Kindness to self – Rediscovering the Lost Body-Connection within Christian Spirituality Number4

How do you treat yourself? What kind of self talk to you engage in?
What about when you are anxious? Or stressed? Or when you’ve made a mistake?

Negative self-talk is not without consequences. We actually have the power to cause self-harm through the words we say (or think).When talking about this with other, I sometimes suggest that we think about our self-talk with a lens of “would I say that to another person?” Sometimes, most times, the answer is a resounding “NO!” But still, the temptation to do this can be great, especially if you heard such negative talk directed to you as a child.

For me personally, it comes to body image. Through the years I’ve reflected on my past and am now in the process of writing my story. Part of the story includes a very negative body image. The root of this is in being told from the time I was in 6th grade that I am fat. I was even put on diets by older siblings. I remember once being so hungry that I stole an apple and quickly ate it while standing behind the house. Can you imagine thinking that an apple is “bad” to eat? But when I look at photos taken when I was a child, I was not fat! (Unfortunately I can’t find any of those photos this week)

After a lifetime of struggle with healthy eating, I have been fat…and I have been thin. Until recently I never maintained a weight, instead always moving up or down (mostly up). I have now been at the same healthy weight (±5 pounds) for the past 2 years. That is a record for me.

And yet, I will still, on occasion, look down at my stomach with derision and say, “I’m so fat!” Maybe this is why the following paragraph hit me:

“If you cannot be kind, caring and supportive inside yourself, then how can you possibly presume that this capacity will magically appear in your dealings with others and the world around you? How our body carries the feelings we have about ourselves is the primary factor influencing all our relationships.” (page 41)

Those are tough words. Thankfully they are tempered by grace. The grace that God gives to each of us as a genuinely free gift. Grace that helps us to know we are valuable and worthy of love – no matter what our bodies look like. Christian spirituality, Christian prayer are rooted in this grace and in the command of Jesus to love. To truly love others we must first learn to love ourselves.

For me, becoming an endurance athlete has taught me to love this wonderful body…just as it is. Loving it means taking care of it with rest and nourishing food and exercise and prayer. It’s all related.

How have you learned to be kind to yourself?

Grace found in Small Steps

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An uphill journey might seem hard, but the view at the top is worth every step.

The other day I was listening to the Rich Roll Podcast and his interview of Zach Bush, MD. You can listen to it here: RichRoll Podcast – Zach Bush, MD

There was much to be alarmed about in this podcast, especially in the way our farming and use of pesticides is responsible for much illness and other problems. But the message from Zach was also one of hope and promise for the future.

The most impactful statement…the one that made me stop what I was doing, find some paper and pencil, and make a note was Zach’s scientific definition of grace.

Previously I’d never thought of a scientific definition of grace. Here is what he said:

Grace scientifically is that you heal faster than you injure.

I love this definition and can find so much truth in its simplicity…not just scientifically but in life. There is so much hope in these words.

You heal faster than you injure.

Simple decisions that lead to simple changes can lead to healing. This idea is not that making a small change will lead to overnight improvement. But rather our simple changes (which if truly simple are also small), lead over time to big transformation.

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Oatmeal and berries…much better than what I used to eat for breakfast.

Some examples that come to mind:

  • Choosing healthy food will lead to a healthier body over time. The effects of past poor choices don’t disappear immediately but they do over time. My own experience of this is that by (mostly) eliminating processed food from my diet and replacing it with real, wholesome food, I’ve lost 80 pounds. It took a few years.
  • Choosing to move a bit every day can lead to better fitness. If it’s hard, then start with walking and move from there (or even stay there if that works for you). When I decided to be more active and start running, I could only run 30 seconds before needing to walk. Over time, my body grew stronger and in 2018 I completed my 10th marathon…and marathon number 8 was Boston.
  • Choosing to limit online media can lead to a healthier attitude. I confess that this one is a struggle for me. But I do notice that my decision to refrain from pointless online arguments and to no longer follow certain people has made me a much happier person. I need to take daily steps to further limit the time I spend here (especially on Twitter 🤔)
  • Choosing to mediate or pray regularly helps to clear the mind of distractions. Haha…this one is a work in progress too.

All of these transformations – or potential transformations have been gradual. They are perfect examples of healing (or better health) coming about through small changes. Of course we must acknowledge that better health can also be relative. The starting point often dictates how far we can go, but that doesn’t mean we cannot make some improvement.

Sometimes we fail to take those initial, small steps because the change we seek seems to be so far out of reach that we give up before we start. Or it is painful to start moving. But the experience of grace is that when we take one small step after another we are eventually able to look back and see that we’ve travelled so incredibly far on the road to better health.

How have you been able to experience this grace in your life?

Icebergs – Rediscovering the Lost Body-Connection within Christian Spirituality #3

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From page 31 of “Rediscovering the Lost Body-Connection…”

There is much more going on below the surface! This iceberg analogy resonates with me. Maybe it will with you as well. Briefly, we experience feelings, emotions, and physical sensations all the time. Often we react to these emotions without having a clear understanding of where they came from or what precipitated them.

For much of my life, this reactionary activity resulted in my pushing these feelings aside with food.

Was I happy? Then eat!
Was I sad? Nothing like eating for this!
Was I bored? Hmm, what could I eat?
Was I angry? Nothing like something crunchy and salty.

The problem with this approach was that I was unhealthy…physically, mentally, and spiritually. Learning, instead to explore the “why” behind an emotion, has been a freeing (and difficult) process. I say process because I am still learning here and can safely say that it will be a lifetime of learning, of exploration.

The first step in exploring what was under the water line (the iceberg) was through faith. In knowing that God loves me unconditionally, I could safely and critically interact with old hurts, old failings, old disappointments. This was freeing, but it was mostly the spiritual and mental.

The next step for me came through endurance sport. It was here that I truly learned to love my body and the gift that it is. It was here that I learned that I could endure great hardship…and later say it was “fun” (see Fun? Endurance…Is it fun?). It was here that I’ve learned so much about the holistic nature of faith. It has changed my outlook and given me the desire to help others experience life through endurance and through grace.

Today…food can still be a struggle (The Never-Ending Struggle with Weight). Unfortunately that will always be the case because of biology. But mindfulness and movement can counteract the struggle. If you’d like some help here let me know!

 

 

Rediscovering the Lost Body-Connection within Christian Spirituality – #2

Way back on October 31, 2018 I posted the first of what was to be a series on the above mentioned book. Then I got bogged down in all kinds of stuff…and to be honest the book is not all that easy to write about. Well, also, I’m only on page 38 so that’s maybe not the best excuse. Today, a few quotes that are important.

All of us, especially children, must be encouraged to listen to our bodies as teachers and not as enemies.

Somehow, as a child I learned that my body is the enemy. I was told that I was fat…ugly…lazy and I believed all this. It’s only recently that I’ve learned to love this wonderful body that God has given to me. It is indeed fearfully and wonderfully made…freckles and lumps and all!

I’ve learned this through sport…endurance sport…running to be exact. I wish I had discovered this earlier, but as I keep telling people, “it’s never too late to start.”

Important to my journey (which led to a pastoral call) I discovered the truth that God’s grace is an absolutely free gift. This knowledge has freed me from lots of self-doubt, but I must have thought of it more in the sense of feelings and heart. Today, as I fully realize this grace, I now believe, it can a should lead us to a holistic understanding of our bodies as gifts to be used and cherished and cared for.

What about you? How do you interact with your body today? Is it different from when you were a child?

New Book Blog – Rediscovering the Lost Body-Connection within Christian Spirituality

I don’t have a history of being happy with my body. I started running to lose weight. I soon learned that running alone wouldn’t do it. I had to change my eating as well. Over the years I did lose weight. While its not always been easy, this is the first time in my life I didn’t gain it all back. At the beginning I didn’t expect the spiritual change that occurred.

Today I run as a spiritual practice. I work through problems. I pray. I even write sermons. I’ve also felt the deep call to help others to (re)discover their own bodies as pathways to experiencing God’s grace. I’ve struggled with language. So I’m thrilled to have discovered the book, “Rediscovering the Lost Body-Connection within Christian Spirituality,” by Edwin M. McMahon and Peter A. Campbell.

As I read, I will share thoughts and hopefully start some discussion. Today’s thought comes from page 1 of the preface:

During more than 45 years of our team research, we have discovered that the way in which people treat their own bodies and feelings becomes a reliable predictor of how they will then treat and interact with those around them.

I’ve been saying that if we can treat ourselves better, we will be able to treat others better. How might our world be in a better place if we cared for ourselves? Would we then be better able to care for others? I think so. I look forward to more discoveries in this book.

Meanwhile, what are your thoughts?

 

My Thoughts – BlackkKlansman

BlacKkKlansman Movie PosterI’m not a movie critic. Sometimes when I read what others have written about movies, my own thoughts seem to be so inadequate. Maybe if I saw more movies, and then chose to review them I’d get better at it. But then, life as a movie critic is not my job.

My current job is both a job and a title, Pastor. Specifically, pastor in a Lutheran Church that is part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). We are one of the (if not the most) whitest denominations in America. The synod of which I am a part (Los Angeles and surrounding counties) is the most diverse, something to be proud of. But my congregation is not one of those diverse congregations I am sad to say. I am a white pastor in a majority Mexican immigrant city. I speak some Spanish and am continually working at it. But so far, my efforts to lead us to being a more diverse church have had limited success. This is just a bit of my context.

Today, for Labor Day, I went to see BlackkKlansman. It was a powerful movie. It bridges the past and the present in such a way that it is impossible to close our eyes to the ongoing evil of white supremacy in our nation.

I don’t use the word “evil” lightly. It was evil to kidnap and subsequently enslave people. It was evil to keep their children as slaves. It was a most horrible evil to sometimes rip children from the arms of their parents so that they could be sold again. Slavery in this nation was done under the guise of Christianity, my religion. This was evil.

This was not the subject of the movie. But I couldn’t help to think of it because this sin of slavery is at the heart of the racism that we continue to live with today.

BlackkKlansman is a story that is based on a memoir. I don’t know what of it is true memoir and what is added story telling.

An uncomfortable, for me, aspect of this story was the juxtaposition of scenes depicting calls for white power alongside demonstrations with calls for black power. I am uncomfortable because I often wonder how we will ever progress. The story also almost allows us (white people) to tell ourselves that we aren’t part of the KKK and thus we are not racist. It touches on the institutional aspects of racism but even there, it depicts a racist police officer rather than a system that is biased against people of color. Alas, there is too much to cover in a single movie.

As a pastor, I continually preach that we are allcreated in God’s image and that means us all people. I also lament the fact that too many of my fellow (white) Christians don’t seem to be able to see this beauty in all of God’s creation. I often wonder about my place among Christianity, because it seems as if the most vocal proponents of my faith are also vocal proponents of white supremacy. Even if they don’t use those words.

I’ve heard arguments along the lines of, “no, that is not us, but we just want everyone to get along.” But then the next line of the conversation is to attack Black Lives Matter as a terrorist organization. I don’t know how many times I have tried to explain the reason the Black Lives Matter movement is necessary.

I once had a very long dialog with a distant family member. He is an evangelical Christian and he had no desire to learn about why people are protesting. It was easier for his to condemn the protestors as members of a hate group. I went so far as to try and find people in his city for him to meet and to learn from. But once I made this step, it became clear that he wasn’t interested in learning. It turns out that he was just trying to figure out how “unchristian” I am because of my “liberal” positions. The conversation ended with his telling me that he’s learned a bit about ELCA Lutherans and it appears that I am where I belong (not a compliment from his perspective), and that he would pray for me. I wanted to scream that I don’t want these prayers. I didn’t scream, but I did say that instead of praying for me, maybe he could pray to see.

I’m tired and I’m white and I’m privileged and I’ve not done enough and I’m not doing enough and I’m tired.

Stamped from the BeginningI cannot imagine how exhausted my Black sisters and brothers must be in living with the structural racism that is so much a part of our culture. It is like the air we breathe. Don’t believe me? I suggest you read, starting with “Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America” by Ibram X. Kendi. If anyone reading this would like to read this book as a group – in person gatherings or online, please let me know. I think we could learn a lot together.

Our learning the history of slavery, segregation, and racism from times past until now is necessary for us to be able to see the truth that is all around us. We need to learn so that we can see and so that we can work for a better today and a better tomorrow. I don’t believe that it should be the responsibility of our Black citizens to get us white people to change. It should be up to us! It is our continued collective sin in burying our heads as we try to say, “that’s not me” or “that’s not us.”

Letter From Birmingham Jail is included in this book
As I think of this I am reminded of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his “Letter From Birmingham Jail.” I’ve often said that if I could, I would add this letter to the canon of scripture. I don’t’ have that ability, but I can still use it in matters of faith. And as I think about this movie, and the state of affairs in our country today I am reminded of his calling to account of the “white moderate.” For Rev. King, the moderate was in many ways worse than the overt racist because the moderate just went along with the status quo. This was not helpful then and it is not helpful now.

Well my friends, this was definitely not a review of the movie! Please see it. Please read what our sibling of color are writing. And please know that the God that I know is a gracious God. This God calls us to love our neighbors as ourselves. All our neighbors. It’s not easy to do but it starts with opening our eyes to see.

This pastor hopes and prays that we will.

Run in this heat? Yes!

Screen Shot 2018-07-10 at 9.40.21 AMConsistency. Showing up. Getting it done.

These words have been my mantra the past couple days. Officially I’m tapering for the San Francisco Marathon (July 29), but that doesn’t mean all running stops. It just gets easier, or at least it should.

So far this week I’m not feeling it. Instead I’m feeling hot, sweaty, tired, and cranky. I don’t like the heat! Well actually the high temperatures are not that bad as compared to others places…but their higher (86 yesterday) than is normal for us! Making it worse is the humidity. Right now it’s 77%…we’re not supposed to have 77% humidity!

I think the real problem is that the heat is trapped and we’re not getting our nightly cool down. As you can see in my photo, our low should be a nice cool mid-50 degrees this time of year. Instead we’re hanging out in the high to mid 70s. This makes good sleep in our non air-conditioned home elusive.

So that’s my whining!

Yesterday I woke up and thought, “it’s too hot to run.” Then I drank my coffee, changed my clothes, and did my 7 miles. My method for keeping my easy runs easy is to use my heart rate as a guide. My goal is to stay between 130-140 bpm. Yesterday my average HR was 133. My average pace was 9:51. Not bad for a hot morning!

At lunch time, I needed to do a strength workout. I do these in the gym at the back of my local running store, and there is no air conditioning at the back of the store! I thought all morning, “maybe I’ll just do it tomorrow.” But tomorrow (today now) I have a massage scheduled, so better get it done! Other than sweating so much that I could see wet spots all over the floor, the workout went well. Yeah!

Last night I went to bed hot. Woke in the middle of the night hot. Woke up this morning hot. I sat with my morning coffee (too bad I don’t like iced coffee!) and thought, “gonna have to skip today’s run.” I even had a second cup, which I never do before running.

fullsizeoutput_10aa.jpegAnd as I drank that second cup I remembered Des Linden’s advice, “keep showing up.” I thought about the inspirational Western States Endurance Race where athletes ran 100 miles in temperatures that topped 100 degrees. With these thoughts, I put the coffee down, changed clothes, and set off on my easy 5 miles. It went well!

Consistency. Showing up. Getting it done.

That’s what it’s all about. In running. In life.

Happy Tuesday.