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

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Harnessing Love

Harnessing Love

The day will come when, after harnessing the winds, the tides, and gravitation, we shall harness for God the energies of Love. And on that day, for the second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire. -Teilhard De Chardin

Do not underestimate the energies of Love. Love holds the power to accomplish great good, however, if handled incorrectly, it also has the potential for great destruction.

What does it mean to Love well?  

We have been given the perfect picture of LOVE embodied in the person Jesus Christ. Study the life of Jesus, and you will become a better Lover.  Let us be students of Love.  Jesus teaches us to:

  • Love God with all that you are. Love God with all of your being. (Matthew 22:37-38)
  • Love others as you love yourself. Love the same. Love equally. (Matthew 22: 39)
  • Love when it doesn’t make sense. Love your enemies. Love those who have hurt you. Love those who you don’t like. Love those who don’t like you.  (Matthew 5:43-48)

Heavenly Father, You are LOVE. Abide in us; and perfect your Love in us. Holy Spirit, teach us how to rightly love you, ourselves, and others. Show us where and how to harness the power of Love in our lives.  Shape our hearts to reflect your Divine Love in our homes, workplaces, and relationships. Amen.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.  Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. 1 John 4:7-12

Lessons in Loving

Lessons in Loving

I recently had a revelation when reading in Mark 12 where Jesus is teaching his followers about the most important of all of the commandments.  Mark reads:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31

First and foremost, we are made to love God with all that we are; heart, soul, mind, and strength. The Message translation reads, “love the Lord God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence and energy”. I find the practice of yoga to be beneficial in the Christian life because it addresses the person as a whole: body, mind and spirit.  Yoga, Sanskrit for union, serves to unite the mind with the body in the quest to unite the soul to God. For the follower of Christ, we are reminded that we have been united with God through Jesus Christ and that the Holy Spirit lives in us. Ultimately, we are to love God with all of our being, and we can only love God as much as we have received his love for us. This is the first step and most important step in learning to love well.

However, it is the follow up to this most important commandment that recently caught my attention.  It states that we are to “love our neighbor AS we love ourselves” (emphasis mine).  You see, there is an underlying assumption in this directive that we know how to love ourselves well; thus, by knowing how to love ourselves well, we will know how to love others well. Do you hear the relationship?

Unfortunately, I believe that most of us are confused by what it means to love ourselves well. We are either caught up in: the pride of who we think we are; the shame of who we wished we could be; or the guilt of who others want us to be. But can we love ourselves because God loves us?  Is that enough? The truth is, when we learn to love ourselves rightly, because God loves us, we will be better able to love others!

We are to meant live in the balance, the tension, if you will, between loving ourselves and loving others.  For some, it is easier to love others than it is to love themselves; others are prone to love themselves better than they love others.  It would do us all well to examine our hearts, honestly, and become familiar with our individual leanings.  Jesus is clear, we are not to love ourselves more than others; and likewise, we are not to love others more than ourselves, we are to love others AS we love ourselves.

That brings me to this New Year. Many new people will be finding their way into the gym where I work in an attempt to fulfill the most commonly made (and broken) resolution in the United States- to lose weight.  Unfortunately, most will not carry their new found health habits beyond March.

But what if we reframed our resolutions this year to look differently? What if we took the opportunity to love ourselves better; and examined how we might love others as we are loving ourselves?

Instead of dieting, what if we began eating to nourish our bodies, and what if we desired that others would be able to eat to nourish their bodies?

Loving ourselves as we love others.

Instead trying to lose weight, what if we began to care for and steward our bodies as God’s handiwork, his masterpiece,  and what if we desired that others would know and care for their bodies as God’s masterpiece?

Loving ourselves as we love others.

Instead of viewing our bodies as an object to be manipulated,  what if we chose healthy habits for our bodies and our minds knowing that we are God’s dwelling place on earth-God’s temple- and what if we desired that others would know and love their bodies because because God lives in them ? (1 Corinthians 6:19)

Loving ourselves as we love others.

The list could (and does) go on for ever. Go ahead and try it… Desiring good things for the right reasons and pursuing them for ourselves as well as for others.

It is important to note that this “loving” works both ways. I have sometimes found myself operating out of “Christian guilt”, after all Jesus gave his life for me, shouldn’t I give my life for others?  While this is true, the concept needs to be held within the tension of LOVE.

For me, this has looked something like:

  • Looking for the best in others; as I look for the best in myself.
  • Caring of others; as I care for myself.
  • Protecting others; as I protect myself.
  • Trusting in others; as I trust in myself.
  • Helping others; as I help myself.
  • Giving to others; as I give to myself.
  • Being truthful with others; as I am truthful with myself.
  • Praying for others; as I pray for myself.
  • Wanting for others; as I want for myself.

I am reminded of the relationship within the Trinity; Father, Son and Holy Spirit each acting to glorify the other; loving each other in sacrifice and humility. What would happen if mankind learned to love like this?  I imagine this is why Jesus declared these two commandments to be the more important than any other, and I am inclined to think that this what Jesus had in mind when he taught us to pray “thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

 

 

 

 

Yahweh (Hebrew) transliterated as Jehovah- the existing One; to exist/ to be (past, present & future); to become known

Rophe/ Rapha (Hebrew)- to heal; to restore; to make healthful

Jehovah Rophe– The God who has healed, is in the process of healing, and will heal and restore to health (Exodus 15:26)

Many times we think of healing solely on the physical level, however,  Jehovah Rophe is the God that heals on all levels- mentally, emotionally, spiritually, physically, relationally,  and environmentally, just to name a few.  Jehovah Rophe knows the specific healing that is needed much better than we could ever know ourselves.

Questions to “till the soil” of our hearts:

  • When you experience “dis-ease” what is your response to God? Praising or cursing? Pulling close or pushing away?
  • Do you believe Jehovah Rophe is your healer and restorer?
  • Do you trust Jehovah Rophe with your wounds? Will you allow God to comfort you?
  • Do you look to Jehovah Rophe for healing? Will you allow God to be involved in your healing process or do you insist on fixing it yourself?  (What we, as humans, use to fix our own pain, we will become addicted to.)

Prayer for Healing

Jehovah Rophe, You are the Lord that heals our wounds and restores our health, Holy is your name. We confess that we are quick to try to fix our own hurts and the hurts of others. We forget to look to you, the Ultimate Healer.  We have fallen short of your perfect ways, in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We have inflicted injury upon ourselves, upon others, and upon our land. Heal us, Jehovah Rophe, on all levels, that we may be agents of healing in a hurting world. Amen

Disclaimer: This blog post is not making a statement about the role of physicians, therapists, and medicine in the process of healing.  This post is meant to ask the greater question, “Where does our trust lie?” Do we trust more in ourselves, in others, or in Jehovah Rophe-the God who has healed, is in the process of healing,

 

 

 

I had a curious conversation last week following my Inner-Light yoga class. A lovely woman, with whom I have recently been getting acquainted, attended my scripture yoga class for the first time.  She came up to me, after class, to discuss some insights that she thought might be helpful for me as a teacher.  She shared with me that she teaches trainings on diversity and is a feminist.  According to her, it was “an obstacle” to hear Scripture that portrays God as male, specifically referring to God as “He” and as “Heavenly Father”.  She also shared with me that she felt that this class might be alienating people, namely Muslims or Jews (although I would also include others in this category, such as atheists, Hindus, Buddhists, etc.).  Although I didn’t “enjoy” the conversation, (it was uncomfortable at times and sharpening for my mind) I was extremely grateful that this dear woman felt comfortable enough to come to me with these concerns.  We talked for the better part of an hour and sealed our time off in prayer- asking that our friendship would be strengthened out of mutual respect and TRUTH would be revealed.

This conversation came on the heels of reading a thought-provoking article in the September issue of the Yoga Journal.  In this article, Jacoby Ballard, the founder of Queer and Trans Yoga and workshops, (JacobyBallard.com) discusses the experience of attending yoga classes as a  “queer, transgender person”.  Jacoby explains, “Over and over again in yoga, the gender binary- classifying a person as either masculine or feminine, male or female- is reinforced, and every time, it’s painful.” Jacoby has developed a style of yoga that avoids gendered language.  He shares suggestions for making yoga classes more inclusive, such as taking the gender out of cueing during class and asking each person in the class their name as well as their preferred pronoun.  Pronoun preference is personal choice Ballard explains,  “Some trans people prefer to identify as the gender they have transitioned to, while others prefer more gender-neutral pronouns like ‘they’ or ‘xe,’ ‘xim,’ and ‘xir,’. (Yoga Journal, September 2016 p. 12)

When I read about Jacoby’s experience, I was mortified to think that I might have ever hurt someone, unknowingly, by referring to gender in my yoga classes (or outside of classes, for that matter!).  Likewise, it pained me to think that my student and new friend was hindered from drawing near to the presence of God in my class because I had referred to God as male and as our heavenly Father.

These are the things I know to be true according to Scripture (Bible):

  • God is a Spirit and does not possess human characteristics or limitations. (John 4:24)
  • Humans are made in the image of God, both male and female. (Genesis 1:26-27)
  • In Scripture, God reveals himself to mankind in male form. (Approximately 170 references to God as “Father” and both OT and NT used male nouns and pronouns when referring to God)
  • Jesus Christ came in the form of a human man to reconcile the world or “all flesh” back to the Creator. (Acts 1:3-7 & Matthew 28:18-20)

We can conclude, that while God is a spiritual being and not a man, God did choose to reveal himself to humanity through masculine form. This is illustrated throughout Scripture and also in the person of Jesus Christ.

As human beings, we are limited in our understanding of things beyond the physical realm. In Scripture, figurative language is often used to assign human characteristics, or behaviors, to God in order to help us understand who God is. The practice of assigning human characteristics to God, called anthropomorphism, helps to make it possible for humans to grasp the idea of an infinite God, who is a Spirit being.

Scripture reveals the nature and character of God to the reader through “language” that is familiar to the reader. So, while my friend is correct, God is not a male or female, the language of “God as Father” was meant to foster a better understanding of who God is to the reader; serving to help the created to understand the Creator.

This brings me to the subject of pronouns, and language in general. (Disclaimer: I am not a linguist.)

Language is a method and form of communication. Words are used in all languages as symbols, or tools, for communicating a deeper meaning. Words are meant to serve humankind by allowing them to convey thoughts and ideas with each other.

It seems to me that language, in the examples above, might be getting in the way… To further, the words being used to communicate a thought or idea to another person are actually hindering, rather than facilitating, the comprehension of that thought or idea.

In the setting of a classical yoga class, the instructor is in the leadership position of helping their students to move beyond daily distractions of the mind and body to encounter the Divine Presence within. (Of course, instructors may have different definitions of the Divine, but that is a conversation for another time…) Language is a tool to help instructors to convey the “thoughts and ideas” of the instructor to the class. In Jacoby’s experience, the language used in the yoga classes, which he attended, did not yield the desired outcome of drawing him into the safe, healing presence of the Divine. Somehow, language, more specifically pronouns, got in the way of the overall intention and idea being conveyed.

Last week, while teaching my Inner-Light yoga class, I quoted the following scripture:

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip—he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord watches over you— the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm—he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore. Psalm 121:1-8 

The idea that I intended to convey to my class was a message of comfort; my intention, and I believe the intention of this Scripture, was to draw the listener into deeper intimacy with their Heavenly Creator. The language was but a tool, which I chose to use, to convey a deeper meaning. Unfortunately, the deeper meaning was lost for my friend, because the words did not serve their intended purpose. I believe this teaches us something worth noting.

In the situations above, the purpose of the language, and words, being used was to draw people’s hearts closer to each other and to the heart of their Heavenly Creator. It seems that the language, instead of working as a tool to facilitate the communication of one’s thoughts and ideas to another, was actually acting as an obstacle to that communication.

If we are not careful, we will become servants to language instead of allowing language to serve us.

While I agree, it is important that we speak with intention and to choose our words wisely; I think it is also important that we listen to the words being spoken and try to discern underlying meaning and ideas behind those words. If we allow ourselves to hold too tightly to the words being spoken, we may risk losing the deeper meaning those words were meant to communicate. The consequence being a division between hearts.

Where in our lives might we be hearing only words and not the deeper, underlying messages being conveyed?

 Paul refers to this deeper understanding in Ephesians when he prays, “that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened”. In John 16, Jesus explains that it is the Holy Spirit that helps us to hear what is truly being spoken when he says, “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak”. Jesus teaches that there is a deeper hearing, or listening, than that of mere words.

In the spirit of humility and conviction, I will sign off from this post with the same words that Jesus so often ended his teachings. “Whoever has ears, let them hear.”