Category Archives: Life

The Message Our Body Brings to Life

Does it surprise you to look at these two photos, side by side?

The one on the left is among the tiniest of miracles, a cell in the brain. The one on the right is perhaps the grandest of miracles, the universe. Their similarity is striking. It’s all a matter of scale… and perspective. One wonders if they aren’t both the work of the same hand. (See my post: Divine Design makes you wonder.)

Why waste a perfectly good idea, right? As my friend Mary Lou puts it, “God is the ultimate economist and consummate recycler.” When we have the ability to look with appropriate perspective, we may see the signature of the designer.

But I wonder if the similarity isn’t just in appearance. Often the structure of a thing gives us clues to its function. Perhaps our growing understanding of the operation of the brain cell may shed light on interactions across our universe. Could what’s in us help explain what’s outside us and help us manage what’s between us?

20_week_fetusIs it so far-fetched to think that the God of the universe has intentionally planted the answers to our deepest questions inside us? Is He patiently waiting for us to find them? I, as a student of the human body, find myself both dumb-founded to consider this and excited to think it might be so. Are God’s answers hiding in plain view, waiting to be acknowledged?

Certainly the beginning of new life begs us to consider God’s hand in its midst. Can there be anything more miraculous? Is there any more convincing witness to the hand of a Divine Creator?

Biblical writers certainly had this same awe, even though they had no ultrasound images to confirm their suspicions:

For you formed my inward parts;
    you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
    my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret, 

    intricately woven in the depths of the earth. ~ Psalm 139: 13-15

But let’s not stop at the miracle of the development of one body.  All of us, the Church Universal, are being formed into the body of Christ. 

From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. ~ Ephesians 4:16

If we were designed to be joined and held together and thus to grow in love as we work together, our world today suggests we are far from God’s design. Yet, if God intends it, surely He has not made this an unsolvable puzzle. Perhaps the model for us as the Body of Christ is suggested in the workings of our own individual bodies.

Allow me, if you would, a moment of speculation as I put on my hat as physiologist. Science demonstrates that the human body is so much more than its anatomy – more than the skin we can see, the muscle we can bulge, the pulse we can touch, and the breath we can take in. Underneath all of these functions are the delicate and highly regulated interactions which make them work: organs and organ systems made up of tissues and cells all contributing what’s necessary for life.

The key to healthy life in the human body: cooperation among systems to co-exist while competing for a fixed supply of resources. Their successful interdependence is guided by a simple and familiar principle: to each according to its need. This delicate balance is maintained in response to the demands of life. Survival of the fittest is nonsense within the body because each part is necessary for the survival of the whole body.

No two systems in the human body are alike. Each is specialized for an essential task; none “considers” itself above the rest. How could it? What good would the heart be without blood to circulate? What good would the muscles do without limbs to move? What good is our breath if it can’t deliver what it inhales and exhales? What good is our skeleton without ligaments to allow it to stand? What good is a brain without means to connect and communicate? What good is sight without vision or sound without hearing?

Is this an echo of the message in First Corinthians?

If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. ~1 Cor 12:17-20

Could our bodies hold God’s message for our world?

They demonstrate so beautifully and seamlessly the choreography of interdependent parts negotiating life, giving and responding obediently for the good of the whole. There is no greater and no lesser, no greed and no hoarding, no scarcity and no hunger. The better the parts work together, the more abundant is the life.

Who in the world could have ever thought of that?

If we are to believe that our God is the ultimate economist and consummate recycler who loves all He created, then God wastes not one bit. Each part is necessary and intended for the good of the whole. Each one is essential to the life of the body. Each interaction effects all others. Unique, for sure. Different, for certain. Interdependent, completely. No exceptions.

It is the genius of perfect living balance: I take only what I need, so you will have what you need. Our ultimate survival may depend on it. So simple that any body can show you.

Is God Good All the Time?

“God is good …All the time!
And all the time …God is Good!”

heartsAh, the call and response of a faithful people. We like knowing how to respond. But do we believe it? Is God really good all the time? for the parent who’s just lost a child? for the man who’s just received a dire diagnosis? for the teen who is bullied, the wife who is abused? what of the family without a home? the children who live in fear? The list goes on and on.

Is God really all that good? Certainly a good God would have none of this.

Recently, I attended a funeral service for my friend Bill. He had been a good husband, good father, good son, good uncle, good friend, good businessman, and, by all accounts, a good Christian. His family suffered with him through nine months of brain cancer before they lost him. Is God still good?

What is good? According to me, it’s an outcome; it’s a judgment; it’s the feeling I have when everything goes my way. On those days I chime right in: God is good all the time and all the time God is good. But Bill and his family and friends remind me that that’s not the good that God is.

God is love; that’s way more than good. God made this substitution, so we can know that:

  • God is patient.
  • God is kind.
  • God does not envy, does not boast, is not proud.
  • God is not rude or self-seeking.
  • God is not easily angered and keeps no record of wrongs.
  • God does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.

This God I can actually see in those circumstances of sorrow and hurt and pain and loss. There may be no good in any of those, but there is God. God is so much better than good.

More than this, love is not just what God is but what God does.

  • God always protects.
  • God always trusts.
  • God always hopes.
  • God always perseveres.

Since Love does that, so can we, if we believe in love. God is there, no matter the circumstance, providing what we need to respond in love to the one who is in need. When we offer protection and trust, and when we hold onto hope that perseveres, we are in love. Love never fails.

God is so much better than good. God does good, in and through us, when we let God.

At Bill’s memorial service, a man came to the pulpit to share memories of their longtime friendship.  “People come into our lives for one of four reasons,” the man began. “To add, subtract, multiply or divide. Bill was an add-er.”

Oh my yes. Bill added so much; and somehow, there in the saddest of circumstances, it seemed that what Bill added, God was multiplying. Love is like that.

Looking for Signs of New Life

It’s that time of year again; trees a-flowering, flowers a-budding, buds a-popping, all giving way to the greening of leaves in canopies across the land.

Well, across the temperate land.

Here in Central Florida, everything stays green all year round. The palms, shrubs, and grasses wave happily in the constant breezes. Even cacti thrive in the sandy soil. What’s missing here is color, specifically, the diversity of color.

So, my green-thumbed husband ripped out all the scraggly (but green, to be sure) shrubs, replacing them with vibrantly colored flowers. What a happy difference! On St. Patrick’s day, he brought home “Paddy,” who wound merrily through a trellis that would allow her to climb up and along the bare side of our house.

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Isn’t she lovely? Full of pastel pink flowers with stems intertwined, clambering up the wooden scaffolding?

But this is Paddy today. (My apologies to my friend Patty, in whose honor we named this beautiful new planting.)IMG_5190

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She has dropped nearly all of her flowers. As I water her, and yes, whisper bits of encouragement, I search longingly for some new stems, new buds, or a bit of greening – just some signs of new life! But they are hard to find.

Paddy is suffering from transplant shock, my husband tells me. Common in plants that are uprooted and transported to new accommodations, they need time to get used to things and decide whether their new soil will be conducive to their needs. Life looks a bit bleak in the mean time.

Ironic, because given the size and plenty of the greenery here, I thought everything flourished. It seemed an everlasting spring. Apparently, I was wrong. The warm winter months which give way to warmer spring days are only the prelude to the hot, dry summer. If your roots don’t find good soil and plentiful water now, there’s not much hope for your future.

I guess that’s why the change of seasons are so important: a time to plant, a time to grow, a time to harvest, and a time to lay fallow. The seasons graciously allow us to send down our roots, grow up our stems, show forth our flowers and … and… and… to withdraw to gather our resources in times of hardship and prepare for the seasons that lay ahead.

Transplant shock, the product of our uprooting and the stark presentation of a new way of life, is jarring. Make no mistake: the buds on those trees which are now timidly unfurling and introducing themselves to new branches at new heights are the bravest of the brave. What courage it takes to strike out into the spring, come what may.

I am hoping Paddy will make it if I keep giving her some tender loving care. We have a certain camaraderie, she and I. Neither of us does transition very well, but our Maker knows this about us. We may not always show well in spring training; that’s our time to grow.

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