February Funk

I often find myself in a bit of a slump in February and I know many people experience something similar.

In my part of the world this time of year is cold and grey, accented by bitter winds. We are often blessed with dazzlingly white snowfalls, but the feathery flakes soon turn to ashen slush and I quickly forget how magical it was at first. Instead I find myself focusing on the nuisance of slippery surfaces, salt stains and soggy shoes piling up by my front door. Snow was still special last month. Now it’s old news and harder to appreciate even when it’s still nice to look at.  

But it’s not just the seasonal surroundings that can get me down in February. Maybe it’s just that it’s the second month of a new year and doesn’t stand a chance of being as exciting or important-seeming as the first. The new year’s fireworks have long since faded and perhaps our resolutions and hopes for a fresh start have already been abandoned. Maybe we’re already sighing about the things we intended to do better or differently this year and are looking to next month or even next year as the time to try again. Maybe February is when our leftover Christmas spirit feels stretched thin and stale, no matter what those popular carols say about keeping it alive year-round. 

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Holding Violence in the Bible

Growing up my family read the Bible regularly.  From a very young age I remember hearing the stories full of violence – and it’s not always violence done by the bad guys.  Some stories felt horrible and tragically heavy – like all the boy babies of the Children of Israel being killed when they were enslaved in Egypt.  But they kind of made sense to me because the actions are ordered or done by selfish, evil people.  But sometimes the violence is done by the “good” people.

There are many stories as the Children of Israel go out and conquer the lands that involve them being told to kill whole towns, cities, and even whole groups of people.  And it’s often quite specific that they not even leave one infant or woman alive.  As a kid a part of me loved hearing the stories of the Word, and I took pride in knowing the facts and the progression of many of these stories.  But along with that I also really hated the violence.  And I couldn’t make sense of why so many people were entirely wiped out.  It felt unsettling how cruel and angry it all seemed.

As an adult I have benefitted hugely from Bible studies, journey groups and sermons that dig into spiritual meanings of some of these more violent stories.  I remember one class in particular talking about one of those stories where the whole group of people was to be wiped out – not any tiny remnant left.  But how when you understand it from a spiritual level it is about the fact that to “conquer” an evil within our own individual selves we really have to stamp out every speck of that evil.  We can’t pick and choose and think that some parts of it are okay to leave alive.  In order to actually do the work of repentance the whole kit and caboodle needs to be wiped out.  

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Breathing

How often do you think about your breath? Unless you have a reason too, you probably don’t think about it that much. Our breath is instinctive. Babies breathe. No one taught them how. I used to hate thinking about my breath. It made me feel claustrophobic. I mostly got over that though because I realized the great peace which can come by paying attention to the breath.

Why do we start with the breath? Why do we return to it often?

“Jehovah God breathed into man’s nostrils the breath of lives, and man was made a living soul” (Genesis 2:7). 

The Lord started with breath. He breathed into man and made him a living soul. “A living soul” Such a beautiful phrase. Breath is how the Lord created us and breath is the very first thing a baby does. But it’s not a one time thing. We keep returning to focus on our breath.

“To breathe into the nostrils the breath of lives signifies to implant the perception of good and truth.” (Interaction of the Soul and Body 8)

It makes sense that this happens at the beginning. We need the perception of good and truth right from the start. But it’s not something that we get once and are done. We keep breathing. We return to our breath over and over, re-focus. We can focus our breathing for things like yoga, meditation, or even singing. Breath is connected to everything, not just because it is active at all times, but because of how our emotions can change our breath. We think about our breathing when we are out of breath after exertion. Or we can be light of breath with excitement.

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The Life Within

From the Artist: “The overarching theme is that external feelings are irrelevant to internal truths. In this piece, the external feelings are represented by the positive and negative words displayed on the outside of the pregnant woman’s stomach. The internal truth is the baby growing inside the woman. This piece is to speak to the feelings or thoughts that may occur when a woman becomes pregnant, and to show that the most relevant thing is the presence of the precious and sacred human life that is growing inside the pregnant woman.”