Fighting fear, one breath at a time

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As long as my breath is in me, and the spirit of God is in my nostrils…Job 27:3 ESV

And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” John 20:22 ESV

Fear, discouragement and shame are Satan’s weapons of choice because they usually work. We look around us, take in our circumstances and listen to Satan’s false interpretation of events. For good reason he’s called the liar, the deceiver.

Over the past weekend, Mike and I retreated to a cabin in the woods of North Georgia.  We spent four days resting, restoring, reflecting and hiking.

Thanks to our newish daily practice of using biblical apps to meditate on God, I’m beginning to notice more often each individual breath I take in. This growing morning routine of observing my intake of oxygen causes me to know that at that moment, all I need, all my body has to have is this next breath.  And the Lord is providing it.  I am 100 % dependent on him. He alone will decide when I no longer need that physical sustenance.

The secular world has used meditation and mindfulness for years. What is different for us as Christ-followers, that is those who aspire consciously to abide in union with Jesus, is that we use Scripture as the content for guided meditations.

A few days before our trip, the speaker in the Encounter app Mike and I use mentioned that each breath is a gift from God who knows just what our body needs, moment by moment. As obvious as it sounds, I had never consciously connected God with each inhale.  Most of the time, I breathe without thinking.

While section hiking the Appalachian Trail with Mike, God gave me plenty of time to pull back from fear.  When the trail became less steep, my mind would wander forward into the coming days.  All of a sudden, the Holy Spirit would alert me to my fear-filled thoughts and I would ‘run back’ to Jesus who inhabits my very breathing. I’d confess my sin and huddle closely to him, breathing in thanksgiving and exhaling fear.  It was during our last full day, while hiking up to the summit of Blood Mountain, that I actually began thanking God each time I caught myself worrying and projecting.  Each fear thought became a trigger to return and enumerate with gratitude the Lord’s numerous blessings to me. I realized that I can’t multi-task.  I can’t nurture fears while naming the gifts God provides. 

For me, this ordering my thoughts, this submitting them to God to govern is new.  That is why I keep talking about this recently-acquired spiritual discipline of biblical meditation.   All the uncertainty regarding my mother-in-law’s care weighs heavily on me. I realize that I have become an expert in ‘futurizing’, that euphemism for ‘worry and fear’. My best friend Joyce has rightly named it for what it is.  This projecting into the days ahead is also sin.  I know, for the Bible teaches, that each time I indulge in fretful imagining of what might happen, I grieve the Holy Spirit who is in me.

This morning, something struck me from Hebrews 13:20-21: ‘May the God of peace…..equip you with all you need for doing his will…’ (NLT)

“Oh”, I mused, “you really are preparing me for the future!”

A daily ‘spiritual retreat’ of 15-20 minutes has become a precious part of my morning routine.  I am learning to be present with Jesus. This early meet-up is where I hand over all that concerns me and my family. Then I arise once again, to follow closely on his heels. I imagine myself often stepping on his heels, so near to him I want to be.  I don’t believe he minds.

God uses hairdressers to provide grace

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How the Lord used hairdressers to help us

Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. Hebrews 13:16 ESV

Have you ever considered that passing on useful information or ideas to someone else is a way to share what you have? God, who exhorts us to care for others, has not just given us helping hands and material resources, but words and possible solutions to bless others. Fresh suggestions involving different ways to solve a problem might be just what someone needs to hear from you.

The most valuable tangible help that we ever received came from my hairdresser in Newport News, Virginia.  For decades Mike had suffered from a stress-induced physical symptom that no doctor or psychologist could relieve. Like a gray cloud that hung over our family, this ‘thing’ dogged us.

Did we pray about it?  Of course!  But as developing, growing Christians, we didn’t have a lot of spiritual depth.  Nor did we worship in a denomination that viewed God’s word as true and living. 

Hairdressers make great listeners.  Women benefit more than guys, because they spend longer in their coiffeur’s chair and visit regularly.  A woman’s relationship with her hairdresser can last years. 

One day I was sharing Mike’s condition with my gal and how the ‘on-going-ness’ sapped him of joy.  To my surprise, she responded, “Honey, what Mike needs is Buspirone.  It’s an anti-anxiety med that really works!” Before long, my husband had switched over from his ineffective anti-depressant to Buspirone. It was like a miracle! We still thank God to this day.

That was about twelve years ago. We live in north Alabama now and James is my hair guy. Three weeks ago, as I sat in his chair, he offered unbidden, “Let me tell you about this great meditation app I’ve been using!”

As it so happened, Mike and I had just completed our first experience with meditation apps, using John Eldredge’s Pause app.  Thirty consecutive days incorporating this spiritual practice had instilled in us the desire to keep it up.

Talk about God’s timeliness! With all the churn we are going through with Mike’s mom as well as his impending retirement, we NEEDED to add regular guided biblical meditation to our lives.

I marvel at how through each day’s Bible passages forming this 15–20-minute experience, the Lord guides, corrects, comforts and encourages me, depending on what he knows I need.  I can’t wait to bring James up to date on how impactful his suggestion has been. Thank you, Lord, both for prompting James and for causing him to be obedient to you!

So, what useful information might you be sitting on that God intends for someone needy?   The only way to know is to engage with people throughout the day.  When we show sincere curiosity, strike up conversations, get out of ourselves and leave our circumstances in God’s hands, we often see how what we have or know might help someone.  God uses all of his creation to provide grace.  You and I are part of that grace meant for others.

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