Nuggets: Cut Off Your Hand

In the span of 24 hours, three women I love deeply told me of their partner’s unfaithfulness. And it all began in their right hands.

That stupid phone.

That little gadget puts more power beneath our thumbs than between our ears. And more danger at our finger tips than in any previous generation.

All three women discovered that their husbands (one is a boyfriend) are having ongoing conversations with other women. Simple texts morphed quickly into rendezvous, emotional attachments and physical relationships.

And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.

I’ve always thought Matthew 5:30 seemed a little odd. At least Jesus was using hyperbole, right? I still don’t think Jesus intends for us to literally chop off our hands, but it’s more obvious to me now how segmented we pretend sin is.

It’s almost as if when sin starts (and stays for a while) in just our hands, and not yet in our hearts or the rest of our bodies, we excuse it: “It’s just a text right?”

It’s as if we think when sin is so simple, so easy it must not be as bad, right?

Jesus doesn’t think so. My loved ones know it isn’t so. Sin hurts, destroys, kills. And it can start in the palm of your hand.

 

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Praying Through the Tough Stuff–When God Answers

Friends, I’m going to take a step back from the LASTing Peace video series–perhaps only for a time, perhaps indefinitely. I will still be writing and posting at least once a week and more often when the Lord leads.

This today is from my journal just recently. It’s a dialogue I had with God. He continued to faithfully answer my wounded heart though His perfect Word. If you’ve ever had trouble hearing from God, I hope this gives you a sense of what His voice sounds like when it whispers through the pages of Scripture:

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I have been worried lately that somehow my husband and I will revert to the “old us.” We’ve changed so much; God has healed and forgiven so much–to go back to a false sense of self-sufficiency–it terrifies me. I cannot live that way again!

But even as I fretted, I have been praying Proverbs daily for us and the beginning of Proverbs 14 says:

“The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.”

That puts the onus on me. I can destroy this thing or I can build it up. I know that in the last few days, I have been kind of sulky and subversively unhappy about things: his long hours at work, his fatigue or distance at home … you know that, “It’s not fair” kind of thing. I know even in the midst of my poor attitude that I risk pushing my husband away by making him feel like he’s needed but failing to be available.

So then I fret that I’m going to ruin this thing—probably already have. What if, by my attitude, I’ve already shut him down. What if he’s already decided that I’m whiny, obnoxious, unnecessary and a burden? What if I’ve lost my chance to build us?

Zing! Here came Psalm 127:1

“Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain.”

And then fear grips me again. God, what if you started all this and now I’ve messed it up and you’ve given up and you’re just going to let us slide all the way back down into our mud. What if God!? What if you don’t care enough? What if I can’t trust you enough to keep us, save us, bind us, grow us? (Ever ask those questions?

Philippians 1:6 “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”

God’s faithfulness is found in His word. There are answers to every hurt, every question, every longing. We need only be still enough to listen and willing to hear what we sometimes don’t want to hear–and finally, willing to agree that His way is always the best way.

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.

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.

Considering Male Body Hatred-Do Men Get Eating Disorders?

Here at Predatory Lies, we talk a lot about female body image, eating disorders, body dismorphia, cultural lies and pressure from the media. But I’ve never taken a close look at how this social frenzy for physical perfection affects men. Personally, I don’t feel equipped to address that. However, this article is exquisite and in many ways could have been written about women as well. This is just the teaser. I highly recommend you click through and read the whole article.

The Epidemic of Male Body Hatred

by: Paul Maxwell for Desiring God

“If I could look like that guy who played Thor, I would be happy.”

It’s a common belief among men of our age. Put more honestly, “If I can’t appear confident, sexy, intimidating, competent, and super-human, I’m worthless.”

We compare ourselves to others in the gym. We come away from movies wanting to exercise for eight hours. We would rather jump in front of a truck than take our shirts off at the pool. We feel pathetic and small. We look at ourselves in almost every mirror we pass. When alone, we flex — not because we like what we see, but because we don’t. We have spent hundreds of dollars on pre-workout, weight loss, and weight gain supplements. We research the best way to bulk, shred, diet, and binge.

To finish reading, click here!

All Things New, Life After Death

I’d given up on that phone call years ago. Subconsciously, I just knew it wasn’t a good idea. I’d ruined my body for having my own babies, why would anyone else trust me with theirs?

But last week, a sister called me. My second sister isn’t much of a talker, so I knew something must have prompted the call. “What’s up?”

“Well, nothing is wrong, don’t worry. In fact, it’s not that big of a deal. Well, it’s a big deal, but…”.

“Now I’m really curious,” I urged her on with a laugh. What on earth could tie her tongue and yet still be so important as to warrant a phone call in the middle of her daughters’ bath time?

“My husband and I have been talking and praying about it. We would like you and Patrick to consider being the ones to take the girls if something were to ever happen to both of us.”

She paused. My heart hit the floor and took wings all at the same time. Giddiness washed over me. Me? They chose me—my husband and me?

Not so many years ago, I would have been a terrible choice to take care of my nieces if something happened to their parents. In the throes of a longterm battle with anorexia, it wasn’t a stretch to wonder if I might not live to see them reach high school. I let my mind follow that line of thinking.

Not so many years ago, my sister and her husband might have feared that living with me would warp their girls’ body image. They might wonder if I’d feed them well, tend to their precious bodies or teach them how to fully embrace all of life outside the numbers by which society measures happiness. Or they might have been concerned that I wasn’t mentally present enough to assume responsibility for their little girls. What if I fell asleep at the wheel driving to gymnastics? What if I was re-admitted to a treatment center—what would happen to the girls then?

My sister still waited on the phone; slowly my mind resurfaced and collected itself. I tried to control the waver in my voice and suggest following the proper protocol. “Of course, I’ll talk to Patrick and we’ll pray about it. I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. But I have to ask one question—why did you pick us?

My sister and her husband have done a remarkable job instilling the love of Jesus in the hearts of their little girls. A passion for Christ at the center of all things is the desire of their hearts, the defining trait they want for the home where their children mature.

“We think that you guys embody the way that we want the girls to grow up. We want them to know Jesus as a Person, not simply grow up in a religious home. We want them to feel His presence and learn to walk with Him.” (Not a precise quote, I wasn’t recording my sister.)

Not so many years ago, the mention of my name conjured worries, memories of treatment centers, confusion, deception and fear. I identified myself as anorexic. The dominant thoughts of my wakeful hours, and often even my dreams, were calories, food and exercise. But now…

Oh the joy, the sheer magnificence of a healing God! He healed me and allows me to experience abundant life, unhindered joy, Christ-filling. He redeemed the years, redeemed my reputation, redeemed my identity.

To be known as one whose mind, heart and home is consumed with Christ, is a greater honor than I can explain. To know that the old is so far gone, so far has He removed my sin from me, and the new has come—there are no sufficient words.

Of course, you’re likely wondering if I ever consulted my husband, who would share the responsibility of raising our nieces and what he said. He said, “Yes!”

Please don’t be put off or allow this to be seen as a morbid story, considering the loss of my sister and her husband. Rather, I believe her call, their question was meant first and foremost as God’s testimony to me, of me, that He makes all things new.

 

An Article to Explain (and warn) your ‘tweens about eating disorders

How many magazines do you have on your bedside table? How many in your backpack? Okay, once you’ve done that homework, I need you to do a bit more investigation. Look at the covers. How many headlines promise to make you more beautiful? How about more popular? I bet at least two of them mention a “get-fit” plan or promise to tell you a little secret about which foods are good and bad for you.

One the surface, there’s nothing wrong with these magazines. The quizzes can be fun to take with a friend. And I’m the first to admit I’ve discovered some cute ways to style my hair. But underneath the glitter and glossy pages, did you know that your magazines are telling you little white lies?

Studies say that more than half of 13-year-old girls in the United States don’t like their bodies. And most admit that they get their ideas about health, fashion and what they should look like from magazines. The pictures of celebrities tell them what they should wear, what will make boys like them and how their bodies should look. But it’s scary what can happen to a girl when she chooses to believe these little lies about her appearance and her value.

When I was fourteen-years-old I began a long battle with anorexia. Never heard of it?

Anorexia Nervosa is an eating disorder. Someone with anorexia stops eating or severely limits what they eat. They might start to exercise too much and to other things to lose weight. And even when they lose too much weight and are dangerously skinny, they still believe they are too fat.

My battle with anorexia lasted more than 14 years. During that time, I lost a lot of friends who worried about me and didn’t know how to help me. My little sisters were scared that I was going to die. My parents cried and worried all the time because actually being too thin is even more dangerous than being a little too heavy.

My hair started to fall out. I grew lots of little-bitty, soft hairs all over my body. Because I didn’t have any body fat, my body was trying to stay warm. I cried a lot. When your mind doesn’t get enough nutrition, it doesn’t think clearly and many girls with anorexia get depressed, too. I fell asleep in school because my body didn’t have enough energy from food to stay awake. I even passed out a couple times, but I don’t remember it.

My family took really good care of me. When they understood how sick I was, they sent me to a hospital for eating disorders in Arizona. I spent three months there, away from my family and friends. I missed school and church; I even spent my 16th birthday at the hospital. Sometimes, I was so tired and scared and sad that I even wanted to die.

Getting well from anorexia often takes a really long time. It was hard for me to try to gain weight. I was scared that I might get too fat. In fact, even after I got well, I started to worry so much about being fat that I got sick again and had to return to the hospital when I was eighteen.

Jesus is the one who saved my life. Knowing how much He loves me is what gave me the courage to keep trying to get well and helped me make it through the loneliness when I was in the hospital. I read the Bible, not magazines, and learned what Jesus says about my beautiful body that He created.

In Genesis, God tells us that He made us in His own image. How can we not be perfectly wonderful if God made us to look like Him?

In Psalm 139, David writes that our bodies are marvelously made. And, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 reminds us that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit. We belong to Him! We need to take care of out bodies the way God wants us to and not worry about the world’s ideas of perfect.

 

This article was first published in ‘Tween Girls and God.