Today’s Scripture: 2 Timothy 1:1-14
Let me tell you a story. It’s about all the things that the writer talks about in today’s scripture from the second letter to Timothy: It is about rekindling the gift of God. It is about courage. It is about love. It is about self-discipline. It is about shamelessness. It is about testimony. It is about suffering. It is about a holy calling. It is about grace. It is about trust. It is about Faith.
It was November, 2012 and I was in the 4thyear of owning my yoga studio in Dartmouth. We had 4000 people on a mailing list, saw about 2000 unique clients a year and about 35 people were either contracted or volunteering with us. I wrote and taught an internationally recognized yoga teacher training program. Life was good – well it was fine –I was content with what was. I mean, at least it was so much better than working in the toxic work environment that is the healthcare system in NS, right? My marriage was fine – I mean I had two great kids with a good guy– we were really good friends, I mean who could ask for more…right? Life was good enough. It was so much better than it was. I was so much better than I was… Someday, in another time and in another place, I’ll tell you the longer version of this story, but for now it is enough to know that yoga helped me live again after a car accident changed my life in 1999.
Yoga was the way that I remembered my body to my mind and my soul when they all seemed so disconnected. And I felt called to help other people in a similar way. When the Spirit called to open a yoga franchise I said, “Yes!”
About a year into it, the Spirit called again, and I left the franchise and took a great financial and personal risk that nearly broke me and simultaneously set me free. I was finally free to speakmy truth my way. And that helped me help people on a regular basis with their physical, mental, and emotional health. The work we did in that space changed lives. I wrote programs with local physiotherapists and chiropractors for yoga for back care. I created classes and workshops specifically for people with PTSD, Anxiety, and Depression – people like me. I taught from experience. I was authentic, transparent, real. And people responded. Together we created a space where my teachers and students felt safe to explore. ALL people were welcomed and it became a safe place for all shapes, ages, races, religions, genders, sexualities, and abilities to come and practice… together. We were a community. For fellowship. For learning. For unconditional acceptance and Love. My studio was called ALL Yoga… ALL stood for “A Light & Love”… and that is what it was.
I have always known that I was held in holy light – beloved by God – because I believe all people are. But I didn’t always speak so freely about what I did and didn’t believe because I wasn’t brave enough. That’s not something we were taught to do in the United Church. Evangelism – sharing our faith story – wasn’t really recommended outside the walls of the church. But my church did teach me to be open to the movement of the Spirit. And the Spirit lead me to some pretty amazing things in that space. And, over time, it even helped me to find the words.
So, when those practices for physical, mental, and emotional wellness were a success, I decided to teach spiritual wellness too. I talked openly about my faith in my regular classes. I shared yoga workshops during Advent and Lent to help others understand Christianity through yoga practice. These classes attracted all kinds of people from all kinds of backgrounds and beliefs. There were Muslims, Hindus, self-professed “lapsed Catholics”, “retired born-again” Christians, atheists, agnostics and even a few that still went to church! Some people began to ask me what church I belonged to. Many of them wondered what kind of church would be so open to having the kinds of conversations we were having – conversations where we questioned faith, where we allowed room for different ideas, where we held space for the mystery of God – space where we didn’t have to have all the answers. I told them this was what the United Church meant to me.
Then folks started to say things like, “you know, this studio is my church,” and I’d say, “shhh!” And they would say, “you know, if you were a minister, I’d totally come to your church.” And I’d say, “shhh”. And when my minister would joke and tell me “you’ll learn that in seminary” when I would try to engage him in theological conversations, I’d say, “shhhh”. I would always say, “this ismy call – I’m fine thanks.”
But, the Spirit kept calling. “Go deeper,” it said. “Keep going,” it said, “you’re not there yet.” But I wasn’t having it. I was settled. This was good enough. I ignored the Spirit…I had every excuse in the book… life was just fine thanks… I’m quite busy enough…why would I want to mess this up? Life was neat. It was tidy. It made sense. It was really good… from the outside at least…but, the Holy Spirit knew better. She is persistent. So back to the beginning of this story, to November of 2012:
I was in a teacher training workshop to upgrade my skills as a yoga teacher and healer. As part of our program we would share our updates about how our lives were going and about what we were learning. The longer version tells the story about how a Hindu mantra finally brought me to my call, but that’s for another time. When it was my turn, I was overwhelmed and as I cried, I said, “I think I’m supposed to be a minister.” And my colleagues all looked at me knowingly, and the teacher said, “well, it’s about time.” There were no more excuses, there were no more “good reasons” not to do this. Every potential obstacle I could imagine was met with a solution. I applied for a discernment process in my home church in January of 2013. That would eventually lead me to you.
This has not been an easy road. My business was sold at a loss, my marriage ended, I left my family home, I completed two degrees in 5 years, I had 3-4 jobs at any given time, I survived an abusive domestic relationship, I lived below the poverty line for three of those 5 years… these are just the highlights! It hasn’t been easy, but, let me tell you, it has been worth it. Even when it was painful, because all of it, every lesson, every “yes!” brought me a little closer to this moment right now.
Let me close by telling you one more part of this story: About 2 months (September 2012) before I finally uttered those fateful words, “I think I’m supposed to be a minister,” we were practicing a meditation that involved imagining where you would be if there was absolutely nothing standing in your way and you could be doing anything you ever wanted to do. I’m a little weird and always said that if I won a million dollars that I would go back to school and study philosophy and theology just for fun! Really! I didn’t know it was because I was supposed to be a minister. That idea didn’t even cross my mind! Afterall, I was only a lab tech. I was only a yoga teacher. I was only a bartender and a waitress. I was just a mom. I wasn’t holy enough. I certainly wasn’t good enough. Excuses.
But there I was, in meditation, imagining myself clearly walking across a university quad with my backpack on a beautiful fall day. The autumn leaves shuffled beneath my feet and the September sun warmed my skin. It was heaven. But then, almost exactly one year later, in September of 2013, I was walking across the quad at Saint Mary’s University with my backpack on, leaves shuffling under my feet and that glorious September sun warming my skin and I was struck by awe. I was transported back to that moment laying on my yoga mat when I first experienced that moment… I had been here before… but only in my dreams. Through the glare of the beautiful sun coming through the tears in my eyes I saw them – two white feathers directly in my path. I don’t pretend to know what they mean, but feathers have always appeared in my life at precious times. These two appeared to me that day and as I bent down to pick them up it felt like the Spirit was saying to me, “you made it kid… now keep going!” And here we are.
Today, I challenge you to think about where God is calling you to be as members of the body of Christ in this community. How are you called to serve? I believe that the Spirit is calling every one of us to rekindle our God-given gifts. Sometimes we think we know what is best because it feels comfortable. Let me tell you that following a call is not comfortable – it is destabilizing because it is life-changing. I challenge you to go beyond comfortable, maybe beyond what you thought was ever possible… is there something you have really felt called to, but talked yourself out of because you’re not good enough, you’re not holy enough, you’re too old… or some other excuse? Trust me – the Spirit sees you and it is calling you. Take a breath…Listen… be brave… how will you answer? May it be so. Amen.