#ThisIsAGoodBody [What Does Freedom Look Like?]

"The next day as the three travelers were approaching the town, Peter went out on the balcony to pray. It was about noon. Peter got hungry and started thinking about lunch. While lunch was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw the skies open up. Something that looked like a huge blanket lowered by ropes at its four corners settled on the ground. Every kind of animal and reptile and bird you could think of was on it. Then a voice came: "Go to it, Peter - kill and eat."
Peter said, "Oh no, Lord. I've never so much as tasted food that was not kosher."
The voice came a second time: "If God says it's okay, it's okay."
This happened three times, and then the blanket was pulled back up into the skies."
(Acts 10 MSG)

You know what's happening here, friends? Peter is encountering God in a crazy, unheard of kind of way. He has followed the rules, kept himself "clean", and walked this certain kind of path his entire life. Everything he knows about God and God's rules can kind of be contained in this really big one - don't eat certain foods and don't eat foods that are contaminated by unclean foods. At this point in Peter's faith he has been ingrained with this solid fact: some things are okay to eat, some things are not okay to eat, and some foods should not be mixed together. And now God is turning the whole thing upside down. You know why? God's point has so little to do with FOOD - God is almost always talking about people.

Because then along comes the servants of a man named Cornelius - a Gentile, an unclean human being. Cornelius wasn't raised with the rules Peter was. He hadn't followed the same lifestyle, hygiene, and expectations that Peter had come to associate with a holy life. But Cornelius was a thoroughly good man. His HEART was clear. He had been drawing people to freedom for quite some time. So, before his men even reach Peter, God is making sure Peter hears something really important: all people are good people. All people are in. All people - even the ones who wear freedom in different ways - are allowed on this road. 

So, here's Peter deep in thought and the Spirit of God has to kind of shake him awake. They genuinely have to whisper to Peter, "There are three men knocking at the door looking for you. Get down there and go with them. Don't ask any questions. I sent them to get you." So Peter goes with them to Cornelius' home. Peter enters this unclean space, he sits down and talks to the people who are sitting there waiting. Now, I want you to imagine a scenario where Peter is confident that there is only ONE way to walk in freedom - and he has it. I want you to imagine that he sits down at that table and starts teaching them how to be Jewish - what not to eat, how to worship, and demanding circumcision. Those expectant hearts, who are already FREE, would be crushed, set-back, and confused. Peter would have taken his own rules into someone else's freedom.

But Peter's heart was soft. He had encountered God declaring that ALL people, ALL food, ALL free hearts were good. GOOD. Not just acceptable, or good enough, or just okay. They were GOOD. After Peter hears Cornelius' story it says that he nearly exploded with good news. His heart was able to receive the GIFT of GOOD. He says to Cornelius, "It's God's own truth, nothing could be plainer; God plays no favorites! It makes no difference who you are or where you're from - if you want God and are ready to do as he says, the door is open. The Message he sent to the children of Israel - that through Jesus Christ everything is being put together again - well, he's doing it everywhere, among everyone." After this, everyone listening is baptized in the Spirit and then in water. And then PETER STAYED WITH THEM FOR A FEW DAYS. 

You guys, this is revolutionary. In the presence of God we no longer get to determine what is clean or unclean; what is good or what is unfit; what is free or what is bondage. You know why? Because it was never our call to make in the first place. Every time we try to make these rules to confine God to what looks good to our own eyes, we end up missing the vision. We miss out on the extraordinary revelation that comes from letting Divine Love turn everything upside down. 

I want the vision. Don't you want the vision?

Let me tell you something - we're on a quest to eradicate body shaming. All of it. From every side. We want to be done with listening to the body shaming culture that tells us we have to look like "this", or live like "this" to be thin, pretty, perfect, or GOOD. We want to throw that shit out the door and refuse to be a part of it ever again. For ourselves and for you. We also want to be done with listening to the idea that freedom has to look a certain way. Some of us are Peter and some of us are Cornelius. Some of us have adhered to strict rules and expectations our entire lives - and God is calling us to consume ideas and realities from that lowered sheet - ones that rock our worlds. Some of us are wearing freedom in ways that make others uncomfortable. You might be uncomfortable with what you see your sister doing to reclaim her freedom, but you don't get to judge her. You don't, friend. I know that's hard to say - because it doesn't feel like freedom in your OWN body. And that's okay. 

Listen, there was a time when I was told I had to wear a certain uniform of baggy pants and tee shirts to ensure that I didn't make a boy "stumble". So I did it. Oh, I wore that uniform to death. And when a boy was terrifyingly inappropriate with me, I went to this man with the rules for help. Do you know what he told me? He said, "Have you considered that the problem is what you are wearing or how you are acting?" I sat in stunned silence and thought, "I'm wearing what you TOLD me would protect me." I know now what this is. I know it's the kind of victim blaming that perpetuates control and abuse. I know it's bullshit and has never, not for one second, been God-approved. I've spent years working through forgiveness for things like this.

Would it surprise you to know that i have felt God tugging on me to start shedding layers? I've felt their whisper, their nudge, asking me to stop hiding behind loose tanks in my yoga practice and the photos I post on Instagram. Does that make you cringe a little? The idea that GOD would ask me to do something that maybe doesn't look like freedom to you? I've been obedient and there has been HARD and HOLY work happening in my heart this summer. But it was only today that I realized why. Love reminded me of that experience I lived out all through highschool - of the work I did three years ago to acknowledge it as spiritual abuse and forgive the abuser. This summer has been another layer of relinquishing the bondage of letting other people's opinions and expectations define who I am and how I live. I'm getting free-er, but I would be lying if I said I don't still feel the weight of disapproval. 

I'm sharing this with you, friends, because there is too much pressure from both sides. We have to get our eyes off of one another and onto our own side of the road. We have to start listening to what they are calling US to and not what they are calling someone else to. We have to start championing one another - even if their way looks different, upside down, and crazy to us. Peter went against the grain of his culture and community by choosing to embrace Cornelius and his friends. Lets be Peter for one another. If we want things to change, we have to stop trying to control God and one another. We have to get humble, rise up, and let the vision change everything. 

Come join us on Instagram in #ThisIsAGoodBody

When People Distort God's Image

It's really hard for me to always believe that God is FOR me. Does that resonate? If we're really honest, I think most of us would say that that is a very common, very deep wound. We are such connected creatures. Everything about us bleeds into other parts of ourselves. We don't compartmentalize as well as we think we do.

So, when I try to reconcile my spiritual wounding at the hands of other people, I can't quite leap into an understanding of God's posture towards me. I often find myself trying to convince God to do good for me. I struggle to see that He WANTS good for me. So, I battle through my own defenses, explaining to him why I shouldn't be crushed by life.

It's a cycle, friends.

Here's the big Truth, I KNOW what this is rooted in for me. I know that I am prone to being a creature of fear, waiting for the next big life dump to carry me away. I know that this has absolutely nothing to do with any experience I have ever had with God.

With people, yes. With God, never.

My darkest spaces have been sparked with light, not because I convinced God to show up and rescue me, but because I had nowhere else to go, nothing else to lean into. I had no margin left to give to my fear. Which means I had nothing to convince me that God was ignoring me, or at the very least, uninterested in me.

When I was seventeen someone told me a really big, convincing lie. She told me that God probably favored someone else over me. There was just enough Biblical "truth" in her argument to convince me that it might be completely true. You know what I've learned since then? "Just enough" truth doesn't make it true. Ever.

Lies prick us, but spiritual manipulation and abuse gouge us. We walk around with ragged holes in our hearts, certain of being a disappointment.

That wasn't the first time someone had spoken that particular lie to me. It wasn't even the last. Sometimes I was the one to speak it, to grip it, to own it. Sometimes it was another person, using their own power in a dangerous way. Sometimes it was another person, way too wounded to be speaking life at all.

The image of God has been distorted for me. One little sliver made its way into my young heart and created an illusion that does not, in any way, reflect the truth of the God who came for me.

He's been healing that. I've been writing about it a lot lately. I've talked about it, admitted the shame of being unchosen. I'm making choices to see myself under the banner of Truth, rather than in the grief of an old lie. It's still there in smaller ways. It still grips me sometimes. It still shoves me back onto my ass when I'm not looking. But its healing. Slowly. Intentionally.

Last week, after my Tuesday Holy Yoga class, my girlfriend told me that she had heard Jesus speak to her in savasana. She said that he told her to take all the cash in her purse and dump it into my basket. And then he told her to tell me that His posture towards me is generous.

Damn.

He's healing me, friends. So slowly, but with such deep, generous intention. He isn't letting me slide through this, not knowing how I arrived at whole. He's surgical, prying out each, tiny, sharp sliver. He's tending to the ragged edges of my sadness. He's undoing what other people have done. He's rewriting my story.

What's your wound, friend? What has crushed and diminished you? Where does it sit in your battered heart? If you haven't felt it yet, know this Truth, he is coming for you.

He is coming to heal, sliver by sliver. He is coming to give back what has been stripped away.

Freedom.

*June 2013

Forgiveness

"In prayer there is a connection between what God does and what you do. You can't get forgiveness from God, for instance, without also forgiving others. If you refuse to do your part, you cut yourself off from God's part."
[Matthew 6:14 &15] 

I've been thinking about forgiveness lately. There are some people I need to forgive. There are some offenses I need to let go of. There are some wounds that will never fully heal until I stop clinging to my right to be angry.

I learned something freeing in Mending the Soul. Forgiveness doesn't mean I open myself back up to further abuse or manipulation; it isn't an open door to an unhealthy person or situation. Forgiveness means I can move forward again. I stop dwelling on the sorrow someone else inflicted on me. I can give weight to the very real injustice and, at the same time, tear down the wall that is keeping me stuck.

Forgiveness is, after all, just entering into what God is already doing. I certainly did not earn my forgiveness. I didn't purchase it or work hard to uncover it. I just received it. Which means I can forgive someone else, even if they didn't earn it. And then I can move forward, boundaries in place. I don't have to carry that banner of pain or resentment any further than the next step. I can let it fall, let it crumble, because the banner of forgiveness will carry me to sweeter places.

My mom's dad was an alcoholic. My grandparents divorced when my mom was a girl and he drank himself into a gutter before my parents were even together. He hurt my mom. All addicts hurt the people they love. But my mom did something brave, something we just won't get unless we have experienced forgiveness. She sat with him in the hospital. She read to him, she talked to him, she prayed for him. She held vigil at the side of a dying man, a man who had not earned her forgiveness. She didn't lie to him, she didn't soothe his ego. She just sat faithfully with him. And, before he died, he offered all of his brokenness to Jesus. She sat with him as he crossed from his disfigured life into a whole life. She helped him die, but she really helped him live. She didn't have to do that; no one would have asked it of her. But my mom chose the kind of strength that defies what we think we should, or shouldn't, have to bear. Her form of forgiveness healed her dad, but it healed part of her too.

We can't all sit at the deathbed of the person who wounded us. We can't all see the completion of our powerful forgiveness. But we can live that kind of grace - the kind that calls for something beyond ourselves. We can choose to set ourselves free by setting someone else free. We can forgive.

We often mistake forgiveness for forgetting, which would be foolish. We don't forget - we learn. We see that some people are not safe for close relationship and so we build a fence with a gate. If we tried to forget, we'd really be building a wall. Our resentment and fear would build up against that wall until we suffocated. We'd drown ourselves.

Today, friends, let's forgive. Let's choose to let go of the tight-fisted defenses we've been building in our heads. Let's give our bruises time to heal. Let's learn how to construct the kind of boundaries that protect us, without imprisoning us. Let's get healthy in our relationships and in our hearts. And let's start by entering into what God is already doing.

Forgiveness is not an invitation to further wound. Forgiveness is taking back the power someone else had over you and willingly laying it at the feet of Jesus. Forgiveness is a step towards healing. So let's move forward.

*February 2013