Fitness – emotional, physical, mental and spiritual.
In order to be fit we need to invest in all areas of our lives. All types of fitness are interlinked, but I suggest that the key fitness to nurture is spiritual. If we are spiritually fit we are much more likely to invest in ourselves physically, mentally, emotionally and socially. What I will look at in this blog are PRACTICAL methods of investing in your spiritual fitness. It is not the be all and end all of fitness, for example I developed a routine where in my devotion to my spirituality, I exercised physically. This fed my mind. I prayed then did some sit-ups. I read a chapter in the bible then did some press-ups. Times of spiritual lows can be as a result of lack of investment to our physical state and have knock-on effects to mental state. We must look after ourselves – sleep well, eat well, spend time with friends, spend time alone, go for a run or play sports or go to the gym, say good things to yourself.
Spiritual discipline – an overview of Richard Foster’s ‘Celebration of discipline’
In his book ‘celebration of discipline’, Richard Foster suggest there are 12 different spiritual disciplines and puts them into 3 categories. Internal: meditation, prayer, fasting and study. External: simplicity, solitude, submission and service. Corporate: confession, worship, guidance and celebration. I suggest that all of these disciplines can be done in all three ways. You can just as easily pray externally and corporately as internally. Fasting can be done corporately as well as internally though we should not remove it from our personal lives if we do this corporately. He talks of how one can find great joy in having discipline. On the road to spiritual fitness, we must exercise. To exercise we must practice the spiritual disciplines. If you want to find out more about each discipline pick up the ‘celebration of discipline’ book by Richard Foster. Each of these 12 disciplines will be part of this resource, let them soak your very being.
Spiritual pathways – get to know yourself. A brief look at ‘God is closer than you think’ by John Ortberg.
We all connect with God in our own way, how do you? There are many different ways, this is a brief overview. John Ortberg in his book ‘God is closer than you think’ says, “Our individual uniqueness means we will all experience God’s presence and learn to relate to him in different ways. A spiritual pathway has to do with the way we most naturally sense God’s presence and experience spiritual growth. We all have at least one pathway that comes most naturally to us. We also have one or two that are the most unnatural and require a lot of stretching for us to pursue.”
He outlines seven different spiritual pathways and they are as follows:
Intellectual Pathway: People on the intellectual pathway draw closer to God as they learn more about Him. When there is singing at church, you may be looking at your watch waiting for the sermon to begin.
Prime example: Paul. The road to his heart ran through his head.
Relational Pathway: People who follow the relational pathway find that they have a deep sense of God’s presence when they’re involved in significant relationships.
Prime example: Peter. He came to Jesus with others.
Serving pathway: On the serving pathway people find that God’s presence seems most tangible when they are involved in helping others.
Prime example: Mother Teresa. She is quoted as saying the primary reason she served was not out of obligation or that it was something she was supposed to do, but that it brought her joy.
Worship pathway: For people on the worship pathway, something deep inside then feels released when praise and adoration are given voice.
Prime example: King David. He wrote psalms and poetry to God. He played instruments beautifully. He danced.
Activist pathway: If you have an activist pathway, challenges don’t discourage you; they energise you.
Prime example: Nehemiah. When he hears his beloved Jerusalem has fallen, he is upset and wants to act.
Contemplative pathway: If you have a contemplative pathway, you love large blocks of uninterrupted time alone.
Prime example: Apostle John. He was known to be one who loved to bask in adoration of God.
Creation pathway: For people on the creation pathway, there is something deeply life-giving and God-breathed about nature.
Prime example: Jesus. He often withdrew to spend time alone in nature, by a lake or up a mountain.
The Challenge : Spiritual fitness diary
Using spiritual disciplines as a guide, let us practice these each week and see them become part of our daily lives.
There are practical guidelines to each discipline – methods to choose from in your quest for spiritual fitness – together with practical exercises. Following this section you will see a list of practical advise and ideas for each discipline. In your quest for spiritual fitness I suggest at some point trying all the different practical ideas for each discipline. You may find there are particular disciplines that you find easier to achieve and have more enthusiasm to do, whilst others pose a real problem both practically and/ or lack of enthusiasm for. These are just as important, however, each of us has a different spiritual pathway.
So, the ideas in this blog are nothing new. I cannot take credit for much of the advice and for where it came from. There are many invaluable books out there, of which I have referenced in this book. I have read many books on discipline, on fitness, but one thing that I found lacking from all the books and ideas that I have come across, is that practical application. Sure they have the ideas, but who wants to flick through 50pages to find an idea of how to live simply? The material in this blog comes from books, friends, family but most importantly, life experience. This is a place to share ideas and I pray they help you in your quest for wellbeing. This is a practical resource, and gives a time frame for it to happen. One year. However, with discipline, one must work at it every day, there is no point having a year of disciplined life. May this be a useful practical resource to give you a well balanced and healthy spiritual life.
1. Spend some time meditating on God. Use this list of words to get you started, but start writing your own words to describe God. We all see Him in our own way, so write it down.
In the build up to effective prayer, meditation is really important. We look to Him, who/ what He is. At this point we can begin to understand our God. Effective prayer seeks the heart of the Father and the result of effective prayer is seeing things from His perspective.
Spend some time looking to Him. Who is God? What is He to you? If you need some help to get started, here are some names of God:
Elohim – God’s power and might
Elyon – the strongest strong One
Roi – the strong One who sees
Shaddai – the breasted One
Olam – the everlasting God
Adonai – Master Lord, God owns all His creation
Jehovah – the self-existent One, the God of the covenant
Jireh – the Lord will provide
Nissi – the Lord my banner
Shalom – the Lord is peace
Sabbaoth – the Lord of hosts
Maccaddeshoem – the Lord thy sanctifier
Rohi – the Lord my shephard
Tsidkenu – the Lord our righteousness
Shammah – the Lord who is present
Rapha – the Lord our healer
Jot down some words that come to mind. Meditate on these words.
Eliminate the usual distractions such as mobile phone.
2. Meditation on the scripture. Read a story from one of the gospels and take time to imagine yourself in there at that very time.
3. Dreams. Pray to God that he would come and speak to you in your dreams. Pray for willingness to listen and protection as God ministers to us. Start a dream journal. Interpret the dreams. Ask God for an interpretation. Do it with a friend.
4. Play a worship song that you like a couple of times over and meditate on what the words mean.
5. Meditation on nature: go for a walk through a forest and get amazed at what God has created.
6. Paint a picture, draw a drawing. You could even draw a story from the bible.
7. Pick an every day object and find way of linking it to God.
8. Go for a walk and find something that represents part of who God is and take a photo of it.
9. Write a poem/ Psalm.
10. Spend time listening to God. Do not speak. Get past the point where you are distracted by thoughts to a place where you are clearly discerning the voice of God. Wait on God.
11. Read through the Lord’s prayer. Spend a week doing this, meditating on each line of the prayer and the impact that has on your life.
12. Your kingdom come – list down or even put on post-it notes friends/ family/ work colleagues/ enemies etc and pray for them all the week. Put the post-it somewhere that you are likely to see it each day as a reminder to pray. By the mirror in your bathroom.
13. Give us this day or daily bread – prayer for your needs. God created you with them. We do not get because we do not ask. Let’s start asking.
14. Corporate prayers of praise. Praise God for who he is, what he has done, what he will do.
15. Spend time in prayer during an activity that you know you will do each day eg. Brushing your teeth. Dedicate this time to pray for a particular person or cause or injustice.
16. Create a prayer diary – make a note of all your prayers. This can be later reviewed – give thanks to god for answered (and unanswered prayers).
17. While driving to work, put on a worship cd and pray to God. Allow Him to bring light to what He wants you to pray for.
18. Develop a habit of short prayers as you go throughout the day. if you have just seen someone you know, say a quick prayer for them. If a stranger catches your attention, pray for them. Your prayers may be the only prayer they receive that day.
19. Phone a friend or someone you want to be accountable to and ask them what they would like prayer for.
20. Get a person close to pray with each week. Be accountable to each other.
21. Purchase a newspaper. Read it and pray into the situations documented.
22. Just before you go to sleep pray for the day you have just had and the next day - dedicate it to God.
23. Spend a day this week fasting. In this time you fast, during your meal time where normally you would eat, spend time declaring to God that He is your daily bread.
24. Much like with simplicity, give something up for a week – fast from watching tv, drinking coffee. Choose something that will be a challenge and will impact the way you spend your time (and money!)
25. Go to a supermarket and choose items on the shelves that appeal to you. raed the packaging, find out where the item is from. Spend a moment thinking about that country and pray for it. Instead of a shopping list take a world map and cross off the countries as you go round the shop. Cross off countries that you have prayed for and then put all the products back as a way of demonstrating sacrifice and what God has done for us.
26. Corporate fasting. Get others to fast all one the same day. In the evening get together to pray.
27. Meat free diet. You determine the length of time, it could be for a week, for a month or perhaps even one week each month, but remove meat from your diet and also encourage those in the same house to do the same.
28. Bible reading. You may want to look at a particular book in the bible or work your way through it in a year. The resource 'Cover to cover' works through the bible chronologically giving you a sense of history.
29. Begin a ‘Christian’ book
30. Scripture cards – a bible verse on a piece of card – memorise
31. Add scripture cards around the house – places where you will see them
32. Begin a study of the scripture with a friend. Share your ideas and thoughts.
33. Memorise scripture with friends by repeating with actions or tunes.
34. Listen to a sermon on cd/ tape in your car on your way to work or on a journey or at home. Maybe even on your mp3 as you go for a run.
35. Get a bible commentary.
36. Have a word (scripture) for the day on your computer at work/ home. UCB send a daily bible verse via text message.
37. Reread a particular scripture several times a day as a way to keep thinking about it.
38. Memorise particular scriptures that you find helpful in the face of temptation. Quote these scriptures in the face of temptation as a way to say know to the devil and his schemes, just as Jesus did when he was led into the wilderness (Luke 4).
39. Get a crowd together and read the scripture out loud. Not just the usual 6 or 7 verses, but really read it. The public and shared reading of scripture has somewhat been lost in our time. Let us share the word of life (you may want to go outside somewhere to do this).
40. Read the scripture and consider each character in the story. Consider what they are thinking and how they feel.
41. Read the same scripture in several different translations.
42. Reject anything producing an addiction in you – eg. Coffee, cigarettes.
43. Reject something that is taking up an unhealthy amount of your time – eg. TV watching
44. Give something of yours away. This reduces the level to which your possessions possess you.
45. Adopt plain speech. Jesus tells us ‘let your yes be yes and your no be no, anything more is evil’.
46. Reject anything that breeds the oppression of others. This could be a conscious effort to analyse your purchases (eg. Fairtrade).
47. Have a clear out of your possessions, hording is idolatry so reduce the amount of possessions you own. You could potentially give items away or sell them and give the money to charity or give them to a charity shop.
48. Exchange that thing you are addicted to for the bible. Every time you want that particular TV programme or product, grab the word instead.
49. Approach God’s word and or your prayer time with a ‘childlike’ approach. We often complicate our prayers and the message and as a result miss out on the simple, affective truths that it offers.
50. Together with friends, live off the minimum wage for a month. Whatever money you save, donate. As part of this you may find that eating together is a great way of saving money and sharing fellowship is an added bonus.
51. Withdraw somewhere by yourself, out of your routine (ideally in nature) and spend at least 30mins by yourself in quiet.
52. Spend a whole day away by yourself. Take yourself out of your regular setting. You could use this time to evaluate your goals for the future.
53. Take a lunch break from work and spend it alone.
54. Sit in a pub/ café/ anywhere with a bit of a buzz to it, but sit by yourself. Write a letter to God in this time.
55. Write a letter to yourself containing encouragement and challenges. Post this letter in the mail. When you receive it, spend some time reading through and feel the encouragement and challenge.
56. In order to make the most of your time in solitude: listen to external noises and list them. Listen to internal noises and list them. This may help you have better space to listen to God.
57. Find someone to regularly meet with to be honest: for encouragement, confession and prayer.
58. Be more aware of advise given to you and act on advise given to you.
59. Be more open to helping those who need your help.
60. Put your worries and pride across to God through prayer. Allow Him to take control in your life over these things.
61. Do what someone tells you even if you would not do it that way. Do not speak up.
62. Allow someone else to help you even if you think they could not do the job quite so well!
63. Common courtesy. Make time this week to make sure you have replied to invites, send a card of appreciation to a friend, send an encouraging message. Build up someone this week.
64. Add yourself onto a rota at church, it could be sorting the chairs, being on the welcome team, serving drinks.
65. Offer your services to a local soup kitchen.
66. Actively allow someone to serve you. where you would find it difficult to submit control over a task, trust and allow someone to serve you.
67. In the small things: washing up etc
68. By guarding the reputation of others
69. Hospitality, welcome rota at church or having groups/ individuals round to your house.
71. Bearing the burdens of others
72. Sharing the word of life: this could include by word, send a text with an encouraging verse.
73. Share what God has been saying to you through a book or what is going on in your life that you are learning from.
74. Offer your talents as a way of serving another person’s needs: I’ll knit you a new hat, could you change my tyre. Or better still, do it without expecting anything in return.
75. Cook some cakes and take them in to your local police station or fire station.
76. Do a litter pick.
77. Do something kind for someone in secret. Let your act purely be for God’s approval.
78. Discover joy in serving. Mother Teresa says she did not serve because she had to, she served because it brought her great joy.
79. Be aware of others needs and offer to pray for them.
80. Courtesy – open a door for someone.
81. Read out the lord’s prayer
82. Spend some time thinking about your week and ask for god’s forgiveness where you have got it wrong
83. Spend some time thinking over your past. There is likely to be things that you need forgiveness for that lie forgotten. Think over the following first: Your childhood
84. Then think about: Your adolescence
85. Then think about: Your adulthood
86. Write down what you need forgiveness for from these time periods and then share this with a trusted friend. Simply read out what you have written, do not explain it, just read it. I would suggest then that the other person destroys these pieces of paper as a symbol that forgiveness is here. (Part 3-5 act as a series but each part requires time).
87. Do stage 5 on a regular basis. Give the trusted friend permission to speak into your life.
88. Be totally honest with God.
89. Get into the habit of confessing to small mundane things as a way to being able to confess to greater things.
90. Cultivate a practice of praising god, speak out words of praise for him
91. Dance – cut off those chains around your ankles! This could even be an expressive dance/ ballet.
92. Write a psalm of praise
93. Remind yourself of why you worship: it’s a response for what God has done for you and for who he is.
94. Worship Him in thought word and deed.
95. Make your first words in the morning each day be of worship to God.
96. Make a list of things you want to thank God for. You could share things from this list with others throughout the day.
97. This week, try reserving the word ‘awesome’ just for when you are talking about God.
98. Sing out loud, by yourself, in your car (really loud!).
99. Develop a habit of praising God when things are not going well. The sacrifice of praise shows we do not just honour God when things are going well. He deserves out praise whether we are doing well or not.
100. Go away for the day by yourself and spend some time thinking about you future steps – dedicating them to God and asking for His guiding word. You could dedicate the next year or next 3months to His guidance.
101. Ask a friend that knows you well to pray with you if you have a big decision to make. You could also ask them what areas they see strengths in you and how they feel God might use them in the future.
102. Look over your past and the things that God has done/ is doing. What areas in your life has there been fruit? What areas of you is God clearly using for His kingdom? Also, what areas of your life do you love/ your passions? This will help to steer your decisions.
103. Whenever you have decisions to make, be sure to pray over them. Make sure you only make decisions having spent time listening to God.
104. Keep a journal. The past can help us consider the future.
105. Write a letter to yourself about what God is doing or what you think you might like to achieve or what God speaking to you about and get a friend to post it to you in three months time.
106. Share a meal with friends
107. Corporate time of praise and worship to God
108. Spend some time thinking about and then perhaps writing down the things that God has blessed you with.
109. Dance. Make up a new one.
110. Write a song.
111. Create a thank you gift to God for his awesomeness.
112. Random act of kindness.
113. Put on a celebration themed worship song on really loud and dance – let yourself go!
114. Go out for a walk and take in the glory of God’s creation. Give praise for what you see.
Well, that's it. I would like to think that it is not the end though. Keep at it, please do post your feedback, these 114 ideas are initial thoughts, if there are things that really help you that are not on this list then please do let me know.
Some of the resources I have used for this can be found in the following books:
‘Celebration of discipline’ by Richard Foster
’Detox your spiritual life in 40days’ by Peter Graystone
‘God is closer than you think’ by John Ortberg
UCB.co.uk get daily text message of a bible verse.
'Cover to cover' Through the bible as it happened by Selwyn Hughes and Trevor Partridge.