Becoming the Beloved

There are many “big” questions in life.  One I’ve been wrestling with lately is, “Who am I?”   In the grand scheme of things, this is one that speaks to the core of my existence.   Over the years, I have tried to answer that question in several ways.

The first way I’ve answered it is, “I am what I do.”  I’ve told myself that I am a daughter, a wife, a student, a mother, a lover of chickens…  The list can go on and on.  But when I answer the question this way, I ride the ups and downs of how I think I’m doing at each of these descriptions.  The days when I am patient with my kids, I feel great.  But then there are other days, the one where I forget to buy milk or leave my laundry in the wash overnight.  Fail.  Down goes my mood and my outlook on who I am.  These are light examples, but I’m sure you get my point.  I can really blow it.  What I do is not a reliable indicator of who I am.

So I’ve answered it this way, “I am what others say about me.”  This is great when others are kind, or don’t see all of me…  But it can be devastating when people judge me or speak to me out of their own pain.  Relying on others to tell me who I am is a dangerous and hurtful way to frame who I am.  I don’t recommend it.

Another way to approach the question of who I am is, “I am what I have.”  It’s tempting to think that the accumulations of my life make me who I am.  I am my stuff – or even my lack of stuff.  (There is no inherent virtue in minimalism…) This doesn’t have to be material.  I can come to believe that I am my education, or my citizenship, or even my socio-economic class.   When I base my identity on things, and the things disappear, what is left of me?  Slippery slope indeed.

So how do I answer this fundamental question?  I turn to God and His Word.  In the gospels, Jesus’ identity is revealed at the moment of His baptism.  John the Baptist, takes Jesus under the water, and as He rises up, a dove descends and a voice from heaven speaks.  “This is My Son, the Beloved, on whom my favor rests.”  (Matthew 3)  The voice does not make a list of all Jesus has done or is going to do.  God doesn’t list the traits that his family or friends have said he is. The voice does not even declare that Jesus is the Messiah.   It simply states that Jesus is the Beloved of God, his heavenly Father.

That same love is mine!  Jesus says in John 15:9, “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love.”  I have been given the same standing that Jesus has.  I have been adopted into God’s family and am God’s child.  I too, am the Beloved!  That is my identity.  It is the only one that will sustain me through the ups and downs of life.  That fact never changes because it does not depend on me at all.  God loves me. Period.  He loves me when I’m good, bad, rich, poor, achieving, or failing.  Because He loves me, I am the Beloved.

So how does this truth play out in my life?  The fact that I am the Beloved saves me from the traps of success, popularity, and power.   Those are indeed temptations, but the greatest trap in life is that of self-rejection.  When I doubt who I am I lack confidence and put myself down, or I can swell with pride to convince others of my worth.  In Henri Nouwen’s book, Spiritual Direction, he writes, “Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that declares we are loved.”  The sacred voice.  How I long to hear it.

Listening to that voice with great inner attentiveness I hear at the center words that say, “I have called you by name, from the very beginning. You are mine and I am yours.  You are my Beloved, on you my favor rests.  I have molded you in the depths of the earth and knitted you together in your mother’s womb.  I have carved you in the palms of my hands and hidden you in the shadow of my embrace.  I look at you with infinite tenderness and care for you with a care more intimate than that of a mother and child.  I have counted every hair on your head and guided you at every step.  Wherever you go, I go with you and wherever you rest, I keep watch.  I will give you food that will satisfy your hunger and drink that will quench all your thirst.  I will not hide my face from you.  You know me as your own and I know you as my own.  You belong to me.  I am your father, your mother, your brother, your sister, your lover, your spouse.  Yes, even your child.  Wherever you are, I will be.  Nothing will ever separate us.  We are one.”  ~ Henri Nouwen, Spiritual Direction

So that is my identity, Beloved.  And from the moment I claim it, I begin the journey to believe it.  It is a process that I must pursue day by day.  I must become who I truly am.  There is a longing for it, an unsettled desire to find it.  St. Augustine puts it this way, “My soul is restless until it finds rest in you, O God.” It is a drawing upward toward the things of God that gives me life.  C. S. Lewis called it going, “further on and further in.”  When I am on this pursuit, I am fully alive, I am fully secure, and I can rest even in the unanswered questions that come my way.  “That I am always searching for God, always struggling to discover the fullness of Love, and always yearning for the complete truth, tells me that I have already been given a taste of God, of Love, and of Truth.  I can only look for something that I have, to some degree, already found,” (Nouwen)

Becoming the Beloved means allowing the truth of my Belovedness to work itself out in everything I think, say and do.  There is no way to achieve this except by the regular practice of prayer.  But that’s a subject for another time…

Shalom,

Karelin

 

Where Do I Go from Here?

Have you ever been at the place in your life where you sense a crossroad?  There is something unmistakable about it.  Anxiety is wrapped up in that statement. You know that in the next few days, weeks, or even months, things will drastically change.  I think I’m there.

God seems to be leading me to a  place where Prayerful Breath Yoga will either grow or fade.  When I began, I didn’t really have a master plan.  I forced myself to focus only on the next step and let it take me where it would.  That seems to have worked for the first year.  But now, the path seems to fork.  One direction takes the yoga (I hate to call it a business, but it is…) down the safe path of small location, small classes, small influence.  The other direction looks like more risk, but exponential growth potential as well.  The entrepreneur in me gets really excited.  The Jesus follower in me gets really excited.  But the introverted part of me gets a bit freaked out.  That’s were my yoga really has to kick in.  It’s time to lean into the Lord, breathe through the uncomfortable, hold it for a few more breaths and see what opens up.

So, I have started down the path that leads us to an additional studio location in Kalihi.  So many of the friends I met at the HIM Conference last March have been asking for classes in town.  God has provided a beautiful space at the Prisma Dance studio on North King street.  Nicole Lam, the director of the dance school is a beautiful Jesus lover, who not only walks and dances her talk, but has a missionary’s heart.  See her story here.   I know this is the beginning of a wonderful studio relationship.

So, whenever I find myself asking the Lord, “Where do I go from here?”  The answer may change, but the promise remains.

The LORD replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” Exodus 33:14

It really doesn’t matter where He leads.  When He beckons me, I will come. I know He is with me.  In His presence is fullness of joy.  The anxiety slips away.  I can rest in the strong, secure arms of Jesus.  Let’s do this!

It was only water…

I had such an amazing time at the Hawaiian Island Ministries (HIM) Conference in March. Everyone was so welcoming and open to the idea of Christ-centered yoga. The positive response to my seminar was overwhelming. Thank you to all of you who came out to support Prayerful Breath Yoga’s debut into the larger Christian community.

Ever since that event, I have been pondering what it was exactly that made such a difference in people’s lives that weekend. I keep feeling that I really didn’t do anything that spectacular. And yet it boggles my mind how something so simple can make a profound impact.  My conclusion is that it really isn’t anything that I did in myself, but the faithfulness of God to come and turn my meager efforts into something He used in peoples lives.

I immediately thought of the story in the gospel of John, chapter 2, where Jesus attends a wedding.  A huge social faux pas has happened;  they have run out of wine.  Mary, Jesus’ mother, steps in and in typical Jewish-mother fashion, urges Jesus to do something about it.  Jesus instructs the servants to fill six, large capacity jars with water.  They obey, and then Jesus instructs them to draw some water out and bring it to the master of the banquet.  I’ve always wished the gospel writer would have included the conversation those servants must have had among themselves.  They must have wondered what the master was going to say when he was served water instead of wine.  Would they incur his anger?  To their surprise, by the time it reaches the master, the water has turned into the best wine the master has ever tasted.  A miracle happened and only Jesus, Mary, the servants and the disciples knew.  One minute it was water, the next it was wine.

I totally identify with those servants.  When preparing for the conference, I did my best to obey Jesus’ instruction to fill my jars with water.  I didn’t know what to expect.  Whenever I’ve attended a HIM conference, I’ve always been served “wine” and not “water.”  I wanted to bring an offering that was in keeping with the excellence of this conference.  All I had was water…  But Jesus was at this conference, and He took my offering and turned it into something that was a blessing to those who shared in it.

And now, ever since that weekend, I see this water-to-wine miracle happening again and again.  The lesson for me is that my job is not to bring the best wine ever.  My job is to obey the Lord and bring the water.  Jesus is the one who takes my simple offering and turns it into something that brings life and joy.

What an honor to be among the servants who know that a miracle has taken place.  There’s no other role I’d rather have.

The Unforced Rhythms of Grace

We are in the midst of Lent.  It’s a 40-day season of the Church year traditionally spent on three things: reflection, repentance, and prayer.  The word “lent” comes from the old English word for spring, and the Germanic word for lengthen.  It was a term to describe the lengthening of days during this time of year.   Lengthening is a word that I focus on quite a bit in my yoga practice and teaching.  It’s a goal of mine in almost every posture; finding length.  And now, it’s a season I’m in. Interesting.

Quite often during Lent you might hear the question, “What are you giving up for Lent?”  Part of the tradition involves a self-sacrifice of some kind, something to put you more in touch with the sacrifice and suffering of Jesus before His crucifixion.   Growing up with this tradition, I come upon it each year as an opportunity to deepen my spiritual journey.  This year is no different.  So, what am I giving up for Lent?

This year, I am using these 40 days to simplify many areas of my life.  In the lengthening of days, assuming the activity of my life follows the sun, I have a choice.  I can cram the day with more activity, or I can use the lengthening of the days to add intentional practices to my day.  I not only want to simplify, I want to replace mindless with the mindful.  Here is a sample of what I am focusing on this Lent.  It can be summed up in these areas:  simplifying routine, refocusing intentions, and slowing my pace.

First, I am simplifying my routines.  That means simpler meals.  I am focusing on eating three meals a day, but “fasting” from variety.  Simple meals mean less time shopping and preparing.  Even cleaning up is simpler.  I also am simplifying my schedule, my yoga practice, and my clothing.

Secondly, I am refocusing my intentions.  How do I spend these lengthening days?  By intentionally doing the most important things first, then my days open up.  I suddenly have space in the day for my practice/meditation, making hard stops for prayer, service to my family and community, time for getting outdoors and doing other creative things I love.

Lastly, I will spend these lengthened days slowing the pace.  By simplifying and refocusing, I have less to do and can do it more slowly.  I mindfully engage in one activity at a time.  When was the last time you enjoyed your meal, one bite at a time without doing anything else?  It’s amazing and it breeds gratitude.  By intentionally not adding any new activities to my life during this time, I fill that length with “white space.”

Something I find myself saying over and over in my yoga classes, “Inhale and find length, then exhale into that space.”  I can do that with my days as well.  Slowing the pace gives me space to breathe in my day.

Jesus says it this way,  “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”  Matthew 11:28-30

That’s the way I’m planning on spending these 40 days of Lent, in the unforced rhythms of God’s grace.  Perhaps it will lay a foundation for many more days ahead.  Breathing in to lengthen, and breathing out, moving into that space.  I think it’s something I can get used to.

Shalom, shalom

Karelin

Faultless

Growing up in my family, I was the youngest of three girls.  I was very shy and timid.  I loved to dance and sing, cared for little creatures like my pet mice, and I lived in my roller skates.  Overall, I’d say I was a pretty good kid.  I was never called to the principal’s office, never put my gum under the table, and never talked back to adults.  This is not to say that I was perfect.  There was that time when I hid behind my backyard fence and sprayed the ice cream man with the hose…  Or the day when I threw my neighbors shoes on their roof.  (In Hawaii, we take off our shoes and leave them at the front door…)  I was duly punished and turned from the error of my ways.

Ephesians 1:4 says this,

Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes.

The part in this verse that stuck out for me this week is, “without fault in his eyes.”  It amazes me that God can see me as holy and without fault.  Even before the world began, God’s plan was to make me the child who could do no wrong.  Was I innocent?  No.  Was I without sin?  No.  But God’s plan included the sacrifice that Jesus made, and that by faith I could be holy.  That is love.

And it goes on,

God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. (Eph. 1:5)

He did it because He wanted to and it gave him great pleasure.  This humbles me.  God chooses me, redeems me, and adopts me ~ all for His pleasure.  And yet I am the one who benefits.  It doesn’t make earthly sense.  But I am also reminded that His ways are higher than my ways.  This sacred romance continues as I am swept off my feet once again.

Transported to Light

I’m not a morning person by nature.  But I do love the early morning hours when the house is dark and quiet.  Now that the sun is rising later, it’s really dark when my alarm goes off at 6:30 a.m.  (Believe me, 6:30 is early for a non-morning person!)   Since I’ve lived in this house on and off for 12 years (long story), I know my way around pretty well in the dark.  I don’t turn on the lights, but just feel my way to my mat.  I light a candle.  The peace restores my soul.

“But even in darkness I cannot hide from you. To you the night shines as bright as day. Darkness and light are the same to you.” Psalm 139:12

In the world, darkness brings out dark deeds.  The term “dark ages” is used for an unenlightened or an unknown time in history.  It brings to mind hopelessness and dispair and even death.  But to Jesus, there is no difference between darkness and light.  Nothing can be hidden from Him and death has no power over Him.

“The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.” John 1:4-5

When I come to my quiet place, the darkness makes me feel hidden and private.  But I no longer seek to hide from Him, I come to meet Him.  My darkness becomes light when I seek His face.  That is the heart of Advent.  Jesus’ coming brings light and life.

“So the Word became human and made his home among us.  He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness.  And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.”  John 1:14

Precious practice time is when it is still dark and I strap on my iPod and move and breathe in worship.  It may be dark and quiet outside my head, but inside the music is soaring and I’m transported to the light.  And there, in those moments, even the darkness is light to me.  I finally begin to understand.  I may be surrounded by darkness – physical or spiritual – but in Jesus’ presence I’m bathed in light.  When I feel the darkness invading my heart, all I have to do is run to the one who is the Light of the World.

“For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord.  And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.”  2 Cor. 3:17-18

I love to sing, but I never feel like my voice conveys the emotion of my heart.  I just don’t have the pipes.  But when I practice, my spirit is free and I can better express the feelings of my soul.  (Especially when no one is watching but Jesus!) My yoga practice makes me feel the glory of God and the ground beneath me becomes holy.  Holy because it becomes an alter and my asana is the dance of sacrifice.

This Christmas season, may you find freedom and may your asana dance in the Light of the World.

Shalom, shalom,

Karelin

Digging Deeper

I shared a story in class last night about a doctor who loved to plant trees.  He lived on a 10-acre property and his goal was to create a forest.  But he did not treat his new trees the way I would have.  I would have hand watered them each day, put a wire cage around them for protection, and babied them until they were strong.  Not the doctor.  He refused to water the new trees. When asked why, he said that watering the trees spoiled them and trees who are not helped to find water grow deeper roots.  If you watered the trees, each successive generation of trees would grow weaker and weaker. He would even hit the trees with a rolled up newspaper just to “get their attention.”   What was the result of such treatment?  Twenty-five years later, when the doctor was long gone, the forest of trees he planted stood strong and tall.  Those oaks could withstand every storm without a problem.  Their roots were deep into the earth, giving them a solid foundation.

So what does this have to do with me?  Well, life has a way of sending trials.  Storms come to each life whether we like it or not.  But a life that is rooted deeply into the things that last will be able to withstand the storms of life.  When I look to the easy fix of comfort and ease, I may feel like I’m putting down roots that will sustain me.  But shallow roots are a fair-weather solution. When the scorching sun comes, the surface water that I depended on will dry up and it will be too late to grow a tap root.  And when the strong winds come, I will be toppled over, not able to keep a firm foundation.

So how do I grow deep roots?  Here are a few things to consider:

1.  Seek out the deep truths.  In the days of internet social media, it’s easy to take a quick sip of meme wisdom.  That kind of wisdom doesn’t last. (Go ahead, try to remember the last 3 you read, even today!)   I need to look to the sources of ancient wisdom; the Bible and classical writings.  Draw from the wisdom that lasts to get roots that will hold firm.

2.  Commit these truths to memory.  What I memorize is mine to keep.  When times get tough, the last thing I want to do is search for the wisdom that brings peace.  It’s too late at that point.  I need to be able to draw out that wisdom instantly.

3.  Live out the deeper truths.  When I put into practice all that I have learned, I prove to myself that it really is true.  My life is sustained by the deep truths.  The work of living it out makes my root grow deep and strong.

4.  Share these truths.  The test that proves what I know is to teach.  The more I share wisdom, the deeper it sinks into my spirit.  Teaching a truth puts legs on it.  I have to make that wisdom practical, not just theory.

The result?  A firm foundation that lasts the storms and trials of life;  a rich and satisfying source of peace.  Freedom from fear in the face of whatever life brings.  I am prepared.  I can also be a shelter for others.  That’s priceless.

“But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence.  They are like trees planted along the riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water.  Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought.  Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit.”

Jeremiah 17:7-8