Category Archives: Physicality

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


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)


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)


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.

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)


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.

The Illusionists

You may have noticed this picture trending on Facebook and Pinterest this week.


I ran across it myself, which led me to discovering The Illusionists, a documentary that is currently in post-production and promises to be a balanced and informative look at the commodification of the human body.  That’s right up our alley here at HBTB, so I thought I’d do a little plugging for them.  Check out the video below.

I’m in no way affiliated with The Illusionists, but I’m looking forward to their finished product!  You can also find out more about body image and media literacy on The Illusionists blog.

Will I Be Pretty?

I know this doesn’t have anything to do with Holy Week or Easter or anything in our theme last week and this week, but I couldn’t resist.  If only we were all so enlightened, there would be no need for blogs like HBTB!

The sun doesn’t rise after all

During my recent travels, I saw a lot of sunrises and sunsets from the road, some beautiful, some obscured, some at dangerous angles to the driver. One thing I kept thinking about as I witnessed the journey of the sun across the sky each day was how we talk about what we see.

We speak from our own perspective.  The sun rises, it moves across the sky, and then it sets.  This statement is true.  This statement is an accurate description of how we experience the sun. This is what we see.  Everyone in every culture in every location in every age since the beginning of the world has experienced the sun this way, and I think it’s safe to say that everyone would generally agree that the sun rises, moves across the sky, and then sets.

Except it doesn’t.

The sun doesn’t move at all. The Earth is what moves. We move, not the sun.  Science and astronomy teach us this truth.  It is an accurate description of reality, but it does not describe how we experience the relation between sun and sky.  This is not what we see.  Everyone in every culture in every location in every age until at least the 1600s would call this truth a fantasy.

How easily we assume that our experience is not only true but also the only capital-T-Truth. How quick we are to dismiss a truth that does not match our experience as fantasy.

Our truth that the sun moves across the sky is true, except that it isn’t.  It describes our experience accurately, but it does not describe what is very accurately at all. In fact, it describes quite the opposite of reality.

So now, when we talk about issues of faith, spirituality, God, and religion, I think about the sun.  I think about the language I use to describe my experience and begin to consider that while my language is true to my experience, it might not be true to reality.

Maybe when we speak of God’s unchangeability, it is really we who are unwilling to change.  Maybe when we speak of God’s unfailing, unconditional love, it is really our desire to be loved that we express.  Maybe when we speak of God as male or masculine, it is really we who experience power and control through a paternalistic cultural lens.

The point is that we don’t know everything. No one holds the capital-T-Truth.  We all hold pieces of the truth, and if we’re lucky, we are able to recognize more pieces of truth in others and hold onto them all.  Until we’re willing to consider the possibility that we could be not only not completely right but also actually completely wrong, we will never be able to consider that someone else might hold a piece of truth we don’t have.

This is the value of ecumenical and interfaith perspectives.  We look for our commonalities.  We build bridges on our pieces of truth.  We rub up against people whose experience is different than our own, people who dare to suppose the sun does not actually rise and set as it appears after all.  We learn together. We grow.

We’ve come a long way since the 1600s.  Everyone in the educated world, especially those who have access to telescopes and higher-level math, now agrees that the Earth moves and the sun does not.  But not a single one of them would argue that the sun does not rise, move across the sky, and set every day, either.

One truth defines reality; the other truth defines experience.  Both truths are pieces of the capital-T-Truth that we are all grasping for and falling short of regardless of our intelligence, education, or experience.

Next time you find yourself in debate about who is right, who is in, who holds the capital-T-Truth about faith, spirituality, God, or religion (or anything else for that matter), take a breath, look up at the sun, and remember to start with the pieces of truth we each hold — and build on that.


Forward Friday: YOU define body theology

I’ve been thinking all week about Isherwood’s definition of body theology as created through the body rather than about the body.  Our tendency is to relate to our bodies as something “other,” as a separate entity that is not the same as our “self.”  As Isherwood says elsewhere in that chapter, our language betrays our perspective when we say that we have bodies rather than that we are bodies.

This weekend, take some time to reflect and perhaps journal on the following question:

How do YOU define body theology?

This question is more than a cognitive exercise in generating a pithy statement about what you believe the term “body theology” means or what the phrase evokes in you, though these are of course useful exercises as well.  What I’m really asking here, what I’m encouraging you to ask yourselves this weekend, is this:

How does who you are as a mind-body-spirit being, designed by and created in the image of the Divine Being who defies all category and definition (including age, race, and gender), and believer in and follower of the way of the incarnate, flesh-and-blood, living-and-breathing, dwelling-among-us, crucified-and-resurrected Emmanuel (which means God-with-us) — how do YOU define body theology? 

How is body theology defined through the unique physical human being only YOU can be?  What does your experience of being alive in your own skin bring to the table? What does your body teach us about who God is and about who we are as the community of God?  How is God made manifest in and through you that is only possible because you are a bundle of tangible flesh?

This is a big question.

Open yourself up to the possibilities presented by this kind of approach to theological reflection.  Really sit with the reality God reveals to you.  Write it down or talk through your experience with a trusted friend.

Then come back and share in the comment box below.  What came up for you as you meditated on these questions?

What is body theology? another definition

This week we’re exploring the various definitions of body theology out there.  Read HBTB’s definition of body theology. Read James B. Nelson’s definition from Monday.

Now let’s consider an excerpt from Introducing Body Theology by Lisa Isherwood and Elizabeth Stuart. Take some time to read and reflect on the passages below.

[B]ody theology…creates theology through the body and not about the body.  Working through the body is a way of ensuring that theories do not get written on the bodies of “others” who then become marginalized and objects of control. It is also a way of deconstructing the concept of truth that Christianity used to hold so many falsehoods in place.  Once one moves from the notion that there is absolute truth into which the bodies of people have to fit, the way is open to begin questioning and we soon realize that truth is not the issue in relation to prescriptions about the body, but power.  Christian history shows us the extent to which power has been exerted over bodies in the name of divine truth and the crippling results.  If the body is given the space and power to speak what will be the consequences for both the body and theology?

… Body politics have exposed the underlying power games at work in sexuality and society and by so doing have become a source of inspiration and liberation for many.  Christianity is an incarnational religion that claims to set captives free, it tells us it is a religion of liberation.  Yet it underpins many of the restrictive practices that body politics expose.  In some cases Christianity has been the instigator of these practices because of its dualistic vision of the world.

The questions being posed in our time are to do with the body, that of the world as well as the individual.  Can body politics ever become body theology in a truly radical and transforming way?  This might mean for example, that the Christian religion…risk taking the bodies of women seriously as sites of revelation in the creation of theology….That it develop a sexual ethic that takes seriously the desire of all and integrates it into a mutual and freeing celebration of embodiment.

…The Christian faith tells us that redemption is brought through the incarnation of God. A redemption that could not be wished or just thought, even by God herself, she had to be enfleshed.  Therefore, it can be argued that until the body is liberated from the patriarchal ties that bind it, many of which have been set in place by Christianity, creation will never understand the truly liberating power of incarnation.

I’d love to hear your thoughts!  React to and engage with the quotation above in the comment box below.

What is body theology? a miniseries

This week, let’s take a little step back and consider more about just what body theology is, how it has been defined and how we define it here at HBTB.

Read Holistic Body Theology Blog’s definition of body theology.

Below is an excerpt from Body Theology by James B. Nelson.  Take some time to read and digest what he says about the relation between our human bodies and the incarnation of Christ.

What, then, is body theology? It is nothing more, nothing less than our attempts to reflect on bodily experience as revelatory of God….Theologically, [embodiment] means Jesus as the Christ, the expected and anointed one.  Through the lens of this paradigmatic embodiment of God, however, Christians can see other incarnations: the christic reality expressed in other human beings in their God-bearing relatedness.  Indeed, the central purpose of Christology…is not affirmations about Jesus as the Christ. Rather, affirmations about Jesus are in the service of revealing God’s christic presence and activity in the world now.

…[T]he human body is language and a fundamental means of communication. We do not just use words. We are words.  This conviction underlies Christian incarnationalism. In Jesus Christ, God was present in a human being not for the first and only time, but in a radical way that has created a new definition of who we are.  In Christ we are redefined as body words of love, and such body life in us is the radical sign of God’s love for the world and of the divine immediacy in the world.

The time is upon us for recapturing the feeling for the bodily apprehension of God. When we do so, we will find ourselves not simply making religious pronouncements about the bodily life; we will enter theologically more deeply into this experience, letting it speak of God to us, and of us to God. (emboldened emphases mine)

Thoughts? Questions? Reflections? Share in the comment box below.


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