Monday, May 18, 2015

Just Breathe

As usual with many of my posts, seemingly disparate things come together for something quite different from any of them separately.  So, let's see what God's doing with this one.

Early in 2014 I saw the wallpaper that illustrates this post.  I kind of like the phrase, much  like "chill", "relax", etc. Maybe a little Zen flair to it.  I'm totally unsure where I found the wallpaper, but it works very nicely as an anchor.  But we'll get to that.

March of 2015,  the well known sub sandwich chain, Subway, started an ad campaign for an expanded range of footlong subs, $6 each.  In it a customer starts to get excitedly confused by all the possibilities.  At which point the counter girl advises him, "Breathe. Just breathe.".  If those two aren't enough to get things rolling....

I've mentioned before that I have COPD.  Which means that, except in ideal circumstances, the idea of "just breathe" isn't completely fulfilled.  Ranges of temperatures and humidity can make breathing more difficult.  Mine is milder than some, but a pain in the backside, nonetheless.  No, not literally.  But that's only part of my medical example.  Once someone has emphysema or COPD, it's not going to improve.  But there are things to do to be relatively comfortable.

One of the things to do, particularly when breathing gets more difficult is what's called the pursed lip breathing exercise.  It's very simple, but look at what it does.  When breathing gets difficult, our normal reaction is rapid shallow breaths.  That's not good, we'll see why soon.  The exercise starts with breathing in, through the nose, for two seconds.  That's followed by exhaling, through the mouth, with pursed lips, for four seconds.  Take a look what happens with that:

  1. The inhaled air is clean and filtered by the nasal hairs to make it moreso.
  2. The longer, pursed lip exhale slows the breathing, making it more relaxed.  Another bit of that previously mentioned Zen flair.  It gets rid of the shallow breathing, so that:
  3. The longer exhale expels more air that's had the oxygen depleted, which allows the two second inhale to get oxygen into the lungs and, from there, into the blood system.
I've mentioned the Zen flair a couple of times on purpose.  And for a reason.  All that I've shared sounds very secular,  But it highlights some important spiritual realities.  We'll try to keep those, as much as possible, in the same sequence.
  • If we are to spiritually thrive, we need to take in the pure, unadulterated Word of God.  Delving deeper into historical context and word meanings can be good.  But we don't want those to become a distraction from the Scripture itself.  And we certainly don't want opinion and emotion to take precedence over the Word.
  • When we're relaxed and thinking with God, we stay that way.  Panic, a rush to a "solution", speeding away from the problem, all might give results that are satisfactory.  But, more likely, we either end up making things worse or trade one issue for a different problem.  At best, we only delay disaster.  So, relaxed, clear headed, spiritual thinking has to be our mode of operation.
  • In the spiritual realm, the good stuff pushes the bad out.  But the principle is still true that getting rid of the bad makes more room for the good.  Love pushes out hate, which makes room for more love.  Faith expels fear, which allows greater faith.  Taking in the Word counters unsupported opinions and emotional reaction, which leaves more room for more of the Word to take root.
Think of what Paul taught.

Romans 8:28 (KJV)  And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

With that in mind, consider the Israelites in the desert.  Forty years of wandering that some will describe as punishment.  But, if we use Romans 8:28 as the filter, we see a different reality.  The Israelites found all sorts of ways to deviate from what God said.  But any punishment wasn't vindictive.  God was being loving and creative to get the Israelites to do what was best for them. And He loved them enough to keep trying for 40 years before allowing them into the Promised Land.

The manna on that journey was more than just food.  It was an illustration of a Godly principle.  The manna had to be gathered daily and eaten.  Any that wasn't gathered or any excess gathered would spoil and become no good to eat.  Now, think of God's grace (including salvation), mercy, and love. If we take those in and nothing else happens, that doesn't mean our lack of action changes them. But it is a sign we haven't fully used the "manna" God has given us.  Our lack of action is an indication they haven't been fully and properly used.

We need to exhale what we breathe in, toward others.  When we take in God's love for us, we need to pass it along to others, for our own spiritual good.  When we accept mercy, we need to give it, again for our own spiritual good.  The same for grace.  Forgiveness?

Mark 11:26 (KJV)  But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses.

Passing along what God has so richly given us is a natural response to His grace, mercy and love. It makes full use of what we've been given, making room for more.  And we're given enough for our day.  If we use up our grace, God has more for the next day.  If we need more mercy, God has another day's worth.  When we use up our allotment of His love, God has more for us.  Salvation is the only form of grace we don't need more of, once we've accepted it.  But there's always more if we miss previous opportunities.

So, do we take in what's pure from God?  Do we take it in with relaxed faith?  Do we expel what doesn't bring us closer to God?

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