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Soul training is about growing spiritual muscles.

Now before you have a heart sink that this will be all about hard work, will power and self-discipline . . . before memories of failed New Year resolutions flood your horizon – read on.

There are two important concepts to grasp:

  • First – Bad habits lead to ill-health. Just as we have to pay attention to our physical health, so we also need to invest in our spiritual health.
  • Second – the Holy Spirit grows the muscles in us. Our job is to give the Spirit the opportunity to work.

The bible uses the metaphor of training as an athlete to illustrate how we can make a difference to our spiritual health:

Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.

Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; 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

And so we can use spiritual exercise to train until we have the learning in the muscle – we no longer have to think about it.

The first soul training is the easiest warm up exercise of all – get enough sleep!

Lets face it, the best way to give the Holy Spirit the best chance to work in us is to make sure we are able to think clearly.

Research shows that we need on average 7-8 hours sleep per night. Running on too little sleep reduces our ability to make decisions and perform tasks; our immune system is compromised; our mood drops. 25% of motorway accidents are sleepiness-related.

Clearly having enough sleep is key to functioning at our best.

So, are we getting as much sleep as we need?

As much as is possible, it makes sense to manage our programme and activities to give sleep the priority it deserves.

Over the next week have a look at your daily pattern and see if there is something you can change to give yourself the opportunity to have the sleep you know you need.

Do you think this is realistic and achievable in the busy 24/7 lives we lead today?

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No! – how cruel.  I stare in disbelief and shout aloud at the heading on my daily reading. I have not slept a wink all night, suffering a strange mix of side effects from my new treatment and an infection. I need sleep – not to be told to “stay awake”.

God, this feels cruel.

I close my hot dry eyes and reflect on the night.

The internet provides connections with others around the world. I explore what they are blogging and find a selection of twenty and thirty-something single young people exploring

what it means to be a woman nowadays, what it means to be a man, and how in God’s name we’re supposed to make it all work.

They engage in a sequence of relationships, or friendships ‘plus benefits’. The women find men immature, selfish and disappointing. I wonder who their God is. They are ranting and they are not happy.  I have listened to the same rantings and unhappiness from my patients for years.

In the global population, they are part of the 7% who have the privilege of secondary education and 14% who have access to the internet.

I watch television: an anthem for doomed youth – a beautifully presented documentary on the life of Vera Brittain.  Her idealism is matched with rage at the limitations of pre-war society. In 1914, at the age of 17 years she was highly privileged, educated and ready to go to Oxford University. She spoke of the young men in her life with love and respect. Within 18 months of the start of the First World War her brother and three of his closest friends had been killed.

In her book, A Testament of Youth, she shares her struggle to make sense of her life. I wonder if it is ever studied in schools.

The passage for my daily reading is Mark 13:32-37 under the heading of  Signs of the End of the Age.

35 Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. 36 If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. 37 What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’

The God of the bible speaks of his plans for relationship with us. He gives clear guidance on values for living and how to ‘make it all work’. And he speaks clearly about the second coming of Jesus. We are advised to keep watch for the Signs of the End of the Age.

In my sleep deprived state I feel a sense of anguish at the rantings of our young adults. Might they one day turn to those of us who call ourselves Christians and say  “Why did you not tell me?”

This has been a significant sleep-deprived night for me.

If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping

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