“Health doesn’t belong in the church” my then-pastor told me many years ago, as I watched one of the diabetic members pile a load of baked goods on a plate and grin by me. We were sure to always have a “spread” of pies, donuts, cake and chips (good-folks’ drugs of choice) available at every function.
“Sure to bring them back,” he said.
The plumped-up sheep continued to load up their flock with high sugar, fat and salt at every open door opportunity. Then, when one of the members suffered from a preventable, catastrophic illness brought on by years of “temple neglect,” the ladies would rush in to the temporary rescue with “The 911 Church Casserole,” a term I coined for the healthy, low-fat entrée, accompanied by a hearty green salad and sugar-free dessert, they would bring the ailing member—for a whole week straight.
Our congregation, sadly, was not alone.
Mesmerized by the wild success of Pastor Rick Warren’s “The Purpose Driven Life” more than 10 years ago, I shot off an email to his Saddleback Church in Lake Forest praising the book and its messaging, but raising my concern that as the faithful we were getting more spiritually healthy and purposeful in our commitment to be shining lights, we were going to “self-extinguish” because of horrible health habits. I never heard back, but other believers were coming to the realization that to be “set apart” and proclaim the healing message to a hurting world, we had to stay out of caskets prematurely.
Our penchant for the unhealthy has not always been the case.In the Old Testament, for instance, Daniel—a strapping young Hebrew man—set himself apart for God, refusing to dine on the junk food (picture Annie Green Springs Wine and Ho Hos) of the foreign gods. Confident he was being set aside to be used by God, he challenged the King of Babylon to a “health test.” Daniel won and went on to interpret some pretty far-out dreams and managed to avoid being crushed to death by some famished lions in a dark den.
It turns out we can learn something from old teachings, as Rick Warren showed us last year. The Southern California pastor, who leads a membership in excess of 23,000, had an epiphany; After baptizing over 827 adults one bright spring day he realized of the 145,000 pounds of humanity he dunked, they were all, well, excessive…including himself! He needed to get healthy, drop 90 pounds and invite his congregation to be set apart like Daniel to be used for mightier things. He confessed he had been a “poor steward” of his own health and enlisted the help of top physicians, an exercise physiologist, nutritional chefs and a team of enthusiastic volunteers and created “The Daniel Plan.”
Abundance, not deprivation
The Daniel Plan’s website best describes it “as a ground-breaking, healthy lifestyle program where people get better together with love as the motivation. It’s a story of abundance, not deprivation, relying on God’s power and the support and encouragement of friends.” The five essentials of The Daniel Plan include: faith, food, fitness, focus and friends, all dedicated to promoting an abundant life that includes a vibrant faith, an energized body and a sharp mind.
Energized last November upon hearing The Daniel Plan book/DVD set would soon be released, my husband, Brandon, a certified health coach, Annalisa Larm, a registered dietician, and I set out on a journey to observe one of the very first churches in San Diego to implement the program.
The classes at Sweetwater Community Church, led by athlete and health enthusiast, Karen Bates, were wonderfully inviting. Karen taught us the wonders of smoothies made from all raw ingredients using chia seeds, fresh fruit, protein powder, almond butter and coconut milk. No trans-fat baked goods anywhere to be found! Each session included helpful tips and practical advice from health experts.
Philippians 1:6 says “For I am confident of this very thing; that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” In mid-March we started our first Daniel Plan series at Foothills Christian Church, the first of many we plan. If you are interested in gaining freedom from disease and learning the skills to live a healthier life, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Until next month, may you thrive and live with hope!
Learn more about the plan at www.danielplan.com.
Ruby is a certified nutritionist at University Compounding Pharmacy, has been in the wellness industry for more than 20 years. She has been facilitating one of the longest-running weight management support groups in the nation, meeting weekly in the North County for 10 years. Her health segments have appeared on several local news channels.