Monday, February 25, 2013

Buy In(to) By.In.

Almost two years ago, maybe longer, I decided I needed to stop reading the Bible. Well, not the way you might think. I just wanted to see if you were awake. I stopped reading it for quantity. I stopped reading it to check off my To-Do list, or to meet a quota. I stopped making it duty, and really went to focusing on the delight. Beware, if you do this you don't get very far, very fast. That's because, I reflect, I do not read. Sometimes, I will read a fairly long passage before I quit reading.  Most days, I get no further than a verse or two…and many days, I stop at a phrase, or even just a word. I read, re-read, re-re-re-read…and, the purpose is to let the truth soak-in, or rather, to let my mind marinate in the point the Author and Perfecter of my faith is trying to point out.

Beginning around the first of December, I started in the book of Romans. To be perfectly honest, while some of my favorite passages are found in this book, in its entirety, I'm a bit threatened.  Did I hear you ask, "Why?" Fair enough. I'm threatened because of its deep theology. I'll be honest here - I'm not so much about theology of the Word, as I am the practicality of the Word. That's because I'm a simple-minded human, and, a bit lazy, and I don't want to have to wrestle with what-do-I-believe-REALLY. Regardless of that core fear, I dove in…with a swan dive and a few flips on the way down. I figured if I was going for it, why not go all out...

As I plunged into Romans, I plunged into darkness.  I must have gone a bit deeper than I planned.  The waters were pitch black.  In Romans 1, 2, and 3, I encountered nothing but blackness.  Blackness is very intimidating, but I kept on swimming, and looking, looking, looking…  In the darkness, I discovered a very scary creature that looked a lot like………………………………………….well, me.  The creature was, also, black.  Sin-black. Sin-ugly.
NONE righteous.
     Yes, me.
EVERY man a liar. 
     Ugh, gulp, me.
NONE who understands truth.
ALL have turned aside.
     (I'm feeling pretty small) Yes, me.
Their throat an open grave.
     Really? Honestly? But, (check) - that's me.
There is no fear of God in their eyes.
     This is getting worse…well, sometimes…OK, me.
ALL have sinned.
     Has to be me.
ALL fall short of His glory.
ALL will be accountable to God…
     Do I have to be accountable? Yes, me.

Did I say it was black down there in Romans 1, 2, and 3?  Totally.  100%…

BUT.WAIT.A.MINUTE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Shining through the darkness, I began to see a glimmer. Looking up, my eyes began to get adjusted, and I saw, what-to-my-wandering-eyes appear, two little stars.  Very little. Yet, when you are in pitch-black-sin-ugly-darkness, no matter how little the light, it becomes exceedingly bright.

Here's the passage those stars appeared in:

Being justified as a gift by His grace through redemption which is in Christ Jesus (3:24).

Here the gloom begins to lighten with two bright lights. Stars disguised as prepositions. One to identify the "agent performing the action." The other "describing the situation of someone/something surrounded by the one performing the action." (Thank you WordBook Dictionary.) The words? By. In. 

Not law. 
Not works. 
Not by any one thing I could ever do.
Absolutely nothing. 
A gift of God by grace.

Him (the One who performed the action).
In His blood. 
In His heart.
In His love. 
Completely encompassed. 
Redemption in Christ Jesus.

Two stars. Both pointing to The Morning Star: Jesus. The further I strained to look upward, the more the darkness was eliminated. 

I am so grateful for a little time groping my way in the darkness of these first three chapters. I needed the darkness to see the light more clearly. I needed the star-shine to keep pointing me, just as it did some 2000 years ago, to the Christ. There's another reason I needed to swim for a season in the darkness.  I'll explain that next week, if you'll hang in there with me.

In the meantime, contemplate... "By.In." ...and, be amazed!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Life...and...Hot Yoga, Part 2

I already have two other posts ready to publish, but something occurred this week at my yoga class that reminded me of one more life-lesson, I need to tell myself often.  Just one; so, this will be short.  Promise.  Here it is:

Throughout life, we must continually make course corrections.

It's true.  I wish I did things perfectly, first time.  I don't.  Often it takes, not just practice, when it comes to things I want to learn, or grow in, but it takes tweaking.  If I'm going to truly change, then I need to make some adjustments.  Major and minor ones.

This past week, I happened to go to yoga during a time in the morning when it wasn't very busy.  I also happened to have the same teacher each of those three sessions, which is rare.  It was a little intimidating, because I couldn't hide behind the other students who would restrict the vision of my instructor.  Thus, he saw my every move.  Instead of letting me just slide by, he called me out.  He'd offer little pieces of advice, simple things like, "Arch your back more; bend your knee if you need to - the important thing is to get your head on your knee; don't let go of your grip; lock your knees...both of them; keep your focus on one point, you are shifting your gaze..."  Stuff that made a difference.  These were things I didn't see, or was not doing, even if I thought I was.  Yet every little piece of advice, helped me get the most out of the current pose.  Not only did I get a diatribe of things to adjust, but he was encouraging.  "That's perfect!  Right there, that's your posture."  Each call of my name, pushed me to work a little bit harder, and I found myself using some muscles in ways I obviously hadn't been using them.  I was a little bit sore the next day.  That's a good thing.

Course corrections.  Tweaking.  Adjustments.  The problem is I don't always see my own blind spots.  It's important to find someone who can speak truth to me in a such a way that I don't take it personally, only practically.  Someone I know is "for" me...someone who makes doing my life just a bit uncomfortable at times, because they love me,  and want me to be the best me I can be...for Jesus' sake.  Someone who will encourage me when I get it right, yet not let me slide into bad habits, bad form, or a toxic attitude.  "Peg, stop grimacing, put on a happy smiling face."

I want to change.  As Max Lucado said this week in one of his tweets (gotta love Twitter), "Do you think you can't ever change?  Do you worry you'll be stuck forever with the same attitudes?  Don't worry.  You are tweakable."  Yes, I am.  I just need to keep making course corrections.  It simply helps more when someone who knows more does the instructing.  Yes, tweakable.  It can be a frightening venture into that world of learning, and being stretched (correctly), but also rewarding.

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.
1 Timothy 3:16-17

Where there is no guidance, the people fall, but in abundance of counselors there is victory.
Proverbs 11:14

Monday, February 11, 2013

Life...and...Hot Yoga

In January, I decided (oh, let’s be honest, there was no decision, it was a stupid, spontaneous whim) to try out a Hot Yoga studio nearby.  I probably should have figured it was a mistake as soon as I walked in, positioned my mat in the back, and proceeded to watch 20-something-year-old girls with rock hard, beach bodies come in and put their mats in the front as close to the mirrors as possible (what was I thinking?).  My second clue should have been the sweat dripping down my face within the first five minutes.  However uncomfortable, I stayed, nauseously made my way through the first class in the sultry 105-110 degrees, 60% humidity, and survived to go back a second time.  I’ve been going two or three times a week, not for a rock hard, beach body (I’m not stupid), but because I really need the exercise of stretching, flexibility, and balance.  So far, I can’t say I see much progress, but I am learning some things about life in the process.  Please be assured, this isn’t some Eastern Mysticism kick, but lessons I’ve heard for years become much keener when it’s 110 degrees.  So, here we go…

Steady focus enables me to do more than I ever dreamed possible.  They tell us to fix our eyes on a point in the mirror, concentrate, meditate, and then, and only then, slowly go into form.  To achieve our goals, to find proper balance in life, and make it through a difficult patch of God-stretching-me-outside-of-my-comfort zone also requires focus  (the writer of Hebrews tells me to “fix my eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of my faith”), concentration (as I’ve been studying through Romans, Paul often uses the term “mind-set”…we can’t have a spirit-filled-set-mind without concentration), meditation (David reminds us often in the Psalms of the great benefits of ruminating on the words of the Lord).  Once I get the hang of looking hard at Jesus and not the rest of the world around me (especially in comparison), gain a biblical mind-set, and meditate on truth, stretching out of my much-loved, comfortable life in obedience to God’s direction becomes possible…and, even enjoyable.  I’m actually amazed at things I can make this tired body do with focus, concentration, meditation, and a step-by-step plan.

HOT is the best temperature for greatest growth (& stretch).  Yes, it’s hot, humid, and I hate it…BUT there’s a purpose for hot and humid.  The more they adjust the temperature and the heat flares up, the more flexible my muscles become.  Really!  Some of the things I can do in that hot room, I don’t seem to be able to accomplish at home where the temperatures are a comfie, equitable 73 degrees.  I’m amazed at what I’m able to learn to do when it’s HOT.  Just so, I sometimes complain about the “heat” being turned up in my life circumstances, I don’t like it, and it causes me to sweat…a lot.  YET, I’m being reminded that in those times, I’m able to do more than I ever thought or could imagine; I’m growing, learning, teaching myself new skills all the time through the power of the Spirit who indwells me. 

Learning to breathe right is critical for endurance.  Ever struggle to persevere, to stand steadfast, especially when you’re struggling just to keep your head above water?  It’s easy to get anxious, to lose “balance,” and to stress over your situation (your ability, or inability, as the case may be).  However, learning to take a deep breath (in and out through your nose), and relax in spite of the awkwardness, makes steadfastness more doable, and with minimal anxiety.

Regular rest periods are important for allowing the body to regroup and get at it again.  That’s right.  I live for what they call “sabasthana” (dead man’s pose).  Our instructors place a two minute rest right smack dab in the middle of the class, and then they sprinkle them throughout the remaining 45 minutes.  After contorting yourself into a pretzel, these few minutes are a gift from heaven above.  It’s amazing how two minutes flat on your back, breathing deeply, can renew your energy to get at it again.  Between the deep breathing and the resting, my whole focus has changed by the end of the 90 minutes.  Remember the Psalmists mandate to “Be still...and know...”  There’s a reason that Sabbaths (not sabasthanas) are built into our routine.  We NEED them regularly.

So, while I’m not practicing yoga for any spiritual benefits, truth is that biblical truth is being more deeply imbedded in me.  I’m certain it’s all my instructor can do to keep from busting out laughing at me as she seriously goes through her script, but I keep reminding myself “I am not a failure; I am a learner;” and...I’ve committed to four months of this torture.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Live Like That

Every once in a while a song gets stuck in my head.  There’s one that keeps creeping up quite often by a Christian group, Sidewalk Prophets.  The song is titled, Live Like That.  Here’s a link on YouTube, if you’d like to listen to it for yourself.  I’ll also include the words at the bottom of this thought...

I like words.  I’m a little odd in that respect.  I even like dictionaries.  I enjoy exploring meanings...and, often, my quiet-times get sidetracked as I chase the rabbits of words down trails I never expected to explore.  I spent some time chasing two particular words from this song:  recklessly abandoned.  
Reckless (adj.) /rek.lis/:   1) utterly unconcerned about the consequences of one’s actions; 2) characterized or proceeding from careless unconcern.

Abandoned (adj.) /uh.ban.duh.nd/:  1) forsaken or deserted; 2) unrestrained or uncontrolled; 3) utterly lacking in restraint; 4) to give up control of, to yield without restraint or moderation.
Isolate these two words and both have a negative connotation.  I’ve known people whom I would have characterized as reckless.  Very scary.  They’re just like definitions one and two.  When I think of these kinds of people, I think of driving in Kenya.  Most drivers didn’t think about what might be up ahead, and around that next corner; they just passed the car in front of them anyway.  Reckless – it’s why I saw so many accidents, and dead bodies, on the side of Kenyan highways.

I’ve also known people who’ve experienced abandonment, as in definition one.  Very sad.  I am close to some gals who lived abandonment.   Deserted by dad and mom, these friends survived homelessness before they turned 18.  As a result, trust doesn’t come easy for these women.   
But...put these words together...and put them in a spiritual context...and the meaning is completely different.  Very smart.  Recklessly abandoned takes any control of my life, and my ministry, out of my own hands, and gives it completely to Jesus.  In his hands those things are much safer.  Very safe.  In those hands, I can rest peacefully, because those hands are good, kind, and...sovereign.  Recklessly abandoned  doesn’t care what others think.  Recklessly abandoned only cares what Jesus thinks.  Recklessly abandoned only does what Jesus would do.  Recklessly abandoned is unconcerned un-control.  I am no longer concerned that my life is not my own; it’s just Jesus’ life.  Jesus’ ministry.  Jesus-focused. 

I want to live like that. 
Sometimes I think
What will people say of me
When I'm only just a memory
When I'm home where my soul belongs
Was I love
When no one else would show up
Was I Jesus to the least of those
Was my worship more than just a song


I want to live like that
And give it all I have
So that everything I say and do
Points to You
If love is who I am
Then this is where I'll stand
Recklessly abandoned
Never holding back
I want to live like that

Am I proof
That You are who you say You are
That grace can really change a heart
Do I live like Your love is true
People pass
And even if they don't know my name
Is there evidence that I've been changed
When they see me, do they see You


I want to show the world the love You gave for me
I'm longing for the world to know the glory of the King

Sidewalk Prophets © 2012