In the city where I live stands an amazing structure – a bell tower which houses a carillon which was built to commemorate the third millennium in the year 2000.
It is an iconic landmark of our city and a great deal of fundraising and work went into building and dedicating the structure. The fundraising, building and dedicating of the tower was quite exciting. But dealing with the finishing touches, maintenance and repair of the structure has been a source of controversy. It turns out that:
The situation with the bell tower reminds me a lot of the situation we often experience when it comes to our health improvement projects and goals. This is what our experience often looks like:
1. We get excited about starting a health improvement plan or strategy.
2. We enthusiastically dive in and make sacrifices to invest time and resources to carry out the plan or strategy.
3. We are encouraged as we see ourselves making progress and we celebrate when we get to the completion of our endeavor whether that is achieving a fitness milestone, losing a specific number of pounds or stopping smoking.
4. We then discover that what we have achieved also has to be maintained and maintenance is not nearly as exciting.
5. We learn that maintaining consistent healthy lifestyle behaviors is a daily, long-term proposition and that the costs can be high.
6. When faced with the high costs, we must then decide whether to adjust our health improvement plans so that they can be sustained for the long-term or just demolish them all together.
When it comes to building a bell tower or building our health, it really is all about how we define the endpoint or what we really desire to accomplish or attain.
The goal of building the bell tower was not just to complete the building of the structure by the year 2000, but to build and maintain a structure that it could be enjoyed by the people of our city for years to come. The failure to adequately consider the cost of maintenance of this project threatened the achievement of the long-term goal.
The goal of beginning a new health improvement strategy or plan is not to just complete a fitness event, attain a goal weight or break an addiction, but to achieve and maintain a level of health that will equip and enable us to have the energy and vitality to live an effective, engaging and enjoyable life for the rest of our days. The failure to adequately consider the cost of maintaining our health improvement plans or strategies threatens the achievement of the long-term goal.
When we think about and pursue health improvement strategies and plans, it is important to count the cost before beginning and to realize that part of that cost almost always involves maintenance!
What we attain must be maintained.
This is because good health is not achieved by planning and executing a few healthy behaviors, but by planning and executing multiple healthy behaviors each day for the rest of our lives!
Consider what Jesus said in Luke 14:25-35, as He spoke about the costs associated with every commitment, including the commitment to become His disciple.
Suppose one of you wants to build a tower.
Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?
For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it,
everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying,
“This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.”
Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king.
Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace.
In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.
The achievement of any goal involves counting the cost. The achievement of a health goal involves counting the cost knowing that maintenance is a very large part of that cost given that healthy decisions must be carried out on a daily basis in order to produce the desired long-term result.
What does this look like from a practical standpoint? It comes down to a few very simple questions. Before getting excited about and embarking on a health improvement plan or strategy, it is wise to ask these questions:
If after doing our homework, praying for wisdom and honestly examining ourselves, we can confidently answer “yes” to these questions, we mostly likely have a health improvement plan or strategy that will lead us to our desired endpoint or goal.
What about you? Are your health improvement plans and strategies crafted with maintenance in mind? Are they wise and sustainable for the long-term? Will you be able to maintain what you have attained using your health improvement plan or strategy? If not, will you demolish them or make the necessary adjustments that will lead you to your long-term goal?
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Everywhere I look, I see that we are all settling into the traditions and expressions of the fall season.
I see this, and I understand:
We all want to enjoy the colors and symbols of the beautiful fall season!
I see this, and I don’t understand:
Why would anyone want to buy Halloween candy
when Halloween is well over a month away?
Yes, I know we Christians can have differing views on the acknowledgement and celebration of Halloween. Some choose to ignore it to avoid evil influence. Some choose to participate to leverage it to make a positive impact. And some of us find benefit in buying that Halloween candy well before the date when the selection is wide and varied. Those snack size treats can be stored away and used as a great portion control strategy for enjoying some treats in moderation throughout the year. But whatever we personally choose, it doesn’t change this fact:
We will face a large and prominent Halloween candy
display every time we go to the grocery store, drug store or discount store between now and October 31st.
For those of us who face the temptation to overindulge, it may be a set up to stumble!
For those of us who tend toward overindulgence of sweets at this time of year, the more Halloween candy we see, the more we are likely to buy. The longer we have Halloween candy in our house, the more likely we are to eat it and then buy more.
In Matthew 5, Jesus has something to say about stumbling. When speaking of the sin of adultery and the lust that accompanies it, He said:
If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away.
It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.
And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away.
It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.
Regarding the application of this passage, a few very important points need to be made:
It is also important to remember that gluttony, like every other sin, cannot be detected by just looking at someone on the outside. As Jesus clarified earlier in Matthew 5, just because we don’t see a man commit adultery (vs. 28) or murder (vs.22) doesn’t mean these sins are not hiding in the heart or lurking behind closed doors. Likewise, just because someone is not obese does not mean that this person is free from the sin of overindulgence and gluttony. I can personally attest to this!
When it comes to the sin of overindulgence and gluttony, there are many ways that we can be set up to stumble. But we can overcome that trap by taking to heart the principles outlined in this passage of scripture.
When it comes to the temptation to overindulge in Halloween candy this time of year, here are a few adjustments that I plan to make in my life to avoid stumbling:
What about you? How will you deal with the temptation of Halloween candy that will be with us for the next month and a half? What will you do to keep yourself from stumbling beyond moderation and into overindulgence?
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“Health is the real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver.”
Most of us are very familiar with this quote spoken by Mahatma Gandhi. And for most of us, it rings true. Because we know that good health is valuable, most of us pay attention to the daily, weekly, monthly and yearly health decisions that we make to attain and preserve good health for as long as we can.
Making good health decisions requires wisdom. To what sources of wisdom do you go to when you need to make a health-related decision? Almost any good Christian would say that the first place they go with any health concerns is directly to God. After all, we all have heard that part of Psalm 139 that describes how we are “woven” and “knit” together by a God whose works are “wonderful.”
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
Psalm 139: 13-16
This passage of scripture highlights several important truths that, if accepted and applied, would have a great impact on why and how we make our health decisions.
Truth #1: God created you. You were His idea from the very beginning.
Truth #2: God created you and put your together. Your body was woven and knit together by God.
Truth #3: God created you and put you together in a purposeful way. He created and put you together with the full knowledge of the days that were before you. He knew every detail of the potential of who you might be and what you might do.
Truth #4: God created you and put your together in a purposeful way with unimaginable creativity and skill. His works are wonderful, and you are fearfully (awesomely) and wonderfully made!
Compare these truths with what the world tells us about how we should make our health-related decisions:
Deception #1: Your worth is based on the attainment of the current standard of health and fitness. “My New Year’s resolution is to lose weight, so I can fit into those size 2 skinny jeans that I saw in that magazine.”
Deception #2: Your evaluation of your health and fitness begins by comparing yourself to the current standard or to others. “I’m going to start that new intense exercise program because, when I look in the mirror, I want to see thin hips. I want to look like Lisa. She looks so cute in her skinny jeans."
Deception #3: Your progress in your health and fitness is dependent upon looking outside yourself to find the next new plan, strategy, product. “My last diet plan didn’t work, but I’m confident in Dr. X’s plan to drink two shakes and four dietary supplements each day, eliminate two food groups from my diet and eat two specific super foods each and every day without fail.”
Deception #4: Your ultimate goal in the pursuit of health and fitness is your own satisfaction and sense of fulfillment. “If I run in that marathon, I will feel like a winner!”
According to Romans 12:1-2, we will be able to make and carry out God-centered decisions when we fully offer ourselves to God and align our thinking with the truths of His word.
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.
Do not conform to the pattern of this world,
but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Just as in every other area of the Christian life, our health decisions should be made according to the wisdom of the Weaver (the One who has woven and knit us together) rather than according to the ways of the world (its pattern of thinking and behaving).
If we really want to live out the beautiful truths of Psalm 139:13-16, then our health decisions will be rooted in:
Gratitude – we will acknowledge and seek God as a master craftsman whose works are wonderful! Our health decisions will come out of a place of gratitude rather than dissatisfaction.
Respect – we will acknowledge and seek God as our Creator, Maker and Subject-Matter expert when it comes to our bodies. When making health decisions, we will first seek God’s wisdom and engage the mind He gave us before we run to the internet to find the next new promise or product.
Submission – we will acknowledge and seek God as the One who does His work with a purpose in mind. Our health decisions will be primarily aligned with fulfilling God’s purpose for our life rather than fulfilling our own personal desires.
How about you? Where do you find the wisdom that you need to make good health decisions? Are you making your health decisions according to the ways of the Weaver or according to the ways of the world?
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If we value experiencing internal peace and being at rest in our spirit, it is a good idea for us to often ask ourselves this question:
Are there any areas where I am resisting God
working in and through my life?
Why is this an important question? Because there is no better way to forfeit our internal peace and rest than to resist our Maker.
To illustrate the unrest that accompanies resistance, let’s take a look at the prophet Jonah - a resistor who received an assignment from God -”Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it…” (Jonah 1:2) God said “Go!” and Jonah responded with “No!” as he resisted God in three major ways.
Jonah Reasoned “Oh Lord, is that not what I said when I was still at home?” (Jonah 4:2)
When Jonah received the command from God to go to Nineveh, he tried to reason it out before he even left home. The Ninevites were an enemy of the Israelites and well known for their evil behavior. The God who was sending Jonah to them was, in Jonah’s own words, “…a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.” (Jonah 4:2). That God would send Jonah to them to preach rather than destroying them outright was probably a mystery to Jonah. How could that be rational and how could that be right? Jonah’s failed attempt to reason and make sense out what God was asking him to do led him to his second act of resistance.
Jonah Ran “That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish.” (Jonah 4:2)
Rather than obeying God’s command, Jonah bought a ticket and got onboard a ship travelling in the opposite direction of his assignment. God responded by sending a storm so violent that it threatened to break apart the ship. The inevitable result of his resistance came when he admitted that his disobedience was the cause of the storm and he was tossed overboard and swallowed by a big fish which brought him to the point of desperation at the bottom of the sea. Jonah cried out to God and God responded by putting him back on dry land with a second chance – “Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: ‘Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.’” (Jonah 3:1). The king of Nineveh responded to God’s message delivered through Jonah by acknowledging and repenting of Nineveh’s collective sins. He commanded the people to “…call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.” (Jonah 3:8-9). God responded to the Ninevites' repentance with compassion and “…did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened”. (Jonah 3:10). But rather than being thankful that the Ninevites had responded to God's message, Jonah instead moved on to his third act of resistance.
Jonah Raged “But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry” (Jonah 4:1)
Jonah was angry. In fact, he was “angry enough to die.” (Jonah 4:9)
When looking at the story of Jonah, it is safe to say
that Jonah, the resistor, was not a man who was at
peace with God or at rest in his spirit.
To Jonah’s credit, he did resolve one of the areas of his resistance – running - which is a temptation that many of us also encounter as we walk with Christ. A turning point came when he cried out to the Lord for help and decided to no longer resist. His prayer from the bottom of the sea contained the following important words, “What I have vowed, will make good…” (Jonah 2:9) What did Jonah vow? We don’t know for sure, but given that he was a prophet, we may speculate that he probably made a vow that may sound familiar to many of us who are devoted followers of Christ: “I will go where you want me to go, do what you want me to do and say what you want me to say” But just like Jonah, we have our own Ninevehs – those things that God asks of us that go against our sensibilities. Like Jonah, we also have places where we don’t want to go, things that we don’t want to do, people that we don’t want to serve and words that we don’t want to say. Still, Jonah chose to stop resisting God and fulfill his assignment.
But, at the end of the story, Jonah’s unrest continued as he still struggled with reasoning and rage, as his thoughts and emotions were not in line with God’s plans and intentions. Jonah saw the Ninevites as a group of evil people (120,000 people, to be exact) to be wiped off the face of the earth. God saw the Ninevites as a group of people to be concerned about. In God’s eyes, they were a group of people doing evil things, but they could not “tell their right hand from their left.” (Jonah 4:11) Jonah saw a group of people in need of judgment. God saw a group of people in need of warning and correction.
We can burn a lot of precious energy, waste a lot of time and suffer a great deal of inner turmoil when we resist the work that God is doing in and through us as we reason, run and rage rather than cooperate and trust.
I’ve always enjoyed a good sermon about Jonah because his story makes me feel better about my own. That is, until I realize that my story is not as different as his as I would like to believe. I, too, have been a resistor by reasoning, running and raging. In fact, the blog that you are reading and the website that has been created to house it are all the result of someone who finally decided to stop resisting. And one of the primary motivators of getting back in line with God’s working in my life was the internal and external unrest that inevitably follows the one who resists trusting in and cooperating with her Maker. I have found that aligning my thoughts and behavior with God’s plans and intentions does not answer all the questions and does not erase all the uncertainty, but it does give internal peace and spiritual rest.
How about you? Have you ever considered that your lack of peace or feelings of unrest could be a result of resistance? Are you expending available energy, wasting precious time and experiencing inner turmoil as you try to out-reason, run from or rage about the work that God is trying to do in and through you? Is there any area of your life where you are resisting by putting your own ideas, thoughts, feelings and decisions above God’s wisdom, guidance and instruction? Is it possible that acceptance and obedience may be the place where you will find the peace and the spiritual rest that you desire?
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.
A few years ago, I took a trip to Italy and got exposed to the beautiful art of mosaics. I wanted to learn how to do it and so I have taken a few classes. Little did I know that God would use the process of creating a mosaic to challenge one of my long-held beliefs that is one of the primary drivers of stress in my life. That belief is simply this:
I must always strive to do things perfectly,
or at least as perfectly as humanly possible
Yes, the pressure to try to be perfect is the driver of much of my mental and emotional angst in life.
And I am thankful that the art of creating a mosaic has challenged my unhealthy drive toward perfection!
Please let me explain a few things you need to know about creating a beautiful mosaic that will help you understand how God has challenged my wrong thinking.
In order to create a beautiful mosaic, these steps must be followed:
Step 1: Gather some imperfect materials
Go to the Goodwill and buy some old dishes that are unwanted and have been discarded. Then break them into small pieces of pottery shard so that they are completely useless from a practical point of view.
Step 2: Work doing the best you can in the time that you have
Envision a design. Then apply adhesive to the mosaic surface and place the broken shards on the adhesive according to the design, making extra cuts as necessary. Sounds easy, right? Not really. Cutting the small shards to a specific shape can be very challenging. And even when you think you have all of them glued down in the right place, you step back and take a long look and you see just a bunch of broken pieces of pottery with many irregularities and rough edges. The temptation at this stage is to try to spend hours re-cutting and rearranging the shards to get them just right. But the adhesive is drying, so there just isn’t that much time. This is the point of discouragement in mosaics. What you have created so far just doesn’t look right. But the adhesive is drying, so there just isn’t enough time to fix everything that could possibly be fixed.
Step 3: Trust the grout to do its work
Give the adhesive a good week to completely harden and then mix up the grout and spread it evenly over the shards, being very careful to press the grout into every nook and cranny. Give it a few minutes to dry. At this point, the piece looks nothing short of horrible. Then take a towel or a piece of newspaper and rub away the dried grout from the tops of the pieces of shard. The results are amazing. The grout has performed two very important functions:
Creating a mosaic is a great representation of how God’s grace is at work in the lives of those who love Him as we go about building and creating in our lives.
Because of His love for us, we are freed from the pressure to be perfect as we trust Him to take our work and bless it, making it useful for that which it was intended.
It is vain for you to rise up early, To retire late, To eat the bread of painful labors;
For He gives to His beloved even in his sleep.
Psalm 127:2 (NASB)
But he said to me “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
2 Corinthians 12:9
As I do creative and building work in my life:
I start with imperfect materials. I have many shortcoming and weaknesses.
I often become discouraged in my work, even as I do the best I can with the time and resources I have. Even when I am trying my best, there are many irregularities and rough edges in my work. I want to keep trying to make it perfect, but there just isn’t enough time. Why can’t I seem to get it right?
I am always amazed by how when I put my trust in God, He covers my work with His grace. As I trust God with the energy and effort invested in my work, the discouragement fades and the Spirit takes over and gives me joy. The result of my work is something more beautiful and purposeful than I could have ever imagined.
It is trusting in God’s grace that sets us free
from the unhealthy drive of perfectionism
and all the mental and emotional angst that goes with it.
In doing mosaics, I’ve learned that there is grace is in the grout.
In life, I’m learning that God’s grace covers me as I diligently work despite my limitations, doing the best I can with the time and resources that I have. His grace overcomes my weaknesses and limitations to produce something useful, purposeful and maybe even beautiful. Only God can do that and only He deserves the praise and honor for anything good that my hands create.
How about you? As you create and build in your life, are you trusting in your abilities and your drive for perfection or are you trusting in God’s grace?
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When it comes to being a model of the accomplishments that are often associated with good physical, mental and spiritual health, there are a lot of things that I am not.
Here is what I am:
I am a typical middle aged American who is swimming upstream against the current of time and culture to maintain a level of physical, mental and spiritual fitness so that I can respond energetically and effectively when God says,
“So now, go! I am sending you.”
God hears the prayers of His people and He is at work in the world. And for some reason, which seems puzzling to us at times, He calls us to be participants and partners in the work that He is doing.
Consider, for example, how God responded to the oppression of His people as slaves in Egypt for over 200 years:
…”I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey… So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”
Notice the points of God’s response, as said to Moses:
Just like to Moses, God often says to us – I’m going to do something and I’m going to do it through you!
Thankfully, God does not require our perfection. Just like Moses, we have insecurities and weaknesses that God will gladly work through to accomplish His will and bring glory to Himself.
“Who am I that I should go…?”, “What if they do not believe me or listen to me…?”,
“I have never been eloquent…I am slow of speech and tongue.”, “…please send someone else.”
(Exodus 3:11, 4:1, 4:10, 4:13)
But God does ask that we participate and participation involves active engagement of our body, mind and spirit.
This summer, I have been experiencing some “So now, go!,” moments. My 90-year old mother informed me that she had decided to move her and my disabled brother out of our family home of 50 years and into a retirement community. The call was clear – “Go!” But that “Go!” required some things of me. It required:
As think back on that week, I am very grateful. I am grateful for every single investment I made as a typical middle aged American swimming upstream against the current of time and culture to maintain a level of physical, mental and spiritual fitness so that I can respond energetically and effectively when God says, “So now, go! I am sending you.” I was grateful for the promptings and the strength God gave me to:
All of these seemingly insignificant, daily investments helped me to be able to respond energetically and effectively
when God said “So now, go!”
How about you? God is at work in the world and, at some point, God is going to ask you to get up and go. It may be to participate in a work of God that is miraculous and historic, like Moses. Or it may be to participate in a typical milestone of family life, like my mother’s move. Either way, are you praying about what God might want you to do or invest in so that you can be prepared for your next assignment? Are you making good and consistent investments in your physical, mental and spiritual health so that you can respond energetically and effectively to God’s next assignment for you? If not, what needs to change?
For we are God’s handiwork,
created in Christ Jesus to do good works,
which God prepared in advance for us to do.
A few years ago, I taught a required Health & Wellness General Education class at a local Christian university. Like most GenEd classes at college, the freshman students were mainly concerned about fulfilling the requirement and moving on to classes within their field of study. And so, like most GenEd courses, getting the students to enthusiastically participate in class was a challenge.
But there was one day when class participation went through roof all because I asked one simple question at the start of our unit on Nutrition and Eating Behavior. The question was:
Would Jesus eat a Twinkie?
There was an almost immediate uproar as the students grouped together with others taking their side on the issue. It was pretty much a 50/50 split and each group enthusiastically debated the merits of their stand on the issue.
The first group was eager to speak as they believed that Jesus would absolutely not, under any circumstances, eat a Twinkie. Their argument consisted of the following points:
The second group rolled their eyes and sat back in their chairs with a bit of a smirk on their faces. When their time came to speak, they stated that they believed that Jesus would have no problem eating a Twinkie. Their argument consisted of the following points:
One student was particularly interested in discussing the matter further and suggested looking at it within the context of the greatest commandments of all:
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’
This is the first and greatest commandment.
And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
By applying the greatest commandments to the question, we were able to come to the following reasonable speculations about how Jesus would most likely react to the idea of eating a Twinkie:
1. The same God who asks us to honor Him with our bodies is the same God who provides all things for our enjoyment. If Jesus believed that eating a Twinkie would be enjoyable, He very well might eat one, but given that it is a “fun food” as opposed to a “fuel food” it would be a very small part of his diet, most likely eaten on rare occasions.
2. Putting God first in our lives means that we get rid of anything that would cause us to sin or interfere with our devotion and service to Him. So, Jesus would be the master of His Twinkie eating instead of the other way around. As Paul discussed with the Corinthians regarding their freedom in Christ, …“I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything. (1 Corinthians 6:12).
3. If Jesus enjoyed eating a Twinkie, He would gladly forgo that experience if it would cause difficulty or hardship for anyone else in the room. He would follow the biblical principle of In humility, value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others (Philippians 2:3-4) and If your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love…(Romans 14:15)
4. Jesus would honor the food choices and eating convictions others, without judgment or interference, Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another… Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification…So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God (Romans 14:13,19,22) unless those choices were associated with a sin (such as gluttony or greed) Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted (Galatians 6:1).
What do you think? Would Jesus eat a Twinkie? Whether you personally would ever choose to eat a Twinkie or not, the biblical principles that were part of our class discussion are relevant to all of us as we make our day to day food choices. It may be wise for all of us to ask ourselves:
So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
1 Corinthians 10:31
In our family, we often critique each other’s driving skills. My daughter once came up with an interesting description of my driving style. She said that I am a “natural nudger.” It has been a joke in our family ever since. She observed that I have my own way of “helping” other people on the road become a little faster and more efficient on their journey to their destination.
Despite my protestations, I had to smile and admit that there is a grain of truth in her observation. There are days when am on the road facing the stress of having things to do, places to go and people to see. When my life gets demanding, my natural tendency is to switch it into high gear and expect that others will do the same.
Contrast my response with that of Jesus:
He was a man in high demand
Yet the news about him spread all the more,
so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses.
But His response was to retreat to seek God rather than to run harder and faster to meet all the demands, requests and expectations and then nudge others to do the same.
But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.
He had things to do, places to go and people to see, yet his response was the opposite of a “natural nudger.” When under pressure, He often withdrew to lonely places and prayed, even as he faced the many requests, demands and expectations.
When we face the pressure of many demands - things to do, places to go and people to see - we have the choice to try to work faster and more efficiently and nudge others to do the same or we can allow ourselves to be nudged by the wisdom and guidance of the Holy Spirit as we frequently retreat to a quiet place to pray.
When I am in the mode of a “natural nudger,”
I am operating from a sense of panic –
there is so much to do in so little time.
But when I stop, withdraw and pray,
even if only for a few minutes,
I begin to operate out of a sense of peace
which enables me to clearly and correctly think and respond
physically, mentally and emotionally.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation,
by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding,
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
In my driving, I have no doubt that I could create a much more peaceful and safe experience for myself and others on the road if I were to replace my tendency to be a “natural nudger” with a short prayer in a nearby parking lot to gain perspective and wisdom rather than reacting to the pressure.
In my life, I know that taking a few minutes away to pray would allow God to give me His perspective on a pressure-filled situation and respond out of sense of peace rather than panic.
How about you? Will you follow the example of Jesus and take the time to retreat and pray even when facing the pressure of multiple demands, requests and expectations? Will you choose to run faster and harder or will you retreat and find wisdom and rest in God’s presence?
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We come into this world alone and we leave this world alone, but in almost every place in between on our personal timeline, we need our peeps! No, not those sugary marshmallow Easter treats! I’m talking about people – people to help us “run with perseverance the race marked out for us…without growing weary and losing heart.” (Hebrews 12:1-3)
When my son was in high school, he was a strong runner on his cross country team. Because I watched many of his 3.5-mile races, I’ve learned a lot about what is takes to do well in an endurance race. He had a wonderful winning coach who gave each runner good instruction and encouragement. But the coach’s number one rule for running in training sessions and in races was this:
Stay with your pack!
Running with a group of other runners going at a similar pace was essential because it is unwise and potentially dangerous to try to run a race alone. Why?
Pacing - Go out too slow and you won’t be able to make up the time later in the race. Go out too fast and you will run out of energy before the end of the race. Staying with the pack helps everyone to run at a steady, sustainable and appropriate pace throughout the entire race. Runners encourage and hold each other accountable to keeping the pace.
Obstacles - Most cross country courses are in parks and so tree stumps, fallen tree branches and large rocks must be spotted and avoided. Tripping over one of these obstacles can add on unwanted time or take you out of the race completely. Runners watch out for and warn each other about obstacles.
Race Conditions – Cross country racing is done outside in the natural environment which can present difficult race conditions. Some courses have difficult terrain to navigate, such as a steep hill with a gravel path. Other races are run in unpleasant weather conditions – wind, rain or a day of blistering heat with no cloud or shade tree in sight. Running in a pack provides both a distraction and some encouragement when running in difficult race conditions.
Running a cross country race can be a grueling experience that you can see on the faces of the runners as they go by. In many ways, my son’s cross country races are not a lot different than the “race marked out for us” that sometimes also seems grueling. Many of the races we run in life are tough endurance races, as opposed to short quick sprints. Pacing is everything, overcoming obstacles is essential and navigating a difficult terrain or environment is common.
Wise King Solomon highlighted the benefits of running our race with others:
As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.
Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
So, it is with good reason that we are instructed to:
…consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds,
not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing,
but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Is the race you are running feeling a little grueling today? If so, don’t be too surprised or too hard on yourself. But, most of all, remember that it is unwise and potentially dangerous to try to run it on your own.
Stay with your pack, partners and pals!
You are in an endurance race. You need others to help you keep your pace in check.
You will face obstacles. You need others to help you watch out for them and help you avoid them.
You are running in enemy territory that includes difficult terrain and hostile conditions. You need others to help you ignore the verbal taunts and extinguish the flaming arrows of the enemy so you can successfully finish your race.
How about you? How is your race going? To cope is to deal effectively with something difficult. My son’s cross country races were difficult. Your race may be difficult too. One very effective and wise coping strategy is to stay with your pack!
Do you need to reach out to your pack, partners and pals?
Do you need to be a pack, partner or pal to someone else who is currently struggling?
We live in a country where we have many choices, including many food choices. For example, the Food Marketing Institute estimates that the average number of items carried in US supermarkets in 2016 was 38,900 products. Sometimes it seems that the number of choices available in the average aisle of a supermarket is both overwhelming and absurd.
And the abundance of choice exists not just in the grocery aisle. Restaurant eating accounted for 48% of the American family food dollar in 2017 (compared to 25% in 1955). That demand has brought about an abundance of choices. In the town where I reside, if I want pizza, I can choose from 42 different establishments. If I want Mexican, I can choose from 15 different restaurants. For dinner in a hurry, I will have to make a choice among 37 contenders for my fast food order.
Our busy lifestyle combined with an abundance of choices contributes to the difficulties that we often face when trying to make healthy food choices.
There are several good strategies for combating the impact of these excessive number of choices on our dietary habits:
Cook at home: Recent research (2017) showed that people who eat home cooked meals more than 5 times a week (as opposed to less than 3 times a week) not only consumed more fruits and vegetables, but also were 28% percent less likely to be overweight and 24% less likely to have an excess percentage of body fat. This is not surprising because when you cook at home (from the limited food choices in your kitchen) you know what is going into your meal and you can adapt recipes to accommodate your health goals. Yet, life is busy and, for many, cooking at home most nights of the week seems unrealistic.
Get Educated: Reading Nutrition Facts labels can certainly help, but with so many choices to evaluate, even that strategy is of limited benefit. We are busy people. The Hartman Group did a study (2016) that found that even when people were watching their weight, only 59% frequently or almost always read Nutrition Facts labels on food products. When it comes to dining out, a recent study (2016) showed that while 1 in 4 consumers had a restaurant-specific app on their smartphone, only 16% had looked up nutritional information while dining in a restaurant. Detailed nutrition facts about the foods available to us can be very useful in making healthy food choices, but only if we take the time to study them.
The truth is that, sometimes, I am in a hurry. I am out and about and don’t have time to go home to make a meal and didn’t have time to make a meal to take with me before I left the house. The truth is that, sometimes, I am distracted. I am preoccupied with reading, writing or socializing and I don’t have the mental bandwidth to investigate 4 different nutrition facts labels before I make my food choice.
I recently remembered another strategy that has helped me greatly in making good food choices, even when I am busy and distracted. That strategy is prayer.
Last October, I was in my busy day and had to stop for a quick lunch. Based on my location, I had two choices of where to eat lunch: Culvers and Panera Bread.
It was the last day of the Indian Summer and I really wanted my lunch to also be an opportunity to savor the last warm day of the year before the cold weather began in earnest. As I pondered my choices, my first thought went to Culvers. I could get a kid’s meal that had a small cheeseburger, small fries, small drink and a small serving of frozen custard. That cool frozen custard appealed to me as the perfect way to savor the last really hot day of the year. I don’t believe in labeling foods as “good” or “bad”, but I knew that, based on what I had eaten so far that day and had planned for dinner, this particular meal was not the best choice for me at that moment. But, I wanted it anyway.
And so, I prayed a prayer that helped me then and has helped me many times since. “Lord, please help me to choose what is better.” As soon as I silently spoke those words, God answered my prayer by reminding me that Panera Bread had outdoor seating. I could order a cool salad and a cool flavored water and sit outside on that sunny and hot day to enjoy experiencing the last warm day of the year. It was perfect! I had a healthy meal and a great experience.
Life is about choices.
In the classic story of Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42), Mary and Martha both had choices. Martha was corrected not for choosing something bad, but for failing to choose the best option. Mary was commended because, considering her two choices, she had “chosen what is better.”
In talking with the Corinthians about their freedom to make choices (1 Corinthians 10:23), Paul provides some clarification to their statement, “I have the right to do anything” by reminding them that:
“…but not everything is beneficial.”
“…but not everything is constructive.”
There are many ways to go about making good food choices. In a perfect world, we would all take the time to cook at home and take the time to research the nutritional value of the foods we eat at home and in the restaurant. But most of us don’t live in that perfect world. And for most of us, there are other factors that influence our food choices, such as our social interactions and our physical and emotional state.
With so many choices coming at us and so many confounding variables that affect our choices, may I suggest that one important part of making good food choices is simply to pray the following prayer:
“Lord, among the food options available to me,
please help me to choose
what is better, beneficial and constructive.”
How about you? Have you considered prayer as an effective way to help yourself make good food choices? Will you commit to praying this prayer this week? May God help you as He helped me on that hot day in October!
About the author:
Hello! My name is Ginger Hill and I am a Christ follower and a wellness professional. Over the years, I have personally and professionally seen the benefits of healthy living and I have also seen the hardships of struggling to practice good health habits in the midst of a busy and sometimes stressful life. I am passionate about helping myself and others to live a healthy lifestyle and I believe that good health is essential in helping us to do the good works that God has called us to do. Because I am a work in progress, I write these blog posts to encourage myself and I share them with others in the hope that they may be encouraged as well.
Psalm 92:12,14 (NLT)
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