Well, it happened. All the people who were concerned about my involvement in Christian Yoga and contemplative practices were right. They clearly saw the danger ahead of me and the perilous path on which I was embarking. They must have known that yoga and silence were just gateway drugs. If I was open to such questionable activity, my judgement couldn't be trusted and certainly I would end up abandoning my faith or, worse, becoming a...gasp...liberal.
This week I found myself so deeply impacted by the love of God that I had no words. I found myself loving others so deeply I felt like an idiot. I found myself ready to abandon everything for Love.
Who am I?
While this was no sentimental, sappy, Hallmark card experience of love, it was an emotion. Or, perhaps more of a physical presence. How weird is that?
I don't want to write too much because words seem to diminish the sacredness of this transformation, but my foundation has been rocked and I'm amazed at a God who would so lovingly disassemble my prickly, protective coping mechanisms so I could fully live and love and be loved.
Today I find I'm not hiding behind my life experience or my emotional health or my spiritual resume or my well-crafted sentences. I'm a beginner again. Sitting at the feet of Jesus while he introduces me to so many I've dismissed and overlooked who may have much less external success or platform but have love in great measure.
For the first time in my life I'm beginning to understand what Paul means when he says,
" But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord."
Do you see what's happened? I started a journey some years ago and I was adequately warned that it would lead to something radical. Something unsafe. Something that would change me.
I insisted it wouldn't affect me.
I was wrong. Praise God.
Katy Perry's song Roar hit the airwaves en force last month. Since then it has become an anthem for discouraged, seemingly-defeated-but-resilient people everywhere. Just yesterday Richard showed me a YouTube video with kids in a children's hospital lip-syncing to this song. There's no way around it--I'm inspired.
Given my 'no love' stance toward Taylor Swift, you might assume Katy Perry was on my 'do not listen' list as well. But you'd be wrong. If I were interviewing nannies, I would go with Taylor, but otherwise--Katy's my girl. I can't help it. She has talent and soul. And, every once in a while I see remnants of holy in her.
With the release of her new album, Prism, this week she's been widely interviewed about the inspiration for her songs. It doesn't take a degree in poetry to gather that she's writing about a time of difficulty in her life. In her interviews she confirms that she went through a period that took a toll on her self esteem. But it was out of that darkness that Roar was birthed. (Apparently hyper-sexuality was also part of the healing process, but I'll leave that alone for now.)
As a woman who has a daughter and who works with women leaders to help them find their voice, Roar should be my theme song. You can't hold me down! I'm a fighter! You hear my voice...like thunder, gonna shake the ground! I'm a champion! Roar!
But I tell you...
There's only one problem. God isn't asking me to roar. I'm not saying that having some fight isn't often what's called for, I'm simply observing that the way of Jesus is, more often than not, a much quieter path.
Today I wanted to roar. I'm physically, emotionally and mentally exhausted. As I meditated and prayed this morning I secretly hoped I would emerge from this time feeling energetic and ready to take on the world. After all, isn't that how the agreement works? I plug into the power source of the Holy Spirit and, just like my iPhone in the morning, I leave fully charged and ready for another day of productive activity?
I'm currently taking a class on the Disciplines of the Spirit and one of our textbooks is a favorite of mine...The Spiritual Disciplines Handbook by Adele Calhoun. This week we completed a brief assessment designed to surface where God might desire to shape us. I faithfully completed the assessment and moved on to the reflection questions. What I hoped would come out in my reflection was a sense of deep rest and encouragement. I found myself drawn to the disciplines of Sabbath and listening to God.
Inwardly I crouched, waiting for my time to roar.
And then, he spoke.
"Kelli, ask a friend to show you your blind spots."
"Kelli, you've wounded another friend. Ask for forgiveness."
So, let me clarify. I feel tired and vulnerable and God wants me to invite someone to point out areas of weakness of which I'm blissfully unaware. And then he wants me to admit to another that I've neglected our friendship.
Just what I was hoping for.
This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says:
After accepting his invitation I am more amazed at God's faithfulness and grace. But I do not feel like roaring. On the contrary, I feel more dependent, quieter, still tender.
I love Katy Perry, but, for now, she'll have to roar without me.
I've heard some disturbing talk about idols lately. Actually, I've been hearing it for some time, but I'm just now calling it out. First of all, my apologies to my non-Reformed readers who may have no idea what all the fuss is about.
Just a brief bit of context...
Over that last ten years as those around me have increasingly turned to the teaching of Tim Keller I have observed a dramatic increase in talk about idols. Modern day idols. While we don't necessarily display wooden sculptures of human-created gods, we are all guilty of substituting the worship of God with things like power, comfort, financial security, etc. I get that.
Photo Cred: Mcgraths
Fun Fact: I've been accused of leading people in idol worship.
Yep. I'm a yoga instructor and I've been accused in writing, in person and behind my back of engaging in movements that may have been used by someone else to worship a Hindu god. (See me here leading my son astray.) This used to make me cry, but now it just wears me out. Trust me, I have idols, but they're much more harmful than headstands and breathing exercises.
But, I digress...that's not the idol talk I'm concerned with.
Over the last year I've sat with a number of hurting young women who have been quick to share with me their idols. They are steeped in this theology and they have a deep desire to please God. In each case I've moved quickly to divert them from that path of thinking. It's not that what they were saying could not have been true, I simply believe it was not helpful in producing the kind of transformation that Jesus desires.
Sometimes discerning, declaring and destroying our idols (a Tim Keller sermon) is exactly what needs to be done. But not everything is an idol and resorting such simple diagnosis shortchanges the process and adds to already embedded shame. Sometimes--many times--we need healing.
These "idols" come out of legitimate desires being met in illegitimate ways. And I'm not convinced that the Apostle Paul would make some of the theological leaps I've seen preached on this topic. Not to mention that as I've sat with Jesus in my own pain he has never once embarked on an idol smashing ceremony. He's never even mentioned the term 'idol'.
What I mean is...
Let me give you an example from my own life. One of my fears for many years has been looking foolish. (Keller notes fear is a key indicator of an idol.) I don't know what idol that is--not attracting negative attention to myself? Its something I've spent much time in prayer (and counseling) about. Technically, it could have been considered an idol. But there was so much more. And Jesus, in his mercy, is helping me learn to trust him when I feel foolish. One of the defining moments of my adult life was when He instructed me to stand up and do some yoga in the middle of a silent retreat. I felt like a complete idiot, but I sensed God inviting me into redemptive foolishness. And it was liberating!
No condemnation. No harsh labels. No oversimplified solutions. Real change.
Yes, idols are real. All I'm saying is, not everything is an idol. Please be careful.
The problem with writing about introversion is that I'm an introvert. And, unfortunately during the course of the last month I needed to cease engaging and rest...right in the middle of my blog series. Quite inconvenient. But today I'm rested and ready to write and I'd like to start off with a question.
Was Jesus an Introvert or Extrovert?
In a recent survey of Christian college students, nearly all (97%) of the students pictured Jesus as an extrovert. This is interesting for a couple of reasons. One, because on all other personality traits the students tended to peg Jesus as the same as themselves and, two, because this mirrors our is cultural love of extroversion.
And...what the heck??? When did extroversion become a fruit of the Spirit? But I digress. (As an aside, Jesus was probably a perfect combination of introversion and extroversion.)
Photo credit: Duck Marx
In his book "Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture", Adam McHugh observes that evangelicals talk a lot. Henri Nouwen suggests that words can be a verbal mask for a spiritual void. How well I know that.
The Introverted Side of Jesus
There are plenty of strengths in introversion. We can be better listeners, better observers of human behavior, more contemplative, more reflective, better able to engage in Sabbath, and the list goes on. Jesus displayed all of these things. ( I dare an extrovert to try living alone in the wilderness for 40 days--even WITH food.)
Recent technology has uncovered that the introverted and extroverted brain works differently. Introverts have naturally more active brains. Blood flows differently in introverted brains than extroverted brains and introverts require less dopamine. All of this points to a divine design in our make up. As introverts who desire to be transformed into the image of Christ; to emulate his life and example, we don't have to be inauthentic. Our goal is not to act like an extrovert.
On the other hand, our personality is never to become an excuse for laziness or sin. And, the reality is that God moves in community.
So what does that mean for me? Here are a few thoughts I've been chewing on:
1. I can fully embrace the personality God gave me. I often describe myself as a contemplative and I love that about myself.
2. I have something to offer the larger community in my ability to listen, to slow and to stand apart from the hectic pace of culture.
3. My relationship with Jesus is designed to be lived out in community, but that doesn't have to look like it does for an extrovert. Sometimes I will stay home and that will be okay.
4. Just as an extrovert has to work to cultivate silence and Sabbath, I have to work to cultivate community. I don't get a free pass just because it comes less naturally.
Photo Credit: Morph Omir
Sometimes I Skip Church.
First of all, I know that church is an identity, not a place I go. But you know what I mean. Sometimes when the community of believers gather, I stay home. Not a lot, but more than you'd expect from a pastor's wife. And, yes, sometimes its because I have issues with the church, but I've done a lot of emotional and spiritual work around that and today I find that sometimes I simply need to enjoy Jesus in solitude. And that's not a sin.
Of course, on other days Jesus gently coaxes me out of bed and sends me to my community regardless of my emotional state. That's all part of the dance.
This two week blogging hiatus is my longest in years. Strangely, it should have been my most prolific writing season in memory. The explosion of ideas and images and truths and transformation occurring in my head and heart of late, threaten to unravel me. But, alas, I can't get a single coherent thought on a page. I got nothin.
Photo Credit: Network Osaka
I'm prone to pondering things aloud or in writing. But this recent onslaught requires a different approach. Untangling the current mess of fragmented content in my brain is like the delicate task of un-merging my conjoined clump of necklaces. It seems best accomplished slowly, deliberately, in quietness. So I'm in a season of pondering things in my heart--and getting reacquainted with Jesus.
Not the cross, or the gospel or the Christianized Jesus--the historical, flesh and blood person who walked around and got blisters on his feet and experienced hunger and exhaustion and loneliness. I'm spending this Lenten season imagining myself in Palestine during his life on earth. As I read the book of Matthew, I'm putting myself in it.
Why? You ask. Because I've come to realize that I barely know him and that I'm both drawn to and terrified of him. He's so unpredictable and wild and I'm a Pharisee.
Right now, I'm following him at a distance. I'm part of the crowd, intrigued by his unorthodox pick of disciples and amazed at his healing power. But today, he looked at me. In the whole crowd his gaze found ME! I felt the most complete love and full terror simultaneously. I didn't move.
Tomorrow I'll go and see him again. I've got nothing to say, but he doesn't seem to mind.
Kelli is a writer, speaker and consultant equipping leaders for a deepening intimacy with Christ, greater impact in ministry and more effective intentionality in all of life.
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