A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Breathe

 

This is the air I breathe. This is the air I breathe.

Your holy presence living in me.

This is my daily bread. This is my daily bread.

Your very Word spoken to me.

And I, I’m desperate for you. And I, I’m lost without you.

This is the air I breathe. Your holy presence living in me. ~ Michael W. Smith

This morning when I went to pray, this song kept  wandering through my mind. It is a beautiful praise song and it says something about our relationship with God. Because, in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters – Genesis 1:1-2. The word for spirit is the same word that is used for breath. God’s breath blew across the waters as he brought life to the majestic universe that he was creating from nothing. Apparently, when the story in Genesis begins, he had already created the water and something representing the earth to hold it. We are all born from water into form and then we begin to breath.

An aside of sorts – A year or so ago, I thought about the spirit blowing over the water as I said my before bedtime prayer.  What was it like before there was nothing?  Nothing but God?  God? I tried to imagine this and I really couldn’t.  Suddenly, I saw a deep night navy sky studded with millions upon millions of stars. I could imagine this, because I had seen such skies before. I tried for a minute to imagine what it was like before such a sky was created, but….  As I looked at the stars, a round section in the center of the sky moved. It shimmered like water with a pebble being thrown into it. It took my breath away.  Was it God’s breath hovering over me that caused this experience?  I realized that this was as close as I could get to imagining before creation.  Then I realized that God had just blown me a good night kiss and my breath returned.  He might have said something like, “Crazy little girl child thinking she could imagine such a thing. Really nice try, though.”

But back to the creation story – “Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being – Genesis 2:7. The creation continues.

And with that he (Jesus) breathed on them (his disciples) and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit – John 20:22.  Yes.  We need this, too.

“With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last – Mark 15:37. Or “gave up his spirit”  John 19:30. This was voluntary, His spirit returned to his Father then returned to his body at his resurrection. After some additional teaching and after reassuring his stunned followers that he was alive and would be with them always, he left again. How can this be?  

At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit filled those disciples with new life and power. Filled once again with the breath of God, a new restored creation began – the Church, the Body of Christ including you and me, is reassigned the mission of spreading God’s Kingdom on earth by loving God and neighbor and doing those things that Jesus did. We have that same original mission and the same breath of the Holy Spirit enables us to do the piece of work that we are called most specially to do.

Henri Nouwen writes, “Being the living Christ today means being filled with the same Spirit that filled Jesus. Jesus and his Father are breathing the same breath, the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the intimate communion that makes Jesus and his Father one. Jesus says: ‘I am in the Father and the Father is in me’ (John 14:10) and ‘The Father and I are one’ (John 10:30). It is this unity that Jesus wants to give us. That is the gift of his Holy Spirit. Living a spiritual life, therefore, means living in the same communion with the Father as Jesus did, and thus making God present in the world.”

My thoughts: What if the very air around us is the breath of God still creating. What if every time we breathe we breathe in God?  What if I try to comprehend what that would be like?  Once again, I most likely can’t.  But here is what I/we can do:  Every time we need a pause because things are crazy – pause, take a deep breath.  Imagine that we are breathing in the Holy Spirit.  Imagine it.  When we say our daily prayers – pray, breathe.  Know that Jesus is breathing into you.  Whenever we need a deep breath…. Yes.

You are the air I breathe, your holy presence living in me.  My daily bread-your very word. I’m desperate for you.  I’m lost without you. Breathe. (Paraphrased sort of).

 

 

 

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Power from Above

“You are witnesses of these things. And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; But you must wait in the city until the power from above comes down upon you.” ~ Luke 24:48-49

This coming Sunday is Pentecost which celebrates the coming of the Holy Spirit to the Church and, therefore, to you and me. Perhaps, I should say something about this – but what?

This story comes to mind. It is a witness story of Jesus and his story with me. I had been a spirit filled and released apprentice of Jesus for some time so I was no stranger to what the Spirit will and can do in, to, with and through a person. However, I was a newly certified spiritual director when this event took place.

I was asked to lead a weekend retreat for a women’s group from another church. I believe in doing my homework, so I prayed and tried to prepare.  Absolutely nothing came to me.  I jotted down a note or two, but…! When time came to leave for the retreat, I grabbed a couple of books thinking I could always read something and let them spend time meditating. This was not a silent retreat, so this could be very interesting.

When I walked into the retreat place, the music team was practicing a song I love, so perhaps, everything would work out. I had brought along a couple of parishioners from our church who would be praying for me. I don’t exactly remember what happened, but we did begin with music. We sang.  The woman who put together the retreat said things.  I probably had a few introductory remarks. The first thing I do remember, other than music, was the prayer stations we had. The two ladies I brought with me manned one of them.

What followed, I remember with great clarity. I wrote it down. I hadn’t planned to go for prayers, but I felt a little God nudge. I would wait until the station which my friends manned was empty.  (Because the other ladies might be intimidated praying for the leader, perhaps. Hmm, bit of ego there it seems. Not one of my better thoughts.) The real reason – I am introverted and I was scared because I wasn’t prepared. I didn’t want to walk across the room where people could watch me. Jesus did not agree with my plan and told me to go there, anyway. Ok, then…

I did and I asked for something, probably. The instant their hands touched me, I was on the floor. This happening is sometimes called “slain in the Spirit” but I prefer “resting in the Spirit” – it’s not as violent sounding.  Whichever – I felt very much at peace and held as I lay there.  Of course, every eye in the room was focused on my prone body. So much for introversion – just sayin’. I could hear my friends telling folks that I was alright. This has happened to me only once and in retrospect, I don’t think it was really for me anyway, or at least only partly.

I got up from the floor and returned to my seat beside the woman in charge. She said, “Interesting.  I doubt if the ladies know what happened.”  WHAT!! The name of the group, being what it was, led me to believe that they would know about these things. I must explain it. So, I talked about the Holy Spirit, about spiritual gifts, about resting in the Spirit, about tongues, about healing and, most likely, other Jesus things as well.

So, the retreat continued.  I read something from the book I brought.  There was laughter. We had more singing, a break, and another evening session. Then, it was time for prayer again. A woman, that I knew from this congregation, who had MS, came up to my station using a walker. She had been in a wheel chair. She said, “I want all that the Holy Spirit wants to give me.” Alright!!  I prayed for the Holy Spirit to do just that and she started to fall.  I grabbed her and lowered her to the floor.  Her friend was concerned but I assured her that she would be fine.  I kept my eye on her as we prayed for others.  When she started to stir, I went to her.  She said that her legs were burning and she had had no feeling in them for a long time.

My first thought – I am so very proud of this – was, “Oh, no.  God wants to heal her.” Isn’t that great? I really trusted God, but I wasn’t sure of me. I had to continue, however. I was the retreat leader.  Or so I had thought. I turned to the ladies and told them that God wanted to heal Bernice, and I asked others who felt comfortable praying for healing to join me in laying hands on her. It’s better that way, anyhow.  More community like. We prayed, she got up from the floor and started walking around.  Her friend’s jaw hit the floor – probably others as well –  as we watched her dance around.  The word was that Bernie didn’t sit down all night. The last I heard, she hasn’t yet.

I certainly would not have planned the weekend this way, but God had his dreams for this congregation, so he took over.  I was called to be there as part of it and I am still amazed.  God can do some pretty good work through scaredy-cats.  Even introverted ones. Sometimes, he lets them know.

Two years ago, at convention, I ran into a woman from that group. She told me that I had no idea what had happened after that weekend. There had been all kinds of confusion and dissension in that congregation about gifts of the Spirit and whether you needed to speak in tongues to show that the Spirit had filled a person. It was tearing the congregation apart. After this weekend, it all went away.  There was healing in the congregation as well. Wow!! Thank you, Jesus!!

I don’t know how to end this writing and it’s already long…so, be not afraid.  God does have his dreams and his ways.  “And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” ~ Esther 4:14

…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” ~ Acts 1:8

 

 

Out of the depths, I cried…

Holy Spirit(Part 2)

With my voice I cry to the LORD; with my voice I make supplication to the LORD. I pour out my complaint before him; I tell my trouble before him. When my spirit is faint, you know my way. ~ Psalm 142:1-3

“And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised…” –  Luke 24-49

This IS a tough assignment. I’m a little nervous now that I know God uses autocorrect.  No telling what he will say.  Maybe I wasn’t listening very well.  In case you don’t remember or didn’t read last month’s SOUL FOOD, with a little help from said Autocorrect, God asked me to tell my story with the Holy Spirit.  Since the Spirit was active in my life before I ever knew the Spirit existed, it’s a long story so I’m writing it in installments.

When I left off last month, we were living in El Paso, Texas where Dave was stationed.  We had three small boys by then, and had decided that we wanted them to learn about Jesus in church and that we needed to take them. We returned to the church of our childhoods even though, we were beginning to believe that God was not the waiting-until-you-sin-so he-can-punish-you God. Toward the end of our time in Texas, Dave had the opportunity to have a family accompanied tour in Italy for four years.  At the same time, he found that there was an opportunity for the Army to send him on a two-year assignment to CU Boulder to finish the degree he had started before we got married.  For some, then unknown, reason, I felt strongly that the Colorado University thing was going to happen so Dave turned down the Italy tour before he knew if he might be offered the school option.  We couldn’t wait to see.

Boulder was enjoyable.  We lived in campus housing and there were many little children around for our boys.  We learned what community meant here.  Although there was much community in the military, it wasn’t what we would come to know in our university experience. Half way through this two-year assignment, we had a daughter. You have heard this before, but it belongs in my story now because it was a turning point.

When Kim was born, she was tiny but perfect.  However, before we got out of the hospital, she started having jaundice. She had two blood transfusions and needed to be monitored. My hospital stay was over, but I had to leave Kim there. That evening she began to have blood in her stool and they couldn’t find the cause.  The bleeding was getting worse.  Doctors decided that she needed to go to the military hospital, Fitzsimons, in Denver, so they took her by ambulance in the middle of the night. This was a few days after the big flood in 1965 and many roads were impassible. My doctor wouldn’t let me make the trip and anyway, I had three small boys at home.  I spent my night in prayer (You could call it that.)  I, alternately, begged God to heal Kim, but I didn’t believe God did that, anymore, and I begged him not to let her die.  Sometimes, I yelled at him.  It was a very long night.

Dave managed to get home that next morning – parents weren’t allowed to stay with children at the military hospital – and he informed me that they would do exploratory surgery at Noon if there was no improvement.  This was Sunday, so Dave called the pastor to tell him that we were going to stay home by the phone and asked them to pray.  For what, I wonder. Anyway, the members of the church stopped in the middle of the service and prayed for Kim, our little 5-pound daughter.  They didn’t believe that God healed, either. Then.  I imagine they prayed for the doctors and such.  At the very moment of that prayer, the bleeding stopped.  Maybe Kim managed to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment.  The bleeding did not just slow down, it stopped. Instantly.  The tough military doctor called it a miracle.  We did, too. And the people from the church as well.

I learned something about God that day. He does heal today.  He hears my prayers and answers them.  And I learned that he cared for me.  Luke 7 tells stories of Jesus healing and raising the dead causing crowds to follow him everywhere.  John’s (the Baptist) disciples came to ask Jesus, on John’s behalf, if he was the one for whom they were waiting.  Jesus told them to go tell John what they saw – the healings, the raising from the dead, etc. Then he says to the crowd, v. 24, “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swayed by the wind? (…)” I read a meditation where the writer wonders what drew the crowd to follow Jesus around. The writer said that, most probable, it was the healings.  Perhaps so.  It worked for me.

A year later, Dave was to return to active duty. I was talking to a neighbor about church and how I wish there was one who believed that God worked in the world today.  I wanted a God that I could touch, a God who heard my prayers of desperation, a God who responded as I had experienced. She said, “I think you might like my church – St. Aidan’s Episcopal Church, Boulder.”  Dave took classes in the engineering building across the street from St. Aidan’s, so he went to their chapel and picked up The Book of Common Prayer (1928).  He read: “Ye who do truly and earnestly repent you of your sins, and are in love and charity with your neighbours, and intend to lead a new life, following the commandments of God, and walking from henceforth in his holy ways; Draw near with faith, and take this holy Sacrament to your comfort; and make your humble confession to Almighty God, devoutly kneeling.”

Then after the Confession, he read: “Almighty God, our heavenly Father, who of his great mercy hath promised forgiveness of sins to all those with hearty repentance and true faith turn unto him; Have mercy upon you; pardon and deliver you from all your sins; confirm and strengthen you in all goodness; and bring you to everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.”

 Dave said, “I think we have found what we have been looking for.”  At last!  As Frederick Buechner says, “It is not objective proof of God’s existence that we want but…the experience of God’s presence.” Yes! A God I could touch who touches me.  Before we left for Ft. Benning, Georgia, we were baptized at St. Aidan’s. My baptism, I believe, is when the Holy Spirit stopped hovering and started seriously meddling in my life.  Did I not somehow say he could…? And there’s more.

“But wait…”