The God who Breathes

Moving and settling into the New Year, God has been speaking to me about breathing. It seems fitting considering the exceptionally cold winter this year. It’s hard to ignore the winter breath that escapes when I walk outside!

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While one might assume that life is all about choices, the miracle that is our respiratory system disagrees. This is what fascinates me about breathing. It’s is an involuntary response to life. We don’t choose to breathe, but it’s necessary for our survival. Not only that, the nuances of our breath, or breathing patterns, can be evidence of our state of mind or physical well being. For example, in this cold weather breathing can be challenging with congested sinuses. I also find breathing challenging any time I attempt a light afternoon jog! Perhaps this is evidence my physical state could use some improvements.

Though breathing is an involuntary response to life, external and internal factors affect it. Consider the impact of emotions. We experience a rapid rate of breath when fear /adrenaline / anxiety / stress kick in. Or, when we’re in a state of calm, peace, and spiritual rest, our breathing slows and deepens. These are extreme references and other physiological variables play a role, but studies show that respiration is altered by all sorts of emotions. Conversely, studies also indicate that we can alter our emotions by adjusting our breathing patterns.

I learned the impact of breathing from Buddhists monks in Nepal. I was working with a missionary family who had an outreach to Tibetan Buddhists. To better understand Buddhism, we took an immersion course in Buddhism at a lovely monastery. My intent for this course was to learn how to communicate with Buddhists and bridge the gap to Christ. It was an incredible experience and I had many powerful encounters with Jesus. We would spend hours sitting on little pillows practicing meditation and breathing. Through these exercises I learned how to quiet my body and my mind through intentional breathing. I learned how to focus. I learned how to step into my “prayer closet” and into stillness amidst the chaos around me.

God has been reminding me of this kind of intentional breathing; of the value of breathing with Him, at His pace, instead of my own. Yes, our God breathes.

There are two significant moments relayed in scripture of God breathing. The first is in the beginning. In Genesis 2:7:

Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.

The second significant occurrence of God breathing is after Jesus declared, “It is finished.” In His resurrected state, he appears to the disciples. We read in John 20:21-22 (emphasis mine):

So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them and *said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

As evidenced in both of these passages of Scripture, when God breathes, life is birthed. He breathes peace within us. And with peace, we have authority over our emotions and our response to life’s circumstances. I believe that we are intended to breathe that peace, power, authority, and life into the world. Into ourselves as well as others.

That God breath – just like our natural breath – is always with us. God is ever present in the most intimate of ways. There is an element of intimacy to breathing. Think about how near God must have been to the first person to breath life into him. Or how near Jesus was to the disciples when He released the Holy Spirit. God is as near as our breath.

There’s an Old Testament passage — 1 Kings 19:1-12 — that I often run to when stress is high and I’m out of breath. When the mountain of tasks seems to overwhelm. When the chaos around me feels unrelenting and I begin to retreat into the darkness of negativity. In those moments, I remember Elijah on Mount Horeb. To put it in context, Elijah is on the run. He’s just witnessed God bring fire from heaven marking a great victory. God is clearly with him! Yet, a mortal threat against his life sends him packing. He’s fearful and tired and just wants to hide. Eventually, he finds himself holed up in a cave. I’ve been in that cave of negative thoughts and emotions. It’s a dark place. This is where Elijah found Himself. It is also where he found God.

I’m comforted by the words of St. Porphyrios, “Do not fight to expel the darkness from the chamber of your soul. Open a tiny aperture for light to enter and the darkness will disappear.”

God made himself known to Elijah in the cave and said, “What are you doing in here? I’m not in here. Come to where I am.” Or as Jesus said centuries later, “Come to me all who are weary and heavy-laden.”

Elijah then has a revelation in God’s invitation. This is captured in verses 11-12. If you’ll allow me some interpretive license:

Elijah saw a great and strong wind was rending the mountains and breaking the rocks. It was chaos around him. An absence of control. “Don’t focus on the storm. I’m not in the wind.” And after the wind, Elijah experienced an earthquake. The ground unsettled beneath his feet and his foundation rocked. His direction was lost. “Don’t focus on the earthquake. I’m not in the earthquake.” After the earthquake a fire ignited. It was overwhelming and destructive like those all-consuming negative thoughts. “Don’t focus on the fire. I’m not in the fire.”  And after the fire a sound of a gentle blowing. “Focus here. I am the gentle blowing. The still small voice. The whisper in your ear. The intimate breath on your face.”

Breathe with Me. Breathe as I breathe. Breathe Me in. Breathe out Life.

If we breathe out what we breathe in, then breathe deeply of the Lord. Lift your eyes with every inhale. See the miracles of life around you as you exhale. Then, breathe deeper.

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord! (Psalm 150:6)

Holding the Door

It’s a new season! With every new year comes a renewed sense of goal-setting, excitement for new adventures, and curiosity for what the year might offer. There’s also the unique pleasure of turning our backs on the old year and brightly looking forward to the next. For many, the first day of the year brings the desire to spring-clean, release old (bad) habits, and start new things. It’s a time for change permanently marked by the calendar every 365 days.

What doesn’t ever change—no mater what day it is—is the constant, ever present, ever accessible presence of God. Sometimes that presence is thick and tangible. I like to refer to that experience as a God Encounter.

This morning I walked briskly through the cold to reach my office building. From another path, an older, white-haired gentleman emerged about 100-150 yards in front of me. Our destination was clearly the same, though he was bound to arrive before me. When he reached the door, he opened it—as expected—and waited. He turned toward me and watched me approach with a hospitable smile on his face. His pleasant voice shouted, “I must hold the door for you. It’s not in my nature to close it.”

I drew closer and crossed the threshold where we exchanged the normal pleasantries and bid one another a good day. But as I continued walking through the building the love of God warmed me from the inside out.

Scriptures suggest we may encounter angels in the faces of strangers (Hebrews 13:2). Although I cannot say if this man were angel or not, I can confidently confide in you the words of God, my Father, in that moment. “It is my great pleasure to not only open doors for you, but to hold them open until you arrive and cross the threshold.”

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It’s the first week of the new year and I am five days into it. Already, I am overwhelmed by the vast love of God as each day unfolds new evidence of His presence. Today, I receive a powerful addition to my faith, for God has clearly spoken and promised his great pleasure to hold the door for me. What a God Encounter!

God Desires

In my pursuit of Christ, it has not ever been a stretch to acknowledge what God is capable of. In short, anything! I have a track record and stories to confirm the magnificence of God and His ability. Nothing is impossible for Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all we ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20). What could be more exciting or revelatory? What could be more assuring than knowing God can do it? Whatever it is, God can do it. But will He?

Over the last fews years, I have started a new meditation focusing less on what God can do and more on what God desires to do. I recall a key moment in my exploration of divine healing where my eyes were opened to this deeper Truth. Truth — the capital “T” kind — is remarkable. What makes it remarkable is the progressive revealing of its depths. I never doubted that God could heal, that he was able to heal. In fact, I almost took it for granted that God heals the sick, the lame, the deaf, the blind. Of course He does! He’s God. Yet, in all those years of nearsighted acceptance of this Truth, it never occurred to me that He wants to heal.

incense-smokeWhat a difference it makes to distinguish between the ability of God and the desire of God. This seemingly minor exchange of words—ability for desire—is radically transforming my meditations, my prayer-life, my understanding of healing, my relationship with Father God, as well as my outward mindset.

The deeper I dive into this new notion of God’s desire the more certain I am of God’s love for me and the stronger my trust in Him becomes. It is as if in this meditative dance, our embrace strengthens and the space between us lessens. And as our spirits mingle in the delight of God’s desire, I find myself craving not only more of Him for me, but more of Him for others. How my heart breaks for those who feel excluded from God’s blessing! Who confess God’s ability but fall short of recognizing His unrestricted desire. It applies to all. Just as a parent desires the best for their child, when well-behaving or misbehaving, so God desires.

His desire to heal, to create, to bless, to prosper, to speak, to dance, to inhabit praises, to be present must not remain a secret or unrevealed Truth. The difference between seeking God for what He can do and seeking God for what He desires to do, is knowing who He is: Love. He doesn’t heal because He can. He heals because He loves. He doesn’t create because He can. He creates because He loves. And so on and so on.

Now, when I pray, I pray with the growing confidence of God’s love for me and for others.  Instead of pleading with God, “God, I know you can do it so please just do it,” I thank Him. “Thank you, Father God, for your love and your blessing. Thank you that you desire my health, my healing, my provision, my (insert need).”

Lastly, as I meditate on God’s desire, I also meditate on an equally profound promise. He chose me, and appointed me that I would go and bear fruit, and that my fruit would remain, so that whatever I ask of the Father in Jesus name He may give to me (John 15:16). Because He loves.

Who I am

67639I’d like to say that I don’t know how it happens. How I wake up one morning heavy under the weight of my past which slows my body and mind. But I do know how it happens. One day at a time. One negative thought at a time. Before I realize it I can barely move through the mud and muck of former actions and decisions. Sin. With sin, comes shame. With shame, comes a cycle of self defeating thoughts and eventual paralysis of the spirit.

Over the last few days I’ve been meditating on this cycle that impacts me so deeply mentally, physically, and spiritually. My beautiful, amazing, and inspiring partner reminded me that I have an arsenal of truth and power to battle negative thoughts and memories. I’m amazed how often I forget the power I wield. But I have a Helper, the Holy Spirit, sent by the Father, who reminds me of my peace, my position, and my power. I know who I am and I’m learning—remembering—who God says I am.

In a pit of negativity and subconscious thought, I spoke the need to atone for the sins of a past long gone. As this lie slipped from lips, I had an immediate encounter with Jesus. I have already atoned for your sin. Embrace what I have already done.

Truth brings freedom and freedom inspires worship and unhindered movement mentally, physically, and spiritually. Today, I remember how loved I am. I remember who I am and to Whom I belong. My sin, my past is forgotten. I am safe, whole, pure, and full of life magnificent! I am a daughter of God. The daughter of a Lion. The daughter of Love.

Foundation

Someone once told me that a father’s role is to affirm and a husband’s is to confirm. There is “nugget of truth” in this statement that resonates deep within my spirit. What is the difference between affirming and confirming?

affirm – state as a fact; assert strongly and publicly

confirm – establish the truth or correctness of (something previously believed, suspected, or feared to be the case); reinforce someone in (an opinion, belief, or feeling)

They are similar in definition, but closer inspection and meditation yields how vastly different they are. One is the foundation (affirmation); one is reinforcement of that foundation (confirmation). As we all know, without a solid foundation, nothing built upon it will stand. I daresay we have all had this experience, either personally or with someone else. No matter how much we try to encourage or support, it cannot be received. Why? Because there is no foundation.

Another “nugget” I fondly adhere to is belief precedes behavior. Similarly, our beliefs are the foundation of our behavior. Before behavior will change, belief must change. We often address poor behavior backward. We address, punish, or react to the behavior (AKA the symptom) and rarely dive deep enough to discover the why or the belief behind the behavior (AKA the root of the issue).

From our earliest moments of cognition, we are influenced by all that is around us. Unfortunately, many of us grow up with a misunderstanding of who we are; an unawareness of who created us and for what purpose we were created. Our foundation is laid upon this misunderstanding and we are, subsequently, unable to establish healthy beliefs about ourselves and/or the world.

Women, more than men, seem to have the greater battle with identity. Perhaps this is a gross generalization, but it has been my experience nonetheless. We battle a barrage of lies thrown at us daily.

I am just a woman.
I have nothing to offer.
I cannot support myself.
I need a husband.
I need a man or someone else to feel good about myself.
I am no good. I am impure.
I am all alone.
I must surrender my purity to be accepted. To be loved.
I need to be skinnier. My hair needs to be a different color.
Only pretty women are successful. I’m not pretty enough.
I have to give up my dreams. My dreams aren’t as important.

These are just a few of the lies. Most of them tick me off! Not a healthy foundation. Sadly, there is plenty of confirmation to reinforce this negativity. We see it on the streets, in the movies, on television, in magazines, from our friends, and sometimes from our family.

Thankfully, there is a greater foundation and One who is willing and waiting to lay it. One who has already laid it. Jesus, our Cornerstone. When we look to God for our foundation, we discover our true identity. We discover Truth.

I am created in the image of God and created with purpose (Genesis 1:26).
I am the apple of His eye (Zechariah 2:8).
The King desires my beauty (Psalm 45:11).
I am wonderfully made and I am always on His mind (Psalm 139).
There is a plan and purpose for my life. I have God-given dreams (Jeremiah 29:11).
I am never alone (John 14:18, Hebrews 13:5-6; Jeremiah 29:13).
He can use me. He wants to use me (1 Corinthians 1:26-30).
I am washed, cleansed, purified (John 15:3).
I am free (Isaiah 61:1-3; Luke 4:18).
I am righteousness. I am holy (2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 1:15-16).
I am blessed, chosen, adopted, accepted, redeemed, and forgiven (Ephesians 1:3-7).

These are just a few Truths! With considerable rejoicing, I declare that our affirmation lies in the Living God. No one can take that away. These are words straight from the mouth of God. Whether the world or men confirm these or not, the Word of God remains forever (Isaiah 40:8, 1 Peter 1:23). It is fact and God asserts our identity “strongly and publicly” as we live our lives in pursuit of Him. The beauty and true “nugget of truth” is this: The Father affirms our identity in Him and the Husband, who is Jesus, devotes His life to confirm it.

Oh that we would stop and listen and let the Truth of God pour into us and take root!