Blessing for Breath

This blessing cannot be separated
From its many meanings:
Wind and breath and Spirit.

This blessing presses
Into you and fills the hollows
Without asking permission

It means to be with you
Whether you invite it or not
Carrying life

This blessing blows enough
To feed the spark
Inside you

To bear the whisper of your name
Where you can hear it
And be known

This blessing exhales again
Taking you out of yourself
Back  into the world

 

Lenten Word #9: Spirit

  • Video: Israeli couple singing ‘One Day’
  • Poem by Rumi:

    A Community of the Spirit
    There is a community of the spirit.
    Join it, and feel the delight
    of walking in the noisy street
    and being the noise.
    Drink all your passion,
    and be a disgrace.
    Close both eyes
    to see with the other eye.
    Open your hands,
    if you want to be held.
    Sit down in the circle.
    Quit acting like a wolf, and feel
    the shepherd’s love filling you.
    At night, your beloved wanders.
    Don’t accept consolations.
    Close your mouth against food.
    Taste the lover’s mouth in yours.
    You moan, “She left me.” “He left me.”
    Twenty more will come.
    Be empty of worrying.
    Think of who created thought!
    Why do you stay in prison
    when the door is so wide open?
    Move outside the tangle of fear-thinking.
    Live in silence.
    Flow down and down in always
    widening rings of being.

spirit

KNOCK (on the front door and on the head)

feet-pianoThe past few days I struggled with a big question about my future. I’m in the search & call process with the UCC. That’s my denomination, the church entity that has approved me for ordination, pending a call from a church or nonprofit organization’s ministry.

The UCC offers an online portal to introduce ministers and congregations.

It’s like online dating!

Make your profile. Tell your story. Share your likes, hopes, fears. Use open body language. Put your best foot (er, anecdote, theology, skill set, wish list) forward.

Really, it’s a long dance we undertake together.

So I’ve spent the past year or so speaking with different faith communities. You could think of it as breathless swivel of the hips, chin nod, and shoulder shimmy. We look at each other. Catch eyes. Look away. Try again.

If we’re interested, there’s a flurry of fast and zesty salsa steps. Then lots of slow swaying and circling, stepping back to arms-length for a better view. Maybe stopping for space to breathe and think.

Letting the rhythm take over. Immersing oneself in the music, regardless of who shows up to join the flow of movement and searching.

Fanning away the heat. Cooling off. Clearing the head. Leaning closer for a few up-close embraces.

Wondering if the heartbeat will slow down, or is this the one?

I’ve danced a lot with some special partners. Sadly said, “We’re not on the same beat …” to a few. One circled back, hoping I’d change my mind. Some didn’t even bother to wave good-bye. One danced with me and a few others almost all night, but I was all alone (or it felt like it) for ‘Stairway to Heaven’ at midnight.

Some have been quick dances, both of us knowing when the music would start and stop. We were glad to find each other, and ready to let go again, when the tune changed.

I’m still dancing. And wondering who my long-term partner will be, should be … We’re taking our time.

As I wrestled with this question recently, I called a few friends to check in. To keep up the metaphor, you could say that I snapped a quick “weefie” with the latest romantic interests, texted the images, along with a few  hashtag comments to summarize my feelings and thoughts, and asked for their feedback. What should I do? Like? Swipe left? Save? Reply? Follow? We held tense conversations about the best way to say “NO” and when to say “YES.”

About the time I was obsessively speaking with a minister friend about these possible matches, cell phone wedged near my mouth, someone knocked at the door. Really. Not a metaphor.

My husband answered it, because I was busy on the phone. Two evangelical missionaries literally came to my front door, and read scripture to us, while I had was halfway through a syllable. One of those sisters of the Spirit read Matthew 6:25-34.

Here’s the passage (NRSV): 25 Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? 28 And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32 For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

Apparently I was too busy on a cell phone, my head and heart filled with the white noise of worrying, to listen closely. So I received an obvious prompting from the Spirit.

God! Sent! Someone! Knocking! At my front door!

Right there, in the bright April sunlight, stood two holy women, reading us a message from the Gospels.

Could it be more blatant? Sometimes God has to hit me over the head, or I just don’t pay attention, or pause long enough to trust that the Spirit is already leading me.

This is how I understood that experience. For me, it was a reminder: Don’t worry. Don’t be anxious. Don’t choose the safe way — or the first and most obvious dance partner — from a place of uncertainty and fear about the future. The path may not be straight, but a way will be made open.

So I’m going to try to just listen to the music, dance along with it, and believe. Believe.

Because the whole time I was waiting for the ‘right one’ to show up and want to dance together all day and all night? Well, I had forgotten that I already have a partner … the one who wrote the song in the first place!

Lent Day 23: ETERNAL

hands2This word says everything we are not. Yet it also offers what we often long to be.

As frail and finite humans, we sometimes want to be endless. We want to make a mark, create a legacy, be remembered. We want access to a profound meaning for our being, a way of understanding ourselves and our purpose that lasts beyond our last breath. Or so it seems to me.

Alongside the word ETERNAL, you will find FOREVER and STEADFAST. We use them to describe love and grace from a divine being. They are without beginning or end.

It’s like imagining infinity. We touch and attempt to share something larger than ourselves with an imperfect mortal mind, an organic instrument capable of abstract thought and creative innovation, which also has its own boundaries. Our reach toward infinity remains limited, in some ways because we are beings who are born and will die. So we come up with approximations, showing certain mathematical concepts and numbers as equations. The most elusive, or certain ones, require their own symbols.

We make such claims for ourselves … “I will love you forever.” And yet can humans create anything, or do anything, with such permanence?

Our stories last a long time. Our ideas endure.

circleSometimes we leave behind our own dauntingly ancient records. Standing stone circles, whose original elements were transported hundreds of miles and set up long before we had written records to tell their purpose, stand long and mute. We seek to uncover their stories over the ages with science and imagination. We can peek at handprints and ancient cave drawings that depict a world much changed from our own, and yet achingly familiar in the mortal passions and dreams.

God, in some ways, is also described in part, in flashes of insight and revelation, because we cannot quite comprehend the whole. The way we know Godself is even an equation: three-in-one.

Philosophers and theologians argue about human souls and whether they are infinite.  Again, I’m glad I don’t have to prove or disprove these arguments. Just like I respect and honor mathematicians and physicists, who give us abstract and scientific languages that touch Godself, or artists and composers, who give us music and creative pieces that reveal  glimpses of God’s astounding beauty.

Assuredly there’s an essential, elemental part of us that extends within and beyond our own mortal bodies. This spirit-soul self, it seems to me, endures and returns to Godself and the world. Some essential aspect of ourselves, after all, is that self that we understand to live on in God’s house, God’s heaven, after this life. The unique self that is ultimately released, unclothed of our mortal flesh, and with it, our limited boundaries as humans in this material world.

While we’re here, though, we reach for infinity. For Godself. And yes, God is knowable in other ways, even as God is unfathomable in some ways. The intimacy of relationship that God craves is as deep, wide, enduring as the human heart or the human mind can go.

And if we can be moved by the view of a handprint from millennia ago, painted by humans, or the ring of stones standing upright in the landscape, around which our frail bodies moved across the canvas of time, we can also be moved by the awe of our own encounters with Godself. God shows up as the world itself: the surf rolling into the beach or the changing light in the looming sky. God is expressed through the gentle brush of another person’s fingertips on our exposed flesh at a vulnerable moment. And God speaks out of the utter quiet of a moment so profound we cannot exhale.

God is found in our stories. Our art. Our physics. Our math. Our healing sciences. Our architecture. Our engineering. Our dances. Our music. Our planting and harvesting.

God is found in each other’s faces. All around us. God’s is the bountiful love we crave, the infinity toward which we reach, the legacy we want to create, the way we want to live beyond this one adventure of mortality.

God’s is the promise that endures. Yet what we can claim for ourselves begins with each breath we inhale and exhale, each eyeful we take in, each handful we touch and release, each word we shape to compassionate and justice-given use, each step we take, and each life we touch. We have to live at a human scale, speed and proportion.

As we’ve been praying as a community, in this way, surrounded and infused by God’s presence, we reach moments when “we are enough, and more than enough.”

    • Psalm 32: 10b –But steadfast love surrounds those who trust in the Lord.
    • Joshua 4: 7 — So these stones shall be to the Israelites a memorial forever.
    • 2 Corinthians 4:17 — For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure.
    • 2 Corinthians 4:18b – For what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.
    • 2 Corinthians 5:1 –For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.

 

Ash Wednesday, Lent Day 1: HEART

feb10_lent1_ash_heartMeditation

Today we receive the hopes and passions of last year’s palms, burned now to a carbon dust. One thumbprint’s measure, worn like a tattoo, but without the conviction of ink on skin.

From ashes we once arose, and to dust our bodies shall someday return. In between … might we be stirred to life once more by the Breath of God?

Selections from today’s scriptures call out to the heart. Yet not just any heart … a heart broken open. A heart rent by weeping and mourning. A world-weary, beaten-up, endured-too-much heart. A contrite heart. A clean heart. A treasured heart. A returning heart.

Excerpts from today’s lectionary:

  • Joel 2: 12-13a — Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; rend your hearts and not your clothing.
  • Psalm 51: 10a, 17b — Create in me a clean heart, O God. A broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
  • 2 Corinthians 6:4-7 — but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God …
  • Matthew 6:21 — For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Lenten Meditations: One Word, One Day

Ashes-Heart-01As a Lenten spiritual practice, I’ll post one word drawn from the daily scriptures. It’s an up-close visit with  sacred texts; a chance to meditate on a few syllables.

This isn’t a new practice. It’s a common spiritual exercise.

You can do it for yourself, if you want to spend time sinking down into the layers of sound and shape of the day’s readings. What word calls to you? Here’s a link to explore the daily lectionary selections, if you want to find out.

Or you can start with just this singular, bite-sized, roll-it-around-on-your-tongue word. Let it slip into the excited, electric current of your brain. Spit it back out. Trace it with your fingers. Write it on the back of someone else’s hand. Whisper it. Shout it. Pray it. Listen to it.

Let your body spend time with this word. Own it. Claim it. Change it, as it might change you.

We are flesh and bone beings, with souls intertwined into the messy, mortal bodies that mediate our experience and understanding of the times and places in which we live. We carry ancient history in our genetics, and more recent events marked into the folds and creases of our own skins.

We are living, breathing stories. Yet we are connected to an ongoing, unfolding narrative. To the Word spoken over the void, that created world and life. To the living One that walked among us and shaped our tales. To the Wind that inspires and moves us even now.

For this sacred season, I’m visiting ancient texts, one word at a time. Feel free to partake of the journey with me.