Sick in Modern Idolatry

Setting Captives Free, is an almost overwhelming resource – or better said – collection of resources. I was introduced to it by another woman struggling through her husband’s addiction to pornography. Little did I know that God intended to use it to address my lingering love of my eating disorder.

Setting Captives Free offers online courses that address sexual purity, eating disorders, substance abuse, gambling, Bible study, self-injury and more. Listing Bible study as a category seems a little deceiving because the entirety of each program is laced with Scripture and the conviction that Jesus Christ is the only source of freedom from these behaviors – more accurately – sins.

Within each category, there is a listing of 3-6 individual courses focused on that issue. Currently, I am studying In His Image.

The goal of this 60-lesson course is your complete and final freedom from anorexia and bulimia.

The course is written by Setting Captives Free founder, Michael Cleveland and Kim Schmidt, who writes from personal experience. Here is a link to Kim’s brief bio, but she shares many more details of her story throughout the course.

Personally, for years through many treatment programs and professionals I was taught that my eating disorder and battles with food and exercise addiction were a “disease,” implying that it was something that happened to me without my choice. Not really. Yes, Satan is our diabolical enemy who prowls about like a lion seeking to destroy God’s creation, especially those in His Image (humans.)

However, especially as one who knew Jesus long before I ever began to idolize food and exercise, my descent into this hell was nothing short of sin. Like ancient Israel, I walked away from a loving, all-powerful God, into the arms of a tangible “king.” I wanted a god I could control. In deeper self-evaluation, I discovered that the driving force behind my eating disorder was a desire to prove myself independent, needless – that I was not weak like others – I didn’t even need food. In essence I wanted to believe that I was my own god and self-sustaining.

What an ugly picture. God is using this study, In His Image, to burn away my dross. Praise Him that in the midst of my sin, I was no less saved by the blood and grace of His son, Jesus Christ in whom I believed. But I also praise Him that He would not allow me to spend the rest of my earthly life wallowing in pathetic worship of a false and powerless god.

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Post Script Miracles

This has not been my day. You know those days when you’re just “off”? My husband says he didn’t notice it, but my dog did. He moped around me, followed me everywhere and manipulated me with doleful eyes. Maybe he was trying to make me feel better, but it didn’t work. On top of feeling “off” now I feel guilty for not being a good dog mom.

Just this morning we studied the intrinsic value of our marriage partners. The teacher pointed out that in eastern culture, the emphasis is naturally on the value of who someone is. Consider even the recorded praises of the Jewish people to their God. Most of their vernacular is centered on who God is. “Give thanks to the Lord for He IS good.” Ps. 136:1 Whereas, in a western church service, you will likely here people praising God for all the good He has done. Both things are true: God is of utmost value and worth, God IS good; and God has done great and wonderful things.

Where am I going with this? After nodding in agreement this morning, I walked out of the church building into a world of disappointment in myself for not doing anything of significance, worth or value. It seems, my whole existence serves only to extend my life one more day. I live for the sake of living, get up for the sake of getting up – not because I’m contributing anything important or necessary to the world around me. Ever feel that way?

What’s the point of cooking fresh homemade cornbread, folding laundry, buying a sewing pattern, feeding the dog, reading a book, washing the car, sweeping the floor? All these things done once must be done again and feel like an exercise in futility.

Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity. What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun? Ecc. 1:2-3 At least I’m in good company.

Post Script miracles. The tag line on my day.

A postscript, abbreviated PS or P.S., is writing added after the main body of a letter (or other body of writing). The term comes from the Latin post scriptum, an expression meaning “written after”[1][2] (which may be interpreted in the sense of “that which comes after the writing”). (Wikipedia) 

What is the fragrance that lingers in the room after I’m gone? What is the P.S. beneath my signature on every friendship? The miracle is that because Jesus Christ lives in me, I believe He is the lasting impression even after my most futile days.

Oh Jesus, that I might follow so hard after you, be so taken with your direction that I will not fear even when my daily tasks seem mundane and my life feels insignificant. For Lord, it is not your choice to make much of me. You created me so that you can live through me. Take even my pathetic shell and fill it with so much of yourself that even when I’m invisible, unnoticed and tiny, the presence of Christ will overwhelm each spirit in my presence.

And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail. Is. 58:11

Master of My Own Destiny?

OK, I warned you this week might get deep.  forgot to mention controversial! I’m going to be sharing what Father is teaching me as I study His word. You may exercise your free will to skip this post, but I’d love to hear your opinions!

FREE WILL!

It’s probably one of the most hotly contested issues among Christians and non-believers alike. Protesting a lack of free will is often sited as a reason not to believe in Jesus. No one wants to be told what to do, given a list of 10 commandments or told that disobedience spells eternal doom.

Christians argue about who chose who. Did God elect those whom He would save, or does each one have free will do chose or deny God.

Does God’s choosing eliminate free will?

Is God unfair by choosing some and not others?

Does God’s presumed unfairness make Him less loving and less good?

Sticky stuff. Until recently, I hummed quietly in the background when these conversa

Well, I can’t hang out on the sidelines anymore. It’s time to defend the sovereignty of the God I love and know and worship. Honestly, if He is not the sovereign God I believe Him to be, if He really handed fate’s reigns over to his own creatures, then I can’t devote myself to Him heart and soul. I might as well make my own way and be my own god.

HUMANS HAVE FREE WILL. The problem is that our will is only against God and against righteousness. Always, no exception.

The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. Genesis 6:5

None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one. Romans 3:10-12

That’s the long and the short of it. Sure, not everyone is as evil as he can possibly be. That’s not what total depravity means. Total depravity means that all of us, from our very core to our smallest appendage is bent toward evil. And if you don’t want to qualify yourself as evil, you can certainly understand that you are less that perfect. And perfect is what God requires. Short of absolute equivalency to God’s righteous standard, we are evil.

Consider: the Fahrenheit temperature required to freeze water is an indisputable 32 degrees. It doesn’t matter if your nose is frostbitten and you can’t move your lips. It doesn’t matter if schools are closed and everyone tells you, “It’s freezing outside.” Anything short of 32 degrees is not freezing. There is an absolute standard and anything, no matter how legitimately, unreasonably cold, just won’t cut it.

So, even if you choose a pro-life stance, you give generously to charities, you are kind to every stranger and never speed, and never raise your voice – you still fall short of the absolute standard of perfection set by an uncompromising God. You cannot will yourself to achieve that righteous standard. Given his own free will, every single man without exception will spend eternity in hell.

So here’s where I land. God created man in His image. He gave us free will and we proved that our free will would chose our own appetites over God’s commands. God’s justice demanded death for our insolence. God’s mercy sent Jesus to pay that debt. God did chose who would chose Him.

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. Ezekiel 36:26-27

It’s a tough pill to swallow. God knowingly, willingly allows people to chose their own appetites even though He could change the rules? change their choices? change their behavior? It’s not unfair. God is fully merciful and fully just. Some receive His mercy for their sins, some receive His justice for their disobedience. Neither receives injustice.

Yes, God is Sovereign. One definition of Sovereignty is: Indisputable. We cannot argue with His truth anymore than we can argue with 32 degrees.

A very helpful resource for understanding this doctrine, an element of Reformed Theology, is R.C. Sproul’s teaching series, “What is Reformed Theology?”

Who? Little Ol’ Me?

On Friday, I will tell you a little bit more about a Bible study that I’m taking at my church. But in speaking of Weakest Moments on Wednesday, I really wanted to share this.

The study I am taking is about marriage. I feel like I really stink at this marriage thing. My husband and I are so different. How do we talk to each other? He’s never home. How do I invest in US? So, I sheepishly enrolled in the study that I hoped would “fix” me. I was floored when after the first day of class, the co-teachers asked me to be a small group leader. I thought, if only they knew how messed up I am. If  they knew how many times I’ve danced on the edge of giving up, they would never ask me to lead. But, when I prayed about it, I felt the Holy Spirit nudge, so I agreed.

Much of the time, I have my radar of up for what I should be doing for God. I rarely feel satisfied with where I am. Surely there is some capacity that I am not filling.

I didn’t believe I was equipped to lead women in a marriage class; so I kept looking for something else. As I continue in prayer, I want to share some of what the Lord has been telling me. I hope you are encouraged in the vocation that He has given to you.

Abby,

Consider that I have lead you to here. I’m not ceasing to lead and guide you, but don’t you think I brought you HERE for a reason? Maybe I want to use you now, but you’re often so focused on whatever you are preparing to do. Whatever you think you SHOULD be doing for me.

Abby, choosing my way will not mean drastic change of direction or taking on something new. But learn to be interested  and invested in what I am doing in you today.

You have asked for ministry. You have been given the ministry of loving women, exposing their strengths, introducing them to relationship with me. Do not fear. Do not allow a false spirit of fear to lead you astray. You must follow, fear, listen to, serve and cling to me. I will do more than you can imagine or desire.

Do not be like Zechariah, whose voice I took for a time when he failed to believe in my power to conquer all human weakness.

I love you. Abba”

World’s Most Generous Blog, Thank You Very Much, Here’s a Freebie!

One of the things I learned from Margo Dill in Blogging 101, is that every successful blog has a theme. Her advice proved salient and my readership has more than quadrupled since taking her course. Thanks to YOU and to Margo!

That said, she also gave her students permission to go with the flow, follow our whims and enjoy the growing, morphing, evolving trends of our writing. So, as you and I move into another, fast-escaping month, I want to introduce a new theme.

 Graceful Giving with Gratitude

Do you see the influence of this month’s holiday? God has been opening my mind to so many ways of giving lately.

I’m involved in a ministry at my church called “Heart to Heart.” This is a mentoring ministry, pairing mature Christian women with generally younger believers to help them grow righteousness. I’ve spent hours working on rosters, praying for the right pairing of people, reading about the ministry and visiting with my co-leader. On an individual level, Heart to Heart is going to require an immense amount of gracious giving – of time, energy, resources, encouragement, hope and honesty.

God doesn’t believe in coincidences. Therefore, neither do I. On a recent In the Market with Janet Parshall broadcast, I listened to Janet interview Dr. Kevin Leman about his newest book Have a New You by Friday. Janet frequently takes calls from her listeners. One particular caller tore at my heart with her story. I once believed the same PREDATORY LIE.

 “The best word I can use to describe myself is incidental,” the caller whispered. Pain seeped through the cracks in her voice.

Incidental: happening or likely to happen in an unplanned or subordinate conjunction with something else. (www.dictionaryreference.com)

I have felt that way. I just happened to be in my family. I didn’t need to be there, no one would miss me if I was gone. Sure, I was a nice appendage, but certainly unnecessary.

Isaiah is an intimidating book of the Bible. But one verse sealed the tomb on my pain and has worked amazing freedom and joy in my life. “But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O [Abby], he who formed you, O [Abby]: Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name and you are mine.” Is. 43:1 and in verse 4a, “Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you.”

It is my heart’s determination to extend grace to all women out of gratitude for the freedom and purpose that Christ has given to me.

So, here’s the plan for Thanksgiving’s honorary month:

Each Monday I will share a different story of a woman who invested herself in my life. There have been so many, using so many different means, in so many different places, with so many varying levels of intentionality. Many do not even know how much they impacted my life.

On Wednesday I want to pray with you. I am an advocate of Scripture prayers. They keep me from losing my train of thought or meandering into “if it’s your will territory.” If I’m praying according to His word, then I can be confident that I am praying within His will.

But there’s a catch. On Wednesday, I want to begin establishing a new reputation as the  WEB’S MOST GENEROUS BLOG. Every Wednesday, I will draw a name from the past week’s participants (commentors). Each week, someone will win two $5 gift cards to Starbucks. The condition is that you must take someone else to coffee. Extend God’s grace to them and invest in their life. I’d love it if you want to pray with them! Then, write me and tell me about your experience.

Finally, Friday. I think I want to keep Friday as a free day – for pictures, poems, sharing your stories or guest posts by friends who enjoy the grace of God in their own lives. Friday will often offer another chance to win a free… CD? Gift card? Book? After all, this is going to be the WEB’S MOST GENEROUS BLOG!

So, what do you think?

Holy Empty

Abba, teach me to be completely careless,

Radically change me into wholly fearless.

Exacerbate my human weakness.

Show me Jesus, make me speechless.

Rip from my hands all that’s worthless.

I want to see NOW in disciples, in emptiness, in hope, in eternity,

In faces, in hearts, in today, in tomorrow, in expectation

Your Holiness.

Ditch the Bread Machine

Nearly 2 years ago, I was watching a friend’s two daughters while she had to work. We took a day trip to Barnes and Noble, my favorite haunt on any afternoon. I armed myself with a decaf, quad-shot Americano and treated them to hot chocolates so that they were temporarily distracted from begging. We split up, them to drool over American Girl Doll paraphernalia and me to the usual corner – cookbooks and fitness titles. I had a $30 gift card burning a hole in my pocket so I felt compelled to buy something.

Earlier that year, I had taken it upon myself to learn the art of bread baking. As an incentive I had given away the bread maker. My mother-in-law frequently inspired me with golden loaves of a million varieties; my mom had raised me on homemade bread – so from scratch that she actually ground her own wheat! So far, all of my attempts had been rather floppish. I had thrown away the equivalent of pounds of flour with each discouraging batch. So, when I spied a book called, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, I laughed – and then fell for it.

I knew it had to be a gimmick, but I’m the queen of returns, so I figured I’d give it a shot and if it failed, bring it back for a more promising book. I made my selection just in time, as the two girls scampered toward me with their arms full of American Girl Doll books, outfits and audio. I escaped the store only by convincing them that I didn’t have anymore money – I didn’t – only a gift card.

I was so excited to begin my next baking disaster that I started that very evening. Short story – success! It works, nearly infallibly! I have been making loaves in five minutes a day for my neighbors, my husband, my co-workers and strangers. I’ve made bread bowls, and french baguettes and sweet cinnamon bread and granola bread for breakfast. In order to protect the mystique, and encourage you to eagerly comment on this post, I’m only going to share one recipe with you. This is the master recipe. It can be shaped and altered into any number of recipes, and there are other completely different recipes in the book too. Each one fits the premise  – Five Minutes A Day.

So here goes:

In a 5-quart plastic container with a lid, mix 3 Cups of lukewarm water, 1.5 T salt and 1.5 T yeast. Mix in 6.5 Cups of flour. You may have to stir it in batches if you’re doing it by hand. You can use a mixer with a dough hook, but I’ve only ever used a wooden spoon and elbow grease. Don’t knead it!  The dough will be wet and loose enough to conform to the shape of the container. Cover it with a not-airtight lid and allow it to sit on the counter for about 2 hours. (This doesn’t count as labor time.)

Two hours later toss the container in the fridge and forget about it until you want fresh, hot bread.

When you’re ready, remove a portion of the dough. You can plan on the recipe making about 4 1-pound loaves so remove about a fourth of the dough. It is an amount the size of a grapefruit. Lay the lump on a floured surface and sprinkle a little more flour on top. Spin the dough clockwise, carefully tucking the raw edges underneath to form a smooth ball. Let it sit for about 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 450 and place a pan on the bottom of the oven that you can fill with water and allow a baking stone to heat in the oven as well. When you’re ready, slide your free-form dough ball onto a preheated baking stone. Fill the pan beneath with about 1 Cup of water and close the oven. Let it steam-bake for about 30 minutes. Take it out and ENJOY!

One small note here, all of the recipes in this book are free-form, part of the artisan appeal. My husband doesn’t like much crust and these loaves are usually pretty crunchy on the outside. You can shape your dough and put it into a loaf pan and bake it that way. I still recommend steaming it – you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the difference from regular baking.

Let me know if you try this recipe – if you do, send me a picture! The first person to sent me a picture of their golden masterpiece will receive a free copy of the book, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes A Day. 

Here’s my picture: 

 

 

 

 

Growing up like Daddy

I’ve shared some of Sylvia Gunther’s devotionals here before. This time, her weekly email nearly matched what I had written in my journal about 30 minutes before I read her post.

She said it better than I did, so please enjoy!

Father Of Our Spirits

     Listen to the blessing of the Lord. Philemon 25 “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.” “How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live!” (Heb 12:9).

 

     Listen to Zechariah 12:1. “The Lord, who stretches out the heavens, who lays the foundations of the earth, and who forms the spirit of man within him…” Ezekiel 36:26 says, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you.”

 

     Understand that your Creator, your heavenly Father, created and formed your spirit. I bless you with knowing that the very essence of who you are was placed deep within your spirit. There you carry the DNA of your heavenly Father. I bless you with a lifetime and lifestyle of discovering the character and nature of your Father and Christ in you, the hope of glory. In discovering who God is, you uncover and awaken your spirit to who you are in him. I bless you with the good gift of God of an undivided heart, right desires, and a new spirit. I bless you with singleness and tenderness of heart to obey God as one who is truly his (Eze 11:19, 18:31, 36:26).

 

     Beloved one, distinguish yourself from those of this world because of the excellent spirit, knowledge, and understanding your Father has placed within you (Dan 5:12, 6:3). It is the spirit in a man, the breath of the Almighty, that gives you understanding (Job 32:8). I bless you with wholeheartedness and loyalty to your Father in your spirit that is different than others, so that all his good promises of blessings can be yours and you will have a full, rich spiritual inheritance (Num 14:24). Be blessed with renewal of your spirit in the Lord (Eph 4:23). I bless you with being an example to the others in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity (1 Tim. 4:12 NKJV).

     Realize your need for God, for he promises that the kingdom of heaven will be given to you (Mat 5:3). I bless you with being steadfast and fixed upon God (Ps 51:10). Beblessed with the presence of the Holy Spirit who restores to you the joy of your salvation and makes you willing to live consistently in obedience to him and in harmony with him (Ps 51:12). Be intentional to guard your spirit to keep godly covenants with family members (Mal 2:15-16).
      Be blessed with a spirit in whom there is no deceit (Ps 32:2). Totally commit your spirit to the God of truth (Ps 31:5.) Be blessed with the inner unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight (1 Peter 3:4). I bless you with becoming strong in spirit, filled with wisdom and the grace of God (Luke 2:40 NKJV).

 

              You are blessed in the name of the Father of your spirit (Heb 12:9).

Is the Paycheck Important

We all know it isn’t true. We all KNOW we are valuable to God and mean something to someone somewhere – right? Then why does the lie roll around in our heads, periodically coming to the forefront of our minds: What good are you?

Is it a woman thing? Is it a me thing? Is it a generational thing? Men are allowed their midlife crisis, am I allowed a midlife identity crisis? I don’t know what my purpose is and I’m searching valiantly for some way to quantify, validate, earn my existence. Preferably a monetary means.

 

I went to college – because every self-respecting woman does. I mean, after women’s liberation, how could I possibly despise the opportunity to further my education. I could afford it. So I picked a topic that sounded interesting and invested four and half years of my life into earning a manilla-colored piece of paper that declares I met the subjective standards erected by an institution called a university.

 

Honestly, I don’t even know where that piece of paper is right now. Since that time I have held myriad part-time jobs. I have thoroughly enjoyed each of them for the time and place they held. Only one utilized the four and half year expense, but each of them provided a meager monetary sum that told the world, and especially my ego, that I was worth something.

 

Now, I’m in a new place. Because right after college, I committed to following a man and his career, I explore some home every couple years. My transient life doesn’t lend itself to longterm anything, much less employment. That’s probably OK, because I seem to have a very short attention span.

 

So is something wrong with me? Do I lack commitment since I have never held a real job longer than 2 years? Or do I exhibit uncommon commitment because I four times I have uprooted my little life, packed my dreams into his baggage and traveled to a new temporary home?

 

Now I am wondering if I am lazy, inept, unaware, dependent – essentially a loser, because I don’t even have the ambition to bring home a measly paycheck. I don’t have the energy to brew coffee for gainfully employed businessmen on a 30 minute timer anymore. I simply don’t want to scrape nickels and dimes off of wooden tables after diners spread their crumbs – even if it does earn a decent wage. I can’t abide the thought of folding sloppy shoppers discarded items over and over and over again.

 

What’s wrong with me? Because even as I discount the above suggestions, I don’t feel worthy in my current occupation. Currently, I volunteer with the Park Authority, serve at my church, attend three writers’ clubs, study the Bible, clean the house, care for the cars, pay the bills, tend the yard, walk the dog, fix the meals…

 

But, gee, the title “housewife” doesn’t even offer a measly paycheck.