Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Yoga-Just breathe

"You're still not breathing." It wasn't a question. It wasn't said out of frustration. It was a completely zen statement that forced me to swallow my snarky comment, "What are you talking about? Of COURSE I'm breathing."

It was my 2nd yoga session with a private teacher. Private because I don't pay attention in class. Guilty! Private because I need someone to help me figure out what's going on. Private because I need someone to notice when I don't show up and call me out on it. Her comment during our first session, "You're waaaaaaaaay off balance," may not have made her a psychic in my mind, but it did make me believe she understood.

This isn't like sit still and say "ommmmmm" til all your troubles disappear yoga (although nothing wrong with that). This is more twist like a pretzel, remember to breathe, and oh, tell me what your greatest fear is yoga. I'm not gonna lie. I like to ask the questions. And the answer to that question is a post for another day.

"You're not breathing." Literally thought to myself, "Is there an echo in here? I swear I JUST heard that!" At this point I'm too busy keeping my right foot planted, my left shoulder down, my back straight and not fall over to fight. "Fine. I'm not breathing."

"Okay, good. Now we can get started."

I almost choked on my newly found peace....NOW we can get started? I've been upside down for 20 minutes, but fine, now we'll get started. I know, I'm the queen of willing obedience-no need to mention it.

We spent the next 10 minutes breathing. Not like fancy yoga breathing either-like breathe in, breathe out. Elementary.........except it wasn't. 4 minutes in I had to admit-I hadn't been breathing. I had been gasping for air in a panicked rhythm of hurry - it matched my frantic lifestyle. Who has time to breathe all the way in and all the way out? How not efficient.

I felt my cells recovering. I felt my mind slowing down to a manageable speed. I felt my body suddenly much more willing to cooperate. And I felt strangely peaceful. Yes, from the stretching and the poses, but maybe more so from the simple act of breathing.

Monday, March 28, 2011

A Relatable God

A man of sorrows; acquainted with grief. Isa 53:3

It's the season of the crucifixion and it's not always my favorite focus. Maybe I just prefer my Jesus seated on a rock, surrounded by children, nearly giggling as He delights in their childlike faith. Maybe I'd rather focus on the Jesus of Advent where hope comes into the world in the form of a cooing baby. Maybe I want my Jesus whisked off to Heaven with a hug from the Father saying, "Good enough! I could never make you suffer. You are innocent and you are mine. Let them fend for themselves."

I want a God who didn't have to suffer for me.

But at the same time, I want a relationship with an understanding God. When the darkness closes in and the light is hard to find, I want a God who anguished.

When it seems my will doesn't stand a chance of matching His, I want a God who said, "Not my will. Yours."

When the decisions of others have made things harder for me and my mercy is limited - I need to hear the voice from the cross, "Forgive them."

When I feel forsaken I need to hear Him say, "Yes. Been there."

And more than anything, I want to be right with the Father. Impossible in my humanity, yet I find myself justified in His suffering.

Communion always takes on a greater meaning for me this time of year. Sunday I sat there and really listened (okay, I don't always!). "This is My blood. Shed for you."

You. You. You. Shed

The one who has a willing heart but seriously weak flesh at times.

The one who wants more than my next breath to know Him more.

The one who who more often than "Father forgive them," finds herself saying, "Father"

And this season of Lent I can't help but come face to face with the question, "Was I worth it?"

If I listen really closely I can hear that gentle whisper from the cross, "Yes."

And you don't get that kind of answer from a God who hasn't been there.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

To Tithe a Life

How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.
Annie Dillard

Giving money to the things I believe in is a simple decision. I enjoy being able to worship at my church. I appreciate the personnel it requires to run 7 services a week. I like that it's warm in the winter and cool in the summer. When there are needs around the world, I'm glad my church contributes to help on my behalf. Besides, the Bible tells us to bring our tithes and offerings into the house of the Lord (Malachi 3:10). Gladly.

I prefer 4 legged beings to 2 at least 90% of the time. Walking through the animal shelter in my hometown breaks my heart, but I do it on occasion to remember to support the Humane Society and no kill shelters. As the owner of a dog who was almost put to sleep, I want other animals to have the same chance.
Other opportunities to help are everywhere. Meeting material needs is instant gratification and sometimes much easier than giving of ourselves.
In an effort to restructure my time and schedule lately, I've been contemplating what it means to tithe a life. I'm determined my life is in His hands. I know these days were numbered and counted long before I got here. Breathed into existence, I am here to glorify the Father by fulfilling the work He prepared for me to do. I'm trusting that will to unfold a little more each day.
So, we know what it means to bring our tithes into the house of the Lord, but what does it mean to bring ourselves into His presence? What does it look like to offer ourselves every day as a living sacrifice? How are we
If we're giving of ourselves like we've been taught to give of our money, then 2 hours and 40 minutes of every day ought to go to some service of or devotion to the Lord. Does that mean we kneel at the alter at church for 2.5 hours? Maybe no. Maybe yes. Does it mean we spend that time volunteering and doing His work every morning? Maybe no. Maybe yes.
Does it mean that we show up to do His work in His world through the lives He's given us? Absolutely.
I don't know what it means to tithe your life to the Lord, but for me it's been a growing awareness of where my time goes. I'm spending my days remembering that my life is His. I'm taking time to pray without ceasing, if not verbally, then at least in my heart. I'm finding it becomes a spiritual rhythm of God's heartbeat in and through this life and the louder it becomes the more obvious it is-He's worth every moment.
I'm searching for Him in my days and the longer I look the more I realize 10% will never suffice.
God, that You'd be all of me and my everything.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Right Here, Right Now

Ever have a season where God just won't stop talking about the same thing? Everywhere you turn you find a reminder that this is what your life is missing? Every conversation revolves around the same topic until you know this can't be a coincidence? I always feel like a kid with my fingers in my ears running down the road saying, "lalalalalalala I can't hear you!!!!" That only works temporarily.

Finally, when I've worn myself out from running away from what I need more than anything, I sit before His glorious throne and say, "OKAY, WHAT?" I may or may not say that more spiritually depending on the day.

And He whispers to this heart so gently, so peacefully, that I always wonder why I insist on running when the answers are ever before me.

In this season it is the constant reminders, "Be quiet. Be still. Be with Me. Be present in this moment. Don't try to be an hour from now, a day from now, a year from now-just be in the now, with Me. Be here. You can trust Me."

I'm done running. I'm giving Him the time He's asking for. I'm letting the world fall away and finding strength and renewal in Him. Right here. Right now.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Tuesday Book Review

There are not a lot of fiction titles I'll read over and over again, but these are a few of my very favorites. When I need a great "go-to" book I'll pick these every time. Sophie's Heart (not to be confused with Sophie's Choice) is my favorite Lori Wick book.
Redeeming love is the fictional account of Hosea. I could read this book cover to cover and start right over again. If you haven't read it-please do. You won't be sorry.

And when I need a good laugh I inevitably pick up Kristin Billerbeck's spa series. Hilarious. I've read them over and over and over again. Next best thing to actually going to the spa!

What are your go-to books when you want to read something you already know you love?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Beauty for Ashes

Ash Wednesday is a day of repentance marking the beginning of Lent. Spiritually speaking, dusting oneself with ashes was a sign of sorrow for sins. "O daughter of my people, gird on sackcloth, roll in the ashes" (Jer 6:26). Ezekiel 9 tells the story of a linen clad messenger marking foreheads indicating sorrow for the sins of the people. Lent marks a 40 day period parallel to the days Jesus spent fasting and praying in the wilderness.

It's a beautiful reminder that we come to the Lord sin laden with scars beyond repair. We place our broken lives into His hands and emerge alive for the very first time. We exchange loneliness for His constant presence and the agony of our own sins for the peace of His forgiveness. We become more aware in these days that the eternal damnation we deserve has been conquered by the Ultimate Sacrifice. How can those who believe do anything else but kneel at that cross and whisper, "Thank you. A million times thank you."

This season will come and go whether you stop to acknowledge it or not. But this year, for this life, I'm choosing to remember. And I'm eternally grateful today, all over again, for the ways He exchanges beauty for ashes.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Heavenly. Kind of.

It seems like the popular trend these days to leave the misery of the Earth for a few moments, visit the heavens and then return to Earth to convey the experience in a $24.99 hardcover. Now before you hit comment and blast me for being skeptical, I'm not saying these people did not experience Heaven first hand while living in the confines of the Earth. I'm just not saying they did either.
It's certainly not for me to judge what God chooses to do in the life of another anymore than it is for you to judge what He's up to in mine.
I can only speak for myself and all I'm sayin is once I get behind the pearly gates-End Game. I'm NOT comin back!!

And Lord have mercy! What did this guy do to deserve this???????

Tuesday Book Review

Not gonna lie-I love a book where everyone is dead on page one and I can't predict the ending. Steven James is hands down my favorite suspense writer. I may or may not beg borrow and steal to get advanced copies of his books. I never, ever re-read novels, but I've read all of these at least 3 times. Fabulous writing, gripping stories, and page turning suspense continue at the same level of quality straight through the series. I couldn't pick one that's my favorite. Read the whole thing and look for The Queen and The King to complete the story-coming soon!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Lent 2011 Just the Beginning

Forgiveness Sunday really should come with a disclaimer.....and a box of Kleenex! I've always loved Advent. It's such a sweet reminder of how Jesus came and changed everything. Advent is where the hope of our faith adventure begins. And maybe it makes me a little glass half empty, but this faith walk actually prefers Lent. The passion of the Christ is where our faith gets it's power. In His death-we have life, not just eternally, but every day.

It was a simple message this morning. "Jesus gave His life to save yours. With His resurrection, you don't have to wonder, you can know-you're never alone." Apparently I wasn't the only one who needed to hear that this morning. Tears were running down a lot of faces as the reminders of forgiveness and grace took root in broken, prideful hearts.

God was gently whispering to all of us, "Will you please stop running from Me?"

A simple request from One who has already given up everything for me.

And I'm so glad I stayed. When else is communion so powerful except in this season? The body of Christ. The blood of Christ. The power of Christ. The forgiveness of Christ. Everything about these days calls us to remember.

I have a feeling this Lent is going to be different for this life. And I have a suspicion that 40 days will be just the beginning.

I can't bring myself to give up anything superficial this year. I'm sure I could think of some things this life would be better without, but I don't need to prove to Him that I can give up french fries or butter or whatever.

This year for Lent I'm giving up me. I'm giving up being in charge of me, leaning on me, and trusting in me.

I'm going to stop running.......except to Him.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Book Club

Thanks for joining us for the book club. You know I LOVE to read with people and this has been an amazing place to do just that. That said, we are all reading at such different paces. I've got people by March 2nd asking what the April and May books are! I understand that and have the same problem in other book clubs. I'm done! Now what? To even want to be a part of a book club, you have to be a pretty big reader and so many of you are.

The last book we read, "So Long Insecurity" came back with mixed reviews. My favorite part? You all shared with me your insecurities. It made me feel MUCH less crazy about my own! I knew I could never review the book without sharing your personal information and I would never do that to you. So, I'm not going to review it.

I am going to officially stop the book club and change it up. I'll go back to reviewing a book every Tuesday like I used to. Then, if you read the book and love/hate it and want to let me know-Great! And if you don't, well, don't! There are so many great books about to hit the market and I just can't limit myself to only talking about one a month!

I'll be reviewing some books that I'm reading and some books that my friends are loving. I always want to know what people are reading, so by doing this we can have more options. Good? Good.

Stay tuned for some more book giveaways in the very near future. Anytime you comment on a post in the month of March you're eligible to win! Yep, it's that simple. Details coming soon.

Thanks for understanding and for reading! More good books comin up!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Still and Know

"You yearn for a simplified lifestyle, so that your communication with Me can be uninterrupted. But I challenge you to relinquish the fantasy of an uncluttered world. Accept each day just as it comes and find Me in the midst of it all."
-Jesus Calling
Ever find yourself in extra need of grace? Me too. Lately I feel like my next breath depends on it. Too many balls are in the air. Too much is going on. There's not enough time to just be still and know that He is God. Moments of calm come as if stolen from the demands and circumstances of this world. A continuous flow of peace from the Lord in this life like I would prefer is difficult to experience. And I find myself more than anything longing for that sweet presence.
Be still and know. One is dependent on the other. In order to truly know Him, we will have to be still. To nurture that calm surrender that can only come from Him, we will have to get to know Him.
It won't be today when we get it all together and it won't be tomorrow either. A genuine spiritual life is not cultivated in an afternoon-or a lifetime. We will likely reach the end of our lives and realize we have only begun to know who He truly is.
But in so much as this human heart and mind is capable-I want to know Him here. I want His heartbeat to be mine. I want to love Him well in the midst of a crazy life. I want to fulfill the call He placed on this life before the world began and I want to get to Heaven and be able to say, "I was the best I could be - thanks to You."