Unity

“You must love the Lord your God with your whole mind, your whole being, and all your strength.”  Deuteronomy 6:5 (NET)

Wholeness.  Personal wholeness.  Integration of our whole selves.  Complete alignment.  Internal harmony; external radiance.  We all want that, don’t we!?

And God wants it for us, too.

He made us for it.

To radiate His glory.  As image-bearers.

If asked to paraphrase Deuteronomy 6:5, I would say that God is asking us to love Him with everything that we are.  Inside & outside.  Mental, emotional, spiritual, physical — everything.  Or as Sarah Young writes: “I want to be Central in your entire being. “(See June 3, Jesus Calling).  Central in everything.  Every part, every aspect.

Of course, we will never achieve it perfectly on this side of life.  That’s why we need Jesus.  But we can aim for it.  We can strive towards it, knowing that every effort counts.  Knowing that God is cheering us on because He wants it for us too.  And if God is for us, who can be against us!?

To give God my heart.

To give God my mind.

To give God my body.

To give God everything.

Wholeness.  Unity.  Integration — within ourselves and with God.  To love the Lord your God with your whole mind, your whole being, and all your strength.  To pursue peace — within and without — today and everyday.

Amen.

Spirit Come

“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” Ephesians 4:30 (NIV, NET)

My ministry work is about enfolding the body into our spiritual journeys.  It is about including our physical selves in our spiritual lives.  The body — your body — in an integrated part of your “self” … and God longs for your whole “self” to be devoted to Him.

Yet, broadly speaking, the body is largely excluded from our relationship with God.  Most of us, if we consider our physical selves at all in our spiritual journeys, might give it a secondary … or tertiary … role.

Which makes me think of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is an equal and integrated part of the Godhead. (I know every Christian reader would intellectually agree.)  And yet, if you are like me, the Holy Spirit gets a secondary … or even tertiary … role in my life.

For example:  If God the Father said something to me, I would jump to it. If Jesus suggested something to me, I would run after it. Yet daily … often multiple times a day … the Holy Spirit prompts me about things, and I only occasionally follow through. A 50% response rate, perhaps on a good day.

It seems that I don’t give equal weight to the Holy Spirit who is undoubtably an equal member of the triune God.  I grieve Him all the time.  (Spirit, forgive me.)

Our God is the great three-in-One. And He made us in His image, and we too are three-in-one.

May we learn to give equal weight to the members of the Godhead in our daily life of following God …

And may we learn to embrace and include all of our own “members” in our daily life of following God.

Health

“Dear friend, I am praying that all is well with you and that your body is as healthy as I know your soul is.”  3 John 2 (NLT)

I don’t know anyone who doesn’t wish for good health — for themselves and for the ones they love.  A body that works well, that functions and moves as it should, that is not plagued by illness and disease.  I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t long for that.

And yet, I have met many people who are not willing to do what is required to be healthy.

Granted, we live in a world that is working against us.  Especially in America, we live with endless obstacles of GMO’s, processed foods, “modern conveniences” that keep us from walking or working or moving, largely sedentary jobs, and much, much more.

But we still have choice.  We still have choices about what we do with our spare time, what we put into our mouths and what we prioritize.  Culture can flood the market with as many unhealthy options as it chooses, but it cannot take away our choice.

Just like God never takes away our choice.  God wants us to love Him and follow His ways, but He does not force us to.  He allows us to choose.  He allows us to choose who and what we serve.  He allows us choice … because He knows that our choices will reveal our true desires.

So it really comes back to us.  Do we truly want to have good health?  Enough to do what is required?

Enough to eat less junk food?

Enough to eat more vegetables?

Enough to move your body every day?

Enough to listen to and attend to the needs of your body?

Enough to listen to Him?  So that He can heal us?  So that He can heal us and bring us to health?

He can, you know.  It’s right there:

      H e a l t h

Do you see it?

Do you want it enough to do what is required?

He is more than able.  It’s your choice.

Integrated

His disciples asked Him, ‘Rabbi, who committed the sin that caused him to be born blind, this man or his parents?'”  John 9:2 (NET)

I was talking today with a church leader about the implications of a person with a Western worldview reading a text written by ancient Middle Easterners.  The Bible, of course, was written by ancient Middle Easterner’s who write from an ancient Middle Eastern worldview.  Most of the people I interact with on a daily basis read the Bible from a modern Western worldview.  And as I’m sure you know, one’s worldview is not an overt aspect of how we perceive and interpret things. Instead, a worldview is very subtle and covert, but it colors everything we see and interact with.

The distinctions are many, I am sure. But in my studies thus far, I’ve become acutely aware of this:

  • A Western worldview is a very dualistic lens. It sees the inner and the outer/external journey as separate and distinct, almost antagonistic against each other.
  • An Eastern worldview, especially and including an ancient Middle Eastern worldview, understands a person to be very integrated, body mind and spirit as one.

As such, many Westerners are perplexed by passages such as the one in John 9.  What a silly question to one with a Western worldview.  But for one with an Eastern worldview, the question is obvious. Physical sickness can and often does begin with the mind and soul.  Even Western medicine is beginning to admit the inherent connection between inner and outer aspects of self.

Try reading the Gospels with an Eastern worldview in mind. Try looking at church history with the overtones of an Eastern worldview. You will see things differently.

  • Like the laws of the Torah that make a person clean or unclean by what they eat and what they touch.
  • Like the woman who only needed to touch the hem of Jesus’ robe to stop a perpetual bleeding.
  • Like how lepers were cast out of cities to survive on their own, not only because of the physical contagion, but also because if their perceived spiritual depravity.
  • Like how the early church was the one to start the concept of hospitals … because they knew that caring for the body was also caring for the soul in some deeply mysterious, God-breathed way.

May we all learn to embrace our God-breathed integratedness and, in the process, come to know and reflect our Creator more clearly.

Food-session 2

“Then God said, ‘I now give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the entire earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.'” Genesis 1:29 (NET)
After spending a week in the islands and enjoying local, island cuisine … it has made me think about food in a different way. If you looked for it, local food was everywhere. Of course, the processed, commercial, U.S. food was also present … but if you looked for it, the local food was everywhere.

“Why is the coffee so good here?” my husband would ask. “Because it was grown right over there,” I would answer. “Why is the pineapple so perfectly tart or the seafood so amazingly fresh or the rum so very smooth!?” Because it is all local and fresh and indigenous to the place where we are.

God had a plan when He created the world and made different climates to produce different foods. They were meant to be grown and consumed there. And God had a plan when He created growth and life-cycles. Fruit, for example, is meant to be eaten when it is ripe … and scientifically, a fruit that is ripened on the tree/vine has many more nutrients than those ripened off he tree/vine. Food is supposed to be eaten at a certain stage in its life-cycle.

Why does this matter? Because our “food-session” — our obsession with food — has not only led us to create a bunch of consumable stuff that isn’t really food, but it has also led us to neuter the nutritional value of the real food we do eat, through mass production & distribution. Harvesting food before its time so it can ripen in a crate and be shipped halfway across the globe may offer us variety of food-choice, but it provide us only a fraction of the nutritional value. It isn’t what God has in mind. (Not to mention, chemical, gmo’s, hormones, etc.)

God has a plan. And we keep messing it up.

As a result, we keep messing ourselves up.

God help us.

Aging

“The Lord is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate … for He knows how weak we are; He remembers we are only dust.” Psalm 103:13-14 (NLT)

Lately I’ve become aware of the effects of aging. Some personally, some within my family, some in other people’s families. But with aging, there seems to come a number of issues that involve our bodies (& sometimes our minds). Our bodies begin to age and weaken and become increasingly susceptible.

So how are we to treat our aging bodies?

The answer might sound familiar: the same way Jesus would. We should treat our aging bodies the same way Jesus would treat our aging bodies — with love, tenderness, compassion & understanding.

God’s mercies are new every day … & so should ours be … even to ourselves.

Instead of comparing yourself to what you used to be able to do (5, 10, 20 years ago!?), assess who and where you are today & start from there.  If you used to bench-press 80 pounds and can only bench-press 20 today, so what!? Bench-press the 20 today! (Or maybe even 10 until you really know you have the muscle stamina.)

Our bodies are not machines.  They are delicate pieces of craftsmanship created by God. Think of them as Stradivarius violins:  of great worth, able to pay beautiful music … but you must learn how to play & care for it properly.

And if you are aging, think of yourself a an aging Stradivarius violin: still of great worth & still able to play beautiful music … and needing a bit more tender-loving care.

Training Ground

The Lord is my strength and shield.  I trust Him with all my heart.  He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy.  I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.” Psalm 28:7 (NLT)

Hard times are training opportunities.  Think of Joseph, who was sold into slavery by his brothers, taken to another country, imprisoned etc. (See Genesis 37 ff).   What others intended for evil in his life, God used and intended for good.  (Genesis 50:20)  God used seemingly disastrous events to train, prepare, and place Joseph in the right place at the right time for the right reasons.  We all know the story … but when it happens to us, we have the chance to learn it for real and anew.

Challenging times are the perfect time to become acutely aware of and to grow our dependence on Him.  As one author says:  “Challenging times wake you up and amplify your awareness of needing My help.” Challenging times forge our character.  They also prepare the way to God to reveal His glory in greater ways.

So I’m in training (as are a few other sojourners with me).  And I embrace it.  I want to know deep dependence on God.  I want to trust in Him alone to save me.  I want to see His glory revealed in my life like I have never seen it before.  And so I train — listening, watching, waiting, working, responding, obeying, trusting, and moving in faith.

The Lord is the strength of my life!  Not anyone or anything else.  The Lord God Almighty is my strength and my song!  And with Him, I am victorious.  No matter what.

Training ground is holy ground … when we have Him to train us!