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Sunday, 25 September 2011

Losing weight for a lifetime...

Tons of us want to lose weight. We enjoy food too much, exercise too little and pay for it in increased pounds that seem to multiply over the years. An extra 100 calories a day that we don't burn and we gain 10 pounds in a year. An extra 100 calories is one slice of bread, one domino size piece of cheese, an 8 oz bottle of coca cola, one cup of orange juice, one banana, less than 1/2 of a regular sized snicker bar. Ok now I'm getting depressed!

No, not really. I say all this to say that I've been concerned about my weight - well, for my entire life lol. If I wasn't concerned about it my mother was so technically it's been forever.

About ten years ago I was putting on an extra 10-15 pounds a year and before I knew it I didn't recognize myself - at ALL! I had gained 112 pounds in seven years - just a little at a time with little to no exercise. The more I gained the worse I felt which led to stress and strain and more eating. I had little to no self control and I hated myself for it. Ugh, yeah it was bad.

It was during this time that I worked for Microsoft and fortunately for me they had this great program with a health club next door called 20/20 where you could work with a dietician, a personal trainer, a support group and a doctor to learn everything there was to learn about food, exercise, everything.

I remember them bringing soft drinks up onto a table during our orientation and in front of each soft drink was the equivalent number of sugar packets in each drink. I remember looking at a 7/11 slushy and thinking there was no possible way there could be as much sugar in that drink as they said, but I was wrong. Mountain Dew was worse. The sugar packets glued together end to end reached to the floor - for ONE 12 ounce can. It was disgusting.

For the next 32 weeks I worked out three times a week with a personal trainer who basically kicked my butt and twice more a week by myself. Fortunately for me I fell in love with working out so that made it easier. Over those 32 weeks I lost over 60 pounds.

Then came the hard part - figuring out how to keep losing on my own without the constant accountability. It was tough but over the next four years I lost another 45 pounds. Still not at my goal weight but much happier and much, much healthier I met Alan, we married and I moved to Europe.

Slowly the pounds crept back on as I adjusted to not having a health club or foods I was used to and also trying to adjust to the stress of a new marriage, new country, being away from friends and family, etc. It was hard and I gained 25 pounds in two years but I was DETERMINED to get this weight off. I knew I needed to join a health club and get working out again and I knew I needed to do the one primary thing I learned in 20/20 which was to meal track. Basically counting calories but on steroids. You track it all, every drink, every nut, every snack, every meal. Everything that goes into your mouth you research the calories and write down.

Then I got pregnant.

Miracle of miracles and wouldn't trade it for the world. Fortunately I didn't gain the amount of weight I was afraid I would gain. I thought like others I would gain forty or fifty pounds but in the end I gained 29 and 24 of those pounds came off immediately after Chloe was born. Unfortunately I had to have a c-section and so it was a slow recovery. My sister came to see us right around the five week mark and I made the fatally stupid decision to walk all over Heidelberg with her in flip-flops. BIG mistake.

The next week my feet absolutely ached. So much so I had to go to the doctor. He said I had heel spurs and he gave me insoles for my shoes for better support. My mom and sister had had similar problems with their feet and they offered their advice but suddenly I realized that I had a daughter now and I had to get in shape for her because the pains I was starting to feel all over my body were ridiculous.

I know they say that at 40 your body falls apart but mine really did! I now am experiencing chronic back pain, ankle pain, heel spurs, occassional knee pain and other little kinks from time to time. Pain is N O T fun.

So there I was two weeks ago and saying, "ok. Back to basics." I needed to figure out how many calories I was burning every day so I could accurately track how much I was supposed to be losing. I looked online and they gave a formula for you to figure this out. Basically you take your age and height and weight and you determine your BMR (basic metabolic rate) and then this number is multipled by a certain multiplier which is determined by your activity level to show how many calories a day you burn. Mine ended up being right around 2600 at the age, weight, height and activity level I am now. Then I said ok one pound is 3500 calories and everyone knows that the key to losing weight is to take in fewer calories than you burn so with a combination of exercise and calories from eating less I needed to combine for 3500 calories to lose one pound a week, 5250 for a pound and a half and 7000 for two pounds.

Really for me, at least at first, it was actually trying to determine whether 2600 calories was correct or not. So I tracked everything. After a few days it was no big deal. I kept it in notepad on my computer, added to it every time I thought of it and at the end of the day came up with my food and drink total. I then added in exercise and came up with a calories saved total number for the day. As an example, let's say all my calories ended up being 2000 for the day. So I've saved 600 in food/drink. Let's say I also exercised that day and according to the eliptical, treadmill or bike burned 600 calories. Well, that's 1200 calories toward my weight loss goal. After week one I had lost nearly two pounds and that's exactly what my meal tracking said I should have lost. I had saved 6310 calories that week through eating and exercise. Week two I lost another pound and a half - 6640 calories to be exact. Add those two together and you have 12950. 14000 and I'll be at four pounds lost.

Remarkably this does really work. It's not fast and it's not a fad. I eat anything I want as long as I write it all down. Oh yeah and store up enough saved calories for my weight loss goal - which right now is 1.5 pounds a week. It gives me a great idea of what I'm actually putting in my mouth and yes I still need to eat more fruits and vegetables (who doesn't) but at least I know.

I've tried every other diet in the world (pretty much) but this is something that actually makes sense. So many calories are hidden in things and sometimes we just eat without thinking. The weight piles on and we have no clue why. Well, now I know. I know drinking a frozen slushy is going to cost me 400 calories - about 45 minutes on the eliptical. Is it worth it? Yeah, sometimes it is.

For me it's about two things. The first I already mentioned... Chloe. I am 40 years old with my first baby who I absolutely adore and I am crazy enough to want more children at this old age! :) For that I need to be healthy and fit and I need to lose weight. The pains associated with not being smaller are too much for me.

The second thing it's about is self control. II Peter talks about self control leading to Godliness and I can really see that. I can also see how Satan uses a lack of self control to get us off the track to Godliness. I've experienced both and much prefer getting closer to God from making the right decisions than consistently making bad ones.

I'm writing this blog to help encourage others that struggle with their weight like I do but also so I can hold myself accountable to keep pressing on and doing that which is difficult in the short-term to attain something great in the long-term - Health, an active and fun life with my husband and daughter and character building things like self control and Godliness. I am grateful God allowed these pains into my life to show me my need for more discipline and self-control. Please pray for me and if you need prayer I promise to reciprocate. Happy tracking! :)

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Living victorious lives

I was listening to Ravi Zacharias last week and he was talking about a time shortly after his converstion to Christianity when he was talking to two friends in their dorm room. One friend had converted to Christianity around the same time as Ravi and the other friend was still an unbeliever. They debated the finer points of the Christian worldview with this unbelieving friend and after they had talked for several hours this friend said, (and I'm paraphrasing) - "Let's say you are right in that the Judeo/Christian worldview is in fact the one true way and you can convince me of my need for Christ. I still have one question. Why is it that if it is a work of the Holy Spirit and not due to man's efforts that people are saved - that I see such little transforming work done in the lives of Christians today." Ravi said this was a question that has haunted him for decades.

I would say many times in the past I have had to repent for not being more joyful or peaceful on a Sunday morning. We get to church usually flustered from getting ready, feeding and dressing Chloe, walking Webster, eating breakfast, etc. No matter what time we get up we always seem to run late. I hate being late and arguing about who's fault it was this week doesn't help either.

During the service I try to take my mind off the morning or off the week and put it onto God - to worship Him as He deserves to be worshipped. Instead, my mind is all over the place. Maybe it's wrong but I refuse to act one way outwardly when I'm feeling something else on the inside.

Apparently I'm not alone.

I look around when we're singing and I think, gosh - so many in our congregation seem unhappy, down or tired. I know some are suffering from long-term health issues while others are dealing with marital problems or with lifestyles they are unwilling to yield to God. Some don't trust God will provide for them and question whether life will get any better. Others are trying for babies, are newly pregnant or are just about to give birth which is a whole other set of stresses. Some have been Christians for years and still don't know Gods plan for their lives while others are new Christians and are struggling with the usual questions new Christians ask like, "why doesn't God heal my family member or friend when I have prayed and have faith they will be healed?" And these are just some of the ones I know about. There are lots more I know nothing about.

So why is the joy of the Lord not our strength? Why do we not come to Him when we're tired and heavy-laden so He can give us rest? Why are our hearts troubled when God says He gives us peace? Do we believe we'll find Him when we seek him with all our heart? Are we truly saved? Are we truly filled with the Holy Spirit? If so, shouldn't we always live victorious lives? Lives that are TRULY transformed that the world can see and be attracted to?

Why don't we believe the Bible at face value or if we do, why do we forget so quickly what it says? I am guilty of asking myself these questions often - too often. I think other christians might say, "well you just need to read the bible and pray more often" and that is undoubtedly true. I've often felt one quiet time a day (like one meal a day) is not enough. Maybe I struggle because I see so many others struggling. I've wondered that. If I were the only one I would think it were merely something God was trying to teach me or that I was in the valley so to speak and just need to keep plodding along but this is something more - something more pervasive across the church in Europe it seems and America is clearly next.

So what is it?

Yes, this world is not our home. Yes we are at war. Yes Jesus said we would face trouble in this world. James says we should consider it all joy when we encounter various trials knowing that the testing of our faith produces endurance. I Peter says we may have to suffer grief in all kinds of trials and these have come to prove the genuiness of our faith. Still... there has to be something more. Something we're missing. Some reason we're not more victorious, joyful, peaceful, trusting, loving, kind, good.

This is my thinking and many may completely disagree with me. My fear is that for a time, and maybe for this time in which we live, God has turned His back on Europe and the Holy Spirit simply does not move here the way He once did because of the stubbornness of mens hearts. Decade after decade of secularism and man setting himself up as His own god. Romans talks about Gods wrath on unrighteouness.

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world,7 in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God's righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

So could God turn His back on Europe to display his wrath on unrighteousness without the Christians living in the continent being affected in some way? I don't think so and I believe that is why we in large numbers struggle the way we do. My conclusion? We need more of the Holy Spirit - more and more and more. Like the old hymm says:

I need thee every hour
Most gracious Lord
No tender voice like thine
Can peace afford

I need thee, oh, I need thee
Every hour I need thee
O bless me now, my Saviour
I come to thee

I need thee every hour
In joy or pain
Come quickly and abide
Or life is in vain

I need thee, oh, I need thee
Every hour I need thee
O bless me now, my Saviour
I come to thee

I need thee every hour - not every year, not every month, not once a week on Sundays, not even every day but every hour. "Come quickly and abide or life is in vain." How true are these lyrics.

May the Holy Spirit return to Europe and may we all be filled again to overflowing so that we can live victorious lives and win souls for Christ.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Survey Findings

Last week Alan and I had our pastoral staff over to talk about the complete survey findings of the questions asked to the University of Heidelberg Students. I thought our blog readers might enjoy seeing them as well.

Here were the questions with corresponding results:

What is your spiritual background?
Protestant - parents only - 33% **
Catholic - parents only - 25% **
Protestant/Christian/Lutheran somewhat engaged - 18%
Agnostic - 4%
Atheist - 4%
Catholic/Christian somewhat engaged - 2%
Orthodox - 2%
Buddhist - 2%
Muslim - 2%
None - 2%
Students claiming NO spiritual affiliation currently = 68%

What three words would you use to describe your religious experience to date?
Hope x3
What Saved me
A Business
Close minded
Love x4
Belief x3
Life Help
Unbelievable x2
Not present
Far away
Irrelevant x3
Holy Spirit
Unsecure Knowledge
Useful Sometimes
Strength x2
Old-Fashioned x2
Tolerance x3
Agnosticism x2
Eternal Life
Less Freedom

If you could ask God one question, what would you ask Him?
How did you create the universe?
Why did you make us the way he did?
Is there life elsewhere in the Universe?
Why was I born in this country and believe in Christianity instead of in another country believing in something else?
How did you create such a wonderful world?
Why are there so many differences amongst people?
What's the purpose of nasty things in life like insects?
Why are we here? (multiple)
What's His plan for us and the world? (multiple)
What is the purpose of life? (multiple)
Is this what life is supposed to be like?
Why did you make war?
Why don't you always give me good things?
What does the future hold? (multiple)
Why do we die?
What happens when we die?
Will we realize peace one day?
Was there a Jesus?
What do you think about?
Why doesn't God show himself if He's there?
What does God think of Humans?

If God asked you why He should let you into Heaven, what would you say?
Because he or she is a good person 38%
Every human should be allowed to go because there is something good in everyone 12%
Because of Jesus 10%
Believes in God 10%
It depends on the qualifications for Heaven 4%
He should choose as He wishes 4%
He/she knows they are too secular to qualify 4%
There is no heaven 4%
Because he's human 2%
Because she's interested in seeing what's there 2%
Will have done something good by then to change Gods mind 2%
Heaven would not be complete without Him 2%

On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate your goodness?
10 – 0%
9 – 2%
8 - 25%
7 - 38%
6 - 8%
5 - 16%
below 5 - 2%
3 would not answer due to not having, knowing or recognizing a standard of goodness

A good person, better than most
Helps others
She sometimes lies and thinks it’s not ok to lie
Has a dark side
Not a criminal
No one’s perfect
Not selfish
Could do more
Not very bad but not trying to be good
She’s human
Would rate higher but doesn’t want to appear pompous
Goal to be like Christ, motivation is different than it was
Tries to put others first
Keeps Gods commandments