Tag Archives: Grace

Hot, Hot, Hot!

If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends.  Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top.  Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead.  Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage.  Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.  Philippians 2:1-2 (MSG)

When a space orbiter has completed its mission, it must re-orient itself before landing back home on earth.  Prior to landing, it has spent weeks in outer space, exploring and encountering the foreign and unfamiliar.  In order to re-enter safely, its speed, pitch, and altitude must be carefully controlled.  In most cases, it has also been travelling nose first in the upside down position.  The spacecraft must first be turned around to the tail first position.  Then it has to slow down as it begins its descent into the earth’s upper atmosphere.  The reaction control system then engages and pitches the craft 40 degrees so that the tail faces the atmosphere, thus placing it back into the nose first position.  The same system then rotates the craft right side up.

Because the shuttle is lined up over Asia as it hits the upper atmosphere and is travelling at 17,000 mph, its outer shell heats up to about 3000 degrees Fahrenheit.  As it descends, it banks hard and serpentines to reduce its speed.  As it gets closer to its landing spot, its pitch changes to minus 20 (almost seven times steeper that the descent of a commercial airliner) and control of the craft switches from computer to manual.  The commander then lines it up with the runway, pulls up the nose to slow the rate of descent and lowers the landing gear.  The shuttle touches down, the parachute and the speed brake on the vertical tail deploys.  It comes to a rest, is powered down and remains unapproached and untouched for about 20 minutes to allow the noxious gases to dissipate.  The door then opens, the commander and crew disembark, and the craft is serviced.

Re-entry (or reconnection with earth) is fuel intensive and requires a lot of insulation to prevent the spacecraft from overheating and breaking up.  A successful mission requires a well-built shuttle, a faithful flight crew, and a stalwart mission control team.  Since the conditions of space travel are always challenging, a critical failure in any of the three areas could cause catastrophic results.  For instance, undetected damage to the heat tiles at lift-off, failure to close cargo bay doors, or improper data analysis by flight control personnel could have disastrous consequences.  And so goes the support needed for our connection to or reconnection with our Lord and Savior.

The six-week 151,000 mile journey I took this Summer was akin to space travel.  The extreme time zone dislocation of minus two hours to plus thirteen hours, a trial, engaging in a multitude of diverse activities, the cultural and language differences and barriers, countless hours in a pressurized cabin, flying at high altitudes, dealing with the issues in front of me as well as monitoring those at home, a death in the family, an ill loved one, and notification of additional litigation caused me to hit the upper atmosphere at mach 30 as a flaming inferno.  However, others’ relentless prayers for me, the steadiness of the church who received me, and the guidance of the family and friends who loved me provided me with the necessary instructions and support that re-oriented my position, slowed me down, set my pitch, and controlled my descent before handing the controls back over to me.  An entire crew of people, including my small group and other supportive believers, remained in constant contact with me as I aligned with the runway, lowered my landing gear, touched down, and deployed my chute.  Now that the noxious chemicals have dissipated, I have stepped back out onto solid ground, and have received adequate rest, my prayer is this: Lord, Almighty and all-knowing God.  You are the reason for my being and the purpose of my existence.  May I always remember that!  Loving your people and imitating your ways are the greatest part of my mission.  Please forgive me for not always giving my all towards that focus, especially in my moments of stress; a time of my greatest need and the time that You use Your people to bring blessings in abundance.  Thank You for Your willingness to always pursue me and other lost or disoriented souls.  Your relentless love and Your army of servants have paved the path of faith, with which I have now reconnected, that leads to the foot of the cross; the place where You gave it all so that I may be free and with You for an eternity.  Please light a fire under my feet so that I may serve as soothing foam and create a soft landing spot for any other hot re-entry who is dangerously close to ignition or who may already be ablaze.  May I always be willing to share my talents for Your glory.  Thank You for the incredible lessons, the protection of Your will and grace, the enormous support of Your people, the intact landing, the rest, and for the fire in the belly to serve You whole-heartedly again.  It is in Your son’s name I pray – Amen.

A thousand times I’ve failed, still your mercy remains.  Should I stumble again, still I’m caught in your grace…Your will above all else, my purpose remains.  The art of losing myself in bringing you praise…In my heart, in my soul, I give you control.  Consume me from the inside out.  Let justice and praise become my embrace to love you from the inside out.  Everlasting, your light will shine when all else fades.  Never ending, your glory goes beyond all fame.  And the cry of my heart is to bring you praise. From the inside out Lord, my soul cries out.  Hillsong United – Inside Out

Whether we are seeking something more than we have known in the world, we left on a prodigal adventure, or simply allowed busyness to pull us away from the habits that support our Christian walk, re-entry is a process that requires belief in God’s greatness, commitment to service, and intense support.  God’s Church is that shuttle, ministry leaders are the flight crew, and the other dedicated servants are the mission control team.  When they are strong and work together, the mission of making disciples of every nation are met or exceeded.  Additionally, those who have temporarily left earth’s grounding are able to re-enter alive and land back on a solid foundation.  When all hands are on deck, people experience the miracles that happen when God’s flight-control crew and ground-team workers move harmoniously together.  Souls are saved by people crossing the line of faith or saved souls reconnect with the roots that keep them grounded in the faith.

My reflection on my re-entry this summer has me here:

  1. A commander is simply one many people in God’s army
  2. No commander ever has it all under control
  3. Our journeys may take us far and cause us to feel disconnected
  4. Re-entry is the necessary path to reconnection with solid ground
  5. It takes many people and multiple talents to bring people in
  6. Re-entry is rough because hyper-speed causes high heat
  7. Love and support cool the temperatures and reduce the effects of friction
  8. I must do my part to help others re-orient and reconnect
  9. His word is the solid ground and His grace is the soft landing spot
  10. Space is not the final frontier.  Heaven is.

When I’m lost you pursue me; lift my head to see your glory.  Lord of all, so beautiful; Here in you I find shelter – captivated by the splendor of your face, my secret place.  I’m wide awake, drawing close, stirred by grace.  And all my heart is yours.  All fear removed, I breathe you in.  I lean into Your love, oh your love.  Your love so deep is washing over me.  Your face is all I seek.  You are my everything.  Jesus Christ, You are my one desire.  Lord hear my only cry to know you all my life.  Hillsong United – Sinking Deep

Amazing Grace

People come to yoga for various reasons and from diverse walks of life. Those who  stay muddle through the poses, stretching and straining as they struggle to learn the purpose and proper positioning. Those who stay, infinitely lean towards enlightenment, a place of perfection they are comfortable never achieving. With each practice, internal doors are opened and pathways of knowledge are illuminated. Truths that have always existed are revealed. Intrinsic connections are made that strengthen the being and allows the yogi to share with and embrace those around him. The biblical corollary 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “17 When someone becomes a Christian, he becomes a brand new person inside. He is not the same anymore. A new life has begun!” (TLB)

I have practiced yoga off and on for several years. In the past when I practiced regularly, I could move into and out of most beginner and intermediate poses with ease. Then, life happened and I stopped practicing. Because I am a former martial artist, the semantics of yoga are not foreign. For instance, warrior II is easily translated as a modified front stance; warrior I is a slow and exaggerated pre-position in a kata before grabbing your opponent’s head and driving your knee into his mid-section; etc. What I have learned this go-round from my return to the mat is that the physical part of the poses is a miniscule part of what yoga is about. One cannot begin to grow until an internal transformation has occurred. The yogi becoming the pose, instead of striking the pose, is the proof that understanding is occurring. In those moments, the yogi extends beyond himself and emits an energy strong enough to inspire and support those around him. His multi-sensory experience releases shackled ideas and unleashes creativity. With a discharged ego, he takes his learning to the next level.

It is inspiring and encouraging to watch the courageous yogi make her umpteenth attempt at a headstand. Having been on the mat next to her for a while, I have seen and felt her progression. I saw her when she started. At 40 pounds overweight, she couldn’t get her feet a foot off the ground. One year later, she could kick off the ground, touch her heals to the wall, immediately boomerang back to the balls of her feet and then fall forward onto her knees. Two decades later, she stands with her feet hip-width apart, bends forward at the knees and waist, and places her forearms on the floor in front of her. Slowly and methodically, she shifts most of her weight onto her forearms, with only a small portion of her load remaining on the balls of her feet. One foot takes to the air as the same leg levitates into a vertical position with the other following to join. With grace and a radiant positive energy, she enters into and maintains a headstand. She is the pose! When enough time has expired, she slowly bends at the waist and knees, allowing her legs to gently descend as though gravity’s power cord has been cut. Her feet delicately arrive on the floor as if the ground were made of rose petals. The sensory awakening one enjoys on a spring stroll through a flower garden is the same pleasure she encountered.

Christians are very similar to yogis. We are a very diverse and eclectic group. There are many times we are called to do things that prepare us for our future. Many times we ignore the call. Other times we answer it, only to be distracted by something else that causes us to quit. I have been called into a relationship with God many times. At times I have ignored the call. Other times I have gone through the motions of going to church services that didn’t speak to me and reading a bible I didn’t understand. I would meet with a congregation for three to six months and then other areas of my life would beckon my attention. A year later, I would try it again – only to be overcome by other events.

Verse 18 continues with, “18 All these new things are from God who brought us back to himself through what Christ Jesus did.” When I moved into my house, my next door neighbor invited me to go to church with her. I declined because I already had plans to travel to Delaware to enjoy the sunrise over the ocean and the weekend at the beach. The day before the beach excursion, one of people whom I was to accompany uninvited me by calling me to tell me that I shouldn’t come because she didn’t think the trip would be child friendly. She said I could come if I wanted to find a babysitter and leave my child behind. I knew the babysitter statement was sheer rhetoric as everyone who knew me also knew that with the exception of work, my child and I were two pieces of an inseparable package.

Feeling hurt, abandoned, and confused, I went back to my neighbor and asked her if it was too late to go to church with her the upcoming weekend? She said, “Of course not. We are delighted to have you.” My neighbor drove us to an outdoor service that was held on the banks of the Rappahannock River. The message spoke to me and led me to establish a lasting relationship with God. When someone rescinded my invitation to the ocean, it opened the door to a lifetime membership to the river of life.

Verse 19 says, “And God has given us the privilege of urging everyone to come into his favor and be reconciled to him. 19 For God was in Christ, restoring the world to himself, no longer counting men’s sins against them but blotting them out. This is the wonderful message he has given us to tell others.” We are constantly called to bring his children to Him. To do so, we must invite people, embrace people, love people, pray for and with people, walk with people and most importantly, share our lives with people. His son shared his life, gave it up, and returned as proof that he defeated death to give us a new birth.

For those who still question, the answer is simple: The bible is a love story of an amazing Father seeking the presence of lost children He wants to adopt to give them the unconditional love they are desperately in search of. He even sent his only begotten son to seek and save them. It explains, through story after story, how He pursues the children and keeps a watchful eye as they drift in and out of His presence like the cyclical tide because they are constantly pulled away by distractions. Their ways cause them to wonder and stumble as they ignore His guidance in favor of following their own path. Eventually, there is an awakening for some that causes them to listen to Him. Their stillness allows the truth that has always existed to be revealed to them. Some of them try out the things He offers. After a bit of practice, they comfortably begin to move about as they were intended to do – because His yoke is easy and His burden is light. When they are weak, instead of tumbling to their deaths, they simply fall into the plushness that is His great grace. As for the rest, He is still reaching for them and waiting for their arrival.

By putting away our ego, He lives and shines in us. By learning His ways, we deepen our understanding and take living to a new level. Through living by His guidance, we increase our likeness to Him. Others are able to see His reflection through us. There we stand, not necessarily artfully, but definitely because of His amazing grace.

He called someone to lead us and they answered. Will you do the same? Will you extend beyond yourself, make connections with others and accept the invitation to light a path for them that leads to Him?  Verses 20-21 tells us, 20 We are Christ’s ambassadors. God is using us to speak to you: we beg you, as though Christ himself were here pleading with you, receive the love he offers you—be reconciled to God. 21 For God took the sinless Christ and poured into him our sins. Then, in exchange, he poured God’s goodness into us!