We began our time together excited to share, inspired by our first meeting and the week that had passed between meetings!
I shared a portion from a devotional book I’ve been reading of Catherine Marshall’s journals. The section was entitled His Strength in Our Weakness. Catherine had battled emphysema most of her life, and while she was strengthened by prayer on her behalf she never received total healing here on earth. While the question of why some prayers for healing are answered on earth and others are not frustrated her, she never stopped struggling for answers. The passage in the book reads, “And out of the struggle came - not the robust health she yearned for, but a daily, growing intimacy with God that became far more precious than any amount of physical stamina. Her constant companion on this closer walk…the Bible.”
What a wonderful confirmation of what God spoke to our hearts last week - the struggle is often what produces the intimacy that draws us into the arms of God!
Tamara shared how she prayerful sought God for His vision for her health, and the Holy Spirit led her to this passage in James 1: 2 - 4: “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” Looking up the word “perfect” she saw the meaning was “complete” - we are complete in Christ. We don’t need to strive; we can abide in Him. In pondering the thought of lacking or wanting nothing, she felt the Lord speak these words to her heart: “My strength is made perfect in weakness” and “My grace is sufficient for you.” Amen! Another wonderful confirmation from the Holy Spirit that we are indeed on track with His leading each of us individually and as a group! Abide in Him, stand on His Word, always trust, remember He is faithful, never listen to the lies of the enemy! God has provided complete, perfect healing for us all whether we receive it on earth or eventually in heaven. He exists outside of the constraints of time, while we are often blinded by those constraints.
How wonderful that He continues to show us that we are not to be self-sufficient, but instead Jesus-sufficient as we unite together!
Others shared how certain strongholds (specifically those with food) can keep us from receiving the fullness of what God has for us spirit, soul, and body. We can truly trust Him with everything. He desires us to be free so that we can fulfill His calling in our lives, however great or small that may seem. Each struggle we overcome builds our faith and trust in the One who sets us free, and serves as a sort of memorial stone to look back to and remember Yahweh’s ongoing provision, protection, and providence.
A friend of mine once shared her story with me about a time that she attended a retreat in Colorado. The group of attendees had the opportunity to complete a challenging obstacle course that required them to wear a harness and be strapped into cables in case they fell. The obstacles were less challenging at first and slowly increased in height and difficulty. My friend went through the whole course without a single fall and never needed to rely on the cables that held her. When she reached the pinnacle of the course, the top of a telephone pole with just barley enough room to stand on, she froze. She was supposed to jump from the top of that telephone pole to the top of another telephone pole several feet away and equally as high! She couldn’t bring herself to take the leap and instead was lowered down slowly with the cables.
As she watched the next participant go through the course she noticed that he made several mistakes and fell, needing to use the cables and harness to catch him so he could continue. When he reached the looming telephone pole he took the giant leap, seemingly without hesitation, and landed on the other pole while the onlookers exploded in cheers! When he was back on the ground my friend asked him how he had mustered the courage to take the jump! She asked him, “Weren’t you afraid you would miss?!” He smiled and simply said, “By the time I got the end I had fallen so many times that I had complete confidence that the cables would catch me!” Because my friend had focused so much on not falling, on not making a mistake, she had never felt the security of the cables and harness. Even though she knew in her head that she was strapped in, she did not have confidence in the cables because she had never experienced their strength and protection.
God is not calling us to live a perfect life, He’s calling us to trust a perfect God!
We see a linear time line while God sees past, present, and future simultaneously. Yet scripture says we are seated with Him in heavenly places! Lord give us your eyes, your perspective, your heart, and your mind!
One of our group members shared her experience from early that morning of enjoying the presence of God while she went about the “menial” tasks of cleaning her kitchen. Her mind began to tell her that she “should do her devotions” since it was morning. She realized that His presence was her devotion! He truly was the joy and focus of her time and He was enjoying her just as much as she was enjoying Him, in that moment!
Wherever we are, in circumstance or frame of mind, we are to abide in Him!
As she prayed about the question, “What is your vision?” the Lord spoke a word to her to serve. And as she stepped out in faith and obedience to His guidance by serving someone else who needed help around their house, she found a supernatural strength not only to serve, but to take care of her own needs that before had seemed like a struggle in many ways. How amazing that HIs wisdom is so much higher than ours!
She shared how the openness of another in the group had given her the ability to face the question, “Do you want to be well?” with strength and peace. Another wonderful picture of how His strength is made perfect in our weakness!
So have you answered that question before the Lord? Do you want to be well? Can you trust that He holds you tighter than any sin, any struggle, any stronghold or bad habit has ever held you?
Rachel shared how a “slip-up” in her healthy eating had actually served to strengthen her resolve to be well. The negative results she felt after eating unhealthy food helped her to confirm the decisions she had made to live a healthier lifestyle and eat healthier foods. Both our successes and our failures can serve to strengthen us when applied through the wisdom of the Holy Spirit. We can resist guilt and shame in Jesus name, and instead allow ourselves to learn powerful and lasting lessons that will serve us in our healthy endeavors. We can be objective and avoid the black and white mentality of beating ourselves up, by recognizing and expecting that we will make some mistakes along the way. Remember that it’s not our perfection that saves us!
Here’s a little saying I like: “When you drop the ball, pick it up!” Simple, but not always easy!
Each little “victory” strengthens us for the next challenge and does make it easier and easier. So celebrate each little victory! Write it down! Share it with others! And Praise God for the work He’s doing in you! Do keep your eyes open for the subtle attacks of the enemy - he is seeking to destroy the work of God in your life.
Remember to not be afraid to look at your excuses - some of them are valid! Your excuse may be, “I’m too busy to eat well.” When you examine this excuse you see a valid reason inside of it - “I’m busy.” Now you can make some progress! From that point you can ask yourself if you can adjust your priorities, alter your schedule, and make plans to accommodate your busyness. The excuse loses its power and the process of examination and decision making propels us toward progress!
Rachel recognized that in her “slip-up” she had failed to plan. Planning provides the tools we need to get the job done and avoid pitfalls.
One of the common pitfalls to healthy eating is letting ourselves get too hungry. Our bodies are designed to stay alive! To do so, the body must remain in a state of homeostasis which includes a narrow range for our blood sugar levels. When our blood sugar drops below that safe range, hormones are released that tell our brain to eat and eat now! We will often find ourselves craving sugar in that moment because ingesting sugar is the easiest and fastest way for our body to get the blood sugar level back up into the safe zone. If we do indulge in a sugary snack our blood sugar is elevated but often goes higher than is safe. The body responds by releasing insulin which tells the cells to absorb sugar and help get the overload out of the blood. This causes another drop in blood sugar as insulin is an overachiever (except in diabetics who do not produce insulin or produce insufficient amounts of insulin.) You can see the cycle begin and have probably experienced it as a cycle of craving and crashing!
That’s one of the reasons it’s important to feed our bodies with proper fuel throughout the day to maintain a consistent healthy blood sugar. We need to work with our bodies, not against them. We can choose to treat our bodies as our best friends instead of as our enemies.
The question of fasting came up - is it healthy? How and when? As a very simple answer, yes - fasting is biblical and healthy. However, you need to know your body, your reasons for fasting, and the adjustments you need to make to maintain wellness during the fast. We didn’t go into further detail about fasting but encouraged members to do sufficient research before embarking on any particual fast.
The vision statement for this group is to simplify health, wellness, and weight - setting captives free. While we will go into detail on the nuts and bolts of health, wellness, and optimal weight, we will keep things simple and encourage more in depth study outside of group and subsequent sharing by all members as they learn and experience different ways and paths toward their individual goals.
Tamara encouraged us in a way that the Lord encouraged her: If you focus on your problems they will multiply! Instead keep your eyes on the Lord in the midst of the problem and seek Him for your answers. He knows and He will provide. Our Lord desires us to take great big steps of faith and to move mountains! He simply says keep your eyes on Me, not on the mountains! :)
Let me ask you this question: “WHAT ARE YOU HUNGRY FOR?”
We need to recognize our true hunger, our true need. Unless we recognize the real need, we cannot meet that need. Sometimes we try to meet a real need with something that cannot actually fulfill that need.
Let me give you an example: If you are exhausted at the end of the day your need (your hunger) is for sleep. If you deny yourself what you need, in this example sleep, you will begin to crave (hunger for) other things that may serve to lessen your need, but not actually meet your need. You may start to feel hungry for food and crave a sugary snack which might help you stay awake a little longer, but does it really meet the need for sleep? No. You may turn on the television to occupy your time and this too may help you forget how tired you are for a little bit. But does watching the tv actually meet your need for sleep? NO. You can see the pattern, I’m sure. We have head hunger, heart hunger, spirit hunger, and body hunger. We are going to go into more depth on this question next week so for now just begin to ask yourself the question, “What am I hungry for?”
In closing, I shared how that morning I had woken with a scripture repeating in my mind: “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33) These questions arose:
HOW DO WE SEEK HIS KINGDOM AND HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS? His Kingdom is His reign, His authority. His Righteousness is His rule - His rules or ways, so to speak. Are we living in line with His authority and His ways?
WHAT DOES “FIRST” MEAN? Priority, above all, preeminent, literally first! Is He your first priority and desire?
WHAT ARE “ALL THESE THINGS?” The previous verses talk about food and clothes, how the lilies and the birds don’t worry about what they will eat or what they will wear. Can we trust Him for even our most basic needs for food, clothing, and shelter?
HE is our PRIORITY!
Proverbs 3:6 says, “in all your ways acknowledge Him” or put another way, “In all your courting, court Him first.”
2 Corinthians 11:3 mentions the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ. Love is not complicated yet it is pervasive.
2 Corinthians 5:14 emphasizes that it’s the love of Christ that constrains us - controls, urges, and compels us.
Revelations 2:4 reminds us of the importance of maintaining Him as our first love.
Everything flows from love. We gain intimacy with Him - His heart and mind, friendship, power, victory, and refuge - which creates a loving partnership, like a great marriage. Our acts of service aren’t the focus. Our love for Him, and from that a love for ourselves and others, is our motivation for all else.
Once our Priority is in Place, we need a PLAN!
There are basically 2 fundamental elements to the equation of health, wellness, and ideal weight: Exercise and Eating.
You may have heard something like this before: If you expend more calories than you intake, you will lose weight. Sort of like a math equation: Calories In - Calories Out = Weight Loss/Gain
But that is only part of the picture, because the equation for health, wellness, and optimal weight is not just a math equation but a science equation as well. It’s a chemical equation. Different foods affect our bodies in different ways. Different sources of energy (carbohydrates, proteins, fats) burn differently in different bodies and when combined in different amounts and with other different fuel sources. Sound too complicated? I promise it’s not. It does, however, require you to become a student of your own body and to be willing to try things, evaluate, try other things, make changes, and keep going. The only true failure is never doing anything. You will learn from your successes and your failures, so keep going!
Philippians 2:12 says we are to WORK OUT our own salvation with fear and trembling! Did you know working out was mentioned in the bible?!! Ok, I know it’s not the same as going to the gym, but it does imply that we are going to need to put forth some effort. Faith requires action!
Well, but Psalm 46:10 says we are to BE STILL and know the He is God! HA! I’ve found my new excuse not to work out!
All joking aside, we know we need to move to be healthy. Jesus walked almost everywhere He went. What a great example of living a healthy lifestyle of exercise. We can “work out” while we clean our house by picking up the pace and alternating arms as we scrub the floor by hand! We can find a sport like tennis that we enjoy so we won’t dread exercise. We can park further away in the parking lot at the grocery store so we increase the number of steps we take in a day. Acts 17:28 says, “In Him we live, and move, and have our being.” It’s in there, friends! We can enjoy living and moving and being healthy!
Here are a few very simple Do’s and Don’t for the eating part of our equations:
- drink lots of pure clean water
- eat plenty of fresh vegetables (steamed, raw, sautéed, roasted, grilled…)
- focus on quality protein and fat. Yes, fat! Don’t be afraid of fat in the right form. Avocados, olive oil, coconut oil, nuts and seeds are all good choices.
- eat everything as close to the form God made it as possible!
- drink high calorie, deceptive beverages like soda, artificially flavored juices, and “sports” drinks. (Moderate amounts of coffee and tea are ok.)
- eat refined sugar and refined flour. These foods are high in calories and low in nutrition. They cause inflammation as well as a host of other issues.
- eat carbohydrates alone, but combine them with a protein and even better, minimize your intake of carbohydrates (like pasta, bread, rice, and corn.)
- consume processed foods full of chemicals, additives, colors, and preservatives. These foods mess with your brain as well as your body!
We will continue to gain more tools for our toolbox in the areas of both what we eat and how we move that will enable us to obtain the health, wellness, and weight that we desire.
We are not here to lose anything! We are here to gain wellness!
Praise Him for His Provision!
Grace and Peace, Shalom!