Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Being the Cell I was created to be

Our bodies are made up of 70 trillion cells.


That’s a 7 plus 13 zeros.

To get an idea of how many 70 trillion is, if you live to be 80 years old you will have lived

.. 29,200 days.

........Or 700,800 hours.

........................Or 42,048,000 minutes.

.............................................. Or 252,288,000 seconds.

In order to live 70 trillion seconds you would have to live to be 2,219,685 years old.

That's two million
two hundred nineteen thousand
six hundred eighty five years old.

Seventy trillion cells. In one body. At any given rate, just like the human beings on earth, some cells are dying and some cells are being born. Life is reproducing itself every second of its existence.

When the Apostle Paul used the analogy of the human body to compare the body of Christ’s function he didn’t know about cells, nerve receptors, hormones, blood types, DNA, genetics or mitochondria. He couldn’t know, except by faith, the marvelous workings of cell division. But God gave him a glimpse just by what he could see. (1st Corinthians 12:12-31).

Modern technology has given us a deep look under the surface of what Paul saw, and still scientists continue to study human cells and their purpose and find new discoveries all the time.

It fascinates me how just one cell, one organ, one tissue is vital to the constant running of the body.

For instance, the kidneys. Two organs. We can live with one, but our bodies do better with two. They could do their main job, filtering, without any help from too many others in the body. But they do need other parts of the body to do their main job. They need the sodium-potassium pump. They need hydrogen. They need blood. They like to get help from other sources to do their job better. They send signals to the bone marrow, to the gut, to the heart, to the blood. They talk to other parts of the body finding out what they need, informing other parts what they need to function properly to help other parts. The communication between the kidneys and its co-workers is very tight and in sync. No risk of communication gaps or generation gaps or missing memos with the kidneys. When they work according to design, blood levels stay regulated, blood pressure is functioning at satisfactory levels, the bladder holds and excretes as it is necessary. There’s harmony in the body when the kidneys are working. Harmony in the body keeps the kidneys working.

When a human body has a functioning kidney, the outward appearance of that body looks healthy. Skin color is good, the body inhales and exhales normally without pain. The human body is able to excrete and retain urine at healthy levels.

In our day to day lives, in our homes, our churches, our workplaces, our government, our country, do we think our cell is the only cell that is important to the body to which it belongs? Does it seem like each cell (each member, each denomination, each worker, each political party) thinks it’s the only cell, the most important tissue, the most important organ? Does the kidney think that about itself? What would happen to the body if it did? The kidney is made of too many different ingredients to call itself made up of only one item.

What if the white blood cells said they were the only cells that were important? Their job is to fight infection and if they thought their protection was all that was needed to protect the body by continually monitoring for the presence of bacteria, then what would the eosinophils do? They are a white blood cell, but they hang around when bacteria come in with bugs like parasites.

What about blood in general? If the moving, ever producing, ever dying, ever reproducing organism called blood decided they were all that and nothing else was needed , what would the bone marrow do? Blood can’t exist without bone marrow and bone marrow is in the bone.

But if blood, the red stuff that we see when we cut ourselves, said to the platelets living inside it, “go on, we don’t need you. We flow without you,” we would bleed to death. The platelets, although not the only part of blood, are a vital part of the blood and protect the body from death.

The heart can get a little on the hoity toity side too. The heart knows that if its not beating well, nothing else is working too well either. The heart is a “vital” organ, yet a little microscopic part of the cell called the mitochondria is vital to the vital organ. If the heart’s head gets too big and tells the mitochondria to take a hike, well, that heart isn’t going to be contracting too much longer. You see, the mitochondria, those little tiny, microscopic cells are the behind the scenes workers in the heart functioning and beating as it should. They are beat to the heart’s beat.

And we can’t forget the lungs. The very essence of breath in the human body. The lungs, by themselves can’t do anything without the alveoli. Tucked inside, coiled up are millions of tiny grape-like clusters, that, would they ever be taken out and uncoiled would cover half the size of a tennis court. Yet, they aren’t a boastful organ or tissue. They do their job, breath by breath they open when air comes in the lungs and close when air goes out. They keep oxygen and carbon dioxide levels at satisfactory levels and the body breathes. When the alveoli work, gas exchange works. When gas exchange works, your fingers work, your big toe can do its job, your inner ear can keep you from falling over, your heart will keep pumping the fresh oxygenated blood to every place in the body it needs to go.

Yet the alveoli don’t do something.

The alveoli don’t criticize the infected hand for taking more of its fair share of oxygenated blood. Somehow it knows that when the infection clears, the hand will get back to doing the work it was created to do, and the hand will gladly get back to work. The alveoli don’t criticize the adrenals for how much sodium they keep in reserve and let loose when needed. The alveoli just do the job they were made to do. They don’t seem all that important, you can only see them with a microscope, but the power that lies in all of them working together, in harmony, is what keeps the human body vertical, living, moving, experiencing life. It doesn’t exist to criticize another worker in the human body, the alveoli simply do their given job, to see that the body functions as it should.

Then we have the hypothalamus, the “master gland” of the human body. All interpretations, all dials, all regulators, all sensory equipment stems from a little bitty gland tucked deep inside the brain. The hypothalamus knows. It knows when the body needs food. Hypo knows when the body is cold, warm, hot. Hypo knows when there’s a little bit too much calcium floating out of the bones and not going back in. But they hypothalamus doesn’t tell the Parathryoid gland, “I’ve got things under control, you can take a nap.” The hypothalamus doesn’t have control issues. The hypothalamus is willing to let other tissues, other glands, other organs take part in making sure the body is doing what its supposed to do.

The hypothalamus does not have to micromanage. The hypothalamus can trust the pituitary gland, the thyroid gland, the parathyroid gland, the adrenal glands, to all do their job and report back to it in a timely matter. The hypothalamus recognizes the unique ability of all its counterparts under him and lets them do the job they were created to do.

So what else does the human body do? More than can be discussed here and still keep you, the reader, engaged and understanding, not overwhelmed and confused by the complexity. It might be better to discuss here what the human body does not do.

The human body does not criticize when a weaker part of it falls short. The human body instead sends in a host of compensatory networks that fill in where the weak one has fallen. It doesn’t wait for the weak one to be dying or near death to send in a team of compensation workers. At the first signal that something is not right, the message is sent out to the standby, on-call team to step in. When the human skin is bumped, scraped, bruised, cut open, immediately white blood cells are there, clotting factors from the blood step up to the plate and they work as a team to jump in and help the wounded comrade.

The members of the human body don’t make it their life's work to look for what’s wrong with the other members. The aldosterone regulators don’t step in and tell erythroipoiten to kick up the red blood cell production. That’s not their job. The aldosterone regulators do their job without complaint, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

The human body continues to function no matter what is put inside it. Some things are bad for the human body, some things make the human body run better. For as long as it is able, the human body continues to work its hardest to do the work it was created to do: house the spirit of Jesus Christ. The human body is made up of trillions of cells, each cell with a unique and special function in the human body. No cell tries to be something that it’s not created to be. No cell goes outside of where it was created to function. No cell thinks that the other cells are better, wrong, right, weaker, stronger. Each cell does the job it was created to do and does it willingly. No cell gets all the glory. No organ gets all the glory for causing the body to function as it should.

The human body looks out for the entire body. When one part of the body needs help, every part of the body seeks to do its part to help the weaker.

In the church, Christ's body, the cells are designed to function dependent upon the Head, Jesus Christ. The cells of the arm of Christ cannot say it doesn’t need the mitochondria to function. Every part of Christ’s body needs every believer (every cell) to function. If the cells of the arm are doing what they were created to do then they do not have the time nor desire to make sure the renal tubule cells are doing their part. The arm cells are working hard to make sure they are a healthy functioning part of Christ’s body.

If the kidney cells tell the blood cells they aren’t needed to maintain good kidney function, the first thing that will happen is the function of the kidney is impaired. As long as the kidney cells resist the help from the compensation team of the blood cells, the kidney will remain impaired, furthering the decline of the rest of the body.

If the heart cells find that the spleen cells are too many and too scary to deal with, then the heart cells begin to decrease in number and the heart of Christ’s body begins to fail.

If the cells that make up the cartilage of joints, tell the cells that make up the muscles, “we don’t need you,” the skeletal bones begin to fall on one another, and are unable to carry the weight of the Body.

What about the "bodies" that make up our lives? Our homes? Our government? Our workplaces? What cell are you in those areas? How are those "bodies" functioning? Is there harmony? Do these places run like a well-oiled machine? If not, why not?


Everybody is a cell working for a greater purpose than its own function.

What's your purpose?

What's your cell meant to be, to do, to influence?

Every cell is important.

Even if you're number 69,999,999,999,999.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Everybody poops

We are planning a wedding this year. Our youngest daughter will be getting married in June and preparations are being made for the big event. My husband and I will be celebrating our 27th wedding anniversary in just a few days and sometimes it seems like just yesterday we were Sarah and Nat, getting to know each other, just learning to live with each other, living out the two become one flesh life.

I've contemplated often about marriage and the many ways in which God uses marriage as a visual for the church. I've also often thought about how different my husband and I are from each other. The biggest difference being, he's a boy and I'm a girl. We have spent many years recognizing that fact alone in our getting along with each other.

My husband, Tim, sees life through a male view. I see life through a female view. There is nothing in all the world I can do to change those two facts. On top of that major difference, then we have our personalities to further challenge our union. Tim is an introvert, I am an extrovert. Another quirk that neither of us can change about the other.

There are times when our differences come in handy and times that our differences drive the other one crazy. We can look at the same color of a flower, for example, and what I see as yellow, he may see as orange. (This may be a bad example, but I think you get my point). There are so many differences in us that will never, can never be changed. But, through God's miraculous design, our differences can complement each other in some very cool ways.

Even after 27 years of marriage we still find new things that we think differently about, we analyze differently, we are bothered by more than others. It's the way things are. But I don't love Tim any less for not being able to think like me. Nor do I think he's an idiot for not thinking like me.

So when I think about marriage, I think about the Body of Christ that way, and I think about our country that way too.

We are a country made up of differences. We can't change where people were born, what their family life was like, what their struggles were, where their parents took them to church or didn't take them. We can't change some inborn beliefs they have that were passed down via their parents, their culture, their circumstances. We can't change their skin color, their eye color, their shoe size.

But we sure spend a lot of time trying to change the unchangeable don't we? I'm guilty of it.

One of the things that I love about Jesus is the ability he had to cross cultural barriers and care about the ones that were so "different" than he was. He stepped through his parents religion, his culture, his upbringing, his "church", and reached out to the world. And the coolest thing about him being able to do this is that he never once had to compromise who he was. Not once. He could step into a Samaritan's woman's life and never feel the need to apologize to his fellow Jews. He just crossed over to her life and to so many other lives.

The other cool thing is that we know that he was tempted in every way we are...yet did not sin. He was tempted to not talk to the Samaritans, to the Gentiles. He was tempted. I am tempted so many times to not talk to those who don't think like I do, don't look like me, who live lifestyles so very different than mine. It is a temptation everyday. And Jesus was tempted too.

Where would I be today if he hadn't stepped across the Jewish culture into the Gentile world in which I'm a part?

What does this mean today in this chaotic world of in-between? We have a culture war going on in our country that is flamed by media. We have so many groups now, don't we? It used to be just the basics. Black, white, democrat, republican. I remember those being the most used words growing up. Now we have Latino, left wing, right wing, conservative, liberal, bleeding heart liberal, conservative republican, independent, gay, straight, divorced, blended family. So many new titles that we all try to find the banner to stand under.

Sometimes I just want to do a Charlie Brown thing and yell, "AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!"

But we all have so many more things in common than we realize. To borrow a phrase from a bestselling book - "Everybody poops."

Everybody breathes.
Everybody needs oxygen.
Everybody needs blood.
Everybody has purpose.
Everybody has hurt.
Everybody has dreams.
Everybody has regrets.
Everybody has a brain that thinks.
Everybody has a mother.
Everybody has a father.
Everybody has a history.
Everybody has....

So many misunderstandings, misjudgments of others. So many assumptions made when all it would take is for us to slow the mudslinging down and say, "why do you believe that?" or "How personally did you come to believe this?"

We have so much media to use. Facebook, Twitter, email, 24 hour news, a constant plethora of people voicing their opinions. But what we don't have is anyone listening. I am guilty of this too. We don't have conversations where one person talks while the other one listens. And really listens. Not just thinking of what they're going to say when the other one stops talking.

Just because you don't see things they way I do and I don't see things the way you do, doesn't mean that we don't have value and our beliefs don't matter.

It just means that we are different.

I want to listen more and talk less. I want to know why your political views matter to you. Why your belief system is your belief system. I want to know what matters to you and why it matters to you. And, I want to know my convictions matter to you. I'm not asking you to agree with my convictions, I just want to know, and I think we all want to know, is that it matters to you where I'm coming from.

See, I don't have to compromise my beliefs by listening. I just have to listen.

I don't have to try to change the way you think, I just want to know why you think the way you think.

What would happen if our little corners of the world started listening. Keeping the emotion, the judgment, the assumption, in the background. What would happen if we started listening to each other instead of what the media tells us we should be listening to or how we should think about something?

I know my bleeding heart liberal friends are not the way they are because they just decided to become one. They have had a journey, a path that has led them to their beliefs as I have had a path that has led me to a more conservative worldview. I don't think we have to assume that we'll talk and then we'll "agree to disagree", but I think that we can try and understand where the other is coming from more than we can just avoid talking to those who think differently.

It would be so boring if Tim were just like me. For one thing, we'd be poor. We'd be jumping from one project to another and never get any done. We'd have a house of animals. We'd always have a head in a book and not outside enjoying the outdoors. Boring!

Tim loves me and puts up with the things about me that drive him crazy. We don't always agree. But we respect each other's opinions, even when we don't agree, we respect each other. Marriage is the opportunity we have to practice getting along with the rest of the world. But it seems like what is going on today is everyone is still in the sandbox and throwing sand at each other.

Friday, March 9, 2012

One foot in the door to chaos of the heart

We are in a political season, and as such, I find myself becoming churned up on the inside because of news, email forwards, posts on Facebook, radio and tv ads, etc., etc, ad nauseum. I HATE this feeling these things bring to my heart and spirit. It is not the way I want to live my days on earth. I crave the peace that passes all understanding and the inward calm that such peace brings.

It's hard to maintain that peace in this "In Between" time.

I live in a country where I can voice my opinion and so can 250 million others.
I live with no fear today that police will come in and take away any of my property for voicing such opinions.

It's nice living in America. However... but... in the meantime....

It's hard maintaining peace that passes all understanding when lots of other opinions are being tossed about.

So what is a woman to do? I'm not going to bury my head in the sand and block out the negative, the reports, the mudslinging, the lies, the deceptions. I'm going to choose to live, to trust, to depend on the One who has it all in His hands. I'm going to dwell on the things I do know and trust and depend on and write them down here.

So, with that declaration, these things I know for sure:

God is bigger than government.

God is bigger than our government leaders.

God is able.

God is in control.

God is Mighty.

God has a plan for this In-between world in which we live.

God knows the truth because God is truth.

God knows the way, because God is the Way.

God is Life.

God loves life.

God loves me.

God loves His people.

God loves me even when I'm blind to what He's clearly made easy to understand.

God is all I need.

I'm on my way to spending eternity with Him, but in the meantime He has me in this place, for this time.

This is how I'm living in this In-Between place. Clinging to what I DO know, clinging to Who God is and what He's capable of doing in my heart and in the hearts of all. In the end, my opinions are just that. Opinions. No matter how clearly I can see a situation (or think I can) God sees the entire picture. He sees the hearts of all. He knows the motives of our hearts. He knows better than I why I believe in the things I believe. He knows why I feel so strongly about some things and can let other things slide by with hardly a glance. He knows.

He's pretty awesome.

So I'm not going to be Pollyanna or an ostrich. And I'm not being one who is going to fear what tomorrow brings, what this election season will bring, what the politicians will or will not do to this country. Because, in the end, it was God's country first. He is the head of all governments (whether acknowledged by men or not). He does not have his head in the sand and I can rest knowing that. I can have peace that passes all understanding.

So I ask you... Who are you trusting with this in between time? Government or God? If not God, why not God? If not God, how is the alternative working for you? When I'm not trusting Him, I'm losing my peace. What about you? When I'm getting shaken by what I'm hearing and seeing and reading by simple men, I get a little, okay, a lot, distressed. But just writing these words, "I will trust God" gives me hope, gives me peace, gives me strength to face what's out there.

God knows. And if God knows, then I can crawl up on His lap while He sits on His throne and reigns and I can rest. My God is in control. My God is bigger. I know that no matter which way our country goes - left, right, or finds itself spinning out of control - God is using it to bring about His perfect and just way. He wants us to love Him with all our hearts, souls, minds, and strength, and to love our neighbor as myself (those who have a different opinion then me!)and if this is the way it will happen than I say, "Let's love Him more than the turmoil around us!"

We have more to gain by Loving Him most and best than any policy or politician or government can ever give.