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?

Shining 2

 

You have said, ‘Seek My face’…”  Psalm 27:8a (ESV)

The funny thing is that we tend to seek God’s face only when we are in a casual, relaxed place — when we have lots of time & little pressure bearing down on us. It’s then that we seem to find the space to be with God and know Him just for His own sake.

At least that has been true for me.

But one of the things that I hope I can carry out of my gym time is the discipline to seek God’s face when I’m tired and stressed … or when something challenging is pressing upon me.

There’s a temptation to turn away from God when we are exhausted or stressed. Or, if we do turn to Him, to turn only to seek His help. When under pressure, we tend only to seek God’s hand. Rarely in our exhausted and overwhelmed places do we turn to God just to seek His face. (Or at least that’s the way it has been with me). But the truth is that His face is what I really need in those moments, not His hand.

What I really need when I am exhausted and overwhelmed is to know Who God is and what He is like … and to rest in Him.

So as I seek His face in the gym … while I’m tired and sore, pushing heavy resistance and completing long runs … I am praying that I am also training my heart and my mind to seek His face when I’m tired and overwhelmed in other aspects of my life.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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?

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.

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!

Functionality

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love and self-discipline.”  2 Timothy 1:7 (NLT)

Inconvenient truth? I’m aging. And so are you. We are all aging. But at some point, the effects of aging seem to accelerate and become increasingly evident. And yet, inside this inconvenient truth is a gift — the gift of clarity.  The gift of clarity and power and purpose behind  why I do what I do.

Exercise and fitness is not about vanity and looking good. Oh, perhaps has been at some point in my journey … but exercise and fitness is about faith and functionality.  It’s about honoring God and remaining available.

As such, the discipline of exercise is like the discipline of a daily quiet time with God.

When we meet with God every morning, we connect with the source of Life — the source of all Power and Truth and Love.  We get plugged into God.  Nice as it is, the point is not just to have a precious oasis with God; the point is to connect with God so that we can bring Him into the rest of our day … into all aspects of our life.  The point is to connect with Him so that we can be more engaged and effective in the rest of our day.

When we exercise our bodies, we are exercising to keep our bodies functional and effective.  Two effects of aging are a loss of muscle mass and a loss of flexibility.  As a result, we lose mobility and functionality. But if we exercise & stay fit, we can maintain strength and mobility; if we keep th discipline of exercise, we can maintain flexibility & good functionality.  We carry the results of exercise out into the rest of our day and all areas of our lives, making us more engaged and effective.

The discipline of the Quiet Time and the discipline of exercise.

Both are meant to bless us, yes … but even more so, both are meant to help us be a blessing to God and to others.  Both are organically connected with the whole of our lives: relationships, struggles, opportunities, uncertainties, etc.

We should use them both more faithfully.

The Air We Breathe

This is what the Sovereign Lord says: ‘Look, I am about to infuse breath into you and you will live. … I will put breath in you and you will live.  Then you will know that I am the Lord.”  Ezekiel 37:5-6 (NET)

Have you ever exercised until you were almost out of breath?  Have you ever had the breath knocked out of you?  If so, you have experienced the preciousness of breath.

Because otherwise, we take breath for granted.  Breathing is as natural as, well, the air we breathe.  And yet, when God formed mankind, He “formed the man from the soil of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life” (Genesis 2:7).  Paul reiterates in the book of Acts that God Himself gives life and breath to everything and everyone (Acts 17:25b).   And the writer of Ecclesiastes reminds us that when these bodies die, “life’s breath returns to God who gave it.”  (Ecc. 12:7b).

Interestingly, the Hebrew word for breath in both Ezekiel 37 and in Ecclesiastes 12 is the word ruach which can be translated either as “breath” or “spirit.”  Also, the Greek word for breath used in Acts 17 (and elsewhere in the New Testament) is the word pneuma which also can be translated either as “breath” or “spirit.”

Hmmmm.

Maybe the Spirit is as essential to our being as is breathing.

Maybe our very being is more integrated with God’s being than we might image.

Maybe God is not closer than the air we breathe; maybe His Spirit IS the air we breathe.

Maybe when we breathe, we invite the Spirit of God in to give us life.

So the next time you are working out and begin to notice your breath, use it as a prompting to notice the Spirit.  And the next time things get hard, and you are tempted to hold your breath — breathe!  Especially then, breathe.

And when the resurrected Jesus appeared to His disciples, “He breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit'”  (John 20:21b-22).

Turning Evil Into Good

As far as I’m concerned, God turned into good what you meant for evil.”  Genesis 50:20a (NLT)

I was meeting with a friend yesterday who had injured himself during his workout the day before.  He laughed because it was an unfriendly reminder for him to listen to his body and honor its “voice.”

God is amazing that way.  He can turn pain into good.

He can turn pain into good, especially if we let Him.

Whether it is pain we bring upon ourselves (like my friend who pushed himself too far at the gym) … whether it is pain someone intentionally or irresponsibly inflicted upon us (like Joseph’s case as recorded in Genesis) … or whether it’s the evil one (who lurks around looking for someone to devour (see 1 Peter 5:8)), inflicting pain as we are tried and challenged and tempted.

In any of these cases, God can and will use the pain for good, if we let Him.  God is amazing that way.

Like in my friend’s case, God reminded him to listen to his body and “honor” its voice.  Who knows?  Maybe God has some unexpected things for my friend to attend to while he is in a slower, recovery mode.

Or if someone has inflicted deep wounds upon you, God promises to heal and restore and bring purpose and meaning out of it.  It takes time and much work, but if we open ourselves fully and continually to the great Healer, He will heal.

Or if we’ve been tempted, God can also use it for good.  Maybe to reveal an area of weakness … maybe to surface a deep, old wound that still needs His healing … or maybe to reveal that more work is needed in an area you thought was done.

So whatever the issue you face, I want to encourage you to look confidently at it and boldly speak into it that God WILL use it for good.  Then buckle up and get ready to partner with God in His healing work.

It it may not be easy, but it will be good.  God cannot make anything but good.

Oppositional Training

“[T]he land you are crossing the Jordan to take possession of is a land of mountains and valleys ….” Deuteronomy 11:11 (NIV)

If you’ve done any strength training, you’ve learned the principle of oppositional training. To really strengthen any muscle group, you have to strengthen the opposing muscle group. If you want to strengthen your biceps, for example, you need to also strengthen your triceps. If you want to grow your quadriceps, you also need to grow your hamstrings. To train effectively, you have to train in opposition.

Interestingly, the rest of life is like that too.  We cannot have pleasure, for example, without pain (otherwise it would all seem the same and all feel neutral). We cannot have highs without lows, or as the writer of Ecclesiastes so adeptly put it, we cannot have laughter without tears or dancing without mourning (see Ecc. 3:4).  It is the order that God created.  We cannot achieve great heights without going through great valleys.

Problems arise, of course, when we ignore the principles of oppositional training. When we want large biceps, for example, but don’t like the triceps exercises … so we don’t do them much. Not only do we become out of balance, but we can’t achieve the results we really desire when we deny the way in which God made things.

Of course, I see myself in this paradox frequently. I would much prefer to avoid great pain, sadness, loss or mourning.  I’d much prefer avoid, deny, repress or run away from that side of life.  But I am learning that even God’s Promised Land had mountains and valleys … and that in His economy, I cannot avoid one without losing the other.

So I am learning afresh the principle of oppositional training.  And it’s hard.  It’s hard to sit in the hard places and remain present and not to rush through or ignore it.  It’s hard.  Really hard sometimes.  But I want the other side.  I endure the valley because I want the mountain-top.  And I strive to keep my eyes fixed on Jesus, my example … who for the joy set before Him, endured the cross.  (Hebrews 12:2b).

Victory

“But the people who know their God will firmly resist ….”  Daniel 11:32b (NIV)

Have you ever tasted victory?  The thrill is achieving, of conquering, of overcoming?  There’s no other feeling quite like it.  Knowing that you beat whatever it was and came out on top.  Sweet victory!

But victory often comes at a cost.  Victory usually comes after hard work, serious investment and continued dedication.  Any kind of race — especially the big ones like a marathon, triathlon, or iron man — requires tremendous training of the body and mind.  Weeks and months of training, working through injuries and pain, learning to fuel the body properly, getting adequate rest, denying body and mind of things it might rather pursue in the moment, etc.   Just completing the race is a victory of sorts … and it comes at a cost.

Other parts of life are like that too.  We all face trials and temptations of various kinds and sizes.  Things that get in our way, make us stumble and fall, draw our eyes and our hearts away from the true and right things that (deep down) we really want.  Sometimes the things that lure us are actually good things, but as the Lord says, they are not the best.  (See e.g., 1 Corinthians 6:12). And the victory of saying “no” — while ultimately sweet — hurts.  Sometimes it hurts deeply.

Victory can be bittersweet.

I don’t know what you are going through right now.  I don’t know where you are seeking victory (or where you may be tempted to admit defeat).  But I can tell you that I understand.  I can affirm that sometimes it hurts.  A lot.  I can also tell you that it is worth it … that the Lord will provide a way out and the strength that you need.  The God we know is waiting to supply what we need to resist.  That doesn’t mean it won’t hurt, but it does mean that you will taste the (bitter)sweetness of victory.  It does mean that you will feel the joy of the Lord’s good pleasure upon you (as well as your own satisfaction that you did it).

So the next time you see a runner cross the finish line, with tears running down his face, collapsing in pain and relief … remember the bittersweetness of victory.  Remember the bittersweetness of God’s own Ultimate Victory … and praise the Lord for each and every victory He has enabled you to experience.

And may that fuel you to continue pursuing victory-in-Christ in whatever your face today.

Training 

“I press on ….”  Philippians 3:14(a) (NIV)

Some days are like that.  Seasons in life can be like that.  And sometimes it seems that all of life is like that.  Requiring me simply to press on.

Sports training and conditioning can be like that too.  Whether it’s for a triathlon, marathon, or plain-old health improvement … some days we just need to press on.  We need to make ourselves run the required miles for the day, swim and bike for the day, or simply just get up and go to the gym even when we don’t feel like it.  Why?  Because we know it’s all cumulative. We know that, ultimately, we are in pursuit of a bigger goal and that we might not reach it if we let today’s feelings get in our way.  We press on for the goal (of the triathlon or marathon or whatever it is).

Spiritually, we are in training too.  Life on earth is a training ground for what is to come — a victory that Christ has already won for us, and yet (in some inexplicable way) we partner in and participate in as we journey through life.  We press on … sometimes even when we don’t feel like it … because ultimately we want to prove ourselves grateful and worthy of all He has done for us.  We want to be faithful to the One who created us and gave His all for us.  We keep doing what He has told us is right and good (and avoiding the opposite), because He has told us it pleases Him.  And we want to please Him.

So today, I press on.  I press on, even though it’s hard today.  I press on because I know that one step forward and two steps backward is really one step in the wrong direction.  I press on, as Paul says, “toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

And I hope you press on too.

Rest-oration

“For in six days, the Lord made the heavens, the earth, the sea and everything in them; then He rested in the seventh day. That is why the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy.” Exodus 20:11 (NLT)

Do you consider rest to be holy?  Most of us don’t. Our lives are crazy busy and overfilled. Silence is a rarity and rest? Well, rest is hard to come by.

So, then again, maybe rest is holy. Maybe rest denotes honor and respect. Think about it: when someone has been “worked to death,” it reveals a lack of respect for that person. Their personal value has been disregarded and minimized.  To allow rest would be giving a level of honor.

Perhaps to rest means to quit working and chasing our tails and trust that God is in charge and will take care of us, because … well … He promises to.  And we trust Him, right?

This is the last of a 3-part series with practical tips for stewarding our bodies.  We looked at monitoring our Input (March 20 entry), increasing our Output (March 27 entry), and now we’ll look at Restoration.  And rest is key to restoration.  Let’s learn to better rest our bodies because we trust in God and we value the bodies He has given us. So here are a few thoughts:

  • Do you get enough sleep?  Most adults do not.  God gave us sleep and, on average, our bodies need at least 8 hours a night.
  • Are you overtraining?  While exercise is essential to overall well-being, many exercise enthusiasts and new recruits are at risk of overtraining.  One or two days off of exercise is recommended for your body to rest and recover.
  • Are you constantly on the go, running from one thing to another?  If so, then your body, mind and soul are probably tired.  I am a firm believer in keeping the Sabbath and in periodic solitude retreats.  Honor your body, mind and soul by resting from all of life’s craziness and reconnecting with yourself and with God.

God created a rhythm of life for us, and that rhythm includes rest.  Maybe we too can rediscover the holiness of rest.

Output

“For ever since the world was created, people has seen the earth and sky.  Through everything God made, they can clearly see His invisible qualities — His eternal power and divine nature.”  Romans 1:20 (NLT)

As I was discussing ShemaFit with a friend, she mentioned that many might not know how to care for our bodies or steward them well.  My prior entry was about considering our Input as one way to steward our bodies well.  Today, we will talk about Output.

Years ago, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services comprehensively reviewed all the research linking physical activity to health, and the findings conclusively reinforced this truth:  the human body was meant to move and, when it does so with regularity, it responds to the stress of physical movement with improved fitness and health.  And yet, about 25% of the U.S. population is not active at all (CDC report, 2010).  

God made the body to move.  He made it not only to respond positively to exercise, but in fact to improve with exercise.  Inherent in our very design, God encourages us to use our bodies and explore their potential.  Most health benefits occur with at least 150 minutes a week of moderate exercise (see http://www.health.gov/PAGuidelines/pdf/paguide.pdf). That’s less than 30 minutes a day!  If you struggle with your Output levels, here are a few suggestions:

  • Move more in your daily life.  Stand up and walk around the room whenever you are on the phone.  Walk to a co-worker’s office instead of calling or emailing.  Take the stairs.  Go for a walk at lunch or just to clear your head.  Take an after-dinner walk with your family.  Sedentary begets sedentary; movement begets life!
  • Take a strategic review of your exercise history.  Consider the seasons you were more successful — what helped you succeed?  Did you have an exercise partner?  Working out in the morning or evening?  Classes?  Personal trainer?  Once you’ve discovered some of your secrets to success, combine as many factors together as possible and recommit yourself.  The goal is to set yourself up to succeed.
  • Seriously consider meeting with a personal trainer.  If you don’t have the budget for a long-term commitment, then meet only two or three times.  Have the trainer help you put together a workout plan that fits your lifestyle, has measurable goals, and a tracking system.  It will be worth the investment.

As you become intentional about your Output, you will begin to understand more about the way you were made … and, as a result, will begin to more clearly see the invisible qualities of your incredible Maker.

The Main Thing

“[P]hysical exercise has some value, but godliness is valuable in every way.”  1 Timothy 4:8a (NET)

I’ve hardly been able to work out for over a week now.  My system has been fighting this awful cold virus, and working out too much would only exacerbate the problem.  Not only do I miss the physical routine of exercise, but I miss my worship time with God — worshipping Him with all of me — spirit, mind and body.  But this week, caring for and stewarding this body God gave me means letting it rest and heal.

For some of us exercise enthusiasts, it can be hard to stop the routine when necessary and rest.  For others, it might be hard to keep the focus on God and His glory, as focus can be diverted to external outcomes and vanity.  And all of us need reminders to keep the main thing, the main thing.  And the main thing, for all of us, is the “pursuit of knowing our Lord Jesus Christ more intimately” (2 Peter 1:8 (NET)).  

That’s what it’s all about — knowing our Lord Jesus more intimately and becoming increasingly more like Him so that we can reflect more of His glory in this world.  Of course, there are many ways in which we can and should pursue godliness (or God-likeness).  And while I firmly believe that God wants us to reflect His glory with all that we are (body, mind and spirit — see All of Me, June 3, 2014 entry), Scripture is clear that we must keep the goal of pursuing His likeness first and foremost in our pursuit.

So this week, as I struggle to care for and steward my body in a different way, I am reminded once again to keep the main thing the main thing.  And when I am able again to worship God and commune with Him in one of my preferred ways, perhaps I will be able to reflect a little more of His glory.