Whether you turn to the right or to the left,

your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying,

“This is the way; walk in it.”

Isaiah 30:21

Our new national religion ...

It appears political affiiliation is our nation's new "religion."

To the donkey or the elephant we pledge our deepest obedience.

And this new "religion" makes demands on its adherents; demands to land on one side or the other of the most contentious, complex issues of our day.

Are you conservative or liberal?

Are you pro-choice or pro-life?

Are you for or against gay marriage?

Are you for Black or Blue Lives Matter?

Are you for open borders or for a wall?

On and on and on the list goes ...

Many of these are - in the end - false choices.

Yet, the political media on both sides love to force us to choose as it keeps viewers engaged and enraged.

What if Christians refused to bow the knee to this national political religion?

Refused to go along with either right or left-wing media outlets and their advertisers?

Simply refused to choose a side?

Refused labels, refused to be boxed in, refused to over-simplify complicated issues?

We could instead be discerning about political parties and look for what is good and helpful in both platforms, rather than demonizing one side or another.

We could be pro-human ... rather than placing issues or policies above real, hurting, helpless women and men.

We could seek to understand and engage the call to racial justice at the same time we honor those who risk their lives to keep others safe.

We could strive to learn about the issues that drive people to risk life and limb to flee their homeland, while at the same time urging our elected officials to enact sane, compassionate immigration policies.

What if Christians - rather than joining in the divisive, dehumanizing liturgy of political religion that is ripping this nation apart -  rediscovered the winsome ways of Jesus?

I can't stop asking myself this question.

 

 

 

 

I swam because I wanted to ...

Women and girls have been hoodwinked  into believing that obtaining an ideal body should be a life goal.

For many women, exercise is a necessary evil to be endured as we strive toward the always-elusive goal of bodily perfection ... or, to be most honest, bodily improvement.

We may not think we are buying in to this trope, but this pressure is ubiquitous and - like oxygen - most of us breathe in the polluted air without recognizing the damage.

I remember the summer our swim coach sent home an instruction sheet for his athletes and their parents. On it, he listed how many calories we were burning per day during our four hours of twice-daily practices.

I can still picture that sheet of paper, posted on the bulletin board right near our kitchen table.

The coach had written that we were to consume "at least 2400 calories per day" in order to keep our muscles strong.

That was the same summer he started to weigh us and the same summer that my dad, in good faith I believe, got rid of the snacks I had enjoyed eating after our evening practice.

I got home one night from another grueling practice and opened the cabinet to reach for a favorite treat and the shelf was empty.

I remember standing there in our small kitchen in disbelief for what felt like an hour.

I don't think I even asked where the food had gone.

I simply swallowed my shame and went to bed hungry.

So began the sick math of disordered eating: "If we burned at least 2400 calories in practice, and if I make sure I eat less than 2400 calories a day, I will lose weight and my coach will praise me after our weigh-ins and maybe the snacks will reappear in the cupboard."

I wrote in my journal, "Don't eat!"

I was 15.

Exercise - competitive swimming and weight lifting - became a means to an end.

That end had something to do with what my body weighed, how it looked, and what others thought of it.

And it has remained as such for all of my adult life.

Until recently.

Chalk it up to life lived, or middle age, or back surgery, or learning about how our culture crushes female souls with utter nonsense about how we should look.

Whatever the reason, the jig is up.

And it feels so incredibly freeing!

This morning I swam for an hour in the same pool in which my disordered eating and exercising was born. 

And I swam for the sheer joy of it.

I swam to keep my heart strong.

I swam to heal my back.

I swam because I want strong arms to hug my husband and lift my potential grandkids.

I swam because I love how it makes me feel.

I swam because I am still pretty darn fast.

I swam because I wanted to swim.

I came home and ate until I was full.

And that is how it should be for all of us.

Moving our bodies for the sheer joy of it.

 

Morning chores ...

Wake up and roll out of bed ...

Hug the husband,

Start the coffee,

Make the bed,

Water the garden,

Empty the dishwasher,

Take out the trash,

Scrabble together some lunch.

Morning chores ... mundane, monotonous;

the ordinary stuff of our ordinary days.

Necessary jobs using up (wasting?) our precious time.

The boring by-products of being alive on this earth.

But today ...

in the heavy, humid, morning air, 

I slowed down and paid attention to what I was doing.

And in this slowing,

in this paying attention, 

each act felt like a gift,

a precious reminder of my aliveness,

each daily chore embued with a sense of the holy.

I enjoyed the scrub of a beard on my husband's chin,

inhaled the rich smell of ground coffee,

pondered the gift of a soft bed,

stood in amazement at the abundance of our garden,

appreciated the clean dishes,

applauded our trash collectors

and praised God we had food enough for lunch.

AMEN.

Today, my morning chores were church.

 

Body shaming by design ...

I was struck by a statistic I heard this morning.

As we emerge from Covid, the number of Americans identifying themselves as depressed or anxious has skyrocketed.

It is so understandable to understand why, after the year we have all been through. 

At the same time so many of us find ourselves dealing with more anxiety and depression, the pandemic didn't help our waistlines at all.

Covid weight gain is common, and understandable. Especially as depression and anxiety escalate.

Who among us is happy about having to trade our sweat pants for actual jeans?

But for women, this issue brings special peril and danger.

We are targets for "body shaming by design," the idea that if advertisers can make us feel bad enough about our inability to attain the ideal female figure, we will buy their products.

Here is how Renee Engeln describes the cycle in her book Beauty Sick:

"You think about how your body looks, which in turn typically makes you think about the body ideal for women. How could it not, when most of us see hundreds of images of this ideal every day?

Once that ideal is in your mind's eye, it's hard to avoid comparing your own body to it.

And because the beauty ideal is out of reach for almost all women, you're probably going to end up on the losing end of that comparison.

That loss, that sense of your appearance not being where it should be, is what creates body shame."

And body shame is what leads to us to spend over $60 billion on cosmetics every year.

Sixty. Billion. Dollars.

It is such a vicious cycle:  

Convince women they must achieve the current feminine body ideal.

Create a body ideal that no woman can reach.

Shame women for not reaching impossible ideal.

Convince shamed women that buying a product, diet plan or program just might actually help them reach the ideal.

Repeat forever.

This system of imprisonment is so deeply entrenched in our culture and in our DNA that it almost feels impossible to escape.

The battle is real, friends.

Let's keep fighting, shall we?

For ourselves, for our daughters, our sisters, our mothers ...

No more body shame.