12/10/11

Book Signing Today! Press release here...

Below is the press release run in my local newspaper about today's book signing:

Christian Author to Discuss Eating Disorders

LEOMINSTER -- Do you or a loved one struggle with anorexia or bulimia? Author and Christian counselor Marie Notcheva of Rutland will be holding a book signing at Morningstar Christian Bookstore, 375 Harvard St., from 4 5o 6 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 10.

Her book, "Redeemed from the Pit: Biblical Repentance and Restoration from the Bondage of Eating Disorders," was released by Calvary Press earlier this month. Well-known author and counselor Martha Peace wrote the foreword of the book, which has been endorsed by Olympic diving champion Laura Wilkinson and many experts in the biblical counseling field.

A graduate of Jay Adams' Institute for Nouthetic Studies and member of Heritage Bible Chapel of Princeton, Marie specializes in counseling women with eating disorders. Her ministry began online several years ago, as women from around the world began emailing her for help. Having battled an eating disorder for many years, Marie found answers to what had become a life-dominating sin within the pages of the Bible. Her faith in God enabled her to turn her life around and later reach out to others struggling with the same shameful secret. In September, The 700 Club filmed an interview with Marie.

"Redeemed from the Pit" is the first book of its kind, in that it treats eating disorders as learned behaviors which, with God's help, can be unlearned. It is already being used in Christian counseling centers and residential rehab facilities. Jocelyn Wallace, executive director of Vision of Hope (Faith Ministries) in LaFayette, Ind., lauds the experience and deep theological exposition Marie uses, as well as the book's easy readability. http://www.sentinelandenterprise.com/community/ci_19447028#ixzz1g8LzV3lw

12/1/11

Interview with Ashlie Kyles of Bella Ministries

Link to Bellanomics here

HAVE YOU FALLEN INTO THE PIT? HERE'S HOPE!


In September, I had the opportunity to do a Q&A with Marie Notcheva, the author of "Redeemed from the Pit: Biblical Repentance and Restoration from the Bondage of Eating Disorders". She has been studying Biblical Counseling since 2009,and is near the completion of the certification process with the NANC (National Association of Nouthetic Counselors). She counsels Christian women in person, and occasionally by e-mail, who struggle with anorexia, bulimia, and food-related bondages. Please take a moment to learn more about her ministry...

Q: What was the inspiration for starting this organization?
A: I was anorexic and bulimic for 17 years. God graciously granted me repentance and freedom. I began writing about my journey, in the hopes it would help others with similar struggles.

Q: Who can benefit from you or the use of your organization?
A: Christian women struggling with eating disorders, as well as counselors and those close to them trying to help according to biblical principles. My book goes into what the Bible says about life-dominating sin in general, as well as what God expects us to do (and how to renew our mind) as He frees us. Many people do not think of eating disordered behavior as being sinful, but God wants us to walk in freedom and holiness!

Q: What programs, products or services do you offer to the community?
A: My book, which was forewarded by bestselling author and speaker Martha Peace, can be purchased at http://www.calvarypress.com/home.asp I also blog at: http://redeemedfromthepit.blogspot.com/ I counsel (free of charge) under the authority of my local church in Massachusetts.

Q: What advice would you offer to someone interested in starting or getting involved with your type of business/organization?
A: Biblical counselors are desperately needed in this age of man-centered thinking and Godless psychology (and "Christian" programs that are based on psychological counseling constructs). Study and do the training necessary to minister the Scriptures to hurting people! If your church does not offer a biblical counseling program, suggest starting one.

Q: Where are your services offered (local, national, international)?
A: My book is available for order online. I counsel in Massachusetts, but I have received e-mails from women all over the world. I respond to each one personally and refer her to a local biblical counselor in her area (where possible).

Q: What else would you like us to know about you or your organization?
A: My testimony and an interview with me about how I overcame eating disorders in God's strength will appear on The 700 Club within a few months. Through speaking and writing, I hope to be a blessing and a light to those struggling in the pit of anorexia and bulimia. You are not alone!

Bellanomics, LLC personally thanks Marie Notcheva for taking the time out to answer a few questions. You can read here for the publisher's description of Marie's book, including the foreword written by Martha Peace: http://www.calvarypress.com/home.asp.

11/26/11

Endless Attempts to Fill the God-Shaped Void: "Drunkorexia"

In my book, "Redeemed from the Pit", I mistakenly identified C.S. Lewis as the originator of the quote "Inside every person, there is a God-shaped vacuum". (I have since learned that it was Blaise Pascal.) Regardless of who first said it, the validity of this statement is continuously borne out in the fallen world around us.

This week, I was notified of the following article, which discusses the campus trend of "drunkorexia" (the practice of deliberately getting intoxicated on an empty stomach, or habitually abusing alcohol while starving one's self of food.) This is not a new practice - forgoing food in favor of liquor is actually an old trick -- everyone knows that alcohol is absorbed more quickly when there is no food in the stomach. I just didn't realize it had a name. (Nor is it limited to college campuses - women long beyond university with both eating disorders and alcohol dependency regularly do this.)

The onlinecollege.org article begins:
At first, "drunkorexia" may sound like kind of a funny word, jokingly made up to describe a situation in which college students and others forgo food in order to be able to afford more alcohol and feel higher effects of alcohol on an empty stomach. But what some may brush off as crazy college-kid behavior is actually a serious problem that can have highly damaging consequences both in long- and short-term health. Of course, that hasn't stopped college students from engaging in this unhealthy trend, and a study at the University of Missouri-Columbia indicated that one in six students had practiced drunkorexia within the last year. Typically, drunkorexia is done by women; the study showed that three out of four drunkorexia respondents were female.
(Continue reading here.)

As I have often noted, eating disorders and drunkenness tend to go hand-in-hand. From a biblical perspective of human behavior, this should not surprise us: "lusts of the flesh" take many forms, and when one is weak in this area, self-control and moderation tend to break down in multiple ways. Additionally, as I point out in Chapter one of my own book, eating disorders engender so much shame and self-loathing that we often gravitate to alcohol as an anesthesia. When in the depths of bulimarexia and drunkenness myself, I used to rationalize that if something made me feel better [alcohol], even for a little while, I would happily use it.

Of course, no number of bottles will ever take the pain and shame away. (Just ask Amy Winehouse.) Only Jesus Christ can do that.

Starving yourself thin will never make you happy, improve your relationships, or, MOST importantly, meet your TRUE needs - forgiveness and intimacy with your Saviour. Seeking solace in alcohol compounds the problem, of course; but the fact that so many seek to fill this God-shaped void with poison testifies to how deep our human need is for God.

Whether you know Hi now or not, you will never be satisfied or find joy in anything less. You weren't designed to.

11/21/11

Feedback from a Physician

Since the release of my book, "Redeemed from the Pit", I have held book-signings twice at my church here in Massachusetts and our pastor of discipleship and counseling has highly recommended it to our congregation. Yesterday, he noted from the pulpit that not much literature has been written on eating disorders from a biblical perspective, but that I "hit it right on the head" in my book.

Such glowing endorsements from pastors and NANC counselors are very encouraging, but one note-worthy conversation I had last week happened to be with an Elder of our church. He is also a physician.

This gentleman pulled me aside the first week my book was promoted, and confided that he'd really like to sit down with me and talk about this topic, which is of personal interest to him. Now in his fifties, when Dr. D was in university, his sister passed away due to complications arising from her anorexia. I knew that he had lost a sister to an eating disorder, and since as an Elder he does some counseling in our church it was encouraging to me that he'd take interest in my book.

"You know, the medical community really dislikes seeing this [eating disorders], because they really don't know what to do with it," he confided. He nodded knowingly when I mentioned the utter uselessness of anti-depressants to treat eating disorders, and admitted that physicians all know anorexia and bulimia are not diseases....but simply are at a loss, as medical professionals, as to what to do. "You almost have to "treat"the whole family," he reflected, and we discussed Martha Peace's workshop on counseling anorexics and the importance of family involvement.

Hearing a physician validate what I've been saying all along - that eating disorders are learned, sinful behaviors (which can therefore be overcome in the power of the Gospel), and not organic diseases (leaving the medical community at a loss) was interesting. It should only be a matter of time before Christian doctors, like him, send their patients to biblical counselors for help, rather than psychiatrists!

11/4/11

Counseling Anorexic Girls - From NANC 2011

Last month, I attended the NANC Conference in Walnut Creek, California, at which Martha Peace taught an excellent workshop entitled "Counseling as if a Life Depended on It: Counselees with Anorexia". In her lecture, Martha highlighted the need for a physician's involvement because of the medically fragile condition of the anorexic; the reality of both a spiritual (eternal soul-threatening) emergency and the physical one; and how family members may be involved in a helpful way.

Any woman repenting from an eating disorder needs help from those closest to her. As God transforms her mind and thinking, it is necessary for family members (mothers especially) to know how to give the right kind of "support" and reinforce biblical attitudes (and right behaviors). Martha demonstrated how an anorexic counselee would be instructed to keep a "self-talk" log, contrasting sinful, obsessive and self-oriented thoughts with biblical replacements which focus on loving God and others. For example, an eating-disordered girl will typically fret, "Everyone is watching me! Why can't they leave me alone?!" The "put-on" thought to replace this might be, "Everyone is not watching me, and those that are, love me very much. I don't blame them for being worried."

Naturally, mealtimes are very tension-fraught in households where someone is battling an eating disorder. One question Martha often fields from concerned mothers is, "What should we do if our daughter just sits and stares at her food?" Discomfort often leads parents to excuse, ignore, or over-react (crying; begging) to their daughters' willful starvation. Instead, Martha counsels parents to remain calm, speak to her very calmly and give her hope. They might express something along the lines of, "I know this is very hard for you but the Lord will help you, and I want you to pick up your fork and take a bite of potatoes. Ask the Lord to help you. We are going to pray for you right now and then we are going to continue to eat our meal." Then, she counsels, turn the focus of dinner conversation to something else - the matter has been dealt with compassionately, biblically, and lovingly - but without dwelling on it or focusing excessive attention on the young woman or her battle.

While Martha made many good points and gave helpful advice on giving homework, making agendas and how to approach the Gospel with the counselee, I particularly liked this discussion of parental involvement and thought it was especially practical. An eating disorder, like any other type of addiction (life-dominating sin), affects every member of the family. I especially like her suggestion of praying and bringing God into what is so clearly a spiritual battle - right there at the dinner table. Having "fought" this lonely battle privately for years, I can tell you that having a compassionate, godly parent offering hope during the scariest moment would have made a world of difference. A loving family praying over a frightened young woman as she faces her fear is far more effective than "talk therapy" and secular "coping strategies". The Bible has much to say about dealing with fear, and the fact that God is FOR us and not against. Reinforcing these truths is the best "support" a young woman could receive.

11/1/11

"It is Finished"















"Redeemed from the Pit" has finally arrived.

I received my author's copies yesterday, and those of you who have requested review copies from the publisher should be seeing them soon. I have been told that those who placed orders have begun receiving them in the mail yesterday.

You may order directly from Calvary Press, or Amazon.com for your copy, and may God bless you as you take this journey!

9/29/11

"Redeemed From The Pit" Now Available to Order!

Calvary Press has just released my book, "Redeemed from the Pit: Biblical Repentance and Restoration from the Bondage of Eating Disorders" under their new imprint, Interior Publications. It is available for sale on the Calvary Press website, and within a few days will be available through their vendors (including Amazon.com). Just in time to promote at the NANC Conference, I am pleased to see the results of the last several years' work come to fruition at long last. Below is the publisher's description, and the Foreword, written by Martha Peace:
NEW! Check out our eBooks for download!

HAVE YOU FALLEN INTO THE PIT?

HERE'S HOPE!

REDEEMED FROM THE PIT
by Marie Notcheva

• Up to 3% of ALL adolescents in the United States have symptoms of bulimia.
• 5-15% of ALL adult women show the same signs.

Are you one (or do you know someone) of the literally thousands who suffer from an eating disorder, most likely bulimia? Do you see yourself as fat and unattractive? Do you feel as though you don’t “fit in” and suffer from periods of deep depression? Has binging on food and then purging become a daily part of your routine?

HERE IS HOPE!
Drawing from her own experiences with the disorder, author Marie Notcheva shows you how to overcome this life-destroying habit. No, not by some contrived “self help” system—but by the power of the Lord Jesus Christ! Notcheva believes that the person suffering from an eating disorder is not a victim of a “disease”; it is not something that has befallen them or has been thrust upon them. Rather, the bulimic became so by a series of choices. They chose to feel a certain way about themselves. They chose to start on a path of behavior that leads to a destructive habit.

Likewise, those suffering from bulimia can start making correct choices. They can make the choice to believe that their behavior is sin, not a disease. They can believe that the Bible is the Word of God, and that by trusting in the sacrifice of Christ for sinners, they can have new life—and that they can have victory, not only over bulimia, but over the greatest threat of all: eternal destruction.

This book may indeed prove to be a “life saver” to many. It will certainly give tremendous hope to all who read it.

FOREWARD BY MARTHA PEACE

Since Mother Eve fell into sin, almost all women, Christians or not, have desired to be beautiful. Different cultures, over time, have defined beautiful in different ways. Remember the bee-hive hairdos of the 1960's? Ancient Roman women thought that beautiful, too! Well, the bee-hive went out and thin came in.

Today, we are greatly influenced by the media to think that the only truly beautiful women are thin; very thin. We want to look like the movie stars, news anchors, and models that are almost always super-slim. I once heard about a movie star who on a very long air flight refused all the meals. On occasion, however, she would become so hungry she would insist on something to eat, eat two bites, and refuse the rest. She was thin and she was beautiful, but I wonder if her almost-starvation diet was worth it in the long run. She struggles with anorexia. Another may not starve herself; in fact, she may often be gluttonous, but maintains her weight by throwing up after the meal. Sometimes her compulsion is repeated several times per day. She struggles with bulimia.

It was forty-plus years ago in nursing school that I learned about eating disorders. As I recall, it was the first time I knew that eating disorders existed. Both were said to be psychiatric diseases and both, especially anorexia, were difficult to treat. What must have been rare back in the 1960's is now, for many, a common practice. The quest for beauty which likely began with Mother Eve has not gone away. It is still labeled a psychiatric disease and anyone struggling with an eating disorder knows what Marie Notcheva means about being in the "pit" and "in bondage."

Redeemed from the Pit: Biblical Repentance and Restoration from the Bondage of Eating Disorders is a gift from God to those struggling and to those helping someone struggling with an eating disorder. This book maintains a high view of God and an accurate view of man. It is written in an engaging style and entwined within it is Notcheva's own personal struggle and how God granted her repentance and real freedom. As a biblical counselor to women, I am looking forward to using this book to help others. Read it prayerfully and thoughtfully. You, too, can, by God's grace, be truly redeemed from the pit!

Martha Peace Biblical Counselor and Author of The Excellent Wife

Price: $21.99
ISBN: 978-1-879737-78-5

order



9/23/11

"Redeemed from the Pit" About to Go Live...

This week, I received the cover of my book from the publisher:
























The book will be "live" within the next couple weeks for purchase on Calvary Press' website: http://www.calvarypress.com/home.asp

9/22/11

Devotional from Barb Winters: "Tortilla Chip Revelation"

Worship the Lord your God, and his blessings will be on your food and water. Exodus 23:25 NIV

I almost ate a tortilla chip from my daughter's plate.

"So what?" you may ask.

God gave me a directive: Eat a special diet for one week. The simple act of reaching for the chip indicated I was on auto-pilot. My routine was second nature. I thought little before popping my favorite foods into my mouth.

God gave the Israelites a directive before reaching the Promised Land: Do not bow down before their (the enemies') gods or worship them or follow their practices. You must demolish them and break their sacred stones to pieces. Had I fallen before my god? Had food crept in and become a god in my life without my realization?

Misleading influences casually slip through the cracks into our lives - a television commercial for Pizza Hut, a church potluck with Mabel's famous chocolate pie, a candy bar fundraiser for the local sports team. Before we know it, we're knee deep in extra calories and foods to which God previously said, "No." We are in enemy territory worshiping their gods.

We can allow our focus to shift from God to food, succumb to the world's way of thinking, and begin justifying improper eating habits. However, our justifications are invalid. And this path leads to destruction - physically and spiritually.

Pause and evaluate God's directive for you in the area of eating. If you find yourself in the position of justifying improper eating habits, demolish those beliefs. Take captive your thoughts, and replace them
with truth.

God's directive to the Israelites came with a promise. If they worshiped God, and God alone, He would bless their food and water. This principle is true for us. When we worship God, He will direct our eating and, subsequently, bless our food and water.

Lord, I desire to worship You, and You alone. Show me if I justify eating improperly. Take my thoughts captive and speak truth into my life.












Barbara Winters and her husband, Don, have four children, Kevin, JT, Kenneth, and Melinda. Barbara home schools her children and encourages her husband in his pastorate position. Barbara writes a column on the characteristics of God for Lucid Magazine atwww.lucidmagazine.com, has several articles available for purchase at Churchmouse Publications, and writes two blogs: http://foodliesandtruth.blogspot.com/

9/16/11

Sobering Reality

Yesterday, I did an interview and shooting sequence with The 700 Club about my repentance and transformation from anorexia and bulimia 8 years ago. (More on that in another post...I'm very glad I did it, and hope God uses it to touch someone's life.)

Just now, however, my thoughts are going back 6 years in time, to the very first woman I shared my story with...a lady named Lori, who was then beginning her 20th year in the grips of bulimia. Well below a normal weight, she was carrying a child and was frightened of how her eating disorder would harm the baby.

She delivered a 3-pound baby boy, 10 weeks prematurely. Fortunately, he had no major complications, but, despite her desire to turn around, her eating disorder and excessive drinking continued unabated. She lost her health, her teeth, and her marriage to bulimia.

Today I learned that Lori has died.

I had shared the Gospel with her several times, and she claimed to be regenerate. I hope against hope that Lori was not deceived, although she was in much deception and there was no fruit in her life. In 2009, one of the last e-mails she wrote to me included this excerpt:

I know that this bondage I am in is a demon. Ed has gotten me no where in life. Just more problems. I am scared about all this kidney stuff going on. Dr. told me that if I don't start dialysis, that I won't even make it to a transplant. That is scary to hear. Ed has gotten a LITTLE bit better. Since I have been in ***, I have put on 10 lbs, so that is something to say. The thought pattern is still there though. Can't seem to shake that.

2 weeks ago, I had a prayer group pray over me at my church. Then, the week after that, the same ladies, plus 5 other people, plus the priest all met to do a prayer/healing service just for me. They prayed over me for an hour. I have to get my blood drawn once a week, plus get a procreate shot once a week. Well, 2 days after they prayed over me, my blood levels were significantly better!!!!!!!!! I'm not out of the woods, but there was a drastic improvement. I am not expecting a miracle healing from God. i will take whatever He gives me. Like the priest said.......don't have any expectations on what kind of healing I will have. I just opened my heart to Him and let Him do the rest.

I annoint myself everyday with Holy Oil that my mom got from Lourdes France. Also I have some Holy Oil from St. Perrigren. I use both of these daily on my kidney's. I swear, God is keeping me safe thru all of this.

This was after several YEARS of evangelism and counsel from me, both via phone and e-mail. My heart is broken for a life so young, so full of promise, utterly destroyed.

Lori did not really think her bulimia would kill her. She always believed that if she could get a little more clever; keep it in check "just a little bit more", she'd be okay. Or at least get people off her back. Ultimately, her organs gave out and so did her strength.

Please realize, if you are in this situation, there is STILL HOPE for you. God's transforming power and gracious gift of repentance are always freely available - you need to start TODAY. Are you whole-hearted in your determination to walk away from bulimia? E-mail me if you want to talk more.

9/12/11

C.S. Lewis, Bulimia, and Pornography

Great post from Brad Hambrick and shared by the Biblical Counseling Coalition....apparently I'm not the first to draw the parallel between lust and eating disorders. Whenever we seek pleasure for pleasure's sake, we are operating outside of God's will...and will wind up emptier and more despairing than before.

“The Christian attitude does not mean that there is anything wrong about sexual pleasure, any more than about the pleasure of eating. It means that you must not isolate that pleasure and try to get it by itself, any more than you ought to get the pleasures of taste without swallowing and digesting, by chewing things and spitting them out again (p.105).” -- Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

This quote alludes to a connection between bulimia (the desire for food but not calories; chewing but not digesting) and pornography (the desire for closeness but not vulnerability; having but not belonging). But as the parallel is developed, it should be construed as the male (lust) and female (body image) version of the same problem. In recent years the struggles of men with eating disorders and women with pornography have both risen significantly.


Read the whole post here:

9/6/11

Are You Blaming Your Sin on a "Disease"? (Tim Conway)

He's right.

Updates and recent developments...

Dear Readers,

Apologies for my online absence of late. I returned from Albania two weeks ago, yet am still easing back into the flow of studying, NANC writing and counseling preparation. I am in the final course ("Casebook Studies") with the Institute for Nouthetic Studies, after which I will submit my completed NANC exam and begin supervised counseling. Yay!

Speaking of NANC, the annual conference is fast approaching. My friend Martha Peace is teaching a workshop on counseling anorexia, and I am very much hoping my book will be out by then....the publisher received the galleys just over a week ago, so we shall soon see.

Next Thursday, Sept. 15, The 700 Club is coming to my home to interview me and film my testimony. I am excited, but nervous at the same time! Hopefully by the time the show airs, my book will be out and viewers struggling with bulimia, binge-eating or anorexia will have that as a resource to turn to. God uses the weak and foolish things of this world...myself included.

Interestingly, while I was in Albania (as a camp counselor at a Christian youth camp), the subject of my counseling and writing came up. One of my British counterparts was interested in counseling, and mentioned to me that a young relative of hers struggled with an eating disorder. While I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised, I WAS shocked when the girls told me that many of their peers in Albania struggle with weight and body-image issues. I suppose the struggles teenaged girls face are somewhat similar throughout the world; and, in Europe, young women tend to be exceptionally thin...which provides additional pressure to those who are not so naturally. One of the girls asked me, "Is is possible for your book to be translated into Albanian? This would be very helpful to the girls here..." Hmm...guess there's nothing truly new under the sun.

8/11/11

Prepare for Temptation! (From Wayne Mack)

Dear readers: tomorrow, 8/12/11, I will be leaving for a short-term missions trip in Albania, and will not have e-mail, internet or cellphone access. If you send me an e-mail or leave a comment, it may not be answered or moderated until after I return to the US on 8/24/11. In the meantime, read the following from Wayne Mack on implementing biblical instruction, and formulate a "plan of attack" for beating bulimia and overeating! Deciding how to handle temptation before it comes is half the battle.

"A plan for biblical response to temptation might include the following items:

1) recognize and acknowledge in the earliest stages of temptation that you are being tempted;
2) quickly ask God for His help to resist;
3) if possible, remove yourself immediately from the source of temptation;
4) identify the unbiblical desire that would be served by yielding to the temptation;
5) quote and meditate on appropriate Scripture;
6) remind yourself of God's presence, power, and promises;
7) reflect on the purpose of Christ's death;
8) mentally and verbally make a commitment to do the godly thing;
9) get busy with a mind-engaging, godly activity;
10) call a godly friend and ask for help;
11) repeat key aspects of this temptation plan until the power of the temptation is reduced.

The planning phase of the implementation process should also include strategies for dealing with failure. Since change is usually a process rather than an event, people often experience setbacks in their efforts to become more godly. Yet this frequently takes people by surprise, and because they have come to counseling with unrealistic expectations (that progress will be swift, easy and continuous), they become discouraged by the struggles and failures. When this happens, they tend to think that no progress has been made, that counseling is useless, and that they have not, cannot, and will not ever change."
- Wayne Mack, "Counseling: How to Counsel Biblically", (with John Macarthur), pp. 195-6.

I want you all to see the error of that way of thinking when you fail, even though you may have repented of the bulimic behavior again, and again...and AGAIN. The key is in humbling yourself (yes, once again) before the Lord in repentance, and when you get up off your knees, stepping out anew in obedience. This commitment to change is the only way out of the pit - repentance is an ongoing lifestyle; not a one-time quick fix!

Please keep me in prayer while I'm in Albania...and for my family as well (hopefully I've got them trained well enough to survive without me for 12 days!)

8/5/11

Confronting Doubts: "Does God Really Love Me?"






"Faith hangs on to Christ in the dark, it holds to a silent Christ, it holds to a refusing Christ, it holds to a rebuking Christ, and it will not let him go. Faith is the great holdfast that hooks a soul on to the Saviour.

Faith is thus powerful because of its effects. Faith enlightens, enlivens and strengthens. It is written of some of old that "They looked unto him, and were lightened." Faith shed a light upon many things, and lets us see that even if Christ has a frown on his face, he has love in his heart. Faith looks right into the heart of Christ, and helps us to perceive that he cannot mean anything but mercy to a seeking soul."
-- Charles Spurgeon

Have you ever asked God if He really loves you, or pleaded with Him for His affection? The following is an open letter to those of you who doubt, amended from a personal note I just sent to someone who is struggling:

"Dear Fellow Sojourner,

Believe it or not, I do understand what you mean and the doubts you are having about God's dealings with you and questioning whether He really cares or even if He loves you. Although I have not personally experienced what you are, I DO know the feelings and am all too familiar with the doubts. I want to be careful here not to sound like “Job’s friends” – although honestly, your situation reminds me of Job! – because that does no one any good.

I deliberately will not quote you the verses or pull out catch-all platitudes about Christ dying for the world (and of course I do NOT mean to diminish the Atonement one bit; but that is what people generally remind you of when you doubt God’s love.) I know EXACTLY what you mean when you write about knowing Christ loves the world; but what about you personally? One verse I would point out to you, however, is Galatians 2:20: "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me," (emphasis mine), wherein Paul was making the point He loved [Paul] and gave Himself up for [Paul]. Who, of course, was a murduring Pharisee and all that; but you get the idea.

And of course, there ARE Scriptural statements to the effect that God’s love is infinite, faithful and PERSONAL to the believer (you) – Matt. 10:31; Luke 12:7; Hebrews 13:5 (the “you” is singular in the original), as well as the Psalms, which cover every range of human emotion. However, you are obviously intelligent and don’t need the references or a Bible lesson. Just thought I’d remind you anyway, though, because His Word IS Truth.

Regarding God’s nature, I know you wonder if He really cares because of all the pain and suffering you see all around you. I need not “defend” Him or say He always keeps His promises (in the way we expect, at least – I admit I also struggle with the exact meaning of Matthew 6, especially vs. 31-32: "So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.") My guess is that is something like a Proverb – to be understood as a general rule, but NOT a guaranteed absolute. (I.E. “train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” – it’s a general principle; not a guarantee. IF you do this – you may expect THAT.)

This promise doesn’t change the fact that there are millions of suffering, starving Christians whose daily bread is NOT provided….as a result of man’s sin. God knows/sees it; He COULD prevent it, but He does not. That’s where we get into the issue of His sovereignty, and we have to admit that we just don’t know. We DO know, if we believe the Scripture to be infallible, that A) He is good; and B)ultimately justice will be served and all wrongs will be righted. Beyond that, we can only speculate (and often that gets us in trouble when we do.) But we know that He is good, and does NOT enjoy torturing His slaves…even though it may feel that way sometimes. I’ve often wondered, for example, how miscarriages and stillbirth fits into His sovereign plan. Again, not that I’ve experienced that personally, but I’ve known many women who have and as a mom, I can only imagine the agony and grief.

What I keep coming back to as I turn this around in my mind (extreme suffering and God’s goodness)is this: we can’t say Jesus didn’t warn us. Count the cost; some of us will be persecuted; put to death. He offered NO promises about our comfort or emotional needs; He only said “in this life you will have many troubles; take heart; I have overcome the world.” We need to live with an eternal perspective, as hard as that can be sometimes. Jesus knew so well what it is to be rejected and despised (and still does…everything from people taking His Name in vain to Monty Python movies mocking Him, and worse). When you love someone, you make yourself vulnerable to them, and that is what God has done with us. We grieve Him when we are faithless - blowing off prayer time with Him; gossiping about one another; fighting with our spouses. Yet HE remains faithful.

This is what it means that He was “touched with our infirmaties” and “sympathetic to our weaknesses”. They’re not just words; He really understands (and cares.) Look at Paul (and the Apostles – close, intimate friends of Jesus during His earthy ministry). Paul got the stuffings beaten out of him on a regular basis; got run out of town more than once; was slandered and maligned (even by other “Christians”); was abandoned by friends; and was finally executed on trumped-up charges. He sure wasn’t getting his “emotional needs met” or his “love cup” filled! Jesus Himself was verbally tormented throughout most of His ministry, but He rested in the love of the Father (as did Paul).

Not preaching you a sermon, but just putting some thoughts out there. I’ve often thought of those first century Christians, and what a raw deal some of them got…like Perpetua, and the other martyrs under Nero and Dormitius (the ones who never actually had the pleasure of meeting and fellowshiping with Christ, yet they were still called to suffer and die for him.) Some of them lost everything – like Perpetua’s nursing infant; her marriage; her home and possessions. Even in recent history though, I think in some ways folks who’ve been called as martyrs or have been imprisoned in some ways find it easier to stand strong than some (like yourself, and many others who are just worn down by the day-to-day torment and disillusionment.)

I read Richard Wurmbrand’s “Tortured for Christ” a few years ago (founder of Voice of the Martyrs – he was in a Romanian prison for years) and I was gob-smacked. Honestly, I wouldn’t last 5 minutes in a Communist prison! But in his story and so many others like his, it’s just so “clear” to the ones suffering for their faith what they’re doing and why they’re there suffering (for Christ’s glory). Obviously, that has to be our goal and over-arching purpose, too, but it’s harder to “see” the purpose in what seems like needless, pointless suffering. And THAT is why it can become so much harder to believe that God really loves you personally. If you were in a Communist prison being beaten and starved because you were a Christian, you would no doubt have faith in His love (although technically your circumstances would be worse). That is why it is so important (even now) to continue to walk by faith and not sight, and to continue to put faith in what (intellectually) you know is true.

I truly believe that convincing people God doesn’t love them personally (or at least getting them to doubt it) is one of Satan’s biggest strategic weapons. How I wish sometimes that I could just see Jesus; have an audience with Him – even Skype Him – and all my doubts would be forever erased. But you know what He said to Thomas about those who have not seen being blessed…yet we have believed. Don’t stop seeking Him in the Scriptures, because God WILL use that to encourage you personally (often when you least expect it.) Have you ever been reading the Word, and something seems to “leap off the page”, and straight into your heart? His Spirit illuminates truth when and as we need it…personally.

The historical reality of the Cross should never leave us cold, but sometimes it does (if we are truthful). This is the dynamic of sin-stained human emotions. God gave them to us for a reason, and He designed us to feel deeply, yearn for Him, and want to be loved. He gave us that need to come to Him with that longing – even (and especially) when we don’t “feel” anything.

Be encouraged - He is still that friend who "sticks closer than a brother" (Proverbs 18:24). Don’t give up, please – and don’t abandon the Church, either. It’s especially important to be in fellowship and support during these “desert” times – a lone sheep, as you know, is more vulnerable prey.

In Him,

Marie

7/29/11

Quotable Quotes - Read 'em & Be Blessed

Dear Readers:

Yesterday, I passed the three-quarters mark on the written NANC exam and completed my second-to-last course with the Institute for Nouthetic Studies. Two weeks from today, I will be leaving for Albania and am trying to get as much done beforehand (on the preliminary stages of certification) as possible. Early next week, I will be doing a radio interview with "Iron Sharpens Iron" on my book....heard from the publisher and we are ready to start some early publicity....so watch this space!

All that to say, between work, study, writing, and helping my kids set up a lemonade stand this week I have not found time to write a proper blog post specific to eating disorders. However, I have come across several edifying and true quotations in the last 24 hours which I would like to share with you. Think upon these things as you continue to let God transform you by the power of His Word and the Holy Spirit.

On depression:
"Elijah was too hard a worker to become depressed, and those who attempt to excuse their depression on the basis that even a mighty man of God like him got depressed, are missing the point. It wasn’t depression, but disappointment that you see haunting this man. Things didn’t go as he had expected—as he had planned—and he didn’t like it.
That’s the problem with many of us as well. When God doesn’t do things our way, we quit, give up, or try to go our own way. To not be disappointed (when, for instance, the election of a candidate that we had not supported takes place) is the danger for many today. Let’s listen to the story of Elijah anew—and rejoice when God chooses to work in His own quiet manner, rather than in some spectacular way that we might have chosen. He’s still on the throne!"
- Jay Adams, quoted on his blog here

On shame:
"Any place in your life where you still feel shame is a place where you haven't connected the dots to your justification. If there is a place in your life where you still hide, don't want people to know you, are afraid of what others might think if they see you for what you are, what they would think if they really knew you...then that's a place where you have not yet rested in this truth: You are more sinful and flawed than you ever believed but more loved and welcomed then you dare hope."
-Elyse Fitzpatrick, on Facebook yesterday (Amen, sister!)

On the temptation to see our sin as "sickness":
"Unfortunately, when people believe that the nature of their problem is psychological, rather than spiritual, several things can happen: (1) in their attempt to resolve their difficulties, they bypass Christ and the Bible and look primarily (sometimes exclusively) to drugs or the ideas and concepts of secularistic psychology for solutions; (2) they begin to think of Christ as a cosmic psychologist whose primary purpose for coming was to fix their psychological problems, help build their self-esteem, deliver them from codependency, or meet their ego needs; (3) they lose hope and descend into despair because many of these psychological labels carry with them the idea of fixedness (this is what I am and it cannot be changed); or (4) they become discouraged because these unbiblical labels subtly or overtly encourage people to think that the primary solution to their difficulties is humanistic in nature. They must do it on their own (they can and must change themselves) or others, preferably experts, must do it for them.....On the other hand, hopefulness blossoms when people begin to realize that their problems are basically spiritual: they are somehow linked to sin. Indeed, acknowledging that personal and interpersonal problems are related to sin [one's own or another] is truly good news, because then there is plenty of hope. Why? Because the primary reason Christ came into the world was to deliver us from the penalty and ruling power of sin (and, eventually, from the presence and possibility of sin).

The clear Bible message is this: (1) Jesus is "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29); (2) "[This] is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners" (1 Tim. 1:15); (3) "You shall call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins" (Matt. 1:21); and (4) He "gave Himself for us that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds" (Titus 2:14)."
- Wayne Mack, "Instilling Hope in the Counselee", Counseling: How to Counsel Biblically (with John Macarthur), p. 126-7. [] brackets mine.

7/21/11

Part II - Guest Post from Susan Lawrence's "Pure Emotion"

Thanks to those who participated in the give-away last week! I sent out three books yesterday, and have a couple more to give out, so it's not too late to enter. Just mention this blog on your own, link back, and send me your address (by e-mail). If you don't have a blogspot, Facebook is fine. :) As you work through the study, you might want to review it online or post about something in it which has inspired you (I'm sure Susan will appreciate the comments!)

Here is Part II of her excerpt:


The Emotional Experience

Part 2

When I was in high school, someone gave me a pin-on button that said “Moody, but cute.” I liked the cute part. But moody? I was a happy-go-lucky person. Or so I thought. When I started thinking about it, I had to admit…yep, I’m moody, too. In fact, I was more certain of my moodiness than my cuteness! I guess I didn’t notice my moodiness much because it was just the way I experienced life – different emotions for different moments. My emotions made sense to me. In fact, they helped me make sense of the world. Taking a step back, I decided I had a lot to learn because, to be quite honest, my emotions weren’t always appropriate. They often poked out all over the place, spearing the people around me.

I learned early that being emotional was “normal.” I don’t know if it was because I was raised in a family of girls (and I was the youngest), but emotions were expected and accepted. Well, perhaps not always accepted, but the variety of emotions didn’t seem to take anyone by surprise. If the emotion was negative, the offender was often ignored. I remember many pity parties the family refused to join in. Oh, not necessarily my own (although I had my fair share!).

And then there have been my aha emotional moments, particularly when my emotions haven’t matched someone else’s in a situation – whether the intensity or the emotion itself differed. One person was angry while I was joyful. I was frustrated when someone else was peaceful. The differences in and of themselves caused tension at times. Like when my family was on vacation in Florida…

I was around five years old and heard my parents talking about a toll bridge. Except I didn’t hear “toll bridge.” I heard “troll bridge” – and I was scared.

Being scared quickly escalated to petrified when my sisters – on either side of me in the backseat – began sharing troll stories. I was scared enough just thinking of the trolls in Three Billy Goats Gruff, and those were drawings. When my sisters started describing the menacing, vengeful trolls of their twisted imaginations, I couldn’t take it any longer. We had to cross the toll bridge, but I didn’t have to look. I crouched on the floorboard and tried to slide as far under the seat as possible.

The trolls didn’t get me, and my now apparent fear got my mom’s attention. She reprimanded my sisters, but it didn’t do much good. They’d seen the fear in my eyes, and they were going to carry this as far as they could.

Each night in the hotel, two of us would share a bed, Mom and Dad would get a bed, and the other girl slept on a rollaway bed. I loved the rollaway bed, so I looked forward to my nights. As we approached the hotel later in the toll bridge day, whichever sister had the rollaway assignment for the night asked if I wanted to trade nights. Of course, I did! At least something was going right in my day.

I should have known. My sister didn’t offer to exchange nights out of the goodness of her heart. It was a conspiracy to torment me. You see, the rollaway would be placed in the open space by the balcony overlooking the ocean. A beautiful view – until my sisters started sharing stories of how the trolls trudged out of the ocean every evening looking for little girls to eat and how trolls ate the first girl they saw, which would obviously be the one closest to the ocean. I think they also told me something twisted like the only way the troll wouldn’t get me is if I was really still and didn’t say anything about being scared. A slick way to get me not to tell Mom and Dad I was terrified!

I remember what that room looked like in the light and in the dark, what the crashing waves sounded like, and what my sisters’ occasional muffled giggles sounded like. I didn’t know if I would survive the night, but of course, I did. I don’t know if Mom or Dad put a stop to the torment or not, but I don’t remember any more nights of terror. The next day wasn’t as scary in the daylight, and I enjoyed beach time.

A half dozen years later, I opened a gift from my sisters. It was an ugly troll. Very funny. What did I learn about emotions? First, they can be stirred up even when imagination doesn’t match reality. Second, my emotions don’t always match someone else’s in the same situation. Third, our emotional responses can make us vulnerable.

What about you? What’s one experience you recall that taught you something about emotions?

I’m going to assume we have something in common. Do you, like me, want God to work through you? I so often cry out with that desire. But I have to constantly remind myself that in order for God to work through me, I have to be willing to allow him to work in me. He’s changing me from the inside out. And it’s not easy for me to allow him to change me.

Which do you typically choose – the hard or the easy? I want to assure you that right doesn’t always mean easy. I’m not suggesting you choose the hard way just to take the hard way. You need to seek and choose God’s way, but if you assume God’s way is going to be easy, you’re in for a surprise. I have good news for you, though. God can ordain the hard of life, too. I encourage you not to assume that you can discern based on your personal experiences of difficulty, struggle, peace or ease.

We often ask ourselves and others “What do I feel?”

I’ve asked this question many times, and while I don’t think the question in and of itself is bad – I’ve learned a lot about myself and others by answering it. We can get caught up in the emotion itself without moving beyond the emotion. The emotion becomes the end result instead of a hint of what’s going on or what should happen next. So, let’s go one step forward and regularly ask ourselves another question:

“Where am I and where am I headed? Is it where God wants me to go?”

Sometimes, you might feel paralyzed, as if you have no idea where you’re headed or if it’s where God wants you to go. Revisit the emotion and measure it against who you know God to be. Rest on the truth of his words and his character. Let that determine if the direction that emotion usually leads you (or perhaps the place it causes you to camp) is a direction or place God would want you to go.

As you consider “Where am I and where am I headed? Is it where God wants me to go?”, I encourage you to read Psalm 139. Here’s a sample of verses:

“You know when I sit down and when I get up. You know my thoughts before I think them. Where can I go to get away from your Spirit? Where can I run from you? If I rise with the sun in the east and settle in the west beyond the sea, even there you would guide me. With your right hand you would hold me. I could say, ‘The darkness will hide me. Let the light around me turn into night.’ But even the darkness is not dark to you. The night is as light as the day; darkness and light are the same to you.” (verses 2,7,9-12)

So…what will you put your whole heart into today for God?

Today’s blog is adapted from the Pure Emotion women’s Bible study.

Susan Lawrence is passionate about equipping and encouraging women through writing and speaking. She’s the author of two Bible studies, Pure Purpose and Pure Emotion. She loves dark chocolate and long walks, especially when her toes are in sand! Check out Susan’s words of encouragement and send her a note at http://www.purepurposebook.wordpress.com./. You can also connect on at www.facebook.com/PurePurpose or www.twitter/susanhlawrence.

7/18/11

Free Giveaway: "Pure Purpose" Bible Studies by Susan Lawrence

Author and speaker Susan H. Lawrence is a gifted writer of women's Bible studies, two of which are entitled "Pure Purpose" and "Pure Emotion". She has graciously sent me several copies of each, and I would like to make them available to YOU - free of charge - for your own spiritual growth and edification.

You're probably wondering, "Why would Marie do this, and what does this have to do with overcoming an eating disorder?"

Well, I'll tell you why. Are you serious about growing in your relationship with God? You need to dig into His Word - daily. Struggling with life-dominating sin is a symptom of lack of intimacy and joy in your Father. He helps you by re-igniting the flame, but you must do your part as well in seeking Him daily. As I have always said on this blog, in counseling, and in my own book, If you are serious about change, you must spend time with God. Scripture is the only way in which He speaks and reveals Himself directly to us. There are a number of good resources available which you could use to assist you in gleaning truth from God's Word (some of which I've reviewed on this blog), so when one comes around that speaks so specifically to women as Susan's does, I'm all too happy to recommend it.

This isn't about the food. In fact, addictions are hardly about the drug of choice. They are means of escaping pain - behaviors that have evolved from unbiblical responses to life's problems. Re-connecting with God through deliberately disciplining yourself to meet with Him daily (and be spiritually fed by Him) is the only way to experience true, lasting joy and contentment. How you approach your time in the Word is up to you. What matters is that you DO approach it!

"Pure Purpose" is a 10-week study Susan has written which covers aspects of our reason for existence (to love, serve, honor and glorify God). Having a high view of God and His exhortation to service, compassion, humility, obedience, and discipline helps the reader shift her focus from herself (inward) to God and others (outward). The study gives "feet" to one's faith: moving beyond theology, how do we "walk out" these virtues we are told to "put on" (Eph. 4:24)?

"Pure Emotion" is also a 10-week workbook which deals with the emotional pitfalls we women are particularly prone to, and how to re-direct our emotions biblically. Susan covers sinful emotions such as fear, jealousy, anger, anxiety and frustration; juxtaposing the unbiblical response to the obedient one. She also discusses peace, joy, and how to be emotionally "pure" - in other words, how to sanctify our emotions. The ultimate goal? Being transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2) so that we more closely resemble the character of Christ (2 Cor. 3:18).

Below is Part 1 of 2 excerpts from "Pure Emotion". To win a copy of either study (a $24.00 value!), here's what you do:

1.) Mention "Redeemed from the Pit" in a blog post.
2.) Link to my blog.
3.) Leave me a comment here telling me when you've done so (and which study you'd like).

That's it! The first four people to do so will receive a free, $24.00 Bible study to help their walk with the Lord. (For more information about Susan and a link to her ministry site, scroll down.)

*******************************************************************

The Emotional Experience

Part 1

In preparation for writing the Pure Emotion Bible study for women, I asked hundreds of women about factors that affect emotions. Women were asked if factors such as finances, uncertainty, weather, music and more had positive effects, negative effects or no effect at all. Not a single of the factors listed was identified by a single woman as having no effect.

We’re emotional beings. The people and situations surrounding us impact our emotional responses. We’re drawn to some situations because we experience them as positive, and we avoid negative experiences. It’s like cleaning your closet. Keep what you like and what feels good. Get rid of the things you’re tired of or don’t fit well.

What about those negative emotions do we want to toss away? Why do we see them as negative, and should we always avoid them?

First, the messages we’ve paired with some emotions are devastating to us. Consider the messages you’ve stored about fear. Jealousy. Anger. Anxiety. Guilt. Whether or not the messages we attach to emotional experiences are true, they wash over us as we experience similar emotional experiences. What voice interrupts you in the midst of your emotions?

• When you’re rejected by a close family member, do you feel worthless?
• When you’re anxious about a test result, do you feel incapable of proceeding?
• When you’re fearful, do you feel victimized?

Not all messages that accompany our emotions are inaccurate. God can speak to us in all times, and God is an emotional God. Emotions saturate Scripture. God is an emotional God but not in the same way we talk about an emotional woman or emotional person. However, he’s certainly aware of our runaway emotions. We can’t escape from God’s presence. And if we let him, God will replace the untruthful emotional messages with truthful messages reflecting his character, will, and commands.

Another reason we experience emotions negatively is we can feel victimized by our emotions. Emotions can make us feel as if we’re on a board game. Perhaps you know some of the rules.

1. Your move is dependent on others’ moves. (Your emotions are responses to others.)
2. Only one person can occupy a space at one time. (Your emotions prohibit you from some experiences.)
3. You’ll incur penalties for landing on certain spaces. (Some of your emotions will only end in trouble.)
4. Where you land is determined by the roll of a die. (You don’t have control over your emotions.)
5. You might need to go back several spaces. (Your emotions can get you stuck.)

We also use emotions to mask other emotions. And we try to replace negative with positive emotions, but the truth is – negative emotions can be energizing. We might not like them. We might complain about them. But we’d rather feel something than nothing. Negative emotions are often more intense than positive emotions. We’re energized and consumed by them…and less willing to give them up.

We want something to change, but we’re not willing to be changed.
Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be shaped by this world; instead be changed within by a new way of thinking. Then you will be able to decide what God wants for you; you will know what is good and pleasing to him and what is perfect.”

I want God to work through me, but I have to constantly remind myself that in order for God to work through me, I have to be willing to allow him to work in me. He’s changing me from the inside out. And it’s not easy for me to allow him to change me.

God didn’t mess up his design of you. He’s not capable of messing up. He created you in his image. He has a plan for your life. He even knew what mistakes you’d make throughout your life, and he still loves you and wants nothing more than to be in an ever-deepening relationship with you. He will pursue you, tapping you on the shoulder, whispering in your ear, and knocking on the door of your heart so that your daily life – including your decisions, attitudes, and yes, emotions – are impacted in the purity of who he created you to be and the everyday messiness of living on earth as you move ever closer to eternity – with God or without him.

If our emotions aren’t reflecting the character of God, we’re probably distorting something and need to get back on track. Our anger doesn’t reflect his anger. Our jealousy doesn’t reflect his jealousy. Our guilt doesn’t reflect his guilt. But we can grow closer to God, getting to know him better, and committing to reflecting him more and more on a daily basis. That’s what the journey of Pure Emotion – the emotional experience – is all about.

Susan Lawrence is passionate about equipping and encouraging women through writing and speaking. She’s the author of two Bible studies, Pure Purpose and Pure Emotion. She loves dark chocolate and long walks, especially when her toes are in sand! Check out Susan’s words of encouragement and send her a note at http://www.purepurposebook.wordpress.com./. You can also connect on at www.facebook.com/PurePurpose or www.twitter/susanhlawrence.

7/14/11

Testimony from a Soul Set Free by Christ

Dear readers: following is the story of a young woman who was granted repentance from her eating disorder. After putting her faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, she was able - in His strength - to walk away from the deadly snare of bulimia. She was just baptized this past Sunday. To God be the glory! Visit her blog at: http://sweetlybrokenblog.blogspot.com/


On November 15, 2007 I found myself alone in my room contemplating the unimaginable. After a 12-year battle with bulimia and anorexia, I was left defeated and hopeless. I was done living my life prisoner to an eating disorder and wanted to end it all. As I held a bottle of pills in my hand, I thought for sure this was the answer to my pain. I would just go into nothingness, I thought. I didn't believe in God at that time. After all, if there was a God why would He let me suffer so much?

Any time I denied God I would recall my "Divine Intervention." My eating disorder started when I was 16. At 24, I decided I needed help. Still living at home with my parents, they never knew about my problem and I knew I needed to tell them. I sat on the couch with my confession on the tip of my tongue, but the words wouldn't come. I tried several nights in a row. I had lost my voice.

Finally, after another failed attempt, I went down to my room, fell on my knees and cried out to God. "God, I need your help! I can't tell them on my own. You've seen my try. Please show them. I'll even leave a book out on eating disorders for them to find."

I never did get that book out of my closet, but God heard me.

The next day my mom confronted me. She asked me if I had an eating disorder. Shocked, I told her I did and asked how she knew.

My mom was doing laundry when she heard a crash in my room. She went in to see what it was and found that the rod in my closet had collapsed. She decided to fix it and started pulling clothes, shoes, and books out of my closet. She found the book, the very one I told God I'd leave out!

God answered my prayer with no help from me.

I did get into therapy, but it didn't help. Each year I grew sicker and farther away from God.

But, despite my resistance to God, I believe he had his hand on my all along. I see this in some of the dangerous things I did, like abusing my thyroid meds to lose weight. I did it for so long I ended up with an irregular heartbeat. Doctors told me I was a heart attack waiting to happen. This still didn't stop me.

I imagine God holding my heart in the palm of his hand during those difficult times. He wouldn't let me go.

So, on that day I held the bottle of pills and considered ending my life, those memories made me wonder about God.

I thought of my friend Michelle, who years earlier told me with confidence that if she died right then she'd go to heaven. I knew Jesus had changed her life. I saw it. I wondered how and why?

A spark of divine curiosity entered my soul. A wonder to know God and a desire to seek Him.

I put down the pills, told my husband, and ended up spending 4 months in different hospitals and programs. During that time I chased after God, in all the wrong places at first-like Buddhism and (the Oprah-endorsed) "The Secret." Although those things made me feel a little better, they didn't change me. I could never get a handle on the eating disorder.

So one day in March 2008, while watching a movie on Buddha, my thoughts kept going to Jesus. I remember thinking "OK God, I want to change completely. I'm done living my life like this. I'll give this Jesus guy a try." I was truly genuine when I said it and an indescribable, perfect peace washed over me. I was also filled with a huge desire to know Jesus and I read the Bible (and understood it for the first time!) and read anything Christian I could find.

God needed me to surrender 100% to Him. I believe that is why I needed to be so badly broken. I couldn't have been freed from my eating disorder without Christ. I know this because I tried everything-therapy, meds, groups, programs, hospitals. But the moment I accepted Christ my life did a 180. I had freedom.

What my life is like today.

It's hard for me to even recognize the person I just told you about. My life is so different today! I once abused food as a way to cope with the world, now I use God to help me cope! I love learning about Christ and being in God's word. I cherish being among a body believers at CCC. God has blessed me with this church! God has also blessed me with my wonderful husband and a happy 9 mo old baby boy!

I just want to thank God for saving me! There is no place too deep or too dark that God can't reach! Thank you to everyone at Tues night bible study for helping me to continue to grow. Thanks to my husband for sticking by me; my parents and family/friends for always listening. Thanks to my in-law for being godly examples. And thank you Michelle, for boldly sharing the gospel with me.

*read at my baptism on 7.10.2011

6/22/11

How to Spot an Eating Disorder...and Apply Biblical Solutions

Dr. Richard K. Thomas, NANC Fellow and President of Mt. Carmel Ministries, just gave me a great idea.

He posted the link to an article written by Dr. Mehmet Oz, entitled "How to Spot an Eating Disorder in Teens", an excellent descriptive summary of eating disorder symptoms. He then suggested that a biblical counselor might go one better by "lay[ing] alongside each of them biblical solutions for lasting change." (Is Dr. Oz the Oprah guy? I don't watch TV but that name sounds familiar).

I said to myself, "Self, that really is an excellent idea for a blog post! So much better than that scathing review of Rx Nation I was planning to write, discussing the evils of Prozac and unmasking the corruption between the FDA Advisory Board and the big drug companies. Yes, this will be a much more edifying experience, indeed."

I am sure that much more could be said from a biblical perspective on each of the characteristics Oz lists, but I will try and give succinct principles and possible approaches the biblical counselor might use. (For the sake of brevity, I will not quote entire verses and passages, but would encourage the counselee to simply look up each reference.) Do read Dr. Oz's article first; quotes from his article are indented below.

Oz lists the following signs (or symptoms) as indicative of a possible eating disorder:

Excessive concern about one body part: If he or she talks about one body part that seems just fine to most other folks around them, it could be a sign of an obsession that may manifest itself in the teen controlling their nutrition in unhealthy ways. While everybody’s perceptions about what’s normal are different, it’s okay to use the ‘reasonable standard’ here—that’s because those with eating disorders tend not to see their bodies in ways that most others do. A preoccupation with appearance or body weight that gets in the way of daily life is a good tip-off that she has crossed from more than just a healthy, teen-like concern about appearance.

This fixation indicates an obvious misunderstanding of God's definition of beauty. She must be reminded that God, who sovereignly created her the way she is for His own purposes, does not judge or rank by outward, physical appearances as humans do (1 Sam. 16:7). His definition of beauty is what she must learn to embrace (Proverbs 31:30; 1 Peter 3:4-5; Acts 9:36).

One of the manifestations of pride is being overly-self critical and self-deprecating. This keeps one's focus inward on self, rather than on pleasing God and living for His glory. The counselee needs to be reminded that she was made in God's image, and by extension, is to be conformed increasingly to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). To do this, she must learn to renew her mind with the Word of God (Romans 12:2). As she "puts off" the idolatrous preoccupation with her body, she will "put on" the "gentle and quiet spirit" (1 Peter 3:4) of a woman set on following God.

Another passage to discuss with her would be Colossians 3:1-3, which instructs believers to "set your minds on things above, not on earthly things." If her mind is obsessed and preoccupied with her physical flaws, (real or imagined), is it set on "things above"? Finally, she must be taught to shift her focus from self to serving others. This pleases God and will bring her true joy, if her motive is love for Christ.

Unusual eating rituals: This can include rearranging food on the plate, excessive chewing, eating food in a certain order, or having to measure all food consumed. While being smart about healthy food choices is key to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, overly ritualistic behaviors may be a sign that someone is crossing the line between health-conscious and dangerous.
I would first try to learn the counselee's thinking behind the rituals or habits. Just as in counseling a person with an obsession or compulsion, I would want to know: "What are you afraid of?" Once we can learn the counselee's thinking behind the "rituals", we can consider how it differs from biblical truth. For example, if she cuts her peas in half and eats them individually, she may feel that this gives her a measure of "control", which she fears losing. My next question would then be, "How does God's sovereignity fit into this?" Dr. Robert D. Smith writes: "...the person is living by the security of [her] feelings, which [she] cannot make secure. [Her goal must be changed to a biblical goal, and [she] must live by that rather than by her own security checks." ("Christian Counselor's Medical Desk Reference", p. 359).

Rather than going directly into a discussion of Christian liberty in what may be eaten (Mark 7:19; Acts 10:10-15; Tim. 4:4), I would focus on the fears and false beliefs underlying the rituals. When behavior is unbiblical, the behavior is not the problem - the heart is (Matt. 15:18-19; James 1:14-15). What preconditioning factors have contributed to the counselee's current deception and habits/rituals? The biblical view of man provides us the guideline for 'normal' (ie God-honoring) behavior, and change in thinking and behavior is accomplished through the put off/put on principle of Ephesians 4.

Changes in posture: Those who have eating disorders will often try to hide their appearance (the sudden and extreme weight losses) by wearing baggier clothes or hunching over. They do this to cover their tracks, so that adults can’t see these body changes and get a clue about their eating-related behavior changes.

Excessive solo behavior: When someone makes a point of trying to eat alone or taking time right after a meal, it may be a sign that she is really restricting the amount she eats or bingeing and/or purging afterwards. It is important to remember that behaviors do help define eating disorders, but the root of the problems has to do more with the feelings and thoughts that the person has about his or her body.

These two warning signs really go together, because they are different symptoms with a common denominator: calculated deception. The Bible has much to say about lying, deceitfulness, covering over one's sin, and attempting to portray one's self in a false light (which is what eating disordered women do). Psalm 51 speaks directly to the spiritual consequences of "covering one's tracks" - enormous guilt produced by the original behavior is compounded by the shame of concealing it. David will do anything for relief - which ultimately leads him to do the one thing God requires: confess his sin and repent.

Other passages which speak to the seriousness of deceit include many Proverbs and Psalms, including Proverbs 14:8, 20:17 and 26:24. The solution is straight-forward, although not easy: "Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body." (Ephesians 4:25). Women enslaved to anorexic or bulimic behaviors attempt to deceive those around them for two basic reasons: shame (they know the behavior is wrong) and pride (a desire for the admiration of others, while concealing the secret to their slimness.) "I must look better than my sisters," she thinks, which gives way to a form of self-induced legalism ("I can never eat sweets.") When she breaks one of her rules, she gives in to self-indulgence ("I failed, so I might as well give up") and often binges. This "failure" must be hidden from others at all costs. The counselee needs to be taught humble reliance and confession of sin. Once she has learned this and to use the resources God has provided (counseling; accountability), she will be able to rejoice in God's grace and love. In this way, she will be transformed -- and no longer feel the need to "hide".
Increasing self-consciousness: Eating disorders seem to burrow into the brains of their victims, take over their thoughts and grow stronger every day. They build a “fat box,” where every comment, every situation, is filtered through the box and distorted, so that it comes out as a criticism or demand. “You look great today” becomes “You usually look fat.” “You look so healthy” becomes “You’re eating too much.” “I love your hair” becomes “I can’t find anything nice to say about the rest of you.”
"Fear of man" is the biblical term for "self-consciousness". It is the opposite of humility - which has been defined as "thinking of one's self less; not thinking less of one's self." Dr. Oz correctly points out that the eating disorder has "burrowed into the brain" of the counselee (although she is not a "victim"). Therefore, she will have to learn how to "take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:5). Eating disorders are learned behaviors, which can be unlearned. Wanting to be thin so badly that she is willing to sin (by abusing her body) is idolatry. Putting opinions of others (actual or perceived) above God's priorities (holiness; serving Him) is fear of man. If she allows these comments to affect her to the point where she sins, she fears and respects people more than God (Proverbs 29:25).

The eating-disordered woman may, indeed, have been hurt by other people's sins, but as long as she remains feelings-oriented rather than fact-oriented she will not have the mind of Christ (Romans 15:5). Will she choose to believe what God says - that she was chosen in Christ from the foundation of the world and declared righteous because of His perfect life, death and resurrection on her behalf; or, will she judge her own inherent "righteousness" according to the world's standards? The goal to which we must point her is to seek each day to glorify God with her life - whether she feels like it or not (as Jay Adams is so fond of saying).