Category Archives: Body

Hand Washing as Prayer

How kinesthetic is this act of hand washing? Of soap and water sudsing, hands a-rubbing, fingers folding, interlocking, palms compressing and releasing, slipping one past the other, slick even slippery, signaling finally that it’s time to rinse.

What if, instead of counting obediently 1,2,3… instead of singing happy birthday mindlessly… we prayed intentionally?

The Lord’s Prayer, as we who follow Christ have been taught it, takes just over 20 seconds to pray if we rush through like a Sunday morning congregation. But what if, in the privacy of our own sinks, in thanks for the soap and the water, in fulfillment of the commandment to pray, in facing the world crisis which meets us today, we each gave God thanks for the cleansing?

I dare you to try it. Then, prepare to be blown away by the A-MEN. Speak AHH–, as the clear water rinses one hand completely and –MEN as you rinse the other. Forgiveness has never felt so real.

Here is my friend and sister-in-faith, Yoon, washing her hands as she prays the Lord’s prayer in Korean, her first language. How great must this chorus of voices praying in all languages sound to the ears of our God.

No need to let go completely, just loosen your grip

Tension. It’s the greatest scourge of our times.

Not anxiety, not worry, and not fear. As destructive as these are and as frequently as we are chastised for feeling them or cautioned about employing them, they are not what’s keeping us from moving forward in our days.

What’s really upending us is tension. Tensing is our body’s answer to what ails us and confronts us. Be ready, it says, don’t get caught off guard. Be diligent, don’t be found unaware. Be clever, don’t be fooled. These “be’s” have us wound tight and ready to spring. The irony is that the chronic contraction has nearly disabled our ability to move at all.

How much better off we’d be if we all took a deep breath with a big exhale to calm ourselves enough to actually feel our physical. To attend to the inward, to go deeper, to sit and chat a while with those emotions and sensations. Why not ask their names and where they hale from? Perhaps they’ll give you a temporary pass to explore just a bit, or at least negotiate a temporary ceasefire.

It’s funny what you find when you go there and see what shakes out. I went rummaging this morning, wondering about the root of my reaction to gripping tightly, and there I discovered a small child of five or six holding fast to the string of a red balloon. She was smiling up at her mom and dad as they walked together to the car after the school fair, until she saw the treasured prize begin to float up into the air. Soon it was aloft on the wind, growing smaller and smaller. Tears. Dismay. Gone.

We hold tight to things we love. But life has a way of teaching us that no earthly thing is forever. That we’d do well to hold it loosely, give it some breathing room and see where it takes us. If we’re on speaking terms, maybe it will tell us what we need to hear or show us what we need to do. If we are lucky and we listen carefully, it may explain itself to us — it may explain ourself to us — and that is profound gift.

Did you know you had been clenching your fists? grinding your teeth? furrowing your brow? What if you were to say, Hey, it’s okay to let your guard down for a moment. Take a break from the front lines. Release the weight of responsibility you’ve been bench-pressing. Relax and let another shoulder the burden for a moment. Allow yourself to recover and regroup.

The most amazing thing happens when we step back and exhale the breath we didn’t realize we’d been holding: the collapse we were expecting doesn’t come. We straighten instead. And, in our straightening, we extend.

No need to let go completely, just loosen our grip. Look at all the options we’ve been missing. Imagine if I had seen then that all any child needed was a small weight at the end of her balloon string so she need not worry. I’d be set for life!

Hold that finish!

“Behind every good _____, there’s a good ________,” they say. But I say, after every good stroke, there is a good follow through. After every good kick, after every good serve, after every good swing, after every good putt, after every good throw, there is a good follow through. It’s not an accident that a successful effort is followed by a smooth finish.

Of course, the reverse is also generally true: after a poor stroke, there is a poor follow through. Same with kick. Same with serve, swing, putt, and throw. An unsuccessful effort generally shows itself in its wayward finishing flourish, or lack of one.

How we finish says a great deal about our performance. Finish with ease and balance and we’ve likely been accurate and effective. Finish abruptly and off kilter and we’ve likely missed the mark. Stopping short usually spells failure.

On the surface, this seems odd. Shouldn’t our success depend on what happens when we impart the force, impact the projectile or strike the implement? I mean, how much effect can a follow through really have after I’ve already achieved launch?

The key to the great finish is the freedom to “swing for the fences.” The deep breath of release that allows you to unleash full force, to let ‘er rip and see where she lands. This freedom to swing out of your shoes is the object of every amateur’s dreams and the signature of every champion’s finish. For sure, it has been honed over thousands of hours of painstaking attention to alignment, preparation, timing and execution.

Show me a good finish and I’ll tell you who made the putt, threw the strike, split the fairway or cleared the fence nearly every time. We’re meant to complete what we’ve started. To follow a strong start with a strong finish.

Just like our Designer who assures us we can be confident of this, “that the One who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” ~ Phil 1:6

Because the One who put us into motion has planned for our completion, we can swing for the fences without fear of striking out, we can pull full force without fear of falling, we can strike our shot without fear of missing.

Because the finish line ain’t moving. Neither is the fence, the hole, the base or the baseline. We’re meant to keep swinging, free and clear, trusting the outcome, come what may.

We’re not designed to come to a sudden stop. We’re meant to swing and follow through, kick and follow through, throw and follow through, serve and follow through. That’s how we learn to trust ourselves and our practice.

We should have planned this from the beginning. Fortunately, Someone did.

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