Sabbath Delight

ar8yzdvqIf you keep from desecrating the Sabbath, from doing whatever you want on My holy day; if you call the Sabbath a delight, and the holy day of the Lord honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, seeking your own pleasure, or talking too much; then you will delight yourself in the Lord. (Isaiah 58:13-14a)

There’s a lot to sift through here. We can easily get stuck in the legalism of what exactly “desecrating the Sabbath” means, or what if my definition of “delight” is different from someone else’s? But there are definitely some guidelines:

  • Keep from doing whatever you want. (Not that you have to do everything you don’t want to do, but just take a step outside yourself and let God guide. That still includes a huge space in which to roam.)
  • Don’t go your own way or seek your own pleasure. (See same note as above. It doesn’t mean you don’t get to have any fun. God is not a prison warden.)
  • Don’t talk too much. (We fill a lot of space and time with unnecessary words. God is consistent with this instruction regardless of the day. He must think it’s a good idea.)

So many people set aside the concept and practice of Sabbath. I’ve heard a litany of excuses that are rooted in misunderstandings. I think we let those misconceptions get in our way. We want an easy out, because Sabbath requires sacrifice, and sacrifice is difficult. We’ve seen people claim some really odd things about Sabbath, and most often those things are a long list of what we can’t do, but it’s time to move beyond that. Look and search and practice beyond that. Because when you set aside the legalism, there is so much freedom and rest and joy in Sabbath.

I lean toward constancy. I generally live life leaning forward. It’s my bend. So to take a deep breath and lean back takes effort. It’s been worth the change. It doesn’t come easy, but it becomes worthwhile.

 

Music Monday: Slow down, and just breathe.

It’s Monday.

Not just any Monday.

It’s the Monday of Christmas week.

In the middle of your consuming to do list, in the middle of the pressures you feel right now, in the middle of the anxiety you have about what is to come, slow down. Take a moment.

Breathe.

Catch Your Breath

healingthehurtI’ve learned to take a breath before I speak. When I don’t, I often find myself in a quagmire of problems.

Our lives are stuffed to the brim with space-fillers. With tablets, cell phones, computers, and much more at our fingertips, we can access information and have multiple conversations at once. While e-readers and other screens emphasize the importance of white space for our eyes, we’re constantly sacrificing the white space in our lives. Less white space leads to an overcrowding that pressures us, and our conversations are no exception.

Every second of white space in time doesn’t need to be filled. When we feel the pressure to fill every moment, we’ll begin to anticipate the filling process, thinking of what we want to say next instead of waiting, patiently listening, reflecting, and respectfully responding in turn. Invite processing time. It will take practice, because you’re likely not used to it, and people with whom you converse are certainly just as unfamiliar with it. More white space in conversations creates a slower cadence, a rhythm that flows more than fires. When push and pull is replaced with intentional give and take, the focus can shift from the conversation itself to a respect for the people having the conversation. After all, the relationship is more important than the outcome of the conversation. Words spoken should be driven by the impact they have on the relationship instead of the influence they have on the outcome of the conversation.

Breathing helps as you talk, because it’s an intentional invitation to reflect before responding. As I breathe, I invite God to fill my mind, heart, and words, taking a moment to intentionally yield to him. While it takes some getting used to, it’s not as intrusive or distracting as you might originally think. Most people won’t notice at all. It’s not a deep, cleansing breath, just a regular breath in for oxygen—with an invitation for more nourishing, courageous, and powerful breath. If you find yourself still struggling to listen to the person instead of planning what you’re about to say, you can also use an exhaled breath as you’re listening as a commitment to empty yourself of your self, yielding to and trusting God instead. (Let me admit, I do not always yield well, so I’m not sharing these techniques as someone who has perfected it. I’m a work in progress!)

Inviting breaths into a conversation isn’t just about you. Invite breaths for the other person, too. When somebody pauses to think of a word or finish a thought, wait with them. You might anticipate what you think they’re going to say, but respect them enough to let them finish. It’s nice to be known well enough that someone can finish your thoughts, but it’s also nice to be given the space and time to finish your own thoughts.

Conversations are not a race; they’re an opportunity to engage in relationship. Invite the nourishing rhythm of breathing into your conversations today.

I will be in them and you will be in me so that they will be completely one. Then the world will know that you sent me and that you loved them just as much as you loved me. (John 17:23)

God’s family is certainly not exempt from hurt, including the hurts that come from within. People in churches are just as vulnerable to unjustly criticize, gossip, neglect, and offend one another as anyone else. It’s true that God sets us apart to reflect his image to the world, but to believe Christ-followers are perfect representations of Jesus will, to say the least, lead to disappointment. What (should) set Christ-followers apart from the world is how they deal with one another to heal the hurt. Will they do the hard work it takes to unite or will they further divide into quarreling, backbiting, judgmental factions? Which will you choose? Welcome to Healing the Hurt, a 10-post series to help hurting communities cope in biblical ways.

Fit Faith: Breathing: Face Down on the Floor

A woman returned to our biweekly intensive workout class after more than a month, determined to jump back into it. Since she’d been there, the routines had intensified. Several of us encouraged her, insuring her she could definitely handle it but to be sure she took it at her own pace and didn’t push too hard too quickly.

She made it through the warm-ups and first song with no problems. The next song was more challenging, but she made it again. Then came a series of floor work, including a challenging series of push-ups. Halfway through the routine, she headed for the bathroom. She was back by the time the song ended, and I made eye contact to be sure she was okay. I didn’t want to make a big deal about her slipping out for a moment in case she was embarrassed she hadn’t finished. Not to mention, going to the bathroom is something not everyone wants to openly discuss!

She caught my eye and instantly confessed, “That was my own fault. I just forgot to breathe and got dizzy. So much for not trying too much, too fast!”

Breathing is important. In fact, it’s life-sustaining. Stop breathing and you’ll stop living. It’s that simple.

It’s amazing how many issues are related to breathing, yet we take it for granted. Minor anxiety can often be averted through regular breathing. It helps with pacing during running and other exercise. Its regularity provides stability and nourishment, and its irregularity indicates issues to be addressed.

Breathing appears early in Scripture: Then the Lord God took dust from the ground and formed a man from it. He breathed the breath of life into the man’s nose, and the man became a living person. (Genesis 2:7)

Breath is God-given. It’s life-sustaining. We can use all kinds of relaxation breathing techniques, but there’s one that is above all others. Anything that draws us to God, emptying ourselves of ourselves and allowing him to fill him with himself, is desirable. You can fully access God. As a follower of Christ, you’ve been blessed with the Holy Spirit.

The word for spirit comes from a word that means breath, air, or life. Perfect, isn’t it? The Holy Spirit is breath, air and life! We need air to live, and the Holy Spirit equips us to live our faith on a daily basis. We can’t live on stale air. Our bodies use oxygen and get rid of waste through the carbon dioxide. We use what we need and get rid of the rest. If we don’t access fresh air, we can’t live for long.

The Holy Spirit is always fresh. He only pours into us what we need. There’s no waste in what he gives us. He’s completely nourishing, but we have to inhale. The Holy Spirit is active. When we yield to him, we will move. We’ll grow. We can also be tossed in wind, and to be honest, living a life of faith can feel like being tossed in the wind at times. But God doesn’t aimlessly toss us in the air. He knows exactly where the winds are carrying us and at what rate.

As always, God invites us to be active in faith. Breath isn’t nourishing unless we breathe. We must inhale. In the same sense, we must yield to the Holy Spirit to get the full nourishment and guidance. If you hold your breath, you trap the carbon dioxide, the waste of daily living, that needs to escape, and you block the inflow of refreshing oxygen that refreshes and sustains your body, so you can do what needs to get done. You can be who God created you to be. He didn’t create you and walk away. He gave you life-sustaining breath. Use it well. Otherwise, you might end up face down on the floor in the middle of a series of push-ups.

Fighting for Air

After accepting the Ultimate Climb Challenge for the American Lung Association Fight for Air, I’ve determined one thing: becoming a world-class stair climber is not one of my life goals.

Oh, I’ll likely do it again! It was definitely worthwhile. I enjoyed interacting with and watching people. And I learned a lot. Next time, I’ll wear gloves and keep cough drops in my pockets. The biggest lesson I learned is that there are places in my lungs that rarely get air. I think I used every miniscule space in my lungs that day. I managed alright and had no light-headedness or heavy coughing, but my lungs were definitely fighting for air.

I now better appreciate not only my body’s ability to take in and process air but also the availability of breathable air around me.

Air is filled with life-sustaining nourishment. God created me with the capacity to physically take it in, process it, and efficiently use it. He also created me with the capacity – the need – to spiritually breathe. He gave me the Holy Spirit to invite, yield to, and allow to nourish me to do God’s will. Without the Holy Spirit, I am a shell of who I could be. My life is incomplete and unsustainable. God breathes life into me through the Holy Spirit.

Yielding to the Holy Spirit is challenging. Sometimes I feel as if I’m fighting for air. I want to grow, but it feels like an uphill climb. My legs and lungs burn from the effort. God doesn’t say life purposed for him will be easy. In my own efforts, I’ll collapse on the first landing or procrastinate getting started. I’ll try to determine the right pace and rationalize the distance of my goals. And it still won’t be easy.

With God, I have purpose. I can yield to the right pace. I catch glimpses of the goal. I notice people cheering me on. I encourage others along the way. I don’t overextend myself nor do I underextend myself. Whether I feel overextended or not becomes secondary to letting God define where I am and how I’m doing. He determines my ability and progress. He determines my pace and purpose.

In what areas of your life are you most fighting for air?

Are you fighting for air on your own or are you trusting God to guide your every breath?

Accept God’s ultimate climb challenge. The journey is worth every breath.

So let us run the race that is before us and never give up.  (Hebrews 12:1)

Don’t Hold Your Breath

Don’t hold your breath. It’s a phrase usually used to discourage someone to wait for something unlikely to happen. But I was thinking of another use for it.

My daughter is about to study overseas, and as we’ve talked about the details, and she’s shared her plans, I’ve thought of how I hope she doesn’t hold her breath through the experience. I hope she takes deep breaths every step of the way. I want her to savor every moment. She’ll likely experience joy, anxiety, frustration, and freedom – a myriad of emotions. There will be highs and lows. I hope she breathes deeply to fully experience the adventures.

There are many “don’ts” I could tell her (and as a mom, I haven’t refrained from sharing my advice at times). It’s not just about what she shouldn’t do in order to keep safe and to avoid problems. Of course, I want to share those things…but this is about fully experiencing the opportunities she’ll have.

Consider y0ur life. Are you holding your breath? Are you waiting for something to happen – and missing out on other opportunities in the process? Are you paralyzed by fear or stuck in memories – to the extend you’re missing out on the opportunities of today? Are you certain that if you just hold on a bit longer, the stench of your trials will be over, and you’ll soon be surrounded by a field of sweet-smelling flowers.

It could happen. But life on earth is generally messy (and often stinky). However, there is always something to learn from an experience. And whatever you learn will likely (1) equip you for dealing with something in the future, and/or (2) enhance a good experience and make it better or make a not-so-great experience slightly more tolerable.

If you hold your breath, you might avoid some of the bad, but you’ll also miss out on the learning process. And when you don’t learn a lesson at one point, you’ll probably stand face-to-face with a similar lesson again. That’s just how the growth process works.

And while you’re holding your breath, you’re going to miss out on a lot! Breath sustains life. Sure, sometimes you’ll also take in something unpleasant or even toxic, but in general, breath nourishes you.

Breathe deeply. Take in everything around you. God surrounds you with blessings, choices, challenges, and opportunities. Do you really want to miss out on any part of his plan for you when it all works together as you grow toward spiritual maturity?

Let everything that breathes praise the Lord. Praise the Lord! Psalm 150:6

Breathe

I arrived at the airport with plenty of time to spare. As it turned out, it was a good thing. The security line didn’t seem long as I approached the TSA agents, but I unknowingly chose the lane with a trainee working the xray monitor. I don’t mind waiting if it means we travel securely (except when I’m running late. I’ll admit to getting grumpy very quickly when I’m rushed…even though it’s typically my own fault.). 

As I often do when in a crowd, I began to watch the people around me…

The crowd’s patience started to fade when one man pulled aside a TSA agent and insisted our side wasn’t letting his side feed into the line. He reminded me of the people who blare their car horns behind someone who lets a car pull ahead. I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt and reminded myself of the times I’ve been unjustifiably accusatory. The lady who was in the front of our line wasn’t quite as forgiving and insisted she was doing nothing wrong. Tension began to rise.

Someone commented that the guy behind the xray monitor must be in training since someone was standing beside him guiding him through the process. That spurred a conversation about training techniques and how it could be done better (so as to not incovenience all of us). I felt for the guy. Surely he could hear us and felt the pressure. People started cramming their bags onto the belt to speed up the process…but it slowed down the process because the bags couldn’t be examined well. Several of the TSA agents starting getting impatient. I caught eyes with one and said one word: “Breathe.” “I’m breathin’,” he said. “Or at least I’m trying!”

The man in front of me and I then started talking lightheartedly about people’s impatience and our own experiences with airport lines. The man behind us joined in, and before we knew it, we were all waiting for our bags on the other side. (In the meantime, every time the TSA agent caught my eye, he emphatically told me, “I’m breathin’!”)

Another delay. One of our bags became a teaching point for the trainee. “Do you see what I see?” “No.” “It’s in the upper right quadrant.” “I don’t see it.” …The two men and I jokingly accused each other for slowing down the line. It was my bag. But the “breathing” TSA agent assured me it wasn’t my fault, that people were still cramming their bags onto the conveyor belt. As he took it to be rescanned, the other bags came through, and the two men put their shoes on, reorganized their belongings and smiled at me. One man turned around as he left to grin and remind me to breathe.

The process of waiting could have been much more frustrating. And I’ve been in similar situations in which I haven’t chosen to breathe, relax, and be patient. Attitude makes a big difference.

As you go through your day, be sensitive to the times you feel tense, frustrated, and irritated. Check your attitude. Will you justify or adjust your attitude? Your choice will make a big difference.

Let everything that breathes praise the Lord. Praise the Lord! Psalm 150:6

After he said this, he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” John 20:22