“I have come so that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” John 10:10b (NET)
(Dedicated to Kim)
I spent the first part of the Christmas holiday sick. Just a winter cold, but still sick. And I struggled to get past the sickness of my body to let my mind and spirit relish in the joy of Christmas, As I struggled, I was reminded of what another Christian theologian once wrote: “Sickness makes it impossible to avoid the reality of our bodies. When I am sick, I am not a mind (or soul) with a suffering body; I am the suffering body.”
And then I learned that my dear friend Kim is battling breast cancer. As I listened to Kim and her process, I was again clearly reminded that God made us as integrated wholes. Kim’s battle is much more than a physical battle in her body; it is a battle in her body, mind and spirit. It is a battle that involves all of her.
God Himself is triune — three parts in one indivisible whole. And He made us in His image. Yet many Christians have come to believe that we have bodies … not that we are, at least in part, bodies. But there are times, like when we are sick, when we are reminded that we are integrated bodies. God made us that way. The health of one aspect of myself affects the other aspects of myself. The health of my body affects my mind and spirit. The health of my mind affects my body and spirit (as seen, for example, in people with brain damage.). And the health of my spirit affects my mind and body. An integrated whole.
In the miracle of Christmas, Jesus came to give us life in all of its abundance. And, given the way God made us, I firmly believe that abundant life has to include all aspects of how God made us. Abundant mind, body and spirit.
So as I prepare to have my friend Kim over for dinner tonight, I am hoping to encourage and lift her up in mind and spirit … knowing and trusting that the health of her mind and spirit will help to foster abundance in her body.
And as I prepare for a new year, I ponder anew where God wants to see greater abundance in me.
“So Moses thought, ‘I will turn aside to see this amazing sight. Why does the bush not burn up?’ When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to look, God called to him … ” Exodus 3:3-4a (NET)
As we walk through this season — a season dripping with meaning and pregnant with power and purpose for life change — we are also bombarded by so much busyness. So many tasks and chores and stress. And all those things that bombard us have the tendency to drown out the meaning and the potential for purpose and power.
Moses had many responsibilities too. He was out shepherding a flock — and while that might sound slow and peaceful, it is actually a very stressful job. Looking for food and water for the entire flock, keeping track of the multitude of sheep, staying on constant lookout for predators, protecting the sheep, inspecting each of for injuries or parasites, getting them to a safe place to rest each night, etc. Moses was busy. But he noticed the bush that burned. He had the awareness to notice the bush that burned but was not consumed. More importantly, Moses took the time to turn aside and look.
Taking the time to turn aside and look is a faith exercise. It is an act of faith because it means setting aside the lists of tasks and responsibilities, and trusting that all will be well if you choose to focus on the things that really matter. It means putting first things first, and letting the rest fall as it may … and resting in the knowledge that what matters most was tended to. And that is enough.
The meaning of Christmas and the purpose and power provided through the Christ-child awaits for each of us … IF we can slow down enough to focus on what really matters. And I pray that each of us will exercise the faith to do so.
And as you begin to turn toward the ritual of New Years resolutions, know that it too can be more than a meaningless ritual. It too can be a practice of turning aside. It can be an opportunity to strengthen your resolve to put first things first in the new year. It can be the chance to put a step of faith behind a seemingly “small word” from God. It is a time to choose to obey.
Is it for a healthier new year? Is it a commitment to give God all of you in 2016? Is it a desire to turn your body into a temple for the living God? Every “small word” carries the seed of change and growth — but we need to participate. So, despise not the day of small beginnings. Just begin.
What if Moses hadn’t turned aside to look?
“Let everything that has breath, praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!” Psalm 150:6
Last night we held one of our Spin Therapy classes. It’s an amazing cycling class that very intentionally incorporates mind and spirit with the work the body is doing. Every time we have one of these classes, God shows up big time.
One of the things that I loved was that we discussed how important the breath is to exercise … and how the words the Bible uses for breath can also mean spirit … and therefore, then each time we breathed, we thought about inviting the Spirit in.
I also loved watching how God met individually with each person in the class and spoke to them personally and intimately. Many came to tears at one point in the class (and not because their legs were hurting!) God touched each one deeply and uniquely.
And I loved how the whole class erupted with applause at the end of the hour together — not because their instructor was such a good instructor — but because they had met with their Maker and worshipped Him holistically — body, mind and spirit. They had met with God in a fresh way, and He touched them. (The truth is that connecting with God in new ways and in new environments can open new synapses and pathways in the brain to truly experience God afresh and anew. And who doesn’t want to experience God anew!?)
But today, the part that is sticking with me the most was the portion of the class where we all started singing “Jesus” … “Jesus” in appropriate response to the song on the CD. A room full of virtual strangers, exercising and singing in chorus: “Jesus … “Jesus!” It was unprompted and uninhibited … an individual yet collective sacrifice of praise. Gives me chills right now to remember it.
And brings a new perspective to today’s verse: Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord!