Spiritual Disciplines, Repentance

Do you remember the woman at the well? The one who came in the heat of the day to avoid conversation with other women? The one who had lived with multiple men and had earned a reputation as a that woman? The one who lived outside of her culture's definition of good enough? The one who met a man there, one who changed everything?

A different kind of man. Not one who wanted her, or wanted to use her. Not one who refused to talk to her, clearly despising who she was. Not one who worried about social rules or the glaring sun beating down on his travel weary body.

He was there for her, you know. He went out of his way to be there when she came for her water. He knew she would be there and it was important for her to encounter him.

She was stuck. She had made decisions, maybe they had even been made for her, and now here she was. She lived on the wrong side of society, in Samaria. She had grown up in a world that had defined her people as second place. She had lived a hard life, one filled with wounds and desperation. Her heart had grown hard. She told herself that she didn't need anyone to approve of her. Whose business was she anyway? She had worked hard to stay alive and that had to count for something. It was easier to just avoid their judging looks, their whispers and disapproval. And she didn't mind the heat so much - it was softer than rejection. So here she was, the hopeless woman at the well.

And there he was. He was clearly a stranger, a Jew, leaning against the well, watching for something... watching her. She was used to being stared at - she felt her heart stiffen as she got closer. He was alone and covered in dust. She looked at the ground as she reached the well, unnerved by the strength of his presence. And then he spoke to her. He asked her for water. Startled she drew her eyes to his face. "How come you, a Jew, are asking me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?"

Oddly he didn't look away, he didn't even lean away from her. His eyes caught hers and then he offered her water. He talked about living water; water that would leave her satisfied, never thirsty again. He talked about endless life and her soul lurched against her chest. She couldn't help herself - with tears hanging from the cliffs of her eyelashes she cried out, "Sir, give me this water so I won't ever get thirsty, won't ever have to come back to this well again!" 

He looked straight into her eyes, knowing her heart, she could sense it. He said, "Go get your husband and then come back." Her stomach fell. Her husband. "Which one?" she thought bitterly. Her grief flooded to the surface and she didn't feel so hard anymore. She didn't even want to defend herself this time. She thought of the women who had scorned her, the loneliness that consumed her endless days. She thought of the men who sought her in secret, but ignored her in public. She felt the great weight of a life sadly lived and she didn't want to hide her brokenness anymore. This man, who had lifted her heart in hope, would certainly let it crash again once he knew. But she couldn't hide anymore. Not for one more minute. "I have no husband" she whispered, the social shame of her own truth spilling out onto the dirt at his feet.

"You've had five husbands, and the man you're living with now isn't even your husband. You spoke the truth there, sure enough."

Just a statement, a knowing, a clearing away of the narrative she was building in her own mind.

She stood exposed and, for a moment she flared. She challenged him. She dared him to just come out with it. He was a Jew. She was a Samaritan. She left the door wide open for him to tell her what everyone else had already told her. She had done everything wrong. She had failed at birth and was left to live a fragmented life.

He didn't.

Then his friends came, their faces flooded with the look she knew so well. She left her water jug and went back to town, stumbling over the encounter she had just had. Who was he? What had he offered her? Endless life. Water that would never run dry. He had looked into her heart and had spoken her deepest shame like it was nothing. And why had he been there, alone, like he was waiting for her? Why did he seem so familiar, like she had known him all along?

Something had shifted in her. She felt different. Exposed, but lighter. She didn't feel so afraid. She didn't feel so overlooked. He hadn't flinched when he had laid her life bare. Like he had known it all along and was unoffended. She couldn't keep it in - her heart was bubbling over. Her mind was spinning.

He had to be the one.

So she told everyone she saw. Some were startled that she was speaking to them, but most were curious. The came to him too; found him at the well. Thirsty souls drank from his eternal spring and she saw it then. They were all broken. Every single one of them.

That day was a day of turning. Laid bare before before the man from Galilee. Sought out and exposed. And still he offered her a new life - not in spite of her wandering, but in the midst of it. Later she would hear that he claimed to be The Way. She knew what that meant. He was the way through disaster. He was the way through loneliness and hopelessness. He was the way that had opened wide before a broken woman from Samaria.

This is repentance, friends. T'shuvah. The returning to the well, meeting The Divine in the heat of your struggle. Repentance is a turning, a leaning in. Your heart is exposed and you are faced with His way, or your old, splintered way. It will cost you to repent. You will lose your walls, your self protective towers. You will have to come to an honest space, and then you will have to leave your old way there, at the well.

In the practice of repentance we come every day. We spend time alone with Them - the mysterious existence of Love - uncovered and known. We drink of Their living water and then we carry our freedom away with us. We don't hide it - we spread it.

Repentance is an act of acceptance and humility that changes the course of our lives.

So come to the well, today. The invitation is never withdrawn.

You will always find him leaning there, covered in the dust of his journey to get to you.

*Have you experienced the grace of God in repentance? Where did he find you?

*September 2013

Spiritual Discipline, Self Reflection

This morning I sat down to crack open my brand new Storyline workbook by Donald Miller. I breathed in paper and ink and pulled out my sharpie pen. I read, I underlined, I Instagrammed. I was moved by the intention of the entire process - it's clearly something I've been wanting and needing to do for a while.

And then I landed on these two lines: "When people plan their stories around themselves, they come to the end and realize their stories were empty. They realize they weren't the sun and when they forced the world to revolve around themselves, they had no capacity to bring life to those they loved."

Drop the mic. Or the sharpie pen.

I was caught in a completely hushed moment. My own heart, and all the yuck that has been stirring up in me for quite some time came rushing to the surface. And then there it was. Just sitting there. In a holy place. I felt like Moses. Something inanimate was speaking to me. I'm just here, minding my own business, furthering my spiritual and emotional health, and suddenly this page is on fire. Suddenly there are tears in my eyes and I'm whispering broken things to Jesus because I see my heart exposed on paper. I'm remembering old wounds that came from someone else who needed to be the sun, but had no life to offer me. I'm remembering just this morning when I was so angry with Joe because he keeps losing things like Daisy's ballet shoes.

I'm a control freak. No one needs to tell me - I'm totally aware. I make my world safe by controlling everything I can get my fingers around. Over the past year I've had some healing in that area and I've worked really hard to have some freaking humility. I've pried my own fingers off of circumstances and other people's patterns of behavior. I've worked so dang hard to STOP CONTROLLING ALL THE THINGS. Lord have mercy. Aint nobody got time for my need to perfectly align everything.

So this morning, as I was struck by the sharp realization that there is much more work to do, I crawled into a space of personal reflection. This is where we sit with our gunk for a while. We acknowledge it. We let it be. We turn it over in our hands and we study its roots and origins. We consider it's lines and scars. We let it burn if it must, but we eventually must come to a moment of gently releasing it. The practice of personal reflection has to draw us into the practice of relinquishment. And relinquishment is where we stop living with the gunk; where we start embracing the holy.

You are invited to the desert, friend. You are invited to a wide open space with a single burning bush in front of you; to holy ground and that desperate, tearful acknowledgement that you are, in fact, still a mess. There will never be growth without personal reflection. There will never be healing without sitting in that holy space, completely wrecked for a little while. Movement happens when we are capable of freely relinquishing, and relinquishment doesn't happen without reflection.

So, come to dry ground today. Come away from distraction and pride. Come away with Jesus, into the desert of your heart. Come humbly. Come like David with this prayer on your lips:

"Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."
[Psalm 139: 23, 24]

*What about you, friend? Have you found yourself in a space of personal reflection? 

 *September 2013

Spiritual Disciplines, Waiting

Yesterday I taught a Holy Yoga class on Exodus 33 - the story of a conversation between Moses and God about entering into the Promised Land. God tells Moses that he's going to send an angel before them to drive out the people who inhabit the land. He's going to pave a road for them into the Promised Land, but he's not going with them. They are so stubborn, so willful and hard-headed - he's going to withdraw his Presence, but he'll make good on his promise of land, and wealth, and greatness.

Moses, who was called by God out of being obsolete, out of hiding and simply existing, essentially says, "No." It's not an option. He says, "If your Presence doesn't go with us, we're not going."

We'd rather live in the desert forever if that's where you are.

We'd rather live in liminal space, in limbo, in constant waiting. Nothing is worth the absence of the Presence of God.

Moses, who had lived without the voice of God, without interaction with God, for most of his life, now can't take a single step into rest and peace without Him.

Because once you've tasted that the Lord is good, there's nowhere else to go.

Which is why Waiting is a Spiritual Discipline. I've never seen it listed with other disciplines, but the Bible is overflowing with people who literally had to practice Waiting.

Noah on his boat.

Abraham and Sarah and the baby who came so late.

Esther and her multiple dinners and requests before she gets to the point.

David and his throne.

Nehemiah and his longing to rebuild Jerusalem.

All of Israel for 400 years after the last prophet until the arrival of John the Baptist.

Jesus for the first 30 years of his human existence.

I'm sure you could add more to the list right this second. It's everywhere. We're all waiting, friends. We're waiting on The Promised Land, whatever that is. We're waiting for life to get easier, relationships to get less messy, parenting to get less ridiculous, the day we'll sleep through the night again, the right job to take shape, health to become a reality. We're waiting for answers, for questions that make sense, for hope to appear, for love to really be enough.

We're waiting.

Sometimes we're not waiting well. Waiting is a practice because we aren't prone to waiting with flair.

Sometimes we get frustrated. We demand and push and strive and force. We blame circumstances and people and, even God, for the length and cost of waiting. We sink into our own misery and barely survive the process. We grumble, like the Israelites in the desert.

The invitation that lies in the practice of Waiting is this: relinquish. Find a tiny bit of shade in the middle of your desert, cross your legs, straighten your spine, close your eyes, breathe. Wait. Listen to the sound of the desert around you. Listen to the ebb and flow of life. Live the experience. Embrace the King who led you here to deliver you. Remember that, what you left behind, was bondage. Slavery. In that old space you longed for freedom. You are living in freedom right now, in the Waiting. Seas have been parted, enemies conquered, nourishment provided. The Presence of God has tangibly led you.

So sit. Use your new practice of Silence to still your angry thoughts. This space of Waiting will serve you well. This is where the old behaviors, old struggles, old idols, old sicknesses will be purged and buried. This is where new life will spring up from dry rocks and cracked ground. This is where the sun will bleach your bones and leave you clean again. This is where change happens.

Henri Nouwen said, "A waiting person is a patient person. The word patience means the willingness to stay where we are and live the situation out to the full in the belief that something hidden there will manifest itself to us."

Something hidden here will manifest itself to you.

Maybe that something will be the realization that you are now the kind of person who would rather live in the desert with the Presence of God than enter into the Promise without Him.

Maybe you're not the same person you were when you first stepped foot into this Waiting space. Maybe the practice has reshaped you.

*What about you, friend? Are you in a season of Waiting? Do you find it hard to practice patience?

*September 2013

Spiritual Disciplines, Soul Friendship

“You can’t live the Christian life without a band of Christian friends, without a family of believers in which you find a place.” 
C.S. Lewis

About 6 1/2 years ago my heart was ripped open and then abandoned. I was fragmented, splintered and wandering. Where I had once been only nagged at by suspicion and uncertainty, I was now laid low by the truth. This was the very first time addiction had looked me in the eyes, but we stayed there for years, that beast and I, circling each other; never sure who would make the final blow.

I was alone in my marriage. Abandoned. Unloved. Ignored and neglected. I keep beating against the walls of his self-centered prison, but he never glanced up - unless it was to look at anyone else. I was invisible. I was lied to. I was shoved to the side and resented. I was completely alone.

Except for this one thing. I had soul friendship. I had women who listened to me weep and rage; who went deep into my processing and made the ache of abandonment less potent. I had real relationship. It wasn't in my marriage, but for that season, Divine Love provided a way to nourish and sustain me.

These women - they knew the depth of my ugly. They knew my flesh and my sickness. They knew my struggles and my old tendencies towards going dark. They knew what made me whole, what fed my spirit, and how to stand in healthy spaces with me.

I have these memories that stand out from all of the others in that season of my life. Weeping on my mat in a yoga class and being surrounded, held and prayed for. A single phone call and not a second of hesitation before she got in her car and drove over. A call from a pay phone in Belize because she knew I was aching and alone. An air mattress in my son's room where they slept the first time Joe and I separated. Tears and bible studies and yoga classes and singing over my son as he was born into the most painful time of my life. These women entered into my mess. They slipped past any hesitation they may have had and chose to engage in the kind of friendship that is a practice.

Like David and Jonathon.

Like Ruth and Naomi.

Like Elijah and Elisha.

Like Paul and Timothy.

Let me tell you why soul friendship is a discipline.: cause things get messy. When you live life together, to that degree, you are going to brush up against one another. You will hurt each other's feelings. You will disagree with one another. You will be startled to find that your soul sister is not your identical twin, and frankly, sometimes she really pisses you off. And that's when you practice friendship. 

When things get hard. When you don't know what to say, or do, to comfort someone in a loss. When you're tired and you'd rather just be left alone. When you're irritated and frustrated and run down. That's when it gets hard. And that's when you realize that you've never needed them more.

Did you know that C.S. Lewis and J.R.R Tolkien were soul friends? Two of the greatest minds, who wove very different stories overflowing with Divine story, and struggle, and truth. They were the kind of friends who often disagreed, and they were okay with that. Although they both wrote very popular fantasy books, they definitely didn't favor one another's style. Big deal. They were still the kind of friends who sharpened one another. They were the kind of friends who produced so much fruit simply because they pushed each other to MORE. Your deepest friendships will always want more for you. And they won't be afraid to tell you any truth at any time to get you there.

Now here's the thing, friends. Don't assume that everyone you like a whole lot is your current soul sister. Some of us are prone to that, no? After all this time, I can count on one and a half hands the women who I would still call today - even if I haven't seen them in months - if I needed a safe place to land. Your inner circle is not meant to be a hundred strong. What you process in the deepest spaces of your heart is not always meant to be on display. If you run around telling everyone everything, you're bound to get wounded, because that deep space in you is meant for deep relationship.

To engage in the spiritual discipline of soul friendship, you have to first engage in the practice of reflection. You need to spend some honest time with yourself. Consider who your deepest friendships are with. Consider who your "grab a movie" friendships are with. Consider who drains you and who fills you up. Know that there is nothing wrong with having friends who stand just outside of your inner inner circle. Those friends are important. You need them and they need you. But, who do you live life with? Who spurs you on towards health and wholeness? When you're hitting rock bottom, who sits with you and holds on to Jesus, even if you can't? Who brings you truth, even when you want to smack them for it? Who comes for you when you go dark? Who lets you wander when wandering is what you must do?

When you come into your practice of silence this week, bring this in with you. If, in that space, someone comes to mind, maybe feel out what it would look like to intentionally engage in the practice of soul friendship with them. What would that require of you?

And, if the idea of deep relationship is completely foreign and uncomfortable for you, I'd start with Ruth and Naomi. Read up. Meditate. Start somewhere.

*Do you practice soul friendship? What is the greatest struggle? The greatest reward?

*September 2013

Spiritual Disciplines, Silence

Silence is an interesting practice. Interesting as in, horribly difficult. Once, in a yoga class, I had a student who was super uncomfortable with 8 minutes of savasana - she honestly could NOT be still for that long. Silence was completely unavailable to her.

So she did bicycle crunches while we practiced silence.

You might giggle. Cause it's a little funny. But, think about what you would do if you abruptly didn't have access to your phone, or the internet, or the television, or another person. What if you were completely cut off from all of your beautiful, and well-loved, distractions? What if the hum of electricity faded away, the rush of cars driving past your window suddenly hushed and the chatter of your co workers, children and friends instantly ceased.

You might start doing bicycle crunches too. 

Because we honestly don't know what to do with silence. It's an uncomfortable and restless space for most of us. Yet we crave it. We go camping, take long drives, turn off the lights and the TV at night so we can sleep. Silence is like breathing. We don't know how much we depend on it.

Is it starting to make sense? Why silence is a practice? It requires intense discipline. It becomes a choice that we have to make. Silence just isn't as readily available to us as it would have been even a few hundred years ago. Even when we sleep at night, we're listening to the hum of the electrical current in the city around us. Our sleep patterns have lost their original intent. We no longer wake up and go to sleep with the sun and we have artificial light and appliances that keeps us a teensy bit restless all the time.

In Phoenix, during monsoon season, it's not unheard of for the power to go out. Every single time that happens, something releases in my chest. I honestly feel a deeper sense of rest when everything shuts down.

Silence. A deep absence of sound and vibration.

This is what happens when we enter into a spiritual act of silence. We shut off the sounds and vibrations of the world around us. We seek a space that is void of voices, distractions and movement. We get very very still and then we listen. We listen for the voice that we have to struggle to hear over the sounds of life. We creep into lonely places so that we can sit and wait.

Henri Nouwen says that somewhere we know that without silence words lose their meaning.

We get that, don't we? In order to appreciate the people we love, the adventures we live and the communities we serve, we have to get quiet. We need to be reminded of who we are and what we're doing.

Like Moses on the mountain with God.

Like Elijah in the cave, listening for the whisper.

Like David in the wilderness.

Like Jacob on his road to Laban.

Like John the Baptist in the desert.

Like Jesus seeking quiet places.

Silence leads us to truth. Silence leads us to an unshakeable inner peace. Silence is where we are taught.

Maybe try this: choose a day to practice silence. Turn off your phone for an hour. Leave your house and find a quiet place to sit. And then sit. Pray. Listen. Close your eyes and connect to the sensation of the quiet world around you. Feel the sun on your skin, listen to the wind brushing past you. Feel the ground underneath you. Be in that moment, without words for a few minutes. If you feel the need to do crunches, shake out your limbs a little. Invite God into your silent space. Ask him to whisper to you. Relinquish your need to fill this space with words. Just be.

It will require a lot of intention from you, friend, but it will be worth it. Without any expectation or striving, enjoy your short time of being alone and silent. Let the wordlessness minister to you. Allow your heart to find rest in simply being in the presence of Love.

And, if you're brave, do it again tomorrow.

*August 2013

Solitude

We're not talking about isolation here, friends. Isolation is my oldest adversary. It is my default response to triggering or wounding. I've spent years in isolation and sacrificed relationships on its altar. So, let's start here. Isolation is not solitude.

Maybe isolation speaks to you in very convincing tones. Maybe, in your fragile moments, isolation seems like a comforting option. My personal isolation tell is when I start thinking, "Eff them. They don't know me. They don't know the details of what's going on." And then I hide. I hide long and I hide deep. Let's be real. Ain't nobody got time for that.

The first time I tasted solitude I was eight. That was a painful year for me, friends. I was wounded that year. Some very painful, ugly things happened and I didn't know where to run. My youngest brother was born that year and I don't remember feeling noticed. Having kids, I get it now. There was a lot happening. And there were things happening for me that I didn't talk about.

That year, in our small Illinois town, it rained a lot. So every time it rained, I grabbed an umbrella and I walked a field by our house. I walked circles. I walked slowly. I poured out my young heart and I listened to God whisper to me. It was my only reprieve. It was my escape.

Henri Nouwen writes about The Desert Fathers in The Way of the Heart. He says that they viewed the world as a sinking ship from which they must swim for their lives. So they swam. Like I walked. They found quiet places, namely the desert. They listened and raged and met their own hearts, face to face. They entered into what Nouwen calls "The great struggle and the great encounter."

The great struggle. Hey, have you lived that? I have. Quite a bit. I know what it is to struggle. I know what it is to suffer. I know what it is to NEED a reprieve. I know what it is to want to sink into a lonely desert space and have no one speak to me, touch me or influence me. I know what it feels like to want to escape that damn sinking ship. Don't you?

But the great encounter, ragamuffins. The dark night when the King of Glory reaches his own firm hands out to grip my shaky, fragmented soul. The quietness of that field in the rain; the sense of being completely alone with the God of Creation. The whisper that drowns out the raging. The voice that gently soothes our wild aching. The physician who uses hope like a balm. The profound understanding that we are neither alone, nor abandoned. When THAT moment comes, solitude becomes an embrace.

But the encounter never comes alone. We live our human lives, tainted by the weight of sorrow. We all grieve. We live our lives, on some level, prepared for the worst. We know that fear, loneliness, grief, abandonment, neglect, abuse, wrong doing and ugly could be around every corner. We know that people are murdered, children are hurt, spouses are cheated on, churches are betrayed, and sometimes we're deceived. We know that the kind of life that happens is not always pretty, so we lean in anyway and pray for something to be different.

And, when sorrow comes, when people experience unbelievable suffering, we wonder what to do about it. What do we do about it? What do we do when WE are the ones who are struggling? What do we do when someone we love is struggling? Isn't that THE question?

We seek solitude, friends. We get quiet. We withdraw to a hot and barren place. We lean into the weight of the struggle. We peer through that foggy glass, looking for the face of the one who will rescue, who has always rescued. We refuse to isolate. We don't go running off to feed our despair. We just go deep into the heat of the furnace and we wait. We wait because he doesn't send us in there alone. We wait because the encounter is coming.

When it comes, friends - and it will - we flourish. Something happens there. If you've lived it, you know this is true. Something happens in solitude that opens up locked and fearful places in our souls. Something breaks us open and then calls us deeper. Deeper into solitude, deeper into relationship.

Nouwen says that solitude is not a physical condition, but a spiritual one. You can be in a room full of people and be completely at rest within yourself. It isn't about how well (or often) you meditate, how deeply you pray or how long you can fast. Solitude is a condition of the heart. Solitude is an inward turning, a desire to commune with God in a soul deep way. Solitude isn't isolation, because isolation hides. Solitude is a calling forth.

If you're ready to test the waters of spiritual disciplines, start here. Disengage your heart from the world around you. Set aside the desire to be affirmed, known and accepted. Find a quiet place - a field, a hike, a closet, your car, or your living room at nap time. Allow yourself to come face to face with your own ugly - your anger, your greed, your fear. Stare that old self in the face. Acknowledge that she once was something, but now she is nothing.

And then let. her. go.

Struggle with that old self, friends. Struggle for as long as it takes. Struggle until you just can't take another full inhale.

Embrace the exhale as you embrace the desert.

This is solitude and it's worth practicing.

*Have you experienced solitude? How does it measure against isolation for you?

*August 2013

 

What About Ritual

When I was much younger, and living out my spiritual immaturity, I felt fairly confident that churches who honored rituals were stodgy, uninspired and disconnected from the Spirit of God. If it didn't look like my charismatic, jeans wearing, grape juice communion experience of the body of Christ, it just could not be the RIGHT way. And, as we all know, I was constantly searching for the right way. I needed to know that I was doing the right things and worshipping God appropriately. I was so young, friends. I understand how narrow and small this thought process was. But, it was me, nonetheless.

In the buildup to my deliverance from my Pharisee life, I dated this one boy. We were eighteen and going nowhere. He was abusive and shaming. I was clueless and depressed. So, when the moment came to get out, I jumped - blind and terrified. But I got out.

I - who had never done anything on my own, ever - moved to the Pacific Northwest to live with my Aunt, Uncle and Cousin. I was a mess, friends. Ashamed. Scared. Exhausted. Confused. It took months before I stopped waking up with my heart racing, having dreamt that I never got away. I spent a lot of time alone, sitting by the water, watching my life pool at my feet. I tried to pray, but words wouldn't come. I can't say that I felt like God was absent, because he was never so present. I just didn't know what to say to him. I couldn't remember how to approach him.

I tried to go to the community church on the island. It made sense. Those were my peeps, the ones who were doing it right. But I was lifeless there. I was triggered and anxious from the moment I pulled into the parking lot. Then I went to church with my Aunt and Cousin. We pulled into the parking lot of their Episcopal church, surrounded by lush trees and soft grass. I sat down on a hard wood pew and sank into old hymns that somehow comforted me. I drank wine from a cup and cried when the priest blessed me. And, when I picked up that worn book and read the prayers that were already prepared for me, I soaked in those words like they were cool water covering my burned skin. I heaved with every exhale, relieved that I could pray without knowing how to. I found rest in knowing that other people had been praying these words for hundreds of years before me. It ceased being the wrong way and starting being a different way. This was the way to healing for me. This was my very first step towards grace. In ritual, where I had once seen only legalism.

My Aunt was gentle with me, friends. Very, very gentle. She listened to me cry and grieve and question. She welcomed me into her own experiences and gave me a lot of room to process. My room was filled with books. So many beautiful books. I found Jesus on those shelves. He came for me through Henri Nouwen, Brother Lawrence, and Richard Foster. I poured over their ideas on ritual and meditation and healing, completely surprised at how readily I soaked it up. I was a dry sponge and ritual was water.

My first yoga class was on that island. In all honestly, I was nervous. I was doing new things, discovering new limits and depths to myself. Yoga was something that seemed to resonate with me, but I didn't know if it was okay for a Christian to do yoga. I did it in faith that Jesus was bigger than the small house I had built for him, and from my first class, set my intention on Jesus. I've never stopped.

It would be very easy for us to revert to our old ways. For some of us we have come to believe that Jesus is ONLY in ritual. For some of us we have been taught that Jesus has LEFT ritual. I want to suggest that we're all right, and we're all wrong. Maybe he uses ritual to uncover our smallness and uses a free-flowing grace to uncover his greatness. One thing I am certain of, whatever church wounds still haunt us (and there are more of us than we realize), Jesus will heal us within the body of Christ. Maybe you find that healing on a wood pew with a priest. Maybe you find it on your mat, hearts blazing before him. Maybe you find it in a loud, exuberant church service. Maybe you find it over wine with a grace-aware friend. Just don't be ashamed of where you find it. Don't feel like you have to be right, or wrong. Embrace joy in learning that healing and redemption are gifts that exclude no one, and that perfectly fit everyone.

In the next few weeks I'm going to post about spiritual disciplines. I'm going to write about what has healed and shaped me. I'm going to draw from other broken people who have already written about it. I hope you will come to the table with a sweet willingness to be both right and wrong. I hope you encounter freedom from, or through, ritual. I hope you find rest for your spiritual weariness and comfort for your ache. Just come, friend.

Maybe this series will be your island experience, or maybe it will remind you of when you encountered Jesus in an unfamiliar space.

Just come to the table. There's room for you here.

*August 2013

Once I Was a Pharisee

*I am a recovering Pharisee. I once lived by rules and judgements and fear. I once broke my own heart on the altar of doing. I once followed church rules even when they violated what I knew to be true. I lived that life for a long time and I am still recovering. Like any addict, I live with an awareness of what I once was and could be again.

I am also a recovering sinner. I've sat in some very dark spaces, alone. I understand legalism, friends, but I also understand the kind of sick sorrow that slices like a knife. So, while I wrote this blog post with a little bit of trembling, I also wrote it with a very strong conviction. Jesus is the midline. He is neither here nor there. He's just Jesus. He's his own space.

So, rather than trying to make him fit into our spaces, let's give way to his upside down, inside out, radical saving spaceAre you in? *

Last week a girlfriend sent me a message asking what I did to put Jesus first every day. She was struggling because she kept feeling like she wasn't doing it right. You probably know what she's talking about. I certainly do, and she's not the first one to ask me this. Some of us bury our faith because we don't think we're living up to it. Some of us obsess over every little quiet time, church service and set aside prayer time, afraid that we'll mess it up. I definitely used to be afraid that I would be one of those people who thought they knew Him, only to enter eternity and hear him say that He never knew me. Catch the theme here? We get so afraid, friends. We want to be (or think we should be) the kind of people who read really spiritual books, listen to a podcast every day, wake up early just to read our Bibles and pray, respond to every situation with a "pure heart" and never ever ever ever step even an inch off of the "righteous" way.

Let me tell you where that fear will carry us. We will, very soon, find ourselves in the order of the Pharisees. Our fear, if left to breed, will soon twist our tired thoughts. We'll travel farther and farther from the gospel of grace and deeper and deeper into gross expectations.

When I was younger, and terrified of being a spiritual failure, I genuinely thought that things like listening to non-Christian music was reflective of someone's heart - in a bad way. I judged it. It was stupid, and fearful, and gross,  but I judged people. It's not that I was raised that way - I have strong memories of singing "Let's Hear It For The Boy" with my mom when I was a kid - but somewhere along the way, in an attempt to find myself,  I developed an attitude of fear. I linked my thoughts with a legalistic order of other "godly" people.

Listen, friends. If you've read my playlists or taken a single Holy Yoga class from me, you know I've been delivered. I'm not so afraid anymore. But we're just touching the surface of my old fear. I was religious, people. I was a hot mess - doing everything right, cleaving to the rules and desperately wishing it wasn't rules that would save me. I was convinced that not having sex before I was married would be enough to make me feel cleaned up after someone else's sin stole from me. I lived with a deep certainty that not swearing would make me holier, wearing loose clothing would make me less sinful and holding rules over my friends would make them love Jesus.

Would you believe that it was failure that rescued me? The God Who Wastes Nothing didn't abandon me in my faithless religion. He crawled right into it. Right into the questions I was afraid to ask, the fear that kept me starved for truth, the longing to stop caring about how other people defined me. And yet, somehow, in this mess, I was labeled as "that girl" - the one that couldn't measure up to the spiritual SOMETHING. But no one could tell me what the SOMETHING was. It just wasn't me. You know why? Because fear shows. Because religion isn't faith. Following Pharisee-like rules wasn't freeing me. It made me tired, desperate and terrified.

And then there came this moment when everything caved in. All of my rules crushed me, in an instant. Or in a month that feels like a minute. I spiraled. I gave way to the sorrow, the depression and the lies. I sat on my kitchen floor, all alone, and looked straight into my reflection in the oven door. I took handfuls of pills and waited.

You know what came for me? Not death. Not shame. Not fear. Not sorrow.

He came.

Jesus. He came for me.

When I couldn't feel my limbs, I could feel him, friends. When I couldn't open my eyes, I felt the weight of his hands. One on my head. One on my belly. Steady. Warm.

When I should have died, wanted to die, he came for me. He came for me in a way that defies logic. He came for me in a way that left me without a single physical reminder of my sorrow. He came for me in a way that completely relieved my spiritual bondage. He came for me and I stopped being "that girl". I started being THE girl.

Freedom didn't happen for me in all of those years of waking up early enough to read my Bible. It didn't happen for me in all of the hours I spent serving and attending church. Freedom came for me in my grossest, most humiliating moment. It came for me in my ugly.

He came for me.

I found myself, soul bare, being picked up out of the dirt, guilty as hell. I found myself washing his feet with my tears, and I couldn't hear the outrage anymore. I found myself healed by the sheer force of his gaze. Noticed. Completely known, not an atom of my existence ignored.

And maybe he came for you on a Sunday morning, or in a Bible Study, because that's your story. But, for me, he came on a lonely, desperate day. He came to rescue me from my religion. He came to call me out of my Pharisee life. He came to deliver me from fear. He came, at just the right moment, when the screaming in my head turned into a whisper. He came to show me that he would enter into my ugly. He wasn't ashamed of me, even in my religious faithlessness. He wasn't deterred by my ridiculous judgmental behavior. He was just coming for me. All along.

Hear me, friends. Fear is the kind of thing that doesn't release us gently. It will keep coming for us. It's been eleven years since Jesus called me out of my old self. I have been working out what it means to be fearless since then. Don't think that I don't sometimes revert to my old behavior. Some days I still wake up thinking that I had better not screw this up. There are strong moments of fear for me. Fear that I'll be alone. Fear that I'll work till I'm ashes and still have nothing to show for it. Fear that people will still think I'm a mess. Fear that I'll judge someone too harshly. But never, ever again have I feared that Jesus will tell me I never knew him. Because I know him. I. Know. Him. And He knows me. That's what happened that day, in my failure. He entered in and my fear dissipated.

So, when you wake up early to read your Bible, let it be because you want to. When you read a spiritual book, let it be because it's speaking to you. When you listen to podcasts, and show up for church, let it be because you are filled up and pouring back out. And, when you need to burn out a little, know that Jesus is in our tired ugly too. The cross did more than change the outcome of eternity, friends. It changed the right here, right now. He's in it in a way that never could have happened before. He's not afraid of your yuck. He's not ashamed of your failure. He's not disgusted by your dark corners. He already knows it. All of it. Because he bore it. He lifted it up onto his own shoulders and let it seep into his destroyed body. He's already lived it.

We love him, because He loved us first. We know Him because He knew us first. We're safe with Him because He's already traveled every road to get to us.

Today is a new day. Today is a fearless day. Live it free.

*We can also absolutely find freedom in spiritual disciplines. Come back on Monday. We'll talk about that too.*

*August 2013

The God We Thought We Buried

Sunday.

The day we sat vigil for. The sunrise we weren't sure would come. The still, heavy fog of early morning. Defeated and mourning, we climb the hill to the tomb; the place we buried God.

Saturday was long... painful. Shabbat passed at an agonizing pace. We waited, oils in hand. We didn't sleep. We let the night drag on. And, at the very first glimmer of sunlight, we trudged towards the grave of our hope. We stumbled onto a confusing scene; stone rolled away, linens lying empty. God isn't where we left him. God isn't in the dark cold. God is missing.

Isn't it just like us to not recognize him when he speaks? We don't find him where we think he should be - limited and broken. He's not what we thought he would be, and that leaves us confused and foggy. He's speaking, we're answering and we still don't get it.

But then we do. Light dawns and the truth seeps into our tired, burdened hearts. The God of the unimaginable. The God of the impossible. The God of resurrection. And just like that, Saturday slips away, Friday becomes ancient. Sunday has arrived. The earth breaks open. Creation cries out. Jesus. Yeshua. The man we couldn't label. The God we couldn't see.

Today, friends, let your hearts be weighted with joy. Let your souls rejoice. The God you thought you buried is bursting with life. The King you couldn't defend has rescued you. The man you sought to follow has come back for you. You are not abandoned. You are not rejected. You are not forgotten.

Sunday has come for you. Race to the tomb and find it empty. Touch the darkness and find it void. Jesus is in the light, bearing the marks of our brokenness.

Feast with your family. Hunt eggs with your kids. Wear your sweetest, brightest clothes. Celebrate without guilt or fear.

More than that, soak in the great, glorious hope that could not be crushed. Lean in.

Happy Sunday, friends.

*March 2013

Silent Saturday

It's Saturday. The loss of Good Friday settles like dust and we're left in the pulsing silence. Tear soaked, grief-stricken. Like his disciples, his family, we feel the weight of nothing. This is the day we wait. This is that unnerving moment of not knowing what is coming next. We want to have faith that God is still moving, still listening, still sitting on his throne, but we just can't sense a thing. Our understanding of who God is, wavers. We doubt. We question. We twist under the gravity of a silent world.

Don't you know what this feels like? Haven't you lived out months of Silent Saturday in your lifetime? I know you have, because you're just as human as I am. And I have lived out years of Silent Saturday. I have known the bleakness of a silent God. I have felt the creeping darkness of doubt and fear and abandonment. I have carried the sorrow of Jesus' death cry, resonating in my soul.

"God, where are you?"

There are times in our lives when we partake in the rhythm of Holy Week. We may not see it until later, but we are living out the cross, the tomb and the resurrection. We are breathing in stagnant air, stumbling in the dark. The sky thunders and the earth violently heaves. We feel the weight of our sin, if only we could see that it is not us on the cross.

Silent Saturday comes for us, not because we must suffer, but because we must live. There is no other way to Sunday, friends. There is no other road. I know this because Jesus said that HE is the WAY, the TRUTH and the LIFE. He is the way. And we are invited to walk his way. His way is hard, it is narrow. It runs along cliffs and tight mountain passes. It costs us something. If it didn't, it wouldn't be worth living.

Life is never truly found in what is easy. Some of our most profound moments come from sorrow. It wasn't meant to be that way, he didn't design us for the weight of Saturday. But he made us strong enough for it. He chose to put himself between us and the cross. Mercy. He bore up under the humiliation, the deep rivers of crushing pain. Do you see it? Do see that his silence was not his weakness? Do you see that Silent Saturday was not his forfeit? Do you see that Sunday could only come through the road of Saturday?

We wait. And waiting does not make us weak. It does not make us unfaithful. It does not makes us lost. Waiting makes us ready.

Because the Way of Jesus also leads along wide open spaces, deep and clear oceans, safe places to rest and countless places of refuge.

The invitation stands. Come stand in liminal space, neither here nor there. Come stand on the threshold. Friday is gone. Sunday hasn't come just yet. So, stand in Silent Saturday. Grip the hand of those who wait with you. Hold fast, friends. Wait.

My friend, Nina, sings a song called Beauty In The Waiting. She says that it's neither night nor day, it's the in between space. We know that space well, you and I.

Tomorrow, everything changes. Everything. Dig in your heels, hold fast, come crawling into Saturday if need be. Whatever it takes to hold on. Hold. On.

Sunday is coming.

*March 2013

Re-center: Good Friday

It's Good Friday, friends.

I see today as an invitation. This is the day we remember the worst execution in our soul's history. This is the day we lean into something greater, deeper and fiercer than we are. This is the day of sorrow, torment and grief. And we would be lacking if we didn't sit in that for a while. We would miss the mark, friends.

The invitation is this: our souls are heavy. We bear great and dark weights. We struggle through relationships, disappointments, heart breaks, trauma and fear. We spend a good portion of our lives sludging through muddy waters. We just keep kicking the mud upwards, until it's swirling around our knees. As hard as we try to walk gently through life, we are bound to stumble over unseen obstacles.

I certainly don't have life, or people, all figured out. I'm often finding myself swimming through dark water, thinking, "How did this happen?". Life is messy. We are messy. Other people are messy.

But messy doesn't mean desolate. We can sit here in our dark corners, hearts locked away and arms crossed across our chests. We can lean into misery and disappointment. We can take up the lament of the thief who hung next to Jesus, crying out for our justification. We can demand and posture and threaten. We can suffer and gasp for air. We can let Good Friday end with the sound of our bruised and battered lips declaring injustice.

We can. But we won't. Not us. Not these brave Wanderers. Not these followers of The Little Way; of THE Way.

Because there is another way to live Good Friday. We can pick up our tossed aside, rightly punished, broken messy selves and surrender them to the cross of the other thief. We can surrender to the Way of Jesus, even if it doesn't make sense to us. We can turn our heads to the silent Lamb. We can lean in, friends, allowing our excuses, justifications and entitlement to drip away. We can let go. We can stop defending and start living. We can open our mouths to this, "Remember me, Jesus, when you come into your Kingdom". We can finally get it - that THE Kingdom is not just right here, right now. THE Kingdom is not how we push others into doing the righteous thing. THE Kingdom is not how we manipulate governments and people groups into following our rules. The Kingdom, His Kingdom, is the road from Good Friday to Easter Sunday. His way is paved with surrender, it is marked by love. His way changes things from the inside out.

You are invited, broken, lost, weary, sinful, muddy, grievous and abandoned to the cross today. You are invited to the road that invokes life. You are invited to lean into the God who would bear your shame as open, raw wounds on his body. You are invited, saved or unsaved, baptized or unbaptized, certain or doubtful. You are invited and there is nothing that could steal that invitation from you. So, come. Enter in. Face your cross and face it well. Know that you will never have to pay the price of life. Know that you are forgiven before you enter. Know that you are enough, as you are. Know that you are rescued. Because don't we all need rescuing?

Let's not hoard our freedom, friends. As you enter in, invite your neighbors. As far as it depends on you, swing open those doors. All are welcome. Every. Single. One. Of. Us.

Grace the hill of Good Friday with your open heart.

Sunday is coming, friends.

*March 2013

Silence, A Step Into Messy Grace

"A man may seem to be silent, but if his heart is condemning others he is babbling ceaselessly. But there may be another who talks from morning till night and yet he is truly silent."
[Abba Poemen]

Have you ever said something stupid? Have you ever opened your mouth and found yourself surprised and horrified by what came out of it? What am I saying - of COURSE you have. It's in our DNA. We are often defined by our lack of silence.

I do this, people. I so do this. And I'm trying to teach myself to NOT do it. I'm tired of vomiting out words that I can't take back. I'm tired of the kind of wounding it creates in other people. I'm not saying I do this OFTEN, but I do it often enough. It's painful.

You've heard me say it over and over - I want to live a life of grace; I want to create a culture of grace that welcomes all kinds of messy, dirty people into the realm of forgiveness and mercy. I'm not always good at it, but I'm always aware of my need for it.

Silence is step one. The kind of silence that teaches our hearts to extend mercy first and leaves condemnation alone in the cold. Let's not give room to shame; neither the shame that penetrates our own hearts and keeps us stunted, nor the shame that floods from our own locked up hearts into our words and actions. Let's stop stumbling around spilling out the kinds of opinions that are rooted in spiritual ignorance.

Let's get quiet. Let's get quiet every day. We're here together, building a new way that is really an ancient way. We're here together, choosing THE Way. Our first step is this: we get quiet inside of our own hearts. We listen to the Spirit, who is always speaking, always breathing into us. We stop letting our thoughts rip us, and others, apart. Because our thoughts will become our words and our words will become our actions. There's no room for that kind of babbling in messy grace. We have to let the dirty fingers of broken people touch our faces without flinching. We have to breathe in their stench and offer them clean, cool water. We have to quiet our thoughts and stop judging. We'll never know, live, breathe and own grace unless we do. If we skip this, we're already lost.

Let's do it today. Just today. And then let's do it tomorrow. Then the next day, and the next. Instead of trying to force ourselves to stomach the disfigured filth of hurting people, let's learn to face our own gunk. Let's get quiet enough to heal. Maybe then we won't feel the need to judge anymore. Maybe then we'll find ourselves in a deep spiritual silence. Maybe then we'll find our words and our actions are following our thoughts into a holy place.

First step: silence. Go.

*February 2013