In Faith and In Hope

“I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength ….”. Philippians 4:13 (NIV)

Philippians 4:13 is a great verse to toss around in the Faith & Fitness arena. It’s motivating, inspiring & grounding … and it reminds us of why and for Whom we do what we do.

But have you ever been at a point in your journey when you are not sure you can go on. Have you ever been in places or circumstances that are so oppressive that you aren’t sure you have the strength to continue?

I was serving with my kids the other day at Feed My Staring Children — an amazing non-profit that feeds the innumerable kids who are otherwise starving to death around the world. And on the wall was a Philippians 4:13 sign made by the hands of some of these children. And I wondered: can I do all things through Christ & His power? Can I really? Could I really … if I were one of these children?

The past year or so, for me, has been one of the best AND one of the hardest yet. There have been moments when I have wondered how this Philippians-4:13-thing is supposed to work. When I get to the end of myself and am so exhausted and empty and have absolutely nothing left to give. When I want to say “I can do everything through Jesus’ strength” … yet I cannot. And I am reminded of those kids and that sign. And I cry.

So I bought the sign. It is not a slogan or a feel-good verse. It is gut-wrenchingly painful sometimes.

But I bought it to remind me that if they can, I can. I can get up the next morning in faith and in hope that only Christ can give … and I do my best. And trust God for the rest.

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Shining

Your face, Lord, I will seek.”  Psalm 27:8b (NIV)

One of my favorite things to do when working with clients, is to help them remember why we do the things that we do.  It’s so rewarding to bring people back to the fount of their motivation & their heart’s desire.  It’s also such an honor to be able to help people shape their motivating force.  To point them to Jesus, and encourage them to seek His face.

Because in the exercise and fitness world, God’s face isn’t always so obvious. People exercise and work out for many reasons, some of which revolve around vanity and other worldly pursuits.

But we exercise to honor God.  We exercise to thank God for the bodies He has given us and to steward them well. And while we work out, we seek His face.

Seeking God’s face is wholly different than seeking God’s hand.  Seeking God’s hand is easy. We do it all the time. We ask for His helping hand, His wisdom, His strength — we ask for His intercession on our behalf. But when we seek His face, we seek simply to be in His presence. We seek to see Him more clearly as He is, and to absorb more of Him.  That’s all.

When I go to the gym, I am submitting my body to the work it needs.  But when I go, I also submit the rest of me to the Lord — to seek His face, to hear His voice, to gaze at the only One who can really heal & change & grow me.

And I trust that … just as Moses’ face shown brightly after he met with the Lord on Mount Sinai (see Exodus 34:29) … all of me might shine a little brighter for His glory with my workout is done.

Food-session 3

So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’  These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your Heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness above all else, and He will give you everything you need.”  Matthew 6:31-33 (NLT)

“What should I eat?”  A question I hear over & over again — from friends, clients, coworkers, family members, etc.  Our culture has us obsessed with food. Even health-conscious people are obsessed with food. Sometimes especially health-conscious people are obsessed with food.  Paleo, gluten-free, vegan, GMO, low-carb, hi-protein, alkaline, acidic and on and on — the number of diets & meal-plans & recommendations are endless!  It is overwhelming and obsessive!!!

Should we be conscious of what we put into our bodies?  Yes. But we should not be obsessed with it.  Should we try to take care of the bodies God has given us and feed them good things?  Yes … but we should not be consumed by it.  We should be obsessed and consumed with only one thing — God.

For we cannot serve two masters ….

The consumer-packaged food business sometimes makes me laugh.  Do we really think that we can make food that is better for us than God did/does!?  (This takes us to a discussion about supplements and soil depletion … but let’s table that discussion for now.)

Eat what God made for you. Eat what God has provided for you:  food!  Real food!  Ignore the vast majority of what the culture is telling you about food. You will only become obsessed with it.  Instead, be obsessed with God — the living God — and eat what God gives us to eat: real food.  Natural, from the earth, from God’s creation food.

Health

“Dear friend, I am praying that all is well with you and that your body is as healthy as I know your soul is.”  3 John 2 (NLT)

I don’t know anyone who doesn’t wish for good health — for themselves and for the ones they love.  A body that works well, that functions and moves as it should, that is not plagued by illness and disease.  I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t long for that.

And yet, I have met many people who are not willing to do what is required to be healthy.

Granted, we live in a world that is working against us.  Especially in America, we live with endless obstacles of GMO’s, processed foods, “modern conveniences” that keep us from walking or working or moving, largely sedentary jobs, and much, much more.

But we still have choice.  We still have choices about what we do with our spare time, what we put into our mouths and what we prioritize.  Culture can flood the market with as many unhealthy options as it chooses, but it cannot take away our choice.

Just like God never takes away our choice.  God wants us to love Him and follow His ways, but He does not force us to.  He allows us to choose.  He allows us to choose who and what we serve.  He allows us choice … because He knows that our choices will reveal our true desires.

So it really comes back to us.  Do we truly want to have good health?  Enough to do what is required?

Enough to eat less junk food?

Enough to eat more vegetables?

Enough to move your body every day?

Enough to listen to and attend to the needs of your body?

Enough to listen to Him?  So that He can heal us?  So that He can heal us and bring us to health?

He can, you know.  It’s right there:

      H e a l t h

Do you see it?

Do you want it enough to do what is required?

He is more than able.  It’s your choice.

Distractions

“But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, ‘Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.’” Luke 10:40 (NLT)

If you have ever built or remodeled a home, you quickly learn that every choice, every decision, forces you into a whole new universe to learn and understand. Whether it’s about flooring or countertops or even grout, every decision opens up a universe of options and things to consider. It can be exhausting.

As I continue to venture down the road of health and fitness from a faith perspective, the same thing happens. The expansive detail that exists about exercise … about food and nutrition … about supplements … about rest … and about all the various sub topics under those broad topics … can be overwhelming.

Lately, I find that people want to talk about the topic of food and diet. GMOs, gluten, sugar, fat, hi-protein, lo-carb, paleo, vegan, clean, etc. etc. There is so much to consider within the food topic alone that it can be all-consuming to figure out.

But I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to be all-consumed about what I eat. I want to be all-consumed with Jesus.

Do I want to eat healthily? Yes. Do I want to care well for the temple of the Holy Spirit that is my body? Yes, I do. But I don’t want to be obsessed with it. I want to be obsessed with Jesus.

So I weed through the information I can, and I do my best with it. I trust God to lead me and guide me even when I don’t know or understand it all … because, after all, He is the One who made me and continues to remake me … and He is in control of all things. I trust Him to honor my desire to please and honor Him with my body, even if I make under-informed choices.

At the end of the day, all He asks of me is to do my best and trust Him with the rest.

And so I do.

Food-session 2

“Then God said, ‘I now give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the entire earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.'” Genesis 1:29 (NET)
After spending a week in the islands and enjoying local, island cuisine … it has made me think about food in a different way. If you looked for it, local food was everywhere. Of course, the processed, commercial, U.S. food was also present … but if you looked for it, the local food was everywhere.

“Why is the coffee so good here?” my husband would ask. “Because it was grown right over there,” I would answer. “Why is the pineapple so perfectly tart or the seafood so amazingly fresh or the rum so very smooth!?” Because it is all local and fresh and indigenous to the place where we are.

God had a plan when He created the world and made different climates to produce different foods. They were meant to be grown and consumed there. And God had a plan when He created growth and life-cycles. Fruit, for example, is meant to be eaten when it is ripe … and scientifically, a fruit that is ripened on the tree/vine has many more nutrients than those ripened off he tree/vine. Food is supposed to be eaten at a certain stage in its life-cycle.

Why does this matter? Because our “food-session” — our obsession with food — has not only led us to create a bunch of consumable stuff that isn’t really food, but it has also led us to neuter the nutritional value of the real food we do eat, through mass production & distribution. Harvesting food before its time so it can ripen in a crate and be shipped halfway across the globe may offer us variety of food-choice, but it provide us only a fraction of the nutritional value. It isn’t what God has in mind. (Not to mention, chemical, gmo’s, hormones, etc.)

God has a plan. And we keep messing it up.

As a result, we keep messing ourselves up.

God help us.

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.