What would you do?

I saw the picture below and the following post in a Facebook group that I am a member of and thought that it was perfect for what I wanted to write about today. Here it is:

A very dirty fish tank showing unhealthy fish. It asks the question: What makes the most sense?

“This is a dirty fish tank. [A really dirty fish tank.] These fish are sick. What would be your first suggestion to help them get better?

Here are two theories…..
Theory 1: Medicate the fish
Theory 2: Clean the tank and put the fish in fresh water.

When most people look at this scenario they quickly determine theory 2 OBVIOUSLY makes the most sense. So, why don’t we apply this logic to our own lives?

We have health issues and go to a doctor and get medications. Then we get additional medications to help with the side effects of the first medications. Most of us are just living our lives addressing the symptoms of an illness and not the cause. We don’t go to a doctor to find the root cause and heal our bodies. Why is that?

Whether you struggle with eczema, acne, UTIs, headaches, anxiety, fatigue, autoimmune diseases, reproductive issues, cysts, chronic pain… You need to clean out your tank and add fresh water.

From the foods we eat to the products we use. Clean it up. 
[Author Unknown]

On Friday, I had a doctor’s appointment to discuss some recent blood tests. She pointed out my Thyroid Peroxidase levels. They were at 114 when the normal range was listed as somewhere between 0 and 34. She said the high levels indicated inflammation and what was called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. My doctor did tell me that it could be treated through medication, but she actually recommended a gluten-free diet, which should reduce the levels and the inflammation. Yay for a good doctor.

What did I do? I went home and ate some Bagel Bites. Crazy huh? I guess I was thinking that if I was going to have to give up so many things I liked to eat soon, that I’d just go ahead and splurge on something that I knew was bad for me. I am quite sure I have a lot of things in my pantry right now that are full of gluten, but the truth is, I don’t even know enough about it yet to determine what I should and shouldn’t be eating. All I can think of is no carbs. 😦

This is the list my doctor gave me of carbohydrates and refined sugars to avoid: breads, pastas, flour tortillas, cakes, cookies, pies, cereals, and crackers. Of course, I love all these things. There goes my everything bagel most mornings, my sandwich at lunch, my homemade banana bread, crackers and cheese, and pasta! Oh man! I do know that there are a lot of alternatives out there these days; I’ve just never had to study ingredient labels so closely or figure out my options before. Looks like I have a lot of research to do.

Of course, I realize that this is an opportunity for me to make some wise choices and clean my tank before things get too bad for me health-wise. I take ibuprofen or Aleve almost every day for neck and back pain, and I’m quite sure the pain and stiffness I experience all the time is due to inflammation, so why wouldn’t I give this dietary solution a try? It’s a natural approach, which might alleviate my need for the medications I currently take.

As soon as I told him about it, my husband was asking me about what had gluten and what did not. He wanted to help me. I really couldn’t answer him yet. But we did specifically look for a restaurant to go to that night with gluten-free options. We found a poke bowl place that specifically listed on their menu only four things they had that did contain gluten. Everything else was “on my diet.” It turns out that sushi rice is gluten free so I didn’t have to give that up. Yay! I was able to build a bowl that I enjoyed without feeling like I was missing out on anything.

And, of course, I know I’m not alone. There are a lot of people who have to eat gluten-free or who have soy, wheat, cinnamon, fruit, or peanut allergies. I actually have a friend who told me a few years ago that she had Hashimoto’s, so I texted her right away asking for info, suggestions, recipes, anything to help me get started down the right path.

No matter your situation you are not walking alone.

So, I wanted to put a reminder out there at this point for anyone reading this, that whatever you are currently going through in your life, whether it is food or health related or something completely different, you are not alone. Just as there is no way I could jump fully into this new mindset without the help and guidance of others who have already walked the same path, you don’t have to go it alone either. Thankfully, with the Internet, we have access to so much information and to related communities all over the world. And, of course, God’s got your back as well. He has likely placed people along your path who can provide the support and encouragement you need to face your issues.

It’s time for me to practice some self-care and treat my body right. While I may crave processed foods that are bad for me at times, I know (with some help and in time) I can find healthy alternatives that nourish me and allow me to feel my best and be my best self. If anyone has some good links, recipes, suggestions, advice on my thyroid issue and eating gluten-free, I welcome them in the comments below. Thank you, and remember whatever you do, and wherever you go, be kind to yourself as well as to others.

Give yourself the same care and attention that you give to others and watch yourself bloom.

[Just to clarify, for those who know my husband has fish tanks, that really dirty tank in this post is not ours. The one in the featured photo is though.]

NOTE: I have another post that I have been working on for the past month that I hope to share with you soon. The topic is “letting go.” I have so many different sources that I am pulling information from and lots of ideas still brewing; I just haven’t had a chance to put it all together. But I promise it is coming soon. 🙂

You Don’t Need to Walk Alone

In a daily devotional on “The Impact of Right Relationships,” Dr. Charles F. Stanley wrote: “A group of people rightly connected can do so much more than a man or woman acting alone.”

I am happy to say that for the first time in my adult life, I am living in a neighborhood where people do this thing called connecting. Specifically, it is the people in my cul-de-sac that I have become friends with; however, Bart and I are branching out and getting to know some of our other neighbors as well. We have lived in other places where the people around us didn’t really seem to care about knowing the people who lived right next door to them. That’s just sad.

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In our cul-de-sac, we don’t all have all things in common, but each of us connects to several of the others in different ways, and we are learning how to look out for one another through various circumstances. It’s nice to know that if I ever need anything, like a ride to the store or a couple of potatoes for my pot roast, I can call or text them and someone always comes through. We’ve had a Bible study, a fall block party, and numerous chats across the yards (when weather has permitted). We have just started making plans for a spring block party, which I am really looking forward to.

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And when something more serious occurred, like the recent tragic death of one of our neighbors, we found even more ways to connect with, support, lift up, and love one another through the following days. At first, many of us were concerned about intruding; we didn’t want to appear nosy and insensitive. But it turns out that the most sensitive thing we could do was to reach out and lend a hand. It reminded me of this post that Lysa Terkeurst shared a couple days ago:

“My friend’s husband passed away after a long illness and when I asked her about some of the lessons she learned through those tough years, she said something that will stick with me forever. She said, ‘When people are going through hard life circumstances, don’t say “Well if there’s anything you need just let me know.”’

My friend said most days she couldn’t process how she was going to get through the next ten minutes, much less be able to ask others for help. I was challenged by this and wondered how I could help someone in need without being asked.

I could deliver dinner. Gas up their car. Mow their lawn. Pick up an extra gallon of milk or some pet food from the grocery store. Whatever it is, I’ll think I’ll just do it and I won’t wait to be asked.”

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This is what we did and this is the type of stuff I hope we will continue to be able to do for one another. Especially when you live in an area without any of your own family around, it is so wonderful to be able to build and experience a new “family.” If you don’t have that type of community—if your neighbors don’t really seem to be connecting—maybe YOU can be the one to get something started. Have a cookout and invite everyone over—even if you’ve never spoken to some of them before; host a pot luck in your home or create a space for one outdoors (that’s what our fall party was); set up an event for all the kids to get together and play. Maybe everyone else is just waiting for someone to make the first move. That someone could be you.

As enjoyable as it is to share good times with your neighbors, it’s also nice to know that once you have connected, it’s easier to share the everyday moments as well. When Bart was out of town a couple months ago, a few of my neighbors checked on me. One family even invited me over for dinner one night, which was super sweet (and very enjoyable). Just this past weekend, I was sick with an ear infection and a cold. I got calls and texts from different neighbors asking me if I needed anything. It’s bad enough when you feel sick and miserable, but how wonderful to not also feel alone and forgotten. And you know what, it’s okay to need others.

DSC02083The Faith Barista posted this just today: “Following his beating, it’s likely Jesus could not physically carry the cross all the way to Calvary. Jesus needed someone. In that moment, a man whose journey somehow crossed his path was pulled in to help him. We don’t know if Simon even knew who Jesus was. … All we know is that an ordinary person helped the Savior. Through one simple, understated act, became part of the journey with Jesus. And I’m reminded. It’s okay to need someone. When the cross is too heavy to carry, but we still want to be faithful to see the journey through, needing someone isn’t a shameful. … needing is good because it creates space for God to enter in. And love us through others.”

In a blog post on friendship, Lysa TerKeurst says, “Loving someone else is one of the most God-honoring things we can do today. After all, we’re reminded in Scripture that all the commandments can be summed up and fulfilled if we will love others.”

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“Let no debt remain outstanding,
except the continuing debt to love one another,
for he who loves his fellow man has fulfilled the law. …
“Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to its neighbor.
Therefore, love is the fulfillment of the law.”

Romans 13:8–10

So, my advice, my encouragement, for you today is to remember that you do not have to walk through life alone. Reach out, connect, walk beside someone else; you can start with the people next door. What a blessing it is to build bonds with our neighbors.

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The Art of Encouragement

Today I am proud to post a sermon from my father-in-law, H.B. Fuller (retired pastor but forever a preacher) that ties in wonderfully with my post from yesterday. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Do you ever feel like giving up? We all go through those periods when we want to throw in the towel. This is the pattern a lot of us go through. Listen and see if this is not similar to your experience. You feel people are saying things about you that just are not true. Work is a drudgery. Even things you used to do for pleasure become a task. You are tired, irritated with those who love you the most. Life loses its joy. Depression, frustration and a tinge of paranoia become your bedfellows.

About at this point, God raises up some friends who prove to be [true] friends. These Christian friends support, pray for, and love us. They have taken seriously Hebrews 10:25:

“not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some,
but encouraging one another,
and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

How desperately we all need encouragement. It is wonderful to have a friend who does not hesitate to point out flaws in our Christian faith and conduct. This finest of encouragement is possible only between two friends who trust each other, and know each other well enough to laugh together at each other’s expense.

The creation of this living fellowship is surely one of the most urgent tasks of the church. Anyone who sets their mind to it can be an encourager. It requires no degree or ordination. All one needs is the willingness to give oneself to another person.

Interestingly, the word in the Bible reading in the 11th verse [1 Thessalonians 5] that the NIV translated “encourage” has its root in the word parakalos, usually translated “comfort.” When you make a noun out if it, the word becomes “comforter,” which we define as “one called alongside of.” The supreme Comforter is the Holy Spirit. When we become encouragers or comforters, we are doing work akin to that of the Holy Spirit. How awesome!!! What a privilege and responsibility to be permitted to work alongside of the Holy Spirit to encourage a struggling brother or sister. And yet there is the exhortation “encourage one another” (v. 11).

Walk (or sit) together.

Walk (or sit) together.

  1. ENCOURAGEMENT IS A PERSON

During one of the major offensives of World War II, Dwight Eisenhower was walking near the Rhine River and came upon a GI who seemed depressed. “How are you feeling?” the General asked. “Sir,” the young man replied, “I’m awful nervous.” “Well,” Eisenhower said, “You and I are a good pair then, because I’m nervous, too. Maybe if we just walk along together we’ll be good for each other.”

No speech, words of wisdom, or special advice necessary, just one person giving of himself to another.

Encouragement means “coming alongside to impart courage.” In a sense, encouragement is one person giving strength and support to another by osmosis, just being there radiating light, spiritual nourishment, strength. When we encourage, we snuggle up to an individual and show we care.

One of the great callings of the New Testament church, one of the great responsibilities of individual Christians is encouragement. Barnabas, whose name means “son of encouragement,” came alongside Paul to give him needed support for entrance in the early church. Let’s read the record in the Bible—maybe God will teach you a lesson I do not see. It is found in Acts 9:26–28:

“And when he had come to Jerusalem he attempted to join the disciples; and they were all afraid of him for they did not believe that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles, and declared to them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who spoke to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus. So he went in and out among them at Jerusalem.”

Paul not only benefited from Barnabas’ encouragement, but he learned the lesson well. Later, he became an encourager himself, especially for his young friend Timothy.

Encouragement is a person—you and I—an encourager giving self to another in distress—the distressed experiencing the benefit of his friend’s presence and taking up the ministry himself.

Created by Bonnie Gray, the Faith Barista

Created by Bonnie Gray, the Faith Barista

  1. ENCOURAGEMENT IS A WORD

Consider the following sound advice from Proverbs 25:11:

“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.”

The Japanese have a saying, “one kind word can warm up three winter months.”

We all need encouragement whose “pleasant words are a honeycomb sweet to the soul and healing to the bones” (Proverbs 16:24).

Vince Lombardi, the legendary Green Bay Packers’ football coach was a feared disciplinarian. But he never leveled a man without also seeking to launch him. One day he chewed out a player who had missed several blocking assignments. After practice, Lombardi stalked into the locker room. The player was sitting at his locker head down, dejected.

Lombardi mussed his hair, patted him on the shoulder, and said, “One of these days you are going to be the best guard in the NFL.” That guard was Jerry Kramer and he said he carried that positive image of himself the rest of his career.

“Lombard’s encouragement had a tremendous impact on my whole life,” he said. Kramer went on to become a member of the NFL Hall of Fame and a part of the NFL’s ALL 50-YEAR TEAM.

Do you offer encouraging words? Paul Tillich [one of the most influential theologians of the 20th century] said, “Almost every person you meet is fighting a great battle within.” People everywhere are in need of an encouraging word, an uplifting compliment, or a note of encouragement. Many Christians are discouraged and faltering in the faith. You can spur them on with your inspiring words.

What words to say? Sometimes one approach, sometimes another. BE THERE, GO and SAY something (make sure what you say is from the heart)—“I love you in the Lord.” “We care about you.” “I am praying for you.” “I am asking God to meet your need.” Be sure you ask God to give you the appropriate things to do and say.

Go to the hurting person when possible. If this is not possible, send a letter of affirmation, a note of congratulations, a pep talk, or a kind word from you. If you send a greeting card, write a personal note, even if it is no more than one line. You would be surprised at how many people read only what you wrote.

Your personal word, from the heart, inspired by God, can and often does make an eternal difference in someone’s life. It has in my life.

Church

Memorial Baptist Chapel

  1. ENCOURAGEMENT IS A CHURCH

The Bible makes it clear that the church is distinctive from the world in the area of encouragement. Our society [often] seeks to depress and defeat; the body of Christ desires to inspire and uplift. “We are called out ones,” the set aside ones. One of the distinctive callings of the Christian is to be an encourager. Listen again to the text from I Thessalonians 5:11:

“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up,
just as you are doing.”

It can’t be any plainer. The church is [to be] a safe place of encouragement.

The early church was acquainted with persecution. Martyrdom was a daily occurrence. These people had reason to be depressed. Consequently, the author of Hebrews wrote a letter of hope and perseverance.

Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Hear closely Hebrews 10:25:

“not neglecting to meet together as is the habit of some,
but encouraging one another,

and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

The body of Christ gathers for worship and fellowship with other believers. The church offers the warmth of a bonfire. But when we remove ourselves, the fire diminishes. Three times a week [let alone once a week] is little enough for the body of Christ to assemble itself together to be warmed by each other’s spiritual heat. Together hope is fortified, and life is renewed.

Christians thrive as a group, bunched up together. We are not designed to be loners. We draw strength from each other. When God’s people bunch up to pray, praise, preach—the power of God is magnified and individuals are encouraged. 

Many Christians take seriously the ministry of encouragement. A church in Oregon provides encouragement cards in the pew rack. Members take time before the worship service to write notes of encouragement to each other and others. These cards are collected and mailed.

Encouragement is the overall theme at a Texas church. The sanctuary is called “The Encouragement Center.” The pastor’s message on the weekly bulletin is labeled “The Encouraging Word.” The church newsletter is titled “The Encourager.” But more importantly, the membership takes seriously the need to encourage one another. No wonder people are attracted to this growing church.

CONCLUSION:

Find someone who needs encouragement. Give of yourself, say a word, or introduce him or her to the church—the safe encouraging place—or to Jesus—the encouraging Savior.

Sunday school classes must emphasize the ministry of encouragement. Teachers, please work on this. Give priority to it. If for one reason or another you cannot, encourage some of your members who appear to have this ability.

Of course, our best friend is Jesus. He is the premier encourager. If you do not know Him as Savior, now is the time.

Jeremiah

Jeremiah 29:11-14