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.

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“Take Me to You…”

Batter my heart, three-person’d God ; for you
As yet but knock ; breathe, shine, and seek to mend ;
That I may rise, and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
Your force, to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp’d town, to another due,
Labour to admit you, but O, to no end.
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captived, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,
But am betroth’d unto your enemy ;
Divorce me, untie, or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

–John Donne, Holy Sonnet 14

Let’s be blunt, and say that there is no middle ground. There is no “Self” that thinks and acts on its own initiative and has no Master. The truth is that you are either a slave to Christ or a slave to Satan—that’s it.

As a slave to Christ, you are—indeed—free. But you can’t be free until he storms the castle of your cherished self, demolishes your ego, and enthrones himself in the seat of your heart. As a slave to Christ, you live day by day dependent on him, looking daily at his pure, holy, and loving character and by his grace the chains of sin that bind you are torn. The key to this freedom is the outright possession of your life by God. Apparent slavery. Are you willing to give up the control of your life?

On the other hand, as a slave to Satan you are under the impression that you have the greatest freedom imaginable (after all, isn’t the crummy Decalogue and the word of God nothing short of a yoke meant to keep you from all you really want to do?). The longer you’re under this regime, however, the more confined and debased you become. Apparent freedom is nothing more than self-destructive slavery that degrades you and your view of self, God, and the world around you.

I’ve come to realize that freedom is simply a matter of perspective, in which I must take into account whatI’m being freed from, and what I’m being freed to do. The good news of it all is that YOU choose what master you want to serve. No one can ever take that choice from you. So choose wisely.

May you choose the Master that frees you from degradation and confusion and frees you to be the person you were meant to be—free to do what is both great and fulfilling.

“For You have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love” Gal 5:13

The Siren's Song

When the Sirens Sing

Enjoying intimacy with God involves walking in the Spirit. And walking in the Spirit MUST involve gaining victory over the flesh. It’s not a life of no longer being tempted. It is a life of overcoming temptation.

The following is entirely from J. Oswald Sanders; a passage I read this morning that I thought I should share:

The key is not the mere damming back of the temptation, only for it to break out once again, worse than ever. It is the counteraction operation of a higher and more powerful law. The principle [can be] powerfully illustrated in the Greek myths of Ulysses and the sirens, and Jason and the Argonauts.

When Ulysses and his men set out on their journey of conquest, they were warned by Circe to avoid the sirens at all costs. She told them that the sirens’ voices were alluring but fatal to all who stopped to listen. The unfortunate listeners became rooted like a tree and could not tear themselves away, until they died of hunger.

“Fill your companions’ ears with wax” she counseled. “If you yourself want to listen to their song, first let your men bind you securely to the mast.” Ulysses heeded her advice. “If the melody beguiles me,” he ordered them, “I charge you, disobey my word, and bend more strongly to your oars.”

At length Ulysses heard the beautiful strains that stole into his mind, overpowered his body, and overcame his will. As the music came sweeter and sweeter, Ulysses’ love for home weakened. He struggled with his shame, but at last the bewitching voices of the sirens prevailed.

“Loose me and let me stay with the sirens!” he raged. He threatened and entreated… He raged and tore at his bonds, for it was agony for him to leave the spot. But not until the last sound of music died away did they loose him. He had passed out of the zone of temptation.

Jason with his Argonauts set out in search of the Golden Fleece. Medea warned Jason and his men of the menace of the sirens, as they began to hear their bewitching strains. All around they could see the shore strewn with the bones of those who had succumbed to the sirens’ charms.

On board the boat was Orpheus, the king of minstrels. “Let them match their songs with mine,” he challenged the three maidens whom they could see, and whose silvery voices stole over the moonlit waters…The oars of Jason’s heroes fell from their hypnotized hands.

“Sing louder! Wake up these sluggards!” Medea cried to Orpheus. Orpheus struck his skillful hand over the strings of his lyre, and his voice rose like a trumpet. The music penetrated the souls of the infatuated men, and their souls thrilled. Orpheus kept on singing until his voice completely drowned the voices of the sirens. Once again the Argonauts took up their oars, and Jason and his men sailed to victory.

“Sing the song again, Orpheus,” they cried. “We will dare and suffer to the last.”

* * *

These stories strikingly illustrate two possible ways of gaining victory over the desires of the flesh. One is the way of negations and prohibitions. They are of some help and have their place. Ulysses was bound, otherwise he would have yielded to the cravings of his heart. His men had wax in their ears, or they too would have yielded. But it is an incontrovertible fact that to concentrate the mind on the desires of the flesh, if only to conquer them, seems to intensify the desires.

How much better is the Orphean music than the Ulyssian wax! With the heavenly Orpheus on board, as we listen to His heavenly music, the voices of the sirens lose the power of their appeal, and our spirits are set free.

It is all a matter of who is in control of the life. The self-life with its unlawful desires and tendencies is the citadel of the fleshly principle, and will continue to dominate until it is consigned to the cross. Paul wrote: “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Gal 5:24). That is involved in walking by the Spirit and results in our emancipation from yielding to the desires of the flesh.

– – –

Sanders, J. Oswald. Enjoying Intimacy with God “Walking in the Spirit”

The Long road Back

Long Road Back

I sat listless on my pink couch.

“Tanya’s Couch”, they’d begun calling it.

Figures…

It was so ugly, old, and repellent. The stuffing was coming out and it had questionable stains. It even smelled funny—no wonder they named such an object after me.

I sighed.

I had argued with Zuri in the car, and said some nasty things. Now I was only tired. So very tired.

Too tired to care anymore.

Too tired to make an effort and lie to Zuri

Too tired to fight with God.

I just stopped struggling.

With the acceptance that I was nothing short of a disgusting dumb animal—intelligent, but an animal nonetheless—I had given in to life and all it threw at me. I escaped my drab existence as often as I could, each time hoping I would never return. And when I wasn’t away, I was only . . . tired.

I continued going to the meetings. What’s more, I even talked a bit. I didn’t sit in their circle—oh no. But I participated from my seat in the couch.

True, I began by making questions meant to stir discord within the group and aim resentment at me. But they considered my questions seriously, which was actually kind of funny. In time, as they neither looked shocked or annoyed by what I brought up, I shut up. Or on rare occasions I actually asked questions in earnest.

But not often.

And during testimonies and prayer requests I told Zuri that if she could pray for my Cousin Eva’s health I was sure my prayer request would be more likely to be answered, because I thought I was already far beyond the reach of God.

And yet, I never imagined that giving up the struggle was the beginning of my healing, and the first step of many in the long road back to Him.

 

part 10 of If You Only Knew

Hounded By His Presence

That autumn I was nearly always upset.

I was broke.

I hated the cold and the rain.

I was still attending the church meetings—hating them, hating Zuri, hating God.

I hated myself even more, though. If only I’d been more careful this wouldn’t have happened. If only I could just stop, then I could go, bang on Zuri’s door and her to get lost with her church and her prayer meetings.

She was convinced that only with the help of God would I ever be free–How I wished I could prove her wrong.
But I couldn’t. I was only a dumb animal. I had no self-control, and no strength to refrain from destroying myself. The intelligence I had been given was absolutely wasted on me– Or so I thought.

“How long?” I’d asked that fateful afternoon she found me out
“Until you stop destroying yourself like this”
“How would you know that I actually stopped? I could just lie to you.”
“You’re right. I wouldn’t really know. You could lie to me. But in the end your life trajectory will show it. And besides, you could never lie to God.”

While on the subject of self-hate, I really hated myself for clinging on to my belief in God. Millions of people–indeed, whole countries–had abandoned the idea of a god. So why couldn’t I? Why?

And why couldn’t he just leave me alone? The knowledge of an all-knowing and omnipresent deity hounded and tormented me. Worse, He had begun to make himself present there on the bathroom floor in those moments when every thought or trouble should have been erased from my mind. My heartbeat and breathing could become dangerously faint, but even then I could sense it…

His presence, which had followed me down into my darkness.

 

part 9 of If You Only Knew

How to Find Treasure

When I discovered your words, I devoured them. They are my joy and my heart’s delight (Jer 15:16)

Shortly after Jack Thomas graduated from college as a Mining Engineer, gold was discovered at Devil’s Head Lake, Montana. So Jack headed West.

Three years later the death of his father left him with $20,000 in cash to which he added another $20,000 collected from relatives and friends. With the $40,000 he headed back to Devil’s Head Lake and staked out his claim on a formation he had been studying and was convinced gave promise.

With machinery bought, a crew hired, he started to drill. But at the end of two years he was worn out . . .  discouraged . . . and broke. All he had left was the battered drilling machinery and an assortment of tools and supplies. Utterly disillusioned and disgusted, he sold the entire outfit to a junk man for $1,500.

But before carting the machinery away the junk man looked over the ground. He had a hunch that Jack’s mining knowledge might have been good . . . but that he might have been a bit short on grit and determination.

So, instead of dismantling the machinery, he decided to do a little drilling on his own.

Thirty days later . . . exactly two feet below where Jack [had] stopped . . . the junk man hit one of the most valuable gold streaks in the region. [1]

“As the miner discovers veins of precious metal concealed beneath the surface of the earth, so will he who perseveringly searches the word of God as for hid treasure find truths of the greatest value, which are concealed from the view of the careless seeker.” [2]

* * *

Oftentimes I find that it is all too-easy to miss out on God’s message to me because I don’t focus on what I am reading. I read a Psalm, or a chapter of Proverbs and I consider that as enough, when that is barely scratching the surface of a treasure mine.

Sometimes I am too busy to dwell on what I read, to seek out more information, or to pray about it. I suspect most of us are like that. But how great would it be if we daily devoted an hour just to seek God’s messages for us in the Bible?

– – –

[1] Spangler, W. M.Trigonometry and Graphs, (Scranton: International Textbook Company, 1954) Jacket

[2] White, E. G. Steps to Christ, “A Knowledge of God”

Habitation

You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (1 Pet 2:5-9 ESV)

When I think about God wanting to dwell in me, I think of a very private inner chamber–sort of like my bedroom, but jealously kept closed against intruders. That is where the real me can actually emerge. It is also where things can get the most cluttered, the most obtrusive, and where I often resist against change.

* * *

One of the most chilling passages that I have found in the Bible is one found in Matthew 12, and it has to do with how we are a habitation, either for good or evil.

“When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, but finds none.Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds the house empty, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last state of that person is worse than the first . . .” (Matthew 12:43-45)

If we give in to God, and we let him come in, he will free us from the evil things that lurked inside the inner chamber. Whoosh! They are gone. The gloom of evil cannot exist in the presence of God. But such a habitation cannot stand empty. If we don’t follow-up with filling ourselves with God’s word, and doing so continuously, the empty chamber becomes, once more, a habitation of demons, and our state is worse than before.

Every day counts in the battle for your soul. So if you don’t feel like studying the Bible, make yourself do it, invoking the power of the Holy Spirit to imbue his word with meaning for you. Not everyday is a lyrical day in which you’ll feel God inside you. But He is there, don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise.

Guard your inner self with everything you got.

Better yet, hand the key over to God so he can claim every nook and cranny inside the Habitation.