Time Out: Breathing deeply

Our lungs draw in air when our body triggers a tight drum of a muscle – the diaphragm – to pull down like a slingshot. The deeper the pull, the deeper the breath.

Most of us only have very shallow pulls. We might fill the top of our lungs in the top half of our chest.

The most efficient diaphragm muscles belong to opera singers and endurance athletes.

Why does this matter to our prayer lives?

A deep breath fills you and energizes you. If you aren’t used to it, the extra oxygen can make you dizzy. It takes focus if your diaphragm is weak.

When you pray, you are breathing in the Holy Spirit. Most of us are taking shallow breaths with superficial prayers. If you try to undertake a deep prayer breath, you can get dizzy if you aren’t used to it. It takes focus if your attention to God is weak.

Combining deeper breathing with deeper praying can be helpful. Try imagining each deep breath you take in brings the Holy Spirit with it. Notice how you feel and what you hear as you pay attention to the Spirit in you.

Keep taking these deep breaths through your prayer time. Stop if you get dizzy. Safety first!

Notice how this time of drawing God into you changes your approach to prayer, worship and life.

Let me know how it goes for you in the comments!

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Praying with Pictures: Behind the Curtain

Center yourself in silence. Become comfortable with the room and its sound.

Ask the Holy Spirit to join you as you observe the world of this picture. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide your prayer.

Look at the picture. What do you see? What might the girl be looking at? How different would she look if you could pull back the curtain?

What in your life are you looking at through a curtain? What would happen if you pulled the curtain back?

Should you pull the curtain back?

Stay with the picture and talk with God about what the image evokes in you.

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The Key to Happiness: A fugue in three parts

It feels like it’s been a long week already.  True, it is only Wednesday and we in the United States had Monday off.  That realization only makes the fatigue worse.

“I’m exhausted.  I’m weary.  I’m weak.  I’m bored.  I’m hopeless. I’m rundown.” The subject from the gray-est part of our mind begins the fugue of earnest dread.

“Where is happiness?” The answer comes in another key, a dominant key.  “What is the key to happiness?  And where is the door?  Tell me why they elude me.”

The counterpoint, however, is where the Holy Spirit enters in to break the controlling motif of stagnation.  “Why are you searching for happiness, when I am come to offer you joy?  Why cling to your weariness, when I am come to offer you peace?”

Now a false subject corrupts the rules of a fugue and is a reassertion of the counterpoint and not the subject itself: “Reject your weakness, your boredom, your hopelessness. Fling them at my feet.  Trade me your burdens, your burnouts, and I will give you peace and joy.”

In fact, now the subject and answer have been drowned out and fade away.  The counterpoint and its false representation play like otters near a riverbank.  Even as the counterpoint disappears into ghostly pianissimo, the false subject continues on forever, never completing, never resolving.

There is no key to happiness.  Happiness is a token.  It is a copy of craftsman’s art made in bulk from shoddy materials in a sweatshop in China.  Happiness breaks when it is used too much, too frequently or too long.  If you try to have it hold up your weight, you crash to the ground.

Joy and peace are made of stronger stuff.  They are based in the grace of God that Jesus died trying to show us.  It isn’t locked up.  It is around us, available for when we live as if we believe it is there.

Joy and peace issue from gratitude that the sun came up this morning, and gravity still holds the solar system in precarious, but steady, orbit.  Joy and peace merely require a pause long enough to imagine a silly shape in the clouds. One moment of faith attracts with super magnetic force a view of the world outside of our desire to achieve everything for ourselves.

“I will give you peace and joy.  I will give you peace and joy…”

 

 

Praying through pictures

I’m struggling with finding a picture of myself.

There are some PR folks who want to pitch a story about my health transformation this past year. My company sponsored me and others in year-long lifestyle change process. Now the PR folks are trying to tell others about the company’s wellness culture through us.

They asked if I had before and after shots. I definitely have before shots. I have a picture on my refrigerator that reminded me of the disease killing my heart. (High cholesterol and triglycerides since my teenage years.). I keep my bloodwork from the past year on my dresser top by my wellness binders. I pray every time I see them. Gratitude for my life and pleas to keep me disciplined in the practices that will heal my body.

However, I don’t readily have a picture of myself now: 30 pounds and almost 300 triglyceride points later.

Pictures give us windows into points in time. As prayer tools, pictures can open our mind to the expansive presence of God in that single moment.

You can see things for which to give thanks. You can retell a story that is painful or negative in your memory now, and look for God’s presence with you through it.

Pictures can illustrate ideas which are hard for you to grasp only in words. The Holy Spirit can enter your imagination and speak to you through the world in this snapshot of life.

Over the next few weeks, we will practice praying through pictures. I invite you to join me and use the pictures I post in your own small groups, bible studies or faith communities. Just give credit to the photographer.

Tonight, I am going to find my after picture and give thanks for cameras. I thank God for technology that allows us to look at ourselves as we are and pray for who we are becoming.

How to Pray: You are God (part 12)

(This is the last post in a series on a simple way to pray. Why not start at the beginning?

We are at the end of our journey through the Lord’s Prayer using our simple way to pray.

The final lines, “for thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forevermore, amen,” acknowledge the entire prayer rests on God’s lordship over all.

If we had any power, we wouldn’t have to pray any of it. In order for our prayers to be more than mindless repetition of hollow words, we have to completely believe the last declaration.

Is God the lord of your life? Do you wait for God’s blessing before you move? Do you ask God’s opinion before you make a major decision? Do you live out God’s commandments?

If you don’t do the above things because you want to stay in control, you aren’t really living that last line of the Lord’s Prayer, are you?

Imagine your life completely surrendered to God. What would that look like? What would you do differently?

I have started intentionally working on surrender of other people’s actions and choices. I am also working on leaving judgement of those actions and choices to God. I find myself returning over and over to this prayer in humility as I inevitably try to retake power.

How do you need to humble yourself in the sight of The Lord?

Questions for you:
- What has this final line meant for you? Why?

- If God isn’t the lord of your life, what do you need to do make God lord? Can you make a commitment to change?

- What other prayers could you use the visualization exercise to pray? Can I help you get started? How?

How to Pray: You are God (part 12)

(This is the last post in a series on a simple way to pray. Why not start at the beginning?

We are at the end of our journey through the Lord’s Prayer using our simple way to pray.

The final lines, “for thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forevermore, amen,” acknowledge the entire prayer rests on God’s lordship over all.

If we had any power, we wouldn’t have to pray any of it. In order for our prayers to be more than mindless repetition of hollow words, we have to completely believe the last declaration.

Is God the lord of your life? Do you wait for God’s blessing before you move? Do you ask God’s opinion before you make a major decision? Do you live out God’s commandments?

If you don’t do the above things because you want to stay in control, you aren’t really living that last line of the Lord’s Prayer, are you?

Imagine your life completely surrendered to God. What would that look like? What would you do differently?

I have started intentionally working on surrender of other people’s actions and choices. I am also working on leaving judgement of those actions and choices to God. I find myself returning over and over to this prayer in humility as I inevitably try to retake power.

How do you need to humble yourself in the sight of The Lord?

Questions for you:
- What has this final line meant for you? Why?

- If God isn’t the lord of your life, what do you need to do make God lord? Can you make a commitment to change?

- What other prayers could you use the visualization exercise to pray? Can I help you get started? How?

A momentary break

I need to remember to breathe and appreciate that I came through another week to arrive fresh at the new one.

Part of that need is knowing when to take a break to consider what I want to write next.

In the next few days, I will wrap up the series on a simple way to pray, publish a letter to my generation, and begin a new series on praying through pictures.

I am excited to share this with you. In fact, I have learned scads from writing to you these last few weeks. I hope you are able to use the posts I write in your life and your faith communities.

Let me know if there is a topic you want me to explore with you!