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Extra Grace Required - Our Blog

God's Eye: Contemplative Gazing

But one day the wind will show its kindness
And remove the tiny patches that
Cover your eyes,
And you will see God more clearly
Than you have ever seen
Yourself.

Meister Eckhart


From the people of the southwestern United States and northern Mexico comes the Ojo de Dios, a God’s Eye. Although plenty of children have made God’s Eyes as a summer camp craft, it was originally (and still is) a contemplative practice. The creator follows the yarn around and around two crossed sticks, the four ends representing the energies of Earth, Wind, Fire, and Water. The God’s Eye symbolizes the mystery of the known and unknown, and the finished Ojo de Dios is often put in a home: God’s watchful gaze blessing the household. Half way around the globe, the creation of a mandala similarly offers a geometric pattern, a creative space on which to direct the eye's gaze.  Read More 
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Starfish

"Let the waters teem with swarms of living creatures." Genesis 1:20

When I was young, my favorite summer outing was an entire day spent at the beach. My mother would pack a picnic lunch, and while she watched the younger children and wrote letters under a sun umbrella, I played in the waves with the “big” kids and built sand castles with large moats that filled with seawater as the surf came in. Our favorite beach was not the wide sandy swath near the boardwalk, crowded with well-oiled sunbathers sprawled on their towels listening to transistor radios, but the partly rocky beach further along the coast where we had found tide pools. As a child I typically spent half the day playing in the water companionably with my siblings, and the other half of the day, belly down on a large rock, staring into a tide pool, watching small crabs scuttle about, poking my finger into sea anemones, and intently searching the pool with my gaze for starfish and sand dollars, content to be still and watch the activity in the miniature water world beneath me.  Read More 

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Holding Opposites

Compare: to examine the character or qualities of especially in order to discover resemblances or differences Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Hot and cold, hard and soft, tight and loose, dry and wet: these are just a few of the many contrasting sensations that abound in our every day life. We humans, in the face of contrast, are notorious for judging these differences. Admittedly judgment is sometimes needed to evaluate or discern a particular situation, or to ensure our safety. But often judgment occurs as a reflex, a bad habit that unnecessarily highlights differences and obscures similarities. In our faith-integrated yoga practice we work to replace the knee-jerk habit of judging, especially judging our own bodies and effort, with comparison-- observing differences, but without the value judgment.  Read More 

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Listen: Prepare for Centering Prayer

It has been said that prayer is talking to God, while meditation is listening for God. In faith-based yoga we practice listening to our bodies, as a first step towards sacred listening. Supine poses are wonderful positions from which to listen. In our book's practice of Listening to our Internal Teacher, the Soul we show the practice embodied in Legs Up the Wall pose. Supine pigeon (sometimes called Figure 4) is another lovely pose to considering adding to this practice, as it helps prepare the body for seated meditation.

Pose Focus: Supine Pigeon
Begin on your back with knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Bending one knee, bring your ankle to rest on the opposite thigh, with the foot flexed to align your knee. Modify the pose as you need to for safety and comfort. If it feels good on your body, deepen the pose by lifting the anchoring foot, off of the mat. Hold the pose for at least 5 full, slow breaths. Return to the starting position with knees bent, both feet on the mat, and compare the amount of space that you now feel in each hip. Repeat the pose on the opposite side and when you finish, return again to the starting position and pause. Compare the sensations on both sides of your pelvis. Listen to what your body tells you.  Read More 

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EGR: Creating Grace Space

Have you wondered why we named our book’s blog, Extra Grace Required? Here is the back-story. In my first year as an ordained pastor, I found myself shocked one day by a tirade from one of our church's most faithful and supportive members. The topic of his ire is not important, that anybody could say the things he said to anyone, let alone a group of pastors and church members who had walked with him through many tough situations, left me speechless. All I could do was pause and breathe. The war within me was: 1) should I respond with my well honed psych nurse voice, 2) should I default to my Welsh/English upbringing and not respond in kind, or 3) should I dig deeper for the pastoral voice? While I was sorting through my options, the man stomped away and the lead pastor standing next to me simply smiled and said, “ Well that was an eager situation.” Not understanding what he meant I looked at him with a quizzical expression and he explained, “ Extra Grace Required.”  Read More 

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Yogadevotion: Getting Started

Happy New Year! What a perfect time to begin a devotional yoga practice—and commit additional space in your life to be present to God as you attend to the wellness of your body, mind, and spirit. We suggest you start slowly, perhaps simply read the devotion for the week, bring attention to your breath by synchronizing it with the breath prayer or your own sacred word, and then add some breath-centered gentle movement—as embodied prayer. Ten minutes per day to begin with will get you on your way, increasing the time when and if it is right for you. We are here to support you develop a devotional yoga practice so please contact us with any questions or comments you may have at godbreathbooks@gmail.com.

Peace be with you! Cindy and Heidi

To view Week 1 The Practice of Freshening Up click  Read More 

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Love Came Down

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

This week we pause to consider a kaleidoscope of faith events. Almost all faith traditions are celebrating a connection with the Sacred this month. Hanukkah commemorates the restoration of the miracle of light in the holy temple of Jerusalem. In pre-Christian Scandinavia the Feast of Juul, or Yule, lasting for 12 days, celebrated the rebirth of the sun god and gave rise to the custom of burning a Yule log. After the winter solstice light returns and the days grow incrementally longer. Many traditions pause at this time of year to acknowledge that there is something greater than the self; there is something sacred, and many experience the Sacred in the light that surrounds us.

The Christian faith stands alone in a narrative that celebrates God choosing to become human. It celebrates the story that is proclaimed afresh every Christmas—the story of love coming out of the heavens to dwell among us.  Read More 

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Surely the Lord is in this Place

Bienvenue! They came from half a world away and now stood before the congregation to receive simple welcoming gifts of fleece-knotted prayer shawls made by the Sunday School. The father and boys were soberly clad in western clothing but the mother and teen-age daughter were attired in bright-colored dresses and turbans, proudly proclaiming their African identify. Before arriving in the United States this family of six had spent three years in a United Nations refugee camp in Cameroon, fleeing violence in their Central African Republic homeland. Now, after months of preparation by the church to sponsor and outfit a home for them, they were finally here.  Read More 

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A Joyful Noise

Broad Ripple Village Holiday Parade, Indianapolis, Indiana

On a crisp cloud-covered night last Saturday, my husband and I walked into the village to watch the annual holiday parade. The sidewalks were lined with bundled-up children, attentive guardians, and young adults in Santa hats taking a break from the village pub crawl. The parade's "floats" consisted of trucks and cars strewn with ropes of colored lights and blinking holiday decorations, many advertising local businesses. The girl scouts and animal rescue organizations marched and dispersed candy canes to the crowd, a couple of community bands enthusiastically played Carols, and a waving Santa Claus brought up the rear. The parade ended at the historic brick fire station where the parade's Santa led the gathered crowd in singing Jingle Bells. Kids, pub-crawlers, parents and grandparents, all sang together in the cold night air, "...jingle all the way!" I felt like I was among Who’s down in Who-ville, with nary a Grinch in sight.  Read More 

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Advent Worship: The Practice of Waiting

A favorite commercial of mine is of a little boy, 5 or 6 years old, who is standing in the bath room, having trouble with his belt. At first he tugs on the belt calmly, but quickly the struggle becomes real. He hollers out, “Mom we have a situation!” Clearly, waiting, in this “situation” is out of the question. Often waiting is uncomfortable and at best, tolerable, yet waiting for the coming of God in human flesh during Advent is a special, sacred, holy practice.

As we light the Advent candles of hope, peace, joy and love, we remember again the Story of the people who waited for the promised Savior. They had been holding their breath for a long time and when at last they exhaled, the Savior they waited for was born. As the Story goes this was not a king born in a royal setting but a babe born in a dirt cave whose parents were on the run. The practice of waiting during the liturgical season of Advent invites us into the ancient story of the people who wait.  Read More 

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