Tag Archives: soul

gratitude now!

Recently, I was in the checkout line at the grocery store when I noticed the cover of the latest Real Simple Magazine.

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What especially caught my eye was the circled blurb on the side of the cover: “feel grateful now,” it lures. “12 ways to live in the moment,” the promise continues.

I burst out laughing. Heads turned. But really, what a truly absurd marketing strategy. Who is hooked by the commercialization of gratitude? Are we Americans really so out of touch with slow practices of gratitude that we think our hollow inconsiderateness can be fixed in a few steps? Are we so consumeristic that we think we can buy our way to inner serenity at the newsstand? Are we really so out of touch with our souls?

The demand to feel grateful immediately is not a way to cultivate gratitude. Gratitude is a slow noticing, it is a practiced living into the moment, is recognition of desire for exactly what is present. GK Chesterton wrote that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder. Henry Van Dyke said that gratitude is the inward feeling of kindness received. There are many ways to describe gratitude and its working within our beings, but none of its descriptions have a sense that it’s something you can demand, instantly. An old Seinfeld episode loops through my head, slightly altered: everyone is screaming “Gratitude now!”

Gratitude can’t fall under the category of instant gratification and can’t be bought because accumulating is fundamentally at odds with gratitude. When you are grateful, you measure your hearts desires with your life and surroundings and find that they match. There is no need to add more when you are grateful for what you have. The wish for more—whether “more” is a shiny magazine,or the promise of gratitude itself—the wish for more is what murders gratitude.

My first step to feeling grateful in this moment: recognizing that my both my bookshelf and my life are whole without a quick-fix magazine.

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gnosticism and the body

In order to partake of any aspect of life, one must have a body. Eating, drinking, sleeping, even thinking, requires a face, a body, a brain. Just as the body is essential to life, awareness and healthy utilization of the body is essential in living a Christian life.

Within an individual, body and soul cannot be separated out like recyclables. The two are inherently intertwined: “soul and body are inseparably bound together.” Without a soul, the body is merely a corpse without identity. As Karl Barth summarizes, a man “is bodily soul, and he is also besouled body.” Such inherent intertwining is crucial in Christian living: what we do with our bodies carries importance.

I must believe that the God of Everything held this to be true in Her first acts of creation. I believe God is loving, continually birthing every aspect of creation and naming it good. If the physical were to be despised, such a name would not have been given; if it were unimportant, the act would not have been made. In Christianity specifically, belief in Jesus demands that the body be valued, for the divine would not have entered embodiment if it had no value. All is possible with God, and She would have found another way to dispense the information necessary for salvation if it were a mere matter of information. Williams writes, summarizing Irenaeus of Lyons, “the only history to be taken seriously is bodily history, and so the redemption of humanity must be located in bodily history.”  Although this statement is meant with regards to the big history of humanity, I hold the same to be true for individual lives. Our living happens in our bodies, and our bodies carry hurts that our mind may not articulate. Redemption, then, must also be enacted in our bodies, in new ways of living that honor our bodies. “Irenaeus insists upon the continuity of God’s activity,” and so do I, in both humanity’s history and individual stories. In the scale of a single human life, such continuity begins in the promise that comes with conception: God desires this life to exist. We are not abandoned upon exiting the womb, but God’s activity and creation is ongoing throughout the individual’s life.

Our lives as Christians should reflect our devotion to embodiment. Singing, the foundation of most worship services, is a beginning to doing so, moving our experience of self down from our mind and into our vocal chords, lungs, and if we’re paying attention, the vibration of sound through our bodies. To take embodiment seriously, the church should be engaging in more physical worship activities, from yoga to acts of creation, and even including the way we read and study. As Pereira states,

“we are not impartial readers; we are people with bodies, colour, sex, age; our body works, suffers and experiences pleasure, whether we like our body or not, whether others find pleasure in it or not.”

The way we live in our bodies effects the way we read, study, and interpret scripture, which in turn should effect the the way we live in our bodies.

Gnosticism, then, is antithetical to following Jesus Christ. By denying bodily work, gnostics also deny the healing and transformative power of Jesus’ acts. The gnostic teachings miss the significance of the narrative. By “longing to escape from the temporal and the fleshly,” gnostics refuse to live into their bodies and refuse to enter the narrative of Jesus Christ.

This was originally written as part of my final exam for Theology of Spiritual Formation with Chelle Stearns. Students were asked to answer 3 questions in two hours.

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