Exercising Your Faith

Okay, I admit it. I don't like to exercise. Well, let me put it this way, I would prefer to exercise my right to choose than my right to lose. I am more apt to wander the aisles of my local supermarket looking for something new to try, something to nibble on while I am watching a favored show, something that promises an immediate, empty pleasure than I am to wander over to my treadmmill and journey to a healthier me. So there it is, I admit it and own the problem. So what is a body to do?

I am reminded that our faith life is no different in some ways than our body life. If we don't exerccise our body, things start to roll over in places you didn't even know could roll. The burden of weight isn't flattering, but neither is flabby faith. I mean, think about it, that body you are investing in will eventually go the way of all the earth (no, I am no advocating adopting my kind of lifestyle), but it is't eternal. Our bodies all have an expiration date. Faith, however, is an element of the eternal. Why then would we wish to invest all of our time and energy into looking good in lieu of investing time in toning what ultimately will bring us good?  TAlk about return on investment!

There is a balance to be struck here, of course, but I hope during this Thanksgiving and Advent season we don't just say thanks (although that is a good start), but we stretch and live our thanks, making it a practice of our daily lives. How do we do that? One way is making it part of our daily routine.  Here are some suggestions, and you may have others to add as well:

1.  Take a few minutes each morning and take some deep breaths, stretch and allow yourself to be in the moment and reflect on the blessings in your life. What are you ultimately getting up for? That can be a very good question. Is it for love of family? A belief that your life can make a beautiful and lasting difference in the world around you? Connect your life with a higher purpose than just 'getting through another day.' It helps bring perspective and reminds you that our lives are mysterious, wondrous gifts to be embraced. Yes, no matter the challenges and aches and pains we face. 

2.  Be thankful to the people you meet. If someone holds a door open for you, say thank you (I am often amazed at how many people don't do this!). If someone gets your coffee for you, thank them and wish them well on their day. This doesn't have to be a long or ponderous exchange (better if it is not, frankly, but keep it moving and keep it honest). Recognize if someone has gone th extra mile for you or is working to help you solve a problem. Be mindful of treating everyone with respect and dignity. We never know the challenges another is facing. Living thankfully brings benefits to you and to others as well.

3.  Do something for people in need. Donate. Serve. Give. Do. Help. It will bring joy to your soul as well as make the world a better place. Those who volunteer and work for the good of others are reported as being happier and at a better peace with themselves. Who doesn't want more of that? 

4.  Try to reframe negative thoughts. Ask yourself the question as to why you are feeling angry or a little low? Are you tired and need to give yourself a rest? Exercising is also remembering to relax those muscles in between. We need to relax a bit between our faith exercises as well. Schedule some time for you so you can be in a good place. You cannot draw from an empty well. God calls us to times as rest and we can be thankful in finding rest in those times. 

5.  If you suspect that there is something more going on in your life, seek help. Don't try to go it alone. Reach out to your pastor or doctor, to a friend or someone you can trust. Definitely be praying about it and be open to how God answers. There is a phone number for people who are willing to listen and will not, nor cannot, share your story with others. Give them a call...and remember to say 'thank you' for their ministry as well.

6.  Nurture your mind as well as your soul. Don't starve your soul because life is demanding too much. Take a few minutes to read an article, listen to a moving piece of music, read your Bible (which if you read daily will truly bring strength and set the tone for your day). Fill your soul with good things (like empty calories that bring no lasting value, reach for the richer, deeper experiences that will nurture your spirit in healthy ways that will bring lasting benefit).

7.  Worship. Readjust your mindset so that worship is not something you have to do but something you want to do, are priviledged to do and see it as the blessing it is designed to be. Sit back and enter worship with a time of silence, breathing deeply, and practice presence. This is your time to be with God in a place that is surrounded by others who are also seeking God's peace. Listen to the music and allow it to flow into your soul. Follow the flow of the service. It is like a good coach who can lead you from flab to fav! Enter with an open heart, asking God to speak to your heart even as you give thanks for God's presence in your life. Nope, being at home and turning on the TV or popping in a CD will never replace the beauty and mysterious presence of Christ in the midst of His church as they gather. Be a regular part of that gift.

8.  Sing. Go ahead and sing your thanks. Make up your own song (being in your car by yourself may be a good place to practice this exercise!). If you cannot make up your own song or write your own lyrics to a tune you know, sing along to your favorite hymn or song (remember to keep it positive). However you do it, make a joyful noise to the Lord It is a sign of thanksgiving and praise and lifts your soul.

There are many other things you can do, but the number eight is a holy number. It is the sign of God's new creation and the world in all its freshness.  It is what I hope we can all experience this season. So be thankful. Be inspiried. Be reminded. Be worshipful. Live the joy that Christ has promised. Exercise the right way to grow in faith and understanding and you will be blessed.

In Christ,
Pastor Lynn