Paul’s Message: HWJD (How Would Jesus Drive)? Less!

Deep Breath by Melanie Weidner

Deep Breath by Melanie Weidner

When meeting with people in the context of pastoral care and counseling, I often offer the counsel to breathe … When the stress is getting high, and you don’t know what to do, or what is going to happen, take a few deep breaths … breathe slowly … breathe deeply. It’s amazing what a few slow, deep, prayerful breaths can do when the burdens are heavy and the heart and spirit are racing.

In the bible, the Hebrew word used for God’s Spirit is ruah. Before the creation of the cosmos, “it was dark over the deep sea, and God’s wind (ruah) swept over the waters (Genesis 1:2 CEB). The same Hebrew word can be translated as ‘spirit’, ‘wind’, ‘breath’, ‘atmosphere’, or most simply, ‘air’. This ‘air’ or ‘breath’ or ‘Spirit’ brings life.

In Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of dry, lifeless bones (you know the song, “the head bone’s connected to the neck bone; the neck bone’s connected to the … etc.), the prophet proclaims the word of the Lord, “I am about to put breath (ruah) in you, and you will live again” (Ezekiel 37:5 CEB). Interestingly the breath ruah that breathes life into the dead bones comes from the four corners of the earth, the entire atmosphere. We draw breath (ruah) from God’s breath (ruah) from the breath of the entire atmosphere (ruah). How intimately and wonderfully related is the life-giving breath of God and the lifegiving breath of God’s creation. Do you get why breathing slowly and deeply can be so wonderfully healing?

The exception to this, of course, is when the air we breathe is toxic. There is no more graphic or direct illustration of the brokenness in our relationship with the creation as when we draw in breaths filled with dirty particulate matter. Instead of breathe deeply, we are counseled don’t breathe too deeply. It’s a spiritual problem as well as a scientific and behavioral one. I believe God’s ruah weeps when we choke.

But this is not the end of the story. God’s gift of science and reason gives us counsel, and our faith gives us encouragement and hope. In the context of our valley, if we want to feel the healing of ruah again, the solution is not to escape it (although sometimes that’s ok), but to change it. As a congregation, we want to pursue that goal.

One of the greatest contributions we make to the dirty air in this valley is when we drive. So, to heal our environment, we want to challenge our congregation to drive less.

February is a special month, and we have a special challenge for the congregation. We invite you to read this month’s “Creation Corner” and participate. Think about the difference we can begin to make when we change our living from the problem of hurting ruah to healing ruah. In so doing, may we breathe in, slowly and deeply, God’s life-giving Spirit. –Peace, Paul

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  • Breakfast Encounter

    Last Friday morning, I stopped by my GP’s office to let them draw some blood for a test and to get my flu vaccine for the year. Because of the blood test, I had to ‘fast,’ arriving for the blood draw without having any food that morning. When the phlebotomist had drawn the blood and given me the shot, I went to a nearby diner to get some breakfast. Little did I know I was about to witness something extraordinary.

    While I was eating my pancake, egg, and piece of sausage and reading a book about Oscar Romero, a young man went up to the counter to pay. I didn’t notice any of this, of course (occupied as I was with not only Oscar Romero’s life and ministry to the poor of El Salvador, but also all that butter and syrup…) until the young man started yelling at the woman behind the counter.

    “Swipe it again!” is what drew my attention.

    She did, and the card must have been denied a second time. She ran it again, and the look on her face told me the same thing happened. Denied.

    The young man was getting more agitated and saying things to her under his breath. I was paying more attention now, and she asked if he had another card she could try.

    “No! I don’t have another bleeping card!” he yelled at her. Except he didn’t say bleeping.

    Now I’m not a stranger to harsh words. I’ve said them myself. Usually when I’m trying to get a rusted bolt off an old machine and it finally comes loose, taking some of my knuckle skin with it. And I think I quietly swore under my breath in January of 1988 when the Washington football team beat my beloved Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl, 42-10. There have been other times too. But never, ever at a person.

    Upon being sworn at, the young woman stared at the man like she didn’t know what to do (how could she?). Tears were about to appear. And the air in the room went real still. Like in the movies. I’m sure the background music was still playing, but it seemed deathly quiet at that moment.

    I was about to get up and walk over to the counter—not exactly sure what I was going to do once I got there—when another man who had been eating nearby wandered up real slow, eyes staring at the young man. He was a tall guy, with white hair under his old IFA ball cap, probably in his sixties. He asked the young woman, “What seems to be the problem here?”

    And that’s when the young man made what I thought was a fatal mistake: he answered when he hadn’t been spoken to. “It’s nothin’. My card won’t work,” he spat back.

    I thought a fight was about to break out, but the older man, his eyes searing into the young disgruntled one’s face, reached for his wallet and said to the cashier, “Aubrey, I’d like to pay for this young man’s meal, if that’s okay with him.” And after getting out some cash, he put his hand on the young man’s shoulder, not one of those friendly pats on the shoulder, but one of those firm grips that, well, made me think he was making sure the lesson was going to stick.

    I’ve had those kinds of hands on my shoulders a few times over the years. Perhaps from a coach, maybe from my dad once or twice; they happen when a boy or young man really needs to start paying attention.

    And after staring at him for what seemed like an eternity, the old guy said, “Be kind.” And then walked away.

    The young man left the restaurant and climbed into an oversize truck that was parked right out front, cranked up the volume on his radio, and left some rubber on the road as he departed.

    I went into the church office sometime later to finish my sermon, but I kept thinking about angry people and hurt people and kind people and people who teach lessons to those who could use them. I also thought about people who have a head full of kind words who refuse to tolerate ugliness.

    I hope I can be someone like that.

    I have a feeling Aubrey earned a whole lot of tips that morning. She deserved them.

    Be kind.

    That’s all for now.

    —Pastor Derek

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