From Foolishness to Wisdom

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 1: 18-25

(this Lent my church is doing a focus on mental health: this is the scripture and theme for this Sunday)

Paul writes in this scripture with antitheses–posing opposites to one another in the style of Greek rhetoric.  Antitheses elaborate the alternatives: the world’s wisdom versus God’s wisdom; stumbling block (scandal) and folly versus God’s power. Satirically, God at the most “foolish” and weakest, as seen in the crucified Jesus, trumps the greatest human wisdom and strength.

Paul is not against wisdom, but is against the practice of claiming status over someone else who is also called and being saved. Some in Corinthian community were wealthy, powerful, of noble birth and thus “wise” by human standards.  Most were not.  Paul is speaking into tensions in the community and pointing them to Christ. As the great teacher for the early Christian community, Paul points out the human tendency to try to elevate oneself over others for the sake of one’s own sense of self-esteem or importance.  Paul is naming human status-seeking as foolish, and the incarnate One who became crucified on a lowly cross as wise.

Paul’s words continue to speak into our own human ways of dividing our humanity, of seeking status instead of the wisdom of the cross.  In what, perhaps subtle ways, might you seek to feel better about yourself because of your job, your socioeconomic level, your race/ethnicity?  How might God be calling you away from the “foolishness” of the wisdom of the world (with its focus on status) and toward the wisdom of the cross–in which our value and worth comes from Christ?


We will practice some “foolish” poses–poses that look funny or invite a playful spirit like happy baby and falling tree.  Then we will move into some yin poses so that our bodies can open up to their wisdom—and by so doing tune us into God’s wisdom.

Yin yoga usually consists of a series of long-held floor poses that work the lower part of the body–hips, pelvis, legs, and lower spine.  The poses are held for up to five minutes, which allows for an enriching stretch to the connective tissues.  Yin has lots of great benefits:

  • Calms and balances the mind and body.
  • Reduces stress and anxiety.
  • Increases circulation.
  • Improves flexibility.
  • Releases fascia and improves joint mobility.
  • Balances the internal organs and improves the flow of energy (from
 We hold yin poses in this class in lunge, ardha hanuman, upavista konasana, supported bridge, and paschimottansana.  By tuning into breath and staying present, we might just here God’s wisdom to us.
Take a seat on your mat, preferably on a folded blanket.  Extend your legs out in front of you with the thigh bones hugging together.  To be supported in this yin pose, place a block or blanket on your shins to provide a place for your forehead or shin to rest.  Fold forward from the hips.  Settle into your breath and remain for at least 2 minutes.  Unfold with an inhale, rising up into a deep sense of God’s wisdom.


From Despair to Hope

Scripture: Romans 4: 13-25

(My church is doing a mental health focus throughout the season of Lent.  This was our scripture for Sunday, and the focus was on moving from despair to hope)

Romans 4: 18 “Hoping against hope, he had faith in the hope that he would become the father of many nations, in keeping with the promise God spoke to him”

This scripture tells the story of Abraham, and describes his ability to hope in God’s promises, even when all seemed impossible.  God had promised Abraham descendants.  Now 100 years old, Abraham knows his body, and his post-menopausal wife’s Sarah’s body, are beyond the conception of life. Yet, he didn’t despair.  He didn’t hesitate with lack of faith.  He remained fully convinced that God was able to do what he promised. Abraham trusted that somehow, someway, God would fulfill God’s promise. He hoped against hope.

As the story goes, God did keep the promise; Sarah gave birth to a son and named him Isaac. Hope took on arms and legs and a face and a name. God was faithful.

This is a great story of hope.  What about those who struggle with infertility, though, and an “Issac” never comes?  Are they not hoping enough?  Are they not as faithful as Abraham?  What about those who suffer under devastating diseases for which there is no cure?  Are they not hoping against hope enough?

Perhaps such ponderings require a shift in the understanding of hope.  Hope isn’t getting what we earnestly desire and long for.  Hope is really trusting in God.  Hope is the expectation that God will fulfill promises, even if we don’t see it in our lifetimes. Hope is expectation that God will be with us.  Hope is faith in the midst of the unknown.  Hope takes legs and arms and work and heart. Hope often looks like someone coming alongside of us in our pain, and helping us to keep going.

John Wesley, the founder of the people called Methodists, believed in the power of hope. He thought that hope could strengthen mind and body against even most inveterate condition, whether physical, psychological or spiritual. Wesley sought to offer hope in his book Primitive Physic for those suffering from chronic, intractable disease by offering home remedies for those without access to healthcare. He thought that hope offered a powerful aid to physical recovery and encouraged that all should engage in prayer for spiritual and emotional nourishment. In that spirit, he wrote a letter encouraging a friend to hope:

“Expect that God will do nothing but good both to your soul and body. Look up!  Is health not at hand, both for soul and body? You have no business with fear.  It is good for nothing.  We are ‘saved by hope.’  You have every good reason to bless God for the continuance of your health, and expect from him every good thing.”  Letter to Alexander Knox(1775)

Wesley came alongside a friend who was struggling to hope against hope, and exhorted him to hope again.  Sometimes, God uses us as merchants of hope to someone desperately in need of such a good.  We offer our arms and legs and arms and work and heart. . . and someone else feels encouraged that they can keep hoping on, even when all seems impossible.

Perhaps God is urging you to be a merchant of hope to someone today who is in despair and in desperate need. Perhaps God is sending a messenger to you to bring hope when you can’t find it yourself.  Keep on hoping against hope.

( my thanks to my colleagues Bill Roth and Ray McKinnon for their sermons yesterday on this passage)


In the yoga class for this scripture, we did lots of backbends and inversions to stimulate hope in our bodies.  We worked through a practice of handstand.  Handstand always calls forth a gritty hope for me.  Due to my own inveterate health condition, I’m not able to kick my legs into handstand on my own.  I need an assist from another person, or in the case of the picture for this blogpost, a tree. Handstand embodies hope to me, not only because it naturally invigorates and refreshes, but because it means I must seek support outside of myself.  This is the invitation of hope–it seeks community for support.

(pose directions taken from Yoga Journal,

Handstand: Step-by-Step Instructions

Step 1

Perform Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose) with your fingertips an inch or two away from a wall, hands shoulder-width. If your shoulders are tight, turn your index fingers out slightly; otherwise arrange them parallel to each other. If you’re uneasy about this pose, you’re not alone. To ready yourself for and secure yourself in this inversion, firm your shoulder blades against your back torso and pull them toward your tailbone. Then rotate your upper arms outward, to keep the shoulder blades broad, and hug your outer arms inward. Finally spread your palms and press the bases of the index fingers firmly against the floor.

Step 2

Now bend one knee and step the foot in, closer to the wall (we’ll say it’s the left leg), but keep the other (i.e. right) leg active by extending through the heel. Then take a few practice hops before you try to launch yourself upside down. Sweep your right leg through a wide arc toward the wall and kick your left foot off the floor, immediately pushing through the heel to straighten the left knee. As both legs come off the ground, engage your deep core abdominal muscles to help lift your hips over your shoulders. Hop up and down like this several times, each time pushing off the floor a little higher. Exhale deeply each time you hop.

Step 3

Hopping up and down like this may be all you can manage for now. Regularly practice strengthening poses, like Adho Mukha Svanasana and Plank Pose. Eventually you’ll be able to kick all the way into the pose. At first your heels may crash into the wall, but again with more practice you’ll be able to swing your heels up lightly to the wall.

Called to Joy

Scripture: Mark 1: 16-20

What is your calling? Many of us might respond to this question with what we are dong vocationally, or what we dream of doing as a job someday.  We often associate “calling” with our life’s work.

Jesus uses it a different way in our story today.  In verse 20 Jesus calls brothers James and John to him. The Greek word attributed to Jesus is kalew.  It means to call or summon in the literal sense, as in, “Son, come here. You’ve got to get your homework done”—that kind of call.  Kalew also retains a deeper meaning though, in Greek.  It can mean the giving of an attribution to someone, also translated to mean “giving a name.”  What Jesus did to those fishermen by calling them to follow him was to give them a new name—disciple.  This calling, this naming, changed the trajectory of the rest of their lives.  Peter, Andrew, James, and John stepped into a new life story when they decided to follow Jesus.  Jesus named them, and they couldn’t resist the loving power behind such an adoption.  Fishing nets drop from their fingers.  They step out of the boat, mud gushes between their toes, and they turn to follow the one who named them.

How then, do we follow Christ?  How do we follow in the footsteps of the disciples—who had as much or more than we have to lose by dropping their nets–and live into the name of “disciple?” Our own nets of obligations, commitments, and just plain stuff entangle us; we drag our feet in following because we think we might need some of that old baggage on our new journey with Jesus.[1]  How do we live into his call, his naming of us?

The founder of Methodism and one of my own spiritual fathers, John Wesley, teaches that the call to follow Jesus can happen in a moment on a lakeshore, but more likely is to be the work of a lifetime.  A distinctive mark of the Wesleyan heritage is the understanding of life as a spiritual pilgrimage deep into the heart of God.[2]  For Wesley, the life of faith consisted both of significant “lakeshore moments” in which we offer our lives to Christ—moments of justification—AND daily ongoing times of commitment—moments of sanctification.  Wesley understood his following of Christ best as a journey of a lifetime that he committed to walk daily.  Wesley wrote in one of his letters on the kalew, the calling of Christ on our lives.  He stated “the hope of our calling [is] to know that our hope is sincerity, not perfection; not to do well, but to do our best.”[3  As Wesley understood calling, the attempt to “drop the nets” and live into the name of “disciple” is  both lifelong, and a daily commitment to do our best—such a following of the call ultimately brings great gladness.

The well-known pastor and episcopal priest, Barbara Brown Tayor, writes of a time in her life when she was struggling mightily with how Christ might be calling her.  She simply didn’t know what she was to do and be.  So one midnight, in great frustration and exasperation she fell to her knees in prayer and said, “Okay, God.  You need to level with me.  What do you want me to be?  What do you want me to do?  What are you calling me to do.”  She says that she felt a powerful sense of God saying “Do what pleases you.  Belong to me, but do what pleases you.”  She says it struck her as very strange that God’s call could actually touch a place of greatest joy within her, that she could be called to do the thing that pleases her the most.  Following God’s call means doing that which brings us the greatest gladness.  Joy is the biggest measure of how we discern our calling, of how we are to use our gifts.[4]  As Wesley understood it, our calling is the journey of our lifetime, made up of daily commitments to do our best with joy.

Another Christian writer, Frederick Buechner says, “Our calling is where our deepest gladness and the world’s hunger meet.”  Think about that.  “Our calling is where our deepest gladness and the world’s hunger meet.”  Jesus’s call to you on the lakeshore is ultimately about bringing you into joy as you serve this church, this community, this world.  Perhaps deep gladness is what made Peter, Andrew, James, and John drop their nets.  Perhaps deep gladness is what could make you drop nets, too.  Pull your feet out of that mud.  Step into Jesus naming you as a disciple.  Christ is calling you into joy.

[1] Cynthia D. Weems, “Reflections on the Lectionary”  Christian Century January 11, 2011, 21.

[2] Richard Heizenrater, Wesley and the People Called Methodists (Nashville:  Abingdon Press, 1995), 321.

[3] John Wesley, Letters, 25: 318.

[4] Rev. Dr. Thomas Long, “ Where You Never Expected to Be”  30 aired on Oct. 22, 2006.  Accessed on January 17, 2012.


Backbends bring a sense of joy.  Ustrasana, or camel pose, is a backbend with varying degrees of challenge, so even newcomers to yoga can explore some form of it. The description below is from, accessed January 14, 2018.


Step 1

Kneel on the floor with your knees hip width and thighs perpendicular to the floor. Rotate your thighs inward slightly, narrow your hip points, and firm but don’t harden your buttocks. Imagine that you’re drawing your sitting bones up, into your torso. Keep your outer hips as soft as possible. Press your shins and the tops of your feet firmly into floor.

Step 2

Rest your hands on the back of your pelvis, bases of the palms on the tops of the buttocks, fingers pointing down. Use your hands to spread the back pelvis and lengthen it down through your tail bone. Then lightly firm the tail forward, toward the pubis. Make sure though that your front groins don’t “puff” forward. To prevent this, press your front thighs back, countering the forward action of your tail. Inhale and lift your heart by pressing the shoulder blades against your back ribs.

Step 3

Now lean back against the firmness of the tail bone and shoulder blades. For the time being keep your head up, chin near the sternum, and your hands on the pelvis. Beginners probably won’t be able to drop straight back into this pose, touching the hands to the feet simultaneously while keeping the thighs perpendicular to the floor. If you need to, tilt the thighs back a little from the perpendicular and minimally twist to one side to get one hand on the same-side foot. Then press your thighs back to perpendicular, turn your torso back to neutral, and touch the second hand to its foot. If you’re not able to touch your feet without compressing your lower back, turn your toes under and elevate your heels.

See that your lower front ribs aren’t protruding sharply toward the ceiling, which hardens the belly and compresses the lower back. Release the front ribs and lift the front of the pelvis up, toward the ribs. Then lift the lower back ribs away from the pelvis to keep the lower spine as long as possible. Press your palms firmly against your soles (or heels), with the bases of the palms on the heels and the fingers pointing toward the toes. Turn your arms outwardly so the elbow creases face forward, without squeezing the shoulder blades together. You can keep your neck in a relatively neutral position, neither flexed nor extended, or drop your head back. But be careful not to strain your neck and harden your throat.

Step 5

Stay in this pose anywhere from 30 seconds to a minute. To exit, bring your hands onto the front of your pelvis, at the hip points. Inhale and lift the head and torso up by pushing the hip points down, toward the floor. If your head is back, lead with your heart to come up, not by jutting the chin toward the ceiling and leading with your brain. Rest in Child’s Pose for a few breaths.




I am wonderfully made

Scripture: Psalm 139

“Yes, you shaped me first inside, then out, you formed me in my mother’s womb. I thank you. High God—you’re breathtaking. Body and soul, I am wonderfully made! I worship in adoration—what a creation! You know me inside and out. You know every bone in my body; you know exactly how I was made, bit by bit. How I was sculpted from nothing into something.” — (translation from The Message, Eugene Peterson)

Psalm 139’s insight that “I am wonderfully made” is somewhat difficult to imbibe.  We dwell in a culture suffused with advertising that profits by instilling within us insecurity about our bodies. People are categorized simply by body characteristics (racism) or by gender (sexism). To add to this, Christianity offers deep ambivalence on the body, with some key doctrines affirming that we are indeed wonderfully made, while the Church’s practices and history reveal otherwise.  For example, Greek philosopher Plato’s dualistic affirmation of the soul as preferable to the body profoundly influenced early Christian theologians, yet they still affirmed that God created the body good and in the image of God (doctrines of creation and “imago dei”).  The church canonized the stories of God (Jesus) becoming incarnate in the body of Mary (doctrine of incarnation), yet engaged in practices that oppressed women. Theologians affirmed the body as the site of redemption (doctrine of the resurrection), yet Jerome, an early church father, wrote that the body was “a perilous mudslick” and Augustine, the great  fourth century bishop and theologian, wrestled with the body as a source of temptation and lust.  With such an inheritance on the theology of the body in the midst of a culture that constantly denigrates bodies (especially people of color and women’s bodies), understanding ourselves, body and soul, as wonderfully made, requires some significant hope.

Thank goodness God is a God who deals lavishly in hope with and for our bodies. Genesis 1 describes our bodies as good (tov- in Hebrew).  In Genesis, our bodies, not just our spirits or souls, are made in the image of God. The Christian doctrine of the imago dei teaches us we are a reflection of God’s very self in many different ways, including in our bodies. Understanding this simple truth that even our bodies are made in the image of God can undo the damage of advertisers, of our dualistic culture, of our heritage imbed with Platonism and Gnosticism. Our bodies aren’t containers for the soul, they aren’t just dust; our bodies are imbued with divine fingerprint, in all their beauty and fragility and vulnerability.

Seeing hope in the fragility of our bodies is a challenging task.  My own body holds within it a chronic, rare, neurological disease called neuromyelitis optica. The disability and destruction this awful disease (with an equally terrible name) brings is in no way a “good.” It is not a good God’s desire for me to walk with a limp, or for someone to suffer with cancer.  Yet, for example, the practice and teaching of yoga that came out of my suffering is a “good”. The commitment to greater love and service that can come out of the body’s fragility is, in fact, how we more closely resemble the body of Christ.

Truthfully, the Church is socially constituted of all of our many bodies into one corporate body of faith.  Our individual bodies are formed by, shaped by, and interdependent with other bodies in the community of Christ.  Being with others in the community comprises part of our Christian hope. We are in this body together—young, old, black, white, male, female, able-bodied, disabled.  As a body of faith, we are comprised of all different shapes, sizes, sorts, and we come together as a body to eat and by nourished by the Body of Christ that is broken and poured out for us.  Our body image, to borrow from French philosopher Michel Foucault, is always communal.

Therefore, we are called to see our own individual body and the body of everyone else as sacred and sculpted by God. Karl Barth, in his Church Dogmatics, states, “everyone should treat his existence and that of every other human being with respect. For it belongs to God. It is His loan and blessing. And it may be seen to be this in the fact that God has so unequivocally and completely acknowledged it in Jesus Christ.”  I am wonderfully made.  You are wonderfully made.  We are wonderfully made–together.  This is ground for significant hope.


We will begin with a meditation focused on being wonderfully made.

  1. Begin by focusing on the breath and the rhythm of your inhale and exhale, filling and emptying
  2. Deepen your inhale to at least the count of four, and then as you exhale, land in your body. Begin to notice what might be sore, or tight, or in pain.
  3. As you inhale, breathe in the words “I am wonderfully made.” On the exhale, send the breath to the place of tightness, soreness, or pain.
  4. Continue this breath for several minutes, allowing the breath to open a pathway for healing in your body.

A peak pose in the practice will be trikonasana, or triangle pose.  This pose opens our heart to being wonderfully made.  When you arrive in the pose, one option is to place your top hand on your heart, to invite a deeper connection to being wonderfully made. (pose directions taken and adapted from, January 13, 2018)

Stand with your feet parallel. With an exhalation, step or lightly jump your feet 3 1/2 to 4 feet apart. Raise your arms parallel to the floor and reach them actively out to the sides, shoulder blades wide, palms down.

Watch this video on Extended Triangle Pose

Step 2

Turn your left foot in slightly to the right and your right foot out to the right 90 degrees. Align the right heel with the left heel. Firm your thighs and turn your right thigh outward, so that the center of the right knee cap is in line with the center of the right ankle.

Step 3

Exhale and extend your torso to the right directly over the plane of the right leg, bending from the hip joint, not the waist. Anchor this movement by strengthening the left leg and pressing the outer heel firmly to the floor. Rotate the torso to the left, keeping the two sides equally long. Let the left hip come slightly forward and lengthen the tailbone toward the back heel.

Step 4

Rest your right hand on your shin, ankle, or the floor outside your right foot, whatever is possible without distorting the sides of the torso. Stretch your left arm toward the ceiling, in line with the tops of your shoulders. Keep your head in a neutral position or turn it to the left, eyes gazing softly at the left thumb.

Step 5

Stay in this pose for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Inhale to come up, strongly pressing the back heel into the floor and reaching the top arm toward the ceiling. Reverse the feet and repeat for the same length of time to the left.

I am Beloved

Scripture: Mark 4: 1-11

Happy New Year to you! In my spin class at the YMCA in December, lots of bikes were open to ride. Lots of space!  This Friday, not a single bike was open.  My instructor named this crowded phenomenon as New Year’s resolutions meeting 15 degree temperatures outside.

Lots of people make resolutions around fitness and/or diet.  It’s great to make healthy changes in your life. Yet, I wonder if the problem with keeping New Year’s resolutions lies in the rootedness of many of them in self-rejection.  Negative voices, some inner and perhaps some outer, that shout “not good enough. Worthless. Nobody.”[1] The trap of these voices dooms any resolution to failure.


Perhaps rather than resolutions, the church liturgical year points us in a different direction.  The church’s new year, after all, began on the first Sunday of Advent.  Now into the season of Epiphany, the church year urges us to celebrate today Jesus’s baptism, and to remember our own.

Baptism of our Lord Sunday according to the gospel of Mark isn’t tame or orderly.  We are plopped into the middle of the desert wilderness.  The heavens rip apart before our very eyes.  An all-encompassing voice speaks forth words of grace. [2]  “This is my Son, the Beloved, in whom I am well-pleased.”

What an amazing grace-filled word.  Beloved.  It means esteemed, dear, worthy of love.  Beloved occurs over 62 times in the New Testament. It’s used to describe Jesus over and over again.

That Beloved Son then tells us later in Mark (chapter 10) that in baptism we die and are raised to new life. God keeps God’s baptismal promise to Jesus, for when he seemed most abandoned in death, God worked to bring resurrection. Baptism isn’t a tame rite of passage for babies. Baptism is about a new life and resurrection.  We die to our old, false, broken ways of being, and are raised to new life in Christ. In the United Methodist Church, we believe baptism is a sacrament, a practice that connects us to the mystery of God’s grace. In baptism, grace is freely offered to us before we are even aware of it, which is why it’s fine to baptize babies.[3] Baptism also serves as our welcome to the family of Christ, the church.

Being the Beloved

Our baptisms are so important to remember because baptism reminds us that we are loved and accepted by the God who raised Jesus from the dead, and raises us, too.   When we have a hard time loving and accepting ourselves as we are, like at the beginning of a new calendar year, baptism reminds us that we are covered in grace.  When voices of self-rejection, of not enough, of not good surround us, God says to us through our baptism, “you are my Beloved.”

In fact, scripture uses Beloved not only to refer to Jesus, but to refer to God’s love for all disciples (see in Romans, 1 Thessalonians, Colossians). Theologian Henri Nouwen, in his beautiful book Life of the Beloved ( I could quote the whole thing) says that “self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us the Beloved.  Being the Beloved expresses the core truth of our existence. All I want to say to you is ‘you are the Beloved.’  I hope that you can hear these words as spoken to you with all the tenderness and force that love can hold. My only desire is to make these words reverberate in every corner of your being—you are the Beloved.”[4]


How much we need to hear this, over and over again “You are Beloved.” In this new 2018, simply decide to do away with resolutions, and instead live into being fully loved.  Then, when the church calendar rolls over to Lent, which it will do soon (Feb. 14th), perhaps God will lead you to a discipline or commitment for Lent—that comes out of love.  You’ll be in a better place to then share the spirit of being beloved with others.  This is actually the third use of the word Beloved in Scripture—to refer to the way that Christians, loved by God, are to share that love with others.  First though, live into the grace of the true voice that says to you “ You are Beloved.”

[1] Henri Nouwen, Life of the Beloved: Spiritual Living in a Secular Age, 33.

[2] Karoline Lewis,, 2015.

[3] “By Water and the Spirit: A United Methodist Understanding of Baptism”

[4] Nouwen, Life of the Beloved: Spiritual Living in a Secular Age, 33, 30.


For this class, we did lots of vinyassa flow, to emulate the sense of the flow of water in baptism.  Vinyassa can refer to a specific sequence of poses (Plank to Chaturanga (push up) to Upward-Facing Dog to Downward-Facing Dog​)​ or to a whole style of a class that synchronizes breath with movement.  For this baptism class, we did lots of plank to chaturanga to upward facing dog to down dog.  The pictures below show the vinyassa flow poses in their order.  Move through these four poses, inhaling on plank, exhaling on chaturanga, inhaling on upward-facing dog, and exhaling on downward facing dog.  Moving in this flow, combining breath with postures, helps to place us in the grace filled spirit of being Beloved. dsc_0206_27637581755_odsc_0208_27538146502_odsc_0220_27637492325_odsc_0201_27637614215_o


Let There Be Light

Scripture: Luke 2:8, 11, Matthew 2:2, 9, John 1: 4-5

“Let there be light.”  This phrase comprises the theme for my church’s worship services for Christmas Eve.  So, in preparing sermons for this most festive night in which Christians celebrate the incarnation, I decided to look at light in the Christmas stories.

In the gospel of Luke, shepherds keep watch over their flocks by night.  Then the angel of the Lord stands before them, and the glory of the Lord shines all around them.  They are then terrified.  The angel is then joined by a heavenly host  that praise God and say “Glory to God in the highest!”

The light in the Lukan story is not a star–it comes from the glory of the Lord.  This glory was brilliant, majestic, awesome–enough to frighten poor shepherds on a dark and cold night. Glory in the original Greek language is doxa, and means “praise” or “worship.” Glory belongs only to God or to Christ.  Glory holds a brightness of solar light.  It can be startling or intimidating at times, as it was for the shepherds.  The majesty of God can inspire fear and awe.  A great definition I discovered was that glory denotes an outward expression of an absolute, inward perfect love.  Glory at Christmas is God’s inner light shining bright with love, shown in the beautiful babe lying in a manger.  No wonder the shepherds felt they had to go immediately and see this baby.  They had been illuminated by God’s glory.  As scary as that was, they now had experienced an amazing love and wanted to go see the source. In Luke, “let there be light”  means let there be love.

In the gospel of Matthew, the light comes from a star. The wise men say, “we have seen his star at its rising and have come to pay him homage.”  They then followed the star they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was.   When they saw the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy.

The light in Matthew is that of a star.  This celestial light was bright enough to launch a journey, and then to illuminate the way.  The star showed the wise men the right path, and they followed it until they arrived at joy. The light of the star gave them courage to confront the governmental power of King Herod. The light of the star gave them hope to keep going on an arduous journey of unknown length.  Most of all though, the light of the star brought to them joy.  In Matthew, “let there be light” means let there be joy.

In the gospel of John, the story of the incarnation sounds completely differently than the shepherds of Luke or the wise men of Matthew.  John says, “What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it.”  The light in John is actually Jesus.  Jesus as incarnate God is life and is light.  This divine radiance is of such a quality that no darkness can overcome it.

I read a reflection from a father whose 18-year old son died three years ago in a car crash at Christmas.  He said that the verse from John “the light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it” sustains him through his grief.  He offered that there is no darkness so dark, even the darkness of a son’s death, that Christ’s light can’t in some way find its way through.  This light in the gospel of John is one of mystery.  It is the light that comes through the cracks and crevices of our lives.  It is the light at the end of the tunnel.  It is the light that lets us know we are not alone.  In John, “Let there be light” means let there be comfort.

On this Christmas Eve, what kind of light from Christ do you need?  Do you need to be illumined with love?  Awed with majesty? Then shine bright with the glory of Luke’s gospel.  Do you need a softer, but strong light that shows you the way and leads you down a good path?  Do  you need a light of courage that helps you confront power?   Then shine steadily with the joy of Matthew’s gospel.  Do you need a little light to push back on the darkness? Do you need to know you are not alone?  Then shine graciously with the comforting light of John’s gospel.

Whatever light you need, receive the light Christ offers of love, joy, and comfort this Christmas.  Then, shine on. Shine on.


This practice will again be restorative.  (The picture included on this post is shoulder stand, which is a more active version of legs up.  We will do this with hips down and legs at the wall)  We will start by envisioning the word light, and bringing it to our eyes.  In a meditation, we’ll then send the light to any area of our body that needs love, joy, or comfort.   I’ll also intersperse the practice with Christmas carols that reference light.

One of my favorite restorative poses is viparita karani.  We’ll do this Legs at the Wall pose while the sound of Silent Night plays. Pose instructions are taken from yoga

Legs-Up-The-Wall Pose: Step-by-Step Instructions

The pose described here is a passive, supported variation of the Shoulderstand-like Viparita Karani. For your support you’ll need one or two thickly folded blankets or a firm round bolster. You’ll also need to rest your legs vertically (or nearly so) on a wall or other upright support.

Step 1

Before performing the pose, determine two things about your support: its height and its distance from the wall. If you’re stiffer, the support should be lower and placed farther from the wall; if you’re more flexible, use a higher support that is closer to the wall. Your distance from the wall also depends on your height: if you’re shorter move closer to the wall, if taller move farther from the wall. Experiment with the position of your support until you find the placement that works for you.

Step 2

Start with your support about 5 to 6 inches away from the wall. Sit sideways on right end of the support, with your right side against the wall (left-handers can substitute “left” for “right” in these instructions). Exhale and, with one smooth movement, swing your legs up onto the wall and your shoulders and head lightly down onto the floor. The first few times you do this, you may ignominiously slide off the support and plop down with your buttocks on the floor. Don’t get discouraged. Try lowering the support and/or moving it slightly further off the wall until you gain some facility with this movement, then move back closer to the wall.

Step 3

Your sitting bones don’t need to be right against the wall, but they should be “dripping” down into the space between the support and the wall. Check that the front of your torso gently arches from the pubis to the top of the shoulders. If the front of your torso seems flat, then you’ve probably slipped a bit off the support. Bend your knees, press your feet into the wall and lift your pelvis off the support a few inches, tuck the support a little higher up under your pelvis, then lower your pelvis onto the support again.

Step 4

Lift and release the base of your skull away from the back of your neck and soften your throat. Don’t push your chin against your sternum; instead let your sternum lift toward the chin. Take a small roll (made from a towel for example) under your neck if the cervical spine feels flat. Open your shoulder blades away from the spine and release your hands and arms out to your sides, palms up.

Step 5

Keep your legs relatively firm, just enough to hold them vertically in place. Release the heads of the thigh bones and the weight of your belly deeply into your torso, toward the back of the pelvis. Soften your eyes and turn them down to look into your heart.

Step 6

Stay in this pose anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes. Be sure not to twist off the support when coming out. Instead, slide off the support onto the floor before turning to the side. You can also bend your knees and push your feet against the wall to lift your pelvis off the support. Then slide the support to one side, lower your pelvis to the floor, and turn to the side. Stay on your side for a few breaths, and come up to sitting with an exhalation.


Grace Binds up Broken Hearts

Isaiah 61: 1-4

As a kindergartener, in a very serious reflective moment, my son said to me, ” The heart is very important.”  I think his physical education class had been studying heart healthy habits that day.  I said, “That is right.  What makes the heart important?”  “Well, Mommy,” he said with utter confidence, “If you didn’t have your heart, you wouldn’t be alive.  It keeps you alive.” “True,” I replied.  “Very true. The heart does keep you alive.”

The prophet Isaiah proclaims to a dejected, demoralized people who have been in captivity for two generations in Babylon that, “The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted.”  The Hebrew word used for “broken-hearted” is shaver. Its various meanings are “to break, to rend violently, to wreck, to crash, be broken into pieces.” It is also used to refer to sails on a boat that are rent by wind.  This kind of wrecking, crashing, and rending captures the feeling of despair of the Israelites in captivity.  Shavar= the broken-hearted.

Yet Isaiah doesn’t just refer to the broken-hearted and leave them in that shipwrecked state.  The prophet says that God will bind up the broken-hearted.  I looked up the Hebrew word for “to bind up” and it is kahvash.  It literally means to bind up a wound like a physician. God’s Spirit will bind up, will help to heal the wound of exile for the people of Israel.

There is something about having your broken heart bound up when God is the one tending to the wound.  The people of Israel will never have hearts like before the suffering of exile and captivity.  For those of us with our own broken-hearts this Advent, we know that the heart never goes back to the way it was before the grief, before the loss, before the wind broke our sails.  This heartbreak, this shaver, will always remain a part of our story. The person lost, the heartbreak, the exile of whatever kind, is never forgotten or replaced.

Yet, when God’s grace binds up the broken heart, there is the possibility of new life that comes out of the pain.  The scripture goes on to say that the people of Israel will be given the oil of gladness, an anointing oil of olive oil mixed with frankincense. They will be given a garland of flowers rather than ashes, they will be given a mantle of praise rather than a weak spirit.  This is all truly amazing, and shows the power of God’s transforming grace through suffering.  Howard Thurman, a great theologian at Boston University in the mid-20th century, said that people who go through times of suffering and allow themselves to be bound up by God are profoundly changed.  He writes that “into their faces has come a subtle radiance and a settled serenity; . . . such people look out on life with quiet eyes.  Openings are made in a life by suffering that are not made by any other way.”  This subtle radiance is what the prophet Isaiah describes in the anointed, shiny faces of the people of Israel–faces that witness to their bound up hearts.

So, in this season of often manufactured cheer and commercialized joy, hear instead this word from Isaiah.  Your broken heart can be bound through the wondrous grace of God. In that healing you will experience a new life, a life with a deeper, richer meaning.  In due time, you will shine forth a subtle radiance, a testimony that living through pain is worth it. You witness that, as my son said, a heart does keep you alive.  Alive even more so when it has been broken and bound up.


This yoga class will be focused on restorative poses–poses in which the body is supported by various props like blankets, straps, and blocks.  Of course, at the end, I’ll offer an anointing of the forehead of an oil of gladness–olive oil mixed with frankincense.

Supported Child’s Pose (have a blanket available)

Come to all fours on the mat, placing hands under shoulders, and knees under hips. Bring the big toes to touch, taking the knees out wide to the edges of the mat.  Place a folded blanket on top of the soles of your feet and shins.  Slowly sink the hips back to the heels, until they rest on the blanket.  Stretch the arms out in front of you.  Soften the heart down to the ground.  Open up to God’s grace, binding up your heart.