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.
Whales leave a trail of chaos. And... It. Is. Awesome!
Today when Richard and I arrived at the beach so our old and stubborn dog could chase a ball, we were greeted by hundreds and hundreds of birds in the water. It was a little unsettling. I felt like the odds of getting pooped on were very high.
Both of us wondered what all the commotion was about, but only Richard was willing to stop another spectator and ask what was going on. I don't know why I have such an averse reaction to his inquisitiveness--it was a perfectly acceptable response, but I hate bothering strangers. I prefer to stand quietly behind a group of bystanders, hoping they're talking about the thing I'm questioning so I can gather the necessary information without having to speak to anyone. That's not creepy at all.
Anyway...thankfully Richard asked the right person and we got a short marine biology lesson in the process. First of all,--there were whales in the bay. Jackpot! I was going to see whales today. More on that later. Apparently when whales travel through the bay this near the shore, they disturb the kelp beds in a rather violent fashion. This brings all sorts of debris, fish, bugs, crustaceans (a.k.a food) to the surface, creating a feeding frenzy. Yum! And it wasn't just birds. There were seals everywhere. One so near the shore that our aforementioned old and stupid, er...stubborn, dog tried to swim after it. Very sad to watch her swim in circles after the seal disappeared under the surface.
But back to the kelp beds. Just yesterday I had been out stand up paddle boarding with Caleb and commented on the smoothness of the water in the middle of large kelp beds. As soon as we navigated through one of these areas, the water became less choppy and the current seemed less forceful. Perfect for a calm day of paddle boarding. But today, not so much. Today the kelp beds were teeming with life. What was not good for a recreational cruise was a huge celebration for marine life.
And, sure enough, within minutes there were whales. A couple of them straight ahead. Their long, shimmering backs cresting just above the water line, then gracefully disappearing before the final show of power--the tail rising and descending like a conductor's baton eliciting a dramatic crescendo.
Over and over. More chaos. More beauty. More awe.
I really like a calm kelp bed. I usually prefer to sit on the beach and watch when there are disturbances of this size occurring. But today I found myself drawn in. Wishing I were closer. Less afraid of turbulent waters and more open to the new life that follows in its wake. Because, while it is terrifying and messy and more than I can control, the beauty it displays and the transformation it produces are not to be missed.
Here's to more beautiful disturbances!
Friends, when life gets really difficult, don’t jump to the conclusion that God isn’t on the job. Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced. This is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner. I Peter 4:12,13 (MSG)
I helped lead singing at church yesterday, but my best worship occurred outside the walls of church. I set out on a run late Sunday afternoon and as soon as I reached West Cliff I noticed something different.
There were people lining the cliff, waiting for the sun to set. Because we live on a bay, the sun doesn't always disappear over the ocean, but when it does...WOW!
Most of these observers would not acknowledge the God who created the sun or keeps it's light burning. But they were all worshiping.
Surfers and stoners. Young and old. Americans and Europeans. Wealthy and homeless. Sane and crazy. Gay and straight. Republican and Democrat. All invited into the kingdom of God and all enjoying God's boundless creativity and love of beauty. I couldn't help but recite Philippians 2 in my head as I paused to take it in with the rest of the crowd.
9Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
Fleeting, Imperfect Pictures
For one fleeting moment, we all worshiped together. United by our experience of something bigger than us; more beautiful than we could imagine.
And it was fleeting. After taking the above picture, I continued on my run, pausing to spit into some grass (it's what runners do!). A woman about 10 yards away stared at me and yelled, "Yeah, that's what I think of you too, b___!" What? Later I saw her at Safeway, muttering under her breath about people who were following her and laughing. She is obviously tormented by paranoia, but it was quite unsettling.
And this is life on our planet. Flashes of God in the midst of suffering and evil and pain and mess.
So, what's the point?
All this got me thinking about why we gather as a church. How there must be a component of worshiping together. Of standing in communal awe as we watch the sun set or a flower bloom or a new birth. There is something holy and transforming that occurs when we experience this together and corporately acknowledge the God who makes it happen.
I've grown so weary of church hopping and church competition and anti-church movements and church strategy and church bashing. We're just so broken.
Which makes me want to come together with my fellow mess makers and watch God do something only He can do.
Maybe we can stop making our gatherings about us and simply come to be reminded of God's greatness and goodness. Perhaps, together we can sit in awe as we hear again of the great love of Jesus--his perfect life and torturous death that led to new life for us.
May our eyes be opened afresh as we fall in love with this Jesus and we say with his disciples, "who is this that even the wind and waves obey him?????"
My encouragement to you this week is to engage in the weekly gathering of your community with a fresh perspective. Looking to share with those around you the wonder and worship of God.
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.
Book Kelli for your next event or retreat.
Find Out More >>