Living in Exhale

The physical body is a marvel. We have limbs, cells, plasma, ventricles all working together intricately. It truly is amazing.

Throughout the Scriptures, the biblical writers use the body continually as an analogy to describe our spiritual lives. The most popular being the Apostle Paul’s admonition for the church in Corinth to be united and work together just as a body does, in fact, the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12).

Recently I was doing some learning about the human body when I learned something new, which, when it comes to biology, isn’t hard for me to come by. Regarding breathing,

Expiration occurs passively during normal, quiet breathing, requiring no assistance from muscle action.

As one of my friends stated, “This is why it’s so creepy when someone dies—they breathe out.”

What I find very interesting is that when you exercise your body, no-longer is the expiration of air passive, but is active. What is literally effortless during ordinary moments suddenly requires abdominals, internal obliques, serratus posterior, and internal intercostals, which are pulling the rib change down to force the air out.

As I recall how the Scriptures use the body as a metaphor for our spiritual lives, I couldn’t help but think of my patterns of exhaling. I reflected on taking a breather and the differences between the normal pace of my life and the exercise times.

When my spiritual life is in exercise phase I have regular prayer times and spontaneous moments, I’m in the Scriptures, I’m studying, I’m dreaming of what’s next, and I’m diving into relationships in accountable community. I’m working hard. I can feel the growth. The blood is pumping! I can feel the faith sweats of risk and trust. I’m locked in. Within the midst of this pace Sabbath—rest—exhale is hard.

Just as my physical body needs to work, using developed muscles to push the air out, I need spiritual disciplines to force me to exhale. 

It could be easy to buy-in to the idea of a slow pace—no pushing, strive, working hard on our spiritual life. The problem is you never grow. Just as you can’t get stronger, increase lung capacity or stroke volume by sitting on the couch, so it is the same in our spiritual lives.

When I’m at a normal pace, Sabbath is natural. The exhale is effortless. It requires no effort. After all, I’m not pushing, dreaming, falling into regular relationship building with God and others. I sit and get spiritually unfit.

God has not made me to be spiritually unfit. Nor has he made you that way either. 

We were made to be strong and fit. This is the struggle. 

Work too hard; you can have a heart attack. Don’t work at all; you can have a heart attack. We need spiritual disciplines. Bill Hull tells the importance of spiritual disciplines,

Spiritual disciplines are tools that prepare us to do what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, and as it needs to be done.

Hull also points out to us that this isn’t about it always being “go” time. There is a balance within the work.

Jesus practices the disciplines in a healthy and balanced way. We don’t see him have any angst about them. He simply did what met the need of the moment. Some were staples in his spiritual diet, while he only used others on special occasions.

There are times when we need to work those spiritual muscles. Then there are times when we need to stop and take an effortless breath.

Living in the exhale isn’t real life, but neither is always having to work for it.

Let’s take a moment and breathe.

Now, let’s go work for the kingdom knowing that soon we must stop, let our spiritual body rest, and take some effortless breaths.

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3 things to get the most out of Sunday

If you are a regular church-goer then Sunday, more than likely, is the day when you gather with others who are on the same spiritual journey as you.

There are many reasons why we do this. To learn, be challenged, and fellowship with others, are to name a few. There are, however, times when this does not happen. It is quite easy to walk away from a Sunday service and feel, was that it? 

Whether you have felt like that or you always walk away satisfied, there are three things you can do before Sunday ever happens so that you can get the most out of Sunday (or whichever day you meet).

I break them down to heart, body, and mind.

1) Heart

This may seem obvious, but to get the most out of Sunday, you need to prepare your heart. But what does it mean to prepare your heart? 

To prepare your heart begins with prayer. Prayer is about repentance, thanksgiving, petition, lament. 

Consider prayers like this the tenderiser and your heart the meat. Now the Sunday becomes the grill. While not the perfect analogy, I hope you can get the picture. 

Sunday is a time when God speaks to His body corporately, which you are a part of. As Greg Boyd writes,

“…our heart conditions our ability to see and understand spiritual truths…”

You need to do your part to set aside the weekly distraction in order to hear what God is saying, which leads us to the second one.

2) Body

I’m not talking about spiritual jumping jacks or shoulder exercises so you can hold your hands up longer. Body has nothing to do with your physical body.

As mentioned previously, your part of the body of Christ. As a member of that body, you need to help the body get ready for what God is saying to His Church. You have just as much of a responsibility to help prepare the body for game day (to use a sports slogan), as anyone else.

Call someone up form your church have coffee, maybe lunch, or a someone for dinner and discuss spiritual matters. If your church has small groups, engage in them. Proverbs states that we are to be,

“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”

Proverbs 27:17. 

A great way to get the most out of Sunday is to engage others with what God is doing in your life, their life, and the church as a wholes life.

3) Mind

Depending on your tradition, this is either over or underemphasized. In most cases, it’s the latter. Surprisingly, it is almost demonized. Yet, Jesus told us to love him with all our mind (Mark 12:30, Mark 12:33, Luke 10:27).

Here’s the thing, it’s easy to be lazy. When you are lazy with your mind on spiritual matters, you do your self a disservice. Most churches nowadays do series. That means you can know the topic of the series and the Scripture before it ever comes. Pick up a commentary and do a little study. Even if you’re not a reader, it’s easy to either read a verse or listen to it. Once you do that, think about it, talk about it, pray about it. You can even find other sermons or podcasts on that Scripture.

Even if you don’t know what is coming next, you know what has happened. Engage the previous Sunday. Talk, pray, and think. Do as much as you can to engage the text and hear what God is speaking to you through it.

If you do these three, I guarantee that you will get the most out of your Sunday experience.

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