by Ken Rolheiser
The axe of the Apostles

    Once upon a time, a very strong woodcutter was hired by a timber merchant. His boss gave him an axe and showed him the work area. The first day, the woodcutter felled eighteen trees. “Congratulations,” the boss said. “Go on that way!” 
    The woodcutter tried harder the next day, but he could only bring down fifteen trees. The third day, ten trees. “I must be losing my strength,” the woodcutter thought. He went to the boss and apologized, saying that he could not understand what was going on. 
“When was the last time you sharpened your axe?” the boss asked.

We can draw much wisdom from this axe metaphor. The need to exercise is one. A man dropped his daughter off at softball practise and went to the gym. It wasn’t an epic workout, but it was a workout. He knew that to achieve personal and professional goals, he must be physically sharp.

Abraham Lincoln said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” Put time on your calendar to sharpen your axe. As a leader, you will be glad you stayed so sharp.

Spiritually we need to sharpen our axes. The process of sharpening involves grinding metal against metal. It may be painful at times, but our spiritual lives improve with pruning and sometimes pain.

Help from fellow Christians is appropriate. “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17). Seek wisdom from the wise.

What is the benefit of spiritual health? It is the key to physical, social and mental balance. Spiritual health strengthens your immune system, lowers your blood pressure, improves your social well-being, gives you a sense of clarity, gives you quality sleep, and helps you process life events.

In addition to the above Jenny Roland (Spiritual Health: A Comprehensive Guide) points out benefits to Religion and Spirituality which include the following: You’re living your purpose and looking forward to life. You’re contributing to your community with generosity. You notice the beauty of everything surrounding you. You enjoy living in the present. 

Roland points out eighty per cent fewer suicide attempts among those with Religion and Spirituality background. Heal the soul first, then the healing of the mind and body will follow. Zhi Gang Sha.

Other ways to sharpen your spiritual senses include controlling your electronic devices, waiting on God in prayer, meditating on scripture, and daily prayer. Roland cautions us further about what can affect our spiritual health - stress, anxiety, poor diet, smoking and sedentary lifestyles. No surprises here. 

Roland continues with positive suggestions: Invest in yourself – time, money and energy. Keep a journal – writing helps develop deeper thoughts. Reading. Listening to music that uplifts the spirit and brings peace.

Travel. This may be as simple as a visit to the park. Practice meditation and/or yoga. Clear and clean surroundings - clutter causes stress. Connect with your community. Enjoy nature. Practice compassion and forgiveness.

In conclusion to her “Comprehensive Guide to Spiritual Health” Jenny Roland reminds us: your soul also needs love and care. Just because it’s invisible and intangible doesn’t mean it should be left neglected. Your spiritual health … is the path toward deeper self-awareness and inner peace.

A final benefit of keeping your axe sharp: from a children’s Catechism test “Sampson slew 40,000 Philistines with the axe of the Apostles.”

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