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Posts tagged ‘Body of Christ’

I Spy



As a child, I loved playing “I Spy,” watching for the obvious in the obscure. While waiting for my dentist appointment, I hunted hidden pictures in dog-eared copies of Highlights, a children’s magazine. On field trips, my classmates and I played endless games of  “I Spy,” spotting something hidden to pass the time in the noisy, un-air-conditioned yellow schoolducks in fog bus.

Even now, on routine errands or rambling road trips, my husband and I watch for what is just outside the window. My husband, swifter than I to spot birds, deer, or Rocky Mountain sheep, knows what to notice. A birder, he watches for fast movements of winged creatures that I easily miss.

I’m new to this “I Spy” birding life, learning gradually the telltale shapes of finches, kingfishers, kestrels, hawks, or hummingbirds. I’m noticing how the crow’s silhouette differs from the raven’s, and where to look for ducks in the cattail banks of the river. Sitting on my back deck, I scan the trees that edge the backyard, hunting the faint outline of the bronze-green female rufous hummingbird, resting momentarily in the shadows. The more I know of the shape and habits of these hummingbird, the better I become at spotting them.


Taking these actions in another direction, isn’t noticing the obvious in the ordinary and the obscure one way to watch for movements by God? If I learn His character and habits, I see hints of heaven, here in this nitty-gritty space of earth. Then, I scan the environment, noticing afresh the silhouettes of His Presence within my daily life, within my life in the Body of Christ.

New to town, we’re enjoying a vibrant church family. It’s where we hang our heart. We hang out with folks of all ages and stages of life: seminary students, singles, and marrieds. We are a bursting-at-the-seams-of-grace place—made up of all sorts of people from all walks of life. We are young families, middle-agers, and empty nesters. At the heart, we are all just madly in love with Jesus.

Our church is home to many seminary students. It’s also a church that keeps a vision of church planting within the Denver area rather than church expansion within the adequate neighborhood church building. So there’s a lot of coming and going among us. Folks come; stay a while, then go out, to offer Jesus’ life in new places in this bustling city and beyond. In a setting like this, it could be easy to get lost in the shuffle and not know folks. Yet, I don’t see that happening.


Almost every month, a couple hosts a “get to know you” dinner. We’ve gone to a few of them this summer and it’s been great fun. There’s no agenda—not a prayer time, or a talk, or a Bible Study—just an opportunity to meet each other and visit. Sit on the back porch and hang out. Eat a shared meal and tell stories. Gather and be together—singles and marrieds, young and old—becoming more of a family.

Youngsters accompany their parents so the atmosphere feels like a family reunion picnic; you know you are related in this crazy family of God, but, oddly, you don’t know each other’s names. Kids draw with chalk on the patio, teens talk about back-to-school plans, and folks ooh and ahh at the plethora of food at the potluck table. People take turns pushing swings full other people’s kids and all of us get to savor the generations of life pulsing within the Body of Christ, where we spy hints of heaven here in the ordinary places of earth.veggies

Through these simple gatherings, we begin to do life together. Then the next Sunday, as we slip into our seats or walk up the aisle to partake of communion, Christ’s body and blood, suddenly we see bright-eyed children that we pushed in the swing. We smile and say hi to someone we sat next to on the back porch. We claim a bit more of this wonder of being the Body to and with each other.

Now we know a wee bit more: who’s expecting a long-awaited baby, who’s adopting, who lost their job, who just graduated from seminary and who’s just starting, who got their stitches out or is scheduled for surgery next week, who needs prayer for a life decision, who’s freshly married or freshly widowed. We become a bit more a family, one that cares because we’ve seen and heard the vignettes of one another’s story.

For me, there is one moment in our service that is symbolic of the wonder of being part of one another as the Body of Christ. Truth be told, if you are standing next to me at that moment, you’ll see guaranteed tears of joy run down my smiling face.


left hand shadowhand shadow

Before we say the Lord’s Prayer aloud together, we reach over and take the hand of the person next to us or the person across the aisle from us, friend or stranger, and form one long row of hands touching one another; a family holding on to each other. Then we pray together to our Father in heaven. The handclasps only last the few minutes of the prayer. Yet it stands as a glorious moment for it reminds me again that we are all in this thing together, Christ-followers, called to be the Body to and with one another.

We touch. We pray. We are family. We need each other. We are literally bringing heaven to earth in our gathering to worship the One who is worthy of all of our praise.

During another era, in another region of the country and culture, I attended another flavor of church, one which, at that time, was stiffer and less connected, full of more shoulds and oughts, less full of more being with and knowing deeply each other. It didn’t ever feel much like home. We didn’t gather and hang out. We didn’t touch hands and pray together. We didn’t tell stories. It didn’t feel much like family.

But isn’t that what we are supposed to be: Family? His Body gathered to praise His name? Isn’t that what Jesus was talking about in John 17 when He asked that we, the ones He made, become one, as the Trinity is one?

I love our new church family, where I am noticing afresh the silhouettes of God’s Presence. We tell stories. We hold hands and pray. We are ever becoming more to one another and thus, becoming more one, and more of the shape and being of heaven here on earth.

Thanks be to God for this gathering of believers where “I Spy” hearts hinting of heaven. It’s here I hang my heart alongside others who savor the heart of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

How about you? Where are you “spying” heaven on earth in your church? With whom and how do you do life with others in the Body of Christ? How does the physicality of being together enhance your spiritual connections as the family of God?

Cross against storm

Book Giveaway details:

This post springs from the exploration of Body/body life and its impacts on our physical well-being and spiritual formation. My coauthor Valerie Hess and I wrote a book that expands these thoughts, The Life of the Body: Physical Well-Being and Spiritual FormationLife of the Body, The #3571

InterVarsityPress, our publisher, is generously giving away two copies of our book this month, one this week through my blog post here at (yes, co). In a few weeks another free one will be up for grabs at Valerie’s site:

If you’d like to win a free copy, please share a response here or at my Facebook (Lane M Arnold) site by Friday, September 13, 2013. I’ll put all the names in a hat and draw one winner, which will be announced on Monday, September 16, 2013.

Keep an eye out for the announcement so you can claim your free book, which InterVarsityPress will mail directly to you. You’ll have three days to respond back to me or I’ll need to choose another winner. I’m eager to hear about your experiences in the Body of Christ.


© Lane M. Arnold, 2013. All rights reserved.

Being You

Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.                               St. Catherine of Siena

I am contemplative. I pray to discern. I linger longer at the heart of Love to hear His call, His longing for me. A life of listening prayerfulness is about listening to God more than listening to myself. I listen to hear His heart for my heart. I listen to hear His heart for another. I listen for family’s hearts and for friends’ hearts and for my spiritual directees’ hearts. I am contemplative.

But sometimes I want to stay only contemplative and that is, on occasion, a choice made of fear. I want to be sure. I want to be clear. I don’t want to be stretched or rearranged into the unknown. A comfort zone is comfortable, isn’t it? But, God doesn’t really call me to be comfortable. He calls me to step into love’s action.

Contemplation in action is requesting more of me.

Thinking on the seemingly disparate differences between contemplation and action led me again to St. Catherine of Siena. She wasn’t a familiar name until I visited Siena in 2004, while my daughter, an art major, was studying abroad in Florence, Italy. Being a good mother, I flew over to check in on her. Oh, and by the way, while I’m here…let’s see a bit of Italy.

One gold-lit afternoon as we meandered medieval lanes in Siena, we came across references to St. Catherine. Born in the 1300s to a merchant family who were somewhat prosperous, she chose a spiritual commitment to Christ over a social commitment to marriage and affluence, having experienced some holy encounters with Christ. Upon entering an order of laywomen, she spent three years in solitary contemplation. Such silence of prayer set a foundation of strength and stability at a heart level with God. Yet, God called her forth from her life of contemplation into a life of action. For St. Catherine, the blend of contemplation and action were not opposed to one another, but were rather complements that took her singleness of heart to a service of others. She encouraged, mediated, taught, comforted and served others through her contemplation gathered from her prayerful heart, her presence offered by her serving heart, and her gift of writing, both letters and a book, grown from an obedient heart.

I watch St. Catherine and find myself challenged: will I sit only in contemplation and never act? Or will I move forward into a life that blends the power of silence and the power of service?

I’m at a change point. It’s time to step into or step up to action. My novel has languished on the shelf, literally, while I’ve gone about my life of being a spiritual director. My prose and poetry have shriveled in a dried out corner while my energy has focused on a nonfiction book on the physical body and our life with Christ and the Body of other Christ-followers, due out in January of 2013.

It’s time now to believe, to act, to move past thinking about to being within, to doing the work, to creating the wonder with another part of my writer’s heart.

The pivot points are here:

  1. Discernment: I am a writer. I have a story worth telling. This is God’s gifting to me. I am to celebrate His Presence in me by writing words to others.
  2. Delight: Like Eric Liddell’s famous line in Chariots of Fire, I feel God’s pleasure when I run by writing in His giftings of my heart, both in nonfiction and fiction, in poetry and prose.
  3. Discipline: Thinking about writing won’t write the story, won’t create the poem. Investing in discipline will. I will arise before the day takes off and in the quiet of dawn, I will act as a writer does: I will write.

St. Catherine spurs me on with her prayers: I have naught to give save what Thou hast given me.

She reminds me that effort is involved: Nothing great is ever achieved without much enduring.

She challenges me: Proclaim the truth and do not be silent through fear.

She encourages me: I treasure your knowing how to give the world a kick.

St. Catherine sets the bar high: Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.

I’m moving forward, blending my contemplative heart and my writing art into an action that will set the world on fire…or at least start a small blaze glowing. Who knows what can happen from here?

What about you? How will you set the world on fire by being whom God meant you to be?