Embodied Souls

“The body is … for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.” 1 Corinthians 6:13b

Have you ever thought about what it means to be an embodied soul? Have you ever wondered why we are embodied souls? That we are each more than our physical bodies … and yet we are more than our spiritual souls. We are both-and; physical and spiritual. Have you ever wondered why?

Why did God create us as embodied souls?

And if you believe Scripture, then you know that we will also be embodied souls in the afterlife. Have you ever wondered why?

Jesus was also an embodied soul. He was the embodiment of God Himself. And Jesus” body paid the price for our redemption.

Not only that, but most of Jesus’ earthly ministry was attending to others’ physical bodies: healing bodies from pain, illness & disease; feeding the hungry and giving water to the thirsty; clothing the naked & freeing people from the chains of prison or paralysis. Jesus spent an inordinate amount of time tending to people’s bodies.

Today’s society suffers from an exorbitant amount of illness. We all know that we live in the biggest health care crisis ever. If we are honest … honest with ourselves and each other … then we will also admit that most of our illness stems from a lack of bodily movement (aka exercise) and poor food quality and nutrition. We are sick because we don’t move be enough or eat well. We are sick because we aren’t caring well for our physical bodies.

I cannot day for sure why God made us embodied souls. But I know that He did, and I know that God does things with purpose. I also know that Scripture is full of stories about Jesus demonstrating great care for the human body.

Shouldn’t we?

Shouldn’t we too demonstrate great care for the human body, starting with our own and with the bodies of those we love?

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.

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.

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.

Food-session

Why pay money for something that will not nourish you?  Why spend your hard-earned money on something that will not satisfy?  Listen carefully to me and eat what is nourishing!”  Isaiah 55:2 (NET)

Would you put maple syrup in your car instead of gasoline?  “But it tastes better!”  Maybe so, but the car won’t run on maple syrup.  In fact, you might end up ruining your car!

Look around.  That’s just what we (as a society) are doing.  Filling our mouths with for that tastes good, but does not provide us with the nourishment we need.  Food that ends up ruining the marvelous creation that God made.

Food was meant to be fuel for the body.  Food was intended to serve the body and provide it what it needs for optimal performance.  But our society has completely inverted that formula.  For many, the body is at the mercy of food.  We are food-obsessed.  The pleasure of our taste-buds has taken first priority, and nutrition and nourishment have taken a back seat (heck, they may even have been tossed out of the car by now)!

Join me in the fight against this obsession with food (our “food-session,” for short).  Reclaim the body as God designed and intended. Reclaim food as fuel — as nourishment for your body — and not as the destroyer of God’s good creation.  Reclaim God’s intended order that food is for the body not the other way around.

It’s going to be a tough fight.  I have a 8-year-old and a 6-year-old.  I tell them often that we eat for our bodies, not for our mouths.  On certain days, I have them look at “My Healthy Plate” and tell me what categories of intake they are lacking for that day.  Our kids are surrounded by more than junk food; they are bombarded by crap-food (pardon me).  Sometimes it’s distressing, but all the more reason that we cannot give up the fight.

Will you join me?  There’s still time to make a difference and show our Lord that we really do value the very good creation He gave us.

With Hands Lifted High

“Let us lift up our heart with our hands unto God in the heavens.”  Lamentations 3:41 (KJV)

This verse comes in the context of repentance.  The nation of Israel was in exile, being disciplined by God.  Jeremiah (the author of Lamentations) was pleading for God’s people to “turn again in repentance to the Lord” (v. 40) … & to lift up their hearts with their hands unto God.

Among other things, what strikes me in this passage is the plea to lift their hearts and hands to the Lord.  To return not just their devotion and affection, but to turn their physical selves back to the Lord.  It echoes what I believe God wants — all of us.  Yes, God wants our hearts.  But He also wants our physical selves.  He wants all of us.

For decades, the church has (at best) forgotten about including our bodies in our devotion to God.  (At worst, it has vilified the body as pure “flesh” and intentionally excluded it.). But I believe God wants more.  I believe God wants all of us … and I believe Scripture as well as the history of God’s people reveals that.

When God first set the nation of Israel apart as His people, He gave them laws that covered all aspects of their lives.  As it pertains to their bodies, the Torah included detailed descriptions of what foods to eat and not to eat, what to touch and what not to touch, where to go and where not to go, when to rest and when not to rest, etc.  God included the body — our physical selves — in His description of how His people should live.

The early church carried forward this belief that God wanted all of us.  Although the coming of Christ set us free from the food laws and other aspects of the Torah, we were not set free from loving God holistically.  The early church promoted this idea by making Gluttony and Sloth two of the seven deadly sins.  (Catch that?  Two of seven.  Almost 30% of the deadly sins pertained to food-intake and exercise.  Hmmmmm.). (See also posts dated 5/7/14 and 5/9/14, Nourishment as Worship 2 and Exercise as Worship 2, respectively.)

So, with this in mind, I plea for every Christ-follower to join me in lifting our hearts and our hands up to God in heaven.  Together, let’s return health and fitness to the realm of the sacred … because God made it sacred and declared it good.  And He is worthy of all of us!

Cherish Life

“God, the Lord, created the heavens and stretched them out.  He created the earth and everything in it.  He gives breath and life to everyone in all the world.”  Isaiah 42:5 (NLT)

God is the creator of life.  He brought living creatures into the world and breathed His life into dead soil to make the first man.  Life is personal to God.  It precious to Him.

And so it should be precious to us.

That’s why I love organizations like Feed My Starving Children (www.fmsc.org) — an organization that seeks to feed both body and soul of the millions of children around the world who are starving.  Literally starving.  These are kids who would love to grow and develop and play and celebrate life.  They would love to use the body that God has given to them and discover its potential … but the lack of food resources has stunted their ability to do so.

Those of us in the “developed” world have more than an abundance of opportunities to care for the bodies God has given to us.  We have an abundance of food resources … and yet many of our bodies remain neglected of what they really need.  Most of us have the ability to care for our bodies well, but choose not to (by action or inaction).  Oh, how the children of the underdeveloped world would love to have the ability to care for their bodies as we do.

So here’s my plea: cherish the life that God has given you and don’t squander the opportunity you have to care for it.  And while you do, seek opportunities to help those who can’t.  Life is precious.  Cherishing it is a choice.

Input

“A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart.  For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”         Luke 6:45 (NIV)

I was meeting with a friend the other day and telling her more about ShemaFit.  As we discussed the goal of stewarding our bodies well, she exclaimed that many do not know how to care for this body God gave us.  As I thought about her comment, I knew she had spoken some truth.  So perhaps it might be helpful to break down the idea of stewarding the body into three general categories: Input, Output, & Restoration.  All three components are critical health and wellness.

Today, we start with Input.

What goes into our bodies has a huge impact on what we can expect out of our bodies.  It’s just like Jesus’ warning to guard what goes into our hearts and minds — for whatever we allow as Input will directly affect our Output.  If we want to care for this body and steward it well, we need to guard the Input.  Here are a few reminders:

  • Monitor your food groups every day.  At least half of what you eat every day should be fresh fruits and vegetables.  (The fresher the better — meaning not canned, jarred, frozen, dried, etc.  Second best would be fresh frozen.) Only one-fourth of your Input should be grains.  (This is a challenge for many people I know.). Whole grains are best.  That leaves one-fourth or more of your input from protein.  Aim for lean protein  like fish, chicken, and turkey.
  • Watch your sugar intake.  This can be challenging in modern society because so many things are processed and packaged, which often means hidden sugar.  So, here are three helpful hints — avoid obvious sugar intake, avoid processed foods, and (if you can’t avoid processed foods) learn to read labels intelligently.
  • Pay attention to yourself.  One of the amazing things our body can do is to tell us what bothers it.  Pay attention to signs of food allergies or sensitivities.  Become curious about what makes your body work well and what makes it perform poorly.  Pay attention to what it is telling you and respond in kindness.  If you are like me, my sinuses do not respond well when I eat dairy.  So I avoid dairy products.  I still love ice cream and cheese, but I generally don’t eat them because I’ve learned that it hurts my body.

Bottom line is that it’s about learning to love and be tender to this amazing gift God has given you.  Treat it well because, just like the heart, out of it flows the springs of life!  (See Proverbs 4:23.)

Nourishment as Worship 2

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”  1 Corinthians 10:31 (NIV)

Don’t you find it interesting that at least two of the Seven Deadly Sins are against the body? Personally, I am not Catholic or of Catholic decent … but I still find it very interesting that since early Christian times, these seven “sins” were emphasized … and two of them are sins against the body. I consider this to be further evidence of how God honors the body. And, even more interesting, are the two sins themselves: gluttony and sloth. In other words, they are input & output. Nourishment & exercise.

So let’s talk about gluttony.  Too much intake.  In American culture, where food is bountiful and indulgent, we have to be more mindful to view our intake in light of God’s glory. We need to prayerfully change our attitude and language.

1) Delete the word “full” from your vocabulary and mindset. Our culture talks all the time about being full, about eating until we are full, etc. The truth is that eating until you are full is eating too much. Consider this: when you are thirsty, do you drink until you are full and bloated? No. You drink simply until you are no longer thirsty. And so it should be with food. Don’t eat until you are full. Eat only until you are no longer hungry. Try it for a week, and I think you’ll be surprised at the results.

2) At mealtime, start with the food category that’s been lacking in your day’s input thus far. For most of us, that probably means starting our meals by eating with vegetables first.  Put into your stomach what your body needs first, then move onto other categories in the order of your needed daily requirements. (Consider the “plate” or “food pyramid” or something else as a daily guide). If you are no longer hungry by the time you get to the potato, for example, then you are no longer hungry … so stop. Save the potato for another day or another person, so that whether you eat or drink, you are doing it for the glory of God.

Nourishment as Worship I

“All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.” 1 Corinthians 6:12 (NIV)

Exercise has been a form of worshipping God for me as long as I can remember. Seeing nourishment as a related way to worship God is a more recent development for me — a way God has been growing me over the past several years. But every bit as equally, how we nourish our bodies is part of how we steward this amazing creation God has given us. Here are a few things God has shown me:

1) As 1 Corinthians 6 discusses, God has released us from His dietary laws. Some of us, however, may function better with certain dietary restrictions (e.g., I function better off dairy and gluten). Regardless, we have choices to make when we eat. And out of all of our options, some choices are more profitable than others, and God encourages us to make the more profitable choices. For many of us, one of the more profitable choices we can make would be to eat more fruits and vegetables (at least 50% of what we consume per day!)

2) God encourages us not to be mastered by anything. Whether it is potato chips, bread, chocolate, Coca-cola, or alcohol, God wants us to be free from slavery to anything. He wants us to be free to follow & adore Him. So the work begins to discern what has the potential to control and master us … & to instead make more profitable choices.

3) Food is made to fuel the body. Not the other way around. Food is meant to fuel the body. And while our societies have found ways to make food quite enjoyable, food’s main objective is to fuel the body. In our home, we often tell our young children that many of the things we eat are for our bodies, not for our mouths. So consider consuming more fuel for your body than you do pleasure for your mouth.