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Thursday, April 03, 2014

Sick Days

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When I find that I have neglected a spiritual discipline for a while, the absence of this practice is noticeable. For instance, when I haven’t been sitting in the solitude and silence of the morning, my days seem longer and my patience thin. When I haven’t read the Bible outside of Sunday morning worship, my own story, feels lonely and insignificant. But I find that when I take the time to engage the disciplines that give me life, like taking time to read the story of God slowly and deliberately, I begin to recognize how my story and God’s intersect.

During my 2 days down, my 2 dogs took good care of me.

In church, we are constantly assessing our relationship with God. We sing, we pray, we listen, and give as a response to God’s goodness in our lives. An important part of this goodness is our bodies. When we worship, it is important not just that we exercise our souls, but our physical selves as well. In passing of the peace, we touch our neighbors and acknowledge their physical presence; in sharing our joys and concerns we audibly respond and recognize one another’s physical presence; and in communion, especially as we have lately practiced it by intinction, we come forward together, sharing in a common loaf and a common cup, bumping shoulders and saying “excuse me” to the physical presence of our neighbor. In worship, we respond with our physical selves, because even our flesh belongs to God.
In her book An Altar in the World (currently the subject of our Sunday night book group reading during Lent), Barbara Brown Taylor admits that it took her time to understand that God loved all of her—not just her spirit but also her flesh. She says, “When understanding finally came—not by reason but by faith—the first thing I understood was that it was not possible to trust that God loved all of me, including my body, without also trusting that God loved all bodies everywhere.” [1] She continues: “while we might not have one other thing in common, we all wear skin.”
Our bodies have a way of telling us to slow down. For instance, when we get sick, as with a bad cold, this is usually our bodies forcing us to stop, gather ourselves, and rest. This happened to me Monday and Tuesday. After going, going, going for a few weeks, I finally listened to my body that said, “Adam, rest.”

 So rest I did.
In this rest, I was able to read, write, and return to some disciplines I hadn’t practiced in a long time (although, most of Monday and Tuesday were spent asleep from coughing the previous night). This period of forced slowness reminded me of this important truth: that all of our selves need to be filled. Whether by reading a good book, taking a long walk, or taking a sick day to recover from a busy few weeks, our bodies will benefit from slower paces and healthier ways of using our time.

I leave you all with this poem I stumbled across in the midst of my recovery. It is a healthy reminder that even as we are still in Lent, who we are is defined by much, much more than what we do.

Camas Lilies
by Lynn Ungar
Consider the lilies of the field,
the blue banks of camas opening
into acres of sky along the road.
Would the longing to lie down
and be washed by that beauty
abate if you knew their usefulness,
how the native ground their bulbs
for flour, how the settlers' hogs
uprooted them, grunting in gleeful
oblivion as the flowers fell?
And you—what of your rushed
and useful life? Imagine setting it all down—
papers, plans, appointments, everything—
leaving only a note: "Gone
to the fields to be lovely. Be back
when I'm through blooming."
Even now, unneeded and uneaten,
the camas lilies gaze out above the grass
from their tender blue eyes.
Even in sleep your life will shine.
Make no mistake. Of course
your work will always matter.
Yet Solomon in all his glory
was not arrayed like one of these.
[1] Barbara Brown Taylor. “An Altar in the World.” (New York: Harper One Publish, 2009,) 41.

[Adam Quine, First Presbyterian Church]


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