“Do you not realize that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you and whom you received from God? You are not your own property, then; you have been bought at a price. So use your body for the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
I’ve been thinking about these few lines lately. My body is getting older. It no longer does everything I ask it to do. For the most part, I have treated it to good nutrition – if you don’t count diet sodas, candy, chips and crackers. Most people would say that I am thin, and if I can eat that junk what difference does it make? Lately I’m not so sure it’s okay.
Would I bring trash into church and dump it there? Would I pollute the air or the water at my place of worship? Would I say that most of the sanctuary is clean, so what’s a little bit of garbage? On the whole, it’s clean, right? And while we’re on the subject, what about the people who come to church – aren’t we all a bunch of sinners who are already polluting the environment with sin? So how pure is this temple, anyway?
It could be cleaner. I could do better. I could eat healthier – and not just to lose weight, not just to look better, not for reasons of vanity, but because my body would be more ready to do what I ask of it, or, more importantly, what He asks of it. Maybe then my body, and my life, would be more for the glory of God.
Am I strong enough to surrender? Am I receptive enough to allow Him to help me? Whose temple is it, anyway?
Why would anyone settle for the bondage of freedom from God, when he could revel in the splendor of surrender to His love?
There is a subset of Yoga called Pranayama that deals strictly with breathing. In the practice of Yoga, the yogi is encouraged to take deep breaths and to make the exhale just a bit longer than the inhale. The reasoning behind this is that the more you can eliminate from the lungs, the more room you have for the next inhalation. With each breath, the practitioner inhales air which is rich in oxygen, bathing the cells and muscles of the body with its life-giving energy. As the person exhales, carbon dioxide is released along with other toxins like lactic acid, allowing the muscles to stretch and the mind to relax.
I was thinking about this concept while engaged in my own yoga practice the other day. I made each breath a prayer of bringing God into my heart and to releasing anything that keeps me from Him with each exhalation. Just as in Pranayama, the more I got rid of the doubt and the fear and the worry – all the things that lead me towards sin, the more space there was for God.
I felt great afterwards, and it made me wonder – what if I did that in my life?
My heart and my brain have been too occupied with other matters to write on my blog over the past several weeks. Truth be told, it seemed too much to be bothered with when no one seemed to be reading it anyway. I gave myself permission to not say anything since there was no one listening. I had gotten into the obsessive habit of checking my stats several times daily whenever I posted, and now that I’ve lost that need to repeatedly access my worth based on the number of people who clicked on my blog, I don’t want to go back to that pitiful state.
When I started as I was saying… I didn’t have any more agenda that to get myself writing. I purposely did not choose a theme and let my words reflect whatever was on my mind. What emerged was a mélange of topics that seemed completely random, but with more in common than I would have thought. I have, without realizing it, undergone a transformation during the time I’ve been writing here. As I’ve written about politics and family relationships and food, God almost always made His presence known in the conversation. While I’ve been occupied with my never-ending self-improvement project, God has been working on my heart – quietly, unobtrusively, steadfastly. What I haven’t talked about over the past 5 months was my decision to apply to graduate school. Six months ago I would have looked at you with confusion if you told me that in January I would be going back to school. Last August when I looked into the idea of finding a spiritual director to help me make sense of my unfocused quest to do God’s will, I did not realize that God was calling me to study to fill that role myself. Little did I know that I would receive such an overwhelming amount of affirmation to my decision, most surprisingly from my husband. While I was not writing on my blog, I was filling out application forms and meeting with those who agreed to write letters of recommendation for me. I was acquiring transcripts from my long ago undergraduate days and practicing to take a grad school admission test called the MAT. I was writing application essays and learning new technology that sent all of the above forms to my new school with just a few touches of buttons on my computer. I have prayed and I have panicked, and I kept it all quiet until I found out that I was actually accepted.
So, in a few weeks, I will begin classes at the Aquinas Institute of Theology in St. Louis. I’ve signed up to go far out of my comfort zone in learning to navigate the technology of studying on-line, learning the new languages of academia and theology, and through it all, learning to let go of the reins and let God take the lead.
My new role as a student has brought about mixed emotions. I feel so humbled, so blessed, and so utterly terrified, all at the same time. I don’t know what I’ll be writing about on this blog in the future, but I hope that the loyal few of you who read my words will continue to find something worth reading and that, on good days, you’ll actually be inspired by what God speaks to you through me.
“Do not be afraid.” Those few words are one of, if not the most common phrases in the Bible. They are all over the place in Isaiah. They were spoken by God and His angels to some of the bravest people that the world will ever know. They were what the Angel Gabriel said to John the Baptist’s father. The same angel said them to Mary when he asked her to be the mother of Jesus. Her son spoke those words to Peter whom he entrusted with spreading the word of His kingdom. Moses was told to fear not. Abraham also received the same message.
Fear is undoubtedly one of the strongest emotions we humans feel. God knows this about us. As much as we try to pretend that fear is for children or sissies or losers, we all experience it at some level. What we really fear is that we can’t do ________ (something.) We can’t measure up or we can’t accomplish some goal or we won’t be successful at what’s important to us. Fill in the blank with whatever you fear.
Whatever you came up with, I’m willing to bet that it was - I fear not being able to do (whatever it is you fear) by myself. God maybe could have made it more clear to those of us denser individuals if he had said that we should fear trying to go it alone. When He said, “Do not be afraid,” it was almost always followed by, “for I am with you.” That’s where our focus needs to be, not on the fear, not on the illusion of self-reliance, not on the myth of the lone warrior fighting the battles for the weak of this world.
Don’t be afraid, but not because there’s nothing to fear, but because you don’t have to face your fears alone.
“You are my servant, I have chosen you, I have not rejected you. Do not be afraid, for I am with you; do not be alarmed, for I am your God. I give you strength, truly I help you, truly I hold you firm with my saving right hand.” Isaiah 41:9-10.
That’s why we don’t need to fear. We need to surrender that emotion and replace it with trust in Him. And we need to do it over and over and over, every single day of the year. It’s not a coincidence that it’s mentioned exactly 365 times in the Bible.
So many of us who volunteer, do so for multiple organizations and/or we wear many hats within one place. My mother always said, “If you want something done, ask a busy person.” It’s also been my experience in every company or cause for which I’ve given my time that when they need to find someone to fill a role, the first names mentioned are those who are already sharing the load.
All of this can lead to burnout. Most of the situations where I’ve volunteered my time and talents, there is a core group who does the same, and among that core, too many of the conversations focus on the stress, the fatigue, and the conflict that the givers feel, not just because of what they are committed to at that particular place, but also around the other commitments that they have in their lives. In addition to the work they are doing for one cause, they are worrying about what they’re not doing with their families, their workplace or their other causes, while they’re engaged with the one.
So many of us are trying to do the right thing. So many of us are trying to do what we think God wants us to do. There was a popular saying a few years ago – WWJD. What would Jesus do? That’s a great question. Jesus would probably do many of the same things we do as volunteers, but, and this is key, BUT Jesus would, and did do good works, and then what did he do? Did he plow head-first right into the next good deed? NO. Look in Scripture. Time after time after He miraculously healed someone, or fed a multitude, or stopped a mob from hurting someone, He went off and prayed.
When was the last time we all did that?
Watching the game between the Florida Gators and the Georgia Bulldogs was especially hard yesterday. It’s not easy to see my team beaten by our biggest historical rivals in the SEC for the third year in a row. It’s not easy to see my team play so poorly in the first half that they were behind by 20 points less than a minute into the second quarter. It’s not easy to see my team lose three games in succession and have four losses when it’s only the beginning of November and we still have FSU to play. It’s not going to be easy to watch that one either. But what was really difficult yesterday was witnessing the utter lack of discipline exhibited by the Florida players and the total disregard by the coaching staff.
I’ve been a Florida Gator for a long time. I was there the year we went 0-10-1. For those of you who don’t speak football, it means we didn’t win any games that season. Our best game was a tie. They don’t have ties any longer. They have overtime now. We lost to the Rice Owls on Homecoming that year. No offense to Rice University; I’m sure it’s a fine institute for higher learning, but a football powerhouse it is not. I’ve also seen the Gators win three national football championships. It was evident from the start that this wasn’t going to be our year. That’s fine. I don’t live and die by football scores. What was evident from the beginning of the season was a lack of sportsmanship in the players, the coaches and the fans. I’m aware that Gator fans aren’t the only ones who boo the other team when it comes on the field, but just because lots of people do it, doesn’t make it right. It has become more important for a louder majority of the fans to shout boos down to the opposing team than to continue cheering for their own team who is still making its way onto the playing field. Come on, people, it’s tacky, it’s rude, it’s unnecessary. I’ve witnessed several times this season when one of our players was ejected from the game due to too many unsportsmanlike conduct calls. What do the fans do as he heads back to the tunnel? They cheer him. He’s just been thrown out of the game for playing like a bully, and he gets hailed as a hero? Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t get it. The way I see it, if he put that passion into playing the game within the confines of the rulebook, maybe we wouldn’t have so many losses this season.
I’ve seen the coaches get up in the players’ faces when they make a mistake. I’ve certainly seen Will Muschamp, the Florida head coach, show his temper. But, I’ve never seen the players reprimanded for playing like thugs. Yesterday was just too much. I lost track of the number of times that actual fights broke out on the field between the opposing teams. I could look it up, but the actual number of penalties handed out in Saturday’s game just for unsportsmanlike conduct was ridiculous. That game looked more like a street fight than it did a game of discipline and rules and codes of expected behavior. I was embarrassed by my team. I know ; the Georgia Bulldogs didn’t exactly act like gentlemen either, but they aren’t my concern. Maybe, just maybe, if we didn’t have so many penalties, we would have had just a few more points, and that would have made enough of a difference to affect the outcome of the contest. One thing was perfectly clear yesterday. The Florida Gators are not the Florida Gators of old. There was a saying when I was a student at UF. “A Florida man needs no introduction.” It implied that the upright behavior of a University of Florida student showed his true colors even when he (or she) was not wearing the orange and blue. The attitude that is prevalent with our team and so many of our fans now, we may as well just wear solid black.
The motto now is, “The University of Florida is in Gainesville. The Gator Nation is everywhere.” If that’s true, we live in a world where discipline and sportsmanship are not only unneeded. They’re booed right off the field of play.