“…the breath of the Almighty gives me life.”

“For the Spirit of God has made me,
    and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.” – Job 33:4

 

Question for the day:  “How often do we let the breath of God minister to us?”

Friends,

We talk a great deal about listening for the voice of God, hearing what He has to say to us.  But how often do we stop, and truly let HIs presence surround us?  If you google “breath God”  you will find many circumstances in the Bible describing the life-giving power that comes from the breath of God.

How do we do that?  There are all kinds of ways to experience the physical presence of God, but one that I have found very helpful is the breath prayer.

A breath prayer is a very simple prayer form that takes 3-5 seconds to perform; the amount of time it takes you to inhale deeply and exhale.  The point of the breath prayer is to give us opportunity to “breathe in” the presence of God, and to “breathe out” those things that are detrimental to us (like stress, fear, anxiety, anger, etc.)

Here is how it works:

1.  Choose your favorite name for God

2.  Choose a passage of scripture that speaks life to you

3.  Form a 1 sentence prayer from the two.

Example:

Inhale, “Heavenly Father”

Exhale, “grant me your peace.”

or

Inhale, “Good Shepherd”

Exhale, “in you I trust.”

The possibilities are endless, however, I have truly experienced the grace and presence of God through breath prayers at different times in my life.  The one that took me through the hardest days (also known as the toddler years) is probably my favorite:

“Dear God, help me!”

You may laugh, but that prayer helped me make it through many times of desolation and depression.  And every time I said it, God showed up.  So if you really need to know today that God is in your corner, consider a breath prayer.  Put a name on the need you have, and breathe in deeply the presence and grace of our Savior.  And as an added benefit, since we inhale and exhale all day, we could remain in a continuous cycle of prayer through all our hard times.

 

Lord Jesus,

Show me the way

“…sharper than a two-edged sword…”

 “For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.” – Hebrews 4:12

 

Question for the day:  “How does God speak to you through His Word?”

Friends,

In this last month, we have discussed so many of the different ways that God speaks with us. I have thoroughly enjoyed hearing your stories and expanding my understanding of God’s “voice.”  But today is a special day for me, in that, I would like to talk about the most powerful way that He speaks with me: the Word.

I first began reading the Bible at the age of 31.  And from the very first moment, it has been the single-most transformative thing I have ever done.  It has given me a glimpse of the nature of God, it has introduced me intimately to my Savior, Jesus Christ, and it has instructed me in the ways I should live my life.

And the exciting thing is, I have only absorbed a tiny fraction of it!  This living document is capable of changing me from the inside out, every day, for the rest of my life.  The only requirement is that I open myself up to it.

One of the reasons, I believe, that it is such a transforming experience for me, is the way in which I read the Bible.  Like many of you, I assume, I was conditioned all my life to “read for information.”  That is, read with an attitude of remembering the key information and retaining the overall message.

However, I would challenge everyone seeking a personal relationship with Christ, to approach the Bible in a very different manner.  Instead of reading for “information,” consider reading for “transformation.”  Instead of reading to learn “about God,” seek to “know God.”  Or as we say at Liberty Crossings, “we do not seek head knowledge of the Savior, we seek heart knowledge.”

One way of doing this that I have found most effective, is an ancient form of study called, Lectio Divina, or Sacred Reading.  Here’s how you begin:

1.  Pick a small section of scripture (no more than 8 -12 verses, or it could be only 1 – we are striving for quality not quantity)

2.  Read it slowly.  Ask yourself the question, “What words, phrases, or ideas stick out to me?”

3.  Read it again.  Sit for a few minutes thinking about what it actually means.  Ask yourself, “What might God be saying here?”

4.  Read it again.  Give yourself a few moments to reflect on the question, “What is God saying directly to me through this passage?”

5.  Read it again.  Ask yourself, “What is my response to it?”

Friends,

I have never seen anyone that was not completely transformed by this process.  It may seem very tedious at first, but I have found that this method has helped me grow in 2 very powerful ways:  1.  It helps me to truly memorize scripture; 2.  It helps me to own scripture in the midst of my circumstances – It becomes a part of me.  It is powerful.

If you are looking for a place to begin, may I recommend Bible Gateway?  This is a free online Bible source.  Bible Gateway also has a wonderful service called “Reading Plans.”  Here is how I use it.  I have the free app on my phone and iPad.  I have subscribed to the reading plan that appeals to me (there are several to choose from.)  Each day, at a time I chose, my reading pops up on my screen as a reminder. I don’t even have to remember to do it.  How easy is that?  It is a great way to keep me structured (I definitely need that!)  And it is great because I get to choose the translation that best suites me.  I highly recommend it.

http://www.biblegateway.com/reading-plans/

Heavenly Father,

Praise be to You, Oh God! For You have chosen to reveal Yourself to us in so many ways that we can understand.  Thank You for the revelation of Your Word.  Thank you for providing me with a road map for this journey called life.  And thank You for giving me free and unfettered access at any time that I choose.  

I confess that I have not treasured the Bible as I should.  And I have not been as faithful to read it as I should.  Please help me with that.  Please create in my heart a desire to know You more deeply.  Fill me with a hunger and thirst for Your Word that seeks to be filled each day.  And as I encounter You in scripture, open my eyes to what You have for me.  Help me to read with discernment and wisdom fueled by the Holy Spirit.  Help my heart to be transformed into Your image, by the power of Your words.

In the name of Jesus I pray,

Amen 

“…the gracious hand of God was on me.”

” I also said to the king, “If it please the king, let me have letters addressed to the governors of the province west of the Euphrates River, instructing them to let me travel safely through their territories on my way to Judah.  And please give me a letter addressed to Asaph, the manager of the king’s forest, instructing him to give me timber. I will need it to make beams for the gates of the Temple fortress, for the city walls, and for a house for myself.” And the king granted these requests, because the gracious hand of God was on me.” – Nehemiah 2:7-8

 

Question for the day:  Does God ever speak to you through circumstances or events?

Friends,

I was watching an interview on the news today with a man who suffered complete destruction of his home in the super tornadoes of April 2011.  I was awestruck because he spoke of the wonderful opportunities God had provided him through this experience.  What an insightful perspective.  I fear that in his place, I would be focused on all I had lost, not what I had gained.

So many times in my life, I have been convinced that God was at work in the middle of my circumstances.  I have begun to rely on His presence more and more as I try to navigate the paths in front of me.  But  many times, things are not as clear cut as I would like for them to be.  In those times when I am confused or unsure  of what I should do, I have leaned on this prayer, trusting that He will bless me:

Heavenly Father,

I don’t know which way to go, or what path to take.  There are many different choices in front of me.  Please Lord, help me stay within Your divine will.  Close any doors that You do not want for me; and fling open those that will lead me into Your will and presence.  When the doors close my King, may they do so with a resounding thud, in that I might perceive the finality of it.  Make the path not only straight, but crystal clear.

In the name of the Good Shepherd I pray,

Amen

“…he could see everything clearly.”

Resurrection-Icon-2005---5

“Then Jesus placed his hands on the man’s eyes again, and his eyes were opened. His sight was completely restored, and he could see everything clearly.” – Mark 8:25

 

Question for the day: Do you experience the presence of Christ through art?

Friends,

I have shared some of my favorite art work using Christ as the centerpiece.  I know it is a little hard to get the full impact in this manner, however, all these pieces, for me, reveal a different facet to the nature of Christ.  The first time I saw each of these pieces, I had an emotional response, and walked away feeling as though I had encountered Him in a different way.

For example, the first piece is a Russian icon depicting the resurrection of Christ.  If you can see it, He is standing on the broken gates of the grave.  How powerful an image of His ability to rise, and to also bring us with him.  In this image, I see power, and majesty, and victory, and hope.  In the two contemporary pieces, I see compassion, and mercy and joy and forgiveness.  Also, powerful reminders of the gifts He has to offer me.

How I thank God for those gifted artists who are faithful to their calls.  Because of the passions of others, I am transformed in my relationship with Christ.

What about you?  Are there any images that speak directly to your heart that you would like to share with the rest of us?  Please feel welcomed to do so.

in_the_arms_of_his_love_large forgiven_large_1

 

 

Dearest Lord Jesus,

Praise to You my Savior, my Friend, and My Shepherd!  Thank You for revealing Your many facets to me.  Thank You for giving me eyes to see that You are a multi-dimensional God, one worthy of as much praise and thanksgiving as I can offer.  Thank You for being all things to me, dependent on my time of need.

Help me Lord, to know You better.  Help me to share Your nature with others, that their needs would be met as well.  Help me to experience Your presence every day of this life, in the midst of all my circumstances.  And Lord, regardless of the picture I have in my head, help me to recognize You, in whatever form You choose to take.

In Your Holy name I pray,

Amen

“Make them be for us the body and blood of Christ…”

“Pour out your Holy Spirit on us gathered here, and on these gifts of bread and wine.  Make them be for us the body and blood of Christ, that we may be for the world the body of Christ, redeemed by his blood.”  – United Methodist Hymnal; Communion Service p. 14

 

Question for the day?  How does the sacrament of Holy Communion affect you?  Do you experience it as a transformative means of grace?

 

Friends,

I finished up my time at the Academy last week with a fascinating encounter with our Lord, and just want to share it.

Every day at the same time during our session, we have a communion service.  I have always loved communion services:  the tradition, the symbolism, the feeling of being made new in His presence.  It has always been a very peaceful experience for me.

Well on this particular day, something amazing happened.  I stepped up to receive my bread and juice, but as soon as I put it in my mouth, I had this overwhelming sense of the presence of Jesus.  It reminded me of that scripture, “The one that lives in you is greater than the one that lives in this world.”

I can’t really describe the feeling, but it was tangible and powerful.  At that moment, I knew that Jesus actually lives inside me.  I have never had such a powerful experience during communion, and I hope I never forget it.

 

Lord Jesus,

Praise be to the One who was, who is, and who is to come!  Thank you seems like such a weak sentiment when it comes to Your sacrifice for me.  But it is all I have to give.  Please hear the song of my heart and the gratitude of my soul for the salvation that You bring.

Forgive me Lord, for being blind to the grace offered me during this Holy Sacrament of communion.  Thank you for speaking to me in such a powerful way.  Please Lord, continue Your transforming work in me each day, and help me to honor Your holy presence within me.  For I understand now, my body is the temple of Your Holy Spirit.

In the name of my Redeemer I pray,

Amen

 

“Do you not perceive it?”

“See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?” – Isaiah 43:19

 

Question for the day:  “How good are we at seeing the work of God when He approaches us in “a new way?”

 

Here I am at my final full day of the Academy of Spiritual Formation.  What an amazing and Spirit-filled week it has been.  God has been so very present.  Thanks be to God.

But, I confess, I could have missed it all.  I shudder to think what all I would have missed if I had not listened to God before my arrival.

On my way here on Monday, I was running late, but so very much anticipating my time here and the familiar structure of the experience.  You see here at the Academy, every day’s schedule is the same.  It is designed to created a rhythm conducive to prayer and rest.  I really have learned to appreciate it.

But God had other plans.  Driving down the road, I have a very strong urge to stop and buy art supplies.  This is so far outside my nature – I won’t even go into it.  But I did it.  I took precious time and stopped at Michaels to buy colored pencils, art pads, and other supplies.  I didn’t know why, but I could not step onto campus without them.

How glad I am that I did.  Over the last week, I have filled those pages with pictures and images that the Holy Spirit has given me.  He has spoken volumes to me in a way that I have NEVER experienced before.  Praise be to God.

Now, my pictures are not masterpieces, as I can only draw stick figures.  But they are treasures to me.  A very tangible reminder of this wonderful revelation of the Spirit.

My great sadness is, that if that message to “buy art supplies” had come during my normal life’s schedule, I would have disregarded it, if I heard it at all.  Because I am normally so “busy,” and this is not a part of my normal “God experience,” I most likely wouldn’t have recognized it.  Thanks be to God for His relentless pursuit of me.

Gracious Father,

Thank You for continuing to reveal Yourself to me in beautiful and miraculous ways.  Forgive me when I put You in a box.  Forgive me when I limit You to fit my small view of You.  Please, Lord, do not leave me.  Please continue to reveal Yourself to me in all Your fullness.  And Lord, lead me to have an open heart, mind, ears, and eyes – that I might see You in all things.

In the name of Jesus I pray,

Amen

 

“How can I, unless someone instructs me?”

“As for Philip, an angel of the Lord said to him, “Go south down the desert road that runs from Jerusalem to Gaza.”  So he started out, and he met the treasurer of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under the Kandake, the queen of Ethiopia. The eunuch had gone to Jerusalem to worship,  and he was now returning. Seated in his carriage, he was reading aloud from the book of the prophet Isaiah.

 The Holy Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and walk along beside the carriage.”

Philip ran over and heard the man reading from the prophet Isaiah. Philip asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?”

The man replied, “How can I, unless someone instructs me?” And he urged Philip to come up into the carriage and sit with him.” – Acts 8:26-31

 

Question for the day:  Has God ever spoken to you through a messenger?

 

Friends,

I am incredibly blessed to be attending the Academy of Spiritual Formation this week.  This is a retreat experience that is designed for one purpose: to help people learn to hear God’s voice and thus, be transformed in the image of Christ. (I strongly recommend it for anyone who is interested.)

I came into the Academy on Monday with some questions on my heart for God.  And for the first couple of days, I spent time alone, I prayed, and walked the labyrinth – searching for answers.

Yesterday, God led me to speak to the staff Spiritual Director about my questions, and the leadings I was beginning to feel.  These questions I have are critical for my life and ministry, and He really placed on my heart the desire to seek out a trusted advisor that could help me to listen for His voice more clearly.

I had lunch with Linda, and what a blessing it was.  She prayed with me, she listened, and she really helped me to “see” some patterns  that were emerging before me in terms of God’s message for me.  I am so very thankful for Linda.  While my issues are not problems or a crisis, they are still very important to me, and I desperately wanted to make sure I was following the path that God wanted.  That interaction brought me a a great deal of peace.

Does anyone out there ever feel the need to seek counsel from a trusted friend on such matters?  Do we feel the need to come into community for affirmation that we are actually hearing and understanding the will of God?  I hope so.  Because I believe that God is in our midst when two or more of us gather in His name.

 

Heavenly Father,

Blessed be to Your holy name!  For You continue to speak in ways that are easy for me to understand.  

I thank You for providing me with a wonderful Spiritual Guide, that can help me to discern the movements of Your Holy Spirit in my life.  Help me always to be cloaked in humility, that I might be willing to accept the guidance from those that you send to me with a message.  

Help me Lord, to continue to seek You in any ways that You choose to reveal Yourself.  Let me not become stagnant in my pursuit of You, and miss out on anything You have to offer me.  For You are the bread of life, without You, I am unfulfilled.

In the name of Jesus Christ I pray,

Amen