Friday, September 11, 2015

Just Take a Deep Breath!

       Feeling a bit worn down?  Stop…Take a deep breath in.  Watch your stomach rise. Hold it… Slowly let it out, pursing your lips.  Repeat a few times. 

The exercise of deep breathing is a relaxation technique I teach in some of our evidence based classes for chronic disease or chronic pain self management. Could there be something more to the calming effect of moving air in and out of our bodies?  I believe there is because if you just took a breath, you’ve called upon the name of God- YHWH.  What?     Literally, the name of God is breath.

When Moses asked God what His name was, he replied,”YHWH.” (Exodus 13:13-15)   (We’ve made it into Yahweh) but the original text looked like this:
     יהוה  (Yod Heh Vav Heh)

Yod, rhymes with “rode”, which we transliterate “Y”
Heh, rhymes with “say”, which we transliterate “H”
Vav, like “lava”, which we transliterate “V” or “W”
He rhymes with “say”, which we transliterate “H” 

     Jewish scholars have said that the letter YHWH make breathing sounds. Without any vowels they are aspirated consonants in the Hebrew alphabet. (Rabbi Arthur Waskow) In the Siddur, (Jewish prayer book) it says: "Nishmat kol chai tivarech et SHIMCHA." ("The breathing of all life praises your Name.") For the Breathing of all life IS Your Name. Over the years we added an A and an E to make the word Yahweh. 

     I’ve been meditating on this subject all week. What if God’s name=the sound of our breathing? How BIG God becomes in our lives and in our world. And what does this mean? Here are some random thoughts that have been rolling around my head: 
  •  If God’s name is the breath of life – it means God is intimate and moving in us. When we can no longer speak his name on earth (breathe), we must leave our temporal home. On the flip side, when a new born babe is about to take in that first breath- the room waits for it, we wait to hear God’s name. The first cry excites a room like no other.
  • Our intimate God has purposely excluded age, race, culture, language to define who can speak to Him. (its not just a Hebrew word) He chose to use the one thing we all need to exist- our breath to communicate. He is the God of us all and we are all equal in His sight. 
  • Expand the thought of breath=God’s name and the bigger God gets. He is God of all – he encompasses all life-forms! Trees breathe, animals breathe and so on. Now step into the earth breathing. It does! Check this out: : How about the universe? God’s breath is everywhere! 
  Perhaps breathing is a little more like praying?
  • Accelerated breathing with pain or stress- God’s name is rapidly repeated YHWH, YHWH
  • Shallow quiet breathing: The peace of God accompanies His name, YHWH
  • Labored breathing: the God of strength and power rides on His name with each huff and puff –YHWH!
  • Gasps of air through tears: We cling to and gulp down the comforting pacifying YHWH … YHWH …. YHWH.
      In days ahead, I will be the delivery room for my grandsons.  I will be touched as both my daughter and daughter in law breathe that labored breathing through pain and discomfort for they will be calling on the name of YHWH to sustain them and carry them through. They won’t need human words.  He will be right in the middle of the mess.  Even more exhilarating will be the sound of the first cries off the lips of my new grand offspring declaring, YHWH!   They’ll simply be speaking the language of heaven, like the rest of us! 

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Five Small Stones

   For the last few weeks, I've watched some dear friends and family really struggle with Goliath life circumstances. Their monsters of uncertainty are just as loud, obnoxious and downright scary as the old character himself. I got to thinking, as big and as nasty as the Philistine giant was, David didn't do anything extraordinary to deal with his “problem.”  He simply used the tools he had and 5 small stones from the river bed to take down the enemy just like he always did.  This is good news for us!
   Goliath taunted God’s people for 40 days.  Forty days is a lifetime to be reminded that something else or somebody is in control of your life. I've read somewhere that the number 40 in the bible is generally connected with the word “trial”-remember the 40 days in the wilderness? That wasn't too fun either. Doesn't it feel that way sometimes when we’re in the middle of a crisis? The Israelites were living out the same dismal life as my buddies are facing; hopeless and with a Chernobyl size mushroom cloud that will plume any second, if intervention doesn't come quickly.  Here’s how the word says it in 1 Sam 17:4-11
   “Then Goliath, a Philistine champion from Gath, came out of the Philistine ranks to face the forces of Israel. He was over nine feet tall!  He wore a bronze helmet, and his bronze coat of mail (a long defensive garment made of interlinked metal rings) weighed 125 pounds. He also wore bronze leg armor, and he carried a bronze javelin on his shoulder.  The shaft of his spear was as heavy and thick as a weaver’s beam, tipped with an iron spearhead that weighed 15 pounds. His armor bearer walked ahead of him carrying a shield.  Goliath stood and mocked the Israelites. “Why are you all coming out to fight?” he called. “I am the Philistine champion, but you are only the servants of Saul. Choose one man to come down here and fight me!  If he kills me, then we will be your slaves. But if I kill him, you will be our slaves!  I defy the armies of Israel today! Send me a man who will fight me!”  When Saul and the Israelites heard this, they were terrified and deeply shaken.”
    Doesn’t it look like this Goliath has every advantage? He had walls of protection in the form of armor covering almost every square inch of his skin that made him seem insurmountable.  Sometimes our giants seem as impossible as this character.
     So how about the David, the guy that supposed to be “the us” in the story?   Haven’t we usually seen the painted picture of a scrappy, thin weakling kid portraying David in our mind?   It feels great to depict him this way because if that story is true, it requires nothing from us but to sit back and watch God work when we find ourselves in harms way. I always thought that was kind of the message of this story. I’ve had to rethink it here this week and I’d like to put a different spin on our theology about the saga of David and Goliath.
 David was not the little sister in Hunger Games, the chosen tribute that had to die for the cause. (Funny, because isn't that the way we feel when we face our giants) David was more like the older sister in Hunger Games – Pick me! Pick me! Look at verse 32 Don’t worry about this Philistine,” David told Saul. “I’ll go fight him!”
     Have you ever looked at your giant that way? If you did, then something was happening in you, much like it did inside of David.  Usually, we let our perception obscure us to something more amazing at work. Maybe standing before a giant requires more from us – a godly perspective for starts.   There’s a hidden truth here: Overcomers understand that the genuine ways to win battles are sometimes concealed by our own misconceptions. Changing our limited perception to God’s perception can alter the entire outcome of the battle.
So what other misconceptions have we believed about this story?  Poor little David, all he had was just a sling and 5 small stones. Let me tell you how lethal David’s weapons were.  The sling that David had was most likely a leather pouch with two long cords attached to it. Rocks were hurled about from it.  This wasn’t one of those little kids’ toys you see at K-mart. Ballistic calculations tell us that the stopping power fired out of David’s sling was equal to the stopping power of a 45 caliber handgun!  David was locked and loaded and was greatly skilled.  He had to be confident going in since he was allowing himself just five tries to nail the only vulnerable part of enemy that was exposed – right between the eyeballs!  Of course we know the story; David hit him right in the perfect spot the first time!
 As Goliath moved closer to attack, David quickly ran out to meet him.  Reaching into his shepherd’s bag and taking out a stone, he hurled it with his sling and hit the Philistine in the forehead. The stone sank in, and Goliath stumbled and fell face down on the ground.” 
Okay so let’s talk about the big scary monster for a minute. We do know that Goliath was freakishly large; some have even speculated that he may have had a disease of gigantism. The condition of gigantism is almost always due to a tumor on the pituitary glands, I have a good friend with this disease and he has been through a lot.  It can affect vision and makes you feel horrible.  Guess where your pituitary glands are located?  -Right behind the two eyes where the stone sunk in.  God literally allowed that stone to hit the target of the monster that made him so big!  I believe God wants to hit the giants in our lives right where it makes them seem so big!  Right on your monster’s pituitary glands!
     Finally Goliath falls face down.  The Israelites had won the World Series and the roar had to be tremendous.  Their champion had won!  I think the Philistine folks were doing the “Uh Oh dance” when then saw his fatal pose.  Face down is the ultimate cry of surrender -submission to the one who is greater. However, David wasn't finished with him yet; he knew that Goliath needed to be silenced forever.  Ever wonder how many monsters have we given CPR to?   This monster had to be completely dead like our own demons.   I get the dead part, but why in world did his head have to come off seems a little gross. I think God has a thing about heads, funny as it seems.  He talks a lot about us stepping on the enemies’ head in several passages. I've got a clue.  Guess where all your senses are located? - that‘s right, in your head or your face to be specific.  Your senses are your information communicators to the brain. With Goliath’s head cut off, he could no longer listen to plot and plan against David: the enemy’s mouth was shut and he could no longer taunt or defile God, the enemy’s smell and taste was terminated and he could no longer hunt him down or taste victory, the enemy’s eyes could no longer fix in on its prey. The enemy could no longer touch God’s chosen one which includes us!  The monster was truly dead.
     One last thought about this great passage, I find it interesting that when God looked down at David, he told David to just use what he normally used and his own natural talent - Nothing special, just his sling, 5 smooth rocks, his shepherd’s bag and a staff.  The sling would be normally used to ward off enemies or keep the sheep going in the right direction. his shepherd’s bag held his food supply  and nourishment, while his staff was used to round up sheep into a flock, guide the sheep by applying pressure to the one in front and to help pull out a wayward sheep out of a bad situation.
      What’s our take away when we are faced with our giants?  While we are in close communion with God, we should look at what we normally use and ask God, ‘’what is my natural talent that you can use?  What are my 5 small stones? (I’d like the point out here that the number 5 in the bible is the number for grace)  Additionally, remember that David put into the five stones into the bag that usually carried his nourishment. Here’s the math, Grace = Nourishment!  When we go into battle are we taking our nourishment with us, like these stones of grace: love, the word of God, prayer, worship and wisdom of Godly friends?  Isn't it an awesome thought how the bag that carried sustenance, became the bag that carried the fatal blow to the enemy?
     Here’s a closing thought, Have you ever wondered why David took a staff into a battle?  How in the world would help him in the heat of the battle? It’s just another thing to carry. Did he forget because of nerves?  Not a chance!  I think David knew exactly what he was doing.  That staff carried the stuff of dreams and promise in his life.  It was his everyday symbol of direction, leadership and rescue.  He took it into battle because he knew that God would do the same with Goliath.  So, that’s my last question?  Are we taking our staff with us when we standing front of our monster?
     I no longer see the saga of David and Goliath as the story of the weakling boy and the giant.  It is a story of a regular guy like you and me walking in a godly perspective that is capable and confident who does what he always does- gets rid of the enemy.  Facing a Goliath?  You will be more than alright.