June 9, 2016

OtherSerenity

June 2, 2016

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Resurrection!

What the resurrection of Jesus promises is that things can always be new again. It is never too late to start over. Nothing is irrevocable. No betrayal is final. No sin is unforgivable. Every form of death can be overcome. There isn’t any loss that can’t be redeemed. Every day is virgin. There is really no such thing as old age. …

Resurrection is not just a question of one day, after death, rising from the dead, but it is also about daily rising from the many mini-graves within which we so often find ourselves….

As John Shea so aptly put it: What the resurrection teaches us is not how to live, but how to live again, & again, & again!”…”The resurrection invites us to look at things familiar until they look unfamiliar again, because in the end, a startling, delightful surprise is hidden in all that is familiar.”

-Rev Ronald Rolheiser

 

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There Is No Longer Fat or Skinny: Weight Management and the Incarnation

The other day, I read an article that claimed women spend an average of 17 years of their lives trying to lose weight. That’s compared to 10.3 years working.

I had two immediate reactions:

  1. Well that’s depressing.
  2. That estimate seems like it’s on the low end.

(Before I go any further, a quick aside: if your response to this post is to tell me I look fine and don’t need to lose weight, that’s very sweet of you, but please don’t. You will have missed the point.)

Anyway.

It has begun to seem strange to me that when I want to lose weight, what I am really wanting is for some literal, physical amount of me to disappear. I can even point to the parts I wish would go away. When I want to lose weight, I want there to be less of my body–less of me.

Of course, this begs the question of who I am in relation to my body. Am I my body, my flesh, the physical space I take up? Certainly I am more than that, but I am not less. I am not my body–if I were, my identity would be reduced to things that can and do change, to size and shape and physical ability and even illness and death; but I am not not my body–for how else do I experience relationship and beauty and goodness and truth except through touch and sight and taste and sound and smell?

Christianity has rejected as heresy the idea that our bodies are just disposable shells for our souls. I have preached that we are not souls that happen to have a body; we are bodies enlivened by a soul. On the 6th day of creation, God did not form an independent soul and then look for an appropriate casing for it; God created a body in God’s image and blew into it the breath of life.

The Christian God is a God not only of creation but of incarnation, of crucifixion, of bodily resurrection. I recently found myself explaining to a (non-churchy) friend why Jesus’ divinity is so important to me, why I could never be satisfied with reducing him to a teacher or moral example. For me, it’s the incarnation–that the immortal, invisible God would take on a mortal, visible body, would live and die and rise again as a human.

The incarnation–which, in my mind, includes the crucifixion and the resurrection–changes everything. It tells me that God isn’t just or even primarily concerned with our hearts and minds and souls–our bodies matter deeply to God, so much so that God didn’t just create them, but returned to inhabit them even when it was clear we were making a mess of the whole “image of God” thing.

If our bodies matter that much to God, they ought to matter to us. The question, of course, is–how ought our bodies matter to us? Is honoring our bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19) about being healthy, or is it about unconditional self-acceptance (or both)? Is it about eating (or not eating) certain foods, or is it about sexual purity? (Those two things are the context of that temple quote, FYI.) Does it mean staying fit or avoiding too much focus on fitness so as not to fall into idolatry?

A quick Google search revealed that there are plenty of Christian diet plans out there.Daniel’s Diet, a 10-day detox and weight loss plan. Thin Within, “A Non-Diet, Grace-Based Approach.” The Eden Diet, “A Biblical and MERCIFUL Anti-Dieting Plan for Weight Loss.” WeighDown Ministries, “The Solution to Permanent Weight Loss.” Bod4God, “Losing to Live.” There are more, but I’ll stop there for the sake of my gag reflex (and yours).

Let’s be clear: nothing in the Bible advocates dieting for weight loss–we’re talking about a text formed by an ancient agricultural society deeply concerned with survival. For more on the anachronisms of such fads, check out this post. Fasting happens in Scripture for all kinds of reasons–repentance, discernment, even celebration–but not because someone wanted to get a Biblical bikini bod for summer on the Sea of Galilee.

Jesu forfend.

The New York Times recently published an article on the findings of a study on contestants from the TV show The Biggest Loser. What they found was that the contestants started out the show with a normal metabolism, though they were obese. After drastic weight loss through strict dieting and exercise, their metabolisms actually slowed down.

I was one of the many people who always assumed that show participants regained weight afterwards because they fell back into old habits. It turns out this isn’t the case; their bodies adjusted to the decreased caloric intake and now burn those precious calories at a lower rate, so even those who stick to healthy eating and physical activity end up weighing as much as or more than they did at the beginning of the show.

Many participants in The Biggest Loser show off the end results with the declaration that this is “the new me.” There’s that question of body and identity again. In the process of losing weight, of making some of their bulk go away, of transforming themselves physically, they become a different person–happier, healthier, more confident…until they gain the weight back.

For those who are able to make long-lasting physical and health transformation, they are in a small way “a new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17). But a much deeper transformation, I believe, would be self-acceptance and self-love regardless of physical appearance. I learned some time ago that if I cannot accept and love myself as a child of God at any weight, I would never be satisfied even if I shed 20 pounds.

Now I’m just your basic American woman (overly) worried about her waistline and the fit of her jeans. I do not struggle with an eating disorder (unless stress-eating counts) (I think that’s a different problem) or diagnosable body dysmorphia. I have friends who do, and I cannot pretend to understand what that is like.

But I wonder how (or if) we think of our bodies in relation to God. What does the incarnation mean for us? Does it matter (or how does it matter) to the flesh that we find hateful that God became flesh for our sake? Do we really know that Jesus inhabited our fragile frame and redeemed it from all hatred and violence, external and internal?

As I was thinking through this post, I passed a bulletin board where the announcement of a colleague’s daughter’s birth was displayed. And there it was: “6 pounds 3 ounces, 21 inches.” When we are born, our measurements are taken, our body’s size and weight determined and broadcasted and celebrated. Every pound, every ounce, every inch is a measure of grace, of joy, of hope. We are saying: those 6 pounds 3 ounces and 21 inches–every one of them is precious.

What would it be like if we treated our adult measurements like that? You who struggle with anorexia, your 100 pounds that look like 200 in the mirror are precious. You who fight your way through Overeaters Anonymous meetings, your 350 pounds are precious. The voice that tells you that your body is your enemy is not God’s. No matter its size or shape, your body reflects the image of God. God’s breath enlivens these bodies with souls, and Jesus walked around not just in our shoes but in our skin.

You are fearfully and wonderfully made (Ps. 139:14). There is no longer fat or skinny (Gal. 3:28, New Living Sarah Version), but we are all one in Christ, whose body we are. We do not have to see an enemy or an idol when we look in the mirror; we expect a savior from heaven, where our true belonging is; where our bodies will not be left behind but redeemed and transformed; where the fullness of the resurrection will bring us home to the flesh we have fled since the garden of Eden.

So befriend your body. God already has, in ways deeper and more intimate than we can comprehend. Thanks be.

 

Giving Voice to Ephesians 4 (MSG and NRSV)

..for my brothers and sisters discerning the way forward at #GC2016 or #UMCGC.

Praying for God’s wisdom and grace and you move forward in love.

Click on the arrow below to listen to the audio of Ephesians 4 read from the NRSV:

Click on the arrow below to listen to Ephesians 4 read from The Message:

 

 

 

May 14, 2016 – Parker Palmer
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May 13, 2016

I see You

The world may not see You;

I see You.

Everyone around me may not recognize You;

I know Your face and the sound of Your voice.

In all this world You may only find hostility or a sarcastic welcome of jeers and curses;

I welcome You.

Holy Spirit, come. Work through me, love through me, touch through me;

so that everyone can see You. Make my life a window to Your love not the graffiti-ed brick wall of my selfish heart.

—Kelli Sorg 2016

 

 

 

April 29, 2016

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Love Steve Martin….

April 28, 2016

COMING TO THE END OF OURSELVES

It’s engrained in our culture that we’re supposed to take care of business on our own, without seeking assistance. Maybe that’s why one of the most beloved of all Bible verses isn’t actually in the Bible. Yes, it’s this chestnut: “God helps those who help themselves.” Just about everyone knows that one. People quote it, they love it, they try to live it, but it never crosses their minds that it can’t be found in the Scripture.

Maybe God forgot to put it in? I don’t think so. A better explanation is that God actually helps those who can’t help themselves. God helps those who stop in the midst of crisis and ask someone to assist them. When we’re helpless and we know it, we’re open to receive the transforming help He wants to give us. When we come to the end of ourselves, we find Him there waiting to give us what we have been so desperate for all along.

— Kyle Idleman in The End of Me

 

 

 

 

 

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 photo credit: Dean Sorg in Franklin County, Kentucky 2007

The Peace of Wild Things  

By Wendell Berry
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Wendell Berry, “The Peace of Wild Things” from The Selected Poems of Wendell Berry. Copyright © 1998. Published and reprinted by arrangement with Counterpoint Press.

Source: Collected Poems 1957-1982 (Counterpoint Press, 1985)