Happy New Year!  Welcome to the start of a brand-new year!  I love the blank slate a new year brings, a fresh start. And this year is no exception, now more than ever we need a sense of a fresh start. 2022 has the promise of so many good things for all of us!  No matter what is behind is behind us, I urge you to push forward and find the hope a new calendar year brings. Cheering you on as you discover the secrets of contentment in all things this year! Our blog starts the year with a fresh voice sharing a mindful perspective on fitness as a means of meditation. Please welcome Dr. Brad Mitchell to our blog.

It’s 5 am on the day after Christmas, and I am up.  It is not that I have trouble sleeping.  It isn’t even that my brain will not shut off this time.  I am lacing up my shoes and going for a run.  It sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it?  On a day when I could sleep in (it is Sunday morning!), why would I do this to myself?  I don’t have anyone waiting for me.  My wife doesn’t budge as I slip out of the covers.  Her only question is, “What are you doing?”  I tell her I am going for a run, and her only response is to be careful because of the bears.  We live in the country, and a bear has been spotted, so she is concerned, well, sort of concerned.  There is no accountability, and no one is pushing me, yet I get up and head out.

If you think I have always been this way, you would be very wrong.  For the first 33 years of my life, I did the least physical activity possible.  I may have attempted some sport or activity, but if I am honest, I did not even want to walk to the mailbox.  So I wasn’t born as some natural athlete.  I wasn’t born a morning person either.  So everything about this scenario seems out of sorts.

I head out the door, and it happens to be a warm December morning.  The 50-degree weather is a welcome temperature to start my jog.  The moon is half full, but it shines so very brightly, I can see my own reflection on the pavement.  I am truly running by the light of the moon and stars.  I begin the run at my slow, methodical pace.  I am not built for speed.  I am built to just keep going, and that’s what I do—one foot in front of the other.   The rhythm is like a pendulum.  As my feet strike the pavement time after time, I can allow my mind to be free.  I am free from cell phones and emails.  I am free from social media and demands on my time.  For a few moments, I am free to simply be.  It is in this time where I find meditation, a peaceful flow I cannot experience any other way.  I have tried all the other forms of meditation.  This is where I am most open.  This is where I experience peace.

Don’t get me wrong – this does not mean every run is easy.  It doesn’t mean I glide like the greats.  I am probably doing something more like a wobble as I make my way along.  But that’s not what matters to me.  What matters is the time and space to listen.  This morning, I have an opportunity to speak in front of a large gathering of people.  I feel good about what I have planned to say.  I am not unprepared.  But I need a few moments of early morning freedom to listen, and I need to let it all go so I can listen.  I seek God’s voice as the wind whips through the trees.  I listen closely to any song of a bird.  I pay special attention to creation.  As I run, a shooting star catches my breath (no, it wasn’t that I was running too fast and I couldn’t catch my breath).  I am reminded of how God speaks to us in the most ordinary and simple ways if only I would pay attention.

This morning, I returned refreshed and ready for the day.  It doesn’t always happen this way.  Sometimes I am anything but refreshed.  Sometimes I feel chased rather than released.  Some days I wonder why I even made an effort.  And then I am reminded of my daily improvement.  Exercise allows me to move better and serve more freely.  Feeding my body well helps me to focus on the tasks at hand.  Running allows me to clear my mind and experience the goodness of God.  It doesn’t have to be a perfect run.  I am working on myself each and every time I get up and make a positive decision for my health.  The better I become, the more I can help others.  The better I become, the more I can show love.

What are you doing for YOU?  How are you taking care of yourself?  If you have put your own health aside for whatever reason, now is the time to re-think that decision.  Sometimes we get caught up in taking care of our kids or working to provide for our families.  We can become so consumed with doing that we forget to be.  Running reminds me to be.  Those moments carry me to a place where I am nurtured.  This may not be your meditation.  There is, however, something you can do to help YOU.  Find out how to improve your health (mind, body, and spirit) and do that.  You are more than worth it.  You are valuable.  You deserve to take care of yourself.  Blessings on this New Year!

Dr. Brad Mitchell

Brad Mitchell has served as an ordained minister for over 17 years.  During this time, he has earned the M.Div. degree from Campbell University Divinity School and the D.Min. degree from the McAfee School of Theology at Mercer University.  He has served in ministry bi-vocationally while maintaining full-time employment as the Vice President of a lending company.  Brad lives in LaGrange, NC, with his wife, Wendy and his two daughters, Maia and Kelli.  His passion in ministry is leading others to dig deep into their faith and explore all God has for us.  He is Assistant Professor for Bible and Historical Studies at Heritage Bible College.  For fun, Brad teaches indoor cycling and runs for meditation.