Welcome, Friend

“Welcome to our office. This used to be our oldest son’s bedroom. He was–well, he still is–really into space. My wife painted these walls. Well, let me show you. My wife painted all of these stars and galaxies on the walls. It’s the dark sky on this side of the room but as you move across the ceiling, you see the sun where the light for the room is, and then as you move to the other side of the room, it is full daylight. All of these stars have glow in the dark paint over top of them so when you turn the lights off at night, the stars come alive and it looks like you’re looking out into the night sky. The bed over there–pardon the mess–I made that. It has the phases of the moon as the handles on the drawers. Welcome to our office!”

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In this time of social distancing, I find it very ironic that I have been invited into more people’s personal living space than I ever have before. I’ve gotten to see some very cool places but what really has me in awe is the level of intimacy that is offered. Here are some of where I’ve been this past week:

-While doing dishes last Sunday, I was able to go to Michael W. Smith’s living room where he played his piano for me and led me in singing some moving worship music.

-I got to see the Eifel Tower painted on Maddie’s bedroom wall (also strung with Christmas lights) and find out that she loves Paris.

-I got invited into a counseling client’s kitchen and we got to share tears over what it felt like to live in her house.

-Tenth Avenue North invited me into their studio where two of them played around with a bunch of their songs. They made mistakes, questioned which key it was supposed to be in, and joked with me about life. Oh yeah, and they sang songs that stirred my soul.

-I was invited into the living room of a Groucho Marx impersonator and got to see the duck that dropped from the ceiling during “You Bet Your Life.”

-Pastors have invited me into their homes for devotions and churches have said, “You can’t come to us, so we’ll come to you.”

If I offered you a field trip to see the very throne room of heaven (and you don’t have to die first), would you sign up? I think every one of us would say “yes!” That happens in Isaiah, chapter six.

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said:
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!”
And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. (vs. 1-4)

You would think that this would fill Isaiah with praise and joy. We’re talking about seeing God and angels in the throne room of heaven! Instead of joy, Isaiah feared for his very life.

And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” (vs. 5)

Because Isaiah did not die first, he was still in a sinful condition. This is important to note because this will not be our condition if we die with Jesus as our Savior. In that case, our sins will all be washed away and there will be no fear. But for Isaiah, he could not behold the holiness of God without being intimately aware of his sin. It is interesting to me that the sin that Isaiah was most aware of was the sin of his lips. If you were in Isaiah’s shoes, what sin would be foremost in your mind? God did not, however, leave Isaiah in his sinful condition.

Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” (vs. 6-7)

God did not bring Isaiah this vision in order to destroy him! He provided atonement for Isaiah’s sins and, in the process, allowed him to no longer despair. Now, Isaiah was able to be present with the Lord and respond to His call.

And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.” (vs. 8)

We may never have a vision like Isaiah’s. We may not be called as a great prophet. But I do believe that each of us is invited into an intimate place with God that is far greater than anything that has happened on the internet.

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’” (Revelation 3:20-23)

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The very throne room of heaven…inside of us…Jesus is there…a banquet is there…we can sit on His throne! Jesus is knocking, open the door.

 

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It’s Not All Gloom and Doom!

I was almost giddy last night. What makes that odd is that I was just finishing up with confirmation class. There are not many church workers I know of who truly enjoy their confirmation classes. Matter of fact, I was once told of a pastor who counted down his time till retirement not in weeks or months, but in how many confirmation classes he had left to teach. How sad. I’m certainly not like that­­, I enjoy teaching confirmation class. Even though I love junior high students, I don’t usually leave class giddy. Last night was different! In so many ways!

Last night was the first time that I ever taught confirmation class from home. It was the first time that I’ve ever taught confirmation class via the internet. Due to the coronavirus, we have moved all of our confirmation classes online. Here is what happened. We still had our normal opening with song and prayer but we also got to take a tour of a room in each other’s house. We got to see a piece of where everyone lives. We got to meet “yum yum” the cat. I noticed parents and siblings peeking around the corner to see what was happening. And yes, we still did a confirmation lesson. Interestingly enough, the lesson was on the Holy Spirit and how when we think of the Holy Spirit, one of the things that we think of is the church. It was not lost on me that the church is not bound by four walls and a steeple. The four of us were busy being the church! And get this, when the kids shared that they were pretty much trapped at home, I thought “Next week is Spring Break but I’d be happy to meet again next week and maybe we’ll play some games via zoom with the other junior highers.” Every one of them wanted to meet with me again next week…during their Spring Break. Yeah, giddy.

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There is so much that this coronavirus and social distancing are taking from us but there are also some very cool things that are happening because of this pandemic. Last Sunday had the highest number of churches streaming worship services in history and that is only going to grow. At St. Paul, we have been scrambling to have more of an online presence than ever before and will be uploading a video worship service for the first time. This week, I met with my DCE group and my confirmation class via Zoom. The church does not change quickly or easily but this has forced us to change. It makes me think of the early church scattering because of persecution. They didn’t want to scatter, and I don’t think that God caused the persecution, but He certainly used the persecution to cause His church to spread to the ends of the earth. We could debate whether corona is from God or not but I am certain that He will use it. I see Him using it to cause good things in the church.

One of the coming changes that has me very excited is that I will be offering a Bible study on Sunday morning via Zoom. Normally, everyone would be attending their local church on Sunday morning but with churches not being able to meet, it gives us an opportunity to join together in a different way. I already see that we’ll have people from different churches, time zones, and religious backgrounds joining together. This feels like the early church to me. If you would like to be part of this, download zoom, grab a pair of headphones, and join meeting # 668 778 860 at 11:00 EST. I’d love to have you be part of this!

There is an amazing verse in the story of Joseph that I think applies to us today. It is Genesis 39:23. It says, “The warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care, because the Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did.” (ESV) If Joseph could have heard the “narrator” at this moment read that verse, he would have thrown his head back and screamed at heaven, “What are you talking about!” because, at that point in the story, Joseph’s brothers had hated him, plotted to kill him, thrown him in a pit, sold him into slavery, and sold him to those who carried him off to Egypt as a slave. In Egypt, he was pursued sexually by his master’s wife, innocently charged with attempted rape, thrown into a dungeon, and left to rot away forever. “The Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did,” indeed, “What are you talking about!” And the story was not done, despite helping out Pharaoh’s cupbearer, Joseph still had two more years to rot away in the dungeon before he was finally released. Joseph’s life was indeed in God’s hands and God’s timing. Joseph was eventually raised to power and ended up living out forgiveness and saving his family and the Hebrew people. It would be hard for Joseph to see that while he was in the midst of the story but ultimately, he did see it because he told his brothers, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children. ” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.” (Genesis 50:19-20)

It may not be easy for us to pull out of the moment that we are in but I think it is helpful to understand that this is just a moment in history and that God is still sovereign. God will work his plans! It may not always be through easy days, but God intends it for good. It is not all gloom and doom out there folks!

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Wait

It’s not because I woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning (I don’t know why that is even a saying?), but my grumpy mood this morning has more to do with my day yesterday and the tasks on hand for this morning. I did start with breakfast and 30 minutes of yoga but then quickly jumped into canceling church events. I hate to cancel events! Yet, this coronavirus seemed like it left me no other legitimate choice. Although it was becoming clear that it was the right decision, I still didn’t like it. Then, add to that the fact that I needed to tackle my taxes for the year and I thought to myself, “I’m mad at the world.” (Even while I started typing this blog post, I got a phone call from my dad telling me that my Mom is in the hospital.) **sigh**

Back in the 80s (yes, that is 1980 for all you young people) I listened to a band called “Mad at the World” so I thought, “What the heck, I’m going to see if they are on Spotify. Unbeknownst to me, they are still making music. It’s not my main wheelhouse but I did come across this song from my old album that resonated with how I’m feeling this morning.

Wait

Creator of Earth & Heaven
Why am I filled with question?
Defeated in my spirit
One empty man desiring your plan…

And so I will wait
And though my heart aches
Nothing can cause me to ever turn away
There’s so much pain in this world
That my heart wants to break
But till you choose to deliver me
I choose to wait

Now the inside of me is empty
The ones that I trusted have left me
But still I’m not forsaken
Lead by the hand, of the Son of Man…

And so I will wait
And though my heart aches
Nothing can cause me to ever turn away
There’s so much pain in this world
That my heart wants to break
But till you choose to deliver me
I choose to wait

Waiting on God-Psalm 123-2

Yes, the world is full of sickness, illness, broken relationships, disappointments, death, and even taxes. To stick our heads in the sand and think otherwise is not honest or real. Romans 8:22-23 says, “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.” (NIV) The news is filled with this part of the story and I was feeling it personally this morning.

Romans 8:22-23 is not the end of the story, however. When we read what came before this verse and what comes after it, we see that there is something worth looking forward to: “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.” (vs. 18-21) There is liberation, freedom, and glory awaiting us!

Meanwhile, what are we to do? Verses 26 and 27 have the answer. “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.” Speaking of our groaning, it is interesting that even the Spirit groans, but his groaning is of a different kind. His groaning is a spiritual language that encapsulates our earthly groans and helps us in our time of weakness and struggle by interceding for us before the very throne of Heaven. If you’re having a morning where you are mad at the world, pray. If you’re sick, pray. If you feel a distance in your relationships, pray. If you don’t know what to pray, pray anyway. Trust that the Holy Spirit is interpreting for you and that God will work all things for the good of those who love him, and have been called according to his purpose (vs. 28).

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Attachment Healing

I have a practice that at the end of every month, I go back and read what I have entered into my journal over the past month. It is a way of reflecting back and also adjusting anything that needs to be adjusted for the path forward. Even if there are similarities, each month is different and it is often amazing to me just how much happens in a month. February was particularly deep for me and started that way right off the bat.

On February 2nd, after the normal Sunday morning activities, I headed over to the Western side of the state to Cran-Hill Ranch. I had one day alone in their Prayer Cabin but then several other DCEs showed up for our annual retreat. This retreat is not about program nor numbers, it is about connection and going deep into God’s word. For our Bible studies, we use Lectio Divina. According to Wikipedia, Lectio Divina is Latin for “Divine Reading” and is “a traditional monastic practice of scriptural reading, meditation and prayer intended to promote communion with God and to increase the knowledge of God’s word. In the view of one commentator, it does not treat scripture as texts to be studied, but as the living word.” There are four readings of a Bible text, interspersed with a brief word from the text, discussion about what God is saying to you in the text, and describing what God is asking you to do in response to the text.

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Our first text for our retreat was Isaiah, chapter 59.

Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear.
But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.
For your hands are stained with blood, your fingers with guilt.
Your lips have spoken falsely, and your tongue mutters wicked things.
No one calls for justice; no one pleads a case with integrity.
They rely on empty arguments, they utter lies; they conceive trouble and give birth to evil.
They hatch the eggs of vipers and spin a spider’s web.
Whoever eats their eggs will die, and when one is broken, an adder is hatched.
Their cobwebs are useless for clothing; they cannot cover themselves with what they make.
Their deeds are evil deeds, and acts of violence are in their hands.
Their feet rush into sin; they are swift to shed innocent blood.
They pursue evil schemes; acts of violence mark their ways.
The way of peace they do not know; there is no justice in their paths.
They have turned them into crooked roads; no one who walks along them will know peace.
So justice is far from us, and righteousness does not reach us.
We look for light, but all is darkness; for brightness, but we walk in deep shadows.
Like the blind we grope along the wall, feeling our way like people without eyes.
At midday we stumble as if it were twilight; among the strong, we are like the dead.
We all growl like bears; we moan mournfully like doves.
We look for justice, but find none; for deliverance, but it is far away.
For our offenses are many in your sight, and our sins testify against us.
Our offenses are ever with us, and we acknowledge our iniquities: rebellion and treachery against the Lord, turning our backs on our God, inciting revolt and oppression, uttering lies our hearts have conceived.
So justice is driven back, and righteousness stands at a distance; truth has stumbled in the streets, honesty cannot enter.
Truth is nowhere to be found, and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey.
The Lord looked and was displeased that there was no justice.
He saw that there was no one, he was appalled that there was no one to intervene; so his own arm achieved salvation for him, and his own righteousness sustained him.
He put on righteousness as his breastplate, and the helmet of salvation on his head; he put on the garments of vengeance and wrapped himself in zeal as in a cloak.
According to what they have done, so will he repay wrath to his enemies and retribution to his foes; he will repay the islands their due.
From the west, people will fear the name of the Lord, and from the rising of the sun, they will revere his glory.
For he will come like a pent-up flood that the breath of the Lord drives along.
“The Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who repent of their sins,” declares the Lord.
“As for me, this is my covenant with them,” says the Lord. “My Spirit, who is on you, will not depart from you, and my words that I have put in your mouth will always be on your lips, on the lips of your children and on the lips of their descendants—from this time on and forever,” says the Lord.

I understand that that is a long passage for my short little blog but you need to read the whole thing to understand what happened next in me. At the beginning of Lectio Divina, we read through the whole text twice in a row without stopping. You also need to understand that within my character structure, I have been dealing with attachment. Without making this whole blog post about the character structure, I’ll suffice it to say that in my Master’s we have come to understand that all of us go through the character development stages of attachment (bonding), separation (boundaries), integration (reality), and adulthood (authority). All of these have room for growth in all of us but one always rises to the top as the one that we are most in need of repair at a certain time. Again, I’ve been dealing with attachment. Now, back to the text.

I heard the first two verses read (Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.) and I immediately saw myself as a little child, sitting in a corner. It wasn’t that God’s arm is too short to reach out and touch me but because of my sin, there is this separation. Not only that, He won’t listen to me. I began to softly weep and could hardly hear any more of Isaiah 59 being read (twice).

I wrote this in my journal:

My insecure attachment hears this and goes into a tailspin! The chapter starts out saying that it is not that God can’t hear, it is because of our sin that he won’t hear us and that we are separated from Him. Unlike a fleeing human, I can’t run down God nor tackle Him to make Him stay. I am left hopeless! I am left as a needy child with the only option to ask, “Will you please hear my prayers, God? Will you please not leave me?” I can hardly hear the rest of the chapter because it is preaching Law to a repentant sinner. I need the Gospel! I need good news of God wanting to be with me. That He would hear me and attach to me. I know how to heal attachment. It is through touch, love, acceptance, community, and grace. This is what I need from God–His touch, His love, His acceptance, His community, and His grace. There is no other way.

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When we are a scared, separated, crying child in the corner, what does God do? He does exactly what I would do if my granddaughters were hurt and crying in the corner. He comes to us, scoops us up in His arms, looks us in the eye, hears our cries, and lets us know that our attachment to Him is secure.

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Move Out!

This is probably not going to come as any surprise to you but it seems like there is a lot of fear out there in the world. As I work with clients and as they let me into the deep, intimate parts of their life, often we come up against fear. So, let’s talk some this week about fear.

I believe that God has built fear into us as one of our core emotions for our protection. When we’re afraid of something, some amazing things happen in our bodies. Among other things, our heart rate goes up, our pupils dilate, our breathing moves up higher in our chest, our brain tells our body to release adrenaline and chemicals that cause our blood to clot faster, and our field of vision narrows. What is going on is that our body is preparing for fight or flight. Imagine that you’re walking through the woods and all of a sudden you come upon a big bear with her cub. Instantly, the amygdala part of your brain starts all of these processes in motion before you even “think” about what to do. It is getting you ready to run for your life or fight this bear if need be.

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Now there is a problem because most often in our lives, there is no bear. Rather than fear, I would term this anxiety. The reaction in the body is essentially the same except that there is no release. If you need to run from the bear, all of these things happening in the body are good. After you run away, your body will quickly return to normal once it knows that you are safe. With anxiety, there is a ramping up within the body but no running away from the bear and no subsequent release. With anxiety, there is no movement. With the emotion of fear, there is movement. Even the word emotion is derived from the Latin word emovere, which means to “move out.”

The word for fear in the New Testament is phobeo. It is used 93 times and has a sense of being alarmed but also is used a few times to denote reverence or to venerate. When people feared in these passages, it is tied to some sort of response or action. Here are some examples:

Do not fear…take Mary as your wife (Matthew 1:20)

Have no fear…what I tell you in the dark, say in the light (Matthew 10:26)

Do not be afraid…come (to Peter in the boat) (Matthew 14:27-28)

Do not fear…believe (Mark 5:36)

Fear not…behold your king (John 12:15)

Do not fear those who kill the body…fear God (Matthew 10:28)

The Old Testament often tells us to “fear of the Lord.” Unfortunately, the Hebrew noun yir’ah that is translated “fear” does not communicate itself through any single word in English. It can mean to jump out of your skin but it can also mean to stand in reverence and awe before someone who holds a higher position than you do. God wants us to fear Him in this sense and not fight Him or run from Him. Hear the words from Deuteronomy 10:12-21:

“And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the Lord, which I am commanding you today for your good? Behold, to the Lord your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it. Yet the Lord set his heart in love on your fathers and chose their offspring after them, you above all peoples, as you are this day. Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn. For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. You shall fear the Lord your God. You shall serve him and hold fast to him, and by his name you shall swear. He is your praise. He is your God, who has done for you these great and terrifying things that your eyes have seen.”

So, what do we do with all of this information? When we sense fear or anxiety rising inside of us, the first step is to determine if it is anxiety or if it is fear. If it is anxiety, ask yourself if there is something that you are afraid of or if there is another emotion that would be more appropriate (e.g. sadness, anger). If you know what you are afraid of, ask yourself what the action step is that will help you release all of the energy that your body is giving you. Even if it is the fear of the Lord that you sense rising inside of you, there are ways that these can be lived out in our lives. Even the fear of the Lord is not meant to just be kept inside your body. It causes us to praise Him, it causes us to love our neighbor, it causes us to live life the way God made us to live it. When you have fear, move out!

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Art 111

Out of all of my college courses, both undergraduate and graduate level, it is the only class that I have taken twice. It wasn’t because I had to take the class over to pass it, I just enjoyed the class so much that I wanted to take it again. It was my pottery class at Kalamazoo Valley Community College.

I made so much stuff–odd stuff, functional stuff, artistic stuff, some that turned out well, and others that were better suited as doorstops. What I especially loved was throwing bowls and vases on the wheel. I’ve always loved working with my hands and this messy, tactile, sensitive, beautiful process was amazing to me. I loved every aspect from centering the clay to hollowing out the center to watching the clay rise and bend with the pressure from my fingers.

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There are a lot of times that the prophets used pottery as an object lesson for our relationship with God. Isaiah says this

Ah, you who hide deep from the Lord your counsel,
whose deeds are in the dark,
and who say, “Who sees us? Who knows us?”
You turn things upside down!
Shall the potter be regarded as the clay,
that the thing made should say of its maker,
“He did not make me”;
or the thing formed say of him who formed it,
“He has no understanding”? (29:15-16, ESV)
But now, O Lord, you are our Father;
we are the clay, and you are our potter;
we are all the work of your hand. (64:8)

And Jeremiah says this:

The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do.

Then the word of the Lord came to me: “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the Lord. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. (18:1-6)

Paul says this in Romans:

You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? (9:19-20)

Today, I accepted an intern position at List Psychological which I will start in August. It was a very interesting process to get to that place. At first, I thought that I would like to serve my internship under a therapist who I admire. She had started a residential treatment center near Caro but when I looked further, I decided to not even apply. I then proceeded to interview at three other places. As I was going through this whole process, there were many times that I felt I was being led one place over the other. Yet in the end, I ended up in a place that I didn’t expect. God has a way of doing that and I’m grateful that he is still the potter and I am the clay.

It is a silly idea that the clay would talk back to the potter, and yet, we as God’s creation often do talk back to God and resist His plans. Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Paul make it pretty clear that God is still sovereign and He does have the right to make us into who He would have us to be. We simply need to trust that He is loving, that He knows best, and that He is making something beautiful in the process.

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Exhaling

This morning, during my swim workout, I was working on exhaling. That’s right, breathing out. You might think to yourself, “How hard can that be?” Maybe harder than you think and more important than you might think as well.

I’d like to start with Monday’s swim. I had a terrible time, feeling like I was out of breath the whole workout. I attributed it to the fever that I dealt with the whole week before and that my body must have been still recovering. Anyway, Monday was rough. I felt much better physically this morning but still wanted to work on feeling out of breath. You see, it is not really how much air you take in that makes you feel out of breath or not, it is the buildup of carbon dioxide that makes you feel out of breath. When swimming, it is very easy to hold your breath right up until you inhale, instead of exhaling a steady stream between breaths. So, that’s what I focused on this morning, exhaling for 2/3 of my stroke pattern instead of holding all of that carbon dioxide inside my body.

And that’s when God gave me some insight that I want to share with you in this blog post. It made me think of Jesus on the cross. Crucifixion ultimately brought the victim to death by interfering with the normal process of exhalation. Back in 1986, the Journal of American Medical Association did an article entitled On the Physical Death of Jesus Christ where it states that:

The major pathophysiologic effect of crucifixion, beyond the excruciating pain, was a marked interference with normal respiration, particularly exhalation (Fig 6). The weight of the body, pulling down on the outstretched arms and shoulders, would tend to fix the intercostal muscles in an inhalation state and thereby hinder passive exhalation. Accordingly, exhalation was primarily diaphragmatic, and breathing was shallow. It is likely that this form of respiration would not suffice and that hypercarbia would soon result. The onset of muscle cramps or tetanic contractions, due to fatigue and hypercarbia, would hinder respiration even further.

Adequate exhalation required lifting the body by pushing up on the feet and by flexing the elbows and adducting the shoulders (Fig 6). However, this maneuver would place the entire weight of the body on the tarsals and would produce searing pain. Furthermore, flexion of the elbows would cause rotation of the wrists about the iron nails and cause fiery pain along the damaged median nerves. Lifting of the body would also painfully scrape the scourged back against the rough wooden stipes. Muscle cramps and paresthesias of the outstretched and uplifted arms would add to the discomfort. As a result, each respiratory effort would become agonizing and tiring and lead eventually to asphyxia.

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When we talk about this in confirmation class, I do an exercise where they can breathe in all the air that they want but they are not allowed to exhale. At first, it seems easy but eventually, it becomes painful and suffocating. We literally can’t get rid of the bad within us to make room for the good air that is all around us. This got me thinking that in church we often sing about breathing in and using it as an analogy for God’s grace. (e.g. “This is the air I breathe, Your holy presence living in me…” or “You are my oxygen tonight, you keep me breathing, You fill me up, you give me life.”) I’m coming up short on songs that use the analogy of us breathing out carbon dioxide. (To be fair, TFK does have an album titled “exhale” but no song by that title and Plumb has a song titled “exhale” but it is more about us breathing in God’s grace and then giving that grace to other people.)

The thing with exhaling is that we are getting the bad stuff that is inside of us, outside of us. It fits better with a verse like 1 John 1:8-10.

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. (ESV)

Get that bad stuff out of you! Confess it! It is the only way to make room for the good stuff of grace to be poured into us.

As I swam this morning, the analogy went one step deeper. The Romans took away from Jesus the physical ability to exhale but God the Father took away Jesus’ spiritual ability to exhale. He was not able to put aside all of the suffocating sins of the world. The inability for normal respiration took away Jesus’ physical life but the weight of the whole world’s sin (carbon dioxide) could not take away Jesus’ spiritual life. Rather, Jesus took in the whole world’s sin and death (carbon dioxide) and converted it into life. God can do that. He can turn things that are dead into things that are alive.

Did focusing on exhaling help my swim workout this morning? Honestly, by the time I had all of this analogy rolling through my head, it hardly mattered anymore. Blessings on your exhaling today.

Male swimmer at the swimming pool.Underwater photo.

 

 

 

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