Archive | August, 2012

Prophesy to the Breath

31 Aug

Lately I’ve noticed myself holding my breath. Literarily holding my breath. I am not certain if this developed as an unconscious habit, or if I’m under stress, or if while under stress, I’ve fallen into a bad pattern. Regardless, this is not good.

Little babies breathe deep in their abdomens. We love to watch them sleeping, noticing their little bellies expanding and contracting. Maybe we’re touched by this because most of us adults restrict our breath to a certain degree. Stress and fear take a toll over time, so unless we’re opera singers, we tend to breathe in a more shallow manner from our chests.

We pay a high cost for this restriction because our breath is everything. It is our life force. The oxygen we take in sustains and nourishes every cell in our body. Why deprive ourselves of the full magnitude of this power?

In Hebrew, the word “ruach” is synonymous with breath. It also means spirit and wind and has a correlation with God’s creative powers.

I am trying to be more conscious about my breathing. I’ve gone to a yoga class 3x this week and done yoga 2x at home. I’ve been putting my hand on my belly to feel my stomach fill with air, and when I exercise, I’m making certain to really expel toxins through my breath. I’m making funny sounds like I used to in acting class and I’m consciously sighing throughout the day. Anything to get this breath moving and to fill my lungs with the spirit of God.

I woke up from a dream crying this morning, something I haven’t done in a long time. And suddenly it registered. Holding the breath = repression and waking up with aching bones. Breathing = release and transformation.

And so yes, I prophesy to the breath. I call on the four winds to enter and give me new flesh. And I feel the spirit come into me so that these bones can live.

Life Force

26 Aug

I have long been fascinated by the force that creates drive and emotion within us. Where does this energy come from and how do we keep it flowing in constructive ways?

In his poem, “Pent Up Aching Rivers,” Walt Whitman writes eloquently about the sexual derivation of this energy, and the sadness and longing that results when there is no one with whom to share this exchange. But there are other forms of “pent-up” energy as well. We can have built up anger, frustration, excitement and joy. Even our creativity can become bottled up, begging for release.

I believe that whatever this energy is, it has to keep moving. When it becomes stuck, we stagnate. Energy turns in on itself, turning into ennui or idolatry; rage or depression. Like fire, our energy can be harnessed for productive use, or it can completely consume and destroy.

No matter what the tendency to sit on our energy, it is better to work with it, challenge it and release it with a degree of consciousness. E-motion, when explored with care, transforms into motion, propelling us towards something higher – perhaps to living water…

The Little Barrette That Could…

14 Aug

The other day before surfing, I took my barrette out of my hair. Because my car was already locked with my key safely embedded within my wet suit, I left the hair clip on the roof of my car. When I returned from surfing and put my board back on top of the car, I failed to notice my barrette still on top of the roof. Thus, I was amazed to discover that twenty minutes later, while unloading my surfboard back at home, that my little barrette still sat patiently on the roof of my car. Somehow it had survived barreling down the freeway at 75 miles an hour.

Now any female (or parent for that matter) knows that barrettes are NOTORIOUS for getting lost. I leave them all over the place and then bemoan the fact that I can’t find one when my hair is suddenly hanging in my face and I want to “concentrate.” (I have this weird notion that if I pull my hair back tight from my face when I’m working that I think better. The severe librarian look also tends to keep men from talking to me while at cafes, allowing me to get work done). So the fact that this little barrette held up on the freeway just blows my mind. And to think I used to worry that the surfboard would fall off the roof of the car… If this little barrette could hang on, I think the surfboard all strapped into its security gear can manage to stay put.

I wonder if there is a lesson here in the tenacity of that hair clip. What if my faith held that power? What if I could hold on for dear life despite the fact that I was a tiny little thing left on the top of a car flying down the highway at crazy speeds? What an amazing faith that would be!

“I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you” (Matt.17:20).

Following the Cloud

6 Aug

One of my favorite parts in Exodus is how the Lord presents himself as a cloud by day and a fire by night so that the Israelites can follow him on their way out of Egypt. Even when meandering in the desert, the Israelites have Yahweh as their compass in the form of a cloud and fire. On the one hand, the idea of God presenting himself in these forms seems so simple – like God has to spell it out for those who aren’t the sharpest crayons in the box. “Here you go, people. I’ll make my presence so obvious, you’d have to be blind to miss me.” But on the other hand, there is something quite profound in this imagery, for what is more mysterious and beautiful than clouds and fire? And what is more awesome than the Lord himself?

Now the reality is, God is everywhere, so he doesn’t have to present himself in a specific shape or element. And yet, nonetheless, I’m big on signs and I try to scan the sky for the cloud – looking for the direction I think He wants me to take in my life.

Maybe he puts out mini clouds – one specific for each of us – that we are to attempt to recognize and then follow accordingly. Regardless, the only way I can see the cloud is if I look up.

As for the fire, I am reminded of a conversation I had awhile back with a much beloved faculty member at seminary. I was explaining to him that I had to take a quarter off to work on my book and possibly more time than that, depending on my writing. “Lise, the porch light is always on at Fuller.”

How nice to know that there are signs to show us the way and a light letting us know we always have a place at the table…

Nothing Wasted…

2 Aug

Romans 8:28 states, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God…” At heart I believe this, yet I also know these words can sound trite and Pollyanna like when experiencing great suffering. When it comes to the Holocaust, a mass shooting, rape or poverty, 1) where is God? and 2) how can he be doing anything good?

I’m not even going to attempt to answer such existential/theological questions in a blog post, although my forthcoming book addresses some of these concerns. I will say though that I had an experience this morning that reminded me that in God’s economy, nothing is wasted. Sometimes the things we initially view as either irrelevant or *&^$, do serve a higher purpose.

Case in point: This morning while surfing, I had a little run in with a jelly fish. I suddenly realized that the particularly pretty kelp I brushed up against was actually a creature when three seconds later my foot started to sting. Hmmmm. It didn’t hurt too bad yet I was unsure of what would transpire next. Would my foot start to swell? Was I supposed to get out and do something like you do when a sting ray gets you?

I decided to get out and go home just in case this little sting turned into something major. As I walked to my car, I ran into a friend in the parking lot so I told him what happened. Sure enough, on the top of my foot a little rash was forming. My friend is not one to mince words. “You know what you do for a jelly fish sting?” he asked me. I shook my head no. “You put urine on it. Now for us guys, we can just point and aim. In your case, I’ll leave that for you to figure out, given your anatomy.” I sensed he wasn’t joking and my foot was starting to hurt.

As I’m not above this kind of thing, when I got home I ministered the home remedy prescribed by my friend. And within a half hour after this application, the rash disappeared, as did the pain. I found this quite remarkable. If our bodies didn’t eliminate waste we would die. Thus, this biological function serves a remarkably important purpose, but other than that, urine and excrement are just gross. But here was my own waste healing my body. What a paradox.

Related, in his lovely little book, “Touching Peace,” Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh writes a great piece entitled “Transforming Our Compost.” In it, he talks about how all the negatives in our lives – (i.e. the things we typically deem as “shit”), if broken down properly, have the potential to transform into beautifully fertile soil. From shit can grow magnificent flowers…

While it can sometimes feel as if our lives are comprised of waste, I try to remember that good can come from the yuck. And that is Good News.