It's that time of the year! Lent is fast approaching. Some of us are excited about this time that forces us to reflect on spiritual disciplines that make us stronger and some of us dread the thought of giving up our comfy lives and the status quo. I would ask you to rethink this. When Jesus went into the wilderness for 40 days and 40 nights, he gave up both physically and spiritually in order to prepare himself for Easter and the resurrection.
When I was growing up, we used to give up chocolate or sweets or candy for Lent as a sign of our spiritual discipline as children. In recent years, the acts of "giving up" have been poo-pooed as not truly building spiritual discipline. Rather, there has been a fad of "taking up" and "doing acts of goodness" during the Lenten season.
Not that there is anything wrong (indeed, doing good acts, is always a good thing) with the "taking up" movement, but we do a disservice to the purpose of "giving up" when we put it aside as a potential discipline to take on. You see, discipline of the body is one of the hardest habits to establish. In fact, I will be bold enough to throw out there, that it is through physical discipline that we also learn to establish habits of spiritual discipline. It takes repeating a behavior over and over to make it apart of who we are as individuals.
You see, it's HARD to stick with physical disciplines. Your body talks to you in ways that are difficult to ignore when we take on physical disciplines or when we give up things that are bad for the body. We feel pain, hunger, moods, cravings, soreness, wants, and needs. When we take on physical discipline, we become very aware of the SELF. This forces us to forget the self and focus on the spiritual aspect of WHY we are choosing to give something up. Are we giving up things for Lent for ourselves or for God? What is the purpose of the discpline that we have chosen? When you give up bad habits, you must learn to identify whether your body really needs something or if you are feeding the physical form, when you should be feeding the spiritual needs of the body first.
From my perspective, everything we do to create discipline in our bodies can translate to discipline in our spirit because it forces us to think about how we want to live our lives and the choices we want to make.
If you are struggling with what to do this Lent, I'm going to provide you with some of the top habits you can practice that will lead you to a healthier mind, body, and spirit:
1. Do CHRIST WALK THIS LENT!!!! :) Sorry, I had to plug my book--it's a day by day companion towards a healthier life mind, body and spirit. I'll be with you every step of the way! Read it and join me on a journey to a healthier YOU!
2. Quit Smoking: You want to get healthy? If you smoke, stop. It's bad for your body, your family and your spirit. You are using a drug to fill an empty void in your spirit. If you want to do one thing for the body that will make it healthier--give up that tobacco this Lent. You. Can. Do. It.
3. Give up Your Soda Habit: Not a smoker? AWESOME. Soda drinker? Just as bad. Sugar is just as bad a drug as tobacco and it's going to kill you. If you aren't ready to go full on granola and cut all sugar from your diet, the first step is to kick the soda habit. And I'm talking ANY soda. No diet, no real, no fake drinks! Switch to water, seltzer water, seltzer and 100% fruit juice, tea, coffee, water, water, water! Soda is a terrible habit. Soda is poison. You'll never hear me say otherwise. It's a great goal to aim for during Lent.
4. Eat a serving of Fruits or Vegetables with Every Meal or Snack: We all need more fruits and vegetables in our diet. If we consciously choose to add a serving to every meal or snack, then we will build our palates into eating the right number of servings without having to think about it. Add fruit to cereal, yogurt, smoothies. Add greens to smoothies, eggs, hashes or soups. Have some sort of salad with every dinner or lunch. Snack on raw veggies and fruit with hummus or cheese or nut butters. When we try to add more of the good stuff into our diets, what slowly occurs is that there is less room for the bad stuff.
5. Quit Drinking: Let me be frank--I don't think that having alcohol on a moderate basis is a bad or sinful thing. I think drinking turns into a sin when it controls our life. When alcohol controls you, we've got a problem Houston. Much like any other drug, food, substance, etc., if you abuse it, you shouldn't use it. And it doesn't hurt any adult to loose the booze for any period of time. Again, it's all about discipline. And face it, alcohol, while enjoyable, is an unnecessary caloric source to fuel the body. Give you body a break from it and see how you feel at the end of 40 days. If nothing else, you'll have helped to reset your body and give it a rest.
6. Add more Steps to Your Day: I would be remiss if I didn't suggest that we walk more, run more, swim more, exercise more. After-all, that's what Christ Walk is all about. Commit to finding out how much you walk and go a little further (I suggest using a pedometer or fitness counter. Read all about it in Chapter 2 of Christ Walk). BONUS TIME: Pray with every step you take. God can be with you (and is with you) even during exercise if you allow yourself to have a conversation with God while you move. It's just about how you frame that exercise.
7. Meditate/Pray for 20 minutes every day WITHOUT DISTRACTIONS! Meditation and Prayer is awesome. Seriously, the impact on your blood pressure, resting heart rate and overall well being is well documented. But man, it's hard. 20 minutes without distraction? WHERE exactly are you supposed to find that in your chaos that is life? Well, that's discipline. Finding the time for what you think is important and then doing it--that's discpline. It's one thing to say "I will do x, y, and z." It's quite another thing to go out and do it and commit to it for 40 days. I double, dog dare you to try. :)
8. Take a break from Eating Out. If you cannot commit to not eating out for 40 days, perhaps commit to NO FAST FOOD during Lent. We eat out too much as Americans. We cannot control what goes into our bodies and how many calories we eat when we eat out all the time. Reducing the amount of time we eat out or even just cutting the fast food, establishes a discipline for eating real food, food with our families, and food that we know we are putting into our bodies. BONUS CHALLENGE: Put the money you would have spent eating out in a jar. At the end of the 40 days, see how much you saved. THEN, give that money to a local food bank or community meal. There are a lot of people out there that need that food money more than you.
9. Commit to Eating Food from God's Good Earth. That's right. Eat God's food. Not engineered food, not meal replacement bars, not frozen meals. Real food. If that includes a slice of cake with real butter, real sugar, real eggs and real flour, then do it. At least it's a real cake, not a high-fructose corn syrup, modified wheat, preservative filled piece of something that leaves you unsatisfied. By Gosh, if you are going to eat cake, eat the real thing and savor it. Cut the boxed foods from your shelves and focus on eating whole foods made with your own hands. If you want a truly EXCELLENT resource for eating the real food way, I HIGHLY recommend the 100 Days of Real Food Blog. She has a step by step process for making REAL FOOD a part of your every day life.
10. Be Happy: You Exercise, you eat right, you pray, you make time for your family and/or you have a good family/work/life balance. Ergo, You've got it together. Good for you. AWESOMENESS ABOUNDS. Commit to being happy with who you are for 40 days. Each day give a prayer of thanks to God that you've GOT IT TOGETHER. There are a lot of people out there who are struggling to be right where you are. Be happy. You are precious as you are. This pretty much goes for everyone. Even if you have things you need to change in your life, commit to being happy. When we let God's love flourish in our hearts and in our disciplines, we share that with the world around us.