Monthly Archives: March 2012

Bathtub Spirituality: Getting Naked Before God

I’ve always hated showers.  Give me a glistening white tub full of sudsy warm water, candles on the ledge, and a glass of red wine.  That’s the way to be clean.

Showers are for the hurried, getting clean all in a rush of water hurtling down and straight into the drain–like getting caught in a downpour and giving up any hope of finding shelter before you’re soaked.  Showers are for standing; you’ve got someplace else to go–and you’re going to be late!

Baths are for lingering, resting, enjoying.  No agenda.  No interruptions.  Only peace.  Warm, scented, slightly alcoholic peace.  Taking a bath is my favorite form of centering prayer.

I’ve had some very profound moments, naked among the bubbles and salts and dripping faucet.  Moments when God speaks, when my heart breaks, when I am listening.  Moments of forgiveness, release, understanding, wonder.  Moments of experiencing God’s tenderness, mercy, lovingkindness.

In these moments I feel like nothing separates me from God. I can lie back in the water until my ears are covered and my hair swishes like seaweed around my head and feel held, encompassed, hemmed in.  I can stretch my legs one over the other, stick my big toe in the leaky faucet and examine myself exactly as God knit me together–my skin softened by the soap and salts and getting wrinkly from the long soak.

I can be fully myself in these moments, alone in the sanctuary of my white bathtub.  In these private moments I share my most intimate, sacred self with the Creator.  No cathedral, chapel, prayer garden, or monastery compares to the holiest of holies that is my tiled bathroom–with the steamed-up mirror, flower-shaped bathmat, and humming air vent that occasionally creaks when one of the screws comes loose.

That is my sacred space.  That is where I am most spiritual–and most physical.  That is where I experience God–in the bathtub.

This week I’m honored to host a beautiful moment in my dear friend Stacey Schwenker’s journey through experiencing her sexuality as a single person.  She’ll be sharing her experience of getting naked before God tomorrow.

Until then, how do you get naked before God?

Saturday Sex-versations

Stay informed about what the world and the Church are saying so we can discuss the issues, discern healthy, holistic body theology, and discover God’s truth in the midst of many opinions.

Here’s this week’s installment of current conversations on issues of holistic body theology.  (Links are organized roughly by date and similarity of content.)

A blocked quote indicates a highly recommended link.

Don’t be shy.  Share your thoughts in the comment section, or join the original conversations via the links provided.

Physicality: Body Image, Sexuality and Relationship Issues

1) The Story Is Everything How does kingdom of God reshape the story of sex? How does new creation plot sex in its story?

2) Utah House passes bill to allow schools to skip sex ed “In truth, few of us are up to the task of effectively teaching our kids ourselves the things they need to know about sex.”

3) Yoga and Sex Scandals: No Surprise Here But over the decades, many have discovered from personal experience that the practice [of yoga] can fan the sexual flames. Pelvic regions can feel more sensitive and orgasms more intense.

4) Why (and How) Abortion Should Be Talked about in Church Churches that speak of abortion without acknowledging that many women have experienced it as an injustice, not as a choice, drive women deeper into their pain rather than set them free from the captivity where they are both bound and gagged.

5) How Old Should You Be to Marry? It’s not just about meeting the right person, but it’s also about their personal maturity.

6) Aw, Hey, Fella Aw, hey, fella–/Whatcha gonna do/When a pretty lady’s/Not ashamed of what she’s got?/Better let her know/Just what nasty names you’re thinkin’/‘Cause it’s so much easier/Than changing whatcha think.

7) Pew for One: How Is the Church Responding to Growing Number of Singles? The church needs to re-evaluate its relationship with singles, especially in light of the increasing numbers of unmarried adults.

8) Breastfeeding in Church, and Other Petty Crimes Breastfeeding is itself a work of art wrought by the Greatest Artist.

9) Day 13: Seek Intimacy Now Do I find it easier to be loved by God because someone else has said that the body I was created with is beautiful?

10) Birth Control: Burden or Blessing? This decision was meant to be hard—God meant it to be hard. He wants us to contemplate life with the utmost care and caution. He wants us to deeply consider the potential for life that we carry around in our bodies.

Media Literacy/Cultural Discernment

1) Women & Social Media Women are moving from passive purchasers to online authorities and tastemakers.

2) America’s Top Magazines: Still Not Hiring Women Do we really have to educate editors that women can bring new perspectives on major stories, and not just to stories about living as a single woman or going through a divorce?

3) Gender bias in books journalism remains acute, research shows Vida is instead trying to support women writers throughout their careers, and attempting to encourage people to examine their own biases.

4) Dear Oscar: Women Have Stories, Too When girls grow up seeing story after story that tells them they are sex objects, accessories or victims, they will learn that to be a “woman” is to play one of those three roles.

5) O Women, Where Art Thou? Certainly, something like a feminist intersectional analysis is rarely performed in the boardrooms and cafes of the Los Angeles film industry.

6) The Hidden Damage of Eating Disorders This inadequacy is due to the lie that resides beneath our cultural over-emphasis on physical beauty: “The only thing that is truly important or valuable about your identity is your appearance.”

7) People for the Ethical Treatment of Anyone but Women PETA’s use of nudity and sexuality has long been criticized as being exploitative of women, but many feminists say the new campaign crosses a line by trivializing domestic and sexual violence, further injuring an already-fragile demographic.

8) Why Do Only Women Whine? By stating that determined women are “whiners” their opinions instantly lose credibility in a distinctly sexist way.

9) you is smart. you is kind. you is important. the messages passed on to many of us through our families, relationships, and some of our church experiences are more like: “you’re somehow not enough.”

10) Does “The Help” Hurt? It is all too easy to accept caricaturizations of others that affirms our sense of justice while never addressing the inherent assumptions that come from living in a culture that is still largely “white normative”.

11) 3 Lessons Every Writer, Speaker, Blogger, and Musician Can Learn from Led Zeppelin Sometimes staying true to your art grabs the multitudes. But more often it does not. Staying true to yourself and faithful to your calling should always be the goal.

Community: Equality and Other Issues

1) This Easter Season, Remember: Church Growth is About More Than ‘The Marrieds’ These latest reports about childbirth and marriage suddenly show us that our typical evangelism efforts in churches are aiming at less than half of our nation’s population.

2) “I’m Dad, the Babysitter,” and Other Cultural Myths Dads are parents, not babysitters.

3) Tell Your Story, Tell It Well The church, if it wishes to speak into the culture around it, must regain its ability to tell testimonies. It must read its history and learn to tell its individual stories, and to tell them well, so that hearers hungry for a roadmap might find it in us.

4) More Than Enchanting: A Q&A with Jo Saxton I hope it changes the minds of women who have given up on God, their call on the church because of how difficult it’s been for them. I hope it changes the minds of those who have felt too inadequate to respond to God’s call.

5) Helen Lee: On Not Playing It Safe I still struggle with moments in which I distrust myself, in which I doubt myself, in which I would rather disappear into the background rather than put myself and my ideas forward into the public arena.

6) Reading the Magnificat During Lent [B]ut our faith is not something that concerns just us. We exist as a body and as members of the body of Christ the disciplines we engage in should always work towards the good of that body.

7) Resisting a Segregated Church Except for church, my life was one of post-Civil Rights integration.

8) Good Girls Never Change the World: Part 2 Esther more closely resembles the monarchs favourite prostitute than she does his married-in-a-church-before-God-and-all-our-friends-in-a-white-dress wife.

Service: Social Justice Issues & Creation Care

1) Earth Care as Lenten Practice If fashioned from the earth, and blessed and called by God, how can we live into an awakened relationship with the earth?

2) Living Abundantly “We understand that we can’t think about food without referring to the narrative of creation and linking it with a deep understanding of how we have been created to be the bearers of the Spirit and part of the community of life on this planet, not its owners,” Claudio said.

3) Because Children Need a Defender For children suffering in silence…justice and healing may seem impossible. But they are not—not when there is a strong defender standing beside them in the fight for justice.

4) Finding a Home for Oklahoma’s Orphans While not everyone is called to foster or adopt, every follower of Christ is called to bring justice to orphans and can do something to change the outcome for these kids.

5) Criminalizing Homelessness? Fallout feared from anti-Occupy bill “It’s criminalizing the right to exist as a human being. It’s outlawing homelessness.”

6) Desmond Tutu: Tackling Child Marriage in India One of the most common features of all these women is that they are educated, but has it reduced their worth? No, their worth has been enhanced.

7) One Small Wardrobe, One Huge Cause “I’m using my body and what I wear to represent these women. I feel like they can’t speak.”

8) Black Evangelicals, White Evangelicals, and Franklin Graham’s Repentence They see those 2,000 scriptures about poverty and injustice. And this new generation of white evangelicals is committed to fight systemic and structural justice because of the Gospel.

9) Feeling a Sacred Trust But the idea that we are separate from our world is a dangerous delusion. Every breath of oxygen we take was first exhaled by a leaf. No animal, even us, can be safer or healthier than its habitat.

10) Altering Clothes, and Lives, with Design “You have these smart students who care about the community, the planet and using recycled materials, and we have these people here in Detroit who really want to work and need money.”

11) Picturing the hands of Christ I touch people on their hands and feet and bodies to be a reminder to them that they are not alone when they are ill or dying, especially when they are dying. It is a holy moment to be with people in death.

12) Our Hands Tell Our Stories We receive the body of Christ in upturned hands every time we kneel at the altar. And as we kneel and wait, our hands, so unique and revealing about our lives, are made equal.

Forward Friday: Where Physics Meets Metaphysics

If you’ve ever had a philosophy class, you probably know that we get the word “metaphysics” from the placement of books on Aristotle’s bookshelf.  Next to the book he titled Physics was another book without a title, so scholars came to refer to the book as meta-Physics or the-book-after-Physics-on-the-shelf.

As far back as Plato, there has been a conscious separation of the physical and spiritual, as though the two were not intimately intertwined.  One of the profound experiences of the Lenten season is the remarriage between the physical and the spiritual through the spiritual discipline of fasting.  We’ve been talking a lot this week about how fasting allows us to experience our spirituality in a physical way.

1) For this Forward Friday, reflect on how your chosen Lenten fast joins the physical and spiritual sides of your experience together.  Share your thoughts in the comment box below.

2) If you haven’t chosen to observe Lent this year, try choosing to fast for the weekend and come back to share what you noticed about the link between your spiritual and physical life.


Performing Open-Heart Surgery

Since December, I have seen four different doctors and had ten separate appointments. I have undergone multiple tests and procedures–all to rule out causes of my unexplained fatigue.  Now the doctors are at a loss.  Perhaps I have chronic fatigue or some other nebulous disorder or syndrome.  Such things are difficult to diagnose.  But I think I know the real cause of my fatigue.

God as Surgeon

My spiritual director once said that experiencing God’s healing is sometimes like having a surgeon perform complicated, invasive procedures while we are under anesthesia.  When God is doing this kind of healing, she said, it would be too painful and scary for us to be awake and aware of God’s work.  So we are put to sleep.  Then when we awake, our bodies are exhausted and need rest to complete the healing process the Surgeon began in us.

At the time, her analogy didn’t really resonate with me. I was in so much emotional and spiritual pain that I did not know how to let go and rest, allowing God to do the hard work.  I wanted God to show me what needed to be done so I could do the work myself, understand exactly what was happening, and remain in control.

Looking back, my attitude was as ridiculous as my telling a doctor I wanted to perform my own open-heart surgery.  Not only do I have no medical training, but I also would not be able to survive the experience of cutting through my own flesh. The pain would be too great, and the procedure would be too complicated.  If I needed open heart surgery, I would have to trust the surgeon to do a good job. I would have to be anesthetized during the procedure, and then I would have to rest and allow my body to recover afterward.

God as Teacher

Ever since I completed my degree in 2008, God has been teaching me (ironic, no?) how to rest.  I have slowly been learning how to let go of my over-active drive to DO–to be an achiever and to be productive.  I’ve been a terrible student, I must admit, but God is an ever-patient teacher.

Despite my resistance, God performed a great work in me in the past few years, one that I am still not completely sure I understand or know the effects of. Now, my surgery is over.  I have left the operating room, and the anesthesia has worn off.  The hard work is done, and I’m awake!

Physical and Spiritual Rest

My body has been telling me for months that I needed to rest, and I just could not understand why. After stumping half the doctors in this town, I think it’s safe to say that it’s time to give up BEING AWAKE.  The surgery may be over, but the spiritual healing process has only just begun.

Now I must endure a new season of recovery.  I must allow myself to feel the effects of God’s work in me and give myself time to adjust and heal.  That is how I choose to spent this season of Lent. I’m giving up my DO-ER spirit and allowing God to complete the good work begun in me.

So for Lent, I will sleep as many hours as I can.  When I am awake, I will rest in bed as much as I can. My fast may not look very difficult or spiritual, but it is both. I am relinquishing control (again) and allowing God to take care of me–mind, body, and spirit.

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