Thursday, January 12, 2012

New Year's Resolution: True health

So it's that time again....The new year. It's a time of resolutions and changes. One of my long standing resolutions is living a healthy lifestyle when it comes to spiritual food and health. While I just wrote about physical resolution, this has a direct parallel to our spiritual health and growth as well. This is a year for change. It is a year for challenge. How is your spiritual weight?? Are you fit and light in the kingdom of God, strengthened with joy and light with peace, or weighed down by life's obstacles and the heaviness of fatigue, stress, fear, pain, and the past? Here are my tips for living a spiritually healthy life in 2012:

1.We can look at the spiritual life like a diet, too. A diet, in the general sense of the word, is what we consume to maintain our nutrition and keep our body healthy, living, and able to do work.  Just like most people hate even the very mention of the word "DIET" they also struggle with the concept of needing the discipline to get into the Word of God through daily devotions. What is needed is a lifestyle change. I feel that is an important key. If our spiritual weight is also looked at as only "diet and exercise to a goal" (I need to get back into reading the Bible, I should pray more, maybe I should listen to some worship music instead of the secular radio), when that goal is reached there is a significantly higher possibility of putting the weight of the world right back on. Why? Once that goal is reached and the goal high sets in, just like with the physical body, the idea of regular, regimented diet and exercise slips the mind. Instead, if you look at spiritual weight as a lifestyle, "I choose to live my life as healthy and balanced as I can," it makes daily choices much easier. You can weigh what you're eating spiritually against the rest of your life and not just what you need to do to get to your 30 day Bible diet finish line. For example, instead of saying "I am going to read a Proverb a day for the month of January", which has 31 days, another way you could look at it is, "I am going to meditate on 1 verse from Proverbs every day." Instead of saying "I never have time to read the Bible" there are creative ways to make more time: wake up even 5 minutes earlier to start, read during your coffee break, listen to the Bible on audio (you can download it now on iTunes or even order it on CD or cassette tape to listen to in your car on your commute!!!).

2. DRINK MORE WATER!!! Water is your spiritual body's most essential nutrient, and I dare to say it is involved in every spiritual function. Do I really need to explain what water is in our spiritual lives? I hope it's obvious. Water is mentioned over 600 times in the Bible (in various contexts, of course). One of the most famous, and applicable verses, if from Jesus in John 4: Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” Where can we get this water? Directly from Jesus, directly from the Word.

So what does water do in our spiritual body? I think much the same as in our physical body. Water helps maintain our spiritual body temperature to feel out what is hot and what is cold, metabolize what we are eating (both from the world and from the church and the Holy Spirit), aid in the digestion of spiritual food (what you hear in sermons, on the radio, from other Christians, from your job, etc.), and flush toxins of the world from your spirit. What if I told you that being dehydrated actually promotes the increase of spiritual body fat? What does that mean? Without the Word of God and living water in your life, the things of the world begin to stick to stress, fear, anxiety, depression, poor self image, etc. With accumulation, these things begin to weigh you down and make you heavy. I think you know that feeling....By adding living water to our spiritual diets, we are better able to flush or not absorb the toxins the world tries to feed us.

3. Chew your food more. Really? You don't say. Trust me. This was part of my spiritual therapy background. How do we do this with our spiritual lifestyle? I think it comes in a few ways: Meditation, prayer, and quiet/silent times with the Lord. That is where we chew over what we are reading about and drinking in of the Word. Next time you're reading the Bible, see how much of it you're inhaling...Do you read a whole chapter and call it good? Or do you take the verses apart, see what they're saying, and ponder them closely. Do you take life as it comes and chalk strange events up to coincidence? Or when you hear the same Bible verse or some one say something that makes you pause 2 or 3 times do you sit and ask why you're hearing or seeing those things? Are we meditating and pondering on life events and Words from the Lord? Are we like Mary, that when she heard the angel's news she pondered it in her heart (Luke 1). So next time you take a bite of spiritual food, chew it more. Savor it. Enjoy the flavor. Figure out all of the spices and seasonings God has in it for you!!!

I think just like with physical food, spiritual food takes time to sink in and provide nutrients to our souls. How often have you read a particular Bible verse? Many the same verse over and over for years? Yet that ONE time it actually clicks, sinks in, makes sense? I think that's where pondering and meditating on verses comes into play.

4. Make healthier food choices. Cut out processed and convenience foods. They're full of unsatisfying, empty calories that only taste good in the mouth, but leave the digestive system seriously lacking. What do these look like in the spiritual life? Filling your time with meaningless, mindless activities instead of ones that increase and bring value to life. Wasting time. Procrastinating. These are the sugars and fats of the spiritual life. Movies that are full of sex, violence, and horror. Increase your intake of good foods, like being with people who encourage you and bring joy to your life, Bible studies, small groups, books with a positive message, listening to worship music, taking walks in nature and seeing the beauty of God, having coffee with a friend and encouraging him or her, taking time for yourself to be alone with Jesus (like a date!!!). Leave anything negative behind. Magazines that make you feel fat and insecure, music with negative messages, movies with messages of witchcraft or violence. Opt for the positive. Books that lift up your mood, music that empowers, movies that make you feel good about humanity and God!!! "Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." (Philippians 4:8)

5. Exercise your faith in unusual ways. Pray for someone at work who is sick. Walk around town and look for some one who is hurting. Write out an encouraging Bible verse for your friend or co-worker. Stretch your faith. Some areas are more conducive to exercise, like within your church or group of friends. But this doesn't give an excuse. Need to lift some spiritual weights? Find a mentor who is willing to train you spiritually. Look for a walking partner, take a friend to go pray with you for others. Get moving. Watch iBethel TV (from the Bethel church in Redding, California: their worship sets and sermons)  for inspiration, motivation, tips and tricks.

6. Figure out why you're spiritually over or under-eating and not exercising and make a mental make-over. Do you seek mind numbing games when you're bored? Tired? Stressed? I used to watch tv when I was bored. When I lived alone, especially at night, I would sit and watch TV. I decided enough was enough! I joined the gym, I started drawing and painting again, I picked up new books to read, I started calling up friends to hang out and found a mentor. Is stress a culprit? Stress wrecks HAVOC on the spiritual body as well. Some times just taking a 10 minute walk with Jesus to burn off that nervousness can make an amazing change in mood and help bring focus back to the situation. Plus it's like 10 minutes. You can do anything for 10 minutes and it's really not going to impact your schedule. I mean, you probably spent more than 10 minutes procrastination on facebook to escape facing the situation anyway, you could have talked to Jesus in prayer for that same amount of time!! If you can't figure out why you over eat or don't want to exercise, working with a pastor or counselor can really help.

7. Find your motivation and make it visual. Do you want to have more peace? Find verse about peace from the Bible and tape it to your fridge. Want more joy? Find pictures that make you feel happy and find a Bible verse to go with it. Meditate on it. Want to get rid of stress and anxiety? Write the verses out that are promises that God is in control and can handle any problem and put it as a post-it note in your car. Want to have a more positive attitude at work? Change the station on your radio or buy some music from a new Christian author (if you want suggestions, let me know! I can get you hooked up with some great artists who can sing to whatever you want to work on!!!) Do you want to just be healthy and live a long, full life uncomplicated by health problems and frequent illnesses?? Write out motivational sayings and promises from the Bible for your car, in your closet, and in the kitchen. Don't ignore them!!

8. Don't beat yourself up if you slip. Find pleasure in the little things and don't use excuses when you make mistakes. If you're doing really well on your new life style change and the holidays roll around and your whole extended family is in town and you missed your morning devotion, don't give up! Just get right back on to your life style. Or better yet, include your family in it!! Draw them in. Teach them how to have a healthy lifestyle, too!! If you're following it regularly that extra bulge or worry slips in, bring it before the Lord and it will disappear.

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