Lent 2011 | Inhale Devotional by Jon Middendorf

(Huffing and puffing and pulling up a chair in front of the computer…)

Just finished my morning run, so I’m short of breath and more than a bit sweaty. TMI?

I’ve not been a runner for very long; in fact it’s only been a couple of years since I started to take my own health seriously enough to move around and do something about it! I knew I had to do something when a card game left me a little short of breath! (Kidding, mostly….)

I’ll tell you this- I’m grateful for all the runners around me who’ve helped me to avoid unnecessary strains and costly injuries. I didn’t know that the right shoes and socks would make such a huge difference; I have now discovered the joy of running with music (and the proper headphones); and the biggest help- I now know how to breathe!

I thought I knew how to breathe! But a couple of folks have helped me to know the power of proper breathing- the mechanics of the INHALE and the EXHALE.

After the run, after setting aside some time to cool down, I take a deep, deep breath.

It’s to the point now that I look forward to that deep breath. It’s more than just the “end of my exercise”- it’s the epitome of a deep, cleansing breath that seems to clear the way for whatever’s next. That may not make sense to some of you, but others of you know exactly what I mean.

And even if you’re not a runner, even if you’re not active, I hope you can appreciate the blessing and power of a deep breath. Take just a couple of seconds for a deep breath right now. Sit back and draw in a breath so big that you feel it in your head, your shoulders, your knees, your toes.

There’s something about a deep breath. It centers; it makes ready; it relaxes.

I hope this Lenten season will be a deep, cleansing breath for you.

Maybe that last sentence surprises you a bit. Perhaps you’ve gotten used to the Lenten season being a dark, reflective, confessional time- a time for sober assessment, a time to acknowledge sin and brokenness, a time to do that painful “look at Jesus- look at yourself and confess the difference” thing. Some people do well to survive Lent, much less enjoy it!

You’re not wrong to think or feel those things. Typically during Lent, we wrestle with difficult passages of Scripture written to challenge us to own our sins, our failures and broken places. To be sure, the Lenten season is a time of brutal honesty, and yes in the process of doing that difficult self-reflection, we’ll find ourselves in desperate need of Mercy, Grace, Hope, Forgiveness.

This year, the challenge and message remains- stare deeply into the mirror and acknowledge your humanity and need for God’s help. But unlike past years, these Lenten Scriptures are a bit different- these Psalms, while acknowledging our fragile, sinful nature, move immediately to the heartbeat of God who isn’t willing to wait until Easter to offer Himself to us. Mercy, Grace, Hope, Forgiveness- all are available to those who recognize their need and are willing to be open and vulnerable to the One who understands us best.

Yes, we are broken, but just as certainly, He is aware of our need and ready to step in.

Take a deep breath. INHALE. If you’ve sensed a lack of wind or breath where your life is concerned, if you know what it means to be deflated, if you can empathize with that old, flat basketball in the corner of the garage, INHALE. God is eager to bring Life back to your Life.

We will together, during the Lenten season in a sermon series entitled INHALE, explore our own sinful nature, but at the very same time, we will listen to the testimony of Scripture as God moves into our stories granting forgiveness and Breath.

You don’t have to wait for Easter for the Good News. There’s Good News to be had now, during Lent. God knows, God understands, God forgives. Now. Breathe.

Then what will we do with the Easter season? What’s left to do? PLENTY! Our Easter season series entitled (you guessed it) EXHALE will demonstrate all that God has in store for us after the hard work of confession and forgiveness is completed. What’s left after forgiveness? LIFE- Resurrection Life, bigger and better than we could ask or imagine, because of His power at work in us, unleashed through our companionship with Him.

But first, we INHALE.

This Lenten season- I hope you’ll participate with us in every way possible. I hope you’ll sense the depth of your sinfulness as you look into that mirror that we’ll hold up in front of you. But at the same time, I hope you’ll recognize the other figure standing at your side. He is there to help us, you and me and all of us together, to breathe.

Enjoy Lent. Really.