As adults in Canada, many of us try fad food diets because we are wanting to be thin, or thinner. Almost always our excess weight returns as soon as we stop the diet. My daughter, a child psychologist, at our local hospital, works with teens who struggle with childhood obesity. She is adamant that we need to develop a healthy life style rather than find the best diet
Her message is not new. We need a lifestyle that involves exercise we enjoy, healthy and varied food we like and that is easy to prepare, and allows indulging in dessert occasionally, and is finished with sufficient rest. This is a lifestyle that can become ours forever.
Jesus’ teaching followed the same path. He too talked about lifestyle. The religious laws had their place but he condensed them to four principles. Love God, love others, love yourself, and be grateful. In whatever you do, whether eating, working, playing, resting, always remember that:
- you love God. Prayer, worship and study are on your diet and exercise list because you want to be the person God would have you be,
- you love others. Compassion, honesty, acceptance are the diet and exercise that will enable you to care for others.
- you love yourself. Daily you feed yourself the chants, “I am God’s precious child. God lives within me. I will care for my body, prioritize my time so there is space for rest and fun. My diet will include forgiveness for myself and others.
- You are grateful. Spice your food, your exercise, your rest, with gratitude. Giving thanks always and in all things brings joy to life.
Jesus said, “Come to me all you who labor and are heavy-laden (with life) and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your soul. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
Last September, I started on a program of daily physical exercise, just twenty minutes of strengthening and stretching my tummy and leg muscles. I’m happy to report that I’ve lost five pounds – not much over five months, but my joints feel great, loose and supple. When I told others about my new health regimen, I said, “It’s easy. Tom and I do the exercises together first thing in the morning, in bed.” Everyone laughed. I struggled to explain. The most important part of the program for me is that we do the exercises before breakfast. Exercise on an empty stomach seems to kick-start my sluggish metabolism for the entire day.
Our faith life functions in the same way. For nearly thirty years, I have started each day with God, through prayer, scripture and daily reflection. These exercises get my spiritual being rolling for the day. Similarly to my body, missing intentional exercise for my spirit means I don’t have the strength to resist today’s temptations, the stamina to withstand today’s trials or the gratitude to enjoy today’s gifts.
All you need for this spiritual program is a Bible, preferably one in modern English for ease of understanding, a book of daily reflections, and time. (I also need pen and paper.) It’s the time that is most difficult. Thirty years ago, I started getting up a half hour earlier than the rest of our household so that I could have special quiet time with God. At first, it felt like a huge sacrifice. Eventually, that time became a precious gift. Today, as I settle into retirement, once again I struggle with time. Often, I give in to my love for late nights and need to sleep in. I’ve learned that if I don’t start with God, the day disappears and I’ve never got back to my prayer time. My morning reflection time is a sacrifice as well as a precious gift. It’s well worth every single moment.
“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place where he prayed.” (Mark 1:35)