Breathe Deep. Live Deep.

 

Breathe. Do it again. Breathe. Feels good doesn’t it?

The other day I was playing a game with my daughters called Tenzi. Each player is given ten dice and the goal is to get all ten dice to be the same number before your opponents. One variation is called Tower Tenzi which involves stacking the dice each time you get the matching number. For example, if my first roll has five 6’s, then that’s the number I’m looking for in subsequent rolls. The challenge with Tower Tenzi is I then have to stack the dice. Not terribly stressful except when you’re trying to build your tower before your competitors. What inevitability happens is you get sloppy because you don’t have time to ensure the integrity and security of your stacked dice. Isn’t that the way the church is sometimes? We feel like racing against some invisible clock. Tic tock. Tic tock.

Now, breathe. Do it again. Breathe.

I am the pastor of a small, four year old church plant in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Our weekly attendance is less than 75. And if I’m being honest, there are times I wonder if I’m doing something wrong or is there more I should be doing? But here’s the thing – the size of our church allows us to do something I think is foreign to churches, and that’s slow down.

Our size is a blessing because it allows me to interact during the sermons with intentional q & a’s. It makes room for people to think and express their doubts and confusion. I am not touting our methods, rather I’m saying more often than not, I doubt my leadership, expertise, experience, wisdom, and insight, especially when I compare myself to other ministries and pastors. I feel like my tower of dice is not as stable as my counterparts and time is running out. But then the Spirit reminds me of what a privilege it is to slow down, walk, and connect with his people in discipleship! And isn’t that what Jesus did?

Now, Breathe. Do it again. Breathe.

We know Jesus’ audience was weary and burdened. The same is true today for you, your family, your co-workers and your community. But Jesus offered rest. Rest from the burdens of legalistic religion and life. We’re told that we are to cast our cares and burdens on him because he cares for us. Jesus wants to give us, and the people we serve, rest. If Jesus offers rest, and we are his body, are we not to do the same? Is it possible that’s what people are looking for – a place to rest, connect, and be listened to? In a world of productivity, perfection, and results, let the church be a place where it’s ok to screw up and do nothing. The church should be a place for our community to find tranquility – an oasis if you will. It should be a place for them to finally catch their breath from the sprint of life. We have an opportunity to create space where people slow down to speak, not be talked at, and somewhere to be listened.

In a slowed spirituality, ministry, and conversation, we are making space for the sacred. This “slowing down prepares you to speak from the soul.” [1] But if we get caught up in building programs, and coming up with clever marketing strategies, how will we be able to slow down and really listen to the hearts of those we serve, and hear the needs of our community?

Now, breathe. Do it again. Breathe.

That’s great, slow down to listen! Yes, I can do that! But I have a question: are you doing the same for yourself? Are you slowing down to listen to the One who gives you breath and the One you have been breathing in? To be honest, it’s hard for an extravert like myself to slow down and listen. But what God wants is my intention and availability. Even if it’s just to be silent and present. In the silence is where we find God. Trappist monk and priest Thomas Keating says “Silence is God’s first language; everything else is a poor translation. In order to hear that language, we must learn to be still and to rest in God.”[2] The problem is that our lives are filled with noise, both good and bad – the noise of our responsibilities and even our spiritual practices. You’re not being lazy, you’re setting an example of what true spirituality looks like. Eugene Peterson says “How can I lead people into the quiet place beside the still waters if I am in perpetual motion? How can I persuade a person to live by faith and not by works if I have to juggle my schedule constantly to make everything fit into place?”[3] Just we are to make sacred space for those we serve in our churches and community we need to do the same for ourselves.

So, breathe. Do it again. Breathe. It’s ok.

Feels good doesn’t it?

eric-schwartz
Eric Schwartz

Hey there! My name is Eric and I am a Christ follower, husband, father, and pastor. I have been married for 16 years, have two awesome daughters (pray for me!), and I pastor a small church plant – The Gate Community Church – in Bethlehem, Pa.My desire is to live a life of connection with God and inspire others to do the same. We are a community that knows we don’t have all the answers. We have questions, doubts, fear, and pain, and that’s ok, because we know Christ is found in all those things. We are a church that wants to be more than a location, we want to be part of the neighborhood where those who have been burnt by church can find a place to be themselves and find refuge. We want to be a place that lifts up the name of Christ and offers hope to those living in darkness. Above all, we want to make disciples. But we know none of that will be accomplished without love. And that’s why we are more than a community – we are a family. That is our center. That is our call. That is my call.

www.thegatecc.com

community.truth.love

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Lindahl, Kay. The Sacred Art of Listening: Forty Reflections for Cultivating a Spiritual Practice. Woodstock, VT: SkyLight Paths Pub., 2002. Page 69
[2] Keating, Thomas. Invitation to Love: The Way of Christian Contemplation. Rockport, MA: Element, 1992. Pg. 90
[3] Peterson, Eugene H. The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub., 1993. Kindle Locations 169-171

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