It’s All in the Breath

We do everything with a breath. Even if we are holding it, the breath is with us.

When we’re first born, we inspire, we breathe or inhale our first breaths in this world, and we spend the rest of our days living into this inspiration, motivated to make something–if not something material, then something of ourselves.

We perspire, breathing through this creative process because it’s hard. Anyone who says life is easy hasn’t truly made anything. The most gifted people in the world would probably tell you that the process isn’t a cake walk.

If we’re lucky, we get to conspire. “Conspire” has a negative connotation, associated with joining forces to do something evil, immoral. Literally, it means to breathe with. That implies being of one breath, united in the creative process. What you do together may well be something evil, but when we conspire to do something good, beautiful things happen.

At our end, we expire, breathe our last. Those of us who have attended the bed of the dying know that there is a palpable finality in that last exhale; you know that there is no more. We often say that the dead person’s work is done, but not fully understanding what her greatest achievement was, maybe it’s more accurate to say that she will not be creating anything else except through the ripples of her influence.

For a Christian, the breath is synonymous with Spirit. Maybe it’s the only way we can get a handle on something so beyond our comprehension. In pneumatology (the study of the Holy Spirit), Spirit is sometimes explained in “spirations.” (Liberation theologian Leonardo Boff was my introduction to the spiration concept, though he’s not alone.) This gift of life is made possible only through our breath.

I wonder about those who struggle with breathing disorders. In any struggle, our awareness heightens, and we wrestle more audibly and visibly and obviously, even if we are the only ones to notice. That we struggle with or defy doesn’t negate that which is.

If the breath isn’t with us, we are dead. If we ignore that the breath is with us, pay no attention to the gift of breath or our struggle with it, we may be the living dead, contributing nothing life-giving if there is creation happening at all.

I imagine that this is why so many traditions fundamentally pay attention to the breath. A breath prayer is simply giving focused attenention, intention, to the inhale and exhale. Each breath is a moment in which a decision is made, a decision to create something life-giving, life-affirming. We have to opportunity to conspire with Spirit. This positive, creative conspiration threatens a death-dealing culture, threatens the status quo, but this is the kind of conspirator I hope to be.

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Day 21 . . .

Right.  I know.  There are not enough posts between my last and current to count to 21, but I do have several prayers penned in my moleskine.  When I get more than 10 minutes, I’ll enter them on my blog.  For now, tonight was too momentous not to mention right away.  So let this count for Day 21.

Dear God,

Keep teaching me.  Keep infusing me with your Spirit.  Keep surrounding me with those who share wisdom, just enough so that they don’t even know they’re doing it.  This life is amazing, and I give my humblest thanks.

I am trying to walk the path to best serve your will.  I am trying, discerning, and I know I could not do it alone.  My path has converged with so many wonderful people; I have been blessed with a tremendous family and unimaginably compassionate friends.  Of course, each of us has a flaw or two, and from them we learn the most about ourselves.  I can’t imagine it any other way.

As I’m continuing along, help me to be mindful.  Help me not waste a dozen or more waffles because I forgot about them keeping warm in the oven.  I have enough, but there are so many without.  Help me be present to recognize the needs of others and to pay attention to what is at the heart of the matter.  Help me to hear the truth in my own heart.

And always, dear God, help me be grateful – for your love, for the gifts you’ve given me, for my friends, and for the gifts of others.  Help me remember how sweet these tender moments are with the children and how wonderfully supportive my husband is.  May they know my love for them is unconditional and greater than I will ever show.  Help me at least try to embody unconditional love.  I think I’d like to try.

Grant me the strength to do the work set before me, and may all the glory be yours.

Amen.

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Day 12

God bless Brenda Ueland; may her soul rest in peace.  Her words from decades ago resonate loudly to me, reminding me why I do what I do, putting in print the cries of my soul.  Sit a while, Sara.  Dream.  Write.  Gaze into the distance and feel.  That’s what my soul says, and I think Brenda would nod approvingly, maybe even give a sly little wink.

Every blessed moment when plans change or tragedy strikes or life seems all off-kilter, we still have a choice.  Thank you for providing us with this choice.  Sometimes I do just want to be a hedonistic sloth or wallow in self-pity.  Thankfully, I don’t prefer this for long.  What it does provide me with is a broader perspective and a greater appreciation for when those other holy, enlightened moments of peace and contentment come.  These aren’t the same as the moment of ecstatic joy (though those are lovely, too).  Moments of peace are like when you realize you’re floating on the water and relax into the flow.  Life is good.  All is well, and I feel it in the core of my being.

I’m convinced this peace does dwell within and through us all.  Our awareness of it is what changes, blinding us with ignorance of its presence.  Help us to know and to feel.  Help us to show this peace to others . . . and to see it in them, too.  Awaken us to the Peace that surpasses all understanding.

Thank you for the rain.  Thanks for protecting my children and animals (yes, even the chickens).

Continually guide us all onto the path that lives into the greatest compassion for everyone, however great or small that may be.  Hear us, O God, in our time of need.

Thanks and glory to You, now and forever.  Amen.

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Day 11

Wow.

This life is so full.

I fill a page with a schedule for the children for the day to come.  Nearly every minute is occupied, even if with the designation of “free time.”  Every moment of my day is occupied, too, from early morning to late at night.  Even then the unexpected tasks get wedged in between the standing commitments.

I’m reminded of the demonstration of the jar being filled with rocks (the obvious priorities), then smaller pebbles (the commitments and responsibilities), then sand (the everyday stuff), and just when it looks like it’s full and can hold no more, then you add water (I think of this as Spirit).  There was still room for water, a necessity of life.

Somehow in my daily life I still have room for prayer.  I need it.  I need to take the calls from friends.  I need to do the healing work, the holy listening.  I need to play a supporting or even a leading role in various ministries.  These nurture me and in some delightful way, it can help others.  It helps keep me balanced.

Today I felt out of whack.  It could be because I didn’t get up when I should.  I didn’t start the day with prayer.  It could be the whacky weather.  It could be our family routine being turned upside down.  It could be stress.  It could be the striking images I saw in the magazine of the most significant photos of the past 100 years – space, science, society (the Challenger, a growing baby en utero, starving children, a lynching).  It could be any combination of these things or of other things I have yet to consider.

There is so much in this life.  Dear God, I know you don’t expect me to hold it all, to understand it all, so help me to let it go, all of it.  Cleanse the thoughts of my heart . . .

And I give thanks for the rich life I lead.

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Day 10 . . . Again

Day 10 I honestly didn’t do anything.  I rested the whole day, and for that I truly give thanks.

But if I take into consideration what I have done this day, may I remember that today is a feast day.  The Transfiguration.  Today I watched seven women become baptized members of the church.  I felt the Spirit move between and among us.  We got to wait in quiet contemplation and in a little uncomfortable silence.

Lord, bless these women.  Help them in the paths that lie before them.  I don’t know what choices they’ll have to make, what obstacles they have to overcome, but I give them love, though this love I extend compares naught to the infinite power of Yours.

Our community is so small, but I hope the impact of all the little acts of kindness, the abundance of tender mercies, and the radical hospitalities that appear when we least expect it radiate a greater power than the sum of all that is done outside of Love.  May goodness overcome all evil.

Thank you for all my blessings.  Bless my family and my home.  Bless all those I love dearly and those I love whom I shall never meet.  The glory is Yours.

Amen.

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Days 8 & 9

This feels like it might be pushing it a bit, but I’ll count it anyway.  🙂

Thursday, Holy Eucharist at the noon-thirty service at St. Martin’s, the UA Episcopal campus ministry.  I enjoyed my lunch in silence, staring out at the ivy.  Prayer is mostly listening.

Friday, I retrieved a child from camp.  In so-doing, I got to attend the mountain-top chapel service at Camp Mitchell, our diocesan camp grounds.  Yes, it was already over 90 degrees F at 10 am, but it was lovely to be with all the youth and witness all the sweet reunions.

Many petitions for rain, for safe travel, and for enough.  Our wants are many, but may our needs provide enough through Your abundance.

Amen.

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Day 7

A prayer for the mothers, to the young just learning the maternal ways and to the elders surrendering the responsibilities to their children.  To those who birthed and lost.  To those who birthed so that others might share in motherhood.  To those in the thick of it like I am, trying to hold the invisible and ever-wavering balance.  To those of us who slip and fall, may we know that we never fall away from Your Love.  To those who continue to radiate your Grace and Love, may they be an example to us all.

Wherever we are and whomever we are, our work is never done.  May our works and our lives be blessed.

A house burned today, yet the family survived.  Your mercy be upon them.  They are dear and have suffered so much even before this day.  Be with them.

I seem to have misplaced my written prayer list.  I thought I saw it yesterday.  It apparently has disappeared with my phone, and I’m beginning to wonder if there are, indeed, house elves.  Perhaps it’s time for a new list.

Bless all our families.  Protect all families.  Be with us, your children, for we are quick to whine, clumsy, and selfish . . . yet so full of potential.  May we all grow into the image of our Creator.

Amen.

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Day 3

Glory to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

You’ve given me to be one of those people who get headaches, and I’ve had all kinds.  Dull, ice-pick, tension, stress, heat, sinus, barometric, migraine.

You’ve also given me a gift of healing.  Now, I know how that works.  The truth is, I don’t do anything.  I just call upon you.  I tend to practice this gift with others.  I’m not very good at using it for myself.  That seems to take extra energy, extra effort.  How quickly I forget that you are ever-present and that strength through you knows no bounds.

I’m reminded of your love and compassion in the faces of those who are guests in our country this weekend, especially in the one who is our guest in our home.  Their people have known suffering I cannot imagine, and she practices and lives in her faith and beliefs in a way I can only admire.  Somehow in her journey she has found part of Your Mystery, has reached a point of not understanding, and yet the trust in You is called upon and overrides any slightest hint of doubt, if, indeed, there ever was any.   She doesn’t falter; she does blossom.

I was asked questions, too, about my beliefs.  What it boils down to is that I have more to learn about the Bible, about our history and creeds, but I have a solid grasp on the core of my faith.  I truly believe it’s the core of any faith, that God is about Love — love to God, love to self and others through, for, and as God.  This is practiced and appears as compassion, and it is Good.

Thank you for showing us the way of compassion through the great Teachers, Christ and Muhammed be praised.

Bless our home with radical hospitality.  Bless me with strength and healing.  Bless us all who strive to walk in your way, whichever path we take.

As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever.  Amen.

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21 Days of Prayer

Does it still take 21 days to create a habit?  If so, I need to make one.  It almost worked from Lent a few years ago, but the only thing that remained from making prayer my Lenten practice was my prayer list.  It’s time to get serious now.  Let’s see what I can do in 21 days.  I trust you to help hold me accountable.

Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you; for the community I live in, for the children who love me unconditionally, for the husband who upholds me, and for the home we share.  Thank you for your Grace.

Thank you for giving me the faith to ride through all that which I don’t understand.  I don’t know why some people get sick, get diagnosed with stage 3 or 4 cancer, their life turned upside down and those they love thrown into the ensuing chaos.  I don’t understand mental illness and why it’s so hard for our society to allow these people a place.  I don’t understand why some have so much and others nearly nothing at all.

What I know of Life and Love, though, are that nothing is so sure except these.  The world around me teems with life.  In this comfortable morning hour, when the sun promises us a scorching day; the birds are busy, the butterflies about, and the children, cat, and dog waking.  Even the trees and plants seem more at ease, and we are all alive, save for the scorched plants that couldn’t survive the summer heat.  Death is as sure as life — part of the cycle.

So Love, then, is the foundation of my being, the rock of my faith.  Why does it take so long to get there?  Love sees us through the impossible, takes us through the darkness.  Even when it seems like we don’t succeed, if we have walked in the way of Love, at least no one else was harmed and Christ’s example upheld.  Thank you for giving us such an example, showing us our full potential.

Help us, O God, to walk in the way of Love.  Help me to continue to trust, even when Life doesn’t make sense.  And thank you, again, for the beautiful people you have surrounded me with to share in my journey and I in theirs.

Give me strength to delight in your will and walk in your way, to the glory of your name.

Amen

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imPerfection

We read a poem this weekend that had to be written by a kindred.  Her words spoke in my language, spoke in truth.  I cannot find her complete poem on-line, though there are partial reprints.  Elizabeth Carlson’s “Imperfections” can be found in this book, however.  I dare not repost the perfect little poem in its entirety, what with copyright laws and all.

What I can post is my own writing, though.  After listening to and with Carlson’s poem a bit, we got to go our solitary ways.  I listen well when I am writing, when I am doing nearly anything.  To listen for my own imperfections at a deeper level, I sat.  I wrote.  This is what surfaced.  (I apologize in advance that I cannot get the spacing to change, so pardon the stanza run-on! I tried.)

“imPerfection”

I can sit with the ants in the dappled light

On this, another awe-inspiring autumn morning.

What mysteries might the breeze whisper in my ear?

What chatter does that strange creature

echo from my monkey brain?

Usually I listen for the wisdom I stumble upon,

Doing the tasks that need be done.

For once, at least,

I let myself

discover

my Self.

May the pen be my trowel

And my busy-ness the weeds

I remove from the soil.

The soil is rich and fertile.

Or maybe I fold the distractions

Away

With each shirt, pants, and sock.

Some thoughts need to dry in

Their own time.

No dirty nails this time to

Show for my effort.

Digging deep.

What are the treasures?

I cannot be rid of the roots from the species

Too invasive.

This is hard,

too hard.

But the longer I ignore them, the harder it gets

To let the soil be rich,

To appreciate the beauty

That is there if only

It, too, could obtain the resources

Stolen

by that which needs the

Persistent practice,

The daily tending.

It helps to name the

bermuda grasses of my being.

I cannot ignore the

Reality of money,

The need to connect with my family,

The limits of time.

I have to give up this idea of

Stagnant Perfection.

A garden is not a photograph.

It teems with

Life and Intention,

with Persistent Practice.

Blood and sweat, surely,

From the thorns and twigs of

Truth

Running

Deep.

I didn’t plant the oak tree there

Or the rose there.

Gifts of vulnerable strength and

Fragile beauty.

Timeless, both, and full of

Grace.

The mosquito offers its own poison

As it draws my blood,

Leaving the stinging itch

That will gnaw like the

Censor to challenge any

Gift I may unearth and

Lay claim to.

But it, too, will fade.

And even after my blood

Is dried and gone,

The earth remains to

Receive again

That which it gave.

Live into this cycle,

every moment.

Practice persistence with

Compassion

and

Gratitude,

whether with the harvest of the Earth

or the

Fruits of our wombs.

All is still and alive.

All is well.

This I am told.

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