When Life Hands You Lemons… by John Erickson

“When life hands you lemons, sometimes you have to make applesauce.”

I’ve been thinking a lot about something my grandmother would always tell me: “When life hands you lemons, sometimes you have to make applesauce.” I know, it sounds crazy, but life right now appears to be more on the crazy than the sane side.

We’re all in a state of uncertainty right now. The news is scary. Twitter is scary. Heck, even TikTok is losing parts of its humor. Everywhere we seem to turn, it’s more information about COVID-19, new cases, new lockdowns, and new things that we shouldn’t do for the foreseeable future. Continue reading “When Life Hands You Lemons… by John Erickson”

Surviving My Recovery by Esther Nelson

For the past fourteen months, I’ve been going from doctor to doctor trying to figure out what ails me.  Specialists I’ve seen included wonderfully competent people immersed in their individual disciplines of nephrology, cardiology, rheumatology, and neurology.  At long last, the neurologist diagnosed my condition (accurately, I believe), and I’m slated to have surgery in July.

I’m overjoyed to finally have a diagnosis, with a positive prognosis no less, offered to me.  My everyday life has become more and more constricted over this past year.  I can’t walk far without pain.  I can’t stay in one position for long without pain.  I can’t practice yoga without pain.  I can’t do those everyday chores—grocery shopping, vacuuming, laundry, scrubbing the bathroom, and washing dishes—without pain.  Pain wakes me throughout the night as I attempt to sleep.

I do have concerns about how well I’ll tolerate the upcoming surgical procedure, but am even more concerned about my recovery period.  For six weeks after the procedure:  No lifting.  No bending.  No twisting.  No exercise except for frequent, short walks.  How will I ever manage?

Continue reading “Surviving My Recovery by Esther Nelson”

A Nurturing Environment is Not a Luxury by Elisabeth Schilling

There are two tarot card decks that have accompanied me on my trip overseas this summer: Alana Fairchild’s Rumi Oracle and Lee Bursten’s Tarot of Dreams. In recent readings, I have been presented with messages of place, thus the topic of my post.

But first, Seneca, Stoic philosopher born around the time of Jesus, cautions that people traveling to escape their difficulties are sometimes no better when they have arrived to a distant land because they have not become rid of themselves. Likewise, zen philosophy suggests that it is not our circumstances that matter so much as the peace and calm we create in our inner landscape. Nhat Thich Hanh or Ram Dass or Pema Chödrön (maybe all 3) have a metaphor for the tumultuous ocean – that the sea is often rocky, but it is always calm in the deep beneath. Yet, I see all this as a reminder to be mindful about the added layers of suffering we can create and advice for difficult times when we can’t leave yet. Regardless, I think any wisdom cannot discount the need for a nurturing, healing space when at all possible.

Continue reading “A Nurturing Environment is Not a Luxury by Elisabeth Schilling”

The Trouble  with “Wellness” by Katey Zeh


During the holiday season we’re bombarded constantly with contradictory messages about how we ought to take care of our bodies this time of year. Over the early winter months there is a collective expectation and even glorification of indulging in all kinds of ways–eating, drinking, spending money, etc. But if we dare enjoy ourselves a bit, we’re then on the receiving end of the diet and fitness culture propaganda that capitalizes on our time of indulging by telling us we need to clean up our eating and get (back) to the gym–assuring us that 2018 will be the year when we finally achieve our “dream bodies.”

Oftentimes the coded language of “wellness,“ “clean eating,” and even “health” is rooted in the same problematic framework that toxic diet and fitness culture espouses: your best self is your thinnest self. Strict binary language used to describe food–processed foods high in fat or sugar are “bad” while fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are “good”–attributes moral weight to what we eat. Beneath this is the myth that our health outcomes and the way that our bodies look are completely within our control. If we simply commit to “healthy” habits, we can become “good” (thin). Continue reading “The Trouble  with “Wellness” by Katey Zeh”

The Universe Is on Your Side by Elisabeth Schilling

IMG_0617While I am sure this articulation is on an “inspirational” meme somewhere, my thoughts coalesced to form it while I was looking at the mid-afternoon blue sky in a moment of rare optimism. Too often can I become confused and despondent about the situation of our earth and humanity, myself. “We want healing too,” it whispered. If we are for the sustainable restoration and support of our earth, then we have a whole universe on our side that moves toward this direction as well. Our bodies, one with the universe, join in this want of healing.

Matthew Sanford is a yoga instructor whom I heard speak during an NPR interview. He explained how any reference to “our bodies failing us” does not feel true to him. He explained: Continue reading “The Universe Is on Your Side by Elisabeth Schilling”

How do you feel about me now? by Natalie Weaver

How do you feel about me now?

I was talking to an old friend the other day, and when I asked how he was, he said, “I’m getting by.”  “Getting by?  Not tearing it up, not taking ‘em down, and taking names?”  I joked. “No,” he replied too dryly, “not at my age.”

“Well, how old are you now?” I inquired playfully.  “Eighty-three,” he said.  “Oh,” I paused.  “And, I tell you, Nat,” he continued, “I don’t know about these last twenty years.  I just don’t know what happened to me.  Never imagined my life would turn out like this…” he spoke, trailing off.

His talk prompted me to wonder about the girl I once was, the woman I used to be, the mother I had imagined in myself at the outset, the scholar I prepared, the indefatigable friend I was to my peers as a teenager, the filial duty I felt in my youth, the honor I ascribed to my vocation as an educator, the family I tried to create.  I have changed too, I realized.  These last twenty years have been markedly transformational for me as well.  As I considered, I saw in all of the things I tried to do how my spirit and my faith walked alongside my life unfolding as companion and guide and interlocutor.

At each step along the way, my faith both informed and framed the meaning of my choices and my disposition toward the outcomes of my efforts.  For a long time, there was a harmony and an alignment between my meaning, my disposition, and my experience of living purposefully.  But then, sure as rain, the wheel turned, and I began to lose clarity on that alignment.  The idealism I had brought to each of my roles and endeavors was tested and tried as a matter of course.  But, in some instances, the trial was egregious.

I concluded that some disappointments run so deep they change who we are.  Some wounds are structural enough that they scar the tissue permanently and alter the curvature of our spines.  Some blows are so devastating that our speech transforms and our thinking must be rewired to survive.  Whether they are inflicted by the self or by others, whether by accident or intent or illness, injury has a common thread – it calls the Spirit to awaken and challenges it with the question: “How do you feel about me now?” Continue reading “How do you feel about me now? by Natalie Weaver”

Call Me the Devil, If You’d Like by Natalie Weaver

Call me the devil, if you’d like.

I have just completed the three-hour retreat at the church to prepare my son for his first communion.  It was a long morning, to be sure, but during that time I decide I want to try to bring the family all together.  I host such occasions often, at significant cost and personal effort, but I think it builds up love and community so I do it anyhow.  I go home and begin sending out invitations for the gathering.

At precisely the moment of my welcoming, I learn that I have, once again, been directly charged by so-and-so, because I have worked in a professional capacity and (I am not kidding, dear readers) because I have not had my children in T-ball and Rec Center sports. I am accused of self-aggrandizement because I go to professional conferences (to which I also take my children almost without exception).  I am charged with doing things for my own glory because I teach overloads and offer paid lecture series.

There is no acknowledgement that I work to eat and to earn income to support my children or that I have never had the option not to work outside the home.  I am furious, of course, because I have heard this in varying degrees over the length of my professional life and time as a parent, including once on Mother’s Day. I’m tired of the insult, but when I respond after years of such claims in outrage, I am accused of being too angry.

But, life goes on, and so does the gathering.  It’s a nice time, but after the gathering, I wake up to the boldly voiced disgruntlement of a friend who has been inadvertently insulted by a conversation that occurred at the table.  The insult is derived from the charge that I did not say the right words when I should have. There is a very strong critique and withering suggestion about my core values at stake, since the issue is racial.  I listen and apologize but am left wondering, “don’t you know me by now?”  Have you not dined with me, celebrated with me, felt my love and friendship, outreach and appreciation? I am stymied.  Am I here to be judged?

Continue reading “Call Me the Devil, If You’d Like by Natalie Weaver”

Honoring the Earth in our Rituals of Well-Being by Elisabeth Schilling

plantsMuch of our lives lack the rich culture of ritual that I think would help us repair the relationships we have with our own bodies and with the earth. The Rg Veda is one of the oldest collection of hymns from India. In them, I find a playful and introspective expression of desires and fears that, at first, did not seem to me to hold much wisdom for a modern contemplative. But lately, I have been noticing how the speakers communicate to or about the earth, and how their lives seem centered around trying to take a part in creation. Mostly, these hymns are stories and supplications for rain, cows, victory in battle, and a long life. But there is a deep understanding of the power and divinity in the universe that is the very earth-based wisdom that our humanity-in- crisis needs. If the Qur’an is God calling for humanity to be grateful, the Rg Veda is a model of a humanity that could be nothing else.

I love one incantation, for instance, found in the tenth mandala, that seems to be from a compounding physician, praying to the healing herbs that might make her client well again. I imagine her alone, in a greenhouse pharmacy, on a damp late afternoon, fingering stems and leaves before crushing them with her mortar and pestle to make a bespoke tincture that holds a cure. She knows the plants intimately, and works as if she is on holy ground: Continue reading “Honoring the Earth in our Rituals of Well-Being by Elisabeth Schilling”

The Burden of Shame by Oxana Poberejnaia

I know a man who says to his daughter: “You should be ashamed of yourself” when he wants to imbue some good habits in her. One example would be not putting her dirty socks in the laundry basket. It might seem trivial, but I don’t think it is. I feel that shame is a toxic element of our personalities. I believe shame results in negative consequences, such as sabotaging oneself and health problems.

Many spiritual traditions, including Buddhism, perceive guilt as a trigger for moral development. The rational is, when we feel bad about something we had done, we will change our behaviour for better. The question is: how bad exactly are we supposed to feel, both in terms of quality and quantity of that feeling? Continue reading “The Burden of Shame by Oxana Poberejnaia”

Feminism: My New Religion by Michele Buscher

Michele BuscherMy journey to becoming a religious feminist has been long.  The two most significant experiences have been my time as a Religious Studies graduate student and the uniquely female health struggles I have experienced in the past four years.  The issues I have encountered over the past four years have occurred simultaneously, encouraging me to declare Feminism as my new Religion.

I really hadn’t been exposed to Feminism as an academic discipline until my time at the Union Theological Seminary.  Studying alongside feminist foresisters like Chung Hyun Kyung and Joan Chittister, and researching feminist liberation theology and other “radical” liberation theologies, fueled my passion.  For my master’s thesis I examined how Catholicism and martyrdom should be perceived in modern times.  I relied on the examples of two men: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Pope John Paul II.  Not a bad topic, not bad case studies, but interesting when I reflect on the choice to focus solely on men and martyrdom when really the face of modern martyrdom should be represented by women and the enormous sacrifices women make every day for the betterment of their Church or their families or their bodily health and integrity.  In other words, I didn’t quite get it yet!

Nonetheless, my doctoral studies continued a focus on feminism and working along side Rosemary Radford Ruether guided me to my new feminist religious identity.  At that time I did not realize how much I would come to rely on her support and encouragement, along with the support and encouragement of many other female faculty members.
Continue reading “Feminism: My New Religion by Michele Buscher”

Working and Working Out: “Health,” Obesity, and Labor by Stefanie Goyette

What I think we must consider in analyzing any form of “health” that is encouraged, and even enforced, is that such encouragement comes back in the end to the ability to work, to be “productive,” and, in turn, to spend the money that one earns. 

What is “health”? What does it mean to be “healthy”? Physical well-being and energy? Mental and emotional balance? A sense of general control over one’s body and self? I had originally meant to speak of the frequent reduction in our culture of “health” to appearance: sexual attractiveness, muscle tone, body size, etc., but Lesley Kinzel has already given an analysis of this paradigm, twice, in fact. Go read her articles, then come back here and we’ll talk about some other stuff.

Attractiveness as a measure of “health,” which we will consider as being already established as a cultural fact, effectively defines health neither as a personal sense of well-being nor as a set of conditions agreed upon in consultation with a physician. Rather, aesthetic criteria render health a metric that lets other people judge – and judge others on – a level of “health.” This judgment affects women disproportionately and, being external, reduces the value of female subjective experience and the power of subjectivity in the individual. Yet this externalization by no means ends with quotidian social interaction, but also extends to the medical establishment and the regulation of bodies in terms of the normal and the pathological – no great revelation here (Foucault already said it) – and these measures are already part of the intrinsic layout and values of the culture to which a given medical establishment belongs. Continue reading “Working and Working Out: “Health,” Obesity, and Labor by Stefanie Goyette”

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