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January 23, 2014

Let the spiritual training begin!

NORMAN — The Sochi Winter Olympics are just a couple of weeks away. Athletes are making final preparations to compete for Olympic medals. Years of sacrifice, practice and discipline come down to a few days of fine tuning routines, honing skills, and resting the body for peak performance. Beyond the physical, athletes prepare mentally through study, meditation and strategy that offer the best chance for victory. At this level of competition the slightest mental edge or hesitation means the difference between winning and losing.

The scriptures draw many analogies between athletic training and the spiritual life. The Apostle Paul tells Timothy that while physical training has its benefits, spiritual training is profitable for all things. With this in mind, I wonder if the approaching Games can inspire us to deepen our spiritual training.

Richard Foster’s book, “The Celebration of Discipline,” identifies twelve disciplines or practices for the Christian faith. While Foster warns against the disciplines being twisted into legalistic routines, he describes their intended purpose to deepen our relationship with God, bringing inward transformation and outward change.

Meditation and prayer are two of the inward disciplines. They invite us into the presence of God. They call us to go deep in a world where shallow is the norm and meaninglessness is common. The Psalmist says “be still and know God.” Contemporary society thrives on noise, busyness and hurry. Thus, finding quiet moments for meditation and prayer can be challenging and even fear-filled. In quiet stillness we hear the voice of God, but we also hear the condemning and belittling voices that tear us down. Practicing meditation and prayer, however, enables us to hear and discern the voices inside. With time and practice the loving and forgiving voice of the Lord becomes clearer and the condemning voices grow weaker, losing their destructive power over us.

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