Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Grace Giver

I subscribe to Google alerts and received one today that was a blog from a FP4H member. I have no idea where this group meets, but thought her post was worth a discussion in our E-Newsletter. This group is doing the FP4H Bible Study Walking in Grace and this member did a study on the word “grace,” which then initiated her post:

I returned to the First Place 4 Health Bible study and support group after having been absent for over a year. The core group of women was still present, as well as several new enrollees. While listening to several of the core members, I realized one was still discussing the same issue—how to keep from going to Starbucks for mocha lattes. For the three years she had been with us in the group, she was still struggling with mocha lattes. She had lost no weight over the course of the three years. To my horror, the ladies laughed it off and then began talking about other unhealthy snacks they preferred. The answer from the leader, “Well, we’ll just have to pray for you this week.”

Where is grace in that? The member should have been confronted about how she was taking the FP4H commitments and making them a mockery. She should have been given a plan for having success in making better choices that involved her husband and children to help hold her accountable. How was extending more grace influencing the new members to put off the unhealthy habits that created the fat rolls and put on healthy habits instead? It created instead a loophole for those new members. “When I consistently make wrong choices, there will be more grace extended to me,” is what they will begin to believe. In AA circles this is called “enabling the addict.”

Our FP4H group should attend some AA meetings. If an alcoholic were to confess that they struggled with going through the drive-through to purchase wine coolers, the AA leader and the other members would spend a large amount of time confronting that member and coming up with a plan for more accountability. How do I know that? I used to attend 2-3 AA meetings a week and witnessed several times how weak members were confronted about their choices. No grace. They were rebuked, instructed in the rules of AA, and offered help to be victorious one day at a time. Why should we women who make FP4H commitments to eat healthy and follow the “Live It plan” be treated any differently? Come on, FP4H friends—stop using grace as an excuse for bad behavior!

Here is my reply to her post:

I am not writing as the director of the First Place 4 Health program, but as a FP4H leader who has been leading for 30 years. As such, I surely understand the frustration of the blogger. The problem here is that the group feels free to share their rebellion to the class instead of humbly asking for prayer. My class would never feel free to make those comments in class because I, as the leader, would never wink at such comments.

That said, however, I am a grace giver because God has shown so much mercy and grace to me. I also have no power to make someone change anything. I have these women one hour a week, but for the next seven days they have to do the hard work of change

I believe success is a 3-step plan: 1) God will give me the strength to say no if I ask Him. 2) Others will encourage and support me in my efforts. 3) I have to do the hard work. No one has arrived and everyone is susceptible to falling; this is why we need to show love and grace. I have heard grace defined as "unmerited favor" and this is what I desire to show to my class members. I believe that unconditional love, the kind of love that God shows me, is what will win hearts over all the legalism in the world.

I was in Illinois last weekend and I heard a testimony that said it all for me. A lady said that when she came to our FP4H Wellness Week last year, she was walking with a cane. She never did any exercise because she could barely walk. At the end of the week she lost 9 pounds and went home to join a FP4H group. Her cholesterol and blood pressure were so high that she was unable to obtain health insurance because of her high risk. Today, a year later, she has lost 40 pounds. Although not quite at her goal, her cholesterol is 168; her blood pressure 120/80 and she now has health insurance. She shared that she still had not exercised at all, but a family member gave her a bicycle with training wheels and she is riding that bike every day!

Success is in the process, not in a program. I think it would help if your group would watch the emotional mapping DVD. I showed 20 minutes each week for three weeks and for those willing to actually do the mapping, I put their names in a basket and drew one out each week for a prize. I saw tremendous strides, and some ladies started losing weight that had really been struggling.

What I love most about FP4H is that we deal with the total person: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. God created us this way and Jesus said in Mark 12:30-31 that the greatest commandment is "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. The second is this, love your neighbor as yourself." It has been hard, but I am learning that obedience is the love language of God. He says all through His Word, “If you love me, you will obey me.”

I believe my job as a FP4H leader is to love my members so much that they realize God loves them even more than I do and they want to obey Him because they love Him. Any other motive is doomed to failure.

What do you think?

Carole Lewis

8 comments:

  1. For me personally, your last sentence says it all. When I finally realized that controlling myself was showing God how much I love him, things got easier. God loves me more than I can ever say. My love language to the Lord is Self-Control.

    Any other motive is doomed to failure receives 10 AMENS from me!!

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    1. Thank you for that reminder!

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  2. I have been in the FP4H program for 3 1/2 years and have lost 140lbs! I started teaching the class 2 1/2 years ago and have realized as a teacher I am held to a higher standard, in a good way, with my choices and comments. I believe every member should feel comfortable sharing their weaknesses in class. Realistically food is not the enemy....so eating special treats now and then is ok if you have self-control. However, as a leader, I am always careful to direct my comments back to making healthy choices and encouraging members to say on course. It is easy to allow temptations to overcome us and drag us into downfalls. So I try to bring them back to the reality of occasional treats in moderation and to have a plan for overcoming temptations. I think you should talk with your leader and express your concern. Me personally, my weight loss goal was strickly focused on Jesus Christ. Not my leader. I knew my views of food, exercise, emotions, ect needed to be changed so I gave it all the the Lord. I surrendered my fears, doubts, and my will to Him. I prayed for him to change the desires of my heart to his desires. I spent time reading the Bible more, praying, and allowing Jesus to transform my thinking. This walk was really between Jesus and me. FP4H was the tool he used to educate me on what healthy is, walking each day closer to Jesus, and starting new healthy habits. So I encourage you to pray. One on One. Make sure you are scheduling your quiet time with God. Allow God to direct your path and change your thinking. I wouldn't focus on what others say in class unless it is encouraging and I would stay focused on your goals. I hope that helps.

    PS. I shared my testimony at my church if it helps encourage you to continue. It is written out at: www.woosterchurch.org under "Life Stories".
    Heide Lehman

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  3. Thank you, Carol and Lisa for this article.

    I too have members in that category. I do my best to be an example for them, and have them read parts of the lesson that should call their names.

    Of course, they always dread to stand on the scales.

    Two of my members probably only need to lose twenty pounds, but for three years they have been going up and down like an elevator.

    Another may need to lose at least 75 pounds, and she has NO conscience for what she eats. This gal is going to have knee surgery and has MS. Losing weight would be a great help to her!!! Nothing that I say will change her. Once she asked me how she could be more motivated. I told her she had great morals for some things, but not for herself. For example, she would not cheat on her dear husband. Could she not use the same values for her eating habits. Yes, this is very serious!!!

    Another lady eats healthy foods, but doesn't worry about the amounts.

    I have started using www.sparkpeople.com, and it is similiar to the mypyramid.gov. It is free and will tally your calories, carbs, sodium, calcium, proteins, and fat. It gives you the desired amount range, and you can see how you have done for a week at a time. They even give you "virtual trophies". They also have a fitness program, and you let them know what you have done toward it each day, and they give you the calories you have burned. None of them have the gumption to do that. I don't know how anyone can determine the number of calories they have eaten on their own.

    Thank you all at FP4H, for giving us the strength, lessons, and prayers.

    Susan Curtin
    Raleigh, NC

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  4. I wrote this blog post in response to a reader's concern over the commitment I signed at the FP4H leaders summit in July: http://wearelosingitblog.b​logspot.com/2011/08/number​.html
    It pretty much sums up my thoughts on obedience. The thing is, it has taken me 2 years (well, 30 really) to get to this point. So, I totally agree with Carol that you can't force anyone to do any thing. God does the work and he does it in his own time. We, as leaders and sisters in Christ, are to be instruments of his grace. Sometimes this means keeping it to ourselves when we think the "latte lady" needs to "saddle up or go home" and other times it means telling someone the truth--loving them enough to tell them the truth--even though it may sting some. It all goes back to the motives of our heart and relying on the Holy Spirit to guide us as we lead others. The best thing I know to do is just keep reminding one another of the gospel of Jesus Christ every single day. One of the most important things I've learned through Fp4H (and it was Walking in Grace) is that we need the gospel everyday. The more I hear it, the more I love Him and want to obey.

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  5. I find this dialogue a bit puzzling. The members post that Carole quoted said that her fellow classmate was looking for "how to keep from going to Starbucks for mocha lattes," and had been looking for "three years" and "was still **struggling** with mocha lattes." Whether she loses weight or inches or not isn't as much of an issue as the fact that she is failing in her battle with the flesh, and seems to desire help.

    Her classmates "laughed it off," and "began talking about other unhealthy snacks they preferred." "they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them." Rom.1:32

    This is troubling. There is tons of room for choosing treats or varied choices of diet. This lady had specifically been convicted about her choice and was continuing in it. Rather than encouraging her in her faith, they join her in her sin/weakness. We are called to "strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble," not laughingly approve, and justify our own failings.

    We all struggle in many areas. We all need the gospel and God's grace desperately. Laughing off wrong choices (wrong because our own heart convicts us, not because any food/drink is bad in and of itself. We are to accept what God gives us with grateful hearts. A blessing from Him. What goes in our mouth does not defile us, but what comes out-from the heart. Mark 7:15) is not giving grace, it's making excuses for sin. God gives grace to the HUMBLE but opposes the proud. We need to confess it as sin, repent, find forgiveness, and pursue righteousness. Dig into the scriptures to find ways to fight the good fight, and care for the body of Christ.

    May we all love one another enough to give each other the whole truth - we are great sinners, but we have a greater savior!

    "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

    1PE 1:14-19
    As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance,but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior;
    because it is written, "You shall be holy, for I am holy."
    17 And if you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each man's work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay upon earth; knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers,but with PRECIOUS blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.

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  6. Carol's post and all of the comments are interesting and helpful for beginning a good discussion. As a trained counselor, I believe that the best way is to discuss Carol's post and all of the comments on the blog in FP4H meeting near the beginning of the sessions or even in orientation when all participants were present. Get a feel for what the class thinks about confrontation and how they personally would like to be confronted if at all. You could then know their comfort level. Then I think that after hearing their comments, I would probably handle a similar experience this way: Invite the person who makes the comments about lattes and others to join me after class if she would like some specific ideas for confronting this temptation and some behavior management accountability measures to put in place. (If she came after class for help, I would also follow up with the her at the next week to see how she fared with my suggestions.) Perhaps this invitation would stop others' additional comments about their temptations with specific foods/drinks before they even started sharing with the group. That way the person commenting about lattes would have a choice to see me or not. Confrontation with the whole class present might be too painful for the person and cause the member to stop coming to a class. FP4H participation should be there to help others--not condone unhealthy habits with reinforcing comments. I would avoid telling (even in private) a participant that she was making a "mockery of the commitments" unless I had spent many hours in private gaining her trust. I hope all leaders and leaders to be will read Carol's piece and the comments so they can have a plan in place to address this situation. Many thanks to the person who posted the original comments about returning about her FP4H meetings and the concerns she expressed. Without that, we would not have this important discussion.

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