Jesus Sees You

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Luke 13:10-17.

Earlier this week I taught a yoga class that included a student with a broken big toe. He was anxious – to participate, to not harm his toe further, to not be a distraction to the other students, and to feel like he accomplished what he wanted to accomplish by the end of class.

The good news about yoga is that every pose – every.single.pose. – can be modified to each individual student. Poses can increase in challenge or comfort. Poses can be completed standing, kneeling, or sitting. So no poses on your feet – no problem.

He did not leave. He did not sit out. He practiced.

He did not feel cast to the side. He felt seen. He felt heard. He felt comforted. He felt accomplished. He felt included.

Before leaving class he thanked me for taking such special care of him in class and then asked me to suggest what other classes he might take that would accommodate and guide him through his recovery. I shared with him that it would be the pleasure of any teacher in the studio to lead him through a class at his ability level. It is on the teacher to meet the students where they are, to listen, to guide, and, most of all, to see.

When I feel seen, my self worth soars. When I feel seen, I am affirmed that I matter and that my contributions matter. And that feeling motivates me to see and affirm others.

As we head into the Fall months at Tuskawilla UMC we will have increased opportunities to see and connect with folks in our church family as well as see and connect with folks in our community. I love to watch our church during the Greeting Time on Sundays…I am convinced that our church family would greet one another for at least 20 minutes if we did not draw the congregation’s attention forward in the service. No one stands alone. No one is without a hand to shake or a smile to receive. It is truly extraordinary to behold and warms my heart so. We take time to see one another every Sunday. We take time to see one another as Jesus sees us.

In that same spirit I look forward to seeing our Bible Study groups resume, to seeing Scout Troops return to our campus, to seeing our Morningsong Worship Service begin on Sunday, September 11 at 8:30am, and yes, even to seeing the arrival of our little orange friends because their presence means we will soon see many of our community members on the church campus. I celebrate how our church sees both the Class Athlete Afterschool Program and the students of the Arbor School of Central Florida and has welcomed them to meet on our campus. I am amazed by the number of families our Friday Afternoon Food Bank sees and serves twice a month; their commitment to nourish the body and the soul is deeply inspiring.

The Tuskawilla Family understands well what it means to see one another and to meet our neighbors where they are. Through our ministries and witness we comfort and we challenge; we see, hear, and include God’s people. Through this behavior we add our hands to building God’s Kingdom.

Jesus sees us. When we serve one another well, we serve him well and he is so pleased.

Prayer: “Breathe on me, Breath of God, fill me with life anew, that I may love what thou dost love, and do what thou wouldst do. Breathe on me, Breath of God, until my heart is pure, until with thee I will one will, to do and to endure.”* Amen.

*”Breathe on Me, Breath of God,” The United Methodist Hymnal 420.


Seven Questions of Faith: Am I Accepted?

Sunday’s Scripture ~ John 8:1-11

In a couple of weeks I will graduate from my 13-month, 303-hour yoga teacher training program. This has been an incredible time of growth in my practice, not just in my physical abilities (because trust me, I still fall – a lot!), but in my understanding of yoga philosophy, anatomy, and in appreciation of yoga’s incredible ability to unite people with so many uniquenesses and abilities to breathe and move as one.

I have also grown in great love and respect for my yoga teacher trainee family. Before we started our training journey our common denominator was our teacher, Holly. We were all novices to one another, coming from different professional, vocational, and familial backgrounds. Our first few interactions were all experiences of testing the waters with one another. Holly never impressed upon us an expectation for relationship; she fostered what occurred organically between us. I am so happy and grateful to say that  Joy, Dom, Lauren, Jeri, Kristine, and Stephanie are some of my best and favorite people ever.

Early on in our training we participated in a workshop experience with a local yogi that encouraged us to begin writing the story or narrative that brought us to yoga. We all have our own path. The evidence of that path will appear from time to time on our mats and is also a part of the equation of what results from time spent on our mats.

We each began to journal. I returned to yoga in May 2013 as a way to address my chronic cranial pain and chronic migraine diagnoses. I tried to manage my pain through medications, but the side effects I experienced were not worth it. So I looked east to this ancient practice for strengthening and relief. I still struggle with chronic pain, but not nearly as severely. I am healthier and stronger than I have ever been.

What we did not know at the outset of our journaling was that our workshop leader wanted us to share our journal entries with one another. We were still a new group on this journey together…did we really want to share such personal information so immediately? Did we really want to reveal parts about ourselves that could potentially make us feel weak or less than or ashamed and potentially make ourselves visible as weak, less than, and shameful before people we were still getting to know?

Seated in a circle, looking one another in the eye, each taking our turn, we shared our stories. And we shared grace as we listened. Stories of recovery from medical events, of recovery from addictions, of seeking community, of seeking acceptance, of wanting to grow, of wanting to ground, of fear, of freedom, of friendship. Hearing one another’s stories – made up of confessions and dreams, worries and confidences – knit our little yoga family together in a big, big way. We did not judge one another’s journeys. We did not assign value or status, other than to recognize the worth of the neighbor to our right and to our left.

We thanked one another for our courage in sharing. And thank you, Candace, for leading us in this gift of narrative and birth of community.

In our Scripture passage for this week Jesus hears a narrative of a woman, not told in her own words, but by the words of the ruling religious and governing body. It is a narrative that in the ancient world and in Jesus’ world would bring shame and feelings of worthlessness not only upon her but on her family as well. But when Jesus looked up and spoke to those in range of hearing, he did not assign value or status, other than to recognize the worth of the daughter of Abraham standing before him. In recognizing her worth Jesus did not diminish the worth of the scribes and Pharisees; rather, he invited them to remember her worth by recalling the grace they had received as they journeyed down their paths in life.

Take some time this week to remember your personal journey. What has brought you  to this point? Recall your formative moments, both positive and negative. What grace did you receive in those moments? What grace resulted from those moments? How did your perception of yourself change as you received your worth as a beloved child of God? How has your perception of your neighbors changed as you recognized the worth in another of God’s children? How has God knit you into community in the past and present? How do you anticipate God knitting you into community in the future?

Be grateful for your journey. Be grateful for God’s grace in your life. And be grateful for where God is leading you right this moment.

Prayer: “Ah, holy Jesus, how hast thou offended, that we to judge thee have in hate pretended? By foes derided, by thine own rejected, O most afflicted. For me, kind Jesus, was thy incarnation, thy mortal sorrow, and thy life’s oblation; thy death and anguish and thy bitter passion, for my salvation.”* Amen.

*”Ah, Holy Jesus,” The United Methodist Hymnal 289.

We Shine!

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Isaiah 60:1-6

A phrase often heard – and an action often encouraged – in my yoga studio is “Shine your heart.” To shine your heart means that you draw forward your heart cavity, which is your sternum and upper rib cage, through your shoulders as if a beam of light began shining from your heart onto the wall next to you, the ceiling above you, or the person in front of you. Shining your heart rotates your shoulders back and down, which brings them into proper alignment over your hips and creates space and broadness across your shoulders.

Why is this phrase often heard and action often encouraged? Because my yoga teachers see so many people walking with hunched shoulders…I see so many people walking with hunched shoulders. These persons, their hearts are not shining forward; their hearts are receding, their lights mere flickers. They are bracing for impact. They are in survival mode. They have only just endured the last moment. They are fearful of the next moment. Their shoulders reflect their burdens caused by life’s innumerable weights.

When we walk with hunched shoulders long enough, our bodies begin to accept that shape as our natural shape. When our bodies accept that hunched shape as natural, it cannot be reversed, and we live with its effects permanently.

When I first returned to yoga I walked as someone that rounded forward my shoulders. My body physically manifested the stress I carried. I thought that the way to protect my heart was to shield it rather than shine it. I experienced physical discomfort in drawing my heart forward, in rolling my shoulders into proper alignment.

After years of practice I am growing in comfort with shining my heart. It took time to cultivate this practice. It took courage to face what was causing me to shield rather than shine. It took several brave steps towards vulnerability.

I had to let things go physically and emotionally. I had to forgive. I had to be forgiven. I had to walk away from burdens. I had to open myself to shining and to light.

This week we will ring in a new year that is full of promises, possibilities and potentialities (as the song goes). With the close of one year and the beginning of another we are afforded the opportunity to let things go, to lessen and release burdens, to forgive and be forgiven, to commit or resolve ourselves to shining our hearts rather than continuing to shield them.

Folks that shield their hearts know well the “darkness [that] covers the earth and thick darkness the peoples” (Isa 40:2a). “Arise and shine!” Isaiah says (Isa 40:1a). Christ’s light and life has lightened our burden. Our Christ has revealed a new way forward. What way forward is that for you in 2016? What commitments or changes is God calling you to make so that you can shine your heart in offering to God and shine God’s heart in offering to others?

I find that when I begin with gratitude – for where I have come from, for where I am going, for the people and places and experiences I’ve had along the way – I am more able and wanting to shine my heart.

Steve Harper, a retired pastor and professor in the Florida Conference – and a continuing mentor to many! – shared this reflection as we move to the new year, “Thinking this final week of 2015 about influencers: the people who have influenced me most have not spent their lives identifying the darkness, but rather have devoted themselves to intensifying the light.”

“We shall see and be radiant”says the prophet (Isa 40:5a). We shall see and be radiant as we devote ourselves to intensifying Christ’s light.

With renewal and rejoicing we move on, we move forward, we move towards 2016.

In this New Year, may we open up, invite in, and grow. May we choose light. May we choose life. May we shine.

Prayer: “O God, you made of one blood all nations, and, by a star in the East, revealed to all peoples him whose name is Emmanuel. Enable us who know your presence with us so to proclaim his unsearchable riches that all may come to his light and bow before the brightness of his rising, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen.”*

*”Epiphany,” The United Methodist Hymnal 255.

Thrive: Depth

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Ezekiel 47:3-5

While practicing yoga I frequently hear my teachers inviting me to deepen my practice. There are a number of ways to deepen a yoga practice:

  1. Take a more full expression of a pose. For example, if you are in a pose that calls for your legs to be in the shape of a lunge (like Crescent Pose or Warrior One), you deepen the pose by increasing the bend in your front leg towards a 90-degree angle with the goal of stacking your knee over your ankle.
  2. Move to your edge. An “edge” in yoga could be the extent of your comfort zone with a pose or the extent of your familiarity with a pose. Moving to your edge means that you try on something new in the pose by bending a little deeper, growing a little taller, or extending a little longer. The goal is to not cross your edge but to increase your edge – that is how you grow in yoga.
  3. Bring awareness to the breath. What is the quality of your breath? Is it shallow and quick? Is it deep and slow? How can you lengthen the breath? How can you bring a sense of calm to a very active practice? How can you breathe with the entirety versus a portion of your lungs?
  4. Turn inward. Yes, yoga is a physical practice, but the physical practice – known as asana – is only one portion of the practice. Yoga encompasses physical as well as mental activity. It is an outward and an inward practice. It unites movement and meditation. When a practitioner turns inward, the mind settles allowing clarity to increase while distractions decrease.

As Ezekiel follows God’s messenger out of the temple and into the rushing river’s flow, he becomes increasingly aware of the river’s deepening. His expression changes as he witnesses God’s river take on its full expression as it cascades down the mountain. He moves to his edge as he wades in the water. If I were in Ezekiel’s shoes I would want to ensure a calm and even quality to my breath as I ventured into water where neither my bare nor stiletto’d feet could touch the riverbed. And I would want to focus and settle my mind. In that state of awareness and presence I would be safe and I would see and experience all that God desires to reveal.

In order to grow in my yoga practice I am committed to deepening my practice. The same holds true for my – for our – spiritual practice. God invites each of us to deepen our spiritual practices so we can deepen our relationship with God. There are a number of ways to mature in our faith:

  1. Take a more full expression of prayer, worship, fasting, service, and stewardship.
  2. Move to the edge of our comfort zones so we increase the area of our comfort zones as it relates to sharing our faith with and witnessing to our neighbors. I desire God to transform my comfort zone so it defines all that God enables me to do and that I serve in those roles with joy rather than separating what I will do from what I will not do. Continue my transformation, Lord.
  3. Bring awareness to God’s life-giving breath – God’s Holy Spirit – that dwells within us and guides us. Centering our attention on God’s breath and following the guidance of God’s Spirit will not lead us astray; it will lead us farther into the Kingdom.
  4. Turn inward away from the distractions of the world so that we may gain clarity about God’s purposes and God’s purposes for us.

(This is by no means an exhaustive list. This is what I have experienced and I would love to hear about your experiences, about how you specifically grow in your faith!)

Consider how God may be calling you to deepen your faith during this time and season. What full expression might you try on? How might you increase your comfort zone? What is God’s Holy Spirit breathing in you? When you turn inward, what do you see and how does that compare to what you would like to see? I invite you to pray about these questions this week. Ask. Seek. And share what you discover with someone you love.

Prayer: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you. Allelu, Alleluia. Ask, and it shall be given unto you; seek and ye shall find; knock, and the door shall be opened unto you. Allelu, Alleluia.”* Amen.

*”Seek Ye First,” The United Methodist Hymnal 405.

PictureLent ~ Resurrection

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Mark 16:1-8

Holy Week is a marathon, not a sprint. We gathered at the starting line last Sunday – there was even a parade! We waved palm branches and children sang. We worshipped and then we were benedicted to continue our walk to the cross.

Most of us anticipated reaching the cross on Friday, but it showed up Sunday afternoon as we learned one of our sisters in Christ in the Tuskawilla family passed away. The parade was over. The mourning began.

As a pastor when I learn of a death in the congregation I immediately go into work mode. Phone calls to make – visits to complete – information to gather – services to coordinate. This work also accomplishes compartmentalizing the grief process. As long as I work and stay busy the grief stays at bay.

When I find stillness and quiet up the grief wells.

Wednesday morning I went to yoga as I usually do and during my practice my teachers settled me into sleeping pigeon, which looks like this. Sleeping pigeon is an introspective pose as your gaze is towards your heart-center, the core of your being. It is also a deep hip stretch and release. Once settled I began to breath deeply and my tears began to flow. Reclined on the floor I wept. I wept for Lori. I wept for Ann. I wept for our congregation. I wept and asked only one question.


Reclined in prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus grieved. Jesus wept. According to the Third Gospel writer Jesus was in such anguish that his sweat was like drops of blood (Lk 22:44). “I’m very sad. It’s as if I’m dying…My Father, if it’s possible, take this cup of suffering away from me” (Mt. 26:37a and 39b).

In the quiet of the garden Jesus probably asked “Why?” He probably confessed his confusion and his inability to understand. He possibly even felt anger that his questions remained unanswered. Pondering, seeking, praying, Jesus turned inward. Inhaling and exhaling into the very center of his being Jesus found his answer. “Not what I want but what you want…let it be what you want” (Mt 26:39c and 42c).

In the face of grief and imminent tragedy Jesus kept walking. And we will keep walking – aware of our loss, aware of our pain, aware of our unanswered questions, and aware of our God’s continued faithfulness. Our Christ walked toward the cross accepting all of the world’s pain as he did. At the ultimate place of defeat Jesus is forevermore our victor. Sunday is coming and resurrection is real.

Lori loved Jesus and his church, this church, Tuskawilla. Lori has gone on ahead of us into glory and is helping to make room for all of us at the table. Because of Jesus’ obedience – “obedience to death, even death on a cross” – we will join her and all God’s children at the heavenly feast Jesus continues to prepare (Phil 2:8). The casseroles will be abundant. Even more so, God’s grace and peace and joy will be abundant. There will be no grief. There will be no tears. There will be no reason to ask “Why?” There will be Jesus and those whom he loved. Lori will be there…and we cannot wait to see her.

Prayer: “For me, kind Jesus, was thy incarnation, thy mortal sorrow, and thy life’s oblation; thy death of anguish and thy bitter passion, for my salvation. Therefore, kind Jesus, since I cannot pay thee, I do adore thee and will ever pray thee, think on thy pity and thy love unswerving, not my deserving.”* Amen.

*”Ah, Holy Jesus,” The United Methodist Church 289.

Upbuilding: Destined For Salvation

Sunday’s Scripture ~ I Thessalonians 5:1-11

Ever have those days where you just cannot wake up?  Either where you hit snooze on the alarm clock again and again and again or where you do get up and you do not really feel like you are fully functioning?  It has been overcast in my neck of the woods the past few days. Overcast and dreary with a few light showers. I am thankful for the rain – we risk brushfires without it – but I miss the sunshine. I need it to wake up!  Also, I am not fully adjusted to this time change…it is dark so early that my body is ready for sleep as soon as the sun sets…makes the equation of Sarah + evening meetings all the more entertaining!

What do we do when we need to wake up again through out the day?  We find a pick me up. A cup of coffee. A soda. A snack. I do my best to fit in time on my yoga mat. It seems that the most productive time of my day immediately follows my practice. My head is clear. My brain is focused. My movements are swift, discerned, and efficient. I am so thankful to have that time and thankful to serve in a vocation that recognizes the importance of health of body, mind, and spirit.

Additionally – transitioning in and out some of the poses – that will really wake you up!  Ha!  (If you’re curious, complete an Internet search on scorpion yoga pose.)

In our Scripture passage for this week Paul rouses the Thessalonians to awaken from their slumbers. They are not sleeping the days away; rather, Paul is guarding them from lulling into the slumber of sin. He makes clear that it is God who does the waking, and in waking us sets us on the path of salvation. John Wesley says that God stirs the hearts of individuals through the power of the Holy Spirit. That stirring leads us to take a good long look in the mirror. We look. We are convicted of our sins – both of commission and omission – and God’s grace leads us to and through the moment of repentance. God’s grace redeems us. We are made new.

And then what?  Are we awake permanently?  No longer susceptible to sin? I wish…or maybe I don’t. God’s grace wakes us up and then God’s grace holds us accountable to our behavior throughout our lives.  God reawakens us when our behavior is not becoming of the gospel. God reawakens us when God is ready to lead us in new directions. God reawakens us so we can learn the lessons of the past in order to sculpt a better future. I want this sort of accountability. I want this sort of relationship with God. And by God’s grace I have it.

Each yoga class ends with the closing pose of savasana or corpse pose. This is a pose where the yogi lies flat on his or her mat with limbs comfortably outstretched leaving space between the legs and between the arms and the torso. In savasana breathing is no longer calculated. Every tension in the body is released. The mind is calmed and the yogi begins to drift in that presence. Corpse pose represents the death of the practice. The practice is over. It is past. All the accomplishments. All the failures. All the focus. All the confusion. Done. The yogi lays in the stillness until the instructor guides the yogi into fetal pose, which represents the birth and beginning of something new. A reawakening. The body and mind are rested while they both bear the lasting impact of the practice. Eventually the yogi returns to seated position with hands drawn to prayer at heart center. Gratitude is expressed for all that has been because it shapes who the yogi is and hope is named for who the yogi will become.

Awake I am ready to explore, feel, savor, and welcome. Awake I am ready to create, to employ the gifts God gives to me and to creation to serve my neighbor. Awake I see the best evidences of God’s grace and forgiveness in the faces of my neighbors.

I won’t be hitting the snooze button on any of that.

Church, it is time wake up!

Prayer: “Wake up, wake up, wake up, wake up all you sleepers. Stand up, stand up, stand up all you dreamers. Hands up, hands up, hands up all believers. Take up your cross, carry it on. All that you reveal, with light in us, will come to life and start breathing. Here we stand our hearts are yours, Lord. Not our will, but yours be done, Lord.”* Amen.

*”Wake Up,” All Sons and Daughters, 2012. Enjoy the video here.

Be Still: Stand Still and See

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Exodus 14:10-22

When was the last time you took a moment to stand still and see – to stand still and marvel at God’s creation and what God is doing?

I have been blessed with the privilege to see some of God’s most amazing sites in creation – the Grand Canyon, the Grindelwald Glacier in Switzerland, sea turtles swimming along the North Shore in Hawaii, a rainforest-filled valley below a smoldering volcano in Costa Rica, the fog settling among the peaks of the Smokey Mountains – to name a few.  These creations are a wonder to behold…and there is so much about these creations that a picture can capture and so much that a picture can not begin to capture.

These are grand images.  They are truly wonderful.  And what amazes me about them most is that they did not appear overnight.  The Grand Canyon was carved through years and years of water slowly running through sedimentary rock.  The Grindelwald Glacier amassed as one singular ice crystal connected with another, and then another, and then another.  The mature sea turtles grew from eggs, the trees in the rainforest from seeds, the volcano and mountains through continuous pressure from colliding tectonic plates.  Each of these developments in our environment are the result of a change – from egg to animal, from seed to plant, from plain to peak, from shallow to deep.

Change requires time and commitment – and in that knowledge I receive grace – not only for others and for the systems that I participate in, but also for myself.  I have been on a personal journey for a little over a year for better health and wellness.  I am engaging in regular physical activity through walking and yoga.  I have altered my eating habits, eating more vegetables, fruits, and leaner meats.  I am eliminating foods and beverages that are “empty calories” – I love to eat…so when I eat I want every one of those calories to count!  There have been times along this journey that I have questioned whether or not what I am doing is making a difference…and when those negative worries creep in God always seems to place someone in my path that says something about my transformation without any prompting.

I have heard to said that it takes four weeks to see a change in your own body/life, eight weeks for your friends and family to see it, and twelve weeks for the rest of the world to see it.  In my own journey I feel that I have lived the reverse.  It took my eyes the longest to adjust and to see what everyone else sees – to see what God sees.  God is making me a new and beautiful creation.  God is making me a wonder to behold.  And God is inviting me to stand still and see what God is doing in my life that I will celebrate!  God has delivered and is delivering me to a place of whole-iness.

“Rome was not built in a day” as the saying goes.  Transformation takes time.  And God’s imprints are all over it.

Have you taken time to stand still and see the transformation God is doing in your life?  In your own body?  In your relationships?  In the systems in which you participate?  Receive God’s grace that accompanies change.  And take time to wonder.

Prayer: “I need thee every hour, most gracious Lord; no tender voice like thine can peace afford.  I need thee every hour; stay thou nearby; temptations lose their power when thou art nigh.  I need thee every hour, in joy or pain; come quickly and abide, or life is vain.  I need thee every hour; teach me thy will; and thy rich promises in me fulfill.  I need thee every hour, most Holy One; O make me thine indeed, thou blessed Son.  I need thee, O I need thee; every hour I need thee; O bless me now, my Savior, I come to thee.* Amen.

*”I Need Thee Every Hour,” The United Methodist Hymnal, 397.