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Stretch to Strengthen

No one really wants to be stretched. Especially, not when it goes beyond what feels comfortable. There’s a certain out of control feeling when someone is pulling me and I don’t have any say-so in the how-far-they-go-until-they-stop. If you have ever suffered an injury or undergone surgery and then rehabbed in physical therapy, you know what I’m describing. Pain of a healing sort.

But once you get your range of motion back, you get to start on the strengthening. There are lots of ways to do this. Machines. Dumbbells. Steps. But when you’ve served your sentence you get sent home, often with a lovely parting gift. A resistance band. This band is meant to be your home exercise companion. And it comes with a wonderful secret:

When you stretch it, it strengthens you. A kind of reverse mentality. A give and take sort of relationship, gentle, safe and responsive. It pulls back on you with the force you apply.

Recently, I have been engaged by the folks at Upper Room ministries to address the relationship between body and soul, a connection I find inseparable. I’m a bit unusual in this realm. Religious folk tend to start with the soul and add the body. I tend to start with body and somehow the soul always speaks up for me. I thought the resistance band would be an easy way to make this connection.

So, I designed a simple prayer routine using the band and the words to the praise song, Spirit of the Living God. My daughter Stephanie’s lovely voice accompanies me.

My movement is prayer. The words are prayer. The music is prayer. But it gets better. At the end of this prayer/exercise routine, as the music ended and I rested the band down, I discovered the most amazing thing. I could feel the muscles that had moved the band. The effort, the stretch, the exertion of prayer was still with me. I literally could feel the prayer.

Of course, I had to try it again. Now I was aware of the energy, the symbiosis, the connection of stretch and strengthen, relax and feel stronger. It became fluid, flowing, moving. One motion into the next. Body and soul, together. Who in the world would think of something so simple? I think I know.

My thanks to the folks at the Upper Room for honoring my idea (and unusual approach) and inviting me to join them at SOULfeast 2013.

Multi-tasking is Biblical

First Thessalonians (5:17) says it clearly: “Pray continually.” I assume that means 24-7, 365. So, if I understand that correctly, that means my life should be one continuous prayer. Praising. Confessing. Thanking. Asking. But I think there’s more. I think God wants me to be going about His business here on earth, too. So, if God expects me to pray without ceasing, He must have designed me to be doing and praying at the same time. Multi-tasking.

We’re good at multi-tasking these days. Texting while driving. Shopping while chatting. Pretending to listen while we’re thinking of the 100 things we really should be doing. Actually I don’t think any of those things are truly mulit-tasking. I think we ping between things to accomplish those. In and out of our circumstance. Text, then look to see if the traffic is moving, then back to text. Yes?

So I guess it’s natural to see prayer the same way. Pray, then do. Pray, then go. Pray, then speak. But if God actually wants us to pray continuously – without stopping – that means we must have been made for this. In fact, it may be the one thing we can truly multi-task.

Except we don’t. We treat it as we do all the things we multiply. Add it to the list and then check it off. Perhaps we’re a bit better and weave it in throughout. But that’s not continuous.

If, just for the sake of argument, I could pray AND do at the same time, what would that look like? The prayer form would have to keep changing along with whatever I was doing. If I was talking, prayer would be in the words. If I was listening, prayer would be in the listening. If I was moving, prayer would be in the motion. If I was writing, prayer would be in the recording.

Not, first this then that, but both together…at the same time. That would be life lived completely God’s way.

I pulled out my resistance band yesterday (it’s a stretchy band that I use for my own exercise and in fitness activities I do when I lead groups) and choreographed motions/exercises to the hymn ‘Spirit of the Living God.’ I pull it. It resists. I pull harder. It moves. The give and take of exert and respond in the rhythm and movement of words and song. The song ends…”Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me” and I bring the band, taut between my hands, down to rest. In that moment I can feel the residual effects of the resistance and the stretch I’ve just performed. I can literally feel the prayer I have just prayed, and I am stronger.

I have been strengthened in prayer. That is multi-tasking, and I think God is okay with it.

**Thank you to the folks at the Upper Room and the Global Board of Ministries who invited me to participate among them at SOULfeast 2013 this year. This inspiration is the fruit of that invitation.

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