Tag Archives: Lent

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.


A Soul on Tiptoe

Writer Sarah Young often captures my imagination with just a few words. In a recent devotional in her new book, Jesus Always, she writes of a soul on tiptoe as it looks up to God in hope. On tiptoe is the posture I’d like to adopt.

Our eight month old grandson has learned to pull up to standing. I like to sit on the floor on the other side of whatever he is pulling up on to be ready for his facial expression the moment he sees something new from his heightened perspective. His blue eyes glitter. His smile shows both wonder and radiance. His whole face says, “Do you see what I see way up here?” It is the baby version of a soul on tiptoe.


When life gets hard we are told as people of faith to “look up”. A soul on tiptoe is already looking up. In Lent, Christians pull back a bit, look inwardly, pray, give up things and we wait on God. We wander around in the wilderness knowing something spectacular is on the other side. New life is being born in tomb-like places.

How is your soul? On tiptoe? I hope so.

PS After my last blog, A Bucket of Skunks, my son-in-law asked me to clarify to everyone that he makes very good, non-skunk like coffee. In fact, even if there wasn’t a sweet baby at his house, I would just show up for the coffee.

Gripey or Grateful?

Over the weekend, we watched Unbroken, the true story of World War II POW Louis Zamperini. If you haven’t seen the movie or read the book, I won’t spoil it for you. Just know that for years, Mr. Zamperini endured one horror after another from sharks to gunfire to hunger and beatings.

My takeaway from the movie was that I should never, ever complain about anything again.  That was Saturday.  By Sunday, I found myself grumbling that I have to get up EVERY Sunday at 5:30 a.m. to go to work. I was disgruntled that I was driving to church in the dark due to daylight savings time. Today I was griping with anxiety over my every-six-months mammogram and that I have to even think about cancer at all.  Last week I got a tiny bit irritated that my mom called me six times in one day.  I also complained because my husband and son went camping and forgot half their gear and spent the equivalent of a nice hotel vacation replacing the forgotten items.  And yes, it bothered me that they took along a Keurig coffee maker because that just seems wrong on so many levels.

Today, I’m vowing once again to stop griping and be grateful.  I’m grateful for my job even with those early Sunday hours.  I’m grateful for the wonder of medical science watching over me with the newest technology.  I’m grateful for my health and the doctor who told me this morning “all clear.”  I’m grateful for a mom who is alive and well and wants to talk to me.  I’m grateful for a husband and son who want to spend time together, even if it is quite costly and they cheat on proper camping coffee- making.

I know we are pretty far into the Lenten journey to be giving up things at this point.  But I have to do it.  I’m giving up griping for gratitude.

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.”