...just for the asking.
What if I told you that love, patience, self-control, wisdom, and knowledge were not only available, but easily attainable for you, just for the asking?
Seriously, all you have to do is ask. It’s not a gimmick, or something taken from one of the hundreds of self-improvement books that line the shelves of bookstores or offered on the Internet.
The key is found in one book; the world’s best-selling book of all time. One book…the book of all books. The Bible.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Galatians 5:22-23 NIV
There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.
Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by the means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines. 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 NIV
As is often the case, I want to tell you a story; a God Story. And as per usual, it’s one of my stories, based on first-hand experience. This story is about “religion”, fear, shame, divorce, marriage, and the Holy Spirit…
The fall of 1989
I was thirty-seven years old, the father of two sons from a previous marriage that ended in divorce, and six months into being married to my second (and current) wife, Jackie. I was excited about our future and grateful for her presence in my life. I felt as if I’d been given a second chance at love and happiness.
Curiously enough, in the midst of this happiness, I felt alone. God was missing. Oh we were still going to church most every Sunday, but it certainly wasn’t the church that I used to attend. In fact, it wasn’t even the same denomination of church; there was just too much shame and guilt on my heart from my divorce to do that. Still, I felt estranged from God. Why?
Looking back on it now, I realize that there were two factors pulling me in opposite directions.
· Because of the church that I was raised in, I was ashamed for having gotten a divorce, regardless of the circumstances. In my heart, I didn’t feel as if I was worthy of being in “God’s House.”
· Because of what was instilled in me (obligation and fear, but curiously not love for God) in that same church, I wouldn’t let myself not attend church. I was gonna be in church, even if it was different than the one I was accustomed to.
Consequently, I began to seek God, not in church on Sundays, but in the privacy of our home or in my office every day. Sometimes, seeking God came in the form of prayer. At other times, I would spend several minutes, and sometimes hours in deep reflection and meditation.
One morning I was in the office in our salon. The door was closed, the lights were off, and I was just sitting there thinking about the state of my life and my relationship with God. I was also reflecting on a book that a friend had given me about improving my mental state of being. One chapter in the book described an exercise in which you think of good things while inhaling through your nose. After holding your breath for a few seconds you slowly exhale through your mouth, while simultaneously dispelling any negative thoughts and emotions from your mind. It was in essence an “in with the good, and out with the bad” kind of thing.
Apparently, and unbeknownst to me, what I’d read in the book worked its way into my prayers and meditation. As I prayed I began inhaling those things that were most absent in my mind: peace, strength, wisdom, and clarity. Conversely, I exhaled chaos, weakness, ignorance, and indecision.
The results were impactful and almost immediate! I was being filled with everything that I was seeking. I couldn’t wait to find a window of time during the day, regardless of how small it was, to sit in the dark and breathe in the goodness. It was changing who I was, what I was, and the manner in which I approached life. Curiously enough, I never shared what was going on with anyone; not even Jackie. I didn’t know why I chose not to, but I just didn’t.
This went on for weeks. I was growing stronger and more confident. To borrow a popular phrase from the younger people in my church, “I had my swag on!” What was going on in me was, well, it was beyond my comprehension. I had a hard time believing that it was as simple as breathing in and out.
And then I stopped…
I didn’t do the breathing exercise any more. I just went back to praying. And I lost my swag. Oh, I wanted to sit in that dark room and close my eyes and breathe in all that good stuff, but I didn’t, because I was ridden with guilt and fear.
You see, at the time I didn’t realize that what I was doing was asking for and receiving the breath of God, the Holy Spirit. Oh, I had been taught about the Holy Spirit in the fourth or fifth grade, and I’d actually been a participant in a religious ritual that would allow me to receive Him. (See The Gift of The Holy Spirit 4/19/2009) But as that young boy, I didn’t feel as though I had received anything , because, I don’t know, because my mind wasn’t open enough, or because it just wasn’t my time. Perhaps it was part of God’s plan for me to receive the Holy Spirit as an adult, not as a child.
Fast forward twenty-eight years to a thirty-seven year old man, stumbling upon the Holy Spirit and being filled with His gifts, only to turn and run out of misplaced fear. I didn’t know that it was the Holy Spirit; didn’t know that He was that strong, that His mere presence could change a man. To make matters worse, I didn’t know that His presence is always there, just for the asking.
Fast forward yet another twenty years, when in March of 2009, at a men’s retreat, I said a prayer asking to receive the Holy Spirit. I invited Him in, and just as a young boy when I had said a prayer, I didn’t feel anything immediately. That was then, but…
this is now.
Today, just like that period of time when I was thirty-seven, I find that quiet place and perform that breathing exercise. This time, I know that it’s the Holy Spirit. This time, I’m not afraid. This time, I not only invite Him in, but turn Him loose to work in and through me to serve the kingdom; God’s Kingdom. You know what? He always shows up. Always.
If you’re not seeking the Holy Spirit daily, would you do me a favor? For the next twenty-one days would you please try it? Clear your mind of any preconceived notions or fears that you may have because of what you’ve been told or what you may have learned in church. Lose any negative conclusions that you’ve come to on your own. Think about it this way: If you believe in the Trinity, as in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, then what you’re actually doing is inviting GOD in. Get it? Don’t be afraid.
For starters, take another look at Galatians 5:22-23 at the top of this post. The fruit of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. You gonna tell me that you don’t need an extra dose of all of the above? Really?
Some of you may have a hard time wrapping your minds around the gifts of the Holy Spirit, as written in 1 Corinthians, and that’s okay. Really. Again, all I’m asking you to do is invite Him in.
Breathe in the Holy Spirit and all that He has to offer you…love, joy, peace, etc. As you inhale, believe that you’re being filled by them. Then exhale slowly, mentally releasing the opposite of those fruits.
Twenty-one straight days. Without fail. You’ll be amazed by His presence and by the way that you feel because of it. And you’ll shake your head in disbelief as you realize that He was there all along and available to you, and that a new way of life was there for you, just for the asking.