Tag Archives: Spirit Seeker Sunday

Spirit-Seeker Sunday ~ Walking it Out

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photo by Stephen Moldenhauer

“Spiritually I feel much more weighed down by stress and problems when I’m not taking care of my body. Physically, I have less energy to serve God and more emotions to wade through when processing life.”

The above statement alone is one of the most profound discoveries of my weight loss journey. I didn’t write those words, Lysa TerKeurst did. But I so relate.

For years I prayed for joy, for the ability to overcome discouragement, for hope. I don’t see myself as having completely arrived in these areas, but I’ve found a powerful tool in discovering joy, combating discouragement, grabbing hold of hope.

It’s called taking a walk.

Eventually I usually end up talking with God, but even when it’s not a focused conversation my spirit rises up within me in worship just being outside, hearing the birds, feeling the fresh air.

There’s something about looking up into a huge tree or seeing the mountains in the distance, or gazing at the clouds or the flowers that puts me in my place, reminds me there is something bigger than I am, and HE is Good.

I grew up in church where we were often told to take care of our body because it was the temple of God. Unfortunately most of what was taught–or at least of what I heard–was the old southern “don’t smoke, drink, or chew or go with boys who do.” Once in a while I caught that I should think about what kinds of food I put into it, but I totally missed the idea of caring for my body as God’s temple by taking good care of it in the area of exercise.

I loved when Lysa wrote: “I want to . . . dedicate my exercise as a gift to Him and a gift to myself.”

Let’s join Lysa in the prayer: “Help me see the ability to exercise as a gift. I dedicate my temple to You and commit to start rebuilding it today.”

How about you? What do you do to add movement into your day? What exercise do you enjoy? Do you ever exercise just because it’s good for you even if it is not something you enjoy? If you keep doing it do you start enjoying it?

And what about schedule. How do you fit it into your busy days? If you don’t, could you add in once a week, then twice?

Spirit-Seeker Sunday ~ Reflections

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Love the Reflection in this picture by Stephen Moldenhauer

When I first started losing weight I was really convicting by something my daughter said. She said for 21 years she’d watched me take care of my heart and spirit, but never my body.

In my life there was a “do not touch” sign on anything to do with healthy choices. I simply didn’t see that as important. What was important was on the inside where God and I processed together.

Only I missed the fact that there was a connection with God in my body, too.

Part of my weight loss journey has been to process the connection of body and spirit.  One of the places this is obvious is in the area of joy. I’ve prayed for a long time for joy. I’ve pondered Scriptures like, “the joy of the Lord is my strength.” When I began losing weight, eating healthier, and walking, I didn’t expect increased joy as a result. But there is joy in worship, and when I walk worship comes more easily. When I am mindful of my healthier eating choices, I connect with Him. There is a simple joy that comes from ease of movement.

Longing is also a connection between God and my body. Lysa TerKeurst says, “When we are stuffed full of other things and never allow ourselves to be in a place of longing, we don’t recognize the deeper spiritual battle going on. Satan wants to keep us distracted by chasing one temporary filling after another.” (Made to Crave Devotional)

I want to be filled with Him. I don’t want the temporary pleasures of food or anything else to be what feeds me. I want to enjoy His blessings, but to see them simply as gifts, not as the point.

A harder concept for me is the idea of holiness being connected to the sacrifices offered up during weight loss. I’m not sure I get it, but here’s my thought: By choosing to focus on God, not food, for the long-term, those little sacrifices for a healthier body can be a part of a holy walk. HE is the supreme importance of our lives, not anything else, not other people, money, or even the very food that keeps us alive. We sacrifice desire for the greater path of obedience to His call to health.

I want to mature as a Christ-follower. Sacrifice and learning to look to God’s strength and not my own can help me grow in maturity. Letting go of addictions to food and turning from cravings for food to meet my cravings in God instead certainly deepens my relationship with Him. And looking at food in the light of caring for a body dedicated to God’s service can help me make this a sustainable journey, not a one time experience.

With that in mind, “. . . let’s make a clean break with everything that defiles or distracts us, both within and without. Let’s make our entire lives fit and holy temples for the worship of God.” (The Message)

Spirit Seeker Sunday ~ Balance and Transformation

san diego 6How are the social situations going for you? Do you struggle even more to maintain your eating goals with all the parties and special events?

It’s super hard to resist the goodies as gatherings with friends, and I grew up in a culture where lots of yummy food equated love. I’m afraid I’ve passed that onto my family, especially our boys. Mom cooking sure seems like love to them.

This is an area where I’m trying to find balance. I want to still bake my mother-in-law’s famous chocolate cake for special occasions, treat the family to homemade pizza or challah bread, or surprise them with homemade cinnamon rolls. In my quest to be healthier and thinner, I’m not willing to give up my love of baking or the joy the family receives from such treats.

But this BeNew journey is about being transformed. Real, lasting change. Lysa TerKeurst of the Made to Crave Devotional said, “short-term sacrifices will lead to short-term results.”

While I’m not willing to forever avoid making my mom’s oh-so-good banana cake or my grandma’s apple pie, I am also learning that there has to be a life-style change if I’m going to be healthy. I don’t make treats as often, and when I do make them I practice moderation in enjoying them. Every day I seek to add in lots of healthy stuff, like spinach and nuts, cut back on pastas, bread, and sugars, and enjoy the goodness of fresh and frozen fruits.

But all of this pondering eating habits doesn’t really get to the heart of the struggle, does it? Lysa encourages, “Every time I make a choice I have to ask myself, ‘Am I being conformed, looking a lot like the crowd and staying stuck in defeat? Or, am I transformed, breaking away from the vicious cycle of defeat by courageously saying no? No more. No thank you’.”

I especially love the phrase, “every time I make a choice.” This journey is on-going. Every single day we make multiple choices, choices that either conform to social pressure to eat (or our own need to fill a void with food) or lead to transformation of our lifestyle and body. For me, this is also a spiritual journey as I draw near to God, inviting Him into my choices, my thoughts about food, my struggles and my successes.

Lord,
Please help us to trample the old ways for good. We don’t want short-term solutions, but transformation life change. Give us the wisdom as we navigate treats and holiday celebrations, showing us the balance of enjoying good things without sabotaging our health. Please pour out your strength and your guidance. Give us new desires for healthy living. We don’t want to make our bodies off limits any more. We give You permission to ALL of who we are. Inside, outside, body, spirit, mind, will, and emotions.

Spirit Seeker Sunday ~

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Photo taken in the Rocky Mountains by Stephen Moldenhauer

Funny how something that sounds so simple can be such a profound journey. The first snippet of Scripture I learned as a child was probably, “God is love.” Yet my life journey is somehow about discovering that love, believing in that love, receiving that love, living from that love.

Sometimes I get it. Several years ago I was thinking through all kinds of worries, stresses, and questions. Then suddenly they all just vanished. I thought, “None of it really matters. All that really matters is God loves me. He LOVES me. I AM LOVED.”

The years since have included a lot of testing of that ideal. It’s too easy to get into the mindset Lysa TerKeurst pointed out in her book, the Made to Crave Devotional, “When I’m trying to be loved, I wonder why God would allow trials.”

Or what about this one: “When I am loved, I can cast all my anxiety on Him. When I’m trying to be loved, I cast all my anxiety on my performance.”

Living from a place of knowing, deep down, that I am loved changes my whole perspective on life. It builds my ability to trust God. It gives me hope in trials. It makes me stronger when I am tempted. It takes the churning of life and changes it to peace.

Let’s focus these thoughts on weight loss: When I’m trying to be loved I look to the scale or others for validation. When I’m trying to be loved I am hard on myself, angry with every step backwards. When I’m trying to be loved I am angry and fighting the food cravings, trying to fill a void. When I’m trying to be loved the weight loss journey is about my performance. I seek to prove myself to God, to others, to myself.

But when I’m loved I rest in love. The scale and other’s opinions can bring joy or frustration, but they don’t validate or invalidate me. I am already validated by HIS love. When I am loved I can forgive myself when I am not perfect and draw on love to do better next time. When I am loved I can eat for sustenance, not to fill an empty emotion. When I am loved I can lose weight to embrace God’s gifts, seeking to be all He created me to be. My sacrifices of calories or sugar or fatty foods can be offered in praise and done to honor Him, taking care of my body because it is loved and because it pleases Him when I value the body He gave me.

How About You? Can you think through one or two phrases that contrast When you’re trying to be loved with when you ARE loved?

When I live in Love I eat for sustenance, not to fill empty emotion

Spirit Seeker Sunday ~ Hope

resevoir“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matt. 11:28

This hits me between the eyes: “Jesus is saying, ‘If you come to me, I will take your exhaustion in this area and turn it into expectation. In this place of hopelessness, I can make you feel hopeful.'” (Lysa TerKeurst, Made to Crave Devotional)

Okay. I’ve read this devotional before. But as I read again I stop and question. Really? That sounds too good to be true.

Honestly, I can receive it for my weight loss journey because–well, I’m having CHANGE and success, and what seemed hopeless a year ago is hopeful now because I have FORWARD progress.

But there are other places in my life that I don’t see much forward movement, and that’s what I think of when I read these words. Those struggles that are the same for too many days in a row, too many months, too many years. Those places where disappointment has dug a soul exhaustion.

When I go through a tough spot my friend Kordee often tells me, I have the questions, I don’t have the answers. It’s comforting because she’s saying, “you know what? I know how you feel. I’m not going to give you pat answers. We’re in this together.”

Then Kordee and I work through our crap, accept our lack of answers, and say things like, “But I choose God. There is no other answer. I don’t like this, but I will trust Him.”

Sometimes we find some hope for the situation; sometimes we don’t. But I guess even when it’s hard to believe there can be change, there is something inside of us that is banking our hope on God. On the promises that He leads on the best pathway for our life, that He guides us and watches over us. On the promise that says He will finish the work He started in us, and will never leave or forsake us.

My strength often feels more like exhaustion, even anger. Sometimes I can’t pray for a while because I know if I do I have to get real. And I’m just not ready to cry, to admit how deeply I hurt. Those are the days of my SOS prayers, that quick, “Help!” that’s whispered almost subconsciously.

But Lysa says, “”Jesus is saying, ‘If you come to me, I will take your exhaustion in this area and turn it into expectation. In this place of hopelessness, I can make you feel hopeful.'” and later she adds, “God knows where you strength ends and that is the exact point where His strength begins.”

Talk about meat to chew on!

I know it’s true, this hope thing. Scripture says that when I persevere in hard trials, I learn hope, and that hope won’t disappoint me, that it’s actually a mark of maturity, this being able to hope.

And so I pray,

“Father, You know the places in me that are soul exhaustion, where hope is fleeting or seemingly non-existent. But I DO want You to take those places and turn my exhaustion into expectation–not white knuckle hanging on for all I’m worth in my own strength expectation, but supernatural, God-breathed expectation that can hope because of Who You are. Because I believe You truly love me. Because I believe You WILL finish all You’ve started in me.

And Lord, I know some of my friends who read this blog have soul exhaustion, too. Please give them hope. Draw us to Your heart, remind us of Your character–how loving, steady, and faithful You are. Give us expectation for positive forward movement, not because we have the strength to take that next step into where we want to go, but because YOU do. And You will lead. And You take us to good.

Trading in Soul Exhaustion for Hope

Spirit Seeker Sunday ~ To be in the Center

IMAG2511“To be in the center of God’s will is to be a woman who is joyful, prayer, and thankful.” Lysa TerKeurst

It’s coming at me from all sides. First a friend talked to me about being intentional to use the weapons of warfare the Lord has given me, specifically to think on all that is lovely, good, pure. She said the enemy tries to steal from me constantly through life’s battles, and one of my most powerful weapons is focusing my thoughts on all that is good. The next day I received an email that said almost exactly the same thing, this time from someone I’ve never met.

This morning I read, “Fullness is our destiny, but emptiness is our crutch.”

As I pondered these words, I came to this passage in the Made to Crave Devotional, “joy is a choice we make, not a feeling we hope to get from our circumstances . . . look for the good . . . celebrate it even in small ways.”

I’m seeing a pattern here.

Much of life battles are won and lost in our minds. Probably most. The battle for joy is connected to where I plant my thoughts. The battle for weight loss is planted in where I focus my thoughts. The battle for how well I treat those I love is grounded in where I allow my thoughts to roam.

Of course we will have down days and days of trouble, but Jesus says, “be of good cheer for I have overcome the world!” And Lysa reminds us that the hard stuff, the temptations to eat (or lots of other stuff like to be negative, hurtful, unkind, etc.) are simply triggers to pray. To turn to God rather than anything else.

Of course the admonition to be thankful goes hand in hand with all of this. If we are thinking on all that is good and lovely, focusing on God and His strength, thanksgiving comes naturally!

I want to be victorious in weight loss and all of life, don’t you? I like what Lysa said, that we are most victorious when we are in the center of His will–being joyful, prayerful, thankful women. I’ve got a ways to go in all of this . . . but I’ve also come a long way, baby. How about you?

Learning to be joyful, prayerful, and thankful.

Spirit Seeker Sunday ~ In His Hands

in the water“You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples” Psa. 77:13-14

God has done miracle after miracle in my life, but when it gets hard around here my attention can quickly go to anything but worshiping God. Like the Israelites of old who grumbled in the wilderness right after being rescued from slavery, I forget all He’s done for me, all the times He was faithful, and instead turn my gaze from Him to my problems, my cravings, my disappointments.

The idea of offering myself as a sacrifice of worship takes on new meaning for me tonight. My emotions. My cravings. My focus. Sacrificed as a choice to worship, to believe, to surrender to the God who performs miracles.

I just saw a verse on my friend Margie’s wall, “‘I, your GOD, have a firm grip on you and I’m not letting go. I’m telling you, “Don’t panic. I’m right here to help you.'” (Isaiah 41:13 MSG)

It humbles me further. THAT is the heart of my God. He doesn’t want me panicking, looking to food or security or success or anything that will never satisfy me. He has me in his hand.

He has you, too.

A God like that is worthy of the sacrifice of worship.

What about you? Has God done miracles in your life? How do you feel about sacrificing the cravings as an act of worship? Where in your life do you need to remember that He has you in his hands?

Resting in His hands; Craving Him, not calories

Spirit Seeker Sunday ~ Breaking Up

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Photo by Stephen Moldenhauer — taking the plunge!

Breaking old habits to make room for the new: That’s the theme of the devotional by Lisa TerKeurst which inspired this post.

Seems like I’ve done a lot of this since I took that first step onto the BeNew journey. I’ve sought to break habits of emotional or mindless eating. I’ve tried to be mindful of my movement quotient and break the habit of a sedentary lifestyle in front of my computer.

Sometimes I’m not sure if I’m breaking up with the old habits or just taking a break . . . If I want to continue to feel healthier and be thinner, I have to truly break up with my past habits.

But the conviction of this devotion went deeper than healthy food habits. For a time the car accident of last June took away my journaling and Bible study. But I added in long walks and found a sweet communion with the Lord. As I’m improving, I’m struggling to balance all that. I want to journal AND take a walk, but sometimes neither gets done, much less both! In this area I want to make good habits to replace non-habits.

I also catch myself looking too often to Facebook friends/interaction to fill that empty God place. There’s nothing wrong with getting fellowship and support from my friends, but when it replaces communion with my Creator, it falls flat.

I’m seeing the need for another break-up.

But all of that is about doing. What about the BEing of life?

There are old thought habits that need to go–like worry or putting myself down or entertaining thoughts of “it will never really change” or “this is too hard.” 

I need to do a major break-up with that stuff!

Every day I make the choice AGAIN to break up with my old nemesis, perfectionism, and the stealer-of-my-joy, performance-driven behavior.

Thankfully on this break-up journey I’m never alone and neither are you. Our Creator thrills in helping us walk away from the stuff that holds us back and knocks us down. He empowers us for change, promising always to finish the good work He starts in us. I believe this means not only the good work of making us more like His Son, but the good works He calls us to, including the sometimes daunting job of getting healthy!

Father,
Make YOURSELF the priority of my heart. Help me to stop clinging to the poor, the mediocre, and even the good when YOU offer all that is BEST. Help me to break-up with the stuff that pushes me backwards so that I can walk forward in freedom, diving into all You have for me.

How about you?
Any conviction about something you need to break up with to make room for what’s better?

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Breaking Up With Poor Choices

Spirit Seeker Sunday – Rise Up!

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photo by Stephen Moldenhauer

“Rise up, do battle with our issues and using the Lord’s strength within us, defeat them.” Lysa TerKeurst

I like the sound of that. Not temporary victory, but full-blown defeat.

I was praying for someone the other night. These people were in crises and the enemy was having a hay-day with them and their emotions. I prayed that the enemy would not be allowed to mess with them, that they could work through their issues without him playing them and escalating their problems and anger.

As I prayed I got a shadowy picture in my head of God’s leg and boot pinning the enemy to the ground so that my friends could have a fighting chance.

It reminded me of something I learned about the famous Bible passage in Ephesians 6, which likened spiritual armor to the armor of the day, worn by the Roman soldiers. The passage says the Christian’s feet are covered with the gospel of peace. The shoes of a Roman soldier were weapons of destruction. They had spikes on the bottom of them designed to literally trample down/over the enemy. At first these two images seem to contradict each other, but as I thought about it, they didn’t. The gospel of peace says that Jesus, the Son of God, gave His live to bring us into a perfect, peaceful relationship with His Father. When He connected us to God He trampled down the enemy, held him back so we could do business with our Father.

But what does all of this have to do with weight loss? This journey to better health DOES have a spiritual component. The enemy doesn’t want us to live in the body we were created for. He wants us to be tired, discouraged, and held back. But as Lysa said, we CAN rise up, do battle, and win!

A huge part of the battle is simply tackling our excuses head on. I have been the queen of rationalization. As the weight crept on during those 7 years of struggle in my family, I told myself I couldn’t deal with one more thing. Thinking about my weight wasn’t even an option. All my energy had to go into survival and caring for the overwhelming needs of my husband and children. Finally, in the last couple of years I began to acknowledge my weight and cry out for help. I wasn’t ready to tackle it yet, but, especially in the quiet of the night, I admitted I had a problem. I asked God to give me the strength and courage to face it. Then I asked that He would show me how to win that battle.

I don’t know where you are today. Maybe it’s all you can do to simply face the struggle, admit your rationalizations, and give God permission to change you.

The beautiful thing about our Lord is He is patient and willing. He brought BENew into my life when He knew I was ready. He answered my prayer for direction and help. I’m still in process, not perfect on this journey to reclaiming my body–but I feel stronger and more victorious than I did 50 plus pounds ago for sure.

Father,
Help me to be courageous enough to face my stuff and surrender to Your Spirit of change.

How about you? Feel like fighting? Playing dead? Giving up? Or socking it to the enemy?!

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Rise up and win the weight battle

Spirit Seeker Sunday – OUCH!

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May His Spirit move us. Fresh. Flowing. Bubbling . . .
(Photo by Stephen Moldenhauer)

Ouch!

“ . . . every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.” John 15:2 (NASB)

“Deeper, deeper! Blessed Holy Spirit, Take me deeper still, Till my life is wholly lost in Jesus, and His perfect will.” (Verse 3, Deeper, Deeper by C.P. Jones)

Have you ever been pruned? I have.

Did you like it? Me, neither!

At least at first.

I’m been through relational pruning, financial pruning, physical pruning, church pruning, and work pruning. In many of those situations I elevated something or someone over Him. I looked to these things, food, or people for happiness, security, and self-esteem. It’s not that I meant to. In fact, I didn’t even know I had until it was pruned away.

There were  relationships where I tried so hard to please the person that I missed God’s will for my life, elevating his or her plans for me over His. I thought finances could make me feel secure, but when they were gone I found security came only from Jesus. Without realizing it I allowed church ties to dictate  doctrine, and I missed some of the most beautiful truths in Scripture. Eating never filled my emotional emptiness, it only add the pain of weight gain.

When I allow my self-esteem to be tied to  relationships, accomplishments, food, or stuff, I can’t live in a stable, peaceful place. The only place that is truly secure and safe is in the shadow of my Lord’s wings. Only by being firmly connected to the Vine called Jesus can I find the courage to become all God wants me to be.

Of course, I’m not saying that every loss is pruning. But, looking back on my life, many losses were. Wise pruning only cuts away what is unnecessary or  impedes healthy growth. Pruning never means being cut from the Vine.

I don’t like being pruned. Yet, even as He saws away He holds tightly to me. We don’t walk through the experience alone because God’s love always remains. The Good Gardener wraps my wound and binds me to the Vine. After a while the loss hurts less because the nourishment from the Vine is flowing more strongly through me.

The cutting helps us focus more passionately on the Savior. We experience our desperate need for His nourishment. Often we turn to Him, drinking big gulps of His grace and truth instead of little sips.

Sometimes it feels like pruning means the Lord is mad or doesn’t Like who we are. It’s really the opposite. The Lord prunes only the fruitful branches.

God prunes because He likes the fruit He sees and wants more! He prunes so we can become more peaceful, secure, and strong. He prunes so we are firmly rooted in Him and have all we need to produce more fruit.rosebush backyard 3

God wants is to know Him best of all and to be set free to taste the sweet depth of His love.

After the pruning we become more fruitful. Our life is more focused. Joy buds. Peace grows and blossoms. Perseverance blooms. And then we feel that solid foundation of abiding.

It feels like the arms of Jesus.

Lord, sometimes I fight your pruning. I only see the hurt and not the plan you have for my good. I complain, whine, and cry. Sometimes I even doubt your love for me. I tell myself you don’t care. But all the while you bind my wounds and pour your nourishing love into what remains of me. Thank you that I never go through this process without your love. Give me the ability to submit to your shears and trust that You know best. I give you permission to prune away. Just hold me REAL tight. Okay?”

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After the pruning comes the blooming