The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


'Spiritual Exercises: Joining Body and Spirit in Prayer' and 'Joan of Arcadia'


Spiritual Exercises: Joining Body and Spirit in Prayer by Nancy Roth offers a user-friendly smorgasbord of exercises that can help you integrate your physical health and your spiritual practices. She reminds Christians that Paul in his letter to the church at Corinth said: "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own. ... Therefore glorify God in your body." The author, an Episcopal priest who also wrote An Invitation to Christian Yoga, includes information on hatha yoga, tai chi, pilates, strength training, aerobic exercise and dance.

A fine section on walking covers meditation walking, pilgrimage and labyrinths. Roth also gives examples of praying (contemplative, reflective and verbal) through the body. Finally, she adds a chapter on rest and relaxation as part of maintaining a healthy spiritual life (Seabury Books).


Joan of Arcadia — The Complete First Season includes 23 episodes of the Emmy-nominated series in a six-disc box set. If you haven't been watching this show Friday nights on CBS (it's in its second season), now is the time to catch up. Barbara Hall is the executive producer. Joan (Amber Tamblyn) goes to high school in the small town of Arcadia. Her father (Joe Mantegna) is with the police department; her mother (Mary Steenburgen) teaches art at her school; her older brother Kevin (Jason Ritter) is a former jock who was paralyzed in a car accident; and her younger brother Luke (Michael Welch) is a science wiz. Joan seems like a typical teenager — except that she regularly has conversations with God.

God appears to Joan in the people around her — a cute boy at school, a chess master, a street sweeper, a dog walker, an overweight student, a lady in the school cafeteria, a pizza delivery man, a substitute teacher, a homeless man, a little girl and many others. Usually the first clue that it's God who's speaking is when he or she calls Joan by her name. At first, Joan wonders if she might be crazy, but then she begins to trust these presences and to follow through on their instructions. She might be told to take a class, get a part-time job, volunteer with children, have a garage sale, go out for cheerleading, join the debate team or even build a boat.

In the process of doing her assignments from God, Joan sees that the divine is present in the lives of those closest to her. In each episode, Joan has to learn to trust God and then act. Sometimes her only function is to set something else in motion. To her continual frustration, God never gives Joan reasons for her assignments nor offers instructions on how to do them. She has to learn to live with mystery and exercise her free will.

These TV scripts are filled with bits of wisdom and surprising epiphanies that help us recognize the sacred in everyday life. (Paramount Home Entertainment).


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February issue


Embracing diversity