Learn to Love the Skin You’re In … by Amelia

Another thought-provoking article by a wonderful writer, Amelia, at The Bottom Line:

We can’t change our skin like snakes do; so, learning to be comfortable in our own skin is vital. We have to love ourselves, or else others will find it hard to do it for us. The message about “loving our bodies” is worn out. Yet, people aren’t convinced. Maybe it’s because the message about “skinny being the only sexy,” is louder.

Numerous people struggle to love their bodies—a large percentage of them are teenagers. An article on Huffington Post states, “About 40 percent of 10 and 11-year-old girls in the U.K. want to lose weight. That number rises to 54 percent in 12 and 13-year-old girls and to a stunning 63 percent among 14 and 15-year-olds.” While boys are less concerned about body image, they’re not all exempt.

Finish this post here … 

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What’s Your Name?

sunrise-invitation-1431868-mAlmost every Christian on the planet can rattle off, “I’m saved by grace through faith.”

Almost every Christian on the planet gets up each day with fresh resolutions—and a better arsenal of excuses.

A familiar Old Testament character can empathize with you. He was full of excuses, little white lies and a few big, old whoppers. Ashamed of who he was, Jacob tried to make himself sound better, feel better, look better than he actually was. Follow his story with me:

Jacob had tried to come out first. As Rachel gave her last anguished push, he thrust forward his tiny pink hand. But just before he could claim the birthright, Esau, big and red, shouldered his way out first. Jacob was shortly behind him, gripping Esau’s heel with all his might.

Their young years were rife with tension. Sure, there were good days when the boys enjoyed camaraderie, but their parents’ divided loyalties kept them both on edge. Ruddy Esau was Isaac’s choice, but Rachel favored Jacob. Maybe she felt sorry for him, the underdog, the sweet little boy who wanted desperately to make his mark on the world.

At birth, Jacob had been labeled, “deceiver,” or, “crafty one,” (the meaning of his Hebrew name) in recollection of his attempt to claim the honor of first born. Living up to his name, twice the Bible tells specific stories of him deceiving his family members in order to claim blessings that were not his. Then, one final, colossal mistake left him running for his life—Jacob lied about his name.

He told his blind father, Isaac, that he was Esau. He convinced Isaac to bless him with the honors of a firstborn. “I am Esau.” Three little words.

There is oh, so much more to the story! But let’s move forward, the privilege of a Bible scholar, to survey the entire landscape of Scripture and consider each story in context and in its minutia.

Years later, Jacob lay restless on the ground trying to sleep. For days, his family had been traveling, a monster caravan of livestock, servants, women and children. As they neared their destination, Jacob’s home in Canaan, word came that Esau had learned of their arrival and was coming to meet them. In fear, Jacob sent gifts ahead of him to pacify his brother. That night, in a fitful sleep, he had a visitor.

Initially, the Bible only tells us that a man wrestled with Jacob all night long. Later, we come to understand that this was a pre-incarnate Christ, a theophany. As day broke, Jacob lost the match but still clung fiercely to the stranger. “I will not let you go until you bless me!” he said.

Then, God asked Jacob a most ordinary, and ironic question: “What is your name?”

Did God not know? Did the Creator who knit this man together in his mother’ womb, not also know his name? Why do you think God asked?

God wanted Jacob to admit who he really was. Long ago, when Jacob claimed to be Esau, he pretended to be someone he was not. He pretended to be worthy of his father’s blessing; he pretended to be the rightful heir. Jacob believed he need to be better, older, more worthy in his father’s eyes to receive the blessing.

The last time Jacob had been asked to give his name, he lied, “I am Esau.” In other words, “Father, I am who you want me to be.”

Now, God asked Jacob not to redeem himself, not to prove his worth for the blessing, but instead to admit who he was—a liar, a cheat, a deceiver.

Humbled, Jacob told the truth, “I am Deceiver.” And in the wake of his truthfulness, God, Himself, redeemed Jacob.

“Then the man said, ‘Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome’ … Then he blessed him there.”
Genesis 32:28-29b

What do you have to do receive the blessing of Christ’s righteousness, the favor of God for salvation?

God does not ask you to become someone you are not. It is vain to cover your flaws, change your name, mask your scars, hide your weaknesses and sins. Your salvation is in admitting who you are—all failures and mistakes included. In the wake of your confession, when you understand your need for the Savior, God Himself will change you, redeem you, clothe you in righteousness and bless you.

Isaiah 61:10
Isaiah 30:15
Isaiah 43:1

Was, Is and Will Be

moving-forward-1445758-mIn March of last year, my parents threw a big party. It was a special event to show off their grandkids who live out of state and to celebrate the publication of my first book, The Predatory Lies of Anorexia: A Survivor’s Story. When they chose the date, no one realized that it would land neatly on top of the same weekend they began moving from the house they’ve lived in for seventeen years.

It was a bit maddening for my mother! Half of her life had already migrated to a new address, while she was expecting up to 80 guests at the old house! But, the dynamics created by the convoluted schedule were magical; it was in the chaos that I found redemption.

Part of moving is inevitably going through piles of old “stuff”—letters buried at the back of the desk and forgotten five years before, stuffed animals loved right out of their fur, photo albums lovingly created and abandoned on book shelves, paperbacks enjoyed once but not worth reading again, dusty silk flower arrangements, school year books, gymnastics trophies…but, among the mundane, we found precious things like blankets crocheted by Grandma and handmade baby dresses.

I plucked a photo album from the stack and flipped through the first several pages. My own face, barely recognizable stared back at me. There I was, sitting in this same room, ten Christmases past, a shell of myself, a skeleton of a woman. My eyes were haunted by dark gray shadows and ringed with fatigue. Though I must have been watching someone open a gift, there was no light in my eyes. I remember now, calculating how many calories were in that cinnamon roll my mother made me eat and wondering if anyone would notice if I left and went for a run.

God says He is the same yesterday, today and forever. Praise Him that I am not so! Because He is, my was, is not my is. And my will be is even better.

One reason for the party was to celebrate the publication of my book. As I wrote the book, I effectively closed my “was” chapter, and stepped bravely into “is”. That weekend, plowing through my parents’ closets brought the differences between was and is into distinct contrast. I can see clearly what God has done to redeem my past.

Some things that marked this final stay in my parents’ old home as the dawning of a glorious is:

Every morning, I sat and sipped coffee with my Dad instead of leaving the house to go for a 20 mile run.

I took cat naps with my mother instead of fearing how many pounds I would accumulate while resting.

I looked at my baby pictures and thought, “I was adorable!” instead of despising my appearance.

I walked my mom’s dog and stopped to smell her neighbor’s flowers instead of trying to turn it into a power walk.

I ate some of my grandmother’s chocolate chip cookies.

I didn’t fall asleep in church because my brain was starved for energy. Instead I relished the pastor’s sermon and lifted my hands in worship.

I didn’t overhear my parents discussing my illness in anxious, hushed tones.

All of these observances culminated on the Saturday afternoon of the party. Almost 80 of my parents’ friends poured through the house. These were people who had prayed for me and held my parents’ hands when I went to college, and when they received worried phone calls from my dorm supervisor. These people prayed for me even though they didn’t know me. These people knew my story, knew my family’s pain in the middle of my eating disorder and held us before the throne. These people are part of the reason I am here today.

Today is new. I am fuller, happier. I am free from fear of food and compulsory exercise. Today, I see the world as so much bigger than myself. Thank God that I am not the same as I was.

And even more glorious? I’m the not same as I will be. God has promised that I cannot conceive of the good things He has planned for me. He has promised that one day I will behold the face of my Savior and I will be like Him (2 Corinthians 3:18). He has promised me a future and hope.

Last year, I recognized redemption. One weekend was a microcosm of the span of my life and I can see clearly how God redeemed me. It is in that context that I am more excited than ever, more grateful than ever that God has redeemed my soul. I love is and new, I am joyful now, but I am ever so excited about what will be.

Questions:

What is one evidence that Christ has made your life new? How is your “is” different than your “was”? Can you use this to share the Gospel with others?
2. Are you still struggling with the guilt and fears of “was”? What do you think you need to truly feel new?
3. If you let your imagination run, what do you think “will be” will look like?

 

Clean Forever

river-scene-2-1413837-mHow often do you take a shower? Hopefully more than once in a lifetime.

How often do you cleanse yourself from sin? How do you do that anyway?

There are some pretty scary verses in the Bible that demand that we be cleansed from sin. According to 2 Corinthians 6:17 and 7:1, unless we are cleansed from sin, we cannot take full advantage of God’s awesome promises. In 2 Corinthians 6:16,18 Paul spells out several of God’s promises, enough to us really excited:

I will live among them

I will walk among them

I will be their God

They will be my people

I will welcome you

I will be your Father

You will be my sons and daughters

Sounds great right? Until you turn the page and find the caveat at the beginning of chapter seven: “Because we have these promises, dear friends, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that can defile our body or spirit And let us work toward complete holiness because we fear God.”

It’s that little word cleanse that scares me. I know that God is holy; how can I ever be pure enough, clean enough, pure and virtuous enough to lay hold of those awesome promises? I want to know God as Father, to be welcomed by Him and to walk and talk with Him. But even if I’m good and clean enough for one day, what about tomorrow when I mess up again?

I wonder if ancient Israel dealt with such fears and guilt under the sacrificial system. After all, the priest constantly offered sacrifices and burnt offerings. Every Israelite knew they would break God’s law again, but they also knew there would always be one more lamb slaughtered for their sins. Day after day, week after week, year after year, they could walk away from the temple confident that they had cleansed themselves from sin in the blood of a lamb. God washed away their filth in an animal’s blood and once again they walked in God’s favor. All of God’s promises for protection, deliverance, health and provision were theirs.

So what about now? How do we cleanse ourselves? How can we be comforted in knowing that today’s sin and tomorrow’s sin is washed away as completely as yesterday’s sin, so that we can claim the sweet and precious promises of God?

As a whole, in the modern church, we act as if we are cleansed at salvation—that glorious, single moment when we prayed and accepted Christ’s payment for our sins. But then, we must keep ourselves clean. We stand from our knees determined to be better, purer, more God-honoring, cleaner people with set-apart lives. But uh-oh, merely 30 seconds later, or maybe it’s 30 minutes or 30 days—but sooner or later we feel filthy, tarnished and unfit all over again. For us, there’s no behavior, no lamb or other sacrifice or ritual we can perform to make us feel clean again. Are we doomed?

The word cleanse in 2 Corinthians 7:1 is katharizo. It means “to clean, cure, free from sin and guilt; to purify.” It is actually used over and over again throughout the Bible and many times in the Gospels.

The interesting thing about the use of the word katharizo in the Gospels is that it nearly always refers to something Jesus did. Specifically, this is the word used when Jesus healed lepers. Cleansing is an action performed by Jesus Christ. 

So how then can we “cleanse ourselves” as 2 Corinthians instructs, since we are obviously hopeless to keep ourselves clean? We cleanse ourselves from earthly things and sins, just as the ancient Hebrews did: we come again with the Lamb to the Father’s throne. No, Jesus doesn’t die again, His sacrifice was once for all, supremely more powerful than the blood of bulls and goats. (Hebrews 10:1-10)

When we come to the throne with Christ, the once-for-all sacrifice, the Father again—and over and over again for all our past, present and future failures—sees Christ’s sacrifice and deems us clean. The only way we do this, when we fail, is to anchor ourselves again in the knowledge that we ARE clean, because of Jesus.

We cleanse ourselves not by working to “stay clean” but by repeatedly coming, grateful and humble to the cleaner.

Below are several more verses that bear this out. I encourage you to look them up, dig The Word yourself and discover your ever-compete cleanliness.

Revelation 7:14, 1 Corinthians 6:11, Hebrews 9:12-14, Ephesians 1:7, Ephesians 5:26,

Titus 2:14, Hebrews 9:14, 1 John 1:7, 9

Shame’s Sneaky Relatives

Shame: “The painful feeling arising from the consciousness of something dishonorable, improper, ridiculous, etc., done by oneself or another:”

That’s what dictionary.com says shame is. And, being the lover of words that I am, I knew that. So, I really didn’t think I had a shame problem. But that was before I knew that Shame has a half-sister and two evil step-daughters.

I first met False Humility, Shame’s sneaky half-sister when I was a young teenager. I’ve always been average—not excellent or super smart. I’m not super athletic, super talented or super funny. I’m just plain-jane average. Cast beneath the spotlight of my brilliant younger sister, I quickly discounted anything positive about myself. She was everything I was and more; everything I did she could do better.

When we were kids, I quit playing softball and became the bat-girl for her team. I quit learning piano and quit the swim team because she did those things better, too. I played the martyr at home, always the one to give in, defer or tap-out.

It kind of looked like humility when I stepped aside and applauded her successes while mumbling something like, “I’m okay, just not awesome.”

Next, I was introduced to Shame’s step-daughter, Pride. She raised her ugly head in the middle of my battle with anorexia. For fourteen years I excelled at starving. No one wanted to compete with me, but I competed with everyone. In my malnourished mind, I “won” every time I was thinner than another girl, every time I turned down food that another person simply couldn’t resist, every time I went for a long run in the rain while others pulled the sheets over their heads and enjoyed the warmth of a cozy bed. I was an excellent anorexic. All the while, shameful thoughts about my body and personal value swam circles in my mind.

Fear arrived shortly after my recovery from anorexia as I began to share my testimony for the glory of God and the encouragement of others. Fear is Shame’s other step-daughter. When I wrote my book, got a publisher and saw it appear on Amazon, Fear started to mock me. No one is going to buy or read this book. You are going to let down your agent, publisher and family. Everyone has had such high expectations of you and believed you could do this—they are going to be so disappointed. 

I felt sluggish and demoralized for several days, muddling through the successive concussions of fear following the publication of my book. But fear forced to me look to the God who loves me, because “perfect love casts out fear.”

One morning, I opened my Bible to Psalm 25. This single chapter has a lot to say about shame in the life of a Christ-follower. As I read, hope and renewed energy flooded through me. Shame has no place in my life and no power over me.

“I trust in thee: let me not be ashamed…no one who hopes in you will ever be put to shame…O keep my soul, and deliver me: let me not be ashamed; for I put my trust in thee.”

One Way to Love Your Enemy

“…for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” James 1:20 (ESV)

How are you feeling as you merge back into life after the hectic holidays? As wonderful as fellowship with family and friends can be, it often includes sharing close quarters with at least one person who seems to bring out the worst in us. Along with hallowed hymns and scrumptious side dishes, we find a healthy serving of tension and stifle the grumblings of bitterness. How do we deal with these feelings? How do we overcome the unwelcome irritation?
The Biblical character, Abigail, gives us an example of the godly, effective way to deal with these relationships. I Samuel 25, tells us that Abigail was married to a harsh and selfish man named Nabal. When Nabal’s foolish behavior got their whole household into trouble, Abigail’s response was not accuse him or retaliate against him. Instead, she sought his good! Abigail set out to preserve and protect her household.
The godly response when faced with negative, frustrating people is to seek their good. “Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor,” 1 Corinthians 10:24. Jesus tells us to pray for our enemies and do good to those who hate us. Bitterness, arguments and defensiveness do not produce the righteous life that God desires. However, when see turn the other cheek and act in kindness toward those who hurt us, God will honor us and receive the glory.

Keep your eyes open for my upcoming Bible study, Beyond Belief, due on June 2, 2015.

A New Kind of Balance

balance-875412-mIn the 2012 Olympics, Gabby Douglas, a USA gymnast, slipped on the balance beam, her favorite event, and forfeited any medal in the competition. It was hard to believe, since just days before she had performed beautifully in qualifications.

In the competitive sport of gymnastics, there isn’t real balance. There is pass or fail. For Douglas, it wasn’t enough that she’d performed well previously; past scores did not balance out poor performance and eliminate her loses. She would either make it to the other side or fall, keep her feet on the straight and narrow or crash gracelessly to the ground. There’s not much freedom, no margin for error.

In the beginning stages of recovery, as I clawed my way out of the depths of an eating disorder, finding balance felt much like being on the balance beam.

To finish reading this post, please visit FINDINGbalance

Drop the Golden Rule!

Throw out the Golden Rule!

Yep, I mean it. God doesn’t want you to love your neighbor as yourself.

Now, before you run off and start pulling your sister’s hair, stealing your friend’s clothes or yelling at your parents, consider the fact that Jesus wants you to do so much more.

In Mark 12:29-31, a rich, young man approached Jesus and asked Him what was God’s most important commandment. Jesus answered him straight from the Ten Commandments:

 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’There is no commandment greater than these.’”

It’s true, God did say that. But the rules changed when Jesus came to earth to pay for our sins by His death and resurrection.

In fact, later in Jesus’ ministry, only days before He went to the cross, He sat in an upstairs room for one last special meal with His disciples. There, He shared His heart. He told them that He had a new commandment for them.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” 

(John 13:34-35)

Under the old commandment, in order to love your neighbor properly, you had to really love yourself. You’ve probably even heard someone say, “You can’t love others until you love yourself.”

There are many times in our lives when we don’t really love ourselves. We can be upset with ourselves for a little while, or perhaps even struggle with depression. Sometimes, we even hate ourselves. When that happens, how are we supposed to obey God and love others?

This is where it gets really good! In the new commandment Jesus gave us, we are told to love others as God loves us. That sounds even harder! But the truth is, in order to love this way we have to learn, understand and believe how much God loves US!

The next time someone tells you, “You have to love yourself before you can love others,” tell them, “No, in order to love myself or others, I have to know how much God loves me!”

The way Jesus wants us to love forces us to stop looking at ourselves and instead to look at Him. As we receive His love for us, then we are able to be obedient and love others. At the same time, we will find peace and joy in who we are because we know how much God loves us!

Where’s Waldo in the Land of ED?

[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.