Beach Body

J Nicole Morgan writes about body acceptance in the Christian church

[image: enjoying a swim in a friend’s pool during the hot days of summer]

It’s almost summertime. If you haven’t already seen them, you’ll start seeing the “Get your body beach ready!” advertisements floating around as we head into summer in a few weeks.

This is just a quick reminder of two things:

1. They are trying to sell you something. You don’t need it.

2. If you have a body, it’s beach (or pool or gym or family picnic) ready.

If you have a body, you are beach body ready!
If you have a body, you are beach body ready!

If you appreciate this reminder, feel free to share on your favorite social media network.

The Resurrected Jesus Eats

In Luke 24 we see Jesus, after the resurrection, appear to his disciples.   Two of the disciples have just invited the man who was walking with them on the road to stay the night, they didn’t recognize him as Jesus  until he broke bread.  Then Jesus disappears from their midst.

The disciples hurried back to Jerusalem to find the others and proclaimed that the had seen the risen Jesus and they knew it was him by the “breaking of the bread.” (v. 35)

And then Jesus shows up in their midst again. They are still startled, recognizing him as Jesus, but thinking it is perhaps a spirit and not really him.

He shows them his hands and his feet and they still are a mix of disbelief and joy and then Jesus says, “Have you anything here to eat?”

They hand Jesus a piece of broiled fish, and Jesus eats it.

Then Jesus explains the scripture and the prophecy and their responsibility to proclaim repentance and forgiveness of sins to all nations.

I am stuck on Jesus, in the midst of his disciples freaking out that he’s there and alive, asking for food.

My tunnel vision for all things embodiment is surely at play, but it is such an interesting moment. The bread makes sense – so closely mimicking the breaking of bread just a few days prior. This is a natural memory cue.

The fish even makes sense in the greater story – there have been other pieces of broiled fish shared among these people. There’s something in that too I’m sure, but it seems to me that Jesus is asking for food, eating, and participating in this very bodily act of digestion as a way to say:

“Yes. It’s me. The embodied Christ risen again. I am not a spirit. I am not an imagination. I am not some new form. This body was dead and now this body is alive. Resurrection. Restoration. The body is important and it came back, too.” 

And a few verses later that body ascends to Heaven – holes in his hands, digestive tract in tact.

Disciples are trying to figure out why they’re seeing the previously dead Jesus standing before them. And Jesus asks for food. It seems ridiculous. It seems inconsequential. It seems incredulous that the risen Messiah, Jesus the Christ is hungry. How base, how completely human to be hungry.  Which is exactly the point. Jesus took on the form of human. Jesus was incarnated into body. We live an incarnational faith.

We have a long history in Christianity that devalues the body, that makes the body less than the spirit and soul.  I believe these thoughts are more connected to the ideas of Plato and the Gnostics than to Jesus Christ and the Christians.  Over and over again in the Bible, God honors the body and esteems it – starting from the very beginning when humans are created in the image of God and including the ultimate endorsement of human body when Jesus Christ showed up on earth with hands and feet and human hunger.  Our bodies matter for a whole host of reasons  – not the least of which are that they are created in the image of God and that their value is proved when Jesus shows up in human flesh.

God’s provision for the body in the form of food and nourishment is repeated throughout scripture. Manna from heaven. Ravens in the desert. Oil that never runs dry. Land of milk and honey. 5 loaves and 2 fishes. Nets that strain underneath the weight of their catch. A piece of broiled fish.

I often think that one of the most damaging aspects of the faith-based diet and weight loss industry is that it hinders our ability to see the provision of God in food.

Christian Diet IndustryIf we allow it and we are so privileged to have it:  food is a constant reminder of God’s provision in our life. Multiple times a day we eat. We put in sustenance that nourishes our mind, body, and soul. Alone or in groups – this is a chance for us to stop and remember to be thankful.  And I believe that if those privileged enough to have ready access to food take the time to enjoy it rather than fear it – we would be more in tune to the needs of those who do not have food security.

 

For so much of my life I thought that I was supposed to act like I didn’t like food since I was fat. I was supposed to suppress any pleasure I got from  the satiating nature of food or the way the tastes heightened my senses. I was supposed to feel guilty about the starving children, as if my fear and sense of failure could help alleviate that tragedy.

Our culture at large and the Christian diet industry specifically largely sees food as an enemy, temptation, guilt, rules, and something to be feared.  In addition to our own nourishment needed for survival –  food is a way that we enjoy life. If we are so blessed, food is not tasteless, bland, and boring. It has flavor and texture, intoxicating smells and visual appeal. I do not believe this is an accident – food is a good and beautiful gift given to us by the creator. Yet, we fear it, we fear what it will do to us if we enjoy this gift.

There are good and true teachings and practices for fasting. There are things to be learned from periods of abstaining. But, for the vast majority of us, these practices of extreme deprivation are not how God calls us to live our lives. We are right to avoid an over-indulgence that comes at the cost of exploiting others or become hedonistic, but this does not mean there should be no joy in food.

Food draws us together; it provides community. In John’s gospel we see a different post-fish resurrection story. Jesus gathers with his disciples on the beach, as they had done before. There are feasts and festivals throughout the Bible. We are invited to a great Wedding Feast.  Our cultures and our touchstone moments often place food in the spotlight:  holiday feasts, birthday cake. When we invite neighbors over, we fire up the grill, pop open the wine, pass the basket of bred.

Food sustains us in pleasurable ways. It draws us together. It is part of being a body.

After the resurrection, as Jesus is taking the time to appear to his disciples and remind them of what is important and to give them their instructions for how they are to live their life – he takes a moment to remind them that he is body, that body matters. In a world where we are still desperately trying to make our bodies acceptable to God, I do not think this is a small thing.

 

 

 

 

Holy Week and tender care for The Body

To think of the body of Jesus during Holy Week is nothing out-of-the-ordinary. We know well the scenes of how his body was flogged with whips.  We know that his back carried a rough wooden cross as his feet and legs carried him through the crowded streets of Jerusalem. We know that his hands were pierced by nails, his side speared, and his brow felt the painful impression of a crown of thorns. We know that his body died. We know that somehow, mysteriously, bread and wine become his body and his blood and we join in this story of love.

These painful, sacrificial moments in the literal body of Jesus are center stage to Holy Week.

Yet this week I have been paying attention to other ways the Body of Jesus was treated during the days surrounding his death and resurrection.

There are two striking stories that frame the death of Jesus. Both involve women. Both involve loving and tender care for Jesus’ body. This focus on life and beauty a bit of foreshadowing perhaps for the resurrection that will soon come.

Hope and life are entwined in the story of the Resurrection, in the beauty of Easter. Caring for the body speaks to both.

All four Gospels tell the story of a woman who anoints Jesus with costly oil.  Some of the details differ, but the story is there.During the week in which Jesus will celebrate Passover with his disciples – where he will say, “This is my body, broken for you” –  a woman approaches Jesus, breaks a jar of expensive oil, and pours the fragrant offering onto his body. The oil goes on his head or his feet depending on which gospel author is telling the story.

The men who have joined Jesus at the table dismiss this act. They call it wasteful. They say there are better things to do with precious oil than to spill it on the body.

Jesus honors this act of tender care for his body, this act of love and worship.

And then,  some time later after women stood near the cross and watched the bruised and bleeding body of their Lord breath his last, they returned to the tomb where he had been placed.

“Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Salome brought spices, so that they might go and anoint him.”

We are told that these women, and others, ministered to Jesus while he was in Galilee. (Mk 15:41) These women knew the Messiah. They gave tender care in life and death for the man who had been their friend and teacher.

Part of me wonders how much this attention to the body of Jesus is due to the fact that Jesus saw their bodies and called them good. These women lived in a culture that called their bodies and lives “less”  – where their bodies were regularly deemed “unclean” for days at a time. This is a Jesus who heals women from diseases and enters them back into society as a result. A Jesus who stands on the side of a woman whose body has been used in sin and tells her accusers to lay down their stones. This is a Jesus who protects the bodies of women, and they honor his physical body in life and death.

I used to beat myself up with Romans 12:1 – offer your bodies as living sacrifices – certain that verse meant I needed to beat my body into submission to whatever was deemed to be the “correct” way of having a body.  The way that Jesus honors the expensive, wasteful, extravagance of oil poured over a body reminds me that offering our bodies as sacrifices does not mean making them conform to a worldly standard. There is no size or health requirement to live as Christ.  There is no exclusion for who can offer their heart, their life, their all up to the transformative life of following Jesus the Messiah. Jesus tells us even those excluded by traditional authorities are welcome. Even the sacrifices that don’t make sense to others have a place.

Yes, the story of Holy Week includes much about the suffering of Jesus and the cruel torture his body endured. There is pain and cost to following Jesus – but that is not the whole story, and the pain and suffering definitely should not come form trying to conform your body to a societal ideal.  (I’d argue that Jesus’ pain and suffering came because he confronted and opposed so many of society’s ideals. It was his truth and his love and his confrontation of the power structures that got him killed.)

There is room in the Gospel story for the truth of tender love, care, and attention to the body.

One body-positive “activity” that I first hear from someone many years ago is to put lotion on your body. Arms and legs, torso. This act not only nourishes your body as an act of self care, but it allows you to feel your own body – the curves and the lumps. Smooth or bumpy skin. You begin to know your own body. If you actively practice body-positive statements and thoughts during this, it’s a move towards accepting your body.  I’ve had this exercise in my mind while I’ve been thinking about the anointing of Jesus’ body.

There are differences:  Lotion, not ointment or spices.  Your own hands, not the hands of another.  But, perhaps you might like to consider taking the time this Easter weekend to put lotion on your body. It is one way to remember the tender, loving moments of Holy Week and remind yourself of the way Jesus calls the body good and worthy and important.

 

 

 

 

 

Learning to love yourself.

[image: a picture I love because it’s a skirt I made, because it was taken at a time I was happy, in a home where I was loved and loved, because the twirling and the dancing on Easter morning is spiritually significant, especially that year.  But still a picture where I must intentionally continue the battle to insist that I am worthy despite the ways my body differs from the “standard.”]

I was talking with a friend the other day who is taking the first steps into body-positivity and battling bravely against all the lies that our culture  puts in our heads about our bodies. She asked me, “How do you not hate yourself?”  And, what I knew she meant, “How did you get here? How did you find freedom?”

I have no 5 step plan. I have no guarantees. But in the hopes that it will be useful to others- these were some of my first, memorable, steps into the land of not hating myself.  Maybe something will work for you.

I do want to say – I’m still on the journey. I am more likely to roll my eyes at weight loss ads and I am usually pretty laser-eyed at spotting the subtle body-shaming that is everywhere in our society. But there are days when it feels like being thin would solve all my problems, when that new diet idea seems like maybe it would work, when it seems like the perks of thinness would be worth all the costs.  Those days are rarer all the time, but they happen, and that’s ok.

Our culture is designed to make us desire thinness, it makes life easier for thin people. We are not likely to entirely escape its well-financed pull.

1. I intentionally spent time in body-positive online spaces. For me that was “fatshionista” back in the glory-days of LiveJournal. As a fashion blog, there were many pictures every day of large humans, mostly women, looking fabulous.  I was able to see the beauty in other people first. It was an important step.

2. I measured myself. I set up my camera timer and took a full length photo of myself.  I wore something I liked and smiled. Then I used a basic photo editor to add my measurements.  I now knew, and had a reference of, the number of inches around my bust and waist, thighs and upper arms. This was beneficial in a number of ways: I KNEW my size.  Much of plus-size shopping is done online because there are so few option in local stores – now I had the power to shop better with the various sizing methods of various brands. This was empowering. Also, in the fatshionista community,  it was common for people to post their weight/size/measurements with their photos. Knowing my measurements, I was able to spot my “body twins” and was astounded by thinking. “She’s pretty. She looks fabulous. Does that mean maybe I look ok too?”

3. I started posting pictures. “Dear world. Here is me!!!”  I was in a supportive community, so I got a lot of supportive feedback. The more I posted. The more confidence I gained. I no longer take the effort to set up cameras and timers to get full-length shots, but I’m a big fan of the feministselfie,  “unflattering faces” included.

4. I dated a few different guys during the early years of learning to love my body (that’s not the tip)- – I slowly learned to be intentional at believing when they told me they found such and such about me attractive and not brushing it off or making some weird comment about myself in reply. I would say “thank you” sincerely.  As much as my feminist side wishes it wasn’t this specifically male-gaze that was one of my influential steps, it is what it is. I’ll critique it – but it was still there. So – whoever is saying nice things about you in your life: choose to believe them.

5.  I did a lot of standing in front of the mirror in various states of dress.  I didn’t really “compliment” myself or find things I loved – I just got used to me. I just saw me.  Years later, I’ll sometimes catch an unintended glance of myself in the mirror and think, “beautiful!” in that split second before I realize it’s me, and I just kind of laugh joyously.

6. I stopped wearing clothes that I didn’t like  the look or fit of. Mine is not a body built for off-the-rack empire waists and button-closure shirts. I look FABULOUS in wrap-shirts, but they’re not really my day-to-day style, feel too formal for me. My style has shifted and changed various times over the years, but unless it’s something I HAVE To have – I just don’t buy anything that I don’t love.  When I wear clothes, I like them for either their comfort or their style. I wear things that make me feel good.

7.  I didn’t really tell people for a while, I want to say years. This is my personality type. I figure things out in my head, and then I tell people. I had a couple friends who knew I was trying. I had my online support community. But for the most part I stayed quiet about it with friends and family. I was battling some strong foes inside my own head trying to prove that I deserved dignity, I did not yet have the strength to be the go-to “fat and happy” person in my everyday community.

8. I started calling myself “fat” in a neutral tone. Not “plus size” or “curvy” or “fluffy” or whatever other euphemism there is. Just fat.  I know others prefer euphemisms for their own body-positive reasons. Do what works for you.  Find a word that is empowering and liberating. Find a word that tells yourself, and maybe others, that you are ok with you. Use that one, even if you don’t quite believe it yet but want to.

If you’ve started this journey as well, I’d love to hear what’s worked for you – even if it’s been those infamous steps forward and backward.

Found this helpful? Please Pin and share!

A few first steps on the road to a body-positive life. jnicolemorgan.com
A few first steps on the road to a body-positive life. jnicolemorgan.com

Chicago was spring, Philadelphia autumn.

I am sitting in a guest room that was once my room at my parents’ home. I’m typing away with my feet propped up on a box and my computer on top of an antique vanity that belonged to my great-grandmother. The years have cycled back, the way they do, to the first season. The room is mine again.

The red Georgia clay and the bare winter limbs on the oaks outside are part of the season that birthed me 32 years ago. I joke with my parents that I am the poster-child for the boomerang generation. Three cross-continent moves, a graduate degree, and a couple “adult” jobs under my belt, but here I am typing away at a vanity where I can see my name that I etched into the wood as a kid.

On my first cross-country move I landed just north of Chicago, a ten-minute walk from the shore of Lake Michigan. It was a land of straight and flat roads, crossing at hard-right angles until you got to the shore where sand and rocks met vast water. I had a spot near the lake—a tree arched over the edge of the water and every season I marveled at the changes there. I once waded waist-high in snow drifts to get close to the icy lake. I watched in awe as the weather changed from week to week. For the first time in my life I knew what it was like to ache for the coming of spring, to see the green shoots of grass start growing as the slushy, dirty snow finally melted.

In Chicago, the beauty of the Lake and the beauty of the architecture fed my soul in tandem. Chicago introduced me to myself in a way that’s only possible when you flourish somewhere brand new. As a suburban girl, I barely knew my neighbors, but here I passed them on the sidewalk regularly as we all walked to the train or the coffee shop or church.

When spring came, we all went outside. The two elementary school children across the street played football with their dad in the front yard, Henry the beagle and his caretaker made frequent trips around the block; I chatted with the next door neighbor about plants as I edged my lawn right next to her driveway. There was an annual block party and an Easter-egg hunt. My introverted self means I can’t tell you the names of many of these people, but I was drawn to the community and togetherness–these seeds of community burrowed into my heart.

And when the season in Chicago was done, I landed in the hills and valleys of Eastern Pennsylvania to attend seminary. Here, I would check the weather for rain and plan my life accordingly. When it rained the basement flooded and blocked my path to the washing machine for a day. The roads flooded in such a way that my old car protested and sputtered over every puddle.

But on pretty days I’d sometimes find myself on a hill in the beautiful Valley Forge National Park, textbook and pen in hand as I did my reading for my seminary coursework. During those years the theology I studied and learned began to stitch together the pieces of my life. I was desperate to know if I was changing, or just growing. Had my years as an educator and a non-profit worker,  my experiences as a single woman and a fat woman, my understanding of God learned in a suburban Southern church and an urban Midwestern church  finally all come together to produce who I was?

That last year in Pennsylvania was a bountiful harvest. I had seen the beauty of community while watching my Chicago neighborhood, I got to live it in Pennsylvania where every Sunday night neighbors gathered together for dinner. Relationships were deep and meaningful. Ideas and hopes and dreams were always close at hand. After a lifetime of not knowing what I was passionate about, I finally had answers (to some things!). There were places where I could voice a firm “yes” or “no.”

Those passions and ideas unexpectedly led me back to Georgia, a move not for work or grad school, but a choice to be near family. There is a lot that is uncertain for me about life back in Georgia. While I found a worthwhile reason to move, one that was born out of the community I experienced with people who had been strangers,  my current situation lacks the structure to define my day’s activities. There is a freedom to find what will shape my life here. It is planting season: time to sow the seeds I reaped from a Pennsylvania harvest, first nourished in a Chicago spring.

The dark wood of this old vanity and the even-older red clay outside remind me that there are roots already here. This very specific plot has nurtured my beginnings before. A harvest will come again.  Now, counting on the hope of spring and the bounty of autumn, I sow.

Originally published as a guest post over at You are Here Stories

 

 

Remembering Neal

This is not fat theology. But this is absolutely body theology. This is absolutely community theology.

Earlier today I skimmed through a blog on how to incorporate black history month into the season of lent. One of the ideas stood out to me – – to research lynchings near your town.

I found one and the newspaper article recounting the murder of Neal Winship  makes my stomach heave.

In 1879  a man is accused and captured, but before a trial can be held, not that it would have mattered, a group of men arrive and drag his body from the jail  and take him down the road and hang him.  Hang him in front of a black church.

July 15 1879 The Weekly Constitution ATL
July 15 1879. The Atlanta Weekly Constitution

[The highlighting of “negro” throughout the article is because I used that word to search digital files of old Atlanta papers. The highlight is obviously not a part of the original document.]

The tone and bias of this article probably surprises no one. We know enough of our history to be able to clearly see racism in the past. But I do want to take a minute to look at what it’s doing. I think it’s important to name the ways we dehumanize people, the way we uphold systems of oppression. When we can identify why this article is racist – what attitudes are present that make the kind of society that lynches black men and women, then we can better identify racist thought that still exists today, even if it almost never ends in lynching anymore.

The article clearly sets up the white people as the benevolent victors. The white law enforcement “closely guarded” him – a show of their “care” to protect him, but the the ‘righteous indignation’ of the proud men who were “not disguised” was too strong.

They hung him in front of a church. His church? The men who murdered Neal probably didn’t even know. If this swift “justice” for an attempted crime is really about punishing a “bad negro” – then there is no need to leave his body hanging on a tree, to be found in the morning by a black church. The only reason you do that is to inflict terror and fear and to remind people exactly what you think of them – that their life is worth nothing, their life is not worth a chance of self-defense, a trial, the right to breathe.

The truth is, Neal probably wasn’t a “bad negro” or full of “villainy.” That’s just what is told to justify the violence.  So the story goes: if you behave, then you’ll be treated well. If you act respectable, then you’ll be given rewards.

If you follow the letter of our unwritten laws, then we’ll allow you to breathe tomorrow.

Even if he was guilty of the crime he was accused of, the way “justice” was carried out for him was racist and unjust.

The lynching itself is unspeakably horrific. The barbarity of it reinforced by the barely reserved glee with which it is reported. The  article upholds and condones a lie of white supremacy that paints the white men as warriors for justice protecting the decency of women and goodness.

I started digging and found the location of where the church would have likely been in 1879. Google street view told me there was a cemetery there today.  I had some timing flexibility today that gave me enough time to get there in daylight. I needed to go visit.

It’s a small cemetery, mostly run down – with a few newer graves – even a fresh one. Many of the gravestones were broken or had fallen over. Up in the corner there was a scattering of older graves. The oldest I saw was 1862. I didn’t find one for Neal, not that I really expected to.

Flint Ridge Cemetary
Flint River Cemetery, February 2015

I stood near those older graves though, which were resting near a tree. It was cold today in Atlanta – bitter wind. Quite different from what Georgia in July is like – the month when Neal was killed.  Yet the cold seemed fitting.I’m sure it was not that tree, but it was one like it and one close by. This was the tactile, physical connection you can’t get just reading old articles on the computer: the tree and the tombstones and the cold bitter wind.

I wanted beautiful words, something that would make my standing there in a cemetery remembering a man who had been dead for over 140 years matter. All I had was, “I’m sorry. Forgive Us. You are not forgotten. I know your name, Neal Winship.”

And later when I got home I did some more research to see what else I could find about Neal. And I found an article from a week later.

It turns out that the newspaper had incorrectly reported which county’s citizens had gone into a rage and kidnapped and murdered Neal.

July 22 1879 Weekly Consitution ATL
July 22 1879. Atlanta Weekly Constitution

What I noticed though is that they changed Neal’s last name too. He went from Winship to Wimbush. They did not bother to take the time to acknowledge that mistake.  (Though I guess Wimbush could be the mistake. Either way,  careful journalism seemed to not be an issue in this story.)

One of my seminary professors would often say “remember” as re-member. To again member, to put back together the parts of the whole, the parts of the body. That’s what I was doing there in the cold wind, under a tree, on a blood soaked land: trying to put back together Neal, trying to put back together the community, trying to put back together myself. To re-member all of us, to remind myself that it all matters. The beginning and the end. The history that is never really over. The past and the present and the future are all part of the same time.

Neal Wimbush/Winship: I remember you.

To Illustrate My Point: Dessert Flavored Yogurt

yogurtAfter writing my Discovering My Tastes posts the other day, I saw this at the grocery store this afternoon. This is what I’m talking about. If you love dessert, eat a dessert.

This is a multi-layered, multi -corporational, multi-year marketing scheme that says you’re supposed to love dessert (because it’s supposed to feel like you’re breaking the rules), but not supposed to “look like” you love dessert (be fat), and you’re supposed to eat “healthy food” (yogurt).

So here’s a way you can satisfy your market-created craving for something “rebellious” in a market-approved way.

Discovering my tastes

[image:  a french toast feast with neighbors on a snow day.]

One thing that’s been fun over the past decade as I’ve learned to eat intuitively – out of hunger or desire – rather than based on some set of rules, has been discovering what I like.

I’m a bit of a foodie. I love vegetables and food preparation techniques that are way too time consuming to be practical in my life. Arugula is my favorite type of leafy green.  Few things relax me more than wandering through farmers markets and I have, on more than one occasion, read cook-books cover-to-cover.  Learning to accept these “foodie” parts of me has been its own, mostly exciting, journey.

As a kid I remember turning down chocolate-chip pancakes on more than few occasions. I remember telling myself, “I shouldn’t eat those.”

I think perhaps one of the most surprising things that I’ve learned about my own food tastes is that I have no desire to eat chocolate chip pancakes.

Somehow I believed that because I was fat, I was supposed to inexplicably love all things dessert – chocolate and whip cream on your breakfast included. I turned them down with the conscious thought that I was saying no to a “forbidden” thing I was supposed to crave.

Turns out, I don’t crave them. Not at all.

Turns out I have a very strong aversion to dessert “flavored” things that are not dessert. Leave the cheesecake out of my yogurt. The words “chocolate chip cookie dough” do not belong anywhere near the “healthy energy bar” aisle.  And for goodness sakes, please leave the chocolate out of my breakfast!

For the record, in case you ever have me over to dinner. My hands-down favorite dessert is a home-made cobbler. Warm with a crunchy oat topping.

intinction

On Sunday, the congregation lined up down the outer aisles of the church to walk forward and receive the bread and the wine. We took communion via “the ancient practice of intinction” as the chapel leaders at seminary would say. A piece of bread, the body of Jesus, dipped into the wine, the blood of Jesus.

I had made my way back to my pew and sat, facing forward, hearing the murmuring whispers of the body of Christ: broken or you, the blood of Christ: shed for you repeated over and over again as the congregants took the bread and wine, body and blood.

The gentleman’s hand shook as he raised it from the walker to take the bread. And when he lowered his hand towards the goblet, it came down with an unintended force, splattering the wine up his hand. His face gave away his frustration, but he placed the wine-soaked bread in his mouth, returned his hand to his walker, and made his way back down the center aisle.

Then a young woman stood from her seat and met him in the aisle. She had a white tissue in her hand as she reached for his, gently wiping away the splattered wine.

And there it is. The body and the blood – that’s what the body and the blood looks like when it’s moving and living. It looks like a towel wrapped around the savior’s waist – kneeling to wash the feet of his disciples. It looks like a tissue in the hand of a young woman, rising to clean the hands of an elder.

Much of my fat theology centers around the idea that all bodies are made in the image of God and that our bodies are not any less important than our soul or our spirit. As I’ve attended this new-to-me church the past few months and watched the way they care for the lives and bodies of the aged and the sick, I have seen beauty. And these aged bodies are not just cared for, they are not just passive participants in the life of the church, no one blinks an eye that the age range of the church is reflected in the age range of those who serve and lead and do the life and ministry of the church.  Call it the ignorance of youth – but thinking back on previous church experiences: this is new to me. It is new to me to see the aged and the elderly so frequently in leadership positions.

It’s beautiful, and right, and good.

Any size, any age, any ability: fearfully and wonderfully made and called according to God’s purposes.

Passion

[image] the view outside my one-time home, a world blanketed in cold beauty

 
It was an early December Sunday a couple winters ago. I was coming off a marathon week of classes, papers, work, and a conference and had one more 10 page paper to knock out that night, so I stayed home from church. I had my books about theology and our bodies piled on my desk, post-it notes tabs sticking out at all angles. I knew the forecast said snow, so I pulled open the blinds and let light stream in as my fingers clickety-clacked over the keys and I tried to keep my passion for the subject in the boundaries of the assigned paper. Only stopping for brief pauses to sip coffee. Then a few pages in, I glanced out the window and saw the snow falling, a light dusting already on the ground.

I kept typing with renewed enthusiasm to finish so that I could enjoy my favorite part of winter. Philadelphia never had a good snowfall last year and I missed it.
A couple hours later one of my roommates made it back to the apartment with a couple of our Sunday night dinner guests in tow and we decided the thick blanket of white called for a snowball fight. We bundled up and headed out – pelting each other and the windows of neighbor friends who decided not to come outside. We fell backwards and made snow angels before heading back inside and drying off. Then, I was back to the paper.

I typed away until it was time for Sunday dinner. It was our Christmas party week. We served up plates full of food from everyone’s offerings, then opened gifts while laughing and taking turns wearing a Santa hat.

And then once again I was back to my computer, to run one more edit and submit the paper, proud of the work I had done. Confident that the work I was doing on this topic was important and part of the reason I am on this earth.

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A few years ago someone asked me, “What’s your passion?”  and I had no idea how to answer them. It wasn’t that I didn’t have things that interested me, I just didn’t know what my passion was – I didn’t know what it was that motivated me or lead me to do the things I did. So I started looking at my life and trying to figure out that answer.

I looked back on my adult life to that point and the things I had pursued, things that were common denominators no matter where my life was. It was things like, “I like cooking for people.”  “I enjoy thinking deeply.”  “I like to have people over to my home.”  “All else being equal, aesthetics are important.” “I want people to feel comfortable, welcomed, and thought-of.”

And I started pursuing those things a little more. And that Sunday in December is kind of my answer to “What are you passionate about?” I’m passionate about friends and taking the time to enjoy the beauty of life. I am passionate about thinking about things that matter and engaging with them on deep levels – *specifically about talking about our bodies and our faith and how those things intersect for better or for worse. I’m passionate about communities and sharing meals and developing friendships and having people who show up at your house for snowball fights and warm soup.

What about you? Have you had a day that let you unexpectedly live your passions? What was it like?

 

(this post originally appeared on my previous blog)