How the Beauty Culture Blasphemes Our Bodies

this is the kind of beach image i'm okay with
this is the kind of beach image i’m okay with

In her memoir Bossypants, Tina Fey claims that everyone knows Photoshopped images aren’t real, but she also acknowledges that the culture of beauty has changed significantly since she was a girl. Back then, “you were either blessed with a beautiful body or not. And if you were not, you could just chill out and learn a trade.”

Today, however, “if you’re not ‘hot’ you are expected to work on it until you are… If you don’t have a good body, you’d better starve the body you have down to a neutral shape, then bolt on some breast implants, replace your teeth, dye your skin orange, inject your lips, sew on some hair, and call yourself Playmate of the year.”

I understand this implicit cultural expectation so well; for years, I struggled to remake what I was in the image of all I thought I should be. As I’ve written in my new book, Eat With Joy: Redeeming God’s Gift of Food, for years,

I absorbed magazines, TV, and movies uncritically and prescriptively […] everything about my appearance seemed wrong. But in America, the possibilities of individual determination are endless—you can become as rich and as thin as you determine to be!—and so I sought to change my body through all the ways that advertisements teach us is possible: the chromium picolinate supplements, the protein shakes, the NordicTrack, the chirpy aerobics videos, the Velcro-fastened ankle weights.

All that effort toward getting a certain look adds up to big business—more than $20 billion annually in the U.S. on cosmetics alone. It comes at a high price in terms of mental health, as numerous psychological studies have suggested what discerning parents have known for a long time: the more media images of stylized, retouched models a woman views, the more likely she is to become depressed and disordered in her eating.

That was me.

{Read this piece in its entirety at Christianity Today, where it originally appeared on Feb. 19}

Making All Things New: Spring (this week) in My Garden

I love spring. It is the season of quickening, of reviving, of death to life.

At least in this part of the world, it strikes me as the perfect season to celebrate resurrection.

Here, in one hand, I hold the flower and the fruit it is becoming:

Hidden beneath green leaves are the small green fruits that will swell to rich, ripe redness:

and plants that were only five in number last year have multiplied many times, a slow form of miracle:

A tree that we thought had died came back to life–

apple trees planted two years ago are offering us the beauty that precedes their fruit:

(an apple is a kind of rose, did you know?)

And the beginnings of our summer salads are here, smaller than my pinky nail:

Even our trash is becoming a kind of treasure…

…from eggshells and coffee grounds

…to food for the ground

…which gives food to us.

There is even rest in the shade:

God who makes all things new, who brings forth food from the ground, life from death, beauty from ashes, grant that we may see and help to bring about loveliness amid ugliness, plenty where there is want, rest where there is weariness.

In the name of Christ, who makes all things new, Amen.

Awaken Your Senses (And Have Some Cake)

Photo credit: LifeAsAMom.com (Mine looked similar; can't find the picture...)

I have a new post at the Christianity Today women’s blog on Beth Booram and J. Brent Bill’s new IVP book, Awaken Your Senses.

The post starts out talking about empty tomb cakes, which I first learned about from my very creative friend Emily:

This, year, as last, I’ll make an empty tomb cake for my Sunday school class of 4- to 6-year-olds. I’ll bake one small square cake for the base, and one small dome-shaped cake for the tomb. I’ll frost both with sand-colored frosting, perhaps scatter raw sugar for a sandier appearance, and carve out a hollow in the dome’s side. Candy-coated chocolate rocks will accent the ground. A large plain cookie will become the rolled-away boulder, guarded by a tiny wooden angel. Two wooden women will approach the empty tomb. We’ll look quietly at the cake for a while; we’ll tell the story, and we’ll eat the cake.

And goes on to talk about how Awaken Your Senses encourages Christians to slow down, to live fully in the bodies we’ve been given, and to experience the wonder of God with more than just the left sides of our brains.

Read it all here!