Category Archives: Spirit Seeker Sunday

Why Did Jesus Do it?

2d6f00940e456a368404153933242329Why Easter? Why would Jesus choose a horrific rejection and death? 
 
Ponder:
Worth
 
Scripture says that Jesus endured the cross for the “joy set before Him” (Hebrews 12:2). What is that joy? The passage continues by saying that Jesus was given the place of honor when He returned to heaven, seated at the right hand of the Father.
 
My thinking used to stop there.
 
But Scripture also calls you and me Jesus’ “rich and glorious inheritance” (Ephesians 1:18, NLT) and says that we’ve been seated in the heavenlies with Jesus. There are also a lot of passages which talk about how Jesus longs for the final ceremony when His bride (us!) is presented to Him. It’s hard to believe it is true, but Jesus died, in part, because He wanted us as His inheritance. His beloved bride.
 
Then there’s Father God. What would cause a loving Father to ask such a thing of His son? Luke 12:32 tells us that it was the Father’s “good pleasure” to give the kingdom to us. Ephesians talks of the wonder of God adopting us as His very own children, allowing Jesus to pay the redemption price, to purchase us from darkness.
My friend, we are of great worth to our Creator.
 
Maybe you blaze past those thoughts, accepting them quickly, in the context of the unfathomable actions of the cross. You believe you are loved, treasured even, by God. Why else would God allow the cross of Christ?
 
But will you believe it tomorrow?
 
Will you believe it when life doesn’t go as you planned? When someone wounds you? When the vile voice of the enemy whispers of your inadequacy and failure? When you stare at your imperfections in the mirror (on the wall or in your soul)?
 
Can you know then, way down deep, that the King of All values you? That the cross took all of the shame and inadequacy, all of the outsider-living, and placed you in the center of God’s heart? That even before the cross God chose you as the recipient of His love because you are of great worth to Him? That you are part of the royal family of heaven?
 
If you’re like me, you’ll have good days and bad days when it comes to living like royalty. But whether or not we stand tall in the noble robes our Father gave us, it doesn’t change the fact that we were bought with a price because of our worth to God. It doesn’t change that fact that His actions rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and placed us close to Him in the kingdom of light. It doesn’t change that fact that we are His beloved.
 
We belong with our family in the throne room.
 
Maybe it seems strange to start a Easter devotional series talking about our worth to our Creator, but I believe this is one of the places most attacked by the enemy and also one of the main points of the cross.
 
Prayer:
Precious Jesus, I believe it. I do. When I think of it in the context of the cross, I believe You value me. But sometimes I struggle to believe I have innate worth in the everyday minutes of life, especially on the days that are busy or full of struggle. I know You are love, and that You love me. You are perfect Love, so of course You love me. But to hold onto the idea that You value me—treasure me even—for my innate worth to You . . . that’s harder, Lord. Please help me to see You as You are. Please help me to see me as You do.
 
Meditate:
Hear the heart of Jesus for you in the following Scriptures* from the New Living Translation:
• You have captured my heart, my treasure, my bride. You hold it hostage with one glance of your eyes (Song of Solomon 4:9).
• Your love delights me, my treasure, my bride. Your love is better than wine, your perfume more fragrant than spices (Song of Solomon 4:10).
• Open to me, my treasure, my darling, my dove, my perfect one (Song of Solomon 5:2).
 
(People use different techniques to focus. Maybe you want to read each passage several times. Or only read one each day this week, really slowly. Maybe one of the verses jumped out at you and you want to create a picture, a sculpture, or a collage to remind you of its message. You could pick one to memorize. Write it out. Or listen to it on your phone as you walk or run. Or meditate on the passage as you color one of the free coloring pages offered on my website. These are just ideas. You and Jesus might have a completely different idea!)
 
Worship:
We love because He first loved us. He calls you and me His treasure. And we respond that He is ours. You might enjoy this song, “You are My Treasure,” sung by Chris Tomlin. As you listen, lift it up to the Lord as your worship.

Worth is the topic all week on Flourishing Moments. Flourishing Moments are posted each weekday on my Facebook author/speaker page. Would love to have you join us!

Maybe you’re not into Facebook or are looking for a more complete devotional book this Easter. You can download Soul Scents: Selections for Easter, which offers five weeks of thoughts centering on the difference Christ’s cross made,  for free in a PDF on my website or pick it up on Kindle for 99 cents

Until Next Time,
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*Some Bible scholars say the Song of Solomon is simply a love story between a real man, Solomon, and a real woman. Others say it is a metaphor for how God loves Israel. Still others say it is a metaphor for Christ and the church. I firmly agree with theologians who say it is all three. I also believe, as some teachers explain, that the Song of Solomon is a wonderful way to discover Jesus as my groom. After all I am His bride. When the Song of Solomon is studied as a personal journey into that bride/groom relationship, it holds treasures untold! I encourage you to consider spending some time there and seeing what the Holy Spirit reveals to you about how dearly you are loved.
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Just Kiddin’ (Not really. I messed up.)

You may or may not know that I have a lovely part-time job that is an incredible gift and only feels like real work once a month when I have to get there at 7:30 to sing at the early service. (So not a morning person.)

The job is as a staff singer at a lovely Lutheran congregation. We sing wonderful music, like Bach and Handel, and just got new choir robes. (Hang in there. This relates to my mistake.)

I arrived this morning thinking that Advent starts the Sunday after Thanksgiving–which it often does–and prepared to put on my purple stole. (I actually paused briefly earlier this morning when getting dressed because I couldn’t help but think how my red earrings would clash with the lovely purple stole once the robe went on.) I arrived at church only to discover white stoles on the choir robes.

White??

“Isn’t it the first Sunday of Advent?”

Now Advent is confusing for lots of folks for reasons exactly like this. Not everyone celebrates Advent in the same way or on the same weeks. (I think the Irish actually do a six week Advent.) But much of the traditional church in America celebrates Advent beginning the fourth Sunday before Christmas.

NEXT WEEK.

Not today.

Ooops. And I bought my candles and everything.

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STOP! Don’t light that first candle yet! Hahahaha!

Not to mention telling everyone to get that Advent devotion so they can start reading it today.

Only it’s a four-week devotion designed for the four weeks before Christmas and there are still five weeks. Not four. Because Thanksgiving comes on the fourth Thursday every November and there are five Thursdays this year, not four.

Have a headache yet?

So if you’re using my devotion this year for Advent, I’d encourage you to hold off on starting it for one more week so it will last the whole time, even though I know You’re chomping at the bit to get started. (Or you could start and leave room for all those times you miss a day ’cause you’re busy.)

And if you haven’t downloaded your free copy–there’s still time!

Look at that. Maybe it was meant to be. And here you thought you might miss out.

Now here’s the next confusing issue. I was told today no purple stoles for Advent. Next Sunday we’re wearing blue. Last year it was purple. But that was before we got the blue ones. My research shows that some churches choose purple for Advent, some do blue. Others do something else entirely.

So maybe there’s another point to be made. Advent is not about doing it all right. I don’t think there is right way except maybe this one thing: Celebrate Jesus.

Whenever, however, with whatever colors you like.

And if you’re like me and love the opportunity for stillness with Him in the busy month of December, part of that celebration just might include candles and devotional thoughts. If that’s you, I hope you’ll join me this year in reading Soul Scent: Flourish Selections for Advent, which is still available for *free download* on my website.

 

Blessing,

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Soul Scents: Flourish Selections for Advent offers four weeks of devotional thoughts, Scriptures, and prayers for meditation and worship in the weeks before Christmas. If you’re celebrating Advent with candles, you can use Sunday’s reading for reflection as you light the candles of hope, peace, joy, and love. It also includes a scripted prayer and suggestion for worship. Monday through Friday’s daily readings focus on concepts like Christmas memories, the Christmas tree, the Cross, celebration, nativity, and worship. On Saturday journal questions prompt reflection on the week’s worship experience.

Soul Scents: Flourish Selections for Advent is taken from weeks nine through twelve of the Soul Scents: Flourish thirteen-week devotional book. Additional content for reflection during the lighting of Advent candles and at the end of week is included only in this special holiday edition.

(Selections for Advent is available as a free pdf on my website, www.paulamoldenhauer.com/gifts. If you prefer to read on Kindle, you can get your copy there for 99 cents.)

 

Why I love Advent–Which Starts Sunday! (And a free Advent devotional book for you.)

The ribbons and bows looked funny on that avocado plant, but my little brother and I beamed at our parents, showing off our “Christmas tree.” To their credit they didn’t reprimand us, but the delight my nine-year-old heart hoped to see in their eyes was pain instead. They hated to disappoint us, but they couldn’t encourage such “pagan” behavior. See, I was raised with the belief that Christmas and all its trappings were not of God. Jesus was from God. He was sent to save us. But Christmas was not His birthday, and the Christmas tree was nothing more than leftovers from people who worshiped a false god.

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My first Christmas tree

It was to be another forty years before I owned my first Christmas tree. Perhaps this is one reason I dearly love Advent worship. The process to shedding the beliefs of my childhood and learning to celebrate at Christmas has been long and confusing, but the search has also been pure gold. Since I wasn’t raised with traditions around the holiday, my heart hungered to understand why people did what they did, what God thought about it, and what was right for me.

 

The Advent devotional readings became one of my favorite things, and I’m always on the look-out for a good devotional book—one that makes me think about worshiping Jesus and celebrating not only His birth, but what He came to do.

When I wrote Soul Scents: Flourish, which is a thirteen-week devotional book about my journey out of spiritual, emotional, and mental abuse, I didn’t expect a month’s worth of writing to center of Advent worship, but it’s what God placed in my heart to write. I shouldn’t have been surprised. Captivity of heart, mind, and emotions is the result of abuse and my heart has fought for years to fight out of the captivity connected to my Christmas worship.

Advent cover smallThis fall, as I worked on my Christmas novella series, Tinseled Tidings,  the Lord prompted me to pull out the weeks of Advent worship and off them free on my website. I am pleased to do this. I like to think of it as giving a Christmas gift to all who will receive it! (You can get yours by visiting for free at my website.)*

As I wrote these devotions I found myself typing, “I was created to celebrate. The trappings of Christmas are simply an expression of this need to worship, to sing, to dance. What I really seek is complete freedom to be who I am, to praise my God in abandon, to enjoy every ounce of beauty I can find, without majoring on minors or intense self-evaluation of the rightness of every choice.

From the beginning of my life the enemy tried to steal this identity from me. Children of celebration don’t do well with strife, but I was surrounded by it from day one. They need free expression and movement and beauty. As a child, religion created within me a mistrust of the aesthetics. The culture I was raised in didn’t give much credence to the arts. In the early years movies were considered evil. Dance classes a sin. And much of art inappropriate. Beautiful spaces were not particularly appreciated. There was a prevailing attitude in the church of my childhood that poverty was more acceptable than riches. Too much emphasis on outward adornment was also suspect. As a religious culture, there was a scarcity in our ability to celebrate, to embrace the abundance of the gifts God offered us. Christmas was but a tiny piece of a prevailing attitude that found suspect anything that included too much celebration, too much joy, too much beauty—too much abundance of any type.”

As the words flew from my fingers I grasped something big. I wrote, “It isn’t just Christmas the enemy has tried to steal from me. It is life!

The right to be who I am and breathe my own air the unique way He created me to do it!
You see, I am a child of dance and song. I am a child of celebration. From the beginning the enemy has sought to steal this from me. He has tried to exploit my desire to please God by turning it into striving instead of joyful surrender and praising advancement. He tried to twist the deep parts of my personality, the “old soul” that is me to make me melancholy instead of simply reflective and insightful. He tried to poison my sanguine temperament with hopelessness.

But he has lost his battles. His schemes are crushed into the ground. Where he sowed pain and despair my Jesus came in and poured His healing blood and turned all that evil had planted into seeds of faith. My Jesus watered those seeds with the showers of blessings and storms of trial and the every-single-day-new-hope of His Light. The seeds are bursting forth in blossoms, and the garden of my heart where He dwells is fragrant with grace. The turtledoves have arrived and coo their love song there in my garden heart. The garden my Lord planted for His enjoyment. Here there is hope. There is dance and song and celebration. For I am His child, created for joy.”

As I share those words** with you today, passion rises, jumps, screams out of my body asking, “how about you?” Where has the enemy stolen your joy? Taken away your worship? Lied to you, forcing you into a box of unending self-examination and rules or held you back from enjoying abundance?

My friend we are FREE.

Remember the truth of the beautiful carol, “In His name all oppression shall cease!” and join with worshipers of the ages singing:

Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
With all our hearts we praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we,
His power and glory ever more proclaim!
His power and glory ever more proclaim! ***

May God meet you in joy and freedom this Advent season. I hope you’ll download my *free* Advent devotion and let me be a part of that.

From my heart to yours!

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*If you prefer to read on Kindle instead of downloading the free pdf, Selections for Advent is available on Kindle for 99 cents.

**Taken from week 2 of Soul Scents: Flourish Selections for Advent

***O Holy Night’s original verse by Placide Cappeau de Roquemaure in 1847, translated into English by John Sullivan Dwight (1812-1893)

 

Giving Away 21 Days of Love and More

20160620_142135Have you ever sensed internal growth as a result of reading good fiction? My friend Kathy Ide believes strongly in the power of story. As an editor and the founder and director of The Christian Pen, Kathy is also well connected to the authors she loves.

From her passion came a beautiful four book set of fiction lovers devotionals. Kathy and I reconnected recently when I served as faculty for PENCON, the professional conference for editors. When I told her how much I loved her idea of combining fictional stories with devotional thoughts, she immediately gifted me two sets–one to give away and one to read!

I began 21 Days of Love during a recent get-a-way with my best friends from college.2016-06-16 16.57.29

It was the perfect light reading for the setting–great little short stories with powerful takeaways.

If you’d like to win the set of these beautiful, hard-back devotionals, 21 Days of Love, 21 Days of Joy, 21 Days of Grace, and 21 Days of Christmas, leave a comment and an email address. I’ll draw a name from the comments here and on social media and send the books to the winner!

Enjoy!

Until Next Time,

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He Is . . . I Am

IMAG0626Identity. We have no clue how it drives our lives. How it shapes our daily, minute-to-minute choices.

Today’s post is an invitation into my journal, my musings. I’m just audacious enough to believe God meets me there, when I’m quiet in my recliner, snuggled beneath my fuzzy blanket, journal and pen in hand. (He meets me other places, too. Increasingly I believe there is no divided secular and sacred space. There is only space. And where there is space HE is. But I digress.)

On that day, pen in hand, I talked with Him about hopes. Fears. Dreams. About feeling unqualified, unworthy, and other “un” words.

He said, “I Am your qualifier. I Am your worthiness. I Am has brought you through the experience you need to do what I Am has planned.”

I told Him I knew the journey was about His ability, not mine, and I surrendered to His plan. Then I added, “I am afraid.”

“No,” His tone was gentle. “Do not use ‘I Am’ for identity statements. I Am is ME in you.”

Often I say things like, “I am overwhelmed. I am tired. I am afraid. I am inadequate.” Since this conversation with Him I’m trying to break that habit.

Am is a linking verb. In English class they taught me that whatever is on the other side of “am” renames “I.”

God reminds me not to give myself names that are outside of who HE is within me. HE is never inadequate or afraid or overwhelmed. In the book of John Jesus told His followers, “I am in you and you are in Me.” If God indwells me (and isn’t this the crux of Christian thought?) then His resources and character are also inside of me. Besides, God promises in Romans 8:29 that He is remaking me to be like Jesus. That makes me think that using identity statements about myself that differ from who Jesus is contradicts the work God is doing. I want to lean into the process to be MORE like Jesus, not to push against it!

That said, I don’t think God wants me to pretend I don’t have real emotions. However, I do think He wants me to see them as just that. The other day I caught myself saying I was overwhelmed. Just saying it made me act even more as if it were true.

My new goal is to change my verbiage from “am” to “feel” when dealing with negative crap that isn’t part of who God is. So . . . I feel overwhelmed, but I know the God who lives inside of me can handle anything. Sometimes situations seem hopeless, but God is a God of hope, and with Him nothing is impossible. Hard tasks can make me feel inadequate, but God is always up for any challenge. And HE lives in and through me.

But God . . . what a difference those two little words make. In Him I am a whole bunch of stuff that is glorious.

How about you, my friend? Been saying or thinking “I am” statements that whisper identities you really don’t want to take on? What thought patterns can you change by a twist of verbiage and the addition of “but God?”

Until Next Time,

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*If you’ve not been around much Jewish or Christian theology, there’s a whole new depth brought to those words, “I Am” based on an experience with God and Moses. Moses, the guy who led the Israelite slaves out of captivity in Egypt, was one of those guys who felt unqualified with a glaring “UN.” When He asked God His name, God called Himself, “I AM.” Jesus also made a bunch of identity statements using those two little words, “I Am.”

Writing this post reminded me of another time I pondered those two little words. At that time I wrote 10 devotionals based on those musing, and because of this post added them to my website in hopes they might encourage you. Maybe you’d like to bookmark the devotional page and spend the next ten days thinking about what God means when He calls Himself, “I Am.”

Fighting for Grace

Can I let it all hang out?

My fight to breathe in grace?

Some people are recovering alcoholics; I’m a recovering perfectionist. Which means, at its root, I’m a recovering religious legalist.

My desperate desire is to please and follow God. I want to be sweet and love Him and be loved by Him.

But as much as I long for perfection in this, I just can’t be perfect.

Sometimes I’m salty, not sweet.

20140526_133259My kitchen floor issue is still not resolved. We’re pulling up boards trying to find all the water, trying to let things dry out. I’m struggling to manage kitchen duty (and we’re one of those families that rarely eat out, don’t use pre-packaged food, and consume LOTS, so kitchen duty is a big deal) in a difficult situation.

Yesterday I chose to bake banana cake, Seth’s favorite. He’s home from college and well, it’s one of our love languages. And there is never a reason around here to do a single recipe, so of course I doubled it.

I’m leaning over floor boards that have been pulled up and stepping into cracks of sub-floor to try to work without further damaging my beautiful boards. (There’s a point.)

I’m ready to put the bananas in the batter, but Stephen pulls out a spoon and has a taste, one of his favorite things since childhood. His face scrunches up in distaste. I scoop a little into my mouth. It’s terrible. We add more sugar. No improvement. I taste the sugar. It’s bitter. Salty. I have no idea what 20140526_134405happened, but it was good for nothing but to be thrown away.

And I can’t help but think of myself like that canister of sugar. I want to be sweet. I’m supposed to be sweet. But I’ve been salty.

And something as non-life-changing as a dishwasher leaking under my favorite floor is what is tipping me over the edge. (There’s plenty of more important stuff I’m navigating, and I seem to handle that. But my floor! My beautiful floor!!)

I was mostly salty at God. I said some nasty stuff about Him to a friend. I don’t like to talk bad about those I love, and it hurts that I did.

And sometimes when I’m a jerk I think I should be thrown out like I threw out that salt. If I’m not sweet, I’m not doing my job, so just toss me in the trash.

But I KNOW that is my old mindset creeping in. Legalism. Pride. I’ve never been sweet all through every moment, and I never will be. It’s not my goodness that makes me close to God, it’s HIS.

My behavior is not going to separate me from God because Jesus’s behavior when He offered Himself on the cross is what connected God and me in the first place. It’s what keeps me connected long-term.

But I felt that old self-censure creeping in. That inability to believe I was worthy of His love when I was so nasty. That secretly He was a God who would withhold His gifts because I wasn’t being a good daughter.

So I typed a plea to a safe circle of friends asking them to pray, to help me hold onto Truth and not give into the old thought patterns. I wrote, “I know know know that God’s blessings are not dependent upon my perfection. I know that He forgives freely . . . I have been really angry with Him and acting like an entitled jerk. I’m struggling to get over my anger and to also to believe what my head knows, that I was forgiven for the awful things I said to and about Him even as I said them.

I know if one of my kids talked that way to/about me I would have been really hurt, yet I expect God to just take it from me and still open the floodgates of heaven and help me. It seems wrong.

Then I wonder about grace and unconditional love, and I suspect the root of my struggle is actually about not opening my heart to this grace, to this forgiveness, that my self-censure is returning to old crap . . .”

And one of my friends replied with the Truth and grace I already knew but struggled to receive, “There is NOTHING you can say to Him that hasn’t already been said. NOTHING you can do that hasn’t already been done. Peter argued with the LORD all the time. Paul was a murderer. David was an adulterous AND murderer. Abraham was a coward. Moses had no faith. Joseph was prideful. Jacob wrestled with the LORD to the point he had to have his hip dislocated.

“Paula, there is NOTHING God sees but your heart. It is a human heart that struggles with everyday life, yet when push comes to shove still leans on its Creator. Your relationship is so close that you can be honest with your God. DO NOT look at the Father-child relationship you have in human terms. God’s love is NEVER performance driven. Think of all the heroes we read about in the Bible and they all messed up big time. But they had one thing that the LORD loved more than anything–honesty before their King. That, my dear, sweet Paula, is what you have. Don’t let the enemy tell you otherwise.”

And so for the past two days I’ve told myself what I already know: God’s love is never performance-driven.

God’s love is never performance-driven.

God’s love is never performance-driven.

Always God’s love is mine, given freely, spilling all over me without measure. I don’t have to be a perfect child to access it. Even when I blow it He loves me.

He loves me.

He loves me.

He loves me.

And instead of casting me aside when I’m salty, he patiently remakes me into His image.

20140526_134248I baked those cakes over again, using good, sweet sugar. And they were the blessing I hoped they would be.

The blessing I want to be and often fall short of.

But GLORY-BE (southern roots showing here) like cakes I, too, can be remade.

Say a prayer for me, my friends . . .

Until next time,

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Spirit Seeker Sunday ~ Practical Tips to Break the Food Addiction

OUCH: “When the desire for treats is triggered by difficult emotions, it’s not really a desire for treats. It’s a thinly veiled attempt at self-medication . . . our souls are thirsty and ravenous . . . if we fail to . . . fill our souls with spiritual nourishment, we will forever be triggered to numb our loneliness with other temporary physical pleasures . . . this issue is bigger than emotions; it’s really about spiritual deprivation . . . and self-medicating with food . . . vicious cycles I must avoid.” Lysa TerKeurst

One of the best parts of my journey to health has been discovering some of the “whys” behind my eating choices and learning to be mindful of those when I want to reach for food. It’s amazing how the realization that I’m trying to fill an emotional need with something that won’t satisfy, but will instead derail my goals, gives me strength to walk away.

Sometimes it is now as simple as a quick prayer breathed to the Lord, telling Him I want Him to fill my needs, not food.

It was harder earlier in my journey. Maybe because the cravings were more physical than they are now-metting with agent 2-along with being emotional, which they still are. During that time period I found a cup of licorice spice or peppermint tea helped curb the cravings and still felt like a treat. I could sip my no calorie tea and do something else I enjoyed rather than eat–like read a book, write in my journal, chat with a friend, or play on Facebook. I read later that peppermint tea curbs the appetite when you’re hungry and Licorice tea (I like Stash Licorice Spice) curbs sugar cravings!

God is sweet to give us great tasting, no calorie options. Early in my journey I also found that taking a walk when I got a craving was a great alternative. Once I started walking I no longer felt hungry, and the time it required often took me to the next scheduled meal, so I didn’t think about snacking between.

The other cool thing is that walking never fails to connect me back to God. I hear the birds and am grateful for the beauty of their song–and next thing I know I’m thanking God for the gift. Or the sun shines or me, or the sky is a brilliant blue, or I see a flower, a tree, a mountain . . . or I simply feel the fresh air upon my face. Nature draws me to the Creator. Another cool thing that often happens as I walk is that He’ll prompt me to prayer or I’ll use the time to listen to Scripture on the audio Bible app on my phone.

The last few weeks we’ve talked about spiritual practices and how they relate to weight loss, but God created us mind, body, emotions, and spirit. We also need tangible, practical, physical plans to help us succeed in our journey to breaking the food addiction.

What practical plan do you have for the next time you are tempted to self-medicate with food?

Father,

Help me not to self-medicate with food. Give me what it takes to break the cycles of food addiction. Free me to enjoy my life, not just my food. To find freedom not in eating anything I want, but in choosing a fuller life over a fuller tummy. Help me to turn to You when I am tempted to self-medicate. Be my healer. Show me healthy alternatives to my addictions, even if for a while they are simply distractions. But in the long run, draw me to Yourself.

Being practical in overcoming the need to self-medicate with food

PS. I truly believe my Benew products have reduced cravings and helped my physical self in this journey to break the food addiction cycles.