This morning I got inspired. I’m blessed that it lasted throughout my busy day and I still have some left to, hopefully, finish this blog. Being inspired always makes me think of a word in the New Testament, theopneustos, which is sometimes translated “inspired,” but more often translated “God-breathed.” Since theo relates to God and pneustos pretty much means “breath” or “spirit,” it’s easy for me to understand this word to mean “breathed by God.” Paul told Timothy that Scripture was theopneustos – it was breathed out by God. There is a similar thought in Genesis 2:7 when the author speaks of the creation of man. Depending on your translation it basically says, “God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and man became a living soul (being).” So both things are God-breathed, but neither are inerrant. That’s sure to start a fight, but I had to say it.
All of this takes me back to the weekend of September 21st, at my first Souljourners weekend. It is a program for spiritual direction conducted by the Benedictine Sisters of Atchison, KS. There, I literally felt like life was breathed into me. Inspired is not a strong enough word – I felt like I was starting something new – I felt a new energy – I felt a new hope – I felt a strong breath of new life.
One of the things that was surprising to me was the speaker. The past year, I have been going through a deconstruction of my fundamentalist beliefs. I have a new church and I am learning to be more open to things I have never considered. I am learning about different practices. But, this was way beyond that. In the four hours that he spoke, he was able to open not just all of history, but the whole world. It was like I could see, from above the whole world and the whole of history. Talk about perspective – it literally took my breath away. I love it when speakers cause people to gasp. I always say to myself, “this person has something to say.” They’re not just repeating what they have heard from someone else – they’re not just repeating conclusions. You can tell when a speaker has been genuinely seeking God and has been breathed on by God. It’s a breath of fresh air. It gave new life and new hope to my search to find God’s direction for my future. I am thankful for Vern Barnet, as I am thankful for my Pastor, Brian Zhand, for breathing in the pneuma of God and breathing it back out into the world.
One of my resolutions for the weekend was to be present. I wanted to be all there and not be future-tripping or looking backward. I also wanted to give up control of what happened and just soak it all in. I think I was able to do this. People were actively reaching out in love and I think I was able to accept it. One of the things that made this possible was that I didn’t feel like anyone was trying to convince me of anything. There was intensity to all that were present, but their intention was not to convert me or discourage me or convince me. They seemed to be genuinely interested in loving me and I was able to simply accept it. This also breathed new life into me and let me be content, even when I was not overtly excited. I simply felt like I had been refreshed by a warm embrace of genuine acceptance and love.
Another thing that sort of surprised me was when I was able to open up in the introductory session and my advisory session. I always have the intention of being transparent, but sometimes I freeze up and either don’t speak up or I don’t say exactly what I’m thinking. During the weekend, I was able to stay present and stay in my heart where I could share my pain and my joy. People responded well. They acknowledged my pain. They didn’t try to fix me. Because of all those pieces, I felt like I was able to hear what God was saying to me and able to respond to it with intention for the future. I wouldn’t say that all my issues are resolved, but I feel a lot of confidence that this process has real possibilities. Again, it breathed some new life and hope into my situation.
I was especially impressed with even the first-year sojourners. One of the first-year people in my group allowed me to share part of my story. She was extremely sympathetic and listened without judgement or advice and offered only compassion. Several in my small group seemed “tuned in” when I shared. This inspired me to be a better listener. I’m not even sure what my long-term goals are for this program, but I’m sure that a short-term goal is to become a better listener. I felt like I was in the right place at Souljourners. I felt listened to. This is a challenge to me, but I feel a confidence in approaching it because it was demonstrated so effectively.
I appreciated the variety of beliefs and expression from people. There was some similarity, but it was important for me to see some diversity of experiences and beliefs. What I liked most was that everyone seemed open to learning more. I came from a tradition that values certainty. I have embraced the wide-open world of searching for truth instead of defending my already held beliefs. I used to think that would make me feel insecure or in danger, but it’s quite the opposite. I feel quite secure and very loved as I seek to learn about my Creator and how to walk with Him in newness of life.
I consider it an accomplishment that I was able to listen to four hours of conversational lecture without feeling like I had to give an impressive answer. I often feel this desire to be important or impress people with my wisdom. I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking through what I am going to say and the carefully crafting questions to impress the speaker. I intentionally determined to be present and just listen and understand what the speaker had spent his life understanding. I felt open and blessed to receive what he offered to us. I finally did have a statement to the speaker very late in the weekend. It seemed like the most appropriate thing to say and I’m not sure I even know why I said it. Odd thing was that the speaker spoke to me later about how appropriate the statement was. For once, I was thinking more about him and the others than myself and it probably was good for all of us.
I have been told about the life-giving medicine that Souljourners offers. Now, I know it for myself. I am excited in a peaceful way about the months to come. I pray that I not only benefit from the program but that my presence will breath life into others. I’m feeling inspired.
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