Anew

“Let everything that has breath, praise the Lord!   Praise the Lord!”  Psalm 150:6

Last night we held one of our Spin Therapy classes.  It’s an amazing cycling class that very intentionally incorporates mind and spirit with the work the body is doing.  Every time we have one of these classes, God shows up big time.

One of the things that I loved was that we discussed how important the breath is to exercise … and how the words the Bible uses for breath can also mean spirit … and therefore, then each time we breathed, we thought about inviting the Spirit in.

I also loved watching how God met individually with each person in the class and spoke to them personally and intimately.  Many came to tears at one point in the class (and not because their legs were hurting!)  God touched each one deeply and uniquely.

And I loved how the whole class erupted with applause at the end of the hour together — not because their instructor was such a good instructor — but because they had met with their Maker and worshipped Him holistically — body, mind and spirit.  They had met with God in a fresh way, and He touched them.  (The truth is that connecting with God in new ways and in new environments can open new synapses and pathways in the brain to truly experience God afresh and anew.  And who doesn’t want to experience God anew!?)

But today, the part that is sticking with me the most was the portion of the class where we all started singing “Jesus” … “Jesus” in appropriate response to the song on the CD.  A room full of virtual strangers, exercising and singing in chorus:  “Jesus … “Jesus!”  It was unprompted and uninhibited … an individual yet collective sacrifice of praise.  Gives me chills right now to remember it.

And brings a new perspective to today’s verse:  Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!

Praise the Lord!

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Purpose in Every Step

So I run with purpose in every step.  I am not just shadowboxing.  I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should.  Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.”  1 Corinthians 9:26-27 (NLT)

A few months ago, I started teaching kickboxing again.  I taught it years ago and started missing it, so we brought it back.  Much of a cardio kickboxing class is punching and kicking into the air.  Within each class, though, I bring out the mitts and paddles.  I bring them out so that the participants can feel and experience an actual punch — actual contact — and therefore experience the need for purpose and power in each punch and kick.  Experiencing the actual purpose of each movement allows for greater purpose to be given in each practice punch and kick.  The goal is not to aimlessly fling arms and legs around, but to have an intended target, a strike-zone … focused effort and power and purpose in each movement.

And so our lives should be.  Focused.  Intentional.  Filled not with flinging arms and aimless energy, but with purpose and power in each step.  This is what God, through the words of Paul, is suggesting.  To live aware and alive and intentionally, with purpose in every step.

Sometimes it is hard to live that intentionally.  We get tired.  We get hurt.  We lose focus or get discouraged.  We are, after all, still human and in a fallen condition.  But if we know Jesus, we get up.  Because with Jesus, we have Hope and we have Life in us.  We get up, and we continue pursuing purpose in every step.

Being disqualified is not an option.

And so we continue on, training our bodies, our minds and our souls.  Regaining our Focus.  Remembering our Purpose.  Submitting all of who we are to the only One who can truly transform us.  Offering ourselves as living sacrifices … and trying not to crawl off the altar.

Purpose.  In each step.

Renewal

“Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes.  Put on your new nature, created to be like God — truly righteous and holy.”  Ephesians 4:23-24 (NLT)

I was in yoga the other day, and I noticed how much my self-talk has shifted since I first started doing yoga.  How much kinder and encouraging and understanding I was … instead of criticizing and judging myself so much.  The owner of the studio tells me she sees that all the time.  She says when people start yoga, they often can’t use the mirror to look themselves in the eye, but after a time they begin to reflect their own gaze.

There is a power to our thoughts and inner mental talk.

ABC News published an article earlier this month entitled 10 Rules Fit People Live By.  The essence of the article was that fit people focus on positive thinking — they have trained their minds and attitudes toward the positive — they have learned to control their thinking instead of letting their thinking control them.  (See http://abcnews.go.com/Health/10-rules-fit-people-live/story?id=31053726).  I don’t know if that’s true, but it’s interesting how the wisdom of the world sometimes echoes the wisdom of God, isn’t it?

God has told us all along that there is great power in our minds.  He tells us that in Ephesians, in Romans, and elsewhere.  He tells us that our minds and thoughts and attitudes need to be renewed … but instead of using worldly wisdom, God teaches that it’s His Spirit and Scripture that needs to renew us.  God’s Spirit and the “cleaning of God’s Word” are the optimal tools to renew our thoughts and attitudes.  (See Romans 12:1-2, Ephesians 4:23-24, Ephesians 5:25-26).

So the next time you are working out, check your self-talk.  Arm yourself with a verse or two to allow God’s Spirit and Word to renew and refocus your mind. Consider praising Him because you ARE fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14), or remember that you CAN do all things through Christ who strengthens you (Philippians 4:13), or claim the truth that you too are being made new (Revelation 21:5) and want to join in to the process.

And may God renew your mind … and your body and soul for His glory!

An Incomplete Theology

“May the Lord bring you into an ever deeper understanding of the love of God ….”  2 Thessalonians 3:5 (NLT)

What concerns me about our view of God’s love is that it’s inconsistent.  We say one thing and yet often live contradictorally.  What I’ve learned at church is that God cares a lot about my soul, and that He even cares about my mind (what I allow to enter into my mind, what my thoughts dwell upon, etc.).  But what about my body?  I’ve heard next-to-nothing about how God views my body.  So what should I do with that?  Since I am a creature who is unquestionably part body (and mind and soul) … but I don’t know hear much about God caring about my body … then can I be certain that God cares about all of me?  On some very deep level, I fear that it leaves us wondering about the magnitude of God’s love. Is God fickle?  Does He love just certain parts of us?  Is His love conditional or partial?  Of course, our minds know that the Bible teaches differently.  Our minds know that the Bible teaches of God’s overwhelming, unconditional, engulfing and endless love for us; yet our practical theology, for the most part, is as if God is completely unconcerned with our bodies and how we interact with them.

I don’t believe that’s true.  I believe our theology is incomplete in that respect.  I believe the Bible teaches that God loves every one of us and every aspect of every one of us.  He is working to make all things new.  I believe God’s love engulfs every part of us (body, mind and soul) — that He is the Love that sees and embraces every aspect of ourselves.

He calls us to be better, yes … because He loves us.  He calls for our hearts and souls to be purer and more devoted to Him, for our minds to be more disciplined and focused on His purposes, and for our body to be more dedicated to Him as His temple.  Yes, the soul is of God’s highest concern because our souls are the part of us that lives forever.  But that doesn’t mean He doesn’t care about our minds or bodies.  He gave them both to us, and He wants us to cherish and nourish and grow and strengthen and use all of us for His glory.

So let’s give all of us … all to Him.

Posture of Prayer

“I lift my hands to you in prayer. I thirst for you as parched land thirsts for rain.” Psalm 143:6 (NLT)

Many of us approach prayer as if it is our time to convince God to agree with us in our requests. And yes, there are a few Biblical examples of when a person’s persistence in prayer alters the outcome. But more often than not, prayer is about getting me more in tune with God’s perspective and God’s will. Prayer is more about changing me. So an effective “posture” for entering time with God is a posture of openness and receptivity — ready to listen and hear, laying our hearts before God and even more eager to hear His heart.

So when I enter exercise, I try to enter it in a posture of prayer — ready to devote this time to Him … to listen, to hear and to surrender my will to His. It’s a time that I set aside to be with Him while I care for this body He gave me.  Where, when I hit physical struggles and limitations, I am reminded of my personal and spiritual struggles and limitations … and I receive encouragement or admonishment or insight that I need from the One who made me.

For me, it’s easiest to do this in the exercise space I’ve created in my basement, where I’ve hung posters and verses and can play my worship music. But even when I’m at the health club, I strive to maintain a posture of prayer. Open and ready to listen or respond to what He brings.

The body, mind and spirit are deeply intertwined. God made us that way. The exercise of one aspect of us is not and should not be isolated from the exercise of another.  Try entering your workouts in a posture of prayer. I think you will find that He exercises more than just your body!