Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Love God With All Your Strength - Pay Attention to Your Body!

Over the course of my life I have generally remained in decent shape and have especially enjoyed working out as a lifestyle. Over the last two years, however, anxiety and worries over various concerns had such a hold of my time and effort that I found it easier and easier to drift from caring for myself physically. By the time I got to the doctor for my annual checkup – which I had put off for 2 years - there were warning signs all over my labs and readings that I needed to pay more attention to my body. It is often easy as a Christian to so focus on the spiritual that one neglects the physical. As I contemplated the need to get back into the groove of caring for myself physically, it occurred to me that the Scripture makes it pretty clear that this kind of care needs to be a priority as well. The Greatest Commandment is stated in various ways, but in its most comprehensive form says. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” There it is, “all your strength.” God wants us to care for our bodies too. Now, before you dismiss this essay as another opportunity to be “beaten into shape, guilted into conformity or called to transform oneself into a perfect physical specimen” let me be clear, that it is NOT my desire to communicate that kind of message. It is my desire, however, to recognize that we are each stewards of their own bodies and we each need to pay attention to our physical health and well-being. For example, I already know that I have a few areas of health I need to give special attention. I’ve told Luz that I want to be so attentive to those areas that should I die, she can honestly say, “The Lord took Sam because he did everything he could to care for himself” not, “Well, I guess it was Sam’s time, but I sure wish he’d have managed his health better.” My doctor’s appointment reminded me that I was not truly loving God with “all my strength” but was allowing other areas beyond my control to choke out my desire to take care of my body. I just can’t let that happen. So, I’ve recommitted myself to love the Lord with all my strength by taking care of my body through exercise, vitamins, meds, and nutrition to the best of my ability. I’m also seeking to maintain this by focusing my efforts on things I enjoy, not torturing myself with things I don’t prefer to do. I really enjoy calisthenics, so my children bought me “The Rack”, a device that lets you go crazy on variations of callisthenic exercises. I also really like those ellipticals and other different cardio devises at the gym and I love walking. However, I’m not really crazy about running. Even when I “liked” to run back in the day, it wasn’t until mile 2 of a 5 mile run that I would be into it. For that reason, it would be less than wise to build the bulk my program on running, so it’s the machines and walking I focus on. I also look for opportunities to walk naturally. In Atlanta airport this weekend, knowing I had long layovers, I walked to my concourse instead of taking the train and spent a lot of time just walking around. I park further away from shop entrances, etc. Simple but effective. I’ve also looked for ways to “cross-train” spiritually and physically. One can pray while one walks or runs. I also found that in the morning, I really wanted to begin the day with a devotion and a time of prayer, but I also wanted to do something physical. Through a regimen my friend Omar Reyes has dubbed the Faith Warrior Workout, for 15-20 minutes in the morning, I do various sets of pushups and pray for the concerns of the day and people in my life during the “rest periods.” It has had an amazing effect! If I’m a little “smoked” after a hard set, I pray longer! But I found by praying longer, my next set is often more dynamic than the previous one. This simple regimen pays huge dividends one can literally measure! Let’s say that you undertake a program like this 3 times a week for 10 minutes each. During that time, you do 4 sets of 10 pushups and pray for 3 people each time – 40 pushups, 3 people or issues to be prayed for. Doesn’t sound very impressive until you look at it differently. Multiply 40 pushups per session times 3 sessions per week times 52 weeks a year: that’s 6,420 pushups per year! A whole lot better than zero! On top of that, you would have prayed for 468 people or issues that might have gone unprayed for previously! With even a modest effort in this area, one can yield mighty cumulative results. And that’s just at a modest level – imagine the numbers when one grows in ability and intensity! If you’re breathing, it’s not too late! Weeks ago, I recommitted myself to pay attention to this often neglected part of the Great Commandment so that the Lord’s light can more brightly shine in every area of my life, especially in terms of my physical fitness. I pray that you might take a little time to allow little more light to shine in yours too! With much love, Sam

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