Are You Spiritually Fit? 5 Ways to Keep From Becoming Spiritually Flabby

AmberOBrien"

So yesterday my bathroom scale confirmed what my thighs had been secretly trying to tell me. I had gained back the five pounds I had worked so hard to lose weeks before. I had gone a couple weeks without weighing in and had stopped using the Myfitnesspal app to track my food. In addition, the bible study using the book Made to Crave by Lysa Terkeurst had ended, my exercising had slowed and voila I gained 5 pounds.

Booo! How frustrating. I started to mentally blame my husband and the two pounds of chocolate covered pretzels he bought. “He knows sweets are my weakness. Why is he undermining my progress?”

Ultimately, however, I am responsible for what goes in my mouth. I have free choice, and each day I am making lots of little choices that contribute to whether the needle of the scales moves to the right or left. After all, the point is to be making healthy choices and not focus on a  number on a scale when we gauge our physical health. However, in my case the scale gave me a little wake up call that my healthy choices had diminished.  

What if there were a spiritual scale that we could step on each day? What would it weigh?

Perhaps the scale we should be most concerned with is the one that measures the size of our hearts.

Jesus said the two greatest commandments were to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind,” and to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” So according to scripture, the amount of Love that fills our hearts is an indicator of our spiritual health.  

How are we showing God that we love Him? Are we praising Him in the hard times? Do we spend time worshiping Him? Reading His love letter to us – the word of God? What about how we love others? Do we try to see the good in others? Are we patient and kind when others are not patient and kind to us? Do we forgive quickly?

If my heart and yours were on the spiritual scale today, how would they compare to yesterday?

I have found that seeking to be physically fit and spiritually fit have similar principals. Here are my top 5 ways to becoming spiritually fit:

  1.       Spiritually exercise first thing in the morning.
    While physical trainers often advice physically exercising first thing in the morning so your metabolism has a kick start, the same is true for spiritual exercise. Make a commitment to wake up and spend time with Jesus before you look at your phone or check your emails or connect to Facebook. Spend time praying or reading the Bible before checking the headlines – read the Good News before hearing the world’s negative news. Get ready with God before looking in the mirror and getting yourself ready. Give God the best time of your day. If you must look at your phone first thing, try the free app First5.org. I just love receiving a devotional each weekday to look at first thing in the morning.
  1.       “You are what you eat.”
    Just as our goal physically is to eat healthy and nutritious foods for our bodies, we should be filling our minds with wholesome music, books, and thoughts, as well. Are you listening to a positive radio station? Are you watching TV shows that are negative or use foul language? Are you letting your friends speak negatively about mutual friends or family members? Instead, redirect the conversation and say something good about the person. Feed your mind with nutritious foods, just as you do your body.
  2.       Exercise with friends.
    When working toward a physical fitness goal, it often helps to have an accountability partner. Physical fitness is often influenced by other body conscious people and having a walking buddy or gym partner can help keep us motivated. The same is true for spiritual fitness. We need to spend time with others who are striving for holiness. Find friends who love God and who have His joy and peace; maybe a prayer partner to talk and pray with on the phone, or a small group bible study. We are to be like iron sharpening iron – let’s help each other to be as sharp and fit as possible. 
  3.       Make it fun.
    Similar to picking an exercise that we enjoy so that we continue (I love to play tennis), we should choose ways to honor Jesus in ways that are enjoyable. Following Jesus should be fun! Watching Him change lives and seeing answered prayer is so cool. Keep a journal to write down all your prayer requests and answered prayers, and spend the beginning of your time in the morning listening to uplifting praise music and singing and thanking God for all that His has done and is and will do. Be excited to spend time with Jesus – shout your praises with a smile on your face and joy in your heart. Have fun praising Him for all the past gifts He has lavished on you and your loved ones. 
  4.      Spend a Sabbath day in rest.
    Rest is just as important to physical health as exercise. Often, the importance of a good night’s rest is overlooked when pursuing fitness. Just as we need to get quality sleep to improve our bodies, we also need to rest to improve our souls. I love reminding type A people that “even God rested on the seventh day.” Be sure to honor the Sabbath. God created this because He loves us and wants to prevent us from getting physically sick or spiritually flabby. Use the Sabbath as a gift to spend time doing activities to help your soul grow.

Even though our culture focuses on our outer shell, it is our souls that will last forever.  Being spiritually fit is eternally more important than being physically fit. May the size of our hearts grow as we seek to be spiritually fit and desire to be more like Jesus each day.

Birthday Reflections: 5 Ways to Help Ensure That the Best is Yet to Be

AmberOBrien"

Dear Sweet Sister:

Are you looking forward to your next birthday? Do you see aging as positive or negative? As we live in a culture that worships youth, we often tend to view aging as something to be dreaded. Some see a birthday as a reminder of lifetime milestones that have not been realized… marriage, children, or a life dream.  Others grieve the loss of their beauty, health and strength.  Anxiety concerning the future can choke the joy out of the best birthday plans.

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Is this moon waxing or waning? Answer at the end!

Indeed, as my 40th birthday grew closer, the poet in me began to ask the “Almighty poet and creator” some probing questions. On a serene summer evening, I remember looking up at the half-moon hanging in the velvet sky and teasingly asking, “Lord, am I now waxing or waning?” Of course, I knew my physical body was waning.  However, I yearned to hear that my soul would keep waxing (growing).  Somehow, we all need confirmation at times that, like a mature apple tree that bears more fruit than a “sapling,” our lives will continue to be productive and bear more lasting  fruit with each passing year.  

I invited a few sweet sisters to come join me for a beach birthday retreat and this stanza from the poem “Rabbi Ben Ezra” penned by Robert Browning graced the invitation:

Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be,
The last of life, for which the first was made:
Our times are in His hand who Saith
A Whole I planned, youth shows but half; trust God: see all, nor be afraid!”

Just as Jesus saved the best wine for the “middle to end ” of the Cana Wedding Feast, I believe the Lord desires to give us increasingly new gifts and opportunities to grow and bless those around us. I asked my sisters to bring instead of a store bought gift, a positive verse or quote concerning the topic of aging.  Amazingly, these Five nuggets together form a treasure chest of wisdom on how we all can help ensure God’s promise that our time left on earth can be our very best.

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#1 Don’t Look Back
My friend Cindy shared a story concerning the importance of not holding on to the past. The character Norma Desmond in the Andrew Lloyd Weber musical Sunset Boulevard kept longing for her glory days as a film star. As a former silent film star she did not adapt when moving pictures began to include sound and her life ended in tragedy as she clung to her past. This example from a “Daily Bread” devotional reminds us to see our lives like a book, and thus we need to live each chapter at a time.  If we are looking back, we can’t be creating the next chapter of our lives. Yes sweet sister, you and I need to be careful not to let our past heartaches or negative people keep us from living in the next chapter of our lives. Similarly, during the wedding of Cana, confident Mary expected Jesus to perform a miracle and save the reception.  This first miracle would change her family forever as Jesus was thrust out into His public ministry. Mary was ready and willing for a new season in both their lives to begin. Do you look forward to God’s new season in your life with each birthday, confident and excited for His perfect gifts and plans ready to be opened?

  • Action:  Look up Jeremiah 29 :11-14.  Write out verse 12.

 

#2  Family First
A thought provoking quote from Thomas Jefferson was offered by my dear friend Beth.  Jefferson stated, “I find as I grow older that I love those most whom I loved first.” She went on to explain this could mean a better appreciation for all our parents did for us when we were children or an increased love and patience for our own children and loved ones.  Shouldn’t our inner circle of our family receive our best energy?  An apple tree that is strong enough to produce strong healthy limbs and fruit must first have strong roots.  So focus first on your family roots.  Do you, sister, see each passing year as a new opportunity to heal past rifts between family members? Let us ask God to give us mercy and understanding for those who have disappointed us and the grace to reconcile broken relationships. Peace can be the greatest gift you give yourself and your family.

  • Action: Call your parents on your birthday and wish them “Happy anniversary!” Or invite a sibling  or child out to lunch – if you are still alive there is still hope for stronger relationship.

 

#3  Remain in Him
Next, my cousin Laura reminded us that God’s grace is like the rhythmic waves of the ocean. Just as the waves continue to ebb and flow, God’s mercy is new every morning. She  encouraged us to spend time with God each day. Without water the apple tree will wither up and die;  just as we need to stay watered and regularly drink from the Word of God. So, to expand one of my favorite sayings, “The best is yet to be,”  we must add a preface to be accurate: “As you stay close to the Lord, the best is yet to be.” We have the responsibility to continue to make good choices every day. The most important choice is to seek out our creator and have fellowship with Him daily. I often imagine the Lord faithfully waiting to chat with me each morning. If I sleep in or miss our “morning date,” then I try to find a quiet moment later in the day.

  • Action: Find a special spot to place your bible and a journal, and pick a time that you plan to sneak away for time just with Jesus. Don’t stand Him up, He’ll be there waiting.

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#4  Fellowship with God’s Family
My friend Suzie attends daily mass most mornings and shared how beautiful the more mature members are that come to worship each day. Despite their physical ailments (waning), they joyfully come to be with God and with each other. Suzie exclaimed, “A woman in Love is beautiful!” So if we want to be beautiful in the Lord, my sister, we need to fellowship with other believers and receive God’s love and grace. Then, just as the moon reflects the sun’s light, we can in the same way reflect God’s love and beauty to those around us.

  • Action: Have you found a good place of fellowship? A small group bible study? We are to sharpen each other as iron sharpens iron (Proverbs 27:17). There were times in my life that I had just one prayer partner and we used the phone to chat and pray. If you can’t find a small group of sisters, pray and seek out one sister.

 

#5  Make a List
Lastly, my sister Liese shared a list of gifts the Lord has already blessed me with in my first 40 years of life. Making a gratitude list has been a tool I have used often in my past.  Usually to gain perspective when I felt down, I would list 10 good things about my life in my journal. If a person in my life had angered or disappointed me, I would write down 10 good things about that person. Grateful people are positive people.  So instead of counting the candles, count your blessings my sister. For every year that you have had the privilege of existing on this earth, write down a gift that is in you or your life.  

  • Action: Tape your list to your mirror or steering wheel. Keep reminding yourself of all your many blessings. Tell the ones who made the cut on your list about your list.

Whether you are 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70,80, 90 or 100, my sister, the Lord has new plans to unfold and fresh gifts to be opened.

In short, in order for “the best is yet to be,” we need to not look back, but be ready to write a new chapter in the book of our lives. We should spend time and energy on our families, our relationships with God and within our Christian communities. When we physically write down our list of items to be thankful for, we maintain perspective and a joyful attitude.

happybirthdaytoyou

 

Moon answer: If you guessed waxing, you are correct. Hopefully your soul is waxing, too!