Monday, August 1, 2016

How to be Healthy

The other day I decided to go on a run in the rain. While I was out there, breathing in the fresh scents of the trees, feeling the water droplets on my face, and hearing my own breath - I felt alive. I ran past another runner on the trail of the lake, and we both smiled at each other, as if to share in this mutual feeling of joy that comes from running in the rain. That previous morning, I had enjoyed a sweet time of encouragement with the Lord. Though the situation we face is a difficult one right now, in my time of stillness before Him, I felt overwhelmed by his great love and encouragement.

I realized that day how the Lord has taught me quite a lot about what it means to be "healthy." And I guess, I feel compelled to write this because I believe there is so much falseness out there for what it means to be defined as a healthy person. There is this subculture arising that is obsessed with extreme exercise and dieting. So I thought I would write this post, about what I believe the Lord is revealing to me of what it means, actually, to be healthy - READ: NOT skinny, NOT muscular, NOT anything overly focused on the physical, but some ways in which He changes our inner being. The habits we can choose to increase His influence in our lives and decrease the negative impact of certain things in the world. In Ephesians, the Lord encourages us to "Be very careful then how you live - not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is." (5:15-17)

So here are a few things/habits I have adopted or removed over the past couple of years to be more careful with how I live, to make the most of every opportunity, and to better understand the will of the Lord (by the guidance of the Spirit!). May this help you to think of your own habits and encourage you to be more proactive on examining your life. So that you can make decisions that will strengthen your wisdom and faith in the Lord.

5 Ways to be Healthy:

1. Do not think about being "healthy!"

What do I mean by this? Well basically, just what it says... don't THINK so much! Now, this is something I want to learn more, definitely. But I do believe this health-obsessed culture is quite un-healthy actually! We are human beings who were created to work hard, to eat and be satisfied, to let our bodies rest. I really believe obsessive thoughts on being healthy hinders most people from actually becoming healthy! Much of who we are starts with who we are in our hearts and minds. If our mind is preoccupied with thoughts of working out, being healthy, denying ourself such and such food - sooner or later we will be simply exhausted. I know this from experience, friends. Worse yet, if our hearts focus on our bodies and this physical world alone, we will end up quite empty. That can lead to a myriad of other things. So instead - please, think and allow your heart to be preoccupied with things of greater value.

"Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God" Colossians 3:1-3 

2. Commit to prayer

There is really not any other way to a "healthy" lifestyle than to commit yourself to talk with the Lord. This is obviously directed to brothers and sisters in Christ. However, I say this because I know there are many followers of God who can easily get sucked into thinking exactly the same as non-believers, and I believe that is very un-healthy! For the church to think and live life exactly as the world does, but only with a Christian cap on, misses the point completely. We ought not think as the world thinks, and our eyes should be focused upwards as we live our lives. I think some have misunderstood the line of "Well I am not of the world, but I am still in it!" and use it as an excuse to allow the Narrow Way to be just a bit wider. Let us not be like this! Let us be real and true. Let us be people who commit to pray to the Lord and allow His Spirit to teach and shape us into the ones we really are in Him. This I believe, is the key to real and full health (I am not talking physically now, but spiritually and in a form that is eternal).

3. Make the world your gym 

Okay so I used to be a gym-goer (gasp!). It actually was not until I moved to Northern Ireland that I explored the world of activity outside of a gym and found that it is so beautiful. You can miss so much if you keep your activity limited to fitness equipment and weights. The Lord has given us all the desire to work and be active, he has given us life - not only physically but spiritually! I know our culture today encourages certain methods of training as "better" or more "efficient," but I don't believe this is true or good. Find out what you enjoy, what gives you energy and is fun for you! Obviously, I understand that I live in Norway and its one of the most beautiful and active countries, so I know if you live in Texas and its 110F the last thing you want to do is run outside. But what I mean is, don't feel you have to be something you are not. Not only in training, but in life! We all have different gifts, skills, strengths, weaknesses, bodies, looks, etc. (Think of 1 Corinthians 12 and the various yet important parts of the body). So take the time to find out who you are in these things - so you can use your strengths, acknowledge your weaknesses, and have peace in the one you are.

4. Get rid of your iPod... and your TV. 

Okay, okay, now I have lost some of you. But wait!! Hear me out. These two things were a leap for me (and one of them just recently as I lost my iPod and have been forced into this realization!). And yet...this is actually important and its something I want you all to think about. The impact of TV and music and media in general is HUGE, massive in fact. The decision to remove television from my life was one of the biggest and most fruitful decisions I have ever made. Now I don't want you to box me in as an ultra-conservative Christian at this point, for those who know me, I hope you see that my desire first and foremost is simply to a live for the Lord and to know Him. I am willing to do whatever to encourage that to fruition. Our time is limited, and for those who work and are involved with friends/family, you know the hours are quite few actually. There is so much more that we could do with our time than to sit in front of a TV screen. But more than that practical end, there is so much more to gain when we are not allowing ourselves to be constantly bombarded with the spirit of the world that comes through lyrics and messages of certain music and TV shows. I am going to take it a step further (if some of you are still with me...) and say that we ought even to be careful with that which we deem "Christian" or holding "Godly values." I mention this, because I have some dear friends who believe this - and I understand the mentality because I grew up in it and I know it is hard to think outside of. However, just because something has a Christian label or Godly values does not necessarily mean it should get the "green light" to have an influence in our lives. All I want to say, is THINK friends! Be careful and acknowledge the impact the music and television you listen to and watch has on your lives. The last thing I want to do is to build a wall of hostility about this within the church, but merely want to encourage you to stop and pray to the Lord about this and just ask the question - "Is what I am listening to and watching beneficial for the Kingdom?" and be willing to take the step, no matter what it means, when you get an answer.

"Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting" Psalm 139:23-24

5.  Have a friend!

The Lord has placed a great desire and longing in our hearts to love and fellowship with Him and others. This is not always easy and I don't mean to use the buzz word "community," but in this world it can be easy to isolate ourselves. Especially with social media and crazy work hours and busyness, at the end of the day all you want to do is sit and watch TV for hours (okay sorry I won't go back to that) ... but we were made for more! Obviously, this will look different for different people. If you live in the US you likely live near some kind of church that has small groups and all sorts of activities - if that is you, I say be careful not to turn church into merely a social/relational activity and remember the point of it all (to have relational activity with the Lord!). For those of us who live in Europe, or at least for me in Scandinavia, it might not be so easy to find strong Christian fellowship. BUT take heart! The Lord is always near. Remember the classic and so good song -- What a friend we have in Jesus, all our griefs and sins to bare, what a privilege to carry, everything to God in prayer! Can we find a friend so faithful? Who will all our sorrows share! Jesus knows our every weakness, take it to the Lord in prayer! What sweet sweet truth this is. My second greatest friend is my husband. He helped me to see things for how they were, was stern with things that I needed to let go of, and continually encourages me to be strengthened as a child of God. If you are able, find one or two people who you can really be honest with. People with whom you can share your weaknesses, who can learn who you are, and can encourage you to pursue a "healthy" life of faith and righteousness. However, more importantly than even that, continue to pursue and turn to the greatest friend you have - the Lord, who can always be called on and found.

I hope you can find encouragement in these 5 things that I have learned and that I believe has helped me to become more "healthy" in the way that I live and think and who I am in my heart. I still have a long way to go in my pursuit of a "healthy" or better yet, Godly, lifestyle. But may we all be willing and proactive to turn our eyes from what is seen to what is unseen and so find that which truly makes us alive and well - the love and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ! 

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