Just Breathe! (Psalm 104, Psalm 150, Ezekiel 37:1-6)

When You give them Your breath, life is created, and You renew the face of the earth. I will sing to the Lord as long as I live. I will praise my God to my last breath! (Psalm 104:30, 33)

We have an enormous backyard, and in some places there is more dirt than grass. As I was mowing recently, the mower began sputtering and coughing. It would barely run. I stopped, pulled off the filter cover, and saw the problem. The filter was clogged with dust. I did not have a new filter, so I knocked and blew the dust out of the old one and put it back.

Note to self – when you blow into a filter, make sure you first gauge the wind direction.

I started the mower and it instantly ran like it was meant to run. Mowers cannot function unless they can breathe.

Neither can people.

The Hebrew word translated “breath” is also the Hebrew word translated “Spirit” and “wind.” God created oxygen, and us, and our lungs. We must breathe in order to live, but how we breathe affects our quality of life.

Ready for an anatomy lesson? Our lungs occupy a significant portion of our torso. They extend nearly as far down as our ribcage. When we take a deep breath we fill those lungs, instantly supplying oxygen throughout our bodies. When we take a shallow breath we do not fill our lungs; in fact, we deprive oxygen throughout our bodies.

The more stressed out or anxious we are, the less of our lungs we use. We breathe anatomically higher, only using the upper section of our lungs. Our wound-up emotions produce oxygen deprivation, forcing our bodies to work harder AND giving our bodies less of what they need.

Since God has given us oxygen and breath and lungs, why not take full advantage of these gifts when we need them the most? If we can condition ourselves to breathe deeply, combining that breathing with Scripture and prayer, we are using what God gave us AND we are seeking God’s peace and strength with every breath we take. Deep breathing lowers blood pressure, slows down the pulse, and clears our minds. Deep breathing also makes us more available to God.

There is a breathing exercise simply called 4-7-8. You breathe in through your nose to a 4 count. You hold your breath for a 7 count. You breathe out through your mouth to an 8 count. You can repeat several times, combining the 4-7-8 breathing with a very short “breath prayer…”

…“Jesus, thank You for being my peace.”

…“God, I let go and let You.”

…“God I need You.”

…”Jesus I trust You.” (That’s my go-to breath prayer.)

Your heart will usually tell you what you need to pray, but you cannot go wrong using Scriptures. You can apply this breathing discipline literally anywhere at anytime, but you may want to start at home by yourself so that you can become acquainted with it. And if you have pulmonary issues or are on medication for anxiety, please consult your doctor first.

God can use our breathing to empty us of anxiety and fill us with His Spirit.

I love what Ezekiel 37:1-6 says about breath. Here it is:

The Lord took hold of me, and I was carried away by the Spirit of the Lord to a valley filled with bones. He led me all around among the bones that covered the valley floor. They were scattered everywhere across the ground and were completely dried out. Then He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones become living people again?” “O Sovereign Lord,” I replied, “You alone know the answer to that.” Then He said to me, “Speak a prophetic message to these bones and say, ‘Dry bones, listen to the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Look! I am going to put breath into you and make you live again! I will put flesh and muscles on you and cover you with skin. I will put breath into you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”

God puts breath in us, we come to life, and we know God is God. I love that sequence!

Let everything that has breath and every breath of life praise the Lord! Praise the Lord! (Psalm 150:6)


Rick Jordan (www.rickcarlajordan.com, rickjordankcmo@gmail.com)   


Stillness in Motion (Psalm 46:10)

Years ago a friend invited me to join him in a day trip to Chicago so we could watch our Kansas City Royals play the Chicago Cubs. Early that morning we flew from Kansas City to Midway International Airport in Chicago, where we took the L-Train to Wrigley Field. We watched the game, reversed the trip, and we were home by early evening.

I had never ridden a subway before. All of the seats were taken, both ways, so we had to stand. On the trip to Wrigley, every little move of the train moved me. I looked like somebody who was being continuously tased on a low setting, but the other passengers were not affected like that. They stood with the casual slouch of the experienced, some not even holding onto a pole. Their minds and bodies were probably making countless unconscious adjustments during the trip, but the commuters were strangely quiescent. I marveled at their stillness in motion and I tried to emulate their relaxed stability, with pathetic results.

The Royals lost, but Mark and I won because we ate some unbelievable Chicago hot dogs. Toward the end of the subway trip back to Midway, I had made so much progress that I now looked like I was dancing on a floor of old Jello, the kind with a little crust on top.

Psalm 46:10, says “Be still and know that I am God.” The Hebrew word often translated by our phrase “be still” means, at its root, to become slack or to relax. Gathering up all of the layers of meaning, this one little verse says: “Calm down, let go, relax your grip, cease striving, be still, and KNOW THAT I AM GOD.”

Everything else in Psalm 46 is chaos and frenzied pandemonium. I appreciate the Holy Spirit inspiring the sons of Korah to write this Psalm with all of that cosmic bedlam, so that we 21st Century readers can realize we didn’t invent commotion.

About the only still people I see these days are people who have become one with their mobile devices. We are compulsively busy on the outside and on the inside. Many of us live just like I looked on that Chicago subway train.                

We are in desperate need of stillness.

Start simple. Pick a time of day or night that affords you the best chance to become still in God’s presence. Begin with five minutes a day, and then increase. Some people use music. Some people use a candle or a cross. I use a Bible, and I make sure my mobile device is elsewhere. Meditating on a Scripture passage calms me and centers me.

Spiritual disciplines develop slowly. The 4,592 times you lose focus or drift away, don’t worry about it and do not give up. God knows you, loves you, wants this for you more than you do, and has divine patience.

When we discipline ourselves into stillness in God’s presence, the benefits easily outweigh whatever it costs us to do it. Once we can regularly become still in environments conducive to stillness, it becomes possible for us to become internally still in environments conducive to clamor. This stillness in motion enables us to know that God is, in fact, God, even in the surging chaos of this life.

Grace and peace,

Rick Jordan