Nuggets: What Christians Must Remember About Donald Trump …

( … and all elected officials)

I didn’t stay awake to watch the outcome of the 2016 presidential election, but I did know that at 3 a.m. I would check the results with my baby in my arms–a baby who will keenly experience the repercussions of America’s decision last night.

And praise the LORD.

It’s no secret who I voted for. Evangelical voters turned out in droves for Trump and I have no shame aligning myself with that crowd.

But as I rejoiced, I felt a warning rise up in my spirit:

In recent days, I’ve heard many Christians espouse their strong assurance that God is in control. When it seemed like Hillary might win, we declared that no matter what happened, God is on the throne.

We remembered that it doesn’t really matter who is in office. God sets up kings, leaders, rulers and God tears down the same. We remembered that He does whatever He pleases in heaven and on earth in the seas and all the deeps. “HE it is who makes the clouds rise at the end of the earth, who makes lightenings for the rain and brings for the wind from His storehouses.” (Psalm 135:6-7)

Now, lest we rejoice in our new found political stature as conservatives, lest we find hope in supreme court justices, a majority in the US Senate, the US House, a prolife president or the resounding commentary on the outgoing administration: let us remember what we said yesterday as we cast our ballots.

‘It is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings; He gives wisdom to wise men And knowledge to men of understanding. It is He who reveals the profound and hidden things; He knows what is in the darkness, And the light dwells with Him.’ Daniel 2:21-22

Know that the LORD Himself is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture. Psalm 100:3

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Well-Aged With Season

As with last week’s post, I’m going back through a handful of pieces I’ve written in recent years, but never published. I’m amazed sometimes at the things God once taught me but slipped to faint and distant memory. I hope this touches you today. 

“Be careful, parents! One day the little ones whose diapers you’re changing will be changing yours!”

I heard that humorous warning about aging in a sermon once. I don’t recall the rest of the lesson at all. That line was so catchy, I kind of got stuck there. But recently, the gravity and art of aging has intrigued me.

Maybe it’s because my refrigerator is camouflaged in pictures of my nieces and nephews. Kylie, the oldest, isn’t quite three; baby Acelynn hasn’t even had her first birthday. Right alongside images of first steps, yogurt-smeared chins and sparkly, wide eyes, is a photo of my grandmother. She turned 91 this year.

Granddad died a few years ago. Since then, almost spry as ever, she has lived alone a few hours from my parents’ house. The only signs of her age are fading hearing, a tremor when she tries to hold her head perfectly still and she walks a bit slower than she used to.

Or maybe, I’m contemplating these seasons of life because I volunteer doing pet therapy with hospice patients. I heard of a man who recently decided he’d like a visit. It took them months to convince him he would benefit from a few hours with a dog. Stubborn, he kept telling his son and nurses that he wants his own dog, not simply a visitor. He knows what they say is true, that it wouldn’t be fair to the dog. He’s too old and ill to care for it properly. He may not live much longer and then who would take care of his furry best friend? Brave and I will meet Mr. Thurston next week for the first time.

Or maybe it’s because a few weeks ago Brave and I attended a grief camp for children who have lost a loved one in the last two years. However unfair, they were thrust into an unexpected season, one with a stark awareness of death. For many of them, the loss will mean a drastic change in their lifestyle. Who will tuck me in at night?

I might be thinking about birth, aging and dying, youth and the elderly, old and new because a friend just told me that he and his wife are finishing their basement so that his father can move in with them. It’s only been a few short years since they tenderly cared for his mother in her final days.

Whatever the reason, the seasons of life are turning in my head. But it’s much more than a solemn observation of finite lives. It’s more of an interest in how these season change us, not just our appearances and abilities, but change the way we live our lives. Passing years change our lifestyles, our priorities, our waking thoughts and unremembered dreams.

In 1 Corinthians 13:11, Paul says, “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.”

It’s not surprising that Paul includes that sentence in, “The Love Chapter”. The most important way that time changes us, that age matures us, that the end sobers us, is that we fall more in love with the timeless. Time as we know it nears its finale, and our attention is swept up by the eternal. Our love shifts to things of an infinite nature—the promises of our Creator, the surety of seeing His face, the eternal spirits of our loved ones. Our lives necessarily change to accommodate these newly found truths.

Our bodies slow down as God allows age to limit our lifestyle, to force us to take closer, longer looks at what really matters. It is in the slowness, even the stillness, that we know He is God. And in that knowing, we are so much closer to all we’ve ever hoped for–to be fully real, fully known and fully loved.

“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” 1 Corinthians 13:12

I Don’t Want to Look Like an iPhone

[I wrote this article almost two years ago, so while the anecdotal stuff is no longer current, the emphasis of the article remains important.]

God got on a soapbox this week.

It started with a random email devotional from Desiring God ministries. I was curled in bed, determined to read the requisite “good stuff” before diving into the middle of my novel. The article by Tony Reinke was titled, “Six Ways Your iPhone is Changing You.”

Under the heading, “We become like what we behold”, Reinke wrote, “What we love to behold is what we worship. What we spend our time beholding shapes our hearts and molds us into the people we are. This spiritual truth is frightening and useful, but it raises the questions: What happens to our soul when we spend so much time beholding the glowing screens of our phones? How are we changed? How are we conformed?”

It’s kind of funny—God has used my eating disorder and the recovery process to shape me in so many ways; now most of what I learn and read is filtered through the lens of overcoming addiction, idolatry, fear, shame and the myriad other emotions connected to an eating disorder. I examined the article in that light.

In the last couple weeks, I’ve found myself more distracted by new recipes, new workout routines, conversations about health and fitness, etc. I’ve subscribed to a few different YouTube channels with more yoga workouts. Somehow, (I really don’t know how the internet seems to read my mind) I’ve started to get random emails about this or that approach to my “best body ever!”

The cool things is, these stimuli don’t affect me in the same way they used to. I still eat all my meals. I have no interest in working out like a fanatic. For all practical purposes, I’m still healthy—and I’m happy. But I’ve also felt an internal shift, a change in my affections and focus, a difference in what my mind dwells on in moments of inactivity. I’ve been wasting valuable mental energy planning tomorrow’s workout. In the evening when my husband and I watch television together, I’ve been distracted by searching for new recipes or reading the blog by a new favorite fitness professional.

These little habit changes wouldn’t raise a red flag for most people. In fact, most would probably see them as a positive interest in health and good nutrition. But I know my heart, I know my tendencies. I know my proclivity to bend a knee and subtly worship my body and things that pertain to it.

I’m praying about this, asking God to reorient my priorities. I’m leaving the smart phone in the other room. Modern culture bombards me with a constant stream of information, images, suggestions and ideas—and I become what I behold. The longer that I gaze at any form of media, feasting my mind on culture’s obsession with appearance, I cannot help but begin to assume that mold.

I want to look like Christ, not a one-dimensional supermodel. I must divert my eyes from the colorful attractions and preferences of the world and fix them on Jesus.

“…let us strip off..the sin that so easily trips us up…We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus.” Hebrews 12:1-2

Pre-Parenting, Discipline and Sin

scold

A fabulous article entitled “Parenting is First About My Sin,” by David Mathis recently appeared on the Desiring God website. While the entire article remains an essential read, a summarizing quote is:

“The wakeup call for parents — and for fathers in particular — is that we are sinners too, adult sinners, and our sins have even greater repercussions than the missteps of our children, and tragically our children are often the objects of the dragon still within us. It’s not as if we’re sinners only in our relationships with other adults, and above the law when parenting our children. We are sinners in every facet, and often most dangerously so in our parenting.”

While they didn’t have a direct effect on the fact that my husband and I didn’t have children earlier in life, certainly the awareness of our own specific sins and weaknesses has made us cautious and prayerful as we approach parenthood. Each of us has struggled hard with a “pet” sin. I’ve addressed his struggle (with his permission) in other articles, but today I’ll simply highlight my own. Especially in light of the knowledge that we’re having a girl, my history of an eating disorder causes me to fear for her.

Does my past make her more vulnerable to the same sins? (Specifically in my own eating disorder I call these out as addiction, idolatry, pride and fear.) Will she fight for a sane and realistic body image her whole life? Will she battle fear in the face of social eating? Will she see herself as better than others when she’s fit and thin? Will she find herself devoting more time to her appearance than to her Savior? Will she learn these sinful behaviors from me?

Finish reading this article over at www.mydailyarmorschristiandigest.com.

Thanks for reading!

 

You Remind Me of a Horse

Running Horses Hooves

“I compare you, my love, to a mare among Pharaoh’s chariots.” Song of Solomon 1:9

Few of us would swoon if our husbands compared us to a horse. In fact, using today’s connotations and implications that might get your man slapped!

Today, however, I heard an interpretation of this little verse that changed my perspective not only on being horse-like, but on the biblical concept of being a helpmate to the leadership role of my husband.

Gary Thomas, in his book Sacred Marriage offered an explanation that I’d never heard before. Apparently, mares were rarely harnessed to a Pharaohs’ chariot. Generally, because speed and power were desirable, Pharaohs used the brawniest stallions to do this work. But they found that when they harnessed a mare among the stallions, she produced in them such a frenzy that they drove harder than ever.

What do you bring out in your husband? When you spend time with him, work beside him raising your family, speak to him–what character qualities and attitudes do you cultivate? Does he leave your presence more determined than ever to be a servant leader or a committed father?

Does he feel stronger, more confident, more capable than he did before?

Women, we have a lot of power. To listen to the culture, you wouldn’t think so. Collectively, we clamor for more power and equality. But I think this tactic is evidence of the way we often wield our power–manipulatively, subversively.

This calls for extra care–prayer–in our words and deeds.

Next time you are tempted to blame your husband for something or harass him for failing to live up to your expectation in some way, consider first what attitudes, qualities and actions you have cultivated in him.

You are his helpmate, harnessed alongside him for a good purpose. Your mere presence can multiply his power and productivity in life. Don’t take this lightly.

 

I Will Step Up, I Will Be Faithful–I Will Even Stay Home

HOME-E-O-STAY-SIS — We will not be using the typical spelling or implied definition of the word. (Just didn’t want you to think the editor had lost her marbles!)

My first royalty check on the second book, Beyond Belief: Jesus Saved You, Now What? was less that $15. When they tell you that being an author is not lucrative–take them seriously. Of course there are exceptions; I’m not one of them. And perhaps that’s in part, or mostly my own fault. Let me start back at the beginning.

When my second book came I out, I was tired of writing. I felt God leading me toward editing (which I love) and He opened wide several doors. I stepped through with enthusiasm and God has blessed my new endeavors. So I quietly allowed the door to close behind me, effectively closing the chapter on my books.

To be quite honest, I hate promoting my books. I think every author does really, but I simply decided not to do it. Other than requesting a few reviews and a handful of comments on Facebook, I left that job to my agent.

Suddenly, I was swamped with discontentment and insecurity. I lay in bed Monday night and felt a familiar wash of melancholy and panic: What am I doing with my life? What if I don’t receive any more clients for editing? What if my books really go nowhere? What was the point of writing? Maybe I shouldn’t even call myself a writer. I can’t even come up with blog posts anymore. Maybe I should go back to school. Maybe I should get an outside job. Maybe my life is just pathetic. What am I here for, Lord?

All I do is stay home and keep myself busy with what–work that maybe doesn’t even matter? Suddenly, my contentment at home, my home-eo-stay-sis was interrupted. 

Forlornly, I took my tears the the Father the next morning. Gently, as He always does, he layered answers from His word with sermons and affirmation from friends.

I listened to a sermon from Elevation Church the other day, a guest sermon by the author of Through The Eyes of a Lion. 

I won’t give it away, but his comments about focus, vision and sticking with it–doing the same things a new way–instead of “calling envy” and longing for a more important, significant calling, struck me. 

Then, God’s Word in Philippians 1:6, “He who began a good work … will complete it.” God doesn’t stop halfway. And Galatians 6:9, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.“–Don’t give up! And then the clincher that tells me I am expected to be faithful too: “But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.”

Next, in Bible study this morning, a sweet friend confessed to feeling the same way recently. That night as she prayed with her husband, he voluntarily closed the prayer (which apparently, he rarely does.) His words: “Thank you for my wife, thank you that she is such a good friend.”

Her heart soared. No matter how low she felt in the eyes of the world, no matter how small her calling felt at home, her husband’s affirmation that she was his friend confirmed to her that she is smack in the center of her calling. And it encouraged my heart as well. That’s why I stay home–for the sake of my marriage, for the sake of my home, because this is the first and highest calling God has given me. Everything else that He’s blessed me to do falls neatly under that banner of wife, homemaker … friend.

Finally, God prodded my heart concerning faithfulness to the good work I began–faithfulness to work diligently to put the books He wrote through me into the hands of as many people as possible. A crazy idea occurred to me, and mustering my courage, I grabbed a copy of my book and marched into a local, Christian-owned coffee shop.

“Hi! I recently wrote a Bible study and I was wondering if you would permit me to place a few copies in your coffee shop for free. I’d like to put a business card in them in case readers would like to buy some. But would you permit me to simply offer a few free books to your customers?”

Their response was overwhelming. First of all, the only people working that shift were the owners (exactly who I needed to talk to). Then, not only did they agree to let me place some books in their store, but they offered to host a book signing. A women’s Bible study group meets there every Thursday night: “Would you want to have a book signing on a Thursday evening? You could start before they arrive and then you’d have an audience that is exactly suited to your book … ”

The rest of the conversation was equally uplifting. We briefly shared our stories, our desires to further God’s kingdom and our understanding of His call on our lives.

Only God could have suggested that idea to me and then prepared the way for my request to be received and blessed.

Oh! and one more thing. Out of the blue a wonderful Christian radio host asked me to do an interview with her this Saturday on Beyond Belief! (Details to come!)

So, I will step up. I will be faithful. I will be content in my home, diligent in and proud of my calling.

Is Yoga Sinful?

It’s no secret–I love exercising. It used to be an absolute, unhealthy obsession. And I will admit that yoga helped to break that for me. Yoga brought me to place of movement that didn’t equate calories; yoga some how melted stillness and activity together; yoga makes me strong in ways that nothing else ever has; yoga calls itself a practice and not a workout … and really, when I finish a yoga class, I can often hear the Lord whispering to me. As I lay in shavasana, Scripture washes my mind, prayers come easily and peace reigns. (Of course, this doesn’t happen every time without fail, but it’s more often than not.)

And then, someone (more that one someone) told me that yoga is sinful. They seemed like they knew so much about it. I heard that the poses were offerings to false gods, I heard that it was based on false, eastern religions. I heard that Christianity and yoga were mutually exclusive.

And then I heard otherwise … so what to believe?

So, finally, I just made my own call. I love yoga. I know that God healed me from anorexia–it was all Him–and I also know that yoga was a big part of that. But truthfully, I didn’t tell a lot of people about my home practice. I wasn’t sure how to defend it. I wasn’t prepared to be criticized for my decision. 

Enter, a podcast that I stumbled upon today: Faithful Wellness interviewed Brooke Boon, the founder of Holy Yoga, and it made sense! Rather than try to restate everything that Brooke said with such clarity, I’ll simply post the podcast and link here for you.

This blog started as a chronicle of my recovery from anorexia then, it hosted the launch of my book: The Predatory Lies of Anorexia, so it only seems fitting that it continue to proclaim Christ, freedom, health, hope and clarity to those who are looking for freedom from body image, weight issues and eating disorders.

Love!

How You Should Vote

How should you vote?

The country is in a tizzy over who will be the next President of the United States. And, while it’s incredibly early to place much weight in polls and predictions, it’s never too early to begin praying about the outcome.

The Republican field is wide; the Democratic ticket not so much, but come November, the competition will be narrowed to two or three (if someone announces they’re running as a different party.)

The issues inciting voters are not so varied either. The economy and international relations are at the top of the list. There are plenty of moral issues at stake as well—the right to life and racial tension. And, for the most part, the American public is tired of political games—tired of politicians.

So, outside of the debates and the arguably biased news coverage of each candidate, how does a Christian make a well-informed decision about who to vote for? Is there a single set of standards anywhere that can help believers draw clean lines between the options?

I never expected to find such a precise set of standards in the book of Psalms. But, it shouldn’t surprise us. After all, much of the the book was penned by King David of Israel. And the rest were penned by those who knew him and were affected by his rule.

The Bible describes David as “a man after God’s own heart.” It makes sense then, that David’s personal and prayer life can guide us in making godly decisions about those who govern our own lives.

“O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill?” Psalm 15:1

While the president himself doesn’t spend much time on Capitol Hill, many other elected officials do and—for better or worse—the president has great bearing on the decisions made there. So let’s paraphrase this verse slightly: Who should dwell on Capitol Hill? The following verses give great detail:

“He who walks blamelessly and does what is right and speaks truth in his heart; who does not slander with his tongue and does no evil to his neighbor, nor takes up a reproach against his friend … “ Psalm 15:2-3

These verses speak very obviously to the campaign season. How many candidates spend much of their air time slandering their opponent or speaking evil against him—often times even taking up a reproach against a former ally for the sake of popularity? And, while none of us on our own can claim to be blameless, a man or woman who has accepted the free gift of Christ’s sacrifice for sin is completely blameless. They also seek to do right and speak the truth.

“ … in whose eyes a vile person is despised, but who honors those who fear the Lord; who swears to his own hurt and does not change … “ Psalm 15:4

This verse brings us to the moral issues. Which candidate consistently calls good good and evil evil? A specific case in point: Who is willing to stand up for life? Politicians are notorious for saying one thing during their campaign and doing another once they’re in office. The Bible tells us to look for a man who swears to his own hurt and does not change—this man or woman will not change their stance for truth even when it’s not in their personal best interest.

“ … who does not put out his money at interest and does not take a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things shall never be moved … “ Psalm 15:5

This verse covers a whole gamut of issues. As voters, we must vote for the candidate who—to the best of their ability—manages the country’s finances well, refuses to be bought and protects the innocent.

Finally, the last sentence sums it up. Do we not want to be a solid, unmovable country? This begins with an uncompromising, strong, unmovable leader.

The Bible tells us clearly how to vote. Is our responsibility as believers and patriots to determine who to vote for.

Exposed! — And Why You Got an Eating Disorder (maybe)

When I’m exposed to good teaching, it’s difficult not to allow my cogitating to erupt in relative prose. How badly I want to convey the truths I’m learning but fear my attempts will be woefully inadequate. But alas, I’ve been exposed again and in my best efforts to internalize these truths, I’m going to try to explain them to you. And we’ll start right there…exposure.

Theres’s an old saying, “Children learn what they live.” I would modify that to, “Children learn what they are exposed to.”

In the realm of eating disorders, which I am most familiar with, it’s not uncommon to lay blame at the feet of modern media. While television, magazines and billboards cannot be held solely responsible, that logic does explain why eating disorders have become more prevalent in recent generations and why they are more frequently found in affluent societies. A quick look at most magazine covers, or a blitz through the channels, reveals that today our youth are constantly exposed to unrealistic, if not dangerously unhealthy images and ideas.

Our grandmothers were not exposed to Barbie’s bizarre dimensions. A girl’s sexuality was still considered sacred, not a bargaining chip for popularity, success and equality. Regarding sexuality, skin and bones was not considered sexually appealing—curves, soft edges, well-rounded hips and full-rosy cheeks were admired—not sallow complexions, hollow eyes and angular collar bones. History proves that we gravitate to, begin to approve and even see as normal the things that we are exposed to.

An example from close to home: A dear friend of mine, who struggles with an eating disorder, admitted to me that her earliest memories were of her mother’s self-imposed diets. Her mother’s voice still echoes in her head, repeating the familiar phrases, “I need to lose weight”, “If only I could look like her”, “That has too much fat”, “Well, I failed again.”

But there are other evidences of the power of exposure. Post-slavery in the south, many slaves had difficulty adapting to a life of freedom. They had never been exposed to freedom; or more accurately, they had only been exposed to captivity. How was freedom to be managed?

My niece is obsessed with the movie, Toy Story. Quite honestly, she never had a chance to consider other options. From the womb, she must have watched that movie 1000 times. It is her mother’s favorite, followed Monster’s Inc. Her frequent and limited exposure to a certain movie programmed her mind to accept it as the best. Even more so, because she has been so immersed in that movie, she naturally believes that everyone else has too—and that I too should know every character and phrase. Because of her exposure, she has assimilated a specific opinion of what is “normal” and “good”.

Is there a way to harness exposure and use it to our advantage? Particularly in the field of eating disorders, can exposure be a useful tool for recovery? I think so, however, my musings run contrary to some popular methods of treatment.

I was a treated at an inpatient facility for more than six months over three different stays at two separate locations. Without a doubt, I benefited greatly from the experts there and from the companionship and empathy of the other patients. However, just as we can be over-exposed to the elements causing dangerous side-effects like frostbite, sunburn, heatstroke or poison ivy, the dynamics of an inpatient facility create the possibility for over-exposure to eating disordered habits, unhealthy thought patters, unhealthy bodies—even too much empathy.
It isn’t hard to see how anorexic roommates at an inpatient facility can feed off of each other. Regardless of hours spent in therapy, the power of exposure shows that there is at least great potential for constant, continued exposure to others who are unhealthy as well, to perpetuate the problem. Of course, this logic should not be used to negate the importance of inpatient treatment centers. I mean only to consider all the possibilities.

After two moderately successful inpatient treatments stays, I relapsed—again. This time, I didn’t have the luxuries of money or time to return to a facility. For a while, I clung to life and sanity by my fingernails—by the grace of God. By His wisdom and mercy, He began to use the power of exposure to affect true healing in my life.

Slow, progressive exposure to the elements can deaden one’s awareness to the side effects. So too, as God applied to my life gentle, progressive exposure to health, life, moderation and joy I barely noticed the changes happening in my mind and body.

I remember a friend who struggled for many years with bulimia. She told me the story of her final, all-out effort to recover. Melissa asked a friend to go with her to a donut shop every single day. Every single day, Megan and her friend ate one donut and left. Through observing her friend and experiencing moderation herself, Melissa was repeatedly exposed to a new relationship with donuts—a previous binge food.

Exercise addiction was a huge component of my own eating disorder. In fact, after managing it for a time, I made a choice to expose myself to a new group of friends—a running club. There is nothing wrong with those people. They were wonderful, kind and fun to be with. However, the constant exposure to conversations about running, races, stopwatches, intervals and long Saturday runs warped my mind. In no time at all, I suffered from overexposure to an unhealthy pattern and found myself on the fast-track to relapse. Suddenly, due to that exposure, running an unprecedented number of miles each week became normal and good—my mental and physical default.

Fortunately for me, exposure worked again in reverse. We moved after about three years at that location. There was no running club in our new city. The streets near our home were not conducive to running and I didn’t know my way around the city to simply take off on my own (my proclivity to get lost helped me reduce my exposure even more).

Almost by accident, my running tapered off. Other habits began to take over, other forms of more moderate exercise began to seem normal. When I finally decided that I wanted to be well, I terminated my gym membership too. I recognized by then that constant exposure to the environment of a gym had negative effects on my pursuit of recovery.

Exposure to healthy influences has helped my recovery in other ways, too. I notice an increased sense of freedom around all types of foods after spending a week with my sister. Her enjoyment of food and intuitive response to hunger and fullness cues inspires and instructs me. When I cancelled my subscriptions to all of my health magazines, I immediately noticed a reduction in obsessive thoughts about diet, exercise and aspects of my physical appearance.

Traditional forms of treatment have their place, and in many cases (including my own) are absolutely necessary. However, in conjunction and perhaps most effectively, in the wake of inpatient treatment, intentional, concentrated exposure to healthy elements can be the difference between recovery and relapse.