Saturday, July 23, 2011

A Good Thing

“Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.”
                                                                          Psalm 150:6
Martha Stewart, goddess-of-household-perfection, made it one of her trademark bylines:  “It’s a good thing.”   Fluffy crepes served with fresh-squeezed orange juice?  “It’s a good thing.”  A bed of fragrant lavender lining the garden path?  “A good thing.”  Homemade decorations adorning the freshly harvested, fifteen foot Christmas tree in the great room?   All very good things.”  I wonder how many homemakers have committed hari-kari trying to keep up with Martha.
What are the “good things” in our lives? Blessings like family, health, a new job come to mind.  In the day-to-day, we might be thankful for running water, nice weather, a fun vacation, even a good night’s sleep.  But when is the last time you heard someone say they were thankful that their body temperature was well-regulated or that their digestion was going well?
Funny, isn’t it?... that the things most critical to minute-to-minute survival are those that we take most for granted.  Crucial, life-sustaining body functions like our beating heart, digesting food, and body temperature regulation are those we don’t need (thank God) to think much about (leaving time for the conscious decisions about things not nearly so important:  What shirt should I wear?  Should I mow the lawn today?  Should I get single or double pepperoni on my pizza?).
Take breathing, for example.  While we all would agree breathing is definitely a “good thing,” we tend not to think nor talk much about it.  It’s just one of those processes in the background of daily life.  All that we do every day is done against the background of breathing and we really just aren’t aware of it.
Breathing is one of the many body processes that are under the control of the autonomic nervous system.  (Whenever you see the word “autonomic,” think “automatic.”)  Lots… in fact, most of the processes in our bodies that are absolutely necessary for day-to-day survival are under autonomic, that is automatic control.  Think about it, we do not have to consciously tell our hearts to beat, our kidneys to excrete, our bowels to digest, or our marrow to make blood.  We do not have conscious control over ovulation, body temperature regulation, or sweating.  (By the way, you might, from time to time, thank God for your autonomic nervous system.  Because of it, you can fall to sleep at night without worrying that you might forget to breath, or to secrete enough insulin to deal with that bedtime snack.  Without your autonomic nervous system you’d be so busy with such issues that you would never be able to get around to cleaning the garage).  But because breathing is automatic, most of us take it for granted.
Until there is a problem with it.
In “To Kill a Mockingbird” Scout makes the statement, “Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.”  She makes an interesting point.  We don’t particularly “love breathing.”  When is the last time you heard someone say they loved to breathe?  Yet, while we may not “love breathing,” we do need it.  We may not “love breathing,” but our life depends on a regular habit of it.  We may not “love breathing,” but take it away from us and we’ll learn to love it real fast.  We tend to value most that which we fear losing.  For proof, look into the panicked eyes of someone suffering an asthma attack.  Notice the worried expression of a patient depending on a ventilator to breath for them.  Seems it is when we cannot get our breath that we cherish breathing most.
The psalmist had something to say about good things.  “They who seek the LORD shall not be in want of any good thing” (Psalm 34:10b), he once said.  “No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.” (Psalm 84:11b).  James, too, spoke of good things when he said that “every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above…” (James 1:17a).
Breathing. It’s a good thing.

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