Physically Present

Settle in. Embrace the present. Rejoice and give thanks for what is. Recognize and celebrate the blessings that are here and now, the overflowing of the cup, rather than the pieces that seem to be lacking or missing or just out of view.

It seems that my physical strengthening – and even simply being more physically active swimcapgogglesand engaged with my body – also leads to greater sense of contentment. I’m feeling more grounded in my body, literally more physically present. As I push myself physically, which has not historically been part of my life, I’m feeling more engaged with the world, and more at home and at peace. It is a great affirmation of the Synchronous Life model I’ve been developing, and my own experience of engagement with it.

I’ve been so focused on the life of the mind and the spirit for years, and experience myself and my world mainly through internal mental reflection and conversation, which seems one step removed from the immediate, visceral reality of my actual experience.

So my hope is that without reducing or denegrating these manifestations of life, I am growing into a more wellrounded, grounded and balanced person. Part of me wishing that I’d done this 20 years ago, but then quickly moving beyond that to simple gratitude that I’m doing it now – returning again to the present.

When I look in the mirror I feel a bit like a photoshop project caught mid-shift – When the
computer fades or morphs one image into another, and in that facemorphinbetween stage that’s neither what was nor what is becoming. It also kind of feels like my old face is photoshopped onto someone else’s body. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not ripped and don’t expect to be (mostly because I can’t envision having that kind of time to work out) but my body shape is actually changing. And I look and feel younger too, which is nice.

I’m also aware from past seasons of swimming that exercise helps me sleep better, and have less back pain. My core is strengthening, which is provides an additional kind of physical balance and improves my posture. Better posture and more sleep lead to improved circulation and mental acquity.

This process has required effort on my part. I have needed to overcome mental and emotional barriers to the idea of doing an open water swim. I have needed to overcome the physical and mental lethargy of not exercising. I have had to receive the challenge from my best friends to join them in a ½ Tri Relay as an invitation to renewal and transformation, far more than the physical test it will certainly be. I have needed to process through the relationship between contentment, complacency, and comfort. I have needed to exchange the discomfort of complacency for the discomfort of effort, which has moved be, surprisingly, deeper toward contentment. As a dear friend reported from someone else, “When you get to be our age, your body is going to hurt from something. You can have pain that results from being out of shape, or choose the pain that comes with puhsing yourself physically.” As I said, I’m not someone who has had a habit of regular disciplined exercise in a way that challenged me physically. This new commitment to a physical discipline is also seeming to shift the way I experience and think about the other facets of my life. Again, even though I know this and teach it, I have still been caught off guard by my own personal experience of it.

It is one thing to talk about and help others understand the essential integration of body, mind and spirit. It is quite another to experience a shift personally, within myself, and sense that it is more than it appears on the surface to be. This shift is presenting itself to my consciousness as an emergence of something previousy unknown, something new. Where it leads I do not know, and unlike my pattern in the past, I’m becoming increasingly comfortable with not knowing where the road is leading. My joy now is found in simply embracing what is, leaning into it even when it is a bit uncomfortable.

Connecting the dots – Law, Freedom, Identity, Compassion

Connecting the Dots

Over the last few weeks we have been thinking about our identity in Christ. Because we are in Christ we are no longer living according to the written laws of God. Instead, we are guided internally by the Spirit of God, which guided those who first wrote down the scriptures. So we follow the spirit if not the letter of the law. This is more difficult, and requires more of us – it is harder, not easier, to live out this kind of righteousness. It requires that we seek continual fellowship with God in Christ – only then can the Spirit guide us. It also requires a community of likeminded people who are walking the same path and will agree to mutual accountability.

We then explored the way that Jesus calls us IN our identity, and respects who we are individually and culturally. When we call others to follow him, or come together with those who already are, we must do likewise. That means recognizing and respecting the background and experiences of each person – as a whole person. Christ will transform them. We don’t need to change them. We are created for wholeness. Our Identity can become our opportunity, but only if along the way we don’t try to remake other people in our image.

Compassion for others informs and energizes our ministry. We “treat others as we want to be treated.” We realize that we already “suffer with” (the meaning of “com-passion”) as co-humans. Life is difficult. There is plenty of pain and sorrow to go around without imposing more. Jesus said, “I came that you may have life, and that life abundant.” (John 10:10) If we, who are of one culture and heritage, are to reach, call and nurture people from another culture, then we must honor both our identity and theirs. Paul describes his attempts to do this: “I become all things to all people, so that I might by all means save some.” (1 Cor 9:22) That is precisely where he is leading us in this discussion about food, and having compassion for the uniqueness and weaknesses of others.

** NOTE: Reflections for a sermon – “Our Freedom is limited by Compassion” based on 1 Corinthians 8.

They’ll never take our freedom

They may take our lives…
        … but they’ll never take OUR FREEDOM!!!

This is one of my favorite scenes from any movie. I’m inspired by several things in it:

  1. We choose how to live, ultimately. We choose whether to live a rich and full life, however long it may be, or to live small, petty lives in fear and want.
  2. People, situations and forces will work against our efforts to live free.
  3. Skirts, braided hair with ribbon, and makeup are cool, and no one ever made them look more tough and masculine.
  4. Most importantly, people cannot “take our freedom” because real freedom is internal. This is what Viktor E. Frankl discovered in the concentration camps during WWII, about which he wrote in Man’s Search for Meaning. Its also the sentiment behind Maya Angelou’s poemCaged Bird.

I’m inclined toward pacifism actually, though I acknowledge the necessity of war to defend those who cannot defend themselves. Even so, if we take the movie as not only historical fiction but also as a metaphor for our spiritual lives, then we can perhaps see how  if we do not fiercely live our freedom, then we have lost it already.

“Those who seek their lives will lose them, while those who lose their lives for my sake will find them.” (Matthew 10:39) Maybe there’s a connection there. Maybe.

God’s Dream Is Our Wholeness

Genesis 1:24-2:25

We were made complete, and
God’s work of salvation is restoring us to completeness.

The stories from Genesis tell us several things about our humanness. We learn about three aspects of our being that have both external and internal expressions:

  • Physical / Spiritual –the self and our deepest experience
  • Relational / emotional –our experience of self and others
  • Work / intellectual – our interaction with and reflection on the world

As the two creation narratives unfold, we see each of these facets of humankind come to be.

  • The humans are made, physical beings infused with spirit, in God’s image. (1:27; 2:2-8, 21-22)
  • The humans are in relationship, with each other and with God. (1:27; 2:18-25)
  • The humans are given work to do – to tend the garden and manage the animals. (1:28 ; 2:15)

Most of the Biblical witness reflects the unfolding story of God’s continuing invitation to us to live our created wholeness, and our inability or unwillingness to do so.

In the salvation work of God through Jesus Christ we see these three aspects once again, and we see them both redeemed, and used in the ongoing redemption of the world. And in all three aspects, there is a transformation from the former to the latter way of being.

Physically, in the creation stories, distinction and difference matter and are given a central place. In the New Creation, these distinctions fade to the background, what matters is that we “are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)

Reconciliation – restoration of relationship both to others and to God –

2 Corinthians 5:14-21

Resurrection of the body – the restoration of the physical self, joined with the spiritual.

1 Corinthians 15:35-58 – (Paul works hard to try to explain the inexplicable.)

Work / Intellect

The work of ministry – (Paul compares Christian ministry to the various roles in building construction)
1 Corinthians 3:10-15

Work from salvation, not for salvation –
Ephesians 2:8-9

Transformation of the Intellect –
Romans 12:1-3

(Paul uses the image of a body to explain how we as believers are to function in our ministry roles and more generally how we are to behave.)
Romans 12:4-21

Through the BODY of Christ comes reconciliation of relationships with one another and with God –
Ephesians 2:13-22
Colossians 1:11-23

These all impact each other directly and indirectly – physical illness often disrupts our ability to think clearly and work strongly, as well as upsetting us emotionally. Conflict in a relationship will also often disrupt our work, and impact us emotionally. When we are spiritually disengaged, the result is destructive to all aspects of our self.

God’s work of salvation, including the work effected in and through Jesus Christ and the ongoing power and presence of the Holy Spirit, is to restore us to wholeness. Any faithful work in our personal Christian lives or in our congregations and communities will move us toward this wholeness in which we were created and toward which we are being saved.

I would love to talk with you and explore ways that we might work together as you grow and mature toward wholeness in all areas of your life. I am also available to come and do workshops for organizations. Let’s live into God’s dream for us!