This week on Facebook, a friend posed the question: what do you do for self care? I gave an answer as did several of her friends. What do you do when you need a little self TLC? The answers varied from a shower to the beach, walking outside to some Ben & Jerry’s. I bet if Heath were here he’d probably think a really tough workout of the day at crossfit-that definitely wouldn’t be self care for me! But one of her friends hit the nail on the head…”self care is whatever makes you feel good, feel happy, brings you joy and fills your cup.” Could there really be a one size fits all self care solution? We’ll come back to this in a bit….
Many of you know I love the Hebrew language. I was working on this message and kept coming across the Hebrew word “ruach” which can mean wind, breath or spirit and appears 389 times in the Old Testament. Scrolling through Instagram last night and Gabriel Wolff who is the artist who designed my Hebrew tattoo just posted his latest-ruach. When we listen, even with our eyes, there are signs when we’re on the right path.
Humans are designed by God to breathe. Really! In Genesis 2:7 we’re told that “God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living soul.” Throughout the rest of the Bible, breath is often equated with life itself with many allusions to God as the giver of breath. Let’s try a little experiment to see how important breath is. I’ll count to 3, we’ll all take a deep breath and hold it….one, two, huuuuuuuh, three! Didn’t work too well, did it? We are vulnerable and completely dependent on God-without BREATH we would die in just a few minutes. Breathing is a vital system, necessary to sustain us.
There is a prophesy found in Ezekiel, chapter 37: (I used the Message because I loved the way it sounded in my head. When you read this silently to yourself, don't read the numbers. Imagine Ezekiel receiving this prophesy from God, feel what he felt when God grabbed him and was set down among the bones. Use separate voices for God and Exekiel...when I read aloud, it was a "dramatic" reading with hand gestures, loud voices, quivering voices and excitement!)
1-2 God grabbed me. God’s Spirit took me up and set me down in the middle of an open plain strewn with bones. He led me around and among them—a lot of bones! There were bones all over the plain—dry bones, bleached by the sun.
3 He said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”
I said, “Master God, only you know that.”
4 He said to me, “Prophesy over these bones: ‘Dry bones, listen to the Message of God!’”
5-6 God, the Master, told the dry bones, “Watch this: I’m bringing the breath of life to you and you’ll come to life. I’ll attach tendons to you, put meat on your bones, cover you with skin, and breathe life into you. You’ll come alive and you’ll realize that I am God!”
7-8 I prophesied just as I’d been commanded. As I prophesied, there was a sound and, oh, rustling! The bones moved and came together, bone to bone. I kept watching. Tendons formed, then muscles on the bones, then skin stretched over them. But they had no breath in them.
9 He said to me, “Prophesy to the breath. Prophesy, son of man. Tell the breath, ‘God, the Master, says, Come from the four winds. Come, breath. Breathe on these slain bodies. Breathe life!’”
10 So I prophesied, just as he commanded me. The breath entered them and they came alive! They stood up on their feet, a huge army.
11 Then God said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Listen to what they’re saying: ‘Our bones are dried up, our hope is gone, there’s nothing left of us.’
12-14 “Therefore, prophesy. Tell them, ‘God, the Master, says: I’ll dig up your graves and bring you out alive—O my people! Then I’ll take you straight to the land of Israel. When I dig up graves and bring you out as my people, you’ll realize that I am God. I’ll breathe my life into you and you’ll live. Then I’ll lead you straight back to your land and you’ll realize that I am God. I’ve said it and I’ll do it. God’s Decree.’”
Dry bones were shown to Ezekiel but in reality they still had flesh They were weary, they had been sent into exile and left there. They felt that God had abandoned them. Even though his judgements on Israel were stern, in this instance 70 years in exile-he is equally gracious. Through Ezekiel he reminds his covenant people that he will bring them out of exile and back to Israel with renewed life that will be seen clearly as a gift from the Lord of the universe.
How many times do find ourselves in a self imposed exile? We forget the very breath of life that was graciously given to us? We stay “busy” running ourselves to the point of exhaustion. Our days fly by in a blur as one month fades into another year…we begin to have physical signs of our deprivation-our head hurts, our feet hurt, we aren’t eating like we should. Anxiety, depression are both on the rise and we look to our doctor for the magic pill to help us center ourselves, lower our blood pressure, erase the bad cholesterol when what we really need is to do is hear his voice… ”I AM GOD, I’ll do it. I’ll breathe my life into you and you will live.”
People of the Jewish faith are forbidden to pronounce the sacred name of God. His real name is BEYOND pronunciation, unless you consider breathing a pronunciation. So, it makes profound sense for at least one of the names of the real God to be not a Hebrew word, nor a word in Egyptian, or Latin, or Greek, or Arabic, or Sanskrit, or English - not in any single language but in all of them, or in some form of expression that both underlies and transcends language: just breathing, which all humans do.
Occasionally things you see on social media can have a positive lasting impact on your life. Earlier this year an event showed up as something I might be interested in on Facebook. It was called “Say YES” a liturgy of not giving up on yourself. My initial reaction was to ignore it but it appeared again…again I dismissed it. When it showed up a third time, I googled this Scott Erickson guy and I found that I really needed to say YES. Earlier this week I had no idea what I would be speaking to you about today but I knew the right words would come. When I saw this artwork from Scott on Thursday I exclaimed “I found it!” So please, close your eyes while I read his words continue to breathe deeply in and out and see if you can “hear” the sacred name of God---
You cannot be separate from God.
Our word God is rooted in ancient definitions of the Divine. All of humanity has wrestled his Holy Mystery. The Hebrews themselves, who struggled even mentioning any Name for this Mystery, used the sound YHWH to describe the I Am Who I Am. .
“YAH”. “WEH”. The very Name is our breathing. The very name of the Holy creator is the ongoing breath of every living thingYour life is sustained by elements you are not in control of. You do not make your heart pump. You do not make your lungs breathe. Your great mistake is to believe that your connection to life is up to you. All you must do is rest in the providence of unconscious sustainability.
You can not be separate from God. Your very breath is evidence of this.... whether you believe in God or not.
Receive the Holy Presence found in your own breathing.
When you can hear his name as you breathe, you have given yourself the ultimate gift of self care. It’s definitely one size fits all, it’s free, it’s plentiful, you can do it anywhere and when you concentrate on it you deepen your connection with God.
I heard last time I filled in for Heath some of you gave him a hard time because I usually give a message with a small token. I am a very tactile person-so when I have a token to remember a message by I hear the message again and again when I see or touch the item. A few years ago I was coming home from one of my many trips to Oklahoma and found a “thumbprint” prayer token. Yesterday afternoon, Ted, Melissa and I took some time to play with clay, roll it in to balls and pray over it as we squished it into these tokens on the kneeling rails. While our wonderful music team shares their talents with us, please come forward like we do for communion and select a thumbprint prayer token to help you remember that when Jesus appeared to his disciples, John recorded the event by writing, “He breathed on them and said, ‘receive the holy spirit.’” Come, breathe….