In the springtime, when it is finally warmer, we always open up the windows to let the fresh air in. After being closed up all winter, the house is stuffy and stale, so the fresh air is such a welcome change. Sometimes we don't even realize how stuffy things have gotten until the fresh air comes. The breeze is so refreshing, we want it to fill the whole house. If you want the the breeze to move completely through the house, you have to open more windows. It is the same with our souls. Everyday life can become a dull grind. Our hearts and minds can become a stale mix of worry, frustration, boredom, and fear. We know that God has promised that perfect love casts out all fear (1 John 4:18), which gives us a vague hope that our love relationship with God should make us feel better. We don't like to feel this way and we wish we could flush out these feelings with the fresh air of a loving God. The Greek New Testament word for the Holy Spirit is “pneuma” which literally means breath or wind. God breathed life into the newly created humans in Genesis and they became alive. Jesus “breathed” the Holy Spirit upon his disciples after his resurrection, the same Spirit that raised him from the dead. We sense that this life-giving Spirit could make our life somehow better but we are not sure how to go about making that happen. We remember that the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples at Pentecost as a mighty rushing wind and wish we had windows we could open to let more of the fresh air of the Holy Spirit in. The good news is we do.
For thousands of years, God’s people have drawn closer to God through a variety of spiritual practices that we call spiritual disciplines. We also call them the “means of grace.” Grace is a big word that comes from the Greek word “charis” that means “gift.” Grace, simply defined, is all the things God gives us, like life, salvation, and simple encouragement by the Holy Spirit. The means of grace are simply the ways this grace finds its way into our lives. These practices are everyday stuff we've always been encouraged to follow, like prayer, bible reading, fasting, and worship. We have treated these disciplines as things that are good for us that we know we should do but somehow don't, like doing sit-ups. Think of these practices instead as windows to your soul that, when opened, allow the fresh wind of the Holy Spirit in. Want the Holy Spirit? Open a window. Try making bible reading a regular part of your day. Want more Holy Spirit? Open another window. Accompany your reading with prayer. The more time we spend with God, the more windows we open, giving God more access to our lives. Yes, there are times when God just overwhelms us out of the blue, but more often than not, God is looking for our signal that we are ready for God. James 4:8 reads that we are to “draw near to God and God will draw near to you.” God respects our freedom and privacy and does not wish to be an unwelcome guest. We put out the welcome mat, or open a window through the means of grace. Do not succumb to the temptation that just because you didn't “get a lot” out of your reading or your prayer time wasn't “great” that somehow it didn't work. We read the Written Word through which the Living Word speaks. The Written Word may leave us cold or uninspired, but the Living Word is still whispering into our souls in ways we may not immediately perceive. Is life leaving you feeling stressed, frustrated, angry, or bored? Is your faith getting stuffy and stale? Open a window. Let the breath of God refresh your life!