Tuesday, February 17, 2015

An Introduction to "Christ Walk"

What is Christ Walk? Christ Walk is a walking program. It is designed to improve your physical health. I have a list of biblical routes for you to choose a biblical journey to walk during the next forty days. There is a chapter a day to help lift you up spiritually as your make your journey.

As I write this book, I will never claim to be an expert on what is the best thing for you to do to have a spiritually and physically healthy life. I am not a theologian, although from my studies, I would argue that anyone who studies and works towards a closer relationship with God could be considered a theologian. I do not claim to have all the answers. Much like any Christian, I have many questions that I constantly seek answers for, which to me is an act of faith. I am not an expert on health, although I have worked in the healthcare field for the last 12 years with an emphasis on health programs and training. I do not claim that this book is the answer to all of the questions that you may have. It is not a diet, nor a guidebook or even a recommendation on how you should live.

This book is a personal reflection on my experiences, beliefs, and knowledge on having a spiritually and physically healthy life. I have written this book after six years of running a Christ Walk program at two churches. The program was well received and provided an opportunity for the participants to grow spiritually and physically. The book is set up in a manual/journal format in order for you to have an interactive experience in the Christ Walk journey, much as the participants in the class experienced! At the end of the 40 days, this book should be as much your book as it is mine. I have designed the book for individual use as well as for groups. The appendices include options for group leaders and options for individuals to transform their Christ Walk experience from journey to journey. And there is always another journey. Christ Walk should not end after one 40-day period. These 40 days should transform you in to new journeys and new goals.

The Bible is rife with stories about journeys and food and eating and celebration. God did not intend for us to be at war with food, nor did he intend for us not to use our feet and our bodies in our daily lives. I am filled with awe that Christianity spread during a time when there were no cars, or trucks, or trains, or airplanes to get our prophets and disciples to the place where they wanted to spread the word. There is a reason God gave us feet! To use them, to walk with them, or run with them or jump with them, but all to the Glory of God and taking care of the temple he created within each of us.

When I have struggled with how to live my life, for the strength to get out and exercise when all I want to do is stay at home, or when I have been conflicted by the stresses in my life, I have always felt that God was there to help me and provide me strength and guidance. I remember running my first half marathon. Around mile 9 I began to fail and doubt. I began to pray that God would wrap my legs in strength and endurance. I felt the power of the Holy Spirit lift my legs and make them strong again. I truly believe God’s strength helped me finish my race. The belief that I was not alone rejuvenated me. I believe that God walks with me in every step that I take. I believe that the Bible is filled with inspirational guidelines on living a healthy life. Through the next 40 days, I would like to share that with you, as well as sharing a bit of my life and my journey through Christ Walk.

Each day, there will be a Bible verse related to a reflective piece on healthy living. Some of these days may be more body-focused and other days may be more spiritually or mentally focused. All of these days will help you on your journey to a healthier you! If you are physical unable to walk, I ask that you look at your life in ways that you can change it and improve it. Everyone has things that they can do to make their life healthier. Perhaps your goal will be to study something new on your journey, or pray with more discipline or focus on changing your nutritional habits. If you cannot physically exercise, discuss with your health care provider on some options that you are willing to do to change. There is a place in this journey for everyone. We may need to be creative on the method that the journey is completed. I ask that you pray through those chapters that are not applicable to you and really focus on the ones that speak to your personal experience. I have tried to write to many different perspectives and needs. I am aware that this book will not work for everyone, but if you cannot make the journey on your own, consider how you can help others on their journey. Keep an open mind and again, consider, “what can I do to change?”

So how do we make a healthy body? We take care of it. We exercise it, we feed it, we nurture it, and we rest it. Scientifically, the best exercise that most people keep up with is walking. I find that very reassuring as most of the stories and journeys in the Bible were done by foot. Consequently, as you begin this journey with me, I am going to ask you to pick a walking goal (see appendix A) to focus on during the next 40 days. There are different walking goals depending on your fitness level. Some people have walked the Via Delarosa (Jesus’ journey through Jerusalem to his crucifixion, one of my favorite routes) during Lent; others walked Jesus’ Birth and Death (the distance between Bethlehem and Jerusalem); while others have walked Paul’s missionary journeys. There is a complete list of suggested journeys and distances for you to set for your goal (Appendix A). Or you may choose to set your own goal! It is up to you. But as we physically walk through our Christ Walk journey, it will help to focus you on your spiritual goals as well.

Through the Christ Walk journey, we have taken the parable of the ordained journey and translated that to actual physical walking goals that are pulled from routes that Jesus and the disciples took during varying missions. You can find a breakdown of each of these routes and their miles to include a map of the routes in the Holy Land in the Appendices. Some of these distances are estimates. At the time I developed the routes, I was using a ruler and a map grid to figure out how far we would go. I take full responsibility in any inaccuracies and beg your forgiveness as these are supposed to be representative.

I chose some of these routes because they touched a very special part of me for different reasons. These biblical journeys represent different themes to me and I will share with you how they became a part of the Christ Walk Journey for me.

The first year I did Christ Walk, I think I only had three different routes to choose from: a beginner route, intermediate route, and advanced route to challenge different fitness levels. Over the years, I have added other routes as I journeyed through the Bible. I have also added Group routes because we are all in this together! Research also supports the impact of groups and teamwork on being successful in obtaining goals. People who set goals together are more likely to stick with them and be successful.

The Nazareth Challenge was one of the first routes I developed. It is 65 miles between Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth and Jerusalem. This is approximately 1.6 miles each day for 40 days to walk the distance of the route that Jesus preached to reach Jerusalem. The goal was very special to me because as a military wife, I am often far from home. I look at my journey now as leading me to my final resting spot one day and I find that very satisfying.

The Jerusalem to Damascus Route: This journey represents Paul’s conversion on the Damascus Road. The route is approximately 3.75 miles. What an amazing journey to find your way to being a Christian and God’s love. I can think of no greater journey than Paul’s conversion. If he could walk this route blind, anyone can do it. For me personally, I have a hearing loss that I will tell you more about in another story, but Paul’s loss of eyesight did not stop him from his calling. This is a wonderful journey to choose.

The Jerusalem Challenge: During Jesus’ final days, his route through Jerusalem included preaching at the temple, the clearing of the temple, the Last Supper, his arrest at Gethsemane, his trial and Peter’s denial and then his crucifixion. This is roughly a 2.2 mile route. This is known as the Via Delarosa or The Way of Suffering. What a powerful image to walk the distance of Christ’s ultimate sacrifice for us each data during Lent. And you can reflect on our walks the great gift we have been given. This is a lovely, lovely journey to try as you explore your spirituality and relationship to God.

The Damascus to Caesarea Journey: This is a journey of 5 miles a day representing the walks that the disciples took on their missionary journeys. I find it powerful that the disciples traveled such great distances without cars or other forms of modern transportation. Aside from a donkey or camel, these journeys were taken by foot. See yourself as part of a mission and a way and a journey and step proudly each day on your challenge.

The Bethlehem Challenge: I think of this challenge as the Alpha and Omega Challenge. It is about 5 miles between Bethlehem and Jerusalem and this represents walking the route from Jesus’ birth to his death. This is Jesus journey from where God put him in the world to his ultimate calling. Where will your journey take you?

The Exodus Challenge: Not for the faint of heart. This challenge was chosen for some of the most advanced of my Christ Walk participants. This is the route the Jews traveled to get to the Promised Land: 375 miles or 9.4 miles/day or 18750 steps per day. (You may use this one as a group challenge). We are all on our journey to the Promised Land.

The appendix in the book has additional group journeys where teams can pool their miles towards additional (and longer) challenges/routes found in the Bible. The second year I did Christ Walk, I learned that the journey was a lot more fun when we did it with teams. The teams provided a support system to get each of us through our different strengths and weakness on our routes.

If you are doing Christ Walk as a group, I recommend that during the first week, you coordinate some fitness professionals to come in and discuss principles of healthy living. It is also useful to have them provide some type of fitness testing so that you can be provided with some baseline information on the fitness level of your body. These numbers such as blood pressure, resting heart rate, body mass index, weight, cardiovascular fitness can give you some objective information on what you need to change. These tests can be repeated at the end of the journey to show the progress you made.

Finally, since I am not a dictator, I have always let the Christ Walk participants find their own journeys. There may be another route that speaks more deeply to you than these favorites of mine, and I encourage you to find that route and journey it. The point is to get up and get moving. The journey cannot get started if you are sitting down.

Each day, there will be a place for you to fill in your steps/distance, your activity, your feelings for the day and your spiritual thought for the day. Do not rush to finish the book. This book is designed to be read one chapter a day. This way, the book is a journal to help you on your way and improve your Christ Walk experience. If at any time you need to change your goals, feel free to do so. Life is a journey and many bumps happen along the way! The test of the issue is that you continue to have faith to continue on the journey, even if it is in a different way that the one in which you started. If you are doing this as a group, these journal entries may help your group to share their Christ Walk experience and deepen your understanding of a life of walking with Christ. See Appendix B for Recommendations for Groups.

So, how do we measure the steps we took, the distance we traveled? I recommend the purchase of a pedometer, which can be clipped to your belt or pants and will track the number of steps/miles traveled each day. Recommendations from the experts encourage every individual to take 10,000 steps a day for heart health. You may need to work up to this level of activity, and perhaps this will be one of your goals. Roughly 2,000-2,500 steps equal a mile. Depending on the maker of pedometer, it may tell this for you, or you may have to calculate your stride if you want to be more accurate. For the purpose of Christ Walk, we generally give 1 mile for every 2,000 steps. There is a brief description on using a pedometer in Appendix C.

If you want to bike, swim, dance, aerobics or whatever you choose for exercise, it takes about 15 minutes to walk a mile, so every 15 minute block of exercise can be calculated as a mile. The important thing is to choose an activity that you enjoy and do it. The purpose is to get out there and move, to think about every step you take as walking with God. I am not big on punishment and it is your walk with Christ, so you will have to take it up with your conscious if you cheat! That is up to God. Your job is to give it your best shot with all your heart.

So take your first step(s) and see how many steps your pedometer took you today.

Thoughts to ponder:

1. What is my goal?

2. How do I feel about my goal? Is it reasonable/attainable/realistic? If not, how can I make it something that I will stick with the next 40 days?

3. Who can I reach to help me out on my journey?

4. What do you think about the following scripture in relationship to your own journey?: “ So on that day your feet have walked will be your inheritance, and that of your children forever because you have followed the Lord my God wholeheartedly.” Joshua 14: 9

From "Christ Walk: A 40-Day Spiritual Fitness Program," 2015, Morehouse Publications. Used with Permission.