The Privacy (You Don’t Realize) You’re Giving Up on Facebook

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© Marie Notcheva

Once upon a time, the Internet was a New Thing. In the mid-1990’s, the novelty of being able to connect with strangers in chatrooms or play chess with friends a continent away was met with awe – and caution. A generation of parents now implemented the “don’t talk to strangers” rule in a new way. Common wisdom, long before social media, meant never revealing your identity or location online. There was a mis-placed sense of fear that by tracking your computer’s IP address, crazy stalkers could show up at your house with axes in the middle of the night.

A generation later, the proliferation of Smartphone Apps that use GPS tracking has made virtually everyone’s location “trackable”, all of the time. We know that Google stores all of our information – which we give them willingly – and we pretty much don’t care. As long as our anti-virus software is up to date, we figure we are “secure”.

But as a professor at a programming conference once said, “Security is why we lock our doors. Privacy is why we draw the curtains.”

We throw back the curtains of our lives every time we post a picture or update our status. Privacy is something we have given up willingly when using social media. But far more is being taken than most users realize. And Facebook Messenger, which adults now use for most written communication, is the single biggest offender when it comes to invading your privacy. Increasingly, teens and students are moving away from Facebook and using Apps such as Kik and SnapChat (which leave no data behind on servers) to communicate, but those of us in the over-30 demographic use Messenger more than e-mail, SMS texts, or any other App for casual communication.

The sheer convenience of Messenger makes this logical – texting is unreliable, as people’s phone numbers tend to change. The sender knows instantly when a Facebook message is read; something impossible via traditional text or e-mail. For Smartphone users, the notification “pops up” instantly – making the message hard to miss. And everyone is on Facebook – it is the easiest way to connect. I have sent articles to editors; responded to neighbors’ concerns; even been contacted by my children’s teachers through Facebook Messenger.

How Messenger Steals Your Privacy (and there’s nothing you can do about it)

When Facebook rolled out the new App in 2013, there was concern about security which, while stated in their user contract, few people took the time to read. Users were prompted to download the App to continue being able to send messages, but once installed, Facebook was granted permission to do a multitude of things like call numbers, send SMS messages, record audio, take pictures and read personal profile information stored on your phone. Ever noticed the tiny Google map that shows up on some messages, sent from a phone? This allows me to see exactly where on the street (say, in Sofia or Tirana) a friend is when she messages me. She, in turn, has a map of the Boston hospital from where I messaged her. Pretty cool, right?

Now imagine that’s your 14-year-old daughter, texting with a stranger who just “Friend requested” her.

While you can turn off location services under your phone’s settings, that feature never should have been on Facebook to begin with. Having your precise location recorded and displayed by default is just plain creepy…but at least it can be de-activated. Another more subtle (but insidious) privacy feature cannot be turned off: the “Last Active” timestamp.

The Messenger timestamp displays exactly how many minutes it has been since you last logged in (no matter how briefly). It’s both in the chat sidebar and at the top of your Facebook “Conversations”. Gone are the days when turning off chat made you invisible (green light meant you were available; yellow that you were idle; and if you turned it off, no one knew if you were active or not). Now, whenever you open Facebook, you are still displayed as “Active” even when chat is off. Other messaging Apps (such as Viber, Skype and Whats App) also have a “Last Online” timestamp, but give you the option to deactivate it. Facebook does not.

Many casual or infrequent users of Facebook don’t realize that once you have exchanged a message with someone, he or she can pull that up at any time and always see the last time you were logged in. Why would someone care? Most of us, in fact, don’t. (I check my messages and scroll briefly through the Newsfeed many times per day – especially when I have downtime at work. I don’t often have time to engage in conversations, but I couldn’t care less if someone sees me check in.)

Why do people need this information about each other?

Messenger – a Faster Way to Wrongly Conclude that People are Lying to You

As absurd as it sounds, this timestamp has led to fights, paranoia, even breakups – and it’s not even accurate. By 2013, a glitch in how the servers were gathering data was well known to Facebook. Randomly, users (especially from cellphones) will appear as online, even when they’re not – “phantom users”, in a sense. While the exact reason this occurs is unknown, some guesses from a mechanical engineer are:

  1. Facebook Chat in the browser has no uniform way of determining the idle state of the host machine or browser.
  2. The Facebook Messenger app can’t signal that it’s idle either, because most mobile OSes kill apps or place them on standby at will to conserve power.
  3. Mobile data connections are relatively tenuous compared to conventional LAN connections. This means that a mobile client may fade in and out of connectedness despite the user being active.
  4. Facebook Chat’s infrastructure doesn’t distinguish between API calls from Facebook clients and 3rd party apps using a Facebook account. This means that you could appear to be online solely because a web service that uses your Facebook credentials pinged Facebook’s servers. Combined with point #1, it means Facebook might assume a user is online solely because their browser is on a Facebook page, despite them not being at the computer.
  5. The sheer number of users is too much for Facebook to track accurately in real-time.

Another reason for “phantom activity” may be that many users have other accounts linked to Facebook (such as Twitter, Instagram, etc.) Theoretically, whenever there is activity there it could cause someone to appear “Active”, even if he has not opened Facebook in days. Apps running in the background affect the activity recorded, as well.

I have many student-friends in Europe (six time zones ahead of me), and it’s not unusual for them to login to Facebook and chat in the middle of the night. However, some of their phones seem plagued by this “timestamp glitch” – resulting in exchanges such as this (paraphrase):

ME: “Dude! What are you doing online? It’s 2:00 in the morning over there. You should go to sleep.”
HIM: “Dude, ya think?!? I WAS sleeping.”
ME: “But Dude, your Facebook says you’re active. I thought you were chatting.”
HIM: “Dude, I wasn’t chatting. I was sleeping. My phone does that, I don’t know why.”
ME: “Oh, sorry Dude!! My bad. Good night.”

Not a big deal, right? It led to some slight embarrassment on my part; some sleep-deprivation on his part; and a new rule: don’t message European friends after dinner (regardless of what Facebook claims about their activity).

Elsewhere, however, this Messenger feature – no matter how unreliable – has caused almost unbelievable drama. A sample of complaints:

“Fell asleep at 11pm. Girlfriend thinks I am up to no good as it says that I have been active between 11.30 – 12. Caused mayhem.”

“My boyfriend and I broke up because of this 😦

Sometimes it’s good because you think “oh thank God, he was online 14 min. ago, so he wasn’t hit by a truck!”, but other times it’s “hey WTH is he doing on FB mobile at midnight when he told me he went to bed at 10pm?”

My question is two-fold: 1) Why are people stalking each other in this way; and 2) Why doesn’t Facebook remove this timestamp feature – or at least make it optional? It’s the fact that we have no control over this privacy feature that is the issue.

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Social media may be a faster, more accessible way to communicate, but the psychological effects it is having on relationships makes this a steep price to pay.  A decade ago, it would have seemed unthinkable that trust would be shattered over privacy violations on a “socializing” platform. This is not porn, “cyber-sexing” or any other form of infidelity – this is a massive social network wrongly recording pings off a server (that it has no right to be recording).

It may be too late to uninstall Messenger (you will still be able to send messages through the browser, but not the App), but be aware of what it records about you. Assume the timestamp is inaccurate; turn off your location services; and ask Facebook to remove both of these features.

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“I Want to Sit at Jesus’ Feet….But Who’s Going to Drive the Kids to Soccer?”

Making-Time-for-God-Every-Day© Marie Notcheva

One of my favorite authors, Jerry Bridges, describes a common malady among us evangelical Christians as “Prayer Time Guilt”. In “The Discipline of Grace”, Bridges writes: “we’ve come to believe that God’s blessing on our lives is somehow conditional upon our spiritual performance.”  We’ve been taught to set time aside for regular Bible reading and prayer, and we want to do this – it’s how we get to know God better.  The problem comes in when we grow so busy that we just don’t do it. Forgetting that our relationship with the Father is irrevocable and depends on His faithfulness, rather than ours, we feel guilt and anxiety over not keeping up our end of the bargain.

We women know how challenging it can be to go to work every day, raise a family, keep the household running smoothly, and spend time with God. There do not seem to be enough hours in the day, and yet if we neglect reading the Bible and praying, we will not grow spiritually. Every Christian woman knows this, and most of us feel guilty for failing in this area.

I like the idea of giving God the “first fruits” of my day. It seemed to work well enough in university when I was a new Christian – my first class wasn’t until 8:30 am. I would get up, shower, spend time with God and go to class before gymnastics practice. This was my life. It was all so linear; so predictable.

Then I got married, had a family, and life got more complicated.

“Anxious and Troubled Over Many Things….”

Several years ago, God taught me a lesson about spiritual apathy. I accepted a large, technical Macedonian translation from a British agency. The unrealistically tight deadline made it necessary for me to sub-contract most of it out, and consequently I spent as much time proofreading and revising as I would have spent translating it myself. The agency kept sending revisions to my revisions, questioning both legitimate changes and errors I had missed. For eleven days, I averaged four hours of sleep per night as I tried to satisfy the client.

During this time, my younger children sat in front of the television all day; the older kids struggled through their homework unaided; and I burned several meals. My husband tried to help, but we ended up quarreling with each other. I became nervous and upset, finally succumbing to tears only when the agency short-changed me on the pay. Since I am also a full-time interpreter, driving home from an assignment one night I suddenly realized I was supposed to lead Bible study at church the next day. “Oh NO!” I thought. My Bible had been sitting unopened, for two weeks. I had neither prayed nor reviewed the week’s lesson. “Good thing it’s Romans 9 – election and effectual calling. I can teach it,” I told myself.

That was the day I realized I had a time management problem, and it was quickly becoming a spiritual problem. The peace and joy that marked my daily life was quickly vanishing, and I didn’t know what to do about it.

“…But Only One Thing Matters” (while you still serve your family)

When you are a new mother, having regular devotional time is somewhat easy. You probably won’t go to work for a few months, and babies (although they wake during the night) take regular naps. The home is quiet. You have (some) time. Add to that you’re still basking in the joy and wonder of God’s newest creation, and drawing near to Him in adoration seems to flow naturally. Like many moms, I found myself drawn back to regular devotional life after I became a parent. Suddenly, spiritual matters seem to take on a new sense of urgency. Our single most important job, as parents, is to raise up our children to know and love God. To do justice to this task, I knew I needed to be in prayer daily – not just in church on Sunday.

Then more children came, grew older, and my “job description” changed. It wasn’t just about diapers and milk bottles anymore.

Hours at work increased. Laundry became an everyday task, where once it was weekly. Talking to God was replaced by writing about Him. I tried to justify spending less time with the Lord: “The more I work, the more we can give to your Kingdom, Lord. Laundry and cooking are necessary parts of serving my family…isn’t that what being a Proverbs 31 wife is all about? Besides, writing is my ministry. I’m using the gifts You gave me to edify people. I want to sit at Jesus’ feet like Mary of Bethany did, but she didn’t have kids running around!”

Of course, God didn’t accept my excuses. I had to concede that washing machines, microwaves and vacuum cleaners didn’t exist in 1st century Judea, and somehow Martha and her sister got all the housework done while managing to feed over a dozen men who didn’t call or text ahead of time to say they were coming. The uncomfortable fact of the matter is, He gives us all the same 24 hours in a day, and we make time for what we truly desire. Susanna Wesley had 19 children, yet she communed with God daily. She would famously resort to kneeling under the dining room table, with a towel as a head covering, in order to pray in peace. This was the children’s signal that Mama was not to be disturbed. Thanks to her godly example and loving discipline, the Wesley children went on to change the world. Tenacity always pays off.

Finding Balance

Years ago, I used to spend the tranquility of the early morning to rest in God’s presence. It was quiet – I could read a passage of Scripture without being interrupted, and give Jesus my undivided attention. Being consciously aware of His love and presence made a definite difference in how I went through the day. Now, my schedule has changed – like many women, I have a very long drive to work, and much of the evenings and weekends are taken up by driving my kids to athletics. Evenings are filled with the frenzy of cooking dinner, checking homework, and household chores familiar to women the world over. If I do not spend at least some time with the Lord in the morning – even reading a single chapter of the Bible, or praying on my way to work – the busyness of the day will crowd Him out completely.

It’s a balance every Christian mother I know attempts to strike – God has given us our husbands and children as a precious gift, and expects us to invest our time, energy and love first and foremost into our families. Since He’s told us to “pray unceasingly” (Luke 18:1; Acts 1:14), praying silently while peeling potatoes or folding the laundry is a perfectly normal part of life. I have thought through biblical solutions to dilemmas while ironing my husband’s shirts. However, the consistent, disciplined pattern of devotion illustrated throughout the Bible means withdrawing from constant e-mails and crazy schedules and diligently seeking God. Spiritual growth only comes as we do that, although it seems harder to achieve during certain seasons in our life. I have gotten out of balance in the other direction, too – I remember several times, when my youngest child was an infant, getting annoyed that she would awaken and cry when I had hoped to read a Psalm or two. Realizing that Jesus didn’t mind being interrupted by a child, I saw my need to be more flexible.

Abiding in Christ

God’s blessing and sense of nearness in our lives is proportional to our obedience (John 15:9-10). Therefore, if we are walking in obedience to His Word and spending time in prayer, we are “abiding” in His love. The single biggest part of that “abiding” is our devotional life. Obedience that is motivated solely by duty, rather than love, will quickly lead to drudgery. How can we cultivate love for God if we don’t get to know Him, and how will we get to know Him outside of the Bible? Scripture is His way of talking to us – the only source of divine revelation.

In the midst of our demanding jobs, children’s schedules, never-ending housework, and even ministry opportunities (which may be a tempting substitute for “closet prayer”), it is still possible to pursue time alone with God. It may be necessary to give up other things, or even put some projects on hold for a while, but ultimately it is worth it. Just as you can’t pour out of an empty cup, it’s unrealistic to expect to be able to pour into other people’s lives unless you are being fed and encouraged at the feet of the Master.

Understanding the Geneaologies in Matthew and Luke

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What the Bible Teaches about Christ’s Lineage

© Marie Notcheva

One thing I love about the study of apologetics is that if I am willing to put in the time and effort to study the Word, the answers to my most nagging questions will eventually be teased out of the text.

Take, for instance, the differences in the genealogies of Christ as recorded by Luke and the apostle Matthew. Now, granted, when lengthy lists of unpronounceable names show up in the Old Testament, my natural reaction is to stifle a yawn and buzz through them with gritted teeth. I may be a theo-geek, but that just about tests the limit. I’ll be the first to admit that knowing Samlah from Masrekah was the grandfather of Baal-Hanan frankly doesn’t do much for me.

However, if we are talking about Jesus, I sit up and pay attention.

Why does the genealogy of Christ matter so much? For one thing, fulfilment of Messianic prophecy stands or falls on His lineage. If uninterrupted descent from David (who lived about 1000 – 900 B.C.) to Jesus can be proven and verified from more than one source, it goes a long way in refuting skeptics’ denial that Christ was the Messiah. For another, several sources documenting an unbroken human lineage in a manuscript as ancient as the Bible would provide yet another argument for it’s validity.

Besides providing strong evidence of the Bible’s historical validity, the human ancestry of Jesus reveals much about the impartial character of God — He used all kinds of messed up people in His Son’s family tree. Jacob was a deceiver. Rahab was a prostitute AND a Moabite, (as was Ruth), the most cursed of all pagan nations. David committed murder and adultery (and by extension, Bathsheba was an adulteress). His son Solomon turned to paganism and was responsible for the division of the kingdom. Manasseh was one of the most evil kings Judah ever had. There were more than a few bad apples on the family tree of our Savior.

Different Methods of Recording Geneaologies

As any student of Scripture has noted, the genealogy listed by Matthew differs from Luke’s after David. From Abraham to David (Luke goes all the way back to Adam), they are almost the same, but diverge at David. For years, this question troubled me and seemed to cast doubt on the Bible’s inerrancy. With some study, I have found that there are several very good explanations for the apparent discrepancy. Evidently, there was more than one way to trace a genealogy in ancient clan-based societies. One type of genealogy in a royal lineage recorded legal heirs to the throne (which, according to many scholars, is what Mathew used), whereas Luke traces the direct bloodline of Joseph to David.

Several scholars suggest that Matthew follows the line of Joseph (Jesus’ legal father through Solomon; see Matt. 1:6-7, 16), while Luke records that of Mary (Jesus’ blood relative through Nathan, see Luke 3:31). In Lee Stroble’s well-known book, “The Case for Christ”, this was one possibility put forth, but I personally do not think it is very likely. For one thing, tracing a genealogy through the mother’s side would have been highly unusual (although Judaic heritage was considered to be inherited through the mother). More importantly, both Luke and Matthew explicitly name Joseph, without any reference to Mary. Update: here is a well-researched defense of Luke being Mary’s genealogy; I may have to re-think my stance:

Joseph was clearly the son of Jacob (Matthew 1:16, so this verse [Luke 3:23 – says “son of Heli”] should be understood to mean “son-in-law of Heli.” Thus, the genealogy of Christ in Luke is actually the genealogy of Mary, while Matthew gives that ofJoseph. Actually, the word “son” is not in the original, so it would be legitimate to supply either “son” or “son-in-law” in this context. Since Matthew and Luke clearly record much common material, it is certain that neither one could unknowingly incorporate such a flagrant apparent mistake as the wrong genealogy in his record. As it is, however, the two genealogies show that both parents were descendants of DavidJoseph throughSolomon (Matthew 1:7-15), thus inheriting the legal right to the throne of David, and Mary throughNathan (Luke 3:23-31), her line thus carrying the seed of David, since Solomon’s line had been refused the throne because of Jechoniah’s sin[Dr. Henry M. Morris, The Defender’s Study Bible, note for Luke 3:23 (Iowa Falls, Iowa: World Publishing, Inc., 1995).].

Assuming, however, that both Gospel writers were tracing Christ’s lineage through Joseph, we come to the intriguing question of why Luke names Joseph’s dad Heli, while Matthew 1:16 mentions “Jacob, the father of Joseph”. To answer that mystery, we need to dig into a study of biblical genealogies. (Hats off to those guys who edit the study Bibles – they’ve really done their homework).

From the NIV Study Bible’s Introduction to 1 Chronicles:

“Analysis of genealogies, both inside and outside the Bible, has disclosed that they serve a variety of functions (with different principles governing the lists), that they vary in form (some being segmented, others linear) and depth (number of generations listed) and that they are often fluid (subject to change).

There are three general areas in which genealogies function: the familial or domestic, the legal-political, and the religious. In the domestic area, an individual’ssocial status, privileges and obligations may be reflected in his placement in the lineage (see 7:14-19); the rights of the firstborn son and the secondary status of the children of concubines are examples from the Bible…..As to form, some genealogical lists trace several lines of descent (segmented genealogies) while others are devoted to a single line (linear genealogies).

Comparison of genealogical lists of the same tribal or family line brings to light some surprising differences. This fluidity of the lists may reflect variation in function. But sometimes changes in the status or relations of social structures are reflected in genealogies by changes in the relationships of names in the genealogy or by the addition of names or segments to a lineage. The most common type of fluidity in Biblical materials is telescoping, the omission of names from a list. Unimportant names are left out in order to relate an individual to a prominent ancestor, or possibly toachieve the desired number of names in the genealogy. Some Biblical genealogies, for example, omit names toachieve multiples of 7: for the period from David to the exile Matthew gives 14 generations (2 times 7), while Luke gives 21 (3 times 7), and the same authors give similar multiples of 7 for the period from the exile to Jesus (Matt. 1:1-17; Luke 3:23-38).”

Additionally, the word “father” is sometimes used more loosely in a genealogy simply to mean “ancestor”; likewise “son of” can also mean simply “descendant”.

Matthew’s Gospel reflects an apparent fondness for numbers and a concern for systematic arrangement…which shouldn’t surprise us; after all, he was a tax-collector by profession! Many of the generations between ancestors were assumed, but not listed, by Matthew, such as the elapsed time between Rahab and David. In Matt. 1:8, he calls Jehoram the “father” of Uzziah, but again, several generations were assumed and “father” clearly means “forefather” here. He may have chosen the number 14 for telescoping his genealogy because it is the numerical value of the name David, although that is not certain. In any case, Matthew’s genealogy seems to trace the legal lineage of Christ, as indicated by all the kings listed (beginning with David and Solomon).

Telescoped Geneaologies

This practice of “telescoping” genealogies also helps explain why we don’t have to be dogmatic about there only being 4,000 years’ worth of generations between Adam and Christ. This is a common argument from the Young Earth Theory proponents, who insist that since the Bible’s lineage is recorded without any obvious gaps from Adam to Jesus, that “proves” mankind has been around for only about 6,000 years. Clearly, if Matthew could record a pedigree from the Babylonian exile (626 B.C.) to the birth of Christ (generally set at 6 B.C.) in 14 generations while Luke did it in 21, the history of mankind could easily be recorded with representative names and it couldappear to cover only 4,000 years. Nowhere does Scripture claim that the list is exhaustive, and neither should we.

Frankly, it would be interesting to see how the genealogy of Jesus’ biological family continued, although it is doubtful the church of the first century would have placed importance on such a record. Obviously we know that Christ Himself did not have human descendants (despite what Dan Brown would have us believe), but He most likely did have quite a few nieces and nephews. Scripture isunequivocally clear that Jospeh and Mary parented other children (mentioned in Luke 8:19, Mark 6:3, 1 Cor. 9:5 and elsewhere), so with four brothers and at least two sisters, Jesus probably had a very large extended family. My guess (and it is purely speculation) is that God, in His sovereignty, did not want anyone to be able to boast or take undue pride in linking his or her pedigree to that of His Son, as Old Testament Israel did in claiming human descent from Abraham. The entire theme of the New Covenant proves that our “adoption as sons” or “being grafted in” (to the tree representing God’s family) is based on spiritual, and not biological, heritage.

Short Term, Long Term: Youth Discipleship in Albania (from Modern Reformation)

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This article originally ran in the September/October 2012 issue of “Modern Reformation” magazine.

Albania’s youth becoming rooted, grounded and “plugged in”

© Marie Notcheva

The other night, I called my sixth-grade son from work to check up on him. “Um, actually I’m chatting on Skype right now…with one of your Albanian friends, Marko,” he confessed.  Knowing fifteen-year-old Marko, I realized he was probably witnessing to my son. Nevertheless, maternal concern won out: “Miro, it’s midnight in Albania. Marko has school tomorrow. Tell him I said to get offline and go to sleep.” While such exchanges in my home are commonplace, just a few years ago they would have been unthinkable. It has only been in the past three to five years that most homes in Albania have internet connection, partly due to the growing popularity of online games and social networking sites. Today, electronic media is also greatly increasing the long-term impact of short-term missions.

From Paul to Qiriazi

While most in the West are familiar with Albania’s recent history as an isolated, atheistic state, fewer are aware of the country’s early ties to the Gospel. Romans 15:19 records Paul’s preaching ministry in Illyricum, and Byzantium established Christianity as the official religion until the 14th century. Five centuries under Turkish rule left the vast majority Muslim. Yet  Albanians generally have never associated national identity with an “official” faith as do their Balkan neighbors. “In some ways,” notes one American missionary, “this makes evangelism easier.” Nominal Muslim teens freely share Chris Tomlin links on Facebook – unlikely in a truly Islamic nation.

The Protestant movement began while Albania was still under the Ottoman Empire, during a period historians refer to as “The Balkan Reformation.” In 1890, Gjersaim Qiriazi, considered the father of Protestantism in Albania, began his evangelistic ministry and founded a school and church in Korce. In 1892, the Evangelical Brotherhood began, with the primary purpose of spreading the Gospel and developing literature in the Albanian language. Protestantism was driven deep underground even after Albania’s liberation from Turkey in 1912. Missionaries were expelled during the fascist occupation of World War II, after which the Enver Hoxha regime (1944-85) plunged Albania into a dark period of religious repression and isolation from the rest of the world. In 1991, Western missionaries of every stripe began flooding the country.

Bible Camp — Done Balkan-Style

Paul Davies, director of Albania Evangelical Mission, a UK-based ministry formed in 1986, says there are relatively few conservative or Reformed congregations in Albania. His team’s Gjirokaster church plant has close and supportive relationships with two churches (in Tepelene and Delvine) formed by Dutch Reformed missionaries. During their summer camp program, teens from several towns spend a week improving their English, hearing the Gospel, and having fun – under the leadership of Albanian and AEM ministry and a team of short-term volunteers. Staff lead small group discussions on real-world topics designed to introduce a biblical worldview, such as friendship, superstition, and cheating. Evening programs include Gospel presentations and films on Reformation heroes such as Luther and Tyndale. Recreation leaves ample time for interested teens to pursue private conversations with the staff (although impromptu folk-dancing is also not uncommon!). Camp director Shaun Thompson, who has served in Albania for 21 years, notes that cultural differences demand a less expository and more relationship-driven approach to evangelism and discipleship. “I have seen missionaries try to do Bible camp here just like they would at home (in the US or UK), and it doesn’t work,” he said. Few in Albania own Bibles, or are familiar with Christian terminology.

For many, camp is their first exposure to the Gospel and some respond with the same enthusiasm they show on the volleyball court.  Eight months after conversion, 17-year-old “Dritan” was working his way through R.C Sproul’s Reformation Study Bible. “It’s a huge book,” he said. The AEM team, along with Albanian pastors, teach year-round at their weekly English club, but many campers are  unable to attend either due to geographic reasons or parental disapproval. Their only follow-up comes via electronic media, often by staying in touch with short-term missionaries.

“Teach me to pray!”

When “Alma” turns 18, she has a goal: to read the Bible.  Several weeks after attending camp, she begged, “Would you teach me to pray? I really want to belong to Jesus…I want to believe, and I will!” Following an explanation of the Person and work of Christ, she made a profession of faith – via Facebook chat. Like many Albanians of their generation, her parents disapprove of religion – anything that could interfere with studying and a lucrative career path can often be seen as a distraction, says AEM missionary James Clarke. Forbidden to attend church or read a Bible, Alma’s only source of edification comes via phone and online.  “My parents can stop me from going to church, but they can’t stop me from believing,” she types. She reads Scriptures from her phone – thanks to Biblegateway.com’s online Albanian translation.

Her friend “Arjeta” tells a similar story. A week at camp left her with questions, but with the help of a Facebook friend and a multi-lingual apologetics site, she learned of grace. Two days later, Arjeta declared that Christ was now her Lord – but barred from Christian activities, she now completes semi-weekly Bible lessons online with a pastor in Wales.   She says, “When I first told my parents, they strongly disagreed with me. But Jesus was calling me from the bottom of my heart, inside me, so I kept believing in Him without letting them know. One day I wanted to go to church and also take Bible lessons. They behaved so badly with me; I tried to explain what I felt, but they were afraid…I asked if I could take a Bible home at least, but they denied that, too. I try to read the Bible online but I have to do it carefully.”

“The internet age is definitely facilitating evangelism and discipleship,” says Besiana Rajta, an Albanian staff member of Campus Crusade for Christ.  “Keeping in touch with people from short-term mission trips has influenced me and helped me grow in my faith.” In November 2011, her ministry completed an online interactive quiz for students. Although there are still not many online resources available in Albanian, most teens are fluent in English.

Marko was also drawn to the Lord at summer camp, several years ago. At fifteen, he has never been outside of Albania, but he and his friend Xhoi remain close friends with the teenage missionaries who brought the Gospel to their predominantly-Muslim town. For these Christian youth, Skype and social networking sites provide fellowship and a global perspective. His friend Tea agrees, noting that there are few Christians in their community and even fewer in their school. Living for Christ is “difficult, but not impossible,” she says. “I’m just glad that God chose me.” Their group takes evangelism seriously. “Our pastor got permission for us to visit a hospital and share the Gospel with patients,” she said. She was surprised to learn from online friends that such an activity would be highly unlikely in the United States.

The Limitations of “Online Discipleship”

Using electronic media for teaching and discipleship is convenient, but there are some drawbacks. Relationships cannot develop naturally, as interaction is usually limited to small talk and answering specific doctrinal questions. Even when using a webcam, body language and tone are hard to read. When personal problems arise in a youth’s life, cultural differences and the limited amount of data one can gather make specific counsel extremely difficult. Explaining the broad biblical principles that apply to the situation, in the simplest terms possible, is advisable.

For short-termers returning home, the temptation to assume too much too quickly exists; for young truth-seekers, it might be to tell these new friends what they think they want to hear. Clarke warns, “[In Albania] If you ask someone, ‘do you trust in Christ’, ‘are you a believer’ or ‘are you following Christ’, they might just say ‘Of course I am!‘ even though they don’t have the slightest idea what these terms really mean.” Thoroughly explaining key doctrines is crucial. Just because a teen may have attended a picnic with Reformed ministers or spent a week at camp does not mean he is regenerate.

The most important lesson of “online discipleship” for short-term missionaries is keeping in close contact with the local church staff. Those on the field have already built close relationships with the teens and their parents, and are best able to gauge what kind of interaction is appropriate. The biblical model for teaching and discipleship is through the local church. When a teen’s contact with ministry personell is curtailed, however, an online connection may be his only source of encouragement. Local ministry leaders and correspondants abroad can work symbiotically by keeping one another updated on youths’ progress, struggles, and significant developments.

Short-term missions are impacting lives like never before, and nowhere is this more apparent than in rural Albania. An entire generation has been born, grown up and become techno-savvy since the end of the Hoxha/Alia regime in 1991. Although it is no replacement for face-to-face contact, mentoring via the internet is one way to help new believers grow spiritually after a one-week mission ends. Arjeta now writes, “I keep believing and praying each night. In Jesus I found true love; He loves me more than anyone, and He loved me before I was born. He never lets me down.”  AEM operates their camps below cost, and their greatest need is for financial support. (For more information about Albania Evangelical Mission’s ministry and how you can donate, see their website: http://www.aemission.org/.)

Hope and Healing for Eating Disorders

This article originally appeared in the December 2013 issue of “Ilira Revistë” magazine. Read the Albanian language version here.

© Marie Notcheva

Is there a point where a diet becomes deadly? Can a desire to look thin and “fit” become an unhealthy obsession? Is it possible for a woman’s behavior to be totally controlled by fear of gaining weight?

While it shouldn’t surprise us that the answer to these questions is “yes”, what is truly alarming is that eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia affect many Christian women around the world. If we are set free from the power of sin, as the Bible says, why do so many believers become enslaved by addictions? Women in the Church often feel ashamed to seek help, and hide their struggles with eating disorders. However, there is great hope to be found in the power of the Gospel. First, let’s look at what anorexia and bulimia are.

Anorexia nervosa is the clinical diagnosis given to individuals who starve themselves (and often exercise excessively) in attempt to maintain a lower than healthy weight, usually defined as 20% lower than average for one’s height. Extreme dieting and fear of weight gain (along with viewing one’s self as fat when actually underweight) can lead to cardiac damage, interrupted menstrual cycles, premature osteoporosis, kidney failure, hair loss, and other health problems.

Bulimia nervosa describes the binge-and-purge cycle of consuming large amounts of food, then expelling it by vomiting, laxatives, diuretics and/or excessive exercise. Many bulimics were anorexics first, or combine the two behaviors to control their weight. Once the difficulty of self-starvation becomes so great that a woman gives up and eats, purging becomes her “safety latch”: the only way to indulge the appetite (that has been denied for so long). She now feels completely out of control. Bulimics are usually aware of the health risks, which include electrolyte imbalances (which can lead to heart arrhythmia and kidney damage); esophageal ruptures and dental problems.

Another long-term consequence of both anorexia and bulimia is infertility. The average woman’s body fat percentage is between 14-20%. When it drops below 8-10%, sufficient estrogen is no longer produced and ovulation stops. Often, sterility and miscarriages are the result of eating disorders. A high price to pay for wanting to be thin!

What Causes Eating Disorders?

Although the media is often blamed for equating thinness with beauty, the truth is that women of every era have wanted to be considered attractive and desirable. Preoccupation with having the “perfect” physical attributes is what the Bible calls vanity, and we women are notorious for comparing ourselves to others!  While some blame modern advertisement for the message it sends women, psychologists label eating disorders “mental illnesses” and many people consider them diseases. This is wrong, however; there are no organic or genetic causes of either anorexia or bulimia. We cannot blame the media or biology. Eating disorders result from idolatrous desires and sin-deceived hearts (Jeremiah 17:9). They are learned behaviors, which by the grace of God can be unlearned.

Every action and decision we make is preceded by a thought. Then another thought, and another. “I am ugly. I need to lose weight”. Eventually these thoughts become a meditation. The meditation sooner or later leads to an action. “I ate too much…I will purge it.” Very often, a woman does not realize at this stage how serious it really is, and how trapped she will soon become. The action is repeated; others are added; and habits are formed. “That has many calories…I cannot eat it unless I run for an hour.” Weeks, months, and years of thinking food-obsessed thoughts and performing eating-disordered behaviors go by, and the bondage becomes deeply entrenched.

For a woman struggling with anorexia or bulimia, weight has become her idol. An “idol” is anything that we want badly enough that we are willing to sin in order to obtain it; a “must-have; will-do-anything-for; only-happy-when-I-have” craving. Both anorexia and bulimia are self-destructive means to attain an idolatrous goal: being thinner at all costs. When this mindset controls a daughter of God, she needs to remember her position in Christ. The believer whose “mind is set on things above” (Colossians 3:2) is focused on things of eternal value, and will not fall prey to the unbiblical thinking that fuels eating disorders. However, realizing that Jesus Christ died for this sin too should give the Christian great hope! It is never too late to turn around, and God gives us clear instructions on how to “renew our minds” with His Word in order to live lives pleasing to Him.

How Does the Gospel Apply to Eating Disorders?

When I was a child, I loved the story “The Ugly Duckling” by Hans Christian Anderson. I dreamed of turning into a swan as the maligned “duckling” did in the end, and being accepted into the ranks of the beautiful. By the end of high school, I had not been transformed into a swan. At 39 kilograms and on the verge of death, I was a teenager in desperate need of Christ. What needed transformation was my heart. The Apostle Paul tells us in Romans 12:2 that we are, indeed, to be totally transformed: Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” This means that we are not to copy the behaviors, mindsets or priorities of this world (including valuing thinness and physical appearance over our relationship with Christ).  We “renew our minds” (learn to think God’s thoughts and share His priorities) as we meditate on His Word.

God has given us all we need to align our thinking with His will, and live Holy Spirit-empowered lives (2 Peter 1:3). How does this look in the life of a woman who wishes to forsake anorexia or bulimia? First, she must realize the truth about her position in Christ: she is no longer a slave to sin. In 1 Corinthians 6, Paul reminds believers of what they were – drunkards, idolaters, homosexuals, etc. But when they came to know Christ they were completely changed! That sinful behavior was left in the past. The same is true for an eating-disordered Christian. Although the craving and urge may seem overpowering at times, she can choose to overcome her obsession with food and weight forever.

Do you struggle with anorexia or bulimia, but long to be free? The Savior Who cleansed the lepers is willing to heal your heart, as well. Here are some keys to walking in victory, with His help:

  • Agree with God that the eating disordered behavior is wrong, and commit to turn away from it.
  • Accept God’s grace daily. No matter how many times we fail, God’s mercy never runs out. Women with eating disorders are typically perfectionists. This performance-driven mindset runs counter to the Gospel, which demands that we humble ourselves as children (Matthew 18:4). Trust that His forgiveness is greater than your sin.
  • Renew your mind. Pray and read the Bible daily to develop a godly way of thinking about food, appearance, and true beauty.
  • Take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). Every time you are tempted to binge or purge; compare yourself to a model on a magazine cover; or take offense to a comment (to use a few examples), stop and re-align your thinking in light of Christ’s teaching.
  • “Put off” your old, eating-disordered behaviors and thoughts; and “put on” the God-honoring alternative (Ephesians 4:22-24).

When we come to know Christ, we reject, or “put off”, things that belong to the old, sinful nature (such as lying, stealing and anger.) In their place, we are to “put on” speaking truthfully; generosity; and kindness. An anorexic or bulimic Christian must consciously reject the lies she has internalized, and replace them with the Truth of the Gospel. For example:

“Put Off” “Put On”
Number on scale determines my value I am made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26) and my purpose is to glorify Him (Ps. 86:9; Isa. 60:21)
Counting calories Food is necessary to sustain life; receive with gratitude (1 Tim. 4:4)
Fear of gaining weight God created my body; I can trust Him as I eat the way He intended (Psalm 139:13)
Some foods are forbidden or “dirty” No particular food is unclean (Acts 10:15)
No one cares about me; I may as well

comfort myself with a binge

God cares about me, and I can turn to Him (1 Peter 5:7)
  • Lastly, regular worship and fellowship are especially important as the Lord draws you out of the pit of an eating disorder. Don’t be afraid to share your struggle with another believer who may counsel, encourage, and pray with you.

The God Who redeems us from sin is still faithful to transform His daughters’ lives. In Christ, there is true and lasting freedom from addictions. Anorexia and bulimia are bondages that may be left at the foot of the Cross forever!

Marie Notcheva is a Christian author and conference speaker from Massachusetts. A certified biblical counselor, she is a regular contributor to The Biblical Counseling Coalition website. In 2011, Calvary Press published her book, “Redeemed from the Pit: Biblical Repentance and Restoration from the Bondage of Eating Disorders.” She is currently writing a second book, about evangelism, discipleship and counseling in the internet age. 

Shpresë dhe Shërim për çrregullimet e të ngrënit

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nga “Ilira Revistë” © Marie Notcheva

Megjithëse nuk duhet të habitemi që përgjigjja për këto pyetje është “po”, gjëja alarmuese është se çrregullime në të ngrënët, si anoreksia dhe bulimia, po prekin edhe shumë gra të krishtera në botë. Nëse jemi çliruar nga fuqia e mëkatit, siç na thotë Bibla, pse ndodh që të krishterat të bëhen skllave të varësive? Gratë në kishë shpesh kanë turp të kërkojnë ndihmë dhe i fshehin mundimet e tyre përmes çrregullimeve në të ngrënë. Le të shohim, së pari, se çfarë janë anoreksia dhe bulimia.

Anoreksia nervoze është diagnoza klinike që u jepet individëve që e shtyjnë veten në mosushqyerje (dhe shpesh ushtrohen tej mase), në përpjekje për të mbajtur një peshë nën të shëndetshmen, që zakonisht përkufizohet si 20% më pak se mesatarja e gjatësisë së personit. Dieta ekstreme dhe frika e shtimit në peshë (bashkë me të shikuarit e vetvetes si të shëndoshë kur në fakt je nën peshë) mund të çojë në dëmtime kardiake, cikle menstruale të ndërprera, osteoporozë të parakohshme, mosfunksionim të veshkave, humbje të flokëve dhe probleme të tjera shëndetësore.

Bulimia nervoze përshkruan ciklin “mbingopje­zbrazje” të konsumimit të sasive të mëdha të ushqimit, pastaj nxjerrjen e tij me anë të vjelljes, laksativëve, diuretikëve dhe/ose ushtrimit të tepruar. Shumë bulimike kanë qenë më parë anoreksike, ose i kombinojnë dy sjelljet për të kontrolluar peshën e tyre. Pasi vështirësia e mosushqyerjes bëhet aq e madhe, sa gruaja dorëzohet, ha, për të kënaqur oreksin (që ia ka mohuar vetes për kaq shumë kohë), dhe pastaj e nxjerr ushqimin, duke e bërë këtë “mjetin e saj të sigurt”. Tani ajo ndihet plotësisht jashtë kontrollit. Bulimiket zakonisht janë të vetëdijshme për rreziqet shëndetësore, ku përfshihen çekuilibrimet elektrolite (të cilat mund të çojnë në aritminë e zemrës dhe në dëmtim të veshkave), këputje të ezofagut dhe probleme me dhëmbët.

Një tjetër pasojë afatgjatë e anoreksisë dhe bulimisë është shterpësia. Përqindja mesatare e yndyrës në trupin e një gruaje është midis 14­20%. Kur kjo bie nën 8­10%, estrogjeni nuk prodhohet më në sasi të mjaftueshme dhe ovulacioni ndalon. Shpesh, steriliteti dhe abortet spontane janë rezultat i çrregullimeve të të ngrënit. Ky është një çmim i lartë për t’u pagur vetëm për të qenë e dobët!

Çfarë i shkakton çrregullimet në të ngrënë?

Edhe pse shpesh fajësohet media për barazimin e dobësisë me bukurinë, e vërteta është se gratë e çdo epoke kanë dashur të konsiderohen tërheqëse dhe të dëshirueshme. Shqetësimin për të pasur cilësi “të përsosura” fizike Bibla e quan krenari.

Dhe ne gratë jemi famëkeqe për krahasimin e vetes me të tjerat! Ndërkohë që disa fajësojnë reklamat moderne për mesazhin që u dërgojnë grave, psikologët i etiketojnë këto çrregullime si “sëmundje mendore” dhe shumë njerëz i konsiderojnë ato si sëmundje. Megjithatë, kjo është e gabuar; nuk ka asnjë shkak organik ose gjenetik për anoreksinë dhe buliminë. Nuk mund t’ia vëmë fajin vetëm medias ose biologjisë. Çrregullimet në të ngrënë vijnë si rezultat i dëshirave idhujtare dhe zemrës së mashtruar nga mëkati (Jeremia 17:9). Ato janë sjellje të mësuara, të cilat, me hirin e Perëndisë, mund të çmësohen.

Çdo veprim dhe vendim që marrim paraprihet nga një mendim. Pastaj një mendim tjetër, dhe një tjetër pas tij. “Unë jam e shëmtuar. Duhet të bie në peshë.” Me kalimin e kohës, këto mendime bëhen meditim. Meditimi herët a vonë çon në një veprim. “Hëngra tepër… Do ta nxjerr.” Shumë shpesh gruaja në këtë fazë nuk e kupton sa serioze është në të vërtetë kjo gjë dhe se së shpejti do të gjendet në kurth. Veprimi përsëritet dhe kështu formohet zakoni. “Kjo ka shumë kalori… Nuk mund ta ha po nuk bëra një orë vrap.” Kështu kalojnë javë, muaj dhe robëria rrënjoset thellë.

Për një grua që lufton me anoreksinë dhe buliminë, pesha është bërë idhulli i saj. “Idhull” është çdo gjë që e dëshirojmë aq shumë, sa jemi të gatshëm të mëkatojmë për ta përfituar atë, është një dëshirë e tipit “do të bëja gjithçka për të; do të jem e lumtur vetëm kur ta kem”. Si anoreksia, ashtu edhe bulimia janë mënyra vetëshkatërruese për të arritur një qëllim idhujtar: të qenët më e dobët me çdo kusht. Kur kjo mendësi kontrollon një bijë të Perëndisë, ajo duhet të kujtojë pozicionin e saj në Krishtin. Besimtarja, mendja e së cilës është “në gjërat që janë atje lart” (Kolosianëve 3:2), është e fokusuar në gjërat që kanë vlerë të përjetshme dhe nuk do të bjerë pre e mendimeve jobiblike, që nxisin çrregullimet në të ngrënë. Megjithatë, i krishteri duhet të marrë shpresë kur kupton se Jezus Krishti vdiq edhe për këtë mëkat.

Fjala e Perëndisë dhe çrregullimet në të ngrënë

Kur isha fëmijë, më pëlqente shumë historia e “Rosakut të shëmtuar” nga Hans Kristian Anderseni. Ëndërroja të shndërrohesha në një mjellmë siç ndodh në fund me rosakun e shëmtuar dhe të pranohesha në nivelet e të bukurave. Në fund të shkollës së mesme, ende nuk isha shndërruar në mjellmë. Me 39 kilogramë peshë dhe në prag të vdekjes, unë isha një adoleshente në nevojë të dëshpëruar për Krishtin. Ajo që kishte nevojë për shndërrim ishte zemra ime. Apostulli Pal na thotë te Romakëve 12:2: “Dhe mos u konformoni me këtë botë, por transformohuni me anë të ripërtëritjes së mendjes suaj.” Kjo do të thotë se nuk duhet të kopjojmë sjelljet, mendësitë ose përparësitë e kësaj bote (përfshirë këtu edhe vlerësimin e dobësisë dhe pamjes fizike mbi marrëdhënien tonë me Krishtin). Ne “ripërtërijmë mendjen tonë” (mësojmë të mendojmë mendimet e Perëndisë dhe të ndajmë përparësitë e Tij) teksa meditojmë mbi Fjalën e Tij.

Perëndia na ka dhënë gjithçka që na nevojitet për t’i përputhur mendimet tona me vullnetin e Tij dhe për të bërë një jetë të fuqizuar nga Fryma e Shenjtë (2 Pjetrit 1:3). Si duhet të shfaqet kjo në jetën e një gruaje, e cila dëshiron të braktisë anoreksinë ose buliminë? Së pari, ajo duhet të kuptojë të vërtetën e pozicionit të saj në Krishtin: ajo nuk është më skllave e mëkatit. Tek 1 Korintasve 6, Pali u kujton besimtarët se ata ishin ndryshuar plotësisht! Sjellja mëkatare ishte lënë në të shkuarën. E njëjta gjë është e vërtetë për një të krishterë me çrregullime në të ngrënë. Edhe pse ndonjëherë dëshira dhe nxitja mund të duken shumë të fuqishme, ajo mund të zgjedhë ta tejkalojë përgjithmonë fiksimin e saj për ushqimin dhe peshën.

A vuan nga anoreksia ose bulimia, por dëshiron të jesh e lirë? Shpëtimtari që pastroi lebrosët dëshiron të shërojë edhe zemrën tënde. Ja disa pika kyçe për të ecur në fitore, me ndihmën e Tij:

  1. Pendohu. Prano vullnetin e Perëndisë se sjellja me çrregullime në të ngrënë është e gabuar dhe përkushtohu për t’u larguar prej saj.
  2. Pranoje hirin e Perëndisë çdo ditë. Pavarësisht sa herë biem, hiri i Perëndisë nuk shteron kurrë. Gratë me çrregullime në të ngrënë janë përgjithësisht perfeksioniste. Kjo mendësi me synim performancën bie në kundërshtim me ungjillin, i cili kërkon që ne ta përulim veten si fëmijë (Mateu 18:4). Beso se falja e Tij është më e madhe se mëkati yt.
  3. Ripërtëri mendjen tënde. Lutu dhe lexo Biblën çdo ditë, për të zhvilluar një mënyrë të perëndishme të menduari për ushqimin, pamjen dhe bukurinë e vërtetë.
  4. Nënshtro çdo mendim për ta bërë të bindur ndaj Krishtit (2 Korintasve 10:5). Sa herë që tundohesh të mbingopesh ose ta nxjerrësh ushqimin, të krahasosh veten me një modele në kopertinën e një reviste, ose të ofendohesh nga një koment, etj., ndalo dhe rivendosi mendimet e tua në dritën e mësimeve të Krishtit.
  5. “Zhvish” sjelljet dhe mendimet e vjetra të çrregullimeve në të ngrënë. “Vish” sjelljen që nderon Perëndinë (Efesianëve 4:22­24).

Një e krishterë anoreksike ose bulimike duhet të refuzojë me ndërgjegje gënjeshtrat që ka përvetësuar dhe t’i zëvendësojë ato me të vërtetën e ungjillit. Për shembull:

table

Së fundmi, adhurimi dhe bashkësia e rregullt janë shumë të rëndësishme. Mos ki frikë t’ia tregosh mundimin tënd një mikeje tjetër të krishterë, që mund të të këshillojë, të të inkurajojë e të lutet me ty. Perëndia që na shfajëson nga mëkati është ende besnik ta shndërrojë jetën e bijave të Tij. Në Krishtin ka liri të vërtetë dhe të qëndrueshme nga varësitë. Anoreksia dhe bulimia janë robëri që mund të lihen te këmbët e Kryqit përgjithmonë!

Marie Notcheva është një autore dhe folëse e krishterë nga Massachusetts, ShBA. Si këshilluese biblike e certifikuar, ajo është kontribuuese e rregullt e blogut të Koalicionit të Këshillimit Biblik (The Biblical Counselling Coalition). Në vitin 2011, Calvary Press botoi librin e saj “E çliruar nga humnera: pendimi biblik dhe restaurimi nga robëria e çrregullimeve në të ngrënë.” Ajo ka vizituar dy herë Shqipërinë dhe e do shumë këtë vend. Ajo dhe bashkëshorti i saj, Ivaylo, kanë 4 fëmijë.

Book Review: “The Return of the Prodigal Son” (Henri Nouwen)

175113The Futile, Powerless God of Henri Nouwen

© Marie Notcheva

“Today I personally believe that while Jesus came to open the door to God’s house, all human beings can walk through that door, whether they know about Jesus or not. Today I see it as my call to help every person claim his or her own way to God.” – Henri Nouwen

The parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15 used to be my favorite Bible passage. Until a contemplative mystic priest named Henri Nouwen ruined it for me.

Several years ago, I wrote about my brief encounter with “contemplative Christianity”, which I was introduced to through the works of Brennan Manning, Richard Foster, and Basil Pennington. Although I was a much younger Christian and could not discern that their practices of “inner seeing” and “hearing” God were not biblical (through trance-like meditation, extreme fasting, repetition of mantras, “breath prayers” and other mystical practices), I started to get the sense that something was just “off” about it all. Naturally, unbiblical practice and adding “spiritual disciplines” (that have more in common with paganism than Scripture) will shape one’s theology.

These men, and many more like them – Thomas Merton; Henri Nouwen; David G. Benner – claimed to be Christians at one time, (gradually transitioning to a theistic Buddhism – Merton converted entirely to Buddhism while still a Catholic monk) but in fact their theology has more in common with Eastern religions than Christianity. Christian mysticism is itself an oxymoron – see CARM (Christian Apologetics Research Ministry) or Gotquestions.org for more info about contemplative spirituality, and it’s connection with the New Age.

Contemplative prayer, by design, focuses on having a mystical experience with God. It was while reading one of Benner’s books, “The Gift of Being Yourself: The Sacred Call of Self-Discovery” that God gave me a wake-up call. I began what would become a 10-year journey, researching theistic philosophies such as pantheism, panentheism, universal salvation, trancendental meditation (which contemplatives call “the silence”), etc. Another four years of theological training to become a biblical counselor helped solidify my ability to “test all things”, and compare teachings to the Bible’s clear teaching.

Nevertheless, it was with some anticipation that I picked up Henri Nouwen’s “The Return of the Prodigal Son” recentlyon the recommendation of a friend. A meditation (in the Christian sense of the word!) on Rembrandt’s famous painting, I settled in to enjoy the sensitive priest’s insights into this beautiful picture of God’s love.

As I began reading, two things emerged by the end of the Introduction: Nouwen was a man who sincerely loved the Lord and His people. And, he was firmly in the contemplative/mystical camp (a fact I already knew), but the casual reader, unfamiliar with the New Age terminology used by contemplatives, might not pick that up. Words may be ascribed different meanings by different people, which makes doctrinal error so slippery. I began to take notes.

The Good, the Bad, and the Blasphemous

There was much that was very, very good in “Prodigal Son”. There was nothing mystical in his analysis and personal reflection on the painting per se, or in how he inserted himself into the parable – to identify with each of the three main characters. Many of his points about grace, accepting forgiveness, and the unconditional love of the Father were excellent, especially coming from a Catholic writer. “More than any other story in the Gospel, the parable of the Prodigal Son expresses the boundlessness of God’s compassionate love. And when I place myself in that story under the light of that divine love, it becomes painfully clear that leaving home is much closer to my spiritual experience than I might have thought.” Nouwen deeply sought fellowship with Christ. The problem, as evidenced by his faulty theology, is that he was seeking it in broken cisterns – not in the Word of God.

Before the end of the first section, a study on the younger son himself, Nouwen referred to “inner light”, “inner seeing”, and “inner healing”. All of these may sound like fairly benign terms to one unfamiliar with mysticism, but they all point towards the “going within to find enlightenment” theophostic philosophy taken from Eastern religions. (Christianity, by contrast, teaches us that we need a new spirit and a new heart – and to look to Jesus). In all of the ways Nouwen mentioned how he “heard from God” – most notably, “in the center of [his] being”, he never once mentioned the Bible. For even an immature believer, this should be a major red flag – the way God specifically reveals Himself to us is through His Word. Not through mystical means, which are condemned in Scripture (Deut. 18:9-12a).

The vast majority of what Nouwen wrote about our propensity to “flee to the wilderness”, away from God’s love, and the thought-patterns (insecurity; pride; comparison and jealousy) that harden our hearts was excellent. His insights into the human condition and how we relate to God rivaled those of any Reformed biblical counselor. I would just start to relax and enjoy the book when I would be blind-sided by a heretical statement such as “Judas sold the sword of his sonship” (and thus lost his salvation), or “I am touching here the mystery that Jesus himself became the prodigal son for our sake.”

A Powerless God?

According to Nouwen, God is “powerless” to prevent His children’s rebellion (p. 90); “naive” (p. 99); “both Father and Mother” (p. 94); “she” and “her” (p. 96); “needs me as much as I need Him” (p.99) and the real sin is “ignoring [our] ‘original goodness’ (p. 101). The final section of the book, on the Father, is where Nouwen’s faulty view of God became most apparent and the entire analysis fell apart.

Let’s compare Henri Nouwen’s god with the God of Scripture. Sovereignty means that God, as the ruler of the Universe, has the right to do whatever he wants. He is in complete control over everything that happens. (Psalm 115:3; Daniel 4:35; Romans 9:20.) He has no need of anything outside of Himself; and He is not standing like a beggar, hat in hand, needful of our love (as is the case with Nouwen’s god.)

Further, Nouwen’s idealistic view that ALL are children of God and have “original goodness” completely contradicts what Scripture states about unregenerate man: Abominable – Rev. 21:8 Sinners – Rev. 22:15 Fault finders – Job 41 Corrupt – Psalm 14:1,3; Rom. 3:10 Evil – 2 Tim 3:13 (just to name a few unsavory characteristics).

Perhaps most bizarre was Nouwen’s dogged insistence – straight out of Wiccan and New Age belief systems – that God is feminine as well as masculine; both Mother and Father. The Bible clearly teaches that God is Father; it’s not really open to debate or interpretation.

The Price of Error

False teaching is often hard to spot, precisely because it sounds so good. It’s usually mixed in with just enough Truth to be palatable. But to anyone with a strong grasp of Scripture, the problem with Nouwen’s doctrine – especially his view of salvation and the nature of God – should have been obvious. (I had deliberately NOT shared my personal opinion while pointing out the book’s shortcomings, but followed a clear-cut format: “Nouwen says: X. The Bible says:Y.”) Scripture speaks for itself.

How can Bible-believing Christians, when faced with such clear-cut instances of deviant theology, not spot the error? We should be horrified by Nouwen’s powerless God; rejection of original sin and depravity of man; universal salvation (many paths lead to God), and blasphemous statements that God is “Mother” and Christ “became the Prodigal Son”? It is willful deception that, when shown the clear words of Scripture, rejects them for the sake of defending the heretic. I will never be able to read Luke 15 again without the bitter taste of false teaching in my mouth.

Hir ungjilli për gratë me çrregullime në të ngrënë, Pjesa II

Ky artikull ishte i parë në Koalicioni i Këshillimit Biblik Shqiptar.

Autore: © Marie Notcheva
Përkthyes: Juxhin Alia
Redaktore: Arta Cesula

Fjalë hyrëse nga ekipi BCC : Ju po lexoni pjesën e dytë të një blogu me 2 pjesë te miniserive Hir & E vertetë  mbi çrregullimet në të ngrënë nga Marie Notcheva. Në pjesën e parë të kësaj serie, ne trajtuam mendësinë e gabuar dhe “idhujtarinë” që qëndron pas çrregullimeve në të ngrënë. Në të dytën, do të trajtojmë disa dallime të përqëndruara në ungjill, mbi mënyrën e këshillimit të grave anoreksike dhe bulimike. Pjesën e parë mund ta lexoni këtu

E pranuar nga Hiri

Në librin e saj, Good News for Weary Women (lajm i mirë për gratë e shqetësuara) Elyse Fitzpatrick  heq një paralele interesante mes këshillave ekstra-biblike që gratë e krishtera marrin mbi të qënurit “të perëndishme” dhe Galatasve të cilët Pali i qorton pse i shtonin rregullat e tyre besimit në krishtin. Fitzpatrick me të drejtë vë në dukje se përpjekja për të jetuar sipas standarteve të tua në një tentativë për ta bërë veten “të pranueshëm “ për Perëndinë do të çojë drejt fajita, dështimit dhe dënimit të vetes. Disa shembuj të këtyre rregullave të pashkruara qe injektojnë fajin përfshijnë presionin për të qënë meuese shtëpiake, për të mësuar femijët në shkollën e së dielës, dhe të ushqejë familjen e saj me vakte organike, të gatuara në shtëpi rregullisht. Të gjitha këto janë zakone të mira por as nuk janë urdhëresa biblike dhe as na fitojnë “pikë” me Perëndinë. Ajo çfarë Fitzpatrick po thotë është se kur ne(gratë) I shtojmë barra të tepërta listës sonë te “vet-përmirësimit” ne po e vendosim veten sërish nën  “robërinë e ligjit” , duke u përpjekur që ta bëjmë veten të dukemi “mirë në sytë tanë” dhe duke refuzuar nevojën për hir.

Për një grua anoreksike ose bulimike, robëria prej rregullave dhe ritualeve të vet-vendosura, rritet në mënyrë eksponenciale. Ushqimet “e lejuara” bëhen gjithmonë e më pak, regjimet e ushtrimeve të detyrueshme, bëhen më të gjatë dhe më të vështirë, dhe marrja e kalorive bie në nivele drastike mos-ushqyerje.

Për një bulimike, të hash “më shumë seç duhet” (edhe një kafshatë më tepër) e bën atë të justifikohet për ta vjellë të tërën : “Unë tashmë e bëra lëmsh këtë punë… më mirë po i shkoj deri në fund”. Kjo mënyrë e të menduarit “të gjitha ose asgje” nuk lë vend për hirin, gruaja ndihet e ndotur, e dobët dhe fajtore kur “dështon”.Michelle Myers, ish-anoreksike, shkroi se u ndikua nga fjalët e një miku të vet ndërsa kishte ngecur në mëkat si kurrë me parë “ bën stërvitje apo jo, Perëndia të do njelloj”. Fakti se nuk je më pak “e vlefshme” kur nuk ushtrohesh njëherë apo kur ha karbohidrate, është një koncept i vështirë për tu rrokur nga një subjekt qe këshillohet për çrregullime në të ngrënë dhe eshte një shembull konkret se ku ka nevojë ta aplikoj ajo ungjillin në jetën e përditshme.

Dallime në këshillimin e klienteve anoreksike dhe bulimike

Ndërsa diskutoni “rregullat” e të resë që keshilloni, dhe çfarë ndjen ajo se mund të arrijë duke i mbajtur ato, ju mund të hasni një larmi përgjigjesh që varen nga sa thellë janë ngulitur sjelljet e çrregullimeve në të ngrënë tek ajo. Gjithashtu vini re se anoreksiket janë përgjithsisht raste më të veshtira këshillimi sesa bulimiket për një numër arsyesh:

  • ·        Shpesh(por jo gjithmonë) ato janë më të brishta fizikisht, puna e rëndë e ndryshimit biblik mund të kërkojë më tepër energji sesa ato kanë.
  • ·        Niveli i të gënjyerit të vetes është më i madh tek anoreksiket.
  • ·        Frika nga ushqimi dhe idhurjtaria e dobësimit është bërë shteruese për to.  Anoreksiket shpesh fillojnë keshillimin me pak shpresë për tu transformuar.

Nëse po këshilloni një femër që është diagnostikuar klinikisht me anoreksia nervosa (çka do të thotë se ajo është  të paktën 20% nën pëshën ideale trupore të saj), unë do të sugjeroja seriozisht për ju të kërkoni që ajo të kontrollohet të paktën çdo javë nga një mjek dhe të bëjë analiza laboratorike rregullisht. Mungesa e balancës së mineraleve elektrolitë janë fenomen i zakonshëm si mes bulimikeve ashtu edhe anoreksikeve, por rreziku i mos-funksionimit  te zemrës apo veshkave  është më i madh në anoreksi kronike.

Së dyti, jini të pregatitur për rezistencë nga subjekti anoreksik që keshillohet kur pëqrpiqeni ta bëni atë ta shohë sjelljen e saj si “mëkat”. Kjo është një nga dallimet më të mëdha që kam vënë re gjatë këshillimit të grave me çrregullime në të ngrënë : një bulimike tashmë e di se sjellja e saj eshtë e gabuar dhe vetë-shkaterruese, dhe i vjen zakonisht turp nga  “humbjet e kontrollit” që ka. Në kontrast me këtë një anoreksike ndihet e fuqishme kur arrin të privohet. Ajo beson se sjellja e saj e ngurtë është vetë misherimi i “të shëndetshmes”, e justifikon si “vetë-disiplinë”, dhe ndjen përbuzje për pëshen normale (që në sytë e saj është shëndet I tepërt). Kur ajo sheh veten në pasqyrë, pavarësisht se sa e dobët mund të jetë, ajo sheh një person obez përballë saj. Një bulimike mund të ketë një pikëpamje idhujtare mbi peshën(duke dashur të jetë e dobët aq shumë sa është e gatshme të mëkatojë per t’ia arritur) por zakonisht pesha e saj është afer normales dhe pamja e saj nuk është aq e shtrembëruar. Anoreksikja krenohet me “mbajtjen e ligjit” te vet, kjo është bërë identiteti i saj. Dëshira për të qënë e dobët me çdo kusht mbizotëron deri në atë pikë sa frika e saj nga ushqimi është bërë e pa-arsyeshme. Vetë natyra progresive e anoreksisë bën që subjekti I këshilluar të ketë frikë të gëlltisë ushqim.

Përveçse e ndihmoj atë  ti përballë këto frikëra në mënyrë biblike, unë kërkoj nga subjektet anoreksike të takojnë një dietolog(duke supozuar që sjanë të tillë) dhe këtë takim e inkurajoj edhe për rastin bulimik.  Takimi me një dietolog ndihmon anoreksiken të fitojë besim për të konsumuar ato çfarë trupi i saj ka nevojë në mënyrë të ushqyeshme, ndërsa përball bashkë me ju, këshilluesin biblik, mashtrimet që ajo ka përvetësuar.

Si rregull, unë nuk ju kërkoj as subjekteve anoreksike, as atyre bulimike të mbajnë ditar ushqimi, megjithëse dietologu mund ta kërkojë diçka të tillë. Të shkruajturit e çdo gjëje që ajo ha përqëndron një vëmendje të panevojshme tek ushqimi, sesa tek zbulimi i motiveve të zemrës së saj dhe tek ripërtëritja e mendjës së saj.

Duke i dhënë shpresë dhe duke i mësuar asaj ta çmojë Krishtin

Sido që të shfaqet sjellja e çrregullimeve në të ngrënë  të subjektit që këshilloni, ti japësh shpresë në sesionin e parë është vendimtare. Ajo mund të ketë përvetësuar shumë mite rreth çrregullimeve në të ngrënë nga “psikologjia e popit” siç janë “Ti kurrë nuk shërohesh, gjithmonë në përmirësim” përballeni këtë me 1 Korintasve 6:11 ku Pali këshilloi ish- grykës, pijanec, homoseksual, dhe të tjerë “të varur” nga mëkatet e tyre se ata janë “Larë… shenjtëruar… drejtësuar në emrin e Zotit Jezus” Ndihmojeni atë që të shohë se po e përdor ushqimin në një mënyrë që Zoti nuk e caktoi, dhe se po dëmton trupin që Ai i dha asaj për ti shërbyer dhe për të nderuar vetë Zotin. Një prej ngjashmërive mes anoreksisë dhe bulimisë është se në të dyja çrregullimet, kjo sjellje po shërben si “shpëtimtar i rremë” – Ato e bejnë të vuajturin të ndihet mirë (përkohësisht) prandaj është e vështirë të rreshtësh. Kur rehatia dhe Dobësimi janë prioritetet kryesore të saj, mendja e saj nuk “është vendosur tek gjërat qiellore” (siç vërejtëm në pjesën 1), dhe zemra e saj priret drej vetes (Mateu 6:21). Në mënyrë që të transformohet, ajo duhet të mësojë të ripërtërijë mendjen me Fjalën e Perëndisë dhe ta kthej zemrën e saj drejt Krishtit (Romakëve 12:1-3 , 2 Korintasve 3:18) Si në gjithë mëkatet jetë-zotërues, besimtarja duhet të mësojë ta shohë Jezus krishtin si më të bukur dhe më të dëshirueshëm se “idhulli” i saj. Detyra juaj është ta ndihmoni të dallojë cili është vullneti i tij I menjëhershëm për jetën e saj( një mendje e transformuar, shëndet, kthimi i ushqimit në rolin e vet jetik)  dhe ti besojë Perëndisë dhe atyre që ai i ka vënë pranë për ta ndihmuar(Proverbat 3:6)

Duke përballur tundimin

Të kapërcesh një çrregullim në të ngrënë nuk është e thjeshtë, edhe për një të krishterë që sinqerisht dëshiron të ndjekë Krishtin. Femrat shpesh mund të kenë drojë për t’i zbuluar “sekretin” e tyre dikujt kur vijnë për herë të parë tek ju, me turp për sjelljen e tyre, dhe me dëshiren e dëshpëruar për të ndalur por të tmerruara se Fjala e Perëndisë nuk do të “mjaftoj” për to, dhe ato nuk do mund të bëjnë kthesë nga çrregullimi i tyre në të ngrënë. Pregatituni të ri-vizitoni ungjillin ( Personin  dhe veprën e Jezus Krishtit për to) shumë herë dhe të tregoni, shpirtërisht, hir për çdo dështim (Luka 17:4 është një varg i fuqishëm për mëkatin që jep varësi, po ashtu Romakeve 7). Mësojini asaj ti kthejë sytë nga Krishti për ndihmë dhe ngushëllim në kohë vështirësie(Hebrenjve 4:14-16, 1 Pjetrit 5:6-7, Mateu 11:28-30) çdo herë që ajo është e aftë t’i drejtohet Perëndisë në momente dobësie dhe t’i rezistojë tundimit për t’iu përmbajtur ushqimit apo për të vjellë, ajo do të fitojë vet-besim dhe do të fillojë ta shohë veten duke kryer një fitore shpirtërore.

Shërim në trup, mendje dhe shpirt

Sapo subjekti që këshillohet ka filluar të hajë rregullisht, vakte të shëndetshme dhe te zhvillojë modele të reja të menduari, nevoja për t’u përmbajtur apo për të vjellë priret të largohet brenda pak muajsh. Anoreksikja tashmë e ka përballur frikën e saj më të madhe, të shtuarit peshë, dhe sheh një përmirësim në shëndetin e saj. Shtimi në peshë do të rrafshohet shumë shpejt, por këmbëngulni që ajo te vazhdojë të ndjekë planin e vakteve “të mirëmbajtjes” si pjesë e një detyre shtëpie. Shih kapitullin 13(konsiderata praktike) te librit tim, Redeemed from the Pit: Biblical Repentance and Restoration from the bondage of Eating Disorders( Shpengim nga bataku, pendesë dhe ripërtëritje biblike nga robëria e çrregullimeve në të ngrënë)

Një bulimike sheh se dëshirat e papërmbajtura të saj largohen teksa mendja e saj ripërtërihet, pjesërisht edhe sepse ajo po mban ushqimin që trupi isaj kishte aq shume nevojë. Energjia dhe përqëndrimi i saj përmirësohen drastikisht, pothuaj ne te njëjtën kohë që rresht së vjelli, pasi niveli i sheqerit ne gjakun e saj nuk leviz pa fre cdo orë. Emocionalisht, anoreksiket dhe bulimiket priren të jenë në të njejtin nivel sapo të ngrënët e tyre normalizohet, dhe nuk fiksohen aq shpesh tek ushqimi.

Eshte jashtëzakonisht inkurajuese, si për gruan që kalon çrregullimin në të ngrënë, ashtu edhe për këshilluesin, të shohë transformimin të ndodhë ndersa ajo mëson t’I mbajë syte në Krishtin dhe ta lërë robërinë e saj perfundimisht tek këmbët e kryqit.

Bashkoju bisedës

Kur i referoheni vështirësive me çrregullimet në të ngrënë, qoftë në jetën tuaj apo të subjektit që këshilloni, si mund ta aplikoni hirin e ungjillit të Krishtit?

Gospel Grace for the Eating-Disordered Woman, Part 2

Gospel Grace for the Eating-Disordered Woman, Part 2

This article originally appeared on The Biblical Counseling Coalition’s website.

© Marie Notcheva

A Word from Your BCC Team: You’re reading Part 2 of a two-part BCC Grace & Truth blog miniseries on eating disorders by Marie Notcheva. In the first part of this series, we considered the faulty thinking and “idolatry” behind eating disorders. In the second, we will consider some gospel-centered differences in how to counsel anorexic and bulimic women. You can read Part 1 here.

Accepted by Grace

In her book, Good News for Weary Women, Elyse Fitzpatrick draws an interesting parallel between extra-biblical advice Christian women receive on how to be “godly” and the Galatians whom Paul was chiding for adding rules onto faith in Christ. Fitzpatrick correctly points out that trying to live up to our own standards in an attempt to make ourselves “acceptable” to God will lead to guilt, failure, and self-condemnation.

Some of the examples of guilt-inducing, unwritten “rules” for Christian women include the pressure to homeschool, teach Sunday school, and feed the family organic, home-cooked meals regularly. All of these are good practices but are neither biblical commands nor do they gain us “points” with the Lord. The point Fitzpatrick is making is that when we (women) add additional burdens to our “self-improvement” lists, we are putting ourselves back under the “bondage of the Law,” attempting to make ourselves look “okay in our own eyes” and denying our need for grace.

For an anorexic or bulimic woman, the bondage to her self-imposed rules and rituals is exponentially worse. “Allowed” foods become progressively fewer, mandatory exercise regimes become longer and more arduous, and calorie intake drops to starvation levels.

For a bulimic, eating “too much” (even by one bite) causes her to justify an all-out binge: “I’ve already blown it now…I may as well go all in.” This all-or-nothing thinking leaves no room for grace; the woman feels dirty, weak and guilty when she “fails.” Former anorexic, Michelle Myers, wrote of being struck by a friend’s words when she was most stuck in her sin:  “God loves you just as much whether or not you work out.” Being no less “worthy” by skipping a workout or eating carbs is a difficult concept for an eating disordered counselee to grasp and is a very concrete example of where she needs to apply the gospel in her daily life.

Differences in Counseling Anorexic and Bulimic Clients

When discussing the young woman’s “rules” and what she feels may be gained by keeping them, you may encounter many different responses according to how deeply entrenched her eating-disordered behavior is. Also, be aware that anorexics generally are more difficult counseling cases than bulimics for a number of reasons:

  • They are often (but not always) more medically fragile; doing the hard work of biblical change may require more energy than they have.
  • The level of self-deception is greater in anorexia.
  • Fear of food and the idolatry of thinness has become all-consuming. Anorexics often begin counseling with little hope of being transformed.

If you are counseling a young woman who has been clinically diagnosed with anorexia nervosa (meaning she is at least 20% below her ideal body weight), I would strongly suggest you require she be monitored at least weekly by a physician and have labs drawn regularly. Electrolyte imbalances are common among both anorexics and bulimics, but the risk of cardiac or renal failure is greater in severe anorexia.

Secondly, be prepared for pushback from the anorexic counselee when trying to get her to see her behavior as “sin.” This is one of the biggest differences I have noticed in counseling young women with eating disorders: a bulimic counselee already knows her behavior is wrong and self-destructive, and she is typically ashamed of her “loss of control.” An anorexic, by contrast, often feels empowered by restricting. She believes her rigid behavior is the epitome of “healthy,” justifies it as “self-discipline,” and feels revulsion for being a normal weight (which in her eyes is “fat”). When she looks in the mirror, no matter how emaciated she may be, she sees an obese person looking back at her. A bulimic may have an idolatrous view of weight (wanting to be thin so badly she is willing to sin in order to obtain it), but typically her weight is close to normal and self-image is not quite so skewed.

The anorexic takes great pride in her “law-keeping”—it has become her identity. The desire to be thin at all costs takes over—to the point where her fear of food has become irrational. The progressive nature of anorexia nervosa leaves the counselee literally afraid to swallow food.

Besides helping her counter these fears biblically, I require anorexic counselees to see a nutritionist (assuming they are outpatient) and strongly encourage it for bulimics. Meeting with a dietician helps the anorexic gain confidence in consuming what her body needs nutritionally, while countering the lies she has internalized with you, the biblical counselor.

As a rule, I do not ask either anorexic or bulimic counselees to keep food diaries—although a dietician may require it. Writing down everything she eats focuses undue attention on the food itself, rather than on uncovering her heart motivations and renewing her mind.

Giving Hope and Teaching Her to Treasure Christ

However your counselee’s eating disordered behavior manifests, giving hope in the first session is crucial. She likely will have internalized a lot of myths about eating disorders from “pop psychology,” such as “You’re never fully recovered; always in recovery.” Contrast this with 1 Corinthians 6:11 where Paul admonished former gluttons, drunkards, homosexuals, and others “addicted” to their sin that they have been “washed…sanctified…and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus.” Help her to see that she is using food in a way that God did not intend it and that she is harming the body He gave her to serve and honor Him.

A similarity between anorexia and bulimia is that in both disorders the behavior is serving as a “false savior”—they make the sufferer feel better (temporarily) so stopping is hard. When comfort and thinness are her top priorities, her mind is not “set on things above” (as we saw in Part 1), and her heart is drawn to herself (Matthew 6:21). To be transformed, she must learn to renew her mind with God’s Word and turn her heart to Christ (Romans 12:1-3; 2 Corinthians 3:18). As in all life-dominating sin, the believer must learn to see Jesus Christ as more beautiful and desirable than her “idol.” Your task is to help her discern what His immediate will is for her life (a transformed mind, health, restoring food to its proper, life-sustaining place) and to trust God and those He has given her to help her (Proverbs 3:6).

Facing Temptation

Overcoming an eating disorder is not easy, even for a Christian who sincerely desires to follow Christ. Women may often be fearful of revealing their “secret” to anyone when they first come to you, ashamed of their behavior, and desperately wanting to stop but terrified that God’s Word will not be “enough,” and they will not be able to turn from their eating disorder.

Be prepared to re-visit the gospel (the Person and work of Jesus Christ on their behalf) many times and to demonstrate, scripturally, grace for each failure (Luke 17:4 is a powerful verse for addictive sin, as is Romans 7). Teach her to turn to Christ for help and comfort in times of struggle (Hebrews 4:14-16; 1 Peter 5:6-7; Matthew 11:28-30). Each time she is able to turn to God in her moment of weakness and resist the temptation to restrict or purge, she will gain confidence and come to see herself as waging a spiritual victory.

Healing in Body, Mind, and Spirit

Once the counselee has begun to eat regular, healthy meals and develop new patterns of thinking, the urge to restrict or purge tends to subside within a couple of months. The anorexic has now faced her greatest fear—gaining weight—and sees an improvement in health. The weight gain will usually plateau relatively soon, but insist that she stick to her “maintenance” meal plan as part of her homework assignment. See chapter 13 (“Practical Considerations”) of my book, Redeemed from the Pit: Biblical Repentance and Restoration from the bondage of Eating Disorders.

A bulimic finds her intense cravings subsiding as her mind is restored, partly because she is retaining the nutrition her body desperately sought. Her energy and concentration dramatically improves, almost as soon as she stops purging, as her blood sugar is no longer spiking wildly every few hours. Emotionally, anorexics and bulimics tend to be on a much more even keel once their eating normalizes, and do not find themselves fixating nearly so often on food.

It is tremendously encouraging, both for the woman overcoming an eating disorder and for the counselor, to see the transformation take place as she learns to fix her eyes on Christ and permanently leave her bondage at the foot of the cross.

Join the Conversation

When addressing struggles with eating disorders, either in your own life or in your counselees, how can you apply the gospel of Christ’s grace?

Të kuptosh “përbindëshin përbrenda”: Ç’rregullimet në të ngrënë, pjesa I

Ky artikull ishte i parë në  Koalicioni i Këshillimit Biblik Shqiptar.

Shkrimtare:  Marie Notcheva 

Përkthyes:    Juxhin Alia

Një fjalë hyrëse nga ekipi BCC: Ju po lexoni pjesën 1 të një blogu BCC 2-pjesësh të miniserive Hir&të vërtetë mbi çrregullimet në të ngrënë nga Marie Notcheva. Në pjesën e parë të serisë, ne do të trajtojmë mendësinë e gabuar dhe “idhujtarinë” pas çrregullimeve në të ngrënë; në të dytën, do të vërejmë disa dallime të përqëndruara në ungjill, mbi mënyrën e këshillimit të grave anoreksike dhe bulimike.

Dinamikat sociale dhe një diagnozë biblike

Në fillim të viteve 80′, termat “anoreksia nervosa” dhe “bulimia” u bënë fjalë të njohura në Shtetet e Bashkuara. Pa vonuar shumë, psikologë të sjelljes dhe ata klinikë nxituan të gjenin një “kurë” për këtë fenomen të ri – të vdesësh urie dhe të vjellësh në mes të bollëkut. Libri i Cynthia Rowland, The Monster Within: Overcoming Bulimia  (Përbindëshi përbrenda: Të mposhtësh buliminë)(1985) ishte një ndër dëshmitë e para të publikuara të llojit të vet. Vdekja në 1983 e këngëtares së popit Karen Carpenter ishte një faktor në valën e vëmendjes mediatike që i’u dha çrregullimeve në të ngënë. Një tjetër, ka mundësi të ketë qënë rritja në popullaritet e atleteve femra në disiplina si gjimnastika dhe patinazhi artistik, që dolën hapur me vështirësitë e tyre. Cilado qofte arsyeja, sjelljet e mosushqyerjes dhe të vjellët nga grykësia nuk janë sjellje të zhvilluara vetëm kohët e fundit, dhe as nuk janë të kufizuara vetëm në vendet e pasura perëndimore.

Është e dobishme për çdo këshillues biblik që punon me të rejat, të kuptojë mendësinë pas çrregullimeve në të ngrënë. Megjithëse personi që ju këshilloni mund të mos jetë diagnostikuar klinikisht me anoreksi, bulimi, ose çrregullime në të ngrënë prej grykësisë, shumë të reja do të tregohen të hapura në privacinë e dhomës së këshillimit për pasiguritë e tyre rreth peshës, pamjes së jashtme dhe zakoneve të ngrënies apo ushtrimeve fizike të çrregullta. Do të na ndihmonte të ishim në gjendje të pikasnim mendimin jobiblik dhe ta ballafaqojmë me hir dhe të vërtetë përpara se të çeli plotësisht në një çrregullim në të ngrënë.

Vini re se çështjet e imazhit trupor dhe pasiguritë rreth pamjes nuk kufizohen vetëm tek të këshilluarat femra, te rinjtë meshkuj vuajnë gjithashtu, prandaj të njëjtat parime vlejnë edhe për ta. Gjithsesi duke patur parasysh se sa më të theksuara janë ruajtja e peshës dhe mbizotërimi i çrregullimeve në të ngrënët mes femrave, do ti referohem subjektit te këshilluar me përemra femërorë.

Cfarë janë anoreksia dhe bulimia?

Përkufizimi mjekësor i anoreksia nervosa është :

“Një çrregulim në të ngrënë që karakterizohet nga refuzimi për të mbajtur një peshë minimale trupore, frika nga të shtuarit peshë apo të kthyerit në obez, turbullim i imazhit trupor, mbështetje e tepruar në peshën apo formën trupore për vetëvlerësim, dhe amenorrea(mungesë e menstruacioneve)”

Bulimia nervosa përkufizohet kështu :

“Grykësi e përsëritur që zakonisht ndiqet nga veprime që synojnë të refuzojnë marrjen e kalorive të ushqimit të gëlltitur, më së shpeshti veprime spastruese siç është provokimi I vjelljes dhe abuzimi i laksativëve por nganjëherë edhe metoda të tjera si ushtrime fizike të tepruara dhe argjërim.”

Për një shpjegim më të plotë të anoreksisë dhe bulimisë në kritere klinike, si dhe komplikimet mjekësore që pasojnë, jeni të lutur të lexoni kapitujt 2 dhe 13 të librit tim Redeemed from the Pit: Biblical Repentance and Restoration from the Bondage of Eating Disorders. (E shpenguar nga bataku: pendesë dhe ripërtëritje biblike nga zgjedha e çrregullimeve në të ngrënë))

Me pak fjalë anoreksia është një imazh i shtrembëruar i trupit që çon në vetë-mosushqyerje(shpesh i shoqëruar më ushtrime të dëmshme fizike – anorexia athletica); bulimia është cikël grykësie-vjelljeje që çon në “varësi ushqimi” dhe humbje të kontrollit. Të dyja këto sjellje janë shteruese, kërcënuese për jetës, dhe megjithse kanë shumë komponente, në thelbin e tyre janë me natyrë shpirtërore – siç është gjithë jeta. Ka shumë ngjasim mes dy çrregullimeve, dhe shpesh sjelljet mbivendosen. Në pjesën e parë të kësaj serie, ne do të shohim mendësinë e gabuar dhe “idhujtarinë” pas këtyre çrregullimeve; në të dytën, do të vërejme disa dallime në mënyrën se si i këshillojmë gratë bulimike dhe anoreksike.

“Më mirë të më kalojë sipër kamioni”

Në librin e tij të fundit, Eating Disorders: Hope for Hungering Souls(çrregullimet në të ngënë: Shpresë për shpirtra të uritur) Dr. Mark Shaw citon profesorin Glen Gaesser kur thotë, “Mbi 50% e femrave te anketuara të moshave të intervalit 18-25 vjeç do të preferonin më mirë t’u kalojë sipër kamioni se sa të jenë të shëndosha, dhe 75% do të zgjidhnin më mirë të ishin budallaqe apo të këqija” kjo deklaratë e vetme tregon për madhësinë e kushtëzimit të prioriteteve të femrave të reja. Nëse i referohemi Biblës, edhe në Testamentin e Vjetër ne mund të shohim vlerën që i jepej bukurisë fizike – edhe në kohët e patriarkëve( mendoni per Lean vs. Rakelës, Esterin, Danielin, Absalomin dhe të tjerë që dalloheshin për pamjen e jashtme). Ne gjithashtu shohim një Perëndi me një set krejt të ndryshëm prioritetesh – dhe përkufizimin e tij të bukurisë në vargje të tilla : 1Samuelit 16:7, Isaia 53:2-3, Proverbat  31:30, dhe 1Pjetrit 3:3.

Të shpenzuarit kohë duke shpalosur pozicionin që ka në Krishtin subjekti i këshilluar (1gjonit është një detyrë shtëpie e shkëlqyer) fillon rrugëtimin e saj drejt rrokjes të së vërtetës se ajo nuk është më një skllave e mëkatit. Ku qëndron lidhja? Nuk ka asnjë çështje në jetë me të cilën subjekti i keshilluar po përballet, që nuk mund ta tejkalojë në Krishtin . Nuk ka asnjë mëkat që e këshilluara po e lufton nga i cili nuk mund të pendohet. Nëse Perëndia e ka thirrur atë që të “zhvesh” çfarë i përket mishit dhe “të vesh” shenjtërinë, atëherë, e fuqizuar nga fryma e shenjtë, ajo është e aftë ta bëjë këtë.

Ky ndërgjegjësim është zakonisht një pikë kthese për subjektet e këshilluara me mëkate jetë-zotëruese (varësitë) përfshirë anoreksinë dhe buliminë. Shpesh, ato kanë besuar për kaq gjatë se janë “nën kontrollin” e kësaj sjelljeje saqë të jesh në gjendje të “zgjedhësh” lirinë – në bazë të pozicionit të tyre në Krishtin –duket një koncept shumë liberal. Ajo mund të mësojë të “zhveshi” sjelljet jo të shëndetshme duke ripërtërirë mendjen e saj.

Ku Qëndron mendja e saj? 

Një prej vendeve të para ku i çoj të rejat që vuajnë prej anoreksisë ose bulimisë është

Kolosianëve 3:1-3: “Në qoftë se ju jeni ringjallur me Krishtin, kërkoni ato që janë lart, ku Krishti është ulur në të djathtë të Perëndisë. Kini në mend gjërat që janë atje lart, jo ato që janë mbi tokë, sepse ju keni vdekur dhe jeta juaj është fshehur bashkë me Krishtin në Perëndinë.”

Cilat janë prioritetet ditore të subjektit që po konsultoni? Për çfarë mendon? A është duke u përqëndruar tek gjërat që kanë vlerë të përjetshme? A po prehet ajo në veprën e përfunduar të Krishtit në kryq dhe në dashurinë personale të Atit për të? Çfarë i’a shkakton ankthin? Në këtë pikë, përdorimi i pyetësorëve “Zbulo Modelet Problematike” si rregjistër javor ndihmon për të zbuluar “shkëndija” specifike që e bëjnë atë të përmbahet apo të kalojë në një tjetër episod grykësie-vjellje. Për shembull, një grua bulimike mund të ndihet e sulmuar nga kritikat e bashkëshortit të saj, dhe të arrijë në përfundimin që nuk “meriton” të ketë ushqim në bark, e më pas të vjellë për të dënuar veten e për të mpirë ndjenjat e saj të lënduara. Dhe sigurisht, kjo do të çojë në rritje të depresionit dhe ndjenjave të dështimit dhe me shumë mundësi e përgatisin për grykësinë e radhës. Një grua që po triumfon mbi anoreksinë e që po pendohet, mund të ndihet e frikësuar prej komplimenteve të kolegëve mbi shtmin e saj në peshë -mund t’a zërë paniku- dhe mund të fillojë t’a limitojë ushqimin sërish. Media është një burim i vazhdueshëm i përkufizimeve sekulare mbi bukurinë, dhe tundimi ndaj kotësisë sqimatare është për një grua, që është duke u penduar prej një çrregullimi në të ngrënë, aq i vërtetë sa “presioni i moshatarëve” tek një adoleshent.

Tani… hajde ta transformojmë këtë mendje!

Ndërsa subjekti i këshilluar bëhet gjithmonë e më i aftë  ti njohë keto mendime si  jobiblike (madje irracionale), ajo po mëson çfarë do të thotë të “ nënshtrosh çdo mendim dëgjesës së Krishtit” (2Korintasve 10:5). Ajo mund të sfidohet të dallojë mendësi të tilla si : “ashkush nuk më do mua. Më mirë po ha si grykëse” ose “ numri mbi peshore përcakton vlerën time”.

Pastaj ajo mund të fillojë ti ballafaqojë këto me të vërtetën biblike: “Perëndia më do, dhe unë jam krijuar në imazhin e tij. Ai ka premtuar se kurrë nuk do të më lerë apo braktisë” (Zanafilla  1:27, Hebrenjve 13:5). “Vlera ime vjen nga qëndrimi im në krishtin, dhe Ai më quan ‘mike’. Qëllimi im është të jetoj për të” (Gjoni 15:14)

Kapitulli “Zhvish/vish” i Biblës, efesianëve 4, bëhet një ushtrim ditorë për një grua që po transformon mendësinë e saj prej një çrregullimi në të ngrënë. Boshllëku dhe frika e njeriut( pasiguria, dëshira për tu pranuar, për tu parë si “më e dobëta”) janë dy motivet e zemrës që qëndrojnë pas anoreksisë dhe bulimisë. Përgjatë kursit të këshillimit, këto dhe të tjera shfaqje të krenarisë duhet të përballen butësisht me një këndveshtrim më të lartë për Perëndinë dhe një perceptim korrekt të vetvetes(ajo është një bijë e dashur në nevojë për Shpëtimtarin). Perëndia shpesh shihet si i zemëruar ose i largët nga gratë që vuajnë prej varësive. Hebrenjve 4:14 na ndihmon të ilustrojmë faktin se Krishti e kupton dobësinë dhe mëkatin e saj, dhe është i gatshëm ta forcojë atë.

Roli i hirit

Moralizmi, në thelbin e vet, është përpjekja e natyrës njerëzore për të bërë veten “të drejtë” në vetë sytë tanë. Ne e bëjmë këtë përmes hapave, rregullave, dhe listave Si-të, shpesh duke bërë “rregullat” tona mbi çfarë do të thotë të jesh i mirë, i suksesshëm, apo tërheqës. Kjo sigurisht, na mbrujt për të dështuar dukë qënë se ne në mënyrë të pashmangshme do ta thyejmë një (ose ndoshta të gjitha) nga keto rregulla të vet-caktuara. Perfeksionizmi-përpjekja për të arritur drejtesimin prej veprave sipas vetë standartit tonë-largohet tej kur përballet me ungjillin.

“nëse të qënurit ‘e dobët’ është mirë, të jesh ‘më e dobët’ është akoma më mirë” thërret xhelati i brendshëm. Zakonet “Spartane” të të ngrënit dhe të regjimeve ushtrimore mund të marrin një jetë te tyren.

Vazhdimi i historisë së fitores në Krshtin

Gratë me çrregullime në të ngrënë janë tejet perfeksioniste si natyra. Çfarë “vepra të ligjit” krijojnë ato per veten, dhe si mund t’i këshillojmë ato? Ne do ta trajtojmë perfeksionizmin, dhe si të tregosh hir besimtareve anoreksike dhe bulimike në pjesën 2.

Bashkoju bisedës

Kur trajtojmë vështirësitë e çrregullimeve në të ngrënë , qofshin këto në jetën tënde ose të subjektit të këshilluar, si mund të na ndihmonte të dallojmë mendësinë e gabuar dhe “idhujtarinë” pas çrregullimeve në të ngrënë?