God's name is in the very breath you take

Your Name

Ancient rabbis believed that the letters [that made up God’s name] were kind of breathing sounds and that ultimately the name is simply unpronounceable because the letters together are essentially the sound of breathing. Yod, Heh, Vah, He. –Rob Bell, Breathe

In the morning, still drowsy from all that gentle dreaming, I wake up and sigh your name as I stir under my warm covers and rise to greet the day.

Yahweh.

Your name–so overwhelmingly holy and mysterious that it’s become  unutterable–becomes something that is alive and full of meaning when I breathe and think of you. Did you know, Father, that thinking of you first thing in the morning is beginning to come as naturally as breathing? Is it you who is making it so that praying to you is starting to become second nature?

I am breathing, and with it I am saying your name. I am conscious enough to know that life is a miracle, and I am reminded to worship you. My worship rises up in the form of a prayer; an act as simple as thinking, and as necessary as breathing. I squint my eyes and smile when the sun hits my face.

Another beautiful day.

Father, may every word that comes from my mouth today be true to the nature of the Holy Spirit who dwells in me. Because if it is true that that your name is in every breath I take… It would be akin to blasphemy to waste it in speaking idle, hurtful, or profane words. 

And it is when I think this, that the flowing river of worshipful prayer suddenly stops…

You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain. -Exodus 20:7

Can it be?

Can it be that I have spent most of my life, misusing your name simply by not considering every life-giving breath I take as holy? Can it be that misusing even the air I breathe–misusing the life you’ve given me–is actually taking your name in vain?

Breathe in.

Breathe out.

In.

Out.

I am, without a doubt, guilty. And still my heart beats steady. And still my lungs draw air. And yet… and yet…

How could I have thought that I was fulfilling this commandment simply by using some stupid euphemisms whenever I was angry or surprised? How could I have thought that this was one of the easiest–that’s right–EASIEST commandments to keep?

Because now I see, God, that it is the one commandment that holds me accountable for living my life right, without wasting a single word, a single moment, or a single breath. It calls me to make good use of this life, this air, this name that I breathe.

YOUR Holy name.

Your Hands

You hands–warm, strong, and steady–have held me together these years.

You knitted me in my mother’s womb–every sinew, nerve, and bone. Down to the most intricate detail your hands made me perfect.

You held me up as I learned to walk and and rejoiced over me with song as I grew and ran with arms spread open to the sun and wind. Yes, you were there long before I even began to have a notion of who you were. From you I learned the true meaning of joy. From your hands I have received only good things.

You lifted me, when I was drowning and dark waves of terror overwhelmed me. You held me back all those years ago when an encounter with a speeding car would have surely ended my life. You hands saved me from myself and from the enemy.

Life went on, and as it surely does sunshine sometimes gave way to shadows. But in your infinite power You saved me from homelessness. You never ever failed to provide shelter and food. How wonderful you are! Yes, your hands always provide.

From you I have received and received and received. Yes, your hands are the source of all that is good in my life.

I am filled with wonder at how the hands that created this world, direct the flowing rhythm of nature, and hung the stars in space are the same hands that my sin marred for all eternity. How is it that your nail-pierced hands still beckon to me? How is it that they draw me closer and closer to you?

I can never hope to match your gifts. But I can learn from you and follow your example.

Let my hands be an extension of your own hands. May whatever they create or do be excellent and give glory to you. May my hands have the strength to lift others up when they fall. May they give more than receive, and may they be open to others just as your hands are ever open to me.

Perfection - the ultimate example is God - The example our Lord gives us is not that of a good man, or even a good Christian, but of God himself. “Be ye therefore perfect”…

Perfect

“…love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matt 5:44-48 NIV)

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Miracles

I didn’t get a miracle.

The next day I got a pounding migraine.

So this is what you get from trying to negotiate with the Almighty. Punishment, indeed.

It was so bad that mother called Zuri, our next-door neighbor who knew how to treat everything with natural remedies. None of the painkillers found in the drugstore worked on me, only her natural remedies did the job when it came to my migraines. We used to think she was like a shaman or something, she and her family were that weird, but they claimed they were Christians.
Well, whatever, lady. Please, just do something about this pain.

Usually no one was ever admitted to my room until I had made sure all evidence had been safely put away. I was never careless, but that was always an extra precaution. The day I was found out I was so wrapped up in my misery that I completely forgot about it.

It wasn’t my mother who found me out. She had been too preoccupied with getting the neighbor and with getting herself ready for work on time. Zuri helped me as best as she could, then after telling me to rest, went back home, promising to come in a few hours to check on me.

When I opened my eyes hours later, Zuri was sitting on my swivel chair, looking grave, and in her hand. . .

Oh. Sh—

 

part 6 of If You Only Knew

– – –

If You Only Knew, Part 6

While Reading the Bible, Discard the Brain (But Keep the Heart)

Most cultures in antiquity designated the heart not only as the seat of emotion, but also the seat of thought.[i] That’s why the Egyptians, for example, extracted and discarded the “useless” gray matter (i.e. brain) prior to the mummification of the dead (“Who cares what this mushy stuff is?It’s just gross… Hurry up and get it out”).

The heart, however, was jealously and carefully stored, because it was responsible for life, desires, and thoughts.

This same attribution occurred in the Jewish culture, which is why in the Bible the meaning of so many passages in which the heart is mentioned should be re-considered—there is additional depth to the heart than we can suppose upon a cursory reading. It is, therefore, convenient to re-define the meaning of heart as used in the Bible. Better yet, discard the notion/function of the brain as the seat of thought and keep the heart instead.

According to some sources, the heart was the “seat of all morality and of all moral and spiritual functions.”[1] This encompassed the conscience, and the thinking self.

In short, what came from the heart was much more than emotion. It was thought of as “the authority within.”[2] In other words, the will.

* * *

 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. (Deuteronomy 6:5)

By the fact that “heart” is mentioned in this passage, it describes this love as being much more than a love based on emotions; it is based on a total surrender of the will and the self. A love coming from what makes you you—a conscious love, not a heedless, reckless thing.

This begs the question—how does one love God like that?  How can we, people who have so distorted the definition of love to include everything from affection, to fleeting infatuation (even erotic passion), properly respond? Is God simply asking for the impossible?

* * *

I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God. (Ezekiel 11:19-20)

God’s promise is to give you a new heart—and with it a new way of thinking, a new way of making decisions, a new way of being your own self. That is what makes the promise in Ezekiel so much more meaningful than before. God wants to give you a new set of values by which you are able to live by. Obedience of his law comes natural to the new heart he gives you, because it has transformed the “authority within” you. It is no longer you, but Christ who lives, thinks, and is in you.


[i] It wasn’t until Herophilos in Alexandria (Egypt) did many studies in human anatomy by means of dissections, that the center of thought was relocated from the heart to the brain, and the mechanical connection between the heart, the pulse, and the flowing of blood in the veins was first grasped.

The Warning

“Son of man, listen to what I say to you. Do not join them in their rebellion…”(Ezekiel 2:8)

Ezekiel’s calling is quite interesting to me.

After his vision of God, he was given precise instructions as to what he had to do. He was entrusted with a mission: to be a prophet for the people, a light-bearer in times of spiritual darkness. Next, he was empowered to do his work, as the people he would speak to were hard-hearted and would not easily accept him or the message he had. Then, he was warned not to give in to the people and join them into their rebellion. Finally, he was given the word of God to eat.

* * *

It was interesting to me to note that God warned Ezekiel not to join the rebellion. Is that even possible for someone who saw a Vision of God? If so. . .  then maybe there is more to this rebellion business than I thought at first glance.

There existed the danger that, in the face of such a terrible outlook, Ezekiel would shirk his responsibility. If he let fear get the best of him, then he would become identified with the same rebellion that the Israelites were guilty of—the same rebellion he was responsible for speaking up against. There was always that danger that he would be influenced by the apostasy around him and that he would lose notion of the real gravity of sin. There is a subtle poison in the atmosphere of a sinful society. It is difficult that a person hold on to his faith when he is among people who have no faith, especially when those same people pretend to have the same hopes and aspirations which he holds. For that same reason, the church’s greatest danger comes from within, not from without. If those who are called to be leaders are themselves “rebellious”, just as the “rebellious people”, What else can be expected but widespread godlessness? The history of the apostasy of Israel reveals the terrible result of what happens when human beings look to other human beings, and place their trust in impious leaders. [1]

* * *

There are two things to note.

  1. The rebellion was not so much an open attitude against God—a worshipping of idols, or other such outright refusals to worship him. Instead it consisted of a lifestyle that on the outside had the semblance of goodness but without making the necessary changes that consisted in total surrender to God.
  2. The spiritual leaders were in large part responsible for this. Ezekiel’s calling and the warning contained within is for us today as well. No matter what you do in life–what your vocation or job you have, you are a light for others—hence, you are a leader.

Have you accepted the call to serve God? Consider the message found in Ezekiel 2.


[1] Comentario Biblico Adventista del Septimo Día. Vol 4. (Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1985) p.612 Translated from Spanish by Paula

Visions Of God

On the fifth day of the fourth month of the thirtieth year, while I  was with the Judean exiles beside the Kebar River in Babylon, the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God. (Ezekiel 1:1)

Visions of God.

Distinctly different than Visions from God.

* * *

These were not only visions given by God, but manifestations of the divine glory of God. These types of visions are theophanies [theophany in the singular], and often took place at the beginning of the ministry of a prophet. Recall Isaiah seeing the mighty throne of God, Moses in front of the burning bush, John (the disciple) seeing Christ in the midst of the seven lamp stands . . . .

Why would God give his prophets visions of himself? One can consider it as a type of initiation for one who is now to enter a new realm of knowledge and perception, a new stage of his life, a new responsibility and mission.[1]

* * *

I think when we are called to do a work—whether great or small—for Christ, God manifests his glory to us in some way or another. And yet, the manifestation is different from person to person, and often it is impossible to explain to others. Ezequiel, for example, describes what he saw: four beings of human form—but so strangely unlike humans at the same time. Four wheels. Lightning and thunder. Voices. A throne of lapis lazuli upon which was

“a figure whose face resembled a man. From what appeared to be his waist up, he looked like gleaming amber, flickering like a fire. And from his waist down, he looked like a burning flame, shining with splendor. All around him was a glowing halo, like a rainbow shining in the clouds on a rainy day” (Ezequiel 1:26-28)

* * *

It is said[2] that the purpose of Ezequiel’s vision was to assure the exiles that despite the bleak outlook of the future, the current events had not escaped God’s control. It was to be an assurance that God was in complete control of the cosmos and the affairs of the world.

A revelation of God, therefore, can be a new insight to his character, a reminder of mercy, and a deeper knowledge of his love.

– – –

Have you ever had a vision of God?

What is the duty, if any, of anyone who has ever received such a vision of God?

What do you think is the meaning of the rainbow halo?

What could this symbol have signified to a people who had been through great hardship?


[1] Comentario Biblico Adventista del Septimo Día. Vol 4. (Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1985) p.604 Translated from Spanish by Paula

[2] Ibid, p. 607