Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Faith & Fitness Inspired: April Blog Symposium

I recently stumbled upon this Facebook page and I really like the idea! As a Christian fitness blogger I can write on each month's topic and then share my link on their page.  If you're interested in participating yourself, visit: FFInspired!

April Blog Symposium:
Fitness and Worship - How can they work together to glorify God?

Worshipping God through fitness hadn't been something I'd given much thought to until recently. Growing up, I was always active and involved in different sports and physical activity - but I was never passionate about fitness, so it was never a stumbling block, or temptation for idolatry. However, that started to change when I began training for my first half marathon.

Suddenly, my days revolving around running.  When was I going to run? How long? Where? What was I going to wear? Ooh, I need more running clothes.  And more running shoes! And this blogger has some great articles about running.  I should subscribe to Runner's World magazine and so on and so on...  Almost overnight I was completely hooked and deeply involved in the world of running. It quickly became a passion of mine and I was spending a large chunk of my free time both participating in and thinking about fitness.

My husband was a huge support during these early training days and would often do my long runs with me.  One day, during a particularly challenging run, I was complaining about hurting and wanted to stop.  Donny turned back to me and asked, "are you running for God's glory, or your own right now?" My first (angry) thought was, "what the heck does that mean? I'm tired, I'm hurting and you're running too fast!"  We slowed to a walk so I could catch my breath and I admitted to him that I'd like to say yes, I run for God's glory, but if I'm being honest, I don't really know what that means.

We spent the rest of the run (we had the time, after all) discussing ways I could be more purposeful about running, and how I could make it an act of worship for God's glory, and not my own.

(1) Be grateful.  It's silly to whine about a recreational activity I do for fun - but when I'm tired and hurting, it's easy to throw a "woe is me" pity party. I need to remind myself that having a body that is capable of running is a gift from God.  Sure I can stretch, ice, do strength training and all kinds of things to keep my body healthy - but ultimately, God is in control of my abilities. The fact that I can even get up in the morning and exercise, is all do to Him, not my own abilities. So when it hurts and when I'm tired, I can worship God and give Him the praise that I'm able to even run at all.
(2) Use it as a time for meditation/prayer. Life is busy. A full time job, two part time jobs, volunteer work, a husband and two Siamese cats are all vying for my attention.  Adding running or working out to that schedule means I do have to make sacrifices, but it doesn't have to be wasted time either.  Sometimes on a run I choose a specific issue or person to pray for and dedicate that run to it. It's a chance for 30-45 minutes of basically, uninterrupted prayer.  This is definitely an area that I wish I were better at, but it's a clear way I can worship the Lord through fitness.

(3) Builds Self Control. A fruit, or evidence, of the Holy Spirit's work in my life, is living with self control (Galatians 5:22-24). If I can't control my body in the small things; i.e. eating healthy options versus unhealthy options, running when I want to walk, or getting up early to exercise instead of sleeping in... how am I going to take control over the bigger more crucial urges? Running is an opportunity for me to practice controlling my body and doing what's right, even when I don't always feel like it. Hopefully and prayerfully, by exercising self control in the act of physical fitness, I can also strengthen my ability for self control when it comes to "spiritual fitness."
(4) Encourages Discipline. Discipline and self control go hand in hand, and they're both attributes that believers should have. The lines from "Come Thou Fount" sum up how I feel about my heart at times:
Prone to wander, Lord I feel it
Prone to leave the God I love
Here's my heart O take and seal it
Seal it for Thy courts above
As humans, we're prone to doing things that aren't good for us, even though we know better. Paul, the greatest missionary of all time said in Romans, 
"For I do not understand my own actions. 
For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate." 
(Romans 7:15 ESV)
Even Paul had sins that he struggled against.  We fight sin through the power of the Holy Spirit, but the Holy Spirit empowers us through our own practice of discipline.  If I can be disciplined about running when I don't always feel like it, I pray that in turn I can be disciplined about fighting my sin, when I don't always feel like it.

(5) Opportunities to see and breathe God's creation. One of my greatest worship moments was during a half marathon in Ventura Beach.  I was having a really good day and feeling strong.  The course was along the coast with mountains to my right and the expanse of ocean to my left.  I was listening to music and in the Lord's sweet providence the song, "The Love of God" came on
 Could we with ink the ocean fill and were the skies of parchment made, 
Were every stalk on earth a quill, and every man a scribe by trade, 
To write the love of God above would drain the ocean dry, 
Nor could the scroll contain the whole, though stretched from sky to sky.
I looked to the ocean spanning further than I could ever see and was just floored by a love so vast it would drain the ocean if we tried to use it as ink to describe that love. If I had slept in that morning, and just gone about a normal Saturday, I would have never seen that sky and ocean, and felt God's love so strongly.

Fitness is a gift from God that He can take away at any time.  If He takes that gift away from me tomorrow or if I run marathons until I'm 100 - He will be no less good, and I will have no less reason to praise Him. Today, I praise God and give Him the glory for allowing me to strengthen and push my body. And tomorrow, I will continue to worship Him whatever He brings my way. And that's how I give glory to God through fitness.
If you want more on this subject, an easy read is Game Day for the Glory of God. A lot of Christian high school sports teams make this required reading.

I also enjoyed The Reason for Sports which is geared a little more toward men, so if you're a man reading this, great, and if you're woman, (me too) it's still a helpful read from a godly perspective.

I hope you're encouraged by this and always, I'd love to hear your thoughts!

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