"Isn't that an oxymoron?" asked another. Meaning, those are irreconcilable terms - choose one or the other, but not both!
Last weekend, I attended a Christian "body and soul" retreat on the shores of Lake Washington. The Catholic sisters who live on the grounds attempt to live out their mission of justice and peace. The women hosting the retreat are devout and mature believers. And yes, we did yoga exercises throughout the day.
My favorite part? I enjoyed the sessions, the Bible verses, readings from Christian books, and the meditation on scriptural heart issues. The vegetable bean soup and mescalin salad lunch was delicious and sustaining. Several women knew me from the past or through mutual friends, so the friendships were uplifting.
But the best part of all? Taking a Bible outdoors to find a dry spot under the fir tree that overhung the glossy wet boards of the dock. I sat down alone for twenty minutes, thinking and praying Psalm 63. No one nearby. Not a soul in sight. No boats gliding over the rippling waves. No pedestrians on the Mercer Island beach opposite.
"Because your love is better than life..." (63:3) His love is better than life itself? My mind reeled, my heart swayed in that love, my soul was captivated, and I was taken aback.
"Is your love truly better than life to me?" I whispered to God. "Is your love what I want, more than food or drink? More than health or sleep? More than success or resources? Is your love everything to me?"
The waves suddenly crashed against the shore as I sat stunned. "Is your Love ... Everything?"
Returning to the meeting room, an arrow named "Labyrinth" caught my eye. "Take the side trip, of course," my impulse called. A blessed detour, walking gently and steadily inside olive green lines painted on a concrete patio. There was nothing special about the paint or cement. But oh, the grace of solitude.
The older I get, the more I relish space beyond the rush and busyness of life. No hustle and bustle. No pressure to achieve or strive. I sometimes dream of living in a small uncluttered home, bathed in intimacy and quiet.
I felt renewed Saturday, though not by the meditation or reflections led by others. Except for the scripture readings, the talking and laughter of companions was distracting. It took the rest of the weekend to unwrap the stress of meeting a crowd of strangers.
This morning I found myself doing the same exercises while an instructor intoned instructions. Off to the side of the class, God's love enveloped me. My heart marveled at his eternal search for relationship with us and embraced his holy word. Verses and choruses learned with others swirled inside me. And I felt renewed to the core.
"Lord, you have my heart," my inner being sang again and again, attuned to the music resonating inside my head. The wood knots grouped and spaced in the support beam above my head reminded me, "Lord" "Jesus" Christ" "So" "Loved" "The" "World" - a worthy meditation indeed. I was surprised by the last exercise. Already? An hour and a half had gone by.
I lay on the mat, exhaling the hard physical work, yet exhilarated by the presence of God with us. Secure that each of us is deeply, intimately, completely, "So" "Loved."
*Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. Deuteronomy 6:5 NIV
*O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water. I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory.
Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you. On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night. Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.
They who seek my life will be destroyed; they will go down to the depths of the earth. They will be given over to the sword and become food for jackals. But the king will rejoice in God; all who swear by God’s name will praise him, while the mouths of liars will be silenced. Psalm 63
*Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Matthew 5:8 NIV