Spiritual Body Envy…

I am writing over at The Glorious Table today! It’s not often I get to write about the design of our bodies and our design in the Body. Enjoy! Anne

Body Image

Several years ago, I put together one of the most involved outreach projects I’ve ever done. The exceptional people over at Greatist had written an amazing article documenting the changes to the ideal body image of women over the past hundred years. They graciously gave me permission to use the images from their article to put together a life-sized display of the ideal body image from each decade. One overhead projector and more than a few pieces of refrigerator-sized cardboard later, I had a staggering visual image of how we’ve valued certain aspects of a woman’s physique more than others over time.

It was impressive to see how the curves and corsets of the 1910s gave way to the petite flappers of the 1920s. The hourglass women of the 1950s stood in stark contrast to the thin and delicate ideal of Twiggy in the 1960s. And the exceptionally tall and slender supermodels of the 1980s slowly morphed back toward a curvier and/or more muscular frame in later years. No matter when you lived, the ideal kept shifting, and inevitably, discontentment came with it.

It’s hard to be okay with who you are when who you think you’re supposed to be keeps changing. It’s also easy to envy women who have the body currently in vogue: If only I had her hips.

It can also be easy to slip into spiritual “body envy.” Long before mainstream media began its commentary on the physical body, God addressed this tendency head-on. In 1 Corinthians 12­­, he reveals the variety of gifts and purposes he created in the body of Christ. An entire chapter on this one subject? It seems he knew we might need some guidance.

To read the entire post go to The Glorious Table here.

Don’t Forget Your Sword

I have only been back a week and I miss it already. While I am a total homebody here in Missouri, two places on this earth fill my soul. Oklahoma, and Colorado. Colorado is the easy one to figure out. The mountains and rugged beauty draw people from all over the world. I came to know Jesus there. Oklahoma though? Not quite the same tourist draw. But oh, how I love it.

My sister lives in Oklahoma. She lives on the kind of property with enough land and trees to let the kids run and play with the confidence that they will return dirty, happy and exhausted. One corner of their property touches a city-wide trail. Pathfinder is 12 miles of winding blacktop that meanders its way through the trees, creating a beautiful sun-dappled retreat from the Oklahoma skies. It is a perfect place for runners, walkers, and kids learning to ride their bikes. Anytime I visit I work in as many trips to this gem as I can because, really, look at this view.

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Recently, my sister’s husband blazed and mulched a couple trails so we wouldn’t have to go “all the way around” to the city entrance. In the early morning, I forgot about these trails and headed out the usual way, following residential roads to the start. But, on the way home the temperature had shot up and I remembered that trailhead!

I stepped confidently off the blacktop knowing water and air conditioning were only steps away. Crunch, crunch, mulch compressing under my shoes. I had made it approximately 10 feet before I hit the first one. Spiderweb. Correction, spiderwebs. Delicate masterpiece after delicate masterpiece, woven wide through the night and now covering my sweat-stained face.

I am certain I looked like a madwoman making my way toward the house. Ducking and dodging to no avail, arms flailing, hands grasping at the invisible strings that were multiplying with every step. I was too far in to go back and too panicked to slow down. I emerged in my sister’s kitchen looking wild and indignant, “What is with all the spiders?!!”

This woman looked up at me, calmly nursing her fourth child, “Why didn’t you grab one of the sticks? You just have to put it in front of you.”

The sticks. That’s right, I had forgotten my weapon.

“Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (Ephesians 6:10-17 NIV, italics added)

This is a silly spider example with a real-world concept. God does not intend for us to walk through this world exposed. He gives us armor to “cover” and defend ourselves, and He gives us a stick. In this case, a sword. God’s Word is intended to go before us so we can knock things out of the way. It is used to combat what comes at us, causes us to panic, or could catch us in a sticky mess. And in order for us to use it, we must have it with us. One simple way to put that sword in our hands is to memorize verses that we can call to mind as needed. A topic search on a Bible study site is one of my favorite go-to options. See an example here: Open Bible – Trusting God.

So, before you wander any further in the woods today, please stop. Look in God’s Word and get what you need before you take another step. Tuck it in your mind, your heart, and your hand and show those spiders who’s boss.

Look out webs of the world. She’s armed today.

 

 

 

God Never Leaves

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I am writing over at The Glorious Table this week. Thanks to these incredible folks for the privilege of contributing to them.

The kid in me has always been fascinated by the story of God’s people being delivered out of Egypt. The beginning of the journey is so intense and exciting! God starts by parting the Red Sea with a dramatic display of his power. The Egyptians, full of rage, give chase onto that bared sea floor, only to be foiled by the return of the waters. And then there’s the redemption at the end, when Joshua leads them into the promised land. It’s so satisfying. God’s people are finally free, roaming about in a land flowing with milk and honey.

It’s a great read. However, as captivating as all the bookend drama is, my focus has shifted as I have gotten older. It is no longer the drama at the beginning or the redemption at the end that fascinates me the most. Rather, it is now the marathon of the Israelite people through the desert in the middle that captures both my attention and my affection. The middle is where most of us are most of the time.

Those beloved Israelites. They are God’s chosen people, and they make a habit of making one hot mess of a decision after another. The longer I walk with God, the more relatable this crew wandering through the desert becomes. In our modern-day walks with Jesus, we sometimes have this mistaken idea that “if God were just sitting right here,” we would be more likely to know what we are supposed to do—or to do what we are supposed to do. Well, unless you and I are a holier bunch than the people he rescued from Egypt, that idea simply isn’t true. We wouldn’t do any better than they did.

To read the full post go to The Glorious Table here.

Walking Among the Dead

Anne Rulo Walking Among the Dead

A little less than a year ago I moved to a sweet little town in Northern Missouri. It is the kind of place where idyllic life still happens. We have (multiple) parades each year that shut down the main road, people raise a hand and say hi when they pass, and the yearly Christmas display at the park makes my childhood heart happy.

In our time here I have had only two complaints. One, I miss Aldi’s. Because…Aldi’s. And two, I wanted someplace to walk. Not on a track or at the park where I felt like a hamster going in circles but something long. And meandering. And away from humanity.

Y’all, I found it. It’s the cemetery.

That’s right. Tucked in behind the First Baptist Church is a huge, very old cemetery with undulating hills, wandering paths, and giant canopied trees. It’s the kind of cemetery you find in historic towns where the tombstones don’t match and some are so old and worn by wind and weather that you can’t read the inscription anymore.

While my children were amusingly distressed that I am walking alone in a cemetery, I find it peaceful. Cemeteries are stories. Stone tributes dot the hillsides, giving names and dates to the human experience. I discover new treasures each time I go. I have been struck by the graves of all the children. Infants with one date listed, having left for Home the same day they arrived. And children who lived only a few years, some with siblings who did the same. Oh, how time and medicine have changed our experience of childbearing.

Today I thanked God for a woman named “Rebeca”. Her stone is uneven, resting slightly askew and was clearly hand carved. Someone had little money but enough heart to mark her name for posterity. I wondered who loved her. And I found a couple whose last name was “Waffle”. I think we would have been friends because you can’t have the last name Waffle and not be fun people.

Young people and old people. Veterans and homemakers. Acre after acre of people who lived their stories. As I rounded the last winding path I had the thought, “They all lived but now here they all are, lying in their graves.”

Morbid right?

And then I laughed. Out loud. It was only one quick giggle but it bubbled up out of nowhere, surprising me. I am certain if anyone heard me I would have sounded like a callous, irreverent fool.

I laughed because as soon as I finished the thought, “…here they all are, lying in their graves…” God interjected, “Except Me!”

Of course! That’s right! He’s not in His grave. He is risen, alive and well, living alongside us every day. While all of our bodies eventually give out, He beat death and is hanging out ready to welcome us Home. It was a funny moment of joy in a place that has known so much sadness. But isn’t it just like God? He owns the original design for turning sorrow into joy.

I’ve been walking among the dead with the One who lives. What a gift.

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.” Matthew 28:5-6

 

Doing Martha Work with a Mary Heart

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Wrote an article over at The Glorious Table last month. Forgot to include it on the blog. Again. Signed, A Work in Progress

Enjoy!

The other morning, I woke up a few minutes before my alarm sounded. In that moment of quiet, I immediately started going through my mental checklist for the day. I considered my schedule and my responsibilities, furiously attempting to figure out where every task fit and how it was going to get done.

It turned out this pre-alarm wake-up call was divinely inspired. While I normally would have jumped out of bed, God instead kept me still long enough to bring something to my attention—a bothersome something.

As I mentally surveyed my listful of tasks, I noticed that not a single one had anything to do with connection with him or with any of the humans in my life. Oh, there were plenty of tasks for humans, things like “fill out son’s field trip form” and “finalize daughter’s ballet outfit.” And others were for Jesus; tasks like “get study material ready” and “buy groceries for community group” would serve his people. But though the list had a whole lot of for, it had no with. Not one part of it would make me pause and really see God. Or really see my family. Or really love anybody very well.

A very gentle but firm thought from God came into my mind: You are never going to live by what’s really important unless you bring me this list first.

I looked in my mind’s eye again and realized he was right. The entire list was also about doing and getting, running and checking, speeding along from one little task to the next.

I had woken up all Martha.

To read the rest of the post follow the link here: The Glorious Table

God Surprised Me with My Husband

Anne Rulo God Surprised Me with My Husband

Today is my wedding anniversary. Thirteen years, two babies, and four towns later, here we find ourselves in that thing we call marriage. With this yearly celebration approaching, I found myself in a reflective spot. However, that reflection was not focused on our thirteen years together. Instead, it has been focused on the years before I met my husband. The years when I would hope and dream about the man I would marry. I have been reflecting…and I have been amused. Because I was way off base about what I needed in a spouse.

When I was young I had a vision of the kind of man I wanted to marry. I never had much in the way of a physical vision, although every guy I ever dated also played college football so apparently I do have a “type.” This was more of a character vision. The man I thought would be a good fit for me was, in all glorious self-centeredness, a lot like me. I wanted a guy who was laid-back, a little silly and definitely spontaneous. I was sure that he needed to be a guy who people labeled as “sweet”, charming, and who was excited about having children. He would be quick to laugh, soft-spoken, gentle and deeply in love with me. Well, at least I got that very last part right.

I’m sharing this with you today not to tout the accolades of my husband (although I do think he is pretty fabulous). Rather, I hope to make a point about the “why” behind God putting folks together. He does not choose them only for marriage. If He did, that would only benefit you and your spouse and rarely is God that singularly focused. Marriage is designed to be a reflection of and ministry for Him and a place for us to grow into our design. So, I suspect He picks out folks who best complement that plan, not our own.

To that end, this guy I ended up with? He’s very little of what I thought I wanted and every bit of what I needed. Thank goodness.

The man God paired me with is intense, pragmatic and practical. He is deeply passionate about developing people. He has little tolerance for surface conversation, great capacity for deep discussion and refuses to meander through life. He is purposeful and intentional to the very fiber of his being and finds no greater joy than seeing people reach their potential. He is strong, capable of managing challenges and confrontation and has to be reminded to smile so that people don’t think he’s grumpy with his buzzed hair and intense eyes. And I’m sure God did this all on purpose…

Because God knew he would be a football coach and we would be a coaching family. The guy I had dreamed up would have been way too casual for this life.

Because God knew I would struggle with post-partum depression and I needed a partner who would say having kids is hard for him too so I didn’t feel so inadequate.

Because God knew I would ask repeatedly for a puppy I was allergic to and I needed someone practical enough to say no. And because our coaching ministry would later move us to a home that didn’t allow pets.

Because God knew we would almost lose a child and we would need strength and the ability to process that experience between us so we could later minister to others.

Because God knew, one day, He would call me to write and I would need someone brave enough and visionary enough to say yes to a dream with no goal or income because he believes in me.

Because. Because He knew. God knew who would be able to draw me effectively toward my own design and who would complement our ministry as a family.

Our marriages are about us and at the same time, they aren’t. They are ultimately about God. They are about the work God is doing in our individual lives and they are about how our marriages fit into the work He is doing in the world around us. No matter if you ended up with the spouse of your dreams, check in with God and see if there are ways you ended up with the spouse of His dreams.

Happy Anniversary my love. I’d choose you as my surprise every single time.

God Doesn’t Get Tired

God Doesn't Get Tired Anne Rulo

I saw a meme the other day…”January was a tough year but we made it.” Ha! Wasn’t that the truth? The start of 2019 felt like one of those running cartoon characters, spinning its wheels in place until it finally gains traction and then “Boom!” takes off like a shot. That is exactly how these first six months have felt and all of a sudden here we are, halfway through 2019. It seems like a good time for reflection.

For some, the first half of this year has been positive. You’ve had some successes and some progress and you are looking forward to finishing the year well. For others, 2019 has kicked you square in the pants. You are wondering how you are going to get through the rest of it. You are tired, overwhelmed and the remainder of the year looms large and menacing. You are feeling beat down, insecure, and the other half seems like it could be all uphill.

So if the rest of 2019 looks a little exhausting, I need you to read this.

“Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.” Isaiah 40:28

We are reading that verse today for two reasons. First, I need you to know that when God is working for you, He can’t wear out. God always has enough energy to fight for you. He sees you. He knows your struggle and understands what you are going through. When your eyes are heavy and your steps are weak He sees with clear eyes and handles your situation with all the strength and understanding needed. He is literally incapable of getting tired when working in your situation, your circumstances, or your battles. He can remain strong when our human strength gives out. The rest of 2019 may throw whatever it wants at you and it will not be too much for Him to handle.

But maybe, even more importantly, I need you to know that you cannot make God tired.

Please read that again.

You cannot be too much for Him.

Our mistakes cannot wear Him out. Our continuing struggles cannot become too much for Him. Our character flaws do not wear on Him the way they can on others and He does not run out of love for us. Even if you feel like you are “too much” or “not enough” for other people, that is never true for Him. He is not an exasperated parent and He is not a disapproving boss. He is not “depletable.” He is God. Creator of the ends of the earth, everlasting, incapable of being made tired or weary. By us, or our circumstances.

So bring it on 2019, let’s finish this thing out. I serve a God who doesn’t wear out and I don’t feel quite so tired now.

“Give thanks to the God of heaven. His love endures forever.” Psalm 136:26