The Body

Developing A Strong Center

When I read Nathan Foster’s Pedaling in God’s Presence in this month’s journal, I was immediately impressed by his hardiness in biking straight through Michigan’s long winters. In Holland our winter is much shorter and less harsh and, believe it or not, bike paths are even prioritized for snow removal over roads in an effort to keep the population biking when the weather is less than ideal. Even so, I tend to leave my bike in the shed when the cold wind blows and the snow falls. Kudos, Nathan, you are much hardier than I!

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Say Grace Without the Guilt

There is no other substance quite like food.  We celebrate with food, console with it, and, in turn, we guilt, shame and punish with it.  How we eat, and what we choose to eat, can either provide nutrition and healing or cause grave illnesses.

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The Womb for the Spirit

Easter has just passed and I am freshly reminded of the importance of the body for spiritual formation and the practice of the spiritual disciplines.  Actually, it seems that one of the under appreciated messages of Easter itself is the importance of the body for the practice of following Jesus.  Our bodies are so vital that Jesus’s body was raised from death to show us that not only does our spirit not die but our spirit enfleshed will quite likely rise again as well, made perfect but with some sign of the scars that we have taken on in this life.

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We Are Not Our Own

“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own.” (1 Corinthians 6:19)

If our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit, then shouldn’t we do all we can to keep those temples in good repair? Does constant junk food or a lack of exercise create a good space for the Holy Spirit to dwell in? Does gluttony, smoking, abuse of alcohol and drugs create a temple worthy of God? We are not our own (despite the mantra of many in this culture about what they can and cannot do with their bodies); we belong to God and therefore are held to a different standard and understanding of the purpose and goal of our lives.

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Human In Every Way

During his passion, Jesus remained fully aware of what was going on around him and to him. He participated fully in his body, even as he hung on the cross. He refused the wine mixed with myrrh that might have given him some pain relief. His intent was to be fully aware and to participate in every aspect of his humanity.

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Reclaiming Purity

“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit?” (1 Cor. 6:19)

Paul is asking the question in an assumptive posture…hello people, didn’t you know this? Then why are you partaking in sexual immorality and giving your body away to unhealthy ends? “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Then flee from such immorality!” (vs. 15,18)

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My Soul’s Address

Recently I’ve been pondering author Barbara Brown Taylor’s outlook on how our body’s condition affects our spiritual health. In her book An Altar in the World, she writes, “Whether you are sick or well, lovely or irregular, there comes a time when it is vitally important for your spiritual health to drop your clothes, look in the mirror, and say, ‘Here I am. This is the body-like-no-other that life has shaped. I live here. This is my soul’s address.’”

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Talk the Walk

I was on an island off the coast of Seattle. I was there for a directed three week retreat of silence and I was struggling with how to pray. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to pray or didn’t have time to pray. Rather, it was that I felt very disconnected between my body and spirit. I tried kneeling, sitting, standing, lying down prostrate and every other biblical prayer posture I could think of. However, none of these positions seemed to work well for very long.

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Icon of Communion
or for Easter—Bells

Beth was relieved the wig came

(though it turned out not to matter)

for her hair fell out in clumps

the night before her chapel talk.

She limped in to greet students, colleagues

and leaned upon the podium to stand.

After her composed, yet most exposed

story of cancer’s ravenous tear,

the dean asked if faculty might pray.

Beth said why not let everybody come,

so the ordered room turned into

a huddled mass around her seated frame.

In my fine dress, I knelt to hold her hand

as prayers and tears began to flow.

Mid stream, with all eyes closed,

I peeked out and saw

an amputated arm stub resting on her knee,

as its partner hand grasped hers.

Make up ran down many colored cheeks

and in the back row a tall suited man’s

nose dripped to his chin.

Our hands were held too tight

to wipe away life’s mess.

That unmasked moment’s view of

mingled mucus, limbs, and salty prayers

has become my icon of communion.


Pedaling In God’s Presence – Part 1

Editor’s Note: Over the next two days, we’ll be posting the entirety of Nathan Foster’s wonderful article from Issue 9.1: Spirituality & the Body. Please enjoy “Pedaling In God’s Presence: Discipline for Body and Soul.” If you like it, there’s much, much more where it came from. We’re very excited about the current issue.

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