I have a longstanding commitment to my greater well-being and self-care, where I have created a rhythm of disconnecting from work two-times a year (July and December). During these times of disconnection, I typically escape to the Caribbean, where sun, sand, and blue waters are renewing to my soul. A few weeks ago, was no different, however it changed me in a good way!

The place where I lodged provided complimentary spa treatments every day. In one of the sessions, the therapist was working out the tensions and knots, and simply said…JUST BREATHE! She proceeded to say, that the tension and knots were, in large part, due to the ways that I hold my breath, and for her to do her job of relieving, I needed to release. She continued to instruct that I needed to become more aware of my breathing or the ways I continue to just hold my breath too often.

This session was life-changing and provided revelation for what, what I believe is ongoing in life and the life of ministry. I believe we have been recently inundated with so many things related to the ongoing situations within our UMC, the ever-evolving unknowns of COVID-19 variants, and the continued social discord that stifles our breathing. I believe we are so caught up in these matters that we are proverbially holding our breaths, which is creating tensions and strife in our bodies, families, relationships, homes, and even in our faith communities. Our collective holding of breaths is causing us to do more harm than good; intentionally or unintentionally. Today, I would like to encourage us, as my spa therapist, Ruth, encouraged me…JUST BREATHE!

We know that breathing is essential for our living, it is completely integral to our human experience. Even as we look at the context of Scripture, we understand the Hebrew word Ruach “for the breath of God, it is wind, Spirit, life. It is not so much a physical force but God’s essence that sustains life.” This understanding provides encouragement because with every breath we take, we remind ourselves that our life force exists because of God. Additionally, with every breath we take, we seek to serve our God who fills us with the breath of life.

So, I challenge us to BREATHE, as there are so many things beyond our control, but that which we can control, I would wonder, are we making our breaths count for change or just simply to continue to complain? Are we offering our breaths to promote praise or to pressure others to follow our agendas? Are we filling our lives with those matters that are God-breathed or are we being guided by the breath of false truths? Friends, JUST BREATHE…we will continue to face some challenges and complexities, but we are not dismayed by them. We know, with great confidence, The One, who breathed life in us, will continue to provide breath for us to be those Living Witnesses of Jesus Christ in a world that so desperately need to know God’s Love!

“To laugh often and much; To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Stay Encouraged, Keep the Faith, and Just Breathe,

Rev. Dr. Aleze M. Fulbright
Conference Superintendent serving Central and West Districts