Thursday, June 6, 2013

Jesus Gave Me Yoga

...for julie

I became a Christian at Calvary Chapel. I was swooned in by the music. My heart softened by the dim lights and the melodic repetition ... He who began a good work in you…He who… began a good work in youuuuu…he’ll be faithful to complete it, he ’ll be faithful to complete it…He who started the work...will be faithful to complete it in you… I know you are humming it now. I can see my friend Lynn up on that stage, her wide teeth-showing smile, the light in her eyes, pointing her long pink fingernail right at my heart and singing …in you!
 I’d plant my bare feet to the floor, wiggle my toes on the carpet, close my eyes and raise my hands, fingers wide, high to the Heavens… Lord, I lift your name on high...Lord, I love to sing your praises… I’m so glad you’re in my life, I’m so glad you came to save us, You came from heaven to earth to show the Way, from the earth to the cross, my debt to pay, from the cross to the grave, from the grave to the sky, Lord I lift your name on high…
Unified with my community of worshipers, the declaration of celebration would begin…
Our God is an awesome God, He reigns from Heaven above, with wisdom, power and love, Our God Is an awesome God!!!
We sing glory, honor…the battle belongs to the Lord…
And I’d drop to my knees, bow my head… No one but you Lord, can satisfy the longing in my heart, nothing I do Lord, can take the place of drawing near to you….cause only you can fill my deepest longing, only you can breathe in me new life, only you can fill my heart with laughter, only you can answer my heart’s cry…and the tears would stream, just as they are now, bathing my soul.
And as my heart rate slowed and I began to breathe deep and calm, my voice lifted from my belly…
In the morning when I rise…in the morning when I rise…in the morning, when I rise…Give me Jesus…Give me Jesus..give me Jesus…you can have all this world…you can have all this world…but give me… Je..eee…sus
Back then I went to church on Sundays and Wednesdays.  And by Saturday and Tuesday my chest would start to ache for worship. I’d drive to church with joyful and desperate anticipation, knowing God would meet me there and my heart would find rest as the music began. The stark newness of spending time in the healing presence of God was food to my young starved heart.
Give ear to my words, oh Lord… consider my meditation…hearken unto the voice of my cry… my King, and my God… for unto thee will I pray…my voice shalt thou hear in the morning,  oh Lord… in the morning, will I direct my prayer unto thee… and will look up...
I would look up, and the Lord heard my cries and my prayers as I meditated on Him in the morning and in the evening. I would sing… and I would release… and I would hold on to hope with my words, my breath, my mind, my body and my spirit.
And after… I was clean… my heart washed, my mind clear, the ache in my chest replaced by the calming balm of the Holy Spirit…like magic.  
And with that I was able to face another day, tackling the battles of my mind… and winning.
But now that I’m wrinkly… My eyes are dry, my faith is old, my heart is hard, my prayers are cold… And I know how I ought to be…  Alive to you and dead to me… But what can be done for an old heart like mine? Soften it up with oil and wine… the oil is you, your spirit of love… please wash me anew…with the wine of your blood…
But the charismatic faith of my youth has wavered and often I find myself jaded and self- conscious. But life still kicks my ass… and I’m still just, if not more, as desperate for peace and rest and sweet release.
I told this to the Lord recently.
He replied, “Namaste”…well, not audibly, but in that God-leading-me sort of way. 

In yoga practice, communally we start the flow, standing at the top of our mats, we spread our toes wide and ground our bare feet to the earth, the music is soft, the lights are low…I am swooned in. We shut our eyes, hold our hands to our heart’s center in prayer… and we breathe. Inhale deep through the nose, audible exhale out the mouth… and let it go. The air there is 110 degrees and as the beads of sweat drop and pool to the floor, the cleansing begins.
The instructor says in a soft voice, “Set your intention for the class, maybe a word, a focus that is thankful and restorative.”
And I hear, “meditate on whatsoever is lovely and true.” (Philippians 4:8)
Arms overhead, fingers fan wide and a gentle back bend… look up… and open the heart…
…then forward fold, half way lift, crouch and curl, head bows and fingers touch the floor…and my whole body worships.
…Oh come let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord, our God,our Maker…
Half way lift and rise, biceps to ears for mountain pose…heart to sky, fingers wide… and repeat gentle back bend…
Then she says, “Cast off that which is no longer serving you.”
And I hear, “Forget the former things, do not dwell on the past.” (Isaiah 43:18)
Forward fold, half way lift, crouch and curl, fingers to the earth, bow head…
Breathe here for a moment, in through the nose, out through the nose… and rest.
Rise again, flat back strong, arms wide in a reverse swan dive, lift with your legs and belly engaged, relax the shoulders, arms reach to the sky…mountain pose!
My breath is an ocean, my feet root down to the earth, my hands stretch to the heavens… my muscles are alive… and my body rejoices…and in this moment, I have victory.
Balancing Eagle Pose...
“Remember,” she says, “you are not your pose, listen to your body, honor and bless the body that you are in today.”
My body is God’s temple where the Holy Spirit dwells. (1 Corinthians 3:16)
Left arm under the right for eagle arms, left leg wraps around right to balance…find your Drishti, your still, focal point… so you won’t fall...and squeeze…
You’re here for 3…2…1…now same thing, other side.
“Beautiful job Yogi’s, now shake it off and let it go.”
Down dog, lunge through, rainbow it out, Warrior Two, bend your knee deep into your warrior pose, fierce and strong,  feel the stretch… reverse the warrior, lift your gaze, stand firm…
They will be as a mighty warrior.  (Zechariah 10:5)
Be watchful, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong.  (1Corinthians 16:13)
…I’ll stand with arms high and heart abandoned, in awe of the one who gave it all, I'll stand my soul Lord to you surrendered…all I am is yours…
I’ve exercised before, I know the serotonin rush that comes with a good sweat, but setting your intention for that hour to be honoring to God, to be in His presence, to immerse your whole body ,mind and spirit in a practice that is centering and cleansing and forgiving and excepting… is truly magical.

Jon gets this. He mountain bikes through the hills near our house and he comes home drenched and dirty, with pink cheeks and looking like a boy. He says out there he hears God. When he reaches the top of a long, steep hill, he climbs down from his bike, bends his knees in the dirt and raises his hands to the sky. As he pants for breath and rest, he praises God and His great creation.
Now a warning does need to be said. For sure, yoga can deviate into darker places masquerading as light. And I am in no way saying that yoga itself should be worshiped.
You shall have no other God’s before me. (Exodus 20:3)
My friend Julie brings a tiny gold cross and places it at the top of her mat for focus and protection.
And trust me, I have more history with occult activity then I care to recall and after eight hours of deliverance prayer, I am in no position to play with fire. But I do believe Jesus gave me yoga.
I was stuck…stuck between an aging and tired faith and my desperate need for daily renewal. And as only sweet Jesus can do, he gave me a way out.   (1Corinthians 10:13)
…when my heart runs dry, and there’s no song to sing, no holy melody, no words of love within, I recall the height from which, this fragile heart has slipped…And I’ll remember you…I will turn back and do the things I used to do….
My bare feet ground down to the earth…my hands stretch to the sky… gentle back bend and my heart lifts and opens…hands to prayer and I crouch and curl, fingers to the earth, I breathe, I bow my head… and I surrender… I release…
…for the love of Youuuuu…
 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8)
At the end of class we lay on our backs, arms to our side, palms open and we close our eyes… and in quiet and stillness… we rest.
And then the instructor says, “The highest light in me honors and respects the highest light in you.”
And I hear, “Love one another, for love is of God.” (1 John 1:4)

Namaste, Amen.