There Is No Longer Fat or Skinny: Weight Management and the Incarnation

The other day, I read an article that claimed women spend an average of 17 years of their lives trying to lose weight. That’s compared to 10.3 years working.

I had two immediate reactions:

  1. Well that’s depressing.
  2. That estimate seems like it’s on the low end.

(Before I go any further, a quick aside: if your response to this post is to tell me I look fine and don’t need to lose weight, that’s very sweet of you, but please don’t. You will have missed the point.)

Anyway.

It has begun to seem strange to me that when I want to lose weight, what I am really wanting is for some literal, physical amount of me to disappear. I can even point to the parts I wish would go away. When I want to lose weight, I want there to be less of my body–less of me.

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Last Words

In the last month or so, I have taken to reading poetry daily (Mary Oliver, Nayyirah Waheed, and Yrsa Daley-Ward are my current poetic companions). I have also returned to writing poetry. I wrote a lot of poetry in my childhood and teen years–bad poetry, mind you, but I think the process was good for me. I write now for myself and for God, though I’ve decided to share bits of it here every now and then.

This poem emerged from a sermon I preached last night. At our Wednesday night Roots Revival worship service, we are in the midst of a Lenten series on Jesus’ Seven Last Words. A lot of how I’ve approached preaching this series has involved asking where we hear those words echoed in our world today. This is part of where I went with Jesus’ 5th word, “I thirst.”

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Inward and Outward: Sheep, Paint, Identity, and Sacraments

This sermon was preached on Sunday, March 6, 2016 at Centenary United Methodist Church in downtown Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Today, we continue our Lenten sermon series, “What’s in Your Spiritual Toolbox?” Over the past few weeks, we’ve been pulling out tools—some familiar, some not so much—and asking how we might use these resources and practices in our spiritual journey. Today, we look at two very important tools: our sacraments, baptism and communion.

As an imperfect toolbox metaphor, I chose a paintbrush. Here’s how I’m thinking: the paint is God’s grace, and the brush is the sacrament. Of course, since we have 2 sacraments, there are 2 different kinds of paint jobs. Baptism is something we do just once, so it’s like a whole fresh coat of paint—it offers us new life through God’s grace in an all-encompassing way. But most of us know no paintjob stays pristine forever—it chips and peels, gets scuffed or scraped or scribbled on with crayons. So communion, which we are to take frequently, is like those touch-up paint jobs you need to keep it looking fresh.

Of course, sacraments go much deeper than the surface in how they make us new and touch us up by God’s grace. Let’s start that conversation by hearing our Scripture readings for today. 

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The Desire to Stop

Adapted from a sermon preached at Centenary United Methodist Church on Wednesday, December 2, 2015. The text was Luke 1:26-38.

One of my favorite quotes about the angel Gabriel’s visit to Mary comes from Elie Wiesel: “Whenever an angel says, ‘Be not afraid!’, you’d better start worrying. A big assignment is on the way.”

It’s hard to imagine a bigger assignment than the one given to Mary—to become the mother of God, to carry Jesus in her womb and bring him into the world. In Mary’s time, pregnancy and childbirth were incredibly risky. Even after Jesus was born, the chances of a childhood disease or accident claiming his life were far higher than we could imagine today.

Before you get too excited about Jesus being God and therefore somehow being protected, remember that part of the point of the incarnation is that Jesus was fully human, susceptible to the same pain and illness and death that you and I experience. Mary had good reason to be afraid.

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I Have Anxiety, So I Bought a Sassy Mug

I have anxiety.

I’m probably on the mild-to-moderate end of that spectrum–even at its worst, my anxiety has never succeeded in taking me out of school or work or life completely, and I take seriously how much more debilitating it is for others than it has been for me. At the same time, I think I’ve downplayed its effect on me, so I’m trying to give myself the grace to admit that it does affect me pretty profoundly from time to time.

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Good Intentions, Bad Gifts, and Their Usefulness

A week or two ago, someone left a bunch of donated sweatshirts for me at the church’s welcome desk. I was mildly irritated. Although it is very likely I had had a conversation with someone about this, probably on a Sunday morning,* I could not remember the context. And so it felt like one of the many instances in which a well-intentioned person thinks they know what is needed and gives that thing when perhaps it is not, in fact, what is needed.

For example, last year, several people at church donated blankets to be used at the winter overflow shelter. This makes complete sense–except that there had already been a HUGE donation of blankets made, and the shelters actually had too many blankets. The shelter monitors were begging us not to send any more blankets.

Case in point: always ask whether something is needed before you just drop it off somewhere. So many nonprofits wind up with piles and piles of stuff (sometimes very nice stuff!) they can’t use, either because it’s the wrong stuff or because there’s too much stuff or because they don’t have a system in place for distributing the stuff.

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Who Do You Say That I Am? (Luke 10 Sermon)

This sermon was preached at Centenary United Methodist Church in Winston-Salem, NC on Sunday, October 25, 2015. The text was Luke 10:25-28. This was the final installment in a series called “Games People Play.” This week’s game was Twenty Questions. Congregants were given a fortune cookie containing a slip of paper with the question “Who do you say that I am?” on it.

When it comes to answering questions, Jesus is about as helpful as a bathing suit in a snowstorm. Jesus never gives a straight answer. More often, he answers a question with another question, or with a seemingly unrelated story, or by writing in the dirt with his finger.

Because of that, Jesus would not be very Twenquesgood at the game Twenty Questions. To refresh your memory, in Twenty Questions, one person chooses a subject or object, and the other participants ask up to 20 questions with “yes” or “no” answers to help them guess what it is.

Jesus isn’t big on “yes” or “no” answers. And the legal expert who questions Jesus in Luke 10 isn’t playing by the rules either—I thought about putting in a lawyer joke here, but there are a lot of lawyers in this church, so let’s move on.

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