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

fivequestionsonExercise

with Eric Hall

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

I started exercising when I was a sophomore in high school.  I think I mainly started to become more attractive to women and to feel better about my physical appearance.  My exercise habits have changed over time depending on how busy I have been.  In 2007 I exercised for around 3 hours a day, 5 days a week.  In 2009 I ran 7 days a week.  I still exercise but it usually last around 1 hour each time and it happens around 3 times a week.

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

It has helped my self-confidence when it comes to my looks.  I have had compliments about my muscles.  That always makes me feel good.  Right now I am still in pretty good shape but I am very aware of unwanted fat on my body.  At times that fat makes me feel less secure about my appearance (I know this is unhealthy).

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

It has given me conversations with others that exercise.  I know to some girls it has made me more attractive.  At least from their comments that is what it sounded like.  It has also taken me away from spending more time with people (I will talk about this more in questions 4).

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

At times my exercising habits have become an obsession.  I refused to spend time with others because I HAD to get my exercise routine done.  I, one time, made my family wait an hour after they had driven 6 hours to come see me because I HAD to exercise.  This was extremely unloving and very selfish.  This was a sin, so obsession with exercise negativity affected my spiritual life.  But…I do believe that as a follower of Christ I am to be a holistic person.  This means I should try and be as healthy as I can be spiritually, physically, mentally, and emotionally.  I do believe it honors the gift that God gave us, our bodies, when we exercise.  But as I mentioned, exercise can sometimes become an obsession, which is unhealthy and sinful.

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

Exercise, but within reason.  Don’t let it become an obsession.  I do believe that it can be a way to honor God, which is great.  I also do not believe that it is wrong to also do it to make yourself more attractive to yourself and others.
 
Ocean Me 

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.

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Rohr on silence in a culture of noise

We live in a noisy world.

We surround ourselves with entertainment and news and music and talking and texting and constant accessibility to internet.  We immerse ourselves in the many messages we hear from culture, family, church, school, and work.  We are loud and wordy and flashy and full of so much swirling around that it often feels impossible to shhhhhhh… into a place of quiet, stillness, and rest.

Richard Rohr writes about the place of silence in this excerpt below from his recent article “Finding God in the Depths of Silence” in Sojourners (March 2013):

At the less mature levels, religion is mostly noise, entertainment, and words.  Catholics and Orthodox Christians prefer theater and wordy symbols; Protestants prefer music and endless sermons.

Probably more than ever, because of iPads, cell phones, billboards, TVs, and iPods, we are a toxically overstimulated people.  Only time will tell the deep effects of this on emotional maturity, relationship, communication, conversation, and religion itself.  Silence now seems like a luxury, but it is not so much a luxury as it is a choice and decision at the heart of every spiritual discipline and growth.  Without it, most liturgies, Bible studies, devotions, “holy” practices, sermons, and religious conversations might be good and fine, but they will never be truly great or life-changing — for ourselves or for others. They can only represent the surface; God is always found at the depths, even the depths of our sin and brokenness. And in the depths, it is silent.

Thoughts? Comments? Reactions? Share in the comment box below.

 

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

fivequestionsonDating/Singleness

with Stacey Schwenker

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

I was single throughout high school and did not date or have a boyfriend until college.  Then I went through a long string of boys that felt very back-to-back (2 of them were and some could say I was not honorable to one guy as I began a relationship with another).  When I began seminary, at the age of 25, I began what has been a long period of singleness.  Through this time I have pursued both wholeness/healing (actively seeking counseling and other ways to emotionally and relationally grow) as well as my vocational goals (mostly in ministry).
 
At my current age of 31 and three-quarters, I have mixed feelings about dating and singleness.  Mixed mainly because some days I feel consumed by how horrid the situation is and I am convinced that I shall be alone forever.  While other days I feel calm and collected and convinced of how wonderful I am and how wonderful God is, so that surely I shall not be alone forever.
 
I question whether my personality, past, or theological achievements (obtaining a Master of Divinity) make me unappealing to men.  Yet the desire to share life with another is just enough hope to continue to pray for a partner and believe that God will bring me someone (if that’s even good terminology…).
 

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

Again, mixed feelings.  Mostly I put a lot of effort into my body.  Not in the sense that I obsess about it and try to look amazing, rather it’s quite the opposite.  I listen to it and try to eat healthy and exercise regularly.  I care about its well-being and taking care of it.  I put more energy into becoming a person who seeks after God and can be a fair friend than I do about my physical image.  Even so, I have deep and ugly fears that my body is something that is keeping men away from me.  I don’t pluck my eyebrows and I have thicker thighs. 
 
My thoughts about my body have come from a complexity of stories melded together.  Most likely I came to the current story from three main places.  First, is with my family and how I learned to value myself with a body.  There’s definitely an overtone of being thin that is present and my father is regularly ridiculed by and in front of the entire family for being overweight.  It’s taken a long time to fight judgmental voices that became a constant in my head and plagued me with most outfits and certainly every hair-do. 
 
Second, is with my boyfriends.  Depending on the day I’ll tell you that I’ve had 3 or 4 significant relationships.  Two of them were great and celebrated my body with generosity and complete embrace.  One of them seemed great but turned out to be more selfish than loving.  The other one was kind of a jerk the whole time and rejected me regularly.  It became a game of seduction where I sought to be a master.  Even now I am struggling with the repercussions of feeling continually unwanted and unwelcomed by any prospective man.  As if I am too much or too little.  Mostly it feels like both at the same time.
 
Third, is how my body has changed over the years.  It’s been 7 years since I’ve dated anyone and my body is not how it was then.  Honestly, I worry about not being attractive and fight against the lie that this has been causing my singleness.  I feel more and more comfortable in my skin.  Yet somehow men do not come to me.  What’s a woman to do…?
 

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

There isn’t enough space on this computer to adequately answer this question!  I will say that I am completely conscientious, honest, and present with everyone in my life.  I strive to love and honor them.  I strive to admit when I am wrong and make amends.  I am weary of my need to attach to someone (I’m a co-dependent) and have to fight hard to have balance and health in my relationships.  Though, I do fight hard.  I’m not flippant anymore and I am willing to work.  Mostly, the affects have been positive.
 

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

I’ve certainly experienced a lot more growth.  Honesty does that.  I’ve let God get closer than I could have imagined.  And I also see how much further I have to go.  Because I write weekly (and publically) about this aspect of my life – relationships and spirituality – I’ve spent a great deal reflecting on it. 
 
And I see things to be so inter-connected.  I consider my motivations and the larger networks at play in my life.  For example, I can’t think about dating without thinking about how busy I’ve let me life become, the I consider my vocational dreams, then I think about my ability to trust God, then I consider patience, and then faith verses works, and on and on.  Ultimately, the more I consider the more peace I have and the more I feel God’s presence. 
 
Perhaps the greatest benefit has been being peeled back like an onion in the presence of God.  I feel more known with God since I am actively writing about my singleness and wondering where God is in all of it.  Though, it doesn’t take away the questions, loneliness, or fear entirely.  But it does bring more meaning to my life and a greater calm.
 

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

We must be patient and never lose hope.  God is a creative God and will bring us unexpected things.  We can knead the dough we’re given and see what will rise. Invite Him into where you are.  Reflect on what you are doing.  We have the potential to do so much, right now!  We must not let any lies or fears get in our way.  I truly believe that when we pursue Him, He will grant us the desires of our hearts.

 

Crazy Hair
 

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.

 

Mini-sabbatical: Gone to school (Part 2)

Hello Lovely Readers!

I’m on my way to Arizona for the second half of my training in spiritual direction.  Just like last time, I’ll be posting daily reflections on Of the Garden Variety.

NOT like last time, I have a special treat for you! While I’m gone, I’m beginning a new series of guest postings called “Five Questions on…”

So lots to see here over the next couple of weeks.  Come by and check out the variety of perspectives on HBTB issues like food, exercise, dating, church, and more!

 

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.

 

Mini-sabbatical: Gone to school

Hello, my dear lovely readers!

Well, I’m off to Arizona for a short certificate program in Spiritual Direction.  Because of the schedule while I’m away, I won’t be posting anything new on HBTB for the next two weeks. I’ll be back to the regular schedule on March 11th.

But don’t worry!  If you miss me, you can follow my experience on Twitter and over at my old spirituality blog: Of the Garden Variety.  I’ll be reflecting daily on my classes and what God is stirring up, whatever that may be!

Be sure to follow that blog if you want email updates while I’m away.

You can also sign up for the monthly newsletter to get exclusive updates, book recommendations, suggested meditation exercises, and more.  If you sign up before the end of the month, you’ll get the link to an exclusive guided meditation video for Lent when the newsletter arrives in your inbox.  Newsletters come out the last day of the month. Best part is, it’s free!

Forward Friday: Seek the Hidden Life

This week we’ve been discussing what Lent is all about in the wise words of Henri Nouwen.  We’ve looked at being ready, returning to God and our true identity, pursuing the hidden life, and being reconciled both to God and to others.

There are so many ways we could use what we learned this week to move forward toward a holistic body theology.  But this weekend, let’s focus on what we need first to get it all started.

Seek the hidden life.

There are all sorts of ways we can pursue the hidden life that Jesus modeled for us. This weekend, look for opportunities to choose the hidden life over the praise of the world.

Here are some ideas:

  • Make an anonymous donation.
  • Get up early or in the middle of the night for some alone time with God, and don’t share your experience with anyone.
  • Put a rubber band around your wrist and take a moment to pray (without anyone noticing) every time you notice it’s there throughout the day.  If anyone asks about the rubber band, just tell them it’s there in case you need it.
  • Perform a random act of kindness when no one is around to see or thank you.  This could be anything from running the dishwasher to picking up trash on the sidewalk.
  • Fast something. Whether it’s for Lent, for the weekend, or for a day, give something up, and make sure no one notices except you and God.

 

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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