Breathe

I came across this short, but beautifully powerful poem several years ago and have been drawn back to it over and over. It is SO rich with meaning that I want to share it with you.

Breathe IN My Peace and Exhale Hurry
RUN to Me and Refuse Worry.
Luxuriate yourself in Me, as I DO LIVE and BREATHE in you!
– anonymous

Physical breathing is something we do voluntarily but sometimes we don’t breathe as deeply as we should. I recently found out that I am a shallow breather. I would not have thought that the case, since I have always been a runner and very active. ..but, I don’t use my diaphragm properly, thus making me a shallow breather.

In looking up how to breathe more deeply I learned it HAS to be a new habit I form. Using my diaphragm, breathe in to the count of 4… breathe out to the count of 4. …there is no other way to teach myself to breathe differently than to practice doing it. So, now I have periods of time set aside each day when I practice breathing this way. I don’t know how long it might take to form this new habit because I cannot possibly do this exercise in counting 24/7. However, it is important enough to me to work at it until it does become much more habitual than my shallow breathing.

As with every breathing exercise there is always an exhale associated with the inhale. Inhaling brings in the oxygen we must have to live and exhaling removes the carbon dioxide that moves from our blood to our lungs with each inhale. This process, called gas exchange, is essential to life.

Each of us know that if we do not, or cannot, breathe we won’t live. Breathing is an involuntary function but breathing deep enough to gain all the health benefits deep breathing offers us isn’t natural to many of us.

The task of forming this new physical habit has reminded of how I should make spiritual deep breathing a habit also… which took me right back to the poem. It focuses us on the truth that spiritual deep breathing should be a fundamental part of our spiritual lives. Spiritually deep breathing takes time and effort. Yet, the beautiful benefits of that time and effort are rest, peace, joy and hope. We breathe in God and He refreshes and rejuvenates our souls.

The “gas exchange” that is so important to physical breathing also applies spiritual exhaling because as we exhale spiritually, we are allowing hurry to leave us.

As we spend the time and effort to read, pray and deep breathe spiritually we automatically are drawn closer to our sweet savior. We run to him and he fills us with peace. This process is the result of developing a healthy spiritual breathing habit.

The word “luxuriate” the poet chooses to use in the last line offers such a rich word picture. It brings thoughts of delight, comfort, pleasure, relaxation and care. God offers us these as we luxuriate ourselves in Him. Think of luxuriate in this way. It is spending time basking, meditating and pondering spiritual truth, deep breathing and enjoying the luxury this habit affords us.

“…Luxuriate yourself in Me, as I do live and breathe in you”.
In Genesis 2:7 the Bible says “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul“. The Hebrew word for God is Yahweh. Try to imagine what it sounded like when God exhaled His breath into Adam’s nostrils. I can hear His breath making the sound “Yahweh” as He powerfully exhaled out of Himself and into Adam. One sweet, soft gushing sound of breath leaving God and life began in man.

Will you join me and continue the habit (or begin to form this habit) of daily spiritual breathing? Breathe in Yahweh… breath out hurry and worry.

I believe each of us truly need to have this habit in the current world situations we find ourselves in. Read and re-read the poem – or better yet, memorize it! That is what I have tasked myself with this week.

Sitting at the Feet of Jesus

Last week I was challenged by the question “When was the last time you sat at the feet of Jesus?” I must admit that although I spend time praying, reading the Bible and studying books with great spiritual truths… this question immediately brought me to tears.

Why? Because, I often forget that my time alone with God is best spent with a heart attitude of worship, bowed down at the feet of my maker, savior and comforter.

Too often I get caught up in my requests and my agenda based on what is currently happening in my life and the lives of those around me. …not that it is a bad thing to make requests and take my concerns to Jesus and find scripture to encourage and offer help and hope.

BUT, when I am bowed down before Jesus the posture of my heart is one of humble submission. It is a time to be still and allow all the clutter in my mind and heart to cease, because he is the ONE who gives rest. Bowed down at Jesus’ feet is safe… it is calm… and it is joyous because I am in the presence of God.

The natural progression following being bowed down in humble submission is to sit at Jesus’ feet and begin to commune with him. Again, it is a posture I don’t take often enough. Thus my tears as I was challenged with that simple question.

This posture of my heart is conversation with Jesus as I sit at his feet, eager to learn and lean into every word of the conversation. Not a monologue of me listing everything on my heart but a dialogue where I share and then open my heart to the Holy Spirit’s prompts, trusting completely in his wise instruction to begin or continue whatever work God has for me.

Bowing down and sitting at the feet of Jesus is my hearts desire and I dare not allow the hub-bub of life to steal these precious times. I can promise each of you that, if you will take time away to bow down and sit before our Lord Jesus, you too will long for more and more of these precious times.

AND, the great part of longing for more is that he always satisfies the longings of our hearts.

Reposturing Spirit Part III

It has been several weeks since I have found the time to share more with you on Reposturing, but my hope it that, as you read, you will find the posture of running exciting and exhilarating.

Recall that the first three spiritual postures I shared were bowing, sitting and standing.

THESE FIRST THREE POSTURES require waiting on the Lord. I think that is an important point to make because, our culture doesn’t like to wait!

Bowing is the furthest position from Running. When we are bowed, we are low before the Lord… we are still and quiet, worshiping and waiting. It would be a hard thing to immediately jump from a bowed position into a full-sprint!

Sitting also requires waiting – because sitting denotes intimate fellowship and it connotes not being in a hurry.

Standing in the power and might of the Lord definitely requires waiting, because moving from a standing position to running isn’t all that hard! Yet, God says stand – AND stand quietly waiting to hear which way you are to run.

So what about the posture of running? Well, running can be done in two ways, both of which are valid in spiritual terms. The first is running to achieve or complete. The second is running as an act of Joy and Adoration as the result of something wonderful. We could also use the word “dance” for this posture. Both ways require lots of energy, but the first is always pressing ahead at full speed while the second one is rhythmic and alternating between fast and slow steps.

AND, both ways of running are the result of Bowing, Sitting and Standing postures – but the first way of running is achieved because of God’s strength and power. This is very important to state because we often feel it is our own works/achievements that allow us to finish the race of life well. Here are seven verses/passages on running. The first five point to the source of strength as being God.

2 Samuel 22:30 “With God’s help I can overcome in this battle; with my God I can run through a wall. God’s road stretches out before me straight and smooth. His words form a good path and everyone who runs towards him makes it… It is God who makes me strong to finish the race well.”

Psalm 18:29-30, 32-33 and 35 “Thank you Lord! You make my feet like the feet of a deer so I can run with you into the high places of your kingdom… You clear the way and give me firm footing so that I don’t fall and get injured… Your right hand sustains me — you stoop down to make me great!”

Psalm 31:1 The Message “I run to you God; I run for dear life.”

Isaiah 40:28-31 “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

Matthew 6:32-33 “Do not worry about your physical well-being. People who don’t know any better run after all the things they want, but your Heavenly Father knows your needs. Run for his kingdom and his righteousness then everything that you need will be taken care of.”

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I [train] my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”

Hebrews 12:1-3 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

Each of these speaks of running to achieve or complete the race of LIFE: moment by moment, day to day, week by week, month to month and year to year… until we come to the end of this earthly race and close our eyes in death.

Running in the second respect – because of Joy and Adoration – is something that is often hard to experience because of what the race of LIFE deals us. In fact, some of us may not even be able to comprehend this position of running for Joy and Adoration because of where we find ourselves in life at this very moment. But remember! …Running builds on bowing, sitting and standing. It is after we have been quiet before our Lord, sat and learned in intimacy with our Lord and stood strong in the might and power of our Lord that in the midst of life’s trials and circumstances we can often experience joy in the midst of the storm.

Here are two beautiful verses on running because of Joy and Adoration:
“Thank you, God. Because you’ve always stood up for me, I’m free to run and play.” (Psalm 63:7, MSG)

Yes, Lord, “I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free.” (Psalm 119:32)

NO guilt trips here! If you are not able to run in joy and adoration before the Lord right now, I am here, along with your family and close friends, to love on you and support you… not tell you that you should be experiencing something you are not.

I have a friend from four decades ago who has come back into my husband and my life recently. This gentleman was in our local church’s youth group when we were in high school. He has never married, but he has asked two women to marry him. The first time he was engaged was about twenty-five years ago and the second time just a few months ago. The first woman was killed in a head-on collision they were in together prior to the wedding. The second was beaten into a coma by her ex-husband and died a few days later. What a heart-wrenching life story! He is definitely not running in Joy and Adoration because he is broken in every way, for a second time, by this horrific tragedy. Many of our texts (this is how he has chosen to communicate with us at this time) simply say “We have no words but we are here for you anytime”. We are praying for him behind the scenes, but he isn’t ready to hear even that. For now it is enough to just say we are there for him.

Are your bent or broken under life circumstances? I am here for you. You can post a comment with as few or many words as you want to share and I would count it a privilege to enter into a relationship of support for you. You can also send me a private message on Messenger from my Facebook account: https://www.facebook.com/caringail

 

The Long Days of Summer

Here it is August and the summer is steadily drawing to a close. Where has it gone?  Now, don’t get me wrong…I am not a lover of hot weather.  I could be very happy with the 80’s all summer, so the cooler weather that comes with fall is something I look forward to.  But I DO love the long days of sunshine! Cool summer evenings taking a walk or sitting on the front porch chatting and sipping some lemonade. These rate way up there with things I love – and things I long for other times of the year.

The word I want to focus on is “long”, but not in terms of how many days summer spans or how long the sunlight last during these days. It is rather, that no matter how long the days are in terms of sunlight, they are never more than 24 hours. And…somehow, for me, those 24 hours are never long enough to get everything done that is there before me begging to be done.

Do you feel the same way? Busyness and chaotic schedules are nothing new.  Not to me; not to most people – and, I suspect, not to you. We listen to messages, read books and re-prioritize our schedules trying to make more room in them. These days the term is “margins”. We are encouraged to create extra space in and around each page of our life.

How are you doing with creating those spaces? I am a sad failure at it, and more than that, the pages of my book are actually running into the gutters. So, what should I do about it – and what great advice am I going to blog here for you? The answer to both of those questions is “I don’t know”.

It seems that much of my crazy life is simply the result of too many wonderful people, opportunities and obligations. Does that sound like I am not just living a crazy life, but that I have gone crazy? Let me explain: I am blessed to have a father who is nearly ninety-four, a sweet  ten-week old grandson…and many wonderful relatives between the two. And, of course, my husband of nearly forty-three years who is always at my side is part of the count. I also have great friends who are living life with me. All these people simply take time.  Time well spent…albeit it is still time. Then there are the opportunities that come my way everyday. At sixty-one my bucket list continues to grow. Not for the wild, outrageous, are and/or expensive things of life – but rather for the chance to help someone, somewhere every single day from the knowledge and experiences my life has…and will afford me. I find myself fairly bursting with things I still want to learn to do to grow my knowledge in hopes of offering help and hope. Finally, there are the wonderful obligations of life that crush in on me. Why are they wonderful? Because I am blessed with work that pays me decently and clients who treat me with dignity and fairness. Of course, many of life’s obligation do not seem wonderful…such as needy neighbors, mindless chores, and urgent responsibilities that can nearly suffocate me. But, put in the proper prospective even those obligations are wonderful because they mean I am alive and have the health to meet them.

So, it would seem that even though I don’t have the answer for myself, or you, on how to make these long summer days hold anything less in them…I have managed to get some insight that will help me face another crammed day with new vigor.   Perhaps it will you, also.

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Encouragement and Enrichment from Hymns of Old – Part I

old hymnal …a series on words/phrases from old hymns to encourage and enrich.  
“Sweetest Name”

I have had a certain phrase rolling over in my mind these past few days from the old hymn “Sweetest Name”.  It has been such a blessing to me and I wanted to share it with you.  However, before I could get this post written, we had communion at church – and one of the songs the pianist played was “Wonderful Grace of Jesus”.  As I inwardly sang the words she played the melody to so beautifully, I realized that this hymn also had words that encourage and enrich.  …and so begins a short series.

“Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, sweetest name I know; fills my every longing…keeps me singing as I go.”  This is the final phrase of the chorus of “Sweetest Name” – a hymn written by Luther Bridgers in 1910.

I want to focus on just the middle four words “fills my every longing” because I believe most of us have at least one longing – and probably more than one.

Longing is defined as a yearning desire.  And yearning is synonymous with craving, ache, burning, hunger, thirst. Each of those words create vivid word pictures…some similar – and some quite different from each other.  To yearn is often used when referring to emotions and relationships; a craving can be associated with addictions; and to ache – well, that is used to describe emotions and relationships, but it also brings up thoughts of chronic illness and pain.  To burn, connotes discomfort of some sort or an insatiable desire; while hunger and thirst both make one immediately physically or spiritually hungry or thirsty when they contemplate the word.

I believe it will take just a few seconds for you to identity at least one longing you currently have.  You probably have several.  Whether relational, spiritual, physical, emotional or a combination – this word L-O-N-G-I-N-G is such a perfect description of itself.  A longing is not easily or quickly satisfied…it is long in coming, and perhaps will not be satisfied in a way we thought it would or should.

Then how in the world can a songwriter be so bold as to write that Jesus can, and does, “fill my EVERY longing“?  Mr Bridgers was acquainted with longing.  He was a minister who lost his wife and children in a fire while he was away visiting aging parents in 1910. That same year he wrote this song.  He knew…and wanted others to know, (you and me) that his yearning desire, his constant craving, his aching heart, his burning wish, his hunger and his thirst to have his beloved family back – had been realized, filled, satiated and completed by Jesus!

Did that mean he just suddenly stopped grieving and/or never thought of his lost family again?  Oh, I can’t imagine that was the case. I DO know that it meant that he knew within the deepest parts of his being that His God and Savior understood, cared and had supplied the grace and hope that satisfied.

Remember when I wrote “A longing is not easily or quickly satisfied…it is long in coming, and perhaps will not be satisfied in a way we thought it would or should”?  As humans we reason, rationalize and try to fix things ourselves or make things happen. However, Jesus satisfies our longing(s) when we trust Him with them, knowing that our human way of looking at things is short-sighted, often irrational and imperfect at its very best.  His ways are never short-sighted, never irrational and always perfect!  Jesus satisfies our longings when we place our focus, whether consciously or sub-consciously, on Him and His ways.

I have often told others that when I write I am so blessed myself – and, this is one of those times when I am finding it nearly impossible to stay at the computer because my soul is bursting with joy and hope because of who Jesus is and what He has done, is doing and will do for myself and others during my lifetime.  I want to simultaneously jump up and down, run around, drop to my knees in adoration and utter words of gratitude and praise to my Lord and Savior – the God of Heaven and Earth!

Perhaps I digress, but think of the words to another song with me for a moment:
“Who can take a sunrise, sprinkle it with dew, Cover it with choc’late and a miracle or two
The Candy Man, oh the Candy Man can – The Candy Man can ’cause he mixes it with love and makes the world taste good.”
A dewy sunrise covered in chocolate and miracles – now that’s sweet!

“Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, sweetest name I know; fills my every longing…keeps my singing as I go.”

How much sweeter to have my longings satisfied!  Jesus, your name truly is the sweetest name I know.