Catch Your Breath

miami_package_feelthehealdetoxI’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)

Stillness

 

stillness-3How often are you spiritually still?

How do you struggle with spiritual stillness?

What do you anticipate from God through spiritual stillness?

Silence and stillness are not always the same thing, but they often intersect. In order to be silent, we need to be still enough to listen to God’s prompting. In order to be still, we have to quiet ourselves.

As we still ourselves, it seems obvious that we would experience God’s presence, but that’s only the case when we still ourselves in God’s presence. We must be intentional about the stillness of our lives. We often struggle with stillness, because we don’t seem to find the time to be still. We feel guilty because we’re not still often enough or long enough. We see the shortcomings of our stillness. Or sometimes, we’re too still. We refuse to move out of fear. We all need a slight nudge, whether it’s into stillness or out of the wrong kind of stillness. We think stillness is passivity, and we feel the need to take action and speak up in case the moment or opportunity passes.

But we need stillness in the presence of God. Our experiences will often be different. Because God engages in a relationship with us, He works in our lives in a variety of ways. We are filled with His presence and grace over seasons in our lives. Stillness doesn’t equate inactivity. We can be engaged with the activities of life but find a stillness deep within, where God gives us His peace and grace to sustain and fuel us. Stillness can also be a moment, when we close our eyes to our surroundings and open our hearts to be surrounded by God and His grace. We can be still when the chaos or noise of life surrounds us, and we can be still when nothing but the sights and sounds of nature surround us.

Practice being still during a noisy moment in your day. Whether the noise around you is in what you hear, what you see, or what you’re thinking, get still. Focus on God’s presence. Trust Him to pour into you in the quiet place of your soul even among the noise of your surroundings. Thank Him for His reliable provision despite your circumstances.

Get Quiet

quiet“Be quiet” is different than “Get quiet.”

We can be quiet so that no one around us hears a sound from us, but our minds spin. We dwell on a conversations we had earlier in the day and have imaginary arguments with people. We go over our to do lists and schedules and wonder how it will all fit. We worry, dream, dwell, and scheme.

We’re not quiet at all.

But quiet is important. It’s a stillness. It’s an intentional setting aside of all the busyness and voices. It’s a retreat.

God often speaks the most strongly, clearly, and loudly when we are by ourselves and quiet, when we still ourselves. No one can do it for us. It’s up to us to position ourselves well to seek, hear, and listen to Him today.

I know it’s not easy. (Many things worthwhile aren’t easy.) We struggle to find a block of time. (Start with one minute). We can’t seem to quiet the noise of our minds. (Don’t give up. Catch those distractions as quickly as you can and set them aside promptly.)

Quiet alone time is important and worth the effort and sacrifice.

Get quiet today.

Stop and Consider God’s Wonders

283028It’s a reminder from Job 37:14: Stop and consider God’s wonders.

It is both a direction and challenge for us. It takes humility and boldness, pause and involvement, the ability to identify God’s wonders and the willingness to be grateful for them. It’s a similar motivation to keeping a blessings journal. It goes beyond looking at life with a positive appreciation and delving into what God and only God can be and do. His wonders don’t always feel warm and wonderful, because we stand in awe of His power, fierceness, and justice. Those are part of His wonder, too. We can’t twist God’s wonders to be only those things that we find amazingly wonderful. He defines amazing, and He fills wonder. We particularly find it when we’re willing to empty ourselves of what we want to see as wonder. We find it when we’re willing to stop…and consider.

Stop and consider. Both present challenges that we’re not willing to accept because of the sacrifices they involve. Both are worth the wonder we’ll encounter because of our sacrifice, because of who God is.

 

Fields of Obedience

What I noticed as a change in the fields throughout Israel was a sign of obedience.

But in the seventh year the land is to have a year of sabbath rest, a sabbath to the LORD. Do not sow your fields or prune your vineyards. (Leviticus 25:4)

During my first visit, I saw many lush fields, growing many different crops.

11.3.14 drive to Bethsaida
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This time, most fields were empty…except, of course, the fruit trees. After all, it’s difficult to tell a tree to stop producing fruit! (I learned there are “ways around” the seventh year rest for those who want to observe the laws yet don’t want to let their trees go a full year without attention.)

I initially missed the beauty of the patchwork fields. Then, I realized I had the opportunity to see another kind of beauty: the beauty of obedience.

Sometimes our lives look desolate and unproductive. We feel wasteful, as if we’re not taking full advantage of what’s around us. We feel idle and unproductive. But action and busyness do not equal growth. Sometimes, stillness is much more productive.

Obedience doesn’t always make sense to us. We want to do things the way that seem logical to us. We rationalize we’re doing it to grow and be productive, and we even infuse God’s name into our efforts, claiming to do it all for Him.

But if He didn’t tell us to do it, our effort cannot be for Him.

How is He directing and instructing you right now? How well are you listening? How well are you responding?

Obedience is beautiful. And, in the long run, it is productive and fruit-bearing.

Being Resolute in Quiet Time

Job, pay attention and listen to me; be quiet, and I will speak. If you have anything to say, answer me; speak up, because I want to prove you right. But if you have nothing to say, then listen to me; be quiet, and I will teach you wisdom. (Job 33:31-33)

How do you struggle with quietness?

When and where are you able to quiet yourself?

What could you gain by being more quiet?

We’re surrounded by noise and distractions. We can find something to consume our time and minds at any time. Being quiet isn’t a default setting. We must step away from the tendency to look for entertainment. We have to choose to be busy with quietness instead of mayhem. We know God speaks to us in all situations, but it’s often when we quiet ourselves that we most experience his presence and hear his guiding voice. It’s in the quietness that we draw close and are reassured, convicted, and directed. We need to be still. But how?

In order to be still consistently, we must develop the habit of stillness. Stillness isn’t going to crowd its way into our daily routines. We must be intentional about it. Schedule it. Ink it onto the calendar. Start small. One minute today is a great place to start. Try two tomorrow and work your way up to ten. Stay there for a week or so to develop a consistent habit. As you develop the habit, you’ll miss quiet time when you skip or postpone it. Avoid imposing too much structure onto your quiet time. Sit in silence or play soft instrumental music. As your mind begins to wonder, pull your attention back to God by committing to listen. Avoid giving up even when you get frustrated with yourself. Growth requires perseverance.

Set your phone alarm for your quiet time today. Before you begin your quiet time, reset your alarm for one minute, so you can wholeheartedly remain quiet instead of checking the time regularly.