Confession 441: Exhale

Today,I choose tobe happy!

In Missouri, you never know what September might bring. It’s that weird transition period between seasons; warm days gradually give way to cooler nights. This year, however, September brought a heatwave. Just as people were turning their sights and activities toward Fall, near-record highs brought sweltering, sweaty, stifling summer right back into their faces. I must admit, the heatwave made me miserable. I was cranky, snappish, tired, and unmotivated. I wanted to be outside, hiking and walking and just enjoying Fall. Instead, I was holed up inside our house which, in spite of air conditioning, was warm and humid, too. I could have gone outside. I could have gone hiking and walking. But, I chose not to because, quite frankly, I was tired of being hot.

Hot dry winds blew all day yesterday, banging our back screen door open and shut, open and shut. A cold front was pushing the winds, and overnight the cold front forced the heat south and ushered in some truly Fall-inspired temperatures. Standing outside as I waited with my boys for their school bus, I closed my eyes and turned my face to the cool breeze. And then, I exhaled.

As I stood basking in the glory of Fall, a weight seemed to lift from my spirit. Summer (fingers crossed) had gone. The Earth exhaled, and beauty and peace fell upon us.

Lately, I’ve been talking to a lot of people who are struggling to exhale. Many of us are in places in our lives where we just hold our breath. We hold our breath as we push through our overextended schedules. Get the kids to school, go to work, get the kids to an activity, go to the grocery store, get the kids to bed, go do laundry…The litany of busyness leaves no time to exhale.

Others hold their breath waiting for healing. An unexpected diagnosis leads to doctor’s appointments, therapy sessions, medicine regimens, and uncertainty about the future. The pain and unknown path ahead leaves no time to exhale.

Still others hold their breath through emotional upheaval. Changing relationships, anxiety over loved ones, loss, and sometimes betrayal cause us to hold onto worry, doubt, and anger. Juggling these emotions leaves no time to exhale.

I think our nation is in a state of holding its breath, too. Healthcare costs are rising. Violence seems to be increasing. The gap between rich and poor is widening. Ineffective national leaders offer nothing but divisiveness, bringing out the worst in our human nature. We go from one national disaster to the next: fires, volcanoes, hurricanes, and floods. The constant state of chaos leaves no time to exhale.

The problem with holding our breath is that we keep all of the negativity within. We internalize the sorrow, the fear, the anger, and the frustration until it becomes our entire world. We become trapped within ourselves, within the negativity of our own emotions. We become hardened and cynical, unable to see or experience the beauty of life around us.

My friends, this is not the life God wants for us. God doesn’t want us to just hold our breaths. Rather, he wants us to exhale, for when we exhale, we push out all of the negative and leave room for his life-giving Spirit.

Today,I choose tobe happy!-2

God wants to cleanse us with his Spirit, but we can’t experience that cleansing of the soul if we’re holding our breath. We need to exhale. We need to exhale the constant need to go, go, go. We need to exhale the fear of the unknown. We need to exhale the worst case scenarios of our lives. We need to exhale our fear of failure. We need to exhale all of the hurt that’s been heaped upon us. We need to exhale our sorrow and despair. We need to exhale the anger and resentment we’ve nurtured by holding on too long. We need to exhale mistrust and cynicism. We need to exhale self-doubt and self-consciousness. We need to exhale the desire for more, more, more. We need to exhale.

We each exhale in different ways using different methods. The key to exhaling is to be mindful of the practice. Find a quiet place and still your mind. Focus on your spirit. Invite God to show you the places inside yourself where you’re holding your breath. Then, ask God to help you exhale. Some people find it helpful to utter a meditative chant. As you exhale, say “I release _____”.

After you exhale, consciously fill your lungs to mass capacity and imagine yourself breathing in the Holy Spirit. Picture God’s Spirit moving from your lungs throughout your body–into your limbs, your fingers, your toes, your head. Again, some find a meditative chant useful. As you breathe in, you might say, “I breathe in _____”.

Take some time to exhale this week. Slow down, be conscious of your breath, and make room for the Holy Spirit.

Blessings and Peace,

Sara

 

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Confession 410: Love Goes Where Passion Cannot

Love is patient, love is kind, it isn’t jealous, it doesn’t brag, it isn’t arrogant, it isn’t rude, it doesn’t seek its own advantage, it isn’t irritable, it doesn’t keep a record of complaints, it isn’t happy with injustice, but it is happy with the truth. Love puts up with all things, trusts in all things, hopes for all things, endures all things. 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7 (CEB)

fire in jar

One of the things I loved about living in a rural community was watching the dance of life take place across the acres of fields cultivated by local farmers.  I watched, in awe, as bright green shoots pushed their way out of the seemingly lifeless dark, brown dirt.  As spring gave way to summer, it was a joy seeing the shoots grow into tall ears of corn or thick, lush soybeans that brought so much color to the landscape.  During harvest, the green turned once more to shades of brown and the land was still.  But then, out of the darkness of winter, there was light; deep oranges and yellows that would send plumes of black smoke into the sky.

It is not uncommon for farmers to burn off their fields before spring planting to get rid of the remnants of last year’s crop.  The fire not only removes the old, but it prepares the soil to receive new life.  In the process of burning new chemicals are produced in the ashes which then get folded into the fields to make the earth richer and stronger.  The burn is carefully orchestrated, monitored and controlled.  And this controlled burn leads to life.

heart on wood

In day 24 of 40 Days of Decrease, Chole asks two questions.

  1. Has passion ever led you somewhere that love would not have gone?  
  2. Has love ever led you somewhere that passion could not have gone?

I confess, I had to sit on that for a minute.  I had to think about passion and love beyond our physical relationships with others.  And when I delved deep within my being, here’s the truth that I came to.

Has passion ever led you somewhere that love would not have gone?  Absolutely.  Passion has led me to anger, to bitterness, to harsh words and vengeful actions.  Passion has led me to draft sweeping generalizations about people–to categorize others into “good” and “bad”.  Passion has led me to be mean and spiteful.

Has love ever led you somewhere that passion could not go?  Thank God for grace.  Love has led me to forgiveness.  Love has led me to hold my tongue.  Love has led me to patience, which has led me to understand others rather than to judge others.  Love has opened my eyes to things that I need to change.  Love has taught me kindness, and shown me how to be kind.

This, I think, is the difference between a controlled burn and a raging wildfire. Wildfires consume with no orchestration.  They leap up, burn tall and wreck everything in their path.  Wildfires leave behind destruction, barrenness and devastation.

Look again at Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 13:

Love is kind and patient,
never jealous, boastful,
    proud, or rude.
Love isn’t selfish
    or quick tempered.
It doesn’t keep a record
    of wrongs that others do.
Love rejoices in the truth,
    but not in evil.
Love is always supportive,
loyal, hopeful,
    and trusting.
Love never fails!

1 Corinthians 13: 4-8 (CEV)

Notice the fruit that love produces: kindness, patience, humility, forgiveness, grace, mercy, truth, encouragement, loyalty, hope, trust and strength.

Where our passions consume, love renews.  Love, I think, is a controlled burn orchestrated by God through Christ and the Holy Spirit to make our hearts ripe and fertile fields in which life will blossom.

heart on path

Love leads us to look beyond ourselves and our own desires to engage in the world with God’s eyes, hands, feet and heart.  Love leads us to do crazy things,like:

  • quitting a corporate job to go into ministry
  • downsizing a home or car to support the work of God
  • spending vacation time and money on a mission trip
  • becoming a foster parent
  • volunteering at a local school, retirement home, hospital, animal shelter, etc…
  • coaching youth sports and activities
  • building homes and schools in both local communities and developing countries
  • teaching Sunday school

The list goes on and on…

Love leads us where passion cannot go.

This week, I would challenge each of us to consider if we are acting out of passion or love.  And then to ask the question, “Where can love lead us that passion cannot go?”

Blessings and Peace,

Sara

Note: This is an updated version of a post originally published in March 15, 2016.

Confession 339: Be the Light

 You are the light of the world. A city on top of a hill can’t be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a basket. Instead, they put it on top of a lampstand, and it shines on all who are in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before people, so they can see the good things you do and praise your Father who is in heaven.

Matthew 5:14-16

Confession 278: When You Face an "Epic Fail"I hate our world.  I know, hate is a strong term, but I do.  I hate the strife and the suffering.  I hate the lack of effective leadership and problem-solving.  I hate the stupidity of our culture and our focus on consumerism.  I hardly ever watch the news because it just makes me angry and sad.  Why are people so hurtful?  Why are our leaders so incompetent?    Why do we, as a society, ignore the really pressing issues of poverty, injustice, and violence?  Why are we more passionate about football than starving children?

I know what you’re thinking–this woman should be medicated.  I have my “happy pills”…it’s okay.  I just get fed up with us, as a people.  And sometimes, if I’m being really honest, I get a little fed up with God, too.  I go to him indignant– full hands-on-hip-mom-voice-mode–

Where are you?  What are you doing about this?  Why are you letting this happen?  Can’t you just hurry back and fix this?  Where’s your light, anyway?

And there it is…that still, small voice inside of me that, when I quit ranting and raving, is patiently waiting to respond…

You have my light, the Spirit speaks.  Where are you carrying it?

Pop–righteous indignation immediately deflated.

It’s on me.  Well, not all of it.  It’s on you, too, if you profess to following Christ.  Because Christ was the lighcandle 10t, and he gave us his light, which is God’s light, and he told us–the Jesus people–to share that light with others.  In Matthew 5: 14-16 Jesus is telling the people listening to him to go–to do something–to show God’s light to others.  Do good works and others will see God’s light.

I like the way Paul puts it in Ephesians 2: We are God’s accomplishment, created in Christ Jesus to do good things.  God planned for these good things to be the way that we live our lives.

The truth is, God could fix all of the world’s problems in the blink of an eye.  But that’s not the point, is it?  The point is that God called us, his children, to share the light.  We are to live our lives in a way that reflects and magnifies the light of Christ by loving others and serving others.  I may hate the world, but that is precisely where God has called me (and you) to be.

Do you want to see God working in the world?  Then you’d better get moving.

Blessings and Peace,

Sara