Monthly Archives: September 2012

We’ve got to be moved by compassion.

 

Anyone who knows me knows I’m not much for politics.

With all the political issues floating around on the web these days, especially with the presidential election so close, I have made it a point to stay out of debates and arguments and keep to the goal of creating a space to think theologically and work out practically what it looks like to have a healthy, holistic understanding of what it means to be a human being — spirit, mind, and body.

But today I’m breaking my rule and getting a little political. Yesterday, President Obama gave a speech on ending human trafficking  and modern day slavery.  If ever there was an issue that coincided directly and intimately with having a holistic body theology, it would be this one.

If you missed the speech, you can read the transcript here.  I included a snippet for you below (emphasis mine):

Of course, no government, no nation, can meet this challenge alone.  Everybody has a responsibility.  Every nation can take action.  Modern anti-trafficking laws must be passed and enforced and justice systems must be strengthened.  Victims must be cared for.  So here in the United States, Congress should renew the Trafficking Victims Protection Act.  Whether you are a conservative or a liberal, Democrat or Republican, this is a no-brainer.  This is something we should all agree on.  We need to get that done.

And more broadly, as nations, let’s recommit to addressing the underlying forces that push so many into bondage in the first place.  With development and economic growth that creates legitimate jobs, there’s less likelihood of indentured servitude around the globe.  A sense of justice that says no child should ever be exploited, that has to be burned into the cultures of every country. A commitment to equality — as in the Equal Futures Partnership that we launched with other nations yesterday so societies empower our sisters and our daughters just as much as our brothers and sons.  (Applause.)

And every business can take action.  All the business leaders who are here and our global economy companies have a responsibility to make sure that their supply chains, stretching into the far corners of the globe, are free of forced labor.  (Applause.)  The good news is more and more responsible companies are holding themselves to higher standards.  And today, I want to salute the new commitments that are being made.  That includes the new Global Business Coalition Against Trafficking — companies that are sending a message:  Human trafficking is not a business model, it is a crime, and we are going to stop it.  We’re proud of them.  (Applause.)

Every faith community can take action as well, by educating their congregations, by joining in coalitions that are bound by a love of God and a concern for the oppressed.  And like that Good Samaritan on the road to Jericho, we can’t just pass by, indifferent.  We’ve got to be moved by compassion.  We’ve got to bind up the wounds.  Let’s come together around a simple truth — that we are our brother’s keepers and we are our sister’s keepers.

And finally, every citizen can take action:  by learning more; by going to the website that we helped create — SlaveryFootprint.org; by speaking up and insisting that the clothes we wear, the food we eat, the products we buy are made free of forced labor; by standing up against the degradation and abuse of women. 

That’s how real change happens — from the bottom up.

Be informed.

Be engaged.

Be the body of Christ.

 

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Making God Visible

Nobody can say “I make God visible,” but others who see us together can say “they make God visible.” Community is where humility and glory meet. – Henri Nouwen

What I tried to say last week with so many words, Nouwen achieves (as always) with a few, well-chosen and profoundly accurate.

Without the body of Christ, we are just fingers and elbows and appendixes.  We need each other, not only for the value of being in community but also for the ability to be — collectively — the image of God in the world.

Participating in the community of God requires preferring the other — letting go of our need to be always right, always first, always best.  But when we are working together through the power of the Holy Spirit, we not only experience God ourselves, but we also create space and opportunity for others to experience God.

This is how we can glorify God and enjoy God forever.

This is how we have been created and designed to be.

This is body theology — the community of God making God visible in the world.

Forward Friday: Reflect [on] the Body [of Christ]

 

This week we talked about what we can learn from each other about God and what we can teach others about God.

This weekend, identify one person in your life who has taught you something about God.  How has that person’s presence and action in your life revealed the truth of God to you?

Extra credit: let that person know how they have impacted your life.  Write a thank you note or letter.  Take them to coffee.  Leave a shout out to them in the comment box below and send them a link.

Then, take some time to reflect on the role you have in the lives of those around you, both within the community of God and beyond.  How will you be the body of Christ in the world?

Come back and share your thoughts in the comment box below, or send me a Facebook message or email. I always love hearing from you!

Shalom, lovely readers! Peace be with you all.

 

From Bent to the Body of Christ

 

On Monday, I shared what  my husband taught me about God. But there’s more to the story of the incarnation (and more to body theology) than our individual connection with God.

The experience is also corporate.  We teach each other about God every day, whether we intend to or not.

We all know the negative impact Christians can have on each other and on the world with careless statements of judgment and intolerance, falls from pedestals into sexual sin or greed, the authoritarian parent who teaches young children to fear punishment, not to mention the dark elements of our Church’s history (Crusades, Inquisition) we’d rather forget.

We understand and interact with God and with each other through the lens of our own experience.  Sometimes our experience has influenced us negatively, but we can also redeem our experience of who God is and who we are because of God through one another.

This is what body theology is all about.  This is why Paul’s metaphor of the community of God as a human body is so apt.  Our corporate (all together, working in unity within our great, beautiful, and necessary diversity) function in the world is to be the body of CHRIST — the community of God encouraging and sharpening one another — and the BODY of Christ — the community of God in action in the world according to the example, teaching, and calling of Jesus.

We have a responsibility to represent the truth about who God is and who we are in Christ to everyone we meet, not just with our mouths but with our actions. 

For all the people in the world  (like me!) who have deep-seated trust issues, we have the opportunity to show people God is trustworthy by being trustworthy ourselves.  For all the people in the world who are at heart struggling with a seemingly unshakable sense of shame and un-loveliness, we have the opportunity to show people God loves them by loving them ourselves.

This is not to glorify ourselves but to work by our small and unique activity in the world to point to the truth that is fuller and greater and more complete than anything we can experience on our own.

For this reason, social justice is necessary.  For this reason, gathering together as the community of God is necessary.  We cannot see the truth fully on our own.  Our individual lenses are small and dirty and fractured.  In the words of C. S. Lewis, we are bent.

We — and by we here I mean every human being — need each other to know the truth of God fully, to experience God fully, through relationship as we have been designed to receive and understand ourselves and the world around us.  We do not exist in a vacuum. We experience our lives among others and in the world.

Whether we like it or not, whether we intend to or not, we are affecting the lives of those around us, and we are representing the truth about God to those around us.

Let’s take advantage of the opportunity to speak (and act) into the lives of others with purpose and intention as we learn more about the truth of God together.

 

Trust and Body Theology: what my husband taught me about God

I saw this tweet last week on Anne Lamott’s feed, and I got to thinking.

In grad school, I took a class called Marriage and Interpersonal Relationships in which the professor talked about how people at bottom have either struggles with shame or trust issues.  Everyone has a little of both, but either shame or trust is the key component in why we think the way we think, why we act the way we act, and why we end up in the conflict cycles in relationships that we end up in.

After a lot of soul-searching (and a paper we had to write), I finally came to the conclusion that I am a trust-issue person.  Somehow, being a shame-issue person seemed better or easier to admit, but when I finally realized the truth about my own woundedness, I began to take steps toward my healing.

I did a lot of work on myself after that, which took years.  I remember something a close friend once said about the healing she experienced in her life (as a shame-issue person).  She said that the final healing came from her husband.

That’s what I thought of when I read that tweet the other day. I thought about all the work I did to undo the learning I had learned growing up that no one was trustworthy and that I had to take care of everything myself.  I thought about all the work I did to learn to do more than say the words with my mouth that God is trustworthy; I also had to believe it in my heart.

But at the end of the day, the final healing came from my relationship with my husband.

When I read that tweet, I thought about how I trust my husband implicitly and completely without the slightest twinge of doubt, suspicion, or jealousy.  If he says he’s working late, I know that means he is.  If he chats on Facebook with an old girlfriend, I know they really are just friends. I know because every single day since the day we met he has proven with his behavior that I can trust him. I know because even when some embarrassingly irrational fear emerged while we were dating, and I acted out, he said the words I needed him to say and behaved the way I needed him to behave to prove to me again that I can trust him. I know because if he could see the irrational, embarrassing side of me with all the woundedness still left unhealed and still want to date me and marry me and love me forever, he was worthy of my trust.

And it made me think about God, too, and how hard it is for me to trust God.  It’s easy to love God, serve God, praise God.  But trust?  For some people, believing that God loves them, that they are love-able, is the hardest thing.  For me, believing God is trustworthy (especially believing that I don’t have to earn it) is the hardest thing.  I’ve been slowly healing from this great lie I believed for years, but the final healing came from my husband.

My aunt once said, famously, that sometimes we just want someone with skin on.  Sometimes, no matter how many Bible verses we memorize or how much theology we learn about who God is and who we are, we just can’t accept the truth until we receive it from someone with skin on.

That is the beauty of the incarnation.  God poured all of that majesty and might and holiness and completeness and divinity into one small, simple, ordinary human being.  After everything we had learned, after all our God-encounters throughout history, we just couldn’t get it until we actually saw, felt, heard, and sat at the feet of someone with skin on.

That’s how we’re made.

If my husband — a fallible human being just like I am — can be this honest, this dependable, this trustworthy, then SURELY how much more so is the God we love and serve and praise?

I’m no fool. I don’t expect my husband to be perfect. I know he is not God. I know he will let me down, hurt me, disappoint me, and maybe even betray my trust in him one day. But through his physical presence in my life, I have been able to experience the truth about who God is.  All the Bible verses in the world couldn’t do that.

That is body theology.

Forward Friday: Are you more physical or digital?

 

Are you more invested in your physical reality or in digital experience?

This week we considered the possible future of the Church and of body theology as we become more and more invested in digital community.

This weekend, take the opportunity to assess your priorities.  Where are you investing your time and energy?

Try the following exercise:

Here’s an example.

1) Take a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle of the page, from top to bottom.  On the left side, write PHYSICAL.  On the right side, write DIGITAL.

2) Throughout the weekend, log the type and duration of your activities.  Anything that plants you firmly in the physical world, write on the left side.  Anything involving digital community, write on the right side.

3) At the end of the weekend, tally up your time spent on each side of the page.  Which side receives more of your attention and investment?

4) Reflect on the results of your exercise.  Are you pleased with the choices you made over the weekend?  Does the amount of time spent accurately reflect the priorities you thought you had?  Did you discover anything new about yourself?

 

 

The Future of Body Theology

On Monday, guest poster Matt Cavanaugh brought up a good point about the changing nature of Church and what the future might bring. He said:

Our world is becoming more isolated physically but more social in a digital sense. I anticipate seeing this trend further, where church (and The Church) is becoming more about what is convenient for our busy schedules. I anticipate people’s spending less time in chapels and more at home with virtual socialization.

So, lovely readers, you are the body theology buffs now.  What do you think?

On the one hand, we have the passing of the peace that Matthew van Maastricht mentioned in the comments to Monday’s post.  We have the seven desires of every heart, one of which is to be physically touched in a safe and non-sexual way. We have the universally accepted healing power of physical touch (ever seen that Vicks Vapo Rub commercial where the mommy is comforting her sick child by rubbing his chest with Vicks?).  Then, of course, there’s the laying on of hands we see in scripture and continue to use today as a physical expression of spiritual support, prayer, healing, and blessing.

On the other hand, we have at least 10 merits of digital community.

A more digitized community might make us more conscious of and intentional about the need for physical connection.  Or it might numb us to the need for human touch and create disembodied communities full of people disconnected from their own bodies as well as the physicality of the incarnation and the body of Christ.

We might be more inclined to follow the example of the desert mothers and fathers and separate ourselves from society for the purpose of prayer and contemplation.  Or we might lose our passion for social justice and creation care and consider them nothing more than the cares of the world that will soon pass away.

What do you think will be the outcome of a more digitized community of God in the future?  Will it affect our body theology positively or negatively?

Guest Post: The Future of Church

I’m extremely proud and grateful to host a guest post from my wonderful, brilliant husband, Matt Cavanaugh.  In addition to the privilege of being married to me, Matt is a musical composer, avid hiker, and lover of all things REI.  He holds a masters in Worship, Theology, and Art from Fuller Seminary as well as undergraduate degrees in psychology, theology, and church and ministry leadership from Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, IL. Find more from Matt at his website.

God created us each with purpose in mind. It could be purpose as in singular or purposes as in plural. But we’ve been created with — what I believe scripture would support — a ton of intention. (Is there a person who has read Jeremiah out there who can give me an “Amen”?) Not only do we have a purposeful existence, but we also have a purposeful time and location.

I believe that we are living at a very important point in Church history. We’re coming out of the Seeker/Modernist movement and a shorter but important Emergent/Postmodern movement… and now we’re in what I’d consider an idling spot. If we are talking about cars, we have our car still on but at a red light, awaiting a green to move forward and go to the next place.

And so I ask… what is this next spot? This next movement/evolution/step?

Is it the pendulum swinging back towards the more conservative movement (ala Neo-Reformists like Piper, Driscoll, etc…)?

Or is it more progressive?

Or, to think more multidimensionally, is it not a question of more liberal/more conservative or progressive/regressive but instead an entire paradigm shift?

God created us at turning point, and I believe that each of us has a role that requires our integrity and intention. God’s purposes are great for Creation; I believe that (and hope you do too!), and we have been invited to play a part in this wonderful drama of God’s world.

What is your role? I’m not necessarily talking Strengthfinders 2.0 or Myers-Briggs but instead your ROLE. How is/will God use you to further the growth and development of the Kingdom? How will your existence be important to the further unveiling of God’s heart and Plan? (This is not rhetorical… I really would love to hear your answers!)

What might be God moving us towards next?

I have a feeling that the next movement will have to do less with theology and more with physical and emotional socialization. Our world is becoming more isolated physically but more social in a digital sense. I anticipate seeing this trend further, where church (and The Church) is becoming more about what is convenient for our busy schedules. I anticipate people’s spending less time in chapels and more at home with virtual socialization. Maybe someone will figure out a way to create increased digital social community, more developed and fulfilling than what we have already.

How would this more digital and physically isolated experience of the community of God affect our body theology?

Regardless of what the future holds, know this: You have purpose. I have purpose. God is purposeful. Let’s be intentional as we play our part in the future of Church.

Forward Friday: Finding God in the Physical

This week we talked about how I learned to find God not in the voice in my head but in the voice of a thousand mundane, ordinary, regular, unexceptional, physical things that mean that I’m ALIVE and DOING something outside in the world with other people.

This weekend, take some time to reflect on the past week, month, or year of your life.  You could journal, go for a walk, or share with a friend.

When did you feel most connected to God?

What activities, events, or movements created space for that connection to take place? 

Were you in your head or in your physical reality?

If you’re having trouble getting started, I highly recommend Miles to Run Before We Sleep: Step-by-Step Meditations and Reflections toward a Life of Persevering, Risk-taking, Justice, Mercy, and Humility by Tim Hoekstra.

Tim has an amazing ministry and life story to share, and my husband and I were very honored to have been married by him last April.  I’m excited to start Tim’s devotional this weekend and may be sharing some insights here in the coming weeks.

…and we’re back!

My August “pause and quietly think about” turned out to be more of a “work like crazy for three weeks and then go on a road trip.”  I didn’t get as much time for silence and reflection as I had planned, but what I did get was a whole seven total days without one single moment of work.

Todd Lake, Oregon
copyrighted

My husband and I drove almost 3,000 miles on our road trip through central California, northern California and Oregon, went on one backpacking trip (one night), enjoyed seven different hikes (eight if you count walking along the smoky rim of Crater Lake), stayed in four different hotels, and visited with two sets of Oregonian friends — transplants from Chicago.

My brain got a glorious break from all the rushing and working and pushing and preparing I squeezed into three weeks before our trip.

But my body — oh my!

Here’s the thing I like about body theology.  Since I first heard the term, sitting in that little third-floor classroom at Fuller Seminary about midway through my  program, my world has opened up.  I have been pushed and stretched and challenged to think about my body, my SELF, as part of my theology, as a full participant in the spiritual encounter of God in my life.

The thing I like about body theology is that it keeps me grounded.  It reminds me that the ordinary, the physical, the tangible, the real, the messy, the mundane, the accessible — this is all part of how we were created to experience the fullness of life and completion of joy that we have been promised.

Theology seems like a heady, ethereal, intellectual, intangible mist that we grasp for but can never really, fully reach.  Theology is such an distant, academic word.

But body theology brings all that misty intangibility into focus, gives it form, makes it grasp-able in the most literal sense.  Body theology is something we can hold onto.

Weaver Lake, Sequoya National Forest, California
copyrighted

As Matt and I hiked up and down mountains, slept in tents, wandered behind waterfalls, slogged through flooded meadows, drove miles and miles and miles (and even through a tree!), I wasn’t having intellectual epiphanies about my spiritual life or about God.

I was using my muscles.
I was pushing myself uphill till I nearly had an asthma attack.
I was lugging a too-large, half-empty backpack I borrowed.
I was squirming in the passenger seat.
I was being lulled to sleep by the motion of the car as the miles peeled away under our speeding bodies.
I was alternately pushing sleeping-Matt and getting pushed by sleeping-Matt out of the too-small beds in our cheap motels.
I was racing the sundown to the top of a mountain.
I was stretching my sore legs and eating breakfast for lunch and snapping an unmanageable amount of digital photos and listening to a good book being read badly on audio CD and enjoying being on vacation with my husband and hanging out with his Chicago-to-Oregon friends and blowing my dripping nose on wads of toilet paper as we hiked under tall pines and complaining that my back was killing me and massaging my husband’s neck as we drove and a thousand other mundane, ordinary, regular, unexceptional, physical things that mean that I’m ALIVE and DOING something outside in the world with other people.

It’s easy to live in my head because I work from home and have very limited community in a town we are still adjusting to living in after just over a year of settling in.  It’s easy to live in my head because I’m an introvert and a writer and prefer digital communication over picking up a phone.

Mostly it’s easy to live in my head because there is still a part of me that believes that in my head is where I will meet God, where I will mentally understand and logically decide and cognitively interact with the intangible-spirit-being that I grew up loving and seeking and learning to find with my mind. Faith seeking understanding.

That part of me is still pretty big and loud and commanding of much of my time and energy. But the part of me that is small and quiet and unassuming, the part of me that gives instead of takes, the part of me that is learning to rest and be instead of work and do, that part of me — the part that woke up the day I first heard about body theology in that little third-floor classroom — that part of me found its voice this past week in the mundane and ordinary, in the exercise and outdoors and movement from place to place.

That voice isn’t as loud or commanding as the voice of my head.  But oh, how it sings!

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