Category Archives: Christian

Take a Deeper Breath

I’m huffing and puffing my way up the steep rocky path toward the gorgeous mountain lakes my companion has promised lie ahead. It is Rocky Mountain National Park, after all. It’s no surprise that the air is thin, but this doesn’t hamper him. He lives a mile high and trains for triathlons in the parks, reservoirs and along the roads nearby.

“I could use a 10 second break,” I plead. He obliges and we step aside to let the nimble and altitude-acclimated bound on by. A few who pass by on their downward trek offer us an encouraging, “You’re doing great!”

As I pause, my friend says sympathetically and so simply, “I find it helps to take deeper breaths.”

At the suggestion, of course, I inhale a deep breath and then draw it deeper. And you know what? It worked! As we continued, when my breath quickened and my heart started to race on the steep parts, instead of huffing and puffing and pressing on so I wouldn’t seem like a wimp, I just expanded my lungs a bit deeper on each breath.

Deeper. Slower. Stronger. I’ve heard they call this combat breathing. I call it respite in the Rockies.

And, me being me, I find myself mind-meandering through my long-ago (and mostly far away) respiratory physiology classroom training. How does that work again? At higher altitude the partial pressure of O2 in the air and my lungs is lower… the sign at Pikes Peak said 60%, I believe, much lower than the 98% I am used to at sea level … which means that there is plenty of room for more O2 saturation in my blood stream. More inhalation means more air available which provides more O2 available to be exchanged. Right? And with lots more blood coursing through that pulmonary circulation thanks to my hardworking heart which was pumping fast and faster, my deeper breaths were DOing something!

Ok OK. Miraculous and scintillating as that science-speak is, what I am captured by as I look back on this trek that, yes, I survived, is the simplicity of “Take a Deeper Breath.” It reminds me…

You have reserves you don’t realize.

You have untapped flexibility and capacity you can call upon.

And BONUS! One good thing leads to another! Deeper breathing activates a whole (parasympathetic) neural reflex that triggers calming.

All this flies in the face of the push harder, exert more, breathe faster-shallower, hyperventilation scenario it seems our world inclines us to visit these days. Sure, quick, shallow breaths may work in a pinch (like in a panic attack) because, by allowing us to blow off extra CO2, they trick our brain into thinking we don’t need to breathe. Underwater divers make use of this at their own peril.

Pikes Peak Summit
Yes it does take your breath away!

But we, the anxious lot of us, adopt it in error and to our own disadvantage. We need to breathe. And rather than shallow, we need to go deeper. Rather than faster, we need to go slower. Deeper. Slower. By choice.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30

How much of my day is spent reacting and responding with faster, faster? How much more capacity would I find if I replaced shallower with deeper? Faster with slower? What if I trusted that My Maker had already provided the means for me to climb the mountain? Any mountain? If only I listened to the voice of my capable companion?

As we ascended and came nearer to the mountain lake, those returning from their trek greeted us with smiles and happy shouts of, “You’re almost there!” How can you not smile at encouragement like that?!

Oh and the vistas did NOT disappoint.

Take a deeper breath. So simple.

I wonder what other resources one might discover in listening and complying with the voice of Wisdom and Experience while we climb this steep, rocky path called life…

You are what you’re doing right now

"You aren't what you have."
"You aren't even what you've done."
"You are what you're doing right now.
Come with me." 

I am with you as you pray.
I am with you in your prayers.
I am praying as you're praying.
I am paving the way as you pray.

(...does God pray? 
Who does God pray to? 
What would God pray for?
Surely, God doesn't ask things of him/her/themself.)

Prayer is a posture
Prayer is a listening
Prayer is a companioning
a compassionate caring.
Prayer is walking
Prayer is a talking or un-talking
Prayer is a being, 
really, a with-being
Prayer is a lifting, a holding, a carrying, a crying,
a drying of tears.

"I am never angry with you when you pray.
Whatever you pray."

"You are what you're doing right now."

Gun Violence: I’ve reached my breaking point

You can tell a lot about a culture by how it treats its children.

I don’t remember who first said that to me, but when I heard it I knew at once it was true. The children among us … Do we support them? Do we include them? Do we honor them? Do we fund their endeavors? Do we prioritize our work with them? Do we care for them and hold them close? Do we respect them, whether they are part of our family, of another family or of no family?

This question was foremost in my mind several years ago when I read an awful account of the inhumanity waged against a child in the name of religious warfare. Unconscionable, I thought, How can one who bears the image of God act in such a way toward another who also bears the image of God?

I could only conclude that the one didn’t recognize this image in himself and thus didn’t recognize it in the other. If he did, I supposed, he could never behave so.

And that, naively, was the initial impetus for my book whose working title was taken from this blog, the Kinesthetic Christian, and which was ultimately titled Made to Move: Knowing and Love God Through Our Bodies. If people knew what a miraculous masterpiece they were and all of humankind was, how could we hate? How could we kill? How could we do other than honor all those we met?

Yet, here we are. Killing the other who is different, who is defenseless, who is innocent. Each one, created as a masterpiece and gifted with a life over which to discover and display it, denied it. God help us.

And God has. Through Jesus, God issued instructions, to seek to “Love God with heart, soul, mind and strength and to love our neighbor as ourself.” Our lives are our practical exam. Our place to chisel away all that is not loving in order to uncover the masterpiece within.

However…

O Lord, we don't trust we are loveable.
We don't believe we are a masterpiece.
What we see in ourselves, we often don't like
And too often we take it out on others.

We say things we don't mean.
We act in ways that are "not us."
Confirming what we believe about ourselves, 
not the truth of who we are,
at least who we are truly meant to be.

O Lord, today I recommit to your life's work in me. 
I acknowledge and accept your assignment as my instructions, 
trusting that the world you created
and the circumstances in which you placed me
are designed to chisel away the ugly and leave the lovely.

My charge: 
To seek to act in ways which show my love for you and the whole of your creation: 
with whole heart, whole soul, whole mind, and whole strength
for the good of my neighbor because of Your Good in me.  

If the life I am leading is the practical portion of my life’s exam, I pray there is still time for me to earn a passing grade. And I pray the same for you. Each of us are commissioned into the work of our lives. Surely, in our day, there is enough work to go well around.

Today, I took my first step in addressing the gun violence being perpetrated in my country. I learned that my church denomination passed a resolution to end gun violence at its 2016 Conference. I will be participating in a group pledged to respond and to act on these measures. Not only is it way past time to do this but our very lives may depend on it. So many lives have already been given for it…

Perhaps, the same Spirit is prompting me that inclined the rich young ruler of scripture to fall on his knees before Jesus and inquire, “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life? ~ Mark 10:17

It is probably no accident that in the moment just before the encounter above we’ve just read, People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them. ~Mark 10:13-16

If you would like to join the group we are gathering to learn more about the gun violence issue and ways we can address it, please send me an email here or leave your contact info in the comments below. 

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