Friday, November 12, 2010
or, what happens when an overweight, asthmatic, inflexible 57 year old woman takes up Yoga...
I have to say, I've wanted to do Yoga practically from the moment I laid eyes on someone performing a posture. I thought, "Oh, yeah!!! That is for me."
But I procrastinated as I raised 6 children, thinking, I have time. And then, this year, it hit me. I DON'T have time. The time is now.
I watched a few youtube Yoga videos and thought...I will never master this. But never isn't usually a word that intimidates me, so I began a journey to find a DVD that I could use that didn't kill me. *grin*
I ended up with 3 that I felt I could manage and on August 21st I began...
I had just read a post on Spirituality that talked about 40 days...how it takes 40 days to set up a spiritual practice, to set up a habit, to establish a pattern, so my first Yoga became a 40 day challenge. I also took one day a week off of my Yoga, so as not to overtax myself.
My first 40 day challenge was a smashing success, physically. I lost 10 pounds, making this year's weight loss a total of 35 pounds, and I lost 4.5 inches overall. And I learned a few things about myself...
I learned I CAN get up at 5AM to do something. If you knew me very well, you'd know how truly crazy that thought is.
I learned that I have REALLY lost a great deal of flexibility in my life and that this Yoga stuff is truly challenging. I have since adopted a few props (2 yoga blocks and a strap) to help me when the going is too far for me to reach. LOL
Mostly I learned that I feel really different when I do Yoga, even when I don't feel, necessarily, like I'm getting that more flexible. I feel different at the core, where body stability begins (I think) and this changes my confidence level, how I walk, and how I feel overall. And it's a good feeling.
I have had body image issues all of my life, even before I knew what that meant. It has probably affected me on so many levels that I'm not even aware of, because I don't talk about it. I can't talk about it (except to one friend, just the other day and it was breathtakingly painful).
I took on this Yoga challenge in my life to try to help change how I feel physically, and how I feel, mentally, about my physicality. I don't know, yet, if I will succeed at this, but I do know I'm committed to continuing this Yoga challenge in my life until I regain some of what I have lost.
I am in a new, 60 day, challenge now, and I hope to make this a part of my life for always...
Thursday, September 16, 2010
Trying to Be Thoughtful in the First Brights of Dawn
I am thinking, or trying to think, about all the
imponderables for which we have
no answers, yet endless interest all the
range of our lives, and it's
good for the head no doubt to undertake such
meditation; Mystery, after all,
is God's other name, and deserves our
consideration surely. But, but -
excuse me now, please; it's morning, heavenly bright,
and my irrepressible heart begs me to hurry on
into the next exquisite moment.
~ Mary Oliver ~
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
It was the coldest winter ever - many animals died because of the cold.
The porcupines, realizing the situation, decided to group together.
This way they covered and protected themselves;
But the quills of each one wounded their closest companions even though they gave off heat to each other
After awhile they decided to distance themselves one from the other and they began to die, alone and frozen
So they had to make a choice:
Either accept the quills of their companions or disappear from the Earth.
Wisely, they decided to go back to being together
This way they learned to live with the little wounds that were caused by the close relationship with their companion
But the most important part of it, was the heat that came from the others. This way they were able to survive.
Moral of the story:
The best relationship is not the one that brings together perfect people, but the best is when each individual learns to live with the imperfections of others and can admire the other person's good qualities.
Monday, August 30, 2010
I had an experience last week of being told something that really hurt me. But it wasn't what was said (which I had actually expected), it was how it was said to me. It amazes me that people in relationship say things in such hurtful ways, but there it is, leaving me emotionally frozen in time, not knowing which way to move, afraid to move any direction for fear of making it worse. I hate being frozen. Sigh.
Also, this isn't in just the hurtful moments, in the past few weeks it's happened in some more casual moments also. People that don't think and say things in hurtful or demeaning ways. Sometimes in front of friends, which makes it doubly humiliating and hurtful.
Just saying, be careful how you speak to people. If you care about them even a little.
Monday, August 23, 2010
I want to start/continue a yoga "practice" instead of this hit/miss stuff I've been doing. To that end I got up at 5:45AM (OMG early) and did my yoga with Leslie Sansone, which is a 20 minute workout that I can just barely handle on a work morning, it got me into the shower 9 minutes later than I normally get there, so not too bad on time. I am not sure if by "practice" I should do this daily, but since Ii am so bad about remembering if I skip a day, and because this is probably the most basic DVD I've ever seen (about 10 poses) I intend to do this every morning of my work week, and maybe one morning of the weekend taking Sunday off to rest the body. I've read that 40 days makes a practice with yoga, so we shall commit to that 40 days, which takes me to (I actually did this DVD on Saturday also, so will count from there) the first of October, at which point I expect to need a more challenging DVD, AND I expect to have to get up at least 15 minutes earlier than the 5:45AM I need for this DVD (sigh).
Friday, August 20, 2010
GOD would kneel down:
St. Francis of Assisi
I think God might be a little prejudiced.
For once He asked me to join Him on a walk
through this world,
and we gazed into every heart on this earth,
and I noticed He lingered a bit longer
before any face that was
and before any eyes that were
And sometimes when we passed
a soul in worship
God too would kneel down.
I have come to learn: God
adores His creation.
Source: Love Poems From God, translated by Daniel Ladinsky
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
As I peeled my orange this morning, I noticed it has a "grown in South America" sticker on it. Normally the oranges I eat say Florida. So, do I not eat the orange I brought because it came from outside the US? Of course not. I am eating it. It tastes like an orange.
The problems I see with this whole global vs American issue are multiple:
If we ONLY buy American, there will be much we cannot buy. America has lost her edge in the world. There is much we USED TO produce, but we do not produce anymore. I don't know how to bring production industry back to America, I'm not sure it can be done. And I know for sure that I don't have the power to cause industry to come back to us. Do you?
Secondly, the time is coming (thanks a LOT to Monsanto) when we won't be able to feed ourselves if we don't buy from (or maybe steal from) wherever we can. I just watched part of one of the scariest documentaries I've ever seen about how Monsanto GMO stuff blowing in the wind, blows into a farmers field and contaminates it, and lo and behold, Monsanto now owns your field because they have a patent on the GMO stuff. It doesn't matter HOW your field gets contaminated, it's considered patent infringement and you are prosecuted. I watched farmers dump TONS of seeds down the drains because they couldn't test every seed and be SURE that it wasn't contaminated. Generations of seed saving...GONE. In this documentary I heard the death knell of farmers who are trying to resist Monsanto. I'd like to go back in time and murder the idiot that allowed patenting of plant things. One of those hindsight is 20/20 moments.
Therefore, although I will buy American IF I can find American and IF I can afford American, I don't think we can save our economy this way. I don't think, in the great ocean that is the American economy, that it will be enough...sad to say...But I'd love to be proven wrong on this one, so add your thoughts/ideas in the comments!!!
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
In 2006, I went on a pilgrimage to Assisi, Italy to immerse myself in the life and teachings of St Francis of Assisi. It was a magical three weeks. Every morning during my stay, a mist enshrouded the city, and I felt like each well-worn stone yearned to speak of the sacred events it had witnessed over the millennia. It’s no wonder they call Assisi “a particle of paradise.”
A few days into the pilgrimage, a friend introduced me to an 80-year old, Catholic priest named Father Arcadius. Arcadius looked like an Old Testament prophet. He was dressed in a frayed and dusty cassock with a rope belt and sandals with soles made from recycled car tires. His grey beard had grown down to the middle of his chest, an explosion of white hair crowned his head, and his eyes were an arresting blue.
For years, Arcadius had been a hermit living in the Apennine Mountains until God called him to a ministry of walking across Europe and the Middle East to hear the confessions of pilgrims who were visiting shrines.
He estimated that over his thirty years of ministry he had clocked tens of thousands of miles on foot, carrying no money or extra clothing but relying on the charity of others to survive.
I spent several amazing hours sitting on the steps leading up to the Church of San Damiano speaking with Arcadius about my life with Jesus. At the end of our time, I asked for his blessing and for any final wisdom he could give me about how to move deeper into the heart of God. Without pause, he grabbed my forearms, gazed piercingly into my eyes, and said, “Become a mystic!” Not quite what I expected.
Drop the phrase word ‘Christian mysticism’into a conversation among a group of Jesus followers, especially among our more conservative brothers and sisters, and you will get a wide array of reactions. Some correlate it with New Age spirituality; others associate it with creepy psychic phenomena that have little to do with “normal” Christian life; others, however, will speak reverently about a transcendent experience of God that occurred in their past that made them wonder if for only one brief and beautiful moment they themselves were mystics.
So, what really makes someone a mystic? In the simplest sense, a mystic is someone who has a lived experience of Jesus in the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. They have experienced Jesus, and through contemplative prayer and meditation, continue to encounter Jesus in such a way that they gain a new perceptive appreciation for the urgent immediacy of God in all things. (This is but one of several thousand definitions of this term. Trust me, I will hear about it’s shortcomings!)
Contrary to what many think, however, these God-encounters are not always seismic events, like those experienced by St Francis and/or St Teresa of Avila. Catholic theologian Karl Rahner (a theologian we desperately need to revisit), would argue that these unmediated encounters with God are often so delicate and subtle that most people do not even know that what they have experienced is mystical in content.
So, let me take the “mist” out of the word mysticism; make it something less opaque and more accessible.
Have you ever found yourself inexplicably capable of forgiving someone who has deeply wounded you?
Have you ever been surprised by your ability to maintain a spirit of faith, hope and joy in the face of crushing circumstances or perhaps even in the face of unspeakable horror?
Have you ever spontaneously laughed out loud at the absurdity of life?
Have you ever felt overwhelmed by the sense that everything in your life is a gift?
Have you ever been given the gift “seeing the inner splendor” of something in creation?
Have you ever been stopped in your tracks by the sound of wind moving through a stand of trees or by the sight of a markless snowfield illuminated by moonlight?
Have you ever received the Eucharist and felt tears of gratitude well up from your soul?
If your answer is yes to some of these questions, then welcome to the fellowship of "everyday mystics", as Rahner would call them.
I do admit that some mystical encounters with God are more dramatic than others. Several years ago, a group of dear friends went on a hiking trip on a beautiful fall day with a friend who was in the early stages of dying from bone cancer. His gait was already becoming slow and unsteady, but he managed at one point to get ahead of us. As my friends emerged from a patch of undergrowth, they found our dying friend on his knees weeping, with hands raised in worship, before a single bush whose autumn leaves were aflame with breathtaking red and orange leaves. He had been graced with seeing that the “earth is crammed with God”, and these men who were witnesses to this moment were brought to silence.
Karl Rahner famously wrote that “the Christian of the future will either be a ‘mystic,’ one who has experienced ‘something,’ or he will cease to be anything at all.” I would like to be part of a conversation about how post-evangelicals/emergents might begin to think about articulating our own mystical theology (a required course in many Catholic, Orthodox and Anglican seminaries.) Without one, I believe our ability to help people who yearn to make contact with their own transcendality will be impaired.
PS: If you can, come to the Big Tent Christianity Conference in Raleigh, NC, September 8-9. Its going to be a time filled with rich conversations, and perhaps we’ll all experience the “urgent immediacy of Jesus” together.
(I originally published portions of this post in an article for the 2009 Catalyst Conference. It has since been updated and expanded on.)
Thursday, August 12, 2010
It comforts me to think that if we are created beings, the thing that created us would have to be greater than us, so much greater, in fact, that we would not be able to understand it. It would have to be greater than the facts of our reality, and so it would seem to us, looking out from within our reality, that it would contradict reason. But reason itself would suggest it would have to be greater than reality, or it would not be reasonable.
When we worship God we worship a Being our life experience does not give us the tools with which to understand. If we could, God would not inspire awe. Eternity, for example, is not something the human mind can understand. We may be able to wrap our heads around living forever (and we can do this only because none of us has experienced death), but can we understand what it means to have never been born? I only say this to illustrate that we, as Christians, believe things we cannot explain. And so does everybody else.
I have a friend who is a seminary student who criticizes certain Christian writers for embracing what he calls “mysticism.” I asked him if his statement meant that he was not a mystic. Of course not, he told me. I asked him if he believed that the Trinity represented three separate persons who are also one. He said he did. I asked him if that would be considered a mystical idea. He just stood there thinking. You cannot be a Christian without being a mystic.
I was talking to a homeless man at a laundry mat recently, and he said that when we reduce Christian spirituality to math we defile the Holy. I thought that was very beautiful and comforting because I have never been good at math. Many of our attempts to understand Christian faith have only cheapened it. I can no more understand the totality of God than the pancake I made for breakfast understands the complexity of me. The little we do understand, that grain of sand our minds are capable of grasping, those ideas such as God is good, God feels, God loves, God knows all, are enough to keep our hearts dwelling on His majesty and otherness forever.
Here is one of the coolest things I ever did: This past summer I made a point to catch sunsets. I would ride my motorcycle up Mount Tabor and sit on the steps of the reservoir to watch the sun put fire in the clouds that are always hanging over Portland. I never really wanted to make the trip; I would want to watch television or make a sandwich, but I made myself go. And once I got up there I always loved it. It always meant something to me to see beauty right there over my city.
My first sunset this year was the most spectacular. Forest fires in Washington State blew a light, nearly unnoticeable haze through Portland, and the clouds were just low enough to catch the full reflection of red and yellow. I thought to myself: This is something that happens all the time. From the ridge on Tabor where I planted myself, I could see the entire skyline, the home of more than a million people. On the most nights there were no more than two or three people there with me. All that beauty happens right above the heads of more than a million people who never notice it.
Here is what I’ve started thinking: All the wonder of God happens right above the heads of more than a million people who never notice it.
Here is what I’ve started thinking: All the wonder of God happens right above our arithmetic and formula. The more I climb outside my pat answers, the more invigorating the view, the more my heart enters into worship.
I love how the Gospels start, with John the Baptist eating bugs and baptizing people. The religious people stated getting baptized because it had become popular, and John yells at them and calls them snakes. He says the water won’t do anything for them; it will only get their snakeskins wet. But if they meant it, if they had faith that Jesus was coming and was real, then Jesus would ignite the kingdom life within them. I love that because for so long religion was my false gospel. But there was no magic in it, no wonder, no awe, no kingdom life burning in my chest. And when I get tempted by that same stupid Christian religion, I go back to the beginning of the Gospels and am comforted that there is something more than the emptiness of ritual. God will ignite the kingdom life within me, the Bible says. That’s mysticism. It isn’t a formula that I am figuring out. It is something God does.
One night I watched the sunset till the stars faded in and, while looking up, my mind, or my heart, I do not know which, realized how endless it all was. I laid myself down on some grass and reached my hand directly out toward where? I don’t know. There is no up and down. There has never been an up and down. Things like up and down were invented so as not to scare children, so as to reduce mystery to math. The truth is we do not know there is an end to material existence. It may go on forever, which is something the mind cannot understand.
My friend Jason and I went on a trip to Joshua Tree and Death Valley , and he had a map folded across his lap nearly the entire trip. Even when I was driving, he had the map out, following along with his finger the trajectory of the car, noting how close we were to certain towns, certain lakes. Jason liked to know where we were on the map (and so did I, as a matter of fact). But I was afraid to tell Jason about the universe, how scientists haven’t found the edge of it, of how nobody knows exactly where we are on the map.
I think we have two choices in the face of such big beauty: terror or awe. And this is precisely why we attempt to chart God, because we want to be able to predict Him, to dissect Him, to carry Him around in our dog and pony show. We are too proud to feel awe and two fearful to feel terror. We reduce Him to math so we don’t have to fear Him, and yet the Bible tells us fear is the appropriate response, that is the beginning of wisdom. Does this mean God is going to hurt us? No. But I stood on the edge of the Grand Canyon once, behind a railing, and though I was never going to fall off the edge, I feared the thought of it. It is that big of a place, that wonderful of a landscape.
I like that scene in the movie Dead Poets Society in which Mr. Keating, an English instructor at an elite preparatory school, asks his students to rip out the “introduction to Poetry” essay from their literature textbooks. The essayist had instructed students in a method of grading poems on a sliding scale, complete with the use of a grid, thus reducing art for the heart into arithmetic for the head. The students looked around at each other in confusion as their teacher dismissed the essay as rubbish and ordered them to rip these pages from their books. And at their teacher’s loud prodding, the students began to rip. Dr. Keating paced the aisle with a trash can and reminded the students that poetry is not algebra, not songs on American Bandstand that can be rated on a scale from one to ten, but rather they are pieces of art that plunge the depths of the heart to stir vigor in men and woo women.
Too much of our time is spent trying to chart God on a grid, and too little is spent allowing our hearts to feel awe. By reducing Christian spirituality to formula, we deprive our hearts of wonder.
When I think about the complexity of the Trinity, the three-in-one God, my mind cannot understand, but my heart feels wonder in abundant satisfaction. It is as though my heart, in the midst of its euphoria, is saying to my mind, There are things you cannot understand, and you must learn to live with this. Not only must you learn to live with this, you must learn to enjoy this.
I want to tell you something about me that you may see as weakness. I need wonder. I know that death is coming. I smell it in the wind, read it in the paper, watch it on television, and see it on the faces of the old. I need wonder to explain what is going to happen to me, what is going to happen to us when this thing is done, when our shift is over and our kids’ kids are still on the earth listening to their crazy rap music. I need something mysterious to happen after I die. I need to be somewhere else after I die, somewhere with God, somewhere that wouldn’t make any sense if it were explained to me right now.
At the end of the day, when I am lying in bed and I know the chances of any of our theology being exactly right are a million to one, I need to know that God has things figured out, that if my math is wrong we are still going to be okay. And wonder is that feeling we get when we let go of our silly answers, our mapped out rules that we want God to follow. I don’t think there is any better worship than wonder.
--Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz, Thomas Nelson, Inc., 2003
Sunday, August 8, 2010
Sadly the mama is allergic and they are bringing her back to me!!!
I am sad for the little girls who have come to love her. But I am thrilled to have another chance at helping her adapt to our new living situation.
They sent me this photo of her at the lake.
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
I'm struggling with an emotion I don't remember ever experiencing before...loneliness. Oh, don't get me wrong, we moved a LOT when I was a kid and there were times I really missed some of the people we left behind, but this latest upheaval in my life has left me emotionally bereft and I find myself wandering around in a fog of such loneliness that my heart threatens to capsize in my inner being. And this feeling is complicated by the fact that I feel like I'm not supposed to/allowed to feel these feelings. So I hold them closely inside of me having no one to share them with. It becomes a black hole in my soul that threatens to eat me alive. So...I thought I'd write about it just a little, crying at my keyboard...trying so hard not to give in and be taken by the grief...
Monday, July 19, 2010
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Danny had one of those lives you wouldn't trade yours for, for love NOR money. His childhood made my childhood pale by comparison. And adulthood hadn't been that kind to him either. He'd married, had one son, and his wife had run off with his son. He hadn't been able to see the boy very often after that. On the night in question, he had just found out that his son (now 14) had died and been buried two weeks prior to him being notified...he should NOT have been at work this night, but he thought it would help him keep his mind off of things. Maybe, but he was also (as well he should be) distracted, so his performance that night was off. He kept making mistakes he normally would not be making. Our team lead was on his case all night over the mistakes. And then, toward the end of the night, he took him to task in front of several staff members, one of whom was me.
As I was standing there, watching him be "taken to task", all I could think of was his anguish over his son. He didn't say a single word during the tongue lashing, just stood there looking kind of sad and broken. And during this time I saw a light shine down on Danny, and then his chest rolled back and I could see his heart (well, a heart, but it looked crystal, blue and red)...his heart had many cracks in it from hurts in his life. It even had small chunks out of it as if parts had broken off from major hurts in his life. And then I heard a voice that said: "Be careful of the heart of man, you never know when YOUR words will break it."
This vision would come to revolutionize the way I saw people. It began to change me even that very night, but it didn't work it's way totally through my being for a couple of years. And, so, I just wanted to share this vision I was given, in case you needed to hear it too...
High upon a hill with the cool wind in my face
And the air was clean and clear,
and I could see for miles around
And in my heart, I knew I had come home
And in my soul there was a peace I'd never known
And so I laid my claim to this sacred place I'd found
And I stand the middle ground....
I stand the middle ground
"Lyrics by: Rik Emmett - Album/Song: Absolutely / Middle Ground"
Monday, July 5, 2010
We spend our lives looking for the "doors" in our lives...
Talking, walking, school, friends, boyfriend/girlfriend, college, engagement, job, marriage, home ownership, children...on and on ad nauseam...thinking each new "door" will bring us closer to that door above all doors: Happiness.
However, we rarely stop & catch our breath between each door...to be sure we even wanted to go through that one or the next one, to be sure we are done where we are before we walk through that other door...
Do we ever just rest in the room we are in, content with what we have/where we are/who we are?
Let us learn to rest in the now...
Monday, June 28, 2010
Nothing too spectacular about that, except that cars broke down and people who don't normally ride the bus ended up on the bus with me, such as Jeremy, Tamara and their baby Wyatt...but that isn't what I want to talk about today... There was this couple on the bus, obviously mentally challenged. They had waited for the bus with us, with their bikes, and they ended up sitting right behind me. For about 30 minutes I got to listen to their interactions.
They were fascinated by Wyatt. They thought he was adorable, and told my son and his wife that a couple of times. And then they talked about him between themselves. And the conversation was fascinating and poignant, and it is this I want to share with you...
They talked about children, how they had always wanted children, but how the medications the wife is on for her mental issues would have been damaging to the baby, so they had decided not to risk it. They spoke of how they had longed for a son and a daughter. And then, they brought tears to my eyes when they said that GOD knew how much they longed for a baby, so they were sure that when they get to heaven, GOD is going to put them to work in the heavenly daycare taking care of all the babies. They spoke of how much care they would give these little babies and I just sat there, in tears.
Now, I know that theologically, someone would want to challenge this dream of theirs, but I just sat, absorbing their dream and wishing it for them. And then the woman said to the man, could you rub my knee? He reached over and patted her knee. No, she said, rub, not pat. So he started rubbing her knee, back and forth. And she sighed and said, thank you, your touch always makes me feel so much better. At that point I was almost sobbing.
The love and simplicity these two were displaying (albeit quietly) was just so amazing that I was overwhelmed by it. I don't know this couples name, I probably never will, but they made a spiritual impact on me this weekend, and made me think of the concept of simple faith.
You see, I don't have simple faith...I question, poke, prod, challenge and probe every theological concept. But these two spoke and breathed simple, loving faith, and on that ride, I envied them...
Friday, June 25, 2010
Monday, June 14, 2010
And sometimes body-slams us. While packing this past week, this song came up on my MP3 player and I was singing along...until I got to the chorus...at that point I collapsed against the wall, sobbing uncontrollably...
Unspoken Love by Kim Hill
I wonder how many husbands and wives
Cry themselves to sleep tonight
Wishing for the world that they could just reach out across the bed...
And hold each other the way they used to do
And whisper sleepy “I love yous”
Oh but most just turn out the light and let it go unsaid
How many love songs never get sung
How many sweet thoughts die on the tip of the tongue
Victims of unspoken love
Tell me How many lonely people there are
Left holding the pieces of a broken heart
Tokens of unspoken love
In his dreams he dances until dawn
But she never even notices he’s gone
She’s lost in a novel somewhere off the southern coast of France
And in the morning she watches as he pulls away
He almost turns around, she almost shouts “Please stay home today!”
Oh, but neither takes the chance
How many love songs never get sung
How many sweet thoughts die on the tip of the tongue
Victims of unspoken love
Tell me How many lonely people there are
Left holding the pieces of a broken heart
Tokens of unspoken love