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Can God speak to us through our bodies?


God speaks to us through our bodies.

Why is that so hard to believe? We say that 70% of communication is non-verbal. Why do we insist that God speak through our listening ears? What do we perceive non-verbally?

Well, this may sound nonsensical, because in normal conversation, what we mean by non-verbal is messaging though “body-language.” What do their facial expressions say? What does their hand-positioning tell us? their posture? their movement? This is the language of their bodies? God doesn’t have a body — at least not one we can see and touch. At least not me.

What if God is speaking God’s nonverbal expression through MY body? Uniquely and specifically to me? How would I listen? How would I interpret? How would I attend to what God is speaking? If am not aware of God, is there something getting in the way and scrambling our communication?

Much depends on my relationship with my own body. So what does you body say to you when you address it? is your body telling you?Do you find yourself in any of these? here?

  • the avoider: I don’t want to talk about that. Let’s change the subject. let’s talk about something else. So, how are you doing…?
  • The excuse maker: I don’t speak that language. (I’m not coordinated, not good at sports, never got picked for the team, really not very competitive.)
  • the ashamed: I can’t talk about that. Am uncomfortable talking about my body. am ashamed, embarassed, have been hurt of abused.
  • the guilty: There’s nothing wrong with what I am doing. Nothing to see here. Move along. unaware or blind to the connection between body and God, in denial
  • the arguer, reasoner/rationalizer: The Bible says the flesh is bad, but the spirit is good. I choose to focus on the spirit. After all, this body of mine is just a temporary possession. gonna perish anyway.

Avoiding, excusing, shaming, denying, and arguing are all ways we step away from this conversation. In doing so, do we miss a blessed, poignant and personal way God created for us to be aware of Him? Forfeit an intimate connection? Miss perhaps 70% of what God is speaking?

Perhaps this is the most essential message of the coming of Christ: fully divine AND fully human, incarnated. Here in the flesh. God, knowing our reluctant selves, argumentative, avoidant, shamed and guilty selves, said, I can live in that body. When I do, I can take the helm, if you give it to me. I will speak course correction, signal change of heading, chart the course, and apply the rudder. Heck, I can even still the winds blowing us off course.

The keys are two: attend to My touch and apply my direction. Use your body’s awareness of me to accept my guidance. (like horse and rider)

Try: ask your body to respond to these commands/instructions:

  • slow,
  • calm,
  • focus
  • look
  • listen
  • breathe
  • imagine
  • attend
  • release
  • turn
  • wait
  • GO!

These commands are activated in our flesh, through our physical nature. God speaks to us, so God can speak through us.

Of course, one can only be guided when one is moving. Nothing (but God) can correct the course of something that refuses to budge, arms crossed. Movement in any direction, God can work with.

Folded hands which signal I’m not budging is something God refuses to override.

We are made to move. Our bodies — heart, soul, mind, strength and spirit — remind us of this everyday. It’s the way God intended to get and keep our attention. It’s why God gave us a body — to incline us to follow Him in this earthly lifetime.

*(This is the thesis of my book, Made to Move: (learning to) Knowing and Loving God through our Bodies, find it here.)

Stretch to strengthen: pain of a healing sort


No one really wants to be stretched. At least not too far, and definitely not when the stretching goes beyond what feels comfortable.

There’s just a certain out-of-control-feeling when someone is pulling you and you don’t know how far they will go, or even if they will stop. If you have ever had physical therapy after an injury or surgery, you know exactly what I’m describing. It’s painful but it’s pain of a healing sort. It helps recover your range of motion, and once you have that, the strengthening can begin. Then you’re on the road to return to action.

While there lots of ways to strengthen — exercise machines, dumbbells, pulleys, weights — it’s likely that when you earn your discharge from the PT gym you’ll be sent home with a lovely parting gift called a resistance band. It’s meant to be your home exercise companion. And it comes with a wonderful secret: When you stretch it, it strengthens you.

I know that sounds a bit counterintuitive, but it’s true. When you pull, it resists, gently. As you pull harder, it stretches, slowly. The harder you pull, the more it stretches and the more that strengthens you. This feels very much like life these days and, to me, very much like the life of faith. Body and soul engaged in a give-and-take which feels very much like exercise.

Apparently, my approach is a bit atypical. While most faith-folk tend to start with the soul and then invite the body along, when I begin with body, my soul always comes along for the joy ride. *

Try for yourself. Here’s a simple prayer routine using the “exercise” band and the words to the praise song, Spirit of the Living God. My daughter Stephanie’s lovely voice accompanies me.


The movement is prayer. The words are prayer. The music is prayer.

But even better, even after the prayer-exercise is done, the sensation of prayer remains… in the body! The muscles that moved the band — the effort, the stretch, the exertion of prayer — reverberate and reiterate: melt me, mold me, fill me, use me. Literally, the prayer is still there.

This is too good to be true, right? Try it again. Become aware of the energy, the symbiosis, the connection of stretch to strengthen. Let your body prayer become fluid, flowing one motion into the next. Body and soul, together. Who could conceive of something so powerful and yet so simple?

*My thanks to the folks at the Upper Room for honoring my unusual approach and inviting me to join them to lead worship at SOULfeast 2013.

SOULfeast 2013

Fancy Fades


It began at a wedding where the wine never ran out…

With fancy nails, 
pristine for the big event.
Now, it’s time ..
to get some DIRT under those nails!

Too Late


Don’t wait till next season …

to use this season’s gifts.

Gun Violence: I’ve reached my breaking point


You can tell a lot about a culture by how it treats its children.

I don’t remember who first said that to me, but when I heard it I knew at once it was true. The children among us … Do we support them? Do we include them? Do we honor them? Do we fund their endeavors? Do we prioritize our work with them? Do we care for them and hold them close? Do we respect them, whether they are part of our family, of another family or of no family?

This question was foremost in my mind several years ago when I read an awful account of the inhumanity waged against a child in the name of religious warfare. Unconscionable, I thought, How can one who bears the image of God act in such a way toward another who also bears the image of God?

I could only conclude that the one didn’t recognize this image in himself and thus didn’t recognize it in the other. If he did, I supposed, he could never behave so.

And that, naively, was the initial impetus for my book whose working title was taken from this blog, the Kinesthetic Christian, and which was ultimately titled Made to Move: Knowing and Love God Through Our Bodies. If people knew what a miraculous masterpiece they were and all of humankind was, how could we hate? How could we kill? How could we do other than honor all those we met?

Yet, here we are. Killing the other who is different, who is defenseless, who is innocent. Each one, created as a masterpiece and gifted with a life over which to discover and display it, denied it. God help us.

And God has. Through Jesus, God issued instructions, to seek to “Love God with heart, soul, mind and strength and to love our neighbor as ourself.” Our lives are our practical exam. Our place to chisel away all that is not loving in order to uncover the masterpiece within.


O Lord, we don't trust we are loveable.
We don't believe we are a masterpiece.
What we see in ourselves, we often don't like
And too often we take it out on others.

We say things we don't mean.
We act in ways that are "not us."
Confirming what we believe about ourselves, 
not the truth of who we are,
at least who we are truly meant to be.

O Lord, today I recommit to your life's work in me. 
I acknowledge and accept your assignment as my instructions, 
trusting that the world you created
and the circumstances in which you placed me
are designed to chisel away the ugly and leave the lovely.

My charge: 
To seek to act in ways which show my love for you and the whole of your creation: 
with whole heart, whole soul, whole mind, and whole strength
for the good of my neighbor because of Your Good in me.  

If the life I am leading is the practical portion of my life’s exam, I pray there is still time for me to earn a passing grade. And I pray the same for you. Each of us are commissioned into the work of our lives. Surely, in our day, there is enough work to go well around.

Today, I took my first step in addressing the gun violence being perpetrated in my country. I learned that my church denomination passed a resolution to end gun violence at its 2016 Conference. I will be participating in a group pledged to respond and to act on these measures. Not only is it way past time to do this but our very lives may depend on it. So many lives have already been given for it…

Perhaps, the same Spirit is prompting me that inclined the rich young ruler of scripture to fall on his knees before Jesus and inquire, “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life? ~ Mark 10:17

It is probably no accident that in the moment just before the encounter above we’ve just read, People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them. ~Mark 10:13-16

If you would like to join the group we are gathering to learn more about the gun violence issue and ways we can address it, please send me an email here or leave your contact info in the comments below. 

Every Mind Matters: What are you feeding yours?


Bet you can’t eat just one!

Remember that slogan from the Lays Potato Chips advertising campaign? They knew that if they could just get us to try one, we’d find the rest of the bag hard to resist. These days, satisfying our cravings has gotten more complicated; we feed not only on a steady diet of processed foods but also consume a constant stream of print and online media. Those producing it know that once we click, we’ll find the rest of what they have to offer hard to resist.

While most of us know that too many chips are bad for our waistline, most of us don’t know the risk to our minds when subjected to so much media. That’s because brain science is a newly emerging field. Just twenty years ago our text books taught that the structure of the brain never changed. “Alcohol kills brain cells,” I used to admonish the college students I taught, “and you won’t get them back.”


Now, thanks to new techniques available to study the brain, we know the textbooks and I had it wrong. The brain is actually a highly ‘plastic’ structure; it is changing all the time in response to the stimuli in its environment. Our brains actually create new pathways when we explore new things and establish preferred routes for things we think about the most. As remarkable as it sounds, our brains are constantly being sculpted by how we use them.

No wonder scripture advises us: whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Philippians 4:8) Perhaps Descartes in proclaiming, “I think, therefore I am,” was more right than he knew. Of course, the God who designed us knew it all along.

So, as the apostle Paul writes to the believers in Rome,

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. ~ Romans 12:1-2

encouraging us to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice, we don’t just set our minds aside. That’s where the renewal happens! Especially during this season of Lent, as we draw closer to our God by His invitation, we ask, how can I offer my body and mind in ways that are holy and pleasing to You? In doing this, we make ourselves fully available to His sculpting hands and shaping will.

What a joy to discover that we are designed with renewal in mind. Setting our minds on the things of Christ will help us test and approve what God’s will is for us. That doesn’t mean that the world isn’t going on out there. It simply means that what’s going on in us and in front of us – where we can have the most impact — will get accomplished by our efforts, in accordance with the will of God. Thy Kingdom Come.

What if, instead of consuming the news, we set our sights on making it? Surely, that would be a sacrifice both holy and pleasing to God.

Consider fasting from all online and print media today and, instead, make your own news. Then share it with your friends, family, neighbors or community.

Author’s note: This writing appears in the 2018 version of the Lenten Devotional booklet published and distributed by the Church of the Good Shepherd, United Methodist, in Vienna, Virginia.

There’s been an explosion, but there is no bomb


I’m flattened,
literally, thrown to the ground
by the hand grenades being heaved in my land.

There’s been a bombing,
but there’s no shrapnel,
no visible debris,
just many, many injuries.

Bodies strewn everywhere,
writhing in pain.
Bandaging their wounds,
wrapping their torn limbs.
Some, sitting motionless on the cement,
with hands pressed to their ears,
cry, “Make it stop”
“Make it stop”

Can anyone see them?
I stumble and fall,
gashing my leg on the rocks,
fording the rubble,
trying to reach them.

Does anyone hear them?
Yelling! Screaming! Crying!
It doesn’t stop.
Oh, blessed silence,
where are you?
I would listen if you came.

I would read and listen,
for information, not ammunition.

I would ask and listen,
be inquisitive, not an inquisition.

I would speak and listen,
to those with whom I agree,
and to those with whom I differ.

I would seek out and listen,
for those with little life experience,
and those with much.

I would meet and listen,
face to face and full of attention,
delving for meaning, certain of purpose.

What is the world making of us?
that we have forgotten
how to listen to each other and
become numb to ourselves?

We are meant to make of this world!
to be creative forces
using our hands to hold and our hearts to unfold,
applying ourselves to build,
something of each other.

There’s been a bombing but no explosion.
The ringing in my ears
is the sound of deafening,
the tearing limb from limb
of innocent souls.

Dare we feel it deeply?
Let it hurt us enough
to make it stop?

This is the day to have a good day


IMG_0033Have a Good Day. Such a hackneyed phrase we use upon parting, offered limply to someone we don’t know well. Why title your book this way?

Apparently because Dr. Rilling knew he had something to say in the sermon he chose for the first chapter, its namesake (with added exclamation!). But truth be told, it’s probably also why it took me so long to take this book off the shelf and open it up. Ah, so many Bibles out there, sitting on bookshelves waiting to be opened up. But then…

The chapter begins with a story featuring Eugenia, a character sketched by William Law, some two hundred years before Grandpa wrote (and preached). “Like most of us,” Law wrote, “Eugenia has a picture of herself not as she is, but as she is some day going to be.”

Someday Eugenia intends to be mistress of a considerable household where she will live in strict devotion, raise her children in practice of piety, and spend her time living in a very different manner from the rest of the world.

But, Law points out, though Eugenia may intend all this with sincerity, she is not yet head of a family, and perhaps never may be. But the person nearest her now, she leaves behind as she goes about her ‘faithful living.’ She doesn’t teach, invite or even get to know well, the woman in her service. Eugenia is not availing herself of the opportunity she has now to live in the manner she proposes, so how real are Eugenia’s intentions?

How like Eugenia we are, laments Dr. Rilling. How we intend to live differently when the conditions are more favorable, when that big deal comes through, when the economy improves, and if my circumstances permit it. And we all would be so much nicer people if the people we have to live with weren’t so difficult.

“We shall do nothing of the sort!” Dr. Rilling contends, preaching from First Peter.

He that would love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking guile; let him turn away from evil and do right; let him seek peace and pursue it.” ~ I Peter 3:10-11.

“The time to do right is now. This is the day that the Lord has made. Every day is a little life; and our whole life is but a day repeated.”

From the distance of years this comes clear, it seems to me, especially to those who have done some misspending. I smile remembering the early morning sessions I worked in the cardiac rehab lab. There I met dozens of balding and grey-haired wonders who, recovering from surgery or a cardiac event or living in the face of severe cardiac disease, sought to turn back time. They changed their diets, adjusted their stressors and disciplined themselves to regular exercise. They were dedicated to making each day count.

I so wished my twenty- and thirty-year-old friends, who were stressed and sedentary in their days and practicing risky behaviors on the rebound could see my cardiac rehabbing friends.

These elders had started smoking because it was cool, well before we knew it caused cancer. They had three martini lunches because it made for more productive business meetings, before we knew it would send many into alcoholism and health compromise. They had fortified their Type A behavior, before we knew that stress had physical consequences. Now, these guys were doing all they could to turn back the clock, while the younger generation paid them no mind. They spent their days as they pleased, come what may.

Today, I think of a dear friend who has recently been diagnosed with late stage lung cancer. She has lead an exemplary life as wife, mother and grandmother. She has taken care of her health and cared for the health of others. She doesn’t deserve what has befallen her, and yet she endures.

And, remarkably, that endurance is a daily occurrence she is shaping into an all out sprint. Thanksgiving, gobble up every minute! Grand kids are over, hug ’em tight and saturate them with full-tilt fun! Sons and daughters-in-law visit, speak what can’t wait!

On visiting her, I am greeted at the front door by a hand-colored sign in green and red crayola: Merry Christmas! And so it is. Each day, completely full of itself. Exclamation point!

It is odd how our preponderance of days can make us spendthrifts and our limit of days can make us conscientious. Indeed from the vantage point of what-really-matters, my friend distances herself from what sucks the life out of the rest of us as she completely embraces the life that is truly life. Day, by everlasting day.

“He that would love life and see good days — this is the day,” Dr. Rilling concludes. “Yesterday is but a dream, tomorrow is only a vision, but today well-lived, makes every yesterday a dream of happiness and every tomorrow a vision of hope. Look well, therefore to this day.

And have a good day today!”

What would Jesus Tweet?


“Your words were a blessing.”

It may have been the timing or the delivery or the situation, I don’t know. They were just words, my words, on a card or letter. Not flowery or lovely or well-heeled, but offered sincerely whenever I felt the nudge to write. After I had heard this blessing-thing from a few people, I began to wonder… If my words were received as a blessing, then God was in that. I owed it to God to become the best writer I could.

I signed up for one online course and then another, attended workshops and went to conferences, formed a writers group and began blogging. I had, for years, written regularly in my journals, but this new writing was different. It was public. Out there to be critiqued, challenged, berated and/or celebrated. No controlling what other people say once you punch that send button.

But sending out was exactly what I needed. Being at the mercy of public opinion, especially honest and trusted opinion, required me to risk. Risk spurred me to write well, or at least as well as I could, and then to receive what came back and give it its proper due.

Fit2Finish cover

This week, I held in my hands the very first copy of my very first book. Congratulations and well-wishes abound, celebrating my accomplishment. And it is. The work of a whole career and the lessons of a lifetime have shaped that book. It’s tempting to be proud. Proud of the work, proud of the success, proud of the adulation. Why not take a bow?

But from the pinnacle it is easy to lose one’s balance. Shouting from the mountaintops “I published a book!!!!” would echo from canyon to canyon. What a great symphony that would be! And that’s what the book-people tell you to do. Establish a platform and get it out on social media. Post it to Facebook; share it on Linked In; tweet it from the mountaintop!

But we’re not meant to build on the mountaintop. Peter got laughed off the Mount of Transfiguration for offering to build three tabernacles. How silly we are to think of making our permanent residence here.

Still, why didn’t Jesus make a bit more noise from the mountaintop? I mean, think about the distance those teachings would travel and the multitudes who would hear. What a splash He could have made on Twitter! But that wasn’t His way. When He was surrounded by many He shoved off in a boat to address the crowd. Why use a boat when you can walk on water?!! Because He didn’t want that kind of attention.

Recently, Cara, the young daughter of a dear friend convicted me in this. Cara is 5 years old, I think. Her mom was telling me how Cara had stopped the swimming instructor before her turn to swim from the wall because, first, she had to pray.

“He tells me to pray to him, so I do what he tells me,” Cara says, then repeats the swim lesson prayer for me: “Dear God, thank you for soccer camp and swim lessons. Amen.”

“What does God sound like?” I have to ask. I mean, how can I pass up an opportunity to question an eye witness?

She cocks her head and thinks for a minute, remembering. “He’s quiet, kind of whispering to me,” she says.

“Why do you think He’s so quiet?”

“If he was loud, everybody would look and shout and point…” she explains, matter-of-factly. An older child would have added, “duh,” but older children don’t seem to hear quite so clearly.

I was immediately dumb-struck. What this child was telling me made perfect sense. God speaks in whispers in order NOT to draw attention to Himself. Of course He does, because God is perfect in everything, including humility. Perfectly humble.

There is no pride there. No shouting from the mountaintop, even though His message is the most important of all time, essential for every single soul to hear. He leaves its expression to us to unfold in our lives and our conversations because that’s where it takes on new life.

Fit2Finish: Keeping Soccer Players in the Game is the title of my new book. I have tweeted and Face-booked and will invite my email contacts to opt in to the newsletter to find out more. That’s the way things get done on the mountaintop. But in the valley I expect the real message will get conveyed person to person in quiet whispers, friendly conversations, and a team talk or two.

The Wisdom of the Stop Sign, the Ignorance of the Overpass

four way stop

One at a time. Let’s all take turns. You, first, then you. We’ll alternate. We can be nice and wait our turn. What’s a little backup at the stop sign? First come, first served.

All good, until we had servers. Computer servers, that is. Now, everything downloads at once and I am frantically sifting and sorting, jumping from thing to thing. Attending to each in the order they entered just isn’t working. I’m falling further and further behind. So many fall through the cracks and sift their way into the abyss. Heaven help them if they toggle past the first screen.

Oh, I miss you 4-way stop sign. So quaint. So fair. So ineffective.

traffic light

Time to put in a traffic light. You there. You stop and wait. This line of cars, come on through. So much more efficient to build up a bit of momentum. Take out all those stops and starts. Handle everything going one way before switching directions. Just…one…more. Watch out for that pedestrian! Whew! Running the yellow, it’s a way of life.

But my, the impatience of the the ones waiting at the red. Their faces are grim, their hands gripping the wheel with whitening knuckles. How dare you make me wait. I have somewhere to be. I need an answer. I’ll just be a moment. I need a hearing. Hey, you signed up to have me come!

I look at those faces and the backup that builds, and the guilt starts to prickle, the sweat begins to pour. Delete. delete. Delete. There! Be free!

No! Come back. I want to know what you have to say. I want to help if I can. I subscribed because you have what I want, know what I don’t, connect me with what I am not.


Oh, red light and green light. Perhaps an officer could help direct traffic. This 4-way has now grown to 6 and soon will be 8. We’ll need an interchange. Anyone know how to construct a clover leaf? Then we can pass without stopping; we can keep on moving without yielding, without slowing. That will get us there much faster.

But where? Where, without intersections, will we interact and alternate. Where will we mix and match if we avoid each other altogether?

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