Monthly Archives: November 2012

29 Truths I would tell my younger self

I turned 29 recently and have been reflecting on my life’s journey thus far. I have come a long way personally and spiritually and am no longer the person I was when I was in high school or college.  If I could go back in time and talk to my younger self, here’s what I would say:

29 Truths I would tell my younger self

  1. It gets better. I promise.  Keep on keeping on until it does.
  2. Know who you are.  When your identity is sure, you will stop believing the lies other people tell you about who you are.
  3. You are beautiful and worth loving.  You will fall in love and get married sooner than you think.  Live with confidence in who you are.
  4. Let people in. They may bring pain, but they may also bring healing and joy.
  5. God loves you. No, really.
  6. Stand up for yourself. Ignoring the problem behavior only makes them try harder to hurt you. Show some backbone and they’ll never have the guts to cross you again.
  7. Acknowledge pain others caused you, deal with it, and then move on.  Pretending it didn’t hurt doesn’t make it true.
  8. You don’t have to be always right.
  9. You don’t always have to prove you are right to everyone else. Sometimes it’s more important to maintain a relationship and open conversation.
  10. It’s okay to let go.  You don’t have  to carry everything all at once.
  11. It’s okay to fail. The world will not fall apart. Plus, you can always try again.
  12. Practice self-care.  Rest is as productive and necessary as work.
  13. You don’t have to take care of everyone all the time forever. Share the burden. Give people the opportunity to learn to care for themselves.
  14. Quoting Bible verses to support your argument to people who don’t read the Bible can be alienating.  Meet people where they are.
  15. Allow people to be who they are, where they are in their personal growth, and trust that God will get them where they need to go in time.  Offer people the same gentle patience God shows you.
  16. Instead of focusing on what divides, look for common ground, what unites people, and build on that foundation.
  17. Be willing to admit you could be wrong.
  18. Admit when you’re wrong.
  19. Your voice has power. Speak.
  20. Pace yourself.
  21. Don’t judge others. I know you think you don’t, but you do. Stop it.
  22. Have more compassion.
  23. Show more compassion.
  24. Life is not black-and-white. God is not black-and-white.
  25. Stop correcting people’s grammar out loud.  People make mistakes. Don’t rub their faces in it.
  26. You think you’re motivated by love, but you’re not. You’re motivated by fear. Let go of the fear, and there will  be room for the love.
  27. Own your mistakes. Say you’re sorry. Make it right. Pretending it didn’t happen does not make it true.
  28. All-or-nothing is easy, but it’s not healthy. Aim for the happy middle.
  29. Keep writing. It will save you.
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The Spiritual Practice of Exercise…the long way around

When Borders was closing and offering 75%-off-all-products-and-fixtures-everything-must-go, my husband and I happened to walk by a branch in the Arcadia Mall on date night after we had treated ourselves to a luxurious meal at Cheesecake Factory.  We were splurging because Matt had just received a promotion at work, and we were preparing to move  to a place with NO Cheesecake Factory (gasp! where will we eat?).

We wandered around the store — a mess of piles and clearance bins and empty, dusty fixtures — and ended up in the health section.  Although I have never been one for arbitrary exercise routines and workouts (I hate being told what to do, how to do it, and for how long.), I took a Pilates class in college that I really enjoyed. Out of curiosity, I picked up a Pilates video, and 10 minutes later I was walking out with five different DVDs and a complementary resistance band.  After all, they were 75% off.

And they sat on a shelf gathering dust, along with my Yoga mat (Do they actually MAKE Pilates mats? I’ve never seen one for sale, but Yoga mats are everywhere.) and Pilates circle — leftovers from my college days when I thought I might actually have the discipline to exercise on my own.

Until this weekend.

You may have noticed I haven’t been around the blog much lately. If I were a better blogger, I would have had extra posts already written and saved for a rainy day, but I am not a better blogger. I am just me.  So when I reinjured my neck and shoulder (a gift from an old car accident that just keeps on giving) and couldn’t move an inch for five days without screaming and sobbing, blogging was the last thing on my mind.

The first thing on my mind was how I couldn’t believe it had only been four months since the last time I reinjured myself.  The rest of the time I spent alternating between despair that this will be my life forever (What happens when we have kids one day and I CAN’T stay in bed for five days?) and hope that there is something I can possibly do to spare my body further reinjury (Maybe there’s a magic surgery all the physical therapists and chiropractors I’ve seen have forgotten to mention).  And I slept a lot.

And I thought about the cathartic post I would write for you lovely readers when I could bear to type again.

I was all set to write one of my lament posts so I could vent about how sucky it is to have a recurring injury and chronic pain.  I was going to list all the ways my body has failed me and why I think I deserve better.  I was going to complain about how limited I feel (I don’t even know HOW I reinjured myself this time around.), how depressing it is to feel 80 when I’m still in my twenties (technically, anyway), and how negatively the pain affects my spiritual life and walk with God (there’s a lot of anger, for one, and a sense of injustice).

I’m sure that post will get written one day, probably sooner than I’d like.  It is recurring and chronic after all.  But today is not the day for complaining and venting.  Today is the day for solutions, for looking forward and taking charge of what I can do to aid my recovery.  Today is the day I stop blaming my body for failing me and accept responsibility for the state I’m in.  Today is the day I move on with my life.

At least, in theory.

Once I could bear computer work again, I did some internet research on my condition and how to treat (and hopefully cure) it.  After a few hours, I came to the conclusion that the trained professionals in my life were not, after all, lying to me or hiding from me the magic cure I was hoping for.  I was doing all the things the internet (and the doctors) told me to do.

All except one thing.  I didn’t have a daily exercise routine targeting and accommodating for my injury.

In truth, I have been terrified of reinjuring myself through exercise and weight training.  My rule of thumb has always been to baby the injured muscle as much as possible and hope that works.  (Evidently hoping does not have the magical properties I was counting on.)

So this weekend I opened all those Pilates DVDs that have been gathering dust for almost two years. I pulled off all the wrapping and sticky stuff (How do people ever steal these things? They’re impossible to open!) and stuck them, one after another, into the DVD slot on my laptop.  I fast forwarded through every routine on every disc and found the ones that would target my injury and best benefit my overall health without taking too much of my day or requiring me to sweat.

On Sunday morning, I woke up naturally (no alarm), made myself a cup of tea (Earl Grey, loose leaf, with a touch of sugar and a drop of almond milk), and followed along with the first routine: a five-minute segment on concentrated breathing while sitting on the edge of a chair.

And then I went about my day.

The hardest part of being all-or-nothing is taking baby steps.  I’m terrible at moving incrementally.  But what I am good at is planning ahead, and with the help of my husband (who always helps me keep the pace), I planned out my increments in advance.  I couldn’t do all the shoulder stretching (I still can’t turn my neck all the way to the left, and putting my right arm behind my back is impossible if I expect to breathe at the same time.), but once my muscle recovers enough, I will be able to add in the “Pilates for Stretching” segment I picked out.  Then once the pain subsides to its usual dull ache and tightness, I will be ready to add in the segment targeting arms and shoulders (though I’ll modify the exercises by doing the motions only without the weights).

That will make a total 25 minute exercise routine.  Can I do this every day? Yes, of course I am capableWill I? If I ever want to stop reinjuring myself at every odd moment, then yes, I will have to figure out how to motivate myself to be disciplined.

And here at the very end we get to the point of it all.  Our physical activity is limited to — and inspired by — our mental and spiritual activity.

What has been blocking my ability to get into an exercise routine? My fear that exercise will hurt, and that it will make my body worse instead of better.  It is also blocked by my distaste for being told what to do, which touches on a deeper fear of not being in control — in other words, the fear of being forced to submit to something that may cause me harm.

So, ultimately, my inability to experience healing in my body is a result of fear.  As I try the morning concentrated breathing routine (which incorporates a brief moment of visualizing energy moving throughout the body), it will be important for me to allow the Holy Spirit to enter into my experience and cast out that deeply ro0ted fear with God’s perfect love.  I have also decided to use a breath prayer spiritual exercise as I make my tea to prepare me for the breathing routine in which I will recite that verse.

In this way, I will incorporate my spiritual self (the breath prayer), my mental self (visualizing the Holy Spirit as the energy moving through my body and letting go of the fear that is holding me back), and my physical self (following the Pilates plan I have prepared).  This spiritual practice, like all spiritual practices, requires intentionality, focus, and discipline.

This connection between the tangible and the intangible is what Holistic Body Theology is all about.  Practicing the Spiritual Practice of Exercise (intentionally incorporating elements of the spiritual and the mental into the experience of the physical) is a perfect representation of holistic living into the complete and full life in Christ that we have been promised.

Go forth, my lovely readers, and do likewise.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hello, lovely readers! I know I’ve been MIA here at Holistic Body Theology while I’m recovering from a recurring neck injury.  Just a note to let you know I look forward to getting back into the swing of things next week.

Until then, have a fun-filled, yummy-food-filled, good-friends-and-family-filled Thanksgiving tomorrow!

This year I’m thankful for each of you — for your kind and supportive emails, Facebook messages, blog comments, and all the deep conversations we’ve had over the last few months.  I’m thankful for the opportunity to keep thinking theologically and exploring practically what it looks like to live into healthy, holistic experience of God — mind, body, and spirit.  And I’m thankful that I’ve been fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God, adopted by grace through faith in the incarnate Christ into the family of God, and indwelt with the mighty, beautiful, life-changing power of the Holy Spirit — and so have you!

Happy Thanksgiving!

This year, what are YOU thankful for?

 

Is Farting Spritual?

No.

And yes.

How do we define what physical experiences are also spiritual experiences? It depends on our perspective, motivation, orientation, and intention.

In The Practice of the Presence of God, Brother Lawrence talks about how he experienced God while doing something as mundane as scrubbing the big soup pots at the monastery:

So, likewise, in his business in the kitchen (to which he had naturally a great aversion), having accustomed himself to doing everything there for the love of God, and with prayer upon all occasions, for His grace to do his work well, he had found everything easy, during fifteen years that he had been employed there. (14)

Further, he talks about the denial of the flesh for the support of spiritual pursuit as having little positive effect in itself. Rather, it was his orientation toward God that had positive spiritual effect:

That all bodily mortifications and other exercises are useless, except as they serve to arrive at the union with God by love; that he had well considered this, and found it the shortest way to go straight to Him by a continual exercise of love, and doing all things for His sake. (15)

Not everything that happens in our physical bodies has spiritual benefit– and likewise, not everything that we attempt in our minds has spiritual benefit.  What makes our actions and efforts spiritual is not whether they take place in the physical or mental world but whether they are oriented toward God.

In this way, eating lunch can be spiritual — or not.

Reading scripture can be spiritual — or not.

Washing dishes can be spiritual — or not.

Going to church can be spiritual — or not.

Taking a walk can be spiritual — or not.

Praying can be spiritual — or not.

Having sex can be spiritual — or not.

Singing a hymn can be spiritual — or not.

Even farting can be spiritual — or not.

I don’t know about you, but I have had some of my most profound experiences of God while sitting on the toilet or lounging in the bathtub. It may not be the most “appropriate” setting for meeting the Creator, but our God is not as disturbed by our basic bodily functions as we might have been trained to expect.

When we engage our bodies and minds together in an orientation, a mindset, a focus toward opening ourselves to the counter-cultural and unexpected work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we might just be surprised at the avenues God uses to reach us with words of grace, mercy, conviction, and kindness.

Just like Brother Lawrence, we can learn to experience God while we are performing our least preferred tasks — like washing dishes.  God is ready and willing to meet us in whatever moment we are available and listening — whether we are sitting in the church pew or passing gas in the privacy of our boudoirs.  There is no situation in which God is not capable of entering and showing us more of who God is and who we are because of God’s presence in our lives.

So next time you let one go, take the opportunity to let God speak into and through the basic, bodily experience of being alive in Christ.

You might be surprised what God can do with a little breaking wind!

Holiness, Beauty, and Body Image

How do we engage culture and image and dialogue with truth?

Is there anything holy to be found in our visually driven culture?

If the line between secular and sacred is truly blurred, then how do we bring the holiness of God into our cultural conversations about what is beautiful?

In my own experience, it has been very healing to speak God’s truth into the lies I received from culture about my body image that I believed for so long without even being aware of their influence. This is one reason having a holistic body theology is so important and why I have dedicated my blog to writing about it. We have forgotten who we are.  We have forgotten who we have been created to be.  Educating people about ways to deconstruct the advertising and entertainment industries can go a long way in bringing truth into cultural light.

Take, for example, Alison Jackson‘s photographs and her discussion of voyeurism in this TedTalk from 2009.  In the video she describes how photography seduces us into believing things that aren’t true or into seeing things that we want to be true even when they aren’t possible:

I’m fascinated how what you think is real isn’t necessarily real. The camera can lie, and it makes it very, very easy with the mass bombardment of imagery to tell untruths. (Alison Jackson)

Our consumerist culture buys into nearly anything these days that will feed into the need for instant gratification. Marketing and advertising firms spend their resources on finding out what we wish were true or what we wish we were and then coming up with ways to exploit our wishes by making us feel inadequate, making us feel the need of something we didn’t even know we wanted — and suddenly that need is urgent and insatiable.

In other words, we are driven by fear.

Fear — which is the opposite of faith– and sin — which certainly gets in the way of experiencing God’s holiness — are the roots of many body image issues, especially in our western culture.  There is that appealing quality about Gnosticism, for instance, which perpetuates the fear that the body will somehow hinder the soul’s search for enlightenment or perfection or completion. Or that fear of being out of control, which is certainly a known root cause of many eating disorders.

But we were given bodies, and our bodies were pronounced good — a fact we often forget in our effort to retain control.

We need to be reminded that experiencing abundant life necessitates a willingness to release control and by doing so open ourselves up to experience something extraordinary, something unknown, something beautiful — which is the work of the Holy Spirit within us.

Next time you stand in line at the grocery store and stare at all those magazine covers, ask yourself what messages culture is sending you and whether those messages are designed to send you into a spiral of fear and sin or to open you up to the quiet beauty that is the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

What cultural messages have you noticed recently? Share your experience in the comment box below.  Let’s grow together in our discernment of culture and the media.

Holiness and Beauty: A Meditation

Being an amateur philosopher and a lover of the liberal arts, beauty and aesthetics have always fascinated me. The image of God as Creator, the ultimate source of creativity, has inspired unspeakable awe and wonder. The idea that beauty embodies holiness, or that we may find holiness in the experience of beauty (visually or through the beautiful act or the recognition of beautiful character), sends me back to my undergrad days, reading Socrates and Plato and Aristotle, meditating on the character and mind of God.

God’s holiness is reflected in the beauty of the earth God has created—with just a word! What creative power that Word holds! We, in response, can participate in that holiness when we participate in beauty—enjoying it and creating it.

Consider Isaiah 58:11 and Matthew 6:28-33. What do they tell us about God?

The nature imagery grabs my attention: the well-watered garden, the sun-scorched desert, the splendor of Solomon, the lilies of the field. And then the context of these verses strikes me: Isaiah 58:11 comes as a promise in the midst of fasting, observing the Sabbath, and serving the poor and marginalized.  Matthew 6:28 comes in the midst of the sermon on the mount, as Jesus taught his listeners how to live and serve God.

These passages, these promises, require action on our parts. They require response!

Yet they also promise — in the midst of stress, grief, brokenness, doubt, uncertainty about the future — that God will sustain. They promise that whether we bear concerns of finances, employment, community, love, wisdom and discernment, gifts (creative, intellectual, or spiritual), God will provide.

My mind leaps from scripture to scripture.

Psalm 8—what are human beings that God is mindful of us?

Psalm 42—the deer pants for water.

Isaiah 6—the imagery-laden call in God’s throne room.

Revelation 22:17 – all who are thirsty come to the river of life.

1 Kings 10:23-25—an account of Solomon’s glory. Particularly with Solomon, I think it’s interesting that with all we can do and create on our own, with all the glory that Solomon amassed, it cannot hold a candle to the creative word of God that would speak a lily into existence.

God’s creativity and beauty, like God’s holiness, are so wholly other; yet we are made in the image of that creative and beautiful and holy God, and our words contain the power to create as well.

John 15:1-17—the fruit of the vine that results when we abide in the vine that is Jesus. It is from God that we get our creative gifts, but to use them properly and to their full abundance, we must remain attached to the God through whom flows that creative power. That holiness. That holy, holy, holy holiness. Otherwise we are nothing more than Solomon’s glory, amazing for a moment but lost forever after.

Psalm 29 – the beauty of holiness, this is not a new thought! The Israelites understood this deep connection between beauty and holiness, this innate part of God’s glory that must be recognized and responded to. This creativity is what we were created for (Gen 1-2), to bring forth fruit from the earth.

God provides. God sustains. God — by that creative word — speaks life into us, and we in turn are able to speak life into each other, into the world.

What a holy, beautiful truth.

 

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