Body, Soul and Spirit

photo of white and brown cardboard box toy figure

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Working among the dying, changes things. Working as a hospice nurse, easing the transition from life to death, I am developing a filter for my own life. What is really important? Will this matter when I am gone? How am I spending my precious hours of life?

As the oldest child of seven, I have always been introspective, even morose at times. Haha! Having six brothers and sisters under me made for some VERY morose (or should I say scary) times! My folks used to escape to my grandmother’s country cabin on weekends sometimes. I was 16 at the time, and was left in charge of all six siblings. If they were late coming home on Sunday afternoon, I remember thinking (with horror) “how will I care for these six kids?”

Fast forward to will-my-life-ever-slow-down adult life, I wonder, what is my soul? Where does my soul end and my spirit begin? I found a thought-provoking article this week that was so well-written, I thought I should share it. I was meditating on:

1 Thessalonians 5:23 May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

Body, that’s easy. Seeing the shell that we know as our “body” after death, I see this very stark picture. Mouth agape, eyes blankly staring, limbs frozen in position, the body is nothing without a soul and spirit. Nothing. As I helped load one of my decedents onto a gurney last week, I was struck with the contrast. Nothing was left, except the housing for my patient’s soul. Her smile, her voice, the light in her eyes all gone. The only thing left was the “box” that had carried them.

“Dividing soul and spirit”, now that’s tougher. Soul is described as our mind, our will, our emotions. It controls where we go, what or who we respond to, and how we respond. I had an idea that our spirit is the part of us that lives eternally. Great, does that include our personalities, our feelings, whether we like cats or dogs? Jesus talked about our spirits…

John 3:5-6 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.

John 4:23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.

Jesus is speaking to two different people in these passages. In one, he is chiding one of the leaders in the local synagogue for being a teacher, but not understanding spiritual concepts. In the other, he is gently explaining to the woman at the well, what God is looking for in a relationship with her.

So, this question I have been pondering for years, came up again this week. Wow! God in his Bible, says he will reward those who diligently seek him. (Hebrews 11:6) I guess this was the week I was going to get closer to my answer to an understanding of soul and spirit. I will just quote a little of this article I have shared below. I think it will whet your appetite for more.

If you are soulish, you will preserve that which is earthly, and your honor and your heart will make plans as to what you should do with such a person and you will also seek the opinions of family and friends. Rather let God’s Word in to pierce and divide between what you are absorbing through your senses – especially through your feelings – and the wisdom that is from above, which you absorb through your spirit. Live by faith and not according to your human reasoning; then you will enter into rest.

Soul vs Spirit

My Heart’s Desire

My Heart’s Desire

I decided to let God into my life when I was 22. I could see that the activities I was engaging in, and the activities of the people I hung out with, could very possibly one day cause my death or incarceration…a sobering thought. Nothing answered this quest in my life for relevance. Why was I here? What was the ultimate use of my life? Was the pursuit of good times a reason for life?

My own up-bringing included Catholic grade school and high school. Somehow, I reasoned that the God of the Bible was irrelevant to the 20th century world. It didn’t look like the people who made the trek to Mass on Sunday, lived any differently than I did. It seemed more productive to spend Sundays doing laundry and recovering from Saturday nights. And, I wasn’t at all sure the trade-off was worthwhile…following rules and suffering through religious services would produce what exactly?

I visited Mormon church services, I read Eastern religious books, I even let myself be picked up by some Hari-Krishnas for transport to their meeting place. (I bolted before we arrived. They discussed their philosophy with me in the car. It was so denigrating to me as a woman, it was easy to eject that research project.)

When I finally tested everything (including hallucinogenic mushrooms), I thought I would give the God of my youth another chance. By now I was 4 years past high school and mandatory church attendance. My reasoning: maybe I missed something before, that my inexperienced mind didn’t grasp. (Because now I was really experienced…and knew what I didn’t want.) I just knew I hadn’t found peace, or satisfaction in relationships, religion, work, or drugs.

Even though I had been trained in faith-based schools, my prayer was pretty simple. “God, help me, I am a mess. You can’t do any worse with my life than I am doing right now.” Maybe it sounds corny, but right then I had a picture in my mind of one of those “zippy slates” we had as kids. You know the type. It has a waxy surface with a piece of heavy gray plastic over it. When you write on the plastic, and then pull up on it everything disappears. It seemed like an answer to my prayer–new start Vicki! With this picture came another startling idea. What if God created us, and His rules would help us live in harmony? After all, if He created us, He would know the best way for us to live…right?

My life was radically changed. It wasn’t overnight. My vocabulary gradually cleared, so that I didn’t have to manually filter the words I spoke in public. I had peace in my life without drugs. Reading the Bible helped me realize the standards God required were easy. Jesus himself said it “Love God with your whole heart and soul and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39 NLT) Not easy if you hang on to your selfishness, but attainable if you abandon yourself to Him. The cool thing about God, it wasn’t a race to fix me, just one small thing at a time. The “fixes” are all about truth, wisdom, patience, kindness, self-control. They’re not repulsive.

Now, finally, the punchline. What is keeping you from looking for the God of the Bible? He’s real. He cares. He’s gotten a bad rap from some. Those of us that follow Him are pretty lousy followers sometimes. Take some courage from that though, He doesn’t hold grudges, He’s always willing to accept an apology or a wayward child. The Bible is full of stories of normal people with normal struggles, and they are still called friends of God.

John 3:16-17 “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.

Stop the World I Want to Get Off

Sooooooo…I’m a Baby Boomer. Our kids are Millenials. None of us fit the stereotypes perfectly, but there you have it.

I admire the younger generations. For the most part, the ones I know are more concerned with being healthy, doing things outdoors, and not collecting as much “stuff” as we have. The downside is they can’t go anywhere without their phones, which they don’t use to talk on, and their penmanship is nonexistent.

My generation has spent the first half of our lives collecting stuff, and now in the second half, trying to figure out what to do with all of it. I never wanted a big house…growing up I loved my great-grandma’s house. By the time I knew her, great-grandpa was gone, and she lived in an old farm-house alone. The rooms had high ceilings, and heavy old drapes that made the rooms seem dark and musty. She had a creaky iron bed with a fluffy down comforter. I got to sleep with her in her bed when we visited.

She had hurt her ankle years before in a streetcar accident and still kept it wrapped in a bandage. I don’t remember anything she said to me, but I remember her warmth. By anyone’s standards, she was poor. Nothing lavish in any part of the house, in any meal she fixed, only in her love for us. I suspect that was why my mom took us to visit her. It wasn’t for us, or even for great-grandma, it was for my mom. My mom hurt, a lot. She still hurts. Growing up with pain, living pain, running from pain…that’s my mom’s life.

I realize now that each woman had pain. One woman chose to ignore her pain, and love. The other chose to bury herself in it, and suffer.

Great-grandma had the greatest screen door from her kitchen to the outside yard. screendoorThat sucker had a spring on it that made it slam with the greatest bang you ever heard. The door had seen better days, part of the screen was detached from the frame, the paint had worn off, and even some of the wood was splintered. But that spring! I want one of those doors someday. That’s my dream. I want to hear that sound again, on a hot summer day, banging away, with kids running in and out.

That screen door reminds me to be tough when the pain of life tries to take over. NOPE! Not my heart! Get out! Let the fresh air in. Let my kids, and anyone else run through with laughter, with surprise, with a fond memory.

No reason to stop the world…I have my screen door.

Stop the World I Want to Get Off is a play written in the 1960s

Who cares about God’s Blood Covenant?

Well, HE does for one. He sacrificed His Son for it. We take that pretty lightly. My husband and I have 2 daughters. Would I give their lives up willingly for ISIS to be saved from eternal damnation? I would like to say ‘yes’, if our daughters would go to heaven, if the recipient would appreciate it. But, I don’t believe I would do it even if it were a wonderful human being that was being saved and the girls were dying of cancer.

So God must care a LOT about this covenant He has made with earthlings.

Who else cares? Most of the Christians I know, understand the covenant as: God is good, I am bad, but if I believe Jesus died for me and paid for my sins, I can go to heaven when I die.

Then, like a diet gone bad, when we make more mistakes than we think Jesus has taken care of on the cross, we give up. Maybe we don’t consciously give up, we just quit thinking about it. That’s easy to do because life is filled with things to do. Work, kids, school, holidays, entertainment, household duties, eating, stuff to keep our minds, bodies and credit cards busy.

I have been a Christian for a long time. I heard about the Blood Covenant, what it means, who it affects, what it cost, last year in ministry school. I was shocked. To tell you the truth, I can’t think of anything else. I want to tell everyone I meet. I want to bore people with all the details. I want to tell it as simply or as complex as you want to hear and my level of intellect will allow.

It has affected my life. That peace Jesus said He would give us: the peace that is above understanding? I now know what that is! I know it is real. I KNOW! And I KNOW THAT I KNOW! I thought I knew it before last year, now I know it as well as I know my name and date of birth. (Have I said ‘I know’ enough? Maybe not, here is one more.) I know it is for everyone, even the cruel men and women of ISIS. It redeems bad cops and bad priests. It protects the weak. It gives all men and women purpose in their lives. It gave me a new understanding of evil, of good, of prayer, of healing. It’s crazy!

And, the biggest shock; the WHOLE BIBLE is covenant-minded. It is covenant-centered. Sure, there are lots of topics in the Bible, lots of stories. But there is only ONE main theme, with TWO parts. The Old Testament and the New Testament. You know, ‘Testament’ means ‘Covenant’? Who left that one out of my training as a Christian? I mean come ON! I have been in faith-based grade school, high school, Sunday school, Bible studies for a good many years. How did I miss THAT ONE?

A Blood Covenant with God means He has chosen to bind His Almighty Person to an agreement that He cannot break. Think about that for a minute. He can’t break it. He is God. He cannot go back on His word. We may, but He can’t. He wouldn’t be God. And, guess what? The Bible is LOADED with covenant promises. You don’t have to guess which ones are for you. THEY ARE ALL FOR YOU, if you join in the covenant with God, ALL of them.

There is a ‘covenant’ verse in Revelations I will end with. If you have covenant glasses on when you read it, you will see much more. Actually, it probably won’t make much sense without them.

Revelations 3:20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.

Jesus is speaking here metaphorically. He is saying “Hello! I am standing here outside every person’s door. Open up! I will come in. And we will eat together.”

Look how emphatic, how direct, how unwavering are His words.

Here I am! (That was not my emphasis, the Bible was written with that exclamation point.)

If anyone (anyone? ISIS, bad cops, bad priests?)

Opens the door

I will come in and eat with that person and they with me.

Are you excited yet??????

This is just one verse in the Bible. A meal here is not just food. Jesus doesn’t want to eat a hamburger with you. A meal is used in a covenant relationship to validate, to solidify the relationship. Sitting down sharing a meal is still a very special part of customs and celebrations in every culture today. Jesus is saying (have your covenant glasses on?) “Open up the door to you heart, your mind, your intuition, your spirit, let me come in. I am a gentleman; I will not come in unless you invite me. But, if you invite me in, we will share life together (bread). I will give you my love; you will understand and love me.”

His peace–out of this world!

Does it really matter?

I found out this week a friend has been told she has liver cancer and may only have 2 years to live.

As I thought about what to say to my friend, my own conversation with the oncologist came to mind. I had asked him, “so what are my chances?”, half-joking, because I wasn’t sure I wanted to hear the answer.

He looked me straight in my eyes and said, “does it really matter”?

I thought about his response on the way home that day. As much as we want to know ‘how long we have’, the truth is, none of us knows.

And–surprise–you have NEVER known! Cancer clarifies how you live, but it really shouldn’t. We should live each day to the best of our ability, with whatever we have been given–good or bad. It’s all we have.

The apostle Paul says in Philippians chapter 4: (NIV version)

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

I love that he directs us to praise, positive thinking, excellent thoughts! Talk about a prescription to fight depression!
8Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. 9Whatever you have learned or received or
heard from me, or seen in me–put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
and in verse 11:
for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12I 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. 13I can do everything through him who gives me strength.
Lord, for whoever is reading this, bless them with your everlasting presence. Give them your peace, not the peace that is here for a minute and then gone, but the peace that cannot be understood by logic. Amen