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ISSUE No. 40 | December 2023


If you’re new to CULTIVARE we welcome you!  CULTIVARE is a monthly field guide for life and faith, brought to you by TEND.  Each month we explore a specific “field” – a topic or theme through which we seek to cultivate contemplation, engagement, and deeper understanding. Our guiding questions are:

What are you cultivating in your life?

What fruit do you want your life to bear?

Each issue of CULTIVARE is structured into three parts:

Cultivate:  Examines a specific “Field” or facet of life and offers questions to unearth and challenge our held perspective; along with concise kernels of truth which we call “Seeds.”


Irrigate:  Explores the ways we nurture our understanding, which varies from individual to individual. We offer six means of irrigation:  Art, Poetry, Profile, Film, Essay, and Books.


Germinate: Encourages practical ways to engage in becoming more fruitful and free in our lives.  

Our name, CULTIVARE, in Spanish means “I will cultivate.” We hope each issue of our field guide will encourage you to do just that – cultivate new thoughts, actions, faith, hope, and fruitful living.  We invite you to dig in and DIG DEEP!



For we are partners working together for God, and you are God's field.

(I Corinthians 3:9)

Our theme this month is EMBODIMENT. The month of December can elicit mixed feelings; it is both a time to gather with friends and family to celebrate our savior's birth but may also touch upon moments of sorrow and regret as we reflect on the losses, hardships, and unrealized hopes in the past year. We may recall experiences that functionally disconnected us from ourselves, others, or God. It is into this context that we invite the season of Advent to be our teacher.


As we embark on the Season of Advent, the Cultivare team invites you to reflect on the wonder and mystery of: The Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood (John 1:14 MSG). In this issue, we consider how God’s “with us” through the incarnation embodies hope, restoration, and a reminder that our physical bodies—our flesh—both images God and truly matters.


In this issue, we consider what role our body plays in our “being-ness” in the world, and how we experience agency, presence, beauty, and connectedness through our bodies. We also ask how we have been potentially conditioned to live a disembodied life—and what practices or insights help us to return to holistically making a home in our bodies. In Genesis, our bodies are named by God as “very good”—not an obstacle, mistake, or afterthought—but a critical participant in all that we do. It is a wonder to consider how God is animating our bodies and breath in each moment.


One piece of art we display in this issue is Caravaggio’s The Incredulity of St. Thomas (see Poetry). This shadowed, moody, intensely human art piece captures a level of realism that is meant to disturb. We see dirty fingernails. A ripped jacket. Furrowed brows and hunched figures. In the scene, Jesus pulls Thomas’ hand close to his body, inviting the curious disciple to intimately touch his open wound and be involved in the incarnation and resurrection of this wounded healer—raised from the dead, and yet with scars. What an invitation to reflect on the importance of our own embodiment—both the intimate connections and scars we hold. Why is Thomas incredulous? Perhaps it was seeing Jesus in the flesh after his gruesome death—or perhaps he shares our wonder that the God we follow, who conquered death, gives hope to the world reappeared in his own scarred, traumatized body.  


The Incarnation is scandalous: God is now in the flesh. What are ways God is inviting you to understand that in deeper ways?  What may God be inviting you to consider about your own body?  What does it mean to be a faithful follower of Jesus and to truly live an embodied life? (AD & DG)


The Lord God formed the human from the topsoil of the fertile land and blew life’s breath into his nostrils. The human came to life. (Genesis 2:7)


The Word became flesh
and made his home among us.
We have seen his glory,
glory like that of a father’s only son,
full of grace and truth.

(John 1:14)



Thomas, the one called Didymus, one of the Twelve, wasn’t with the disciples when Jesus came. The other disciples told him, “We’ve seen the Lord!”

But he replied, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands, put my finger in the wounds left by the nails, and put my hand into his side, I won’t believe.”

After eight days his disciples were again in a house and Thomas was with them. Even though the doors were locked, Jesus entered and stood among them. He said, “Peace be with you.”  Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here. Look at my hands. Put your hand into my side. No more disbelief. Believe!”

Thomas responded to Jesus, “My Lord and my God!”

(John 20:24-28)


Or don’t you know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you? Don’t you know that you have the Holy Spirit from God, and you don’t belong to yourselves? You have been bought and paid for, so honor God with your body.

(1 Corinthians 6:19-20)



A handful of quotes to contemplate and cultivate into your life


It is neither the spirit alone nor the body alone that loves: it is man, the person, a unified creature composed of body and soul, who loves.  (Pope Benedict XVI)

...the incarnation is the complete refutation of every human system and institution that claims to control, possess, and distribute God... God came into the world in the form of the people he created, the human race (including you and me), who bear his image. God's creation of humanity in his image gives hints of who he is, since we all are marked by his fingerprints. (Michael Spencer)


Enlightenment needs embodiment. Wide-open insight needs deep-rooted instinct. As above, so below. (Kris Franken)

Meditation means to let the word descend from our minds into our hearts and thus to become enfleshed.  (Henri J.M. Nouwen)

I know the theological answers, but do my blood and my pulse? (Ann Voskamp)

When we contemplate the miracle of embodied life, we begin to partner with our bodies in a kinder way. (Sharon Salzberg)

To be really medieval one should have no body. To be really modern one should have no soul. To be really Greek one should have no clothes. (Oscar Wilde)

Love's mysteries in souls do grow, but yet the body is his book. (John Donne) 


The role of the pastor is to embody the gospel. And of course to get it embodied, which you can only do with individuals, not in the abstract. (Eugene Peterson)

Jesus’ first words to his disciples were not “Come experience me” rather, they were “Follow me” (Matthew 4:19) – that is, a call to a particular embodied, embedded, and enacted way of life. (Warren S. Brown & Brad D. Strawn)




Choreographed by Alvin Ailey

We spotlight and honor the extraordinary work of choreographer, dancer, and director Alvin Ailey, and specifically Ailey’s 36-minute choreographed masterpiece Revelations. If you are unfamiliar with Alvin Ailey, we encourage you to explore his life and legacy including attending a performance of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater – which is a living and lasting tribute still performing long after Ailey’s passing in 1989.  Ailey was awarded the Kennedy Center Honors in 1988 and the Presidential Medal of Honor posthumously in 2014.  


As the Dance Company’s website explains: “Using African-American spirituals, song-sermons, gospel songs and holy blues, Alvin Ailey’s Revelations fervently explores the places of deepest grief and holiest joy in the soul.


More than just a popular dance work, it has become a cultural treasure, beloved by generations of fans. Seeing Revelations for the first time or the hundredth can be a transcendent experience, with audiences cheering, singing along and dancing in their seats from the opening notes of the plaintive “I Been ’Buked” to the rousing “Wade in the Water” and the triumphant finale, “Rocka My Soul in the Bosom of Abraham.”


Ailey said that one of America’s richest treasures was the African American cultural heritage—"sometimes sorrowful, sometimes jubilant, but always hopeful.” This enduring classic is a tribute to that tradition, born out of the choreographer’s “blood memories” of his childhood in rural Texas and the Baptist Church. But since its premiere in 1960, the ballet has been performed continuously around the globe, transcending barriers of faith and nationality, and appealing to universal emotions, making it the most widely seen modern dance work in the world.” We encourage you to learn more at the following links:


50-Year Revelations Anniversary Video Celebration:   View Now


3-minute Revelations excerpt:  View Now


Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater:  View Now


2024 Tour Schedule:  View Now


Alvin Ailey, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Revelations



Seven Stanzas at Easter

By John Updike

Make no mistake: if He rose at all

it was as His body;

if the cells' dissolution did not reverse, the molecules

reknit, the amino acids rekindle,

the Church will fall.


It was not as the flowers,

each soft Spring recurrent;

it was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled

eyes of the eleven apostles;

it was as His Flesh: ours.


The same hinged thumbs and toes,

the same valved heart

that — pierced — died, withered, paused, and then

regathered out of enduring Might

new strength to enclose.


Let us not mock God with metaphor,

analogy, sidestepping transcendence;

making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the

faded credulity of earlier ages:

let us walk through the door.


The stone is rolled back, not papier-mache,

not a stone in a story,

but the vast rock of materiality that in the slow

grinding of time will eclipse for each of us

the wide light of day.


And if we will have an angel at the tomb,

make it a real angel,

weighty with Max Planck's quanta, vivid with hair,

opaque in the dawn light, robed in real linen

spun on a definite loom.


Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,

for our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,

lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are

embarrassed by the miracle, and crushed by remonstrance.



Kate Bowler

By Bonnie Fearer

Let’s say that you are at the threshold of multiple dreams that have been realized. You’ve completed two graduate degrees, have the job you’ve always wanted, married the guy you love, and have welcomed an adorable child together. Let’s also throw in the fact that you are 35 years old and on the cusp of everything. And then … your body betrays you. This is Kate Bowler’s story. During her prime season of life, Kate received the devastating news that she had Stage IV colon cancer which had metastasized to her liver. Her prognosis was grim: probable death within about a year, two at the outside. 


Kate began a treatment regimen that lasted years, during which her body endured chemotherapy, immunotherapy – and one surgery after another. Of this season, she said: “I start confidently, but if I stand, someone in my family will immediately set a chair behind me…. Every third hour I must take a small round pill and, every fourth, some yellow pills wide enough to choke a pony. One makes my nose itch and the other makes me woozy, and none makes me eat. But this is the tick, tick, tick of cancer.” Her body slowed her life down to a nauseating crawl.


One of the ironies in Kate Bowler’s story is that her dissertation work –as well as the content in some of her American Christianity classes – was focused on the rise of the health and wealth (prosperity) gospel in American churches. Although her work was a critical study of this kind of church, she had spent years in close proximity to a kind of thinking that said, “Sick? You need to pray harder, longer with more faith.” In Kate Bowler’s words, “In a spiritual world in which healing is a divine right, illness is a symptom of unconfessed sin – a symptom of lack of forgiveness, unfaithfulness, unexamined attitudes, or careless words. A suffering believer is a puzzle to be solved.” In other words, blessing was the reward for a properly executed transaction, and suffering was the warning light on the dashboard indicating you’d made some kind of mistake in maintaining the faith engine.


Those who have had conversations with Kate Bowler, note that her cancer odyssey is more of a postscript to what she really wants to talk about, which is basically, what it means to be human. She has formed a community through her writing (6 books and counting), her speaking and teaching, and her enormously popular podcast, Everything Happens. Her followers feel kinship with her because she knows how to blast through the isolation suffering brings, and she does so with a combination of warmth, tenderness and comedic wit. She bemoans what her body looks like now after the ravages of the past years – her abdomen looking like a “Braille map,” with all its scars from surgical staples, and the fact that she is on her “fifth belly button, and this one is my least favorite.” The good news is that the immunotherapy trial she underwent worked. She is in remission and declared cancer-free – something for which she is profoundly thankful. Her health is, however, fragile, and she lives with chronic pain. She rarely complains, but often marvels at what it means to live in a body that is limited.


She says this: “We can be people of deep hope. That is not the same thing as saying our lives are going to work out. As a person of faith I believe God is drawing us toward a future that is fundamentally a story of love and the salvation of the world. That’s not the same thing as saying that my life in its particularity, in all my hopes and dreams, is going to play out the way I imagined.” Or as one of her framed sayings reads: “Life is so beautiful. Life is so hard.”


Kate Bowler’s faith-filled generosity in bringing her own embodied journey to others inspires us, and for this reason, we have chosen her as our Profile for this issue.


For more about Kate Bowler, including links to books and podcast: View Now



Each month we recommend films focused on our theme

Feature Film



A true story of a maverick doctor and the patients whose lives he changes. Dr. Malcolm Sayer, a shy research physician who uses an experimental drug to "awaken" the catatonic victims of a rare disease beginning with Leonard, the first patient to receive the controversial treatment. His awakening, filled with awe and enthusiasm, proves a rebirth for Sayer too, as the exuberant patient reveals life's simple but unutterably sweet pleasures to the introverted doctor. Encouraged by Leonard's stunning recovery, Sayer administers the drug to the other patients. The story of their friendship during this emotional journey is a testament to both the tenderness of the human heart and the strength of the human soul.  Awakenings was directed by Penny Marshall and stars Robin Williams and Robert DeNiro.  Nominated for three Academy Awards including Best Picture.  Available on various streaming services.

View Now


Documentary Film


A documentary film that takes us on a scientific and spiritual journey where we discover that by changing one's perceptions, the human body can heal itself. The latest science reveals that we are not victims of unchangeable genes, nor should we buy into a scary prognosis. The fact is we have more control over our health and life than we have been taught to believe. 


HEAL not only taps into the brilliant minds of leading scientists and spiritual teachers but follows three people on actual high stakes healing journeys. Healing can be extremely complex and deeply personal, but it can also happen spontaneously in a moment. Through these inspiring and emotional stories, we find out what works, what doesn't, and why.  Available on various streaming services.  NOTE:  We at CULTIVARE do not endorse all aspects of this film, but we offer it as resource for perspective, discernment, and hope. 

View Now


Short Film

A Math Teacher Discovers the Perfect Formula

Whenever Jim O'Connor isn't torturing kids with calculus, he's on a whole other tangent, cuddling sick babies. Three days a week for the past 22 years, Jim has volunteered, stepping in when parents can't, to hold, feed and comfort their children.  From CBS News report Steve Hartman.

View Now

Ted Talk

What I Learned from Nelson Mandela

"In the cathedral of the wild, we get to see the best parts of ourselves reflected back to us." Boyd Varty, a wildlife activist, shares stories of animals, humans and their interrelatedness, or "ubuntu" -- defined as, "I am, because of you." And he dedicates the talk to South African leader Nelson Mandela, the human embodiment of that same great-hearted, generous spirit.

View Now



The Practice of Embodiment
By Rachel M. Coleman

In this 2020 article from Conversatio Divina, author Rachel M. Coleman reflects on the tensions and insights of the human body presented by a world pandemic. She also includes some tangible actions on how to live attentively and healthfully in that tension.  Coleman writes:


To have a body means to be dependent.  We are constantly dependent on things outside of ourselves: food to nourish us, shelter to warm us, air to sustain us.  Dependence and bodiliness are, we could say, two sides of the same coin.  Everything from movement and action to our highest activities – love, friendship, fellowship, family – all of these require us to be with and depend on that which is beyond our control.  Our body is not a hindrance to these beautiful realities, but in fact their very foundation.


When Jesus Christ incarnates, dies, and resurrects, he not only reminds us that the body is the foundation of our humanity, but he also reveals that it is through our bodies that we are redeemed.  This is one of the many reasons Christians reenact the Last Supper: to be reminded that it is through Christ’s body and blood that we attain salvation.  Our dependency is not our downfall but the very means of our elevation.


We encourage you to read the entire article at the following link: View Now


Rachel M. Coleman holds a MTS in Biotechnology and Ethics and a PhD in Metaphysics and is a fellow of the Martin Institute’s Cultural Initiative at Westmont College.




Each month we recommend a book (or two) focused on our theme


A Body of Praise:

Understanding the Role of Our Physical Bodies in Worship

By  David O. Taylor

Do our physical bodies really matter in corporate worship? Isn't our soul the most important part of us? Aren't our bodies, at best, negligible to worship and, at worst, a hindrance? The answer to this last question is categorically no, as Christians have attested throughout history and across the global church. The purpose of the body instead is to offer to God in worship what only it can offer--and what must be offered to God.

By drawing on the wisdom of the Bible, church history, and theology, and by taking advantage of the unique insights of the arts and sciences, ethics, and spiritual formation, a respected theologian and pastor argues in this book that there is something for our physical bodies to do that decisively forms Christlikeness in us within the context of corporate worship. What we do with our postures, gestures, and movements in worship matters. How our senses of sight, scent, sound, taste, and touch are involved in worship matters. How our spontaneous and prescriptive activities form us in worship matters. All of it matters to faithful and fulsome worship for the sake of a body that is fully alive in the praise of God.

View Now


The Five Wounds

By  Kristin Valdez Quade


The Five Wounds is a miraculous debut novel from a writer whose stories have been hailed as “legitimate masterpieces” (New York Times). 


It’s Holy Week in the small town of Las Penas, New Mexico, and thirty-three-year-old unemployed Amadeo Padilla has been given the part of Jesus in the Good Friday procession. He is preparing feverishly for this role when his fifteen-year-old daughter Angel shows up pregnant on his doorstep and disrupts his plans for personal redemption. With weeks to go until her due date, tough, ebullient Angel has fled her mother’s house, setting her life on a startling new path.

Vivid, tender, funny, and beautifully rendered, The Five Wounds spans the baby’s first year as five generations of the Padilla family converge: Amadeo’s mother, Yolanda, reeling from a recent discovery; Angel’s mother, Marissa, whom Angel isn’t speaking to; and disapproving Tíve, Yolanda’s uncle and keeper of the family’s history. Each brings expectations that Amadeo, who often solves his problems with a beer in his hand, doesn’t think he can live up to.

View Now


Childrens Book

Listen to My Body

By Gabi Garcia

Listening to My Body is an engaging and interactive book that guides children through the process of naming their emotions and the physical sensations accompanying them. Teaching kids to tune into their bodies and name their feelings is a foundation for emotional regulation.

From wiggly and squirmy to rested and still, Listening to My Body helps children develop a sensations vocabulary to help them express what they are experiencing. It includes kid-friendly "Let's Practice" activities throughout the book so children can practice what they're learning.

View Now



Practical suggestions to help you go deeper into our theme


Devote some time and thought to these reflective questions on our theme:

a.   Do you view your body in healthy ways?  Why or why not?

b.   How does your view of your body differ from God’s view of your body?

c.   What words, phrases, or images help you to remember to speak kindly to your body?

d.   Are you eating healthily?  Why or why not?  What could be changed?   

e.   Are you engaging in physical exercise to foster good health?

f.   What are the consequences of a sedentary lifestyle?

g.   Are you getting enough sleep to be healthy? What hinders you from restful sleep?

h.   As you give yourself an honest assessment of your body, what might God be inviting

      you to give greater attention to?


In this recent episode of On Being, Krista Tippett interviews author Clint Smith.  Tippet remarks that: “There’s an evocative phrase that recurs throughout Clint Smith’s writing — the phrase is ‘in the marrow of our bones.’ This to me is an example of how words can carry almost encrypted wisdom — in this case, the truth that memory and emotion lodge in us physically. And words and phrases have carried this insight forward in time long before we had the science to understand it.”  Listen to or read the entire interview at the following link:

View Now


3. SONG:  LOOSEN LOOSEN by Aly Halpert

This short 3-minute song/prayer/meditation is designed to help bring healing to personal and societal grief. It encourages listeners: You don't have to carry the weight of the world in your muscles and bones, let go, let go, let go.
View Now



The Body Prayer was developed as a way to pray without words but with our bodies.  You are invited to be in your body, to embrace your physicality as a way to ground yourself and as a way to experience God.  The body prayer is a wonderful way to bring all of ourselves into the act of prayer, body, mind and spirit. This body prayer was created by the contemplative Order of Julian of Norwich. Father John Julian developed the four words to describe their silent contemplative approach to prayer. Father Ethan Jewett developed the body positions related to the four words.

View Now




Father, help me to have a healthy view of my body. This body is a gift given to me to bring You glory. Help me discipline myself to treat it with honor and respect. As I discipline myself to eat well and exercise, teach me to be gracious to myself. Forgive me for all the times I've disliked my body. Forgive me for the times I've compared my body to others. I receive Your forgiveness today, Lord. In Jesus' name, Amen.

dig deeper


But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,

whose confidence is in him.

They will be like a tree planted by the water

that sends out its roots by the stream.

It does not fear when heat comes;

its leaves are always green.

It has no worries in a year of drought

and never fails to bear fruit.

(Jeremiah 17:7-8 NIV)


CULTIVARE is a ministry of TEND and is offered free to our subscribers.  We are grateful to our donors who help underwrite our costs.  If you would like to support the ongoing work of CULTIVARE, please consider us in your giving. All financial contributions to TEND

(a 501c3 ministry) for CULTIVARE are tax-deductible.  

Subscribe to CULTIVARE for free! 



Images used in order of appearance:

1.   FIELD:   Gari Melchers, The Nativity, 1891

2.  SEEDS:  Marc Chagall, Nativity, 1950


3.  ART:   Alvin Ailey, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Revelations

4.  POETRY:  Caravaggio, The Incredulity of Saint Thomas, 1601-1602




6.   FILM:  Romina Amato/Red Bull Content Pool, Rhiannan Iffland, unknown date

7.   ESSAY:  Pierre Puget (1620-1694) Christ Dying on the Cross, unknown date

8.   BOOKS:   Alvin Ailey, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Revelations

9.   DIG DEEPER:  Hans Deryk, Chen Yibing, 2008


10.   ROOTED:   Mike Moyers, The Manger, unknown date,

TEAM CULTIVARE: Duane Grobman (Editor), Amy Drennan, Greg Ehlert, Bonnie Fearer, Ben Hunter, Eugene Kim, Andrew Massey, Rita McIntosh, Heather Shackelford, Jason Pearson (Design:



We welcome hearing your thoughts on this issue

and suggestions for future issues.

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