Tag Archives: pain

a healthy body

Yesterday I was having lunch with a friend and he asked me a pointed question about my morning routines. “So how many days a week do you usually run?” I responded with my typical five to six days a week, depending. He then asked, “Does your body not hurt?” And I thought a bit before my response. Yes, there’s the typical aches and creaks and cramping and soreness, but honestly I actually hurt more when I take off too many days. I thought about what that meant. Some days I wake up and I really don’t want to run. Sometimes I drive to the trail and hesitate for a minute before opening the door. I even recently reflected on this in another post, “I hate running…It seems like the first five minutes are spent just trying to convince my legs that they know how to do this.
Much of the time is spent making sure I’m looking out for cracks or potholes so I don’t twist my ankle or knee. Then there’s the inevitable argument going on in my head about how far I’m going to make it this time. And if I’m running on the roadway there’s always the extra need to be wary of drivers who aren’t wary of me…But in the midst of all of that my heart starts to find a better rhythm. My breath takes on a cadence that convinces the rest of my body that it knows how to do this. The sweat reminds me I’m alive and the clarity of thinking that comes puts much of my life in perspective. The aches that were present at the beginning take on a new feeling as they push me to keep going. So I run on; knowing that this is good for my mental, physical, emotional and spiritual well-being…I love running.”

The clarity of purpose behind my running makes all the difference in the world for me and my body. Sometimes I think we struggle with the idea of clarity and purpose in the church body today. There seems to be division and chaos ad nauseam, particularly in the church in America. And I’m not sure that this is so much an issue of unity as it is an issue of clarity as to what it means to be the body of Christ. The apostle Paul put in this way when addressing the church in Corinth. “…so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” – 1 Corinthians 12:25-27 Equal concern for each other; we are the body of Christ.

So our clarity is clear for the health of the body. Our concern is not for our own interest, but for the interest of others. We are the body of Christ. And as we have equal concern for each other we find not only clarity of purpose, but unity in the body. So maybe there will still be the typical aches and creaks and cramping and soreness, but we continue to move towards invoking the Kingdom of God in the world. Because this is who we are.

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but that’s not what I meant

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One of the most important things I’ve come to learn over the last couple of years from being a senior pastor is the ability to be vulnerable. And it really began with a realization of how little control I have over what people hear me say. You see, I say…well and I even write a lot. Even if you just take into account this blog, I’ve written over 65,000 words over the last two and a half years. But I’ve come to realize that I really have no power when it comes to people interpreting my words. I’ve been taken out of context, misquoted, and even lied about. And if it was done to the right audience, then no amount of pleading, arguing or even explaining will sway my words from being misunderstood. I wonder if any of the Biblical writers would feel this way today?

You see, one of the things we as Christians love to do is to latch on to a singular verse and use it for our causes or motivations without considering what we might be doing to the original meaning and context. One of my favorite verses that this is done to is Philippians 4:13; you know, “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” You see it on t-shirts, work-out equipment, necklaces or even football player’s face tape. But when Paul was addressing the Philippian church, he had something drastically different in mind. Listen to the context here, “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” – Philippians 4:11-12 Paul’s declaration of being able to “do all things” had more to do with powerlessness than power. It had more to do with vulnerability, than strength. It had more to do with contentment in adversity, than accomplishment.

Today my mind goes out to the thousands who have been displaced by Hurricane Harvey in Houston. Philippians 4:13 truly would be a life verse for them. For they have had to leave their homes and and all they know. They have had to accept the help of friends or even strangers. They still may encounter hardships and hurt that they aren’t even aware of yet. There will be trials, temptations, frustration, pain, anger, denial, etc. over the next few days, weeks, months and maybe more. You know, it sounds a bit like this, “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” – Philippians 2:6-7 The reason that Paul could declare that he could face hardship and troubles through Christ’ strength is because he knew Christ endured it for his sake. The reason we can endure that which is about to come next is because we know Christ has endured it before.

So may you find encouragement today in reading and understanding the bigger context. And may you find strength in vulnerability, power in weakness, contentment in hardships and the ability to continue moving forward because of Christ and His example.


no pain

Yesterday #3 in the ever changing Arp gaggle of children had oral surgery to correct some of the issues he came into our home with. This amounted to four extractions and ten crowns. And for any and all of us who have ever had dental work done, we all just grimaced a bit. But that was the crazy thing about #3…he bounced back so fast. Sure he was groggy and a bit whiny for the first couple of hours, but by the time he got to church last night he was running with the other kids. My wife commented on this to our childcare worker and her response was incredible. “I don’t think kids focus on the pain as much. As we get older we tend to focus on the pain more. Kids just want to play.”

What an incredible thought. I wonder if this was a bit of what Jesus was thinking during his encounter with the disciples and children. We all know the story at least on some level. But Matthew records it this way, “He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 18:3-4 You see, that’s the thing about little kids. They are singularly focused. They have a job to do and that is to enjoy every possible moment of play that is afforded them. Even if they did just have four teeth pulled and ten teeth drilled down and capped. I for one would probably be laid up for a week if I had to go through that.

Now as Christians we have an amazing hope that we cling to. In Revelation 21 we read this, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” – Revelation 21:4 What an incredible promise; what a hope! But that hope is not for the here and now. In fact, there is no promise of the cessation of pain or discomfort in this life. We will struggle, we will get hurt, we will have pain, we will cry…but I wonder if we handle this like adults or if we handle it like children. Have you ever found yourself saying to a child that they need to “grow-up and deal with it?” Maybe we have this all backwards. Maybe we need to hurt or feel pain in the moment like a child, but not let that hurt or pain dictate the rest of our day/week/month/year. There is living (playing in child terms) to be done. There is life to be enjoyed, God’s gifts to be shared and a gospel to be lived out. There may be pain for a season, but it can’t be our focus. For we have a hope that one day it will end and so for the time being, we embrace life like a child and focus on better things. May your focus grow more childlike today as you pursue the Kingdom of God come to earth.


permission

I don’t know about you, but sometimes there are those passages in the Bible that I really struggle to make sense of. For some reason the way I have heard it taught or preached just doesn’t add up with who I know God to be or the experience I have had in the church. For instance, there is a passage in the New Testament that I have heard taught on in a variety of fashions. Christ is in his final moments of pain and suffering before his death and we read this in the gospel of Matthew, “From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”). – Matthew 27:45-46 I have heard people teach that God the Father turned his back on the Son, which really doesn’t mesh well with Trinitarian theology. I have heard people teach on Jesus quoting the death Psalm (Psalm 22) as he was a good rabbi and this is how you enter into death. But this week I had an epiphany and it has helped me to maybe shed some light on this passage a bit more.

When we speak of Jesus and his time here on earth we often refer to this experience as the Incarnation; God made flesh. Jesus entered into our experience in solidarity. He came to show us what it means to live as God intended. He experienced what we experienced, was tempted as we are tempted and entered into suffering on our behalf. Suffering is probably one of the most genuine shared human experiences. In fact, I am not sure we can say we have truly lived unless we have experienced some form of suffering. Knowing this we look at Christ’ example in the midst of his agony and suffering and we see another act of solidarity. Jesus gives us permission to question the Divine life in the midst of our suffering. In his final mortal act of solidarity with humanity he embraces suffering with us and questions God in the face of darkness, saying to us in your suffering it is okay to ask why.

As a pastor you see a lot of people going through some really rough stuff. You see marriages struggling, cancer crippling people, accidents that decimate peoples lives, abuse and pain that leave you speechless. And often times the expectation is to give an easy answer to suffering. The problem is, there isn’t really an easy answer to suffering… But the one comfort I take from Christ solidarity with us is that it is okay to ask why. It is okay to question God in the midst of our pain and frustration. Christ has been there. And honestly, because He has been there, I also believe He is there. In our sufferings, God is present. And although that may not give us comfort right now or make it easier, it does give us hope. Hope that this is not the end. The story goes on and life triumphs over death and suffering will someday be no more.


in his humanity

As a pastor you experience things sometimes differently than others. I’m not saying we have super powers or anything like that…although admittedly as a comic book fan that would be cool. But the church sees the best in human endeavors and sometimes the worst in human experiences. And as a pastor you see this a lot. Lately it seems like those in and around our church have experienced a tremendous amount of tragedy. And sometimes I admit that I am even at a loss on how to deal with this. Death is awful. It’s horrible. It’s not the way things are intended to go. And yet, we as the church are called to minister in these dark places and dark times with people. Now some may try to tell you that we as Christians are supposed to have the right theology and the right words to help people navigate this sadness, this loss…but I’m not sure this is the case.

We who bear the name Christian claim our ultimate example in the person of Jesus Christ. And there is this story in the gospels where we see Jesus’ reaction to death and loss. Jesus had surrounded himself during his time on earth with friends. Some of these we know as the disciples and there were others as well. In Bethany Jesus called Mary, Martha and Lazarus friends. After the death of Lazarus, Jesus comes to be with Martha and Mary in their time of grief. True, he does speak words of comfort out of the Divine self and Lazarus is raised. But it’s what he does in the human self that has the greatest impact for us. When he is shown the tomb and he sees the loss and the brokenness around him we read the smallest and possibly most powerful verse in all of the gospels, “Jesus wept” (John 11:35). You see, we affirm that Jesus was fully God and fully man. The amazing things he did in his Divine self set him apart from the rest of humanity. But what he did out of his humanity sets an example for us all.

I believe one of the things that made Jesus such a powerful figure in all of his teachings, miracles and the like was His ability to be fully present in every moment with us. After all, His name was to be called Immanuel, God with us. And sometimes God with us is simply that. In our pain, in our loss and in our mourning, Jesus is with us – he sheds tears with us. And in so doing He sets the example for all of us as well. We aren’t called to move mountains on behalf of those who hurt, but we are called to be with them. We can be a shoulder to cry on, a hug that has been missed or just someone to listen while they share with us their pain. So my challenge to all of us and to myself? Be present, be a friend, don’t worry about saying the right things but be willing to shed tears and share burdens out of the example Jesus set for us in his humanity.


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