You're at the library or your favorite bookseller (by the way, please go visit your favorite local bookseller if you have not lately - maybe ask them to pre-order this book?!) and you hold a book in your hand eyeing the cover. You have done this before. You pick up a book and either savor the cover curious as to what is inside or... you are instantly not interested. Your senses react to the colors, the font, and the imagery you hold in your hand. From that first impression, you may decide if the book is for you or not - even before you open the pages, glimpse at the author's profile or read a description of what may actually be inside.
The first book I ever wrote (probably around age 8) was about panda bears and was created in the shape of a panda bear's head. Yes, you read that correctly. I created the cover myself from white construction paper, carefully shading the ears and eyes with a black sharpie. As the first book I will ever publish became a reality, I was honored to be able to vision and dream with the Upper Room team how this cover could invite the reader into the pages of this devotional. It definitely did not look like a panda bear, but I was not certain what it did look like. It still felt abstract, but I knew it was to be an invitation for you, the reader.
You see, this devotional is an invitation to begin listening with your body in a way that is undefined. Each person who chooses to journey with God through the pages of this book is invited to use their body to listen for God. And guess what? No two of our bodies are the same! And, no two persons will read or experience this invitation in the same way. There is no "how-to" for how you should use your body to listen for God's activity. But there is an invitation.
This book cover is for you.
As I glimpsed the cover for the first time, I noticed:
How the feet imprinted on the mat leave the impression of a heart, and they do not show how a body should look or even stand in perfect alignment.
There is no gorgeous yoga posture or person in meditation as the focal point.
There is God's grace and love.
The imperfections of the wooden flooring.
The mat has barely been used.
The title itself as an invitation to journey with God's Spirit.
Go ahead, judge this book by the cover - because this invitation is for you. You are welcome here.
Coming in January 2017 from Upper Room Books.
Breath. We all have it. Right?
If you're reading these words, I can guarantee one thing, there is breath in your lungs.
There is plenty of scripture in the Bible that tells us our breath is a gift from God. Glance below and see if any of these stand out to you:
The Lord God formed the human from the topsoil of the fertile land and blew life’s breath into his nostrils. The human came to life. - Genesis 2:7 (CEB)
The spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life. - Job 33:4 (NRSV)
Now He drew close enough to each of them that they could feel His breath. He breathed on them: “Welcome the Holy Spirit of the living God.” - John 20:22 (Voice)
Nor is God served by human hands, as though he needed something, since he is the one who gives life, breath, and everything else. - Acts 17:25 (CEB)
Friends, God is the giver of the breath of life! It makes so much sense for us to use this gift as a constant way to commune with our creator. I stumbled upon using my own breath in a time of crisis in my life. A time when I had nothing and no one else to cling to, my breath was there and I began praying a breath prayer that affected me deeply. At the time, I didn't know this was an ancient practice.
A breath prayer allows us to pray a simple and intimate repetitive prayer before God. This prayer form has been practiced in the church for millennia. It is a form of contemplative prayer linked to the simple rhythms of our breathing.
Here is how it works:
Breathe in, calling on a biblical name or image of God that is significant to you.
Breathe out a simple God-given desire or longing of your heart.
That's it! With the reminder that each breath is a gift from God, our prayer becomes an opportunity to abide in union with each and every breath, to “never stop praying” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
Breath Prayer examples:
Creator, shine on me
Abba, show yourself to me
Holy One, keep me true
Jesus, give me peace
Lord, here I am
Father, guide me
Messiah, heal my heart
You could also breathe in God's word as you follow along with your scripture reading this week. Consider Monday's passage of Mark 4:26-34. Breathe in the words of that parable for yourself today. You could pray:
Exhale: Give me faith like a mustard seed
So, how does the thought of repetitive prayer strike you? What are the up sides and down sides of repetitive prayer? How might a breath prayer be shorthand for a longer prayer of your heart?
A prayer for you this week:
With each breath I breathe, may his glorious, unlimited resources empower me with inner strength reminding me that Christ makes his home in my heart. May I have the insight to gain a glimpse, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is for me. May I experience the love of Christ fill me just as air fills my lungs, though both are too great to understand fully. May each breath remind me of the fullness of life and the power that comes from my creator. Amen. (Based on Ephesians 3:16-19)
If you've stumbled here for the first time, welcome! On Mondays through this Fall, I'm posting a list of scriptures for reflection as well as a different way to pray each week. Pray one scripture or pray them all, this is simply an invitation to journey deeper as we explore God's peace together. Click here to find out more and join us on the journey.
Whitney R. Simpson
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Whitney R. Simpson,
Exploring Peace Ministries, LLC