Category Archives: Guest post

Guest Post Series: Five Questions on…Church (with Chris)

fivequestionsonChurch

with Chris Nelson

1) Describe your relationship to/experience with church or other Christian communities.  If it has changed over time, describe the change.

As a kid I would go to church on Easter and Christmas with my Grandpa. It was definitely his community and it was a place we were invited into on those days. In high-school I had some friends that attended church and then it became a place where you could just hang out, on weekdays, not just holidays. After becoming involved in that church Sunday mornings became a time to grow in relationship with the whole congregation, young and old and share that experience of church with each other.
 
Now that we have settled into our church here in Colorado Springs, I see it very much as “the body of Christ” in the way that we all need to bring our gifts and skills to serve and provide a different function of the body. I think this approach has been amplified recently as several families, even families that had been at the church for 20+ years left because the church refused to leave the denomination over the issue of homosexual ordination.
 

2) How has that relationship/experience affected the way you think about your body and/or your self-image?

Honestly not much. I theoretically understand the connection between how we understand the two and I can explain it as such to people but in general the movement goes the other way. How I understand my body and my self image affects the relationship/experience of church. In general I try to take care of my body but don’t always do the best job. In order to combat that I try to develop habits that allow that to happen. Sometimes I am successful, sometimes I am not.
 

3) How has that relationship/experience affected the way you relate to others?

It helps me to deal with people that do not think like me or do not have the same skills that I do. Instead of simply writing them off as having nothing to add because they are not “on my team”. I try instead to see how their unique functions might be a part of the body of Christ.
 
Again, all this is theoretically informing how I act and I am by no means saying that I always accomplish this way of thinking.
 

4) How has that relationship/experience affected your spiritual life?

Primarily in understanding that my spiritual life is inextricably tied to the spiritual life of those around me. I can’t go it alone and need others to grow with and also be held accountable by. If I try to go it on my own, then it is all about me and I don’t think that is the ultimate goal of spiritual formation.
 
Slightly relatedly I also establish patterns of taking care of my body (jogging, eating right..) and try to apply those to my spiritual life (serving, attending worship, reading the bible, praying). Like exercise it is much easier to do with other people around you though there are times when going alone is nice too.
 

5) What word of wisdom or encouragement would you offer other people on a similar journey?

Everything is connected. As much as we like to be lone rangers, and as much as our culture shapes us into believing that is the ultimate goal, it goes against the way we are made.
 
Just like your body is messy, so is community, it is not always going to be smooth sailing but if my hearing starts to give me problems the solution is not to cut off my ears, it is to find hearing aids, to support the function that is faltering.
 

What about you?

Have your own answers to these questions? Why not share them? Email your responses and a recent picture to bodytheologyblog at gmail dot com.  You can also post anonymously if you wish.

Guest Post Series: Five Questions on…Pregnancy (with Lisa)

fivequestionsonPregnancy

with Lisa Nelson

1) Describe your experience with pregnancy (trying, discovering, being, labor/delivery, after).

Pregnancy with Malia was new and exciting since I had never been pregnant before. I experienced a lot of firsts with her, like feeling her move the first time which was crazy and foreign 🙂 I loved being pregnant, and was so excited when we found out we were pregnant with her. I knew even before the pregnancy test that I was pregnant because I had heart burn which I had never had before, so I thought something was different. I remember the first time I saw the ultrasound of her, I cried seeing her little heartbeat flutter on the monitor! 
 
After having Malia we decided to start trying for baby number 2 about two and half years later. We were super excited when we found out we were pregnant. We had shared with our families when I was six weeks pregnant. During my seventh week, I miscarried the baby. We were heart broken by the loss. About four months after our loss we discovered I was pregnant again. We didn’t share it with anyone because we were very fearful of the possibility of losing another baby. I don’t think I actually told anyone until into my second trimester, and even then we didn’t know how to share. For me I had a lot of fear about losing the baby. 
 
When I was 25 weeks pregnant, I had a heart procedure after finding out that I had an arrhythmia. I was super scared of losing the baby, but because my heart continued to race at a rapid heart rate both my heart and OB docs decided the safest thing for both of us was to operate. So I had a heart procedure (which I was awake for). Fortunately I could feel the baby move during the procedure which calmed my nerves.  
 
When I was 33 weeks pregnant, I had a test come back that was positive for signs of preterm labor and was put on bed rest. You can imagine the fear I had of the baby being born to early and the possibility of losing him. Micah was born 10 days early, and was big and healthy! I was relieved after his birth when I got to hold him, see him, and touch him knowing he was finally with us and safe. 
 
While on bed rest with Micah I had a lot of time to reflect on being pregnant. I loved it, even though I was uncomfortable and tired of being in bed. And even after everything I went through with Micah’s pregnancy I wouldn’t have changed anything.
 

2) How has that experience affected the way you think about your body and/or your self-image?

After my miscarriage, I had a lot of doubts about myself. I thought maybe God didn’t think I was a good enough mom to Malia and that this was His way of telling me I shouldn’t have another baby. Eventually I felt His healing in those areas of woundedness and realized I am a good mom, but like all moms have challenges. I struggled with my body image more after Micah was born because I was frustrated that I couldn’t fit into my clothes and felt like I didn’t have time to exercise or do anything for myself.
 
After Micah was 5 months old, I realized that I was struggling with postpartum depression. I didn’t see the signs myself, but Chris and my close friends had noticed changes in my behaviors. Looking back I realized that I felt like a terrible mom who couldn’t do anything for my family.
 
Now I’m feeling better and being treated for the depression, thankfully I’m much more like myself again, and I can see more clearly that having children and balancing my life looks different than I anticipated, but I do love my children, my husband, and even myself. I realize that no mom is perfect, and that my body will never be the same, but then it never has stayed the same.
 
As for my body… I do fit into my clothes again and actually have dropped a size… probably because of nursing and running after two kids all day. But I still have marks on my tummy from where Micah stretched me out, and my skin is not toned, but I’m okay with that. I actually laugh at it sometimes because it reminds me how much bigger I was with Micah than I was with Malia. If you saw me you would agree 🙂 My tummy was much more stretched by him, but he was also almost 2 lbs. bigger!
 

3) How has that experience affected the way you relate to others?

I think I am able to look at even the moms who I think are perfect, and realize that they too are managing in the best ways they can, and while they make some things look so easy they are probably struggling in other areas. I think I also have a greater understanding of the fact that after children we don’t have the same energy we use to, and therefore sometimes things like exercise and eating right get thrown out the door because we’re too tired, or eating on the go in between balancing the kids naps, meals, nursing, and other activities.
 
I find that I relate more to moms who feel like life is always on the go and that having a family is a juggling act. I learn a lot from moms who can give me advice on the importance of time alone, or “quiet time” for mom. I also find that I’m more vulnerable to share what’s going on with me because I know that if I can talk about what I’m going through and experiencing, my guess is that someone else has been there or is also there and can relate.
 

4) How has that experience affected your spiritual life?

I’m learning more about patience and grace daily. Patience for my kids and grace for myself. I’m not a super mom, even though I joke about being one. I’d like to think I’m super enough for what God’s given me.
 
I do find that my quiet times are not like they use to be. I miss having time alone, but I realize that my prayer life goes through seasons and those seasons affect my spiritual journey. I’m discovering that I spend more time praying in the car, in the shower, and when I’m nursing Micah than when I can carve out my own quiet space. So I look forward to times when Chris can take both kids and give me a few hours of quiet that I can refresh myself.
 
Having kids makes me wonder about how God feels about us as his children… life gets busy regardless of kids and feels exhausting… yet God always finds and makes time for us.
 

5) What word of wisdom or encouragement would you offer other people on a similar journey?

Give yourself lots of grace. God knows what you are going though and more than likely you are not alone. Find people you trust that you can talk with or sit with. Take deep breaths and remind yourself that your kids are a blessing, and imagine the way God is smiling at you even when you do crazy things.

 

 
 

What about you?

Have your own answers to these questions? Why not share them? Email your responses and a recent picture to bodytheologyblog at gmail dot com.  You can also post anonymously if you wish.

 

Guest Post Series: Five Questions on…Exercise (with George)

fivequestionsonExercise

with George Ratchford

1) Describe your relationship to/experience with exercise. If it has changed over time, describe the change.

I have never been one to exercise for the sake of exercise. I need a goal or a purpose. In the past I have stayed in shape so that I can play sports and be strong for surfing. It’s also for the purpose of feeling better, sleeping better, and self-confidence. Recently, I trained for my first ever half-marathon. The great purpose was to raise money for clean water wells in Africa through Team World Vision. I trained with a team of 30 people from two churches. It was communal, it had a greater purpose and allowed me to push myself to new limits.

2) How has that relationship/experience affected the way you think about your body and/or your self-image?

It makes a lot of difference. I feel sharper mentally and spiritually. I feel like I look better and have a better “bounce” to my step. It just feels good.

3) How has that relationship/experience affected the way you relate to others?

Since it is mostly about sports and surfing it has all been connected to the relational side of things. The recent Team World Vision experience was phenomenal as it connected the team on a deeply spiritual level.

4) How has that relationship/experience affected your spiritual life?

Brings me discipline. Gets me outside. Allows me to connect with others. These are not always the most powerfully spiritual moments, yet they have a way of drawing my attention to God more often. So I would say that it affects it in a subtle yet profound way. It is a discipline that keeps me filled with joy and Christ said he came to bring us a fullness to life (John 10:10).

5) What word of wisdom or encouragement would you offer other people on a similar journey?

Allow exercise to fit into the Great Commandment. Make sure the discipline is a part of loving God with your entire self. Also, to use it as a way of self care and loving one’s self more deeply (confidence). Lastly, make sure exercise is communal in some aspects so it allows you to connect with your neighbor.
 
IMG_2982
 

What about you?

Have your own answers to these questions? Why not share them? Email your responses and a recent picture to bodytheologyblog at gmail dot com.  You can also post anonymously if you wish.

Guest Post Series: Five Questions on…Dating/Singleness (with Tammy)

fivequestionsonDating/Singleness

with Tammy Waggoner

1) Describe your relationship to/experience with dating/singleness.  If it has changed over time, describe the change.

Hmm. I’ve been single for 31 almost 32 years. For the most part I consider my relationship with singleness like riding a roller coaster. There are times where I’m perfectly fine, I look at families or couples and I’m happy for them without a hint of bitterness. But I admit to times where I am absolutely bitter toward everyone else that has exactly what I want.
 
It’s funny because I was a boy chaser even when I was a kid. In Elementary school I used to trade boyfriends like pudding cups at lunch. I would chase boys hoping that one would be my boyfriend.  In High School that didn’t change much, I was now chasing them around the church and kissing them in the red room (a day care room with a bright red EXIT sign). In college I was still boy crazy and went to parties kissing boys and sitting on their laps. I was a tease but I always had a man on my arm and at bars I always had a dance partner.
 
In my adulthood I have dated using less out there forms of trying to be in a relationship. I’m internet dating which brings its own stigmas and problems. 
 
I know that I am complete in my singleness. I am a complete person who sometimes gets lonely and misses the fun of being in relationship during the in-between times of relationship. I’m not looking for someone to complete me just a partner in crime.
 

2) How has that relationship/experience affected the way you think about your body and/or your self-image?

My self-image is pretty intact. There are moments when I doubt my ability to catch a mate but that rarely has to do with my self-image or my body image. Most of the time it has to do with how much of myself I should show at the beginning or even at the superficial stage of a relationship. My body image is pretty healthy but I do have certain parts of myself I wish I could change.
 
The one thing that I wish I could change is my brokenness. I have a past that is full of damage and brokenness and scars and there are times when those scars seem insurmountable. But other times they feel behind me. So it’s a toss up. Not quite like a roller coaster, more like I take two steps forward and seem to take one step back so that I am constantly getting somewhere while also being stuck in the past, a contradiction no matter how you look at it. 
 
No matter my past and brokenness, I love me. I love my tattoo even if that make others turn away from me. I love my glasses even if they present my smarts on the outside, let’s get serious there’s no way to hide them. I love my breasts, their just the right size and I’m proud of them, for years it was like two bee stings :). I love my legs, they’re long and yet I’m short. I love my dainty hands and my hips and my eyes and some-days my hair, but that’s mostly because I’m growing it out and the in-between stage is annoying. I am completely happy with me, which I think makes me less likely to fall for any line or anyone because I am confident in who I am and what I offer and bring to a relationship from the inside out.
 

3) How has that relationship/experience affected the way you relate to others?

I kind of already answered this above but I’ll give it another go just in case :). Because my self-image inside and out is strong I represent a strong person. I relate to people from a real place with real understanding of who I am and I hope it doesn’t come off as arrogant but I’ve learned along the way that changing yourself for another person does nothing for you. In the end you lose part of yourself and miss out on something because you chose not to be yourself.
 

4) How has that relationship/experience affected your spiritual life?

The brokenness that I was talking about earlier plays a huge part in my spiritual life. God through prayer and God through friends has taught me how valuable I am and he works at chipping away every part of my self that is still false. 
 
For this to make sense I need to reveal a bit more about myself. Abuse, of a sexual nature, has been a huge part of my life. I was abused as a child, in my college days and a little right after college. Abusers are never silent in their abuse. They are MEAN and if they say crap often enough and with enough VIOLENCE you begin to believe them. They put in your mind a false self, a self that allows them to chip pieces of you away. 
 
Over the past 5 years God has been guiding me through smashing these false pieces to oblivion. He still works with me on certain pieces that have held on a lot tighter. We work together to smash the false to let the real shine through. 
 
I am transparent with God so that together we can beat back the false pieces of me.
 

5) What word of wisdom or encouragement would you offer other people on a similar journey?

Advice. Hmm….don’t present a false self to anyone. Be yourself in any situation. If you spend your time presenting a false self to anyone then you won’t know when you are really being yourself. 
 
Also boundaries are really important. We don’t lay our entire selves out on the line for everyone at the beginning because people need to earn our trust. It’s not something we should freely give. In my earlier days, I used to broadcast my virginity (now that you know my past you know how false that was) or my desire to go to seminary because I thought I could scare people away from me. The problem with that is BAD or misguided people feed on that crap and it allows people into your life that have no business being there. 
 
Trust yourself that you are enough. For an entire season in my life I had a post-it note on my mirror that said you are beautiful and soon I began to believe it. Put reminders all over your space to remind yourself that you are enough and you are worth protecting and worth waiting for. Don’t settle for half your worth and keep forging and pursuing what you are worth, soon the roller coaster will reach another high point and your bitterness will falter and you will see your singleness for what it is: a time to get yourself right and prepare yourself to be with someone else without losing who you are.
Pinterest Bridesmaid dress
 

What about you?

Have your own answers to these questions? Why not share them? Email your responses and a recent picture to bodytheologyblog at gmail dot com.  You can also post anonymously if you wish.

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.

Friday Forward: Guest Post on Letting Go

Tammy Waggoner is a recent grad of Fuller Theological Seminary. She enjoys writing about the things that affect her life and ministering to women who have been abused. She is a trailblazer in this area and enjoys helping other people understand the complexity of sexual abuse as well as helping survivors get freedom and true healing.  For more from Tammy, check out her ministry, Fractured Wholeness, and read her blog.

On Wednesday, Tammy shared about having a healthy body image by letting go of lies we believe about ourselves in response to Monday’s post, “Against the Flesh, Part 1.”  Now she’s back today to share her very own Friday Forward exercise with you lovely readers.

One way of letting go of lies and self-hatred and believing the truth is to get out post-its and a pen. First write down the lies. If you have a cross at home or at church put the post-it on the cross and ask God to take it. If you don’t have a cross at home or at church that you can use then rip up the post-it and as you do ask God to take this thought from your mind and to never let it in again.

Then (no matter if you have the cross or have torn up the post-it) ask God to show you or tell you what the truth is. Close your eyes and wait. If you have trouble hearing God pray this prayer with someone else in the room and ask them to listen for God’s truth as well. Once you hear the truth or are told the truth by someone else write the truth down on another post-it (I like different colors for lies and truth but use what you’ve got) and put the post-it somewhere you will see it daily. Ask God to remind you of this truth every time you see it.

I have done this activity or prayer in my ministry before and it is interesting how once the post-it was left on the cross and the truth was said aloud the lie could no longer be remembered. There was freedom in leaving it on the cross and the truth had already begun to sink in.

Letting go of self-hatred and the lies we believe about our bodies can open us to the freedom of loving ourselves and seeing ourselves as God sees us.

So, how’d it go? Come back and share your experience in the comments below.

Guest Post: Inside Out

Tammy Waggoner is a recent grad of Fuller Theological Seminary. She enjoys writing about the things that affect her life and ministering to women who have been abused. She is a trailblazer in this area and enjoys helping other people understand the complexity of sexual abuse as well as helping survivors get freedom and true healing.  For more from Tammy, check out her ministry, Fractured Wholeness, and read her blog.

This post is in response to Monday’s post, “Against the Flesh, Part 1.” In this post, Laura talks about the lies that people believe about their body. I had mentioned to Laura that if we want to get freedom from the lies, we need to not only understand where the Bible stands on such issues but also acknowledge and dig into the root of such issues.

Society tells us what the ideal body image is and until recently, with the influx of plus size models, that was size 0 without curves or blemish. Who really wears a size 0? Even plus size models are the ideal at size 14. As a woman with curves I have had to embrace my curves and really step into that but society alone is not to blame.

How we see ourselves on the outside is directly related to how we see ourselves on the inside.

Some people’s insides are damaged or broken. As an abuse survivor I can tell you that I have some distorted views of my body. My body reacted to abuse when my mind was screaming that it wasn’t right. My body let me down and in some instances I am plagued with ideas that my body is bad.

To admit that the first time was hard but now I know that my body was not to blame. Do you blame yourself for attraction? Do you blame yourself farting? Our bodies, made in God’s image, have natural functions that we cannot blame ourselves for.

Poor body image is directly related to self-hatred. I hate myself so I also hate my body. Women who have been abused spend lots of time trying to hide their bodies, the idea being, “If I can become ugly or invisible no one will try to take advantage.” This outward need to become hidden is sad but when this is broken it is beautiful to watch.

In my ministry I have seen women go from wearing all black and covering their bodies from head to toe to wearing bright colors and new cuts and no longer hiding behind dark clothing but stepping into who they actually are. It is the rewarding part of my job and my ministry. Watching women come out of the shells they have hidden behind is awesome.

How you view your body is directly related to how outside forces have told you to view your body. What did your parents tell you about your body? Often parents who scold their children when they catch them masturbating instill in them the idea that their genitals and their sexual drives are bad.

What did your first boy/girlfriend tell you about your body? What happened in the locker room in middle school? What have past dating partners told you?

Each person we interact with tells us something about our body and we take that image in. Sometimes we are lucky and the people in our lives nurture our love of our bodies but often times we are not as lucky and each interaction further distorts our body image.

So how can we possibly see beyond our distorted body images? It takes time, a good support system full of loving people who see us as we actually are and a loving God to guide you along the way.

Letting go of lies and self-hatred takes time and is not a quick process but it is totally worth it.  Letting go of self-hatred and the lies we believe about our bodies can open us to the freedom of loving ourselves and seeing ourselves as God sees us.

Guest Post: Human Dignity–Part 2

My dear friend Stacey Schwenker has graciously agreed to share some of her journey through experiencing her sexuality as a single person during her 50 Day Challenge. If you missed it, read Part 1You can find more of her journey here.

And now, the conclusion…

So I just let it wash over me.  I sat for a good while letting his love soak in.  I cried.  I laughed.  It felt like my own heart was growing.  I was being flooded by his acceptance and reclamation of his daughter.  It was if I had let getting older with the new wrinkles and the cottage cheese cellulite separate me from God.  As if my body was unworthy of his love now.

No.  He not only reminded me of his love, he embraced me in who I am.  God loved this body on that day many years ago when I took my first breath.  He loves this body right now.  And he will go on loving my body long past my last breath on earth—whatever that will look like.  I am so precious to God.

As I sat and reveled in all of my blood pumping wonder, I thought about how I want others to treat my body—with respect and care.  This comes only from its being something precious to God.  This got me to thinking about others.  I thought about my three roommates and their beautiful bodies.  I considered them in their own mothers’ wombs and growing up as children.

Then I expanded that circle to others.  However, when I got to thinking about bodies all over the world I stopped dead in my tracks.  So many bodies are not respected.  Many are treated as possessions or used as commodities.  They are stripped naked, not of their own volition but that of a pimp or an owner who inspects their goods and throws them at willing buyers.  Their beauty and uniqueness are trampled on.  Their vulnerability is used as a weapon against them.

This is when my praying became more than exploration or asking God for eyes like his to see my body as he sees me.  This is when I heard God call me to action.  To fight.  To take action.  I might look into donating my time or money.  In my own personal life, my vocation and calling involve education and healing in the realm of sexuality.  To help others sees the value of their bodies.  Once they can know that deep in their souls, they can then begin to have empathy for the value of others’ bodies.  To help others see their deep need for intimacy and examine the choices they make in seeking to know and be known.  To understand how sex might be used as a quick route to closeness but a short one to nagging emptiness.

The more I see how my sexuality is a part of me—not a distant part or a shameful part—the healthier I feel.  My embodiedness and my femininity and my desire to be in deep relationships are all part of my sexuality.  And to deny any part of this murders aspects of my humanity.  And to recklessly embrace parts of this in disproportionate ways feeds a nasty monster in me.  We are moral beings who have choices to make.  Are we brave enough to admit that we actually make choices about our sexuality or shall we sweep things under the rug?

Christians contribute to sex trafficking in direct and indirect ways.  I know that if we have more discussions about our sexuality and make more choices to embrace our sexuality, we will actively be fighting against using sexuality as a weapon.

I will begin by fighting for my own body—to reclaim its goodness by the creator God.  And I will not stop until I fight for others’ bodies and their goodness.

Will you join the fight?

Hailing from Cincinnati, Ohio, Stacey now resides in Washington, DC.  She occupies her time by writing, baking, and enjoying the outdoors through running, biking, and hiking.  She also spends copious amounts of time with her three wonderful housemates and the people at her church, The District Church, where she leads a small group on healthy Christian sexuality.  Stacey works in advertising sales for Sojourners, an educational and advocacy organization that publishes a monthly magazine and a daily blog (sojo.net).  Stacey is passionate about seeing healing and integration of our sexuality and spends a great deal of time reading, writing, and talking about it.  She also likes a good cup of tea and handwriting letters.

Guest Post: Human Dignity–Part 1

My dear friend Stacey Schwenker has graciously agreed to share some of her journey through experiencing her sexuality as a single person during her 50 Day Challenge.  You can find more of her journey here.

Hailing from Cincinnati, Ohio, Stacey now resides in Washington, DC.  She occupies her time by writing, baking, and enjoying the outdoors through running, biking, and hiking.  She also spends copious amounts of time with her three wonderful housemates and the people at her church, The District Church, where she leads a small group on healthy Christian sexuality.  Stacey works in advertising sales for Sojourners, an educational and advocacy organization that publishes a monthly magazine and a daily blog (sojo.net).  Stacey is passionate about seeing healing and integration of our sexuality and spends a great deal of time reading, writing, and talking about it.  She also likes a good cup of tea and handwriting letters.

This morning I prayed naked.  This exercise is part of a 50 Day Challenge I am doing for Lent.  Some friends of mine created 50 Suggestions to Embrace Healthy Sexuality and one of them is strip the clothes and prostrate oneself.  For me it looked more like huddling under my covers to stay warm (my bedroom is in a basement and my sensitive body doesn’t much care for its constant 65 degrees).

As I sat there praying, naturally I thought about my body.  At first I began to consider all of its shapes and sizes—the feel of my skin and hair and curves underneath my palms.  I thought about its beauty and how uniquely it was created.  There are few other things that have skin similar to us humans or a bone structure like ours.  And we each have our own and only attributes: fingerprints that never have and never will have any match; the unique combination of height, hair color, facial composition, and idiosyncrasies. 

I am the only me.  You are the only you.  Ever.  Period.  We truly are uniquely and fearfully made (Ps 139:14).  Molded with God’s own hands and done so that we are each special to him.  I am who he meant me to be.  He set each bone in place and laced each fiber of muscle and sinew.  He etched each eyelash and painted on every fingernail.

And because of this, I am beautiful to God.  Things that others might scoff at or look down upon, God embraces and finds endearing.  Understanding how God is so pleased and proud of my body means that I scoff at him when I reject parts of my physical attributes.  I do not fully understand grace if I do not treat my body with the love and respect that one of God’s beloveds deserves.

True, I have the ability to impact my flesh and bones.  I can influence my weight, my hair and eye color, my amount of hair, and my muscle mass.  I can dress it up or dress it down.  But, in all that I do am I honoring God with my body?  Am I caring for every cell of my body through my actions?  Or am I spitting in God’s face?

Sitting in my bed I also thought about my vulnerability.  Being stripped from things that hide me.  It felt like a barrier had been removed between me and God.  It wasn’t like I was clinging to my clothing in an effort to distance myself from him.  Rather, I just realized how he sees me all the time.  I felt more human and I felt him as more of God.  Somehow I could experience his love more deeply.  I wasn’t earning his love by creating or doing.  I was stuck in all my birthday suit nakedness to lie before him.  And he accepts me.  He loves me……

Come back tomorrow for the thrilling conclusion!

Guest Post: 3 Must-haves for Lent: Part 2

My friend Jenn Cannon has graciously agreed to share her experience of fasting during this Lenten season and its impact on her body theology. If you missed it, check out Part 1. You can find more of her writing here.

Many people, in modern Christianity, have taken the idea of a fast during Lent and tried to turn it into a positive action.  Instead of simply abstaining from certain foods, people are opting to try another way to express the same idea without the physical side-effects.  As an example: my former pastor gives up his morning Starbucks and all fast food and then donates the funds that he has saved to his favorite charity.

Unhealthy Fasting

As I have journeyed to get healthier in the last 8 months, I have found that I cannot outright deny myself a certain food without the danger of a binge looming on the horizon.  If I tell myself I cannot have chocolate for 40 days (or 46 depending on how you count it), I will most certainly have a meltdown and gorge at the end when I finally allow myself the chocolate – or I will be frantically trying to find something else to fill that need.

Either way – I lose sight of the meaning of the fast, and also do myself more harm than good.  Many people who are journeying back to health will tell you the same horror stories – fasting from any certain thing is a recipe for a binge.

Healthy Fasting

So I have learned to eat things in moderation.  Great.  But then what am I supposed to do about Lent?  If I want to participate in the spiritual journey of preparing myself for the coming sacrifice of Christ, what then can I do instead of giving up meat (which I already eat very little of) or chocolate (again, a minor part of my diet and not really a sacrifice) or anything similar?

I am fasting from laziness.  Fasting from sitting on my butt.  My Lenten practice, this year, is to commit to some form of intentional exercise for at least 30 minutes every day.  I am choosing to observe Sundays as the mini-Easter that they are, and so are not part of the fast.

So – that is my physical piece.  But, as a Lenten practice, it is fruitless and self-serving unless I add in the other aspects of prayer and service.   So, my prayer (or God-focus) part of Lent is to read Scripture more regularly, pray while I’m on the treadmill, and change the music I listen to to help keep my thoughts centered on God while I’m walking.  As for service, I am always looking for the people who cross my path that I believe God sent to me.  Also, my discipline for service will take the form of writing.

Writing as Spiritual Discipline

I have a lot going on in my head as I journey back to health – and with nudging from good friends (like Laura) – am realizing I have much to say and share as I do.  So I will be writing – intentionally – during the full season of Lent.

My writing is intended to help others understand this journey of getting healthy, encourage those who are struggling with their own health, and – selfishly – to help me process some of the stuff I need to think about – specifically regarding my self-image.

Join the Conversation

So have you thought about what you’re giving up for Lent?  Do you have a reason for your choice?  And how does your personal choice (Self-focus) tie back in to the other two aspects of Fasting: God-focus and Others-focus? Leave a comment in the box below to share your journey this Lenten season.

I am a musician, a photographer, a theologian, a customer service rep.  I am a wife, a stepmom, a sister, a daughter, an aunt.  But mostly I am a child of God striving to live my crazy life the best way I know how.  These writings have been born from my journey back to health that I started in June 2011.  At that time, I weighed over 300 pounds and needed to lose at least half my weight to be considered in a healthy range.  Since then, I’ve lost almost 50 pounds through adjusting my diet and adding exercise.  The surprising side effect is the emotional changes that go along with getting healthy – and that is what has prompted me to begin to write.

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