Thursday, January 29, 2009

Gianna's choice

When the people of Judea rallied around Nehemiah to rebuild their walls, their choice was mixed. For many years, they had suffered ridicule and defeat from their enemies.

But with Nehemiah’s inspiring cry, they began to build. But they did so with swords strapped on, ready for battle. They choose not only to rebuild, but to resist the mockers.

I’ve been discussing the culture of shame this week, finding similarities between an ancient people and life choices of today.

I recently heard Gianna Jessen, an abortion survivor, speak about her life choices.

“I learned early on that I have not signed up for a mediocre life but an extraordinary one,” she said.

Gianna wasn’t expected to be born alive but she survived. She has overcome dire predictions from day 1 but it has not come without a price.

“From the moment of my conception, I have been loved or hated,” Gianna said.

She has more than her share of enemies and mockers, an amazing thing considering what she’s overcome. In our culture, we pretend to care for life but often we care for our own agenda.

“If abortion is about women’s rights,” Gianna commented, “then what about mine?” She only survived her birth because the abortionist had left the room when she was born. The nurse on duty called an ambulance and Gianna was rushed to intensive care.

“I will limp all the way to heaven because of someone else’s choice.”

Today, because her life defies some political agendas, she has been reviled and insulted by enemies trying to stop her from building a beautiful city of her life.

Gianna told the crowd, “If you let go and trust Jesus, you’ll go from surviving to thriving.”

When the people in Jerusalem were afraid of the encroaching enemies, Nehemiah rallied them with similar words: “Don't be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight!” (Neh 4:14)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Walls in shambles

When Nehemiah (see yesterday’s post) learned that the walls of Jerusalem were ruined, he wasn’t as concerned with their military vulnerability as with their humiliation.

The ancients considered their city buildings the height of their accomplishments. The cities represented a civilized culture. So when the walls of Jerusalem were in shambles, the people were shamed by the chaotic rubble. Rather than a beautiful city, they were living in an ugly failure.

When Judea was defeated by Nebuchadnezzar, more than just the best citizens were taken away. The hopes and dreams of a nation were stolen away as well.

Taunted by their neighbors, the residents of Jerusalem were disabled and unable to rebuild.

It took Nebuchadnezzar’s presence to inspire them to resist the mocking of their neighbors as they rebuilt their walls – and their hopes.

Gianna Jessen is a modern-day example. Born alive in spite of a saline abortion, she was unwanted by her parents. Cerebal palsy tore down the walls of her city, leaving her caretakers with a dire prediction: that she’d never walk. In fact, she wasn’t expected to amount to much of anything.

But, like Nehemiah, Gianna wasn’t content with the status quo. The walls were in ruin but something could be built.

Calling herself “a fighter and an overcomer,” Gianna walked at age 3. She has since run in two marathons and traveled the world speaking about her life.

But the mockers have not gone away.

“My introduction into life was fighting death,” Gianna said. “From the moment of my conception I have been loved or hated.”

In last fall’s election, she was labeled a vile liar by those who didn’t want to hear her story.

Gianna rebuilds her walls. Her body has been shelled by cerebal palsy – and perhaps more by hatred - but the mockers are not winning.

Tomorrow: Gianna’s choice

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The culture of shame

The report didn’t contain much new but one description cast a definite shadow over the cupbearer and he mourned for days.

If you’ve read the early pages of Nehemiah, you know that the report concerned the city of Jerusalem which had been destroyed by the Babylonians over a hundred years before.

But that’s where I’m wrong, because the report didn’t concern the city but the people.

What brought Nehemiah to mourning and fasting was this news: “The survivors there in the province who escaped captivity are in great trouble and shame.” (Neh 1:3)

Shame doesn’t pierce our culture like it did theirs. For an Israelite, shame alone could disable a community. In their culture, what happened to one happened to all and vice versa.

So shame immobilized an entire community.

Although the broken-down walls made the Jews vulnerable to attack, Nehemiah’s concern was with their shame. When he later traveled to Jerusalem from Persia to direct the rebuilding effort, the biggest hindrance was the enemies who dropped by to mock the builders.

When Nehemiah came to the inhabitants of Jerusalem with the plan for the wall, he said, “Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem so that we may no longer suffer disgrace.” (Neh 2:11)

Last weekend, I had the delight to hear a young woman speak about her life so far. Gianna Jessen is an abortion survivor, a young woman with “the gift of cerebral palsy” from her premature birth. “I’ve signed on for an extraordinary life,” she told the overflowing crowd.

Gianna met her birth mother three years ago. After hearing one of Gianna’s speeches, the woman told her, “You are an embarrassment to the family.”

This week I will explore the culture of shame and the wisdom of a young woman born in disgrace.

Tomorrow: Walls in shambles

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Moral Accountability

In last fall's presidential election, many social conservatives and followers of Jesus endorsed President Obama, confident that he would not keep pledges to wipe out laws protecting the lives of the unborn. A new website has now sprung up to track those issues. I'll be tracking the website but thought you might want to take a look, too.

What's interesting with Moral Accountability is that it includes the support of a number of university professors committed to monitoring President Obama's actions in the coming months regarding rights of the unborn, marriage rights, and similar issues. Check out the site.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Navingating the traps

The traps were all set, with sharp teeth gaping open ready to snap, and scattered all over the platform. There stood Nathan, a blindfold covering his eyes.

His instructions were simple: to walk through the maze of traps and get to his father.

The problem was also simple: he couldn’t see any of the traps.

And there was a complication. Anyone could give Nathan advice, and many were already shouting out instructions. Nathan didn’t lack advice. How would he get through?

He relaxed when he heard his father’s voice. He didn’t know who else held good advice, but he trusted his father.

It was slow going, but Nathan heard every direction from his father and he got through the minefield.

Life is sort of like that field of traps. We have to get past many things that could reach out and snap us. And we can’t even see the traps. We have to trust other hands and voices to get us through.

Paul told the Corinthians (1 Cor 2:6-16) that they had a voice they could trust. God had chosen to place his Spirit within each of them. That voice explained and interpreted God’s ways to them.

The Corinthians were getting a lot of advice from a lot of people who seemed to know a lot. How could they know who to listen to?

It matters which voice we take note of. Choosing the right voice got Nathan through a complicated field. Choosing the right voice will do the same for us.

"For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?"
But we have the mind of Christ.

1 Cor 2:16

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


If you walked down the street of this city, you’d find that 8 out of 10 people have never heard about Jesus’ work on our behalf. That’s hard to believe in our media-driven world.

But El Aaiun in the Sahara ranks as the least evangelized city in the world, with 82 percent never hearing the gospel of Jesus.

The next nine non-evangelized cities are all in Afghanistan, with 79 percent of the people there never hearing the gospel.
The top 10 non-evangelized countries are:
1. Sahara
2. The Maldives islands just off the tip of India.
3. Bhuttan
4. Afghanistan
5. Mauritania
6. Somaliland
7. Morocco. The three nations of Morocco, Sahara and Mauritania are bunched together on the bulge of Africa.
8. Turkmenistan which is just north of Afghanistan.
9. Yemen
10. Azerbaijan, just west of Turkmenistan.

I have sometimes thought that, through radio broadcasts and a serious missionary effort in the last 200 years, that there were no people who hadn’t at least heard the gospel, except perhaps a few natives deep in a rainforest somewhere.

These are cities of people who haven’t heard.

Please pray for them and consider how we can be involved in Jesus’ direction.
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations
Matt 28:19

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The big day

The big party rocks today. I don’t know many millions of dollars have been spent to celebrate the changing of the guard in Washington DC.

For some, it’s a new bright future filled with possibilities and hope. For others, this day marks the start of some trepidation about future decisions.

I’m not going to talk politics today but reminders.

"Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?"

But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, "You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? Show me the coin used for paying the tax." They brought him a denarius, and he asked them, "Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?"

"Caesar's," they replied.

Then he said to them, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's."
Matt 22:17-21
Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.

Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.

For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God's servant to do you good.

But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience.

Romans 13:1-5
Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men.
Titus 3:1-2
Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.

For it is God's will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king.
1 Peter 2:13-17

Friday, January 16, 2009

Working together

A big issue in last fall’s election among Christians was whether to vote. Some said they could not vote in good conscience for either presidential candidate and so didn’t. Others said that withholding a vote was in reality voting for the candidate who was ahead in the pools, maybe not the best choice for Christians.

We won't know what we could have done if we'd worked together as believers.

This isn’t the first time Christian groups shot each other in the foot.

In Colorado, we had an amendment on the ballot to define life as occurring at conception. But the two most prominent pro-life groups in the state couldn’t work together on promoting the issue.
We move forward slowly because of the infighting.

Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians, addressed the same problem there. The church was debating which hero to follow. Paul? Apollos? Cephas? Christ?

Paul appealed to the church so that “all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.” (1 Cor 1:10)

Earlier, Paul had asked the Corinthians to be holy, which means they would be set apart from the others in Corinth for God’s purposes. Now Paul asks them to be united with one another.

Separated from the world, united with fellow believers.

That was Paul’s hope for Corinth – and one that we still don’t have down today as followers of Jesus.

Paul’s fear was that “the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.” (1 Cor 1:17)

Our challenge today is to encourage healthy discussion among believers but to avoid the angry divisions that divide us. Our goal should not be to win but to be sure the cross of Christ is expressed in power and authority.

In the light of that, our opinions don’t matter nearly so much.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Orissa faith

“Even if I do not have cake, meat, or new clothes for this Christmas, I will celebrate Christmas in my heart,” said Kadamphul Nayak, who was widowed in last year’s attacks on Christians in Orissa. “My family members have paid with their lives for our faith. So, I am also prepared to face any hardship for my faith.”

In fact, Kadamphul is not an ordinary hounded Christian from Kandhamal like thousands of others. Her septuagenarian blind mother-in-law and her husband, Samuel Nayak, perished at the hands of Hindu fundamentalists in the orchestrated violence against Christians in eastern Orissa state.

Read the rest of the article about Christian persecution in Orissa, India here.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Never Say Diet

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

After the holidays, many are ready for a healthier lifestyle. I liked this book, because it's realistic. This is not a "fun way to lose weight without depriving yourself" kind of book. And let's be honest: we know that weight loss happens when we eat less calories than we use.

Chantel points us to the goal: a healthy life. She shares her own struggles in starting an exercise program at 330 pounds but also shares the joy of her life now as a trim, fit, healthy young wife and mother.

She confirms that it was hard but worth the work. Whether you want to lose 10 pounds or 100 - or 200 like Chantel did - this is a honest, helpful book with practical strategies for those ready for change.

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the books:

Never Say Diet

WaterBrook Press; Reprint edition (December 16, 2008)


The Never Say Diet Personal Fitness Trainer

WaterBrook Press (December 16, 2008)


Chantel Hobbs is a personal trainer, certified spinning instructor, and motivational speaker whose no-excuses approach to fitness has won her a grateful following across the country. The author of Never Say Diet, Chantel hosts a weekly fitness program on Reach FM radio and is a regular guest on Way FM. Her “Ditch the Diet, Do the Weekend” bootcamp takes place several times a year in a variety of locations. She has presented her unique approach to lasting fitness in People magazine and on Oprah, The Today Show, Good Morning America, Fox News, The 700 Club, Living the Life, and Paula White Today. Chantel enjoys life with her husband and their four children in South Florida.

Visit the author's website.


Never Say Diet Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Press; Reprint edition (December 16, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0307444937
ISBN-13: 978-0307444936

The Night That

Changed My Life

How to Choose

to Do the Best

Job of Living

It should have been a scene of American family bliss. A Sunday afternoon in our home on a beautiful fall day in South Florida. My husband, Keith, was watching the Dolphins game in the living room with some friends. He’d waited all week for this. Our girls, six-year-old Ashley and four-year-old Kayla, were helping me in the kitchen. Well, kind of. Our six month-old, Jake, was jumping and laughing in his Jolly Jumper. I was baking Vanishing Oatmeal Raisin Cookies, our favorite, and everybody could smell the cinnamon and butter and couldn’t wait for the cookies to come out of the oven. Especially me. As I worked in the kitchen, I could hear the football game coming from the living room. The announcers were talking about a player who had arrived at training camp completely out of shape. He was six foot four and weighed 320 pounds. “That is a big boy,” they said. “Wow! He is huge.” “Would you look at that guy,” I heard my husband say with disgust. “I can’t believe he got so fat! What a lazy bum.” Those words cut me to the heart. I had created a happy home, with a

happy husband and happy kids. But at that moment I wanted to die, because I outweighed that player by at least 10 pounds. I was bigger than anyone playing for the Miami Dolphins. And I knew I was anything but lazy. I pulled the cookies out of the oven and felt nauseous. I was pathetic. I’d been overweight my entire adult life, but I was bigger than I had ever been. I was miserable but doing an excellent job of faking out everyone who knew me. I was five foot nine and weighed 330 pounds, maybe more. I didn’t know for sure because it had been months since I’d dared to step on a scale. Besides, the only one in the house was a conveniently inaccurate discount-store model with a wheel underneath that calibrated the scale. I had adjusted it to register the lowest weight possible. I was in denial, but I was also without hope. It was the autumn of 2000. I was twenty-eight years old and was starting to believe I would never live a long and fulfilled life. Not this way. If an angel had landed on my shoulder and whispered in my ear that, in less than two years, Oprah Winfrey would have me on her show to tell a feel good weight-loss story, I’d have sent that angel packing and gone back to my cookies. I wasn’t Oprah material. And there was absolutely nothing feel-good about my life. Call me when you want a feel-bad story. That was me. If that angel had whispered that I would one day run a marathon, I’d have checked him in to an insane asylum. I couldn’t run around the block. Even in high school I hadn’t been able to run the required twenty-minute mile. My knees hurt all the time. I was morbidly obese—a term that I knew meant an early death. If one thing was clear about my life in the fall of 2000, it was that

I could never, ever run a marathon. But I did. I finished my first one in 2005 and after that ran four more— in less than a year. I went from weighing nearly 350 pounds to less than 150 pounds. And I have appeared on Oprah and Good Morning America and the cover of People magazine as one of America’s great weight-loss successes. Getting fit wasn’t easy—there was plenty of pain, deprivation, tears, and hungeralong the way. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and I won’t try to sugarcoat any of that. But, honestly, I didn’t give myself a choice. Once I made the unconditional decision that I was going to lose weight and get healthy, nothing could stop me. And nothing will stop you if you make the Five Decisions to break the fat habit for good. That’s a guarantee. Here is the secret I learned—the same secret I want to share with you. I realized I had to change my mind before I could change my body, my health, and my life. I discovered the Five Decisions, which brought about an unconditional commitment to getting healthy and fit. Once I started, I treated it like a job so that no matter what else was going on in my life, I did what I had to do to achieve daily goals, weekly goals, monthly goals, and eventually the target weight and fitness that I desired. After making the Five Decisions, getting fit was a matter of showing up for work each day. The process developed from the inside out, which was a new concept for me.


People constantly ask me how I lost 200 pounds and started running marathons. When I explain that it took several years to achieve those goals, they wonder how I was able to stick to the plan when so many others can’t. I ask myself the same question. I had failed plenty of times before. I’d tried a few diets and failed, including a bit of foolishness called the chocolate-wafer diet, which I’ll tell you about later. I’d resolved so many times not to eat the entire package of Oreos, without success. So how did I lose all that weight and keep it off reclaiming my health and gaining a new life in the process? Here’s the simple answer: my brain changed. I decided to first become a different person in my mind and then learned patience as my body followed. My success wasn’t measured only by a declining number on a scale; it was much deeper. I had to change on the inside. I needed to change my mind before I could change my body. It will work the same way for you. First you must get to the right place in your head, and then you can create the lifestyle to go along with that. Your body reflects your daily choices, so stop confusing it by the way you think. The mistake so many people make is to focus on weight loss and how long it will take. In fact, the multibillion-dollar diet industry banks on people thinking this way. Don’t get stuck in the weight loss weight gain cycle. What you should focus on is the person you want to be. Set your sights very high, and keep your commitment level even higher. In this book I’ll explain how I did that. I went from being someone who weighed more than a Miami Dolphins lineman to someone who is strong and trim and can run twenty-six miles. I went from a state of hopelessness to a life of incredible confidence. And I want to help you achieve something great in your life. If you change your mind before attempting to change your body, you can do this.


While I was learning how to lose weight and regain my health, I faced setback after setback. My husband lost his job, and my mother was diagnosed with cancer—and those were only two of the crises that came along. Changing your life will never be easy, and that’s why in order to succeed, you first need to be ready to succeed. It’s a choice you make. In the fall of 2000, when I was baking cookies and overhearing my husband’s criticism of an overweight NFL lineman, I fell into despair. I realized my life was out of control and I was headed for an early grave if I didn’t change. But even then, I wasn’t yet ready to make the commitment that was necessary to change my life. The truth is, on that dark day I still wasn’t miserable enough to change. I hit rock bottom about six months later. I was at my heaviest ever—349 pounds, I think. Though I was still mostly in denial, I was starting to see myself clearly, and I hated what I saw. I’d look in the mirror and say, “You are pitiful! How could you have let this happen?” My appearance started to affect my family life. We live in South Florida, where every weekend is a pool party. My daughters were young, but they were being invited to a few parties, and I was horribly uncomfortable in a bathing suit. I knew it wouldn’t be long before my girls would be embarrassed by their mother, and that made me want to cry. It did make me cry. But that was the least of it. I was more worried that their mom would die young. I’d seen fat people, and I’d seen old people, but rarely had I seen fat, old people. If I couldn’t change for myself, maybe I could do it for my kids. One night I was driving home alone from an event at church. I felt trapped in despair. At age twenty-nine, my body felt old. I had recently had an emergency gallbladder operation, and the doctor had told me he was afraid to cut through all my layers of fat because of the risk of infection. Imagine being worried about your diseased gallbladder and experiencing anxiety about surgery. And then you learn that your weight problem makes you more prone to infection. That night in the car I felt like the most pathetic person who had ever lived. I believed that God had made me and put me on earth for a purpose, and I was not living the life He intended for me. I knew I had to change. As I drove, drowning in self-pity, I began to envision what my life would be if I weren’t fat. I thought of all the things I could do—even simple things, such as walking down an airplane aisle without having to turn sideways. I’d be able to board a flight without getting fearful stares from people hoping I wouldn’t sit next to them. And there were deeper things, such as being able to go down a slide at a playground with my kids. And I wanted never again to feel as if I was embarrassing my husband when he introduced me to business associates. I was tired of feeling prejudged by every server in every restaurant for what I ordered. I wanted to be able to shop in the same clothing stores as all my friends. I wanted a normal life. As I drove home from church, I came to the realization that I absolutely could not go on with my life as it was. I pulled over, sobbing. In total despair I cried out to God. I remember every word. “This is it!” I said. “I can’t live like this anymore. I’m done. I give all this pain to You. I surrender this battle. I need You to take over and give me a plan. Otherwise, I don’t want to live anymore.” Almost immediately a sense of inner peace filled me, and I calmed down. I had gone to church all my life and had a relationship with God, but I had certainly never felt anything like that before. The peace was real, and in my mind I heard from God. I clearly heard these words: You are not being the best you can be. It wasn’t a booming voice like in a movie, but it also wasn’t a voice coming from me. The words were a jolt to my soul. And that moment would change my life forever. Again, with crystal clarity, I “heard” a whisper: You are not being the best you can be. And for the first time in my life, I understood that this was a choice. I could choose to be the best I could be or not. We all have the same choice. We can’t choose our natural talents or what opportunities life is going to throw our way, but we can choose to do this one thing: we can do the best job of living that we are capable of. After praying alone in my car, I knew I could do better.


No matter how overweight and out of shape we are, our bodies and minds are capable of much more than we think. No matter what battles we face in life, we can have victory. The amazing thing is that so many of us choose not to. I know this is true because I was as guilty as anyone. For years I’d made poor choices and come up with excuses for why I really didn’t have a choice at all. I was big boned. I let myself overeat because I was pregnant. I skipped exercise because I didn’t have the time. I was too far gone to ever recover. I told myself whatever it took to hide the truth that I was not doing the best job of living. I was also being scammed by the diet industry. We all have been taken in by the hype. “We’ll give you your eating points,” the industry tells us, “and let you spend them on any food you want. And we’ll love you when you get on that scale, whether you’ve lost weight or not. We’ll keep hugging you for the next twenty-three years if need be.” Counting my points was not going to save me. Choosing the right frozen entrĂ©e and having it delivered to my home for the next two years was not going to save me. I didn’t need the unconditional love of strangers; I needed unconditional commitment from myself. I was also scammed by the “fat gene” scientists who insisted that my weight problem was out of my hands. They were wrong; it was in my hands. Chantel, I told myself, this is not cancer. I knew, because my mother had leukemia, and I had spent more tearful nights than I could count praying for her recovery something I couldn’t do anything about. I prayed that chemotherapy would work and that God would heal her. But I realized that I’d been thinking of my obesity in the same way, as an illness. I’d even been told by experts that drastic surgery might be my only option. But that was another lie. The way I lived my life and how I contributed to my health were completely in my hands. Every one of us knows what we should do, but we don’t always do it. Instead, we pretend it’s out of our control. We take the easy way out and let ourselves down. Gaining weight doesn’t come about by accident, and it’s not forced on us. We gain weight through a series of poor choices made on a regular basis over a long period of time.

We gain weight

through a series of poor choices

made on a regular basis

over a long period of time.

The same process holds true for achieving a goal related to your health and fitness. Whether it’s weight loss, athletic accomplishment, or any other personal or business goal, you achieve what you seek by learning to make the right choices and not being scared of self-sacrifice. I began wondering what my life would be like and what I would be capable of if I simply started being the best me I could. It was time to find out. After hearing God tell me, You are not being the best you can be, I made my decision, and I said it out loud: “I can do this. I will do this.” I repeated it, and I meant it. At that moment by the side of Cypress Creek Road, my life turned around.


Having made the commitment, I knew I was going to change my life, but I didn’t have a specific plan. I knew I’d have to start exercising, no matter how much I dreaded it. I knew I would have to change the way I ate, and I would need to learn more about nutrition. And to become a different person, I knew I would have to start thinking like the person I wanted to be and not the person I had allowed myself to become. I didn’t know how I was going to do all this, but I knew I would have God by my side. He might not make it easy, but He’d give me the strength to do everything that was needed. When I got home that night, Keith was already in bed. He had never criticized my weight, for which I was incredibly grateful, but I knew how he must have felt. I looked into my husband’s eyes, told him that God had spoken to me in the car, and announced that the next morning I would begin losing weight and getting healthy. (I even mentioned that one day I would write a book to reach others in my situation.) I made it clear that I was totally committed to being the best I could be. Keith smiled at me and quoted one of his favorite sources of inspiration, the self-made billionaire Art Williams: “Do it, then talk.” He was right. I shut up. Keith fell asleep, but I had a burning passion that kept me awake that night and has kept me up many nights since. Making the unconditional decision to change—the complete commitment with no turning back—had to be followed by action. First you change your mind. But to change your body and your life, you have to get moving. You have to do things and do them differently from the past. Do it. How incredibly simple—yet how long it had taken me to get to a place where I could see that clearly. Getting fit and accomplishing my dreams was simply a matter of choosing to do it, following through every single day, and understanding that failure was not an option. I could do it. I would do it. And I did.


Keep reading, and you’ll find out how to change your life through five crucial decisions. The Five Decisions change your brain, giving you a new way of thinking about yourself, your life, your health, and your future. As long as you keep thinking the same way you always have, you will keep doing the things you have always done—including the unhealthy habits you have developed. Join me in the next chapter as we explore the past—including all the influences that worked together to bring us to where we are today. Understanding the messages that influence our self-perception and the way we respond to obstacles enables us to make the new decisions that are necessary for permanent change.

What Do You Want to Change, and Why?

As you prepare to make the mental changes that will lead to permanent life change, think through the reasons you want to change. What is motivating your desire to lose weight and reclaim your health? Use the questions that follow to think in detail about your life, your goals for the future, and what you’re willing to do to make this happen finally and forever.

1. Beyond losing weight, what do you most want to change about your life?

2. Are you willing to do whatever it takes to see certain areas of your life undergo radical change? If you’re not yet willing, what is holding you back?

3. When in your life have you felt the most hopeless? Are you now ready to move past those scars and never look back?

4. When you gained weight in the past, what factors caused you to lose your focus on health?

5. Identify three reasons or influences from the past that convinced you that you couldn’t achieve permanent life change. After considering these reasons, can you now admit they were merely excuses?

6. Think about the necessity of changing your mind before you attempt to change your body. Do you agree that lasting change begins on the inside? As you consider being the best you can be, are you ready to work from the inside out?

7. A total life change involves your mind, body, and spirit. Think about the spiritual aspect for a moment. Do you accept the role that faith plays in the process of changing your life for good?

8. When have you been held back by a fear of failure? Write down your biggest fears in this regard. As you face your fears, can you decide to let them go and give your all to permanent life change?

Never Say Diet Personal Trainer Product Details:

List Price: $10.99
Paperback: 176 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Press (December 16, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0307446425
ISBN-13: 978-0307446428

Week 1 Training Plan

The Perfect Body Type: Yours!

You Are Lovely Today

Scripture for the week: “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.… When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body.”

—PSALM 139:14–16

Quote for the week: “Faith, as Paul saw it, was a living, flaming thing leading to surrender and obedience to the commandments of Christ.”


As you begin the journey to never say diet, remember that your value is based on who you are in Christ, not what the number on the scale says. God created everything about you, and He knows you better than you know yourself. He knows which foods are your weaknesses, and He is there whenever the temptation to overeat or consume unhealthy food seems overwhelming. The Lord knows the tears you have shed out of desperation. He was there to comfort you when it seemed like no one understood your pain. Trust me, on days when I feel the most flawed, I need the verses from Psalm 139 to remind me of what is true. The living God formed every part of my body, even the parts I would like to change. Although I used to struggle and fail in caring for my body, God always knew it best. When I finally cried out to my Creator and invited Him to help with the repair, I knew I could succeed. He wants you to succeed too. Start this week by thanking the Lord for the gifts of your life and your body. By focusing on making some improvements, you will ultimately be honoring Him more and more each day. Find a recent photo of yourself, or take one, and tape it in the space that follows. This picture will be a powerful reference for you in the coming weeks as you begin your transformation.


In Never Say Diet, I make a big deal about the Five Decisions—and for good reason. You will fail in this new attempt to change your life unless you first change your brain. To succeed, you need to be willing to do whatever it takes—unconditionally. I want to be your cheerleader and your friend. And for us to get going, you need to commit to the five Brain Change decisions found on pages 76–82 of Never Say Diet. Think about how each of the Five Decisions applies to your life. Also, try to memorize them. They will form the backbone you need to stand up to and overcome every area of weakness in your life. Create your personal surrender statement.


This week your first assignment is to start building a foundation of discipline. You will be successful over the next month if you show up for exercise thirty minutes a day, five days in a row, every week—no matter what. There are many choices for your cardiovascular exercise. Below is a list of suggestions. Even if your week gets hectic, finding the time to make this happen is imperative.

Cardio Exercise Suggestions


Bike riding

Cross-country skiing machine


Elliptical machine


Kick boxing


Spinning class

Stair climber

Stair stepper

Stationary bike/recumbent bike

Step aerobics




How to Take Your Measurements

Taking your measurements at the beginning of each month is an important part of the process of losing weight. You will begin to see precisely where you are losing fat. As you start building more muscle, there will be months where your progress is more evident in your measurements than on the scale, because muscle is denser than fat. You will begin by taking six measurements. You should be able to do them by yourself, with the exception of your upper arm. (Ask a friend or your spouse to help you.) For instructions on taking accurate measurements, see pages 97–98 of Never Say Diet. Record your measurements below.

Bust: ______________

Chest: ______________

Waist: ______________

Hips: ______________

Thighs: ______________

Arms: ______________

Be sure that you consistently measure in the same spots each month. I also recommend taking your measurements before your workouts.

Weigh Yourself

Weigh yourself, and record your weight at the beginning of each week.

Week 1 starting weight: ________


Complete your cardio exercise five days in a row, for at least thirty minutes per day. In the space provided, write down the day, the date, the exercise you completed, and the duration of each exercise period. This serves as a reminder that you always found a way to get the exercise done, whether you felt like it or not.

Day 1 date/exercise/duration:


How did it go?


Day 2 date/exercise/duration:


How did it go?


Day 3 date/exercise/duration:


How did it go?


Day 4 date/exercise/duration:


How did it go?


Day 5 date/exercise/duration:


How did it go?




This week you must place your nutritional focus on the most important meal of the day: breakfast. Plan to eat every day within two hours of waking up. Listed below are some fresh food ideas. Each one is about three hundred calories, which is perfect!

• Quaker Weight Control oatmeal, 1 tablespoon of raisins, cinnamon to taste, 2 slices of turkey bacon.

• One slice of whole-wheat toast, light spread of peanut butter (natural is best), and ½ grapefruit.

• Chocolate strawberry shake. Blend the following: 1 scoop chocolate protein powder, 10 small frozen strawberries, 1 packet sugar substitute, ½ cup low-fat milk, a few ice cubes.

• Egg white omelet. In a skillet with nonstick spray, cook veggies you like, 3 lightly beaten egg whites, and 1 tablespoon fat-free cheese. Accompany with half an English muffin with a dab of peanut butter.

Each of these breakfast meals provides a good balance of protein, carbs, and fat. This ensures your day gets off to a good start; it is igniting your source of energy. Find a few meals that you enjoy, and keep repeating them. This way you won’t stress out over deciding what to have.

Week 1 Breakfast Log

Using the space provided, record each day’s breakfast menu and the portions.

Day 1 date/time: ___________________________________ ________________________________________________

Day 2 date/time: ___________________________________


Day 3 date/time: ___________________________________


Day 4 date/time: ___________________________________


Day 5 date/time: ___________________________________


Day 6 date/time: ___________________________________


Day 7 date/time: ___________________________________


Tuesday, January 13, 2009


The announcement surprised me a little.

“I need shampoo,” said 13-year-old son. Now this was something new, because his past included a time when washing the hair needn’t include shampoo, just sluicing
a little water over aromatic locks.

But, hey, if he’s awash in hormones, he can be awash in soap, too, right?

“And it needs to be manly,” he added.

Manly? OK, I get that lilac and rose aren’t manly, but what’s so awful about coconut and strawberry? They’re in desserts, right?

But we marched down the shampoo aisle until he shoved a gray and black bottle in my face. “This is manly,” he said and so we bought it.

I barely had the cans of tomato sauce stowed in the pantry at home when he emerged from the bathroom, wrapped in a damp towel, and put his wet head under my nose. “Do I smell manly?” And then he shoved his dripping forearm into the air. “Smell that!” We'd bought the matching shower gel, too.

He beamed after I assured him, “that is very manly.”

Being a parent has taught me some things about God’s nature. I chuckle at shampoo scents but he knows the number of hairs on my head. I want to assure my son of his manliness and God assures me of his love.

We are often as 13-year-olds but we can rest in a Daddy who is ready to sniff our arm and listen to our plans.

I have loved you with an everlasting love;
I have drawn you with loving-kindness.
Jer 31:3

Friday, January 9, 2009

Seven weird things....

I was tagged by Angela to share seven weird things about myself. See the rules:

I have a problem with this. Those who know me well think I’d have trouble finding seven non-weird things about myself. See what I mean? I do lots of weird things.

But here goes:
  1. My son and I breed and show Holland Lop rabbits, traveling to about a dozen shows a year.
  2. I do not like the smell – or taste – of coffee.
  3. I once taught my baby sister the names of the planets in order by repeating them to her at night after she’d fallen asleep. She still knows them – and so do I.
  4. I own a humongous two-volume Oxford English Dictionary that requires a magnifying glass to read the entries.
  5. My first car was a Rambler American. I think there were only two of those made and mine was the light-turquoise boxy model. Snappy stuff for a college freshman.
  6. I invented my own system of charting football plays during a game.
  7. I can use my thumbnail to cut open tape on packages because my fingernails are very hard.

I’m not going to tag anybody to follow me. (That’s another weird thing about me is that I don’t always follow the rules) But spend some time thinking about your weird (OK, you can use the word “unique”) traits and post them. It’ll either humble you or cause a little thanksgiving for how God makes each of us special. Or is that weird?

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Esteem whom?

Lawrence described himself as a great awkward fellow who broke everything. He had no credentials and no stunning resume to show off.

Today we’d probably put him in self-esteem classes.

Brother Lawrence was a 17th century French man who worked in a monastery although he lacked the education to be called a monk. He labored in the kitchen most of his life but had many conversations about his relationship with God that have been recorded.

His story can be seen more fully here.

He was an achingly-humble man in a way that we’d find uncomfortable today. Not only did he acknowledge his clumsiness, but he also recognized his failures. “When I fail in my duty, I readily acknowledge it, saying, I am used to do so: I shall never do otherwise, if I am left to myself.”

Am I ready to say that I’m used to failure because I will fail if left to my own resources? That grinds against my independence and self-sufficiency.

And yet, Lawrence didn’t melt away into despair at the idea that he would fail. He was also clear-minded in knowing that he didn’t always fail.

But his successes were not reason for patting himself on the back.

He said, “If I fail not, then I give GOD thanks, acknowledging that it comes from Him.”

Lawrence knew plainly that when he failed, it was to be expected for he didn’t have the resources to do otherwise. When he succeeded, he thanked God because that’s where the success came from.

Where does our success come from? And do we recognize its source?

The Lord is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation.
Psalms 118:14

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

699 million

Consider this:

There are 4.5 billion non-Christians in the world. Of those, 1.9 billion are unevangelized. In other words, they have no clue who Jesus is.

In the world, those followers of Jesus who know and attempt to obey his commission number about 699 million.

Those figures may challenge you or overwhelm you. After all, 1.9 billion people live in places that haven’t yet seen a missionary or heard a biblical text. And, of the 699 million Christians defined as “Great Commission Christians,” many are unable to go to an obscure place to talk about Jesus and his work.

But consider this:

After his resurrection, Jesus met 11 men on a mountain in Galilee. Some worshiped but some doubted.

Than came the kicker. Jesus sent these 11 men, even the doubters, to the world. They didn’t have 699 million other believers to help. They were sent:
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations
Matt 28:19

How did 11 men make a difference in the world? That charge may have overwhelmed them like 1.9 billion overwhelms us.

But that’s looking at the wrong resources. Today, we look at the world and say, “that’s too big for me.”

But here’s what we need to learn. These 11 men, even the doubters, did change the world. How? Jesus went with them, just as he promised.

At Pentecost, the Spirit of God chose to live within those who follow Jesus. And look what they did.

When we look at those who have not yet heard about Jesus, the numbers can look impossible. But we’re looking at our resources, not God’s.

If 11 men could impact the world by trusting God’s resources, think what 699 million could do.

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.
hen Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
herefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.
nd surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
Matt 28:16-20

Monday, January 5, 2009

Colorado cool

When the temperatures dipped to sub-zero in late December, I grabbed the chance to freeze my fingers but capture some of the beauty of the frost and ice here in Colorado. Here are a few photos for you:

When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
the son of man that you care for him?

Psalms 8:3-4

Friday, January 2, 2009

GAtekeepers by Richard Liparulo

It is time to play a Wild Card! Every now and then, a book that I have chosen to read is going to pop up as a FIRST Wild Card Tour. Get dealt into the game! (Just click the button!) Wild Card Tours feature an author and his/her book's FIRST chapter!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

As always, I'm on the alert for quality books for our young people. This one qualifies: a young adult fantasy with a biblical worldview. Our youth love fantasy so why not use it as an opportunity for a godly perspective?

Today's Wild Card author is:

Robert Liparulo

and the book:


Thomas Nelson (January 6, 2009)


Robert Liparulo has received rave reviews for both his adult novels (Comes a Horseman, Germ, and Deadfall) and the first two novels in his Dreamhouse Kings series for young adults (House of Dark Shadows, Watcher in the Woods). He is an avid scuba diver, swimmer, reader, traveler, and a law enforcement and military enthusiast. He lives in Colorado with his wife and four children.

Visit the author's website.

Here are some of his titles:

House of Dark Shadows (Dreamhouse Kings Book #1)
Watcher in the Woods: (Dreamhouse Kings Book #2)
Comes a Horseman

Product Details:

List Price: $ 14.99
Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (January 6, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1595544984
ISBN-13: 978-1595544988


Tuesday, 6:58 P.M.

Pinedale, California

Xander’s words struck David’s heart like a musket ball.

He reeled back, then grabbed the collar of his brother’s grimy Confederate coat. His eyes stung, whether from the tears squeezing around them or the sand whipping through the room, he didn’t know. He pulled his face to within inches of Xander’s.

“You . . . you found her?” he said. “Xander, you found Mom?”

He looked over Xander’s shoulder to the portal door, which had slammed shut as soon as Xander stumbled through. The two boys knelt in the center of the antechamber. Wind billowed their hair. It whooshed in under the door, pulling back what belonged to the Civil War world from which Xander had just stepped. The smell of smoke and gunpowder was so strong, David could taste it.

He shook Xander. “Where is she? Why didn’t you bring her?”

His heart was going crazy, like a ferret racing around inside his chest, more frantic than ever. Twelve-year-olds didn’t have heart attacks, did they?

Xander leaned back and sat on his heels. His bottom lip trembled, and his chest rose and fell as he tried to catch his breath. The wind plucked a leaf from his hair, whirled it through the air, then sucked it under the door.

“Xander!” David said. “Where’s Mom?”

Xander lowered his head. “I couldn’t . . .” he said. “I couldn’t get her. You gotta go over, Dae. You gotta bring her back!”

“Me?” A heavy weight pushed on David’s chest, smashing the ferret between sternum and spine. He rose, leaped for the door, and tugged on the locked handle.

He wore a gray hat (“It’s a kepi,” Dad would tell him) and jacket, like Xander’s blue ones. They had discovered that it took wearing or holding three items from the antechamber to unlock the portal door. He needed one more.

“Xander, you said found her! ”

Xander shook his head. “I think I saw her going into a tent, but it was at the other end of the camp. I couldn’t get to her.”

David’s mouth dropped open. “That’s not finding her! I thought I saw her, too, the other day in the World War II world. . .”

“Dae, listen.” Xander pushed himself up and gripped David’s shoulders. “She saw the message we left. She saw Bob.”

Bob was the cartoon face and family mascot since Dad was a kid, drawn on notes and birthday cards. When David and Xander had been in Ulysses S. Grant’s Union camp the night before, Xander had drawn it on a tent. It was their way of letting Mom know they were looking for her.

“She wrote back!” Xander said. “David, she’s there!”

“But . . .” David didn’t know if he wanted to scream or cry or punch his brother. “Why didn’t you go get her?”

“Something was happening on the battlefield. They were rounding up all the soldiers and herding us toward the front line. I tried to get to her, but they kept grabbing me, pushing me out of camp. When I broke away—“ Xander’s face became hard. “They called me a deserter. That quick, I was a deserter. One of them shot at me! I barely got back to the portal.” He shook his head. “You gotta go! Now! Before she’s gone, or the portal changes, or . . . I don’t know.”

Yes . . . no! David’s stomach hurt. His brain was throbbing against his skull. His broken arm started to ache again, and he rubbed the cast. “Xander, I can’t. They almost killed me yesterday.”

“That’s because you were a gray-coat.” Xander began taking off his blue jacket. “Wear this one.”

“Why can’t you? Just tell them—”

“I’ll never make it,” Xander said. “They’ll throw me in the stockade for deserting—if they don’t shoot me first.”

“They’ll do the same to me.” David hated how whiney it came out.

“You’re just a kid. They’ll see that.”

“I’m twelve, Xander. Only three years younger than you.”

“That’s the difference between fighting and not, Dae.” He held the jacket open. “I know it was really scary before, but this time you’ll be on the right side.”

David looked around the small room. He said, “Where’s the rifle you took when you went over? The Harper’s Ferry musket?”

His brother gazed at his empty hand. He scanned the floor. “I must have dropped it one of the times I fell. I was just trying to stay alive. I didn’t notice.” He shook the jacket. “Come on.”

David shrugged out of the gray jacket he was wearing. He tossed it onto the bench and reluctantly slipped into the one Xander held. He pulled the left side over his cast.

Xander buttoned it for him. He said, “The tent I saw her go into was near the back of the camp, on the other side from where I drew Bob.” He lifted the empty sleeve and let it flop down. He smiled. “Looks like you lost your arm in battle.”

“See? They’ll think I can fight, that I have fought.”

“I was just kidding.” He took the gray kepi off David’s head and replaced it with the blue one. Then he turned to the bench and hooks, looking for another item.

“Xander, listen,” David said. “You don’t know what’s been happening here. There are two cops downstairs.”

Xander froze in his reach for a canteen. “What?” His head pivoted toward the door opposite the portal, as though he could see through it into the hallway beyond, down the stairs, around the corner, and into the foyer. Or like he expected the cops to burst through. “What are they doing here?”

“They’re trying to get us out of the house. Taksidian’s with them.” Just thinking of the creepy guy who was responsible for his broken arm frightened David—but not as much as the thought of getting hauled away when they were so close to rescuing Mom. “Gimme that,” he said, waggling his fingers at the canteen.

Xander snatched it off the hook and looped the strap over David’s head. “Where’s Dad?”

“They put him in handcuffs. He told me to come get you. That’s why I was here when you came through.”


“And one more thing,” David said. He closed his eyes, feeling like the jacket had just gained twenty pounds. “Clayton, that kid who wanted to pound me at school? He came through the portal in the linen closet.” He opened one eye to see his brother’s shocked expression.

“How long was I gone?” Xander said. “Where is he now?”

“I pushed him back in. He returned to the school, but he might . . . come back.”

“Great.” Xander glanced over his shoulder at the hallway door again, then back at David. “Anything else I should know?”

David shook his head. “I guess if I die, I won’t have to go to school tomorrow.” He smiled weakly.

The school year—seventh grade for David, tenth for Xander—had started just yesterday: two days of classes. Mom had been kidnapped the day before that. David couldn’t believe they’d even gone to school under the circumstances, but Dad, who was the new principal, had insisted they keep up normal appearances so they wouldn’t attract suspicion.

Lot of good it did, David thought, thinking of the cops downstairs.

“I don’t know,” Xander said. “Dad would probably figure out a way to get your body there.”

David’s expression remained grim.

“You’ll be fine.”

“Don’t get taken away,” David told his brother. “Don’t leave with me over there. Don’t leave me alone in this house when I come back. Don’t—“

Xander touched his fingers to David’s lips. “I won’t leave,” he said. “I’ll go see what’s happening downstairs, but I won’t leave. No way, no how. Okay? Besides—“ He smiled, but David saw how hard it was for him to do it. “You’ll have Mom with you when you come back. Right?”

It was David’s turn to smile, and he found it wasn’t so hard to do. “Yeah.” He turned, took a deep breath, and opened the portal door.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

What God did

Yesterday, we saw how Mike wrestled with giving some of his income to orphans.

Mike started sending money the orphanage every month and the raise at work didn’t come immediately. He’d kind of been expecting that or maybe a gift from a generous uncle.

Instead, he had to drive a little less because he didn’t always have enough money for gas. He started walking to work and that’s when he met Serena. She was walking to the shop where she worked, close to his job, and, after a few weeks of walking together, he invited her to his youth group.

Two months later, she responded to an invitation to follow Jesus.

When Jenny sent out a new e-mail trying to get ideas for Christmas gifts for the orphans, Mike got a bright idea. He sold his iPod – surprisingly, it sold fast and for top dollar – and financed a special party with treats and gifts for all the orphans.

The photos Jenny sent ended up on his screensaver so he could watch the delighted kids whenever he used his computer. A crayon-colored thank-you letter from one of the little girls at the orphanage was stuck up on his wall beside his desk. He really liked the part where she said God had been good to her.

After a year, Mike still didn’t have his new Xbox. But, oddly, he didn’t care so much.

“Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else.” (2 Cor 9:13)