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Godly Lessons Learned From a Pup!

cj-with-chewy-bone-from-dave“Mr. No-No” turned one year old Friday. He is the cutest, fluffiest and most loving dog we have ever had. A new breed, Cavashon is a cross between a King Charles Spaniel and a Bischon. They shed little, are very affectionate and gentle. I can remove a toy from his mouth without getting my hand bitten off. Quite a change from our Lhasa or even our sweet Cocker who sadly we lost last year.

It takes a lot of energy to keep puppies occupied.  I take ours for long walks rain or shine, but since we have no sidewalks, when it’s icy or snowy as it was yesterday, walking is too dangerous. I kept him entertained at home.

I’ve learned many lessons from him and the first was that puppies are meant for younger people.

The second: self-discipline.

Puppies are similar to toddlers. Our floor looks like a bone yard: bones, chewy toys, Kongs are currently strewn all over the living room. No matter how many times I put toys away, he seems to prefer his life disorganized. Sometimes he looks like Yoda rifling through Luke’s pack, throwing items to and fro from his toy box, butt in the air.

As we mature, we should prefer order not disorder in our lives. Order keeps us disciplined and God is a God of Order. A disciplined life evokes what is right even though we don’t feel like it. Yes there are days when it is raining, snowing or 27 degrees when I don’t feel like walking. But if your child is crying and really needs you, you can’t ignore that. Our pup is counting on me too. After I have overcome “self” I feel I’ve conquered negativity while disciplining myself.

Second lesson: Realize what’s truly important. 

Observing all those toys flung over the floor, I wonder if he has a clue how fortunate he is?! “There are thousands of dogs starving in China who would appreciate all he has!”  (Sorry, flashback to being six years old and refusing to eat peas.) The point is, to our dog, those toys are primarily a means to an end. He brings me the toys so I’ll have time with him. It’s the process of playing together with the tuggie or bouncy toy that means the most to him.

Do we understand how blessed we are with the many “toys” God gives us? Or do we long for even more, never satisfied. What’s truly important in life? How much is enough? It’s all just stuff. It won’t last but next year’s new toy is calling your name; “work harder and you’ll be able to purchase it!” If you ask your child what he’d prefer, a new television or hanging out with you at the park, would he answer “I’d rather be with you?” Or have you taught him that the one with the most stuff wins?

Thirdly: Be content with what you have.

I observed Mr. No No lying on the floor watching his sister happily chomping away at a small bone. There was another larger bone and several toys right beside him but he wanted what he couldn’t have.

How like us! God created us uniquely with various body shapes and personalities. Does that make us happy? No. We want to look like Beyonce, Angelina, Brad or Clooney. Appreciate what you have. Strive to be your best for God. You’ll be much happier and content.

“And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)

Lastly God’s Love is unconditional and so is our dog’s. Oh, they grow up so quickly! Love unconditionally too.

Maintain Victory Over Holiday Food Temptations

Caution . . . culinary temptations attack the senses from everywhere this time of year. holiday-partyYou might be wondering, “Why bother? I’ll have fun and simply begin again in January.” But why go backwards? You’re already healthier, so don’t give in to stinkin’ thinkin’! Your goal during this time of celebration is to at least maintain . . . not gain!

Hebrews 10:35 – 36 says, “So do not lose the courage you had in the past, which has great reward. You must hold on, so you can do what God wants and receive what He has promised.”

Remember these basic truths when tempted at holiday parties:

1.  Health is more important than weight loss. A 180 lb person could be perfectly healthy while someone 110 lbs. might not.  Simply because someone is thin doesn’t make them healthy. Consuming nutrients do. However, this truth shouldn’t give you license to trash God’s Temple.

Whatever you consume, it’s your choice.  I don’t care if your mother-in-law would be offended if you don’t eat her fruit cake. It’s your choice whether you do or not!  There are ways to maintain weight control without hurting someone’s feelings. Kindly announce, “You know Mom, I’ve been so proud of myself for getting healthier. With your encouragement, I’ll reach my goal. Will you be my support partner with this?” Make sure you stress ‘health’, not weight, or she’ll certainly come back with, “Honey, you’re fine the way you are!” or something similar.

2. Any food is fine in moderation. There is no such thing as a good or bad food, it is simply food, which means energy for the body. Select the best choices among those available. That way you control your circumstances, not the other way around.

3. Move to burn calories!  Develop a variety of enjoyable exercises this month. Dance at home, ask a partner to jazzercise, racquetball, walk, jump rope or use a Wii program. Develop new muscle to burn those extra calories.

4. Identify your “why” before you give in to that tempting morsel. Most of the time people eat for reasons other than hunger. Are you really hungry or just tempted by your eyes?  Are you provoked by a feeling, just need something to do with your hands? Are you self-conscious, eating so you won’t have to speak? Recognize and strategize a way out, like go to another room or turn your back to the food table.

5. Identify your “trigger” foods and don’t bring those into the house. If you were a recovering alcoholic you wouldn’t socialize at a bar right? So avoid the pastry aisles at the supermarket and don’t buy that Bailey’s just in case your “friends” pop over for a drink.

6.Understand how thoughts patterns affect eating habits. It’s not an “all or nothing” proposition. You’re not a failure if you over-indulge, but you won’t feel great about yourself either. Visualize how victorious you’ll feel the next day if you avoid pigging out at that party or family function.

7. Create a Victory Jar.  Set up a calendar, documenting each accomplishment. Reward yourself each week with a nonfood reward for reaching goals. Write down rewards on a piece of paper or place a dollar bill into a clear jar. Every time you view those successes, buy something you want more than food.

Satan wants us to self-destruct and feel like a failure. But don’t give him a foothold! You’re Victorious when you allow God to control your actions. Shouldn’t you love the LORD more than food?

“No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.”  (Romans 8:37)

Leaning on the Everlasting Arms . . .

“Mary,” a patient of mine, came to me simply to lose weight. Although she found herself craving food, the answer didn’t lie within a new menu. Mary’s cravings lay with family issues. motherdaughter-hands

Her daughter had divorced multiple times and was now in another troubling relationship. She only seemed to call her mother when she needed money to run from another messy situation. Mary always felt pressured and manipulated into sending funds to rescue her.

Manipulation caused stress and when stressed, Mary ate. Of course as soon as the daughter was free, her daughter dismissed her as easily as she left her ex’s. Feeling used and rejected, Mary would find herself turning to food once again.

I understood. Rejection and loneliness hurts, being used hurts. Mary looked for ways to mask that pain and  certain foods sedated those hurtful feelings.

Parents want to do all they can for their children. A mother’s instincts to protect her child are innate. But by feeling rejected, Mary considered herself her daughter’s personal vending machine.

Wow, does God ever feel that way with us? We ignore Him until we want something. Then we pray fervently. When God gives us the desires of our heart, we tend to forget Him until next time. How that must hurt the very Heart of God also.

Do we only go to God when we want Him to intervene? “God, act fast and get me out of this situation I created?” Then we forget about Him until the next time.

I asked Mary why she allowed herself to open her heart time after time to rejection and she replied, “The guilt feelings I’d have experienced if something had happened would have haunted me forever.”

So instead Mary turned to food, primarily sweets to numb her pain. Self-destructing, she’d rather hurt than hurt someone else. Self-medicating with food is common but never the answer any more than turning to drugs, alcohol, gambling or any other addiction would be.

Realize that change comes from within. We can’t control someone’s life. Mary had to recognize that after a certain age, one’s decisions are their own. Continually bailing out destructive behaviors isn’t helpful. It only cripples the one who needs to take control of his/her actions.

As hard as it was, Mary needed to stand firm and lean on God’s Word. No more enabling. Her daughter had to understand why she was so uncommitted to her relationships. She needed a pastor or Christian counselor to talk to. Hard facts: Mary was actually a roadblock to her discovering that reason due to her enabling.

Pray for wisdom. Prayer does change our outlook on life! The LORD is the only one who can change a Spirit. God understands more than anyone. Jesus was rejected and abandoned. He knows what you are going through. But before the creation of mankind, God had a plan to redeem us from sin.

“Christ has liberated us to be free. Stand firm then and don’t submit again to a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1)

supportive-momSin is bondage. Have you ever met someone who has conquered addictions? Have you noticed their countenance?  They are Glorious, Victorious, Courageous and Confident!

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” (2 Corinthians 3:17)

It’s our choice. We can live with the miseries of despair or take control. God didn’t create robots. What’s your choice? We stand alone before our Lord to answer for the life we lived on Earth. Stand Victorious!

So Many Diet Plans! Which to Choose?

The 2016 US News and World Report list of “Best Diet Plans” was recently balanced dietpublished. The top five diet plans didn’t change much since last year and it’s always gratifying to view those I highly recommend among the top 5.  Of course  all my diet plans are endorsed by the True Creator of all Good and Practical Diets. One’s which God knew, as our Designer, a person could remain on for life!

So the newest list is:

  • The Dash Diet
  • The Mind Diet (a combo of the DASH and Mediterranean diets, targeting mental function)
  • Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes (TCL)
  • Fertility Diet
  • Mayo Clinic Diet

All of these individual plans are variations on a theme. Each is based on a diversity of fibrous whole grains, fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, lean meats and good fats. Oh my! . . .  I was so surprised . . . NOT! No matter how many times, diet gurus try to rearrange God’s message on dietary recommendations (Genesis 1:29, Genesis 9:3, Acts 10: 10-14, 1 Corinthians 10:23)  it all comes back to one basic truth: physiology.

Why do people get snared by false, fiber-less and sometimes dangerous programs? Well, desperation and hope can drive some to do crazy things. When someone diets and then gains weight back, panic ensues. I understand. No one wants to be embarrassed or perceived as a failure. People become desperate!

Case in point: In the ’90s, Oprah Winfrey set up a false diet center in a mall. The diet was based on eating only hot dogs and ice cream all day. Now, you’re probably thinking, that’s crazy, who would ever sign up for such an obviously fake diet plan? Well, I believe 41 people signed up in two days.  Did they actually believe that eating chemically-laden, nitrate-based, fatty meat and creamed, sugared saturated fat would lead to a healthier lifestyle? Probably not, but they were willing to try anything to lose weight.

If one understands physiology, he’ll know a diet restricting certain food categories will  lead to stronger cravings because our hypothalamus, (that little “mom” in our brain) is nagging us to consume other essential nutrients which our body needs! For example, a diet consisting only of fruit (grapefruit diet anyone?) lacks over 50 essential nutrients for a healthy metabolism. Moderation of all food groups is the key to success.

So don’t diet at all! Live and eat sensibly. My instructor is my LORD. If God is your teacher, then you’ll base your lifestyle on what the Word says, not on some outlandish diet claim urging you to spend money on false advertising.

Materialism is today’s worldly god. Everyone’s out for the almighty dollar. There is very little money in following God’s Simple, Sensible Eating Plan. It’s free. Many of my patients over the years have urged me to write my own “diet” plan. Actually I don’t believe in diets, only healthier lifestyles.

It’s my prayer that my posts will inspire others to follow God’s Plan. For what one truly needs cannot be found at the bottom of a carton of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. People need God to fill their soul with purpose and meaning.

 All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything. Food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food, but God will do away with both of them. Yet the body is not for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body.” 1 Corinthians 6: 12-13 (NASB)

Is Instant Gratification Good or Bad For Us?

I believe in a Bible of Authority. God SPOKE and there was light. He SPOKE and the world came into existence. God SPOKE and the universe was created in an instant . . .

Have you ever noticed however, that God took time to create a man?  Why? That’s a curious action to meditate upon, isn’t it? Amazingly, He didn’t simply speak and automatically God forming manman existed. Rather He lovingly and thoughtfully formed man from the dust of the earth and breathed His own life’s breath into him.

“Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed.” Genesis 2: 7,8

It wasn’t long afterward however that man childishly demanded instant gratification. Paradise wasn’t enough, peacefully walking throughout Eden, communing with God wasn’t enough. Adam desired to be like God with the knowledge of good and evil. Well, we know how that turned out, don’t we? Satan rejoiced over man’s fall.

As Adam discovered, instant gratification can be a painful lesson over the long haul. And man hasn’t changed over 6,000 years!  As Ecclesiastes 1:9 declares, “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.”(ESV)

Look at young celebrities who sign million dollar contracts and immediately fall to drugs, alcohol. gambling or other lifestyle debauchery. It’s too much, too soon. The reward came before the discipline to maintain it. The same can be said regarding many lottery winners and sports stars. Instant gratification produced a downfall.

When one gets married nowadays, many instantly purchase the huge, immaculately furnished home with the beautifully manicured lawn and two car garage for their his and her brand new automobiles. The 60 inch HD screen lies impressively on the media room’s surround-sound wall, so playing the latest video game system is pure pleasure. Instant reward! Until the bills outweigh the income and the filing of bankruptcy begins.

So it is with losing weight too quickly on pie-in-the-sky fad diets as well! “Lose 10 lbs. in 7 days!” It bankrupts the spirit and doesn’t teach anything. Sadly after someone finishes a fad diet plan, the weight piles back on when the old eating habits return. This doesn’t teach the underlying reasons why we eat as we do. Even worse, the dieter will gain back fat to replace the muscle lost. This bankrupts the soul, making a Christian feel like a failure . . . and Satan rejoices.

Since God wants us to be the healthiest we can be, it was no secret how He wanted man to eat. God told us in Genesis 1:9 and Genesis 9:3.  We don’t need a PhD to understand, just a heart willing to work for it. When one knows physiology, he recognizes how complicated our bodily machinery is. I would hope you wouldn’t place sugar and Crisco in your gas tank so why would you place junk food in your body?

God knew it was good for man to work for what he receives.  When man builds his own house with his own hands, he’ll take pride in that accomplishment and will care about the upkeep. When someone loses weight using personal discipline and God’s sensible culinary plan, he’ll have a stake in keeping the weight off. What one treasures, one takes care of!

If We Want to Be Great at Anything . . .

Recently I read an exceptional article by author/blogger Anne R. Allen entitled: “Don’t derail your writing career before it starts” found at http://annerallen.com.  Totally inspirational! I trust it will inspire you too!

Seeing life through a Spiritual lens, I instantly recognized a correlation between writing successfully to our Christian walk and/or healthier lifestyle.writing a novel photo

Anne R. Allen began: “We all make mistakes. It’s how we learn. But some mistakes have the potential to end a writing career before it starts. Today I’m talking about the things a lot of writers do that can keep them from having a career—or derail it for a long time. How do I know about them? I did a lot of this stuff myself.”

Ms. Allen, a brilliant, accomplished author, is humble regarding her successful career. She didn’t brag about being the best novelist since Charlotte Bronte; rather she gives credit to those around her who encouraged and assisted her toward that success. She infers how we don’t live in a vacuum; it truly takes a team to create a well-rounded work. I also acknowledge that without other friend’s expertize advising and cheering me on, my most recent work, Casey’s Journey, would have been a struggle.

Have you seen the movie, Becoming Jane or Little Women? Jane Austen and Louisa May Alcott weren’t successful overnight were they? They had plenty of rejections, tossed away pages and rewritten manuscripts. Thankfully however, they never quit. But what if they had given up, discouraged by those rejection letters? We never would have the masterpieces we have today!

Compare this with any lifestyle endeavor. Please don’t derail any healthy lifestyle quest by giving up, feeling defeated or quit out of fear. As a nutritional counselor, one remark I often heard was, “Why did I wait so long to do this?!” Expecting perfection, fear of failure or even fear of success holds us back. (After all, if I’m successful in this, they’ll expect more from me!)

That victorious feeling after conquering challenges and insecurities is worth the struggle. (Which coincidentally is one theme in my first novel, Sometimes Marriage is a Real Crime, shameless plug.) We’ll continually make mistakes so learn from them and move on, strive for excellence not perfection.

It takes practice to write well. Don’t expect perfection right away or ever. My first manuscript took forever to finish because I was afraid of embarrassing imperfections and grammar mistakes. It’s been decades since I’ve attended school and punctuation has changed over the years. If we want to succeed, we must keep working at it! As a Christian, I’ll never be perfect so please don’t look at me, look to Christ.

We’ll make mistakes in our lifestyle challenges too. Regarding physical and spiritual health: Always look for Truth. Notice all the fad diets over the years? And yet if you compare those with sensible physiology, (truth) we can disregard 99% of them as fads (untruths!) It was extremely satisfying recently to discover health “experts” declaring the Mediterranean Diet as the Best of the Best. Really? I’ve been saying that for twenty-five years. It’s the Biblical Diet from Genesis 9:3 which God gave us first; Physiological Truth!

Last but not least, Anne proposed: in order to be a great writer, we need to be avid readers. If I want to write intelligent works I must read intelligent novelists. Likewise, if we desire a healthier lifestyle, we must compare current health claims to the Great Physician’s Manuscript, The Bible.

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters,” (Colossians 3:23)

 

 

Am I Simply Watering Weeds?

After a water-clogged spring, it’s finally time to plant a garden again. Now for me that’s a challenge because I killed cactus in our yard in Arizona. Therefore I had no idea at first what type of flowers or produce would grow here in Northeast Ohio.

Last year I experimented with flowering plants, radishes, cucumbers and tomatoes and it was a relief to see them grow beautifully. But I also discovered there was more to gardening than simply sticking plants in the ground. Knowledge of what belongs in our garden and what doesn’t is essential to a healthy, successful one.

wild violet weedsI noticed while I was cultivating the soil last year that some beautiful flowering purple plants were already in some spaces I wanted to use. How fortunate I was, I thought, to have the previous owner plant such attractive flowers! I lovingly dug and worked around them, nurturing them . . .  until they were all over the area and I had to keep cutting them back because I didn’t want them to overpower my good produce. That took a lot of my time and effort!

One day I had a guest over and proudly showed off my flowering blooms. She glanced over at me sympathetically and commented, “Ellie, I hate to tell you but you’ve been watering weeds.”

Sigh, my beautiful flowers were actually wild violet weeds. “But,” I protested, “they look so pretty! How would I have known?”

Isn’t that like sin in our lives? Sin looks so pretty and inviting at first. And we’re so prideful that we sometimes cultivate a particular sin until it takes over our lives, intertwining with our vibrant Christian living, eventually choking off strong growth.

If God is our Gardener, sin doesn’t look attractive.

“For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world.” (1 John 2:16  NLT)

God directs us to what is essential and belongs in our lives and what doesn’t! Certainly we can understand how drugs, alcohol or smoking can become distracting weeds overpowering our Christian testimony. But anything we desire more than Lord becomes an idol.

Even something as innocent as cooking and exercise can seem inviting but be off-track. Addiction to unhealthy food or exercising becomes an idol. “But we need to eat and exercise,” you say. True, then let us eat a balanced diet and exercise sensibly which honors our personal temple of the Holy Spirit not destroys it.

Are you thinking, “But if they are such pretty flowers, why kill them all?” Yeah, so did I. Unfortunately by not killing the weeds, they crept back into the garden and we had to destroy them once again this year. I’ve learned that weeds need to be pulled out by their roots or they pop up later like sin. Don’t allow sin to fester in the soil of your soul or it will manifest in other addictions. Addiction is sin and must be destroyed at the roots. Conquer sin by replacing bad habits with healthier ones.

Weeds crept into my garden without realizing it. A garden is a wonderful accomplishment but I couldn’t see the productivity for the weeds. It took a lot of effort to cultivate and nurture those unnecessary weeds; time which could have been better spent on Godly endeavors. This year, I know what belongs in my Godly Soil. I pray you’ll nurture yours too.