Three 31


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30 Days of Manna // Day 26

30 Days of Manna

The Letter of James is a welcomed read at this point of the series. It was written to the “twelve tribes scattered abroad,” also known as the Jewish Christians outside of Palestine.

James has a strong message to believers in foreign lands: remain faithful, be patient, persevere through struggles, and avoid sinful temptations. Timeless wisdom, do you agree?

My brothers and sisters, you will have many kinds of trouble. But this gives you a reason to be very happy. You know that when your faith is tested, you learn to be patient in suffering. If you let that patience work in you, the end result will be good. You will be mature and complete. You will be all that God wants you to be. ~ James 1:2-4

I love the word play here. It’s not a question of IF your faith will be tested, it’s a matter of WHEN it will be tested.

My journey towards better physical health and spiritual well-being is just beginning. The last 26 days have not been smooth sailing and I don’t expect life to get easier when this series is complete either. In fact, it might get a little harder. It is my responsibility, however, to keep temptation triggers at bay, continue my fitness routines, and stay connected to accountability partners. If I stay patient and continue working for the good of my body and soul, the end result will be good – Scripture promises this!

Whenever you feel tempted to do something bad, you should not say, “God is tempting me.” Evil cannot tempt God, and God himself does not tempt anyone. You are tempted by the evil things you want. Your own desire leads you away and traps you. Your desire grows inside you until it results in sin. Then the sin grows bigger and bigger and finally ends in death. ~ James 1:13-15

A healthy lifestyle is not a single choice, but rather many decisions every day.

Every day is full of decisions, big and small, important and mundane, but every choice leads to another and every decision has a consequence.

Here are five I’m working on right now:

one // I will choose to eat foods rich in vitamins and nutrients that strengthen and energize my body instead of processed junk that make me feel drained or lethargic.

two // I will choose to exercise at least 60 minutes every week day.

three // I will choose to unplug from technology and read Scripture, pray, doodle in my Journaling Bible, lead a women’s small group, and serve others.

four // I will choose to sleep at least seven hours every night.

five // I will choose to connect with accountability partners in order to stay focused, vent frustrations, and celebrate successes.

These are just five decisions I am making to improve my attitude and commitment towards a lifestyle that is physically and spiritually healthy, but I assure you, it’s not as easy as it sounds.

I have a choice … I can throw in the towel or use it to wipe the sweat off my face.


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30 Days of Manna // Day 25

30 Days of Manna

For three weeks, I have shared stories and experiences, heartbreak, life lessons, and passages of Scripture to connect my physical health and spiritual well-being. Allowing myself to be vulnerable and transparent has not been easy, but I think there is an opportunity to be empowered and encouraged. Feeling emotional from exposing weaknesses for the honor and glory of God, I remind myself of Christianity’s great mystery: Jesus’ humanity and divinity. He is fully human and fully God.

So Jesus himself became like them and had the same experiences they have. Jesus did this so that, by dying, he could destroy the one who has the power of death—the devil. Jesus became like these people and died so that he could free them. They were like slaves all their lives because of their fear of death. Clearly, it is not angels that Jesus helps. He helps the people who are from Abraham. For this reason, Jesus had to be made like us in every way. He became like people so that he could be their merciful and faithful high priest in service to God. Then he could bring forgiveness for the people’s sins. And now he can help those who are tempted. He is able to help because he himself suffered and was tempted. ~ Hebrews 2:14-18 (Easy-to-Read Version)

The author of Hebrews reminds readers that Jesus became like them (human) so he could have the same experiences, feel the same emotions, and suffer. In every possible way, Jesus was like you and me. He had feelings, stress, disappointments, celebrations, and faced Satan’s temptations. There is nothing I have experienced (or will experience in the future) that Jesus has not known – but his resurrection conquered death and gives eternal life to all believers. Amen!

My suffering and struggles are bearable because Jesus is the ultimate example of resilience. He faced temptation, heartache and struggle head on. Jesus never exhibited powerlessness or allowed Satan to overwhelm Him.

Jesus was connected, engaged, and had genuine support from family and friends on earth and has an intimate relationship with his Heavenly Father. God desires the same kind of relationship with me and encourages me to build a ‘tribe’ of support here on earth to face difficult times and tempting situations.

We have all these great people around us as examples. Their lives tell us what faith means. So we, too, should run the race that is before us and never quit. We should remove from our lives anything that would slow us down and the sin that so often makes us fall. We must never stop looking to Jesus. He is the leader of our faith, and he is the one who makes our faith complete. He suffered death on a cross. But he accepted the shame of the cross as if it were nothing because of the joy he could see waiting for him. And now he is sitting at the right side of God’s throne. Think about Jesus. He patiently endured the angry insults that sinful people were shouting at him. Think about him so that you won’t get discouraged and stop trying. ~ Hebrews 12:1-3 (ERV)

Oh, sweet friend, did you hear that? Listen to these words again and open the ears and eyes of your heart:

GREAT PEOPLE AROUND US AS EXAMPLES // If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: I’d rather have four quarters than 100 pennies. Build your tribe with genuine, authentic, honest people who love you and support you. Surround yourself with people whose lives are a shining example of Jesus Christ, who lift you up instead of tear you down. If they have a heart for God, befriend them!

RUN THE RACE AND DON’T QUIT // My race is unique to me and your race is unique to you – whatever your journey looks like, run like hell and don’t stop trying!

REMOVE ANYTHING THAT MAKES YOU SIN // I’m beginning to sound like a broken record but my temptation trigger is food. It’s a slippery slope because I lack self-control, discipline, and portion restraints. I am learning to say no and remove myself from situations that could lead to overeating.

THINK ABOUT JESUS // Jesus was and is and is to come. He existed before the world was created. He made himself human to experience struggles, stress, and demands of life on earth. Because of His great love, He suffered and accepted the sins of the world so I could have eternal life. To me, Palm Sunday, is not a celebration of Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey as if it were a Fourth of July parade. The same people who waved palm branches and yelled “Hosanna!” were the same people who, four days later, yelled “Crucify him!” But Jesus loved them anyway. Not only did He love them, but He forgave their sins and died so they might realize eternal life is available if they believe in Him.

If Jesus, who is fully human and fully divine, can endure the angry insults and hateful actions of others, so can I.

Despite the naysayers, I will improve my health, exercise regularly, and eat smart.

YOU ARE NOT ALONE in your struggles.

Jesus exemplified discipline and endurance and encourages you to have dedication towards physical health and spiritual well-being goals.

Amen.


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30 Days of Manna // Day 24

30 Days of Manna

It was announced this week that more than two-thirds of U.S. adults are overweight or obese. I am part of that statistic, unfortunately. When someone mentions BMI (body mass index), I tend to laugh and say, according to that chart, I’m too short. But the truth is, I’m six-feet-tall, weight 259 pounds, and I am obese.

The study’s results do not surprise me. It’s obvious Americans are fatter, less active than ever before, and have plenty of excuses at their disposal: sedentary lifestyle and desk jobs, abundant technology use, and our infatuation with cars to take us wherever we want to go, rather than walking or riding a bike. Government officials spend a lot of time trying to figure out ways to help people get healthier but here is the truth: it’s not the responsibility of medical professionals or politicians to make us healthy, it’s up to you and me.

I am choosing to improve my physical health and spiritual well-being.

I am choosing to immerse myself in God’s Word to deepen my relationship with Him.

I am choosing to eat more wholesome foods and less processed foods created in a laboratory.

I am choosing to exercise at least one hour every week day.

I don’t need a senator or the president of the American Heart Association to tell me eating a bag of chips is bad for my health, I know it’s bad because I feel guilt afterwards … not to mention feeling like garbage when I eat garbage! I know eating a bag of chips is senseless, but it’s up to me to utilize free will and make mature decisions at meal times. The same is true for our spiritual health.

We did everything for you that parents would do for their own children. We begged, encouraged, and urged each of you to live in a way that would honor God. ~ I Thessalonians 2:12 (Contemporary English Version)

In this passage, Paul is speaking to the people (church) in Thessalonian and he is ultimately pleased by their steadfast faith and mature lifestyle, but this is not a time for relaxation. If you are stagnant or not moving forward to improve yourself, you are essentially moving backwards.

To combat their lackadaisical approach to life, Paul encouraged Thessalonians like a parent would their child – as God encourages me to draw closer to Him. But it’s important to remember one seemingly insignificant word in the perspective of our physical health and spiritual well-being.

CHOICE

Medical professionals cannot make us exercise more and eat less, we must choose the healthy lifestyle for ourselves.

God will not force His will on us, we must choose to abide in Him rather than our selfish desires.

God does not require us to be in relationship with him either, but He wants it more than we can imagine. And, if our hearts and minds are in tune to God’s desires, instead of earthly or selfish things, then we will want to be in relationship with Him too.

God does not beg me to attend church, small group fellowship, or read Scripture regularly, but these are ways I connect to Him so my words, actions, and behavior honor Him.

I walk into the gym under my own power, no one is pushing me through the door, and in doing so I hope to honor God by taking care of the physical body he has given me.

It’s all about choice.

Last Monday, my choices were not good. I went on an emotional eating binge. Afterwards, I felt miserable, of course, and the scale reflected my poor choices. I acknowledge that I ate like an irresponsible mad woman.

Today, however, I choose to eat smart, eat less, and burn more.


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30 Days of Manna // Day 23

30 Days of Manna

WORK.

It seems like a dirty four-letter word everybody loves to hate because we spend so much time doing it. It’s inevitable that work is part of our daily routine. I admit my attitude towards work is not always positive; I allow myself to get lost in the mundane, miniscule, and lackluster responsibilities of life. But what if I change my perspective and look at work as a blessing instead of a curse?

Servants, do what you’re told by your earthly masters. And don’t just do the minimum that will get you by. Do your best. Work from the heart for your real Master, for God, confident that you’ll get paid in full when you come into your inheritance. Keep in mind always that the ultimate Master you’re serving is Christ. The sullen servant who does shoddy work will be held responsible. Being a follower of Jesus doesn’t cover up bad work. ~ Colossians 3:22-25 (The Message)

The Message provides an excellent translation of Scripture here, but let’s look at it more simply.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters. ~ Colossians 3:23 (New International Version)

Paul describes three common relationships: husband/wife, parents/children, and master/slave. I can understand the first two as I am a wife, parent, and child, but then I have to be reminded that ‘slavery’ in Biblical contexts often meant willingness to serve and respect the master rather than the ugliness of American history that has conditioned me to think of The Underground Railroad or tobacco plantations. If you have followed along with this blog series, you already know the ugliness of my slavery to food and how easily I succumb to temptation from the fridge or pantry. We all have our quirks, right?

But consider these three perspectives of our Scripture passage today:

WHATEVER YOU DO // Whatever the situation. Whatever the circumstance. Whatever the context. Whatever the relationship. Whatever we do – spouse/parent partnership; folding laundry; raising our son to be respectful; saying hello to a stranger; going to the gym every day; eating for sustenance rather than comfort – do it ALL for the glory and praise of Lord Jesus.

WORK WITH ALL YOUR HEART // I’ll be honest, I’m having one of the *those* days. I didn’t sleep well last night and the thought of going to the gym this morning is not high on my priority list. But I’m going anyway with a positive attitude to be productive as possible. It doesn’t matter what I am doing, from the mundane to the monumental, I am going to give it all I’ve got.

FOR THE LORD, NOT MAN // I am the world’s worst at trying to people-please. I give it my best effort only to be really disappointed. I drive myself crazy trying to impress others or earn their affection. A lot is probably due to my status as an only child, but I genuinely care what people think or say about me and I go to great lengths to make sure it is positive. But, as I’m learning every day, I cannot please everybody and my tribe of genuine support is built upon quality not quantity. In regards to authentic friendships, I’d rather have four quarters than 100 pennies. In order to be content and have fulfillment in our work, we must realize genuine satisfaction is found only in the Lord. Working for the praise of others is not our ultimate reward – our priority and focus should be above: heaven.

As unpredictable and moody humans can be, Jesus is our constant companion. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8).

Whatever work I do today, whether it is housework (ugh!), nurturing a relationship, or improving my health, it’s an opportunity for me to honor Jesus Christ.

Amen.


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30 Days of Manna // Day 22

30 Days of Manna

Goals are important – they keep me grounded, focused, accountable, and encourage me to step outside my comfort zone.

Completing this blog series is on my 2015 resolution list. It has been a test of vulnerability and endurance for sure, and there is still a week to go. This series has been difficult because I have exposed skeletons and revealed weaknesses, but it is soul-cleansing. I have also impressed myself by my commitment to write 30 original posts based on Scripture and improving my overall health. I will reap benefits from this project after the 30-day blog series is complete because this journey towards physical health and spiritual well-being requires a lifestyle transformation. There will always be new goals to achieve and something to work towards; I am just getting started!

But accomplishing ‘earthly’ goals don’t hold a candle to my ultimate goal: stand before the Lord God at the end of life and hear Him say these seven words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

I have not yet reached my goal, and I am not perfect. But Christ has taken hold of me. So I keep on running and struggling to take hold of the prize. … But I forget what is behind, and I struggle for what is ahead. I run toward the goal, so that I can win the prize of being called to heaven. This is the prize that God offers because of what Christ Jesus has done. ~ Philippians 3:12-14 (Contemporary English Version)

I have not yet reach my desired weight, but I am closer today than I was at the beginning of this series.

If you have goals or resolutions you’d like to accomplish, be S.M.A.R.T. about them:

  • Goals must be SPECIFIC.
  • Goals must be MEASURABLE.
  • Goals must be ATTAINABLE.
  • Goals must be RECORDED.
  • Goals must be TIMED.

Though my annual list of goals is extensive, every item is realistic. By writing (or publishing) them, I can measure my progress. I also publish a monthly resolution update that highlights successes and failures and areas of concern or improvement Finally, I give myself one year (January 1 to December 31) to complete the list. I have never accomplished an entire resolutions list in one year, but that doesn’t derail my ambition. Besides, whaever I don’t accomplish this year gives me a head start on next year’s list!

Friend, keep your mind on whatever is true, pure, right, holy, friendly, and proper. Don’t ever stop thinking about what is truly worthwhile and worthy of praise. You know the teachings I gave you, and you know what you heard me say and saw me do. So follow my example. And God, who gives peace, will be with you. ~Philippians 4:8-9 (CEV)

Amen.


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30 Days of Manna // Day 21

30 Days of Manna

The Book of Ephesians is a letter (from Paul to several churches) praising Lord Jesus, promoting peace and unity between all people (believers and non-believers), and emphasizing love and harmony in Christ in all settings, specifically in church and family.

Ephesians also applies to one’s journey towards physical health and spiritual wellness. It is a reminder that Christ strengthens from the inside out, through the richness and glory of the Spirit (Ephesians 3:16).

Paul likes to meddle in my business, encouraging me to stop old ways of thinking and living. He even goes as far as saying people who lack self-control, demonstrate no sense of right and wrong, or do whatever feels good are disconnected from God.

I lack self-control when it comes to food. I know the difference between right and wrong because I regret or feel guilty about indulging or eating foods that I consider to be triggers. I often do whatever feels good in the moment, especially when it comes to food and satisfying cravings. When I choose food over God, I am disconnected from Him. He is no longer a priority of mine.

I don’t want to be disconnected from God.

Since you listen to him and you were taught how the truth is in Jesus, change the former way of life that was part of the person you once were, corrupted by deceitful desires. Renew the thinking in your mind by the Spirit and clothe yourself with the new person created according to God’s image in justice and true holiness. ~ Ephesians 4:17-24 (Common English Bible)

How does one make changes?

Start small.

  • Consider food a source of sustenance and energy instead of an award or the response to emotional issues. In other words, find other ways to celebrate an accomplishment. Don’t soothe emotions or stress by eating.
  • Two years ago, when I found out I was pregnant, I eliminated all caffeine and sugar-y drinks – including sweet tea. Even though there are caffeine-free options available, I decided it was in my best interest to avoid them altogether. Now, I only drink water. I add flavor with sliced lemons, limes, and cucumbers or drops of peppermint oil. It’s made a big difference and I’m not drinking excess calories either!
  • Portion control is a major obstacle. If I’m eating a good meal, I want seconds (or thirds). And I *ALWAYS* clean my plate. To combat these habits, I’ve begun using dessert plates. Not only are they decorated beautifully and fun to look at while eating, they are half the size of traditional dinner plates. This ‘mind trick’ is really helpful at meal time.
  • Food is not part of every social activity. As a good Southern woman, I want to show people love with a hearty, home-cooked meal, but food is not a source of love, friendliness, or hospitality – I am. I can embody these qualities without a meal present. n has to include food. For instance, at church, I lead two small groups: one for Bible Journaling and the other for studying women in the Bible.
  • No eating after 7pm. After dinner, usually around 6 or 6:30 every night, I don’t eat again. If I get the munchies, I drink a tall glass of water.

One of my favorite verses in Ephesians actually sounds like something my great-grandmother, Nannie, would have said to her friends or family in sticky situations. She always had sage advice and funny wits about her.

Don’t provide an opportunity for the devil. ~ Ephesians 4:27 (CEB)

In other words, don’t go to the grocery when you’re hungry.

If you are full, stop eating.

If you are avoiding dairy or excess sugar, stay away from the fro-yo shop!

Never miss a Monday workout.

If you can’t make it to the gym, sweat anyway! (Circuit intervals at home or laps around the community lake are wonderful and don’t require any equipment.)

If you make a bad choice, acknowledge it and make the rest of your day a success.

If you are feeling emotionally or spiritually wrecked, talk to someone.

Build a tribe with people who support your goals, they have your best intentions at heart.

Be your own cheerleader instead of worst critic.

Don’t provide an opportunity for the devil to wreck your plans or discourage your progress!


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30 Days of Manna // Day 20

30 Days of Manna

According to several studies, people with a faith-filled life tend to live longer, experience more contentment, and are healthier than their counterparts. There is not a singular prescription to improving my health because it is multi-faceted, which is why I am approaching it from two perspectives: physical and spiritual. I believe they are both connected, and this is supported by the studies’ claims, and essential to overall health.

Though most people believe I have a positive attitude and outlook on situations and circumstances, my inner voice is a cruel critic.

In Galatians 4, Scripture warns about losing our great attitude. I am the first to support others, yet rarely encourage myself. Why is that?

Paul, the writer of Galatians, associates doubtful, depressed believers with young children. Being a parent myself, I am constantly reminded of the encouragement and redirection needed to keep my son focused, safe, and healthy. As a Christian, I need mentors and spiritual advisors to keep me on track. As a woman trying to improve my overall health, I need positive, authentic, and honest people in my tribe to support me.

it’s always good to have people concerned about you with good intentions. ~ Galatians 4:18 (Common English Bible)

Paul explains to Christians – young and old – that a support system, or living within a community of believers, is crucial. .

I’ve explained before that I am blessed to have some amazing people in my tribe. They don’t always speak words I want to hear, but they always speak the truth and tell me what I need to hear. And I am thankful for each and every one of them.

Surround yourself with people who see greatness within you, even when you don’t see it yourself.

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