Aging

“The Lord is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate … for He knows how weak we are; He remembers we are only dust.” Psalm 103:13-14 (NLT)

Lately I’ve become aware of the effects of aging. Some personally, some within my family, some in other people’s families. But with aging, there seems to come a number of issues that involve our bodies (& sometimes our minds). Our bodies begin to age and weaken and become increasingly susceptible.

So how are we to treat our aging bodies?

The answer might sound familiar: the same way Jesus would. We should treat our aging bodies the same way Jesus would treat our aging bodies — with love, tenderness, compassion & understanding.

God’s mercies are new every day … & so should ours be … even to ourselves.

Instead of comparing yourself to what you used to be able to do (5, 10, 20 years ago!?), assess who and where you are today & start from there.  If you used to bench-press 80 pounds and can only bench-press 20 today, so what!? Bench-press the 20 today! (Or maybe even 10 until you really know you have the muscle stamina.)

Our bodies are not machines.  They are delicate pieces of craftsmanship created by God. Think of them as Stradivarius violins:  of great worth, able to pay beautiful music … but you must learn how to play & care for it properly.

And if you are aging, think of yourself a an aging Stradivarius violin: still of great worth & still able to play beautiful music … and needing a bit more tender-loving care.

Into the Light

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done.”  Philippians 4:6 (NLT)

Have you ever noticed that when you get hurt or injured, one of the first things you do is bring your hurt part into the light to get a better look at it? Or if your kids get hurt, the first thing we often say is “come here, so I can take a look.” And the second thing (for me anyway) is “let’s move over here where the light is better so that I can see it more clearly.” When we or someone we love are physically hurt, we automatically want to look at the problem area in the light. Why? Because it is hard to see the problem clearly when we look at it in the dark.

And so maybe we should look at all our problems in the light.

Maybe we should bring every hurt, injury and problem we have into the Light so that we can see it more clearly from God’s point of view. Maybe that Paul means in his letter to the church in Philippi. Whatever problems, struggles, hurts or difficulties we may encounter, we will always see them more clearly for what they are (and are not) if we look at them in the Light of God’s Presence. And in the Light of God’s Presence, we can see from a vantage point that is far beyond our own.  In His Light, we can see from a perspective that is much broader and all-encompassing than our own.

 

It is this kind of perspective (or the lack thereof) that is part of the problem with the healthcare system in the U.S.  Every doctor sees only their part.  No one seems able to look at or treat the whole. No one has a perspective broader than their own. (And too few bring things into the perspective and Light of the Lord!)

Sh’maFit is on a journey to offer a health & fitness alternative that takes the broader view, that looks at the whole person, and that brings the whole person into the Light of God’s Presence.

What God has already done will astound you.  If you would like to explore joining our adventure, email shemafit@gmail.com.

Training Ground

The Lord is my strength and shield.  I trust Him with all my heart.  He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy.  I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.” Psalm 28:7 (NLT)

Hard times are training opportunities.  Think of Joseph, who was sold into slavery by his brothers, taken to another country, imprisoned etc. (See Genesis 37 ff).   What others intended for evil in his life, God used and intended for good.  (Genesis 50:20)  God used seemingly disastrous events to train, prepare, and place Joseph in the right place at the right time for the right reasons.  We all know the story … but when it happens to us, we have the chance to learn it for real and anew.

Challenging times are the perfect time to become acutely aware of and to grow our dependence on Him.  As one author says:  “Challenging times wake you up and amplify your awareness of needing My help.” Challenging times forge our character.  They also prepare the way to God to reveal His glory in greater ways.

So I’m in training (as are a few other sojourners with me).  And I embrace it.  I want to know deep dependence on God.  I want to trust in Him alone to save me.  I want to see His glory revealed in my life like I have never seen it before.  And so I train — listening, watching, waiting, working, responding, obeying, trusting, and moving in faith.

The Lord is the strength of my life!  Not anyone or anything else.  The Lord God Almighty is my strength and my song!  And with Him, I am victorious.  No matter what.

Training ground is holy ground … when we have Him to train us!

Forgetting

“Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 3:13b-14 (NIV)

I love this verse. It’s one of my life verses. God so often speaks to me through it. And today is no different.

Today, He speaks about forgetting.

Forgetting the past. Forgetting what is behind.

I don’t think God means for us to totally forget.  At least, I don’t think He wants us to forget in the sense of losing the lesson. Our mistakes, after all, always hold potent lessons for us … and I think God wants us to remember and to learn the lessons our past can teach us. But He does want us to let them go. To bury them in the sea of His mercy. To let Jesus wash them away, as far as the east is from the west.

Competitive athletes learn to do this well. Competitive athletes learn to let go of mistakes so that they can focus on the present. Competitive athletes cannot perform well in the current play, for example, while still beating themselves up for the error they made in the prior play.  They have to learn quickly how to let it go — yet learning from it — and move onto the next play.

Or so I’m told. Not being a competitive athlete myself, I am told that’s how it is.  Personally, I have learned this lesson at a much later stage in life, and I’ve learned it best through yoga. Learning to be present and stay present in the current posture; letting go of the prior posture (whether I did it well or poorly) and staying present in the current one. Whether proud or regretful of the past, I am learning to let it go.  And to stay present with God in today’s moments.

So may we learn to forget as a competitive athlete.  Holding onto the lessons, releasing the rest into the sea of God’s mercy. Washed away by the blood of Jesus.  And pressing on toward what God has called us to do and to be.

Because of all He has done …

“And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all He has done for you.  Let them be a living and holy sacrifice — the kind He will find acceptable.  This is truly the way to worship Him.”  Romans 12:1 (NLT)

“Offering our bodies to God” is something we don’t talk much about.  We talk a lot about offering our hearts, or our souls, or even our minds.  But our bodies?  It is so foreign to our thinking that it even sounds funny.

But God wants it.  He wants all of us.

And just in case you might think that the word for “body” might, in its original language, mean something broader than our physical body — it doesn’t.  I checked.  The original word is soma, and it means, precisely in fact, the physical body, the flesh.  (In later years, it also took on the meaning of the body of Christ, but again, in the very physical sense of Jesus’ followers being the tangible extension of Jesus on earth.)

God wants you.  He wants your physical body — your flesh — too.  Will you give it to Him?  Will you make it holy and acceptable for Him?

I was reading in Jesus Calling the other day, and it said: “The free will I bestowed on you comes with awesome responsibility.  Each day presents you with choice after choice.  Many of these decisions you ignore and thus make by default.”  (Jesus Calling, September 18)  In other words, God allows me to make innumerable choices each day; many of those opportunities I am not recognizing as such and therefore am not making the choices I should.  I am giving away my choice to habit or thoughtlessness or other people (or worse).

And for so many of us, the body suffers as a result.  The choices we make (or don’t make) about what we are going to feed our bodies … the choices we make (or don’t make) about exercising and strengthening our bodies … the choices we make (or don’t make) about caring for and sanctifying our bodies.  The many choices we don’t make that make our bodies unhealthy, undignified and unglorified.  We, as a church, have forgotten to give our bodies to God.  We, ironically called the body of Christ, have forgotten to make our bodies holy and acceptable to Him.

“Every day presents you with choice after choice.”  So be careful then, how you live … making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.  (Ephesians 5:15-16).

By the mercies of God, I urge you to offer your bodies to God …

This is your true and proper worship.

Personal Training

“O Lord, you examine me and know ….”  Psalm 139:1 (NET)

Have you ever worked with a personal trainer?  Someone who helps you customize your workouts to your specific lifestyle, tendencies and goal?  If you get a good personal trainer and follow the program, you can see great results.

A good personal trainer will study you.  They will learn your workout history, and they will learn about your injury history.  They will study how your body adapts to training.  They will discover how easily you build muscle, burn fat, grow in endurance, etc.  They will see where your muscles are tight and where they are loose.  They will help you discover where you are imbalanced and what needs to be corrected.  They will also reveal your strengths and show you how to capitalize on those in beneficial and limiting ways.  A good personal trainer get to know the uniqueness of you so that he/she can help you get closer to your goals.

Said differently, a good personal trainer knows your story.

I have heard it said that, in Eastern thought, it is easier to experience God as an all-forgiving God.  You see, in the West, we tend to feel condemnation when we think of God as an all-knowing God.  If God is omniscient, to us in the West, that means He knows all of my flaws, faults and mistakes.  And that is true.  But to a more Eastern-mindset, the fact that God is omniscient means that He knows my story.  It means He understands me.  The fact that He is all knowing means, in fact, that He knows all about me.  He knows why I struggle with the things I struggle with.  He understands what brought me to that place.  He sees it all.  He knows why certain things hurt me the way that they do, because He saw it all.  He walked through it with me.  He already knows my underbelly, and He loves me anyway.  He always has.

The truth is that because He is omniscient — because He knows everything about me and my story — He can sympathize and understand and love me no matter what.  It is because He knows your story, because He understands you in detail, that He pursues you relentlessly and knows precisely how to restore and renew you.

The best personal trainer?  Jesus.  Simply Jesus.  Omniscient, omnipotent Jesus.

Cramping Up

“So Jacob named the place Peniel (which means ‘face of God’), explaining, ‘Certainly I have seen God face to face and have survived’ … but he was limping because of his hip.”  Genesis 32:30b-31 (NET & NLT)

I went for a run today. Part of the way through, my left calf started to cramp up. Dehydrated? Maybe.  Still recovering from a prior workout? Probably.  Should I slow down our walk it out a bit?  But if I constantly accommodate for every ache and pain, I’ll never getting stronger.  Should I push through it?  But what if it’s really injured, or if I end up really injuring it?  Then I’ll be out of commission for a longer period of time.

The Christian journey can be like that, can’t it?  How are we to interpret events or circumstances that come our way?  Is God telling me to slow down or change directions?  Should I read the circumstances as a cautionary flag?  Or maybe he is trying to build perseverance and endurance in my character?  Maybe I need to look to Him for strength to push through?  How do I know how to respond or react?

I ask Him.

I ask the God who knows every cell of my frame & who loves me beyond my wild imaginings.  I ask Him what I am to do.

Sometimes He tells me.  Other times I have to try, in faith, what seems to be good and true.  Sometimes His answer is in accordance with conventional wisdom and knowledge.  Other times, it is completely counterintuitive. Sometimes I never really know.

And sometimes it is simply because He wants me to walk with a limp — for reasons of His own.

And I trust Him.

Thirst

“I lift my hands to you in prayer.  I thirst for You as parched land thirsts for rain.”  Psalm 143:6 (NLT)
Water is an amazing thing.  An adult human is made up of at least 60% water, and every living cell in the human body needs water to keep functioning.  Without water, a person can only survive a few days.

Have you ever been thirsty?  I mean really thirsty?  Perhaps you’ve gone on a major hike or attended a spin class without your water bottle?  Or maybe you have run a long race and, after passing up one water station, eagerly anticipated the next one?  Or maybe you’ve been dehydrated while sick, with your tongue stuck to the roof of your mouth (that feels more like a cotton field)?

Or maybe you’ve seen an animal or a person who has been deprived of water for such a long time that they need that water like it’s their last breath?

Sometimes we need God like that.

Actually, we need God like that all the time … but we don’t feel the need for Him that acutely all the time.  (Kind of like with water ….)  At least that’s how it is with me.

But the older I get and the longer I go on this journey, the more I learn that it is God I truly thirst for.  From time to time, I turn other things that appear to offer refreshment or replenishment.  But it’s a mirage.  And I get frustrated, hurt and disappointed.  And, every time, I am reminded that it is only God that can satisfy my thirst.

To find my refreshment from God Himself — that is my true heart’s desire.  To thirst for Him — the God of heaven and earth — as a parched land thirsts for rain.  And to thirst for Him all the time.

So I have placed Psalm 143:6 and Psalm 42:2 around some of the major water sources in my home.  Particularly by the fridge in my gym.  Because I want to be reminded, especially in those moments when I am hot and tired and recognize my thirst, that it is God for whom I really thirst.

Whisper

“‘Go out and stand before  Me on the mountain,’ the Lord told him.  And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain.  It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind.  After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.  And after the earthquake there was a  fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire was the sound of a gentle whisper. ” 1 Kings 19:11-12 (NLT)

Much bravado is sometimes just that — much bravado.  A lot of wind, a lot of noise, a lot of disruption, but little real meaning and value.  The Lord is not in it.  Whether it’s bravado in words or gestures or even action, bravado is often a cover for little real substance.  The Lord is not in it.

The Lord desires for us to move past the bravado in all things.  The Lord speaks most often in a whisper.  Will you wait for it?

Life change rarely occurs with bravado.  It occurs instead with steady, quiet determination.  It’s not the person who makes the giant New Years Resolution or buys all the hottest & latest equipment that changes his life.  It’s the person who shows up at the gym everyday and gives what she has that day, & then shows up again tomorrow.  It’s the person who sees and celebrates his own small victories, changing even his internal dialogue.  It’s the person who sees past the bravado and listens for the whisper … and keeps listening for the whisper … the whisper of God drawing closer and deeper and more completely.

Exercise is my inner sanctuary, where I listen for the whisper of God.  His Spirit, my breath.  His voice, my hands.  His strength, my movement.  It’s where all the outer noise begins to dissipate, and I can focus better on the whisper.

The Lord desires for us to move past the bravado in all things.  The Lord speaks most often in a whisper.  Will you wait for it?

Flesh

“And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us ….”  John 1:14a (KJV)

In Christian parlance, the word “flesh” has gotten a bad rap.  Most Christians associate “the flesh” with things sinful or evil or tempting.  But the word used for “flesh” in the Bible actually carries no such connotation.

The Greek word “sarx” simply means “flesh” — skin, meat, bones — whether of men, beasts, fish or birds.  It has neither a good or a bad association with it.  The New Living Translation of the Bible does a better job of keeping the word neutral, in its original sense.

So why & how did “flesh” get such a bad rap?  That’s a long and complicated story, but for now, may God encourage you & renew your mind about how you think about your flesh.

Your flesh was created by God and given to you.  It is a gift.  It has amazing potential for good and for beauty and for reflecting God’s glory.  Your flesh is an integral  part of how God made you.  And He does not ask you to divide yourself against yourself.  In God’s kingdom, there is no separation between the sacred and the secular.  God wants all of you.

Can the flesh do bad things?  Yes.  And so can the mind.  And so can the spirit.  It’s what we do or don’t do with our flesh that constitutes something good or something evil.  The flesh itself is not evil.

After all, the Word became flesh.  God Himself incarnate in the flesh …

… and He did something wonderful with His.  Will you?

Journey On

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with My loving eye on you.  Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come with you.”  Psalm 32:9 (NIV)

This past Spring, I had the opportunity to talk with middle schoolers about what it means to be fearfully and wonderfully made by God, and how to live in the reality that each of us are God’s masterpieces. And as I continue to sit in this vein of Truth, God continues to speak.

There is only one “me” in the universe, and there will only ever be one “me” … and there will only ever be one “you.” Just as no thumbprint or no snowflake is exactly alike, there will never be someone just like you. Only you. Only me.

And because of that (and other factors), there will only be one journey like mine. I have a unique journey, and God wants to walk my journey with me. He cannot walk my journey with anyone else, because my journey is the only one like it. “I cannot walk this journey with anyone else,” God said to me yesterday. “This journey is just ours, and I want to walk it with you.”

This journey —  your journey —  we get to co-create together,” He continued. “You and Me. We create this together, because I have allowed you to co-create your journey with Me.” And as I reflected, I knew it was true — not only in the realm of life-choices and decisions, but even in a much more minute, existential way — the food I eat, the structure and composition of my body through exercise, etc.  (See, Quantum Physics (5/19/16 entry) & The Body is More (1/28/16 entry) for more).

As I looked at the path behind me, I could see many places where God was evident and others where He was more hidden, yet still present; I could also see the impact of many of my own decisions — both good and bad.  As I looked ahead to the path yet trodden, a sense of eagerness and anxiety arose in my stomach.

Looking ahead to the yet-created part of my journey, I knew that God was inviting me to co-create the journey in an even more intentional way.  In a deeper, richer, all-encompassing way.  Yes, in the macro — in the life-choices and decisions … but also in the micro — how I live and breathe and eat and move and grow.

God, in His glory, grants us the power to co-create ourselves and our journeys with Him — whether we know it or not.  Whether we choose to embrace it or not, He has given us the power to co-create our journeys, and we exercise that power every day.

Exercise it wisely and intentionally.

Exercise it in the macro and the micro.

Embrace your God-given creative power.

And do it with Him.

Every day.  Every moment.  Every breath.

Quatum Physics

“For in Him we live and move and have our being.”  Acts 17:28a (NIV)

I never studied quantum physics in school, but I am starting to… despite its intimidating aura.  And as I wade into this vast topic, I am learning that there are some basic principles that underlie all of quantum physics.  The first is this (in laymen’s terms):  everything in the universe has both a particle nature and a wave nature.  Said differently, everything in the universe has a static nature and a moving nature; everything has a form and an energy.  In this sense, God created everything as an oxymoron — everything has two truths about it that seem not to go together.  Isn’t God cool!?

As I reflect upon this, it immediately strikes me that we, too, were made according to this principle.  We have both a particle/static nature or form … and a wave/energy nature or form.  We have body and soul.  God made us that way.  Even quantum physics would agree.

And yet, the Western church at large generally ignores one part of how God made us.  In my experience, the church tells me that only my soul matters to God & that I should focus all I can on developing my soul.  I wonder what God thinks about our neglect (or abuse) of our particle nature?

Add to that the truth that God allows us to be co-creators with Him.  On the macro-level (as in the course of our life choices) — yes, we partner with Him.  But also on the micro-level (which is what quantum physics addresses), we partner with Him too.

Take, for a given, that God holds each of us & our atoms together as a whole (which I increasingly believe, because neither quantum physics nor any other  scientific approach can fully explain how I am held together, yet separate and apart from you or from this computer or anything else).  As God literally holds my very being together, He also allows me to partner with Him in my very existence.    Because every cell in my body is going through its own life-cycle (e.g., dying, reconstituting, generating or regenerating), whatever I ingest are the building blocks for my ongoing constitution.  God is partnering with me even in what He holds as my physical form.  What I eat and drink comprise my constitution; if and how I exercise affects my constitution, makeup, metabolism and potential.  The “me” that God is holding together on a moment by moment basis is greatly influenced by what I contribute.

Given that we very literally live and breathe and have our being in God … because God very literally holds us and our particles together … our daily participation in the co-creation of our own life is a sacred activity.  I believe God thinks so too.

Spiritual Obesity

“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourself.  Do what it says.”  James 1:22 (NIV)

Obesity continues to be a growing epidemic in the US. That’s no news flash. But for clarity’s sake, here are a few recent statistics: the US’s obesity rate continues to rise with a recent study finding 35% of adults obese (& another 34% overweight) and 17% of children obese (& another 15% overweight). And childhood obesity is a devastating phenomenon. Not only are we raising an overweight/obese generation, but we are also raising a “physically illiterate” generation. This means that the upcoming generation is beginning to lack the fundamental movement skills, confidence & desire necessary for physical activity … & this leads to a chain of inactivity that has life-long consequences. (E.g., if a child does not learn fundamental movement skills in the first 5 years of life, this child will have poor motor skills and coordination in elementary school, less movement confidence in the tween years, etc.). Add to that the amount of sedentary time our kids have (a 2010 study found that the typical American kid spends 7 hours per day in front of a screen), and we have a growing problem. The reality of he movie “Wall-e” is not far behind.

We are already experiencing the monetary drain that obesity and poor health has on our country. And we are just beginning to discover the many social and psychological distresses that obesity causes (depression, anxiety, decreased productivity, etc.). I am certain, too, that obesity also has spiritual side effects. God created us as integrated beings, and the decline of one aspect of our beings inevitably effects the others.

That being said, we are arguably a “spiritually obese” people too. As consumers focused more on consumption than production or distribution, we list this way in our spiritual lives as well.

If obesity occurs (in otherwise healthy & balanced people) primarily by consuming more calories/energy than one expends, spiritual obesity occurs by consuming more spiritual information than one puts into practice.  In both instances, it is more input than output.  Does God want us to read the Bible, go to church, consume Christian literature and participate in Christian activities? Sure. But He wants us to do those things SO THAT they change us. He wants us to take the input SO THAT it produces output. We are intended to be His hands and feet. Just as He made food for our physical bodies to consume and use for energy, movement and output … He gives us spiritual food for us to consume and use … not just for consumption purposes … but to change us so that He can use us to change the world. The amount of spiritual consumption that I and the others around me have consumed is to the proportion that world-wide revival should have happened years ago. But it hasn’t. Instead, many of us have consumed for consumption sake, and we are spiritually obese.

So my prayers are changing. For myself and for others. Obesity, in general, means there has been more consumption than necessary. It doesn’t matter whether it is food consumption, spiritual consumption or whatever. Perhaps we should focus on consuming only consume what is profitable for us. More isn’t always better. I only need more input once I’ve used the input I have already received.

For me, I’m fairly trained in eating what my body needs and in using what food energy I consume each day … But I cannot say that my spiritual consumption has the same exchange rate. So my prayers are changing. Prayers that I become increasingly effective at using all the spiritual input in my life. May I begin to see spiritual input as something that is meant for me to use, not just consume. May I grow in the self-control to first use what He has revealed to me before I keep asking for more and more revelations. May we not just be hearers of the Word, but doers also. May we curb the obesity epidemic in our lives, Lord, in all areas.

Navigating

“A wise child brings joy to a father; a foolish child brings grief to a mother.”  Proverbs 10:1 (NLT)

 No one wants to be a fool … but sometimes we do foolish things.  At least I do.  Do something foolish once?  Let me learn from it.  Let it make me better.  Fortunately, I have a Savior that covers me and my foolish choices.  But to continue in a pattern of foolish choices?  Well, then, perhaps the shoe fits … and I should wear it.

But we never want to admit this, do we?  We always have excuses and justifications for the choices that we make.  And yet, objectively, we make foolish choices all the time.

Take, for example, choices I see (and sometimes make) in the fitness arena:  you don’t want to miss your workout, so you workout anyway even though you are sick or injured.  Or this one: you don’t have time to work out regularly, so you work out extra hard when you do make it to the gym.  Neither one of those choices is very wise, but sometimes we choose one “offense” to avoid another one.   And sometimes the other offense is actually worse than the first.

This happens in other areas of life too.  We forego the piece of cake, then end up eating a bag of chips later.  We don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings, so we speak untruths.  We tend to our children’s needs and, in doing so, overlook our spouses’.  We strive to be true to someone else, so we end up lying to ourselves and living in untruth.

The ways of wisdom are hard to navigate sometimes.  It’s hard sometimes to determine better from best … or to decide which is the lesser of two evils … or to take the time and have the vulnerability to open up to a third possibility.  No one wants to be a fool, but finding the way of wisdom can be challenging sometimes.  Sometimes the best choice is different than it first appears.

I pray that I might always learn from my mistakes and foolish choices and sin.  But more than that, I pray that I might learn the ways of wisdom.  To honor God.  To be true to others and to myself.  To serve everyone I can in the proper order of service.  To always speak the truth in love.

And sometimes, to eat the dang piece of cake!

 

The Choice

“Yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation!”  Habakkuk 3:18 (ESV)

My right knee has been bothering me off and on for some time. Apparently I have some arthritis in it & who knows what else. The past week or so, however, it has brought me quite a bit of consistent pain.

Pain sucks. Pain can be debilitating. It can get me down physically and emotionally. It can cloud out just about everything else. Pain can be like that …

If I let it.

And it can be tempting sometimes to let it. It can be tempting to let pain engulf me and trap me and consume my thoughts and focus.  But Habakkuk teaches me “no.” Habakkuk teaches me that even in the midst of pain — even a lot of pain — I can rejoice in th Lord.  Habakkuk teaches me that, without denying the reality of pain, I still have a choice.  I can choose to succumb to pain, or I can choose to take joy in the God of my salvation nevertheless.  I can choose still to rejoice.

Pain cannot take away the choice.  Pain, in fact, presents the choice.

And so I choose not to focus on the knee that hurts (even though it still hurts, sometimes a lot). I still have many, many other body parts that work well! I am choosing today not to focus on all the things I cannot do with a hurt knee … but to focus on finding out what I can still do, even with a hurt knee.

Pain will not win. I may need to adapt … but pain will not win. I will rejoice in the Lord. I will take joy in the God of my salvation!

I will.

That is my choice.  What is yours?

Lent

“My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.”  2 Corinthians 12:9 (NIV)

Today is Ash Wednesday. The beginning of Lent. The day when a lot of people choose to “give up” something for the Lenten season.

What’s interesting to me is that most people, including myself, usually give up something that they know is bad for them. Something that has begun to have too much power and sway. Whether it’s coffee or chocolate, t.v. or technology, alcohol or annoying habits — we choose to give up (at least for the season) some behavior that has destructive power.

What’s also interesting to me is that a vast majority of the things “given up” have to do with the body. Not all, but the vast majority of the things “given up” for Lent have to do with how we are mistreating or not-honoring our bodies. Whether it is something we keep ingesting (as in food or drink), or something that keeps us stuck in unhealthy patterns (e.g. keeping us sedentary or compromised) … we tend to release things that hinder the potential of this gift of body.

This is interesting to me because it means that somewhere, deep down, we know that this body of ours — this one body we have been given — IS a gift from God that needs to be honored and cherished. Deep down, we know that it deserves better. Deep down, we know that God has given us something spectacular — that we are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14) — and that we are not honoring the gift as we should.

And if we are not honoring the gift properly, we aren’t really honoring the Giver properly either.

Which leads to the second reason I find our Lenten habits interesting. When Jesus spent His 40 days fasting in the wilderness, it wasn’t to give up something that He was doing that He knew was bad for Himself. It was to prove His dependence on God alone. It was to prove that God alone was sufficient. Jesus didn’t need to look to anyone or anything else but to God alone. Even Satan didn’t have anything to offer Him that was better than what God had to offer!  (See e.g. Luke 4:1-13).  Jesus fasted in the wilderness because God alone was enough.

So when we choose today what to “give up,” may we choose not only to honor the gift by giving up something that harms it … but may honor the Giver by replacing it with the all-sufficiency of God.  May we honor the gift and the Giver by trusting in His provision and power alone.

Strength-Training

“The Lord strengthen and protects me; I trust in Him with all my heart.”  Psalm 28:7a (NET)

“Will you trust Me in the shadow as well as in the sun?'” God said to me. “Do you not yet know that inner strength comes in and through the struggle?”

Strength comes through the struggle.

Yes, it does. And the same is true for strength-training. In order for our muscles to grow stronger, they need to be progressively overloaded. In other words … to get stronger, muscles need to be systematically and repetitively loaded beyond the point at which the muscle is normally loaded. Plain English? A muscle needs to repeatedly work against resistance to a point of fatigue. Then the muscle repairs and grows.

This is how God made us. As we struggle to lift a heavier weight, our muscle is growing stronger.  It is one of His principles in this world.  And when we struggle to get through trying times, we get stronger in spirit too.  (See also “Growing Stronger” post (8/10/15) and “Growth” post (6/24/14)).

So every time I weight-train these days, I think about growing stronger. I think about all of me growing stronger.  Because, rest assured, the thought and intention I put into my weight-lifting routine is nothing compared to the thought and care God puts into the “shadows” He allows me to go through.

“Will you trust Me in the shadows as well as in the sun?” He asks.

Yes, I will Lord.

And with You by my side, I trust that I can and will come out stronger on the other side.

The Body is More

For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.”  Luke 12:23 (NLT)

Our memories are not just stored in our minds. I know it sounds hard to believe, and sometimes we wish it was that simple. If it were, we could simple blocks things out of our minds, or we could ask God to wash our minds clean and memories would be gone. But it isn’t that simple. God made us as integrated beings, and as such, our memories are not just stored in our minds. Our memories are also stored in our bodies.

That’s why, for one thing, a certain touch or movement can bring back a wave of emotion or thought. It happened to me in yoga today; the movement of my body released a memory and the feelings attached. And this is just one example of how memories are stored.

Scripture has told us all along that our bodies are more than food and clothing. Our bodies carry the very essence of who we are, of who we have been, and of who we will and can be. Our bodies are vessels of more than just the ornamentation we put on the outside. Our bodies carry not only our stature and our presence, but also our memories and dreams and fears.

And God — the One who holds us — does too. In the 56th Psalm, it says that God keeps track of all my sorrows. “You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.” Psalm 56:8 (NLT)

Isn’t that beautiful!?  God, who carries me and my body and life, also carries my memories, sorrows and tears. And He treats them with tender, loving care.

Shouldn’t we?

Your body is more than clothing. It carries much, much more. And it is worthy of the very same tender, loving care that the Father gives.

Christ Alone


“This Jesus is ‘the stone that was rejected by’ you, ‘the builders, that has become the cornerstone.’  And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among people by which we must be saved.”  Acts 4:11 (NET)

I am not a yogi.  But I do practice yoga.  Once a week, on average.  Yoga is great for my body, but it also teaches my mind and my spirit things.  One of the things it is teaching me is to let go of self.  Because sometimes I make mistakes in my yoga practice.  Sometimes I have an off-day, for example, and I have trouble finding my focus and my balancing series suffers.  On those days, I have a choice:  to get frustrated and upset with myself or to let it go.  To accept my frailty and imperfection, learn from it, and let it go.  Or to beat myself up and continue in the falsity that I can do all of it right.  Because I cannot focus on this posture if I’m still beating myself up over the last one.

And so it is with the rest of life.  I make mistakes.  Sometimes big ones.  I make mistakes and I fall down and I sin.  At that point, I have a choice:  to beat myself up because I am “better” than that (Ha!) … or to accept my fallenness, turn to the love and grace of Jesus, let it wash me clean, and move on.  You see, even self-flagellation about mistakes and sins and missteps is an exercise of self.  Yoga reminds me  to see my mistakes — to accept them and learn from them — to bury them in Jesus’ wounds — and to move on with deep, deep gratitude.  Deep, deep gratitude, profound humility, and exorbitant praise.

You see, the God of the cross is not a God who then demands perfection.  He knows me better than that.  He is a God who loves me, who knows all about me, who knows my story, and loves me anyway.  He loves me enough to provide me with a  way out of my mess.  He loves me enough to give me Jesus.  And Jesus gives me the chance not to rely on myself, but to rely on Him.

And so, as I rely on Jesus — on Christ alone — I am choosing to let it go.  Not to reside in the past, but to pursue God and focus on Him more and more in each present moment.

Abundance

I have come so that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” John 10:10b (NET)

(Dedicated to Kim)

I spent the first part of the Christmas holiday sick. Just a winter cold, but still sick. And I struggled to get past the sickness of my body to let my mind and spirit relish in the joy of Christmas, As I struggled, I was reminded of what another Christian theologian once wrote: “Sickness makes it impossible to avoid the reality of our bodies. When I am sick, I am not a mind (or soul) with a suffering body; I am the suffering body.”

And then I learned that my dear friend Kim is battling breast cancer. As I listened to Kim and her process, I was again clearly reminded that God made us as integrated wholes. Kim’s battle is much more than a physical battle in her body; it is a battle in her body, mind and spirit. It is a battle that involves all of her.

God Himself is triune — three parts in one indivisible whole. And He made us in His image. Yet many Christians have come to believe that we have bodies … not that we are, at least in part, bodies. But there are times, like when we are sick, when we are reminded that we are integrated bodies. God made us that way. The health of one aspect of myself affects the other aspects of myself. The health of my body affects my mind and spirit. The health of my mind affects my body and spirit (as seen, for example, in people with brain damage.). And the health of my spirit affects my mind and body. An integrated whole.

In the miracle of Christmas, Jesus came to give us life in all of its abundance. And, given the way God made us, I firmly believe that abundant life has to include all aspects of how God made us. Abundant mind, body and spirit.

So as I prepare to have my friend Kim over for dinner tonight, I am hoping to encourage and lift her up in mind and spirit … knowing and trusting that the health of her mind and spirit will help to foster abundance in her body.

And as I prepare for a new year, I ponder anew where God wants to see greater abundance in me.