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Spiritual fitness is as important as physical fitness

OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. -- I have often noticed here on our beloved parade grounds or within our field house that people are willing to endure a lot to keep their bodies in shape. They will perform with meticulous precision diets, weight-lifting and aerobic routines, cycling feats, chin-ups, sit-ups and push-ups. It takes discipline to complete these routines and discipline is never easy.

Spiritual health - let's call it spiritual fitness - takes discipline too. Faith exercised regularly grows strong and vibrant; faith ignored becomes weak and flabby. William Booth, the founder of the Salvation
Army; Mother Theresa, the missionary to India's poor; Amy Carmichael, who established a home for the children of Hindu temple prostitutes; Billy Graham, noted as the greatest evangelist of the 20th century; and Corrie ten Boom, whose family hid Jews from the Nazis - I am sure all of these are listed among God's spiritually disciplined heroes.

They are heroes because they knew that it is their faith and their spirituality that ultimately made them uniquely human and of substantial value to the rest of the world.

Spiritual fitness begins, as does physical fitness, with discipline and commitment. No one ever began a race, walked a walk or completed a journey without discipline. Even when I was a boy, I would be running with my friends on the playground at school and someone would eventually say, "Let's race." We would get the teacher to set us off: "On your mark; get set; go."

Some never ran. They never committed themselves to the venture; they only watched. They were spectators. Running a race, walking the walk, completing your spiritual journey is not a spectator event. It takes discipline.

Throughout the year, most of us have attempted or completed our physical resolutions to get our bodies in shape, but what about our spirits? Are you ready today to make a spiritual resolution?

I want to offer to you then four things I believe will assist you in becoming more spiritually fit.

First, stretch. Without stretching and enriching your soul through spiritual learning, you can overextend or hurt yourself or others. Remember, you are only able to receive from others that which you have given. When you're at work or at home, be sure to stretch your mind and heart in new ways to incorporate the daily changes that have occurred not only in your life, but in the lives of your co-workers or loved ones. Be willing to give of yourself and not take others for granted so your relationships will be enriched and not suffer instead.

Second, do knee bends! Knee bends require having the right attitude. Become a "servant" leader or a devoted wingman and "bend down" to help others. Being a "servant" leader or wingman means being patient with others, being willing to do the jobs that don't get noticed but are essential to mission accomplishment, and being kind to someone who you may not like or who you know may not like you. Bending down to lift others up in your life, whether it is a co-worker, your spouse, children or a friend or foe, can be the greatest reward if your spiritual nature is as developed as it should be.

Third, cultivate spiritual team building activities. As "iron sharpens iron," we too help equip each other spiritually for the fight. Aiding in team and family growth takes being a good team player. This means working for consensus on decisions, sharing openly and authentically with others regarding personal feelings, opinions, thoughts and perceptions about problems and conditions. It also means involving others in the decision-making process, providing trust and support, having genuine concern for the problems of others; and being willing to compromise.

Finally, look in the mirror. Constantly evaluate your spiritual centeredness and accept who you are including your gifts as well as your limitations. Live up to your potential and believe that through both the good and the bad you are a vital and integral part of your family and all of your other relationships. If you're disciplined and perform the spiritual development exercises prescribed here, then as you become more engaged at work and at home both your Air Force and your personal family will notice not only are you more physically and mentally fit, but you are also more spiritually fit in order to successfully obtain personal achievement, relationship bliss and overall job-related mission accomplishment.