The Blog Has Moved! :)

9 Jun

Hi Everyone!

 

Thank you so much for following my blog!  For awhile now I’ve been using two separate websites and Facebook pages for my work, one for pastoring (this one) and one for yoga. In my mind and experience, these two are inseparable.  Plus, in order to better focus my efforts, I’ve decided to combine it all into one.  With that in mind, I’ll no longer be using this site for my blogs, instead please head on over to Grace n Peace Yoga.  There’s several blogs already up for you to check out, the newest is one on living into the powerful message of the new Wonder Woman movie: THE GOSPEL OF WONDER WOMAN: BLESSINGS ARE TO BLESS, YOGA IS FOR OFF THE MAT, AND ENLIGHTENMENT IS TO LOVE

 

MUCH Love to you all!!!

 

Grace and peace,

Lang

The Superpower of Forgiveness: Freedom and a Reminder of Our Inherent Goodness

16 May

Last Saturday our family pretty much tried to do EVERYTHING and please EVERYONE. As you can imagine, the result was NOT good, and can be summed up by tears and frustration. Just about to go perform in “The Wizard of Oz”, my daughter (Lara) sat crying in our car #dadfail. Fortunately, in leapt my wife (Lisa) with a superpower, forgiveness. This grace not only saved the day for Lara, it made the day great for us all. I’d love to share with you how, because forgiveness is an INCREDIBLE gift we can offer. It’s freedom. It’s a reminder of our inherent goodness. Check it out.

 

Before Lara’s show, Lisa and I had hustled an hour-plus away to watch two of her granddaughters in a dance recital. Lara asked to stay home, promising she’d get her chores and a couple extra ones done while we were gone. Barely in time to get her to “The Wizard of Oz”, Lisa and I got home and picked her up. “How’d everything go at home?” I asked.

 

“Good,” came Lara’s standard response.

 

“Did you have fun with your friends?” I wondered, as I knew her bestie had come over.

 

“Yeah, we had a good time,” she replied.

 

Following up I asked, “How did the chores go.”

 

“I got some of my room done,” she started, “and checked the laundry, but it wasn’t dry so I ran it more.” Long pause. “And then I got distracted and forgot,” she said with a choke in her voice and glistening eyes.

 

“Hmm,” I responded. “So you’re saying you pretty much didn’t get any of your chores or what you promised done?”

 

With tears leaking down her cheeks came a “No.”

 

From there we started talking about what we should do, and by “we” I mean HER. The thought process in my head was: How should Lara make up for not doing what she’d promised? Naturally I was trying to teach and instill responsibility and a keeping of her word in Lara. AND, simultaneously you could truthfully say I was pondering and communicating to my daughter that she needed to do something to reestablish her worth. In short, to become “good” again, she had to earn it by doing extra chores next week, forfeiting allowance, or something like that.

 

Enter Lisa and the superpower of forgiveness. While Lara and I were trapped by society’s message that favor must be earned, love requires something, and “debts” have to be repaid, Lisa interrupted us with forgiveness. After my tearful daughter said she’d do extra chores next week and get them all done before playing with friends, Lisa said: “Do you think that’s realistic or fun? You have shows next weekend too, and you’ll want to spend time with your friends. Do you think you’ll have a good weekend if you do that?”

 

“No, but I will,” Lara answered, “and I’ll get them all done to make up for this weekend.”

 

Here’s the thing, Lara’s amazing NOT because of anything she DOES, but because she’s an INCREDIBLE reflection of our Creator … just like you and I. With that in mind, Lisa said: “Instead, why don’t you just do your normal chores next weekend? How about you learn from this weekend, grow from it, and also still enjoy your friends? Sound good?”

 

“Yes,” Lara said with a smile.

 

That night she went on to be one of the few cast members the director named MVPs of that performance, and I think Lisa’s incredible display of grace and forgiveness played an instrumental part in Lara’s success. I say that because forgiveness frees us from burdens, inadequacies, failures, the need to perform, and pressure to be perfect, reminding us of our inherent goodness.

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(Lara basking in the glow of a great performance)

 

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that in the same week I heard multiple podcasts/books with bits on the power and importance of forgiveness. Richard Rohr writes Jesus’ central themes were forgiveness and inclusion. These are love in action; otherwise it’s meaningless sentimentality. Mindfully forgiving and including others leads to actually doing the radical things Jesus’ invites us to, like loving our enemies and praying blessings on those who curse us.

 

Along those same lines, here’s something hidden in plain sight in the Bible (at least it was from me!). Put yourself in Jesus’ place. Imagine you’d healed and cared for tons of people, you’d shown immense amounts of grace, and you’d loved others incredibly well, only to be betrayed and abandoned by friends, and killed in the most horrible way imaginable. Then, picture yourself coming back to life. What would you say and do to the friends who betrayed/abandoned you and the people who falsely accused and killed you? I don’t know about you, but I do know I’ve wished hard times on those who hurt me and people I love. Jesus, though, does exactly the opposite. There is NO mention of revenge or reminder of wrong. There’s ONLY forgiveness and inclusion. Love in the flesh.

 

Hand-in-hand with this, two important things Jesus communicates to the disciples after He’s raised from the dead are peace and forgiveness (see John 20.19-23 as an example). Experience and spread peace and forgiveness, the Christ seems to be saying to both them and us. The early Church echoes these messages in various ways.

 

As I thought about the transcendent healing power a flood of forgiveness would bring, the story of the woman caught in adultery came to mind. The religious leaders try to trap Jesus by catching a woman in adultery and bringing her to Him for judgment. The Jewish Law said she should be stoned, but they figured He’d be lenient, which would put the Christ at odds with the Law. They ask Him for a verdict, so Jesus says: “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone,” while writing in the dirt. One by one they all leave. Jesus turns to the woman and asks, “where are your accusers?”

 

“There aren’t anymore,” she answers.

 

Jesus then sends her off by saying, “then I don’t either. Go and sin no more.”

 

I’ve heard and thought of that last bit as a: I’m letting you off this time, but knock that crap off, because next time you’ll be in trouble. Not only is that counter to Jesus and grace, though, but in pondering this all a new understanding came to me. What if Jesus is saying: You, beautiful lady, are better than that. YOU are good, faithful, and true in your core. Don’t be burdened by the pressures of society and weight of your past. Go and be free from the load and guilt of sin? I have a hunch that could be close to the mark. 🙂

 

This brings me to a hypothesis of sorts and one more story about our Saturday. Lisa and I were lucky enough to get to go to the U2 and Mumford & Sons concert on Sunday, which was incredible. On our way in we saw a familiar sight, a few people with signs and shouts effectively proclaiming: Repent and ask for forgiveness of your sins or you’ll go to hell.

 

What if, I wondered, Jesus’ message and the mission of Christ followers isn’t to tell people we NEED forgiveness or MUST recognize and confess our shortcomings, so much as it is to just show and let EVERYONE know they’re forgiven … period? Is it important to recognize how we mess things up, how we do harm, and the like in order to transform? Absolutely! And I’d like to speculate it’s Christ follower’s occupation to spread forgiveness like it’s a salve for our wounds. We’re called to remind people they don’t have to carry the burdens of their past, their hurts, their faults, their failures, the need to succeed, etc. anymore. I think we already KNOW there are things wrong in the world and our lives, just watch the news. What we thirst and long for are reminders these hurts, wrongs, and sorrows are but threads in a greater tapestry of health, wholeness, goodness, and Love. Forgiveness is a reminder to you that you’re loved as you are without having to do or be anything, and a reminder from you to others of the same. It’s freedom from the weight of performance and competition. Like Lisa’s moment of grace with Lara did for my daughter, forgiveness sets us free to fly.

 

Lara wasn’t the only one blessed by the superpower of forgiveness on Saturday. Lisa and I were too. While I’m an enthusiast and try to squeeze all the goodness and activities I can into everyday, Lisa aims to please all the peoples. So, on Saturday in addition to our normal housecleaning, laundry, and workouts, and needing to get Lara to her play, we tried to fit in a daddy-daughter date, the trip to see Lisa’s granddaughters perform (complete with 2.5 hours of transit), and a biweekly group get together. In attempting to fit everyone in, it seemed to us we didn’t love any of them well because we had to cut every aspect of the day short and left our family wanting more.

 

Fortunately, amidst our exhaustion and frustration we allowed the healing power of forgiveness to seep in. We did our best, gave our loved ones everything we could, and next time we’ll communicate more clearly and not try and do so much. In short, we showed ourselves grace and it made all the difference in the world. It freed us from feeling like we had to be perfect and do everything exactly right. It gave us room to breath. And it allowed us to, without beating ourselves up, figure out how to do better next time.

 

I’d like to bring this all home with this conclusion: Forgiveness is a superpower we can all tap into. It’s Love in action. It frees us from the burdens of life and society to fly, by reminding us of our inherent goodness.

 

If you enjoyed this blog you can sign up for email notifications of future ones on the right.  Additionally, I have a Facebook page where I regularly post articles, blogs, quotes, meditations, etc. to encourage us to more Light and Love.  Again, to the right there’s a link for you to “Like” the page. 🙂

Grace and peace,

Lang

I’m Switching Blog Sites

2 May

Hi Everyone!

 

Thank you so much for following my blog!  For awhile now I’ve been using two separate websites and Facebook pages for my work, one for pastoring (this one) and one for yoga. In order to better focus my efforts, I’ve decided to combine it all into one.  With that in mind, I’ll no longer be using this site for my blogs, instead please head on over to Grace n Peace Yoga.  I even already have a new blog for you, one I’m super excited about, you can check it out here: https://gracenpeaceyoga.com/2017/05/02/an-invitation-to-join-the-best-revolution-ever/

Meditation on Practicing Nonjudgmental Awareness to be Love

25 Apr
When I read these thoughts from Judith Hanson Lasater the other day I knew I HAD to share them with you. She says: “There is a famous book called, Your God is Too Small. I think that today, we could say the same thing about yoga. Our yoga is too small in the sense that yoga is so much more than doing asanas on a mat. Over time, it has become increasingly apparent to me that there is no other way to practice yoga than to live with awareness.”
What she’s getting at is the practice of noticing things as they happen, while, and here’s the KEY, avoiding jumping to conclusions and judgments about them. It’s simply noticing your thoughts and feelings as they arise … PERIOD. No more and no less. Why? Because when you stay present with your sensations, you’re radically brought into the present. I say radically, because in that moment you enter the peaceful pause in between judgments, to-do lists, etc. and you get in tune with Spirit and your True Self. In that space of grace you’re able to kindly observe your irritation, for instance, and realize it’s really because you’re too rushed or hurried in life or this moment. What is more, when you also bring this nonjudgmental, take things as they are approach to your interactions with others, you become more loving.
 
So, today I invite you to practice nonjudgmental awareness to be more your True Self … Love.

Meditation on Moving with Intention/Life as a Prayer

31 Mar
In my mind, one of the most famous and influential yogis ever, B.K.S. Iyengar, pretty much nailed it when it comes to both life and yoga by saying: “My body is my temple and asanas are my prayers.” Our Source, the Spirit (whatever you understand it to be) binding us together, is not only all around us, but also within us. We acknowledge this truth at the end of our yoga practice when we honor each other by saying, “Namaste,” meaning the Love, Light, Sweetness, Spirit, and/or Divine in me sees the same in you. Your, my, and everybody’s body is a temple of and for Light and Love.
 
With that in mind, doesn’t it make perfect sense that our poses and movements on our yoga mats are actually embodied prayers? Yoga is a moving meditation in which our arms, legs, fingers, toes, etc. express our desires, intentions, and hopes for ourselves, others, and the world. Whether we realize it or not, we’re ALWAYS communicating something, the key is to be mindful and purposeful with what the temple that IS YOU is expressing.
 
So, today I invite you to move with intention and view your practice and life as an embodied prayer. Communicate something with your hands. Let your heart and spirit pour out of you. Perhaps you give gratitude, let out grief, express joy, send out care and healing for others, and/or whatever your beautiful heart desires. Regardless, let Light and Love shine through your body!

God is NOT a Man, YET Jesus Named God “Father”, Why? The Reason Could Blow Your Mind

21 Mar

One of my pet peeves is that we nearly always refer to God as “He” or “Him”. Being the rebel that I am, I’ll even sing “She” while everyone else sings “He” at church sometimes! 🙂 While I believe God did indeed come TO us uniquely and fully as a man named Jesus, God is NOT a man. The Divine is ALL genders and NONE. God is FULL of gender. YET, why did Jesus call God “Father”? A possible/probably reason why I recently heard blew my mind and I think it might blow yours too! 🙂

 

A game changer when it comes to understanding people, life, the Bible, and more is context. Context, ladies and gentlemen, makes a HUGE difference. The environment Jesus lived in was a small Jewish segment in the great Roman Empire. A key aspect of the Greco-Roman culture, and let me emphasize this was also basically the NORM for most other societies as well, was Pater Familias. Pater Familias meant within a family, the eldest living male had complete control of the ENTIRE family. The “father of the family” (a literal translation of the phrase) was the CENTER and FOCAL POINT for EVERY family member. He ran the whole clan, and whether he did so with kindness or with an iron fist was completely up to him.

 

Paterfamilias

 

This was the context in which Jesus boldly and subversively named our Creator and the Source of all Life and Love, “Father”. Although I’m an Ancient History major I’d never made this connection until Brian Zahnd pointed it out in a sermon I was listening to the other day. When we pair the way Christ frequently referred to the Divine with the setting He lived in we get a potentially life-changing truth. The epicenter of life, love, and meaning for virtually EVERYONE in Jesus’ day was her or his Pater Familias … who frequently was little better than a tyrant, which made life pretty sucky. What Christ was saying, then, by calling God “Father” was our Creator is ALL of our true Pater Familias. BUT, instead of dictating our lives, punishing us, bossing us around for his own pleasure and benefit, or harming us, God as epicenter FREELY GIVES us freedom, forgiveness, life, joy, grace, peace, and love.

 

What about those who had a good and kind Pater Familias though? That father would someday die. The gifts and blessings of that leader were fleeting. What is more, even a good head of the family couldn’t help but be a bit selfish, defensive, and/or reactive from time to time. My, and I think Jesus’ point is making (or being told to make, as our culture says) ANY person, group, money, material item, or ideology the CENTER of our lives, whether they are good, bad, or neutral, WILL inevitably let us down. All the things of this world are fleeting and impermanent. God, however, is NOT. Making the Divine, who is Love, our centers will FILL us with rivers of life, joy, peace, and love that NEVER end. Will it feel like that every single moment of every single day? Of course not … YET, as we live and grow, my experience and belief is this magical, wonder-full reality saturates our lives more and more and more.

 

Another aspect of how we experience this truth brings up what I believe is another reason why Jesus named God “Father”. God is personal. Is the Creator of planets, stars, solar systems, galaxies, and the universe immense beyond our comprehension? Absolutely! Is the Source of Life and Love AWE-INSPIRING? Naturally! AND the Divine is also intimately relatable, present in every experience of love, and devoted to relationship. Which, is why Jesus calls God not just “Father”, but also “Abba”, essentially meaning “Daddy” or “Papa”. Christ is effectively saying, the Creator of ALL reality is also like the kind, tender, loving Father a small child sweetly and joyfully calls Dada.

 

While God isn’t a man, to name the Divine “It” would be to completely miss the relationship God desires with each and every one of us. Thus, Jesus brilliantly and subversively names God “Father”, thus both re-orienting our lives from the fleeting things of this world to our enteral, life-giving, overflowing with love Creator, and letting us know God is our close companion who is WITH us and FOR us. I think the more we live into these two realities, the sweeter life becomes.

 

If you enjoyed the blog you can sign up on the right for email notifications for future blogs I write, or check out the most recent blogs here.  Also, I have a Facebook site named “Beautiful and Broken Becoming Beautiful” where I post encouraging words on living love that I’d love for you to “like.”

Grace and peace,
Lang

Learning to Be a Human BEING Instead of DOING: The Hidden Message of the Story of the Good Samaritan

14 Mar

When we meet someone, after we learn their name, what’s one of the first things we ask him/her? “What do you DO?” When we come home from work or being gone for the day, what do usually ask our spouse, kids, parents, etc.? “What did you DO today?” I don’t know about you, but when I judge whether a day was successful or not, what measure my verdict by? “What I DID today.” These are all great and helpful … YET, they’re also a PROBLEM. I say this because we are HUMAN BEINGS, not doings; and it’s in BEING that we discover, experience, and are able to give abundant amounts of peace, joy, and love.

 

Not long ago I was innocently minding my own business, out for my regular run while listening to a podcast I frequent, when I had one of those AHA moments. One of those times when we better understand our self, life, and others. That week the pastor was talking about the Story of the Good Samaritan. While the title and meaning of it are pretty well known, I don’t want to assume you know the story, so I’ll paraphrase it for you. The short version starts with a bit of history 🙂 (I smile because I LOVE history). In the ancient Middle East the Samaritans (who lived in Samaria) and Israelites (who lived in Israel) lived right next to each other … and they HATED one another. Hundreds of years before the time of Jesus, the Samaritans had been Israelites. However, wars, captivities, and internal divisions led to them splitting off and becoming their own people group. My point being, they were basically siblings who’d grown apart AND had also adopted different views on religion, politics, and life. This meant their dislike for one another was passionate and fervent in the manner that only exists between once close friends or family. Imagine your closest friend ever, then picture that friend betraying you in the worst way possible … that pretty much sums up the relationship between the Israelites and Samaritans.

 

Now the story of the Good Samaritan. Recognizing the importance of loving our “neighbors”, a man asked Jesus: “Who is my neighbor?” in response to which the Teacher told this tale. A Jewish man (aka Israelite) gets mugged and left for dead along the side of a road. One after another, two Jewish religious leaders pass by on their way to perform religious tasks, WITHOUT stopping or even PAUSING to see if the potentially dying man was okay. They had important, religious things to DO, PLUS they couldn’t DO those things if they came into contact with a dead or dying man because of their purity laws. Then, a Samaritan comes by, though, and he goes to the hurting Jew, tends to him, and carries him on his donkey to the closest place of comfort and care (an inn). Here the Samaritan pays for all the Jewish man’s bills and promises to cover any further necessary expenses as he departs. “The” point being the Jewish man’s neighbor actually included people he viewed as his hated enemies. Love knows no bounds, can’t be contained, and spreads to and envelops everyone.

 

What’s this have to do with being a HUMAN BEING instead of a human DOING, though? Beats me, I just wanted to share that … just kidding 🙂 Having gone to church my whole life, the Good Samaritan story is old hat to me. I’ve ALWAYS thought the religious leaders were dummies and NEVER really related to them … only this time, in listening to the story, for the first time I found myself identifying with the religious leaders.

 

Not long before my wife (Lisa), daughter (Lara), and I had gone to Tucson to visit friends. Our flight back didn’t land until 1AM, which meant we got home to bed around 3 in the morning. The plan my daughter’s mom and I had coordinated was for Lisa to take Lara to school on her way to work around 11AM. Since Lara had slept in the car and on the plane some I figured this would work fine. We got up and chilled a bit with breakfast and coffee to wake up and relax. Then, as the time neared for Lisa and Lara to leave, I switched from BEING to DOING.

dancepic

(My daughter and I before the Daddy-Daughter Dance last year … I lost the beard 🙂

 

I don’t know about you, but when I’m in DOING mode, I’m really task oriented. I’m all about getting X, Y, and Z done, as well as getting places, finishing things, etc. on time. YET, while DOING mode has its benefits, it’s quite lacking in understanding, patience, and love, those are the qualities of BEING. I say this because I’d told Lara the usual ten’ish times a 12-year-old requires that she was leaving with Lisa at 10:45AM, “so be ready.”

 

10:45 came and went and Lara was NOT ready. I asked her what was up, and she started falling apart. With my DOING mode in full swing, I met her tired tears and pleas NOT with kindness or understanding, but WITH appeals to what she HAD to DO. I said something like: “Sweetie, I love you. And I told you to be ready at 10:45. Now, Lisa is going to be late for work. This isn’t okay. You knew the plan.”

 

Not long later, I realized the error of my ways, apologized to Lara, and we cleared things up. Lisa wisely took her to her grandma’s instead of school and my sweet daughter felt heard and cared for. This whole scenario was still on my mind, though, when I heard the Story of the Good Samaritan. I’d been reflecting on what I could have done better and how. Lisa and I had even discussed how I could better care for and love Lara.

 

Listening to the story I had a big AHA! I realized: “Oh … my … word! That’s my answer. I’m the religious leader! Like them, I was SO focused on DOING that I didn’t even SEE the person who was HURTING and right in FRONT of me!” I was so preoccupied with the tasks of the day that I failed to see the beautiful, tired, out of sorts BEING who was literally crying out to me.

 

DOING is task, project, and time oriented. While these are important, we are first and foremost HUMAN BEINGS, and BEING is person, relationship, understanding, kindness, compassion, and love oriented. This is the lesson I learned from a bit of a dad fail and the Story of the Good Samaritan. I hope it helps you grow in light and love as well! Let’s DO less to BE more!

 

If you enjoyed the blog you can sign up on the right for email notifications for future blogs I write, or check out the most recent blogs here.  Also, I have a Facebook site named “Beautiful and Broken Becoming Beautiful” where I post encouraging words on living love that I’d love for you to “like.”

Grace and peace,
Lang