Yoga for Christians

This is in response to a really controversial post that I saw on FaceBook about yoga. It was on a Christian group, and honestly, I really understand both sides, but, after some thought, came up with this. Would love to hear any and all objections/arguments. 🙂 

So here’s the basic objection some Christians have against yoga (please correct me if I’m wrong). Yoga has it’s roots in pagan rituals and meditation, i.e. Hinduism/Buddhism. Therefore, yoga is a pagan ritual that, no matter how it’s changed, should not be practiced by Christians. It is like worshiping a pagan god. We have to be really careful about what kind of spiritual influences we let into our lives. Yoga, because of its pagan roots, could be a way for bad spirits to enter our minds/spirits.

I was doing some random mindless work today and I started thinking about this. To me, this seems to be similar to the “food offered to foreign gods” issue that the disciples were dealing with in the New Testament. Basically, in religions like Hinduism or probably a lot of the other religions they had in Jesus’ day, it’s “good luck” to eat food offered to foreign gods. Now, we all know these idols have no power of us. There are demonic forces at work, but we are under Jesus’ protection.

1 Corinthians 8:4-6 “So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that “An idol is nothing at all in the world” and that “There is no God but one.” For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”), yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.”

Now, from what I see, the NT believers had an issue with this. Some weak believers might eat the food because they still kind of believe in the idols, or because they’re afraid of what their family might think, or they just want to make sure they have good luck. Or if they see strong believers eat the food, they might think that those believers don’t actually believe in God and worship other gods on the side (“cheating” on God, ha ha).

But, the point that Paul makes above is that there are no other gods. That our God is supreme and rules everything. So eating the food is okay, it’s nourishing. But if you can cause another believer to stumble by doing it, or if your hosts think you’re eating it because you believe in the gods, than it becomes wrong.

I think this is the same deal with yoga. Many modern versions of yoga are just stretching and relaxation. Because of that, it’s just something that’s good for the body, not worshiping an idol.

YogaNow, I’ll add a HUGE distinction here. There’s a big difference between the types of yoga depicted in these two pictures:

SONY DSCThere are classes that emphasis the traditional spiritual aspects of yoga. These can be questionable, especially when the teachers are Hindu or Buddhist. India is filled with these, tagging off of the tourists that come on pilgrimages of sorts to the land of Buddha and Hinduism. This is the type that the first picture depicts. But the classes that are simply stretching, with a focus on building your core, are fine, in my opinion.

However, as always, if you are doing it to get the blessing of a god besides the True God, or if going to a yoga class would stumble a fellow believer, it’s definitely wrong. 🙂

If I’m missing something here, please let me know! This is just my opinion based on what I’ve learned. 🙂

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Little Drops

Sometimes I feel so small. Like nothing we could ever do could make any difference. Like we’re just a tiny little drop trying to change the color of the ocean. And even if we make the biggest splash possible for a little drop, not much actually changes.

But my heart was lifted today. We met a bunch of other little drops the same color as us, all marching along valiantly.

We’re not alone. And even if we only change the color of a handful of drops, those drops will go out and keep up the fight, even after the original drops fly to heaven.

Join hands, together we can change the world for the better.

Missions and Messy Lives

Ultimately, missions are about people. And people are messy. Sometimes I feel like saying, “Just let me build a building or teach a class.” I don’t like to get involved in messy lives for the rest of my life. But to help is to get involved, and those who get really involved, let things get messy, and open themselves to relationship, love, and hurt are the ones that are most effective.

This brings to mind the difference between institutional, ineffective orphan homes and ones that actually help kids. In institutional care, the cheapest help is hired to get the job done. They don’t care, and even if they do, they are worked so hard the compassion bleeds out. But under the direction of someone who is actually invested in the lives of the children, a system that encourages authentic relationship and family-like commitment can be built. These are the type of staff who will, for the rest of their lives, remain in contact with the young souls they connected with. These are people who love and have their heart broken and love again, regardless of death or rejection or just the general emotional messiness.

Breath.

So, to all of you caregivers or workers who love as Jesus did: you make a world of difference, even if you can’t see it. Keep loving. Keep shining. In a dark world, every bit of light counts.

We Were Illegals for 2 Days in India…

So you’re not supposed to be able to pay your Nepali visa with Nepali or Indian money (one of the weirdest rules I’ve seen, but I think it has to do with counterfeiting), you have to pay with US dollars. But we were running around a lot before we went and forgot until it was too late. However, last time around I saw a guy pay with Indian rupees. So we came into Nepali immigration to get our visas at like 10 PM and the agent demanded dollars or twice the amount we were supposed to pay if we wanted to pay in rupees.

So we went back to India for the night and found dollars the next day, just because we don’t like paying corruption if we can help it.

The morning after, we approached Nepal again, only to find there was a problem because we hadn’t been “stamped back in” to India and had technically stayed illegally.

So we went back and forth from Indian immigration to Nepal border office, each giving messages and possible solutions. Finally, one guy in Indian immigration told us we could ask the Nepal agent to date our visa for the same day we got stamped out of India. They still do it all by hand, ha ha, so theoretically it was possible. It was either that or travel illegally to Calcutta and pay a fine… So we prayed the whole time and went to Nepal border again.

They tsked at us for awhile, asked for 2000 rupees, and did it for us!!! Phew!!!

So we made it to Nepal. Hoping that little slip-up won’t cause a huge problem in the future.

Rock Me to Sleep

by Elizabeth Akers Allen

Backward, turn backward, O Time, in your flight,
Make me a child again just for tonight!
Mother, come back from the echoless shore,
Take me again to your heart as of yore;
Kiss from my forehead the furrows of care,
Smooth the few silver threads out of my hair;
Over my slumbers your loving watch keep;—
Rock me to sleep, mother, – rock me to sleep!

Backward, flow backward, O tide of the years!
I am so weary of toil and of tears,—
Toil without recompense, tears all in vain,—
Take them, and give me my childhood again!
I have grown weary of dust and decay,—
Weary of flinging my soul-wealth away;
Weary of sowing for others to reap;—
Rock me to sleep, mother – rock me to sleep!

Mother, O mother, my heart calls for you,
Tired of the hollow, the base, the untrue.
Many a summer the grass has grown green,
Blossomed and faded, our faces between:
Yet, with strong yearning and passionate pain,
Long I tonight for your presence again.
Come from the silence so long and so deep;—
Rock me to sleep, mother, – rock me to sleep!

Over my heart, in the days that are flown,
No love like mother-love ever has shone;
No other worship abides and endures,—
Faithful, unselfish, and patient like yours:
None like a mother can charm away pain
From the sick soul and the world-weary brain.
Slumber’s soft calms o’er my heavy lids creep;—
Rock me to sleep, mother, – rock me to sleep!

Come, let your brown hair, just lighted with gold,
Fall on your shoulders again as of old;
Let it drop over my forehead tonight,
Shading my faint eyes away from the light;
For with its sunny-edged shadows once more
Haply will throng the sweet visions of yore;
Lovingly, softly, its bright billows sweep;—
Rock me to sleep, mother, – rock me to sleep!

Mother, dear mother, the years have been long
Since I last listened your lullaby song:
Sing, then, and unto my soul it shall seem
Womanhood’s years have been only a dream.
Clasped to your heart in a loving embrace,
With your light lashes just sweeping my face,
Never hereafter to wake or to weep;—
Rock me to sleep, mother, – rock me to sleep!

I love this poem and, as it was prancing through my head this afternoon, I decided to share it.

Child Beggars (Mindless Charity Hurts)

IMGP6125Child beggars are tough. There is no real welfare system in India. The government isn’t the smoothest operator and frankly, there is still enough prejudice and not enough compassion. These kids tug at you and put out their little hands. Sometimes they’re gaunt and have blank-looking eyes. Sometimes they just look like normal kids in rags running around. Whatever they look like, those young eyes and little hands tug and guilt you so it’s almost impossible to pass them by.

But sometimes, as hard as it is, giving these kids money isn’t always the best thing for them.

Families with children oftentimes know that school is the key to getting out of cyclical poverty. But, when you’re trying to find enough food for the day, the fact that this will go on indefinitely is not something you can think about. And, along with the cost of education, kids are a viable source of income through begging. Think about it: would you be more likely to give to a middle-aged man begging or a helpless little 8-year-old girl?

In best case, these kids really do need the money and either buy food themselves or their families use it for food or education. In worst case, the child (and maybe his or her family) could be part of a gang of beggars built specifically to get money, regardless of what they do to the kids (or the adults) in the process. This is where beggars get the reputation for being thieves and liars. From the few that are thieves and liars.

I’ve seen young street kids smoking. These are kids as young as 10. They were running through the streets in Kathmandu, and we would get tapped and look down to see a young boy pleading for money. But we didn’t give it because we had seen them earlier passing around cigarettes. They weren’t going to school. They didn’t have families. They would grow up living day-to-day and not caring, as long as they could eat and smoke.

IMGP6441And, for all these reasons and with all these stories, that’s why I can’t give money. I do give food. That’s the safest bet, if not hauling them home or to the nearest charity or church. I can’t give nothing. Regardless of what they’re doing with their lives or the cycle of poverty that they’re in, God still loves them and cares that they’re in pain. Sometimes they really just can’t help it and there’s nothing they can do. Sometimes it’s just a hard patch. And most of the time, there’s no real way we can know for sure. But if they need to eat, you can give them food. That way, you know it’s at least accomplishing the immediate task.

You can usually tell who is real by how they react when you do give them food. One raggedy little girl came begging from us once, and we gave her the soda and chips we had gotten for a snack. You should have seen her face. It was Christmas morning for her. She literally jumped with joy, gave us a huge smile, and ran off. This has happened quite a few times. Children begging at traffic lights. We gave them what we had: chips. They shrieked with joy and ran off to enjoy their bounty. Little boy on a bus, I gave him the ice cream that was melting from the hot hot sun. A huge smile came across his face.

In contrast, once we gave a begging woman with a baby a protein bar. She looked at it, disappointed. She gave it to the baby she was holding and held out her hand again. She wanted money. One guy we offered food to flat-out refused. He shook his head, his eyes turning from pleading to annoyance, and held out his hand again.

SCH3So, what can we do to help? Money sometimes hurts more than helps, when it’s going to the wrong causes or when it sets up a child as an indispensable source of income (which rules out school). Food is a better bet, even though it takes more thought and intention (making sure you pack snacks whenever you go out is tough to remember sometimes). Investigate charities that work to get children off the streets (make sure they’re transparent about their finances and make sure more money goes to the kids than to admin costs). Sponsor a child. Invest in education or trade schools for human trafficking victims. Go to a third-world country and teach English for a year. Buy a woman training and a sewing machine so she can make her own living.

Think about what you’re doing. If you feel the guilt, good for you. It shows you have a heart. But think about it, do your research, make sure this is the best way to use your money. A dollar in the right hands can change a life. A hundred dollars in the wrong hands can create corruption and feed habits of abuse and neglect.

On that cheery note, we’re going to the grocery store! Oh! We made a video awhile back, telling a little story and what can happen when somebody cares. 🙂

Our parent organization, India Christian Ministries, is a very well-run, transparent, professional, thoughtful charity that’s doing some awesome, innovative orphan care, ministry, and millions of other things. Check them out here.

Mindless Charity, I

It was Diwali. The landlord’s wife proudly told me that they were going down into the slum to give sweets to the poor people so they could celebrate, too. Once or twice a year they share their bounty with their neighbors.

Historically Christians have a reputation for giving. The vast majority of hospitals, schools, and orphanages have been built by Christians, who gave their time and money to make life better for strangers. But as our society has become more self-centered, giving falls away, even among Christians. People start to wonder why they give.

If it’s to ease their guilty conscience or “just because it’s a good thing to do,” they do it once in awhile, just whenever they feel like it or whenever their friends are doing it. This is mindless charity. Everybody does this, whether they have religious beliefs or not. Christians do not monopolize this market.

But that’s not why Christians are supposed to give!

Why did Christian men and women give up their entire lives to travel months to a land they had never seen, just to build or bring innovations or the Gospel to a people they had never met?

Because they knew and loved Someone who had given up Heaven to step into mud and love muddy children.

Not because it made them feel good. Not just when it they felt guilty.

This isn’t intended to degrade those who give out of a pure heart or, in innocence, wanting to help. But if you want to make a long-term impact (and followers of Christ do want this), I would challenge you to think about how you’re giving. In my next few blogs, I’m going to tell some stories I’ve seen and heard and show a few examples of what’s possible when money gets into the right hands. 

“I Could Never Live There!”

 

Matt shot this outside our office building. The city drainage system isn’t the best, and water frequently backs up into the road. Sometimes it gets pretty deep…

Some people look at this video and are like, “Oh man, I could never live there!” And I understand that attitude. But, just like eating food with ants in it… once you’re in the situation, and everyone else deals with it, it’s not really the same. Like rotating power cuts. The power goes off regularly here. In America, that would be an unforgivable disaster. But here, houses and lives are built around not having power for at least a few hours every day. Stoves run on gas, solar-powered flashlights hang around, desktops are attached to batteries, and good offices have generators. Life goes on.

So, if you’re afraid to visit a third-world country, think again. Most of the world lives in these conditions, and they don’t die from the dirt or inconvenience. It’s a way of life. You get used to it really fast, when you’re immersed in it. Take courage my friend! You’ll be stretched and find you can survive a lot more than you thought you could.