Counselor, heal thy self

 “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:27

The room is fairly spacious, with big bay windows and two doors, one leads to the nurses station, one leads to the backyard which is now overrun by smokers on break from group.  However, I feel cramped as I sit on the floor, cross-legged with seven other young women.  We range in ages, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status.  We have two things in common, we all suffer with an eating disorder and now we are all in this group.  We sit, staring at the life-size roll of butcher paper lying on the floor in front of us.  The therapist has given us an assignment and we are all hesitating to begin.  “draw me a picture of how you see yourself, physically.”  She says with what appears to be a sadistic smirk.  I stare at the paper outstretched before me, and trembling I pick up a black permanent marker.  How do I see myself?  I close my eyes and an image forms. I am no artist, however, I think I came pretty close to drawing the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man from Ghostbusters.  The face was round and had a double chin, no neck and the remainder of the body depicted layer upon layer of fat.  I remember thinking, “yup, that’s pretty accurate.”  Although, I hadn’t really seen my reflection from the neck down for approximately a week. I was said to be a danger to myself and therefore “strongly encouraged” to admit myself as an in-patient.   The mirrors in the bedrooms were small and narrow so you really only saw yourself from the neck up.  Therapists and medical professionals felt this helped to begin to alleviate some of the obsession with our already unrealistic body-image.  Yeah….ok….whatever you say doc!  

The therapist then tells us to take our drawings and place them on the wall at “our height.”  We all comply and pretty soon we are all gazing at each other’s self-portrait. I remember thinking to myself, “she doesn’t look anything like that, she’s so skinny.”  Then came the icing on the body-image cake…we stood with our backs pressed against our drawings, and a person of our choosing would take a marker of a different color and trace our body onto the drawing.  This would help us “really see ourselves.”  I remember stepping away from the completed project and turning around to face “myself.”  What I saw amazed me.  I HAD CURVES, I WAS THIN, I WAS NO LONGER FAT!  I stood in stunned silence and so did others.  This was when my healing began.  To this day I remember that feeling of relief and utter disbelief.  I promised myself I would never lose sight of myself again.

That was over 20 years ago, that I starved myself, exercised myself almost to death, and used various over-the-counter remedies to keep myself thin.  I have grown, I have struggled, I have doubted, I have regressed, I have overcome.  I go through stages where the reflection is unrealistic and stages where I like what I see staring back at me. I have recently lost a considerable amount of weight and did so in a very healthy way, with family and friends watching over me. Even though I have lost 30 pounds, and have reduced my clothing size by 4 sizes,  I admit to you I am stuck in the “unrealistic stage”.  I have voiced my struggles to those amazing women, my accountability partners, who walk through this life with me and they have recommended I seek counsel before this “gets out of hand.”  

Who does a counselor turn to for counsel?  Friends…accountability partners…family? These are all good, positive supports, however, there is One that is better.  How about turning to THE COUNSELOR.  The Counselor spoken of in scripture…the Holy Spirit.  When His disciples were freaking out over His leaving them Jesus basically told them don’t be afraid, I’m going to send a counselor, my spirit to guide you and be with you.  God still speaks, still comforts, still guides, and still has His Hand on us.  We may not be able to see him physically, but He’s here and He cares.

Whatever you are going through…whatever your past, your present or your future, God is there with you, right beside you, holding you.  Don’t lose sight of that.

You’re an overcomer
Stay in the fight ‘til the final round
You’re not going under
‘Cause God is holding you right now
You might be down for a moment
Feeling like it’s hopeless
That’s when He reminds You
That you’re an overcomer
You’re an overcomer ~ Mandisa (Overcomer)

True Healing

Years ago I remember standing in my fuzzy teddy bear robe, my Michigan, wool-lined slippers and a hot cup of coffee in my hands waving goodbye to my precious children as the morning carpool drives slowly off into the early morning sunrise.  I close the door.

Ahhhhh! A few rare moments alone before the daily hustle and bustle kick in.  I put my feet up and start flipping through the channels on our television trying to find out what’s been happening in the world while I was asleep.

Well, before I even made it to CNN my remote skidded to a halt on an HBO special about the so-called faith healers.   The cathedral was breathtaking; the attendees jumping, clapping, weeping and dancing in the aisles; the choir regally dressed in purple and gold; the orchestra vehemently bringing the music to a heart-pounding crescendo.  Then he makes his entrance, dressed in white, silver hair gleaming under the stage lights, the conductor of this great performance.  Leaping, jumping around on stage, yelling to be heard over the throng of the thousands of witnesses to this symphony.  He asks “do you want to be healed?!?”  “Yes!!!!” cry thousands of people looking for the external healing that this man claims he can bring.  He cries, “I feel a presence in this room tonight, a healing presence!”  Hundreds are hand-picked by the conductor’s apprentices and they make their way to the stage.  In wheelchairs, on crutches, limping, some even on stretchers they come, believing in this man.  The conductor says “rise” and they rise.  “Walk” and they walk.

Sounds good doesn’t it?  Too good to be true.  Well….it is!  I suppose I should tell you that while this man was leaping around on stage “healing” people, a scientist was talking in the background.  He was saying how he has been able to recreate all of this in the laboratory.  He was able to take people and put them in a sensory deprivation chamber, hook up electrodes to certain areas of the brain and recreate that feeling of euphoria, that sense of a “presence” in the room, even that feeling of healing.   The music rising and falling at certain intervals: the colors of the choir robes: the size of the cathedral: and thousands of people suffering from emotional struggles, physical pain, mood disorders, and the belief that they will be healed: all of this can cause certain chemicals to be released into the brain thus giving those in the wheelchairs, and on the crutches that momentary ability to get up and walk (i.e. the placebo effect).  Notice the word “momentary.”  The people who were “healed” at this man’s performances did not achieve any lasting effect.  In fact, most of them were back in the wheelchairs and on the crutches in only hours after this event.

People continually look for the external “feel goods” and external sources to make their lives better, to find happiness, security, healing or inner peace.  We look to crystals, aromatherapy, new age, cults, psychics, and astrology to find peace and tranquillity.  All of it is pure nonsense and it is only temporary.

God, Our Father is the author of permanent inner peace, of permanent healing, how to make our lives better.   He is our only hope of finding true happiness and security.  Peace can be yours for the asking.  Why look for something that only lasts a moment, that only feels good temporarily, when Jesus longs to give you the ultimate peace, and tranquillity that will last eternally? He loves you just as you are and He died for you just as you are: flaws and all.  Come to Him.  Surrender yourself to the One who died for you on Calvary.  He’s waiting with open arms.

Discount Divorce

Discount Divorce – Fast and Easy…When “til’ death us do part” takes too long

I couldn’t believe my eyes.  That’s exactly the wording on a billboard I read recently.  I had to read it four or five times to make sure I was seeing it correctly.  In essence this advertisement recommends that when it takes too long for your spouse to die, it’s time to get a divorce.  I don’t think this is what God had in mind when He created marriage.

In Genesis 2:18, 20-24 we see God’s intent for marriage.  The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone, I will make a helper suitable for him.”  So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and closed up the place with flesh.  Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.  The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman’ for she was taken out of man.”  For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.   God gave marriage as a gift to Adam and Eve.  They were created perfect for each other.  Marriage is designed by God and has three basic concepts: 1) the man leaves his parents and in a public act (the wedding ceremony) promises himself to his wife; 2) the man and woman are joined together and in doing so promise to take responsibility for each other’s welfare and also promise to love the mate above all others and; 3) the two become one flesh in the intimacy and commitment of sexual union that is reserved for marriage.

How about looking at Matthew 19:6 “So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.”    God intended marriage to be permanent.  Let’s think about the first marriage.  Adam and Eve.  Everything was perfect when they started out.  They had Paradise as their home, had all their needs met and God dwelt among them.  I imagine they talked about everything to each other, shared activities, ate meals together, prayed together.  They had it all.  Until one day things got bad.  Because of human nature both the man and woman sinned.  God punished them each in their own way and cast them out of the Garden.  Now, they had messed up pretty bad.   Adam could’ve blamed Eve for being tempted by the serpent and starting this whole mess.  Eve could’ve come up with some excuse like because Adam wasn’t spending enough time with her and the serpent paid attention to her that was what caused this disaster.   They COULD’VE said those things….but they didn’t.  They could’ve called it quits and left each other to take care of themselves on their own but they didn’t.  They stuck together through good times and bad and God was the center of their union.  It is only when God is the center that everything else falls into place.  God comes first then your spouse.  If you put God first in your life and in your marriage everything goes a little smoother.  Not to say we will have it easy because we won’t.

God tells us in His Word that we will have trials but those trials are made for us to depend on the One who can carry us through them.  Depend on the Lord who created you and your spouse.  He created you for his pleasure and his purpose.  He created a helpmate to stand beside you.  Don’t run away when things get rough, instead run into the arms of your Father who loves you and will help you work through whatever it is you are facing.

“Come Closer”

Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.~Matthew 11:28

When my son was very young I was meeting some of my friends at the gym so we could start working out.  I noticed one of my friends still in her car on the phone so I decided I would stay in my car until she was done. It was cold and I had forgotten my sweater.  As my 4-year-old son and I were waiting, I said to him “Hey buddy, can you put your jacket on?” He said “sure” and started to put on his coat.  Pretty soon I heard “ I need a little help here.”  From where I was sitting and where he was standing, I couldn’t reach him.  I kept asking him to come closer to me, but he was being defiant and refused to budge.  Eventually, he started jumping around in frustration.  In my best “Mommy” voice I told him “if you come over here, I can help you.”  That got his attention.  He walked over to me, smiled, and we worked together and got his coat on. God desires the same thing from us.  He wants to help us but we have to come to Him first.  Jesus states this in John Chapter 5 Verse 24 when He says “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.” (NIV)  Read that a couple of times.  Jesus is promising us eternal life.  We won’t be condemned.  We won’t suffer the Judgment.  We will live forever with Him.  But there is a condition to that promise.  We must BELIEVE.  Got that?  We must believe.  For some, perhaps even you, that is the hard part.  Believing in something we can’t touch or visibly witness with our own eyes.  What do you believe?  Do you believe that Jesus is God’s one and only Son?  Or do you believe that Jesus was a nice man, a prophet, a teacher but not the Son of God?  If you are not sure what you believe, I encourage you to do some soul searching.  Now is the time.  We are living in the last days.  Jesus is coming back soon.  I know where I’m going, do you know where you’re going?  Jesus states in John 14:6 “I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”  No one gets to Heaven (The Father) without belief in Jesus Christ.  Do you want to be sure of eternal life, praising and worshiping our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ?  If you do, then pray this simple prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, I come to you now, just as I am, flaws and all.  Father forgive me for my sins, I lay them at your feet.  I believe in your Son Jesus Christ.  I believe you sent Him to die on the Cross for me.  I give my life to you right here, right now.  Send your Holy Spirit to live in me.  Thank you Father.  In Jesus Name, Amen. If you prayed this prayer, I encourage you to call someone, a Pastor, a Deacon, a Christian friend.  Someone you can talk to about this destiny-changing decision you just made.  Thank you for allowing me to share my heart with you.

Rediscovering My First Love

Lately, I’ve been thinking about my first love. How I felt about him. How he made me feel. I remember when I first met him…It was electric.  I couldn’t wait to spend time with him, to talk to him, to hear his voice.  I loved feeling him next to me, holding me.  I met him 18 years ago and he told he loved me so much he would die for me. Wow!!! No one had ever said that to me before.  He wrote me love letters and I read them over and over again.  I showed these letters to my friends and I even introduced them to him and a few of them even learned to love him too. My first love was not the boy with whom I shared my first kiss. It was not my  high school boyfriend.  It’s not even my husband of 25 years.  My first love is Jesus Christ.  I was listening recently to a very convicting sermon centered on the Book of Revelation.  I was waiting for the explanation of the symbolism, the description of Armageddon and the Rapture.  What I got was much more. God spoke and I was convicted. I realized that I had left my first love.  I had not lost Him because I knew where He was.  You can’t lose something if you know where it is.  I left Him.  I didn’t do this overnight.  It happened gradually over 18 years.  When I first accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior I prayed several times a day, I read the Bible morning and night, went to church Sunday and Wednesday night, I spent time with other believers..  I attended Bible studies and worked on my study throughout the week.  I listened to Bible teachings on tape.  I couldn’t get enough.  Now I was lucky to pray once a day and maybe open my Bible on Sundays.  I left Him. He did not leave me.  I chose to walk away from Him.  Jesus is a gentleman, He waits to be invited in.  He does not push Himself on anyone. As I was listening to this sermon the pastor said we needed to “Remember, Repent and Repeat.”  We needed to remember what we used to do when we were first saved. We needed to repent of those sins, those distractions that have taken our attention away from Him.  Finally, we needed to repeat those first things that we used to do to be close to to Him. I have to tell you I enjoy my iPhone.  I enjoy the apps you can download and the myriad of choices within those applications.  So I recently found two apps that have nothing but bible teaching from two of the most prominent preachers in Christian circles, John MacArthur and Greg Laurie.  In order to help me in rediscovering Jesus, I have utilized both of these apps.  I have begun to walk 3 miles a day.  On those walks I plug my headphones into my phone and I listen to either pastor and I get a great workout as I glean life application of Scripture. This has spilled over into other aspects of my life.  I now have the You Version Bible app on my phone and I am using this to read through the Bible in a year.  I have used my job as an excuse not to start out my day reading the Bible.  I get up at 2:30a.m. for work and up until this point, have NEVER made a conscience effort to read the Bible in the morning.  “I have to get ready for work , I have to make my lunch, I’m too tired.”  The excuses went on and on.  A friend of mine recently told me, “I realized that I was checking my facebook and my email in the morning.  Why couldn’t I use that time to read my Bible instead.”  That’s when it dawned on me…I was doing the same thing. I was checking email, Facebook and even playing games prior to spending time with God. Then at the end of the day, when I crawled into bed I would attempt to read a section of the Bible and barely get through one verse of Scripture.  I asked God to forgive me for this and I have begun to read the Message version, a very easy to read version, through in a year. I do this first thing in the morning.  It’s funny, I’m not tired in the morning and I have not been late to work once.  This has trickled into my work life. A colleague of mine and I have begun having a Bible study every Thursday.  We meet for coffee after work and go through the questions related to the book we are reading.  Nothing stops us from meeting.  We had our first meeting and boy did we get attacked throughout the day and things kept coming up that were threatening to encroach on our time.  We kept praying for each other, texting and emailing each other that NOTHING was going to get in our way of meeting.  Nothing did. We read the assigned reading throughout the week and grow closer to God through those readings.   While I am still tempted not to read my bible, I am still tempted to not listen to Christian teaching, I am still tempted NOT to pray. God is working on me and I haven’t felt this close to Him in a very long time.  How about you? Have you left your first love? Do you remember those things you used to do to draw closer to Him? How about clearing away some of the clutter, some of the distractions that have been pulling you away from Him and start putting Him first.  Tell Him you’re sorry for putting other things before Him and come back to your first love. He’s waiting at your door.  He’s knocking…are you going to let Him in?

What I learned on my summer vacation

Several years ago, my family and I decided to take a cross-country road trip. Three weeks just my husband, my children and me.  Three weeks of reconnecting with extended family members in different parts of the country. As I packed for this adventure I had my own ideas about how God was going to work over that time period. I knew God was going to give me opportunities to verbally witness to my Jewish family. God knows that I love my family, I care for them and I want them to know the truth; how else were they going to find out without me telling them. Of course, God was going to give me that opportunity. This was more than a vacation; it was a mission trip. On a warm Friday morning,  with kids and husband getting loaded into the mini-van and a sack full of tracts proclaiming the One and Only Way to Heaven, I had a picture in my head of how thrilling it was going to be to “tell” my family about Christ, how he is the Messiah that Isaiah spoke of.  I was beyond excited I was ecstatic.We pulled in to my cousin’s house in New York and all I could think of was OK God, here I am, I’m ready to witness.  Days went by, relatives were visited, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, the laughter contagious and memories abounded, but no opportunities presented themselves to us to verbally proclaim the love of Jesus.  Yes we spoke of what God was doing in our lives, how He was working, we spoke of church and how God called us into various ministries, we prayed at meals, read the Bible.  But still no opportunities appeared.  I had it ready in my head, starting out with the Book of Isaiah and how he described Messiah, and how Jesus fulfilled that prophecy.  Again no opportunities came for us to speak the Message of Salvation. I have to confess to you, when we started home from New York, I felt like a complete and utter failure to God.  What kind of Christian was I?  How could I not be grabbing on to my family’s hands and telling them that if they died today, they would not go to Heaven because they do not believe in Messiah, Jesus Christ?  I verbalized my self-doubt and feelings of failure to my husband and through our conversations I looked back on our visit with my family.  Then God gently took his hand and hit me upside the head (that’s how He gets my attention sometimes).  Duhhhhhhhh!  We may not have had the opportunity to verbally sketch out the message of salvation but we showed Jesus in our lives, our actions, the way we held ourselves, and the way we interacted as a family.  We were different. Maybe that was what God had in mind all along.  For us to be a lifestyle witness?  Hmm, I wonder?  I remember our last night in New Jersey.  My cousin and his brother and sister-in-law were going to Atlantic City to gamble, they asked me to go with them.  Years ago, I would’ve been in the car before you could say slot machine.  But something inside me had changed, something inside me knew that it wasn’t for me anymore, (can you say Holy Spirit) surprisingly enough I had no desire to go I declined the invitation and stayed with my family.  Our lifestyle is the greatest witness we have, never underestimate the value of the way you live your life as a Christian. I realized that God sent me on this trip to reconnect the bonds that tie my family together, to reestablish relationships with cousins, aunts and uncles.  I believe in order for us to witness to someone, we need to know where they stand, what makes them tick, what they love, hate, dream about and want out of life. We need to get to know them on a deep and personal level. Only then can we share with them and they with us the most intimate of all issues, FAITH.

What did I learn on my summer vacation?  Not my will but HIS WILL be done.