LASTing Peace: How to be Perfect

James 3:2 tells us what is necessary to be a “perfect man”. In our pursuit of spiritual maturity, let’s start here!

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Sinful or Sick?

waiting-1428907-mThere has always been tension between two questions: Do I suffer because I sin–or do, and why do, good people suffer? If it’s not punishment, why do some get cancer and innocent children get raped or kidnapped?

As I wrestled with my eating disorder, these questions tore at me. Was I sinning or was I suffering? Was anorexia some clinical disease that even good people “contract”? Or was this a penalty for my rebellious will, pridefulness or an idolatrous heart—or even some more blatant, ignored sin in my life, like lying or slander, some time-eclipsed behavior?

Jesus answered this for us is one critical encounter with a sufferer. The blind man of John 9 becomes a proof case for us. From a snapshot of his life, we understand Christ’s position, the ultimate answer, to sin and suffering.

“As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth.  His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’

‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus, ‘but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.’

After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. ‘Go,’ he told him, ‘wash in the Pool of Siloam,’ (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.” John 9:1-7

We are not told this blind beggar was penitent of any sin. He was not pleading at the roadside for healing. Rather it was Jesus’ disciples who longed to find fault or cause somewhere. The surrounding crowd clamored for an explanation for this man’s blindness.

Jesus wasn’t indulging; He offered up no satisfactory culprit. Instead, Jesus spit, made clay and anointed the man’s eyes…then, even once the healing began, it wasn’t instantaneous. The Healer instructed the man to go wash.

Meanwhile, an argument continued to rage about the situation, but now, it was not only, “Whose sin made this man blind?” but, “Who made him well?”

The first answer is found in verse three, “‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus, ‘but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.’”

If the New Testament had been written then, our indignant question would have been stolen by the disciples, “But, you said that death and pain came into the world because of man’s sin!”

Romans 5:12 does tell us that sin entered the world through man and sin bears consequences. Our pain does have a purpose, though not always a unique cause. It is not always due to personal sin. Suffering and death entered the world through corporate sin. But the redemptive reason for pain is that Christ’s power shows through us.

There is no one to blame.

Perhaps it was just plain suffering, but even that evokes questions. First Corinthians 13:10 says, “God will not allow more than we can handle,” right? I’m sure blindness felt like an excessive burden. Anorexia did.

No, the Bible promises not too much temptation, we are still wide and vulnerable to be swamped by suffering.

In the course of my slow recovery from anorexia, I fought to choose one of these persuasions: Sin or sickness. Well intending people supported both theories. It seemed that each belief warranted a new approach to healing. But finally, supernatural healing seemed to overtake me and a blending of these philosophies emerged. Today, I still say, “I suffered from anorexia”, but equally I struggled with it as an addiction or false god.

What do I mean by ”supernatural” healing or recovery? I mean that I never consciously broke. I cannot point to a moment, a turning point when I began to do all things differently—as in turning from an old sinful behavior or leaving a hospital cured. There were breakthrough moments when  Christ’s presence became more real, His support more affirming, His patience more felt but none when I immediately threw away the crutches of restriction, calorie counting and exercise. Those behaviors slowly sloughed off; the healthy, life-giving pounds came on gradually while I became mysteriously preoccupied with Jesus and surprisingly lost interest in the scale.

Aren’t we always that way? We want to know if the suffering, the eating disorder or other addiction was caused by past trauma, abuse, the culture or bullying. Especially those of us watching want to scream, “God we need a reason!”

I, like the blind man, was in many ways past believing that healing would come, past seriously doing any moral inventory of my failures and past consulting expensive doctors. Was I sick or sinful? It didn’t seem to matter.

But here’s the beauty of Jesus: When I quit asking, He healed me. When the blind man wasn’t asking, Jesus healed him.

Jesus stood quietly for a moment, while the disciples searched for somewhere to cast blame. The blind man couldn’t see Him. Maybe Jesus snuck up behind him and said over his shoulder, “Hang on, in a short time, this will all be over.”

I have often felt like this blind man when people ask me, “What happened? How did you get well?” And I ached with the painfully plain response, “I don’t know.”

But again, here’s the beauty of Jesus.

Even as we suffer, drowning in our too-much, pressed down and weighted under the curse of a fallen world, Jesus steps in to prove God’s rich mercy and the great love with which He loves us and His awesome power. In His perfect time, He makes all people and circumstances beautiful and works things for the good of those who love Him. In the blind man’s case and my own, He chose give sight and to restore my body.

There is also an answer to the “more than we can bear” and it is the power of a Savior who sneaks up, touches our shoulder and says, “It will all be over soon.”

 

 

The #1 Predatory Lie

The media’s most predatory lie to young girls is not about their intrinsic worth or imperfect bodies, but the relentless message that the world revolves around the individual. That the future depends upon their personal fulfillment, their abstract happiness, their popularity, beauty, fitness or success.

And does the lie change all that much as we age? Do we ever outgrow the tendency to be swayed by media’s appeal to our momentary self? No, the message need only change pitch to reach the frequency preferred by mature fancies. Suddenly it becomes: The value of my life is dependent upon financial success, perky breasts, expensive shiny toys, worthy ministries, slender thighs, flat abs, perfect marriages.

Whether condemning or condoning, challenging or consoling, the crux of media’s message remains a constant concave assault on the God-image of man. Practical propaganda seeks to turn our eyes and attention from our God-reflection to our self perception.

Consider the tagline of nearly ever advertisement: You deserve, You ought, You should, You need, You will, You’ll earn, You’ll save, You want, You’ll be, You’ll have, You are, You’re not, You can be…

Literally, almost every single banner ad, side-bar, full-page spread or 30-second sound bite appeals to numero uno. Even charities have learned it’s most effective to appeal to an individual’s pride concerning their “selflessness”.

To tie this into my central passion, the relief of women of all ages from the bondage of eating disorders, I believe our most effective strategy is not to focus on rebuilding her self-esteem, nor to focus on silencing the media’s lie that she isn’t “perfect” enough. 

Instead, freedom from eating disorders and all other means of bondage is found in understanding that we are not so important. That God is no respecter of persons.

Ps. 103:15 “Our days on earth are like grass; like wildflowers, we bloom and die.”

Doing so depressurizes the situation, the inflated fears of failure, the impending sense of doom if we do not achieve some nebulous goal or evasive success.

1 Peter 1:24-25 ““People are like grass; their beauty is like a flower in the field. The grass withers and the flower fades. But the word of the Lord remains forever.”

It is only here, in a humbled state, in a place where expectations fall away, that the broken find fulfillment in the truth that we were made for His gratification. It is only here, naked and weak, stripped of resources, that God’s word, that which remains forever, sweeps over and deposits truth in cracks and crevices, shores up our hearts and reinforces our understanding of our intrinsic worth. 

“I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” Jer. 31:3

“So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.” Romans 8:6

What People Really Look Like, by Dale Favier

This article was originally posted on Portland Home Massage, written by Dale Favier. I was stunned by his simplistic approach to the cure for body dysmorphia. It’s painfully obvious, this beauty he sees in every body on his table. I hope you enjoy his words as much as I do.

Let’s start here with what nobody looks like: nobody looks like the people in magazines or movies. Not even models. Nobody. Lean people have a kind of rawboned, unfinished look about them that is very appealing. But they don’t have plump round breasts and plump round asses. You have plump round breasts and a plump round ass, you have a plump round belly and plump round thighs as well. That’s how it works. (And that’s very appealing too.)

Read the full post HERE

A Kingly Lesson

I don’t think I’m the only one who has ever read through Kings and Chronicles and thought, “What’s wrong with these royal guys? Every other generation is evil! Couldn’t they teach their kids better than that?”

Particularly, 2 Chronicles 29 through 35 really got to me yesterday. Starting with King Hezekiah of Judah, it’s like a spiritual ping-pong match: Good guy, bad guy, good guy, bad guy.

Often, there was a clean break between generations, a righteous king had an evil successor. But, taking a close look at Hezekiah and Manasseh, I think I see the problem right in the middle of their lives, a perfect case study. And, as usual, Scripture has a very modern application for me.

Over and over throughout Scripture, God blessed and prospered humble kings. David became king from humble shepherd roots and acknowledged that God had brought him so far. For centuries, David’s name has been preserved with honor. Think of Solomon, who humbly asked God for wisdom. Not only did God answer that request, but He made Solomon the richest man that ever lived. When kings followed the Lord, they often won battles without even raising a sword.

So, why is it that so often, these good and powerful kings left their kingdoms to sons who turned their backs on God?

I wonder…

Growing up in blessed households, perhaps pride was allowed to take seed in the young men’s hearts. No doubt they received homage from the people. They wore fine clothing and answered to, “Your majesty”. (Okay, admittedly they didn’t speak English, but go with me here.) Perhaps the power went to their heads. When opulence became the norm, power fermented and became putrid, infectious, fatal pride.

And pride always comes before a fall. Suddenly, the king found himself kingdom-less, powerless or poor.

But, when a son grew up in a humbled kingdom, his heart was soft, meek and submissive to the One True God.

Manasseh was an evil king. (2 Chronicles 33:2) God spoke to Manasseh and the people over and over again, urging them to repent. But they refused. Finally, God brought Assyria to conquer Judah. It was in captivity, that Manasseh was humbled. He sought the Lord and was restored to his kingdom. (This is a great story, read all of 2 Chron. 33.)

There, Manasseh led Judah in rebuilding the altar of Lord and sacrificing to Him. Manasseh’s son, Amon, grew up in this time of God’s favor. He watched his father be restored and blessed. By the time he took Manasseh’s place, he had an evil heart. Eventually, his own servants murdered him. But Josiah, his son, saw that his father’s wickedness cost him his life. Josiah took the throne at age eight, and was a Godly king.

I observed this ping-pong match in my own heart just yesterday.

In the beginning of my eating disorder I was proud. I was proud of my self discipline, strength and thinness. But pride led me into deep illness with anorexia. Finally, I was sick, powerless, out of control and captive to this eating disorder.

In my darkest, most humiliating moment, I turned toward God. He fed me and restored me, outside of my own conscious efforts. And for a time, I relinquished control. I ate what God fed me, I trusted Him for every bite and let Him lead me as I exercised. Now, I am strong, healthier than I’ve ever been. I feel attractive. I am restored and I recognize the beauty God created.

But yesterday, as I walked my dog around the lake, I caught myself checking to see if the cute guy who passed me was turning around for a second look. Did I catch his attention?

When I got hot, I stripped down to a sports bra, admiring my own body and thinking, “Wow, I’ve actually got abs! I look pretty good.”

I began to wonder what I did to get here. How did I accomplish such a nice physique? What workouts and meals am I doing to get these results? Look what I’ve been able to do!

Suddenly, I felt the Holy Spirit tap me on my spiritual shoulder.
“Daughter, this is what happened to those kings. They came to believe that they were responsible for their blessings. Man has an innate difficulty containing both my blessing and humility. I did not only create you in your mother’s womb, but I continually create each new cell to replace the dying ones. Every perfect gift, including your body and your life, come from me.”

 

 

How to Have the Perfect Body

“Your belief determines your action and your action determines your results, but first you have to believe.” Mark Victor Hansen

If I’m really honest, for much of my life, my actions have indicated a belief system that I’m loathe to admit. During the years I battled anorexia, my behavior proved that I believed if I were thin, if I were the most athletic, if I had most willpower to resist food, if I had the perfect body, then I would be happy. On the other side of those painful years, I can confess to you – I had it all wrong.

I just returned from a two week visit with my family. The first seven days were spent with my in-laws. Mike and Julie are vivacious people, ravenous for the joys of life and abundantly generous with all their blessings.

Within hours of our arrival, they were taking us out to lunch. For the duration of the week, we feasted on gourmet coffee, ice cream, homemade dinners and market fresh veggies. We dined on the patio, in the living room, in front of the television and at favorite restaurants.

My in-laws bear the brand of the truly happy. Their faces are ruddy and sun-kissed. Their arms are well employed. Both Mike and Julie are genuinely healthy, brimming with life.

I had it all wrong. Having the perfect body doesn’t make one happy. Finding joy in Christ, in relationships, seeking and exploiting the pleasures of life, leads to a healthy, happy body.

For the second half of our trip, my husband and I visited my sisters, their husbands and my one-year-old niece in Texas. Toting Kylie around, waking her in the morning, cuddling with her on the floor and chasing her around the living room obstacles brought me unsurpassed joy. But what fascinated me the most was her insatiable interest in everything I ate.

“Bite, bite!” She pleaded. No matter what was in my hand or where I was eating, she found me and asked, “Try, try?”

In the course of my visit, Kylie and I shared protein shakes, hotdogs, frozen yogurt, iced tea, juice, chocolate bars, jicama, pretzels, cheese, apples and oatmeal. Never once did  she pause before devouring a treat and wonder, “How will this affect my body? Will it make me fat? Did I exercise enough today?”

I was also mesmerized by Kylie’s pleasure with her own body. She was pleased that her fingers can grasp my hand, thrilled that her arms can fully encircle my neck. Kylie was so happy that she is finally long enough to reach the doorknobs and all of the cans in her mother’s pantry.

I had it all wrong. A perfect body will never bring me lasting happiness. But happiness, contentment with the good gift of life that God has given me, that will ultimately result in the body that God perfectly, uniquely created for me.

“Your belief determines your action and your action determines your results, but first you have to believe.” Proverbs 17:22

You can read this and other posts of mine at www.havenjournal.com

Visit Me at Finding Balance

Hi guys! I recently wrote an article for Finding Balance that I believe is very applicable to (myself) and my readers here. Hope you enjoy it!

The modern portrayal of the perfect female body is a misnomer. Dictionary.com defines perfect as, “excellent or complete beyond practical or theoretical improvement.” How then is it possible that today’s image of a perfect woman is so much different than it was a mere 15 years ago?

Finish the article at Finding Balance!

Body Image and the Traditional Family

Have you ever thought about how body image is directly related to the demise of the family in modern society?

The traditional family is not simply under attack, but at this point has been so viscously and repeatedly assaulted that she is no longer recognizable as the institution she was created by God to be. It is also indisputable, even by the most liberal among us, that women’s physical bodies are so manipulated and objectified that frequently they don’t operate as God intended either.

Considering the family, I give you the divorce rate in America, the number of children in single parent homes, domestic abuse, latchkey kids, grandparents raising their children’s children, the disappearance of discipline and the overthrow of family interaction by tiny, handheld computers.

Considering the female body, I give you airbrushed magazine covers, (interesting article here) innocent daughters on diets, (talk about that here) every conceivable product offering a plastic-enhanced, fat-free version, menus touting “guilt-free” so that women have social permission to eat, women who can never have children after putting their bodies through premature menopause due to eating disorders in their formative years (ask yours truly).

Well known, observed facts, all of the above. But what do they have in common?

…great masters [demon tempters] produce in every age a general misdirection of what may be called sexual ‘taste.’ This they do by working through the small circle of popular artists, dressmakers, actresses and advertisers who determine the fashionable type. The aim is to guide each sex away from those members of the other with whom spiritually helpful, happy, and fertile marriages are most likely.

Have you ever thought of that?
That our obsession with perfect bodies (at least what the momentary, finicky appetite of sexual desire deems salable) has distracted eligible men and women from proper interests in the other sex based on faith, commitment, intellect and prayer? That an attitude of entitlement lends to severed marriages as one partner selfishly believes they deserve to be happy at the expense of their vows?

We now teach men to like women whose bodies are scarcely distinguishable from those of boys. Since this is a kind f beauty even more transitory than most, we thus aggravate the female’s chronic horror of growing old (with many excellent results) and render her less willing and less able to bear children.

As a result we are more and more directing the desires of men to something that does not exist – making the role of the eye in sexuality more and more important and at the same time making its demands more and more impossible. What follows you can easily forecast.

What astonishes me, is that C.S. Lewis published The Screwtape Letters in 1942. Screwtape was right, what followed was easily forecast. Seventy-one years later, we are fulfilling his prophecy.

What came first, the chicken or the egg? What came first, the decline of the family as the foundation of society or the objectification of the female body? Regardless, if we intentionally address one, will we necessarily affect other?