on in my own life once again, so I thought I might as well blog about it! Future posts will deal with how to break free from idolatry. But before we can break free, we need to know what our idols are.

I’ve been talking about the idolatry of a goal, but there are a million different potential idols out there: recreation, exercise, work, the Internet, relationships, approval of others, excitement, television, food, and avoiding conflict, just to name a few.

Here are a few questions to help you determine whether or not you have any idols:

Do You Have an Idol? – Quiz

1. What do you feel like you have to have to be happy?

2. What do you think about in the middle of the night or when you first wake up in the morning?

3. What do you spend a lot of time on each day?

4.  What do you worry about?

5. What would you have a hard time giving up for a month?

6. What do you do when you’re depressed or stressed out?

7. What do you do to avoid doing the things you don’t want to do?

8.  In what areas of your life, do you experience your greatest struggles?

9. Where do your feelings of self worth come from?

10. What do you escape to when you’re having a hard time in life?

11. What do people tell you that you spend too much time on?

12. What do you hide from others?

13. What do you talk about too much?

14. What could you not live without?

When you finish answering the questions, glance back over your answers. Do you see anything popping up more than once on the list? The more often you see it on your list, the more likely it’s an idol.

If you’d like to work on getting rid of that idol, join me for future blog posts.


I love how practical Barb is. She does a great job at tackling bad habits, ways of thinking, and doing something about them to bring them under Christ’s submission. She is extremely effective at teaching us how to do this, too. I hope you will put her website in your favorites.

Now, let’s bring her questions home to where we are here at this blog, shall we? 🙂 Ask God to give you courage.

Is there any chance that “getting thin” has become an idol in your life? If you were going to help Barb 🙂 write her next blog post about this subject, what would you do to address the possibility that the goal of being thin might be an idol?

I am eager to hear from you. 🙂

When Your Heart Cries for Food…

Photo Courtesy of iStockPhoto

Photo Courtesy of iStockPhoto

“Heart hunger is a compulsion to manage our

feelings and emotional moods with food.”

Healthy Eating & Abundant Living, p. 55

My husband and I have enjoyed one another’s company for most of our almost 30 years together. In fact, I can’t think of a time when we haven’t liked doing things together or even just hanging out together in the evenings and weekends–even through some of the most tumultuous seasons. (Maybe he wouldn’t agree! LOL!…Nope, I just called him to ask and he says it’s true.) Right now is one of those very very difficult times for us, but we still enjoy going out to dinner, watching a video, or on a drive. Sometimes, he even plays tennis with me. 🙂

For as long as I can remember, when Bob has gone out of town–something that his job has always required of him–I have experienced my most emotional, vulnerable times. This goes beyond merely missing him. I am not sure if it is somehow connected to what is an irrational fear of abandonment  rooted in childhood experiences or if it is something else entirely. Through the years, though, I have come to see that I am prone to head to the freezer in the evening when he isn’t home. (Not that this isn’t a challenge when he is home, but the pull becomes even more significant when he isn’t home.) Ice cream is my nemesis at times like those. Not just one bowl of ice cream, but multiple bowls. Even better with hot fudge, whipped cream, and nuts.

Fortunately, I have came to a point of realizing this vulnerability.  Planning in advance for this when I know my husband is going to be out of town enables me to be successful. I make provision for my spirit instead of my flesh. I try not to have ice cream in the house when I am in this “weakened state” 🙂  and I make plans to do something specific in the evenings to redirect my attention into something positive and encouraging–a tennis match, an evening spent writing, extra time in bible study, or going out with friends.

Developing an awareness of my emotions and various motivations for eating outside of my primary boundary of 0 to 5 eating, has been extremely helpful for me.

Personally, it doesn’t take much for me to think about eating. Being angry, annoyed, discontented, lonely, envious, frustrated, greedy, lustful, resentful, unforgiving, insecure, judging (of myself or by others), caught in perfectionism, prideful, regretful, stressed, rejected, worried, sad, disappointed, disapproved of, joyful, liberated, entitled, hopeless, justified, tired of the struggle, bored, etc., etc., ad infinitum, ad nauseum! These are all reasons I might turn to food outside of physical hunger. My heart insists I feed it at times like this! It seems to cry for food incessantly.

When I am drawn to eat, it helps to ask some questions:

1.) What is drawing me to food right now? Is it stomach hunger? Head hunger? Or Heart hunger?

2.) If the answer is heart hunger, I evaluate what emotion I am currently feeling. (Often, when I am angry, it is a secondary emotion…something else, usually more painful to feel, is the primary emotion. For instance, if someone during my day has said something mean to me, I may feel anger surge up, but what is often at work there is sadness, disappointment, fear.) Giving this question prayerful consideration is a good first place to start.

3.) What is the need that is currently not being met? Sometimes my heart is hungry for love, acceptance, assurance, etc. Pinpointing what it is really hungry for is helpful.

4.) Will food meet the need that is currently not being met?

5.) If I choose to eat anyhow, will eating in response to this emotion actually *cost* me something in addition to the emotion I already feel? For instance, will I be disappointed with myself and will it add to feelings of hopelessness?

6.) Often, when I am drawn to food because of emotion, my focus is on ME ME ME. Is there some way in which I can focus in a more positive direction? Perhaps on the Lord? What about some time spent working on my God List and having a Praise Fest?

Here is what I have found. Ecclesiastes 3:11 seems to indicate that God has set a God-shaped hole inside of me. It is a hole that only a God-shaped “peg” can fill. It cries to be filled. If I don’t understand that it is a God-shaped hole, I will reach for all manner of other “pegs” to fill it. Food is the primary “peg” I jam in there. All the while, the emptiness, the cry for deeper intimacy with God in this moment, calls to be satisfied, longs for me to recognize the only solution to the ache.

Intimacy with our Creator is the only solution to this Heart Cry. I have developed a series at my other blog for developing intimacy with the Lord–even through trials and heartache. The material there is a product of my Thin Within journey, to be honest!

Step 1 – We Get to Choose

Step 2 – Change Our Thinking

Step 3 – Get Equipped

Step 4 – Sing Our Traveling Song!

Step 5 – Fix Your Eyes

Step 6 – Creating a God List

Step 7 – Praise Him!

Step 8 – Praying Scripture

Step 9 – Fostering a Heart of Thanksgiving

Step 10 – Rest in His Embrace

Step 11 – Focus on Others

Step 12 – Practice His Presence

Step 13a – Forgive Yourself

When our hearts are hungry, we want to feed them what they need. At the deepest place, this hunger is one that only a good dose of “feasting on the Lord” can satisfy.

Whom have I in heaven but you?
    And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
    but God is the strength of my heart
    and my portion forever.

Psalm 73:25-26

What will you do today…or in the next week…to feed your Heart Hunger what it really is hungry for…intimacy with your Creator and King?

When Your HEAD says, “I Want Food…”


Photo Courtesy of Photo Stock Exchange

Before launching into this blog post, please respond to the poll below:

[polldaddy poll=7120202]

Accountability page is here.

Now, on to our post for today! 😀

You have  courageously and energetically run errands all day.

The day has been productive! You are pleased with all that you accomplished.

Now, you are headed for home, returning as the “conquering hero” having defeated the “To Do” list that loomed larger than life at dawn’s first light.

Negotiating the curb into the driveway,  before you get to the front door, the scent of chocolate chip cookies wafts across the air, superseding even the floral scent of the gardenias. Instantly, your mouth is flooded with liquid anticipation!

Stepping inside, you survey the kitchen. Eyes scan the counter-top. Evidence indicates that your teen-aged daughter has dealt with her after school snack needs by making chocolate chip cookies which are still warm on the cookie sheet. Only one cookie is missing…your daughter’s modest “snack” which, you quickly muse, “She never learned that from me!”

Yummy food! Yours for the taking!

What happens next?

If this happened to you, what really would happen next?

We could have a plan in place for our victory! I would love to see in the comments below what plan, what action steps, might enable you to emerge from this altercation the victor!

Of course, this could become one of those “Yummy Food Eating” or “Good Food Eating” moments that we studied in Barb Raveling’s bible study. It is also what we might consider “Head Hunger.” The food is there, the moment is ripe, we want it. (I can almost hear Gollum from Lord of the Rings rasping his “The Preccccciousssss….we wants it we does…”)

There isn’t really anything necessarily deeper operating. No feeling of “I deserve this!” or “I am angry at my husband for the comment he made about my hips. I’ll show HIM!” 🙂 This time, there isn’t any “poor me” thoughts. No, we didn’t have a terrible day, we don’t feel sad, frustrated or have any other obvious emotion. We just see the food and want it. In fact, chocolate chip cookies weren’t on our minds until we smelled them.

What is true at moments like this:

1.) We don’t have to eat every good thing that  we stumble upon.

2.) If I am not physically hungry food–no matter how good it may be–won’t taste nearly as good as it will if I wait until I am physically (stomach empty) hungry to eat it!

3.) The chocolate chip cookies (or whatever food it is) are not going to disappear from the planet. This isn’t my last opportunity ever to enjoy chocolate chip cookies (or other tasty morsel of choice).

4.) Right now may seem like an opportune moment to violate my boundaries, but what will be my standard for upholding them? Will I ever feel like upholding my boundaries? If I wait until I never am tempted to break them to maintain them, what might happen? How will I feel and what impact will it have on my physical, emotional, and spiritual health?

Head hunger can come out of nowhere, so it helps to have a plan of action in place ahead of time. Remember these truths:

  • Giving in to desire eating (a response to head hunger) will not further me down the path of godliness and it will not work the changes inside and out that I desire.
  • Giving in to desire eating will not train me for the next time I am tempted. In fact, now is a great time to learn to say no to my flesh. If I keep saying yes to my desires, they will rule me.
  • If I say no to desire eating, I will be able to rejoice in my obedience and know I did what was best for myself physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
  • If I can find the strength in this moment to say no to temptation, the intensity of the temptation will subside.
  • I can act NOW while the willingness to be obedient to God is strong and either on my own or with the help from a family member (or friend, depending on the situation) remove the temptation. (At Halloween, this may mean flushing the candy down the toilet! With these chocolate chip cookies, it may mean sticking them in a freezer bag and putting them in the freezer).

What else is true when you say no to your flesh and yes to God by not eating in response to desire (when stomach hunger isn’t present)?

{Note: If you are someone who has a history of not eating enough to sustain your body’s needs, the authors of Healthy Eating Abundant Living encourage you to allow Head Hunger to get you on track again. I would suggest praying and asking God to give you the strength to eat when you need it and the food sounds appealing. Anyone with a history of overeating, you may be prone to want to see yourself in this category. Ask the Lord to show you if this does, indeed fit.]

Accountability Partners

Hi, everyone. Many of you have contacted me about passing your email addresses on to someone you want to have as an accountability partner. Just like I asked! YAY! I am so happy to see that!

Problem is…sigh…I have had internet issues, I guess. I didn’t even know it. If you sent me an email about connecting with someone and you haven’t heard from me yet, please email me again and I will be ON that today! Honestly! I have sent out responses to everyone I have received a request from, but have wondered if something is wrong with my mail servers…I am pretty sure something is. So…

My apologies. Please email me again at heidi bylsma at gmail dot com and I will just make a point of responding to your emails within 24 hours. If you don’t hear anything, send again. You can also text me at 916 dash 799 dash 8085. Just be sure to tell me who you are, who you want me to send your contact details to and the email address you want me to tell them to use.

Again, my apologies.


Week 3 of HEAL Study 2013

Image Provided by iStockPhoto

Image Provided by iStockPhoto

Do you remember being a child, falling down and skinning your knee? Do you remember bringing your wound to your mom or your dad, being comforted, having your tears wiped away and then asked to come into the bathroom where the first aid supplies were brought out? This experience may have been met with not just a little bit of fear and trepidation. Why? Because we knew that our mom or dad intended to clean our wound so we could feel better and avoid infection. But what was sure to happen before it ever felt better?

It would sting.

I believe we have come to that part of our study where our Abba Father calls us to bring Him our wounds. He intends to comfort us with his love, yes. He delights over us with singing! He will wipe our tears if we will let him.

But he also intends to do a deep cleansing of our wounds and this brings pain. This journey can be challenging–especially when we begin to allow him to put that “antiseptic” of the Holy Spirit…that purifying cleansing agent of his holy fire…against our raw, bleeding “skin.”

During our first week of our HEAL – Healthy Eating & Abundant Living – study, we began to see what God says about us in Psalm 139–that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. You dared to step into the life and many of you have linked up with an accountability partner to share this leg of your journey. There is still time to do that for the next 4 weeks! Don’t give up on the idea. It will be an invaluable experience to walk side-by-side with someone during the rest of our study.

Last week, we looked some at the mechanics of this journey–

This week, we go deeper, taking steps even closer to the heart of God. Inviting him to show us where we need that cleansing of our wounds, of our sin, of our heartaches. There is great reward for vulnerability, for surrendering to his loving touch, but it doesn’t mean it is easy.

Here is the preview video for this week. Again, if you are an email subscriber, you may have to visit the blog to see the video.

The authors point out that we all have a hunger within that craves to be fed. There is a sanctified ache inside of each of us, placed there by God, that hungers for love. It cries out to be satisfied. The authors call this “love hunger.” We all have this love hunger, but we each get to choose how we will deal with it.

As I mention in the video above, we get to have a look at the story of the woman at the well this week. Again, I urge you to pray that God will make this a fresh experience for you and that your reading of this portion of John 4 will not be diminished by familiarity with this amazing passage. Invite the Holy Spirit to show you this passage afresh and then, perhaps, read it in a translation of the bible that you don’t usually use. Bible Gateway has all kinds of translations you can pick from. I chose the message for this week’s study.

The woman at the well is definitely hungry for something. Coming to the well at mid-day when the heat was the worst and no one else would be likely to be there proves that she was a social outcast. Have you ever felt that way? I have. Jesus meets her in her place of need and asks her some penetrating questions. As you look at this story, note how she deflects his questions. Note what she has done to try to feed her love hunger. Can you identify at all?

The authors ask us this week, “What is your heart hungry for?”

“How has your need for security and significance not been met?”

“How have you responded to this loss?”

“How have you relied on food or a lack of food” (I would add, appearance and perfection) “to comfort you?”

We are challenged with another passage in Psalm 139, verses 23 and 24. Will we boldly invite God to search our hearts and know our thoughts? Will we welcome him to show us what is in our hearts? We know that he has what we need like the children that we are, coming to our good Heavenly Father to get the “medicine” that we need…that will bring healing, but that we know will sting (sometimes, horribly) before it gets better.

Through this discussion in the text, the authors point out three kinds of hunger. Be sure to spend time in this. We will be talking about this at the blog this week. Even if you don’t have the book, you will be able to be encouraged in your journey, so I do hope you will come along!

  • This week, complete the Personal Study portion of Lesson 3.
  • Ask God to continue to show you any lies that you believe and to spend time renewing your mind about these things. If you aren’t sure what that might look like, please post here or ask your accountability partner for ideas. You can also go to Barb’s Blog  and do a search for renewing of the mind material. She does a great job teaching what this means. You have heard me say it before, but I highly recommend Truth Journaling.
  • Do you have a renewing of the mind goal? Would it be helpful for you to develop one or refine or redefine your renewing of the mind goal?
  • Begin to evaluate each time you  consider eating. Ask yourself, “Which type of hunger is demanding to be fed right now? Heart hunger? Head hunger? Or Stomach hunger?”
  • What are some things you can do to feed Heart hunger so that it is being nourished with what it truly needs?
  • What are some things you can do about Head hunger so that it doesn’t lead you to eat when your body doesn’t need food? If you struggle with under-eating, take note of what Allie and Judy say about head hunger being helpful. If you aren’t sure if you fit into that category, ask the Lord. I believe he will show you.

I urge you to bring your wounds to your Abba Father this week. Let him wipe your tears, embrace you with his love, delight over you with singing and, yes, cleanse the wounds you have. It will sting. Even being open with him about the wounds will hurt some. But it is worth it.

What did God show you in your reading of the story in John 4?

Please feel free to share any other responses to the questions in the personal study in Lesson 3. I would love to hear how God is using this material in your life!

Bonus for this week — here is a link to a song at YouTube that I think speaks of what God intends to do.

Commit! Like a Marriage!

I am soooooo excited! I can hardly STAND it! I have something to share with you! (WITH permission, too, I must add!) OH BOY OH BOY OH BOY!!!

I have had the pleasure of coaching a wonderful lady…named Adriane Sims. She is just a doll! You will love her, too.

Like all of us, she has struggled, but this lady is a fighter. I watch her and I think of the passage in 2 Corinthians 4:8-10:

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed;

perplexed, but not in despair;

persecuted, but not abandoned; 

struck down, but not destroyed. 

We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, 

so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.

One day this past week, Adriane was really, really discouraged, like many of us. At first I thought “Oh, no! She is going to throw in the towel!” Do you know what? This precious lady got back on the horse. Not only did she get back on the horse, but now she is leading the CHARGE! Here is a sound file that she created for us. I am so excited to share it with you!

[soundcloud url=”″ params=”” width=” 100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]

If you want to read it, here is a file that has her commitment in it. Adriane – My Commitment to God

How about you? Will you make a commitment to God that even when you slip it will NOT spell disaster? That you will keep on keeping on? What if you were to read Adriane’s (or a similar one YOU write!) commitment to God each day once, twice, or maybe three times? Would it make a difference?

THANK YOU, Adriane!