Finding calm in the midst of chaos

Scripture: Exodus 14: 1-14

The Israelite people in our scripture are refugees, fleeing from slavery in Egypt.  They are camped in a sandy, gritty place on the seashore.  They’ve got sand in their hair, sandals, and clothing. They are sunburnt and hot. They are scared, sleep-deprived and hungry, or at the very least, really wanting some leavened bread.  The Israelites are, admittedly, not going to be their best selves in this moment.  They probably don’t have the resources to go to a calm, inner place when things get crazy.

Things get crazy.  They look in their rear view mirror and see the army of Pharaoh, the best military in the world, advancing upon them.  Clearly, they are doomed to die.  So, they get reactive.  The Israelites yell at Moses for dragging them through the wilderness to a sandy grave.  They are livid and terrified all at the same time. Utter chaos reigns.  Their whole lives swirl around them, a sandstorm of hardship, regrets, dashed hopes.

Into this crazy chaos, Moses speaks the words, “Don’t be afraid, stand firm, see the deliverance the Lord will accomplish for your today.  The Lord will fight for you.  Only stay still.”

Standing still in complete stress and chaos seems not only counterintuitive, but downright impossible.  The Israelites don’t have any idea at this moment that they are on the cusp of a miracle, that the sea before them will part.  They are only envisioning their death.  Yet here, in the potency of the moment, Moses calls for stillness.  It’s like a yoga break in the midst of one of the greatest dramas ever told. “Take a breath,” Moses is saying.  “Stand firm, both feet on the ground, hip distance apart.  Don’t be afraid.  God is with you.”

It’s a good reminder for our own lives, when we feel surrounded in chaos and we can’t even imagine a miracle happening.  When we are tired, sleep deprived, hungry, scared, and not our best selves.  When we get reactive because death in whatever form is encroaching on our lives.  Moses says to us, “Stand firm.  Don’t be afraid.  Take a breath. Despite all evidence to the contrary, God is with you.”

When we don’t know that a sea will be parted, when we are tired of sand in our eyes and grit in our teeth, standing still and taking a breath seems unhelpful.  Yet, if we can do this, if we can practice a moment of stillness in the chaos, the chaos itself might recede. We might feel God delivering us from our own stress and angst.  We might just see a way forward that we had never dreamed possible.  At the very least, we will have a strong stance and a steady breath. . . and know that we are not alone.


This yoga practice works on standing firm with a series of standing poses, but also some stress reducing asana like the two below.

Succhirandrasana or Eye of the Needle pose:  On your back, bend both knees, keeping the feet on the floor.Place your right ankle below your left knee.  Open the right knee out.   Place your hands underneath your left thigh, lift your left foot off of the ground.  Press your right elbow into the right knee.  Connect to breath.  Repeat on the other side.

Viparita karani: sit as close to a wall as possible, with the hips against the wall.  Swing both feet up onto the wall as you extend on your back on the floor.  Remain for several minutes, enjoying the release of the blood flow.  You may add variations by bring the heels of the feet together for a form of baddha konasana on the wall.


Opening my heart to God offers the ability to forgive

Scripture: Genesis 45: 1-15

God knows I want to forgive.  It is just so hard.  A self pep-talk of “forgive, forgive this!” doesn’t work.  Forgiveness requires opening to grace.

Joseph in this scripture shows how to open to grace.  In the face of the old hurt and pain between brothers, Joseph didn’t close down into retribution. He wept.  He cried so loudly that the ripping open of his heart to God’s grace was heard far away in the household. Joseph let his heart break open to God.

Joseph manifested weakness rather than strength.  He doesn’t try to come off as the guy in charge. He sets aside the trappings of power and joins with his brothers in a space of vulnerability and intimacy. When his brothers were so dismayed at being in the presence of their brother whom they sold into slavery that they couldn’t even speak, Joseph gently urged them to come physically closer.  It is hard to reconcile at a distance.  Then Joseph identified their common story.  He named what they shared, brotherhood.  Joseph also named the truth in that story—they sold him into slavery.  He didn’t punish or shame them, though. Joseph doesn’t require sorry or regret from them. He sees through to what life is like for them—full of fear, and the struggle for survival without food.  He is compassionate, aware of what it might be like to walk in their shoes—or sandals.

Lastly, he names that out of really hard and difficult stuff, God can bring life.  In no way is Joseph condoning the evil actions of his brothers.  Rather, God is active and at work even in their brokenness. The brother’s sinful objectives have been thwarted by being drawn into God’s life-giving purposes.  Joseph is able to speak this gospel word because he has experienced it deep within his own life.  He weeps again as he extend forgiveness to his brothers.

So, the path of forgiveness as Joseph lives it:  let your heart break open, weep, offer weakness and intimacy, stand closer, identify what you share, name the truth without shaming, let go of need for regret from others, see through to how other person’s life is, look for how God worked life out of hard stuff.  Weep.

With a whole lot of grace, I might just be able to forgive.  I think I’ll have a good weep to begin and let my heart crack open.


With this practice of forgiveness, we are really going to open our hearts–by opening the chest, hips and doing backbends.  The heart space will extend open in each pose.  We are going to open up!

Eka Pada Rajakapotasana– the prep version of this pose is known as pigeon.  From down dog, bring the right knee down on the mat near the right hand, with the right foot down and pointing back to the left hip.  The left leg extends long behind you, toes tucked under.  Big lift through the heart, with the shoulder blades back, and the tailbone dropping down.

From here, loop a strap over the ball of the left foot.  Allow the strap to fall over your shoulder. With the palm up and elbow bent, reach around with the left hand to grab the strap.  Draw your foot in.  If able rotate the arm in, then bend the right arm also to hold the strap. Head looks up and back.  Open the heart.

2017-8-17 from Myers Park UMC on Vimeo.