Wisdom from Tim Challies, Bob Newhart on "Just Stopping" Sin

Two years ago, Tim Challies of The Reformed Blogger drew a spiritual analogy to the now-famous Bob Newhart skit, "Stop It!"

Do you want to give up bulimia/anorexia/fill-in-the-blank with addiction of choice? Learn to hate your sin. And then leave it behind.

Sometimes I think that, as a Christian, I can go looking for cures for sin that are long and involved and a little bit mysterious. I can go to friends or pastors or books for counsel and, like the woman in this video, I’m looking for a cure that I can jot down in a notebook and follow step-by-step. I want something I can do twice a day for ten days and watch the sin magically fall away. I want a five or ten step program. Sometimes such strategies work. Often they do not.

In Mark Driscoll’s book Confessions of a Reformission Rev he shares a late-night conversation with a member of his church. This video reminded me of Driscoll’s tale. The man called him in the middle of the night crying and begging for help because he had committed a certain sexual sin yet again. Though Driscoll’s answer was a tad vulgar I think he essentially gave the guy the right one: Just stop it! His counsel to the man was probably exactly what he needed to hear: shut up, grow up, man up and stop sinning. The guy called his pastor looking for a shoulder to cry on but what he got was a lesson in growing up. I hope it wasn’t lost on him.

Some time ago I spoke to a friend about an ongoing sin in his life and tried to show him that the essence of his problem was this: he hates his sin just a little bit less than he loves it. Sure he wants to stop sinning, but even more he wants to keep sinning. And I think he came to agree. My advice was pretty well what Newhart offered the woman in this video: “Stop it!” Are you fighting sin? I’ll pray for you—really, I will. And I’ll recommend that you memorize some Scriptures, some fighter verses, that will help you battle that sin by bringing to mind the promises of God. But I’ll also challenge you to just stop it and to stop it now. You stop sinning by turning your back on it. You do not sit back and wait for God to change you while you remain in your sin. Rather, you join him in the fight, joining your will with His strength. And together you go to war.

I can memorize Scripture from Genesis to Revelation and I can have the whole world pray for me. But there comes a time when forsaking sin, truly putting it to death, requires a decision of the mind and an act of the will. Sooner or later I need to just stop it. And God can give me the strength to do so.


Mercy Ministries of America - Transforming Hearts, One Girl at a Time

Nancy Alcorn is a woman on a mission.

In 1983 she founded a long-term residential program to help girls struggling with eating disorders, self-harm, substance abuse, pregnancy and related issues. As of 2008, nearly 70% of Mercy’s U.S. residents were there for eating disorder treatment (Mercy also operates homes in Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom). The program is both free and voluntary, with only a true commitment to change being required from each applicant.

In June of 2008, the Australian government shut down the Sunshine Coast facility after numerous allegations of abuse from former residents. Then-director Peter Irvine initially defended Mercy, claiming that the charges were fabricated, then stepped down from his post when the charges were proven true. Among the issues raised were false claims on the part of Mercy regarding its services, lack of qualified professionals (the “counselors” were untrained Bible students with no theological or counseling credentials), women being forced to sign over their unemployment benefits, exorcisms, and spiritual abuse. Bankrolled by the Australian mega-church Hillsong, Mercy Ministries Australia came under increased scrutiny and has been called a “cult” by at least one member of Parliament. Nancy Alcorn and the Mercy Ministries International staff distanced themselves from the allegations, which appear to have been confined to the Australian centers and have not been associated with any of the other homes.

Mercy operates stateside homes in Nashville, TN; Monroe, LA; St. Louis, MO; and as of 2009 Sacramento, CA. Future centers are planned for Florida, North Carolina, and Texas. All minors are treated at their Nashville home.

Program Distinctives

The program at Mercy Ministries is based on biblical principals as laid out in their online Statement of Faith, and residents attend both daily worship, Bible classes, group, and individual counseling. In addition to spiritual counsel, the young women receive nutritional counseling from a licensed nutritionist and have access to off-site medical care. They attend church in the center’s community and are free to leave the program at any time. Mercy Ministries is not affiliated with NANC or CCEF, but requires its counselors to have at least a Bachelor’s degree in social work, psychology, or a related field. All of Mercy’s counselors are members of the American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC). As such, Mercy’s program is not strictly nouthetic, but rather integrationist. Nevertheless, their counseling is firmly rooted in the Word of God and 93% of former residents polled said Mercy Ministries “transformed their lives and restored their hope.”

One of the controversies Mercy Ministries has faced was the allegation that they perform “exorcisms” and adhere to a belief that eating disorders are caused by demons inhabiting a person’s body. This charge was based on the testimony of former residents and their use of an aberrant“Restoring the Foundations” spiritual warfare manual. (Mercy initially denied the charges, but a copy was smuggled out of one of the facilities by a resident). Upon investigation, Mercy abandoned the use of this manual and since June of 2008 has been using a curriculum called “Choices that Bring Change” in all of its centers. According to the ministry’s website, this course “helps young women work through a counseling process that explores issues of faith, forgiveness, family, overcoming abuse and past hurts, and general life principles.”

A representative of Mercy Ministries described the counseling program as follows: “Choices that Bring Change" deals with commitment to Christ, choosing to forgive, renewing the mind, generational patterns, healing life’s hurts, freedom from oppression, and principles of life long success. Examples of some of the outside materials we use are Joyce Meyer, Beth Moore, Christine Caine, Priscilla Shirer, Joel Osteen, and Louis Giglio. We use resources from many different denominational backgrounds. Residents have individual counseling once a week and group counseling once a week. Our counseling model is based entirely on scripture and was written by our masters’ level counselors along with our founder and president, Nancy Alcorn. At one point in time our counseling model was loosely based on Restoring the Foundations; however, Choices that Bring Change has nothing to do with Restoring the Foundations.” When asked if the bathrooms at Mercy’s homes are locked, the representative responded, “Whether or not bathrooms are locked, is not relevant to program delivery.” (I confirmed with a former resident that the bathrooms are not, in fact, locked). While such a practice is somewhat unusual in an eating disorder/substance abuse facility, the spokeswoman did have a point: locking a bathroom will not change a person’s heart or cause her to repent of the behavior and idolatry behind it. While behavior modification may be helpful to a girl’s physical well-being in the short-term, sooner or later she will have to re-enter a society where bathrooms are not locked. Mercy focuses on helping its residents to make lasting, inward change as they yield their lives to God’s will.

Mercy Ministries is technically interdenominational, and treats young women from various Christian backgrounds and traditions. While their Statement of Faith is conservative and biblically solid , there is a strong charismatic element to their teaching as can be seen from the eclectic mix of teaching materials mentioned above. Combined with their integration of psychology with the Bible, I am somewhat hesitant to endorse all aspects of their program. The ministry’s website declares, “We are committed to providing the young women we serve with the most excellent program services that allow them to recognize their self-worth and prepare them to reach their full potential,” (emphasis mine). My only concern with this statement is that the focus is put on the individual’s worth and potential, rather than the ultimate importance of glorifying God by living to serve Him.

Despite any doctrinal shortcomings, however, Mercy Ministries is unquestionably helping countless young women come to know the Lord more deeply as they repent of besetting sin. The program nurtures seeds of faith and equips residents with increased knowledge and strengthened faith; tools they need to “live lives worthy of the calling they have received” (Ephesians 4:1; 2 Thessalonians 1:11). For this reason, I would encourage any young woman battling anorexia or bulimia to consider the intense discipleship program offered by Mercy Ministries.

Read testimonies from former Mercy residents here: http://www.mercyministries.org/SuccessStories/Graduates.aspx


Guest Post - Two Steps in Overcoming Bulimia and Overeating

Another GREAT article on overcoming bulimia from my co-laborer and sister in the faith, Heleen Woest:

Stop Overeating and Bulimia - Take Two Crucial Steps

In my years of struggling with overeating and bulimia I found two things that played a major role in my healing and gave me a huge shove toward victory and freedom on this difficult journey: CONSISTENCY and SURRENDER.

I so wished and prayed that CONSISTENCY would come natural for me. It seems to me as if some people are just rigged for consistency from birth. I can't help to envy my husband's consistent nature. He does not leave a project unfinished and he will keep at something long after I have given up. It has greatly benefit him and especially our family through the years. So I know it's a good thing to have, it's just that I HAVE TO WORK AT IT!

I discovered, after refusing to join the "consistent club" for the longest time, that if you can do 3 things consistently for one year, you WILL have a whole different life:

1. Make time for God 7 days a week NO MATTER WHAT!

2. Exercise 5 times a week NO MATTER WHAT!

3. Start doing one thing every day towards the purpose and longings God placed in my heart (such as studying, writing, teaching etc)

But let's be honest about this: It's not easy to consistently do the "positive things" in life. As soon as we try to create habits that will bring us closer to God, glorify God, or aid us in holiness, we get resistance. The "negative things" seem to get a hold of us so easily, but try and do something positive and you have a fight on your hands with both the devil and your own flesh. We usually don't "feel" like doing anything slightly positive, in fact it can feel down right unnatural at first. Changing our lives around is not a little thing. The enemy loves that we're stuck in a rut of negative patterns and the moment we decide to move out of it, the attacks begin: Negative thoughts, problems to discourage us, and difficulties in our relationships. We have to literally get in there and fight for our freedom.

If you are finding yourself in the death grip of and eating disorder such as bulimia, binge eating disorder or compulsive overeating you might feel totally unable to consistently exercise or eat healthy. Certain issues might be blocking your ability to move forward and if you try to put certain habits in place might feel impossible. In fact, trying to "pull yourself together" or relying on will-power can easily push you deeper into a pit of despair. I recommend that you get some help from both a physician and counselor to help you deal with the root issues that are usually physical, emotional and spiritual. Once you receive healing from past pain and learn how to deal with your present relationships and circumstances you will find that you can also become consistent in the areas where you now only experience failure.

However, even if you are unable to put any consistent habits in place this very minute, you can do one thing consistently: SURRENDER to God. This surrender that I speak of is really simple: Let go of control and start asking God daily to help you get healthy.

Here's what I found every time I've tried to "take control" of my own life:

- In spite of my best efforts, it takes only my haywire hormones, my hubby's latest hobby, or an insecurity to realize I cannot control the eb and flow of my marriage.

- It takes only an illness or a remark from an insensitive peer to make me realize I can not always control my children's physical, emotional and spiritual well-being

- As someone who moved across continents I can tell you that yes, after all the work I've put into friendships, career, and church involvement, it only takes a new job in a different state (or country) to make your whole world spin out of control.

- I had to give up the belief that I can control my financial security by working more, sleeping less and investing in the right stuff. As we all experienced in recent months, it only takes a bad economy...

- The notion that I can control my weight with the perfect diet is usually crushed within the first 3 days by a strong craving for the list of forbidden food, or the inability to stomach one more rice cake!

Of course I'm not telling you to just throw in the towel, neglect the kids, yell at your husband, abandon your friends, cancel your gym membership and head straight for KFC. God has made us stewards over many things, including our own bodies and we are accountable for doing our part. I am a huge advocate for consistently doing good things, as the Bible says, and the rewards will come. (Galatians 6:9)

I am simply telling you that if placing your hope in your own ability to control people and things are just an accident waiting to happen. In the end: God is in control, not us. After you've done your part the best thing you can do for your own sanity is to lay your kids, marriage, friendships, finances, health and weight ever so gently in His everlasting lap...

According to Jeremiah 17: 5-8, I will turn into a dry bush if I depend on another man or woman. However, I never realized how much I was depending on this woman (me). I was relying greatly on my own effort and performance. I was sure that everybody in my care (and not in my care) was my sole responsibility.

Please hear me on this one: If you want to stop overeating or binge eating, you will have to get off the "control train". You may know by now that all your plans of taking control through will-power, diets, purging and starvation left you like a dried-up shrub in the desert. There is living water, it only comes from God and it can change you into a green tree that bears fruit and have shade for others to rest under.

In the end we need CONSISTENCY if we want to stop overeating, stop binge eating, and get rid of bulimia for good. But even more so we need to consistently SURRENDER our lives to God in order to see any lasting changes!

Heleen Woest has a ministry and website called Women Struggling with Food. (HT: Ezine).


Ana, Mia, and the Oxymoronic "Christian Emo"

Image courtesy of Katie Halpin

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. - Philippians 4:7-8

It is after much prayer and seeking God that I write this...in response to a growing, disturbing trend I see among young women.

Question: When did developing an identity, based on wallowing in negative emotions and/or self-destructive behavior, become a virtue? Yes, I am talking about the proliferation of "how-to" sites and groups, dedicated to teaching young people how to become "better" anorexics or bulimics; how to cut; and how to develop an "emo" (dark emotional) personality. To make matters worse, more and more professing Christian teens and young adults are getting sucked into this morbid lifestyle.

Following a discussion of the unedifying, "victimization" lyrics of many popular Christian bands today, I found a site entitled "How to Be a Christian Emo" that confirmed what I'd begun to suspect: the attention-seeking "emo" label is now one that not only the world wears with pride; it has invaded the Church. (It even has a name - Urban Dictionary uses the term "chremo"). From the website:

Some may think that Christianity and Emo are incompatible, due to stereotypes in the scene like self-harm and intentional depression. In this article, you will learn to eschew these stereotypes, start an Emo fashion and still glorify God.

Right. So we're going to concentrate on cultivating an image of being dark, brooding, introspective and emotive...without actually being dark, brooding, introspective and emotive. Makes sense to me. (At least they conceded that self-harm does not actually glorify God). Exactly how does any of this - even building an artificial image or facade - glorify God? Does He not command us to "fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith" (Hebrews 12:2) and "set our minds on things above, not on earthly things"( Colossians 3:2)?

The article continues:

Listen to Christian rock, especially artists signed to Tooth & Nail Records, Credential Recordings and Solid State Records, a metal and division of Tooth & Nail Records. Listen to bands such as Underoath, Norma Jean, POD As I Lay Dying, and Showbread and Flyleaf. and the band Skillet" and Anberlin.

What had gotten me started examining the connection between "emo" music, CCM, and all the teens I've been talking to recently who are cutting and/or purging was the discussion of how often these themes seem to be coming up on the lyrics of today's popular "Christian" bands. I said,

"I am CONVINCED, absolutely, that some of these teens and young adults are getting IDEAS (not necessarily from the artists themselves, but even from each other) and are starting these behaviors, which they see as somehow legitimate and heroic. Even the weepy music itself paints them as “victims”. Don’t get me wrong – abuse is evil and those who are abused are victims. I get that. But glorifying self-abusive behavior, in the name of victimization — even in a song supposedly intended to “raise awareness” of the behavior? NOT cool. Sorry, but these “Christian artists” should know that these songs are neither edifying nor Christ-exalting. You do not need a degree in biblical counseling to know that.

Speaking of the Bible, I cannot seem to get these girls to spend as much time reading it as they do listening to this type of “Christian music”. I am convinced it just makes them slide more deeply into self-pity.

When we take our eyes off of Christ and His finished work on the Cross and put it back on ourselves, (which IS what this genre of music is doing), we’re going to go further away from Him. Believe me, I stand in judgment of no one; I’ve done it myself (and still do). But somehow it feeds the fleshly desire for attention, validation, and vindication. When the Bible tells us to sing and make music in our hearts to God, somehow I don’t think this is what the holy Spirit was talking about. Someone battling emotional problems would do better to sing “How Great Thou Art”, “In Christ Alone”, “Lord of All” or “Blessed Be Your Name” than some of this stuff."

When I was a teen, eating disorders were common (perhaps even more so than now), but cloaked in secrecy and shame. We knew instinctively that starving to excess and purging was damaging to our bodies and nothing to be proud of. Those of us who developed true addictions to this behavior lived in dread of getting caught; fearful of seeking help. We had never even heard of"cutting" or other forms of self-mutilation. Nowadays, however, this behavior is commonplace and almost seems to be a badge of pride among the under-25 set.

Listen to some of the lyrics of Christian "emo" bands, and you can see why.

Do We Raise Awareness, or Raise Up the Cross?

I do not beleive all this "raising awareness" is having a positive net effect. Talking about these deeds of darkness, offering unconditional sympathy and "support" to those practicing EDs and cutting in place of compassionate, Christ-centered counsel, and glorifying the depressing, "dark nights of the soul" that are common to adolescence is neither edifying nor does it "spur one another on to love and good deeds" (Hebrews 10:24). Folks, the whole point of counseling is to effect change - first heart change (away from sin; re-orienting our hearts and minds towards Christ and His way, laid out in the Bible); and ultimately outward change (in our behavior, as we are re-made into the image of Christ).

I wish that you could see my heart as I type these words. I do not express this with a spirit of judgment, harshness, or "legalism". The burden I feel and frustration I experience as I see girl after girl deceived and entrapped by Satan and his lies is crushing, at times. I know how hard it is to walk out of that prison of self-pity and self-absorption, and it's made all the harder when we surround ourselves with messages and flesh-pleasing music that feeds into our morose attitude.

So many of the people who write to me don't really seem to want to change; they have gotten so used to where they are. Every suggestion I make is shot down; which is fine, but if a counselee refuses to read her Bible, it it truly counsel she wants, or just someone to feel sorry for her? Remember, the two main areas where Satan attacks us is through doubt and discipline. When we doubt, usually it is because we are not in the Word. Bible reading and prayer are spiritual disciplines, which means we must do them whether we feel like it or not. Once that goes out the window, Satan has us where he wants us: at the mercy of our emotions.

Does Jesus Care About our Emotions?

Of course He does! God loves each one of you personally, and cares deeply about everything that happens to or affects you. Recently, I was talking at length with a Christian friend about the role of the believer's emotions, and how God, while He does not exist strictly to meet our emotional needs, is Himself an emotional Being and as such, we are made in His image. (Shout out to Jen: read her great post on the matter here). The Gospels are full of accounts of Jesus responding with tremendous compassion to people....mere sinners like us. When the widow of Nain (Luke 7) wept over her dead son, Jesus' "heart went out to her, and He said, 'Don't cry' " (verse 13). When Mary and Martha, whom He loved, mourned the loss of their brother, He wept right along with them. In the Garden, we see the intensity of sorrow and emotion He was able to experience as a fully human Savior.

Additionally, we see great men of God weeping and, yes; falling into depression over the sin of Israel and rejection of God. Elijah, Jeremiah ("the weeping prophet") and the Apostle Paul anguished greatly over their countrymens' obstinacy and rejection of God. This is one reason I do not believe that depression, per se, is always a sin. There is such a thing as "godly sorrow", and it is right to be burdened for the lost and those stuck in sin. I often am driven to tears by the effects of sin and despair on the eating-disordered women I counsel.

However, the important thing to remember here is that God not only cares about our well-being, He wants to sanctify our emotions. Scripture tells us that the heart (lit. soul; our mind, will and emotions) are the wellspring of life (Proverbs 4:23) and the peace of God is to guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:7). By no means does God intend for us to stay in a depressive funk, wallowing around in emotions triggered by thoughts that are not from Him, hurting ourselves physically and seeking to draw the attention of others to our plight.

The Westminster Catechism articulates well what the chief end (purpose) of man is: "To glorify God and enjoy Him forever." Ask yourself this: are you glorifying God by cutting/purging/starving/attempting to appear "emo"? Are you able to serve Him while willfully remanining in that state? Are your eyes on Him (even when listening to "Christian" music that explores these themes), or are they fixed inward on self?

A Challenge to a "More Excellent Way'

I challenge you to bring these issues to the Wonderful Counselor for His perspective. I further challenge you to an experiment for one month: turn off your music, just 20 minutes a day. (I almost typed half an hour, but I don't want to scare anybody off). For just 20 minutes per day, for the next month, I want you to read your Bibles - the Gospel of John; the Book of Romans; and finally, the Epistle on Joy - Philippians. At the rate of 20 minutes per day spread out over a month, you should easily be able to digest those three New Testament books.

My purpose in offering you this assignment, should you choose to accept it, is to show you how reading, and believing, the Word of God over what the tapes in your head may be telling you will effect your emotions in a God-honoring way. Much of the reason we may be tempted toward "emo" has to do with a lack of gratitude - we forget how much God, the Creator of the universe, has done for us. The salvation He has freely given us through the death and resurrection of His Son is more than enough reason to rejoice forever - we are free from all bondage - but how easily we forget that. Forgiveness, acceptance in the beloved, eternal love, peace, hope and joy are all ours, but when we take our eyes off of Christ, we carelessly forget this.

Determine today to live a Christ-centered life - free from the trappings of self-harm and self-hatred. Check your motives and screen your music....is it truly Christ-exalting, or is it man-exalting?


Clarification: Taking Your Meds is NOT a Sin!!

Last week, someone e-mailed me claiming that I had said taking medication if you have an eating disorder is a sin.

To clear that misconception up, let me be clear: I NEVER said that, nor is that a conviction I hold.

What I HAVE said, both online and in my book, is that neither psychotropic drugs nor SSSI inhibitors have any proven effects in treating anorexia or bulimia. However, both forms of anti-depressants are routinely prescribed for both.

This is nothing new: the late eighties saw a boon in the prescription of anti-depressants for various types of psycho-somatic conditions, and the presupposed connection between depression and bulimia made Prozac the medication of choice. Even today, psychiatrists continue to treat EDs with antidepressants, despite numerous studies and much anecdotal evidence proving the chemical treatment ineffective. (This is not my opinion - it is medical fact. Please e-mail me if you would like me to cite specific sources). At least one ADA study has shown that psychotropics actually worsen symptoms in patients under 18.

They don't know what else to do, so they dispense the world's answer: chemicals.

Furthermore, I have studied and written extensively about the spiritual causes and, more importantly, solutions, to anorexia and bulimia - which are sins. I have not gotten into the various types of depression, nor do I intend to. I do not claim to be some kind of an expert on clinical depression, and while it is my opinion that depression usually has spiritual roots, I am well aware that organic conditions (such as PPD) can cause severe depression. Although I have never experienced this myself, I know several very godly, conservative Christian women who have. Taking medication, at least for a short period of time to get yourself "over the hump", sometimes seems to help (although I am not necessarily advocating this, either. I am not knowledgeable enough about how hormonal levels effect the emotions to have an informed opinion, and I am therefore neutral).

Getting back to the question of whether I "would say a woman is in sin for taking meds", (that's a direct quote, by the way), not only is it NOT sin to take physician prescribed-medication, any biblical counselor worth her salt would NEVER tell a counselee to stop taking her meds. To do so would be a very serious ethics violation, and now the counselor would be the one "in sin". In fairness, even the Word-Faith "Healing Room" individuals I have known are careful to tell the people they pray over to continue taking their prescriptions until a physician tells them otherwise.

By way of information, suddenly quitting antidepressants "cold turkey" is dangerous. A good friend of mine, who is an RN, has been trying to wean herself off antidepressants for over a year. In order to counteract the severe migraines and other physical symptoms she experiences, she must take a slew of herbal supplements because of the dependency her peripheral nervous system has built up. The myelin sheath that covers her neurons is, in a word, shot. It will take some time to get her body back up to speed, but she rues the day she started taking meds. (This year's NANC conference featured an excellent workshop on the effects of psychotropic drugs on the body).

If you want to help women have hope in Christ and turn away (repent) from their eating disorders and other addictions, it helps to do your homework.

To re-cap:

1) I never said taking doctor-prescribed medication puts you "in sin";
2) People practicing eating disordered behaviors are, in fact, sinning;
3) Anti-depressants, both psychotropics and SSSI inhibitors, are utterly ineffectual at curing eating disorders;
4) Any counselor, nouthetic or non, who tells a counselee to stop taking her medication is the one sinning - no matter how useless said medication may be.

Hope that clears things up.

"Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly." -- James 3:1


Food Addict : Beware of the TV!

Here's a great article on why TV probably won't help you in overcoming your eating disorder. A better use of time? Seek God out in His Word, and let His Holy Spirit speak to you from the pages of Scripture! (Hat Tip: fellow Christian counselor, Heleen Woest...check out her group "Women Struggling With Food" on Facebook!)


DID YOU KNOW: There is a proven link between Watching TV and Obesity.

TV watching is also linked to certain eating disorders such as Binge Eating Disorder. It's not just the lack of physical activity that causes weight gain, but the food commercials trigger cravings, and the images of perfect bodies cause feelings of dissatisfaction and inadequacy which in turn are "medicated" through binging.

Research shows that most women complain of feeling inadequate, insecure and depressed after watching Fashion Shows or TV programs.

If you have an eating disorder you want to be especially aware of your surroundings and in touch with your body when you eat. Sitting down at a table, talking to others or enjoying a great view is the best way to do this.

Eating on the run, or in front of the computer or TV is just downright looking for trouble. You may not even be aware that you are trying to numb feelings of stress, pain, inadequacy and dissatisfaction, because you loose touch with reality and your own body when you're eating and watching TV or surfing the web.

What you really need when these feelings wash over you is to find someone to talk to (God, a friend or a counselor). I know it's difficult, but let your feelings be a red light, warning you to not turn on the computer or TV when you're not feeling okay. If you do, you know it your mind will start wondering to food (all the commercials will be right there cheering you on) and you will find yourself in the kitchen anxiously tearing open bags and loading up on food.

It took me a long time to give up this idol. TV and food was definitely connected in my struggle with food: As long as I mindlessly watched TV to escape reality, I could not shake of my eating disorder. I was not even a "big" TV watcher, but when life got tough I would run to a "mind numbing" activity such as watching TV and binging. I was really hiding from the world and my own scary feelings.

More Reasons to turn off the TV:

You will have more time!
Just give it a week, eliminate TV and surfing on the web from your schedule and you will be amazed at how much more time you have to do the things you always "don't have time for". Did you know that the average American adult watches more than 4 hours of television a day, that calculates to 116, 800 hours by the time we're 80 in comparison to 98,000 work hours. Accept the challenge to turn of the tube, it might change your life. You might have time for that walk, or to visit with a friend, or even better, get into a powerful women's Bible study.

You will have more money!
f course you will save a bunch of money if you simple disconnect your cable and go without TV. However, even reducing your package to fewer options and spending less time watching can help you save money. You will be less likely to buy something on a commercial if you don't spend a lot of time watching. People who make these commercials have done countless studies to get your attention and trigger your desires to buy something. How many things have you bought that you simply didn't need?

It can improve your relationships!
Turning off the TV can do wonders for your marriage as well as leave you with more time to spend with your kids. Maybe your whole family have a "TV addiction" going, and it would cause a lot of conflict if you were to just toss the television on the curb. Take it slowly, reduce the children's TV time and plan some interesting activities and outings for the family to help with the initial withdrawal (boredom), soon everybody would discover that there's more to life than TV. Just like introducing your family to healthier food, this too will take an effort, but it will be worth it. Your family could be talking, sharing and discovering life together again.

It can lower your stress level!
Watching TV is far from relaxing. I know we tend to think of TV as "winding down" time after a busy day at work or a hectic day with the kids, but it can actually make your stress level higher. Procrastinating by watching TV when you have some issues to deal with whether it be financial, emotional or relational, can only add to your stress. A feel good movie every now and then can actually be relaxing, but we tend to flip through the channels, bombarded by bad news, greed, murder, pain, suffering, adultery and every kind of sinful human behavior under the sun. Turning off the TV and rather facing our problems, paying the bills, talking about our issues, making time to pray, or just reading a good book reduces stress and brings back peace, a rare commodity in our society today.

If you know that this is a problem for you and you have tried countless times to walk away from the TV and stop binging without success, then it might be time for you to reach out to someone for help. Please have a look at my online program for Women Struggling with Food and find out how to stop binge eating and break this vicious cycle forever. I know about the feelings of failure and the loneliness of this struggle and I want to help you.


Open Letter to a Christian Cutter

The phenomenon of self-mutilation, or "cutting" as it is colloquially known today, is a frighteningly common problem - especially among teens. Much like eating disorders, it is hard for an outsider to understand what would make a person harm herself physically; what is driving this compulsion?

Recently, I have started getting more and more e-mails from young ladies who, while they believe in God and profess to know Him, have turned to this addictive form of self-abuse. While I have no personal experience with "cutting", I've come to believe it's demonic. Human beings were made in the image of God, and in revenge towards Him, Satan tempts (or compels) individuals to deface themselves.

Another common denominator between bulimics and "cutters" is the prevalence of sexual abuse in their childhoods, one of the most satanically-inspired forms of torment there is. Shame, rage, and a denial of God's poeima ("workmanship") combine in the heart and manifest in such symptoms of self-abuse.

Recently, I wrote to a teenaged cutter:

"The cutting is definitely acting out of rage and anger. This is actually demonic (NOT saying you have a demon in you -- but all sin and sinful temptation comes from the devil). The devil cannot control you or force you to do anything, but he can tempt you and put ideas in your mind. One of those "ideas" is to hurt yourself and mutilate your body. Remember the story in Mark 5 of Jesus healing the man at Gerasenes (he was tormented by demons)? Read verse 5 - "he cut himself with stones". Why do you think he did that? The demons literally made him do it -- they wanted to hurt and deface him, as they do all people, because we were made in the image of God. That's why self-destructive behavior is a sin - it defaces God's greatest creation and work of beauty - humans.

Remind yourself of that the next time you feel compelled -- where is this compulsion coming from? To deface the body Christ died to redeem? Straight from the pit of hell, Theresa. Please turn to God in these moments and pray -- tell Him how you feel, and ask Him for His supernatural comfort and strength to get through it. Do not be afraid to let yourself feel emotions and cry; tears are often the beginning of healing. But do not resort to cutting yourself and making the devil smile.

The Bible tells us to be anxious for nothing but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (Philippians 4:6). This definitely includes your peace of mind - He can renew your mind, as you stay in the Word, too. This is one reason why it's so important to be reading your Bible, and digesting it bit by bit. As you think on what God's saying in His Word, gradually His thoughts will beome your own and you will have much less fear and anxiety. It is never His will for you to be fearful or anxious - repeatedly, throughout Scripture, God tells us "fear not" and not to be anxious about anything (easier said than done, I know. But we can overcome unhealthy thought patterns with prayer and developing the habit of asking ourselves "What does the Bible say about this?")

Forgiveness is very important in order to let go of bitterness and anger. Sexual abuse is probably one of the worst things a human being can inflict upon another, but you cannot let ANOTHER'S sin destroy YOUR life. When you're having a horrible flashback or memory, I want you to calmly remind yourself that Christ is there; He is with you and HE is sovereign. This means that although the abuse was evil, He allowed it, for reasons we can't see this side of eternity. If you allow Him to, God can bring good out of this; I promise. You can be a display of the amazing grace of God. He is stronger than that flashback or any ugly memory. Turn to Him in the midst of it and remember that He is REAL, powerful, and true. He is the Protector of the powerless and the Defender of the innocent. I would say for now, stay in the Word and set time aside daily to talk to the Lord and ask Him for help in this area. Definitely see if it would be appropriate or an option for you to get pastoral counseling at your home church.

You need to fight this starting by turning to God and resolving to think His way. The cutting is just a symptom of the problem; it is not the problem itself. The anger and hurt and fear can only be healed by bringing it to Christ and letting Him shine His light of Truth on it -- and no one can do that except for you. Promise me you'll talk to Him about this this week, and at least read something from His Word. Let me know what stands out to you in your reading. Even if you're not sure you can or really want to stop this behavior, tell Him that, too. Be honest. He already knows, anyway. The devil is definitely trying to torment you, but he can have no more power over you than you give him because of Christ's shed blood on your behalf.

Don't go to sleep tonight without at least spending some time with God. Please write soon and let me know how you're doing, so I can continue and we can talk about this further.

Praying for you!"


In Times of Guilt, Draw Near to God

This morning, our pastor preached on the passage of Scripture Hebrews 10:19-24, which discusses the believer's privilege to come before the Throne of God because of Christ's finished work on the Cross.

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.

Pastor Eric touched on the subject of guilt that often drives us to run from God, rather than laying it before Him and counting our sin as already covered. Often, guilt comes from the conviction of the Holy Spirit and lets us know that we must confess something to be cleansed; other times, however, we feel guilt for no reason in particular or for an infraction that has long since been repented. When we confess our sin, God not only forgives us (as 1 John 1:9 states), but our consciences can be clear, as well.

Then Pastor Eric made an interesting observation from his experience in biblical counseling: "Whenever someone is not reading the Bible, trying to counsel them from the Scriptures can be absolutely frustrating. It's like trying to give resuscitation to a rag doll."

I thought about that for a moment, and he was absolutely right! In the 5 years or so I have been counseling Christian women with eating disorders, (generally through e-mail), I can almost always tell if they have been reading their Bibles or not. Those who are in the Word generally change their thinking and attitudes about their eating disorders relatively quickly, and although it's a struggle, they have both the resolve to turn away from it and the faith that Christ will help them. The women who are NOT reading their Bibles regularly (I can even tell when they're not looking up the passages of Scripture I give them) seem to stay stuck in the same cycle of thinking and self-defeating patterns of sin. They are more prone to "put off" and procrastinate their own restoration - "Maybe someday I'll change." "I wish the devil would leave me alone." "What'll it take to make me change." (These are all comments I have received from women).

Please note that I am only talking about women who are professing born-again believers. To attempt to biblically counsel a non-Christian would be useless - evangelism would then be the first step. Once a woman accepts that she is a sinner in desperate need of a Savior and calls on the Lord Jesus Christ to save her, then we can begin proactive work on her eating disorder. To deal with the addiction before dealing with the state of the soul would be like slapping a Band-aid on a cancerous tumor.

My pastor's observation, naturally, has a much broader application than to Christians struggling with eating disorders. To foster intimacy with God, to know His will, and to see answered prayer, we must be reading and meditating on His Word. It is the way He speaks to, and counsels, His children.

Many thanks to Katie Halpin for the picture.


More Commentary on "Holy Anorexia"

From The London Review of Books, an excerpt from Hillary Mantel's "Some Girls Want Out", an analysis of several Italian "starving saints'" biographies. To read the whole article, go here.

Why is starvation/purging/self-inflicted punishment ever chosen, and how could anyone have ever thought it would make them more holy? Is it not possible, that without an accurate view of God (revealed to us through His Word, the Bible), the deception of one's mind can rationalize anything?

Gemma Galgani's deathbed

"....Anorexia nervosa is said to be a modern epidemic. If you skimmed the press in any one week it would be hard to see what is perceived as more threatening to society: the flabby, rolling mass of couch-potato kids, or their teenage sisters with thighs like gnawed chicken-bones, sunken cheeks and putrid breath. Are we threatened by flesh or its opposite? Though the temporarily thin find it easy to preach against the fat, we are much more interested by anorexia than by obesity. We all understand self-indulgence but are afraid that self-denial might be beyond us. We are fascinated by anyone who will embrace it – especially if there’s no money in it for them.

Bell emphasises in his introduction that what Gemma experienced was ‘holy anorexia’ and that it is different from anorexia nervosa. But what may strike the reader of a secular orientation is how similar they are. Starvation, as Bell shows in Holy Anorexia, was not an extension of convent practice, but a defiance of it. A fast is a controlled penitential practice. Most nuns fasted to keep the rule: the anorexics fasted to break it. Most nuns fasted to conform to their community: the starvation artists aimed to be extraordinary, exemplary. The secular slimming diet is also conformist and self-limiting. Dieting is culturally approved, associative behaviour, almost ritualistic. Restaurants adapt their menus to the Dr Atkins faddists; in a thousand church halls every week, less fashionable dieters discuss their ‘points’ and ‘sins’, their little liberties and their permitted lapses. Diets are prescriptive, like convent fasts – so much of this, so little of that. The anorexic, holy or otherwise, makes her own laws. Every normal diet ends when the dieter’s will fails, or the ‘target weight’ is reached, at which point the dieter will celebrate, the deprived body will take its revenge, and the whole cycle will begin again – next Monday, or next Lent. Diets are meant to fail, fasts to end in a feast day. Anorexia succeeds, and ends in death more frequently than any other psychiatric disorder.

Should we be comfortable in regarding it as a psychiatric disorder? Is it not a social construct? If the fashion industry were responsible for modern anorexia, it would be true that we are dealing with a very different condition from holy anorexia. But the phenomenon of starving girls predates any kind of fashion industry. In The Disease of Virgins: Green Sickness, Chlorosis and the Problems of Puberty, Helen King has amassed a huge number of references to a disease entity that was recognised from classical times to the 1920s. Greensick virgins went about looking moony, and didn’t menstruate, possibly because they didn’t weigh enough; in all eras, food refusal was part of the condition. The cure was a good seeing to – within marriage, of course. The snag was that men weren’t keen to marry women of unproven fertility. They must show, by bleeding, how worthy they were. If green-sickness was a protest against fate, it was a horribly conflicted and fraught protest. The cloister is the logical destination for those who protest too much. But in or out of the nunnery, how much should a good girl bleed? Should she settle for the natural orifice, or bleed from novelty ones – palms, eyes?

Sometimes the starving saints broke their fasts, were found at midnight raiding the convent larder. How did their communities accommodate this embarrassment? They simply said that, while Sister X snoozed celestially in her cell, the devil assumed her form and shape, tucked his tail under a habit, crept downstairs and ate all the pies. Starvation can be, must be, sustained by pride. (Emphasis mine). Sîan Busby’s book ‘A Wonderful Little Girl’ introduces us to this pride in a secular context. In 1869, a 12-year-old called Sarah Jacob starved to death in a Welsh farmhouse, under the eye of doctors and nurses who were watching her around the clock. Sarah had been a sickly little girl whose parents didn’t want to force food on her. She became a local phenomenon; visitors came to look at her not eating, and left useful donations. It is likely she was fed, minimally and secretly, by her siblings. But when the medical vigil began, this source of supply was cut off, and Sarah was too polite to say she needed anything – even water. Politely, proudly and quietly, she slipped away while the doctors and nurses watched.

It is a grim story of social hypocrisy, deprivation and bone-headed stupidity, but it is also a shadowy story with a meaning that is difficult to penetrate. This is true of the whole phenomenon of anorexia. The anorexics are always, you feel, politely losing the game. When the fashionable and enviable shape was stick-thin, a sly duplicity was at work. One girl, considered photogenic, could earn a living from thinness; another girl, with the same famine proportions but less poster-appeal, would be a suitable case for treatment. The deciding factor seemed to be economic: could she earn a living by anorexia? If so, make her a cover girl; if not, hospitalise her. The case is now altered. The ideal body is attainable only by plastic surgery. The ideal woman has the earning powers of a CEO, breasts like an inflatable doll, no hips at all and the tidy, hairless labia of an unviolated six-year-old. The world gets harder and harder. There’s no pleasing it. No wonder some girls want out.

The young women who survive anorexia do not like themselves. Their memoirs burn with self-hatred, expressed in terms which often seem anachronistic. In My Hungry Hell, Kate Chisholm says: ‘Pride is the besetting sin of the anorexic: pride in her self-denial, in her thin body, in her superiority.’[*] (emphasis mine). Survivors are reluctant to admit that anorexia, which in the end leads to invalidity and death, is along the way a path of pleasure and power: it is the power that confers pleasure, however freakish and fragile the gratification may seem. When you are isolated, back to the social wall, control over your own ingestion and excretion is all you have left; this is why professional torturers make sure to remove it. Why would women feel so hounded, when feminism is a done deal? Think about it. What are the choices on offer? First, the promise of equality was extended to educated professional women. You can be like men, occupy the same positions, earn the same salary. Then equal opportunities were extended to uneducated girls; you, too, can get drunk, and fight in the streets on pay-night. You’ll fit in childcare somehow, around the practice of constant self-assertion – a practice now as obligatory as self-abasement used to be. Self-assertion means acting; it means denying your nature; it means embracing superficiality and coarseness. Girls may not be girls; they may be gross and sexually primed, like adolescent boys.

Not every young woman wants to take the world up on this offer. It is possible that there is a certain personality structure which has always been problematical for women, and which is as difficult to live with today as it ever was – a type which is withdrawn, thoughtful, reserved, self-contained and judgmental, naturally more cerebral than emotional. Adolescence is difficult for such people; peer-pressure and hormonal disruption whips them into forced emotion, sends them spinning like that Victorian toy called a whipping-top. Suddenly self-containment becomes difficult. Emotions become labile. Why do some children cut themselves, stud themselves and arrange for bodily modifications that turn passers-by sick in the streets, while others merely dwindle quietly? Is it a class issue? Is it to do with educational level? The subject is complex and intractable. The cutters have chosen a form of display that even the great secular hysterics of the 19th century would have found unsubtle, while the starvers defy all the ingenuities of modern medicine; the bulimics borrow the tricks of both, and are perhaps the true heirs of those spider-swallowers. Anorexia itself seems like mad behaviour, but I don’t think it is madness. It is a way of shrinking back, of reserving, preserving the self, fighting free of sexual and emotional entanglements. It says, like Christ, ‘noli me tangere.’ Touch me not and take yourself off. For a year or two, it may be a valid strategy; to be greensick, to be out of the game; to die just a little; to nourish the inner being while starving the outer being; to buy time. Most anorexics do recover, after all: somehow, and despite the violence visited on them in the name of therapy, the physical and psychological invasion, they recover, fatten, compromise. Anorexia can be an accommodation, a strategy for survival. In Holy Anorexia, Bell remarks how often, once recovered, notorious starvers became leaders of their communities, serene young mothers superior who were noticeably wise and moderate in setting the rules for their own convents. Such career opportunities are not available these days. I don’t think holy anorexia is very different from secular anorexia. I wish it were. It ought to be possible to live and thrive, without conforming, complying, giving in, but also without imitating a man, even Christ: it should be possible to live without constant falsification. It should be possible for a woman to live – without feeling that she is starving on the doorstep of plenty – as light, remarkable, strong and free. As an evolved fish: in her element, and without scales."


Prayer of Freedom

I did not write this, but the "Free of Bulimia" Christian forum sends it out once per month to all of its members. It is a powerful reminder of who we are in Christ, and what He has done for us! Make this New Year 2010 your personal "Year of Jubilee" - the year you will fully surrender your food addiction to God and walk in total freedom.

Heavenly Father, I thank You for the power of Your Word, that it brings life and liberty. Your Word says that confession is made unto salvation, deliverance, preservation, safety, healing, peace and spiritual prosperity (Romans 10:10). In the name, power and the blood of Jesus Christ, I boldly decree I am free! Free from anything that would hinder my walk with You. I am free from anything that would stop Your abundant life from operating in my life. As I declare Your word, it will not return to You void but it will accomplish that which You desire. You desire that I walk in freedom. You desire that I am restored and whole. I know that within the promise of Your word is the power to fulfill Your word. I thank You Father that You watch over Your word to perform it. (Isaiah 55:11) Father I give You all the glory and praise for the work You are doing and are going to do in my life.

In Jesus name I boldly declare that I will standfast in the liberty by which Christ has made me free and I will not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage (Galatians 5:1) Father, I thank You because You delivered me from the power of darkness and conveyed me into the kingdom of the Son of Your love. I’ve been delivered from lack, depression, oppression, hopelessness, despair, eating disorders and everything associated with the power of darkness. In Jesus Christ I have redemption through His blood and the forgiveness of all my sins (Colossians 3:13, 14). In the name of Jesus, I boldly declare sin shall no longer exert dominion over me because I am not under the law but I am under grace as subjects of God’s favor and mercy (Romans 6:14) Your Spirit lives within me and where Your Spirit is, there is liberty (2 Cor 3:17). I boldly declare that I walk in liberty for I seek Your precepts (Psalm 119:45) I walk in the Spirit and I do not fulfill the lusts of the flesh in
Jesus name.

As Your child I am led by Your Spirit. I did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but I received the Spirit of adoption by Who I cry out Abba Father. I thank You that Your Spirit bears witness, with my spirit that I am Your child and I am Your heir (Romans 8:14-17). Only because of this divine interaction can I cry out with everything within me “You are my Father.” Your Word says that You love with an everlasting love; therefore with loving-kindness You have drawn me. I thank You for Your love that never fails. Thank You for drawing me closer to You. You also said again You will build me and I shall be rebuilt. I will be adorned and go forth in the dances of those who rejoice. (Jer. 31:3,4 ) I thank You for building and rebuilding me, and that You are always working in me. Thank You for loving me too much to leave me the way I am. I trust You and the love You have for me. I know it’s because of Your great love that You set me free. May I go forth with
that holy joy and dance the dances of those who rejoice.

I recognize that my body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and I am not my own. I was bought with the shed blood of Jesus Christ. I will glorify You in my body and my spirit for I am Yours! (1 Corinthians 6:19,20) In the name of Jesus, I discipline my body and bring it into subjection so I do not become disqualified when I share the gospel (1 Cor. 9:27) I thank You Father that You help me achieve balance in every area of my life, and You give me wisdom in all things. I give You thanks and praise because You always lead me in triumph (2 Cor 2:14).

Father, when I face temptation, I thank You that You are faithful. You will not allow me to be tempted beyond what I am able, but with the temptation, You will also make the way of escape, that I may be able to bear it. I will flee idolatry in Jesus name! (1 Cor 10:13) I pray that in every temptation I not only see the way of escape You prepared, but that I will take it. I know You always give the victory through my Lord Jesus Christ. I am steadfast, immovable, and always abounding in the work of the Lord (1 Cor 15:57,58) Father, Your word says that You are also able to save to the uttermost those who come to You through Jesus since He always lives to make intercession for them (Heb 7:25). Father, I come to You through Your Son Jesus Christ. He ever lives to make intercession for me. Thank You for saving me in every temptation I face. I am established in righteousness, I am far from oppression for I do not fear; and from terror, for it shall not come near me In Jesus name! (Is 54:14) Father, thank You for keeping me far from oppression and terror. I am confident with all of my heart Lord that You began a good work in me. You are faithful to complete that work until the day of Christ’s return (Philippians 1:6) Thank You for loving me and You have once for all loosed and freed me from my sins by the blood of Christ (Revelation 1:5b)

Father when I am tempted to worry that I can’t maintain freedom, help me to lean and rely on You even more. I admit my total dependence on You. I will never attain any amount of freedom unless You are with me.

I know You are able to keep me from stumbling and present me faultless before the presence of Your glory with exceeding joy. Unto You O’ Lord be glory and majesty, dominion and power both now and forever (Jude 24,25) I trust You as my Father for true victory in my life. I am Your child and it is not Your desire for me to be in bondage to anything. Thank You for strengthening me and holding me through each struggle.

Father, Your Word says that It’s for freedom that you set me free (Gal 5:1). I thank You for this freedom. I realize that it’s not just about my own freedom. You set me free to be a witness of Your delivering power. You set me free so freedom can flow through me. I ask You to use every aspect of my life for Your glory and that every captive goes free. I pray that people will see the difference You have made in my life. May they know that You are no respecter of persons and what You have done in me You long to do for them.
Thank you Heavenly Father that You hear the cry of my heart. I thank You for freedom. I am free! I am free! No longer chained and bound! Through the blood of Jesus, freedom I have found!
In Jesus name –amen!