This month IVP has released a new, revised version of my writings with Dr. Paul Brand, Fearfully and Wonderfully: The Marvel of Bearing God’s Image.  Gratitude was the one quality that most impressed me about Paul Brand.  For him, the universe was God’s own work of art, and the human body God’s masterpiece.  He kept making notes on scattered computer files, calling them “A Litany of Thanksgiving.”  Dr. Brand never finished his litanies, but here are a few of his final musings on the human body he knew so well.  They sum up the spirit of a man who accepted the world as a marvelous gift, to which the proper response is gratitude.

Heart

I thank you, Lord, for my heart.

Moment by moment and day after day my heart has pumped blood to every limb and organ of my body, supplying the nutrients that give life and energy.  It has needed no maintenance or spare parts, no special fuel or lubrication.  It has surged with power when I needed help for strong exertion, and has quietly sustained me during sleep.

Grant me, O God, the grace of self-control.  I must not eat so much that I accumulate unnecessary fat, increasing the work required of my heart.  Help me avoid the seduction of rich foods that narrow my arteries.  Neither let me neglect to maintain my strength, by lazily relying on cars and machines when I could as readily use my legs and arms.

Save me, Lord, from ambition that gives high place to wealth and power and prestige, in the process adding stress to my waking hours and robbing me of restful sleep at night.  Control me with your Spirit who teaches me to forgive when anger builds up, to seek forgiveness when I’m oppressed by guilt, and who grows in me the fruit of love and peace.  Then shall my heart beat with the rhythm of contentment, and my whole body will know harmony and quiet joy.

When in the fullness of time the beat of my heart must falter and fail, give me this grace, dear Lord: that my response shall not be petulance that it does not last forever, but gratitude that it has served me long and well.

Sight

I thank you, Lord, for the gift of sight.

Not content that I should see light and shade, you have blessed me with the ecstasy of color, with millions of cells at the back of my eye, each calibrated to its own wavelength of color.  You designed living lenses, crystal-clear, flexible, and guided by tiny muscles that allow instant and precise focusing.  I praise you for tears that cleanse, and for eyelids poised to blink down protection in a split-second reflex.

Lord God, I marvel that, though light never enters my brain, thousands of the finest nerves convey images of reality into my mind, which stores them away for future retrieval.  I carry around a memory bank of friends and children and grandchildren; I close my eyes and my mind re-creates the images those nerves once ushered in.

I know many people who can no longer see.  If I live beyond the life span of the cells in me that sense the light, or if cataracts cloud the shining globe that gives me sight, I too shall live in shadows and depend on the eyes of those who see.  Help me, dear Lord, to use these days of sight in a way that honors the gift of light.  Help me to gaze at each sunset as if it were my last, to look upon scenes and friends with an artist’s eye, compiling a memory bank of beauty and love.  If someday I lose your gift of sight, these same images may return and beautify my inner life when all outside falls dark.

And while I see, may my guiding hand be quick to help the one who falters because his world is dark, to share with others the benefits of the gift of sight.

Hearing

I thank you, Lord, for the sense of hearing.

Deep in the dense bone of the base of my skull, you have placed rows of tiny hairs that bend to the movement of the fluid that bathes them.  Too fragile to be exposed to the hurly-burly of the outside world, they feel vibrations filtered through canals and mediated by tiny guardian instruments of bone.

Music and voices come to me without effort, awakening without my conscious thought memories of sounds and of speech.  I hear an echo of a concert from long ago, or recollect a person long forgotten whose face suddenly springs to mind, roused by a tone of voice or a lilt of laughter that calls up a remembrance.  The design that makes such wonder come to life lies beyond the fathoming of science, but God forbid that I should revel in the ecstasy of music and the joy of sound without giving thanks to you, my Lord.

A capacity to hear sufficient to warn me of danger and protect my life is all I might have asked, but I have joy far beyond that need.  For the sound of rushing water, singing birds, and the quiet whisper of a friend, I thank you now.  Grant me the wisdom to guard this gift well and to be content with sound enough to hear and yet not to blast my eardrums and shatter the finest hairs with sound amplified beyond nature.  Teach me to love the silence of open spaces, the distant cry of the loon, and the soft sounds of falling night that lull me to sleep, knowing that my hearing never sleeps but remains alert to awaken me to danger or to the chorus of the dawning day.

You have given, too, an extra gift beyond that of my sense of hearing: the ability to listen.  My mind can shut out noise and talk, and even calls for help, that I do not want to hear.  Grant, oh Lord, that I may tune my hearing mind to detect that human voice that needs a listening ear.

To listen is my gift to give.  To a soul who has lost hope, whose way ahead is dark, whose sense of worth has fallen and is too weak to rise, I have a way to bring back hope.  I can let them know that someone cares.  The simple statement of their fear may be all they need, because now it has been shared, and they are not alone.  Help me, Lord God, to listen to your lonely child and so express my thanks to you for ears to hear.

― Dr. Paul Brand

 

 

 

 

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27 responses to “Body Mindfulness”

  1. Elizabeth Mackay says:

    I just finished reading Fearfully and Wonderfully Made. I was first drawn to it because of a ministry I started that is called precisely that. We started out a few years ago as a couple moms of children with special needs. Today we have deployed over 200 personalized care packages to families all over the world. We also just helped raise over a million dollars for an autism clinical trial. We are in awe of how as Doctor Brand often said us single cells bond together to make up the body and then be used in a Fearfully and Wonderfully Made way that is beyond anything we ever could of thought or imagined. Your work as always encouraged me and Dr Brand was an amazing life that was a privilege to peak in at.
    Thank you Philip for being a part of the body to display God’s glory. I appreciate it.

    • Philip Yancey says:

      If I only received this response to my book, it would make it worthwhile. Thank you, and God bless you. –Philip

  2. Chris says:

    These are sobering words in the onslaught of clinical depression i’m currently enduring.

    Thank you for sharing, Mr. Yancey.

  3. Robert Miles says:

    Hello Philip..is This book available in uk now..love to get it for my wife who’s never read anything of Dr Brands…we are attending your Bournemouth speaking date in uk …thanks robert

    • Philip Yancey says:

      Good timing! The UK publication date is today, September 4, and it should now be available. See you soon in Bournemouth.

  4. Brenda Goh says:

    Bro Philip,
    Fully agree with the words of Sr. Irene Novak, Anne O’Malley and the others who shared and responded here.
    Heartfelt thanks for your blogs that always point us to our God Who is awesome, just and full of compassion.
    i have grown to be thankful to the Lord despite life’s challenges, from your books and sincerely thank you. Indeed, your readers are very fortunate to know Dr Paul Brand and his Christ-like character through you. You yourself have reflected a great deal of similar godliness through your books. Praise the Lord Jesus for your effective ministry.

  5. Ann O'Malley says:

    Reading the letters to the editor in my local newspaper in November, 2001, one in particular stood out. The author stated that since September 11, she had nothing to be thankful for. While my heart went out to her (she had obviously suffered a great deal), I had to wonder if she truly had absolutely nothing, or if she had so much that she failed to see the wonder and the grace behind it. That seems to be my tendency, as I’m surrounded by the riches of this country.

    Thank you for refreshing my day with reminders of all that God has so masterfully created and graciously given. It must have been a great blessing to have known Paul Brand. Thank you for introducing him to those of us who didn’t have that privilege.

  6. Virginia L. Wilson says:

    Thank you for this book – I am reading it now. Over the years I have given many copies of the original version to friends and family – how thoughtful of you to make this newer version possible. It is so beautifully written. I love it and will continue to share.

  7. Phillip Hattingh says:

    Thanks for posting this … on my birthday (81 years) … as it gives flesh in beautiful words to my thoughts looking back in gratitude and deep acknowledgement of God’s greatness, His grace and His love.

  8. Dawn Randle says:

    I want to read this everyday! 🙏

  9. Susan Varghese says:

    Truly grateful🙏🏼

  10. Bob Sutton says:

    A truly beautiful litany of worship to our Mighty God who used His creative power to form us and make us images of His glory!

  11. Jeannette says:

    How wonderfully this narrative is in detailing the absolute beauty of God’s awesome creation – reading it filled me with joy

  12. Pattie Freeman says:

    These beautiful words of Dr. Brand thrill me! I’m an enthusiastic amateur photographer and marvel at the scenes I’m able to capture—all because my loving Father in heaven gave me eyes to SEE His creation, an “eye” for composition and which would cause the viewer to exclaim, “Thank you, God, for such beauty, and for eyes to see it!” Your book is waiting patiently for me to open and be supremely blessed by it (as have all of your books😊).

  13. Eddie Chu says:

    Hi Philip:

    I’ve pre-ordered the book and am about half way through it. I miss the beautiful illustrations in the first edition but am enjoying the book. Thank you for updating it and I hope this book brings a new generation of readers to appreciate the wonderful work, knowledge, and love of Dr. Brand so beautifully expressed through his selfless life, not to mention the fearfully and wonderfully designed body that the Lord has blessed us with.

    Eddie

  14. Pamela Wood says:

    Thank you for sharing the beautiful thoughts from this humble servant of our LORD.

    My husband and I are re-reading “Fearfully and Wonderfully…” As a nurse, maybe I have somewhat of a different perspective, but it is just so awe inspiring as it was when we originally read it years ago. Our Father is so amazing in how He arranged things just so that our bodies work the way they do. It certainly wasn’t an accident or happenstance. It shows the careful, deliberate cell by cell construction of Father’s crowning glory for His creation. Praise Him!

  15. Thank you, Philip and Dr. Brandt–a lot to ponder and appreciate on this my birthday (one I share with my husband, Gary, and who will also appreciate it).

    A recent breast cancer diagnosis has made me more conscious and appreciative of this body the Creator has blessed me with, healthy and strong enough to recover from surgery and able to look forward to more years of service to the King and enjoyment of our family and friends.

  16. Tom Yancey says:

    Thanks to you and Dr. Brand for expanding my thankfulness without pain or loss, my usual prompts.

  17. Ellen Gearon says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you, Philip. Just thank you.

  18. Carol says:

    Thank you, Philip, for your generosity in sharing Paul Brand with us and exposing your own humility in the face of God’s creation. Your books are life-giving and enhancing for me!

  19. Mary Augustine says:

    Thank you Philip Yancey for sharing Dr Paul Brand’s thoughts of gratitude. It’s deep and so exhilarating to read. It makes one think deeply about thanking God for all that He has blessed us with. Awesome and inspiring read. By the way, I have read most of your books and I should say they opened my eyes to many realities of life and made me think. Once again thank you.
    Regards and God bless
    Mary Augustine

  20. Scott Bolinder says:

    Wonderful, Philip! A fresh daily liturgy for all of us as we seek to experience the world as God intended. Will you share “smell, taste and touch” in another blog?

  21. Thank you, Philip for sharing this reflective prayer with us. Both of your books written with Paul Brand have worn thin with use for myself and friends who needed this help. You and Paul Brand have been spiritual companions on my road to ore fruitful prayer and living.

  22. Lisa Dimmitt says:

    My deepest appreciation to you Philip for sharing these gorgeous gratitudes of Dr. Paul Brand. Your own writings and words full of luminosities of their own have inspired me for many years and continue to do so. Thank you for caring so very deeply about the people you walk this planet with. As one of them, I am richer for it. With Gratitude, Lisa

  23. Gary L Hicks says:

    Wonderful, beautiful, extraordinary!

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