If I could stay in bed, sleep in and still stay fit, I would do it. While I enjoy the camaraderie of my workout classes, if I could avoid the intense exertion five out of seven mornings a week, I would totally do it! But because I enjoy being fit and keeping my weight and mental clarity at a certain level, I make myself rise at an early hour so that I can have time with the Lord and also have time to exercise every day. I say, “No”, to hitting the snooze button 14 times for the greater “Yes” of feeling good after a hard workout and for the rest of the day.
The other morning, when I was doing my devotions, the thought came to me that we can put our thoughts into the same workout regimen that we put our bodies in. The same way I control what I put into my body and how I exercise it to stay in shape, I can control what I put into my mind and exercise those thoughts to get the flab out of my thought life. Just as my body without exercise would revert to a state of untoned muscles, my mind without exertion becomes slack and untrained. My thoughts will automatically go towards negativity, fear, and low self-esteem. That’s what my mind looks like when left to itself.
But God has given me a great “gym” for my thought life. It’s called the Word of God. For every flabby negative thought that wants to keep me in a cycle of failure, I can purposefully replace it with God’s thoughts about me and my circumstances. But those thoughts aren’t natural, just like working out doesn’t feel natural. I have to MAKE myself dig into the Word and find God’s thoughts on a matter and then I have to WRITE them down so I don’t forget them, and then I have to REHEARSE those words over and over until they get into my brain. Eventually, my thoughts will get into godly shape.
But here’s what I see so often…many of us hear the Word on Sunday and think that a one-time hearing is going to make a change. But let me ask you this: if I went to the gym once a week, do you think I would notice any measurable change in my cardiovascular health or in the shape of my physical body? And if I ate junk food all week and then expected that one visit to the gym to work magic, do you think I would see the results I hope for?
Have you ever known that there is a change that you need to make in your life but you have absolutely NO desire to execute that change? Have you ever wrestled with the impossibility that you will be able to follow through or be successful in making the change you know is needed? Maybe you know that you need to start an exercise regime, but you’re completely overwhelmed by the prospect of all that is involved with getting to the gym, going out for a run or walk on a regular basis or of sticking out the commitment to be physically fit. Or maybe there is a habit that you know-that-you-know you need to quit but the thought of living without “…” is daunting and totally unappealing. You hate the habit but you NEED the thing you’re attached to, and it makes you almost panicky to think of life without it. Or maybe you want to add healthy choices into your life like better ways of eating, being a more connected friend or serving in your community, but the thoughts of what the cost will be and everything in your life that will have to adjust in order to make room for this new lifestyle is keeping your feet in the blocks.
If any of these life challenge screen shots describes you, I GET IT!! I have been there in each and every one of those tight squeeze places where who I am and who I know I am supposed to be are as far apart as the edges of the Grand Canyon. But I have a word of encouragement for each of us. The good news is that God knows that we cannot traverse that chasm in our own strength. He sets the vision for the next place that He wants to take us and He is fully prepared to get us there. The problem is that since we’re locked in these things called “Time” and “Space”, we get freaked out when the change doesn’t happen overnight. We would prefer that the moment the revelation hits that we should start to exercise, cut out sugar, stop cussing, turn our gossiping and critical mouth into a thankful and praising mouth, or start being faithful in reading the Bible and prayer, that the desire and the ability to execute would also be there.
But it doesn’t work that way. Unfortunately, I have found that the Preview of Coming Attractions comes way before either the desire or the ability. And even once the desire comes, it can be quite a while before the strategy or the ability come as well. And that can cause a lot of frustration (What is wrong with me? Why do I still fall short in this area? Why can’t I quit “…”? Why can’t I start “…”? and so on). But from this frustration is born the moment of choice that God needs from us. He will never shove His will down our throats. He simply pulls back the curtain and lets us see the better way but at the end of the day, it will always be our choice whether we want to go down the path that will bring life and freedom or remain in the place where we are.
Stamina is an urgent need if we are going to finish the race that the Lord has set before us. Therefore, we must increase our stamina.
To illustrate what I mean by increasing stamina, let me use my friend as an example. My friend runs long distances and has a trainer. When she began training for her first marathon, her trainer explained to her that she would have to increase her stamina by 10% every week – and no more. Her trainer strategically increased her body’s muscular ability to handle longer distances by making gradual and consistent demands on her stamina. He gradually increased the distance that she would run and then the pace that she would run each new distance. His goal was to prevent her body from collapsing and becoming injured. Injury caused by overzealous training would backfire and take her out of the race completely. But by the same token, not pushing her level of stamina consistently enough would cause her to be underdeveloped when faced with the pressure of race day.
The same is true for us in the things of the spirit. We must consistently and strategically increase our stamina in the things of God. But let me say this: increasing stamina is never fun and it requires focus and self-discipline. It requires vision for the goal that we wish to attain. Do you wish to be closer to the Lord? Do you wish to hear His voice more clearly? Do you wish to shed unwanted habits or sin? Then increasing your stamina in prayer, in worship, and in directing your thoughts toward God will be key. Coming into His presence regularly and increasing the amount of time that you can focus your thoughts, your worship and your praise upon Him is critical for increasing our spiritual stamina.
Photo taken by Amy Caramihalis
I have been asked by a few people to occasionally blog about fitness. I think I have shied away from this topic because I have no formal education in physical fitness and there are SO many blogs and articles on health and fitness that I assumed people would rather read those. But the requests keep coming, so I guess some of my readers will benefit from the minute amount of knowledge I have on the subject of eating for anti-aging and working out for health and vitality.
Why is a healthy lifestyle, nutrition for anti-aging and exercise so important to me? I have found that my physical stamina, emotional well-being and appearance are all drastically impacted by the habits that I have formed over the years. My schedule on most days is the following:
- 4:30AM: Wake up, get coffee, spend time in the Word of God, journaling, praying, etc.
- 5:40AM: Change into workout clothes, get ready for the gym
- 6:00AM: Workout classes start, or I workout at home
- 7:00AM: Make breakfast
- 7:15AM: Get ready for work
The gym that my husband and I go to is small and the classes are relatively intimate compared to other gyms in our area. We love this because we have become part of a community that has the same goals that we do. Most of us are working professionals ranging in age from early 20’s to late 60’s! We encourage each other, we notice when someone has gone “missing”, we grieve with each other and celebrate each other’s accomplishments – even those outside of the gym. This community makes working out fun and keeps us coming back. It provides accountability and friendship.