Sometimes, all it takes
is the slight movement of your eye,
a tilt of your head, your heart, to admit
a new angle, to see the way out, the way through
that was always there, but just out of sight, like God is.
This can happen in the smallest pauses, like the rest
between inhale and exhale, or the moment just before
the words you will always regret find their way out
of your mouth. This is the salvation we’ve been waiting for,
the one thing that's always given, if only we would turn and
- K. Chripczuk
(Originally published in Purpose Magazine, July 2015 edition)
I was driving home from a quick visit to Pennsylvania trying to make it in time for an evening concert at Eastern Mennonite University. A number of my students were performing and I wanted to be there for them. The traffic was heavy. I had to drive a bit above the speed limit, hoping not to be stopped for speeding.
In order to keep up my speed, I had to weave frantically in and out of traffic, something I normally wouldn’t do. My shoulders tensed up and I found myself gripping the steering wheel harder. I was a bundle of nerves by the time I finally arrived home. I made it in time to enjoy the concert.
Did I say “enjoy” the concert? Eventually I did, but I continually felt my body tensing up as I tried to relax and savor the beauty of Handel’s Messiah featured at the concert. The wild and furious ride from Souderton to Harrisonburg had left me physically and emotionally exhausted.
During the concert, in spite of the glorious sounds I was hearing, I had to remind myself to breathe in deeply, then breathe out slowly, and let my shoulders droop. It was like I was present physically but my soul was still somewhere on the interstate trying to catch up with the rest of me.
This is a perfect picture of the hectic lives that most of us lead. We run frantically from one activity to another, whether church, work, or play; seldom allowing time for our souls to catch up with the rest of us. We are human doings rather than human beings.
“Be still and know that I am God,” declares Psalm 46:10, reassuring us that God is in charge in spite much that causes fear. “Stand still,” Moses tells the fearful Children of Israel as the Red Sea stood between them and the pursuing Egyptian army according to Exodus 14:13. During a hectic time in his ministry, Jesus said to his disciples, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while,” Mark 6: 31.
Jesus modeled for us the need to be still. He withdrew numerous times to pray and to let his soul catch up with the rest of him (Matt. 14:13, Mk. 3:7, Lk. 15:6, Jn. 6:15). How do we follow his example?
First we need to be intentional. It has to become part of our daily routine. I try to spend 20-30 minutes on our back porch every day. Then we need a spiritual practice. Centering Prayer is the practice I frequently use (see: http://www.centeringprayer.com/for a more comprehensive discussion on the subject).
I like to begin by breathing intentionally. I call it “sacred breathing.” I breathe in deeply saying the word “grace.” Then I breathe out slowly saying the word “gratitude.” Eventually, as my mind settles, the breathing becomes automatic and I can let go of the words. When my mind strays, I return to my word(s). My pulse slows, I can feel my blood pressure lowering, my body relaxes. I am at peace with the world and with myself. I feel a deep sense of God’s presence. My soul is open for a word from God.
When I first began this daily practice, I dreaded it. I had to force myself to do it. But as I continued the practice, and continued to experience a deep peace, I looked forward to this daily routine. I find that reserving those few minutes a day, instead of robbing me of precious time, actually make me more productive. Instead of the frantic feeling at the concert after my hectic drive home, I feel a peace and a calm. People experience me more as a non-anxious presence than a bitter, stressed-out bundle of nerves.
There are many other spiritual practices we could use. The book The Spacious Heart: Room forSpiritual Awakening, written by my sister and me, deals exclusively with this subject.
Instead of frantically driving down the highway of life without time to catch our breath, we need to deliberately find times to be still and let our souls catch up with the rest of us.
“Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” (Matthew 16:13-14) What does public opinion say? […]
Papa Rolland Baker of Iris Global has seen many amazing things in his life. His wife Heidi has been healed from MS, he has witnessed blind people seeing and deaf people hearing as they’ve ministered to the poor in Mozambique, and his ministry has led to the salvation of thousands of people. […] Continue reading →
Daniel Kolenda, President of Christ for all Nations (CfaN), has released a series of new videos featuring powerful and faith-inspiring testimonies of some of the miracles he has witnessed on his campaign meetings in Africa. This video features Nigerian woman Placita Outa, who severely damaged her spinal cord in an accident. […] Continue reading →
Season after Pentecost (Proper 7 ) : The Gospel Passage – Searching for answers and living wisely in the light of the wisdom of the Divine
“A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household!” (Matthew 10:24-25) […]
We attribute lots of things to Jesus and/or the bible. Lots of things. We go to the bible for our political views. We give Jesus credit for our slogans. We use ideas that have been handed down to us without testing them, and assume they are biblical. [...]
“Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound?” (Romans 6:1b) The writer of Romans (Paul) asks an absurd question to make a point. “By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it?” (Verse 2) And answers it by saying “me genioto” which in the ancient Greek means “by no means!” I can still hear my Greek from seminary saying that with special emphasis. Paul has a habit of asking absurd questions, like this one to make a point – should we sin in order to know and get more grace? And answers it with another question asking how can we who have sworn to live a good Christian life deliberately do that which we know is sin! (Picture your favorite image of Paul being horrified!) [...] […]
Recently, I’ve spent some time thinking about the kingdom of God. I continue to come back to the availability of God’s kingdom–that it is an already and not yet reality. It is a kingdom that can be summarized by the word, shalom. Shalom, in the broad sense is a word meaning “peace.” [Read More...] [[ This is a content summary only. Visit my website for full links, other content, and more! ]]
“O LORD, how manifold are your works! In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. Yonder is the sea, great and wide, creeping things innumerable are there, living things both small and great. There go the ships, and Leviathan that you formed to sport in it.[…]
“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. […]
What does it mean to pray for our enemies? For the terrorist taking many lives in response to other grave wrongs, for the known or unknown assailant afflicting apparently senseless violence, for the thief who breaks into your house in... Read More ›