Push Your Body
The human body is so amazing, it deserves the exploration of its capabilities. That is best done outdoors in creation.
Not everybody can exercise. Most of us, though, have enough working parts to do something. If you can read this, you at least have enough to exercise your mind. Stephen Hawking exercised his finger. Quadriplegic minister Joni Eareckson Tada paints with a brush in her mouth. Whatever you are doing with your body, you can do more. Picture your endowments as a house. Some have a shack; some have a mansion. In either case, wouldn’t it be a shame to huddle up in one corner? Explore your capabilities! Push them. Take care of them. This glorifies God, who gave us these gifts to use. Scientific discoveries keep revealing the benefits of getting outside in the environment, where numerous health benefits can reward your body and mind.
American adventurer completes solo trek across Antarctica (Phys.org). The things people can do with their bodies are astounding. If you are a Facebook user, no doubt you have marveled at virtuoso magicians, acrobats, extreme skiers, bicyclists riding down narrow paths on top of mountains, wingsuit flyers and other eye-popping performances your friends like to share. A few months ago, some rock climbers ascended El Capitan in Yosemite without ropes in 4 hours or less. Here’s a recent feat: Colin O’Brady, an American adventurer, has become the first person to complete a solo trek across Antarctica without assistance of any kind. Others have died trying this. O’Brady walked 1,000 miles in 54 days across a continent! We do NOT recommend you try to top that! Start small and work up to something that is big feat for YOU.
Take it outside! The benefits of exercising outdoors (Medical Xpress). Weather permitting, an outdoor walk provides many benefits. Get the wind in your back, and you get better definition. Walk into the wind, and you burn more calories. Walk on non-level ground in rough terrain for better agility. In addition to the physical benefits, your mood improves, you have less stress, and you receive other psychological benefits. It improves your immune system. Doing it with friends helps social interactions. “Get the whole family involved,” recommends Len Canter, Healthday Reporter, and show them outdoor exercise is fun.
One study found that people get a variety of psychological boosts from building up a sweat outdoors. Participants were in a better mood and had more energy and less stress afterwards. They simply liked doing the same form of exercise more when they did it outdoors, in nature.
….And if you’re caregiving for elderly parents, they, too, will benefit from time spent outdoors.
“I now have a life!” Lived experiences of participation in music and theater in a mental health hospital (PLoS One). Mental exercise is another way of filling out your capabilities. What is more destructive to mental health than sitting around moping? This paper shows that even those with long-term mental illness can benefit from pushing themselves into new experiences. Five Norwegian health workers say,
Participation in activities perceived to be meaningful is of importance in recovery processes among people with mental illness. This qualitative study explored experiences of participation in music and theater among people with long-term mental illness. Data were collected through in-depth interviews with 11 participants in a music and theater workshop carried out in a Norwegian mental health hospital context. Through a hermeneutical-phenomenological analysis, three central themes emerged: (a) engaging in the moment, (b) reclaiming everyday life, and (c) dreaming of a future. The findings indicate that participation in music and theater provided an opportunity to focus on enjoyable mundane activities and demonstrate how arts have the potential to bring meaning and more specifically small positive moments into participants’ lives. Despite seeming to be small in nature, these moments appeared to be able to add pleasure and meaning to the lives of those experiencing them. Consequently, there is a need to raise professionals’ awareness of these small positive moments of meaning, the power these experiences carry, and how to facilitate arenas which can provide such moments for people with long-term mental illness.
A participant named Gabriel expressed it this way: “There is no point in just sitting there and sleeping and eating, and sleeping and eating, you know. That’s not a life! To create something—that’s fun.” Come to think of it, participation in church worship and activities offers these same benefits, and are even more meaningful than sterile music and theater. The Creator gave us the gift of creativity. Practicing creativity is not only fun, but leads one to appreciate more the awesome designs in His creation.
Let’s look at opposite perspectives on these benefits of healthy lifestyles: the evolutionary view, and the creationary view. They both converge on the benefits of outdoor activity, but which makes more sense?
To feel happier, we have to resolve to the life we evolved to live (The Conversation). The evolutionary secret for a happy life is given by Arash Javanbakht, psychiatrist at Wayne State University. He enters his just-so storytelling trance, and begins prophesying:
As a psychiatrist specialized in anxiety and trauma, I often tell my patients and students that to understand how fear works in us, we have to see it in the context where it evolved. Ten thousand years ago, if another human frowned at us, chances were high one of us would be dead in a couple minutes. In the tribal life of our ancestors, if other tribe members did not like you, you would be dead, or exiled and dead.
Biological evolution is very slow, but civilization, culture, society and technology evolve relatively fast. It takes around a million years for evolutionary change to happen in a species, and people have been around for about 200,000 years. Each of us, however, sees drastic changes in our lifestyle and environment over a matter of a few years.
We will be happier if we eat like cavemen, move like hunter-gatherers, and treat ourselves like evolved apes, he advises. He lands on the same theme that exercise is good and junk food is bad, but comes at it from a godless perspective. “Try to eat what you were evolved to eat,” he says, supposedly meaning, gorge on meat because tomorrow you might starve. His article includes a silly “March of Man” illustration of ape, naked upright hominin, loincloth-wearing pre-human, and modern human each holding a cell phone over the ear, with caption, “Humans did not evolve with cellphones.” That’s right; cellphones were made by intelligent design. Aren’t you feeling happier already?
Nature walks for young scientists (Institute for Creation Research). For the creationary perspective, Dr Randy Guliuzza of ICR advises glorifying God through family activities outdoors. He says they could be called “Exploring God’s Handiwork Adventures” – similar to our Creation Safaris. Guliuzza shows that family walks might inspire budding scientists.
A nature walk is a wonderful family activity, especially when our young ones are in early to middle childhood. Children in the magical age group from about three-and-a-half to eight years old are curious about everything, ask endless questions, learn by playing, and are natural explorers. We can help unleash their innate inquisitiveness and activate their minds by taking them outside and guiding them to explore for a purpose.
Those purposes can include: looking for purpose, unity, and harmony in nature. Teach them to observe the sensors the organisms are endowed with. Help them identify examples of God’s providence. Overall, be “Finding the Lord’s Wisdom and Genius in Everything.” This can lead to affirmation of a child’s worth and appreciation for the child’s uniqueness, too. By seeing designs in plants and animals, your child learns he or she is not an evolved ape—the product of chance, here for no purpose—but a unique marvel of God’s handiwork. So, Guliuzza encourages, set your goal, pack your bag, and begin your journey.
No contest, right? Life is so much richer when we view it as design rather than chance. Let’s think for a moment about why God commanded a day of rest at the end of His week of creation.
Bible-honoring people differ on the Sabbath. Some say it was commanded only for Israel, and was superseded by the Resurrection of Christ on Sunday, but that it was never commanded for the church. Sunday observers also vary on how strict members’ commitments to gathering on Sunday should be. Read about Michael Faraday‘s very strict denomination, and recall the film Chariots of Fire where runner Eric Liddell almost lost his chance to win his Olympic gold medal for refusing to run on the Sabbath, which he equated with Sunday. Other denominations, relying on Romans 14:3-5 and Colossians 2:16-17, see the day of worship as a matter of individual liberty, never commanded for Gentiles. They charge Sabbath-keepers and Sunday-obligatory worshipers with legalism, and say that Galatians 5:1 warns against being entrapped by outward rules (the Pharisees having exemplified the extreme). Still others feel that, having been rooted in the seventh day of creation as a weekly day of rest for man’s health, and a day dedicated to intentional worship, and part of the Ten Commandments, some kind of sabbath rest remains God’s will for everyone. The comeback is that the Fourth Commandment is the only one not repeated in the New Testament. But does God want employers to take advantage of people’s entire week without a break? Well, well! This is not the place to argue about that; if a person’s heart is right, God is probably more forgiving than some theologians.
Here is one possible resolution to experience the Genesis spirit of the Sabbath without the legalism it can entail. Since Jesus taught that “the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath,” and declared himself “the Lord of the Sabbath,” do this: take a weekly prayer walk outdoors. I know one evangelical pastor who is not a sabbatarian, but who nevertheless makes it a point each week to get out into creation and pray while hiking somewhere. He calls it the best time of his week, and comes back refreshed and excited to serve with more enthusiasm. It doesn’t work if it becomes an obligation, and it doesn’t have to be on Saturday or Sunday. But you might consider freely choosing to try this as a new year’s resolution and see if it helps your body, mind, and spirit. You could even do it more than once a week. Maybe, even, every day.