Of Altars and Egos

Of Altars and Egos

Not long ago, I was approached by popular yoga website and asked if I would like to have them review my Postures of Prayer yoga card deck.  Initially, I shrugged it off and figured that this yoga site had made a mistake and didn’t realize that my yoga deck was centered around the Christian faith.  When I received the second email asking if I would consider submitting my yoga deck for review, I was confronted with the question, “What is holding me back?”

I searched my heart, and I found several stones hidden there. The first stone I uncovered was fear.  I was afraid of submitting my card deck to a yoga organization that did not share my same worldview.  More specifically, I feared rejection and humiliation. I feared others would judge me for my beliefs.

I’m not sure if you are aware that being a Christian yogi is kind of a controversial role.  Both Christians and Hindus alike have voiced strong opinions about the idea of Christians practicing yoga. (blog posts to follow)  I was afraid that I would be caught in the middle of this controversy.  I realized that by not submitting my yoga cards, I was operating from a place of fear, otherwise known as ego, self, inauthentic self, or sin.  As I placed the stone of fear on the altar of God, I was reminded that in Christ, I am held by the Love of God. I am safe. There is nothing to fear.

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 1 John 4:18

The next stone I unturned was the stone of pessimism. My quick dismissal of the opportunity to share the Postures of Prayer was due entirely to my assumptions of how a Christian yoga deck might be received by other yogis. I was convinced that the editors would not take a Christian yoga deck seriously, and was sure that they would be turned off by a yoga practice centered around Jesus Christ.

This stone of pessimism was a particularly complex and heavy stone. Wasn’t this a form of reverse discrimination?  Who was I to presume what God  would do in this situation? How could I possibly grasp how God was revealing himself? Why was I so convinced that the gospel of Jesus would be rejected? Lord have mercy, I am embarrassed by my audacity!

As I labored bringing this stone to the altar of God, I was reminded that as a followers of Christ, we are meant to be a people of hope. We have been given a message of hope and are called to embody this hope, recognizing that in Christ all things are possible.  God is on the move in this world, reconciling heaven and earth. Where men may fail, God is ABLE. Stories like Joshua leading the Israelites into the promised land, and Gideon leading an undersized army to victory teach us that all God requires is a surrendered heart willing to trust in his power.

My message and my preaching were not with persuasive words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith would not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power. Romans 11:12

Was I withholding the gospel story?  Was I standing in God’s way? It was clear that my fear, pessimism, and lack of trust were holding me back from submitting my card deck.  Unintentionally, I was minimizing the power of God. It all came down to the question “what could potentially bring God the most glory?” I decided to put my heart on the altar and to trust in God.

If their purpose or endeavor is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop them. You may even find yourselves fighting against God. Acts 5:38

I submitted the cards for review. I wrapped them up all pretty and hand delivered them, trying to make a good impression. I was very nervous.  I was facing my fear and you know what?  It was good. While the review of the Postures of Prayer yoga deck was not extravagant or glowing, it was fair and accurate. I felt humbled and grateful to the editors of yogabasics.com for their spirit of openness and willingness to embrace true diversity of thought. Through this experience I was reminded that we are all pursuers and seekers of Truth. I am comforted by the words of Jesus “…ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” Luke 11:9-10

My favorite part of the whole experience was the picture that appeared at the top of the blog post. (see above)   In the picture, there is an altar with candles, crystals, and statues of the Buddha. The cards on the altar range from Magic and Light affirmation cards to Dark Days tarot cards, and there placed on the altar are The Postures of Prayer: A Christian yoga deck. I was surprised and thankful to see Jesus represented on that altar. I was embarrassed that I almost kept him from being there. If you look closely on the altar you might just see the stones that I left there.

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Namaste & Imago Dei

Namaste & Imago Dei

As a follower of Christ, I have spent much time in study and prayer over my yoga practice.  I have sought the counsel of my pastor, my elders, my accountability group, and my husband. I have not glazed over the controversy that surrounds Christians practicing yoga.  I have put my love of yoga on the altar of God for him to take from me if it did not bring him Glory.

Instead, what I have found is that God has given me innumerable opportunities to talk about the Love of God, which is Christ, from my yoga mat.  He has shown me that he is El Elyon, the most High God, and that he is in the business of revealing himself in this world (Genesis 14).  In fact, I have even found God’s truth woven throughout many of the teachings and the sacred texts of ancient yoga philosophy.

One such example is the greeting “Namaste” used frequently at the beginning and end of a yoga practice. In this gesture, hands are held in prayer position at the heart center, eyes are closed, and the head is bowed as a sign of mutual respect between teacher and student.  The Sanskrit word, Namaste, broken down into its roots means: Namah (bow) as (I) te (you). It literally means “I bow to you.”  and is also translated as ‘the divine Light in me honors the divine Light in you’.

Some Christians find this greeting to be controversial because, when taken literally, this might imply that we are bowing and worshipping each other as gods. It is not my intention to argue or talk others out of their personal convictions, however, I do want to share why I have found Namaste to be a beautiful and biblically sound practice which reflects the second most important command as described by Jesus.

One of them, an expert in the law, tested him (Jesus) with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. Matthew 22:35-40.

For me, Namaste is a reminder of several of God’s beautiful truths.

To begin, God is the Creator of all. Scripture says that humans were created Imago Dei, Latin for ‘in the image of God’. Each person we meet, whether they have accepted Jesus as their personal savior or not, is made in the image of God.  When I use the greeting Namaste in a general sense (to nonbelievers),  I am proclaiming God as our Creator and bowing to the beauty of his creation, his image reflected in each person I meet- believer and nonbeliever alike. Namaste calls me deep into the command to love others as I love myself. I do not bow to them as gods. I bow to them in deep respect for, and adoration of the One who created us all.  I bow because their Creator loves them and invites me to join him!

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Genesis 1:26-27

Furthermore, when greeting a follower of Christ, the word Namaste takes on yet a deeper meaning.  As Christians, we believe that Jesus has done the work to reconcile God and humankind. When we believe and trust that Jesus has restored our relationship with God, the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in us, transforming our lives from the inside out. Believers then, both individually and corporately, become the dwelling place of God on the earth. When using the greeting Namaste with fellow believers, I am recognizing that the Holy Spirit dwells within each of us. To be clear, I am not saying that we are gods; I am saying that God lives in us.

Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? 1 Corinthians 3:16

Additionally, in the Gospel of John, the imagery of light and darkness is used to describe the birth of Jesus into this world. Christ is introduced as the “the true light, which gives light to everyone” born into the darkness of the world. When using the gesture Namaste in a Christian context, I am reminded that Jesus is the true Light and that his followers are meant to be a reflection of this light in a dark and hurting world.

In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:4-5

I am thrilled when I hear the truth of El Elyon, the most High God, being revealed throughout cultures, history, and time.  Our God is a big God! It is an honor for me to recognize that truth and to have the opportunity to introduce the person of Jesus into the story that God is already telling. I find this kind of truth being revealed in the Eastern greeting, Namaste.  My choice to use this gesture in my yoga classes is beautiful reminder to me that all of humans are made in the image of God, and we are meant to love each other as we love ourselves, as image bearers. At times, I use the greeting Namaste in humble gratitude, remembering that through faith in Christ, the Spirit of the Divine has chosen to live in his followers and to reflect His Light through us into the world.

The truth held in the greeting Namaste is a truth that contains the power to heal many of the great divisions in this world.  The power to unite people regardless of their cultural, racial, religious, social, political, or personal differences. In viewing ourselves, and each other, as smaller parts making up the whole of God’s great creation, we can come to realize that we need each other and perhaps develop a deep respect for each other in spite of our differences.

In closing, I pray that God would be glorified on earth as it is in heaven. Lord, help us to look for your image in each person we encounter, and enable us to live out the beauty and truth held in Namaste in light of Imago Dei.

 

Love the Creator, Love His Creation…

Love the Creator, Love His Creation…

Today is Earth day, and I am passionate about God’s Creation.  As part of the Evangelical Church, I have been surprised, and saddened, at the lack of concern that fellow believers have for the environment. The Church, as God’s representatives on earth, should not be indifferent to the state of His Creation.  The Church, of all people, should care for God’s Creation, because we know that God is revealing himself through His Creation!

The heavens declare the glory of God;
    the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
    night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
    no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
    their words to the ends of the world. Psalm 19:1-4

What does the Bible say regarding Creation care?  In Genesis, God made the earth, He calls it “very good”, and then He gives humans “dominion” over Creation. (Genesis 1:28)

As God’s image bearers in Creation, we were intended to act as His representatives; to show the world what God is like. So when God gave humans dominion over the earth, we are meant to do that in a way that the character of God is reflected. This in no way means that we are to be indifferent or abuse nature, but instead, we are meant to be stewards of God’s Creation. Remember, Adam was placed in the Garden of Eden to tend it, and to care for it, not to exploit it.

The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. Genesis 2:15

So on Earth Day…who better to celebrate the goodness and beauty of God’s Earth than God’s children? We, as ambassadors of Christ to the watching world, should enjoy a day in which we celebrate the good gift of God’s creation. Christians can, and should, take the lead to educate ourselves, and others, in ways that we can be better stewards of the world that God entrusted to us.

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. Romans 1:20

Getting out of the way…

I want to tell you a secret…  I am afraid.  This process of writing my thoughts down for everyone to see, to read, to judge, to like (or dislike) and to understand (or misunderstand) is really very terrifying for me.  You see, I have come to this realization in the past months and years; I have a very strong desire to be liked and to be understood.  I would say that being liked and understood are definitely idols in my life.

I don’t think the desire to be liked or understood are always negative things. Many times, these desires help me to be a more thoughtful and perceptive person.  Unfortunately, there are other times where these same desires will cause me shrink back from the world and to feel very alone.

This past March, I packed myself up and trekked across the country to a yoga training in Washington state. It was at this Yogafaith training (https://yogafaith.org) that I began to see my idols a little more clearly.  At the training, I was surrounded with other, like-minded individuals who wanted to learn how to teach yoga, while at the same time helping their students to deepen their relationship with God through the love of Jesus Christ.

Upon coming home, I began to see my new YogaFaith “tribe” posting what they were doing back in their hometowns. People who had never taught a yoga class before were starting to teach and their classes were FULL.   It was beautiful and inspiring to watch. It was ironic to me that I had been teaching scripture-based, “InnerLight” yoga classes in my home town of Black Mountain, NC since 2012, but I rarely, if ever, posted anything about it on social media. I felt that God was trying to show me something.

The conversation went (and is still going) something like this:

me: I can not (or do not)  want to share what I am doing on social media.

God: Why not?

me: people might think that I was bragging or self-promoting.

God: What if I want others to see what I AM doing in your life?  Technically, that’s not self-promoting, that’s God-promoting.

me: yeah but, who cares? Who wants to read what I have to say?

God: You will never know ‘who cares’ if you don’t put it out there.

me: what if it fails?

God: That’s Ok, I am with you.

me: what if people don’t understand me or don’t like me?

God:  That’s Ok, because I do.

me: but, I am afraid of what people might think.

God: (gently and firmly) Kelly, please get yourself out of the way.

So here goes…  this blog is one of my attempts to “get myself out of the way” and to share what God is doing in my life. It is a powerful (and scary) thing to set aside fear to walk in presence of the Most High Love.  I want to express my deepest gratitude to you, gentle reader, for being a witness to this. My prayer is that you would be blessed through the process and along the way.