Michele Minehart

words & yoga

Month: May 2016 (page 1 of 2)

Finding Safety in Fault

Just a few nights ago, I began reading a new book – A Mother’s Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy. Most notable: the author’s name: Sue Klebold. The mother of Dylan Klebold, of the 1999 Columbine tragedy. It’s challenging my idea that parents can be at fault for the actions of their children.

In the introduction, a journalist who met the Klebolds writes that one of two reasons we blame parents for the crimes of their children is, “because in supposing that, we reassure ourselves that in our own house, where we are not doing such wrong things, we do not risk this calamity.” He continues on, “I didn’t want to like the Klebolds, because the cost of liking them would be an acknowledgment that what happened wasn’t their fault, and if it wasn’t their fault, none of us is safe.” (Emphasis mine.)

Thankfully, because I keep a pretty compassionate FB friend group who are speaking avidly about considering the feelings of the poor mother who’s toddler escaped into the gorilla’s habitat, I’m hearing more of this spoken – even if we don’t all realize the underlying truth. If we can find cause and point blame, we mistakenly begin to believe that we’ll never run such risk.

It’s the same idea behind the study which recently found that people who considered themselves not a target for advertising were significantly more susceptible to buying from an advertisement. There’s folly in believing you will never be a victim.

Of course, living fearfully that everything will happen to you is it’s own brand of magical thinking. Both approaches to the world are convincing you that you’re someone special. As if who you are is an indicator of how life will treat you.  The temptation is to believe everything terrible will happen to you, or nothing terrible will.  The truth is, some of it could. And those are the only guarantees we get.

Blaming others, finding the reason, reducing complex situations down to simple solutions won’t save you from tragedy. Perhaps learning from tragedy will save us from history repeating itself, which is its own gift, and one we can turn to for comfort. Finding someone to take the fall will rarely insure our own safety, though it often feels like it can.

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Sunday Sermon: The Passage that Changed Me

As an eternal nerd, I feel nearly everything I read leaves a mark on me somewhere. Some marks are more noticeable than others. I might notice evidence of a reading in places that no one would likely see, a more private evolution. Other passages and ideas look more like a big scar across my cheek or a limp in my gait. They change me forever.

One such reading is in the Bible, the letter to the Galatians, as Eugene Peterson translates it. (He renders it in more of a thought-for-thought medium, as opposed to literal word-for-word. While I do appreciate precision in language, his work feels much more congruent to the whole, which is why I love adding this version to my regular rotation).

This passage, in chapter 5, verses 22-23 (although the original letter lacked such demarcations), Peterson writes the words of Paul:

But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard — things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely. (Emphasis mine).

This is much more beautiful, meaningful and helpful than listing the one-word Big Ideas of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self control.  At different times in my life, I’ve turned to the above reading and noticed the way God had indeed proven faithful and left the sprouts of such fruit. By and large, I now read it and hunger for the fruit he paints in this picture.

As you might guess from the emphasis I added, there’s a particular element that will continue to show up over and over and over again. A conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. Even after years of “Christian Living,” when I stumbled upon this little gem my world was shaken. But rather than a shake like earthquake that destroys everything you built, this rattle was like a trip to the chiropractor that returned my body to alignment.

A conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. Living God’s way leads to a recognition that it all belongs to God because it was all created by God. God is in all things. I remember teaching junior high students Ephesians 2:10, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Every student was given a jar of play-doh and ask to create something – anything. As we shared our handiwork, we noticed how the creator’s fingerprints were evident throughout each piece of art. The created bears the mark of the Creator. 

If it’s true of each of us, it’s true of all of us. And all things God created. Which, at last count, was every living thing. “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.” (Psalm 150:6)

This sounds beautiful, but one has to wonder why this became such a game-changer for me. It seems logical, yes? I could probably say that I believed such a theory, would agree to such a creedal statement. But reading this collection of words helped me to change my modus operandi. I didn’t simply agree with such an idea. I needed to live like it was true.

Every single person, place and thing I encounter bears a mark of divinity. The cashier at Meijer has God’s fingerprints on her. The bread that I bake comes from flour, from grains of wheat, which could only grow with the sun and the rain and the natural life-to-death-to-life processes of the seed which God set into rhythm. The trees I walk beside have lived and known God’s presence long before I stepped foot on this earth.

The world is not a group of objects set before me solely for my own enjoyment. Each and every being bears a mark of divinity. To live with “goodness” means to live with a recognition and a respect. I honor my own created goodness. And I look for, seek out, point toward that same created goodness in other living beings.

Yoga finally gave me a word for this: nameste. The light that is within me sees and honors the light that is within you.

This idea, honoring all of God’s created order, is the backbone of the first testament. (And the second, for that matter.) The laws which seem obtuse and irrelevant were God’s way of asking us to consider treating his work with respect. “Eating kosher” considers the cheeseburger abominable, but it is less about the cheese and more about remembering the life of the mother calf and the baby calf that provided the meal. God is ordering us to honor the divine image in that life. For some people, this results in abstaining out of respect. For others, it’s a blessing and a recognition that the meal comes from a place outside of ourselves but bears the same created mark as that which is within us.

In the beginning, God created humankind with an imago dei, a divine image. It remains there, underneath all that we believe we “really are”, the many ways we identify ourselves. Under the good, the bad and the ugly remains the essence of God. Living with goodness means recognizing that in all things and treating them accordingly.

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Strength and flexibility

I can often tell at the outset of the week when I’m about to get myself contorted. My schedule paints an accurate picture of the times of my life when I ignore reasonable boundaries of pace and order. I use my flexibility to work and rework the schedule until I can fit everything I want into it. And if I move quickly enough from item-to-item, I can complete the process without noticeable  effects.

I hyperextend. Instead of being strong, I flex. The parts of me which bend well, I allow to hold all the weight.

Let’s back up. Certain parts of our bodies were designed to work in certain ways. Some parts operate to provide us with strength and stability. Take our long leg muscles, our glutes, and the many core muscles that wrap around our midsection. They hold us up.

Other parts give us flexibility and movement. Our joints allow us to bend, our shoulders and hips rotate to allow us to walk, reach and grasp. They move us.

Having one of these abilities without the other significantly impairs our experience. Most humans have some degree of both in their lives, but very often we have a favorite mode from which we operate. For example, I tend to hyperextend in my joints. Where the average elbow will stop, my elbows will see how many more degrees it can stretch. This sounds fancy and fun until you turn 65 and have spent your life asking your shoulder function as your back muscle should have been all along, because it often turns into other issues. The joints get inflamed and fired up at the overuse.

For folks who operate out of their strength, change of position becomes a challenge. That hamstring is a humdinger of a powerhouse for athletes, propelling bodies faster down the field. Yet it can be a challenge for many people with such powerful strength to bend over and touch their shins, let alone toes. All strength and no flex spells injury when you try to perform in not-so-perfect conditions.

Neither operating out strength nor flexibility is “bad” or “good.” They just are.

As my teacher says, “As the body, so the soul.”

So my hyperextension manifests itself in my life as well. I can bend and work a schedule until I can do everything I want, often to the expense of other people or my own exhaustion.  Other folk do the opposite. We all have our ways. We figure out our shortcuts based on our habits.

So now, I reflect.  I’m asking the flexibility of my schedule to hold me up when perhaps I shouldn’t be (such regular activity will eventually result in burnout, I’m sure). So where are the places designed to give me strength and stability and life that I don’t tend to lean into?

Perhaps my schedule isn’t the only place I ask flexibility to do the work. Marriages, friendships, nutrition, rest – all of these things can be sources of strength or flexibility. But in what ways do they exhibit evidence of over-extending or strength to the point of rigidity?

As the body, so the soul. So, for now, I watch, I listen, I observe. I notice the habits and perhaps I will decide to try a different way of moving about in this world.

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