Our Purpose Part 1- The Spirit and the Body

“Why am I here?” is the question that has probably been asked more than any other throughout the course of history.  And for good reason.  Just the asking of the question alone implies that we humans have a deep-rooted knowledge that there is more at stake for us then mere existence.  Something that separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom.  I don’t believe a fish questions the purpose of its existence as it drifts in the current.  It just does “fish” things, carrying out its God-given purpose of being a fish.  You don’t see a tree changing its mind, giving shade and providing oxygen one minute, then picking up its roots and heading off to try something new the next.  It is clear that God has given mankind a soul, that spiritual nature that makes each of us uniquely “us”.  We sometimes call it our “spirit”, or our “heart”, but whatever the name, it is the driving force by which we conduct our lives.  The meter by which we judge right from wrong, good from bad.  The central core that governs our physical actions.

“But it is the spirit in a man, the breath of the Almighty, that gives him understanding.”  Job 32:8.

If it is the soul that dictates the actions, then it is the body that carries out the commands.  The fact that we are both spiritual and physical beings hints at our purpose here on planet Earth.  If God wanted us just to float through life thinking about Him, pondering His attributes and wondering at His glory, then he would have stopped at unembodied spirits when making mankind.  But instead He made us to have physical form, with bodies capable of carrying out actions in real time.  Capable of communicating with one another in words and gestures.  Capable of moving or standing still, going right or going left.  Capable of holding out a hand or taking that hand back.  Our bodies are the vehicles by which we carry out our spiritual longings and desires.  And it makes perfect sense.  The greatest lessons learned are by doing.  Experience is an amazing teacher.  God has much to instruct about: love, grace, mercy, compassion, sacrifice.  But these things would have no real meaning to us if we weren’t given opportunities to experience them in our lives, both in the giving and in the receiving.  These spiritual truths that we spend so much time contemplating would remain vague ideas instead of becoming deep-rooted beliefs.  And while, yes, it is true that the body will some day decay and pass away, while we are here it plays a crucial role.  The body is not just a house for our soul, an inanimate shell, but an active participant in the carrying out of our spiritual will, those actions that we call “life”.  Those actions “to the glory of God”.

“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”  I Corinthians 10:31

(to be continued)

J

Higher Calling

When dealing with physical health, it is difficult to separate image from the topic.  How we look is one of the ways that we judge our progress towards optimal physical health.  If our clothes are fitting better, we are heading in the right direction.  It is also a meter for determining health in others, and guides us where to get our information on the subject.  We see a trainer at the gym who is in good shape, and we will listen to his advice because his body gives credence to his words.  It’s not that much different than a Christian’s actions giving credence to his faith.  However, the world would have you stop there.  Looking good is the end game.  The prize?  Attention, popularity, sexual fulfillment, pride, self-esteem.  However, God would call you to live your life for a purpose higher than these things.

“For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.  And the world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God abides forever.”  I John 2:16-17.

While it is true that during our time here on Earth we must go about the business of living (eating, drinking, sleeping, working, communicating, worshiping, resting), the focus and purpose of these things should stretch beyond our time.  As beings bound for life beyond this world, our end focus should be eternity.  Our time here on this Earth is just a hash mark on the timeline of our life.  All of the earthly things that we live for will pass away.  The money.  The fame.  The attention.  The looks.  They will all be gone.  But what lives forever is the work done for the Lord.  Work done from an eternal perspective.  While our physical bodies will only last for a lifetime, what we use them for and why will follow us beyond this life.  Don’t let image be the higher calling that drives you to better physical health.

J

Prayer-You Don’t Have to Do It Alone

What was the last thing you prayed about?  A loved one?  A particular trial you are dealing with?  Maybe it was just a prayer thanking God that right now things are pretty good.  When was the last time that you prayed specifically for a need related to your physical health?  If you suffer from chronic pain of some sort, then the topic probably comes up regularly in your conversations with God.  And it usually sounds something like “God, please take this (insert specific issue here) from me.”  But for most of us, the challenges pertaining to our physical health are the garden variety, day-to-day kind.  Finding the motivation to exercise.  Making proper food choices.  Planning and prioritizing.  It all sounds plain enough.  Then why is it so difficult to overcome these challenges?  It’s because we try to do it on our own.  But here’s the good news.  You don’t have to do it alone.  We have a companion on this journey to physical health.

The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”  Deuteronomy 31:8.

This leads me to the fourth and last essential component to making lasting improvements in our physical health.  Communication.  We need to be in communication with our companion if we hope to get anywhere in this journey.  And that is through prayer.  For most of us, this journey of changing our habits, preconceptions, and priorities in relationship to our physical health is a difficult and often times painful one.  It involves sacrifice.  It involves time and effort.  It involves searching myself, recognizing and admitting my own faults and weaknesses.  And it involves admitting that I can’t do it of my own strength.  Then it involves going to the Lord in prayer.

“Seek the Lord and HIS strength; seek His presence continually.”  I Chronicles 16:1.

This means that in EVERY area of weakness in our lives, we need to seek not our own strength, but HIS strength.  And for many of us, taking care of ourselves physically is a weakness.  One that we have tried to overcome in our own strength.  Possibly at times we have been successful, but often that success was only temporary because it was never grounded on the solid foundation of a changed heart.  And only God can change the heart.  Only when we are able to admit our weakness and ask for His help, will we begin to experience the kinds of lifelong changes necessary for long-term physical health.  I like The Message translation of the following verse

“My grace is enough; it’s all you need.  My strength comes into its own in your weakness.”  2 Corinthians 12:9.

Only when we recognize our lack of strength, can we start to see His strength manifested.  Start today asking the Lord for His strength to change your priorities.  Ask Him for His strength to overcome your food addictions.  Ask Him for His strength to get up 30 minutes early and exercise.  Ask Him for His strength to make the sacrifices necessary to get healthy.  You don’t have to do it alone.  That’s the good news!

J

Question of the Week #6/ Nugget of the Day #2

Question of the Week #6What role does prayer play, if any, in improving physical fitness?

Nugget of the Day #2Vigorous physical activity burns an average of about 10 Calories per minute.  Obviously this varies depending on the age and weight of the individual, but this is a good ballpark figure to use when estimating the impact of your exercise sessions.  Just remember, shopping at the mall for an hour is not “vigorous exercise”.  If you aren’t breaking a sweat, it isn’t vigorous.  Adding this to the knowledge that 1 pound of body fat contains approximately 3500 Calories, then it would take 350 minutes of vigorous exercise alone to burn 1 pound of body fat if no dietary modifications were made.  This is just under 6 hours of exercise to lose a pound of body fat if you didn’t make any adjustments in your food consumption.  To some this probably sounds like a lot of exercise for only 1 pound.  Two things you need to understand from this:
1: Food control is extremely important when attempting to drop body fat!  Adding a calorie deficit to the extra calories burned can safely double the rate of body fat loss.
2: It takes time!  If you are engaged in both a regular exercise program and a calorie-restricted nutrition plan, a reasonable expectation for body fat loss is 1-2 pounds a week.  Any amount more than that means that you’ve either quit your day job and become an Olympian in training or become a monk and have taken up fasting every day.  If the package or the infomercial says “lose 5 pounds a week”, someone is trying to sell you something!

J

Give it Time

“Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections but instantly set about remedying them– every day begin the task anew.”  ~ Francis de Sales

Let’s play a little “word association” game.  I’m going to throw some words out at you and you are going to tell me what they all have in common.  Ready?  Microwaves.  Dishwashers.  Hair dryers.  Email.  Spray tans.  Airplanes.  Now make your guess.  If you answered “things invented to help save us time”, then pat yourself on the back.  Go on….do it.  You deserve it.  If you answered “essentials to a good vacation”, then console yourself with a pat on the back anyway.  There you go.  Now doesn’t that feel better?  All of the items listed above (ok, maybe spray tans are a stretch) help make our lives more efficient by decreasing both the time and the effort it takes to complete the required task.  In fact, we humans are continually looking for ways to streamline our lives.  We are world champion multi-taskers, able to talk on the phone, cook dinner, surf the web, and help the kids with their homework all at the same time.  Our time is valuable.  There is so much we cram into a single day that we actually get frustrated, no downright angry, when someone squeezes in front of us in traffic, leaving us 10 seconds behind schedule, or when the microwave takes longer to heat up our food than what it says on the package.  If it’s quick and easy, we’ll take it.

We treat the realm of our physical health no differently.   “Have the body you’ve always wanted in 90 days!”  “Burn fat faster with this pill!”  “Use this electronic contraption and get the effects of 1000 crunches while sitting in your chair eating Cheetos and watching “The Biggest Loser”. “  Someone is always trying to sell us a faster way to fitness.  And our time-conserving mindset makes us buyers every time.  However, this creates unrealistic expectations as to how quickly we can reasonably hope to achieve our fitness goals.  In a marriage, or a close friendship, how long does it take before we have it all down perfectly?  Always do the right thing.  Always say the right thing.  How about our relationship with the Lord?  At what point in our journey with Him do we finally “get” Him?  Where we know exactly where He is leading us at all times and why we are going there.  Does it all make sense on day 1?  Or is it a process of growth, learning a little more every day, taking a few steps forward, sometimes taking steps backward?

If there is one thing that growth requires, it is time.  And growing in understanding of our physical bodies, how they work, how they respond to exercise, and how they respond to dietary changes is no different.  Why is it that we expect to lose in 90 days what it took us 10 years to gain?  Drastic changes in a short period of time are not lifestyle changes.  They don’t last.  The honeymoon eventually ends and you are left with the reality that you are in it for the long haul.  Complete with all the food hang-ups, exercise aversions, and misplaced priorities that you always had, but managed to mask, at least for a little while.  But here’s the good news.  YOU HAVE TIME!  Don’t feel like you have to get it all together at once.  Set reasonable, achievable goals for yourself.  Build on those to bigger ones.  Start changing attitudes and the behaviors will follow.  Give yourself 6 months.  A year.  2 years.  5 years.  Whatever it takes to make true, lasting changes.  Don’t get sucked into this idea that it has to happen overnight.  You don’t set those expectations for any other area of your life.  It takes time and hard work to build a business from the ground up.  Rising through the ranks of a company is a gradual process built on successive accomplishments.  Truly getting to know someone takes a lifetime.  Embrace this journey you are on and give it time.

J