Tag Archives: Easter

The Counter Pose

I’ve now been practicing yoga for one year. This new year I even added another class each week. I’m hooked. I pictured that one year out, I would have a really lean, healthy yoga body but as these things go, I still have my same body which can now do yoga.

I’ve mentioned before that one thing I love in addition to the stretching, balancing, core strengthening and deep relaxing are the teachings. Every time I practice yoga,I learn something that applies to life.

I’ve discovered the art of the counter pose.  Yoga is about balance, alignment and focus. Our teacher leads us through a pose and then a counter pose, the opposite of what we’ve just done. Picture bending forward arms down, rounding the back, then leaning back with arms extended, arching the back-that is a counter pose.

I’m learning to honor the counter pose. I spent a majority of my life not doing this. A busy, overfilled day was followed by an equally full night and then another overfilled day and on and on. When vacation time came, I was running on fumes, never really winding down. You know how it goes.

We were created to counter pose. The wisdom literature of scripture reminds us in Ecclesiastes 3, There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens. The text even spells out activities and counter poses, “A time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot….” Fourteen different poses and counter poses are listed for us. The writer of Ecclesiastes knew we needed it spelled out I guess.

It seems so simple like pure common sense. Thirst, then quenching thirst. Work, then rest. Winter, then spring. Feasting, then fasting. Lent, then Easter. Pose, counter pose.

We just don’t seem to be that good at honoring the counter pose. We push. We ignore our season. We seldom stop to ask ourselves what do I need for balance? Is it time to stretch the other direction now?

Jesus had the counter pose perfected. He worked, then rested. He took naps. He ate. He drank. He immersed himself in crowds and then intentionally pulled away. He saw people’s pain and heard their cries and then separated from it. In one particularly stressful time, he withdrew only a little bit (a stone’s throw way) to gather his thoughts, counter pose and pray. Luke 22:41-44.

Where are you right now? Which way have you been bending and stretching lately? What counter pose do you need in order to honor your body, your life or your season? There is a time for everything….

Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, wife, mother of three, Mimosa to Keller, a breast cancer survivor and yoga novice. She especially enjoys wearing yoga clothes when not wearing yoga.


That Silent Saturday

In Christianity, there’s not really even a name for that Saturday. No one seems to know what to do with the day in between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. It is such an awful, awkward, painful day.

I’ve heard it called Holy Saturday, but not much. Even the Bible doesn’t have much to say about that day. Matthew’s gospel has Pilate demanding that the tomb be sealed and guards watch it around the clock, just in case someone tries to steal the body. All the other gospels are silent on the topic.

The torture of the agony of Friday ending in death’s finality. The tears, the earthquake, the ripping of the heavens, life over as they knew it. Hopes and dreams crushed. And, then, can you imagine? Saturday happens and it is just silent. God is silent. Time, I imagine, agonizingly slow. There are no answers, no revelations, no angels. Just nothing.

What I want to say today is this, don’t gloss over that horrible Saturday while you are getting ready for Easter. Don’t use it as only a day of gathering Easter supplies and food for tomorrow. Don’t just use it to pull together your Easter fashion ensemble.

Stay in it. Pray through it. Try to feel it because the Silent Saturday is as much a part of the Christian faith as all our other milestone days. In fact, I believe most of our Christian life is lived in the silent, awkward Saturday seasons.

Like when death has been pronounced and the body taken away; or when the divorce papers are signed and submitted; when the diagnosis comes and you have no clue how it will unfold. Hospital waiting room moments or right after you hear them say that you are no longer employed. Our faith lives are full of silent Saturdays.

What we do in the silent, painful, awful moments of life is as important as what we do on Easter.  Actually, maybe how we handle Saturday matters more than how we do when the angel assures us that “He is not here. He has risen just as he said” Matthew 28:6

This awkward, awful, no name, no information Saturday has something to teach us about life and faith. Stay in it and learn.

Breaking News: I Care

Have you ever had one of those seasons with so many conflicting emotions swirling around inside you that you feel you might just explode or implode? I feel that way lately.

It is Holy Week. This is the first Holy Week in many years that I have not worked in a church. I am newly aware of how distracting being on a church staff can be especially during the peak seasons of faith. It is hard to focus on Holy Week when you are working in a church because you are busy doing church so that everyone else can experience the wide range of emotions from the Palm Sunday Parade, the Last Supper, the Cross and finally the Resurrection. Yesterday was the first Palm Sunday in decades that I was really able to pray and meditate about Palm Sunday.

As I walked, I thought about all the people waving branches and walking alongside Jesus. I tried to imagine what he was thinking. I tried to think about all the conflicting political issues of that day; all the agendas. I couldn’t help but reflect that not much has changed. Religious leaders entangled in politics. Power plays. Injustices.  Politics colored by religious agendas. Human rights in question. Chemical attacks. Tomahawk Missiles flying. Warships poised. Much discussion over what to do and who is right. A massacre in places of worship. And, that is just this week. Lord, have mercy. Seriously.

Holy Week contains every emotion. After the seeming Joy of Palm Sunday, came that little incident where Jesus lost his temper in the temple courts, overturning the tables of the money changers. No matter how much we’d like to believe Jesus was above anger, this shows he wasn’t. Matthew 21:12-13 Next thing we know he is cursing that fig tree causing it to wither and die. Matthew 21:19-22.  This all happens in this same week when everyone betrays him. He cries out to God, sweats blood mixed with tearful angst. The week gets worse for him from there.

In an interview on Beautiful Writers Podcast, I heard one of my favorite women talk about writing, faith and the wide range of emotions of our time. Anne Lamott confessed she gets hopeless regularly. She said when left to her own devices she dreams of  her next book being be called “Doomed” about how things are bad and only going to get worse. But then she says this, “Thank God, I am not left to my own devices. Thank God we are called to stay in community and in solitude so we can to stay grounded on that fact that Holy moments are happening in our midst.” When asked how she does this, she said, “I just take an action. I give money to organizations I believe are making a difference. I put feet to prayers and show up somewhere. I look up. I go outside. I flirt with older people and little kids. I just do the next expansive and loving thing.”

Her words reverberated through my soul. Thank God, we are not left to our own devices in Holy Week or any other week or we would surely get stuck in a “doomed” part…the anger, the fear, the betrayal, the angst, the death and miss the rest of the week. Thank God we can take the next expansive and loving action.

On Saturday, we had a job fair in our community for those seeking employment. Because I wanted to take a step toward the light, I offered my time for the afternoon. I was assigned resume reviews and mock interviews. I sat with people of all types from teenagers to professionals and we talked about how to polish resumes, sell themselves and shine during an interview. I met people of all cultures, religions and walks of life. I used every bit of my work, life and people experience to meet people where they were and to encourage them a little.

Toward the end,  a young woman came in wearing a hoodie that said, “Breaking News, I Don’t Care.” I don’t know everything about job seeking but I do know this is probably not the upfront message job seekers need to lead with. I wasn’t able to give her feedback on her hoodie because she wasn’t seeking any.

In my swirl of emotions this Holy Week, in this current America we live in, in my understanding of faith and humanity, here is what I know: we have to care. We have to wade through all our emotions from apathy to anger to be able to move beyond our own devices. We have to take that next loving step. We have to help each other. We have to hang out with God through a whole bunch of rough and horrible things in order to get to Easter.  Our faces, our clothes and our actions have to say, I care. Otherwise, we are doomed.

I pre-ordered Anne Lamott’s new book “Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy” before she ever even wrote it. It arrived at my house just as this Holy Week began. Thank God I’m not left to my own devices.

Ten Puppy Truths for People

We had Rusty, our Golden Retriever, for 12 years.  When he died, a year ago January, his absence was palatable and it took our family a long time to grieve losing him.  A few months ago, we started the process of looking into rescuing another dog.  We worked with DFW Lab Rescue (dfwlabrescue.org), to begin the paperwork and approval process. I fell in love with a little yellow lab mix with cute white markings on her face.  They assured me that everyone loved that particular puppy and I was far too behind in the process to even think about getting her.

Then suddenly, last week, Holy Week, my crunch time, THAT puppy became miraculously available. After weeks of being in the application process, she could be ours in a matter of days.  Days! I picked her up on Good Friday, our Easter puppy, because love and new life trumps logic and reason every time. Rollie has reminded me, in the short time we’ve had her, of a few things we all should remember:

1. It’s good to go outside lots of times every day, rain or shine, day or night.

2. It’s good to have people.  What if we all greeted our people enthusiastically every time we see them, even if they stepped out of the room for just a few seconds?

3. Playing is fun.  We should all play more.

4. Walking is great. We should all walk more.

5. Food, water and treats are beautiful things.  We should appreciate those things greatly, maybe even wag our tails in gratitude.

6. A clean house is overrated.  Messy food and water bowls, puppy toys everywhere and lots of leaves, grass and sticks tracked in make a house a home.

7. Dog hair on people clothes is not the end of the world.

8. Cuddling is good. We should all cuddle more.

9. It’s really good to have a nice soft bed to retreat to.

10. We should walk, play, cuddle, wag tails and greet each other so hard every day that we are super tired at night.

Crunch Time

Holy week is crunch time for pastors.  Crunch time is defined as a critical period of time during which it is necessary to work hard and fast.  I don’t know why I count up such things but at our place, Holy Week equals 16 worship services, 2 egg hunts, baptisms, a lot of communion and some foot washing.

Then, of course the peak times for Christianity also parallel peak family times for meals, celebrations and gifts.  I’ve often wondered what CPAs would do if their crunch time, tax day, also had big dinners, egg hunts and festivities attached.

Being a pastor and a mom has accelerated the challenges for me during crunch time. Our three kids took it in stride all these years that the Easter bunny miraculously stopped at our house on the Saturday evening before Easter.  They believed they were the first stop because the Easter bunny liked them best and not because mom had to be at sunrise services the next day.  We won’t even discuss the time my husband brought our daughter to church with her Easter dress on backwards because I wasn’t home to guide that process.

Now that they are older, thankfully, the celebrations are simplified. One egg with substantial cash in it plus a few Reece’s Easter Eggs seems to satisfy just fine.  Our Easter meal, too, has become easier, a low-key, easy-to-prepare event that leads to a great Sunday nap after all the worshipping of the week.

But, what I love about crunch time is that God still finds a way. In spite of the sheer volume of it all, God shines through a song, a story or an interaction to bring wonder and resurrection, even to the pastor.

This year, it happened fast, at the 2nd worship service of the 16 of crunch time week.  I saw a little girl, born a few years ago; fragile, diagnosed with Down’s Syndrome and heart problems. Dressed for spring, adorable with her long blonde hair and little pink eyeglasses, joining the other children in the Palm Sunday parade.  A precious one, with a palm branch, proclaiming new life, God’s grace, hope and joy.

God is good, all the time, even in our busyness, distraction and tendencies to do too much. I can’t wait to see the other ways God will shine in this crunch time week.

Yes, Ashes

Today is Ash Wednesday.  In the Christian tradition it marks the beginning of Lent, the 40 days leading us to Easter. In our best seasons, Christians use this time for a spiritual spring cleaning; a time of added devotions, prayer and scripture reading.  Sometimes we give things up to remind us of what Christ gave up for us.  Sometimes we take things on as a way of embodying his life and ministry in our lives.

Some Christians do something very strange on Ash Wednesday; something we rarely allow ourselves to do otherwise.  We let ourselves come face to face with death.  We admit together, for just a moment, that we know we will all die.  We allow ourselves to be literally marked with ashes to symbolize the reality that we will all become ashes some day. Isn’t that the strangest thing, especially in our world of heavy denial, perpetual youth and surface living?

Four years ago this week, I lost a friend and a colleague suddenly.  Actually, a lot of us lost him together.  He was fine one day; working, happy, joking, laughing, planning, dreaming and serving God and, in the blink of an eye, gone.  He was Senior Pastor of our large congregation, a significant leader in the larger Methodist church, a truly good guy, father, husband, friend.  The loss was huge.  The grief ripples ran wide and deep.  They still do.

The days and weeks after his death are a blur to me: the prayer vigil we had that Saturday night; our Sunday morning worship services the day after his death where we knew worship needed to somehow go on without him; his large funeral the following Friday with thousands attending; his birthday shortly after that.  And then, Ash Wednesday, just a week or so later.

I don’t recall exactly what we said during that Ash Wednesday service. I know we let the familiar Christian rituals carry us through. We marked one another with ashes. We faced death only this time, it was painfully, excruciatingly staring back at us.  Yes, you will all die, of course.  But then, this, through the ritual, through the ashes, this Word, “So live, live for Me.”

Somehow, some way, through God’s grace and mercy and resurrecting love, we have.  We will.

I miss my friend. But what I know is this, he was well acquainted with the truth of Ash Wednesday.  He knew about the ashes. He trusted God fully in life and in death. I just know what he would say to us today if he could.  “Yes, ashes. Of course you will all die, that’s the point.  So, live.”