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Saturday, August 28, 2010

Why Do I Have to Suffer?

When we feel imprisoned, we ask, Where is God?

One night, Carol was purging for the third time in one hour. All of a sudden, she felt a piercing, stinging sensation in her throat and she began gagging. She looked down in the toilet bowl and witnessed a puddle of blood. It’s okay, she thought, I’ve bled before (denial). But the blood kept coming. What am I going to do? Who can I tell? Nobody knows my horrible, shameful secret.

So she didn’t tell anyone. For the next two days, Carol suffered and existed in agony. On the third day, she checked into the emergency room. When I woke up, the doctor told me I had a very large ulcer in my throat that was on the verge of rupturing, which could lead to death.

This is a picture of both physical and emotional suffering. We each have our own story. Why does this all-powerful God allow us to suffer so, especially if He is a loving God? The Bible doesn’t spell out all of His reasons: “How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his methods!” (Romans 11:33, TLB). But the Bible does give us insights into how He uses troubles for good.
Peter goes so far as to insist that suffering is our calling. “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps” (1 Peter 2:22).

God has a specific objective in mind for our suffering. He knows exactly the intensity and the duration that’s needed to fulfill His purposes. Through the whole process, whether it’s days, weeks, months, or years, we have His promise. “The God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast” (1 Peter 5:10). Oliver Wendell Holmes understood this truth when he wrote, “If I had a formula for ridding mankind of trouble, I think I would not reveal it, for in doing so, I would do him a disservice.”

Scripture doesn’t say we won’t pass through rough waters. What does God promise us in Isaiah 43:2? “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.”

God will be with us in those waters. It doesn’t say that we won’t have bad days. It doesn’t tell us that rivers won’t roar at our feet. Scripture tells us that they will not overwhelm us. There will be fiery places. But because of God’s great love, we will not be consumed in the fire.

“When life is good we tend to have no questions, but when life is bad we have no answers.” –Mike Mason

[this is an excerpt from "I'm Beauiful? Why Can't I See It?"]

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Perfect Look

As a teen and young woman I used to think, What I’d give to be a super-model!
The boys in my sixth grade class told me I could be a model but only for Mad Magazine. I started to create collages of models because they represented “perfection” to me. They became my idols. Models and actresses give me life! I turned my heart to idols because I connected with them. An idol is anything, or anyone, we put our trust in in order to meet our needs apart from God. An idol can be described as a God substitute.

Isaiah 44:17-18 says, “From the rest he makes a god, his idol; he bows down to it and worships. He prays to it and says, ‘Save me; you are my god.’ They know nothing, they understand nothing; their eyes are plastered over so they cannot see, and their minds closed so they cannot understand.”

Can you see how an idol (perfect person) might be a delusion? Inevitably, my idols made me feel worthless and humiliated because I couldn’t measure up to their standards. I hate my body! Why do so many of us hate our bodies? Why aren’t we pleased with what God gave us? We cry, “I must be beautiful and perfect!”

We ignore our genetic code. So what happens? Since we can’t attain that perfection, we don’t feel good about ourselves because our self-esteem has become related to our body and self-image. When we don’t feel good about ourselves, it’s hard to develop meaningful relationships with others.

Whatever happened to the importance of “inner beauty?” The Bible says, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

Christ looks at the heart. Why are we all so enslaved to the way we look?

1. We buy into the lies the media feeds us.
Our hearts believe the lies that physical beauty will bring satisfaction and recognition. False promises like, If I’m beautiful, I will be happy and successful. I’ll be popular and desirable to men. I will know lasting intimacy and true love. I’ll be secure, important, significant, and confident.

2. Other factors (besides attaining perfectionism) can contribute to abnormal eating habits.

For example, depression, a dysfunctional family system, control and dependency, performance pressure from the family (especially in the area of grades and other parent appointed activities), involvement in activities that promote thinness like gymnastics, swimming, dancing, cheerleading, running, ice-skating, and appearance-oriented activities like modeling and beauty pageants.

God knows women are interested in making themselves look good. The apostle Peter defines inner beauty for us:

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful (1 Peter 3:3-5).

3. What kind of adorning does God think is beautiful in women?
Examples of beauty: there is beauty in integrity, intelligence, humor, simplicity, and complexity. Can you think of other examples?
When a child of God looks into the Word of God, she sees the Son of God and is changed by the Spirit of God into the image of God for the glory of God.

“Nothing will ever be attempted if all possible objections must be first overcome.”
–Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)

Monday, August 16, 2010

Letting Go of an Eating Disorder

Villagers that live in the forests and mountains of India catch monkeys by carving pots with necks as long as a monkey’s arm and a base large enough for a banana. The monkeys can’t wait to retrieve their prize. They put their arms down the neck of the jar until they have the banana tightly grasped. However, they can’t pull it through the narrow neck. So they sit holding their prize tightly for fear of losing it. Eventually, the monkey becomes immobilized, and they’re simple pickings for the villagers.

What are you afraid of letting go of? I think we all are afraid of something, and that is why we are easily controlled by others; whether it’s someone else’s will, or media messages, or we just mindlessly follow the crowd. Sam and Adele Hooker wrote,

Our fears, our self-possessiveness, our self-protection, all the self-things we hold onto, cause a struggle when we’re faced with giving every part of ourselves to God. Jesus wrestled in the Garden of Gethsemane until his sweat turned to blood. Finally, he and the Holy Spirit wrestled down his fleshly self will to where he could say to the Father, “Not my will but thine be done” (Matthew 26:39).

Now is the time to let our faith in Jesus take over. Romans 12:1 says, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—which is your spiritual worship.” Let go.

Monday, August 9, 2010

My story: Saving Opheila

Ophelia, in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, illustrates the destructive forces affecting young women. Ophelia is a typical girl, footloose and fancy-free. But she loses herself in adolescence. She falls in love with Hamlet and lives only for his approval. She doesn’t have a relationship with God and the insight of the Holy Spirit to guide and direct her, so she lives merely to meet Hamlet’s and her father’s demands. Who she is, her value, is determined solely by their approval, and she is torn apart. She goes mad with grief. Elegantly dressed, tragically she drowns in a stream filled with flowers.

For twenty years I lived an Ophelia existence. I attempted to take control of my mind, yet I couldn’t conquer the addiction to food, alcohol, cigarettes, diet pills, and my promiscuous behavior. As a kid, our family moved quite a bit. The first move from America to London, England. I was teased by schoolmates because I didn’t fit into the culture. I was unlike them because I had an accent. I felt stupid because I needed a tutor. I was weird because my clothes were different. Weirdo! What I heard was, “You do not belong” and “You are not accepted.”

We moved back to America when I was twelve. Again I was weird and different, but now I was entering adolescence—the hurricane years. The pain of rejection became part of my normal thought process. I expected people not to like me. We moved several more times. I fell in with the wild crowd, feeling the pressure to fit in. I smoked cigarettes and tried alcohol and drugs. This group gave me a sense of belonging and a means to forget the rejection and losses.

Then I began to gravitate into a new world of worshipping celebrities and models. I believed the lie that to be popular you have to look like a model. Teen magazines say, Don’t worry about being good, worry about looking good and being socially accepted!

As a teen I pretty much turned off my God-given talents and gifts in search of the Western culture’s definition of ideal. I set my sights on being a super model.
When I announced this in my sixth-grade class, a few boys laughed, “Yeah, you’ll be a supermodel…for MAD Magazine.” Translation, You’re ugly. Give it up! I didn’t give it up. I’d do anything to be a beautiful super model or celebrity. And why not? In this culture celebrity and beauty has its rewards. This was the beginning of what I call the Cover Girl masquerade . . . and the spiral downwards began.

The spiral began innocently enough with a simple diet. My senior year in high school I lost fifteen pounds and looked remarkable. I received compliments and praise from my parents and friends…and I wanted more. I felt accepted and loved. I belong! Now I’ll be popular! The disordered eating thought process began in high school but exploded when I entered college and joined a sorority.

Before I knew it I was a full-blown bulimic, a disease that took over my life. I wish someone had said to me, “Great, you’re now a size six. There are a million other size sixes out there. What’s different about you? What is about you, Kimberly the person, that shines?” That would have stung a little, but hopefully have pointed me towards working on my inside. Instead, I worked tirelessly trying to conform to this culture’s image of the stick, thin woman.

As I grew into adulthood, my self-esteem continued to deteriorate. Clearly, by bingeing and purging I was self-medicating—the stress, anxieties, and pain. And then my body started desiring and needing the alcohol. Alcohol abuse usually leads to inappropriate sexual behavior. I couldn’t stop the promiscuity. I did what I thought I should do in order to be accepted. Again, I justified it. Everyone else is sleeping around. It was a way to fill the hole in my heart. But it only deepened the wounds of shame, humiliation, and abandonment.

I eventually got pregnant and chose to have an abortion—another demon o deal with. I had a major life choice to grapple with--to bring this baby to term, or abort it. There was no doubt in my mind that abortion was the answer. After all, I wasn’t married, I had an established lifestyle, and I would have brought embarrassment and shame upon my parents. When I chose abortion, I was really choosing to purge my baby, like the food I ate. I could clearly see that at that time in my life I didn’t value myself, so how could I value my baby’s life? You could say the monster bulimia took two innocent lives. After I had the abortion, I chose to bury this experience like a wrecked ship, on the bottom of an ocean.

Like Ophelia, I was in danger of drowning. It was beginning to look like a life or death situation. It was vital I be revived. I needed someone to point me to Jesus Christ. “In my distress I called to the LORD; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears” (Ps. 18:6).

God sent that person and he took me to church. Jesus walked into my messed up life and a couple months later I was saved. The Bible says, “That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom. 10:9).

Jesus pronounced, “Daughter, You’re free to go. I’ve done the time for you (Acts 2; 2 Cor. 3:17). Now go and tell the world what you have experienced.” The shackles melted. Evil evaporated. Jesus will always meet us right where we are at. We don’t have to be good enough, smart enough or religious enough to earn an audience with him. We can have a personal, intimate relationship with the God Almighty.

My identity changed because God adopted me into his family. God took all my guilty acts and thoughts, and placed them on Jesus. At that moment, he said, “Kimberly, you are forgiven. Every offense is wiped from your record.” God forgives and forgets—completely, and I became righteous—perfect before God. No external makeover can compare to the internal makeover we receive from Jesus Christ!

Excerpt from Kimberly’s book: Breaking the Cover Girl Mask: Toss Out Toxic Thoughts

Friday, August 6, 2010

Why are we so unhappy with our bodies?

Slowly over time, you developed your body image based on what your family, boyfriend(s), and/or husband(s), coaches, and teachers told you. Add to that thousands of daily media messages from magazines, novels, television, music, and you start to believe that you’re fat or ugly. All these negative thoughts and beliefs can lead down a self-destructive path unless you know how to recognize and cope with them. A woman with a healthy body image respects her body, takes care of her body, and keeps her body in perspective.

What is self-esteem? Self-esteem is defined as “a confidence and satisfaction in oneself.” It is your overall evaluation of your self-worth and how you value your own attributes. How high or low your self-esteem is depends on how you compare what you’d like to be with how you actually see yourself.

Research shows that girls lose twenty-three percent of their self-esteem between elementary and middle school. A study by the American Association of University Women found only twenty-nine percent of high school girls were happy with themselves.

Psychologists describe key components of self-esteem as how you evaluate yourself in terms of important characteristics like what you are good at, what you are not so good at, and the kinds of situations you prefer or avoid.

Most of our feelings about ourselves are built into us in childhood. If we were fortunate to have loving parents who conveyed our worth in their relationship to us, and if we grew up in a safe environment with positive relationships with peers, teachers, and role models, then it is likely we will feel reasonably good about ourselves. However, if faced with negative influences in childhood, it may not take much to tip the balance the other way.

“The body is a sacred garment. It’s your first and last garment; it is what you enter life in and what you depart life with, and it should be treated with honor.” –Martha Graham

[Excerpt from “I’m Beautiful? Why Can’t I See It?” by Kimberly Davidson].