Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Dig Deeper

I've recently returned to "tornado alley" after being away for about 8 years (3.5 of which were in hurricane country) and find myself remembering the odd combination of anxiety and worry, the excitement of a good thunder-storm (that stays ONLY that), that despite bad acting I love the movie Twister, and all the stories of those who have been affected, including my own family, by awful, awful storms throughout the years.

People have developed better safe places with storm shelters and basements becoming more popular than they were in the mid-50's when the Ruskin Heights tornado tore apart my aunt and uncle's house.  Technology continues to improve, helping to create earlier warnings and alerts.  Systems and organizations of response (such as the DOC's Week of Compassion!) have become better organized and quicker at responding, saving lives and drawing together communities from around the world.  Yet we still continue to operate with poor, immature and sometimes downright awful theology as we strive to understand the "why" of it all when the proverbial and actual dust has settled from such a force of nature.

Don't get me wrong, its essential that we try to make sense of it all, especially as faithful people.  However, in our instant gratification world we are far too quick to jump to easy (and bad) explanations, because that's well, EASIER than working through a complex set of questions that sometimes may never get fully answered.  Most of us aren't even jumping to the same (horrendous) conclusions of Pat Robertson, or Westboro Baptist Church, blaming an act of nature and complex weather systems on a few people who don't pray enough or individuals who support an openly gay athlete, but we still listen to the bad theology happening inside our head on a daily basis. 

Just two years ago Joplin, MO was ravaged by a similarly horrible tornado, tearing apart the town.  One young woman left Joplin and eventually arrived in Moore, OK for work - and survived THIS tornado in 2013 as well!  I want to think that she was "living right," because, seriously, who lives through TWO F5 tornadoes in two years? Or we want to say that "God only gives [her] what [she] can handle" (or some equally awful cliche).  However, deep down, deep down... we know that's not right.  Those are just the easy answers, the cheap theology that sits at the top of our brain to spout off when we don't want to, or feel incapable of digging deeper into the parts that might not have the answers we want (at best) or have answers at all (this sucks).

I can't help but think of Job in this story - and the eternal question of "why bad things happen to good people".  Job was "living right," a wealthy, honest man with plenty of sheep, camels, cattle, donkeys, a means of livelihood and a huge family of children from his beautiful wife to support.  Like us, (not all the time, but often enough) Job's friends blame his disease, loss of family and poverty on sin, some way Job has ticked off God, or something HE has done wrong and for a moment Job begins to believe them.  However, the beauty of the story is that it corrects this ancient misunderstanding that suffering MUST BE GOD'S PUNISHMENT or that OUR FAITH IS CONTINGENT upon Divine blessing and/or a lack of bad occasions and circumstances.

I don't believe in a god that created a tornado as a form of punishment, for anyone.  I don't believe in a god that set certain people in particular locations so as to survive the storm because they were more deserving than those that didn't survive.  I don't believe in a god that only sends blessings in ways we can "measure," a nice house, or a successful career, or a house two blocks away from the path of the tornado.  And if I'm truly a follower of the crucified and resurrected Christ who redeems and brings us all back to oneness with the Divine, then I don't believe in a god that punishes at all.  

I believe in God who created a world and universe often beyond our imagination that includes unpredictable and uncontrollable forces of nature in which we find our being and source of life.  I believe in God who created the most amazing pieces of nature that are capable of inexplicable beauty and devastating loss all at the same time; pieces that do not exist without the other.  I believe in God who sat with every single woman, child, man, teenager, grandparent, baby and the like as the storm raged, sitting with them and us as Christ sat with humanity on the storm of the cross.  I believe in God who works in and through the many, many people who immediately acted, racing to save lives regardless of age, gender, nationality, economic status, sexual orientation, political affiliation, race, or even species.  I believe in God who rejoices with those who survived and are reunited, but mourns and grieves, and cries right along with those who must face the loss of a loved one.  I believe in God who is alive and well within the multitudes of people working together as one to bring life, wholeness and hope back to this community.  I believe in God who will continue this Spirit of life for each and every one of us, eternally, throughout this life and even beyond what we can imagine.

Friday, May 10, 2013

I am Taking it Back

I'm thankful that I have a body in which I am happy, but more than anything, I am thankful that I have a body that I know is my own, and does not belong to anyone else.  But it is SO, SO , SO easy to forget that.  I often do forget that, so I am declaring; I am taking back my body.

There have been so many blogs, tweets, news articles and the like that are talking about body image, sex education, the church, rape culture, abortion rights, natural beauty and numerous other things and I just feel like shouting at the time of my lungs to every woman and girl to remember that her body belongs to her.  Partially this is a reminder, because you owe it to yourself to embrace YOU.  But is also partially an assignment to always remember this:


I am taking back my body from the advertising that tells me what is or isn't beautiful, that my size dictates my worth (think H&M), or that I am more or less beautiful based on the coverings of my body.  Don't get me wrong, I haven't always loved my body - but I've finally come to a point that I do love the skin I'm in, and I'm claiming it as my own.  No thanks to advertising campaigns like the Victoria's Secret "Bright Young Things", or the Dove Campaign, or fashion magazines or mean high school girls, or the idiot A&F CEO, I'm taking back my body - curves and blemishes and all; I'm taking back my body that allows me to do my job, hug my family,  run with my dog, smile for crazy photos with  friends, and devour a delectable bajillion calorie meal with a heavenly glass of wine without worrying about my waste line EVERY TIME I CHEW.  I've struggled with body image and weight issues nearly my entire life - at least since I hit double digits in age - but FYI - I'm taking back my body. It is MY BODY, and it is MY job and no one else to allow people in (for betterment and support), or to shut out people (or media, advertising, magazines or down-right crappy people) who do not allow me to own my own skin and LOVE IT.

My body belongs to me, and I'm taking it back.

I'm taking back my body from the religious sources that tell me I should be ashamed of my body, and what it is capable of.  Elizabeth Smart didn't want to leave her CAPTOR because she felt ashamed of the ways her body was used.  Not because she was afraid of a violent man, but because she was made to feel worthless because of her own body.  Oh Lord...  literally.... Lord!  Lord, remind me that I am a woman.  I have fingers, toes, breasts, curves, a vagina, a clitoris, legs (sometimes hairy!), lips, arms, nipples, hair, an ass (cellulite!) and so much more - THAT YOU GAVE ME.  I was created in your image.  I was created to bring forth life (and probably gain weight while doing it!), and created in such a way that I am allowed to enjoy that creative process we call sex.  Dear Lord, please remind me of this every day.

My body was given to me by my Creator, and I'm taking it back from religious sources that want me to be ashamed.  DON'T GET ME WRONG, there is still an imperative need to teach young people as they come into their own bodies about the implications of a sexual relationship; it is meaningful, important, often sacred, not something to treat lightly, not set apart from God, moreover it includes the Divine - but neither is it something to be ashamed of.

It is MY body - given to me by my Creator - and I am taking it back.

I am taking back my body from anyone who thinks that it is my fault if I become a victim of violation.  The Steubenville rape case comes to mind for sure, but it has only highlighted the "rape culture" that permeates our society in which we seek to blame anything and everyone EXCEPT the violator for the cause of such atrocities.  It is MY body and I am taking it back.  I shouldn't have to live in a constant state of "protection," just in case someone wants to violate me.  Violators are violators.  It doesn't matter if my skin is showing, if I've had too many drinks, if I'm walking alone to my car in the middle of downtown, if I'm a minister, a stay at home mom or a stripper - ANOTHER PERSON should not violate me, nor have the right to feel like they can get away with it.  Sure, most of us (regardless of profession) use certain techniques as a source of "protection" (carrying pepper spray, never leaving your drink unattended, parking under a light pole).  However, I shouldn't have to live in a constant state of "do this so I don't get raped," or have to live in fear that IF something happened to me, I could be BLAMED and not protected by society or my government because I was violated.  It's not just about dark alleys and drunken nights either - its the dangerous, dangerous assumption that silence means consent.  It's quite the opposite.  I haven't said yes just because I didn't say no - I say YES when I say YES - and that is it.

It is MY body - you have no right to it unless it is expressly granted - and I am taking it back.

There are so many more things that I could address.  There are so many more blogs and tweets and news articles that have had me questioning what is my responsibility, how other's could say such awful things, where did I go wrong with my body, why I'm not allowed to feel sexy apart from the opinion of another person, and what steps I need to take to make sure I'm not blamed or ashamed.  But the bottom line is this.  It is MY body.  I am taking it back.

I am taking it back from anyone who has ever made me feel less than because of how I look.
I am taking it back from highly processed food that does it no good.
I am taking it back from anyone who has ever made me feel uncomfortable for wearing a certain set of clothing.
I am taking it back from anyone who has considered silence consent.
I am taking it back from companies who value the bottom line far about human life.
I am taking it back from anything that gives me an excuse to not stay active.
I am taking it back from anyone who wants to tell me that God made a mistake.
I am taking it back from anyone who wants to tell me what beauty is.
I am taking it back from anyone who wants to sell me food that isn't food for a $$.
I am taking it back from anyone who determines my worth by the price tag on the clothes they sell.
I am taking it back from excuses I have given about health.
I am taking it back from anyone who I have not given consent to.
I am taking it back from large portion sizes that trick me into thinking I'm still hungry.
I am taking it back from anyone who believes a decision about my body is not MY decision.
I am taking it back from anyone who values my looks, my mind, or my accomplishments or anything else above the love I hope to offer.

I am taking back my body both as a way to say - it is not yours, it is mine - but also as a sense of responsibility and ownership.  I have been gifted a vessel to live and enjoy life.  I have been gifted a vessel to share love and create vitality.  I have been gifted a vessel to make this world a better place. I am taking ownership of my body and responsibility for the way I care for it, and I will surround myself with people and communities that will help me do that in a healthy manner.  So if I don't give you consent to touch, comment, value, define or decide for it - then leave it alone.