Where’s Waldo in the Land of ED?

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[This was initially written for a non-profit publication ministering to girls with eating disorders in the UK. I wrote it very early this year as they promoted Eating Disorder Awareness Month.
While we’re headed into the holidays and February 2015 seems a million years away, those who deal with eating disorders find this time of year particularly agonizing. I hope this increases your alertness during this emotionally-charged season. Without going on a “witch hunt” pay compassionate attention to the young girls in your life and be willing and ready to help them if you see them struggling with food and body image issues.]

Remember that game we used play—Where’s Waldo? In a sea of colors and confusion, one nerdy little guy hides. But he’s just doing what everyone else is doing. His disguise is ordinary, his activities similar to the crowd’s. But he’s still so hard to find!

How much harder would it be if you didn’t know that Waldo always wears a red and white striped shirt? The search would take so much longer if you didn’t know about his blue jeans and signature glasses.

February is Eating Disorder Awareness Month and the theme for 2014 is/was “I Had No Idea”.

It’s a common lament among the loved ones of those dealing with eating disorders. I think the difficulty in recognizing eating disorders quickly enough to treat them effectively is two-fold.

First, many people don’t know what an eating disorder looks like. And if they do recognize the symptoms, they are often afraid to acknowledge them.

But the second reason is more insidious. Sadly, eating disorders are becoming so prevalent that they’re difficult to spot. A lesser-known category of eating disorders is called Eating Disorders Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS). It’s as if everyone in Waldo’s picture were wearing a red and white striped shirt, or as if all the tiny characters wore glasses.

But here is where the example breaks down. We cannot go peering into every person’s pantry, spying on their exercise habits or telling them to smash their scale. Unlike Waldo, the point is not to hold everyone in suspicion. It’s not fair to assume that everyone with a dietary restriction, or exceptionally large appetite is anorexic or suffers from binge eating disorder, respectively. Not everyone who gets sick after dinner is bulimic.

The solution to avoid the sad, too late, “I had no idea” is to be educated about the symptoms of eating disorders, to be involved in the lives of loved ones and to be assertive enough to speak up when we notice a problem. And perhaps to change our “clothes” so eating disorders can’t blend in so easily.

Truthfully, I believe there are many, many eating disordered individuals that slip by unnoticed because more and more people are engaging in eating disordered behaviors long before they exhibit the dramatic health consequences. Our culture as a whole, not only accepts but encourages food fears, extreme exercise, fad diets, dangerous weight-loss pills, and stoic self-discipline.

How many headlines did you count at the supermarket yesterday proclaiming the virtues of a new weight-loss trend? Just last month, how many of your conversations with friends centered around your intent to “get skinny” in 2014? We want to wear “skinny” jeans, not just jeans that fit well. Our special diets makes us feel unique and strong. We applaud people who run 12 marathons a year, and brag about getting up at 4 a.m. to squeeze in an “insane” workout.

Speaking for myself, “I had no idea” about my eating disorder for a good while. And even once it had been identified by doctors and my parents, it was difficult for me to see my behaviors as dangerous. After all, many people marveled and praised me for my commitment to working out. Others told me that they envied my self-control around food. A few even said, “I wish I could be anorexic for a day.”

These are the trends that blur the lines. These are the habits and conversations that dress eating disorders up in innocuous clothing and let them walk unhindered down the street, or sleep innocently in your daughter’s bedroom down the hall. Maybe, an eating disorder even lurks in your bathroom, huddled near the scale. You know, the one that tells you details about your body composition that you don’t even understand? That’s another trend—not only are we obsessed with a low weight, but now that weight must be composed of just the right percentages of fat, water and muscle mass.

Where does it stop? How can we clear the image, sweep away the confusion and rightly recognize disordered eating in ourselves and loved ones before it’s too late?

We need to “change our clothes”. Not literally, but in the way that Waldo’s peers might. If a few more of us dropped our eating disordered behaviors and quit acting like this obsession with bodies and food was normal, perhaps the real problems would stand out.

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A Low Life

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“Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before.”

“.faith through grace by saved are you For”

It’s such a familiar phrase, you probably read that backwards without the slightest difficulty. So why is it that no matter how many times we say it, and how much we believe it that we invariably act otherwise? Why is that we can’t get over the need to prove ourselves to God—or prove our love for God to others? Ephesians 2:10 can be a troublesome verse for those of us trying to get a grip on grace: “For we are…created in Christ Jesus for good works,”.
The phrase “for good works” is agathos ergon, which literally means: that by which any one is occupied or any product whatever, any thing accomplished by hand, art, industry, or mind [that is] of good constitution—useful, honorable, excellent, joyful, happy business or employment. The next phrase “that we should walk in them” means: to make due use of opportunities.
Maybe our impression of the work God intends is a bit off base. Maybe Jesus is glorified in the lowly—when fishermen fish, when artists draw, when farmers plant, when children play or when mothers cook. Maybe the good that we were created to do, the opportunities we must take advantage of, are right in front of us—in mopping, sweeping, eating, laughing, even dying well. God’s desires of us are neither grand or contrived but to do the lowly and mundane for His glory, even to live a quiet life.

 

Debt Free

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As the holidays loom and my wallet constricts as miserably as Santa on a diet, I came across a familiar verse. I’ve never seen the Lord’s Prayer in this light before…I hope this is fresh to you too.

“And forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors.” Matthew 6:12a (ESV)

Daddy raised his girls to be debt free. “The borrower is servant to the lender,” he would quote Proverbs 22:7. I’ve been blessed by his instruction and counsel fiscally, but is there another kind of debt? Am I someone’s servant or am I keeping others indentured to me?
When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, part of His memorable reply is, “And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” The obvious interpretation is God wants us to forgive those who wrong us. But another version says, “forgive us our debts” and perhaps this is more true to the Greek. The word interpreted as “trespass” or “debt” is opheilēma, meaning: that which is owed. Laying aside for a moment, our individual sins against God, isn’t it true that summarily, “we owed a debt we could not pay”? We owe God worship, obedience and love and we fall miserably short, every, single day. He not only forgives specific sins, He daily forgives our insurmountable debt incurred by simply being human. Now He calls us to do the same—to release others from the burden of what they “owe” us.
It’s so easy to declare that my husband owes me affection, my children owe me respect, my employer owes me a raise. But Jesus prayed that I would not only forgive specific offenses but overall, forgive the debts rightfully owed to us. In 1 Corinthians, Paul says love keeps no record of wrongs and does not seek it’s own way. Love has no concept of what it deserves.
Father, teach me to forgive as you do.

Good Intentions Don’t Count

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I am doing a Bible study about intentional living. So I wasn’t expecting a verse about marriage to pop off the page. But then I shouldn’t be surprised, God is always intentional about getting our attention so that He can make us more like Jesus.

“Teach me to number my days, that I may gain a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:12

Don’t see anything about marriage in that verse? That’s because you’re not reading it with the intention of seeing God’s plan for your marriage. It’s there.

The Bible also says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” (Proverbs 9:10)

Don’t you imagine in that our unions would be much improved if we governed them with wisdom? If we related to our spouse with wisdom and in the fear of the Lord, don’t you think we could avoid many of the pointless arguments, cold shoulders and the silent treatment? Where does this heart of wisdom come from? How do we cultivate a fear of the Lord in our homes and in our relationships?

We gain a heart of wisdom when we learn to number our days. The phrase, “Teach us to number our days”, has a much stronger meaning in the original Hebrew. It means to: Consider, be skillful in, reckon, prepare for and appoint with intention the temporal, brief mornings and evenings of life. (That’s just my lengthy amplified paraphrase.)

Often, I don’t think we approach our marriages intentionally. The expectation is for love and fuzzy feelings to buoy the relationship through the hard times. But when things get really gritty, there’s no deep-seated recourse, no Biblically founded intention to hold the marriage together.

There’s a catchy little phrase that has spawned many a movie. “Live each day as if it were your last.”

That saying is a modern assertion of the truth of Psalm 90:12. Even unbelievers know that acceptance of our brevity brings freedom, genuine love and a correcting of priorities. How many stories are told of someone diagnosed with cancer who suddenly determines to reconcile with a long-estranged sibling? How many times have we heard of someone learning they have months to live and suddenly choosing to work less, spend more time with family and begin seeking God? There’s no denying that numbering our days produces wisdom and ignites intention in our hearts.

So what if we could harness this knowledge of our few and temporal mornings and evenings so that we might have this wisdom now for our marriages and other relationships?

In American vernacular there’s a big difference between having good intentions and living intentionally. I go to bed each night with good intentions to speak kindly to my husband tomorrow and pray for him. I have good intentions when I plan to make his favorite dinner tomorrow or remember to ask about that meeting he had yesterday. Good intentions are my plans to go to the gym and eat more vegetables.

But living my marriage intentionally requires that I apply some elbow grease to those intentions. If I don’t do the hard work to make good on those intentions, then that is all they remain—good intentions, and I must plan again to live intentionally.

Marriage is one of those few relationships that we commemorate every year. Save for the embarrassed hubby that forgot several times, most couples know exactly how many years, and could calculate how many days, they’ve been married. We number those days. Therefore, we’re halfway toward a heart of wisdom.

Next time strife or bitterness raises its head or that gulf slowly widens between you and your spouse, stop and count the days. They are few. Psalm 90 goes on to say that we have 70, maybe 80 years if we’re lucky.

We are finite creatures. All our miseries and complaints are so small and short-lived compared to the eternal glory purchased for us by Christ. The first step toward governing our marriages with wisdom is to recognize how fleeting they are. Next, we must intentionally order, prepare for and appoint our days.

It’s so easy in the heat of the moment, to assume that this crisis of miscommunication or hurt will ruin our lives, make or break our relationship. It can’t destroy us if we don’t let it. When we number our days, view them in the true light of their brevity, it’s much easier to take a step back and intentionally form our response or reaction to every situation.

So, do the math. Number your days. Let that practice form within you a heart of wisdom, the beginning of the fear of the Lord. And then intentionally, with more than good intentions, conduct your marriage with wisdom.

Who or What, Why It Matters

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Have you ever tried to tell someone about your faith and been blocked by the question, “But how can God be good when bad things happen?” Or, “Can you explain why things like miscarriages, natural disasters, world hunger and other terrible things happen?”

Maybe you’ve asked those questions yourself, and you wonder if what you believe can really be true. If it is, how do you explain some things?

The apostle Paul had every reason to ask the same questions. He wrote the book of 2 Timothy to a dear friend while sitting on the floor of a jail cell. He’d been arrested for preaching about Christ. Paul should have been asking, “Why?”, and “Is what I believe so important?”, but he wrote instead, “I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able…”.

Did you catch it? Paul wasn’t trying to figure out what he believed, and he wasn’t telling Timothy about any thing that he believed. He had been obedient to God; it was difficult to explain why God was letting him suffer. But Paul knew Who he believed. That’s the answer we must always come to when we cannot explain the things that happen in this world. We must know Who we believe and we can know that He is trustworthy.