I owe a large chunk of my sanity to the gym. It’s not exclusively the exercise that keeps my thoughts cheery, it’s also coffee, sleep, girlfriends and...oh yeah, God (of course). But the gym...it sorta had me at “hello”. Gotta love (trustworthy) childcare. Seriously, what did we ladies do before gyms offered quality kid entertainment...scratch that, let’s go even further back, what did we mamas do before the invention of cartoons (primitive childcare)?? I don’t know that I can bring myself to even imagine life that way! I swear my kids don’t watch T.V. all day...
Back to our gym discussion! These days, for me, time at the gym equals one happy mama! Well, the equation isn’t foolproof, but you get the idea.
A couple days ago I was at the gym, attempting to harness a good mood. My exercise machine/regimen of choice: the elliptical. It burns thousands upon thousands of calories, FAST (or so I’ve convinced myself). In truth the real enticement for me is that it requires zero creativity. It’s my ‘hop on and check out’ workout.
I got on that machine, hoping to sweat the trials and drama of mamahood away. It was morning (not even mid-morning) but I was already emotionally wrung out from the pre-school routine which had included a good percentage of arguing and coaxing and possibly hair loss (on my part). I was dying to lose myself in some Pandora and (hopefully) return to motherhood a civilized(ish) woman.
Even as the first few notes from my “Bethel” channel began to play through my earbuds, I could feel peace and joy filling me. It was like an injection of elation that was growing and rising inside me. The mental and emotional switch was unmistakable because no amount of joy had been anywhere near me mere seconds before.
As my legs and arms pumped out the rhythm of the music, I started to feel a chill as my arm hairs began to stand at attention. A supernatural, holy sort of thing was happening. Amid a sea of treadmills, ellipticals and stationary bikes I became acutely aware that I wasn’t alone. I could feel God all around me. He was keeping me company, placing his hand on my shoulder just long enough for me to notice his touch and calming my soul.
For some of you reading, I might be stretching those boundaries of comfort just a little. Trust me, I get it! I used to be quite the skeptic. My impulse, for most of my life, was to reject anything short of concrete. I crave facts and proof and all manner of things that require zero faith. Most of us (myself included) love our tidy, cozy little comfort zones; marked with bold, bright neon edges, coned off at the corners for extra protection. Staying within those borders is what holds the very fabric of our minds together. Without boundaries who knows what might happen. One might get CRAZY and radical; dare we say twitchy, irrational or quacky?? Maybe, and who wants to be any of that?? Not us!! No, Sir! But, I know we’ve all had these very moments...these God moments. I’m not the only one.
These experiences we’ve had, the ones that aren't easy to explain...something felt different about the space around you. Maybe it felt a bit supernatural, unearthly and indescribably beautiful. Perhaps you noticed the hairs on your arms stand straight up and you became aware of something mighty, something majestic. Sometimes we chalk those goose bumps up to the draftiness in the room or the breeze whirling through the trees, and sometimes it really is a draft or the breeze, but sometimes...it’s not. And truthfully, I think we all know the difference.
Maybe you felt Him as you carried on with the most mundane pieces of your life; the stuff that doesn’t seem like it deserves any amount of supernaturalness; while folding laundry or washing floors. Maybe you felt Him in the supermarket...or in your kitchen while you were scrubbing the dishes. Or maybe you were primed to notice Him standing right next to you as you stood on some beautiful peak overlooking a breathtaking expanse of Earth, or on that ocean’s shore watching the waves thunder powerfully against the sand.
As I exercised in excited, joy-filled awe, I wondered how many other sweat soaked bodies were experiencing what I was. I mean honestly, if God’s in the room, could I possibly be the only one aware of him?? Or maybe he came just for me, so it could be just us...just me and him (and my elliptical).
A girlfriend of mine shared a story with me not many weeks ago about a man she knew who’d died once. This friend of hers had been pronounced dead, but after a few minutes of death his heart started beating again. He’d recounted his experience of “crossing over”. He said that while he was dead, he had a distant perspective on the world, as if he were seeing it from outer space. From his vantage point he saw thousands upon thousands of beams of light bursting from the Earth’s surface in little pin-sized points. They weren’t isolated to any one location but originating from everywhere. The beams of light were people who have a relationship with God.
So, I wondered...during my supernatural exercise/worship time, had my “beam of light” blazed brighter and stronger than usual. Were people in heaven seeing my light? In the spiritual realm, did my YMCA elliptical look like a fiery searchlight-exercise machine?? Was my light beam boring a hole straight through the atmosphere and directly into the throneroom of heaven?? Or maybe what worship creates is a lightning-like event; as we reach up towards God, he reaches back, joining his power and energy to ours in a huge flaming bolt of electricity. I don’t know…
But I have to confess...I didn’t want that workout session to end. I wanted it to last forever. It was peace and joy and hope and I needed ALL of it! Before the gym, I’d tried to uncoil my mind and my emotions from that tightly wound ball of tension but all the chaos wouldn’t stop clinging to me. I couldn’t shake it. For that morning, it was as if me and God (and that elliptical) had a destiny all our own.
I want to humbly suggest that we’ve all felt God. We know when he's there and we know when he's not. Some of us experience these moments of awareness more of than others. Some of us would rather not talk about it. Possibly there are some who would prefer to not acknowledge any of it at all. I get it, but regardless of your faith or claim to none, regardless of logic, science, education or competence, each one of us...we’ve all felt Him at least once; that unexplainable but tangible thing. We can either choose to deny it OR we can open ourselves to the possibility that there’s more in this world than we can experience with our eyes, touch with our fingers or hear with our ears. Maybe, just maybe, there’s someone we can sense but can’t see.
Hi, my name is Kristin and I’m a news-aholic. I last checked my news app…maybe a minute ago. Jumping on my phone for a quick sec to make sure that the world hasn’t collapsed under my feet is possibly my version of a nervous twitch (minus the nervousness). An A-A style support group for news addicts might be a bit dramatic, but if there were such a thing, I’d likely have a sponsor. I sandwich my day between two hearty slices of world, local, political and entertainment news. Although the last category doesn’t truly count as news-worthy, I pathetically enjoy my guilty little peek, not to mention the rounds of trivial pursuit that it’s helped me to win over the years. So, there you go, entertainment news does have some (albeit ever-so-slight) value.
A few days ago, as I was doing my customary little sweep, something caught my eye. I had nearly exhausted all of my news-reading options when I happened upon a curious opinion piece. Originally published in The Huffington Post, the title sort of lunged and growled at me, like a dog looking for a fight. The bold words (in more than just font) read “Christianity Needs a Progressive Revolution”. Suddenly this author had all of my attention plus a little of my defensiveness. If I was a yoga girl (and way, way, WAY more limber) I might have been inwardly chanting, “Breathe in objectivity, breathe out judgment”. So, with a huge multifaceted breath of curiosity, I made an intention to keep an open mind, all the time wondering, “What does he mean by progressive???”
Just a few words in, and already I was swimming through deep waters with the author declaring that millennials are looking for churches that actually “live the gospel message, not just preach it”. I drifted off for a second, imagining our whole world, with its churches full of impactful people who calculate each of their words and movements in light of the love of Jesus. I’d barely begun that daydream when I was thrown in even deeper as the author explained the true intent of his words. By living the gospel message he was speaking about engaging in political and social issues, through the lens of the gospel. What a valuable and reasonable call to action. It's when we insert our faith into a tidy little box and section it off from the other portions of life that we give place to hypocrisy. Faith should inform all of life. But the further I read the more infuriated I felt. I despised the lack of concern this writer exhibited for living human babies, forcefully removed from their mother’s bodies and killed (abortion), while showing great interest and passion for preserving our planet for the next generation. How could he miss the massive contradiction in choosing the planet for the next generation while condoning the killing of this planet's heirs? How could he favor the one cause while rejecting the other? And furthermore, how could he not see that God’s heart is first for humans? God sent Jesus to save ALL people…that’s what the gospel is all about!
It was likely around that portion of the article that I stopped reading and irately texted Adam a link saying, “You have to read this shockingly shitty article” (yes, I do swear sometimes...but ONLY when it's an emergency or when I'm quoting a movie where the actors speak with accents, as my mother-in-"love" has confirmed is completely acceptable). But I have to confess, the thing wouldn’t leave me alone! It just kept jumping back into my thoughts. I kept wondering…what is it about these Christians (a mere handful of years younger than me), that this author asserts, view society and their faith so differently than I do; so abstractly. With my first read through, all I saw was that the author had replaced some of the most valuable causes for that of others. Maybe he had…but after a second and third read, I realized that I’d completely missed his heart.
What he’s truly craving is for Christians to organize a powerful love movement where congregants and visitors don’t just come and listen and then walk away unchanged, where churches don’t tip-toe awkwardly around the issues of the day, but boldly step right in the middle of the thing. He’s aching for a place where this love would actually change people and compel and propel them into actively engaging in social issues for the purpose of God’s love and justice; to be the voice for those who can’t speak for themselves (the unborn, the poor, the rejected and…maybe even the planet). He’s tired of churches so passionless that there’s literally “sitting-room only”, it would never be packed out.
I’m in love with this imaginary church already! But I think we’re forgetting something, just because a bunch of people come together, claiming to be Christian doesn’t mean they all speak for God. Repentance, revival and revolution are huge, massive results of a heap of little choices made in a person’s heart. These things don’t work on a corporate level unless each individual has come to their own personal (internal) crossroads of sorts, and made their own life-altering decision. I just had the perfect memory of my dad singing that old 70’s folksy-Christian song, “It only takes a spark to get a fire going”. The words are true. Passion is contagious and passion for a cause is even more so. But fires need fuel or else they just burn out. Even the brightest fires without fuel will just fade away. It’s the decisions made at the crossroads of our lives that cement our convictions and fuel the fire within us…or determine whether we’ll just burn out.
We are each responsible for our piece of the movement, and at times it may feel like a lonely road. Is it irritating that we don’t all automatically unite for the same cause?? Yes!! But, in the inspired words of Elvis, maybe what we really need is “a little less conversation and a little more action”. I’m confident that if we were able to collect a mass of people, whose hearts had all been transformed; so convinced of the love of God that it permanently altered them and caused them to move as one to confront injustice in the world, there would no longer be “sitting-room only!”
Head and Heart
You know that moment...the one where you discover that something you’ve believed (for maybe your whole life), isn’t founded in truth, that it’s based entirely on lies and perceptions…and then you make the intention to right your thinking but your heart takes a while to catch up? It’s one of those crazy things we’ve all experienced; the deconstruction of one paradigm and the construction of a new one. Right THERE, in an awkward disconnect between head and heart, is precisely where I found myself tangled up this week.
Revelation struck me near the end of a Beth Moore simulcast. Yes, I admit it…I’m a bit of a Beth Moore fan. She’s insightful and loud and fun and passionate. With all of her energy and volume (both hair and noise) rolled into a compact little body, I can’t help but think that if she were an animal she might be a fluffy and extremely courageous chihuahua.
Something she said…as she shared her husband’s story gripped me. The story went like this: two brothers, ages 2 (Beth’s husband) and 4, played make-believe gardener, as little boys enjoy doing. One boy, or maybe both, had an idea. Since imaginary play is more fun when it’s nearer to reality, the boys decided to fill their toy mower with their daddy’s gasoline. As they carefully poured, the fumes ignited, causing a huge explosion. The family was instantly reshaped (on many levels) by the loss of their 4 year old and the near death of their 2 year old. The day of the older brother’s funeral, one of their neighbors lovingly cared for the younger son (Beth’s husband). This neighbor was so amazed that this boy had survived such an enormous explosion that for more than 60 years she shared with others the story of the “miracle boy” who had been spared. Now in his 60’s, another funeral reunited Beth’s husband with his old neighbor. In her 90’s, quite old and frail, the neighbor looked into this grown man’s face and declared, “YOU are a miracle boy!” The encounter was massively impactful for this grown man because his entire life he’d only thought of himself as “tragedy boy”.
It’s such a heartbreaking story with a strikingly beautiful twist of an ending. As I listened to the story, tears streamed down my face. Those who truly know me know how much I hate to cry, but what I detest even more, is me crying publicly. I feel so vulnerable and naked and I don’t have pretty little soap-star tears. Mine turn my eyes bloodshot, my face blotchy and red, it wrinkles up my forehead and forces the corners of my mouth down. Here’s an embarrassing admission: I’ve tried over the years to cry while retaining a least a tiny sweet smile. Yes, it’s sooo stupid that it's a little funny, but sadly all I have to report is that I created a pinched, awkward looking straight lipped expression because I’m 100% physically incapable of crying pretty.
Saturday the tears flowed from that place in me that mourns with every mom who’s endured the loss of her child. Then as the words, “miracle boy” and “tragedy boy” rolled around in my mind I felt a connection, specifically to the “tragedy” part…more tears. I haven’t had a tragic life, I imagine many pieces have looked idyllic from an outsider's perspective, so I wouldn’t say “tragedy girl”, but maybe “bad luck” or “unlucky girl” , “NOT one of the favorite ones” or maybe even “tolerated one”. All of these labels paint a rejection-filled picture of how I believed God thought of me and felt toward me.
It was a dark time in my life, many years ago, that allowed me to see that what I’d come to believe about God was based on lies and misunderstandings; my perceptions and not the truth. I spent heaps of time working on changing my broken thinking, and it had changed, but this weekend I realized…my heart hadn’t fully let go of the lies even though my head had. There was still a part of me that felt a bit rejected, undesired and not valued by God. For a moment I felt that old familiar pain of the lies but then a supernatural exchange took place. It was as if I'd been renamed…“miracle girl”. No more “unloved”, “rejected” or “tolerated girl”. God aligned my heart with my head, something I hadn’t been able to do, even with all my knowledge and understanding of the facts.
So, does this “miracle-girl” always feels like a miracle?...No, not even after that extraordinary and nearly tangible encounter with God. My moment with God was renewing and healing but then life started back up again. I had to jump back into the craziness of my loud and busy role as mom. I stepped back into making mistakes and having to say sorry, feeling frustrated by bad attitudes (mine included). I still have to choose every day, as my feet hit the floor, (sometimes even in my first moments of consciousness) to reject the lies and hold tightly to the truth. We all hear that voice inside urging us to be defined by our worst and lowest moments; the voice that says we are worthy of rejection, unworthy of love, undesirable, unworthy of true friendship and maybe...unworthy of God, but the truth is this, WE ARE EACH A MIRACLE. Even more, each of us are desperately wanted, never worthy of rejection (regardless of the rejection we've endured), completely accepted just as we are and loved!
Writer and fellow traveler on the road of life.