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Posts Tagged ‘spiritual practices’

cross-purple

We are in the final week of Lent.  Palm Sunday is just around the corner.  This time of fasting, abstaining, moderation, and discipline was set aside for preparation. Preparation for Holy Week.  Preparation for a journey to the cross.  Preparation that leads to an empty tomb.

Lent is truly about preparation.  We use fasting, sacrifice, and abstaining from foods as a ritual, but we are preparing ourselves to encounter Christ.  This journey often changes us.  It makes us reflect on our faith and our daily walk with Jesus. Spiritual reflection is difficult because it demands honesty and complete self-examination.  Using a mirror to examine my journey with Jesus is a scary prospect. It forces me to see a total picture of my faith, warts and all.

I have to admit that there were days when skipping my daily spiritual practice would have been easy.  It took time to find a sustaining routine and pace.  As the days went on, I found a greater desire to see it through.  It made me grow.  It held my attitude in check.  It allowed me to apply my faith at work.  In short, it made me a better Christian.  I am a better disciple and follower because of my Lenten practice.  When we make time for Jesus, the time is never lost.

Let us continue to reflect on Jesus.  As Palm Sunday arrives, let us reflect on the arrival of our promised Messiah.  As Holy Thursday arrives, let us reflect on how he washed the feet of his disciples, instituted the Lord’s Supper, and prayed on the Mount of Olives.  As Good Friday arrives, let us reflect on how he suffered for our sins, died as the atoning sacrifice for all humanity, and was buried.  And as darkness gives way to daybreak, let us reflect on an empty tomb and the resurrection of our Savior, Jesus the Christ.

Continue your practice.  Continue to prepare for our Savior.  Continue your celebration of Easter by focusing on the life, suffering, sacrifice, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ the Risen Lord!

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Enduring Freedom

Most service members think about spiritual matters during deployment.  We take stock of our lives while in the face of death and danger.  This time of examination and spiritual questioning is important.  Rarely do we stay the same afterward.  This time of spiritual searching will frequently send service members in one of two distinct directions.  Many gain a stronger relationship with God.  Others may question their beliefs and feel spiritually empty.

For those who may be in the later category, I want you to know that it is normal to ask questions about our faith.  Spiritual matters are important downrange, when we have returned home, and as we reintegrate into our communities.  Everyone is impacted differently by war.  We have endured different levels of strife and conflict. We also have different levels of spiritual understanding when we enter the combat zone and when we leave.  Regardless of your location or when you served, your faith will be different when you come home.

No matter if your faith has grown or shrunk, it is important that you continue moving forward in your Christian walk.  Do not stand still in your faith.  1 Timothy 4:7b-8 shares, “rather, train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.”

Every believer, civilian or veteran, needs a spiritual fitness routine.  Like physical fitness, spiritual fitness must be practiced.  While it is different from going to the gym and lifting weights, the concept is the same.   We need to exercise our spiritual muscles in order to grow our faith.

Spiritual fitness can take place in many different ways:

  • prayer
  • reading scripture
  • attending worship services
  • seeking spiritual counsel
  • fellowship
  • meditation
  • journaling

This is a small, but important sample of spiritual exercises that you can try.  Feel free to try one and gradually combine others to your list.   You can also participate in these activities with your family, friends, and a Christian community of believers, adding a greater dimension to your spiritual fitness by increasing your connection to other people.

Spiritual fitness is important to everyone.  It draws us closer to God, forms us in the image of Jesus Christ, and allows us to strengthen our faith.  Your spiritual fitness also affects your ability to deal with stress and times of crisis.  Multiple studies determined that veterans who have an active spiritual practice report fewer and less severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms.  Those who struggled with their faith or felt alienated from God had more severe PTSD symptoms.

Spiritual fitness also reduces anxiety, loneliness, and depression.  Studies have also documented how people with a weekly pattern of attending worship services live longer, are healthier, and recover from illness more quickly.

Veterans and service members can take comfort in the transforming power of God. No matter where or when you were deployed, God still cares about you.  No matter what you saw downrange or what you did, you can have a redeemed life.

When life seems full of despair, the Lord shares purpose, meaning, forgiveness, and acceptance.  Continue to move forward in your faith.  Train yourself to be the godly and righteous person you were called to become.

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