Michele Minehart

words & yoga

Category: creativity (page 1 of 2)

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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From Seed

We’ve always had at least a small patch of dirt to grow our tomatoes, our peppers, maybe a green bean or two. Last year we added cucumbers because JJ was determined to make a good clausen pickle – and he got very close. We’ve experimented with greens and broccoli, here and there. So, we’re not garden newbies.

Our new-to-us, for-nearly-one-year house came with a massive garden space. The plot had already been dug a few years ago, though when we moved in, it remained vacant. Last year we had to rely on farmer’s markets for anything fresh, and it would be an understatement to say that JJ’s disappointment in BLT season was massive.

So, this year we’re upping our game. Not only are we filling that vacant spot in the backyard, we’re starting it ourselves. That’s right. We’re growing from seed. And not just any ol’ seed packet from 3 years ago. We ordered heirloom packets from Baker Creek. We don’t mess around, no, we don’t mess around, nuh-uh. We purchased a few starter pots and a grow light, because we lack a good western-facing window.

JJ's garden mapping. He even researched which plants grow best together.

JJ’s garden mapping. He even researched which plants grow best together.

We had the kids fill the little pots with the fluffy organic soil and I carefully doled out a few seeds per pot, and marked them with painters tape on the cup, because we lacked foresight to buy those little stick-things, and – let’s face it – the odds of those being removed and used as a weapon runs pretty high in this house.

And then, we waited. And waited. Finally our onions (yes, onions! He thought he was getting starts, but no) gave us tiny slivers of green poking through the dirt. And then the tomatoes! We moved from the hotpad-prepped table to the light table. We even have alarms going off each morning and evening to remind us to water and move the pots around.

This growing stuff is serious business. We’re leaving overnight and have a little bit of concern about our sprouts. We check them regularly, and every time we see a new little stem, we celebrate. Right now, it’s a tad unfathomable what it will be like to pick a tomato that came from a plant that started as this teeny-tiny seed. There’s a certain amount of miracle, not only in our ability to keep these things alive, but in their inherit ability to grow and produce and to feed.

JJ said last night, “and just think about next year, after we collect the seeds from our own harvest and save them, and then start them again next year.” I think it’s akin what grandparenting might be like – watching this thing you grew, produce again and again.  You’re not at all in control, yet, without you, this life would cease to exist as we know it. We’re not the source. We can’t even “make” anything grow. Yet we’re vital to the entire process.

Of course, someone else, somewhere else, is growing perfectly “fine” little cherry tomatoes and banana peppers. We could always just let them do it. We can continue to go to the store and buy our imported romas, twice the size of the normal (because we Americans like everything “bigger and better”) and be on our merry little way.  Leaving it to the professionals is always an option.

When we continue to outsource, we don’t have to rearrange our lives. We don’t have to water and weed and pluck. And, for sure, you’re able to steer clear of the heartache of a bad season, a diseased favorite purple pepper, or the frustrations of a bug infestation. We can absolutely bypass the work of growth by buying it ready made. This is always an option.

So why do it?  And, as with gardening, so with life. Marriage, children, starting – or even working – a business. Why toil, strain and love?

I. Don’t. Know.

Except to say that in the process of growing something else, we reap a new kind of nourishment, one reserved for those who dig in wholeheartedly. This cannot be described with words, only by eating a tomato fresh from your garden. Or watching your child hit his first home run. Or standing beside your spouse as she accepts her Citizen of the Year award. Or hearing from a customer how you made her wedding the most beautiful day of her life. Or delivering yet another healthy baby. Or finding a donor to fund a cause that will change lives. Or helping someone find a home that will keep their family safe and warm, a respite from the world. Or helping a child write their first “book.”

There’s no reason to put in the hard work, other than the fact that hard work – whether it be with plants or people – blossoms and feeds you. It’s beautiful.

Obviously, I’m not mandating that every single person in the world must buy packets of seeds and set watering timers. This is simply our most recent peek into blessings of putting in the hard work. It helps me to answer the “why.” Why we don’t watch a ton of TV. Why we opt to bake bread instead of letting McDonalds fry it for us. Why we rearrange schedules so we can be with friends. Why we move to a small town for a lesser-paying job in exchange for nearby family.

We do hard things because they are good. Perhaps even better than easy things. Hard things give us a new sense of life and the enjoyment of it. There’s a certain beauty at discovering the connection between your soul and the rest of the universe. With a little love and attention, we can be a part of the process of creation, not just the consumption.

“Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” (John 12:24)

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Dueling Crayons

Photo Credit: CC - Paul Bonhomme.

Photo Credit: CC – Paul Bonhomme.

Miss M, in her new awareness of “pretty” started combing her hair until it straightened. It saddened me to watch the curls unravel, but even more so, to see at an early age such a desire to be other than her created self. Perhaps I contributed to the problem – I both started straightening my hair via blow dryer this summer with a new style and I told her I loved her curls. In any case, she’s not convinced the curls should stay.

I told her – and all of them – that God had created them as individuals. We talked about how before they were in their mama’s belly, God got out a piece of paper and some crayons and began to make a Miss M. And an H Boy,  a Lady C and a Mr. M. I told her how God does amazing work and doesn’t make mistakes, all of his creations are beautiful because they have a little piece of God in them. His fingerprints are on his paintings, on us.

 

There are no kids across the street anymore. Mom is still there, smoking on the front porch. The male figure(s) arrive and leave, yesterday with loud shouting and some physical restraint. I can’t imagine that when God pulled out his fresh piece of clean white paper, this is what He drew. I don’t believe this woman grew up aspiring to the children’s services rotation. She never dreamed of relationships that would drown her. She doesn’t want this. Either does God.

 

Straightening our hair or poisoning our minds with artificial and temporary fulfillment – we all have our way of picking up a black crayon and telling God, “nice try.” As co-creators, commissioned to continue what He began in his first 6 days, we spend time with the paper. The question isn’t if we draw, it’s what we draw.

We have opportunity to sit with the master, to learn how to take long, careful strokes. He can tell us how to blend the most extraordinary colors, to accent with shadows and make a piece come alive and jump off the paper. We can sit, listen, absorb, practice, be corrected, seek feedback and take risks under the supervision of the Master.

Or we can take a black crayon and declare the entire work trash.

Either way, I’m in firm belief that God never stops drawing. If we’re breathing, he’s adding color. You cannot scribble which he cannot work into something of overall beauty.

At any time, we can join him. We can begin to choose complementary colors. They might be elementary. Perhaps we start with stick figures and sunshines. It doesn’t matter. A heart that looks to learn and create something of beauty, rather than living in anger with the paper, is a heart that is in tune with God. And God can make beautiful things (as Gungor lyrically puts it) out of dust and out of us.

Choose your crayon.

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