Faith & Food – Feeding Your Calling

Unhealthy habits in life usually begin in small steps. They start when we say, “Oh, I can stay up late for this event and still wake up early for work tomorrow. I can splurge with my diet this week and work it off later.” Sooner or later we may find that these small choices have begun to build into serious health problems. This week, Gary Wilkerson talks with a Christian nutritional counselor, Laura Harris Smith, who shares her descent into a deadly medical condition, the way God healed her body and her journey into good health.

Unhealthy habits in life usually begin in small steps. They start when we say, “Oh, I can stay up late for this event and still wake up early for work tomorrow. I can splurge with my diet this week and work it off later.” Sooner or later we may find that these small choices have begun to build into serious health problems. This week, Gary Wilkerson talks with a Christian nutritional counselor, Laura Harris Smith, who shares her descent into a deadly medical condition, the way God healed her body and her journey into good health.

Gary Wilkerson: Well, hello, everybody. We are in for a great time today at the Gary Wilkerson Podcast here at World Challenge. We have in our studio with us today Laura Harris Smith. Thanks for being with us today.

Laura: Thanks.

Gary: I just got your book, and I've been reading it and it's been a real blessing. I love how you're praying for people, speaking faith, and helping people's spirit, mind, body—spirit, soul, and body. That's one of our favorite passages here as a ministry, 1 Thessalonians, where it talks about the spirit, soul, and body. As I was reading your bio, there's some things you're a nutritional counselor. Can you just give us-- What is a nutritional counselor?

Laura: Well, I actually, six years ago almost lost my life because I was on the brink of adrenal failure and did not know it. I was told make changes or die. They said, "If you survive, it'll take 18 to 24 months to turn around." I had what was called adrenal burnout.

Gary: Were you already a nutritional counselor?

Laura: No, I'm telling you why I became one.

Gary: Gotcha

Laura: It kind of found me. I basically was in a place of not sleeping. I can't sleep, I'm laying down sleep for eight hours, but I wasn't sleeping. I love my life; I have a king-size life. I would get like maybe four hours sleep; both of my parents did this kind of work like a badge. Stage four of adrenal burnout is when all of your organs shut down. I didn't even find out I had it until I was in stage three.

My blood work started coming back wonky. I discovered John F. Kennedy had it. They said it not been assassinated, he would have been dead in a year. All of these things I'm finding out. When someone looks at you and says make changes or die, every meal becomes a final exam. I had to start studying what to eat, what not to eat, what to get rid of.

Gary: What were you feeling at that time? Could you feel symptoms of weakness, brain fog?

Laura: Yes, yes, and yes. However, I have such a strong constitution.

Gary: You fought through it?

Laura: That really worked against me. Because I just kept pushing through and kept pushing through. I started noticing like, at church, I was unable to even keep standing through the first worship song. We have the typical concert worship style, three, four songs upfront. I would have to sit down, I would be just exhausted. Those types of things started happening. I was actually in the middle of a book contract with Baker books, and I had, I was contracted to write Seeing the Voice of God, it was a book on dreams and visions, biblical dreams and visions. I was interviewing sleep study doctors.

It was so sneaky, I call it Jehovah sneaky, for God to use work to make me study sleep, because it was work that was keeping me from sleeping. This doctor's looking at me and saying, "If you don't sleep, the first thing is to will go wonky in your body are your hormones, and then this and then this," and I'm like checking the list and still, it's not fully registering, that's what's going on with me. Then I get the diagnosis, I go on total bed rest for three months. It was during that time that I knew because of everything that I was learning. I just bet this is going to become a shift in my writing. I had written probably 16 books before that.

I knew the Lord was calling me to shift into a body, mind and spirit lane. I felt like I owed it to my readers to go back and educate myself. Go back to school, and educate myself once I got mended up. The Lord did in six months. I had a total clean bill of health. I was back running strong. I make myself get seven to eight hours sleep every night now. Somehow, still just as productive. When I went back to school, I became a nutritional counselor not to hang out a shingle and open a clinic, but for my readers. Everything I do, I pour into my books.

I have now since then gone back and pursued degrees. I have my bachelor's in original medicine, which is body, mind and spirit medicine, and my masters in another couple of years, I'll be a naturopathic doctor.

Gary: Wow. Good for you.

Laura: I'm slamming it.

Gary: You said something that, I think maybe some listeners might be really interested hearing, your only sleeping four hours, and then I heard you say you made yourself sleep eight hours. How does somebody's make yourself sleep eight hours.

Laura: I really do and always have had the ability to lay down and just sleep. Not only fall asleep but stay asleep. I wouldn't sleep, I was in sleep rebellion. I had a massive sleep debt. When you don't go to sleep, your body will go to sleep for you. To answer your question, what I had to do is I had to, in my pursuit of disciplining myself with sleep health, I discovered this whole world of people, who they tell me they just can't get to sleep.

They lay there and they just can't, they cannot do it. If they do get to sleep, they can't stay asleep. My heart was really compassionate toward them because I think sleep doctors could put all the other doctors out of business. If we get our sleep right, we will be healthy people. Oh yes, those eight hours that God gave us at night, and him even creating the moon and the stars. That's not an afterthought. He did. That's a sacred time.

He not only wants us to rest, He wants us to heal during that time. We're a captive audience. He wants to speak to us, even in the night, I believe, like He did with many other biblical characters. What I have done since that time is, I've actually begun to create helps products, essential oils, things to help people get to sleep and stay asleep. I do have one called quiet brain that does just that.

I have people tell me that they, whether by applying it, or diffusing it, that they go to bed and they wake up 10 hours later, it doesn't sedate the brain it focuses. I have also reports of people saying it helped them focus for work. It must be a, it helps you focus on sleep or focus on work, whatever it is you need to do. Turn everything else off and do that.

Gary: Is there a link between-- I know, we didn't invite you to talk about sleep, and I'm not sleepy. That’s not why I am asking this question. I’m wide awake. I think it's interesting topic. Is there a link between-- because you're a nutritionist, poor nutrition is it going to cause poor sleep habits or not?

Laura: You're asking all the right questions. Oh, yes. Oh, yes. What we eat, and especially the time that we eat it can lead to poor health. I got in here late last night and had to eat very, very late. I slept very, very well, but that's because that was a rarity. If you are eating right before you go to bed, if you are eating wild and crazy things, and your body is having to work all night long to digest it. It's not doing what God created it to do, which is to heal. There's a chemical that's released in your body while you're asleep called HCG. It's a hormone. In children, it's released and they grow.

At some point, you quit growing. As adults, when it's released as we sleep, we heal. If we're not sleeping, we're not healing. This is where all your reserves run out in your 30s and 40s, and chronic illnesses start settling in and listen, I am a miracle believing, hey, let's pray and I'll call down a miracle. I want people to maintain their miracles and to be smart.

I'm telling you, on this one, He required me to cooperate with Him. He still requires me to cooperate with Him. I still if I fall back into that and I could so easily, that's my drug of choice. It's just I could work all day. I think sleep is a colossal waste of time. I think there are people dying and going to hell. I've go to get to them. I want the whole world to be saved by noon tomorrow.

Those are the downsides of that 1 Corinthians 12, "Gift of faith". You just think you're invincible, you can do everything like, I said, "by tomorrow". I've just had to learn that I'm one person. I have to make myself go to bed. I have a husband who is all about the journey. I'm all about the destination. I'm A to B. I like direct flights. I like all that. It is about the journey and you have to take care of yourself on the journey.

Gary: Is he like you as far—I don’t want to sleep. I just want to…

Laura: No.

Gary: No, he isn't.

Laura: Oh, no.

Gary: He's kind of the plotter, kind of paces.

Laura: Absolutely. He is usually the first one in bed and now we have, I won't say it's a deal, a kind of unspoken but I migrate that way and I'm on the bed. [chuckles] I'm usually on my laptop for about a whole other hour, but I do. I try to. I have kind of an inward rule. My typical time to sleep is like midnight to 8:00, sometimes 1:00 to 9:00. I have a rule if I wake up before that eight-hour mark, I try to just lay there, just pray, not rush and start the day. I mean this was serious. I almost died. I have to take it seriously. Yes, it's the thing that I easily fall back into if I'm not careful.

Gary: Yes, going back to your story then, how long did you take to get out of that place?

Laura: Well, three months in bed-

Gary: Three months in bed.

Laura: -will make you think differently.

Gary: What changes did you make then?

Laura: I took out wheat. I took out sugar. My nutritionist told me, "You need to make certain changes so that your body cannot have anything else to do but heal". All of my organs, things were starting to shut down. My reproductive system had already entirely shut down in my early 40s. I just thought, "That's a fluke". Well, no. Then my liver tests were coming back, where all these different tests. I had to use food as medicine. When your liver is in bad shape, you just can't start popping pills for each organ. It won't process it.

She said, "Wheat and sugar are very hard on the body to process. Let's take those out for now and give your body nothing else to do but heal." Lots of naps during the day; it was the hardest thing.

Gary: Obviously, it's worked. You're healthy and your family is doing good.

Laura: I feel great.

Gary: You've made major changes. Things change.

Laura: We're all off wheat and sugar. I mean literally we started, if I could just say, I had this one shelf in the pantry and there was sign on it. It said, "Mom's Pantry". Whatever the cook does usually it starts to trickle down and they were all gluten-free. We all do this sugar-free. We have made a lifestyle change. There's 19 other flours out there. There's rice. There's buckwheat. There's sorghum. There's almond flour. In the beginning, my husband would bring me flours. We’d experiment with different flours. That type of thing. It's just a choice. It's a perspective shift.

Gary: I love it. He sounds like a good husband.

Gary: One of the major things I wanted to ask you was being that you’ve written the book and I know it's helping lots of people and you've been interviewed and you speak on this. Do you find that fairly normal in the church for us to be eating poorly, out of shape? Is that a major problem or do you think there's any second question tied to that? Do you think there's any difference between, just say an average, take 100 people that go to church and 100 people that don't, would their nutrition be any different? I don't know if you've ever examined that or not.

Laura: It is a major problem. If I had to put a number on it, on the people that I have seen, I would say that it's in the high 90% of people that they not only are they unaware, I think it's that they have high faith. They just think that God's got their back and I began to bury some heroes of mine a couple of decades ago and I just started asking myself questions like, and I was a farmer's daughter, so I already thought that I ate healthy. I ate colorfully. For me, it was the sleep. I call it sleep hygiene, but for others, it is what they are putting on their plate. They're killing themselves, one forkful at a time, and let me tell you what else I've learned people don't like it when you mess with their food. I have had to learned to be hated by a few people. The tide does turn.


Gary: It's like you're touching idolatry in some senses, right?


Laura: You move people's food and the flesh goes crazy. You go out to dinner with people and they start apologizing for what they're ordering. I'm like, "Hey. There's no condemnation. I am not judging you. I may be praying for you." I actually had a guy look at me one time and say, "Are you saying if I eat wheat, am I going to go to hell?" I said, "No." He asked me if I eat wheat, am I not going to go to heaven. I said, "Absolutely not. You'll probably get their sooner, but you're not going to not get I”n. It's not about that, it's the quality of life that we have here living a healthy life. We need this body to serve the Lord with, I want to live long and live strong.


Gary: Yes, I've had people say, and you've probably heard this as well, when you talk about nutrition, when it comes to their spiritual life and the calling on their life, you've heard it said, "Hey I don't care what I eat. If I die, I'll be with Jesus sooner," and it's just like, well, yes, you will be, but he's given you a calling on your life and if you're not going to be healthy enough to carry it out, you're going to be sick and just as slow of body, slow of mind. That's just not going to work.


Laura: You are the very first show I've ever been on that quoted the 1 Thessalonians 5:23 passage for me. The reason I love that is because of what you just said. It actually says in there, "You may be found blameless, at the Lord’s coming body, soul and spirit." Come on. We can receive, accept, take responsibility for and have some blame in this if we are not doing these things. It’s not bondage, it's actually easy things. You've just got to change your mindset, change your lifestyle. Start making better choices. I believe that body, mind and spirit, if we are to be whole, we are to pay attention to all three.

Gary: So, we're talking about the health or lack thereof of some in Christian circles. Do you have some inclinations as to why people remain in poor health, whether be spirit, mind, or body when they've heard it. Like some of the stuff you're hearing today, it's going to be new. I like that but some of the stuff they're going to go like, "I heard it before" or "Here we go again" or there are some things that keep people stuck.

Laura: I think it's habit.

Gary: Habits, yes.

Laura: A lack of discipline, a lack of tapping into the spirit of self-control which God has given us. It's one of the fruits of his spirit. By the way, if you don't have self-control, you don't need to go read a book on self-control you need more the Holy Spirit. His main job is to make us holy. I love all the gifts of the Spirit. I love all of that the nine gifts of the Holy Spirit but the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit if we only have one or the other, we're like interestingly enough a dove which is a symbol of the Holy Spirit has nine grooves in each wing. If you only have the gifts of the Spirit and you're not exercising the character of God or if you only have love, peace, joy and all the fruits of the Spirit but you don't believe in miracles or healings or faith or prophecy you're a one-wing dove. You're going to be flying around in circles. I think it's the lack of self-control but it's also a lack of believing in the miraculous. It took for me a miraculous changing of my mindset to change and make these lifestyle changes.

For me, like when people say to me, "It's too hard" I have one woman telling me the other day, "It's just too hard. I try to give up sugar it's too hard" I thought, "You know what? I didn't have that luxury. I had to make the changes or die." When people say to me, "Life's hard" I'm like, "Compared to what, dying?" Come on, you can do this-

Gary: Or living sick.

Laura: - when I find someone who's not doing it they either have not made the connection in their mind between what they're putting in their mouth. Psalm 103, "He satisfies my mouth with good things so that my youth is renewed like the eagles." I always feel like if they can get that revelation, have discipline, self-control, set those new habits they will see change and they won't forget.

Gary: I could not agree with you more. I think you're spot on with all those things. I might add one and you probably would as well is getting rid of shame in our life because I think a lot of people either overeat or have poor eating habits because there's such shame. Even sometimes trying a new diet or something and then they fail they feel more ashamed. Then that shame is the sense of something, "I'm not good or I'm not loved or I'm not worthy, I'm not acceptable"

When somebody feels like that they're going to have to go to their drug of choice whether it be, some would go to alcohol or narcotics or-

Laura: Or food.

Gary: - food. Yes, food is one. I think shame sometimes plays into the battle for somebody who in their mind saying, "I'm going to change" but their emotions are so out of whack. There's a lot of self-hatred and condemnation. Listen to the voice of the enemy, you're no good, you'll never make it. Then that shame drives them actually to eat even more poorly like, "I need a whole pint of ice cream" How many times have we seen even in movies you see this link. Somebody gets dumped by their spouse or by their boyfriend, girlfriend and they have this big party.

Laura: Pint with a spoon, right?

Gary: Yes, it's the comfort food. I think shame, discipline all these. It's not one like the wings of the dove you're talking about. It's not one ingredient that brings this wholeness of health but balancing the three together. Somebody is listening to us now and they're starting to say, "Okay, let me give it another go" What kind of advice would you give to them about maybe engaging their self-discipline, getting involved now in healthy choices. Do you start with motivation or do you start with--?

Laura: Habakkuk 2:2 Write the vision and make it plain

Gary: Write it out. Good. That's really practical.

Laura: So that he who reads it can run.

Gary: What would you want somebody to write?

Laura: What I would say is get online, Dr. Google your situation. By that I mean try to lose weight, can't lose weight, obese, family history of diabetes, whatever it is just Google your way to some basic information. Then get a great book of somebody who believes body, mind, and spirit, health and then try to get a plan, a game plan for your life starting with some easy goals.

Baby step your way into them, breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Get a plan for movement. Just all of those things. Get your plan, plan your work and then work your plan. 

Gary: Do you mind praying for the people that are listening to us today that they might be touched in these, particularly three realms that we're talking about?

Laura: Yes, let's do it. All right. "Well, Heavenly Father, I just, first of all, thank you for Gary and for this wonderful organization. Thank you for the World Challenge. Thank you, God, for bringing us together. I believe it's no mistake, and that those in the sound of our voices today can know that they have tuned in for a reason. And that God has total temple health for their body, mind and spirit health for them. I believe the Lord is saying, today is the day to make a vow and keep it. That the Lord is putting it on some of your hearts right now you know. You've been listening and you are convicted, not condemned, but convicted.

Through the Holy Spirit, that change needs to come. You're having your aha moment. And I just declare that you're going to listen to that you're going to flow with that you're going to get your game plan. You're going to get a good book or get online and study and show yourself approved to just the story of you learn what you need to consult a healthcare professional if you need to, but get a plan, write it down. And ask the Lord for grace for change in your life. If it's that you need to eat differently and better and make wiser choices and sleep better and exercise more do that. If it is that your life is full of stress and your emotions are all locked up, and you're full of unforgiveness or hatred or whatever. Get Healthy there, get rid of all of that you can do it now and release those people in those relationships to him and those emotions, in Jesus's name. It could be that spiritually, you need to be better connected to God or friend, it could be that you need to be better connected to the body of Christ. It's not just you and Jesus. You've got to get connected to the body because otherwise, you are off on an island.

And that disconnection can dis fellowship you and all of that. So get connected spiritually, emotionally, physically, I pray for all three for you right now that you would be proven blameless at the Lord's coming, body, soul and spirit, just like 1 Testimony 5:23 says. As Gary said earlier, if you are someone who's tried before, and you have felt shame or condemnation because you could not finish what you started. Let me tell you something, a righteous man falls seven times it gets back up. Get back up.

I tell you this too, if you fall, fall forward, okay, just don't lose progress. Just get up again, and keep going. You can do it. The Holy Spirit is there to help you. I'm here to help you. And I believe that God wants you to live your life and finish. Strong, live long and live strong in Jesus' name.

Gary: In Jesus' name. Amen. Thank you so much. Appreciate you being with us today. It was brilliant. I loved every minute of it [crosstalk] for people to hear this.

Laura: Thank you, Gary.

Gary: God bless.

Key Questions from the Podcast 

  • How important is sleep to our physical, emotional and spiritual health?
  • Will poor nutrition negatively affect our sleep?
  • Is poor nutrition a problem in the church?
  • What are the things that keep people stuck in bad eating habits?
  • How can we move toward making healthy choices?

Notable Quotes from the Podcast

Sleep doctors could put all the other doctors out of business. If we get our sleep right, we will be healthy people. Those eight hours that God gave us at night, and him even creating the moon and the stars, that's not an afterthought. That's a sacred time. He not only wants us to rest, he wants us to heal during that time. – Laura Harris Smith

A dove, which is a symbol of the Holy Spirit, has nine grooves in each wing. If you only have the gifts of the Spirit and you're not exercising the character of God, or if you only have love, peace, joy and all the fruit of the Spirit but you don't believe in miracles or healings or faith or prophecy you're a one-wing dove. You're going to be flying around in circles. – Laura Harris Smith

I might add one, and you probably would as well, that’s getting rid of shame in our life. A lot of people either overeat or have poor eating habits because there's such shame. Even sometimes trying a new diet or something and then they fail, and they feel more ashamed. – Gary Wilkerson

Resources Mentioned in the Podcast

About Laura Harris Smith

Laura Harris Smith is a Certified Nutritional Counselor with a master’s degree in Original Medicine. But before all of that she was just a farmer's daughter with a love for colorful food and a pastor's granddaughter with a heart to see others prosper spiritually. The best-selling author and her husband, Chris, are the founding co-pastors of Eastgate Creative Christian Fellowship in Nashville, Tennessee, where they specialize in helping people get healthy—body, mind and spirit—believing it is the only path to wholeness.

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About Gary Wilkerson

Gary Wilkerson is the President of World Challenge, an international mission organization that was founded by his father, David Wilkerson. He is also the Founding Pastor of The Springs Church, which he launched in 2009 with a handful of people. He has traveled nationally and internationally at conferences and conducted mission ventures such as church planting, starting orphanages, clinics, feeding programs among the poorest of the poor and the most unreached people of the earth. Gary and his wife Kelly have four children and live in Colorado Springs, CO.

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