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Resurrection, Part 4

 For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. Romans 12:4-5

Last week, I reflected on the possibility that those who have passed before us have been resurrected into a new body that is very near to us. I proposed that our inability to see them may be because their new body vibrates in a range that is imperceptible to us. This week, I want to explore a different theory, perhaps a re-imagining of the last one, that of dimensionality. Basically, when we die, our new body and life may exist in a different dimension, one that we cannot perceive from our current three-dimensional existence. Interestingly, some physicists believe there are at least ten dimensions of spatial reality, in addition to the dimension of time.[1]

As embodied human beings, we perceive a three-dimensional world – height, width, and depth. We experience a fourth dimension, the evolving of our three-dimensional reality, as time. When my children were young, we made markings on the wall to show how they grew from time to time. That growth is a dimension we cannot experience in a single, three-dimensional moment, but it is no less real, influential upon, and important to our lives.

two dimentional creatures

In order to illustrate how imperceptible the next dimension is to us, consider the hypothetical world of a two-dimensional being. This being would only experience height and width. It could only experience depth – forward and backward movement – in time, which it would consider the next, or third dimension. The world of a two-dimensional creature might look something like the illustration to the left, where we see five, two-dimensional creatures. They perceive what is up, down, and beside their bodies, but nothing in front of or behind them.

handWhen they die, assuming they enter a three-dimensional reality, their new world might look like the illustration to the left. Their former two-dimensional world is represented by the line across the fingers. When freed from the perceptual limitations of their two-dimensional existence, they are able to understand that what they perceived as five individual lives are actually parts of five fingers connected in one hand. More than that, the hand is connected to a much larger body. What they thought was their individual, independent life was neither individual nor independent, but one part of a larger whole. Only by dying to their two-dimensional nature are they able to see their connectedness to the lives around them. In their new three-dimensional existence, they are still there, but imperceptible to those they left behind.

In a similar way, when we die to our three-dimensional existence and enter a new dimension, we become imperceptible to our former three-dimensional friends and family. Being freed from our three-dimensional body, our soul experiences life and reality in a dimension that is not yet accessible to our loved ones. This next dimension, which we formerly named as time, allows us to see and experience in a new way, as did the two-dimensional circle now perceiving itself as part of a three-dimensional hand. It is fascinating to me that one of the common reports from those who have had near-death experiences is that of their entire life flashing before them, not as a chronological series of events, but as a single image. This collapsing of time into a single moment allows us a glimpse of a new dimension where much is familiar, but the context is entirely new. What was once mysterious is now clear. I am reminded of Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 13: 12, “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully.”

Our soul exists across all dimensions of space and time but is not limited by any of them. When it separates from this three-dimensional body, it resurrects in a new body in a new dimension. We may experience a sense of this freedom in dreams, where the rules of our physical existence often seem not to apply. The life we identify as our current life is but one part of the larger life of our soul. When we die to this life, that larger life reveals itself, perhaps still only in part, and we find ourselves not annihilated, but reborn into a freer and more inclusive existence. We become more of who we know ourselves to be, not less. In our death and resurrection, the life we have in Christ continues.

This, however, is speculation about the afterlife, which will be considered in future Life Notes.

This is the 9th in the series of Life Notes titled, If I Should Die Before I Wake. I invite your thoughts, insights, and feedback via email at ghildenbrand@sunflower.com, or through my website, www.ContemplatingGrace.com. At the website, you can also sign up to have these reflections delivered to your Inbox every Thursday morning, if you are not receiving them in another manner.

Prefer to listen? Subscribe to Life Notes Podcasts at https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/life-notes-podcast/id1403068000

[1] https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/501926/how-many-dimensions-are-there

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Resurrection, Part 3

 Indeed, they cannot die anymore, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection. Luke 20:36

The reoccurring life pattern of birth, growth, decline, death, and rebirth is found all around us, from trees and shrubs to animals to mountains to the changing seasons to our daily, monthly, and annual cycles of being. It is so common, we take it for granted and barely notice. Physical life springs forth, thrives for a time, declines, and dies. We interpret that as the end, but it is only an ending, a necessary requirement for a new beginning. The physical form is broken down into its component parts so they can be reformed into a new life, and the cycle begins again. Detecting and believing in the resurrection of physical life is relatively because it is evident all around us. Resurrection of our spiritual essence is less obvious and therefore more difficult to imagine.

Jesus’ followers did not recognize his resurrected form until he spoke to them. They had witnessed his physical death on the cross but could not recognize his new body without additional clues. In a similar way, I recognized my grandmother’s post-death presence. They were not dead, as in annihilated, but were changed. How can we reconcile such a change in a way consistent with other life experiences and with what we learn from science? Here is one hypothesis that I find helpful.

The science of physics tells us that everything vibrates along particular frequencies. We experience this as light and sound. We recognize various wavelengths of light as different colors, and other wavelengths of vibration as different sounds. Our senses, however, are only capable of detecting a infinitesimal range of the possible vibratory frequencies. For example, infrared and x-ray frequencies are invisible to our eyes, as radio waves are to our ears, but we know and use them anyway. Because frequencies exist along an infinite spectrum, we can be certain that there are infinite realms of vibratory realities – colors, sounds, and life – that seem not to exist in our reality because we are blind and deaf to them, at least without additional clues. Researchers have now learned that the sounds emitted by whales, which have been known for many years, have sub-frequencies within them that likely account for even more sophisticated communication than we ever imagined. The same is almost certainly true for other animals and, I suspect, for trees, rocks, and everything in the created universe. The complexity and immensity of vibratory possibilities is simply too enormous to imagine or comprehend by our human understanding.

As we reflect upon the seemingly empty space around us – the air we breathe, the space between the furnishings in our homes, the distance between planets – it seems not too much of a stretch to believe these areas are filled with all sorts of life we cannot detect because of our inability to perceive outside of our accessible vibration ranges. I suspect that when we die, in the absence of a physical body weighing it down, our soul vibrates at a level imperceptible to human senses, but continues its life in a new “body” and environment, not completely unlike the one we know now. This helps to explain why we can often feel the presence of departed loved ones, but not see them as we once did.

Because some of us have had encounters with those who have died, as did the disciples with Jesus, I suspect these encounters occur sometimes when we are receptive to them and when our departed loved ones are able to adjust their vibratory range to one we can perceive, albeit imperfectly. The fact that these encounters tend to be brief and don’t necessarily happen for long periods after the passing of our loved ones makes me think these dear, departed souls have entered a new life in a new world. They know we will rejoin them in what will seem the briefest of instants, at least from their eternal perspective.

The main point is that Jesus conquered death, saving us from the fear of annihilation, by showing us what happens. He went through death’s gate and revealed himself from the other side. He called himself the Son of Man, or the descendant of humankind, because he was what we all are to become as we pass from this physical existence and experience a more perfected version of what we are today. Resurrection occurs, not as a copy of this life, but as a new version of this life in our resurrected form.

This is the 8th in the series of Life Notes titled, If I Should Die Before I Wake. I invite your thoughts, insights, and feedback via email at ghildenbrand@sunflower.com, or through my website, www.ContemplatingGrace.com. At the website, you can also sign up to have these reflections delivered to your Inbox every Thursday morning, if you are not receiving them in another manner.

Prefer to listen? Subscribe to Life Notes Podcasts at https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/life-notes-podcast/id1403068000

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Resurrection, Part 2

 While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. Luke 24:36-37

It is ironic, though not intentional, that this reflection will first be published on Halloween. It may not be a coincidence, but I find it interesting. What follows could be considered a ghost story, but I consider it a hopeful tale of resurrection.

My Grandma Hildenbrand’s funeral was on the afternoon of Christmas Eve in 1982. Grandma was, and still is, a strong and inspiring influence in my life. She was an insightful and faithful soul who saw the good in me long before I could see it in myself. Her vision and example have been something of a thread running through my life, pulling me through my own blind stumblings, and encouraging me toward areas of light I could not see. The afternoon of her funeral was a grey, chilly day, and at her graveside service I saw her. She was not solid, as she had been a few days earlier. She was more like a silent mist passing among those she loved, assuring us of her continued presence and of her unfailing love for us. I felt her hug me. She was there in some sort of resurrected body. If I looked directly at her, I could not see her. She was only visible in indirect glances. Some might say it was an illusory product of my grief, but no one will convince me. Grandma’s form may have been ethereal, but her presence was unmistakable.

When I read the accounts of Jesus’ post-death appearances, I cannot help but be reminded of my grandmother’s post-death appearance. In Luke’s account, Jesus’ disciples thought they were seeing a ghost, and they were terrified. I think we need to reassess our perceptions of ghosts. We have too easily fallen for the tag line that sells movies and other media that non-physical beings are somehow unnatural, dangerous, and frightening. Could it be that they frighten us only because we do not understand their nature? I was not frightened by the appearance of my grandmother because I knew her. The disciples and followers of Jesus were not frightened of his resurrected appearances, once they understood who it was, because they knew him. Indeed, his first words were often, “Do not be afraid.” When we give in to our initial fears, we gain nothing from the experience except terror.

I believe one reason we do not have more frequent conscious encounters with non-physical beings is their understanding of and compassion for our uneasiness with such encounters. Even so, that doesn’t mean non-physical beings are not around us all the time. Many people recognize and name such presences as guardian angels. On the first Sunday of every November, churches celebrate All Saints Day, a recognition of family and church members who have crossed over in the past year, affirming that they remain with us in spirit. Christians believe in the Communion of Saints, which is an affirmation that those who have gone before us continue with us. These types of spiritual presences that have their being alongside ours are far from the Halloweenish stuff of nightmares and horror flicks. Rather, they are angels among us.

I do not want to be overly casual about the loss of those we love. Grief and loss are real, life-altering, pain-inducing experiences that never fully resolve for us on earth. We wonder how those who loved us so much could leave us so completely. In the months after my father’s death, I received a message in a dream that there would come a time when my time without him would seem no more significant than if he had made a trip to the grocery store. Clearly, that time is after our earthly passing.

When Mary recognized Jesus, she reached for him and he said, “Do not hold on to me” (John 20:17). He explained that he would be ascending to the Father. I understand this to mean that his physical embodiment, as Mary knew it, had ended, even though he was still and would continue to be spiritually present with her. I believe our loved ones never actually leave us, although they disappear from our conscious, physical awareness. In time, we learn to better let go and move on with our lives.

I will share additional thoughts on resurrected bodies next week.

This is the 7th in the series of Life Notes titled, If I Should Die Before I Wake. I invite your thoughts, insights, and feedback via email at ghildenbrand@sunflower.com, or through my website, www.ContemplatingGrace.com. At the website, you can also sign up to have these reflections delivered to your Inbox every Thursday morning, if you are not receiving them in another manner.

Prefer to listen? Subscribe to Life Notes Podcasts at https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/life-notes-podcast/id1403068000

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Resurrection, Part 1

 After they have flogged him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise again. Luke 18:33

For Christians, the reference point for resurrection is found in the story of Jesus, as recorded in the Bible. Throughout the Gospels, he predicts that he will be killed and, on the third day, resurrected. Near the end of each Gospel, that is exactly what happens. Elsewhere in the Gospels, Jesus is said to have brought dead people back to life, as in the story of Lazarus (John 11) and the son of the woman from Nain (Luke 7:11-17). Interestingly, it appears that even Jesus’ closest followers did not believe his resurrection narrative. They were clueless when they found his empty tomb on the morning of the third day after his death, suspecting that someone had stolen his body.

It was only after Jesus began making post-death appearances that his disciples believed that he had, indeed, been resurrected. The biblical record, however, indicates that Jesus was not resurrected into the same form he had when he was Jesus of Nazareth. Although he retained some remnants of his former body, like the holes in his feet, hands, and side (John 20:26-29), he was consistently not recognized until he spoke, and sometimes not even then. Mary Magdalene was the first to see his resurrected form as she visited the tomb on the morning of the third day. She mistook Jesus for the gardener (John 20:14-16), not recognizing him until he spoke her name. On another occasion, Jesus was standing on the beach of the Sea of Tiberias in the morning as seven of his disciples were returning from a night of fishing (John 21:1-14). Again, he was seen, but not recognized until he spoke. Even then, there was doubt. Jesus walked and talked with two of his disciples on the road to Emmaus, completely unrecognized until he broke and blessed bread with them at the evening meal (Luke 24:13-35). Even the most faithful among us must wonder how it was that those closest to Jesus did not recognize his resurrected form until he spoke or did something that indicated his identity.

The resurrected body of Jesus could pass through locked doors (John 20:19-21), although his new body could apparently be touched (Luke 24:38-40). Following a meal on the day of the walk to Emmaus, Jesus suddenly vanished from his disciples’ sight (Luke 24:30-31), as if into thin air. It is clear, if the biblical record is to be believed, that Jesus was resurrected into something other than a typical human form. It is also clear that Jesus’ resurrected form retained some similarities to his pre-death body. His scars remained, his voice was recognized by some, but his presence, once attended to, was clearly recognizable.

After appearing off and on for 40 days, Jesus’ resurrected body was “taken up into heaven” (Mark 16:1). Jesus told his disciples that God would send the Holy Spirit after his death to “teach you everything and remind you of all that I have said to you” (John 14:26). So, even Jesus’ resurrected form did not remain an obvious part of earthly life for long. Rather, Jesus was (and is) present with them (and us) through the Holy Spirit, meaning in the spiritual, or non-physical realm.

I believe the story of Jesus’ resurrection is our story, too. Jesus referred to himself as the Son of Man 78 times in the Gospels, usually in the third person. Others often referred to Jesus as the Son of God, but Jesus referred to himself as an enlightened human. Once he awakened to his oneness with God, he assumed his status as fully God and fully human. The somewhat nebulous term, Son of Man, refers to a human who has been reborn to become Christ-like. Such a rebirth unites our physical and spiritual natures. Jesus was 100% spirit and 100% human, as are we. This reuniting, or rebirth, is an awakening to a reality that is already present in all of us. Only after we awaken to it, however, can we consciously act from both our spiritual and human centers, as Jesus did, and become true followers of Christ. And once we have awakened to the spiritual side of our nature, we know that our spiritual nature – our core essence – is eternal and not dependent upon an earthly body.

Jesus not only set the example for us to follow in this life, Jesus also gave us a glimpse of the afterlife, too, not the least of which was the insight that earthly death is not the end. To be continued…

This is the 6th in the series of Life Notes titled, If I Should Die Before I Wake. I invite your thoughts, insights, and feedback via email at ghildenbrand@sunflower.com, or through my website, www.ContemplatingGrace.com. At the website, you can also sign up to have these reflections delivered to your Inbox every Thursday morning, if you are not receiving them in another manner.

Prefer to listen? Subscribe to Life Notes Podcasts at https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/life-notes-podcast/id1403068000

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Many Births, Many Deaths

 The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit. John 3:8

One of the central points of embodiment is that the me that we consider as our life is not a single entity. Our life is actually many lives held together loosely by a single identity. In order to understand our death and dying it is helpful to acknowledge that, at least on the physical plane, there is no specific I am that is us throughout our lives. Our bodies are constantly changing, with component parts being added and eliminated, dying and being reborn. In addition, who we are mentally, emotionally, and spiritually changes on an on-going basis, too. There is a uniting force holding us together, but it is in the spiritual realm where it remains mostly hidden and beyond our understanding. When we equate our life with our body, we tend to see our physical death as an annihilation because the ever-changing form we know as our body will not last another day, let alone forever.

In general, we prefer to keep most of the physical regeneration process out of view by covering our wounds and having dead animals removed from the sides of our roads. Some of our fear of death is from poorly understood projections about the recycling processes of our bodies. Our images are fueled by grotesque recreations like The Living Dead and The Zombie Apocalypse. Such theatrical productions are geared towards macabre entertainment and not reality. We fear what we do not understand, and we clearly do not understand the amazing process of physical regeneration. The parts of creation that make resurrection possible by deconstructing old life forms – worms, maggots, mushrooms and other fungi, buzzards, and various types of bacteria – tend to be viewed with disgust, but new life would not be possible without them. The fact that nothing of the earth is ever annihilated, only reformed, should give us hope that at our death our essence will not be annihilated, either.

Our lives consist of a never-ending series of deaths and rebirths, both physical and non-physical. Every night when we go to bed, a day in our life dies. We do not fear this death because we have confidence that we will wake up (be reborn) the next morning. Every time we celebrate a birthday, wedding, birth of a child, or graduation we celebrate a death of the old and a birth of the new. Again, we do not fear these types of deaths because we see something good on the other side of them. We only fear letting go when what comes next is unknown. For example, it is easier to let go of one home when we are moving into another home by choice than when we let go of a home not knowing where we will find shelter going forward. In the prolonged death journeys of my mother and grandmother, my sense was that the closer they got to death, the more they welcomed it. They began having visions of and experiences on the other side that made the transition more comfortable. It is the unknown nature of the life after this life that causes so much of our discomfort about death.

The Bible is not necessarily a helpful source of information about what happens after physical death, either. It is probably safe to assume that the biblical authors were as much in the dark on that topic as we are. Certainly, there are sporadic references to heaven and hell, but the fact that they make up such a small portion of the Bible may indicate that these presumed afterlife destinations were not as concerning to them as they are to us today. There are many possible reasons for that, some of which I will reflect upon in the coming weeks. In short, I believe that how they saw the afterlife was vastly different from how we see it. Jesus talked frequently about the kingdom of God, but there is good reason to believe he was talking about a present state of being in the here and now, more so than a possible future state after death.

While we have little ability to see or understand the afterlife with any certainty, we should take comfort in knowing that everything else we know in God’s creation is reborn and that only forms are annihilated. Because God created the spiritual realm, too, it seems reasonable to assume that rebirth and resurrection exist there, too.

This is the 5th in the series of Life Notes titled, If I Should Die Before I Wake. I invite your thoughts, insights, and feedback via email at ghildenbrand@sunflower.com, or through my website, www.ContemplatingGrace.com. At the website, you can also sign up to have these reflections delivered to your Inbox every Thursday morning, if you are not receiving them in another manner.

Prefer to listen? Subscribe to Life Notes Podcasts at https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/life-notes-podcast/id1403068000

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Embodiment, Part 3

 God speaks to each of us as he makes us, then walks with us silently out of the night.

These are the words we dimly hear:

You, sent out beyond your recall, go to the limits of your longing, Embody me.

Flare up like flame and make big shadows I can move in.

Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.

Just keep going. No feeling is final. Don’t let yourself lose me.

Nearby is the country they call life. You will know it by its seriousness.

Give me your hand.

Rainer Maria Rilke[1]

When I began this reflection on embodiment two weeks ago, I noted that the Hebrew word rauch is translated as Spirit in the creation story of Genesis. The same word also means air, breath, and wind. This allegorical story provides a vivid image of God’s spirit (rauch) as the animating force that brings the materials of earth to life. The broad meaning of rauch gives us a clearer understanding of the intimate presence of God’s spirit. It was not just something that entered the earth in the beginning and then retreated to parts unknown. God’s spirit continues to sweep over the face of the earth as air and wind. God’s spirit enters and exits our bodies with every breath we take and envelopes our being with every breeze. That same spirit creates and sustains the life we know. When we take our last breath, that spirit leaves the body, carrying our soul with it. The form we once knew dies, but everything making up that form assumes a new, resurrected form.

The Hebrew people, in the time of Moses, believed God’s name should not be spoken. The name of God, as revealed to Moses in Exodus 3:14, is YHWH, or what we pronounce as Yahweh. It means I am. Some believe we breath the name of God with every inhale and exhale. We breath God’s spirit (as air) into our physical body with each inhale – Yah – and we return God’s spirit into the world around us with each exhale – weh. Consciously breathing the name of God is a practice known as the Yahweh Prayer. It is the first and last Word we utter in the earthly chapter of our lives. It is quite literally the spirit of God, through our breath, that keeps our earthly form alive.

Richard Rohr, in his Daily Meditation for October 3, 2019, wrote, “We are only afraid of death as long as we do not know who we are, but once we know ourselves objectively to be a child of God, we are already home and our inheritance is given to us ahead of time.”[2] As the significance of the presence of God as our very breath begins to sink in, it becomes apparent that we are quite literally God’s children. The moment God’s rauch is removed from us, our physical existence ceases.

The life force flows from the spirit of God as our soul and animates our earthly embodiment. God enters us, enlivens our physical form, and sees and works through us. Most of the time, most of us are unaware not only of the intimate nearness of God’s presence, but also of the work God does in and through us. We feel closest to God when we become conscious co-creators with God in the world around us. This is how we develop a relationship – by acknowledging God’s presence and finding ways to listen for God’s guidance through practices like Centering Prayer, presence to the moment, and mindfulness meditation. In the process of tuning in to the divine presence with and in us, our fear of physical death dissipates because we learn that the connection with the eternal transcends our physical existence. As Rilke encourages: “Don’t let yourself lose me.” Our body is only the vehicle through which God’s work is done through and with us on earth. Although we do not know how the relationship will look after our physical death, we are assured that the bond of our soul to God’s spirit will continue because we have learned that we are inseparably united.

This is the beauty of embodiment, that our soul wraps itself in the substance of the earth for a time in order to experience the extraordinary beauty, depth, change, and pain of physical existence. And with us for every step of the journey is the spirit of God sweeping over the face of the earth as it continues to create, animate, experience, and lovingly claim us as the children of God. Through Rilke, God says, “Give me your hand.”

This is the 4th in the series of Life Notes titled, If I Should Die Before I Wake. I invite your thoughts, insights, and feedback via email at ghildenbrand@sunflower.com, or through my website, www.ContemplatingGrace.com. At the website, you can also sign up to have these reflections delivered to your Inbox every Thursday morning, if you are not receiving them in another manner.

Prefer to listen? Subscribe to Life Notes Podcasts at https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/life-notes-podcast/id1403068000

[1] Rainer Maria Rilke, Rilke’s Book of Hours, trans. Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy. Riverhead Books. 1996.

[2] Richard Rohr, Daily Meditations. Meditations.cac.org, October 3, 2019

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Embodiment, Part 2

For every matter has its time and way, although the troubles of mortals lie heavy upon them. Indeed, they do not know what is to be, for who can tell them how it will be? No one has power over the wind, or power over the day of death. Ecclesiastes 8:6-8a

As I began this discussion on earthly embodiment last week, I wrote that things of the earth are temporal, but things of the spirit, i.e., our souls, are eternal. Regarding things of the earth, this is only true of specific earthly forms, like our bodies. As we observe creation in our specific space and time, we see people and things all around us that were once alive that are now dead. In the woods outside my window there is a dead tree that fell into the crook of another tree. I have seen the dead bodies of friends, family, and loved ones. The leaves of the maple trees in my back yard turn red and orange each autumn before they die and fall to the ground. But is any of this really dead?

The answer to the question depends on what we consider to be alive. The specific earthly form that I knew as a loved one, a tree in the forest, or a maple leaf is no more. But the elements making up that body, tree trunk, or leaf are eternal. Bodies, tree trunks, and leaves, once vibrant with life, lose their old form as they go through the natural decomposition and re-formation process. When I was young, we would rake leaves from the yard into a pile and burn them, reducing their forms to a small pile of ashes. Even so, their elements remained, either being released into the air in the smoke or becoming part of the ashes. Nothing of the earth was lost, only transformed. This is the nature of earthly immortality, as it has been for billions of years. Will we live forever in our current form? No, but the elements our bodies are made from will, as will the soul that coalesces and animates the earthly elements.

We see this process of formation, destruction, and reformation all around us, although much of it occurs on a timeline alien to us. There is geological evidence that my home state of Kansas was once a vast ocean, although it is a thousand miles from the nearest ocean today. A small Missouri town that once sat on the eastern banks of the Missouri River is now a small Kansas town on the western banks of the same river. As the floodwaters of decades past receded, the river changed its course and the town changed its resident state. Over the centuries, rocks crumble and mountains erode. Families, corporations, and dynasties come and go. Teacher and author Richard Rohr says the natural course of everything in creation is order, disorder, reorder. Depending on the form, this life-cycle may occur in hours or eons. Resurrection plays out all around us all the time.

We tend to think of our physical bodies as stable and unchanging, which is far from true. Approximately 50 to 70 billion of our cells die and are replaced each day. Every part of our body is replaced every seven years or so. We exchange elements with the world around us with every breath, and our bodies integrate elements from other earthly beings with everything we eat. There is a constant exchange happening between our bodies and the world around us. Over the course of a lifetime, our bodies will have integrated elements from all over the world. The point is that, appearances aside, these bodies that seem so solid are actually fluid and dynamic.

The separation process of soul from body, as occurs at physical death, almost always requires some sort of major trauma to the body, rendering it uninhabitable. This is often the failure of a key bodily organ or some other traumatic event. Despite the advances in medical practice, and in spite of the constant remaking process, physical bodies reach a point where the soul can no longer hold the form together. The earthly elements of the body remain with the earth, and the ethereal elements of the spirit return to the realm of spirit.

This, then, is a view of the nature of our earthly lives and deaths. A portion of God’s spirit – our soul – takes on elements of the earth and embodies itself for a time. When that time is up, the body and soul go their separate ways. Nothing, however, is lost or annihilated. The form is re-form-ulated, and our soul – the true essence of who we are – lives on.

This is the 3rd in the series of Life Notes titled, If I Should Die Before I Wake. I invite your thoughts, insights, and feedback via email at ghildenbrand@sunflower.com, or through my website, www.ContemplatingGrace.com. At the website, you can also sign up to have these reflections delivered to your Inbox every Thursday morning, if you are not receiving them in another manner.

Prefer to listen? Subscribe to Life Notes Podcasts at https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/life-notes-podcast/id1403068000

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